Specials and girlfriends in aisle 4. Surviving the supermarket without going off my trolley.

February 7, 2012

Friday afternoon shopping was a chance to impress Jane.

All of our mums went to the same supermarket. Some dads got dragged along too. Mostly at the end of the week.

My favourite girl of the time and her mother were always there. She was a vision. Long blonde hair. Everything a ten-year old could ask for.

My wardrobe was lacking in variety and substance back then. Those wanting to be harsh could say nothing has changed. Anyway, I would always ask Mum to have my best shirt ready for our shopping adventure.

Once we arrived, I would begin scanning the aisles for my girl-to-be. My usual approach was to linger around fruit and veg, knowing that Jane’s mother would stock up on the healthy stuff.

My goal was to get a smile. If she sent a ‘Hello’ my way, I was over the moon. An actual conversation was, of course, out of the question.

My courting of Jane in Aisle 4 could be the reason I’ve been comfortable in supermarkets ever since. Unlike other males I know, I quite enjoy doing the weekly shop.

My shopping routine became finely tuned during our stint in the Far North. The Treasurer worked most Saturdays, so it was only fair that I should fill the pantry.

I didn’t mind. It was one of the few household duties I could actually complete with any degree of success. Giving something back. Oh, and the local pub happened to be part of the same complex. All under one roof.

That cosy arrangement meant I could snaffle the specials at Woolies, and have my full trolley parked at a table by Race 3.

Of course, I would never stay long. Any shopper worth his salt knows those dairy products had to hit the fridge ASAP. There were only a few times when the milk had to be thrown out.

Those golden days couldn’t last forever. Now, I’m a Sunday arvo shopper. Not so busy. We’re a much more relaxed bunch, we late weekend shoppers.

I usually fly solo. And it’s funny who you spot scanning the shelves. My favourite supermarket counts an Olympian, a former NRL coach and a former Queensland Government Minister as regulars.

Both The Teenager and Daughter Two fight with all their might to avoid coming with me. Boring, they shriek.

I do trap them every now and then. If we’ve been to a Sunday movie, I’ll drive them home via the Fresh Food people. They never catch on until we’re in the carpark. Dads are amused by such things.

Once they become part of the spending team, things change. After conducting trolley races, annoying anyone over 40, they start spruiking their wish list.

Must have items. Usually from the confectionary and stationary sections. New chocolate brands. That groovy pack of highlighters. And we need those glow-in-the-dark water bottles for our lunch boxes. Didn’t Mum tell you?

I knock each request back. But they always manage to slip something in when I’m not looking. Just for chuckles at the checkout.

One thing I am wary of, is young blokes lurking in Aisle 4. Especially if they happen to be wearing a fancy shirt. Maybe I’ll leave the girls at home next time.

Does my beer gut look big in this? Shopping tips for a large fashion klutz.

October 11, 2011

The sales assistant reminded me of Mr Humphries from “Are You Being Served?”

If you’re too young to remember the comedy classic, let’s just say both were confirmed bachelors with immaculate fashion sense, and measuring tapes.

He had ignored me for the best part of half an hour. Not that Mr Humphries was busy. The giant department store was all but empty. Peaceful, except for one pesky customer.

I was searching for a decent shirt. A little number for the races. Anything but green, which we all know is unlucky at the track.

There are plenty sitting on coathangers at home, but few that I can wear a tie with. This is because someone has been sneaking in at night and shrinking my collars. I can’t get them to fit around my ever-expanding neck.

After searching the bargain tables, I found a few that seemed to work. By that I mean they had gigantic neck sizes. I asked if I could try them on. Just to make sure they wouldn’t strangle me. Mr Humphries was having none of it.

He wouldn’t take them out of the plastic. A waste of time. Instead, I was to try on the Sample Shirt. A garment that may or may not have been worn by every rugby front rower in town.

Unlike others in the family, I’m not one to challenge shop staff. Usually, I submit meekly to their demands. But not this time.

Resisting the urge to string him up by his tape measure, I informed Mr Humphries that I REALLY wanted to try this one on. And he would just have to live with it.

It didn’t work. This mature gentleman in perfectly pleated pants called my bluff.

“It won’t fit you,” he said calmly. “You’ve been looking in the wrong area. Those shirts are Slim Fit. It’s your girth, you see. I’d be happy to find you something more suitable.”

