Store Is Hell

lessons learned from grocery adventures

Mike Paulus, illustrated by Serena Wagner

It has come to my attention that many of my most vivid childhood memories happened in a grocery store. Grocery stores just seem to hold a special significance in my life. Is that weird? Is that just me? Do the rest of you measure your childhood in trips to the store for mac ’n’ cheese, ice cream, and Skittles? Am I that obsessed with food?

Yes, of course I am.

For me, all of these memories involve one store in particular – that long-gone anchor of the Eau Claire’s grocery scene known as Cassidy’s.

For those who don’t know, Cassidy’s was where Hope Gospel Mission now stands on the west side of Eau Claire, where I grew up. We went there a lot. Good times, my friends. Such as ...

I’m not sure what happened, but Mom let go of the cart or something, allowing it tip forward under the weight of my adorably husky frame. Down I went, landing upon the hard linoleum of Cassidy’s ... teeth first.

One fine day, my mom and I strolled into Cassidy’s, filled with hope and wonder, brimming with excitement for our imminent shopping adventure. She hoisted me into the cargo area of the cart and pushed me though the automatic sliding doors while I stood near the front like Jack Dawson in Titanic. I was at the top of the ding dang world.

And then, tragedy.

I’m not sure what happened, but Mom let go of the cart or something, allowing it tip forward under the weight of my adorably husky frame. Down I went, landing upon the hard linoleum of Cassidy’s ... teeth first.

I sustained no broken bones and all my teeth remained inside my cute little head. However, one of them turned brown and remained so until it eventually fell out so I could grow another one. I’m sure my mom was mortified, thinking her only son had been disfigured on her watch. But I don’t blame her, not one bit.

I blame those stupid designers at the shopping cart factory. They shouldn’t make shopping carts so much fun to stand in.

Back to Cassidy’s. Cassidy’s is also the first place I can remember renting movies on VHS. I’m pretty sure it was one of the first places in all of Eau Claire to actually offer video tapes – and those chunky VCRs that came in a little suitcase. First there were just a few racks full of tapes, but after a remodeling project, they actually added a whole room to showcase their videos. I wasted countless hours walking round and round that little room, perusing the options. I think about half that time was spent standing in front of and staring directly at the cover for Hardbodies (1984). I have never seen Hardbodies and I have no idea what it’s about (besides hardbodies), and I highly doubt it’s quality entertainment, but the photo on the cover did things to my pre-adolescent brain that had never been done before.

Another early memory from the store is my first and only foray into shoplifting. I stole a single piece of cheap candy from a bin of Brach’s. To my discredit, it wasn’t even a peanut butter cup or a pack of that mind-blowing Tidal Wave Bubble Gum. It was just a little orange-flavored gummy thing coated in sugar. I didn’t even want it.

What I wanted was to shoplift.

I probably saw people shoplifting on Family Ties or The Facts of Life. And as with all sitcom-based morality lessons, showing a character doing something illegal – stealing, vandalizing, smoking, black market weapons dealing – produced an insatiable urge to do it myself. I just wanted attention.

So when I saw the bin of candy and realized no one was watching, I just grabbed a piece and shoved it into my pocket. We got all the way home before immediately confessing to my mom that I had committed a real-life crime.

My mom suggested we go back to the store so I could talk to a manager. I agreed. It was the right thing to do. So back to the store we went where I told some guy wearing a tie what I had done. It was an experience of personal growth.

Looking back on it now, I can glean an important lesson: If your kid shoplifts to get attention, it means you have to drive all the way back to the damn store.

So thanks for the life lessons, Cassidy’s – don’t stand up in shopping carts and don’t shoplift lame candy. I honestly don’t know how else I could have acquired this important knowledge.

Press and hold the up/down arrows to scroll.