“Who takes you grocery shopping?” I’m often asked. It is assumed that someone takes me, and in my case, that’s a reasonable assumption. I live in a suburb where all the grocery stores are huge, and all the employees are harried and way too busy to escort me around the store. I know a man who is blind who walks to his local small-town grocery, and someone at the customer service counter gets a worker to go around with him and pick up the items on his list, which he has written on a piece of paper. After he checks out, he loads up his back pack, and he walks home. He is a model of independence. When I worked in a neighborhood where there was a small grocery within walking distance, I did the same thing on my lunch hour. It Was a liberating feeling, but it required a lot of patience. First, I had to wait for a customer service worker to notice me. Sometimes blind people can be invisible. More on that in another post. Then, they would often assign a bag boy to the task, and he could barely read on a first grade level. That made finding products with specifics such as “caffeine free,” or “with moisturizer” very challenging.
I don’t work in that neighborhood anymore, and there’s nothing to walk to now, so I’m resigned to having someone drive me to the grocery store. Once upon a time, in my city, we had an organization called Volunteers Express. Volunteers were match with people with disabilities or who were elderly. I was matched with a young woman named sherri, in 1991, and we have maintained our friendship, as well as our volunteer/recipient relationship even though the organization no longer exists.
On Saturday, Sherri picked me up at 9:45 and dropped me off at the beauty shop for my bi-weekly manicure and eyebrow arch. She then scurried off to the grocery with my list in hand along with my credit card, and by the time I was done, she had finished my shopping too. It was all very efficient, because after all these years, Sherri knows pretty much what my preferences are when deciding which products to choose. For example, she knows that I always buy white tissues with no lotion in them, and I would rather pay a little more for soup if the sodium count is less. I always buy low fat cheese, extra large eggs, and skim milk. The benefit of having someone take my list and run through the store is that there is no impulse buying. The problem is that there is no impulse buying. For me, a successful shopping trip results in a few extra purchases of new foods or household products to try. It makes grocery shopping a little more fun.
Sherri is a very high-energy professional woman with a husband and two teen-agers, so I try to respect her time. We’ve fallen into a routine of grocery-shopping twice a month, with an average time spent of about two hours per trip. as soon as I answer the door, we hit the ground running. We catch up with news of our lives on the way to and from the store, discussing problems at work, recommending good books to read, and sharing joys and frustrations. But once we’re inside the store, it’s all business. It’s a job to get done, as efficiently as possible. Sure, it would be nice to get to go to the store every week, or better yet, whenever I needed an ingredient for a dish I suddenly decided to make. It would be luxurious to have three or four hours to ponder over which brand of peanut butter to buy, and whether it’s better to buy sugar free or fat free ice cream, but I would never trade sherri’s getter done attitude for a leisurely shopping trip with someone who can’t find the products I always buy. Many times I don’t even know the brand I want, but sherri can find it by looking for the familiar packaging. That’s precisely why I am comfortable sending her to the store while I get my nails done.