Shop the madness! Or, grocery shopping etiquette in 11 + 2.5 easy steps

Anyone who reads this blog knows how much I love shopping (and for those who haven’t read this blog before, “love shopping” is total, unadulterated sarcasm). If I die and go to hell, the devil will give me a shopping cart and tell me to shop ’til I drop.


Today, due to a confluence of evil forces, I was forced to shop in my local No Frills, as well as WalMart, and finally, at Costco. And I also had to shop not only for my family, but for my mother as well. Pretty damn close to that hell scenario above, right?

Anyway, likely because the stores were closed yesterday for Good Friday, today should have been renamed Evil Saturday. Everyone seemed to need to feel the smooth plastic of a shopping cart in their hands. Everyone seemed to need to line up endlessly. And here was I, caught in the middle of this retail maelstrom. In fact, at one point, when I was in an aisle that could accommodate at least four carts side-by-side, and I was locked in position for a solid five minutes, I looked over at my wife and said, “kill me now.” Several people snickered. But no one moved.

Anyway, having spent so much time in line, I hereby present Tobin’s Rules for Shopping.

parking_lotRule 0: Don’t park like a douchenozzle
Yes, I’m starting at rule 0, because you haven’t even started shopping yet, and already you’re pissing people off. I’m going to try and be as clear as I can here: A parking space is an area of pavement usually bordered by three yellow lines. You park your vehicle so that it is contained within those three lines. To do anything other than this is to park like a douchenozzle. How does a douchenozzle park, you ask?

  1. A douchenozzle will take up two spaces, either on purpose or because they lack the basic talent to navigate a vehicle. You can tell the difference, because the one that does it on purpose will likely park it at a rakish angle, where the no-talent will just be over one of the lines by a foot or two.
  2. A douchenozzle will park where there is no parking space whatsoever. Usually closer to the store than anyone else, often right in the path of other cars.
  3. A douchenozzle will foolishly believe they will only be a few minutes, so they don’t need no stinkin’ parking space. Instead, they’ll park right up at the curb beside the store, usually blocking everyone else’s access to and from the store. Often, the douchenozzle themselves will stay in the car, smoking and playing obnoxious dance music at an obnoxious volume while they wait for their significant other (usually the one with the clothes that were in fashion in the 80s, back when they were twenty, or they’re wearing clothes that are five sizes too small for them because it makes them sexy, or, as they say, “schmexy,” or they look like they just came off a welfare-cheque financed bender) runs in for the stuff.

Don’t do any of this. Douchenozzle.

Rule 1: Don’t block the entrance
When you have made your list, grabbed your coffee, somehow managed to find a parking spot, remembered your bags, dug out a quarter and snagged a shopping cart then you’re already ahead of the game. So why the hell do you feel it’s necessary to get just inside the doors, then stop? Why? Get your ass all the way in, find a quiet, or at least an out of the way spot by all that weird fruit that no one buys, then get your shit together. Dick.

Rule 2: Watch where you’re going
Yes, there’s all sorts of things to do when you’re shopping. Keep track of that shopping list. Drink your coffee. Avoid all the morons. Scan for sales. Compare prices and sizes because it’s stunning how often they rip you off with the jumbo sizes. Etc. Etc. Etc. But seriously, it’s no worse than driving a car. So why do so many people simply choose to look sideways, or at their list, instead of where the hell they’re going? If you do this shit in the grocery store, I guarantee you’re the type to text and drive and I trust you will end up on the Darwin Awards shortly. And if you do this, and don’t know what the Darwin Awards are…don’t worry. You’ll find out. Moron.

Rule 3: Don’t walk forward and look backward
If you’ve already passed something, then you should have damn well looked at it then. If you didn’t, you have two choices: Back up safely, or loop around and check it out on the second pass. You should not be staring at it, trying to decide if it’s right for you, as you continue to walk away from it. There’s people’s heels in front of you, moron. Those damn carts hurt when they nail you right on that tendon. Again, if you do this here, you likely do this when you drive and obviously the sidewalks are no longer safe to walk. Shithead.

Rule 4: Don’t block the lane
So you’ve read the first three and you’re feeling pretty satisfied because you can honestly say, “I’ve never done any of those.” Well, then how about this perennial gem: Instead of slamming into people by looking backwards or sideways, you leave your cart to go on an exploratory side expedition, because those Ballpark Hot Dog-flavoured Potato Chips are strangely intriguing you. So you leave your damn cart in the middle of nowhere while you go off to scan the product. You’re like that stupid geologist from the movie Prometheus that sends all those flying robots to map out the place, then gets lost. Because no one leaves their cart for a second. They leave it, a large, grocery laden, steel-mesh chunk of flotsam, for a few minutes while everyone else now has to navigate around it. Watch out for me, because I’ll toss that damn cart down the nearest aisle and I don’t care how much stink eye you give me. I’ve done it. Fool.

