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Enter the Groceries…Exit the Jobs

All the advertising and excitement I have been hearing lately over our local grocery stores signing people up for their new convenient internet order delivery service has me a bit conflicted, I must admit. First and foremost I want to make it clear that I am absolutely not judging or criticizing anyone who choses to use such a service. I, myself, used a grocery delivery service when my oldest child (now 16) was a newborn. My husband and I lived in a third floor apartment with no elevator. I was always trying to figure out how to get the baby and the groceries up to the apartment without ever leaving the baby alone (remember…this was my first child so I was afraid to leave her even for the time it would take to run down to the car, grab the bags of food, and book it back upstairs. By the third child I probably could have timed things to get a coffee in between runs.). So, when I saw the advertisement at our local store for the online shopping and delivery service I recall having shed a tear or two for joy.

Of course, even then I did not always use the delivery service. As a stay-at-home parent I quickly discovered that when Mr. Other Parent was home, the grocery store magically transformed. It would no longer be simply a place to purchase food necessities…but a wonderful fairyland oasis of ME TIME. I could leisurely stroll the aisles without a care in the world. If some little voice began crying, whining, or downright screaming, I could casually look over, smile my most comforting understanding smile at the parent of the source and saunter away to quietly browse through the endless selections of coffee… And yes, even now that the kids are older, I occasionally chug an entire bottle of orange juice so that I can declare, “Oh, shoot! We are out of OJ! I will run out and get some.” and race to the store where there still may be children attempting to murder each other…but they are not my children.

I guess my concern is that, we may be at the very tip top of a slope that we do not even realize looms below us. Look at all of the retail stores closing around us. Online shopping can be so much easier. I’ll admit that, especially when it comes to the kids, I online shop quite a bit. Something about clothes shopping with teenage girls… Go ahead…tell me it’s a bonding experience! Perhaps, it is at times, but much more often it turns into a war of wills with each girl testing the limits of my patience as well as my wallet and critiquing each other’s fashion choices with sisterly slams. I would much rather bond out on a hike…with them complaining about how tired they are.

Even though, to my mother’s dismay, I have never been much of a shopper (I prefer heading directly to a needed article of clothing…already researched and pin-pointed…like an arrow to a bullseye and immediately turning around to retrace my steps out with my purchase.), the thought of someday not having the option to go out and try something on if needed saddens me.

That is my concern with the grocery store… I love the grocery store. The grocery store is where I run into people that I may not otherwise see because of our separate busy schedules. The grocery store is where I see kids at their very first jobs, learning the joys of financial independence and the responsibilities that come with it and having to interact with people directly…and not through a phone screen. The grocery store is where I see some new and alluring food that I have never even heard of, but suddenly wish to try. The grocery store is where I teach my children to carefully pick out the ingredients for recipes that we will cook together later, bonding over discussions about who added too much salt or whose turn it is to clean up after. It is a gathering place in the community where people meet because we all need food.

My very first job was as a morning paper girl for the Providence Journal. It was truly a learning experience and one that I still smile back upon. At the time, it was challenging: I had to be up before the crack of dawn to get the papers out prior to heading off to school (this became a little easier once I got my driver’s license about five years into the job), and oftentimes I would end up running desperately down the street, after parking my bike and grabbing my book bag, waving my arms at the school bus driver so she wouldn’t pull away before I could get there and trying to ignore the chuckles of the kids already on the bus as I found my seat.

Weekends were not only delivery days, but collection days, as well, when I would go to my neighbors and collect the money they owed me for the service I had provided. This helped me to learn to have “professional” conversations, make pleasant small talk, and forced me to learn to interact with customers politely and respectfully even when I was not in the best of moods (tips were a big part of the pay). I did it for six years, before having to pass it on so that I could head off to college. It felt good to earn and save money of my own and the experience prepared me for the numerous other jobs I would later take on.

When I did a search on the terms “paper boy” or “paper girl” the words “pop culture” and “iconic” appeared in descriptions of what the job used to be. Sadly, it has become a casualty of the internet. So many people get most of their news online now…myself included.

So, though online grocery shopping is convenient and has its place and I am not ruling out that I will ever use it, I am going to try to get by without it, in a small personal effort to preserve a choice. And speaking of choice, though I have heard that the produce chosen for the delivery is most often excellent, I also like having the personal choice of hand picking what I want and need. Exactly how ripe would I like my bananas to be, for example? Am I making a smoothie that night…or do I need them for lunches later that week? Oh shoot! Did I just eat the last banana?! Looks like I need to pop (sneak) out and get some…while I send Little Man downstairs to tell his father about the entire bowl of Cheerios…complete with milk…that he tipped onto the floor and has yet to clean up…

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