“I thought, since our lecture let out early tonight, maybe we could fit in a quick trip to the grocery store.”
I felt myself get cautious. My mother is not, in my experience, capable of a quick trip to the grocery store. She browses, she ponders, she chats, and when I’m about to lose my mind, she starts comparing two-liter bottles of soda to see which one is “fuller,” or calculating the unit price between packages of coffee that she admits she doesn’t need.
“If we make it a quick trip, maybe. You know that my schedule has me running this week, and I really can’t do anything more substantial.”
“I said I’d make it a quick trip— you don’t have to keep saying that. I know you’re busy, and I only need a few things.”
An answer like that admits no response. I didn’t give one. When we got into the grocery store (9 p.m. on a work night), I picked up all of the items on my list. I brought them back to the cart. Elapsed time, 5 minutes.
Mom was in the produce section. I followed her through the grocery store. We were leaving the markdown section (about 20 percent through the store) at the 20-minute mark and I clapped my hand over my mouth. Mom tried to start conversations with me through the rest of the store.
“Oh, look at those Sara Lee cupcakes. What a good price. Kind of a shame I’m not packing lunches anymore.”
“Look—they have coconut milk with rice milk.”
“I wonder if I should buy the smaller sparkling water or the larger size. Summer’s coming.”
“Gluten-free pizza dough. I wonder if you could freeze that.”
I was clenching my teeth and conducting a poll by smartphone to explore the definition of “quick trip to the grocery store.” Consensus of poll: 20 minutes or less. Feel free to leave your vote below.
We headed to the checkout at minute 32, and left the store at minute 42.
“Oh, I bought you gum—you said you were out. Just a little ‘I love you’ gift.”
It seemed overly harsh to say “I don’t need gum to know that you love me, I need us to share agreement about the definition of a quick trip to the grocery store.” So I didn’t. But the next time I get asked to make a quick trip to the grocery store, the answer will either be “sorry, no-can-do,” or possibly “let’s agree on how long we’re spending in the store.”