Let’s start with a tidbit of workplace conversation between a baby boomer and a millennial. It’s nearly quitting time.
“I have errands to run after work,” Mr. Boomer says, making a futile attempt at small talk.
“Really? Like…” The millennial doesn’t care but she is being polite. Being nice is how she won all those participation awards. She feels sorry for her ancient co-worker. He’s over fifty, maybe even sixty. Very close to death.
“I have to go grocery shopping.”
A look of horror crosses her youthful face. “Oh God, I hate going to grocery stores.”
“They’re always filled with old people.”
He nods, says nothing and looks down at his shoes.
The millennial is confused and concerned by the silence, “Are you okay?”
“Uh, sure. Sure. I just have to get going.”
She brightens and flashes a big toothy smile. “Okay. Have fun!”
Mr. Boomer shuffles out of the office and into his car. He really needs to stop at the store on the way home but he sure doesn’t want to now. Still, he has no choice. He used his last Starbucks Mocha K-cup pod today. So it’s either shop and mingle with the other grizzled members of his generation or start tomorrow without coffee. And that’s not going to happen. A morning without caffeine is a personal extinction level event. He sighs, drops the car into gear, heads out of the parking lot and on his way to Safeway.
And the bubbly millennial was absolutely right. Grocery stores are filled with the old and the retired. I fit in both those categories. Busy people don’t like grocery shopping. Being trapped in Wegman’s, the Friday before a holiday weekend, is considered a preview of purgatory. They can’t wait to get out of there and on with their lives.
Retirees don’t see it that way. The grocery store is an outing. Since I’ve retired, I go there almost every day. The cashiers know me on sight and are happy to see me. It’s my pathetic version of Cheers.
If I’m lucky, I run into someone who cannot work the self checkout machine to save his life. Depending on my mood, I will either play good Samaritan or watch him panic and crumble before the computerized cashier bully. If he looks older than me, I pray that we are the same age. If he looks younger, I feel vastly superior intellectually. Either way, it’s a win-win for me. I take a minute to bask in my heightened self esteem. It’s petty, I know. But I get a charge out of it.
Of course, that isn’t my reason for going to the store. It’s the thrill of shopping that keeps me coming back. I cruise through the maze of aisles in search of forbidden foods on sale. The price drop, no matter how small, gives me an excuse to buy a donut or a container of Ben & Jerry’s. Sure, I know I will shrink back from the bathroom scale in the morning but I’m saving money, right?
And that reminds me. Giant has their bakery fresh donuts at half price. I’d better get there before all the glazed ones are gone.
See you there.