Zombie Trapped in Costco Hell

January 24, 2009

I delay going to Costco as long as possible. But requirements of life, purchased inexpensively, make the trek unavoidable. Let’s face it, bulk toilet paper and laundry detergent and printer cartridges are essentials.

Judging from the overflow crowd today, lured partly by the approaching expiration of coupons, the economy isn’t shattered quite yet. That said, I did overhear several couples arguing about what was the best deal.

Savings aside, the experience was existential. A few times as I negotiated the crowded aisles and endured the food sample ladies reciting their scripts like robots, I wondered whether this was what life has become: a feeding frenzy of consumerism in a cavernous warehouse.

About eight years ago while careening through Costco, I began to feel very ill. A thought made me feel worse: am I going to collapse and die here? I imagined the nearest food sampler droning on, barely glancing at my body, and shoppers rolling their eyes at the inconvenience of maneuvering around the obstruction in the aisle.

I guess these excursions, as many months apart as I can make them, are post-modern versions of the hunter venturing out into the wilderness to forage food for his family. Braving the elements and dangers lurking in the forest and all that.

The latter sounds like life, unlike the zombie act of deciding among three kinds of detergent while sorting coupons and getting run into by an over-laden grocery cart and noticing the sign that says this Costco has 21,612 “members” and realizing I’m just part of the herd coveting one of those big-ass flat screen TVs and why not throw in that Nikon D-90 even though my D-40 takes great pictures and look at all those people chowing down on bad fattening food only because it’s cheap.

At one point I studied the faces of passing shoppers, hoping to find one who would make eye contact and nod knowingly that we’ve entered hell but smile to assure me that we’ll find the door out. Although I failed, I know I wasn’t alone.