Rule 5: Paying more attention to your phone than to the task at hand
Okay, yes, they’re convenient. Yes, people can now call you/text you/FB you/Tweet you and every other thing they pack into mobile devices these days. I use mine to hold the shopping list. So, they have their uses. But it is not acceptable to stop in the middle of a crowded grocery store to update your FB status.
FBIt’s not cool to slam your carts into other shoppers’ carts because you’re texting your BFF. That’s not an LOL. Or a ROFL. That’s a GTFOOMW (Get The Fuck Out Of My Way). That’s a WWTHYD (Watch What The Hell You’re Doing). Asshat.

Rule 6: There’s always someone behind you
Which means, when you decide to take twenty minutes to decide between the President’s Choice Decadent Chocolate Chip Cookies and the President’s Choice Decadent Chocolate Chunk Cookies, you’ve likely chosen to stop your stupid cart directly beside the person who is updating their FB to complain about the dude taking twenty minutes to decide between the President’s Choice Decadent Chocolate Chip Cookies and the President’s Choice Decadent Chocolate Chunk Cookies. Meanwhile, there’s a logjam of people stuck behind you both. Now, most people are polite. But if you hear a low, menacing, “Jesus H. Christ on Toast!” behind you, that’s me wondering if I hit you hard enough, will you press into the mesh of your cart and have to explain to your significant other why you suddenly look like you came out of a waffle iron. So move. Cretin.

express-lane-is-THIS-manyRule 7: Learn to count prior to jamming up the 8 Items or Less line
So you’ve managed to navigate the hazardous waters of the grocery store and now you’re ready to check out. Then, after a flawless performance, you then blow it all by parking your sorry ass in the wrong line. This one’s a particular pet peeve of mine. You can read further adventures here. Here’s a crazy suggestion: Try these steps.

  1. Read the sign and ask yourself, “How many items do they allow in this aisle?” It could be 8. It could be 10. It could be 12. Hell it might even be 15. In any case, between your fingers and your toes, you have enough to count them. Do so.
  2. Don’t be a bitch and say, “Well, I’ve got three loaves of bread, but really, they’re only one product, so that counts as one.” No it doesn’t. If you’ve got three, then count three.
  3. Count up all your items.
  4. Now here’s the tricky part. If the number of items in your cart or basket exceeds (which is a fancy-schmancy word for “is more than”) that number on the sign, then you cannot go in that line.
  5. Judge yourself accordingly

Trust me, this will save you a lot of harrasment at my hands if I happen to be the dude standing behind you, counting your items loudly, then bemoaning the fact that our school system no longer sees fit to teach our youth how to count. Pus bag.

buttRule 8: Don’t butt in line
So you’re looking at those horribly long, slow moving lines and even the 8 Items or Less line is stunningly long (likely with those that can’t count past five), so you find someone with a cart that’s bulging with food items and groaning under the weight and, when the person looks the other way, you choose to just deke in front of them. After all, you’ve only got a few little items, right? They won’t mind.

Yeah, they will. There’s a reason we use the terms butt and ass interchangeably. Your time is no more important than that poor bastard you just cut in front of. You are no more important than anyone else, no matter what your mama told you back when you were four years old. Buttmunch.

Rule 9: Next in line means next in line
There’s five of you in line, but then a new cashier comes in, opens up her register, smiles and says, “I’ll serve the next person in line.” Okay, just to be clear on this, what she really means is, I’ll serve the next person in line. What she definitely doesn’t mean is, I’ll serve the person that can elbow their way here the fastest. What she doesn’t mean is, I’ll serve the asshole who thinks they’re far more important than anyone else next.

I know it sounds crazy, serving the person that’s been in line the longest. But that’s really what they mean. So don’t be that jackass that shows they don’t understand rudimentary English, ‘kay? Jackass.

Rule 10: Don’t leave your cart or your fat ass in the laneway while you pack your groceries
This fits with rule 6. Because you’ve chosen to block the laneway with your cart and your ass while you pack your groceries at a glacial pace, the person behind you can’t even get up to the cash register to pay, even though they’re trying to get out of the way of the dude behind them. And you’re all doopty doopty doo, look at me packing my chocolate chunk cookies! The corollary to this is you getting the hell out of that laneway, but then scooting around to the far side and parking your fat ass in someone else’s way while you’re all doopty doopty doo. Doo-doo head.

