Furlough Grocery Tears

Posted on: February 14, 2012 Written by
Furlough Grocery Tears
      Photography by: George Doyle from iStock    

Four things.  I only needed four things from the grocery to complete the brunch I was planning for friends the next morning. But it was late evening, the kids were tired and we needed to get home.

“I’ll just run in quickly” I said to my kind and patient husband sitting in the driver’s seat of our borrowed furlough car.  “Just drive the kids in circles around the parking lot a couple times, feed them raisins, and I’ll be out in a jiffy.”

I jumped out of the car, slammed the door and briskly walked through the swooshing automatic doors. I bypassed the big carts, the little carts, the kiddie carts, the infant carts and the disinfecting cart-wipes.  I grabbed a basket instead. Gotta make it quick.

The first item on my short list was sausage.  This one was easy. I saw a sign for “Breakfast Meats” and knew I was headed in the right direction.   I was surprised at the amount of options but not slowed down.  I glanced over the patties, links, pre-cooked varieties, several packages of crumbled sausage, the maple flavored, the spicy flavored, the other flavored and a handful of additional options to choose a simple package of ground meat.  Quick and easy, as I had hoped.

Next came pancake mix.  I located this fairly easily and stood wide-eyed at the choices. “Which one of these is, like, closest to what I normally make from scratch?” I wondered to myself.  I chose the allegedly “Whole Grain Blueberry” option, winced at the price and threw a box in my basket. No time to second guess myself.

Onto pancake syrup.  Naturally I started looking near the pancake mixes. But no, they weren’t nearby.  I glanced down the rest of the aisle. Then the next one. I struggled. Wrong aisle. Not there. Turn around. Maybe there?  What is that?! Go back. Try again. Where at? Not here. Over there?  Nope. But where?  I hadn’t planned on running a marathon inside the store walls and I feared I would soon feel a cramp form in my under-exercised-and-extra-padded-from-too-much-American-food-and-no-self-control-cause-“We’re-only-here-for-a-couple-months” body.

After crossing several time zones I eventually located the syrup and found myself staring at more than a dozen varieties. Breakfast syrup, maple syrup, table syrup, honey syrup, natural syrup, organic syrup and more.  My eyes darted from label to label, daunting price tag to even MORE daunting price tag.  Ounce sizes, percentage of real syrup and state of origin. Soon I begin wondering if the trees are free-range or grain-fed?  First generation tree-tappers or twelfth? Lord help me!

Suddenly, I remember my husband and children circling the parking lot. By now the low-fuel light has probably come on and the raisin supply has depleted. This is no time for a lesson in various syrups;  I must hurry.  I chose a mid-price-range table syrup, unsure of what table syrup actually is, but content with a happy medium between the pure maple syrup that I would have had to send out a special financial appeal letter to afford and the ninety-nine cent non-food chemical version of pancake syrup.

Sausage? Check. Pancake mix? Check. Syrup? Check. That’s three out of four. I’m getting there.

The last item on my list was whipping cream.  I headed confidently for the dairy section. I walked past the milk, the yogurt, the eggs and the cheese. I spotted no “real” whipping cream. Spinning around, I walked by again, slower this time.  No luck. Then I stopped to think, Whipping cream, whipping cream, where would one find the whipping cream?  I must have been missing something obvious, right?

I paused to allow time for the lightbulb to go off in my head so that I could re-direct myself and grab a pint post-haste.

But there was no lightbulb.  Instead I walked through the area slower still, carefully searching each shelf for a hidden row of cream.  Certainly, it must be here, I assured myself. But after careful scanning, I still did not find it. I could have given up at this point, certain that my guests would not care if they had whipped cream on top of the fresh fruit-topped pancakes.  But I did not give up.  Instead, I stood in the middle of the aisle surrounded by cheeses of all kinds, flavored coffee creamers, four dozen varieties of eggs and milk from all sorts of chickens and cows who may or may not have been given antibiotics or hormones or whatever.

