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 Texas : Features : Columns : "The Girl Detective's Theory of Everything"
In the Zone
by Elizabeth Bussey Sowdal
Elizabeth Bussey Sowdal
I think I need to find a small, family operated grocery store to use. I think that I have had enough of the huge, mega, everything-from-bananas-to-ammunition type of store. It makes shopping for groceries too confusing. I go in for some pork chops and Drain-O and end up with a riding lawn mower and four yards of purple corduroy. It was better when my girls were still home. They always came to the store with me and that was so nice. Such a relief for me, though it must have been a chore for them. "Swiss Steak sounds nice. Yes, those are pretty tomatoes. No, I think we have plenty of milk. Mom! Look at me! Focus! You do not need a new fly rod. The last time you went fishing was 1978. It is time to leave now. Take some slow breaths and letís head for the cashier." They are so good. Such smart girls. But where are they now?

Living their own lives, thatís where. I have too much pride to call either one of them up and say, "Baby, I need to go shopping soon. Are you free on Wednesday?" I wonít do it. I tried to solve the problem by making the boys come with me. Big mistake. We were there for exactly 17 minutes before they began to slip into a boredom induced coma and we came out of the store with four boxes of snack cakes, a case of noodle soup, some pipe dope (no Ė itís legal, I checked), and a hacksaw. That should hold us. Whatís for supper? Plumbing supplies and guppy food. Again?!?

Maybe I have some type of attention deficit problem Ė without the frequently associated hyperactivity issues. Believe me, hyperactivity is not an problem I have had to deal with. Sometimes I wear myself out with aerobic napping, but other than that my activity is pretty well controlled. I have begun to find the big stores overwhelming and yet there are few alternatives. The small, family operated businesses are few and far between. It is so nice though, when you do find one. So humanizing. Revitalizing.

I ordered some perfume on the internet a couple of months ago. I have a hard time with perfume. My body chemistry must be kind of wonky because most perfume ends up smelling like bug spray or old laundry on me. Thereís a happy side effect to this, which is that mosquitos, ticks and chiggers pretty much leave me alone. Though a flea can smell me a mile away. Anyway, it narrows my choices and there is only one kind of perfume I like. And, par for the course, it was discontinued last year. Tragedy. You will understand how happy I was to find a website selling it. I jumped on the opportunity and ordered two bottles. A few days after placing my order something wonderful happened. I received a phone call from San Francisco. It was the woman who owned the website. She called me to tell me that she had recently bought the formula for the perfume from the original company and that she would be sending my order but that she couldnít afford the pretty bottles yet, because she was just starting out, and was that okay with me? I was tickled to death! It is always nice to make a new friend and I loved the fact that I was buying something from a person who was interested and excited about it and who cared enough to call me up to chat a little. I will never buy perfume from anyone else now, because I feel that we have, in a small way, a connection.

I was pleased all out of proportion by this phone call, and I think I know why. The world is becoming a bigger and more impersonal place. I know my old neighbors, but havenít bothered to meet the new ones. I know my dentist, but does he know me? I doubt it, though he puts up a good front. There is not one merchant in this city who knows or cares what I buy or when I buy it or how often I need it. And that makes me a bit sad. Makes me nostalgic for an era I never knew, when a person might walk into a butcherís shop on Thursday and find a pound and a half of nice sirloin already wrapped and readied for them by a guy they went to church with and played cards with on Tuesdays. Wouldnít it be nice to live in a smaller world, sometimes?

© Elizabeth Bussey Sowdal
"The Girl Detective's Theory of Everything" - November 15, 2004 Column
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