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The grocery list: User beware

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(Author's note: My husband has given permission for this article to be published. However, he is now not required to buy me a Christmas gift this year.)

Last week, at three in the morning naturally, the battery in our fire alarm decided to alert us that it was dying. It wasn't just the occasional beep that you could ignore and fix in the morning, it was a constant unnerving, high-pitched shrill that finally ceased once it was beaten to death with a shoe.

The next morning, bleary eyed, my husband announced that he needed to go to the grocery store to buy replacement batteries. Being the gentleman that he is, he asked if I needed anything. Actually, I did. His frown was immediate. Now let me tell you, my husband truly hates the grocery store. Nothing brings the fear out in him more than an empty grocery cart and a mile-long list. Therefore, I knew that I would have to make this easy and painless for both of us.

What is so interesting is that my husband, who has many talents, is a human GPS system. His sense of direction in impeccable. He can get us anywhere. What's particularly admirable is if he has been somewhere once, even if it was 30 years ago and he slept the entire way in the back seat of the car, he can remember how to get there like it was yesterday. But for some reason his GPS goes null and void once he enters a supermarket. Knowing this, I created my simple list in a very detailed manner.

Half-and-half (it's the stuff we put in coffee, located by milk)

Refried beans (in the Mexican food aisle)

White onion

Your favorite chips and salsa

Cilantro (This may be confusing but it's green, in the produce section (fresh vegetables and fruits) and can easily be mistaken for parsley.) ASK SOMEONE!

Little did I know that this straightforward list would result in three slightly panicked telephone calls to me, two requests for help from store personnel and advice from a fellow sympathetic shopper.

The half-and-half proved not to be a problem as I now have a gallon of it and won't be shopping for some in the near future. However, the refried beans threw him for a loop and that resulted in his first phone call home. He was blunt.

'They don't sell refried beans.'

'Of course they do. I buy them there all of the time.'

'Well, they aren't next to the black beans, pinto beans, navy beans, lima beans or baked beans.'

'Are you in the Mexican food aisle?'

'There is no Mexican aisle! Wait. Do you mean the ethnic aisle?'

'OK. The ethnic aisle.'

I hear him huffing and puffing to the next aisle as his anger builds. Finally, a disgusted response.

'Well, this is the stupidest thing I have ever heard. Here they are. I will never understand why they aren't located with the rest of the beans. OK, thanks, bye.'

Five minutes later the phone rings again.

'I have looked everywhere and I can't find any chips labeled 'Your Favorite Chips and Salsa.'

This one took me by surprise. I literally had no idea what he was talking about. Then it dawned on me. Can I tell you my husband hates it when you laugh at him?

'Uh, no. What I meant was pick out YOUR favorite chips and salsa. There is no brand name called 'Your Favorite Chips and Salsa.''

All I heard was an immediate 'bye.' I knew I would never see the cilantro. However, the white onion, yes, I believed he could handle that. Apparently it wasn't so easy.

'What's the difference between a white onion and a sweet onion and which one do you want?'

'There is a difference, but just give me a plain one.'

I'm not sure I even heard a 'goodbye.'

Not too long after he walked in the door. He had the cilantro. Unfortunately, he forgot the batteries.

Julie McGuire is a busy Lake Oswego mother of three children and a monthly columnist for the Lake Oswego Review. When she's not playing chauffeur she writes a blog, 'From the Mudroom,' at www.fromthemudroom.com.