Accentuate the positive: Wastin' away and far-away pizza

It’s that time of year again, the time for taking down Christmas decorations, for beginning to pay off the holiday bills and for making New Year’s resolutions you know you won’t possibly fulfill.

Resolutions date back to the ancient Babylonians, who promised at the start of every year to return borrowed objects and pay their debts. Residents of the Roman empire opened the year making promises to the god Janus, from which we get the name January. There’s no record of what these promises were, but they undoubtedly involved losing weight and getting more exercise.

Face it, New Year’s resolutions are largely worthless. A 2007 study by researchers from the University of Bristol found that 88 percent of those who made resolutions failed to keep them.

It’s time to admit it, promising to lose weight, eat healthier, get more exercise, etc., are largely empty vows.

That said, there is one resolution I think every woman who is either married or cohabiting with a male significant other should make — never, ever send him to the grocery store alone.

My bride made that mistake a few weeks ago during the height of the holiday rush. She was up to her elbows in flour and sugar, baking and candy-making, creating tasty treats to give to family and friends (thus already dooming their 2019 resolution to lose weight).

“Can you go to the store for me, please?” she said, sweetly.

Because I love her dearly, and not wanting to hurt my chances of getting something really cool for Christmas, I instantly agreed.

So she wrote out a list and sent me on my way.

I was supremely confident in my abilities to fulfill her wishes quickly and efficiently, then to return home in triumph, thus earning her undying gratitude, and perhaps one or two of those cookies she was working on when I left.

I arrived at the store to find that every other living soul in town was trying to buy groceries at the exact same time, or so it seemed, anyway.

After a circuit or two of the parking lot I snagged the closest parking space, which was not very close but at least was within the same area code.

As I entered the store I was struck by the preponderance of, shall we say, mature folks among the customers. Then I remembered it was what I like to refer to as “Gray Day,” the day senior citizens get a discount on their grocery bill.

In other words, the place was full of geezers. I felt right at home.

Gray Day can be a rather hazardous time to go to the store, both in the parking lot and in the aisles, as some people operate their vehicles (or shopping carts) like they are being chased, and others move as if they are just about to take root.

Nevertheless, I approached my task with confidence and a cheerful heart, as I grabbed a cart and pulled the list from my pocket. I reached for my reading glasses, only to discover I had left them in the car.

No problem, I thought, if I hold the list far enough away, have sufficient light and squint really hard, I might be able to make it out.

It wasn’t long before my confidence began to wane. I was faced with a difficult choice of exactly the type of little tomatoes my bride required. So I called her and she got me straightened out.

Then I couldn’t decide how large a package of paper towels she wanted. So I called her and she got me straightened out, again. The problem was I was concentrating so hard on the next item on the list that I walked off without the paper towels.

For the life of me I couldn’t make out the next item on the list. I needed better light, so I walked to the produce department and stood directly under a particularly bright light. I still couldn’t make it out, and suddenly I was standing in the most popular spot in the store. There were carts to the right of me, carts to the left of me, and only a narrow window through which to escape. Thankfully I did, but still couldn’t figure out what the heck she meant.

So I called her again. “I think it says Glade wax, is that what you wanted? Or gladiola bulbs? Glue sticks? Green chives? I don’t know.”

All I heard from her end was laughter. That was not helpful in the least. Then I started to laugh, and drew disapproving stares from some of my fellow customers. Some old people can be so judgmental.

Finally we decided it must be Glade wax, but there was still a nagging uncertainty. Suddenly I came across a friend, and we struck up a nice conversation.

Desperate, I asked if she could possibly interpret the unfathomable hieroglyphics scrawled on the crumpled paper I clutched in my hand.

She took one look and said, “Sure, it’s Glad Cling Wrap.”

How did you know that, I asked? “I used to be a teacher,” she said, “I’m used to reading kids’ handwriting.”

I thanked her profusely and retrieved the plastic wrap, then was forced to confront the list one final time. I know it said Cool Whip, but it was some special kind. Extra crispy, extra crunchy, that made no sense. Oh, extra creamy, that’s it.

Finally, my confidence shattered, I limped to the checkout stand, then home. As it turned out I had only forgotten two items, which compared to the failure rate among those making New Year’s resolutions, was not bad.

Then I promptly made my own set of imminently attainable New Year’s resolutions — to gain weight, to eat less healthy, to get less exercise and to never, ever, go to the grocery store by myself again.

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Mullin is an award-winning writer and columnist who recently retired after 41 years with the News & Eagle. Email him at

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