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Tuesday, Sept. 25, 2001
About once a month, it's necessary for me to go grocery shopping. Necessary because I will, in a months time, have exhausted all the required staples of male living.

Don't get me wrong, Ally does the shopping in a fine and determined way, but she brings home stuff like laundry detergent and feminine products which just leave me cold. I want to dig into those grocery bags and come up with treasure. A box of herb crackers with the requisite can of cheese squirt. Cashews, tonic water, ribeye steaks, and 3- in- one oil. 20 lb. bags of charcoal for the grille. St Pauli Girl beer. A new cajun spice rub.

And the kids love it when I shop because I have no concious. I buy what they'll eat and buy a lot of it. I'm the one whom they thank, in the middle of a fridge raiding frenzy, for picking up the Entemanns crumb cake. They know better than to complain about Ally's shopping but they do pantomined high fives when I announce that I'm on the way to the Bigly Piggly Store.

Ally looks on all this with some amusement. Probably because it gets her out of another schlep trip to the store and me out of her hair for an hour.

Listen. I'm one helluva grocery shopper. And I'm going to give you the benefit of some of my vast experience at the art. The tricks of the trade, so to speak.

1. Did you pick out a grocery cart which pulls to the right and squeeks? Go directly to the beer cooler (which for me, is a given) and load two to three cases on the bottom of the cart. Puts weight right on the wheels. Whether or not you actually buy the beer is up to you.

2. Shop on a rainy night in the middle of the week. You'll have the run of the store, which is important because of item #3.

3. Do you suffer from polite shopping decorum? I used to. I'd stop and let folks by, my cart an external shield protecting their path to the pickle aisle. No more. Taking a cue from all the other experienced ones, I now ram my way through at warp speed. This is a war with victory achieved only by blasting to the checkout line and scoring a cashier (WITH a bagger) who has graduated high school.

4. Develop the pick-on-the-fly techinique. I used to go into the store when the kids were small, throw two bags of diapers in the cart with an around the back flip, drop kick some wiping cloths, Simulac formula and never lose cart speed. I'd perch a child in the little seat thing and train 'em to slam dunk incoming produce as I flung it towards the cart. Never, never let the cart stop in its' tracks, some granny will cut you off.

5. Know your store. Go in on surrepticious missions and map the place. Memorize locations. Then, when you're tired and / or hungover, you'll be able to complete the mission by sheer feel.

6. Never, ever use coupons. Hate those who do. A clutch of coupons is guaranteed to raise my ire. The same goof who uses coupons is the ass who will have the bagger running around the store double-checking prices in order to save 5 cents and waste $15 of my time.

And next time you're in the store and see a crazed eyed shopper shooting cart-hoops with toilet paper and pumping his fist in victory when he finds a sale on air fresheners for the car, stop off and say hi.

That'll be me, on yet another big night out on the town.

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