Having lived here for a whole year, I have now cycled through every season and, with the exception of Christmas and New Year's, all the Chilean holidays at least once.
Tomorrow is Día del Trabajador, Labor Day. It is a big deal here. Because it falls on a Tuesday this year, many people are enjoying a four-day weekend. I had a vague recollection of this holiday, something whispering in the back of my mind about getting over to Lider early today to avoid the crowds.
Lider will be closed tomorrow and even closes at 7pm tonight, instead of the usual 9 or 10pm, in anticipation of tomorrow. I remembered this and was going to go over there in between my Spanish lesson and my coffee date, but my Spanish teacher arrived 45 minutes late and, by the time we were finished, I had forgotten all about going to Lider.
On the way home from having coffee with my friend, I remembered that I really needed to pick up a few essentials-- eggs, bread, salad, wine, always essential. I looked at my watch, 6:45. Oh, how I didn't want to go in there at that hour!
When I crossed the street and plowed my way through the people at the bus stop and the milling throng outside Lider, my worst fears were confirmed. Everybody and his brother was standing in the check-out lines or squeezing past the people standing in the check-out lines which were snaking down every aisle.
There were no carts or baskets to be had. Oh well, first stop, veggie aisle. I grabbed one of the last three cartons of "instant salad," inched my way past the meat section where one lonely package of chicken sat next to the remaining packet of ground beef.
I fought my way back to the egg area which was relatively tranquil until I turned the corner into the bread section. People were three deep, jostling for position in front of the marraqueta.
"Forget it," I said out loud.
I carried on to the liquor area. By now, I was juggling a box of salad, a carton of eggs, a bottle of wine, packet of crackers, and a couple of other things. The check-out line was all the way back to the middle of the store in front of the crackers. Figuring all the lines were the same, I got in line behind a woman who also had her items in her hands.
We both eyed the shopping cart that the stock boy was using to refill the cracker section. Two men who were with the woman showed up then, arms full too.
When the stock boy left to help someone find an item in another aisle, all four of us looked at each other and, as one, started putting our items in his cart on top of the unopened boxes of crackers.
That lasted until he came back a few minutes later and insisted that we remove everything.
As we ooched our way up the aisle, one of the men disappeared. When he reappeared, he was pushing an empty cart. I don't know who he mugged to get it, but we were all very grateful to him.
We filled it up immediately and all chatted together while waiting 30 minutes to reach the check-out stand.
They ended up in one line and I, in another. The second man gallantly insisted on helping me with my things since majority rules and the cart went with them. He patiently stood in line with me until I reached the conveyor belt where we dumped it all.
After waiting so long, checking out went very fast. I shoved my way out the door where a guard wished me a pleasant evening and I ran across the street with my few items. Was it worth standing in line for so little? I'll remind myself to be grateful when I have eggs for breakfast and salad for lunch over the next couple of days.
And by this time next year, I will probably have forgotten it and will be standing in line at the 11th hour all over again.