Wil Wheaton maintains a blog. It’s very popular. It’s been around a long time. Legions of people read it not just out of fandom for the man who writes it, but because it is very personal, and has established WW as a man who is as approachable and honest as he is talented and fun. He’s famous, but he’s also just a person who enjoys normal things, and doesn’t exhibit an attitude of entitlement in regards to a lifelong career of success that many people admire. Not a lot of celebrity bloggers talk about a convention appearance one day, while providing their own homemade soup recipe the next.
So when he types stories like this one, about the day he and LeVar Burton were on-set at The Big Bang Theory to work on an upcoming episode, it’s a different perspective than we expect from someone who has spent 82.5% of their current life as an actor. He still finds awe in driving through fake city streets and seeing set pieces, the way a tourist would on their first of those little bus jaunts around the Warner Brothers lot. I suggest you read the post. It’s a cool story, well written, and displays a humbleness you don’t expect people used to being on camera all their life to still retain.
But Wil Wheaton isn’t the only one with cool stories. I mean, there’s things I do that are totally interesting and awesome too. Just take a look:
As I made the right-hand turn into the grocery store parking lot, Maroon 5′s “Payphone” started on the radio. This was the second time I’d heard Adam Levine’s singing voice en route to the store, and I live four miles away. I didn’t want anything to do with a radio station that plays the same artist twice in 15 minutes, so I turned it off.
“Thousands of great musicians are trying hard to get a break, and this guy gets played practically twice in a row,” I said out loud to myself. “Poppycock.”
I pulled into a parking space that I wasn’t thrilled about. The wheels of the car next to mine were angled in a way that I envisioned it swiping my driver’s side on its way out if the driver wasn’t paying attention. But hey, the space was close to the door, and it was raining. I took the risk.
I’ve been going to grocery stores since I was 3 years-old. I can sort of recall a time in my life when I wasn’t going to grocery stores, but it’s almost an academic recollection, since most of my meaningful self-aware memories were formed after I started going to grocery stores. Where some kids might have hated being lugged around by their mom to do shopping, I always enjoyed the trips. I loved watching those automatic doors swing open as we stepped on the rubber pad. I would sit on the bottom of the cart, helping my mother pick out things on low shelves, and by the time I was in first grade I knew where everything in the store was located. Sometimes, over the last 24 years since I was 3, I’ve lamented the loss of extra play time in the yard with other kids and envied those who spent all their time climbing trees and skinning knees. But in many ways, I’m glad I spent the time grocery shopping and learned how to properly check the ripeness of fruit. My lamentation for what I’ve missed is also academic, I suppose. I don’t know what I lost by learning my way around grocery stores, but I know what I’ve gained: an incredible ability to purchase goods with efficiency, accuracy, and frugality coupled with an overwhelming sense of belonging when I grip the cool iron handle of a grocery store cart.
I entered the store slowly and carefully, navigating special sale displays and doorway BOGO items. People with carts and bags passed me as they rushed in and out of the store. I made my way into produce, and came to a stop.
While all grocery stores change over time, certain consistencies remind me of various stages of life. The faces painted on the pumpkins by the door, the sight of another kid riding the bottom cart shelf. In fact, the rotisserie chickens I used to eat all the time in high school were on display a few feet ahead of me and to my right.
“Wow, gala apples are only .99 per pound this week!” I thought to myself. “This is AWESOME!”
I realized my cart was blocking the main aisle for people to get to the tomato section and looked around hoping nobody saw me, or – worse – was waiting for me to move. Sometimes I zone out in the store, thinking about meals I might make, not paying any attention to where my cart is or how it might be blocking others.
I pushed on towards the back of the store and turned by the bakery.
Aw shit, I misread my list and forgot to get fruit cups for Laura. I laughed nervously and turned the cart around, passing people I had just passed seconds earlier on my way out of the produce section, when it turns out I saw the girl who usually makes my sandwiches at Subway. I have a bit of a schoolboy crush on her ability to craft fine Subway sandwiches that are clean and contain equally distributed condiments, and I was stupidly glad I didn’t have a cart full of junk food in case she decided to judge me by my dietary intake. (I don’t even know if she recognized me, which made me even more stupid.)
I grabbed the rest of my groceries and headed to the checkout. I was greeted warmly by the cashier, and felt like a real winner after waiting in line behind three other people. Like I always do, I checked my pockets for Kashi coupons that are on basically ever box of their products, and realized I forgot them as I do every week.
The baggers all arrived and assembled around the corral at the end of the conveyor belt to start sacking my groceries. I remembered the days when they used to ask you if you wanted paper or plastic, and how the paper bags would make awesome Halloween masks if you were clever enough. Those days are gone now and plastic is the only option, which is less good for Halloween masks and more good for suffocation, so that’s sort of a strikeout when it comes to craft ideas.
Hey, a sportsball metaphor! Go me.
As the cashier scanned the remainder of my items, I fumbled through my wallet for my debit card and blazed through the requirements of the pin-pad. 24 years as a grocery shopper had served me well, and I didn’t screw anything up.
After she finished, she handed my receipt and I put it in my wallet. My wife called just as I finished putting the groceries in the car.
The person who badly parked next to me was also getting in their car. “Check us out. We straightened our wheels before hitting the gas and did not remove my paint. This is awesome.”
Laura verbally high-fived me and said “It sure is, James.”
While I drove home, we caught up with each other. She told me about what went on with her students that morning, and I was in the very strange position of having little to add to the conversation, as was often the case when she taught about teaching preschoolers to tap dance. A moment later, she asked if I remembered the Kashi coupons.
“Of course not.”
She laughed, I laughed, and then I regretted the $4 I could have saved.
She started talking again.
“I could really go for a beer when I get home.”
“So could I,” I said. “Good thing I got a 6-pack.”
“Did you pick up BOGO pork loins?”
“Oh my God I did!” I almost shouted. “We can freeze the second one.”
We talked about the meals we’d have that week, the things I forgot to buy at the store, how it wasn’t very busy because I went there during the Steelers game, and how I’d probably be back there in a few days to buy all the other stuff I’d need to make these meals that I forgot to put on my list.
“It’s okay, I can get in and out real quick some night after work,” I said. “My mother taught me how to get through a store really well.”
Just then, I arrived back at home. I walked in, and spent the next six minutes putting away everything I had purchased.