Yes, he actually said the word girth. Right there on the shop floor. As if I was being saddled for the last at Eagle Farm.

Any struggle ended right there. A points victory to the man with the name badge.

After trying on his stinky Sample Shirt, which happened to fit perfectly, I followed meekly to the Wall of Width. Together we chose a colour that he liked, and the deal was done.

To his credit, Mr Humphries spotted a tie that was a perfect match for my new purchase. He seemed quite proud of his work. It was like he had done me a favour.

Indeed he had. I ended up with a shirt that I could actually breathe in. And my new routine of sit-ups began the following day.

I won’t be shopping alone again in a hurry. That Men’s Fashion Department is a brutal place. Especially when Mr Humphries is free.

Helpful tips for Dads when a teenager leaves home. Even if it’s to go shopping.

July 19, 2011

This day had been coming. Marked in Dad’s Diary, with all other painful looming milestones. The ‘Shopping with Friends Alone’ day.

It sounded innocent enough. A request had been made for her to spend a day roaming the city streets. No parents required.

A school buddy wanted help buying shoes to wear at a wedding. They had to be just right. The Teenager’s fashion sense was in demand. She was happy with that.

Smartly, she played it down to us. No big deal. We’ll walk around. Just the two of us. Eat. Shop. Only for a few hours. Like all the other kids do.

Emphasis was placed on that last bit. We hear lots about “all the other kids”. They’re having buckets of fun, you know. At all hours. With an endless flow of cash.

It’s true, we’ve taken a cautious approach to parenting. No apologies there. The girls accept it, through gritted teeth and rolling eyes.

Daughter Two urged us to refuse. Unless she was allowed to go too. Priceless. The way of the younger sister.

The whole thing made me nervous. Yes, she’s responsible. Yes, she’s careful. And yes, the time had come to extend some freedom. Damn it.

We agreed that I’d drop her to the friend’s house in the morning, from where they could make the short bus trip. Without us. The afternoon would be theirs. Sort of.

As luck would have it, Daughter Two and I had things we could do in the city too. That meant we could collect them at the end of the day.

She’s a smart one, The Teenager. I could see she was considering flying the protest flag. Too much parental involvement. But weighing things up, quickly, she realised that this was the best deal going. And we’d actually said yes.

Her friend lives with mum in a city unit. Nice girl. We dropped The Teenager at the front gate, and within a giggling nano-second they disappeared inside.

Daughter Two and I slowly returned to the car. She asked why the girls didn’t come with us instead. Who’d rather catch a stinky bus than drive in the car?

Good point. I tried to stay calm. What if there was a rave party going on in that unit block? With sound proof walls? Was The Teenager’s mobile phone charged, in case she needed me to rescue her?

You know, there was a time when she wouldn’t cross the road without holding my hand. If I forgot, perhaps distracted by an upcoming trifecta, she’d grab mine first. And smile.

Not any more. Sigh.

We drove off. I looked in vain for smoke and flashing lights inside the unit. Is that what they have inside rave parties? Curse my lack of research.

The phone didn’t ring. I gathered myself. TRUST her. Half the time the girl is more mature than me anyway. Don’t tell The Treasurer that.

A few hours passed. Her sister and I were having fun, doing lots of nothing. Over lunch, we told stories. She was chatting away, as she does. And, I suspect, enjoying the rare solo status.

She’s 10, still with a wonderful splash of silliness. I hope she never loses it. Makes me laugh, constantly.

The questions never end. All with a straight face. Do you know when Beauty and the Geek starts again? Can I have a kitten for my birthday? How can you be sure this is fresh apple juice? For the record, I answered no, no and I don’t know.

We walked back out into the mall, and I realised she was holding my hand. Happy to be seen with her dad. For now, at least. Sigh.

The bridal shopping was a success. They arrived at our organised meeting place on time. I scanned the surrounds for smirking boys. Nothing. Ice creams were bought to celebrate.

We survived the day, both of us. Nothing to worry about, after all.

Bigger challenges are ahead, of course. First dates. Mixed parties. Schoolies.  One small step at a time.

Deep down, I know she’ll be fine. And I will be too. Really I will. Just as long as there’s some hand holding along the way.