Situational Awareness

What is it about going to a grocery store that causes people to lose all sense of situational awareness?

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What is it about going to a grocery store that causes people to lose all sense of situational awareness?

First of all, I don’t get an intrinsic kick from going to the grocery store. My goal is to go in there, get what I want, and get out of there. I’m not shopping. I’m hunting. That’s why I make a list. My goal is to get stuff off the list and in the grocery cart. Apparently most people consider a trip to the grocery store a relaxing or recreational time akin to yoga or something. They seem to want to savor the experience.

My frustration starts before I even get into the store. It seems the guy in front of me wants that parking space near the entrance. He sees someone walking toward a car parked in a spot he would like. He’s very patient as he idles his own car, waits for the person to load their groceries into the trunk, get in their car, back up, and leave. Now if the guy in front of me wants to waste his own gas and time, that’s one thing. But he’s also wasting mine. In the time he spent waiting, I could have parked further away and been inside the store.

Once I get inside, it seems that others are kinda strolling their cart down the aisle – the middle of the aisle – slowly. I don’t mind if they want to go slowly. What I do mind is that they are in the middle of the aisle and I can’t get by. Any interference on my part – like saying “excuse me” – is somehow rude on my part.

They finally stop to take a look at some canned peas. They park their buggy in the middle of the aisle as they begin examining the 5 different brands of identical peas. Yes, they’re all the same. They’re peas that have been harvested from a field and canned. The canning facility prints labels for the various brands and attaches the labels to the cans. Really folks, they’re peas – no difference between them. Nonetheless, the person is busy being an “informed” consumer and I can’t get by. Heck, I need some green beans for the pantry anyway, so maybe I can help. They’ve kinda got me blocked, but I can reach in there and grab a can of green beans, and put them in my cart. I figure I have just done them a huge favor. I’ve showed them how I made a selection in less than 2 seconds. It never helps, but I keep trying. I didn’t really need the green beans, but they I wanted to help show them how to end their agony of indecision.

I make it to the next aisle and it seems that to long lost friends have encountered one another. They are really catching up after a long time not seeing each other. I get to eavesdrop on their cousin who had an affair, the promiscuous preachers daughter, and all kinds of gossip. I don’t really want to listen, but I have no choice. Their carts are side by side and I can’t get by. I don’t want to be rude and interrupt their conversation, so I kinda just hang out. I finally try to get their attention by coughing or something. They look up in astonishment to see that they are blocking traffic. I guess if they knew how I had been eavesdropping on their conversation, they would think that I’m rude.

I’m finally in the clear and I am zipping up one aisle and down another. Now I’m heading for check out. Folks, don’t ever get behind me in a check out line. I’ve got line jinx. In other words, whatever line I get in seems to come to a standstill. I only have a few items so I go to the express checkout line. Invariably, it seems that folks are unaware of the sign that says “10 items or less”. They unload their items. Or at least they try. It seems their kids want some candy. So mom has to explain to them that they can’t have it. It’s futile, so mom finally caves in and lets them get a candy bar. Of course by now, their ice cream has melted, but the candy is good. Bleep, bleep, bleep – I’m counting the bleeps. Suddenly there is a pause. The clerk advises them that one of their items is buy one, get one free! The clerk then gets on the intercom and asks for assistance for someone to fetch the free item and bring it to checkout. The bleeps resume. 10, 11, 12, 13 and sometimes as many as 20 items are rung up in the “express” lane for 10 items or less. The clerk tells them the total. Oh! Now they realize they need to dig their wallet or checkbook our of their purse! While they’re fumbling around, they notice a bunch of coupons. They had over the entire wad of coupons and the clerk starts going though them. One by one, the clerk sets aside the expired coupons and eventually finds one that’s good.

Well, I made it. I’m good to go. I’ve blown my day, so I try to have some fun on the way out. I stop by customer service and tell them that the bread I got is stale and molded. They are astonished and ask apologize saying something like “I don’t know how that could have happened”. I explain to them that the bread was fresh when I picked it up, but became stale as I waited in the checkout line!

Then I stop by the pharmacy desk and ask them what I should do about hypertension. They courteously and professionally ask why I think I might have high blood pressure. I explain my experience in their store and we both get a chuckle.

Finally – I’m done shopping. Now it’s time to take my revenge on those idiots who like to burn a gallon of gas and block traffic to get a parking place close to the entrance. I stroll slowly toward the car. I take my keys out and kinda jingle them in clear view. A driver spots me and slams on the brakes as they wait for “my” parking place. They are very patient as I fumble around with my keys trying to open the door. I finally walk away from the car and the driver that has patiently waited moves on in disgust. Serves them well, they should have known that wasn’t my car to begin with!

Well, obviously some of this has been hyperbole, but I hope that it’s made you chuckle. And I hope it’s helped make you more situationally aware when you are at the grocery store!

But aren’t we that way in church sometimes? As we’re busy fellowshipping with our friends and sharing each others joys and sorrows, we need to keep our radar up. Be sensitive to those who are alone and need a friend. If there’s a visitor, they’re probably not there because their car broke down in the parking lot. Chances are, something has happened in their life and they’re looking to the church. They’re hurting and need help. They need compassion. They need love. We all do. It’s an opportunity to show them the love of Christ. Let’s not blow it. If they don’t find love at church, they will continue their search at the country club, the bar, or somewhere!


That’s what’s on my mind. I’m interested in your thoughts. There’s lots of ways to hit me up so let me hear from you.

You can leave your comments below.

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Author: Mark Prasek

Christian Technologist. Find me on Twitter @DataGenesis

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