I shave years off of my life during trips to the grocery store with Mikey in tow… Years.
Mikey likes to be my little helper at the supermarket, which is really cool. Truly, it is. But his “help” makes the trip about four times longer than it needs to be.
Mikey likes to steer the cart, but since he is 4, he drives it like an off-road vehicle. He can barely reach the handlebar, let alone see over it. He has zero attention span and even less reaction time, which makes for a bumpy ride.
I try to stand behind him and help guide the cart out of the way of oncoming traffic, but my strong-willed little tyrant doesn’t want my assistance. Instead, we have this stop-and-go dance that causes me to repeatedly bang my shins into bottom of the carriage.
However, the checkout line is where the real stress takes place.
I often find myself at the self-checkout because Mikey can “help” me load the groceries onto the conveyor belt and scan and bag them. On our most recent trip, just as he is handing me the last few items of our full cart of groceries to place on the belt and begin scanning, he utters the panic-inducing sentence: “Momma, I have to go potty.”
Of course, you do.
Of. Course. You. Do.
There’s already someone behind us in line waiting to load her groceries, and I’m not about to abandon the fruits of our last 40 minutes of labor, so I tell Mikey, “Buddy, I need you to hold it for 5 minutes, OK?”
He nods, and I’m about as confident as I would be entering the Miss America contest.
Quickly, I grab one of my reusable bags and place it on the shelf on the other side of the register and scan the first item. Then I have to wait a full 1, 2, 3 seconds after I place it in the bag so the shelf can recognized the weight of the item before I can scan the next one.
Milk… 1, 2, 3. Bacon… 1, 2, 3. Goldfish… 1, 2, 3.
I glance over and Mikey is perusing the candy. Good. I have some time.
Minion popsicles… 1, 2, 3. Veggie straws… 1, 2, 3. Frozen meatballs… 1, 2, 3.
I glance back over and Mikey is staring at me holding his groin. Oh dear.
“Momma, I want to help scan the groceries!” he says.
Actually, I think to myself, maybe that will be a good distraction to help take his mind off of his need to go potty.
He scoots by and wedges himself between me and the register and grabs the cheese, scans it and drops it in the bag, then immediately grabs the next item — but without waiting the 1, 2, 3 seconds — so we hear the machine ding and the register tells us, “Please place the last item back on the belt.”
Thankfully, I act quick enough and replace the butter and the machine clears so we can proceed.
I tell Mikey he needs to go slower because the shelf where you bag the scanned items is calibrated by weight so people don’t steal items and, well, since he’s 4 that explanation goes right in one ear and out the other. Therefore, he doesn’t understand the problem with scanning the butter and then leaning on the shelf to place it exactly where he wants it to go in the bag.
Ding. “Help is on the way,” the machine informs us.
I look around and make eye contact with a nearby cashier who tells me that “James” is the guy I need to bail me out.
I swivel around a few times and see a young lad with his arms folded across his chest standing against the wall several registers down. I wave my arms around and whisper-shout “James!” to no avail.
There’s a tug on my sleeve and I look down at Mikey, who reminds me, “Momma, I have to go potty!”
I jog over to “James” and point to my blinking register. “My kid leaned on the thing and I think you need to scan your badge.”
“Oh, no problem,” he says cheerily as he saunters over. He scans his badge and we’re back in business.
Mikey grabs the bananas and places them on the scale, which also has a package of Oreos half resting on it, but I tell him, “Buddy, let Momma do the rest so we can go quickly since you have to go potty.”
He pouts. I slide the Oreos over and go looking for the banana button on the register so I can weigh them. Then I hear the “ding” and “Help is on the way.”
I look down and Mikey is leaning on the bagging shelf again.
The light is blinking. I pull Mikey away and he starts crossing his legs.
“James?!” I swivel back around, waving my arms. “James!” He snaps his head up and I wave him back over.
“Sorry!” I say, this time not even bothering with an explanation.
He scans his badge and I make sure to pull Mikey back to me to keep him away from the bagging area. “Buddy,” I tell him, “You have stay off of there.”
He whines. I scan the Oreos… 1, 2, 3. Then the bag of Romaine lettuce… 1, 2, 3.
“I know, Mikey! Just hold it one more minute!”
I scroll the menu on the computer looking for avocados. Is it a Haas avocado or a black avocado?!
I look down and Mikey is doing the pee-pee dance.
I guess at Haas avocado and drop it in the bag.
“Please remove the last item you scanned.”
I do as I’m told, then there’s the familiar ding and “Help is on the way.”
Why is this happening to me?
“James!” I snap, now in full-on panic. He heads on over at a snail’s pace looking at me like I’m an absolute idiot who can’t work the self-checkout.
He scans his badge and I grab his arm before he can leave and beg him to stay with me until I get the last three items scanned and bagged before I absolutely lose it. I’m pretty sure he thinks I am either coming onto him or threatening him – being completely inappropriate regardless – but he obliges.
I’m finally ready to pay, but am first hit with all the questions: Do you have any coupons? How many bags did you use today? Would you like to donate to a charity? Are you paying with cash or card?”
The receipt is finally printing – along with 47,000 coupons – and Mikey is practically hopping from foot to foot… And I swear someone turned up the heat in here.
I grab the papers from the little printer and smash them into my purse, then sling the bagged groceries into the cart and shove it off to the side somewhere before hoisting Mikey over my shoulder and making a mad dash for the bathrooms.
Of course, they are on the other side of the store.
Of. Course. They. Are.
I pass one, two, three aisles before I finally find one that isn’t blocked with people and carts and bob and weave my way until I am finally pushing through the door to the ladies bathroom. I deposit Mikey on the floor and push him into a stall and, well, all that really matters is we make it in time.
On the way home I let Mikey eat half a package of unwashed strawberries in his car seat as I take the long way home, doing my best to decompress and get my heart rate back to a human level.
Holly Crocco is editor of the Putnam County Times/Press and parent of a 4-year-old. She can be reached at email@example.com.