We all do it on occasion. An intended 10-minute, two-item trip often turns into a forty-five minute, still empty basket, nothing accomplished, sliver of an afternoon. Understandably, a simple greeting would be sufficient, yet it rarely turns into that when a quick trip to Highland Park is necessary. Hence, the occasional use for The Highland Dodge.
When I first moved to Suffield and experienced known residents giving me The Highland Dodge I was a tad offended. Now that I’ve been up and down Main Street a bit, I get it. How many times do you come home to a disaster of a house? You haven’t been home in days, maybe even weeks ... all you can think about is a hot shower, sleeping in your own bed, picking up some fresh half and half for your morning coffee, and a few other essentials to get you through the next few days.
Hair is in a hat, mustard on your shirt, a day or two of unwanted hair growth ... Did you put on deodorant today? You grab the keys and head up to Highland Park Market.
Pulling into the parking lot, it’s essential to quickly survey the area. Observing familiar cars of known motor mouths can at least prepare you for food aisle strategy. If all is clear, put the sunglasses on, lean back, grab a handful of reusable grocery bags and head to the automatic golden gates of Highland Park Market.
Upon walking in, quickly glance around the store for familiar faces ... if none are present, fill your little hand basket in secret and get what you need. If the deli counter is on your agenda, plan accordingly. This particular area of the store is the most time consuming.
If you run into someone who has the gift-to-gab, you’re trapped ... at least temporarily. So prepare yourself for conversations and topics such as overpriced college tuition, summer vacations with family, recent deaths, grandchildren, the weather, the cheapest home heating oil, home repairs and local gossip.
Take note. Most of your friends have children well beyond the baby stage, so I like to think of the baby aisle as “the green zone,” a safe location for anyone in your chat-free address book.
Be cautious around the produce section. If the motorized cheetah, toucan and monkey decide to randomly screech, realize that you will no longer be anonymous.
Sometimes great lengths are taken to avoid seeing chatty individuals. Practices such as remaining in the car, unnecessary trips to the restroom, timing aisle rotation and avoiding eye contact are a few known Highland Dodge strategies. Try to look natural and not overexaggerate the faux surprise look when the inevitable greetings and salutations do occur. (Onlooking fellow Highland Dodgers can spot it a mile away).
Don’t get me wrong, shopping at Highland Park is mostly a joy. Usually when I pop in, I’m genuinely happy to see everyone from town.
It’s just those certain days — those too busy days, like those days after returning from a trip ... after hours of a butt-numbing drive, with a land-mine filled laundry room, a refrigerator with expired milk. Then, you just need to get in and get out — and nobody gets hurt.