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June 24, 2001

killing the queen

Price Club will kill me yet. It's not the amount of money I spend. I know going in that if I say I'm going to spend $100, I will drop at least $200. I mean, a bucket of Twizzlers sets me back 6 bucks to start off. That's before I get down the cereal aisle. No, it's not the money. It's the people.

See, wholesale clubs attract a certain kind of person. I'm not one of them, of course. I'm the exception to the rule. But on the whole, you can count on getting aggravated to the point of cart-rage at least 5 times a trip. I've done the study, I know this. I know my enemy. It is....

The cheap lunch date. This person comes for only one reason: the free samples of food. Every day at about noon, the Price Club tray brigade sets up on their corners with their microwaves, tiny cups and napkins. They offer a piece of a piece of a sample of whatever is on special that day so you can taste the goodness of frozen, pre-made food.

The cheap lunch date comes in two sizes; over 60 and coupon queen. Either of them will throw a small child out of the way in order to be first on line for the smidgen of overheated lasagna the tray brigade has set up. If it's a dessert, they will move faster than Dicky Cheney to an underground shleter to get there. The coupon queen lords it over the over 60 sampler, however, because she has kids, and she will send each one of them onto the line to get more free morsels for herself.

I kind of let the over 60 crowd go. I mean, they are probably just killing time until the Early Bird Special starts at Sizzler. They need to maintain their nutritional requirements until it's time to hit the salad bar. If they don't get their free samples, they just might keel over right in the middle of the snack aisle, and then I would have to manuever that large cart around a lot of bodies.

But the coupon queen must die. Not only does she monopolize the tray brigade, but she will take up an entire aisle while doing it. She will leave her cart to the right of her and her kids to the left and there's nowhere to go when you try to turn down frozen foods. You gently try to push her cart out of the way, but out of the corner of your eye you see her claws come out and you back off.

Inevitably, coupon queen meets another queen from her cluster. They stand in the center of the aisle, packed carts and kids in tow, and yammer on about ShopRite's rain check policy. They are oblivious to the fact that there are other people in the store who may like them to get the fuck out of the way. When you next run into the queen, she is standing in the juice aisle, talking into her cell phone to her nail technician while her kids have gotten loose and are ripping open packages of gummi bears. From someone else's cart.

You end up in behind her at the register, and you notice that the seat of her cart is lined up with a smorgasbord of free food. Lasagna, tiramasu, Chicken Marsala, all in little white cups. She wraps each one in a napkin and places them in the diaper bag slung over her shoulder. She sees you looking at her and she smirks and says "hey, it's free, why not?" And you can think of a hundred reasons why it's just wrong to hoard less than bite size free samples of food, hide them behind your baby's diaper cream, and pass them off as appetizers to your husband. But you say nothing.

It is only when her kid tugs on her sleeve and begs for something, anything to eat, just one little taste of that free jello maybe, and she smacks him upside the head and tells him to stop being so greedy that you wish her lasgna sample was coated with anthrax.

But you have the last laugh. Because as she puts the last of her items up on the conveyer, you accidently trip over something, thereby pushing your cart forward, smashing it right into the diaper bag where tonight's dinner lies in all it's paper cup glory. She gasps, looks into the bag, and stifles a scream. You know it's gotta be a mess in there. You apologize with a total lack of sincerity and offer her kid a Twizzler.

All in a day's work.