CLEANUP IN AISLE THREE -- Men go food shopping with list in hand (and cell phone in pocket)

I was in Publix a week ago, whipsawing through the aisles to quickly grab salmon, Pomeroy mustard and 2% milk so I could zip home for my 10 a.m. tee time. In Aisle 3, which features cleaners and laundry detergent, I spotted my friend Carl.

He was hunched over staring at goods on the bottom shelf. I paused and asked, “Need any help?” 

Carl consulted his wife’s list and told me he was looking for “a gadget with a sponge on the end, but not a hard scruffy sponge, it has to be soft, and there’s gotta be soap in the handle. Ever see one of those?” Hmmm. “Like this?” I asked, pointing to a dishwashing tool that featured a soap-reservoir handle topped with a yellow sponge. “That’s it!” he said.

It reminded me of when I sent Mr. Wonderful to Hannaford for mascarpone last summer. He left home with more detailed instructions for locating the Italian cheese than Siri’s driving instructions from Kennebunk to Nova Scotia.

A good hour later the phone rang.  “NO ONE knows where it is, not even the store manager,” he moaned. I reminded him that the mascarpone was in the cheese section, opposite seafood, in a pink and white circular container. “Oh, yeah, there it is.” 

Nowadays when Mr. W offers to food shop, I’m thrilled. After decades roaming the aisles of A&Ps and Shaws, I welcome the break.  Sometimes he goes rogue (GiantSize packages of DoubleStuf Oreos), other times he follows my list with excruciating precision (gone for hours).

Wondering if other wives experienced this, I emailed several friends: Anything interesting happen when your husband goes food shopping? Several replied their husbands were actually the preferred shopper in the family. Others demurred.

My pal Joanne’s husband went to Whole Foods several years ago with a long list that included radicchio. He spent 25 minutes in the pasta aisle, picking up and examining each and every box of Orzo or Elbows to see if “radicchio” was included in the ingredients. 

A woman shopper finally asked if she could help and he told her he was looking for radicchio. She personally escorted him to the radicchio bin in the produce section. When he arrived home, he suggested to Joanne that, in the future, she refer to this item as the “$5 red softball.” And then he refused to eat it because he realized it was a salad green, even though it was red … you get the picture.

Thank God for cell phones! Have you ever asked hubby to get a package of Ramen noodles. (“I’m in the spaghetti section and they’re not here!”) Caffeine-free Coke Zero. (“What color? What size?”) Fat-free Half & Half. (“What does it look like?”)  Peeled garlic. (“Do I ask the guy to peel the big bulb?”) And we’ll forget about situations regarding ladies’ personal products. 

Several obvious facts emerged from my brief survey.  Many husbands are now on a first-name basis with various stock boys and store managers. More than a few arrive home with giant economy size containers of random items (“I thought this looked interesting”) because, needed or not, a two-for-one value-packed offer is irresistible.

And perhaps the best response I got was:  OMG, where do I begin?!?