Last night we went to Home Depot. The kids were dressed in their pajamas before we left – preparation for the drive back when I was hoping they’d fall asleep.
We arrived just before closing, at around , and rushed around chatting in German about which flowers would do best in full sunlight. We headed into the store to pay, the 2-year old in the shopping cart seat and the two boys standing on each side for the ride.
When we reached the check out area, there were only two options, neither of which were optimal (at least as far as I was concerned):
(1) Self Checkout (with which I never have any luck because I always do something wrong, like move the items slightly and the whole system seems to go berserk - I usually end up having to call the clerk and feel humiliated),
(2) a long line at the other end of the store where everyone had a ton of items, each of which were big, bulky and of varied shapes and sizes.
We opted for the Self Checkout.
At first it all went ok... I scanned each flower, it beeped, registered the price, I placed each flower in the little plastic bag. Yes! I was in synch with the system. The system and I were one.
After around flower three, things started going bad. The system blurted out something about having too many items on the scale. Arghhh. I looked down and younger son was sitting on the scale! In German I said, "Ok, Christoph, get off the scale." He jumped down with an impatient glare.
I took a quick, sideways glance to my right and saw the slowly forming line of waiting customers. I felt my face becoming a bit flushed. "Focus, stay focused!" I told myself silently.
I scanned the next few flowers, and then again, a complaint from the machine. "For god's sake, why did we get so many flowers?" I complain under my breath! I looked over at the scale again, and oldest son was leaning on the scale. Pointing to the scale, I said in German, "Patrick, look, don't go anywhere near this thing here, ok? Just stand over there."
Unfortunately, "over there" was next to the ingeniously placed "wall-o-candy," a child’s paradise indeed!
A new round of frustration began, a full-force chattering away in German. "Mama, can we have these M&M's? Just one! We'll share them." I looked over at the enormous bag of candy and to save some immediate whining, I said, "Um, we'll see, let me finish here first."
To my right, the line of customers was getting longer. In the expanse of faces, none gave the impression of taking pity on me. They looked tired, impatient and saw me and my brood as making their life less than satisfactory. And to top it off, they probably couldn’t understand a word we were saying since it was all in German.
I started to scan the next flower and suddenly the Self Checkout man was standing at my cart. "Oh no, I thought, he is going to tell me to get my act together and hurry it up!" But instead he pointed out that youngest daughter was trying to stand up in her seat in the shopping cart and that I should have known to strap her in with the belt provided on the cart. "Oh right, I said." I strap her in. Bad-mother-humiliation moment, one million and one.
I look to my left and see that the boys are happily discussing in detail which candy they are going to get. Uh oh.
A few more flowers scanned, wonderful! But I notice that the little shopping bag is full. What should I do? Should I move the bag to the side and open a new one, or will the machine go crazy? Am I allowed to put the next flowers anywhere or will the machine complain? Oh gosh, I'm not sure what to do. “Think quickly, think quickly,” I tell myself.
I feel wild and crazy, so I put the flowers on the scale but OUTSIDE the bag. Whew, the system registers that the flowers have been placed on the scale. Ok, we are on our way!
Just as I'm finishing, young daughter notices that the boys are at the "wall-o-candy" and that she is missing out on a potential candy purchase. She starts complaining - loudly. The boys notice her and simply start bringing her candy, asking in German which she'd like to have. "Do you want this candy, Marie?" Patrick shows her a Starburst. "Or do you want this one, Marie?" Christoph shows her some kind of pink bubble gum. “Just one, Marie. You have to decide on one,” they tell her.
I take no notice. I can’t think about the coming raised voices of indignation when I tell them that we aren’t going to get any candy. I need to stay focused. All I need to do is to slide my credit card through the machine and sign the tablet.
It seems to take forever but with a sigh of relief, the transaction is completed. The machine and I are no longer dependent upon one another. I pack the remaining flowers into bags, tell the kids that we are leaving and quickly start pushing the cart in the direction of the big EXIT sign. I don’t look at the frustrated line of customers; I don’t stop to discuss the “wall-o-candy” options with the kids. I just start walking and make sure the boys are following.
"But Mama, we wanted candy!" Wails older son.
"Yea, you promised!" Adds younger son.
"Candy, candy, candy!" Yells youngest daughter.
Me: "Let's discuss it in the car, kids."
A heated discussion ensues but soon all kids are in their car seats, the car is in motion and once on the highway, the lull of the movement puts youngest to sleep and the boys glare at the back of my head the whole way home, albeit in a semi state of exhaustion since it is way past their bedtime.
"Tomorrow we can plant the flowers in the pots at the front of the house!" I remind them. "Just think about how much fun that will be."
Once we are a few miles from Home Depot, I laugh to myself at the spectacle we must have been: A tired mom, three pajama-dressed children chatting away in German, an obsessive focus on the "wall-o-candy," a cart full of flowers, kids sitting and leaning on the scale and a line of angry customers tapping their feet and sighing under their breath. Just one crazy German-speaking family. Yep, we certainly have a way of unwittingly causing an odd disruption.
Then it dawns on me… if I thought purchasing the flowers with three kids was a challenge, planting the flowers will be even more fun: three kids, a bag of potting soil and one trowel. Oh yea, the planting is going to be nothing but fun, fun, fun! At least we won’t have to do it with a bunch of impatient, English-speaking onlookers.