Sunday, September 18, 2016

Lists only help when you read them

Last weekend I stopped to pick up a few things at the supermarket. With a list written out on my phone that included a couple of side salads, I strode over to the deli and grabbed one of those little tickets with a number on it  (you know, the one that looks like a paper arrowhead and is easily crumpled up) and waited for my turn. By the way, am I the only one who tries to pull one number and suddenly has a ribbon of numbers flowing to the floor?

It was a Saturday and the store was busy, but fortunately there were only two customers ahead of me. As I waited I perused the deli case and decided to also get some lunchmeats. In just a few minutes I was ordering, taking my packages of ham and turkey and rolled away with my cart.

Without the salads.

Seriously?

A hoard of customers appeared from the depths of frozen foods, produce and paper goods while I had been ordering. I had started with number 54. On my second round, which I picked because it wouldn’t be polite to barge in front of number 55 and demand to order what I forgot, I was now number 61.

Oh, come on!

You know how the person in front of you at the cash register will put all their groceries on the counter and then announce that they need some nice clerk to grab the three-pack of paper towels (single ply) from the top shelf in aisle 23, when you’re running late for work/picking up a kid/getting to the bank before closing? The deli counter can be the same whirlpool of wasted time, so it’s tempting to try and slip in some side shopping.

But even if there are seven numbers ahead of you but you know – You Know – the minute you bolt three aisles down to grab pasta sauce, your number will be called not once, not twice, but three times, the third time with obvious exasperation. Suddenly the big sign that shows what number they’re serving is being flipped to the next number, and we all know what happens when your number is called and you’re not there, right? We fall victim to The Sprint of Shame.

“I’m here! I’m here!” you’re waving that crunched up little piece of paper in your hand trying to prove you’re not just some line cutter. Now you’re faced with unhidden frustration from the clerk who has to help you and the obvious disdain of six customers who have been waiting patiently for their turn and have already experienced the thrill of believing one less person is ahead of them, and you show up with your little bit of printed proof. Imagine the riot you’d cause cutting someone off because you forgot to order summer slaw. I couldn’t do it.

Ironically, I live by lists – on my phone, on pads of paper all over the house and on my desk at work. It’s how I function past getting out of bed in the morning. Well, that and coffee. The thing about lists is that they only help if you actually refer to them.

I stood at that deli counter so sure of what I was ordering that I didn’t even glance at the very specific list on my phone… the phone in my hand… the phone that I was playing a card game on while I waited for my turn.

Everybody knows it’s more expensive to shop without a list, and even then, having a list is not a foolproof budgeting method. Chicken was not on my list. We have so much chicken in our freezer that Purdue called and wanted to know if we’re starting our own distribution center. But it was on sale, so now we’ll be ready any time a family of 43 stops by for dinner, as long as they can wait for it to defrost.

Take a tip from my grocery shopping gaffe and remember the key to making the most use of your list is to read it while you’re still in the store. Chicken, anyone?

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