I'm going back to college. It's a requirement necessary to my very survival. I feel inadequately prepared to deal with the most basic tool of life. I apparently missed a course, perhaps chemistry, perhaps nutrition, perhaps economic sociology and its impact on third world nations. Whatever it was, without the proper knowledge I fear the grievous error, and its consequences, of purchasing the wrong cereal. Yes, you heard me...cereal.
It's the longest aisle in the grocery store, it's the section with the most selections of one basic product. It's the place I spend the most time whenever I venture into the capitalistic world of the supermarket. Cereal decisions command my intelligence, demand my attention, and ruin my shopping psyche. Just when I think I've got this shopping thing down to a science, just when I've managed to maneuver the cart through the store at record speed filling it with all manner of delectable doings destined for my culinary genius in the kitchen. Just when I know with absolute certainty what is the best buy and the most nutritious of the choices splayed out before me.
I enter...THE CEREAL AISLE...*cue twilight zone music*
I am quite literally owned by a box of Cheerios®. Do I want them plain, or with frosting...or with nuts, honey, multi-grains?? Then do I buy THEM or the store brand? Do I stand there and compare vitamin, sodium, and sugar content, weigh that with the price/weight/and amount of crushed powder in the bottom of each brand?
Shall my Wheaties® be coated or not, nutted or plain, with or without raisins? And then...whose picture do I want staring out at me in the wee hours of the morning? A basketball player? Perhaps a gymnast to remind me that I shouldn't be shoveling in the crunchies instead of forsaking some early AM crunches?
Is it important that it stays crunchy longest? Will I pour my cereal and go participate in full contact origami while it sits absorbing the milk? Or will I be so sleepy that I don't notice if it's even in milk, much less soggy?
What shape do I desire? Do I want an autobiographical flake? Should I illustrate my wishes hopes and dreams by munching on stars and hearts? Or perhaps a circle...a ball...a square? If it resembles a cookie will I feel sated in my lust for dessert?
Add nuts? Add dried fruit? Add marshmallows? Do I want it to talk to me? Snap, Crackle, Pop? Do I have to talk back to it? Shall it contain wheat... or rice...or barley...or wheat that looks like rice and tastes like barley? I never knew cocoa could puff...or that fruit could loop.
And what exactly IS a 'grape nut'?
Is wheat more nutritious when it's shredded and not flaked? Or baked? Or shaped into little people shapes? Do I want it whole, or cracked, or in amber waves?
Is there a home for people to go when they retire from a life of naming cereals? They can't be normal anymore. Can you imagine dreaming each night of ad campaigns? Being chased by giant honeycombs? Waking up with the taste of fake blueberry balls in your mouth? Wondering what to name a cereal that looks like a body part, tastes like a sock, and costs the equivalent of a steak dinner?
Ultimately every cereal must be able to be transformed into another edible substance, whether it be snack, dinner, or dessert. It must have a second existence, a chance at forging into your life past the breakfasting hour. Chex® Mix, Rice Krispie® Squares, Honey Nut Chicken, BRAN PUDDING?????
Now, that's a whole new level of fear.
The Sci Fi world is missing out on a great movie here...'Revenge of the Lucky Charms'...Leprechauns take over the world armed with marshmallow weapons, wreaking havoc in cereal bowls everywhere....It's Magically Malicious! 'Star Puffs'...The Next Graineration'! Granola Gremlins! Attack of the Killer Kix!
Even oatmeal has not escaped the wrath of the cereal killers! Good old stick to your ribs keep you warm on a snowy day just like grandma used to make has been violated. Cinnamon and spice I can handle...I add that myself. A few nuts and raisins aren't a problem either. It's the fake fruit that is supposed I suppose to soften upon cooking? The stuff that takes on the consistency and taste of a rubber eraser and will likely be the only survivor of a nuclear holocaust.
Yes, I've eaten rubber erasers, I try to experience life in all ways. Not quite as good as playdough, but far better than Sugar Smacks®, which should be outlawed in humid climates. I've yet to find a bowl big enough to hold the entire cereal box shaped rectangle of these little puppies once they stick together. Families the world over gather around the table to carve the Sugar Smack® block. "Honey can you get the ax please?"
My cupboards are a living testament to both my indecision and the desire of my family to have a variety in their life. I am blessed with a child who thinks leftovers are the scourge of the devil, therefore a box of cereal open for more than a few days must be stale. No matter that I've nearly super glued it back to FDA safety standards. No matter that you nearly cut yourself with the sharp crispness of the cereal edges. It's open, it's stale, it becomes Mom's snack food while sitting at the computer. Everyone else is in the cookie jar, I'm in the cereal box. So I have to buy things that taste good eaten by the handful...dry...and whose crumbs look good embedded in my keyboard.
So, here I stand, my ice cream melting, my meat turning brown around the edges, the lights dimming as the workers scurry to clean up and close the store... here I am in this now deserted aisle, as lonely as if I was on a deserted isle...wondering... comparing... daring to take a chance on LIFE®.
At least when I finally get to the checkout, I won't have trouble choosing between paper or plastic. I'm bi-sacksual.