By: Rachna Shah


I may never have been skydiving or crowd surfing, but I have seen both horrific and beautiful things in my day. Vivid images that will haunt me and scar my retinas for eternity...

...because where I come from, grocery shopping is a dangerous sport.

If you ever wish to witness unadulterated insanity, you should go to a local grocery store and linger around the fresh fruits and vegetables. It is a frenzy where the winner takes all (technically inaccurate, but trivialities will have to wait).

When an employee comes by with fresh boxes of okra, you do not want to be left out. The poor soul barely has enough time to unload the goods before the angry hordes descend upon the okra like a plague of locusts. Look out for those insane beady-eyed mothers and grandmothers glaring at the employee, craning their necks over the carts to see what fresh groceries have yet to be unloaded in all of their yummy goodness.

It happens in stages. First, the initial sighting. The unsuspecting employee naively heads over to the display area. As he begins to unload the new produce, he notices a slow but steady increase in his audience. Their well-trained Vulcan senses are activated, and they look so hungry that they might just end up devouring the employee if he does not move out of the way fast enough. Because, you see, behind the worker waits pounds and pounds of fresh okra, straight from wherever okra comes from. The shining beacon of crisp okra gleams in its newness. The worker unloads the goods as quickly as humanly possible and flees the scene, often entrapped by the okra-hunters.

Then begins the madness. Having gotten rid of the worker, the plague descends. If you are fortunate enough to have found a good picking spot, you find yourself engulfed in a mad sea of frenzied activity. It is too late for second thoughts and doubts saying, "Is this really how I wanted to spend my Saturday?" No, you pick for dear life. Pick or you die. Pick or you will get shoved into the corner, along with that stray, bruised okra.

You begin to envy those with years of okra picking experience, those who casually fling back okra that is not perfect in every way and accumulate all of the good okra in their bags. You become despondent, wondering if you will even be able to pick a pound before the throes have disassembled the entire store. But then your agility miraculously improves. Suddenly, your own bags become heavy, full with the fruits of your labor. You no longer feel the pricks piercing your fingertips. You pick okra with both hands, and with all of the other hands reaching around you, you feel like the lord of the okra.

Eventually the group of okra reapers disperses, leaving behind the remnant carcasses for those not as daring. The scavengers war with each other, while the spectators watch in disgust.

And you? You walk away with the spoils, the "best okra of all," grinning shamelessly. You are a glowing pool of inextinguishable light, the triumphant victor of all mankind...

...and then the new batch of Manila mangos comes in.

Ad infinitum.


Rachna is a 16-year-old from Barrington, Illinois.