Don't Make Me Decide - 06.29.98

I must admit that it isn't something that happens every day. I've certainly never seen someone escorted out of a grocery store by security, and told that they could never come back and shop again without risking prosecution. Least of all, I especially never thought it would be me.

The day that it happened wasn't really too much different than any other normal day for me. True, I had a lot of things on my mind from work, and to add to things, I hadn't been feeling well as of late. Still, I didn't realize how close I was to a breaking point and that it would take so little to set me over the edge.

Just before I had left work on that day, I had shut down my computer as normal, slightly arranged things on my desk, and walked down the hall to the elevator. The only thing that happened any differently was that I sidetracked into the bathroom on the way there to splash some water on my face and pop a couple ibuprofin tablets. I had the beginnings of a headache, and I couldn't tell whether it was because the air-conditioning wasn't working quite right in the building, or whether I had simply sat and stared at my computer screen for one days too many.

The sun greeted me full force upon stepping out of the building, and I could feel my headache flare up, but retreat as soon as I had propped on a pair of sunglasses. It was a Monday evening, and like every Monday evening after work, I was going to do my grocery shopping for the week before I headed home.

When I entered the store, I noticed that there were a few more people than normal, but not enough that it would affect my lingering headache any. I had a defined list of things that I needed, and I went about my business with an order and quickness that came from the habit of purchasing the same items almost every week. I picked up a bag of oranges, 3 pounds of carrots, a box of cereal, and a pound of deli ham before grabbing a gallon of milk and 2 packages of chips. My basket was nearing it's full point and I only needed a few more items before going through the checkout lane and being on my way.

I was setting a record pace on my way down the bread aisle, checking off the items that I had already picked up and put into my basket. When I finally got to the spot where my brand of bread was located, I lifted up my head from the eyeing the list and reached out my right arm to toss my last item on top of the pile.

The entire shelf was empty. The brand of bread that I had been buying one loaf a week of for every week of the past 6 months was gone. I squinted just a bit and I could feel the headache fighting it's way back into the foreground.

Simple enough, I thought. I stepped back a bit into the center of the aisle and started looking left and right, trying to decide on another brand that I could purchase.

It was at this point that my headache screamed at me like it never had before. I sat down my basket and put my right hand to my forehead, scanning the labels that were there on the shelf in front of me. There were about 25 different brand names and almost 10 different kinds of bread under each brand. There was white bread, wheat bread, split-top white, split-top wheat, 12-grain, honey-wheat, raspberry-wheat, rye, fortified, Italian, homestyle, sandwich bread, and more.

It was at this point when I put both my arms to my sides again and felt the uncontrollable urge to laugh. So I did.

I stood there staring at the 100 plus different kinds of bread and laughed until tears came to my eyes. At first, people walked by and got their products amusingly, but after several continued minutes of it, they began to show a bit of worry. A couple people had slowed their steps a little and now kept an eye on me as they nervously continued their shopping.

At this point, I sat down beside my basket of groceries and began thinking aloud. Actually, it was very aloud. By the time two store employees had come around the corner, I had already yelled, "How I am supposed to choose? There are too damn many!" about 5 times.

Actually, the two fellows that came up to me weren't store employees, but were actually security guards hired by the store to make sure kids didn't steal liquor and whatnot.

I could see that one of them wanted to ask me a question, so I stopped yelling in order to give him the floor. By this time, quite a crowd had gathered round to see what was going on down in the bread aisle.

After gauging me a little more and deciding that he could probably beat the crap out of me if he had wanted, he got a little more confident and stated, "Sir, I'm going to have to ask you to leave the store."

It was a straightforward, well-meaning statement, and I could see that he would only be satisfied with only one answer.

So I said, "Have you ever noticed just how many kinds of bread there are here?"

My question threw him a little off-guard at first, but he quickly re-gained his composure. Sadly, he didn't look like he was going to answer my question, and he repeated his earlier statement of, "Sir, I'm going to have to ask you to leave the store."

I looked him in the face, then looked over at the shelf and said, "Wouldn't you agree with me that there are like 125 different kinds of bread on that shelf there?"

This time, I could see that he really wasn't amused. His face twisted ever so slightly and when he his statement finally came out, it was in a slightly deeper and more menacing tone than before. "Sir, for the last time, I'm going to have to ask you to leave the store."

I slowly got to my feet and I could see that the crowd was on the brink. They thought for a split second that there may be a confrontation, but already were starting to dissipate. The security guy looked a little relieved as well, as I took a step forward and towards the exit.

After one more step, I planted firmly, spun around and pointed at the shelf one last time, yelling as loud as I could, "It's too much! There's simply too much bread!"

At that, I felt hands come down on each shoulder and spin me around firmly. I was walking forward on my own accord now, but there were no doubts about whether I was headed. It was raining hard when I was deposited outside by the two guards, and it felt good coming down on my head.

They told me that if I came back into the store, I would have charges pressed, but I didn't care. The headache was gone and there were several other stores in town. I told them that I was sorry and walked off slowly to my car, letting myself get as soaked as possible.