And then the tears came.  I frantically glanced through the wells of emotion gathering around my eyeballs for any employee/grocery-store shopping regular/innocent bystander who could help me locate the solitary item left on my list. I was desperate. But there was no one around to help me in my time of need.  And I was still crying.

Defeated and stressed to the max, I reached for the nearest can of imitation whip, dropped it in my basket and began the half-mile hike to the check-out.

And then a funny thing happened on that long walk to the front of the store.  I suddenly had a new appreciation for shopping in my (usual) home in North Africa where most stores are no bigger than a single-car garage, the prices are always the same and there are rarely more than three varieties of one item to choose between.  Shopping there – I realized as I dug around in my enormous bag for that silly shoppers loyalty card – is refreshingly simple and straightforward.

 

©2012 Thrive.



About the author

Suzanne normally makes her home in North Africa with her husband and two small kids. Sometime this great challenge brings her immense joy and other times it makes her want to eat a whole batch of fudge icing with a spoon. Find her at www.suzmae.com.

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  • Mary Lynne

    I LOVED this article. Been there – done that. First night in the states in front of Walmart’s toothpaste aisle shopping for “normal”, “original” or whatever they call the plain-o plain-o Crest toothpaste. Finally left in tears, knowing I would have to return the next day. I especially liked the end of the 6th paragraph talking about the body/mind result of a furlough in the states – even if only a MONTH! Oh so true! Can I use your line? Suzanne, you are a wonderful writer. Keep the articles coming.

  • Sherry Campbell

    I certainly can identify with this, I never knew grocery shopping in America could be such an emotional experience either. I had to laugh at your article and can certainly understand being on the verge of tears in the grocery aisle. Thanks for sharing.

  • Rebecca

    I had that same kind of emotional overwhelming feeling in a Christian bookstore! I stood in the middle of the store and cried. I wondered if the other people in the store had any idea how fortunate they were to have access to all those books, studies, Bibles, CD’s. Funny thing was when my husband walked in and had the same emotions and feelings! Always a good reminder that “we” are not alone..

  • Laura Dye

    Oh how I laughed!! My first time back after 4 years out I also left a husband waiting in the parking lot with kids. I shook my head as I got in the car. “You are never allowed to go in there!” was my response. Thanks for the good laugh!

  • I, too, laughed when I read your excellent piece, but 0h–! I remember those bewildering days when I was NOT laughing, those moments of being overwhelmed with choices, of feeling like an alien in my own homeland. I remember walking out the door with nothing, several times, both the grocery store and J.C. Penney’s. By God’s grace we seem to make it through!

    Linda

  • Kristy

    I too laughed today! Thank you! I do remember re entering the US 11 months ago and melting down into tears in the nuts section. Almonds, cashews, peanuts, pistachios…salted, roasted, honey roasted, unsalted…my husband (also overwhelmed as he is not from the US and was in even more culture shock than I) just looked at me helplessly as tears rolled down my face. We left the store without nuts that day. God chose to gift me with nuts anyway…a few days later, a dear friend showed up to visit with a gift, a bag of almonds!

  • Judy

    Yes, I walked into a public library in the US and cried. What a wealth of books and access to items in English! Free! Interesting how we get overwhelmed by the many options.

  • Bev Ramirez

    This was just too funny! Several years ago, recently back in Canada from Latin America, I panicked and cried in the mustard aisle! Where I was living, mustard was unheard of – then back in Canada I was suddenly faced with choosing from among literally dozens of varieties! It was too much for me! I was used to fighting and killing enormous cockroaches and spiders on a daily basis, but choosing from an entire aisle’s worth of mustard just to have something to spice up my sausages was completely beyond me! I too went home with NO mustard at all that day! And it took me several days to build up the nerve to try grocery shopping again…

  • Wow! I thought maybe something was wrong with me…getting old or just not been a missionary long enough??? I experience this everytime I come to the States, even though I have only been out of the country for 4 years and I am 65 years old. Their are many joys to being a missionary…going back to buy food is not one of them.

