Midnight Express Lane

In bed last night I felt an overwhelming need. I turned to my husband and said, “Honey, I need—chocolate.” An earlier foraging mission revealed the kitchen was bare, not even a pair of half-nibbled rabbit ears left over from Easter. “Would you do        an emergency run?”

He pulled the covers over his head and mumbled, “Remember to leave the porch light on.”

“Fine!” Ten minutes later I stood in the chocolate aisle at Pavilions—a decidedly religious experience. Fingering my beaded change purse, I chanted my mantra: Cadbury, Lindt, Van Houten, Godiva—the divinities of chocolate worshipers.

With my choice of sins before me, I narrowed my selection to either a milk chocolate Cadbury bar with almonds or a dark chocolate Lindt bar with mocha filling. Weighing my two choices—the dark and the light—Plato’s Theory of Opposites flashed through my brain. I don’t know why. It did nothing to help me decide.

For sheer creamy size, Cadbury won. I clutched the bar close to my heart and ran to the express lane. Three people stood in line ahead of me. I wished I’d gotten a basket. The chocolate was melting in my hands, not in my mouth.

What strange cravings had possessed normal-looking citizens to get into their cars and pay midnight homage to Pavilions?

One man gripped a tall can of beef jerky. I could go a lifetime and never need a piece of jalapeno-flavored shoe leather, but from the look of desperation on his face, he was struggling not to rip open the can right there.

A teenage boy had a six-pack of Coke and a bag of Doritos. You can walk into any grocery, day or night and find a teenager with a pack of Coke and a bag of Doritos. My favorite desperate shopper got in line behind me. The young woman must have had a big night planned. She had only two items: Summer’s Eve and sushi. Yes, grocery-store sushi. Talk about desperation.

The woman in front of me clutched a one-pound bag of M&Ms—plain, not peanut—obviously a purist. Our eyes met briefly and we exchanged a knowing smile.

All of us in the midnight express lane shared one thing—we looked guilty. I nervously searched for anyone who might recognize me and devised an alibi in case of capture. “My husband asked me to get this for him.”

The Express Lane cashier said to the woman in front of me, “I hope you’re not going to eat all these tonight.”

The shopper cringed. “No, no. I’m baking cookies for work tomorrow.”

I believed her; it’s a known fact that Americans will put M&Ms in anything. “What would you like on your baked potato, Sir? Butter, sour cream, M&Ms?”

“Then why is the bag half eaten?”

My God, I thought. What is she going to say to Miss Summer’s Eve and sushi?

My years of stealth shopping paid off and I managed to get to the register without being spotted. The cashier rang up my Cadbury bar, then said in a voice reminiscent of a cheerleader on a blow horn, “Having a chocolate attack, I see? Want a bag or will you eat it on your way home?”

“A bag, please.” Did she think I had no self-control? I can wait. Really. I can.

I managed not to shout, “Who made you the food police?” No, I smiled calmly and remembered the words of a wise friend who said, “A sin is not what goes into your mouth, it’s what comes out.”