GARY SMITH: Get milk?

In-store errand latest spouse-inspired adventure

Posted: February 2, 2018 at 1 a.m.

This is a story of love, devotion and coconut milk. And yes, at least in this case, those three things do connect.

In previous offerings, I've described in detail the many "challenges" that result from me being asked to shop without adult supervision. I fully accept this. I own my issue. And an air compressor I bought when I was sent to the store for a whole list of very useful things, none of them of them even remotely resembling an air compressor.

The challenges I face when flying solo are only slightly mitigated when I'm part of a shopping team (yeah, right, "Team."). At that point, my role transitions somewhat smoothly from completely unqualified hunter/gatherer to trying to anticipate sudden moves so as not to be hit by my own or any other cart and not to be that idiot standing in the middle of the aisle staring at rows of marinara jars and blocking traffic.

Periodically, and potentially out of frustration, the Lovely Mrs. Smith will give me assignments along the lines of "go find this or that particular product." This is presented in such a way as to create the impression I'm helping. It is, in reality, a variation of "it's a nice day, go play in the yard." After 30-plus years, I'm kind of on to her.

But, after 30-plus years, she's also on to me, which means she's smart enough to keep the assignments to simple things like cucumbers. She doesn't send me to the other side of the store, because I'll have to pass rows and rows of products (did I mention I own an air compressor?) and it's kind of embarrassing to have to tell a chronologically grown man he has to put something back.

Besides, one of the advantages of age and a journalism degree is that both arm you with the ability to concoct -- on the fly -- an incredibly plausible explanation for why a rice steamer is absolutely necessary to family goals and isn't just cool-looking with lights and buttons and all that stuff.

However, on occasion I'm dispatched after something useful and I do, in fact, stay on point long enough to find it and then locate her (no small feat, in and of itself. For some reason, in a store, she keeps moving. I try not to take it personally.) and put the item in the basket.

Which brings me to coconut milk. Or did, anyway.

Seems the Lovely Mrs. Smith is fond of a particular variety and flavor of coconut milk and for some reason I know where it is. Kind of like the blind squirrel who knows exactly where the nuts are, but nothing else.

So, the other day I was dispatched to locate the coconut milk with the same sort of fanfare usually associated with knights being dispatched to find the Holy Grail. Or my wife said "go get the coconut milk." Potentially, I embellish.

However, when I got to the spot where history and my phone app told me the coconut milk should be, I discovered a gaping coconut milk-less hole. And after stepping back into the middle of the aisle and staring, slack-jawed, at the space, I determined that, at the very top of the shelf, way in the back, there was one visible container that looked like it might be the prize upon which I was supposed to be focusing my eyes.

So, whoever gets to review in-store security footage, that's why a middle-aged man was spotted scaling the shelves of a grocery store. And then realizing there were two additional containers available, but they were out of reach, unless you use another box to knock them through to the other side, where you can run around to the next aisle, climb those shelves and retrieve them.

Yeah, I know. There is so much wrong with that I really don't know where to begin. Except to say, don't do this at home. Or in a store. Either.

The multiple morals of this story are as follows: Middle-aged men are very much like their younger selves in that they'll do stupid, dangerous things. The difference is their younger selves do them for the thrill of it, while their older selves do them because they're impatient and forget how gravity works.

Having said that, it's important to note middle-aged men will also regularly put themselves in potentially dangerous or awkward situations for those they love with, if not great abandon, at least casual disregard. So, climb grocery shelves, dance in public, tell our wives and kids we love them, in front of people, it's all the same to us. At a certain point, intent and effort are just as important as results.

And if you need to know where the coconut milk is, I can point it out to you. But if it's on the top shelf, you'll have to get it yourself. I'm not climbing up there for just anyone.

Commentary on 02/02/2018