For those unfamiliar with what the Commissary is, it’s the grocery store on base. Generally, they carry foods for outstanding prices, and if you have coupons, you can generate some pretty good steals. My first Commissary experience wasn’t too bad. It was our second week as a married couple, and I hadn’t gone there yet. All excited about this new way of life, I felt like I was missing out on an important aspect of the military lifestyle. So, I practically begged Evan to take me, and he did, to appease my curiosity and, I’m sure, to get me to shut up about it. It was just like any other grocery shopping trip, except I had to show my ID before buying anything. That seemed simple enough. I couldn’t wait to go again. But, because of how far we lived from base, we hardly shopped there. Several months later, while Evan was gone for some training, I decided to appease my eagerness and do a solo trip to the Commissary. There are three things I learned about the Commissary that day:
1. Never go on a payday.
2. Never go on a payday FRIDAY.
3. Never go solo.
Having to go look for an available cart should have been my first clue. I found an abandoned one cock-eyed on the curb. Mumbling about “lazy people who can’t walk a few feet to put a cart away,” I yanked the cart up on the sidewalk and waddled my way into the building. (I was quite pregnant at this time.) The scene that unfolded before my eyes as those sliding doors opened forever changed the way I had viewed the Commissary up to that point. It was not the fun little grocery trip Evan and I had taken before. I wasn’t sure if I had walked through the doors of the Commissary or a chaotic circus. There were mothers juggling two carts (pushing one and pulling another), with kids hanging off the sides like little monkeys. There were people practically running down the aisles, barely able to keep a hold on their carts. I wanted to ask where the big give-away was.
I cautiously approached the first aisle, just to be barricaded from both directions. Both individuals stopped to look at things on the shelves. I would have gone around the one in front of me, except that the aisles weren’t big enough for double-wide carts. I was stuck. I turned to the items on the shelves next to me. Mmmm, goya beans. Not exactly what I had gone to the store for. Eh, might as well grab a can or two so I don’t look like a complete idiot. Once I was free, I dropped the cans off in another aisle. There was no way I was going back to the barricading bean aisle. I quickly realized the only way I was going to survive this shopping trip was to find everything as fast as possible and hope I got what I needed. I went to the back of the store to get some cream cheese. I saw a long line of people standing next to the pre-packaged cheese section, so I pulled my cart in amongst the people. Nobody was moving or even looking at the cheese. In fact, they were all glaring at me like I was some intruder. Confused, I looked at the lady in front of me and asked, “Excuse me, is there a line for the cheese or something?” The woman laughed, “No honey, this is the line for check-out.” I pulled out and went to the back of the line, figuring I could grab the cream cheese on my way past it.
I could feel the blood drain from my face as I stared at the line in front of me. The line started at the zig-zag section in the front and wrapped all the way around the frozen foods side of the store to the back. Every person had a cart that was overflowing with groceries. I looked at my measly half-filled cart and groaned. As the line moved, I began seeing items that I had forgotten, across the way. I didn’t dare leave my cart or move at all, for fear of losing my spot. By the time I reached the front, an hour and a half had ticked past, and I had written out my to-do list for the next week and was mentally writing a petition to the Marine Corps for a separate check-out aisle for pregnant women.
Once I was free of that nonsense, I called Evan and said I’d never go there again. I could hear the smile in his voice. “Babe, you went on a payday Friday. That was probably the worst thing you could have done,” he laughed.
“Well, that would have been nice to know before I got my pregnant butt stuck in there for over two hours.”
Now, I always go to the Commissary on a non-pay weekday, with somebody.