  • OH YES! Every time I come back to the States after an extended time in Asia, I limit my first grocery run to milk, eggs, bread, coffee, and juice. I can’t handle any more than that. And I realize that even when I am living in the US, I shop the same store all the time — perhaps so that when I am flying in and out the transition will be lessened if I only have one preferred destination that doesn’t change too quickly. On the other side of the pacific, my shopping takes on a level of hilarity as I navigate a huge supermarket sans language ability — I don’t read Chinese. I often stand back and watch others navigate the system and then try to copy them. Success is not guaranteed.

    The open markets of my past life in Asia were indeed so simple and comfortable. Carrots, vendor 1. Chicken, vendor 2. Pork, vendor 3. I know them, they know me, we deal, I go home.

  • Kathleen Wintter

    I can really relate!! When I went home from Eastern Europe the first time after my local WalMart became a SUPER store, I freaked out in the cereal ailseS!! We only had corn flakes that cost about $8 a box and something like sugar pops, which I never ate. I had managed previously be buying oatmeal in a more western country whenever I could an making muesli.

    Fortunately, I didn’t cry….after I recovered from looking at everything, high and low, I decided on 3 kinds of cereals. Though it seemed extravagant, I realized that I would only eat one bowl a day, and I might as well enjoy it while I could.

    I enjoyed your humorously writing. I just started writing about some of my experiences also, with the idea of publishing (Lord willing, SOME day) a compilation of humorous, inspiring, encouraging anecdotes. If you have other articles, I would like to read them.

    Blessings, Kathleen Wintter

  • I can totally relate to this…I lost it in a Super Target in the Dallas area after coming back from Russia. All I wanted was toothpaste and the number of choices just totally overwhelmed me.

  • Judi

    I can so relate. The thing that got me the first time I went into the store “just” for salad dressing was that people kept smiling at me and saying ‘hi’. I kept thinking…’do I know them? How do they know me?’ I lost it as I stared at hundreds of bottles of salad dressing.

  • karen

    Just a little local grocery store and I froze up. On a 3 month furlough in the states after being in southern Albania (just after the country opened up) where our vegetable options that first winter were, leeks, potatoes and cabbage and little to go with it, I made a trip to Red Front to get a few things for a small quick supper. After passing through a few isles, I felt the tears coming to the edge of my eyes. What was I going to do? How was I going to feed my family? Just then a veteran missionary who had been living in the area for a year or so, rounded the corner. She recognized the look on my face and took me by the hand to help me plan my menu and find my ingredients. What a blessings my friend was that day.

  • dorana

    I was in Austrailia the 1st time my kids were to come home to the US (granddaughter was ill). I couldn’t figure out why they were so excited to go shopping at the local Woolworth’s which was also a small market. I hadn’t been to PNG yet so I didn’t understand but after 6 trips I certainly do now but did forget once and tell them I needed some TUMS and they laughed at me. Now when my kids are coming to “home assignment” and people ask what to get to get for them I suggest gift cards are the best way to go.

    Our church has a team going to Africa for 2 weeks this summer and one person was very upset because we were not shipping cases of bottled water for them.

  • Christy Brown

    I laughed and I cried while reading this article. It is soooo true. In 4 months I will begin our 4th furlough and the thought of going through this again… well… overwhelms me! Here in Papua, Indonesia I go to 5 different stores and still come home with things on my list. As frustrating as that is…. the grocery stores in America seem very intimidating. Thanks for the article, it hit home!

  • The book “Overload Syndrome” by Richard A Swenson. Has a chapter about this. I always like reading it. It is hard shopping. We end up spending such a long time in the store. And getting separated that my husband says we will stick together Maybe I won’t spend an hour looking for you 🙂

  • Carmen Y

    I lived for a year in the US, and that happened to me the first times grocery shopping. It would take me up to two hours to do my shopping. You have so many choice, it is overwealming!

  • I get overwhelmed by something every time we go back to Canada from the Dominican Republic but a whole wall of pens is the first thing I remember. We have bigger stores less than an hour away from us here but they still can’t compare. A few months ago my 7 year old asked, “Mommy, what’s a mall?” We really do live in a different world!

