Show of hands — Who’s playing grocery store Monopoly?
OK, now keep your hand up if you’re also heading straight to Aisle 12 to smash your head against the freezer door until the Hot Pockets rain down like black hell. The headache you’ll have is what I feel like when I “shop, play, win, exclamation point.”
Grocery store Monopoly is why I might possibly never amount to anything. It’s why I may never write the novel of my dreams (literally, I have an idea for a novel based on a dream I had where I went to the wedding in a mansion that was so big, there was a Sephora store in the house), and it’s why I may never reach my reading goal of fifty-two books for 2018, or why I’ll always be two assignments short of completing the Master Classes I’ve taken. Instead of focusing on those worthy accomplishments, I’m in my Lair matching up tiny strips of paper to a Monopoly board, licking the backs and pressing them onto rectangles shaped like snacks and household cleaners.
You might be asking, what’s the problem with that? Um, how much time do you have?
It starts out all unicorns and rainbows, with the cashier at Safeway cheerfully asking, “Do you play Monopoly?” I’m guessing that in this fourth or fifth year of this promotion that they get a lot of pent-up anger from past years, because when I say, “Yes, actually I am playing Monopoly this year,” they get all gushy and hand over way too many Monopoly game tickets.
One week, the cashier looked at my receipt and said, “Great news — you’ve earned 20 game pieces” and then he reached into a drawer and handed me a rubber-banded stack of 160 game pieces.
“This seems about right,” he said.
Nothing about this is right. Nothing at all.
I thanked him, put the game tickets onto a forklift, took them to my house and put them on my work table, with all the other meaningless projects that have at one time or another seemed like a fun thing to get started on. Coupons that need to be cut and sorted so that they can expire in an organized fashion. Dog-eared Connecting Threads catalogs with kits I want to order. Old photos that I want to mat and frame. Cardboard coasters from bars all over the country that would make a cool bulletin board if I ever had the time and could find the glue gun. But at least if I ever got around to doing those projects, I’d have something to show for it. Playing grocery store Monopoly is not going to win me a million dollar vacation home, a luxury car, a kitchen makeover, or even a “family picnic.” I don’t even hold out hope for the $5 cash, the equivalent of that plum starter property Mediterranean Avenue, which I always suspected was slated to be razed because a check cashing store was coming in. Grocery store Monopoly is going to get me jack squat.
So of course I’m playing this year.
Two previous years I had false starts. Collected the game tickets with high hopes and then lost interest. This year was going to be different. I was going to get myself downstairs, turn on some TV and figure out what this game was all about. Who knows, if I spend enough time down there I might find the glue gun.
The game tickets had been accumulating for several weeks on my work table. So getting started was quite a project. It took me two episodes of Sneaky Pete to rip off the perforated edges and open up each game ticket, revealing the three game pieces and a coupon of some type. It took me one Jake Tapper explaining Pennsylvania counties’ rules for tallying absentee ballots and one-and-a-half Hoarders: Buried Alive to separate out the three game pieces. By the time the fifth cat skeleton was tossed into the Could Maybe Live Without pile, I had organized the tiny game pieces into plastic cups sorted by number groupings.
Then came the time to start playing the board. I cracked my knuckles and loosened up my neck. This was as close to Vegas poker as I was going to get.
It wasn’t as cool as I thought it was going to be. Real Monopoly is a lot more fun, even though the money is fake and the chance that you’ll win anything real is zilch. (Also my husband made me cry once when we were dating and stuck in a lake cottage during a thunderstorm that lasted about 72 hours and he played Mean Boy Extortion Monopoly and almost lost his chance to be married to me. The whole experience left me with a bad taste in my mouth for all board games, most forms of recreation, and long engagements.)
But grocery store Monopoly has problems of its own. For one thing, the board isn’t set up right. It starts at GO but quickly becomes nonsensical. The board is ordered by number in chunky blocks and not like you would breeze through a game board at all. So when you peer through your magnifying glass to read that the game piece is 137FU, to place it you have to know that 137FU comes right after 144SL. And that makes even less sense than a short monocled man going from jail to owning a major utility.
Playing the grocery store Monopoly board requires concentration. You can’t do it on auto-pilot. I did not sign up for this shit. It’s almost as if Safeway doesn’t want me to play Monopoly and watch TV at the same time.
“Why are you even doing this?” my husband asked me in the car on our way home from a grocery trip, as I was lining up my game ticket loot into a neat stack, perforated edges ready to be ripped when I got home. “I thought you didn’t do these grocery store promotions.”
“No, I said I don’t do box tops or Campbell Soup labels. I don’t care if it would get the school a whole fleet of flying buses, the day I stopped cutting pieces out of everything in our pantry was a day my life improved. And once the kids realized that eventually everybody in school gets a pizza party for something, even they cut me some slack.”
I just found out this game goes on into May. That’s almost two more months of ripping off those perforated edges and looking for the now one missing piece from each section that will score me bigly. I don’t know if I have the patience for this. When do we get to the “win” part of “shop, play, win?”
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