Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Journey to Hell

We’ve all been there, we all hate it, but somehow in spite of the overwhelming feeling of dread we get at the very thought of it, it keeps drawing us back time and time again.  I am of course talking about the Hell-on-Earth known as Costco.

From the moment you arrive in the jam packed parking lot, you know the next two hours of your life are going to be completely miserable.  There is no such thing as a “quick” trip to Costco.  During your quarter-mile hike from your car to the entrance, you scramble to find an oversized shopping cart, before finally reaching the long line up of people waiting to funnel into the building.  But they don’t just let anybody in, oh no, you have to be a confirmed member, part of the exclusive club that is granted the esteemed privilege of shopping at this store.  With a secret handshake, a knowing nod of the head, and a quick flash of your membership card, you are herded through the doors like cattle, and handed a flyer with today’s list of sale items.

The bumper cart derby begins immediately as you make your way past the televisions and electronics section, just trying to get away from the masses so that you can take a moment to strategize, figure out where you need to go, and how best to get there.  Alas, there is no relief.  You look to your left, then to your right.  There are people in every direction, a sea of humanity all in search of a bargain.  Adding to the ever-present congestion, some idiot executive decided to place food sample counters at the end of each aisle, where hoards of shoppers park their shopping carts and plunk themselves down as though waiting for their sandwich at a deli.  This isn’t lunch people!!  Take your tiny cup of yogurt, and move along!!!  Images of taking a running start and ploughing your cart through the crowd fill your head as you decide whether a single tortellini on a toothpick is worth the wait, or whether it is best to just continue on before you lose it on the lady that keeps stepping in front of you.

You begin to fill the cart with your bulk items of choice, all the while scoping out others as they do the same.  You judge others based on the items they have selected, and wonder what could possibly motivate someone to buy a 100 pack of toilet paper, until you see the food items they’ve buried beneath, and gain the understanding you were searching for.  Aisle after aisle you dodge and weave your way through the crowds.  By the time you are halfway through the store you are so filled with rage that it takes all your strength not to abandon your cart and just run far, far away, but then you arrive at the baked good section, and it smells delicious.  A momentary oasis in a jungle of hate.  You ask yourself whether you can realistically get through all 84 bran muffins before the expiry date 4 days from now.  There’s no denying that the price is right, so you and three others each grab a corner, and bending at the knees, lift the box into your cart.  Challenge accepted. 

The temporary bakery buzz quickly subsides though, and your voice becomes hoarse from yelling “excuse me!”  As much as you’d love to wet your whistle with a shot of that peach juice they’re handing out samples of over there, the large family that has been seemingly following you since the moment you arrived has somehow pushed their way through and set up camp at the front of the line.  You decide to go for it anyway, temporarily leave your cart aside, and bounce shoulder to shoulder through the food sample mosh pit.  As you get closer, your eyes focused on the single remaining tiny paper cup, you see the hairy arm of the father reach in to grasp it, before gulping back his third helping.  Noooooooooooo!!!  You son-of-a-bitch!!!!!!!!  

Defeated and juiceless, you return to your cart, desperately just wanting to get this whole misadventure over with.  Having long since lost your last remaining ounce of patience way back in the furniture section, you use your cart to nudge children and the elderly out of your way, clearing a path just wide enough to squeeze your cart through.  You skip the remaining aisles, choosing instead to just head towards the cashier section so that you can get the hell out of there.  Somehow though, you end up in the pharmaceutical area, unknowingly having taken a wrong turn somewhere along the way.  A sea of heads all around you, you climb up onto the skid of adult diaper boxes to survey the lay of the land, and realign yourself in the direction of the exit.  When you finally arrive, a mass of people with overloaded shopping carts surround the cashiers.  In the absence of anything resembling an orderly line, you place yourself at the mercy of those in front of you, praying that they are in the check-out line, and not the line to purchase an overcooked hot dog from the nearby Costco restaurant.  A wall of granola bar and snack mix boxes behind you eliminates any thoughts of retreat.  There is nothing more you can do, but wait.

30 minutes later, your will to live nearing extinction, you empty the contents of your shopping cart onto the conveyor belt.  The extra large cashier in the medium size Costco shirt, greets you.  “Hi, how are you today?  Did you find everything you were looking for?” she asks.  Rather than demonstrate your proficient use of four-letter words and express how you really feel, you simply reply “Yes, thank you”.  We are Canadian afterall.  She swipes each item along the electronic scanner, waits for the audible “beep”, then places each item back into the cart, each time exposing a portion of her tramp-stamp tattoo.  You don’t want to look, but you can’t help it.  You try to figure out what it says, but the combination of her too-tight shirt and muffin-top body squeezes out just enough skin to make the distorted writing very difficult to read, at least while she’s moving around like that.  It doesn’t matter.  All that matters is that this nightmare is almost over.

Having successfully completed the transaction, you frustratingly find yourself once again separated from the exit by another long line of people.  As you shuffle along, you get a closer look at those over-cooked hot dogs, and the people that enjoy them.  You see that same large family from earlier cutting back into the food service line to argue with the counter staff over the amount of french fries that were included in their combo, while leaving their cart directly in the way of those trying to get out, oblivious to the dirty looks aimed in their direction.  As you get closer to the exit you are approached by part-time wannabe Customs Agents, demanding to see your receipt.  They scan through your cart as through you’re a criminal, looking for something to nail you on.  Finding that everything is in order, they seem disappointed as they stamp your passport and allow you out of the People’s Republic of Costco. 

Several steps later you are free, and an overwhelming feeling of relief overtakes your body as you breathe in that fresh air.  You pause to take several deep inhalations.  The birds sing, and the sun gently caresses your face.  The quarter mile walk back to your car albeit long, is a pleasant one.  As you walk in the opposite direction of another wave of slouching zombies making their way towards the entrance.  You stand tall.  You stand proud.  For you have been to Hell and back, and lived to tell about it. 


  1. I'm new to the whole twitter thing, but I think I found your "Why Dave Matthews Band" because Boyd Tinsley did a retweet of it. Anyway, I couldn't agree more with your "Why"s for DMB. Excellent!
    However, the rest of your blogs are just hilarious. I can't stop reading.

  2. Thanks Cathleen, glad to see I'm not alone with my feelings towards Costco {spit}. Also very happy that you're enjoying the other blog posts too!!