The cartography, writing, and ramblings of one crazy winter lover who likes to blog about the fun and inconsequential.

Supermarket Mornings

Let me begin by saying that I loathe waking up early in the morning. I schedule classes to begin as late as possible (this semester it's 10am) and in summers and winters it isn't uncommon to retire to bed sometime late in the morning and only wake when everyone else in my slice of the world is having dinner. So, it is somewhat perplexing to myself that I find it enjoyable to awake early every so often on a Saturday morning to go grocery shopping.

Without a car or the funds to buy one, I ride my university's bus, more often than not with my partner Chris who enjoys mornings even less than I. Leaving at 9:15 sharp, we arrive at Target around half an hour later, and that's where I begin what is, strangely, my favorite kind of Saturday. Now, any economist or political analyst or old person worth their salt would be quick to inform you how the supermarket experience has degraded in the past fifty years. Largely gone are the mom-and-pop stores that stocked only as much as you needed, and the tired teenagers running their tills have largely (and unfortunately) been replaced by adults in desperate need of work.

But those are arguments for another time and place, as I try to keep my own political, economic, and social opinions to myself as much as I can. Shocking for a blogger, I know. Anyway, I would actually have to argue that, though the medium has changed, the somewhat mystical experience of supermarket shopping, especially early in the morning, has remained true over the years in its own way.

Supermarkets are both the best and worst of capitalism. On the one hand, they are altars to the almighty corporate gods who pine for your worship with the best deals, advertisements, or artwork on their cardboard box. Yet, they are also one of the purest works of capitalism, and provide the greatest tool for a consumer: choice. Choosing to spend one's money, no matter how much or little, is capitalism's equivalent to voting, as cash flow can make or break even the largest corporations.

There is something mystical, then, about harnessing that power in the early morning hours of a Saturday while I drift between the aisles. List in hand and a calculator on my cell phone, I make my way through the store, carefully choosing what company, what employees, will receive my wealth that I spend that day.

It is, in a way, its own magic. Even in this day and age, it is a wonder to have access to the sheer volume of goods found in just an average Target. Food, clothing, furniture, toys; they have travelled across the world and it is I who decide whether they will make it home with me or not. It's an exhilarating choice. The power that poor peasants and even great kings dreamed of half a millennium ago in the fingertips of a college student.

I didn't, and never do, buy much. Just cheap, easy to cook food that can fit into my apartment's meagre microwave. I buy in bulk and on sale, but I find no shame in it. To take advantage of opportunities presented to me for the chance of a lower price and greater goods is another facet that I enjoy. I must be a sentimentalist, because I can find pleasure in the act of watching my debit card be accepted and the food, at last, being in my possession to do with as I please.

Finally, my favorite part of early Saturday morning grocery trips is in the people who come to the store itself. More often than not, the average person pictures a modern supermarket as a place filled with screeching babies, angry customers, and a great wad of people that threaten to crush them. Not on a Saturday morning. The restocked shelves sit like silent monoliths on every aisle as sleepy and quiet shoppers push well-greased buggies down newly-polished linoleum. Checkouts, questions, and orders at the in-store Starbucks are done in hushed tones, almost as if everyone is aware of the peculiar silence of such a large store and don't wish to disturb it. Alone with my thoughts, it is a place that I can reflect on myself and consider why I must have this or that, and why I am pining for one brand over the other.

Supermarket shopping is, perhaps, a silly topic to romanticize. Yet I find a quiet pride in enjoying the "small things" in life, seeing mty day as not another steady beat of the clock toward my impending demise, but as a series of interconnected experiences that have shaped me into the kind of person I am today. I hope that my interest may have piqued your own, and wish you to have a wonderful Saturday evening.

And now, to play me out, is The Clash.


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