Raisins, a Plunger, and Floor Mats

With all that’s going on in the world today like bank failures and threats of nuclear war, you would think I’d have more to write about than shopping. But that’s my topic this week. Why? you ask. Obsession, I answer. But if I am obsessed, it’s only because I am obliged to do something on a regular basis that I am not very good at. Calculus is like shopping that way, without the obligation. I like calculus but am not very good at it. Now that I think of it, so is marriage, which includes a pretty serious obligation, but I’ll leave that for another post.

I have written before about my favorite shopping haunt (see Safeway Saturday Nights). I admit that I go there not to spar with the surly deli workers who can turn an order of Devil Egg Potato Salad into a power struggle, but to flirt with one of the checkout clerks. With love you have to practice until the real thing comes along. Or so I’m told. I have also written about being drawn to things I cannot do or have, the reason for which may be psychological, spiritual, cultural, or all three. It could also be that I am just a bonehead.

This time, however, I did not go to Safeway but Whole Foods, otherwise known as “Whole Paycheck.” I couldn’t find anything and had to circle the aisles three times before asking one of the stockers. She could barely conceal her disgust at having to walk twenty feet, raise a finger, and tell me “dried fruit” was at the end of the aisle. But I did not ask for dried fruit. I wanted raisins, a big container of them. Instead, I got an eight-ounce packet of “Organic Thompson Raisins” for the same price as twenty-four ounces at Safeway. Sure, with the Safeway version you get stems in your mouth, but so what? I’m not paying extra for the word “organic.” Thompson can keep his raisins.

This was a strange shopping day. I had three items on my list. Yes, I made a list for three items. Then, as I usually do, I left it at home. But what I needed was easy enough to remember, especially after stopping every so often to remind myself: raisins, a toilet bowl plunger, floor mats for my car. I planned to double up on the raisins and plunger at CVS, a local drug store. But when I got there the store was closed and its windows boarded up. It had a chain link fence around it. It reminded me of the bar I used to go to off Columbus Circle. The last time I went back the entire building was gone.

I went to Ace Hardware for the plunger and O’Reilly’s Auto Parts for the floor mats. CVS, Ace Hardware, O’Reilly’s, and Whole Foods were all within three blocks of each other and on the same side of the street, which made me feel lucky enough to buy a Powerball ticket. I would have bought one except I heard my friend’s voice telling me it was a voluntary tax and not to pay it. He’s an economist, so I listened. I regret that. Now I know why they call economics the “dismal science,” although he’s not a dismal guy.

The plunger turned out fine, except I was surprised to find more elaborate ones in the shape of Archimedes’ pump or those mufflers you see on jackhammers. Others looked strangely sexual, but I ignored that thought and moseyed on. After all, it is Lent.

The floor mats were a problem. I bought cheap ones, which is never a good idea. Cheap ends up costing you a lot more in the end. I had to trim the driver’s floor mat with a box cutter to make room for the gas pedal. I did not measure and so had to make more cuts in the mat on the sidewalk. Then I threw the mat into the driver’s floor well. It looks like a bad appendectomy. I’ll have to go back to buy better mats. Maybe I should measure this time instead of performing surgery on the sidewalk (see Measure Once, Cut Twice).

There doesn’t seem to be much hope for me when it comes to shopping. But maybe that clerk can help.

“(It Will Have to Do) Until the Real Thing Comes Along,” (1936) by Mann Holiner, Alberta Nichols, Sammy Cahn, Saul Chaplin, L.E. Freeman. Published by Chappell & Company. Performed by Frank Sinatra.

Image credits: raisins by Jocelyn Morales; “The Irony, The Plunger” by Steve Rhode, 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0); floor mats by Erik Mclean. Want more? Go to Robert Brancatelli. The Brancatelli Blog is a member of The Free Media Alliance, which promotes “alternatives to software, culture, and hardware monopolies.”


  1. When it comes to floor mats, you can’t do any better than WeatherTech. They aren’t carpet, but rather a type of plastic with a lot of great properties and they completely line the footwell like a glove. As for the raisins, isn’t it interesting how grocery stores locate their products? And sometimes they are located in more than one place, with one spot better than the other. I was looking for marinated artichokes one time at Kroger. I found a small selection with the olives and pickles, but I knew this wasn’t the whole picture. A half hour later, after asking for help from the service desk, who had to look up the information on their computer, we found someone who was familiar with the aisles, who pointed to a different selection in the canned goods section where there was a motherlode of bottled marinated artichokes in every shape and size. Maybe that is the case with the raisins.

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