By Mary Claire Ekstrom
“Aunt Mickey, look!” Six-year-old Barrett screamed, as he clung to the front of the grocery cart, pointing at the refrigerated section of the warehouse grocery store.
I groaned as four women turned and stared.
“Shhh, Barrett. Use your inside voice,” I whispered, as we raced to our lookout spot.
Free food samples.
Or so the naïve thought. I snorted, studying the situation.
Typical set up. Standing in front of each of the three frozen food aisles was a white-haired, wrinkled woman, lying in wait, twiddling her fingers about her metallic podium, ready to push product.
They always looked so sweet, offering cookies and potato chips, just like my granny.
But I knew better.
Those samples weren’t free.
You had to listen to a 5-minute spiel.
I called it, “The Granny Trap.”
Suddenly, Barrett was gone.
I searched left, then right.
Saw him. Crap. At the Granny station in the center.
Horrified, I watched as he surveyed the tray.
I saw his hand jut out to take a sample.
I saw the Granny tell him no.
I saw her lips say, “I need your parent.”
“Aunt Mickey, come here!”
His voice echoed through the store.
I was caught, reeled in like a fish on a hook.
“Can I have one?” Barrett yelled in my face.
“Yes,” I sighed. Defeated. Dinosaur-shaped chicken nuggets.
Not worth my sacrifice.
“Mmmm,” Barrett smacked.
“Would you like one?” the granny offered a shaking cup.
“Sure!” I took it, knowing what would come. Popped the nugget in my mouth.
Rubbery. Dry. A tasteless wad of…
“Do you like it?” The granny asked.
“Erm hmm!” I said, trying to swallow.
I pondered my escape. But, I knew the rules. Once caught, you must
- Be polite,
- Maintain eye contact with Granny until she is finished with advertising spiel,
- Mutter “thank you” no matter how bad the sample tastes.
“These are gluten-free…”
The first vulture dipped her hand in, using my capture to her advantage.
“Soy-free, free of trans-fats…”
“Mm!” I mumbled, hoping to speed things up.
Four more hands slithered in.
“Sugar free, full of protein…”
“Yuk.” Barrett spit his half-chewed chicken back into the cup and handed it to me. “Aunt Mickey, they’ve got popsicles over there.”
“Made from free-range chicken, and…”
“No wonder they are so delicious!” I faked excitement.
More vultures nudged, bumped and squeezed in.
“Popsiclesssssss.”Barrett tugged on my arm.
My lips twisted into an insincere, apologetic smile. “We have to get going…”
She grabbed my elbow. “You look so young. Is that your child?”
My irritation ramped, but I took a deep breath. “Uhh. No ma’am…”
“Excuse me.” A woman wheedled her arm around my back, pressed her head on my shoulder blade and grabbed a hotter nugget. Her hair felt like ants on the back of my neck.
The Granny cocked her head. “Oh really.” Obviously not believing me.
I glanced at Barrett. Yikes. His eyes were locked on mine.
“Go ahead Barrett. Get a popsicle.” I shooed him. “I’ll be there in just a second.”
His face lit up and he scurried away, with the grocery cart.
I turned to the Granny, pressed my lips into a smile and dripped, “I’m sorry. I’ve just really got to get to him. He’s only six – -“
“Six?! Really. He must be the tallest in his class.”
I glanced over at Barrett, who had already added 4 boxes of popsicles to our cart.
“Yes ma’am! He is the tallest.”
Barrett tossed two more popsicle boxes into the cart.
“Ahhh… I bet he’s the smartest too.” The Granny grabbed my arm, keeping me close.
Barrett piled in three more boxes.
“Yes. Thank you.” I wriggled loose and power walked/ran toward a beaming Barrett.
“Aunt Mickey, you’re the best!”
I exhaled, relieved I’d survived. The Granny Trap had only cost me…
Fifteen boxes of popsicles.
“We’ve got to put these back.”
Barrett’s lower lip trembled. Tears weld in his eyes. “All of them?” He asked.
I melted. “No, you can keep a couple.”
Barrett didn’t move.
I buckled. “Okay, you can keep three boxes. No more.”
“Thanks Aunt Mickey.” Barrett grinned.
That’s when I saw the two Grannies high-five each other.
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