  • Jemi

    I loved this article!! I sent my husband to the store for 4 items (tuna, ice cream, toothpaste and bread). Two hours later he was still gone. My kids kept asking when daddy was going to come home so we could eat lunch (tuna melts). All I could say was, “I think he is a little overwhelmed in the store.” Notice that I didn’t offer to do the shopping myself. He came home with a hilarious story of the magnitude of choices and the impossibility of knowing the differences between the choices. He said, “I know I am reading English, but I have no idea what it means” Anyone who has tried to buy tuna or toothpaste can relate. I do not go food shopping without my husband. We need two to keep things moving.
    Another time back I made the mistake of leaving camp shopping for when I got to the States. How could I have had such a short memory. I took the kids to the mall to find small bottles of shampoo and other little things they would need. Four hours later I was an emotional mess. I had NO IDEA what store had what I was looking for. Finally I just threw up my hands and said, “That’s it! If we don’t have it, you don’t need it. I can’t handle it here anymore.” I got no argument from my children. Now I do my shopping here and keep my emotions intact. We do enjoy clothes shopping since we can’t buy clothes that fit us here in Japan. I actually praise the Lord that we don’t live in the States.

  • Tammy

    For me it was JCPenny’s. We had arrived looking, well….like missionaries from Africa, and desperately needed a new outfit for church. I remember thinking everything looked ugly – all the style had changed while we were gone. We finally found suitable items for everyone in our family except me. At one point my husband said, “Tammy, you are just going around in circles.” That’s when I lost it and started crying. It was so overwhelming. I felt like I was on total overload. Funny thing is that I can often feel that way while in town here in Africa on a “culture day.” It felt odd to feel that way at “home.” Now I expect when we go home for furloughs to feel this way and limit my time in stores for a few weeks. Then we had a new experience a few months ago when we went to Nairobi, Kenya to take our daughter to boarding school. We walked into Nakumat to get school supplies and both me and my daughter felt totally overwhelmed. She finally told me, “Mom, how can I choose deoderant when there is a whole isle?!” As we walked around the extravagant malls I know my mouth was hanging open. When we ordered a pizza to go I was like, “No way!” How can life be so different from one African country to another?! But I’m not complaining. I thoroughly enjoy our trips to Kenya to see my daughter and think, “This is preparing me for my next trip to America!” (Which is soon since we’re going to see my first grandbaby!!!)

  • LeAnn

    Over the years, I’ve learned to laugh at myself and the situation, but it’s still overwhelming to face the superstores in U.S. compared with my shopping routine in Asia. I have come to tears, left the store with nothing, bumbled into my second language at the cash register, … at various times during the past two decades.

  • Heather

    I can relate to this too! We are long-term missionaries in Japan. I am used to Japanese prices now, but when we first came out it was a major faith decision to buy anything, fruit and fruit juices were particularly expensive (but so important for our health) that I had to force myself to buy them, though they cost several times what they would have back in UK. I remember returning to the UK and being overwhelmed, I cried my eyes out in the supermarket because everything was so cheap!

  • Becky

    I can SO relate! I’ve had many similar experiences (starting with breaking down in the “Creme Rinse” aisle during our first furlough). Every time we return to the States I miss grocery shopping in our little store in Thailand. There’s something to be said for not having so many choices…life is so much less complicated that way!

  • Carol

    Yep–been there done that. I am now to the point when I come home on furlough that I am thankful for the 24 hours grocery stories and jetlag. I can show up there all on my own at 4 a.m. (if I can snag a friend’s car) and peacefully wander the aisles looking things over. The only problem is the store managers usually think I am some kind of homeless person who has no where else to go in the middle of the night.
    The worst part of furlough for me, however, is trying to figure out how to checkout! “Self-Checkout…Humans…Gas pumps that only take credit cards….” all if it just fries my brain and makes me thankful to return “home” where you have 2 choices of cereal and one kind of coffee.

