Queen of the Aisle: A temporarily crippled pal refuses to stay housebound. Adventures in Costco, not Cairo. Appearing in "Chocolate for a Woman's Dreams"
A trip to Price/Costco is always more fun than chore. One never knows what tasty giveaways a generous woman will be handing out, or what tasteful gift baskets will be packaged and designed to please any recipient. The best outing ever, had to be a result of my friend Marianne’s dreadful accident in Africa.
Marianne’s taste for adventure runs a bit more to the exotic than my safaris through Price/Costco. She has rafted down the Colorado, sea kayaked off the coast of Alaska and taken a train trip from London through Russia, to Hong Kong. Marianne might go to Cairo for Christmas break while I might go to the mall. A year ago she left for a ten day photo journey of Kenya with some worldly friends. Half-way through the itinerary after passing a snake she thought was dead only to discover it was a deadly krait, and merely sleeping, she slipped on a leaf covered rock and smashed her ankle and leg bone 12 ways from Sunday. After a night of lighting flares waiting for the Flying Doctors, after a rocky flight to Nairobi for surgery involving screws and brackets,that probably would have been a lot cheaper, if purchased at you know where, and after an impossibly difficult flight back home through London, she was housebound, forbidden to drive or work for weeks.
She was restless and bored and we had to do something about it. Restaurants were awkward, a movie impossible. Strolling along at a spring flower show? Out of the question. I should add we both appear to be semi-ordinary women of a certain age, usually well-behaved school teachers...in public, anyway.
Finally I realized that Price/Costco offered yet another enticement that I had not utilized before...the big red dolly cart. We had no qualms, just confidence that this trip would do the trick. Marianne had crutches and a serious leg brace visible so when we arrived and asked for the big cart, a helpful employee in the West Springfield branch didn’t blink.
...Why, of course. What a good idea, he said.
We had brought a couple of pillows for Marianne’s back, we eased her on down, she got comfortable and I started steering her up and down the roomy aisles. Cleopatra on a big, red, steel barge. Slowly we picked out things we needed...oooh! good deal on video tape. That nest of bowls would make a great shower gift. Picture frames. A silk potted ficus. All of these things were placed decorously around Marianne and we wheeled on. We were having ourselves some fun.
What made the trip even better were the reactions of the adults we passed. Men being dragged around, reluctant shoppers all, were suddenly smiling and asking their wives if they could get wheeled around. Women came up and congratulated us on our ingenuity...even going so far as to say that shopping never looked like more fun than how we were going about it. Meanwhile we were stacking steaks and cryovac loins of pork around Marianne’s knees. We bought books for her to read during her convalescence—big jars of fruit and baba gannoush and biscotti so meals would be easy. She insisted on paying for a huge bottle of detergent, since I had agreed to do her laundry in the interim. We took to waving at smiling customers, telling anyone who asked all about the African accident. Somehow it felt as though everyone in the building was enjoying their day just a little bit more.
Some communities complain about the impersonality of Big Box Stores and fight to keep them out of town, but I cannot picture a place that was more accommodating and felt more friendly than that Saturday excursion to Price/Costco.
*(a version of this piece will appear in the upcoming edition of Chocolate for A Woman’s Dreams, coming to book stores in mid-November 2001)