At the grocery store the other day, I noticed a display of the basics of July: buns. Mass-produced buns in plastic bags, pre-sliced for your convenience because who doesn’t appreciate a bun that’s been mechanically knifed to spare you the trouble?
And there were the condiments we love, the Three Musketeers of meat-eats: ketchup, red as patriot’s blood; mustard, yellow as the noontime sun; relish, green as the lawns we now take for granted. There was bunting on the table, too.
Why? Because it is summer. I mention this only because I went to another retailer afterward, and steeled myself before I entered. “There’s going to be a pencil,” I told myself. “There’s going to be an enormous pencil hanging in the air when you walk in.”
I hate that pencil.
There was no pencil. There were kites! Summery enough; what a relief. But at the back of the store where the seasonal items are sold, well, welcome to Pencil Town, friend.
July 4th is long gone. It’s Back to School now. Behold the Sharpie five-pack! Pink erasers! Binders! Glue sticks! You know who uses glue sticks past first grade? No one. We have 9,000 glue sticks in one of our kitchen drawers.
The number of people shopping for Back to School: zero. The number who would have applauded — slowly, then building to a crescendo — if I’d shouted, “It’s July and no one cares about loose-leaf ruled paper”? Well, I can’t say, because I’m confusing real life with a movie where I’m the hero.
But. I’d gone to the store looking for outdoor lights. Crazy, I know — sitting outside in the evening when binders galore are on sale — but one does like to enjoy the outdoors even in the first few weeks of Back to School season. I asked a clerk if they had any. Nope.
You can try online, he said.
This is like going to McDonald’s, ordering a burger, and the clerk says, “We don’t sell them after 2 because we’re all about breakfast now. But we can mail you one next week.”
Point is: No one wants to shop for school supplies in July. You’re with me, right? Right.
Now that I’ve publicized our dislike of these early seasonal time jumps, well, I think maybe they’ll think twice about pushing pencils and rulers when we still want lawn chairs and bug sprays. Mission accomplished.
(Editor’s note: A version of this column previously ran in 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016.)