Around this time of year, we are reminded of what the Pilgrims endured to be able to make it to the First Thanksgiving table. We are encouraged to contrast those lean and dangerous times with the abundance and security we enjoy, and urged not to take the good things of life for granted — For the meal we are about to receive, may we be truly grateful.
One of my personal citadels of abundance and gratitude is COSTCO, mecca for everything from food to eyeglasses to socks to TVs to tires, much of it in quantities intended for medium-sized army units or polygamous families. COSTCO is membership-only, but easier of entry — at $50 and a measurable pulse — than your average country club.
The COSTCO I shop at is enormous, housed in a building that, if World War III should break out, could shelter a small fleet of Stealth bombers or, if we’re talking about more limited hostilities, six or seven hockey rinks.
But, as filled with stuff as it is, COSTCO is not a temple of conspicuous consumption. We COSTCO shoppers are an abstemious bunch, whose indulgences go instead to vast acres of pantry, refrigerator, and freezer space. We find our savings, not in coupons, but in bulk. And, many of us are immigrants (I have heard shoppers speaking Russian, Hebrew, Arabic, Chinese, and Spanish and what I’m guessing is Urdu, Amharic, Korean, and maybe even Mongolian). In whatever language, members’ mantra is — For the bargains we are about to receive, may we be truly grateful.
COSTCO and Thanksgiving seem made for each other. Enormous turkeys and hams, large pre-baked pumpkin pies, cartons of mashed potato mix, weighty tins of cranberry sauce, half-yard-long loaves of bread, gallons of gravy makings, bushels of brussel sprouts. Economists have calculated that the minimum possible purchase of these and the other necessary ingredients would feed two volleyball teams for six days. That’s why they call it wholesale.
In the coming week, COSTCO shoppers will not need to go the gym. They will get sufficient weight-lifting exercise from hefting turkeys into Mack truck-sized carts and more back and leg exercise pushing these vehicles through miles of aisles than a lineman gets in an entire football game. Shoppers’ acuity and agility will be tested as they try to steer and turn their fully laden carts past each other, without benefit of brakes or escape ramps.
I, however, will celebrate Thanksgiving at COSTCO more modestly. I’ll table-hop, not in their little cafeteria, but in the aisles where little old ladies pop up out of nowhere, hawking their spinach ravioli with olive oil, their chicken nugget with orange sauce, their corn chip with salsa, and their chai. If they should happen to have a little slice of drumstick, a small cup of mashed potato with gravy, and a tiny wedge of pumpkin pie, that’s fine. But if it’s spinach ravioli or a corn chip with salsa, also fine. Like Thanksgiving itself, I welcome all the world’s culinary traditions.
Just so the serving ladies don’t get too suspicious, I’ll break up my rounds by picking up some socks and a down-filled jacket and getting a new pair of glasses. But, even if they see beyond my new outfit and specs, I don’t think they’ll mind. They’re always filled with the spirit of giving.
I will, of course, purchase a few items. I would never take gratuitous advantage of COSTCO’s largesse, especially on Thanksgiving. And, as I’m being checked out, I will honor the occasion quietly but appropriately — For the meal and the discounts I have received, I am truly grateful.