The Supermarket After Dark: Cleanup on Aisle Everywhere

Like usual, Matt and I forgot to get some things from the supermarket. Namely, cat food. Those fur-balls really pitch a fit when you forget to give them their wet slop and nuzzle and purr until you scream, “Okay, I love you, too, I’ll feed you god dammit just quit slobbering on my ear!”

It’s about 9:30 and we trek over to the market. I say trek like it’s a million miles away and we’re about to dump the ring in Mount Doom or something, but seriously, driving a block after dinner is like trying to roll a boulder uphill. That shit’s laborious.

Run past the carts with your head down.

So we get to the market and make our way to the pet food aisle. We have a solid set of rules when venturing into Ralph’s after the sun’s gone down: get in, get out, don’t make eye contact, and avoid the people who talk to themselves. It sounds simple, but as I said earlier, It’s a trek and treks, as I also mentioned earlier, are laborious, so of course it wouldn’t be that easy.

We scan the broad selection of Friskies cat food, looking for the preferred disgusting meat concoction for our kitties. Yes, they have a preference, if not in flavor, then in texture. So, we’re scouring through salmon, beef, and tuna & egg–the personal favorite of my gag reflex–and come across a can of chicken a la the Savory Shreds variety. “Those cats are going to be excited as hell,” Matt says and I nod in agreement like we’re making a life-changing decision.

Then, our eyes fall on it at the same time. It’s Friskies, all right, but the labeling has changed. There’s swirls and motifs all over the can. To top it off, there’s a delighted orange tabby raising a paw as if to waft those swirls carrying fishy heaven closer to his nostrils to really take in the aroma. They’re flavor swirls, and I’m telling you: they’re downright whimsical.

We grab the same can, oblivious to the fact that Friskies’ damn marketing plan has worked. Whimsy sells, and we load up the cart with multi-colored cans. There’s swirls and decorative outlines of fish and cows and chickens tempting that tabby. We grab all sorts of flavors, just so long as they’ve got flourishes and shit. By the time we’re done, we’ve got a barnyard in our cart and we dontevencare.

But let me tell you something disturbing. One of the cans said Friskies with Chicken and Gravy. WITH! Do I need to emphasize that more? WITH!! 

Mmm-mmm. Nothing like Frisky shreds.

What the hell does that mean? I was under the impression my cats were chowing down on chicken shreds in gravy. But apparently I was mistaken. They’ve been lapping up Friskies and the manufacturers have been so kind as to add chicken and some gravy to the mystery stew out of the kindness of their hearts. Here’s my question:

What the fuck is a frisky?

Whoa! I know, right? Did I just blow your mind? I thought so.

Now that your life won’t ever be the same, allow me to move on and tell you about the rest of the supermarket experience…

We start wandering about the store like a pair of lost children looking for some sort of sugary snack to take home and devour on a Thursday night, because that’s how awesome we are. Then I hear it.

I pause in my tracks and turn my head to the side trying to listen. Matt hears it too and our eyes go wide in horror, but not in surprise. Because we live in Huntington Beach, deep into the O.C. That high-pitched drone coming from a few aisles over can be one thing and one thing alone: high school girls.

We try to keep our cool, even though our first instinct is to run. We examine the ice cream as a distraction. It was so picked over Matt nearly lost his arm in the back of the freezer trying to get some damn strawberry cheesecake ice cream. That’s what we’d do for you Ben & Jerry’s! Your ice cream is like crack and we are your junky addicts, willing to lose an arm to frostbite for just another creamy spoonful! But I digress.

The laughing gets louder. One voice squeals above the rest. She can’t stop chuckling about something. She’s about to have an aneurism. I just know it. And then the girls round the corner. They giggle like a pack of hyenas and even though their screeching laughter is enough to make me want to stick my head in the freezer, and slam the door repeatedly on my temples, I don’t. Because then they would win. And I can’t allow that to happen–as an American.

Like, oh my god, hahahah, like, hahahaha, *snort* huh?

The Sweatpants and Hoodie Hyenas saunter off. The laughter fades and we both breathe a sigh of relief. Those sighs say, “Whew, that was a close one.”

But as we turn to head over to the checkout we have to stop. I can’t move. One of the hyenas, er, girls, broke free from the pack. She leans on her cart and skids through the store, giggling to herself like a mindless idiot. Then I look down.

Now, let me emphasize something here. We live near the beach. I get the whole beach culture thing, I do. But this was just not right, okay?

She wasn’t wearing any shoes. Do I need to repeat that? The chick had no shoes on! Just socks. As if that weren’t bad enough, there was a giant hole one of the socks and her big toe protruded through it like a hernia. I mean, is it that hard to find a pair of shoes when you’re stumbling to the market on a weekday night?

I’m not going to lie. It was sad. And disgusting. But mostly just sad.

Any of these would've been fine.

We wait for the straggler to pass before dashing to the self-checkout counter. But again, our progress is thwarted.

The pack of teenagers had converged at the self-checkout, doubled over in laughter, half buns bobbing, hoodies spontaneously flinging over their heads. And the source of their amusement?


Glinting in the harsh fluorescent lighting lay a minefield of blueberries, peppered across the linoleum. Why, they were even still frosty from the refrigerator. And the girl with the loudest laugh that crossed the entire market like a smoke alarm held the container, dangling in her hand, empty and useless.

They never knew the glory of a bowl.

We followed the rules: get in, get out, don’t make eye contact, avoid the people who talk to themselves. After tip-toeing through the blueberry massacre (“they were so young!” we cried as we wept for their purple souls) we made it to the checkout stand unscathed.

The car ride home was silent, somber even. There’s was nothing to say other than to reflect on what had just transpired. What evils we had encountered. What perils we narrowly escaped. The trek was complete, the journey at an end. But I doubt we’ll ever be the same.

And the nagging certainty that we will forget something from the grocery list again haunts my dreams.