Every Other Wednesday Since

I dashed through the aisles, my eyes darting wildly under the fluorescent lighting. I was hoping to find at least one sample lady who was still serving up remnants of microscopic cubes of cheese or crumbs of sticky buns. Anything would do. Back then, the Costco in my area stopped serving free samples at five o’ clock sharp. It was five o’ eight, and I was heartbroken.

If I could sum up this tale like the opening of The Real World, it’d be like, “This is the true story of a group of strangers, picked to shop for groceries like scavengers in a food warehouse, and test the boundaries of society to find out what happens when people stop being polite, and start grabbing tiny pieces of sausage over the plastic partition.”

Costco 6

(Photo credit: someecards.com)

My mom used to send me to Costco every other Wednesday night to buy groceries in bulk, and the occasional garden hose, or eighty-pound bag of dog food. I was armed with her member card, and usually the five, twenty-dollar bills she had given me. As a young and desperate college kid, I was determined to spend four of those twenties on groceries for the household, and pocket the rest to spend on booze and Lolita’s carne asada chips at 3 a.m. after friends’ parents had kicked us out of their living rooms and told us to go home. Some of my best and most varied meals were had in that food warehouse, where other college freshman also grappled and brawled for free samples. You see, if I didn’t fill up on samples at Costco, my only other option was to eat mom’s home cooked meals which typically consisted of a variety of eastern European dishes I liked to call her, “fresh off the boat” fare. And at 18, that just wasn’t acceptable.

Costco 4

(Photo credit: Google Images)

I perused the frozen foods section for deals as Grateful Dead’s Ripple played as background music in my head, my Doctor Martins squeaking with every step. The only evidence of free samples that remained was the lingering of turkey bacon in the air and a blob of risotto on the floor next to the case of ice-covered burger patties. I was starving.

Then I saw her. Like an angel straight out of the movie Bruce Almighty, she appeared at the end of the burger aisle with her sample cart all fired up. Wearing an impressive array of Velcro items, including a nylon wrist cuff, she carefully set out several sample items. Not impervious to my hunger pangs, I bolted to be the first in line. I was gonna get my chance! By the time I got there, a small group had already formed around the cart; they all stood there like washed up groupies at a rock concert from generations past. Hands were darting, grabbing, and snatching at scraps of food. I got stuck behind a girl who smelled like a bologna sandwich with extra mayo. I wanted to gag, but I stood my ground. Elbows began to push, and the crowd grew bigger and tighter as people nudged ahead of others to get theirs. One guy in dark sunglasses and a Padres hat recklessly took two. Dark sunglasses and a hat? Nice strategy, Man. I thought a fight would ensue. After all, he had taken two when the rest of us were just waiting to get one. A lady shoved her way to the front using her shopping cart as a weapon, mercilessly gouging ankles and calves, “Coming through! Move it or lose it!” She grabbed three: one for each kid who jumped up and down in the cart as they stuffed food into their grimy little faces. Next, an older lady in a wheelchair rolled up, “What’s wrong with you people!??! Move it! Don’t you have any respect for your elders?! Move it!” she squawked as she ran over my feet. It was total chaos.

Costco 1

(Photo credit: Google Images)

After the feeding frenzy ended, and the crowd dissipated like ink into water, I finally made my way to the sample cart where there was one left just for me. I approached in anticipation of that one savory bite. I could hardly wait. The sample lady, who was still a touch salty from the mutiny that just occurred, handed me a little paper cup, “Here ya go, Sweet’awt. Saved the best fa’ last.” I looked down, and to my complete disappointment, a fiber gummie?!?!

“Oh,” I said trying to hide my devastation. “Thanks,” I mumbled as I shuffled away.

As much as I hate to admit it, I’ve been back every other Wednesday since. I just can’t help myself.

There comes a point in your life when you feel uncomfortable, embarrassed even, when it comes to pushing down an old lady to get a morsel of goat cheese. But I’m not at that fork in the road yet. In fact, I’m like, on a food truck, at a spoon in the road where it just goes in circles around an island of free samples.

Costco 5

(Photo credit: Google Images)

Costco 3

(Photo credit: Google Images)

 

 

 

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