Ghetto Grocery Store Trip Yields a Life Lesson on Perspective


I had an experience yesterday that provided an interesting lesson in perspective and patience that I think bears sharing.

*****I’ll preface this by saying that I’m not known as the most patient of guys when it comes with putting up with bullshit. As every girlfriend I’ve ever had knows, I hate crowds, lines, and shopping. Keep that in mind as you read this. Some of the people who know me personally will get a chuckle out of this story and me being in it, that’s without question.*****

So most of you don’t know this, but I normally get up at 4:00am. I take about an hour to do my Morning Mojo Routine (a super-secret trademarked program), and then I drive about an hour into the gym to start training clients at 6:00.

That’s right, the life of a trainer can be THAT glamorous. This usually means that on Sundays I spend a couple of hours putting stuff together for the week, doing book work, and so on so that I can rack out around 8:30 or so and be ready for the early Monday morning with a minimum of hassle.

This particular Sunday I attended a football get-together with a great group of friends which, while a hell of a time, threw off my routine a bit. I was still up at 4:00 on Monday, did the MMR as normal… and made it about half way into the gym before realizing that I’d left my lunch cooler on the counter.


That meant that I had the opportunity to go to one of my least favorite places, the ghetto grocery store down the way from the gym, at my least favorite time of the day: 11:30am – Prime lunch time.

Since my other options consisted of eating crappy fast food (I don’t), getting a decent meal at a couple of local spots (no time plus parking aggravation), or go hungry (let’s be serious), it’s off to the ghetto supermarket I go.

What the crowd looked like.

Around 11:30 I roll in to see a parking lot teaming with a writhing and wailing mass of the great unwashed, jump out of my truck, put on my Isaac Determined Face (so as to not be harassed), and upon clearing the hissing airlock doors make a b-line for the produce section and the cooler. Given that my only objectives were to grab a pound of cottage cheese, a couple of Roma tomatoes, and a bag of almonds I figured it should be a mercifully short trip. Throughout my modern-day hunting and gathering I’m already starting to stress out a little bit because I’m hungry, I don’t enjoy shopping for a meal in a place I don’t like, and I was in the middle of a busy day and didn’t really want to take the time and deviance from the norm to do it. However, them’s the breaks and I bravely soldiered through.

So as I’m headed to check out I see the express line is like five deep. I’ve now gone from grumbling in my head to screaming obscenities, surprisingly still in my head. Just as I was resigning myself to a wait of almost five minutes in the express line (I know how trivial this all is, but I guarantee you that most everyone here would be thinking the same things and yes, it’s a little tongue-in-cheek) I look to my right and see that one of the normal lines is almost empty, containing just one person who’s almost done being rung up. Since opportunity waits for no man I immediately deviated my path and got in the almost non-existent line. Just as I was putting my three items on the conveyor belt and congratulating myself on my advanced survival skills, my surroundings started to sink in a little more.

In front of me in line was a short, middle-aged, slightly unkempt woman with a small DOG in the child seat of her cart. All of her items were bagged, but not in her cart, and she was having a very intense conversation with the girl at the checkout about coupons, food stamps, EBT, and whatever other programs she was using. There were multiple papers, vouchers, and everything all over the check-out area. Oh shit.

She was mumbling over and over again about how the total can’t be right, that she calculated it out, and was trying to find enough money on her several EBT cards to cover the amount. Judging by the slurring of her words I’d say she was pretty heavily medicated (the dog seemed fairly alert, though, so hopefully he was navigating) and this entire exchange was definitely operating at peak capacity for her. At this point I was thinking that discretion was the better part of valor and I was going to bounce back to the express line but upon turning around discovered that three people had managed to fill in right behind me and I was pretty much stuck. Double shit.

This back and forth went on for a long time. As in almost ten minutes, which is an eternity to spend in a checkout line for one person. Multiple manager visits, voided receipts, unbaggings, rebaggings, and lots of hand wringing and head shakings later, she finally managed to find another card and get it squared away. After some slurred apologies and frustrated looks from the check-out girl, she and the dog were on their way.

I took about a minute to ring up my food, pay my bill, and bounce. On my way out I saw her standing on the sidewalk near the entrance, dog and groceries still in her cart, obviously waiting for a ride or taxi.

Normally this situation would have had me annoyed and strung tighter than a banjo string. And I’m not going to lie, I wasn’t exactly thrilled with the situation, but I think there’s a few really instructive things there.

First, plan and focus better. If I’d taken the effort to focus and make sure that I had everything I needed for the day I wouldn’t have even been in there in the first place. The same goes for anything that you do. Focus and stick to your plan and though there’ll certainly be things that get in the way, most of them won’t be insurmountable. When you start free-wheeling things is when you have to make major deviations and often end up in trouble.

Second, and by far most important, is that no matter how shitty things are going for you I’m willing to bet we can find someone who’s having a harder time. If you’re reading this blog then that means you have access to a computer and internet. Now I’m not making any real assumptions about your life and your problems. There are some of you out there who are going through some very real stuff, and for that all I can say is keep plugging. However, there are a lot of people out there (and not just the third-worlders that everyone likes to trot out as extreme examples, although I wish them well, too) who are having some REALLY hard times and would love to be sitting in a chair reading a blog about strength, fitness, and success.

Yesterday had some good lessons for me, although you can bet I’ll be keeping a more discerning eye on open lanes from now on.

And don’t worry, that’s enough of this happy crap for the week. I’ll be bringing the aggression and sarcasm from here on out.

Write any lessons life has served you below!

Comments on Ghetto Grocery Store Trip Yields a Life Lesson on Perspective Leave a Comment

November 8, 2011

MOM @ 11:05 pm #

Awesome! I LOVE YOU! MOM.

November 9, 2011

Angie Plummer @ 1:34 am #

Fabulous article…sometimes it take the little things that we take for granted everyday to put the bigger picture in perspective.

Johan Nederhof @ 10:48 pm #

When you think things are bad, They can also get worse.
Changing perspective is a good thing.
Have fun, Johan

November 10, 2011

Isaac @ 11:52 am #

Indeed, guys. A lot of us, me included, get too caught up in our own drama at times to keep things in perspective. Sometimes it’s nice to have a little reminder.

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