Why I Can’t Return the Sour Milk

Step into my mukluks for seventeen minutes.

Minute One: Park car in lot outside “fancy” grocery store in town. As door slams, congratulate self on not locking keys inside. Simultaneously marvel at surprising deliciousness of cotton candy gum.

Minute Two: Walk across parking lot to store. Remember time you ran into cousin there, in middle of asphalt. He wore long wool coat. When he was young, you’d never have pegged him as wearer of long wool coat. Wonder about intersection of coat and his recent “vice president” title at work. Related?

Minute Three: Enter store. Notice college student ordering latte at the coffee stand. Quash urge to yell, “Get the Turtle Mocha. They cut up a Snickers bar and put it on top of the whipped cream, and you’ll never have a better boyfriend than that!” Reject notion of getting cart, as you have short list. Pick up basket and congratulate self for traveling light. You are restraint on tiny cat feet compared to conspicuously consuming shoppers hacking around dairy section. Gad. Watch lady in North Face puffer coat loading yogurts into her cart like twelve-day blizzard, or prolonged course of antibiotics, is imminent. Thorstein Veblen would clutch cravat in choked dismay.

Minute Four: Look at shopping list. First item: 10x yogurts.

Minute Five: Even though not on list, toss bag of pita chips into basket. Midnight snackies favor hummus and get shrill if not coddled.

Minute Six: Recall kids have been wanting little Jell-O cups. Green ones. As occur in nature.

Minute Seven: Bananas! On list! Virtue Restored!

Minute Eight: Self-righteously march past bulk nuts. Crack nonsensical joke to self about “bulk nuts.” Slip by woman near cans of beans who needs new stylist. Hard black hair against 63-year-old face highlights, rather than masks, age. Tangentially wonder if Oprah dyes hair. Ruminate about how girls who have graduated from Oprah’s school in South Africa are doing and if they have seen Selma. Imagine what girls would wear to Oscars, had Selma been nominated and Oprah brought them as special guests. Predict strapless with sweetheart necklines. Hot orange.

Minute Nine: ORANGES! Head back to produce. Fruit supply at home is low. Mercifully, so is population of fruit flies. Pull out mental gratitude journal, noting unnecessarily that Oprah Is Ubiquitous, and jot “No fruit flies means don’t have to cover wine glass with coaster” as today’s entry. Watch as mental script fades away in middle of “coaster” because mental pen is running out of ink. Stupidly, toss oranges on top of pita chips. Cringe at ensuing crunch. Congratulate self for tricep workouts that enable you to carry light-footprint basket even when loaded with fifteen pounds of items not on list. Wonder if Thorstein Veblen was any fun at parties.

Minute Ten: Feel underwear tag scratching heiny. Complete sly mental scan of five-foot radius. Clear. Casually slide hand down pants and adjust offender.

Minute Eleven: As long as scratching crack, time for cracker aisle. Rue that Triscuits aren’t negative calorie food. Wonder if science fiction writer could ever create world where oil-rich food saps body. Wonder if, should this book be written, you would read it. Decide not. Send out mental signal to fictional science fiction writer not to bother. Wonder what his name would have been. Derek?

Minute Twelve: Get mired down in front of protein bars. Check calories and shake fist at sky. Note sugar grams and drop forehead into hands. Spiral, in under three seconds, into black void of hunger, exercise, intake, output, and ceaselessly soft mid-section. Jar brain out of unreasonable rut with observation that protein bars are processed food. Also observe that husband and son aren’t bar-oriented while daughter and mother are. Feel exasperated by gender politics of food. Load eight bars into suddenly-heavy-feeling basket. Give triceps pep talk and remind them how hard they worked at gym while lady wearing microphone yelled motivationally about sixteen more reps.

Minute Thirteen: Walking past plexiglass case, get distracted by prospect of muffins. Realize, in complicated emotional bargaining that is parenthood, you “owe” son muffin since you bought several for daughter two weeks ago when she went on extra-curricular event for three days and stayed in hotel. Store had no chocolate chip muffins then. Store has no chocolate chip muffins now. Get philosophical and ask self, “What is a muffin without chocolate chips, really?” Deliberate merits of massive pumpkin muffin instead. Decide no. As you walk away from pumpkin, bid him “Adieu, Derek.”

Minute Fourteen: Realize you’re supposed to be picking up daughter and friend not named Derek from ski practice in one minute. Hope they find enriching conversational topics to temper waiting. Consider texting daughter quick message: “Beyoncé. Pregnant again? Discuss.” Concede Beyoncé topic not enriching. Revise unsent text to: “Are corporations people? Answer is NO. Discuss Romney’s failed bids for presidency.” Speculate about product Romney uses in hair to make it look like shellacked guitar strings. Smile at image of guitar strings because Taylor Swift plays guitar and daughter loaded your iPod running playlist with Taylor Swift songs. Oops, DAUGHTER. Should go get her. Do driving math of “four miles that direction before six miles another direction,” push gently on spongy internal organ to test its mass, and decide bathroom stop is essential.

Minute Fifteen: Enter bathroom, sliding gaze to floor so as to avoid verbal exchange with hair-fluffer obsessed with volume of noggin’s silhouette. Skulk into stall. Set down bag of groceries while simultaneously setting rear onto ring. As soon as relief begins, realize there is no toilet paper. Unzip jacket pockets. Frisk self. Peer into amazing lime green purse that could easily hold Kleenex were they stocked. Check for feet under next stall so you can query, suddenly friendly, “Can you spare a square?” On every front: out. of. luck.

