Memorable writing that sparks imagination. Lean in. Hear the writer’s voice on the page.
I Scream, You Scream
By Nona Smith
It’s been well over a year since I’ve done any grocery shopping at Safeway. Early on in the pandemic, it was Harvest, our other local supermarket, who quickly adopted safety precautions: it made mask-wearing mandatory, limited the number of shoppers inside the store at any given time, provided handwashing stations outside, and offered free Latex gloves. Safeway was slow to adopt protective measures, making me feel unsafe in Safeway.
Fast forward eighteen months, and I’m fully vaccinated and in need of a cake mix Harvest doesn’t carry. Being as health conscious as it is, the shelves in the baking section at Harvest are laden with organic, gluten-free, paleo, KETO, dairy-free cake mixes. There are only a handful of non-organic, full-on gluten, white sugar mixes on the very bottom shelf. I’m guessing their placement there is to give the consumer time to re-think their unhealthy choice while bending over to reach one of those boxes. So, I’m off to Safeway to find my cake mix.
Of course, it’s there, nuzzled amongst dozens of others of its ilk, within easy reach. I pluck it from the shelf and decide to do the rest of my grocery shopping while I’m already in the store. I pull out my grocery list.
When all the items are checked off, I crumple the list and stuff it into my purse. Then I go in search of the shortest check-out line, which––because shoppers are encouraged to stand on the six-feet-apart circles painted on the store floor––brings me half-way down the ice cream section of a freezer aisle. And, because I have nothing else to do while waiting for the line to move, I begin perusing the freezer cases and discover an ice cream trend. The highest end ice creams––Haagen-Dazs, Ben and Jerrys, Talienti––have adopted “layering” as a new marketing gimmick. Only pint cartons are offered this way: four layers of different textures and flavors. I’m imagining plunging my ice cream scoop far enough down into the container to reach all four layers at the same time. Nope, I determine, it can’t be done. One would need a spoon to get the effect the product promises. I suspect the idea really is, to sell more product by encouraging shoppers to have their very own pint to dip their very own spoon into. I can’t imagine this trend will last beyond the summer.
The line moves, and I find myself in front of a section containing lesser-known brands, such as Fat Boy and Fat Boy Junior. I’m wondering what kind of market research led someone to name their product that when the line shifts again.
Now I’m in the popsicle section and looking at a product that reminds me of the summers of my childhood. I can almost hear the tinkling notes of the white ice cream truck as it announces its tour through my neighborhood. And here it is in Safeway’s freezer: the Good Humor Creamsicle, orange popsicle on the outside, velvety vanilla ice cream on the inside. I’m tempted to put a package in my shopping cart. The only thing that stops me is knowing the Creamsicles would melt before I got out of the store.
Another five minutes pass, and I’m now standing in that spot between the end of the aisle and the conveyer belt, leaving enough space for shoppers to pass through with their carts. An idea strikes me, and I reach into my purse for the crumpled shopping list and a pen. Smoothing out the list, I jot some notes about what I’ve just discovered. As a writer of personal essay, I know that anything––and everything––is fodder for a story. Why not ice cream?
By the time I’m wheeling my cart out of the store, I’ve decided to make a stop at Harvest on my way home and do a little market research of my own.
Standing in front of the ice cream freezer at Harvest, it’s just as I suspected. Yes, the high-end, four layered, products are there, but there’s no sign of Fat Boy or his son. Instead, there’s a product called Skinny Cow. Also, it appears there’s an equal amount of low fat, sugar-free, nonfat, nondairy ice creams made from soy, almond or coconut milk as those made from actual full-fat cow’s milk. The Rebel label promises “high fat/low carbs” for people on a KETO diet. There’s even an ice cream designed for kids who don’t like vegetables. It’s called Peekaboo and is made with “hidden veggies:” vanilla ice cream with zucchini, chocolate with cauliflower. Who knew? The freezer is filled with organic, health-conscious choices, seemingly designed to keep the Harvest shopper living a nutritious lifestyle.
I tuck the note-filled grocery list back into my purse and head home. Maybe one day I’ll write a piece about ice cream.
Nona Smith is the author of Stuffed: Emptying the Hoarders’ Nest and numerous other short stories published in various anthologies, including The Write Spot: Musings and Ravings From a Pandemic Year, journals and the St. Petersburg Times (now Tampa Bay Times.) Currently, she is writing a mystery about a woman named Emma whose dear friend goes missing. In her search for her friend, Emma finds herself. Nona writes personal essays and memoir pieces as well as fiction, always with an eye towards finding the humor in situations. She lives on the Mendocino coast with her husband Art and two mischievous cats.
Stuffed: Emptying the Hoarders’ Nest and The Write Spot: Musings and Ravings From a Pandemic Year are available at Gallery Bookshop and on Amazon.