  • Debbie

    So familiar! Over the years I’ve cried in the frozen foods, shampoo aisle, and cereal row. Only thing worse has been in a shopping mall. One time I couldn’t find my way out and when I finally did, I couldn’t find my car to save my life. Wandered around for 2 hours fighting tears and feeling like an alien. Now I try to order as many things as I can online before we head home.

  • Donna

    After reading this excellent emotion-evoking article, I wanted to leave a comment. However, after reading all the comments, I was overwhelmed with the memories of my own reverse culture shopping shock! Funny how we can laugh and cry all at once! The best part is knowing that there are so many other women around the globe who totally understand. May God bless each one of you!

  • Laurie Elizabeth

    Another great article, Suz! My first time on furlough my friends thought they’d have to send out a search party after I was gone 90 minutes just down the street at Longs Drugs, only looking for asperin. I nearly had a nervous breakdown in the aisle because of all the choices and my inability to pick. Thanks for summing up my emotions about this life once again!

  • Sharilyn

    This reminds me of our first furlough after 5 years away. On our first trip to the grocery store we saw the self check-outs and naively thought, ‘how hard can it be?’ After 20 minutes and a few tears and LOTS of help from the incredulous store employee we emerged with our items. It was a loooooong time before we attempted that again.

  • Joy

    Oh yes I know all about this. I’ve just returned from Africa and now living in Sydney, Australia – the supermarkets are full of so much ‘junk’ and everything is packaged. There are no substantial food items to choose from. Where are the buckets or piles of beans, flours and natural foods to choose from? Just last week I shared this sorrow with my grown children and they laughed at me!!

  • Awesome. I am in week one of my furlough from Madagascar. It was the sponges and cereals that got me this week.

  • LF

    For my dh and me, it was the toilet paper aisle. We went up and down, looking at all the choices–totally overwhelmed! In Russia, we had trouble finding ANY toilet paper, and when we did have a choice, we chose the one with the least roughness (Think sandpaper.). And now we were confronted with ripples, triple-ply, quilted, and other confusing choices. We left the superstore with nothing.
    I also once made a quick run into a store, while dh sat out in the car with the kids. I just needed a few things, including eggs. I grabbed a box, not realizing that there is such a thing as Ridiculously Priced Eggs. Oh my word! I cried at the checkout and the whole way home.
    In our current country, I usually shop at the little stores near our house, and the outdoor market. There are supermarkets here, but they overwhelm me. I have to shop with my husband, or risk getting lost in time. 😀

  • Holly Vallette

    I remember going to a Super-Walmart and looking for a loaf of bread! I stood there for 10 minutes looking at all the choices, then turned to my mother-in-law and asked her to pick something simple. She looked at me with a bunch of questions and I just laughed and walked away.

  • Sheri

    Oh oh oh how I remember this! My husband and I have been back in the US for a year and I still avoid all stores as much as possible. Clothing stores= way too many choices, grocery stores= way too many choices, prices, fake food, etc. I am so thankful for our time in Asia- a time to see that we don’t need much stuff to really be happy and that fewer choices are so much better!

  • All of these comments so relate what I think ANY missionary must go through–whether the first time they go back ‘home’ or other times as well. I have experienced many of the same things and still get a headache going through large grocery stores like Super Walmarts. I love to shop there but can’t handle much of it the first time. We are ‘country’ missionaries (in our 29th year in Japan) and our two little grocery stores might fit in some people’s living/dining areas in the States! (almost). So like so many I have a pattern–certain items bought at one store; certain at the other. When I watch my daughter shop with 4 small children I am amazed!! My husband got hit the first time back after 5 years when he went with his dad to Home Depot which had opened up during our first term on the field. We rebuilt our bldg from an old one story with a 2nd story room to a full 2 story building with added garage/work shop over a 3 year period and my husband built every single item in the building by hand including the doors. Only the windows were ordered. And the wood he worked with had to be planed and everything. He was just flabbergasted at what was available at Home Depot and as they walked around he kept saying “Amazing!, Wow, look at that, pre-hung doors….” Dad finally said, Ken, be quiet…people are looking at you!! They had no concept of what it was like!! Isn’t it wonderful that God gives us grace to live in the country He calls us to, and to adjust when we go back!

