Szyperski: Costco runWritten by Shannon Szyperski | | firstname.lastname@example.org
I was once checking out at Costco when I suddenly thought I was going to pass out. I semi-panicked and asked the cashier if she also noticed it getting darker. She looked at me pathetically and motioned to the above skylights, which apparently leave much of the warehouse’s lighting up to random cloud cover. Oh, OK then.
I’ve never completely gotten used to the natural dimmer switch that rules Costco’s illumination, nor has it occurred to me (until now) to try to shop exclusively on cloudless days. My annoyance/confusion/nervousness felt somewhat vindicated during a recent trip, however, when my son also semi-panicked upon the sudden and repeated changes in store brightness. He may have just inherited some of my sensory hypersensitivity, but at least it’s not just me.
I actually find the almost constant shift from light to dark to light again on a partly cloudy Costco day to be a fitting metaphor for the general ebb and flow of the Costco shopping experience, especially the Costco experience with three children in tow. Moments range from jubilant product find bright spots to we’ve-gone-45-minutes-past-our-Costco-limit cloud cover. In short, the only thing you can predict with certainty is uncertainty.
Our most recent Costco trip was no exception to the Expect the Unexpected Rule. In fact, it seemed to offer up extra anecdotal helpings of the Costco experience. I could write an outline of what I think our Costco venture will be each time, but I could never fully script it.
Likely a similar story at any shopping institution, we visited the bathroom no less than three times during our two-hour Costco excursion. My kids played out many of the classics like: “We just got our cart and are ready to shop, but first let’s take a bathroom detour” and “Now that we’ve reached the furthest point away from the bathroom I suddenly need to go again.”
As for the infamous sampling, Costco just might be the one place on earth that my children willingly try new food items — except pickled beets. After not quite managing to hide her disgust that my children had never so much as laid eyes on a beet before, the sample lady attempted quite the hard sell by claiming they taste just like candy. My kids didn’t buy it. Driven by her disapproving tone and my feeling of obligation to set a good example, I tried the pickled beet. The sample lady’s disparaging assumption that she had to explain to my kids that beets were something that “grow from the ground” kept resonating with me as I popped one in my mouth and remembered that the ground is exactly what they taste like. There’s a reason science discovered the beet’s natural de-icing properties; they don’t seem quite fit for human consumption and must have some alternative purpose for existing. I spent 20 minutes trying to wash down the horrific taste with the kids’ $1.39 fat-free Costco frozen yogurt to no avail, and I hadn’t even swallowed the tiny piece of beet. I think I can still kind of taste it.
An incident, or rather a series of incidents, performed by my 4-year-old actually taught me that consuming anything at Costco might not be the best idea. On our third trip to the can, my lovely little miss slid her entire body under her stall, suddenly popping her sweet little face up into my stall. I washed her hands and informed her that she would be showering as soon as we arrived home. In considering her role as a possible germ victim I neglected to consider her role as a possible germ carrier, until I noticed her laying her entire body on top of one of the tables in Costco Café. The sight of her covering someone’s eating surface was upsetting enough; the immediate flashback to her crawling on a bathroom floor not five minutes before was horrifying at best.
Truth be told, the bathroom/dining table episode could have played out just about anywhere, which is why I retired my own germophobia long ago. For some reason, everything is just a little bit more special at Costco, though. Despite our many trials there, the experience is also filled with many triumphs. We scored a sweet deal on a dry erase board my husband had just mentioned buying and I witnessed my children form an impressive assembly line-style collaboration at the checkout with nary a direction from me. Even the woman at the exit becoming the first person to incorrectly conclude that my children were my grandchildren couldn’t put a damper on my new mango salsa and $20 Speedo swimsuit.
Shannon Szyperski and her husband, Michael, are raising three children in Sylvania. Email her at email@example.com.