Wednesday, February 13, 2013

The Great Costco Chicken Takedown of 2013

The afternoon air was chilly unseasonably warm for Canada as I made my way into the Costco.  I looked just like I do in my profile pictures except with blemishes and without a sultry pout. Also, my body was not cut off at the neck.

And I had a list. A list in my head. A list of food items I needed to get before I forgot that list. I also had a phone I could have plunked that list into, but didn't because I was sure, unlike every shopping trip preceding this one, that I would remember what I needed to get.

I made my way through the aisles with little difficulty. Individuals and families were milling about, but not in that crazy it's Saturday morning and we're all stupid for thinking this would be a good time to go to Costco way. More in that just enough of us had the foresight to stop in after work on a Wednesday and our offspring will inherit the earth from those Saturday shoppers' kids way.

I grabbed what I needed, and some things I don't. Because that's what you do at Costco. The day I go in and leave with only the things I intended to get will be the day when my unnatural ability to resist impulse buying triggers the apocalypse. So I don't do that. You know, for humanity.

I had one last thing to get: a rotisserie chicken. It was a must, because I was too busy working very hard on tweeting funny shit all day to think about dinner. I do it for the people, just like when I buy twelve jars of pasta sauce we have no room for. Sometimes these sacrifices lead to sighs of frustration from my spouse, and sometimes they lead to rotisserie chicken. I let the universe choose my reward.

As I approached the takeout food section of the store for that final important item, a cold panic washed over me.

There was no chicken.

None. The display case lay bare.

A throng of people hovered in front of it, their eyes locked on two ovens behind the counter. Chickens spun around on rotisserie sticks, slowly cooking in their own juices and several other ingredients I don't like to think about. I heard one woman say to her husband and teenage daughter, "Only four minutes left." and point to the bottom oven. A timer slowly counted down on a panel beside the giant glass door.

Now, this woman spoke English, which is always a welcome sound in a predominately French area. This made me instantly want to chat with her. It's not that I can't speak French - I'm fluently bilingual, thank you very much - but conversation is always easier in one's own language. And who doesn't want to have a conversation with The Maven?

(You're probably thinking the answer is "no one", and up until a few hours ago, I would have agreed with you. But apparently the answer is "the chicken lady.")

"Only four minutes left?" I asked, not even apologizing for overhearing their family conversation. I figure if you're talking loudly enough that random strangers can hear you from eight feet away then you only have yourself to blame. "I can wait for that." I was more talking to myself than anyone else, but they heard me and it seemed less weird to pretend that I was butting into their business than admit that I was checking with my brain to make sure waiting was the right thing to do. So I looked up and smiled at them.

The daughter mumbled something about bread and walked off, while The Chicken Lady and her husband ever-so-briefly exchanged an is she talking to us? look. I think they should have been exchanging a maybe we should come up with an acceptable grocery store decible level. How about a three foot radius? look, but I don't want to judge. The husband walked off and left my new friend and I standing in front of the display case together.

Now there was added awkwardness because I had just spoken to this woman and she felt like she had to speak back. "Yes, only four minutes. Lots of people waiting," she said, and glanced around. She was right. There were several other carts parked around ours, circling the takeout counter. I think we had all arrived within seconds of each other as if we had been called there, like something out of a Dean Koontz novel.

A part of my brain knew this was a dismissive sort of comment. I'm not dense, just weird. And I have a bit of social anxiety, which is somewhat of a curse. I'm anxious because I don't want to say the wrong thing and look like an idiot, so I say the wrong thing and look like an idiot. My filter - what little there is - goes out the window. So I knew I should have just smiled and nodded and kept my mouth shut, but before I could stop myself I was using those word things again. "Looks like this is going to be the Tickle Me Elmo riot all over again."

Just like this but with chickens.
It could totally happen.

She chuckled in that I have no clue what you're talking about but I'll laugh because then I won't give you anything to respond to way.

"I mean, how many chickens are in there, anyway? And how many of us are there? I foresee some fights. I hope I brought my brass knuckles." I looked down at my purse concernedly and then up at her again. She was panning the area, undoubtedly trying to find her family members.

"Yes. Haha. Could be a fight," and smiled thinly, still desperately seeking her relatives.

Shut up Maven. Just shut up now. She doesn't want to talk to you. I smiled back and pulled out my phone to signal I was done making her uncomfortable and on to something else.

And I was done. That would have been it. Except then her husband and daughter came back and dropped some items in the cart. I couldn't help it. Sometimes the joke needs to be told and I am but an unwilling conduit.

"I really don't think it's fair that you have hired muscle with you. There should be rules for this sort of thing."

The woman smiled. I think. Maybe grimaced. And definitely sighed.

The chicken was done, and the crowd squeezed closer to the counter like tweens at a One Direction concert. A Costco employee was putting the birds in containers. The Chicken Lady and I were right next to each other now, inches away. Her family had returned once more with a final item and were standing beside her.

"Perfect." I said. "They're ready and we're in the front row. Don't let anybody body-check you!"

She didn't acknowledge me. She cast her eyes downwards and tried to look distracted. I know that look because I do it when I'm tired of my kids asking me for things. I figure maybe if they think I didn't hear them they'll stop asking. It never works.

She was ignoring me.

Fine, I thought, insulted. Pretend I don't exist. See how invisible I am when my giant cart cock-blocks your beef access in a few minutes.

People were grabbing freshly-packaged chickens over my head. I'm 5'7", so this is quite impressive and shows just how little the entire city felt like cooking tonight. The new batch of birds was disappearing fast. The Costco rotisserie lady looked to me for my order. "I'd like one, please" I asked.

"Ok, good. That means we should be able to get three of them," my new frenemy mentioned to her spouse, counting the containers.

I knew you could hear me, I thought resentfully.

"Excuse me, ma'am? I'll actually take two." I said.

I left with two fucking chickens and a smile on my face.

I named them Elmo and Mean Lady Who Ignores My Awesome Jokes.

They were both delicious.