The best time to go to Costco, my mother used to say, is during the Super Bowl. Conversely, the best place to see the Super Bowl, I have determined, is Costco. For surely there is no better massing of enormous-screen TVs anywhere.
Which is an utterly ridiculous statement, everyone knows…but everyone doesn’t know what I don’t know. I have not been inside a Costco for, oh, seven or eight years. And for reasons that are unclear, this fact began to gnaw at me. It seemed emblematic of my general state of being out of it. And now that I am equipped with a Dodge that has a wheelchair ramp, not to mention a yellow triangle in the wing mirrors that shows me how not to have a collision…well, I’ve got a ticket to ride, don’t I? And ride I did, to Mountain View, where Costco cohabits with Petco…and, in a matter of speaking, Cisco. The latter’s shopping concierge was bopping about the store when I was there. But I digress.
Not that there is anything to do at Costco but digress. Yes, there they were, massive televisions, screens large enough to be seen from across the motorway. And above us, doing an excellent imitation of outer space, the Costco ceiling. Girders and exposed aluminum insulation and air ducts and wiring and echoing space and more space, the suspended lights adding to the eerie, inhospitable feel. Which makes one want to immediately get the hell out, go home, and read a book. Or, read tea leaves. Read the writing on the wall. Read the riot act. Anything, but being in here, this aircraft hanger that isn’t.
Problem is, you have come all this way, not just in terms of geography, but life. So many miles down the road of existence, and it’s all come to this. Piles and piles of T-shirts. Carbon monoxide detectors shrink wrapped in multiples of four. Enormous bottles of very expensive scotch…in such uncharacteristic measurements that the savings…and surely there must be some…are very difficult to calculate. Mind-numbing cartons of beer, 24 at a time. And acres of prepared foods.
How much do capers cost? What are capers, anyway? Visiting Costco is itself a caper, it must be noted. And the cost? Well, that remains to be determined. Because, I am now remembering my own little joke about Costco, how the human genome contains only so many visits to the superstore. Exceed your quota, and you die. I am convinced of this, but only remembering it now, and what’s worse, my stainless steel shopping cart is empty. One simply does not drive all this way, after so many years, and buy nothing.
Okay, capers. I mean, how much do they cost in our local gourmet supermarket? Bunches and bunches, I think. And, look, here are seemingly thousands of capers in one jar for only $5.86. Surely this is a good thing. Jane can do something with capers, I am almost certain. In fact, in the way one buys stretched canvas for an artist, exotic oil paints, brushes, whatever…this jar will prove inspiration to my wife, the cook. Into the cart it goes.
And having lost my retail virginity, as it were, I am now ready for more action. Tortilla soup. I sure do like tortilla soup, or think I do. Actually, it’s hard to say. I am almost certain I’ve had it, somewhere, someplace. Lobster bisque. Now, that is a very cool thing. Problem is, reading the fine print, there are more calories in one tablespoon of this stuff than in all the capers on the shelf back there. So, why not some tortilla soup? In fact, why not a gallon of it, since no other option exists. And just look at my basket, filling up.
Ummmm, smoked whitefish spread. This is so absolutely cool, I cannot believe it. First, this stuff is impossible to find. Oh, there may be some deli somewhere that does an imitation…in fact, Posh Bagel in Menlo Park has its version. But I haven’t had one of their whitefish concoctions in some time. Besides, just look at this jar, which is actually a tub, a large plastic one. Do I really want a quart of whitefish spread? Well, at this point I am on a mercantile roll. I like whitefish. This is all I know. I like it, and I want it, and I want it now.
Besides, who knows when I’m going to get to Britain next? Could be a long time. Which is why there’s nothing like a little chicken tikka masala…to remind one of the old country, to warm the heart on a cold night, to relieve Jane of some of the cooking. Yes, it’s more like a Bucket o’ Curry, but who cares? Besides, some of this stuff in the refrigerator case is priceless. Just look at this authentic Afghani pizza, which is actually a spinach flatbread…and there’s a pumpkin version, too. Vegetarian, yet. Must be healthy. And shrink wrapped in the usual Costco quantity: four.
Which, the mystics would have you believe, represents wholeness. The square. Completeness. Thing is, I am completely exhausted. There’s too much space here, too much echoing industrial ceiling…and too much of these people. No, at this hour, there are not many shoppers. But the ones who are here have a sad, even vacant look about them. Except for the small business people…buying three gallons of ketchup for their food stand, that sort of thing…for they are all business.
My business is to go. Okay, yes, 30 rolls of toilet paper. And, of course, 24 fiber bars. And at the checkout, one final item from the clerk. Membership. I have to buy one, it seems. Mine has expired…but for another $55, I won’t have to put all this stuff back on the shelves. Because that would make me expire, wouldn’t it…and I still have a long, always perilous, drive home.