If you have a family, chances are you have a Costco membership card in your wallet.
I have one, but I don’t use it often. First of all, you have to drive clear to San Leandro to get there, and I am one of those Islanders who try to leave Alameda as infrequently as possible. (OK, tease me if you must, but give me points for shopping local.)
Another reason I avoid Costco is that shiny objects tend to tempt and distract me. I shop on impulse, and those aisles are chock full of stuff that seems to leap into my cart unaided: 30-piece food storage sets, stainless steel paper shredders, cedar dog beds and giant rolls of Christmas wrap with matching pre-tied bows.
Costco can be heaven or hell, depending on your point of view. It’s a bulk shopper’s paradise — that is until you see what it all adds up to on the register receipt at checkout.
But when I am throwing a Mexican-themed party and need giant tubs of guacamole, sour cream and a duffle bag full of red onions, I just suck it up, make that drive, and do my best to stick to my list.
So several weeks ago I took off early from work and drove all the way down to Costco. Then, as I pulled into the parking lot, I realized that I didn’t have my checkbook with me. (Costco only accepts checks and American Express, and I don’t have American Express.) Thankfully, I wasn’t at the checkout counter yet — I hadn’t even parked. But you can imagine I was still pretty darned frustrated.
I drove back to Alameda, spluttering every naughty word in my impressive vocabulary the entire way, past the scent of dead skunk near Mount Trashmore while listening to reports about the stock market plummetting on the radio. I was downright steamy as I stomped up the front stairs and into the house to get my checkbook.
Fearing for my blood pressure on the way back toward San Leandro, I practiced my stress reduction exercises, rolling my head from side to side, breathing in deeply through my nose and then out through my mouth with motor lips like a boy making Mario Andretti racecar sounds on the schoolyard.
I was starting to calm down by the time I reached the Costco parking lot for the second time. And then I managed to snag a parking space right in front — one space over from the main entrance. Life was looking up!
I smiled at the young greeter at the rollup door and headed in through the maze of flat screens and BluRay players. (My husband and I sell and install those for a living, so it was no trouble walking past at race-walk speed... I steer clear of electronics in my leisure time.)
But the other aisles were much more challenging. Caught in a moment of consumer rapture, I bought a monster pack of those really cool motorized tooth brushes my husband, Si, teases me about. I also bought giant bottles of our daughter, Emily’s favorite addictive substances — garlic olive oil, Worcestershire and A-1 sauce.
I stayed out of the middle aisles – land of the brightly colored boogie boards and beach towels. I didn’t buy a personal photo scanner, an automatic garage door or even a coffin for that matter.
I really wanted that personal photo scanner, but I wasn’t tempted by the other items because we have working wooden doors on our garage and, God willing, it will be a good long while before I need a coffin. (Although I did wonder for a brief moment when the time comes if you can only purchase coffins in shrink-wrapped sets of three…)
My bill still came to over $200. It could have been much worse though, cost-wise, so I was hanging on to my moderately cheerful mood.
I returned to my car just as a young mother returned to hers, one space closer to the building. We shared a moment, bonding about how lucky we were to get those two parking spaces. I jumped up and down in exaggerated exuberance. Her toddler looked up from his stroller at me as if I were completely bonkers. (It’s OK. He is just too young to know that in this unpredictable life you need to grab joy and hold it tightly, wherever you find it, or it will slip right through your fingers.)
Back in my car heading once again to home sweet Alameda and truly happy now, I turned up OutKast’s Hey Ya on the Subaru’s CD player, the spare change in the cup holder rattling to the beat and my fingers tapping out the keyboard part on the dashboard.
The guy behind me on Otis Drive started tooting his horn gently, probably because I looked so darned cute rocking out in my Dollar Store dark glasses as I played air tambourine against my thigh.
Then I realized that my left turn signal indicator had been on for I don’t know how long, and he was probably just trying to let me know.
The good thing about joy, though, and this I know for sure is that it trumps embarrassment – any day of the week. If they sold joy in bulk at Costco, I would buy a portable storage shed, stock up and keep it in the backyard.