I have a confession to make. On the first Wednesday of every month I toss mundaneness aside and venture out for a surreptitious session of sado-masochism. I have come to call it "Geezer Day". Geezer Day is the day our Fry's Grocery offers ten percent off the grocery bill for those aged 55 and over. Now, if you're never been to a grocery store in a senior community on Geezer Day you haven't lived. You may be assured that the five acre parking lot will be full of cars and golf carts and, aided by walkers and canes and store-provided mobility scooters, a steady flow of seniors swarm toward the front doors like ants on a jelly sandwich.
It should be noted that this Fry's grocery store, long ago purchased by the Kroger Grocery chain, is one of the finest grocery stores I've seen. They have a well-stocked deli, expanded health food section, the lowest prices in town, and round up all coupon values to $1.00. The store's employees are most friendly and have the patience of Job, as they must when dealing with seniors, some of whom, sadly, have taken their first steps down that long, lonely road to Alzheimer's dementia, others more fortunately just a little more fuzzy upstairs than they used to be.
Yesterday's Geezer Day was unusually cold and windy; the rare 50 degree day with winds from the north bringing a wind-chill down to freezing. As I made my way into the store I noted that Fry's, in typical fashion, had been kind enough to set up a table with free hot coffee and donuts to warm our old blood while clogging it with a little unneeded cholesterol. I grabbed a coffee and did my best to maneuver my shopping cart past a few dozen other carts and customers who clogged every approach into the store. So many of them stood in stunned silence, their bony, bird-like fingers clutching the cart handle and staring emptily into retail void. It was as if the immensity of the experience was too much to bear. Perhaps, for many of them, this is the social occasion of the month. Occasionally, with couples, a husband or wife will nudge the elbow of their loved one and propel them a little ways down the aisle.
Eventually, I made my way into the store but quickly discovered that maneuvering down a shopping aisle today would be impossible. Every aisle was clogged with carts parked at 90 degree angles as shoppers stared in wonder at a display of chicken noodle soup or a sign signaling a generous 50% off a jar of Metamucil.
I solved the problem by parking my cart at the end of the aisles and scooting down the aisles, sale flyer in hand, and retrieving what I wanted. After an hour of this I found myself in the general area of the check-out lines and waited, almost patiently, as I moved at a snail's pace toward the distant registers. I have to admit I did put my military leadership training to full use by moving up the line to tell a lady or two with a single loaf of bread in cart that there was no one waiting in the "15 items or less line".
When I finally got close enough to spy a red-aproned clerk, and could actually witness a transaction, it was immediately clear why the line moved so slowly. As the clerk announced the total and awaited payment the seasoned customer would stare in amazement that she was actually being charged for this haul. Then, finally realizing the error of her ways, would begin fumbling with purse, fishing for her wallet, counting out the payment, and insuring as many pennies as possible could be proffered to complete the purchase.
But I have to say, the lady immediately in front of me became my new "American Idol". Armed with a fistful of coupons, the grocery flyer and a sharp shopping sense, she approached the register with a teeming shopping cart and a confidence not seen since Patton led his troops up the Italian boot. When the clerk finished totalling her purchases and all coupons were entered the clerk regally swept off the long receipt, the cash drawer flew open and the clerk handed the woman $7.66 cents! This woman had managed to maneuver through a crowded store, buy a month's worth of groceries and remit not a cent! Folks, this was the equivalent to me, at my increasingly decrepit age, of scoring the winning touchdown in the Super Bowl!
As I unloaded my items on the conveyor belt I asked the clerk how that customer actually got paid to walk away with a free cartful of their inventory. "Oh, we got a few of those in town", she said. "They use the flyer coupons, double coupons from the newspaper, competitor coupons, two for one specials and our senior discount, to score big savings", she explained.
She finished totalling my purchases and proudly announced that I had saved eleven dollars and thirty-three cents...with my Geezer discount. Somehow it just didn't seem enough.....
As I departed the store, bargains in hand, another handicap van pulled up to the store front, displacing a herd of anxious, but slightly star-struck seniors, all ready to revel in "Geezer Day".
Until the first Wednesday of March I'll just have to seek excitement elsewhere; perhaps a Super Bowl, or something.