I love Costco. Who doesn’t? It is a shining example of America, a big-box store that actually treats its workers right, a place to buy goodness and happiness in such quantity that you have to freeze some when you get home, so it doesn’t spoil.
There’s only one thing about Costco that isn’t big enough: the parking lot. And though I have a Business Membership, and can get in early on Sunday Mornings, the joint is always thronging with a few thousand people looking to save money on roast chicken, power miter boxes and caskets.
Our closest Costco is in Marina del Rey, over there on the West Side. Just because it’s closer doesn’t mean it’s better: they have herring in wine sauce, but no Dremel Moto-tool bits, for example. And that’s not the worst of it. Those Westsiders are a cutthroat bunch, let me tell you.
Could be the ocean air or the falling housing prices, but this morning was particularly bad. There were two cart rage incidents in the meat section, the roast chickens were being grabbed as fast as the cooks could shove them under the heatlamps, and the worker serving samples of the salmon spread had to fold up her table and hightail it to the stockroom before someone got hurt.
A woman was rifling through the blackberry flats so ferociously I thought she had dropped her wedding ring in there, until she pulled out a box of berries that was indistinguishable from all the others, clutched it to her chest in a bear hug and shoved her way out of the refrigerator section, kicking a cart with a kid in it a good 10 feet. The kid bumped up safely against the juice refrigerator, and started filling his cart with Odwalla. I wonder if Mom got a surprise at the register.
But the worst thing about it is the parking lot. And I figured a way around it.
I take the Vespa. I park it right next to the door, walk in, do my shopping , and leave. No waiting for a space. No thinking there’s a spot just past that Expedition, only to find a Mini Cooper.
The only problem? There’s no trunk. I just have two racks and a shopping bag hook. But you might be surprised what you can hold. Next time you see a documentary about the Tsunami, check out those fish peddler with the 70-gallon tanks of live Harlequin Rasboras on their motorcycles: they’re Vespas.
Take a look at today’s haul:
This is nothing. The only thing I haven’t brought home from the Costco on that thing is a piano. And that’s only because they didn’t have any uprights, only baby grands.
So your next question is probably, “Don’t you feel embarrassed, driving through town, looking like an Indonesian fish peddler?” And the answer is, of course I do. I hate turning heads, especially like this. In fact, the manager of Surfas on Washington was out setting up the bargain table when he saw me stopped at the light, and he took a picture of me with his cell phone. But that’s only one funny look, out of hundreds.
Those other looks, of course, come from prospective shoppers, looking for parking at the Costco. They drive around, complaining into cell phones, gunning their engines past senior citizens who are just there for the buck-fifty hotdog and bottomless Coke.
These poor jerks take the single greatest thing about being an American – going to Coscto – and turn it into a nightmare. Do they linger over the folding bowl sets or wonder, “Am I an electric razor guy?” No. Do they tell themselves, “Today’s the day I buy those Alaskan King Crab Claws?” No. Are they amused by the fact that the 4th of July products are already out? No. Not even the unbridled joy of being at Costco can penetrate their parking-fueled depression.
And all the money they save on Costco gas, they burn in the parking lot driving around for 45 minutes.
And so, to them I say, “I win.” Home, to Costco and back in under an hour. Happily sipping Diet Coke and eating chicken thighs. So what if I look stupid? Hell, I might be the manager of Surfas’ screensaver for all I know.
The thing is, I need that win. Especially now. It feels good to feel the tape break across your chest once in a while. And if looking like an Indonesian fish seller may be a bit silly, looking like Satan while I scream at the kids looks a lot worse, trapped in my car, driving around the lot at Costco.