I don’t like people.
I love them. And I like individuals. But people? As in, a whole bunch of them, all together in one place? Not so much.
Some might say it’s crowds I don’t like, or throngs or swarms or whatever thesaurus-generated term you prefer, and you’re right. But it goes deeper than that. Even if a place isn’t crowded, I’m still out of my element when I have to talk to, say, more than three people at a time. I’ve never perfected the art of jumping-into-the-conversation. I either come across as the shy, silent type or the overbearing-attention-hogger.
This is the reason I loathe small-town grocery stores. It’s a social scene second only to Friday-night football. I think grocery stores are a source of stress and anxiety for a lot of folks. Why do you think they have all those paper bags everywhere? They’re not just for canned goods, people.
That’s why I order my groceries online whenever I get the chance. That’s why, when I absolutely must go inside an actual, brick-and-mortar store, I prefer to go at 5 a.m. That’s why for me, last Friday was the stuff poorly-written-independent-horror flicks are made of.
I had penned my own grocery list. Plus, I’d promised Mom I’d grab her groceries for her. Plus, it’s a new season, and that means a new front-door wreath, so I had craft supplies to buy. And since Wal-Mart is the only place in town where one can purchase Quaker Oatmeal, silk flowers and hot glue sticks, I had little choice.
I meant to get up super early, but I overslept. And I’d promised myself I’d go to the gym first, because I couldn’t go to the gym afterward and leave the milk sitting in the car. By the time I got to Wally World, it was 9 a.m. Prime time for senior citizens and moms-of-school-aged children. I qualify as both.
First stop, craft section. I loaded up my cart with fake gladiolas and burlap ribbon, only to realize my buggy was full, and there was no place to put my bananas or skinny bread. I paid for the craft supplies, walked them out to the car, unloaded them, and took some deep, cleansing breaths, preparing for re-entry.
I got halfway through my list when the phone rang. It was my son, wanting me to purchase him some shotgun shells and clay pigeons. Since he’s not 18, he can’t buy the shells. There was no room in my basket for clay pigeons, y’all. I finished my list, paid for the groceries, and took them to my car, where I said my prayers, hummed a few lines of Peace like a River, and headed back in. Bought the ammo. Took it to the car. Hefted the heavy, fragile boxes of skeet into my trunk, trying not to break anything.
By this time, I was in dire need of a coffee break. But I knew if I headed to Starbucks, I’d never return, and Mom needed her frozen broccoli and Black Forest Ham. I glanced at my watch.
It was now 11 a.m. and I was the star of my own version of Groundhog Day. I looked around for Bill Murray. All I saw was a bunch of moms in yoga pants and a couple of coots in overalls. With a pep-talk and a final petition for some of that Holy Spirit power, I headed back into the fray, straight for the front lines.
A half hour later, I was outta there. I sat in my car, heart pounding, gasping for air, reveling in my own survival.
Okay, maybe it wasn’t quite that dramatic. But almost.
The truth is, life can be downright terrifying. It’s like a hamster-wheel of anxiety-producing situations, and just when we accomplish one task, another waits for us. It’s a good thing God has given us everything we need to make it through. It’s a good thing He promised never to leave us, and to give us strength to carry our shopping bags, no matter how heavy they get, no matter how many trips we have to make.
Renae Brumbaugh Green is a bestselling author and award-winning humor columnist. She lives in Stephenville with her handsome, country-boy husband, nearly-perfect children, and far too many animals. Connect with Renae at www.RenaeBrumbaugh.com.