Billy Coffey versus the grocery store (by Billy Coffey)

image courtesy of

image courtesy of

My wife and I have always divvied up the household chores according to a two-color system of Pink and Blue. The things she can do much better than I, things like cooking and washing the clothes, are known as Pink things. Things that involve dirt, grease, and any sort of electrical motor or hand tool—Blue. My responsibility.

We came up with this ourselves, and with utter agreement. My wife does not typically enjoy Blue things and would rather not take part in them. And though I can do many of the Pink things, not doing them seems to keep everyone happy. Myself included. The Pink and Blue has never failed us. Not once.

Until now.

Due to a collapse of schedule, she called me last week to say she could not go to the grocery store.

“Can you go after work?” she asked.

I will say here that grocery shopping is a Pink thing in our home, and best left to her. Mostly because I hate going there and cannot understand how coupons work. But because I love her and because I was really hungry, I said yes. Of course.

My wife was kind enough to dictate a list, which is always half the battle when going to the store. But she neglected to include on said list the exact location of where everything was. This is important.

Why? Because grocery stores are stupid. Because I’m now convinced the people responsible for deciding what goes where do so with the intention of making men look like idiots.

That thought first occurred to me while trying to find the milk. I wheeled my shopping cart toward the big sign on the back wall that said MEAT/COLD CUTS. Guess what? No milk. Why on earth would the milk not be with the meat? It’s all cow.

After much wandering about, I found it all the way on the other side of the store next to the orange juice. Completely logical. You know, because one comes from a cow and the other comes from a tree.

The remaining items on the list were all fruit—bananas, apples, applesauce, grapes, and a watermelon. As I had passed through the fruit section on the way to MEAT/COLD CUTS, I at least knew where I should go. No problem there. And the bananas and grapes and watermelons were all in plain sight and clearly marked.

So were the apples. Not, however, the applesauce.

I looked at the list again—Mussleman’s no sugar added was written. Cinnamon was scrawled beside it.
I looked everywhere for it. Beside the apples, above the apples, beneath the apples. I even wheeled my shopping cart around the apples. Nothing.

Why in the world wouldn’t the applesauce be with the apples? Were they out? Had there been a sudden run on Mussleman’s no sugar added with cinnamon?

I took a swing around the store again. Thought of asking someone who worked there, but didn’t. All of the employees I saw were men. I’d decided by then that these were likely other husbands who had been sent to the store by their wives and never found their way out. Employment was their only option.

Know what struck me the most? The fact that I was surrounded by literally thousands of things I could want but not the one thing I needed. There seemed to be a great spiritual point to be made there, but it was one I wasn’t able to grasp at the time.

I tried calling my wife—voice mail.

My only other alternative was to turn to the world of social media. I tweeted for help.

The response was both instantaneous and very confusing. Several people (all of them women, of course) directed me to the canned fruits and vegetables aisle.


That was on the other side of the store. Why in the world would the applesauce be on the opposite side of the store from the apples? Were some apples more important than other apples? Were they better or fresher just because they were packaged a little differently?

“This is how racism starts,” I said to a lady who passed by. She nodded and smiled and quickly walked on.

I found the canned fruits and vegetables aisle. Found the Mussleman’s no sugar added with cinnamon, too. And I got out of that store. I doubt I’ll ever go back. Grocery shopping is a Pink thing for a reason.

But to you ladies out there in Twitterville, I say thank you. You saved me. Not just from a future job as a stock boy looking for applesauce, but for teaching me this:

Sometimes you have to look hard for the things you need, and it’s easy to get lost and turned around in that looking. It always helps to have someone around to point you in the right direction.

To read more from Billy Coffey, visit him at his blog What I Learned Today and follow him on twitter at @BillyCoffey

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