Saturday, February 21, 2009

Grocery Store Black Ops and How to Admit to Yourself that You're a Kleptomaniac.

I'm not sure if everyone has little moments where, like an out-of-body experience, you look at what you're doing at the time and realize that you're behaving in a disappointing way. I don't have these moments very often, but I think that when I do, it's basically my brain acting as an emergency failsafe and telling me to stop acting like a jackass. For example, this happened to me on an airplane last year:

"Hello, this is your brain speaking. We're currently traveling at an altitude of 30,000 feet, which doesn't matter to you because you can't see out the window, which would have probably taken some of your attention off of your knees digging into the seat in front of you; Northwest Airlines apparently designs the interiors of their planes assuming that everyone has the same body type as Danny DeVito.

I wanted to make the announcement that, while the guy sitting next to you is apparently totally cool with looking at porn on his laptop, the girl sitting on the other side of you is completely creeped out by it, and can tell when your eyes are wandering towards the screen. This announcement is to instruct you to keep your eyes on the book you're reading, because if there's one thing that's creepier than a guy checking out porn on a crowded airplane, it's two guys checking out porn on a crowded airplane. Thank you.

So, while these brain overrides don't happen on a regular basis, they do happen from time to time. Here's what I caught myself doing at the grocery store this week:

"Hello, this is your brain speaking. This announcement is to inform you that you've been standing at the olive bar for eleven minutes now, and, while the sample cups and tiny plastic spoons are there for a reason, that reason is not so you can eat as many olives as you want as long as you're staring at the price sign, pretending like you're interested in blowing seven bucks on olives. 

You're not fooling anyone, and you're only staring at that sign in case grocery store security catches you eating too many samples, and that's only in case grocery store security guards actually exist. Please dispose of the sample cup and spoon in the garbage can to your right immediately, vacate the area, and forget that this pathetic event ever happened. Don't pretend that you didn't notice the guy with the beardnet behind the deli counter make eye contact with you when you were taking seconds of the teriyaki mushrooms. You should be ashamed of yourself."

You know how you walk past grocery store sample trays, and they're empty, and you think, "I bet some jerk took four samples instead of one?" I'm that jerk. I don't know what it is about free food samples, but I pretty much lose my mind around them. I'm not kidding. I black out. I black out, and when I come to, my shirt is covered with pretzel chip crumbs and half of the Uncle Remy's Cajun Salmon Dip® container in front of me is empty. This brain intervention last week happened less than ten minutes after I ate three full servings of Jarlsberg cheese near the Organic section. You know how everyone says that you shouldn't go to the grocery store on an empty stomach? I think I'm pretty much the reason why they say that.

I don't know when the premise of free food began to have such a hypnotic effect on me, but I think I've been plagued by sample attacks for a while now. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that I'm inherently a big eater, and the fact that I have to control my portions because my metabolism has divebombed in the past five years or so. I think about it now, and I can't even imagine how much money my parents must have blown on food when I was in high school, when I was swimming two hours a day for almost half of the year.

"Hey, mom! I'm home!"

"Hi honey! How was practice?"

"Pretty good. What's for dinner?"

"I already ate, but for you, half of a Family Size-pan of Stouffer's lasagna. It's not quite out of the oven yet, but you can eat a can of Pringles while you're waiting for it to cool off, and then you should probably eat some salad." 

"Sweet! Do we have anything for dessert?"

"Well, you ate most of that carton of ice cream last night, so you should probably just have an entire sleeve of Thin Mint Girl Scout cookies."

"Thanks Mommmph. Rmmm hmmph (crunch crunch)."

I didn't even notice that I was doing it at the time. Sure, I was always on cleanup duty for the family at restaurants, and sure, I beat my dad in a White Castle-eating contest when I was eleven (it was a tie-breaker for the previous Skyline Coney-eating contest), but it never really occurred to me that I was eating about twice the amount of what is usually accepted in society as a meal. 

I finally developed an understanding of how much food I had previously been able to put away when I was 25; I was staying at my grandparents' while waiting to move into my first apartment in Mt. Adams. I came downstairs for breakfast before work, and my grandfather had cooked the following:
  • 6 eggs (scrambled)
  • 2 pancakes
  • 8 strips of bacon
  • 4 links of sausage
  • 1 English muffin
  • Coffee
  • Orange Juice
Understand that Papaw eats one bran muffin for breakfast. Mamaw has a cup of decaf and not much else. So it's not like they're actually going to help me eat any of this food that they had prepared for me to eat. So I ate it. All of it. Every morning for three weeks. There was, obviously, a huge part of me that was in absolute heaven; I love breakfast food. I'm not so sure about loving breakfast food when I have to lie down after I get to work in order to take a breather from digesting it.

Of course, after the first breakfast, I'm driving to work and thinking to myself, "What would ever possess Papaw to make such an insane amount of food for me?" This was immediately followed by a Usual Suspects-esque montage sequence that unfolded in my mind after asking myself this question; my brother and I yelling "Eat 'till it hurts" at each other during Christmas and Thanksgiving, my cousins Megan and Marnie watching in horror as I inhaled six Sloppy Joes in less than five minutes after we got out of Sunday School, me going up for fourths during my relatives' birthday dinners, etc. It almost made me feel guilty, because I, up to that point, couldn't remember thanking anyone for buying twice as much food as a normal person to feed me. I called my mom that day to do exactly that, and, while she did mention that it was pretty expensive, she didn't mind at all.

So, the next time you see some guy standing in front of a HoneyBaked Ham sample tray with his eyes completely glazed over, don't judge him. He probably used to be able to eat a lot more than he lets himself eat now, and this is just an unfortunate side effect. On the other hand, if it looks like grocery store security both exists and is on their way to eject him from the premises, make sure you wave your hand in front of his face and snap your fingers a couple of times.

No comments: