Attention Shoppers

I can confidently navigate an airport in a country whose language I cannot speak or read. By car, by metro, by bus, by foot, I can find my way around a congested urban metropolis. I can dive into a new place in a developing country and figure out how to get what I need. If I look at a map of a city, I can hold that picture in my head and my internal compass seldom fails me. I am good with directions and a competent explorer.

What I cannot do is find my way around an American supermarket. Throw me into the giant aisles of endless products and you will soon see me wandering slowly, aimlessly, seemingly blinded by the bright fluorescent lights. Why are there thousands of varieties of laundry soap and detergents? Where can I find a simple can of canned tomatoes? Who are all of these giant shoppers with giant carts?

Target Cart

I begin to fear that I may never find my way out of the Super Target. Seriously. You will find my desiccated carcass crumpled on the waxy floor near 59 varieties of pasta sauce.

There are many factors at work here, rendering the confident world traveler a slow, bumbler in the store. Because of the craziness of my schedule and where I live downtown, I end up doing most of my routine shopping at CVS. Yep. Toiletries and medicines are the bulk of my daily requirements it turns out. I stock up before each trip, sometimes treating myself to a bit of chocolate or a magazine or new nail polish or even a strangely alluring "As Seen on TV" product. Amazon Prime delivers almost anything else that I need, overnight and right to my office. I do not routinely go grocery shopping. Green Bean Delivery drops off produce and all manner of food supplies at the front door of the little red house. The gourmand ruling the kitchen selects whatever items he most wants from the fine markets of his choice (Goose the Market and Trader Joe's being on top of the list.) And I'm afraid that the bulk of my meals are consumed at dining establishments around the city.

So, I make my way to the Super Target about four times a year, for a quarterly trip to stock up on supplies needed for my projects in Kenya (and the cosmetics that are more readily available in the suburbs.) Every time, I wander in baffled amazement, discovering fascinating new inventions (Giant marshmallows! Pods of laundry detergent!) I eventually make my way to what I need for Kenya: children's books, colored pencils, markers, activity books, hand sanitizer, good bandages, chocolate.

This could be me...

Me In Target

I slowly loaded up TWO carts full of supplies after hours of torturous wandering through the Super Target. Oh, the trunks I will be hauling across the ocean…

The foolish people who got behind me and my two carts and my hundreds of dollars worth of supplies in the checkout line kept asking if I was a teacher as the piles and piles of story books and workbooks made their way down the checkout conveyance. "No, I work on projects with children," I answered briefly. (I'm an introvert. I don't like to talk to strangers unless someone's life is in immediate danger.) But eventually, because I was there so long and because people kept asking questions, I had to break my internal rule. I explained that these colored pencils and markers and activity books would keep HIV-infected children happily occupied while they waited through their hours at the clinic every month in Kenya. And for the hundreds of children in my study following how children do with taking their HIV medicines, the exciting reward for the children at the end of the six months is a story book, often the first one they'll ever own. Even in the midst of this supermarket hell, I start to get excited too.

As a final ignominious culmination to my endless hours in Super Target, I could not figure out how to leave the store. Only entrance doors marked with "do not exit" everywhere I looked. Groaning with my heaping cart, I began to despair of ever leaving the store.  Oh, wait a minute, there is another set of doors just over there…

Treasures ready to go in trunks to Kenya

Target Treasures

Posted at 04:38

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