Thursday, November 15, 2007



I have a confession to make. Before I state it I must add a qualifier first; anyone who has been kicking around on this planet for more than a few decades is entitled to be a little strange, so please keep this in mind as I reveal my slightly abhorrent behaviour.

Here's the deal - one of the things I like to do when I make the inevitable weekly trip to the supermarket is to pick up and read discarded shopping lists leftover from countless others who have made the same journey before me. I find it to be endlessly fascinating to read what items are essential enough to warrant being immortalized on paper, only to be discarded haphazardly afterwards.

One thing I have noticed from perusing these lists is that our cultural propensity towards leading manic and frantic lives has almost universally forced us to develop a sort of supermarket shorthand. For example; toilet paper = TP, chocolate milk = choc mlk, Frozen Pizza = Frzn Za . Its like e-mail without spell check or cute emoticons.

I know with my shopping list I guard them like gold. For some reason I find it to be a deeply personal revelation worth protecting. I mean, do I want others to know that sour cream and maple syrup are actually regular grocery items in my house?

I was also thinking how it wold be fun and kind of subversive to leave fake shopping lists lying around for other's to find. Here's an example of one I might leave, I call this one the MacGyver;
  • plastic shoe lace tips
  • paper clips
  • matches
  • chocolate
  • sand paper
  • chewing gum
  • tin foil
  • spool of thread
  • wire coat hanger
  • duct tape
I also think that if the average North American shopping list fell into a wormhole, traveled back through time and landed a into someone's hands in the 1920's, they would think we live in this totally magical place where you could buy fresh fruit any time of the year. They would probably envision oranges being hand picked and delivered by robots who worked in large domed fruit plantations on the moon.

I also think if the same shopping list was dug up and found 70 years in the future the reaction would be one of mixed horror and envy. Our little list would personify what would later be known as "the decadent era" of pollution spewing trucks traveling 1000's of kms to deliver oranges to us, after picking them up from large ocean freighters that also traveled halfway across the world. Our future descendants probably picture us writing our list while idling our car, eating fast food, talking on a cell phone and sipping a latte in a paper cup that only contained "10% post-consumer paper".

It really is an odd little blip in our collective history that we can buy oranges in December. Anyways, theses are the types of things I think about while shopping at the ultra-mega-super mart. Odd perhaps, but it does keep me somewhat sane. Sort of.


PJ said...

I don't personally use shopping lists, nor do I encounter other shoppers' lists on a regular basis, but you make an interesting point. These little snippets of life are rather telling of our consumerist lifestyle.

"Frzn Za" looks like a word from a totally different language to me. It reminds me of when a few days ago my work colleague (a lady in her 50s) came across a teenager's IM conversations on a computer and had to ask me to translate the abbreviations.

jmgb said...

LOVE this post.

I manage to have three shopping list going simultaneously which only adds to my confusion:) which of course says more about me than I would like it too!