Snarky in the Suburbs: At Costco, people-watching is elevated to high art

06/23/2014 3:07 PM

06/23/2014 3:07 PM

Costco is not just a mega-store.

It’s entertainment, and I’m not talking just about the thrill of buying in bulk — that’s a given. I’m talking about how almost every individual or family pushing the jumbo cart could be part of a sitcom, group therapy reality show or docu-drama about women who date produce.

I took my car in recently to get its tires rotated, and after spending two hours browsing the aisles, I observed — or stalked — a cast of characters.

The parking lot alone should be made into a driver’s ed film. Take the crazed cart ladies with four cartons of 96 rolls of toilet paper stacked so high they can’t see oncoming traffic. Then, to ratchet up the degree of difficulty, they’re straining to push their cart, because it is weighed down by bags of dog food, thus causing them to blindly bob and weave through the parking lot. You don’t enter this arena without your hands on 10 and 2 on the steering wall, your mirrors adjusted, and your driving focus in at least a state of Defcon 3.

Once I got inside, I made my Costco promise which is: I will not eat a churro, I want a churro but I do not need a churro, therefore I will not eat a churro. Besides, who needs a churro when there’s an abundance of food samples.

I headed straight for the chocolate macadamia nut line and totally scored. I got a full-size sample that had yet to be cut into those itty-bitty tasting bites. This is when a mom with a lot of kids (I’m sorry, I can’t give you an exact count because they would wander and then come back, hoisting an opened box of Fruit Roll Ups like it was the Stanley Cup) got ticked off that I got a bigger sample than she did. She complained to the very nice senior citizen about my sample size versus hers.

This is when I should have walked away and gone to the lonely quinoa salad sample station. Try as I might, I just couldn’t. I had to see how the Sample Mom story was going to play out.

Well, this lady was hell bent on getting a full-size treat, not just for her but for her kids, because in her words, “fair is fair.” Because I believe strongly in coming to the aid of the elderly, I enthusiastically shouted like I was Christopher Columbus and had just seen land after 90 days at sea: “Look, they’re giving away huge cups of that cheddar and caramel popcorn stuff.”

Sample Mom grabbed six paper cups of the not-full-size chocolate macadamia nuts and hustled her brood over to the popcorn man. Where she then proceeded to comment on how the samples were small, like only four-pieces-of-popcorn-per-cup small.

I thought it would be best if I hid on the other side of the store, so I wandered over to the fruit section. This is where I encountered a woman with a passion for produce.

She first caught my eye because of her aggressive and arduous sniffing of the strawberries. I watched as she basically made out with a two-pound carton of berries. Then she moved on to fondling the peaches. It wasn’t your basic squeeze and go. Oh no, she rubbed the peach all along her face. I’ve seen a lot of people get down with fruit at Whole Foods and farmers markets, but this was something different, more intimate. It made me so uncomfortable I ran away and found myself in the diaper aisle.

Here, a dad was talking on his phone and turbo upset over a baseball game. He had what looked like a 4-year-old son in his cart wearing a rec baseball T-shirt. From what I could gather the umpires in the pre-K league “suck.” I almost started laughing. Who gets that upset over pre-K baseball? Especially when your kid is young enough that you’re still buying a 228-count box of nighttime pullups.

I felt it was my calling as an experienced mother to offer some guidance to this overwrought father. I waited until he got off his phone and said, “You know, all this sports stuff, it’s a marathon, not a sprint. You should pace yourself.”

Sports Dad looks at me like he’s not sure I’m talking to him and then says, “Sucking is still sucking, no matter what.”

Hmm, I wonder if Costco sells thesauruses to aid this man in expanding his vocabulary, and for sure he should probably load up on some sort of stress relief supplement, or perhaps aromatherapy.

I smiled and nodded at Sports Dad, like I kind of agreed with him and quickly walked away. I was headed to my happy place. Yep, I got myself a churro. I deserved it.

Freelancer Sherry Kuehl of Leawood writes Snarky in the Suburbs in 913 each week. You can follow her on Facebook at Snarky in the Suburbs, twitter @snarkynsuburbs and read her blog at She's also written a book Snarky in the Suburbs Back to School.


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