The deadline for entries to the 2022 Erma Bombeck Humor Essay Contest was yesterday. They’ll accept only one essay per person, so I had to choose between two of my favorite pandemic-related pieces. Below is the one I didn’t submit:


How do I love our hometown grocery?  Let me count the ways!  Local produce.  Freshly roasted coffee beans.  Housemade tortilla chips.  Twenty-piece buckets of fried chicken for $11.99.  Real, live cashiers.  Paper bags.  It has only two drawbacks.  One is the international aisle, sponsored by La Choy and Old El Paso, which lacks key ingredients for every ethnic recipe I’ve ever clipped from the New York Times.  Ask the stock boy where to find umami paste and he’ll say, “Um… on Amazon?”  The other is having to dodge horny widowers who think “Senior Hour” means “Tinder for the Elderly.”

A few days before Halloween, I pop in first thing in the morning to grab some necessities.  I’ve forgotten 7-8 am is Senior Hour.  I’m not technically old enough to shop then, but I quit coloring my hair years ago, so no one is the wiser.     

In canned goods, a player in a buttoned-up cardigan pushes a cart with a marked-down grapefruit in the front that is already attracting fruit flies.  “Excuse me, pretty lady,” he winks.  “Are these the beans that are on sale?”  He points to a tall pyramid of store-brand baked beans next to a fluorescent yellow sign that reads SALE—59¢.  I nod and watch him load eight, ten, twelve cans into his cart.  He clears his throat as if to continue the conversation and I skedaddle, as would any sensible woman who finds herself too close to a cheapskate who might spontaneously combust.

In the snack aisle, I’m approached by a casanova with bird legs and a low-hanging belly not fully covered by his shirt.  He appears to be cheating on Lorna Doone.  With Little Debbie.  He leans in close and stage-whispers, “Are you gonna eat all that candy corn by yourself?”

Two more are prowling in Frozen Foods.  The one wearing a flannel shirt has a stack of Hungry Man fried chicken dinners in his basket and says, for no apparent reason, “I’m a breast man.”  Not to be outdone, the other one squints through his bifocals in the direction of my cart and says, “I sure would like to get a closer look at those pot pies.” 

Me and my pot pies sprint to the end of the aisle and squeal around the corner so fast we almost bump into the stock boy, who’s arranging tortilla chips and jars of salsa on an endcap. 

“Hey, ma’am!” he says brightly.  “Did you ever find that tsunami paste you were looking for?”

I can’t tell if he’s clueless or a comedian-in-training, but it’s the best line I’ve heard all day.  Hey, I might even share my candy corn. 

20 thoughts on “THE ONE THAT GOT AWAY

  1. churchmousie January 5, 2022 / 9:32 am

    This was hilarious! I am a bona fide senior, and I haven’t enjoyed the adventures you have. I am only a little sorry, since I could always use a good snicker or two.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Just Joan January 5, 2022 / 11:53 am

      Our town has a lot of older people and like me, they prefer a small grocery with old-fashioned amenities. I don’t know why, but I have always been a man-magnet for guys in their sunset years. I’ve been out of the dating scene for decades so I’m not sure if “pot pies” is a euphemism for something, or maybe I was just blocking his view of the frozen case.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. vhnieset January 5, 2022 / 9:35 am

    I like your essay. If you skipped this one, your entry must be really great. Hope you win.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Just Joan January 5, 2022 / 11:57 am

      Thanks, Mom. It was hard to choose. I’m going to this year’s Erma conference gratis (for my 2020 essay) so in my mind, I’ve already won.


  3. judyrutrider January 5, 2022 / 10:12 am

    And where did you say you shop? I haven’t had that kind of attention in years though once I washed my hair and put on a bra and a guy at Costco made a guileless comment about my appearance. It made my day. In fact, since then, I almost always wear supporting undergarments when shopping at Costco. Almost always…

    Liked by 2 people

    • Just Joan January 5, 2022 / 12:00 pm

      JRR, you crack me up. Catcalls in Costco, where every guy is a bargain hunter and baked beans are always purchased by the case. The ones that chase you are probably on mountain bikes.


  4. Tippy Gnu January 5, 2022 / 11:03 am

    I guess when you go shopping, you’re not interested in carrots and brussel sprouts.

    So it’s that time of year again. I like this essay, and agree with vhnieset. I think Erma would have liked it, too. I’ve got my fingers crossed that your other essay will be the winning entry.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Just Joan January 5, 2022 / 12:04 pm

      Tippy, “vhnieset” is my mom. I like carrots and brussel sprouts, but flirtatious old raisins? Not so much. Hope my essay gave you a few new lines to try out on the gray-haired babes at a grocery near you.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Tippy Gnu January 5, 2022 / 12:16 pm

        Well, this goes to show that your mother’s honest, unbiased opinion is a positive one.

        I might try those lines out on my wife. But even if I was single, I doubt I’d try them on the gray-haired babes at the supermarket. They might just call my bluff.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. thewordmavens January 5, 2022 / 11:48 am

    this is very funny! and good… I second the thought that your entry must be great.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Just Joan January 5, 2022 / 12:07 pm

      Thanks, wordmaven. The other essay is very different. Erma B is all about clean humor and I wasn’t sure if “sharing one’s candy corn” or “getting a closer look at someone’s pot pies” would cross the line.


  6. kegarland January 5, 2022 / 1:18 pm


    If this is the one you chose not to submit, I can’t wait to read your winning piece lol

    Liked by 1 person

    • Just Joan January 5, 2022 / 2:06 pm

      Thanks, KE. It will be Feb/March when the contest results are made public. I’ll keep you guys posted.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Ursula Kender January 5, 2022 / 5:58 pm

    LOVE YOUR WORK! You can come up with the most real stories that make us laugh or worry!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Just Joan January 5, 2022 / 8:44 pm

      Hi Ursula! Truth can be stranger than fiction. During a pandemic, where can you meet new people other than the grocery store and the doctor’s office?


  8. Virginia Costello January 5, 2022 / 6:16 pm

    I will share this with my widowed senior citizen friend who wants to know where to meet eligible men. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    • Just Joan January 5, 2022 / 8:49 pm

      There are eligible men out there, but do you really want them coveting your candy corn or staring at your pot pies?


  9. murisopsis January 5, 2022 / 11:12 pm

    Hahahaha! You got me laughing and I even snorted!! The men at the grocery are like sharks – minus the teeth! anyway I’m thrilled that you are posting again!! I take it that you found the classic editor drop down??

    Liked by 1 person

    • Just Joan January 6, 2022 / 7:07 am

      Thanks, Muri. Laughs are good, snorts are extra good. I got frustrated looking and just used block editor. Where is classic editor hiding? As far as me being “back,” I doubt I’ll be blogging regularly. I have two other writing projects planned.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Alison April 30, 2022 / 10:37 pm

    Oh now I have to read your submission. This is hysterical!

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.