Tuesday, January 13, 2009

$2.78 worth of Joy

It doesn't take much to make me happy. One of my favorite rituals is going to Costco for lunch. Certainly, getting a pizza slice and soda for only $2.78 is a great deal, but there's much more to it than that. For this simple soul, there is something much more sublime about my weekly pilgrimage to that 'Hallowed Warehouse'. (Here, I am pictured happily purchasing my economical lunch. If you had a powerful magnifying glass you could indeed verify the negligible cost of my magnificent meal).

First of all, there's that feeling of privilege as you flash your membership card at the door. While it is true that just about anyone can pay the nominal fee for a membership, it still feels rather important and exclusive. "Well, at least we don't let any of those 'Smart & Final' losers in here!" I think, as I cruise past the featured items near the door.

Next, there is dining, chez Costco. There are two (very successful) eating establishments that have very limited menus in the Southland. The first is In-N-Out, and the other is Costco. Of course, it used to be only hot dogs (or polish dogs) but lately the diversity has positively gotten out of control with the addition of pizza, salads, deserts, turkey wraps, and even the mysterious Chicken Bake. As you can see, I'm a solid pizza and soda guy. The slices are huge and I favor the combo toppings. Despite that, one slice is not-quite-enough for my robust metabolism. But that's OK. You see, at Costco, the meal has only just begun when the pizza is done! I head out into the bowels of the warehouse where the famous Costco samples await. Each week, I enjoy a new culinary adventure. Who knows what goodies will complete my meal?

I have learned that I should start at the back of the store and work my way forward. This way, I can nearly simulate a typical 4 course meal. The back often features meat samples such as pot roast, sausage, or baked salmon. Yum! As I work my way forward I eagerly cruise past the frozen section where various prepared foods are my second sample course: ravioli, mini-pizza bites, teriyaki bowl, for example. The next section features somewhat pedestrian items such as yogurt, flavored rice, or soup. I try a few of these but I'm really looking forward to the section near the registers. There wonderful cookies, chocolates, or chopped up energy bars await. Sometimes, I even dine on nuts, gummy bears, or fruit-roll-up samples. It's the perfect way to finish off the feast. Life is like Costco samples; you never know what you're gonna get.

Not only is my weekly trip appetizing, but it's also good fun. Unfortunately, some of my fun comes at the expense of the earnest sample people. I am not sure what labor pool the samplers are drawn from but, at the very least, they are not culinary experts. Still, they are given a list of the important attributes of their particular food product which they are instructed to triumphantly declare to you as you pass by: "All Sugar-free, an eez in 3 flavors!", "Only 11.3 ounces for $4.75!", or "Dis chicken eez made from de all natural products!" It's never quite right. (On the left, I interact with this gentleman about the various merits of his cookies). Since they seem like experts, I'll often, for my own amusement, press them for further information, "Ah! These Belgian chocolates are excellent!" I'll say, "Do you prefer them to the French?" The honest ones say "I do not know, but zay are reelly good!". And, indeed, they are and I end up buying a package or two of them. I have this funny feeling that there's a good chance my "free" lunch often translates to increased sales for Costco. So, who is really having their lunch eaten?

I look forward to my time at Costco each week. I'm not the only one. There is a fraternal bond for those who know the 'secret' of Costco. We sit smiling knowingly at one another. There's a mystery to it. Why, for example, in this indoor environment, are there Hebrew National umbrellas over the tables? The conversation is casual and lighthearted but deep down we know that we are sharing something very special . . . and all for only $2.78! Are you missing out on joy?

1 comment:

DianaW said...

Great read, great way w/words! When u publish, rqst signed copy.