You shouldn’t need a compass and GPS to find your way out of a store that sells everything from groceries and clothing to auto parts to jewelry. Perhaps I should offer an explanation to anyone who may have seen me sobbing, sucking my thumb, and cowering behind the bagel rack at the new Superstore when it opened.

When I decided to stop there and pick up a few things during the grand opening, I knew that the store would be packed with gawkers and shoppers.

Clutching my list, I elbowed my way through the crowd, grabbed a cart, and forced my way into aisle one. It was a lot like driving I-75 during evening rush hour. Irritable shoppers were tail-gating, lane-changing, and bumping each other with carts. Eventually, the inevitable happened: cart gridlock.

I resigned myself to the possibility that I may be stuck in there until nightfall. On the bright side, I was stranded in the bakery department, so the risk of starvation was minimal. I gained 12 pounds over the next few days.

I had lost track of time, but judging from the light changes in the store as night fell each evening and the sun rose each morning, I figured I had been trapped in the store for at least a week.

Suddenly, I detected a faint hint of movement. A flutter of anticipation rustled through the crowd. A serpentine line of chrome carts formed and began to slither through the store in a pattern of twists and turns.

When Christmas decorations began to appear on the shelves, I knew that it probably was November. I heard on a nearby radio news and weather report that a snowfall of three-to-five inches was predicted for the area. Uh-oh. Here in the Greater Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky area, that is all it takes to induce panicked shoppers to head to the stores in droves, buying emergency rations such as beer, soft drinks, and potato chips, the sustainers of life as we know it. It was as if they expected to be snowbound until Spring.

In all my years living in this area, the longest time I have been stranded on my rural, gravel drive was two days. I keep enough grocery stock to feed my family for months. By the last week, we may be reduced to eating canned sauerkraut over frozen waffles, but we would survive. You would think I was expecting a plague and famine to strike the land any minute. Others apparently are not so well-prepared. Even more shoppers elbowed their way into the gridlocked carts.

Sometime in January, as near as I could figure, I actually came within sight of a frazzled cashier. I missed my turn when an elderly shopper cut me off and I was forced to go around again.

Meanwhile, the eggs in my cart hatched, the bread molded, and weevils emerged from the cornmeal.

Personal hygiene was becoming a problem. Eventually, I passed through the produce department. I disrobed, lay down across the display of kumquats, and showered under the vegetable spritzers.

In my tortured meandering, I never encountered the razor and shaving cream departments. My leg hair became so long and lush that it dragged the floor, sweeping up dust bunnies and chewed gum. I tripped over it and fell into the ham salad, which didn’t help my appearance or my odor.

In late June, I passed through the hair care department. I bought some dye and colored my leg hair a lovely ash brown, gave it a home permanent, and pinned it up with little Minnie Mouse barrettes. Just because I was doomed to spend eternity wandering aimlessly through a grocery store did not mean that I could not maintain my beauty standards.

Meanwhile, the store kept adding features and departments. The bigger it got, the more helplessly lost I became.

In August, I used a $50 store coupon to get a Pap test in aisle 87. I used a two-for-one-price coupon to get a mammogram (one for each side) in aisle 96.

When I passed through the new Automotive Department, I customized my cart with mag wheels, cruise control, and neon ground effects.

I signed up for Social Security and had my checks direct deposited at the service desk.

The next year, I had cataract surgery in aisle 144 and was fitted for dentures in the basement annex.

Early in the next century, I finally made it back to the cash register, where I was dismayed to discover that American money had been scrapped in favor of Intergalactic Currency, good throughout the universe. The bills featured a hologram of the new president of our solar system, the now elderly Luke Skywalker.

The cashier refused to accept the out-dated, crumpled bills in my wallet. That’s when I crawled behind the bagel rack and had the nervous breakdown. I have an appointment next week at the store’s psychiatric treatment desk. I think I may have a coupon.

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