I used to hate grocery shopping until I realized that hating an activity which involves pushing a large cart through a massive building overloaded with shelves stuffed with every type of consumable commodity imaginable and basically being able to buy EVERY SINGLE THING I wanted to take home and eat was probably the laziest, most selfish, and ungrateful First World Problem ever. About the time I made that realization I also happened to be reading a book called Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience, by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (nope, can’t pronounce it) that suggested, among other things, creating an optimal experience out of mundane of tasks by incorporating into them something you truly enjoy. So I decided to incorporate photography into my grocery shopping experience.
Seriously, this place is huge.
Come for the jam. Stay for the gems. You’re welcome.
This quickly evolved into taking photos every time I had to run an errand of any sort, since as a world-class White-Whiner I tend to resent doing everything that doesn’t involve sitting in front of my computer and eating ice cream. You know, things like going to CVS to pick up that prescription medication which is entirely covered by my insurance and has kept me from conceiving unwanted children for 20 years. Or driving three miles to the veterinarian to pick up one of the many medications that my completely pampered and spoiled mutt Sprocket needs to keep from getting itchy, ’cause Lord knows I cannot tolerate the thought of my dog suffering from an unscratchable itch. You know, huge inconveniences like that.
I actually opened up an Instagram account with the intention of focusing solely on taking iPhone photos while running errands – I think I even put in my profile a line like “Running Errands Since 1985” since that is roughly the year I got my first car, and a life of never-ending errand-running began. But as with every other online endeavor in which I engage I was incapable of remaining focused and now my Instagram is just a mish-mash of pet photos, fashion shots uploaded from Flickr, and the occasional photo of my feet. But mostly dog shots. And as with any other online endeavor I engage, I don’t grasp Instagram enough to go back and edit my profile to take that stupid line out that no longer makes any sense given the content of my photos.
Come for the pork. Stay for the puns. Yep.
I rarely take photos at the grocery store anymore, especially since I go to the same one all the time and I ran out of things to photograph eventually, but spending a few months using grocery shopping time to snap pics completely changed my attitude about the entire activity. First of all, it made my trips twice as long. As I said, I rarely take pics now, but I still enjoy going because I have discovered the benefits of shopping for food in a leisurely manner. There is not only a lot of interesting stuff in a grocery store once you slow down and really look at what’s on the shelves, but you will pretty soon notice that you are the only person in the entire place who isn’t in a rush and pissed off about being there. It’s almost an out-of-body experience because of how easily you can relate to others’ frustration, while feeling none of it yourself.
Taking photos in the grocery store, however, can be dodgy and there are obstacles to consider. I learned early on that snapping pics of other people is always suspect and will tick people off. If you’re determined to do it, be sure you mute the phone (because my iPhone is what I always use) lest you get caught trying to take a photo of an old lady’s glittery headscarf, and then the shutter sound gets her attention, and she looks at you like you’re some sort of pervert, and makes you delete it (yep, that happened). Also, employees don’t take kindly to you wandering the store photographing items for hours, so you have to be stealthy. And yes, I have been reprimanded by grocery store managers more than once, which is not something I enjoy, so I do my best not to draw attention to what I am doing. Sometimes I pretend I’m using one of those scan-it-to-get-the-cost apps, but that’s pretty stupid considering the prices in a grocery store are clearly labeled on the shelves, so that isn’t going to take you very far. I am admittedly unskilled when it comes to iPhone photos; I’m never good at shooting from the hip, and with my phone I’m a disaster, so I struggle to get decent focus even when I’m not trying to sneak a shot. Therefore, I’ve learned to use a combination of looking like I’m not taking a photo but also looking like I don’t care if you know I am taking one to get away with it, if that makes sense.
I think Blue Bell ice cream is strictly a Texas thing? So sorry, rest of the world.
Overall I highly recommend the strategy of taking whatever it is you just hate to do, and finding a way to incorporate something you love into it. I suppose someone might be concerned that the opposite will happen and they will come to detest the thing they love because it’s now associated with the hated activity, but damn seriously, if that happens, you need either some new hobbies or some different tasks because something’s gone wrong. I guess you have to get the love-to-hate ratio right to ensure that doesn’t happen. I actually never finished Csikszentmihalyi’s book so perhaps I missed the chapter where such an equation is introduced. If anyone else gets past page 238 and comes across it, let me know.