And now, for those who have mastered the basics of supermarket sociology, a few guerrilla tactics for pursuing an advanced degree:
* Before you leave the house, make a detailed list of everything you need to buy. (Later, when you get to the store, you can forget where you put the list.)
* Dress for success. Wear a leather vest unbuttoned over your chest. Augment the outfit with lots of gold and silver chains and a prominent tattoo that reads, "Nobody Bothers ME!" This look works especially well for women.
* If someone in your checkout line asks you to watch her child for a minute while she picks up a few more items, smile and say, "I'm sure that will be all right. My probation officer doesn't like me to be alone with children for more than five minutes, but you'll be back before then, won't you?"
* Has someone parked a car in the parcel pickup lane and gone into the store to shop? Get the license number, make and model. Then ask the store manager to announce that a car with that description appears to be on fire.
* To get to the front of any long checkout line in a hurry, train your preschool child to shout, "Mommy! Daddy! I have to throw up now!"
* Someone's cart is blocking the middle of the busy aisle? Pick out about $87 worth of standing rib roast, veal scaloppine and other expensive meats and deposit them in the unattended cart. Do not get into the checkout line behind this person.
* When you get a low-number ticket at the deli counter, save it. Then, on another day when the line is very long, you can whip out your ticket and step to the head of the line.
* Most people move through the supermarket in a counterclockwise or right-to-left pattern. Don't be a robot. Buck the flow. Start at the far left and move clockwise through the store. Better yet, begin in the middle and zigzag from aisle to aisle.
* Use your shopping time profitably by combining it with a low-impact aerobic workout. Lace up your Reeboks and boogie down the aisle. Don't just bend to get the mustard from the bottom shelf; do a deep-knee bend. With a little practice, you can even use your shopping cart like a Nordic Trak machine.
* When you lose your child in the store, don't waste time with a loudspeaker announcement calling him to the manager's office. Try positive reinforcement: "Junior Jones, you have 60 seconds to meet your mother at the ice cream freezer. If you're late, you won't get any."