I'll never forget the sound of my enlightenment -- an explosion of air, followed by the crinkling of plastic over wrap.
Gratification, 1; Delay, 0.
Honestly, it was horrifying.
My best friend's mother had unceremoniously opened a bag of cookies right there in Aisle Seven as we accompanied her on the weekly shop. All hands dug in ... All hands except for mine.
I had never seen such effrontery.
"Have some," she offered kindly, as she extended the bag.
I couldn't speak. I must have been in a state of shock. I shook my head and looked down at the floor, a light-colored linoleum that had seen better days. The world went dark around the edges.
Wishing the spider vein cracks in the floor would open wide and swallow me up, I tried to steady my breath. I felt like I was about to faint.
I don't remember what year it was, but something in the moment – the moment after I regained my composure – signified a new era. Everything I knew about etiquette and decorum was crumbling. Waiting was over.
"It's ridiculous," she said, reading my thoughts and dusting cookie crumbs from her hands as she continued to steer the half-full cart toward Frozen Foods. "They say, never go shopping on an empty stomach, but who goes shopping when they have a houseful of food? I say, eat!"
It's not as if we would eat and run. I knew her to be an honest woman. She'd hand over the sampled package with the rest of the unopened purchases and pay up.
Of course, she was right. Appearances be danged! I greedily reached into the bag. Cookies would be eaten. Hunger would be abated. Kid grumpiness reduced.
This is freedom.
Funny how over the years I'd forgotten about that educational outing.
I never tagged along on shopping trips after that. And my mother never got peckish during our weekly chore. She would have been aghast if I'd asked to snitch from a sleeve of saltines.
Aside from the testing of a grape or two for sweetness and the occasional sampling of snacks handed out by chef-garbed hawkers, I haven't noticed much pre-purchase munching going on at our local supermarket.
The more I think about it, though, the more perplexing this phenomenon seems.
Now it feels as if we are prisoners of stores. The sheer amount of time modern shoppers spend buying groceries has got to have increased during my generation.
And that's by design ...
I mean ... it takes me at least four trips around the store to find which of the five cracker sections has the saltines with the unsalted tops. Not to mention … Why, for the love of peas … is the third cheese section in the cereal aisle this week?
Where did they move the newspapers? They are still being printed, right?
Honestly, I think I spend at least an hour more per week grocery shopping than anyone from my parents' generation even though I rarely buy more than a meal's worth of groceries at any one time.
It's not as if I have much food at home these days. Between the lack of energy to do a “Big Shop” as we've come to call it, I browse through the kitchen cabinets every few days. Buying meat and produce as needed.
I can't believe I'm not famished by the time I reach the cashier. In fact, I can't believe people don't just set up lawn chairs in front of the beer cooler. Crack open a cold one and keep score of how many neighbors search for their favorite frozen novelties where the Pilsners have been placed this week.
At least if a person gets lost, she won't go hungry.
The worst thing in the world isn't an open bag of cookies at the check-out. It's a black head of lettuce at the back of the vegetable drawer and playing hide and seek with the lunch meat.