Joco Diversions

Conquering the fear of the mighty grocery store

A shopping experience long feared by Stacey Hatton turned out to be rewarding.
A shopping experience long feared by Stacey Hatton turned out to be rewarding. KRT

I’ve noticed in the past few years, while addressing my numerous anxieties, there are some places I refuse to go.

I don’t have the typical fears of many, like fearing spiders will drop in my hair, or my children will catch a terrible disease, but shopping in dirty stores is high on my list. The stores don’t even have to dirty inside, but if I can imagine it’s filthy in there and I have to place my fingers on a cart, I will drive right past.

A longtime anxiety of shopping at one particular market needed to be quashed. No longer should the thought of walking through those doors send me spinning into the abyss of feeling I was in possible danger.

Danger? In a grocery store? I’m more likely to clog one of my main arteries with nacho cheese sauce than to be attacked or harmed while shopping from my family’s grocery list. I needed to face my unrealistic fear. Ridiculous, I know, but panic is never logical.

My anxiety about this market started with tips from friends who shopped there. They would tell me they loved it, but “the first time can be tricky if you don’t know what to expect.”

I’m supposed to expect something that will trick me? Do I have to do calculus to get in the door? Am I supposed to count back my change to the person behind me? Do they not have bags?

No, they actually don’t. Nary a bag nor a person of sacking capabilities is on staff.

So I grabbed my reusable bags learning from friends the store was BYOB (bags, not booze). As I neared the storefront, I pretended to be a confident shopper (this is where that theater major really pays off), and walked up to the carts stacked in uniform lines outside on the front sidewalk. I grabbed one. The rest of the carts followed.

The carts are all chained together? Who had the key? Did I have to go inside and ask the attendant for that key on the giant block of wood like at truck stop bathrooms?

The panic began to rise in my throat, but I barreled through. Luckily, there was a sign above that could have been interpreted by a fifth-grader.

After reading it three or four times, I attempted to pull a quarter out of my purse, fumbling through pens, hand sanitizer, and a handful of receipts. My cheeks flushed realizing I didn’t have that quarter ready in my hand. It felt like people were gathering in line behind me tapping their feet and shaking their heads at the new gal, who couldn’t figure out how to pay for a cart. I pressed on.

After I solved the coin obstacle, I backed my cart out and entered the store. The prices were amazing. Lower than many box store deals. It didn’t take long to maneuver around to find most items on my list. I’d have to find a multivitamin somewhere else.

I waited in line because there wasn’t another checker running a second register. Not a big deal. But when she noticed a line forming, she stepped up her scanner game. I seriously think she emptied my cart in less than one minute.

At one point, I was concerned for the life of my bread and eggs because they also flew into the cart, followed by heavy items tossed on top. Once I was able to grab my bags to sack up my groceries, she was half-done with my cart. So I paid and walked to the side.

My trip was definitely an anxiety-filled adventure; but with the amount of money I saved, and now knowing how to manage my way through the nice clean store, I’ll be prepared for next time. I might even remember to have my quarter in hand when reaching for a cart.

Stacey Hatton can be reached at