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Monday, March 29, 2010

MERCANTILE AMERICA: COSTCO

Readers of DBD know that I am often irritable (and no doubt irritating), whereas Barbara is almost never guilty in this regard. With me, the quality is probably just one more effect of growing old, the grumpy-old-man syndrome. Perhaps that’s why I am put off by certain behaviors of others in my age “group.” A better person would be more generous and less tetchy, less inclined to project personal frustrations over aging in the form of criticism. That said, I would be very interested to learn your impressions of older people. Many blogs and websites trumpet our spunk and creativity, or express sympathy when scammers take us to the cleaners. What are your views and stories?


--Was it crowded?
--Very. After shopping I got in line for gas. I almost gave up. I ended up in a line with two SUVs ahead of me. Both the size of Nimitz-class carriers. It took a good ten minutes for them to fill up.
--Did you snack?
--You always ask that. You always interrogate me about snacking. I do not snack at Costco. I think it’s disgusting. It’s the sort of thing that makes people hate retirees.
--Do you think we’re hated?
--Clanking around on titanium joints, pumped full of Lipitor to live to a hundred. Blabbing away with the bank teller minutes after the transaction’s over. Of course we’re hated.
--I don’t feel hated.
--Well, that’s good. I’m glad. Besides, no one could hate you. Not even young people.
--I don’t think young people see me at all. I’m not important enough to be hated.
--Next Christmas, I’m getting you one of those self-esteem kits they sell for kids. After you use the kit, you too will be able to feel hated. No, the snacking--my God. It can’t be much different from a petting zoo at feeding time. All these retirees lowing and rocking in front of the snack stations. The men all wear sports paraphernalia and the women dress in sweatshirts with clever sayings. Assertions of pride about being geriatric. Crackers, seafood spread, pigs-in-a-blanket, fruit juice laced with glucosamine. Bunt cake. I’m telling you, the bunt cakes at Costco are only slightly smaller than a tire. People pushing big hand carts, not regular shopping carts. People buying pallets of frozen burritos. They sell a chicken pot pie that serves twelve. What am I supposed to do with something like that?
--You’re supposed to have people to dinner.
--To eat a chicken pot pie? You who won’t let me unseal the airlock until you steam-clean the whole house? I don’t see it happening.
--OK, but I bet you wanted a nibble here and there. You’re disciplined, true, but I bet you wanted a sample or two
--No, I didn’t. You know me, but you don’t. I know it’s small-minded, but it annoys me. That sense of entitlement. “I’m old, dammit. I’m retired, for Christ’s sake. If me and the missus want to plan our week around visits to Costco, so we can join the herds in front of the sample food counters to eat lunch for free, who the hell’s going to stop me? And don’t forget, I’m a veteran!”
--Keep it up, and you’re going to need a hit of Lipitor yourself.
--Sorry. No, all I need is a rob roy. It was the Nimitz-class SUVs at the gas pump. That’s when the fog of war set in.

6 comments:

  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  2. Have you seen American Splendor? There's a great bit where Harvey Pekar explains that one of his rules for living is to never get in a grocery store line behind a old Jewish woman. "I'm a member of the tribe myself, but..."

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  3. I was going to mention the 'entitlement' phenomenon that sets in at a certain age when I read the first part of your post. Then you beat me to it at the end.

    I see a feeling of entitlement in the grocery stores when elders stop in the middle of the aisle oblivious to the fact that there are other people who might want to get by. Or they zoom out of the aisles looking neither right or left. I hope they don't drive like that, but am afraid that they do.

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  4. K-
    No, I haven't seen American Splendor, but steering clear of elderly women in lines is a valuable rule of life. Even so, when I find myself behind one, I am both frustrated, and aware of seeing something uncomfortably familiar. Say for instance when I screw up and slot my credit card in the wrong way. I know what the poor cashier is thinking as I fumble to discover the right technique. (And if you have the time, I'd appreciate learning another technique: how to use italics in Blogger.)

    Darlene-
    I know what you mean. Some rudeness is unintentional, another result of being distracted or confused in old age. But some rude old people are just that: either they never had any manners, or they've determined that being old exempts them from simple courtesies.

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  5. I get irritated at the slowness, the preciseness, the thinking-about-it-firstness, the fumbling... I forget. I forget the irritation of those around me when I do the same.

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  6. Jerry--
    I just think a lot of it is the result of the empty novelties generated by advertising. A product was packaged one way last month, but a new way this. Is it the same? Is the one I bought last month here somewhere? And what about growing up in the thirties, forties, or fifties with, say, three or four different kinds of toothpaste? I use this example because on more than one occasion I have seen an elderly couple literally paralyzed before the impossible, ridiculous "options" waiting to be worked through before choosing something to brush their teeth with, or to wash clothes, or spread on toast. And the offerings are in the end essentially the same. You don't have to be dead at the top for this sort of thing to turn you into a zombie.

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