From a visit to the grocery store:
The next person to make a million bucks will be the guy who invents a grocery bag that you can lift from an upper corner without risking a rip and imperiling everything you've just bought.
I raise this because I saw something Sunday morning I had never seen before. A Giant Food checkout clerk tried to pick up a bag this way. She failed in spectacular fashion. The mixture of egg yolks, romaine lettuce, rye bread and bright orange baby food all over the floor would have made a modern artist proud.
I asked the clerk whether the giants of Giant would be angry at her if they knew she had tried to lift the bag from the top.
"I don't think so," she said. "They never trained us or anything. It's not like it's in a manual of how to be a checkout clerk or anything."
Maybe it should be.
You might not think so, but the grocery is a busy place at 8:10 on a Sunday morning. Deliveries are being made, shelves are being stocked, cash register drawers are being loaded and stray carts are being collected from the parking lot. Another opening of another show.
The only thing missing is customers. For that reason, the grocery lets down its hair a little. You'd never find a floor-waxing machine left in the middle of the dairy aisle on a Saturday afternoon. But on a Sunday morning, you do.
The machine looks like a large lawn mower. I grab the handle so I can move the whole contraption aside and get at the skim milk.
The thing starts shaking and humming.
This can't be happening.
I grab the handle again. I grab it a third time.
Whirrrrrrrrrr. A large rotary brush is grinding away at the linoleum floor.
I start rehearsing what I'm going to tell Giant's lawyers: "Gentlemen, I'm terribly sorry about the three-foot-deep crater in your floor. But if the machine hadn't been there in the first place . . . . "
Ten-month-old Emily is sitting in the grocery cart. She is watching the brush go round and round and round. She starts giggling.
Thanks, Emily. Come see your old man in jail, willya?
On the fourth grab, I apparently hit the proper switch. The motor cuts off. The machine stops whirring. The floor looks fine. A little shinier, actually.
The whole episode has taken perhaps 45 seconds. Mercifully, because it's Sunday morning, no one has seen me.
Emily is at the age and stage where she has the "grab-sies." She is bound and determined to inspect everything she can reach. That means that no grape, no cookie, no can of tomato paste is safe from her attempted clutches. It takes a dad with fast hands to keep trouble from starting.
But some hands, and some Dads, aren't at their fastest on Sunday mornings. As this Dad is making up his mind whether it'll be the white napkins or the yellow, Emily starts dismembering a roll of paper towels. Dad notices just in time.
As Dad passes the intersection of Cleaning Materials and Magazines, Emily reaches out from her seat in the shopping cart, as if for a brass ring, and knocks a copy of Esquire to the floor. The cover story is about how much fathers love their children. "Except at the grocery store," I mutter, as I replace the magazine in the rack.
Where do you toss your shopping list when you've crossed off every last "O.J." and "Froz. Veg."? I have never solved this one. I am told that groceries have trash cans at the end of their checkout lines, for exactly this purpose. But I've never seen one.
My solution this Sunday morning: let Emily play with the list until we're ready to go. She does a wonderful job of crushing and uncrushing it, so that it looks like a ten-year-old $10 bill. Outside, I gently take it away from her and throw it in a trash can. She has been kept quiet for ten minutes, and I've avoided littering the cart with a list. Perfect.
Home again. I'm unloading the bags from the car. I start to reach for one of them by the upper edge. Emily picks this moment to start whimpering.
Who says kids don't know best?