Excitement mounts as Beijing prepares for the 2008 Olympic Summer Games. Certainly one of the reasons for this anticipation is the inclusion of Grocery Shopping as an official event.
In a nutshell, there are two phases to the competition. In the Compulsory round, the competitor is given a list of 48 grocery items, and she must locate and place them in her shopping cart. Whoever gets to the check-out line first wins that round. In the Artistic round, whoever takes longest at check-out, wins that round. The scores are combined to determine the winner.
In order to prepare the viewer for this event, we have taken our cameras (actually, we don’t have cameras, but it sounds pretty lame to say we have taken our pens and notebook) to Dubuque to follow Donna Dilbert, America’s great hope in this event, as she trains at her local supermarket in her quest to bring home the Gold.
When she entered the Piggly Wiggly, the staff and customers cheered her on. Go, Donna go! She was all business as she tested the cart, checking each wheel, making sure they all went in the same direction, not one of them veering off on its own agenda. Proclaiming her cart fit, she grabbed the grocery list from the store manager. As she studied it, the crowd’s enthusiasm grew. Go, Donna, Go! With a dazzling smile, Donna, mentally prepared and psyched, was off.
She snatched items off the shelf, tossing them into the cart, never even slowing down. Her pace was fast and steady. Whomp! There go the bagels! Whomp! There goes the casaba melon! Around the end of the aisle to the frozen food. Whomp! Sara Lee Cheesecake. Yum! Frozen okra. Bleck!
And then Donna stopped. A troubled expression frozen on her face.
“What is it, Donna?” an adoring fan asked.
“Capers,” Donna said. The moments were ticking away. Tick, tick, tick. “I don’t know where capers are. I don’t know what capers are.”
There was stunned silence. The fans had never seen their girl stopped before. Tick, tick, tick. They knew they couldn’t tell her the location. Suddenly, as if by divine intervention, a stock clerk piped up. “Wow, Donna, then you really are in a PICKLE Yep, a real PICKLE alright.” Picking up on his clue, Donna beamed and dashed off to the pickle aisle. She had lost valuable time. In a gutsy strategic move, she placed her cart sideways across the aisle so other shoppers couldn’t get past. She spotted the elusive capers, tossed them into her cart and was off again.
Checking and re-checking, she now had all 48 items in her cart and was off to the check-out counter. What?! She wasn’t first. Donna was now in third place. She could have given up, but she didn’t. Although it wasn’t likely, she knew she might be able to win enough points in the Artistic phase.
Throughout the checkout process, Donna, seemingly relaxed, chatted with the cashier. “Pretty earrings, Laverene. Where’d you get ‘em?”
Fans were shocked. Donna had gone through the checkout process too quickly. This wasn’t the way to win a competition.
Finally everything was bagged. “That’ll be $98.88,” said Laverne.
Then, and only then, did Donna open her purse.
“Oh my,” she said. “Will you look at this? All my change has fallen out of my wallet.” Racking up points as seconds ticked away, Donna scrambled around in the bowels of her purse, bringing up a quarter here, a nickel there. Finally, after eight minutes (Donna’s personal best), she counted out the money. Ninety-eight dollars...and I have the exact change…twenty-five, fifty, sixty, seventy, seventy-five, eighty, eighty-one, eighty-two, eighty-three, eighty-four, eighty-five, eighty-six, eighty-seven and eighty-eight!” She managed to add another important one minute and thirty-two seconds to her already impressive score. As Donna was about to close her purse, she uttered the absolutely winning words. “Oh, I forgot, I have coupons!”
And that, dear reader, is a true champion!