Meltdown in aisle four. It’s getting downright ugly in the grocery store. A woman, mind you, not a child, is throwing a tantrum in front of the strip steaks.
She’s berating the butcher. Flailing her arms at a senior citizen patiently waiting for his pound of ground round. And she’s shrieking at her husband, who is trying to casually walk away, wearing an expression on his face that reads, “I don’t know her.”
As a witness to the episode, I could tell you exactly what provoked it. But I won’t.
All you have to know is this: Although the woman was entirely at fault, this sort of incident could have happened to anyone. Anyone, that is, who dares to enter a supermarket in the days leading up to a holiday.
As a former manager of a supermarket deli, I’ve seen more than my share of stressed-out customers. And now with July 4th almost upon us, I thought I’d use my years spent slinging slaw and slicing corned beef to help you avoid losing it in the grocery store. Here goes:
1. Don’t go to the supermarket on the days leading up to the 4th unless it’s absolutely necessary. If you must go, arrive early before the hordes do. (Obvious? Yes. But, year after year, you people don’t learn.)
2. Practice proper supermarket etiquette. Allow the person elbowing you at the corn display to grab the last ear. Believe me. More times than not, there’s a lot more where that came from.
3. Move your grocery cart and yourself over to the side so others can get by, especially while contemplating the ungodly long Campbell’s soup display. And if a young lady with a cell phone attached to her cheek is blocking your way, don’t smash into her cart to get her attention. Say, “Excuse me,” politely and loudly enough that she can hear you. Didn’t your mother always tell you you’ll catch more flies with honey than vinegar?
4. Okay, no eye-rolling here. If you must go to the grocery store over the next few days, make it an adventure. Have fun. Sample the free stuff. Start a conversation with someone in the store about well, corn. Or mangoes. Or bib lettuce. If all else fails, daydream. What about? Anything other than being where you are.
5. Strive for acceptance. Look, if you’re in a supermarket on a holiday weekend, someone’s bound to take the parking space you’ve been patiently waiting for. Or whipping out a wad of coupons as thick as a paperback novel just before you get to the checkout counter. Don’t start World War III. Get over it.
6. Wait your turn. If you take a number at the meat, fish, deli, bakery, floral or —fill in the blank here—counter, stay near by. You may think you’re being more efficient by wandering off to gather your non-fat yogurt, Cheerios and can of garbanzo beans. You’re not.
7. Cut the staff a little slack. Chances are, they’re all working their butts off. If one of them does get a little surly, remember, you get to haul out of there long before they do
8. If you’re feeling you’re about to blow and say something you’ll regret later, do whatever it takes to calm yourself down. My sister Nancy, a veteran yoga teacher and author of "Guiding Yoga's Light", recommends taking in some deep, full, slow breaths. Breathe thru your nose all the way to your diaphragm, inhaling as long as you exhale. Repeat 10 times. Try it. It works.
9. One word: Peapod.
10. Put things in perspective: focus on why you’re here. And I don’t mean to pick up the burgers, brats and brew for your backyard barbecue. I mean the real reason. To celebrate the birth of our nation. Even with all of America’s problems, in all probability, you feel incredibly lucky to live here. Isn’t that reason enough to chill in the aisles beyond the frozen foods?