Smile, You’re on Candid Camera

“Smile,” my husband urged me as we were navigating a cart the size of a tanker through the insanely busy and crowded Costco. What he did not know is that I had been smiling for a while, excusing people who darted in front of my cart willy nilly, and stopping just short of crashing into oblivious shoppers who were only pretending to be less than mindful to get where they were going without appearing insensitive.

I was done smiling and excusing and dodging. The aggressive me who I generally keep under wraps was starting to make her appearance, and she was not pretty. She grumbles not quite under her breath, she darts seemingly obliviously in front of other carts, and when she gets to the check out and some guy with a cart full of fertilizer and topsoil scoots in front of her cart and beats her to the lane she was very clearly aiming for, she does not smile. In fact she frowns and gives him a raised eyebrow. He smiled goofily but does not relinquish the place he has stolen in line.

“We are never coming here on a Saturday again” I declare vehemently to my husband (I did not just say it, or state it, I declared it vehemently). He agreed, as he is not really fond of the aggressive me. But as I said before, he was not with me while I was being light-heartedly juggled and pushed around in the aisles of Costco. He was returning some jeans that had proven to be a size too big, so he was safely in the return line while I was in the jungle, smiling at my assailants.

I am generally a person who smiles at others—for no reason other than the fact that I like their reaction and subsequent reaction (which is usually a return smile). But I have my limits, and that limit was reached on Saturday. In spades. When I was younger I was often told to smile, which made me grimace in response. I often thought to myself that I was not a grinning idiot or someone who should be prompted to smile. Whose business was it anyway, whether I smiled or not? Then I caught a reflection of my unsmiling (arrogant, deluded, smug) self in the mirror and it was none too pleasant. So I started to smile more. Now I smile or try to half smile so that the havoc wrought by age (at rest my face unfortunately sports a downturned mouth which makes me look really grouchy) is at least partially compensated.

This brings me to the point of this column (which I am sure you were wondering about). The following phrase caught my attention in a book I just started reading over the weekend: “A smile is the passport kindness uses to travel to your eyes, your heart, your soul.” At one time this type of jargon would have made me gag at its sweetness. But having travelled down the road for a few decades, I now understand the truth of the words.

The book is called “Live Your Dash” and it is by Linda Ellis, the author of the “Live Your Dash” poem which was met with worldwide accolades. Not because the poetry sang, as it is to me not particularly lyrical, but because of what it counselled—that we “make every moment matter”. The dash of course is the little line between our birth date and the date of our death, and to quote her poem:

“To many, it is but a hyphen….
Marking time between the years,
but in that little dash, is a lifetime
of laughter, love and tears.”

So, I have determined that during my dash years, I should smile more (even if I look like a grinning idiot) and not use my “facial facade” as a closed gate. Ellis says quite wisely that some people believe that if they smile they are “opening that gate to an unwelcome world” when instead she counters, “sharing a smile is like aspirin for the soul. It helps remove the hurt from the inside out.”

I do think though, that if smiling more is going to be my reigning philosophy I should avoid Costco on Saturday mornings. Why set myself up for failure? Turning that frown upside down is not always possible when you are playing Dodge ‘em Carts.

Published in: on April 29, 2014 at 12:33 pm  Comments (14)  
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Wonder of Wonders

As of late, I have read quite a few blogs about that miracle of the material world and wonder of wonders, Costco. The last blog I read was written by a woman in Australia who had just been introduced to the mega discounter and was somewhat flummoxed and overwhelmed. I understand. I remember some of my first visits to Costco, and I wonder if the experience was one that was not unique. I have devised two lists, one heralds this place of worldly goods as a “good thing”; the other strives to shed light on the shadow side of Costco.

Good Things About Costco;

1. New books are 40% off, and magazines are discounted. This was what attracted me to the vast warehouse in the first place.

2. The tastings – if you go on the right day at the right time, you can have quite a hearty lunch of perogies, cheese and crackers, a drink (usually with some health benefit), and a delectable dessert that always promises something–to be low-fat, low in sugar, or make you into a super hero.

3. Exercise – the place is big. A trip around the store has got to be worth at least the minimum required exercise time for one day.

4. The clothes – sometimes you can buy some pretty nice stuff there – not fashion forward stuff, but not stuff ready for a church bazaar either.

5. The food – lots of choice, albeit in huge amounts. If you are having a family gathering or party—this is a good thing.

6. A social outing – a lot of times I go with good friends—something you do not generally do when shopping locally.

7. The big bags of pistachios – they are always on my youngest son’s Christmas list.

The Shadow Side:

1. Is it me, or do the people who shop at Costco seem grouchier than the general population? I am serious; most people seem in a bad mood and wield those huge carts like missiles. Maybe it is the lighting.

Costco Lights

Costco Lights (Photo credit: aphasiafilms)

2. On my first visits, I was forever getting lost. Lost my husband and kids, and felt like a seven year old again, lost in an aisle at Woolworths. Bad flashback, and not even mine–it was my sister who got lost, and it was me reassuring her (and myself) that mom and dad had not left without us.

3. No bags, and you have to find your own boxes. And if your membership has temporarily expired, they can get a little snotty if you want a subtotal, so you know how much to pay the friend you accompanied whose membership is paid up.

4. The huge quantities that you have to buy if something appeals to you. I still have a huge box of crackers in my basement that I bought months ago. If you are not supplying a wedding reception, who needs that many crackers? (Okay, I know, most wedding receptions do not feature crackers per se, but I am making a point here.)

5. Impulse buying. You could say that this is not the store’s fault but that would not be true. You lose your wits in this high ceilinged gamma ray illuminated warehouse—I don’t care what anyone says.

6. They make you pay a membership fee for the honour of shopping in the store.

7. What is with the people at the door who check what you have purchased? It is not Fort Knox, and it is not something they are really allowed to do. But who questions it? Once you have made the long trek around the store, who is going to take the time to question this practice? But I must say, I do resent it.

I admit that I like an occasional trip to Costco, but there is no warm, cozy, mom and pop feel about the place. I have learned not to buy in bulk unless I share my bootie with a fellow friend/shopper; I have learned how to buy what I can use (except for said box of crackers); and, I no longer get lost in the huge barn of a building.

All in all, Costco is not an example of the devil’s hand at work. It is a wonderful place on occasion, but I prefer a steady diet of my local merchants and friendly small town.

Published in: on May 29, 2012 at 3:10 am  Comments (44)  
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