Minute Sixteen: Contemplate brown paper grocery bag at feet. Ripping off some inches would be admirably pragmatic. Consider thickness of paper. Stiff stuff. Not absorbent. Entertain possibility of “tanning” brown paper as traditional hunters did deer hides: with urine. Realize, damn it, you just wasted that most precious resource. How can someone tan brown paper bag with urine when she’s just released all of hers into five gallons of water? Let brain drift to one of its favorite vacation spots: life of Ayla in Clan of the Cave Bear. When not domesticating animals or inventing needle and thread, assuredly that woman harnessed potential of urine.

Minute Seventeen: Spot nine-inch receipt inside brown paper grocery bag. Push through nano-second of worry about vaginal ink poisoning. Grab receipt, blot cooch with it, and watch paper swirl and swirl again–so full of drama with swirls–before disappearing down porcelain chute. Take moment, bowing head like traditional hunter standing over elk with arrow in its side, to thank water, sky, earth for always providing.


And that’s why, when I got home and discovered the milk I’d bought was sour,

I couldn’t return it.







23 responses to “Why I Can’t Return the Sour Milk”

  1. Bijoux Avatar

    My thoughts while grocery shopping seem to focus on the weird music being played and how annoying every.single.shopper.is to me.

  2. Joanne Avatar

    I would have returned it. Did you?

  3. jenny_o Avatar

    It’s nice to know that I’m not alone with the running commentary in my head. But where yours is hilarious, mine just makes me forget to get important stuff. Like toilet paper or milk, come to think of it.

  4. chlost Avatar

    This is just so you! I love your life. I understand that Trader Joe’s accepts such returns without a receipt, just for future reference. In case this were to happen again.

    Back in the olden days of the 60s/70s there was a newspaper columnist named Erma Bombeck. She pictured a world in which every treat we denied ourselves would result in deducting that amount of calories from our bodies. I think it would only be fair. Let’s get the scientists working on that.

  5. ilyanna Avatar

    I like the people inside your head. I think they’d get along with my many personalities.

  6. kmkat Avatar

    I have just the thing for those no-tp-emergencies.

    1. Jocelyn Avatar


  7. Maria Avatar

    Green jello is addictive. I once nearly took Bing’s head off when I asked her to get green jello when I had a sore throat and she came home with red. IT. IS. NOT. THE. SAME. Must be green!
    I once wiped with one of gloves and then realized that I couldn’t put it back in my pocket, so put both in the sanitary napkin refuse box. SURPRISE!
    What is weird….there is that same exact woman in my grocery store. I think there’s one in every store….

  8. MsD Avatar

    We’ve all been in that stall. So. Damn. Funny.

  9. Lil Avatar

    And that’s why Hubs takes care of buying the food. I’d probably never get out of the supermarket.

  10. Friko Avatar

    I’m too busy scanning the shelves to spend time in actual musings. I rarely ever check my list until I’m standing in the check-out queue which is not good. But by then I’m usually too cross with the whole rigmarole of shopping to give a flying f**k and forgotten items. However I never miss the muffin aisle.

    I have been having trouble getting here; I’ve put in for email notification, let’s hope that works better than blog-rolling you or following.

  11. sharyl Avatar

    Ha! Great tale, Jocelyn. For some reason, I couldn’t help but think of powder milk–as in powder milk biscuits, those treats that give shy people the strength to get up and do what needs to be done–or was that Beebop-A-Ree-Bop Rhubarb Pie? Anyway, lots of fun!

  12. Julie Sucha Anderson Avatar

    Chuckling, chuckling. On my way to the grocery momentarily. Will shop with a totally different mindset after reading this.

  13. Bone Avatar

    If I don’t see a post from you for a while, I’ll chalk it up to vaginal ink poisoning.

  14. Bone Avatar

    Should that’ve been “awhile” instead of “a while?” I’m going to stress over this the remainder of the evening, and possibly a good portion of the morrow.

  15. sweffling Avatar

    I so love the fact that I have come across somebody else whose life reflects mine in the matter of eccentricity, if different in event! And you write about it so wonderfully, I was there in the cubicle with you;) Life is never dull if one is observant and thoughtful; thank you for brightening up our days:)

  16. pia Avatar

    I love your ruminations. They make mine seem well even weirder.
    Nuiitrionists have decided protein bars are a horrible meal substitute or snack.
    Uncooked oatmeal in a small mason jar with any kind of milk or Greek yogurt and blueberries–the new protein bar.

    1. Jocelyn Avatar

      I never use protein bars as a meal substitute–only for an afternoon snack (which is then why I have to try to find the ones with under 200 calories…). I tried the oatmeal in a mason jar thing and was NOT a convert; the texture was, errrr, not appealing to me!

  17. Kate Avatar

    This made me laugh loud enough to wake Chuck up.

  18. Secret Agent Woman Avatar

    I was going to say your grocery shopping sounds like mine until I got to the bathroom bit. Then yeah, not so much. Actually before that, since not a single pair of my undies has a tag in it.

  19. Anette Avatar

    Oh how fantastic! I’ve been out of the blogging world for a while, (posting and reading) but kept my favourite bookmarks, (thank heavens) came back to you, and you made me laugh just as you used to do! Thanks!! I’ll be back of course!

  20. Meg Avatar

    What kind of brownies did you have as pre-shopping snax? Inquiring minds want to know.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *