Adjusting to Alaska life

Bring on the bears and the snow, just lower the prices a little

Posted: Sunday, December 05, 2004

Bitter, but still sweet, and salty, and fruity, and generally tasty.

Most people with a pulse choose to do something fun or relaxing or, maybe even exciting with their Sunday afternoons. Sunday afternoons are as pure as peanut butter, and rich like Rolos. They were made especially for me, a common man.

You may take my civil liberties and dangle them over my head. You may call me names. You may lie to my face. You may kick my chicken.

But if you touch my Sunday afternoons, it will take all the strength of my soul to keep from cutting you like a cold fish, metaphorically speaking of course.

Well, something finally did touch my Sundays. No, wait a tick, more like pounded them into the frozen ground with a .45 caliber submachine gun leaving my sweet Sunday bloody and battered, barely clinging to its brave little life.

Me and my Sunday have usually found grocery shopping quite enjoyable. This was my sacred bachelor time to replenish my bachelor cupboards with bachelor food. We bachelors need and cherish food more than the rest of you, which makes retrieving those precious food stuffs especially gratifying.

That is, until now.

I was not prepared for the sticker shock at the grocery store. There I was wheeling my happy feet through the aisles, being conscientious as usual, getting what I am accustomed to, plus a few things I'd never seen before.

I didn't even think to examine the price of every little thing I got. Yes, I am guilty as charged for having assumptions, and, yes, I regret my crime terribly.

Waiting in line at the register, I thought I had a pretty good idea of what the bill was to be. Not so fast, cheechako. My cashier rang it up, grinned a ghastly grin and might well have said, "Your total comes to $800 billion, and your soul. Cash or credit, sucker?"

I was ready for Alaska blizzards bringing deadly amounts of snow. I was ready for encounters with thousand-pound brown bears with my freshly honed scissor-kick.

However, I was not prepared to take out a mortgage to pay for my daily sustenance. In my former homeland in the High Plains of Kansas, a carton of eggs goes for about 70 cents. Eggs in Alaska are $2.50.

Thanks to my stellar math skills from watching "Mathnet" all those years on PBS, I find I'm paying nearly four times for the same thing. But it sure beats subsistence living.

Milk is four bucks here. Kansas milk is $2.60. Is Alaska milk better than Kansas milk? I can't say for sure, but I know I will no longer chug straight from the jug anymore, it costs too much.

So now that I'm shelling out mega bills for vital life-giving food goods, I feel I'm entitled to a better shopping experience. Here are my demands.

1. All-terrain shopping carts: The pitiless terrain of supermarket parking lots requires something a little more tough than the silly little wheels on the common cart. From the market to your car, you rattle every disc in your spine and every tooth in your skull bouncing your way across the pits and potholes and puddles in ice. All I'm looking for is a little consistency here.

We've got studded tires, snow tires, monster tires, snowshoes, ice cleats, snow boots, snow bunnies and snowmachines, all invented to make it easier to move across ice and snow.

How did the shopping cart get left behind? I find it hard to believe this technology has not yet hit the state.

2. Replace the bell ringer with a folk singer: I'm all for charity. I'm all for serenity. Let's put them together and see what we get, because getting blasted with Pavlov's screaming bell is something I try to avoid. I am not a dog. I do not salivate to the shrill of bells. I cringe.

But until these two things happen, I'll do what everybody else has been doing. I'll bear it. After all, it could be worse. In fact, it could be leaps and bounds worse.

Happy holidays.

Layton Ehmke is a reporter for the Peninsula Clarion.



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