Survival in the Meat Department 

“It won’t be that bad…”

“It’s after 5:00 on a Saturday…”

“The sun is out…”

“They’re all at the movies…”

Those were my thought as I headed into town. They weren’t even in the same ballpark as correct. They were all at Kroger too. With me…

Do not wait until the night before Easter to buy a ham. In fact, don’t wait until the night before a holiday to do any shopping, of any kind, ever.

To be honest, this is the first time I’ve bumbled this sort of thing. 

I’m normally hyper prepared for the dinners hosted at my home. I’m used to having everything at minimum, five days early. However, this year, Easter escaped me. 

I knew it was coming up, but I had the first weekend in April stuck in my mind. 

Every. Single. Person. In my town, the county, the neighboring town, maybe even the  population of last minute preparers from the entire state showed up. 

 I parked, jovial as ever. I actually somewhat (and I do mean somewhat) enjoy grocery trips like this one. I like them because they are simple. The only items I needed were those for dinner. Only. Quick trip in and then, boom. Out the door. 

I grabbed a buggy and put the bottles and the plastic bags to recycle inside, remembering my cloth bags. Doing my part to save the planet? Check! 

(I forgot my nicely prepared list and clipped coupons, but still, score for me.)

The mission started strong. I remembered what I needed and scrawled a new list in the produce section. 

I saw a former student and said hello, exchanging holiday plans and wishing one another well. 

Things were going well. 

Then I rounded the corner. 

“What. The. Actual….”

There were four, yes four, hams left. And three women in front of me. All of them more experienced, more skillful holiday dinner warriors than I am. Welcome to Thunder Dome. 

“Alright. You just have to keep your game face. Just walk up there, grab the stupid ham, and walk away. All is well.” I bolstered myself and entered the arena. 

The other contenders looked at me like “who is she” like I was a Greaser on Soch territory. 

I stared back, thinking, “it’s a ham. It’s not Game of Thrones. But really, ladies, if you want to throw down, I’m a mother of dragons too. So check yourselves.” 

I attempted to approach  cautiously, not wanting to draw attention to myself, but my brave footwear choice gave me away. Who wears flip flops in March? With a hoodie? Me. That’s who.

I studied the selections and the other contenders. They seemed to see I was not a greedy threat. I only needed one ham. Yes, apparently, there is enough to go around. 

We acknowledged each other with small nods and thanks. Silently wishing each other favorable odds in other departments. 

I went immediately to the “health and beauty” aisle. 

And I found the biggest bottle of vegan, organic, lavender soothing bubble bath I could find. 

But I just got a ham?

I am many things, and like Whitman himself, am also at times, a contradiction. 

When it came time to check out, I found the shortest line, saw another former student, who happened to be working. I handed him my bag of bags and made conversation. 

I don’t know a stranger.

“What are your Easter plans?” I was asked. 

“We are hosting. I waited until the last minute.”

“You’re not alone.”

“I see that. I’ve never been this ill prepared.”

We chatted and laughed about people in general. Then she saw my ham. 

“It’s not scanning.”

“Great……” I thought, but I said, “I didn’t catch the price.” 

She politely asked my former student to run it back to the meat department for a sticker.

By this time, another lady got behind me in line. She was not a contender for the hams.

“You making dinner for the family?”

“Yes I am” I replied.

She looked at my bags. 

“You don’t have nearly enough wine for that” she said.

“Nope, no wine. But I got myself IBC root beer. Does that count?”

“Sure thing.” 

My ham came back and I swiped my card.

I wished my friendly cashier a happy holiday and my new lady in waiting as well. My former student asked if I needed any help getting my things out to my car. I declined but thanked him.

When I took my items out at home, my fancy bubble bath was in the bag with the ham. 

Was that on purpose? A jab at my conflicting values?

I smiled and put that on my list of things to tackle tomorrow. 

Or at least before Memorial Day, the next time I have to procrastinate. 

Maybe the odds will be in my favor?

Or as Katniss would say, I volunteer as tribute. 

Today at Kroger could have been a battle, but it wasn’t. It wasn’t that bad, and I still remembered to recycle.

At least I have that figured out. 


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