You know how there are things in life that you just don’t think you’ll ever do? Not things that you insist you won’t do because you are adamantly against them, but those things that you just don’t see in your future- those are the ones I’m thinking about. For example, fifteen years ago I would never have thought I would end up living in rural China. (The Dominican Republic was definitely on my radar, but East Asia? Nope.) Ten years ago I didn’t think I would ever take a random hiatus year from work. Five years ago I didn’t think I’d be the proud (although not worthy) owner of a motorcycle license. Well, last week, I encountered another of those “don’t think that’s for me” moments- a minivan. That’s right. A minivan. Pushing fourteen years of marriage and no kids, the minivan has never been on my list of things I wanted to drive. (And this is coming from someone who kinda’ wants to drive everything! I would do almost anything to get to drive a Zamboni. When I heard the Idaho Red Cross where I used to volunteer was having a forklift driving class, I seriously considered buying a ticket to fly across the country, just to get in on that gig.) But, with a run to Costco looming, my best buddies at the Crystal City Enterprise didn’t think a Prius was going to cut it.
So, with my parents in town for a two-week visit, we loaded into the shiny new minivan and made the two block trip to Costco. I figured with the pre-shopping trip I chronicled in “It’s Not Peace Corps This Time Around,” plus the addition of two extra sets of hands, the trip should be fairly straight-forward. (Who knew Costco was not only blog-worthy, but double blog-worthy?!)
After being granted access to the store after my Dad flashed his members-only card (again, don’t even get Thad started on the exclusivity of a warehouse shopping experience), we chose a flatbed cart over a basket and retraced my steps from the previous outing. The list I created on my initial visit turned out to be more helpful than even my obsessively-organized self would have imagined. We were able to go up and down the aisles in the same order I had done before, picking up the desired items in the desired quantities. It was like clockwork.
What wasn’t like clockwork? Mom’s and my stacking abilities. We quickly decided that Dad would be the muscle of the group, pushing the awkwardly huge cart up and down the aisles littered with wandering small children and cap-stoned with sample tables on each end. While he did that, Mom and I would get the items and add them to the flatbed. Apparently, we were horrible at this. I guess neither of us is bound for a job in freight-packing or as Tetris champions. I get the basic concept. Big, heavy stuff should go on the bottom and light, oddly shaped stuff on top. The problem is, Costco doesn’t organize their store from big and heavy to light and oddly shaped. For some crazy reason they put items together by food category rather than size and shape! Thanks for that Costco.
At first, Dad tried to help out with suggestions and the occasional reordering while we were away from the cart, but I think it soon became clear to him that this process was not going to stack up the way he would like. The helpful hints soon became knowing smirks as Mom tried to figure out how to put twelve cans of tuna on top of a giant bottle of ketchup and I tried to cram one more box of Cheerios onto a four-inch empty spot on the side of the cart.
Once we had finally reached the end of my list, getting everything off of the two-page “buy” list, I had to make a decision or two. On my “maybe buy” list, I had included some camisoles, a polo shirt for Thad, some bath rugs and a 7’X5’ shag carpet area rug. The camisole verdict was quickly reached, when they were all out of anything but white in my size. Thad’s polo was an easy decision too, as I think he needs a few more and he could care less, so onto the cart it went. I eventually decided against the bathmats. I still do want to get a few small rugs, as they will add color to the house, but I also think I may have a few in storage that will be showing up in China a couple of months after we arrive.
The big decision was the area rug. Chinese apartments are almost always carpet-less. I know a lot of people think it is cleaner to not have carpet, but I love the softness of it. I love to be able to lay on the floor with a book and read (or with a laptop and write). Knowing that we will be lacking carpet in Chengdu, I really wanted this big, fluffy rug for my new home. I had talked about it with Thad ahead of time and he said he was indifferent. So, it was off to the rug rack one more time to stare and them and try to make a decision. (Thad will tell you that this is a key part of all of my large purchases. Staring at them. It is as though I think if I look at it long enough, a light bulb will appear above my head telling me what I should do. There might also be a hope that if I stand there long enough, the price will magically go down.)
After a few minutes of staring and a consultation with Mom, I decided we were going to go for it. We had the minivan, after all! The rugs were all rolled and stacked on their ends in a giant box. Out of the four colors available, three of them were easily accessible from the edges of the holding crate. But wouldn’t you know it? The one I liked the most (there was only one!) was in the far back corner. Luckily, we brought the muscles with us! Dad abandoned the cart, leaving Mom to guard the precious stores of pudding cups and Mountain Dew, to dig out the one and only pretty mottled-brown rug from the back of the display. This meant pulling out about five other rugs, digging the last one out of the back of the box and then returning the previous five to their original holding pen. Thank goodness we brought Dad along! There is no way Mom and I would have been able to do that without creating a chaotic mess.
With my lovely rug piled on top of the goods, it was time to bid adios to Costco and head home, in hopes of finding a place to store all this randomness until mid-May. The mo-partment seems to be getting smaller by the day. The little-used dining room table is now totally off-limits, as it has become a make-shift pantry. (Just a few days after the Costco run, I bought a small cabinet at the Eastern Market, which will be fabulous in our home in China, but is currently sitting in the middle of my living room.)
I now have one more thing ready to check of my “getting ready” list, but maybe more importantly, I can cross “minivan” off my list of vehicles to operate. (Okay, technically I’d have to add it first, as it was never on the list, but you get the idea.) Now, how can I get my hands on a Zamboni?