  • Cathy

    I laughed! – but remembered my first furlough when someone thought they were being so helpful in taking me to Costco. I was so overwhelmed! I still don’t like to go there.

  • Melody

    And then there was the drug store aisle, where two men were talking. It was only after passing between them (and hearing the telltale sudden silence behind me) that I realized I had bent over and put my hands together in the way as I passed. For future reference: Asian “excuse me” gestures don’t mean much in southern California drugstores.

  • Kirsten

    My first home assignment I felt like a kid in a candy store at WalMart! I planned ahead so had plenty of time & wandered up and down the isles for 2 hours. Wow, look at all the Wheat Thins!! How many salad dressings do they make now? Look at all the cold cuts! The strangest thing is I had only been in PNG for 2 years – were all those choices there before & I just didn’t realize it? My perspective has certainly changed.

  • Wow! I am blown away by how many of you can relate to my experience. Thank you so much for all of your kind words and encouragements! I am so glad that I could make some of you laugh about your crazy shopping experiences… sorry to those who I made cry! He he. Blessings to each of you who took time to comment!

  • Linda Mijangos

    This was a great article and I so enjoyed all the comments. It first happened to me my first time back and I was visiting my brother and his family. He had hurt his ankle so couldn’t drive and asked me to go get some “chips.” It took me at least 20 minutes to stare at a hundred varieties and finally grab a couple. But I also picked up a bag of plain M&Ms as I walked to the checkout. A few days later he asked me to get more chips. So that time I said, “Ok, but can you be specific?”
    I’ve been back and forth now many times, but that chips aisle always sticks out in my memory!

  • Karen

    I have been home for 20+ years and it STILL amazes me when I shop. We are spoiled rotten with all the choices. I complimented a store stocker the other day for the work he does in keeping the shelves organized and filled with products. He looked at me like I was from another planet. Then we had a good conversation about how blessed we are but take those blessings for granted. The poor man has never lived out of the US…..his loss! Love, Hugs and Blessings to all of you, my sisters!!!

  • Twana

    This also made me laugh and cry at the same time. Our first term we lived way oour in the country in Bolivia and all our three boys knew about were open markets. Once when we made a trip through Miami on our way to see my folks in Central America, we took time to “shop”. The boys had saved their money to go shopping (they were 3, 5, and 7) so we let them loose in the toy aisle. You could hear their enthusiastic “wow” and “did you see this?” all over the store. The lady at the checkout looked at us as if we had kept them in the basement all their lives! I quickly explained this was their first trip to the States. On another trip my friend stopped stock still as we walked in the door of WalMart and exclaimed, “It even SMELLS like WalMart!” Ah the joys of shopping!

  • Wendy

    I do identified with this…thanks for taking the time to “make it real.” So many people think we take a deep breath and a sigh of relief when we are back on furlough…your article depicts, so clearly, the struggles we face. Blessings!

  • Jill

    If you are in an area that has Aldi’s, I suggest you shop there for your first couple of shopping trips. There is only one brand, the store is smaller and easier to navigate, the prices are reasonable for the area. You will not find everything, but most of the basics are there, and it will help with the culture shock of grocery shopping before you tackle a super store.

  • So it’s not just me! That reverse culture shock is just as intense as the original version of culture shock… and a lot less fun because you’re suppose to be an expert at this stuff already. After all, you’re an American- Right?! Sounds a lot like something I wrote about back in February on my own blog… only my melt down was over Shredded Wheat. 🙂

    http://monkeysinmybag.wordpress.com/2012/02/03/navigating-with-a-broken-rudder-reverse-culture/

  • Ann

    I sure feel like a goof…I returned to the US after 2 yrs…in Canada, and was blown away by the shampoo aisle at a megastore. I had moved from a major US city to small town Canada, but it seemed, like someone else had said, like I had never seen the variety before. All I could think was, how can one race of humans need 30 brands/types of shampoo? (Yes, i counted them!) Now when I go back, I get a few favorite things, then bemoan the lack of natural foods overall…but then again, I bemoan that in Canada too, just not quite as much as the US. I grieve for what has been lost for those who think they have so much…