Rule 1 Revisited: Don’t block the exit
You’re now heading out of the store. Again, rule 6 still applies. So don’t stop just before, or just after, the exit doors to dig your sunglasses and keys out of your purse. Don’t stop to adjust your junk before you head on out. Don’t stop and choose that moment to put your change/debit card/credit card in your wallet. You’ve made it this far, just keep going, stay the hell out of other people’s way, get to your car, then you can do all that shit. Bunghole.

shopping-cartBonus Rule…Rule 11: Put the cart in the corral
You’ve likely invested a whole quarter for the use of that cart, don’t you want it back? And even if you don’t, the rest of us don’t want to have to dodge the carts scattered willy nilly through the parking lot because you were too frigging lazy to walk it the twenty or thirty feet to the corral. Really, is it that much of a chore? The cart’s empty, it’s light. And besides, this is where you can have fun, putting one foot up on the cart and scoot it up to 15 mph and ride it across the parking lot, the wind blowing wildly through your hair. Yes, you look like a five-year-old, and some other asshole will likely blog about what a shithead you are, but who cares? It’s fun.

Otherwise, you’re just leaving a big chunk of metal around to scratch someone else’s car. Dork.

Rule 0.5: Learn how to back up
You’ve done it! You’ve run the gauntlet, you’ve gotten out alive, hell, you even had a little thrill returning the cart to the corral. Now, you just have to back the vehicle out of the space and get home. So how about this? When you’re backing up, actually look where you’re going. I guarantee that old dude with the walker, or the mother with her child in the cart weren’t really planning on a visit to the Emergency Room because you plowed your back bumper into their fleshy parts. Other cars are running up and down that parking lot. People are walking. Carts are blowing by. So when you back out, ease out, look behind you, look to your left and right to ensure nothing is coming at you, then and only then, can you vacate that space and get your ass gone.

Because, honestly, you wouldn’t want someone calling you a bad name, would you?

Of course not.



“Ooo, you make me live, you’re the best friend that I ever had.”  Queen

I think everyone has a best friend.  And no, not this bullshit BFF crap where “forever” is until the first disagreement.  I mean a real, solid, honest to God best friend.

I met mine just over fifteen years ago at, of all places, a Lamaze class.

The Wife was pregnant with our second child, who would become The Boy.  We’d already done the whole damn Lamaze class thing the first time around and, aside from the dubious honour of wearing a damn sympathy belly and talking about your uterus falling out, I really didn’t get a hell of a lot from it the first time around.

Very little Return on Investment as my business colleagues would say.

So when the Wife wanted to go back for a second round, I really didn’t see the need.  In fact, with the first child–The Girl–having taken 36 long, arduous hours to finally make her way into the world, I wondered if this time around some sort of classes to speed up the whole procedure might be in order.  I asked for LeMans classes instead of Lamaze.

Yeah, that didn’t go over well.  So we paid our money and booked the next class, to be in August.

For some reason, I couldn’t actually make the first class, so the Wife went with her sister.  Now, many say they look alike, but I’ve never really seen it.  And I think the fact that the prevailing theory after the first Lamaze class was that they were two lesbians having a child bore me out.  Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

So I think it really buggered everyone up when I showed up for the second class.  Or it just added to the whole damn story.  Was I the sperm donor?  Who knew?

Anyway, being all New Agey, we got to sit on the floor.  Yay.  As it happened, the Wife was to my left.  To my right was a pleasant guy, Ryan and his very pregnant wife, Lisa.

And, as it was a Lamaze class, and as it was the second time I was attending said class in three years…I was bored.  And trying desperately to not piss off a wife that currently outweighed me.

So I figured I’d make nice with the dude beside me.  So we started talking and the first thing that caught my attention was…well, I’ve give you the dialogue.

“So, you have any other kids?” I say.

“Yeah, we have a son, he’s just over three,” Ryan say.

“Oh yeah?  Our daughter’s about the same age.”

“Yeah, well, Logan’s driving us nuts right now.”

“Why’s that?”

“We already bought his Halloween costume and he won’t take the thing off.”

“Really?” I say, laughing at the fact that a three-year-old is calling the shots and also that they’ve already bought the damn costume and it isn’t even friggin’ September yet.  These are the types that have their Christmas tree up right after Halloween, I think.  Crazy saps.  “So, what costume did you buy him?” I ask.

“It’s a Wolverine costume,” Ryan says.  Now, two things struck me immediately.  One was, Wolverine wasn’t anywhere near as popular back in 1996 as he is now, nor was he as well known.  The first X-Men movie was still four years away.  So I was impressed that his three-year-old had such discriminating taste.  And then there was the second thing that hit me.

“Wait, you said his name is Logan?” I say.

“Yeah,” Ryan says.

“That’s kinda cool!  Did you know Wolverine’s name is actually Logan?”

And without blinking, Ryan answers, “I know.  That’s who he’s named after.”  Then he smiles a little wider.

It was love.

Okay, if I’m honest, it was more jealousy.  How come Ryan got to name a kid after a cool comic book superhero and I didn’t?  Not fair!

