There is a strange phenomenon occurring at Cost-Co that could go easily undetected. I notice as I pull into the parking lot of the Scripps-Poway Parkway branch, the large two-legged predators seem to decide on slots according to their projected on-site caloric intake. I, knowing the insatiable desire for free food, choose a spot in the farthest reaches of the back row. My fellow shoppers are drawn to the entrance like jungle beasts to a hidden watering-hole. Once inside the store I determine my first strike: easy prey, first day on the job. He stands behind his micro-wave delivering an enthusiastic pitch that is sure to cause such a spike in sales of his “easy bake” organic pizza squares that the home office in Omaha, Nebraska has no choice but to immediately dispatch a Lear Jet, whisking him away to bigger and better things.
Next, I sample the wares of a recently retired night watchman. He stands with arms crossed, glaring out at consumers as they grovel before him; each hoping to prove him/herself worthy of the proffered staple. The watchman clearly perceives the intrinsic value of these Velveeta-stuffed pork sausage bits he guards and wonders why they are not, in fact, housed at Ft. Knox. I pass by “Rationing Repunzil”. She has taken it upon herself to split her already miniscule portions in half. To what end I know not. My instinct tells me that her jelly-bean sized tid-bits of beef-flavored vegan’s delight will have little culinary impact on my taste buds. Ah, I approach the “scientist” passing out trail mix. Please Professor Nutshell, explain to me the wonderment of trial mix. Except for the first three hundred thousand times I’ve had it, this combination of raisins, nuts, and m&m’s is to me as fire was to my prehistoric ancestors. I spot the liquid refreshment. A kindly-looking gentleman who, I know later, I will have to descend upon and gulp down one-ounce shot after one-ounce shot as he patiently explains the virtues of vitamin water to my preoccupied feeding-frenzy addled mind. But for now, it is Showtime! The clever one, the old pro, she is given the cushiest assignment of all: the coveted BBQ brisket with spicy Thai sauce. She knows she has the goods and she knows the public will come for them, in droves, hungry, sample-seeking droves. She’s sharp-witted and keen-eyed and she won’t tolerate the nonsense of double-dipping or multiple return trips at her station. Subterfuge must be employed. Head gear and an extra shirt can be helpful. By exchanging my shirt and turning my hat backwards or sideways, I can present several different identities. Accents are a daring but often rewarding move. For the more experienced grazer alternative walks can be attempted. I, myself, have mastered the limp, the stagger, the half-spin crawl, and, on rare occasions, the double-hop, turn-around, split stutter-step.
With my appetite assuaged, my natural instincts placated and my adrenaline levels returning to normal, I head back to my vehicle. Another successful hunt completed. Now, if I could just figure out where I’m going to store 90 paper towel rolls, 6 baskets of strawberries and a 3 gallon jar of pickles.

                                          Daniel J McAuliffe

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