  • Carolyn

    Thank you for sharing this. The thoughts and feelings you described hit me hardest after a 3-month stint in Haiti. And then again after completing our first term in Albania. The day after setting foot on US soil, I made a quick stop at Walmart to pick up some shampoo only to find that choosing a shampoo was like picking a new identity (according to the labels on the shampoo bottles)! Whatever happened to simple descriptions like “for oily hair”. Unbelievable as it must seem, it’s actually easier to find what you are looking for on a shampoo bottle imported from Germany, Italy, or Greece than sorting through the ‘identity’ descriptions in English!

    • Ann

      That is a great idea, and I think TJ Maxx sells imported toiletries, right?

  • Camille

    After 7 years in Asia, I spent 6 months in the US before heading onto the mission field again. In some ways, those 6 months were harder than all my time overseas… But my funny grocery store moment came the first day I was back in the States. I had somehow left my toothbrush out of my luggage when I left China and so the people I was staying with helpfully took me to Walmart to get a new one. I thought, ‘oh, I’ll pick up a few other things while I’m there, too.’ We’re lucky I made it out of the store with a toothbrush!! I had been standing in the toothbrush aisle for a good 10 minutes when my friend came up to me and asked me what I was doing. All I could say was, ‘so many toothbrushes….’ I’m pretty sure I got one that day but things are a little hazy… Really, how many kinds of toothbrushes can one society need??

  • i tell you what, shopping for chapstick at wal-mart caused my heart to race so wildly and i started getting short of breath and all panicky because of so many choices…i stood there for 15 minutes, so overwhelmed. on furlough i shop as much as possible at ALDI because it is a small store with only one type of everything. i just feel too panicky and overwhelmed with the choices at the big grocery stores.

  • Oh my I can totally relate!! After living in Iraq (on an army base so no shopping) and Kuwait for over four years I was always so overwhelmed whenver I came home and went shopping, especially grocery shopping.

  • Alisa

    Cereal Aisle for me.
    Then there were: restaurants, bookstores, libraries, pharmacy stores, furniture stores, dollar stores, what’s this? There is a store for just SOAP?!?!? yep, the meltdowns were kinda common place after the first … minutes, some inward and some outward. All, reminders of so much I get to still learn in this life! AND so, SO much to be grateful for…. in EACH CULTURE!!!
    NOW I am getting the SAME feeling as I try to shop for Christmas items…. on the ‘ever so convenient land of the world wide web’…. NOT! I get to have deer-in-headlights feeling right in my own ‘home’ on the field!! yikes!

  • I spent 10 minutes flumoxed by the cracker aisle and trying to determine what of all the new varieties of crackers might go best with the hummous I intended to buy. I almost went to find my friend for said overwhelming decision when I decided I needed to conquer the confusion …. I grabbed who knows what and left the cracker aisle – leaving behind my panic and trepidation. How many new varities of crackers do we need … .let alone how many could have been made in my four year absence??!? It was astronomical. I tended to avoid the cracker aisle for the rest of my furlough – grabbing only the good plain old ritz crackers that I craved all four years away!

  • SEKimberley

    Oh, boy, can I relate! I was first in Central Africa and then in west Africa, where our grocery store was first a tiny shop about the size of that single-car garage! Then I moved to the capital city where we had grocery stores the size of TWO or THREE garages. Going to the U.S., the only grocery store I could handle for a while was our little village grocery store with 3 check-outs. Any more than that, in the nearest larger city was overwhelming! I had a missionary friend from west Africa who, on her time in the U.S., remembered in the back of her mind that she (in west Africa) was not supposed to give or receive items with the left hand, so in this U.S. grocery store, she dug through her purse, then shifted her baby to the left arm and the money to the right hand, and finally paid the cashier — who stood there amazed, like, “Lady, why are you DOING all this?!” Now that I live in a “more modern” overseas country, I am more used to large supermarkets, but I DO remember the same frustrations described in the article!