But honestly, we ended up talking comics most of the class.  And his wife Lisa tended to either laugh at something Ryan said, or give Karen a long-suffering look when we were deep into comicbookdom.

But Ryan’s humour and Lisa’s sparkling laugh and sunny personality did their work.  As the Wife and I walked back to our car we both agreed we really liked them a lot, and we’d really only known them for an hour or so.

We continued to talk over the successive classes, then made plans to catch a movie.  Ryan picked it and it wasn’t really until later we found out that, of the four of us, he was the only one that had really wanted to see Private Parts, Howard Stern’s autobiographical movie.  But we all ended up enjoying it, and we had a great time.

Over the years, we got closer and closer.  The running joke now is that either of us can apply the line from that lame-ass Tom Cruise movie Jerry Maguire.  No, not the “show me the money” line.  The other one.  “You complete me.”

And, funny as it is, sarcastic as it is, in a way, it’s sort of true.

The last couple of weeks for both our household and Ryan and Lisa’s has been tense.  One of those times when your normally fantastic kids aren’t quite so fantastic and the disappointment and strain takes you to your knees.  At least it did in our case, I can’t speak for Ryan and Lisa.  But I do know we were both craving an “adult night”.

Last night we had it.  We went out for dinner and, though we had to wait a bit, we had fun chatting and catching up.  Dinner was good, but I have to admit if we’d called it after dinner, I could have easily gone home and straight to bed.  I was bone tired and it wasn’t from a lot of work or anything.  Just…life getting in the way of living.

Instead, we went back to their house and pulled out a deck of cards and played two rounds of Euchre.  Just two rounds.  And somewhere around the middle of the second round, the magic happened.

I don’t know what it is about the four of us when we get together.  I don’t think I’m bad with the humour, but Ryan is a frigging Jedi Knight when it comes to funny.  He’s a black belt.

And it’s not like we’re all sitting there waiting for Ryan to come out with something funny.  Because that’s not funny.  That’s stress.  It’s not like that.  It’s just the four of us talking and joking and singing to bad 80s songs and complaining about our kids and complimenting our kids and…well, just easy conversation that comes from hanging out with people you are completely comfortable with.

And somehow, somewhere during that, damn near every time without fail, something is said that just…shuts. Us. Down.

It’s nothing I could ever do justice in writing out here.  If I did, you as the reader would likely be left scratching your head wondering, what’s so damn funny about that?

And the answer would be, likely not much.  Maybe it’s the line.  Maybe it’s the way it’s delivered.  Maybe it’s the look that accompanies it.  Maybe it’s the unexpectedness of it.  Maybe it’s the build-up of all the slightly less funny stuff before it that prepped us.  Maybe it’s a combination of all of that.  Who knows.

But when Ryan took an unexpected trick last night, picked up the cards and looked at us with a self-satisfied expression, pulled a slightly Hispanic accent, cocked his head at just the right angle, held the cards just right, and said, “mmmMMMMmmmm, tastes goooOOoood!” then stuck his tongue out as though to sensuously lick those cards, that was it.




And as much as the above description doesn’t do the actual event any justice (this is the what’s so damn funny about that part), the next description will absolutely fall short as well.  But I’ll give it a go in hopes of a partial understanding.

When Ryan gets me, I typically laugh loud.  Then, as I scale up, I go silent.  Mouth open, one eye closed, the other squirting tears, chest spasming.  It ain’t pretty.  But that’s me laughing my ass off.

Then there’s the Wife.  Snort……………..snort………….snort………..snort……….. Which eventually moves over to “Oh! Oh! Oh! Oh! Oh! Oh! Oh! Oh!”

Ryan gets this high-pitched giggle that sets me off into additional paroxysms of laughter.

And Lisa has this hooting laugh that sails above everyone else’s.  Until she starts saying, “Oh my belly, oh my belly!” that Ryan mistakes for “Oh my golly, oh my golly!”

Again, I know this won’t mean anywhere near as much to anyone outside the four of us, but believe me when I say we’ve come to absolutely cherish these times.  It’s gotten to the point where we’ll say we need a “Ryan & Lisa night” and they say they need a “Tobin & Karen night”.

And last night, I think the four of us needed a good, solid laugh.  And we got it.

Don Henley has a song called Everything is Different Now.  And in the song he says something about dropping to his knees and asking heaven to send him someone to love.  The line that comes after that is

Heaven shot back, ‘You get the love that you allow.’  And everything is different now.

I don’t know if Ryan and Lisa know it, but they’ve probably saved my life more than once just by being the people they are. Just by bringing so much fun, support and laughter into our lives.

I’m so glad we have their friendship.  I’m so glad this is the love that we’ve allowed.

I’m so glad the Wife talked me into that damn Lamaze class.