Have you ever been so distracted by your thoughts you just function automatically? You know, you arrive at work only to realize you don’t remember much of the 30-minute commute? Or you get out of the shower and can’t remember whether you used conditioner?

Well, it happened to me yesterday in the grocery store. I’d just had a long lunch with a brave, strong, funny woman who I’d been wanting to meet and was thinking about that. I was also thinking about the next twist in my plot and that maybe I’d figured out how to handle it better. And about the three new paperbacks I just put in the cart and wondering when I was going to find time to read them. And about the book I need to read before that online class starts on Wednesday. And making a mental note — yeah, like that works — to call a roofer on Monday. And then I remembered I’m having out-of-town company week after next. And. . . well, I was distracted.

This is usually not a problem in the grocery store. I don’t know why I even bother to make a list, because I could dig one out of the bottom of my purse from three months ago and it would be pretty much identical to one from a year ago. Unless I’m making something special, like fudge or lasagna, and even then it will just say “fudge stuff” or “lasagna ingr.” because I know what goes into each and that’s all the reminder I need.

The problem is that my relatively new routine of cooking for one now that both kids are off at college hasn’t become ingrained habit when it comes to grocery shopping. I still have to remind myself not to buy Pringles, for instance, because I don’t eat them.

So I got to the checkout and was a bit startled by the total. I wondered whether the person behind me had slipped a whole tenderloin across into my stuff, except when I looked no one was there. I became increasingly concerned as I loaded all those bags into the car. And somewhat alarmed by how many trips it took to lug them all in to the house.

I had intended to get some cans of cat food and a few of those little white boxes I’ve recently discovered. You know, the ones that contain a plastic dish of low-fat, low-calorie, no-cholesterol, high-fiber, nutritionally balanced food you shove in the microwave for four minutes and it doesn’t taste half-bad if you don’t think about it or look at it too closely and no one is going to complain about it and it sure makes life easier after a long day at work and why the hell hadn’t I tried this sooner? Those. Just what had I bought, anyway?

Well, short answer, enough food to last a good long while. Unless the kids come home again soon, then it might last two days. Real food. Food I’m going to have to do something with other than shove it in the microwave. Sigh. At least I won’t have to shop again for a while.

Except I realized this morning — I forgot to buy Halloween candy.

Maybe I can turn off all the lights and pretend I’m not home Tuesday night? All that door-answering is really going to cut into my reading time. And if I’m writing, chances are good I won’t even hear the doorbell.

No, I’m going to have to go to the store again. Anyone have any tips on how to focus?


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3 responses to “Auto-Pilot

  1. rssasrb

    Can’t help you there BCB. I’d find myself at my destination without remembering how I got there even before I started writing. Now. It’s scary.

    Last weekend I went to the grocery store and picked up crackers and milk. Scanned the ice cream aisle for Low Fat Cherry Garcia which is the only reason I went into that store. Then didn’t have it so I put the cart back and left. It was two days later that I remembered I’d already put the milk and crackers in the cart. I hope someone found the milk.


  2. Jen-t

    BCB – Welcome to my world! I’m always on auto-pilot! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been driving and then all of sudden panic and turn around to make sure I have all my kids. Yeah, I just go about life in like a daze sometimes going from one place to the next. But I think my stems from the fact that I still have three kids living under my roof and none of them drive yet and they all have lives and I don’t.

    Glad you had a nice lunch. Get me some Candy while you are at the grocery store, thank you.


  3. Margaret


    I thought I was the only one you had lunch with that day!!

    A FINE lunch it was, too, and I’d love to do it again.

    Am still ogling my book and showing it off to anyone who’ll look. Thankyouthankyouthankyou!!