From the get-go, I have found grocery shopping here to be a completely different experience to the serenity of the muzak-piped shops in California. Here, grocery shopping is a cut-throat deal. there is no "excuse me" or "pardon me" when shopping carts get too close. There are no friendly smiles or voices from over your shoulder hinting at a certain, delicious wine that some perfect stranger had at a dinner party last month. there is none of that. What there is, is pushing, grabbing and ignoring. Of course, that's after you get inside the store. Before you get into the store, you have to make sure you have a euro coin to push into a slot located at the front of the cart, which releases a key so you can get the cart. The coin is returned to you when you return your cart.
Last week the cart i got had a coin stuck in it, so i got the cart for free. Today, my coin got stuck in the cart. I couldn't get the thing loose, so i had to go shopping cart-less. This is not an easy task with two little boys. Once in a while, a mom needs something to lean against, like a shelter in a storm - if you get my drift! So, today, cart-less and defeated, I made my way into the store. Pushing past the elbows of cranky old women, i made my way through to get the things i need. There is no way to slowly enjoy the experience; one must push through and get to the front as quickly as possible. I did this.
I made it to the checkout lane without too much stress, that is, except for the constant staring i get as i jabber away to the boys in English. You'd think i was a cyclops or something by the looks i get. So, finally it's my turn at the register, and little miss 16 year old register girl starts speaking in Flemish to me. At this point i must get that 'Bambi in the fire' look on my face, because, thankfully, she shuts up.
I pull my grocery sack out of my owl backpack and start frantically stuffing groceries into it. Finally, we are out of the store, peacefully making our way back home. Cold air on my face, wind breezing around me, i can breathe again. But then i remembered the things i needed to get for tomorrow, and i realize i have to repeat this experience in the morning...