I’ve Been Awarded for My Frozen Pizza Fiasco!
I got a call from an editor at Chicago Parent the other day. She submitted a piece I had written in their August 2016 edition to the Parenting Media Association. Turns out, my article won a bronze for personal essay! What was the topic of the essay you ask? Did it have to do with some gritty subject like living with scleroderma, growing up estranged from my father, or almost dying in the hospital for seven months? Nope, the very first (and only) award I’ve ever received for my writing was on a far more difficult matter; the severe trauma I suffered when I attempted a postpartum trip to the grocery store. Since the article is not in digital form, please feel free to read it below.
I blame my husband for the whole thing! If he wasn’t such an anal retentive grocery shopper, the entire fiasco could have been avoided. But no, my husband had insisted on being the sole grocery purchaser since the day we moved in together. While I liked to grab “impulse buys” like marshmallows and frozen cookie dough, my husband’s knack for precision and couponing left us with exactly the right amount of lunch meat, cereal, and milk purchased at bargain prices. We quickly discovered the key to happiness was me staying as far away from grocery stores as possible. Who would have guessed that 4 years after my ban on food shopping, I would find myself surrounded by angry customers all wondering if I escaped from an insane asylum?
If I had been in my right mind, I would never have stepped foot into that Jewel/Osco. But I had given birth to my son just two weeks earlier and hadn’t slept since. Exhaustion, raging postpartum hormones, and a husband who magically slept through all the wailing was a perfect recipe for public humiliation.
Desperate for a temporary escape, I announced to my husband that I was going to the grocery store alone. My perfectionist husband begrudgingly wrote me out a grocery list more detailed than a bomb detonation manual. Just as I was about to venture out with my marching orders, I heard the 5 words that sealed my doom, “Wait, Lisa! I have coupons!” He handed me a stack of coupons which forced me to adhere to my list down to the appropriate ounce and brand, lest I miss the chance to save 25 cents on a can of crushed tomatoes.
Armed with my coupons and list, I entered the foreign building most civilians referred to as the local grocery store. Even on a full night’s sleep, finding all my items would have been a challenging task, given my 4-year hiatus from grocery shopping. But in my sleep deprived state, it took me two hours to navigate through the maze-like aisles. I carefully examined each item to ensure it correlated with the specifications of my coupons and list. I eventually managed to get every item and triumphantly made my way to the check-out area.
Every line was five people deep, each with overflowing carts. Finally, it was my turn to begin unloading my meticulously selected items. Things were going fine until I realized that I had accidentally placed a frozen veggie pizza in my cart instead of a plain cheese pizza. This was bad news. If I came home with the wrong frozen pizza, my grocery store ban would be reinstated and I’d be chained to my screaming baby 24/7. Mission failure was not an option. I had to exchange that pizza.
“I’ll be right back,” I explained to the cashier as I pushed my way backwards through a line of irritated customers. I hurried toward the frozen pizza aisle. There was just one problem; I had no idea where it was located. When I finally found it, I had to wait while a very hungry looking man monopolized the whole frozen pizza area with his body and cart. He eventually moved and I quickly exchanged the veggie pizza for a cheese.
I headed back to my checkout line feeling bad about being the rude lady who kept everyone waiting. I froze in my tracks when I realized I had no idea which line was mine. In my foggy haze, I tried to rewind time and recollect what the cashier and bagger had looked like, but could only remember that they were both young men. I searched through the sea of possibilities for two teenagers that matched my cloudy recollection. I spotted my line and pushed my way through the crowd of shoppers who all were shooting me disapproving glares. “Excuse me, excuse me, I’m so sorry!” I apologized as I slammed down my cheese pizza onto the black conveyer belt.
The cashier looked at me like I had two heads, but he picked up the pizza and scanned it. “Oh wait, I forgot to give you my coupons,” I proclaimed as I handed the young man my stack of coupons. The bewildered cashier took my coupons and attempted to scan the first one.
“Ma’am, this is a coupon for laundry detergent.”
“I know, my detergent is in the bag,” I gestured to the paper bags the bagger had already packed up.
“Um, Ma’am, this is not a coupon for pizza.”
“I know, it’s a coupon for my laundry detergent which is already in the bag.”
We went back and forth like this several more times. Had things changed so drastically since I had been grocery shopping? Was there a new protocol for handing over a coupon?
“Um, Ma’am…this coupon is for laundry detergent, but you’ve only bought a pizza.”
The image of two young men wildly gesturing for me to return to my line came into my peripheral view. As if in slow motion, I realized that I had just busted my way through the wrong check-out line! I literally cut ahead of six customers and plopped down a frozen pizza while some guy was in the middle of purchasing his groceries. The craziest thing is that not a single customer, including the man I interrupted, uttered a word of protest. You would think someone would have said, “What do you think you’re doing? Get to the back of the line!” Nope, I had sufficiently scared everyone by appearing like a crazed lunatic with a rare frozen pizza emergency. I quickly apologized, saying something nonsensical about being sleep deprived and hurried back to my actual check-out line.
In that moment, I was initiated into the M.P.M. (Mortifying Parental Moments) Club. You’ve never heard of the M.P.M.? That’s because I just made it up. To be a member, you have to do something so idiotic that your pre-parenting self would deny knowing you in public.
My newborn son is now 14-years-old. He and his younger sister have contributed to many more M.P.Ms. From full-blown toddler temper tantrums at Target, to mouthy teenage back-talk in public, I’ve encountered my fair share of parent-related humiliation. Since my grocery shopping fiasco, I’ve learned to temper the embarrassment that inevitably occurs every now and again with humor and perspective. Perfect parents and children simply don’t exist. Sometimes, we’ve just got to say so what? So what if I baffled/terrified dozens of grocery shoppers and delayed their food purchases 14 years ago? The silver lining is my husband still does all the grocery shopping!
*Published in Chicago Parent Magazine, August 2016