There is something about men and shopping in the supermarket that is harder than nuclear science and brain surgery.
No amount of tutoring in the institution of marriage is enough to prepare a man for an unaccompanied shopping outing in the supermarket, especially if the shopping list exceeds two items.
The biggest dilemma is where to find the desired items from the shelves. Even when they have located the particular shelf, their next struggle is to find the particular brand, variety and stock keeping unit.
Over the weekend I was pushing the big trolley ahead of me in one of the emerging supermarkets. I always push the big trolley even when I am just picking bread and milk.
Trolley size is a measure of status, and it also influences the kind of attention you are going to receive from the cashiers and other supermarket attendants. The bigger the better.
I arrived at the milk section and encountered this gentleman and fellow sufferer. Men suffer in the supermarket because we can’t seem to trace anything from the shelves even when the items have been written clearly on the shopping list.
Furthermore, our pride does not allow us to ask questions and seek guidance from the shelf attendants because we believe that asking for help is a preserve of the weak.
We similarly suffer when we are accompanied by our spouses, because ladies seem to take an average of five minutes per item, making an erstwhile simple afternoon groceries shopping outing into a full day affair.
And finally, when we are accompanied by other dependents that we sponsor in one way or another, it eventually turns into a nightmare because a trolley that was meant to carry groceries ends up being loaded with a fridge, a wall to wall carpet and assorted furniture items.
It is always a losing game; whichever way we look at it.
Back to me and my fellow sufferer. I felt him first even before I saw him. He was obviously frustrated over something and I could smell his thin armpit sweat from an isle away. He was flipping all the available milk packets over and cross referring to a long list he held on the other hand.
Definitely what he was looking for was not stocked in this supermarket.
I easily picked my packet of milk and prepared to leave.
The man gave me an embarrassed smile and moved closer.
“Hey, where can I get this seven-litre packet of milk?” he asked shyly while looking sideways lest the entire supermarket got wind of his predicament and broke into laughter.
I pulled him aside and we held a small meeting because I was also struggling to understand whether the package that he was looking for was actually stocked in the supermarket.
After thorough brainstorming, I got an inspiration and remembered that supermarkets nowadays sell milk in measures according to the customers’ preferences.
After sliced bread, someone has invented a milk vending machine that dispenses the exact measure of milk that you want, or what your wallet can afford.
The area where the milk is dispensed in the supermarket is called a milk bar. Milk bar sounds such a misnomer to me because the bars I am used to have music and alcoholic beverages sales executives in tight clothing.
However, the milk bar that I was showing this stranger bore a solemn mood. Maybe the buyers were praying that when they reached home and put the milk on the fire to boil, it was not going to separate into water and cream which is a clear indictor that the milk has gone bad and the entire purchase is a total loss.
He got his seven litres of milk and the look on his face was one of utter relief and gratitude.
He spent some time at the milk bar admiring the vending equipment. I could tell he was still mesmerised by the whole affair, and he could possibly have been figuring out if there was a real cow behind there that was channelling the milk into his container.
His shopping list had a dozen more items that had not been ticked off. Among the other items on his shopping list were baby diapers size four and a jar of milking jelly that has been forcefully acquired for use by human beings.
I know where those items are displayed like the back of my hand, borne out of lengthy hands on experience.