Hot Dogs n' Samplin'

By Jarrett Bellini

I knew this was going to be a good day when we missed the Costco exit for the second straight week in a row, but didn’t get mad. Hot dogs n’ samplin’ is sort of a little tradition I have with my roommate, and, despite the fact that we do this quite regularly, it’s almost a given that a) we’ll forget to bring correct change for the toll booth and b) completely bypass the turn off from Georgia 400. We’re idiots.

But this was Christmas Eve and we had nothing better to do, so our extended road trip didn’t cause too much of a disturbance. Besides, we were just moments away from immersing ourselves in American consumer heaven – it’s the place you go when you absolutely, positivelymust fill your swimming pool with BBQ sauce. I’ve often wondered what would happen if you dropped a poor, starving child from Ethiopia in the middle of Costco. I imagine he would stare wide-eyed at a 30-gallon jar of trail mix before uttering his first English words, “You’ve got to be kidding me.”

On this particular Saturday morning, the entrance was lined with player pianos. Which is nice, because, if you’re anything like me, you’ll want to purchase your crab legs and $20,000 musical instrument in the same trip. The key, in this situation, is to cruise past the electronics section as quickly as possible, making a B-line for the back of the warehouse. That’s where the sample ladies hang out. Today, skewered on the tip our first toothpick was a small chunk of bourbon chicken.

“Mmmm. This is wonderful.” I’d feel badly if I didn’t at least pretend to show interest in the product. “Tell me, how long does this take to prepare?”

I don’t really care. I just want the ladies to feel appreciated. Really, they’re all winners in my book.

“Well, just twenty minutes in the toaster-ov…”

“Super. Let me try one more to make sure I really like it.”

After the bourbon chicken lady, we strolled over to the ravioli lady. Then it was on to the grilled lamb lady, but only after being intercepted by the Welch’s grape juice lady.

“Would you like to try some delicious grape juice, today?”

“Honestly, ma’am, I’ve got nothing against grape juice. And I’m sure you’re a wonderful person. But I’m here for solids.”

I have to admit that the food options today were rather disappointing. As far as I’m concerned, it’s not a successful trip unless you get a soup lady or a Hot Pocket lady. Of course, the experience always ends on a high note. Having completed the samplin’ portion of the afternoon, it was on to the food court for the hot dog festivities. First, however, we had to actually purchase our large frozen pizza. And for the second week in a row, we approached the checkout line with one item… which is pretty much unheard of.

Last week I walked out with a jug of protein powder. This week it was football food for the Redskins game. As we sauntered over to the checkout area, the crowd stared at us in awe, parting like the Red Sea as we proceeded forward. There’s no express lane at Costco because triumphs such as ours simply don’t exist. At best, they might someday dedicate a lane for 80 items or fewer. But here we were with just a frozen pizza.

“Sir, I would be honored if you would go ahead of me. Really, please have my spot in line… and, here, take my first-born child as a token of my admiration. And I shall sacrifice an ox upon returning to my village.”

So, checkout was, once again, a total breeze. And, let me also add that the Costco frozen pizza, at just eight dollars, is one of the best deals on the planet. I’m an oven-pizza kind of guy to begin with, and firmly believe that the only people who order Domino’s delivery are communists. But, hey, if you enjoy eight lousy slivers of pepperoni tossed over a fatty, mule-cheese bread bowl, you go right ahead… commie.

Once we were all checked out, Drew and I bellied up to the food counter to order the hot dog special – $1.50 for a jumbo Hebrew National and 20 oz. soda. The bun is what makes it so good… all perfect and soggy, like you've been sitting on it throughout the entire month of July. Unless you’ve had one, you just don’t get how it’s the best bargain in America. Seriously, it’s the kind of meal that would set you back ten bucks at the ballpark – but you don’t have to actually sit through the Braves game with all those rednecks at Turner Field who just don’t seem to appreciate a good “Chipper” Jones heckling.

“Hey, Larry, I think they’re towing your John Deere from the players lot!”

On the way out - our bellies filled with samples, hot dogs, and soda - we had only to go through the great Costco Shakedown. This is where the door Nazis check your receipt to make sure it matches everything in your cart. Of course, seeing as how people have eleven-hundred items, one can understand how this isn’t an exact science. So, as an additional fail-safe, they tend to rely on the honor system… even if you’re only holding one item.

“Just a pizza today, sir?”

“Well, that and the player piano I have in my back pocket. Quick, Drew, run!

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