All through history, man has been inspired by the spirit of exploration and discovery.
When Og the Caveman went out the door in seach of a mammoth burger, he was stretching his boundaries to make a better world – or at least, a better supper. When Abraham packed his bags at Ur and headed west, he was seeking a better life. In 1492 Columbus sailed the ocean blue because he wanted to see what was on the other side (and hopefully make a fortune in the process). Neil Armstrong walked on the moon. Captain Kirk boldly went where no man had gone before!
I was considering this the other night while I was sitting in my living room, and I thought, “Here I am almost 60 years old and I’ve never even met a Klingon!” That ancient explorer fever rose in me, and I decided to do something really daring and dangerous in the name of discovery.
I decided to go to the new Kroger store.
I’m sure that mothers with children who go to the store all the time are laughing at me right now. But I still think like an old hunter-gatherer. My idea of shopping is to know what you want, get in fast, get out even faster and head for home. The new Kroger is a little intimidating for me because it is only slightly smaller than some European countries.
But did a little fear scare explorers like Ferdinand Magellan, Zheng He and Amelia Earhart? Of course not, they plucked up their courage and went exploring. They also all died in the process, but I’m trying not to think about that.
The first obstacle: navigating the parking lot. Until the old store is torn down, there just isn’t enough parking. It is much safer to drive in the Indianapolis 500 than it is to enter the Kroger parking lot. People lose all sense of normal manners while they careen around the lot looking for a spot. They ignore stop signs, park in the middle of the road and generally act like a parking spot three spaces closer to the store is worth risking their lives and the lives of others. I opted to park down by the Dollar General Store and walk. I can use the exercise.
When I entered the store, I was struck with a case of agoraphobia. Where should I go? The first thing I saw was not food, but clothes. This was a little disorienting.
But I thought about Henry Hudson and Robert Scott and decided to press on. I wandered around the store and hoped I wouldn’t get lost. I thought about finding the bakery, buying some bread and leaving bread crumbs around Hansel and Gretel style so I could find my way out, but it looks like they keep the floor so clean it probably wouldn’t work. Maybe I should have brought a compass or a GPS.
For a moment, I thought maybe I had been transported to another dimension since I ran into an area where a bunch of women were sitting around drinking wine and some guys were ordering beers. As it turned out, I was indeed still in the store. I later found out this is not all that unusual in modern grocery stores. I guess I don’t get out much.
I felt a little better when I stumbled into the cheese section. All kinds of cheese, cheese blocks as big as my head, cheese for the universe! I really like cheese.
And over there … salad and sandwiches and pizza and what’s that? It looks like half the population of Beijing is working in the Chinese and Japanese food section, turning out sushi and egg rolls and who knows what else.
I am taking all this in when the bane of any explorer starts to take hold. I am getting overwhelmed. Should I go left or right? Starbucks or the deli? Olive bar or the bakery? Inertia is setting in and I can’t make a decision. I may spend the rest of my life frozen in time at the Kroger salad bar.
Quick, snap out of it! I make a salad, get a sandwich and sprint for the door. Whew. I survived — oops, that woman in the SUV almost got me in the parking lot, but fortunately the cold air revived me and I managed to dodge her.
Later, while I’m eating my sandwich and salad, I start feeling pretty confident. Next time, I might even look at the clothes and maybe even see what’s on the other side of the store.
I consider this to be a trial exploration — after all, NASA didn’t go out and just land on the moon the first day. It took them 11 Apollos before they got there. I think in 10 more trips I might be able to say I have taken one giant step for mankind.
I just hope I don’t end up like Percy Fawcett or Sir John Franklin in the process. If I disappear, look for me at the cheese counter.
David Lindeman is a Troy resident and former editor at the Troy Daily News. He can be reached at [email protected]