I remember going grocery shopping before the girls were born. I remember seeing the all the parents trolling up and down the aisles, with their kids crammed in to carts and screaming for the brightest box of cereal. I remember watching as kids fell to the floor, when their parents wouldn’t buy them the ice cream they wanted. I remember the looks on their faces, the defeat in their eyes. I remember thinking, suck it up, it’s not that hard. For God’s sake control your kids, get a hold of yourself. It can’t be that bad. It’s groceries! What’s the worst that can happen? Well, three years later something did happen. Something I never saw coming, something that would change the way I shopped, forever.
Location: Jewel, Lincoln Ave. Chicago
Date: For legal purposes, I’d rather not say.
… Upon entering I promised Lucy (though never, ever again) we could get one of those stupid big grocery carts with a car attached to it. I buckled her in on one side and secured her stuffed duck into the other. Ruby was up top sitting in the basket. Both girls were happy. It was a great morning. I even spent extra time in the produce. The cart was giving me a few steering problems, mostly when turning left, but what cart doesn’t right? We get to the deli, followed by a stroll through the bread aisle, and then a gait through coffee and cereal. Suddenly the cart is pretty full; I’m getting a lot accomplished. Shopping with two kids isn’t a big deal, why did I think this was gonna be a chore? And thenn…wait…yup! Then it starts.
I feel like I might have the urge to use the restroom. With one child this can be a chore, but with two? Well I’m walking a fine line, especially when only one can stand, and grocery carts full of food are not permitted into the restrooms. I stop walking and start to breathe slowly (you know that Lamaze breathing technique we have all used to prevent throwing up and other forthcoming unpleasantries Who-ha… Who-ha… you know what I’m talking about).
Anyway, I hate using public bathrooms. Nothing good happens in there. No one casually uses the grocery store bathroom; they are there for emergencies, only when you are 100% positive you will not make it home. Lucy soon asks why we are stopped in front of the pre-packaged meats. I don’t answer. I can’t. I’m frozen, concentrating. My mouth begins to sweat and I gradually lift myself onto my tippy-toes. I can’t breathe this one off. Oh Lord, this is happening, this is going down! I am at Defcon 9, the sirens are blaring and now my whole body has started shaking…
“Daddy? Are you OK?” I don’t answer for a few seconds, and then I whisper to Lucy, “Hold on.” I push the big red menace down through the baking supplies. Ruby is terrified and Lucy is screaming “Whoo-hoo, beep-beep!” I turn left toward the bathroom, which is now 11 aisles away and the wheel (drivers side) buckles under the cart, and I begin to gouge up some flooring. Ruby and Lucy are now in a panic and I am seconds away from exploding. I drag the cart full of kids and groceries sideways pass the cashiers, no one seems overly concerned, but someone is dangerously close to saying, “Umm… we need a cleanup in aisle 8. You might want to a mop and a Hazmat suit.”
I “park” the cart next to some ice cream cones. I unbuckle Lucy, her duck and Ruby. I grab the diaper bag (I do this because even though it is I who has to use the bathroom, the diaper bag gives others the impression one of the kids has had an “accident”). I open the door to the most outrageously odd bathroom. It was huge by most standards, huge and bare. It had a toilet, sink, trash can and a changing table. To be quite honest there was still enough room for a Mini Cooper, a Futon and a Fichus tree. I had no time for logistics, but little did I know that the barren bathroom and wall-to-wall tile would have a diabolical effect in the coming minutes.
I tell Lucy to stand in the corner, “Don’t touch anything!” The proximity to my relief station now has my body doing an involuntary dance of spastic gyrations. By now I was almost completely covered in sweat. It was as if gravity itself had decided that it was gonna try extra hard to push my insides out through orifice number 2. The problem now became Ruby, what was I gonna do with her… Hold her on my lap? At this point I am beginning to cry uncontrollably. I decide that the best course of action was to strap her onto the baby changer (Which she hates, which was also on the other side of this ridiculously large bathroom) and pray. I Pray for the safety of my girls, pray that this “event” will be over with soon, pray that no one outside this room can hear the commotion.
I will not specifically tell you what happened next, but here’s what I believed happened prior to me blacking out. Ruby is strapped on the table screaming, loudly. Lucy is in the corner marching back and forth, clapping and screaming the word “Echo!” I slowly began to dehydrate and hallucinate.
“Is everything Okay” said a concerned voice from beyond the hollow door.
“Ummm… Yeah? We’ve just had a little accident, no worries, be done in a second.” That is how much noise was coming from this room, enough that management had to send a food bagger to make sure someone wasn’t performing an exorcism in their gigantic porcelain palace.
Ruby appears to be hyperventilating and Lucy, who is still yelling the word “echo” only now with her hands over her ears, suddenly screams, “Daddy there is some poopie on your shoe!” I immediately assumed this statement to be impossible, so I half-heartedly giggled it off, until I looked at my shoe… sure enough, poopie. At this point it’s hard to say where this poopie came from, or if it was simply a poopie imposter, but it defies all logic that the poopie in question was in fact from the only adult in this room. Rather, I am leaning towards a discharge, a magic bullet of sorts shot from Ruby while she was screaming, from behind the trash can. Years from now we’ll all be watching this on Jewel’s grainy version of the Zapruder film.
Finally, I pull myself together. I console the kids who are now both starring at me in either fear or amazement, it’s hard to tell. I finish what is left in the courtesy air freshener; we open the door and walk through the Lysol cloud of shame. They were looking, they were all looking… and it was quiet. I nonchalantly hide my embarrassment in what I thought was a playful quip. “Boy she DID NOT like getting her diaper changed,” I said, to no one in particular. I was just throwing it out there for them to hear.
Then Lucy screamed to no one in particular, “No Daddy, YOU had a lot of stinky poopies in YOUR butt. Not Ruby? Remember? YOU had the poopies in YOUR butt, and remember, on YOUR shoe… remember?” I smiled at her annoyingly loud correction, to my tailor-made excuse. Then I pat the little truth-teller right on her tiny honest head. Out of the corner of my eye I see an employee open the door to the restroom and stare in awe. I wasn’t sure of the exact damage, but I wasn’t gonna stay around to find out.
I grab Lucy by the hand, and we leave. We walk right out door. The groceries were left sitting in that big red broken-down jalopy next to the ice cream condiments. Honestly, I don’t remember a single word being uttered as we got in the car. We all knew what had happened, and that was that. Ruby was asleep in her seat before we left the parking lot. Lucy appeared to be consoling her duck. I just drove … all the way to the Jewel on Western Ave. because we still needed groceries. We still had to eat.