“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.”


5 thoughts on “Definitions

  1. This is great! I love how the mom just goes on and on.

    Although, personally, I love grocery trips because I can brainwash my mom to buy things I like like pasta, junk food, chocolates, etc 😛

  2. Very funny and well written. This brought back many memories of “running errands” with my mom. Oh my gosh. There was always just “one more quick place” to stop before we finally were allowed to go home. It was endless! You did a great job capturing your mom who sounds delightful as well as completely oblivious to your annoyance. Comparing bottles of soda to see which was fuller…never heard of that before. Wow! 🙂

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