Guilt on Aisle 5

The problem with grocery shopping and having a conscience.

Would I like to contribute $1 to the North Texas Food Bank? Um, no. No, I would not. What I’d like to do is pay for my groceries and go on my merry way without suffering this guilt trip you’re laying on me. Not to mention the reproachful looks from the other shoppers. 

I know what everyone here is thinking. I’m buying 3 pounds of wild-caught king salmon ($25.99 per pound); a fist-size hunk of Cypress Grove Humboldt Fog goat’s milk cheese ($27.99 per pound); a four-roll pack of Seventh Generation 100-percent recycled toilet paper ($4.49); a bag of Alter Eco fair-trade, organic red quinoa ($7.99); and a four-pack of Ommegang Hop House pale ale ($10.99). Plus, at the last second, in the check-out line, I impulsively grabbed that Imagine Dragons Smoke + Mirrors CD without bothering to check the price. When was the last time I even listened to a CD? I couldn’t tell you. But there it was, available for purchase. And I sure as hell wasn’t going to buy the Fifty Shades of Grey soundtrack next to it. I mean, the Fifty Shades album is actually pretty decent. That Sia song does something for me. I’ll listen to anything by The Weeknd. And Beyoncé’s reworked version of “Crazy in Love” hasn’t gotten nearly as much attention as it deserves. But come on. It’s still Fifty Shades. Anyway, all my stuff, it adds up to—it adds up to whatever it costs, obviously. So you guys are thinking: “Look at this big jerk. He’s going to stuff his face with the finest groceries that money can buy and use a new CD as a drink coaster, but he won’t give just one lousy buck to help feed hungry people.”

I know. I know. It’s true. I hate myself for it. Well, not hate. Two quick stories:

When I was in the eighth grade, a buddy of mine lived in a duplex over near Hillcrest High School. The neighbor tenant in the duplex was an old alcoholic woman who only left her house when my buddy’s mom took her out to eat a decent meal. The two residences shared an attic. One night, when the lady wasn’t home, my buddy and I climbed through the attic from his house and let ourselves into hers. We rearranged a few pieces of furniture in a subtle fashion, moved her microwave from one side of the kitchen to the other, and turned up the volume of her stereo all the way so that the next time she turned it on, it would blow her wig off. Then we climbed back through the attic and into my buddy’s house. 

Around the same time, this kid and I mail-ordered two military-grade blowguns from an outfit called the House of Weapons. Then we harvested all the tobacco from a carton of my buddy’s mom’s cigarettes and boiled it down to a thick paste, a poison into which we dipped our darts. For days, we hunted birds in our neighborhood, with no success. Our technique was bad; the birds were wary. But one day my orange dart found a grackle in an oak tree, and, with the animal lying at my feet, I saw that its black feathers were pearlescent. 

On the continuum of guilty feelings, my continual, reflexive refusal to donate the dollar—whether to fight hunger or to cure diabetes or to provide diapers for orphaned babies—lies somewhere between the dead grackle and the old lady prank. Just for context. Seriously, this is going to bug me all the way home. Hopefully The Hardline guys will be talking about some funny sports stuff on the radio to take my mind off—

What’s that? Oh, God. I left my cloth bags in my Prius.


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