I went grocery shopping this morning: Saturday morning grocery shopping. Now that might not seem like a very big deal to you, but trust me – it is.
With Leigh recovering from surgery, many of her cherished domesticated engineering activities have shifted my way. Although cooking, vacuuming, laundry (including the folding and putting away), and grocery shopping are not even among the top three reasons Leigh keeps me around, it is specifically the Saturday morning grocery shopping that I’ve successfully avoided for the past 40 years. Yet, here I find myself in the local Giant Food Store on a Saturday morning, looking for the text with the grocery list.
Eggs, strawberries, bananas, apples, milk, mini pads, yogurt… What? Mini pads!
I immediately flash back to 1973 and one of the most traumatic experiences of my childhood. In fact the scars that remain are so deep that I don’t think I’ve even been in a grocery store on a Saturday morning since.
I was in the eighth grade. On one beautiful Saturday morning, with the gentle Pacific trade winds blowing across Kailua on the Windward side of Oahu when my mother called me into the kitchen.
“I need you to run to the grocery store. I need a box of Kotex maxi-pads.”
The earth cracked: I stared at her wide-eyed and opened mouth. I had no idea what this was, but intuitively knew I didn’t want to know, and probably shouldn’t know.
“I need you to do this now” she said as she handed me cash and told me which aisle to look for the product.
I went out to the family room door through the car port and stood in the driveway. Contemplating my circumstances, I now realize that would have been a very good time to fly away and disappear, or invent something called logistics. As I silently surveyed the situation in my head, I realized Mom was not pleading, she was directing. There was not an option, I had to do this. I was on a mission for mom. On the other hand, I weighed the consequences of being spotted carrying feminine hygiene cargo through the streets of our neighborhood, Aikahi Park. There may have been a lot of crazy things going on in the 70’s, but discussions about feminine hygiene products was certainly not one of them. We didn’t have an internet back then; we just knew this is something we shouldn’t know about.
According to Google Earth, the distance from my home to the Safeway Grocery at Aikahi Shopping Center is 691 yards! Round trip, that’s 1,382 yards or 0.78522727 miles of an 8th graders pure tortuous Hell; a certain gauntlet of ridicule and shame. Yet I was on a mission for Mom.
Well there was no freaking way I was walking to the store, so I hopped on my Schwinn Sting Ray bicycle and pedaled toward Safeway. Heading up Aiokoa Street, left on Aikahi Loop, right on Ilihau Street, passing Aikahi Elementary School on the right, then cut in on the left through the pedestrian gate onto the Aikahi Park Shopping Center property. I came to a stop outside Safeway; my heart was pounding – and it was not from riding the bike.
I walked into Safeway where previously my purchases had been limited to Hostess Snowballs, Gummi Bears and Li Hing Mui . Still breathing hard, I was able to gather myself and head to the aisle Mom had directed me to. As I turned the corner I stopped dead in my tracks; I stood frozen.
There would be no mistaking the product for another. I was greeted with an entire wall of Kotex Maxi Pad boxes. They were big boxes; really big boxes. I began to sweat.
I looked around. I certainly couldn’t ask anybody if there were smaller boxes. Nothing. This was killing me. I clearly had the sense that boys should not be placed in this predicament and that I was being punished by the universe for some unknown crime against the cosmos. Determined to carry out my mission, and realizing there was no other choice, I grabbed a box and walked briskly to an open checkout line. I refused to make eye contact with the cashier. I handed him the money and just stared out the window at my bike. I took the change and the seemingly oversized box of feminine hygiene cargo and went outside.
Then it hit me. “How am I going to get this home?”
I got on my bike trying to hold the cargo in one hand; I couldn’t do it. I then set the box in the “U” of the handle bars. This was better, but it was still difficult to maintain balance and pedal at the same time. So I leaned forward placing my chin on top of the box and pressing down just hard enough to keep the box steady, with my hands on the handlebars, and I began pedaling. I headed out of the shopping center, past the school, onto the Loop and back down Aiokoa Street. I don’t know if I’ve ever pedaled harder and faster; ever. I made it home, as far as I know, without being seen. Other than the dent in my chin from the Kotex box, I seemed to be otherwise unscathed. As I reflect back, I am certain this traumatic experience is what directed me towards a career in a logistics related field.
Quite frankly, I would not be surprised if the internet, Amazon.com, and FedEx were all ideas borne by a similar Kotex Maxi Pad experience from the 70’s.
As I walked up to the cashier this morning with my assortment of foods and “sundry” item, I casually placed my Sushi on top of the Always mini pads, then proceeded to avoid eye contact with the cashier by looking out the window as she rang up the items. I guess some things just never change.