by Prissy Elrod | April 9, 2019

Panhandling: Adding The Pepper

Sometimes the best way to add spice to your life is to head down the unexpected Costco aisle.

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I looked outside my window to see the blistering sun beaming down from a cloudless blue sky. A perfect walking day for this Florida girl. In the words of Goldilocks after she tasted the three bears’ porridge, “Not too hot, not too cold. It’s just right.” I reached inside the refrigerator for a bottle of water to take on my afternoon jaunt.

“Ugh, this thing needs to be cleaned out,” I mumbled to no one. I knew myself well enough to know that mess would bug me the entire walk. Note to self—don’t listen to your mumbling, Prissy.

Peering inside the refrigerator, I saw a slew of vegetables stuffed in the drawer. They clung to life, just barely hanging on. I pulled all of them out to sniff, squeeze and cogitate the fate of each.

Brussels sprouts are like a cat with nine lives. They keep on keeping on. I sniffed the skanky-looking things. They smelled OK, and besides, they’re ugly when fresh, so I gave them a good scrubbing and peeled off the ugliest of the ugly.

I cut the brown off the cauliflower, threw out the broccoli, and saved the carrots, beets and rutabagas. I decided to practice what I preached to my peeps all those years. “There are millions of starving children in the world—eat your vegetables now.” They never did. 

My picked-over batch looked salvageable, if I seasoned and roasted them. I spread the cut-up survivors on my parchment-covered pan and was ready to season. 

Oh no! The tellicherry black pepper was gone, and the grinder was empty.

“Dale!” I hollered. “We’re out of pepper. Let’s go to Costco.”

Yup. I’m a pepper snob. But I’m here to say Costco has the best pepper, and it’s housed in a grinder. 

I hollered a second time to my entrepreneur husband. He was doing his own grinding back in his home office. Fourteen-hour days in front of three computers. I swear it looks like a CIA control center in there. For all I know he could be an agent.

costcoThe man needed to get his fanny out of that chair and go to Costco with me. A breath of retail air would be good for him. I looked up from arranging the Brussels sprouts and saw him standing with his head cocked and eyebrows raised. “I’ll go, but I don’t have time for your lollygagging. Just get the pepper and right back home, right?” 

“Yes,” I said. I still wanted to walk later.

Twenty minutes later, we pulled into the crowded parking lot. We herded ourselves in with the other Costco cattle and showed our card to the herder at the door. The cattle inside swallowed us up. 


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“You get the pepper, I’ll grab the wine. Back here in 10.” He was walking away and turned back. “Don’t get sidetracked.” 

“Okay, okay,” I answered, rolling my eyes. I should have gone without him, I thought. 

I headed towards the pepper aisle with a quickened pace. That’s when it happened. I stopped right in my pepper track, somewhere between the electronics and the bamboo sheets. 

There was a green-and-white banner hanging over a kiosk at the end of an aisle. It read “ZAAZ wellness. evolved.” Underneath the banner was this machine. It resembled a Bowflex or elliptical. It must be one of their cousins, I thought. 

But that’s not what stopped me. No sir. It was the chiseled body on top of the machine that drew the pepper lady in. 

He looked like an Olympian, standing, smiling and sweating like a pig.

Not climbing, pumping, lifting or squatting. I repeat, he was S.T.A.N.D.I.N.G. 

I moved in. 

“What are you doing? What’s that?” I asked. 

I talk to everybody. Ask anybody. 

“It’s a Zaaz. Stands for movement. Astronauts use it in space—8,667 steps in 12 minutes at full throttle. Whole-body vibration.” He was winded. 

The next thing I knew, my shoes were off and I was on his machine in the middle of Costco. It was vibrating my whole body as he pushed buttons on the panel. Boy, was I glad I wore my sports bra for the work- stand-out. I was about as close to an astronaut as I’d ever be. 

“Turn it higher,” I said. 

“No, that’s enough, ma’am. You don’t want to overdo it.” 

When I climbed off the machine, everything in my body was tingling. 

“Wow, my legs feel like rubber,” I said, squatting down and trying to get my shoes back on. 

“I’m telling you, my calves are rocks from doing this.” He pulled one of his pant legs to above his calf to show me. It was at eye level to my squatting self. 

“L-l-look at you,” I stuttered. 

“Feel it,” he said. 

I reached over and touched his herculean muscle. And just as I squeezed his hairless ebony calf in my hand, Dale walked up. He was holding two bottles of wine. 

“What are you doing, Prissy?” 

“Look, honey, feel his muscle.” I looked up as Dale’s eyes locked with mine. 

“I’m not feeling his muscle.” 

My Olympian dropped his pant leg down after Dale’s face indicated that’s where it belonged. 

“Astronauts use it. Takes 12 minutes,” I said.
I started babbling to Dale. He was pacing and ready to split. I wasn’t having it, though. I mean, seriously, the man was sweating from standing. Come on. Wouldn’t you want to know how, why, what? I let him spill his pitch. He gave it to us with the speed of a professional auctioneer. 

“It’s called a WBV for whole-body vibration. Here’s the kicker—12 minutes of WBV equals one hour of conventional weightlifting. Every muscle fiber will automatically tense and relax at the same rate the machine is vibrating. Usually, 20 to 30 times per second, over 90 percent of your muscles will be working. Try it three times a day, 45 minutes between each time.” 

He took a breath, wiped his forehead, and kept going. 

“It increases metabolic rate, builds lean muscle mass, raises serotonin levels in the brain, builds energy, lowers stress hormone levels, improves lymphatic flow, increases bone mineral density, elevates human growth hormone and aids weight loss.” Sold to the pepper girl, I thought. 

My husband the scientist wasn’t buying any of the claims without scientific proof. But he was buying me an anniversary gift. Right smack-dab in the middle of Costco. 

Mr. Olympian drew up the paperwork. From the details, you’d have thought we were buying a house. It would be delivered “white-glove” style in two to three weeks. 

He handed us a stack of literature, offered a broad-toothed smile and insisted on escorting us to the cashier line to pay our hefty mortgage bill. I’m guessing he feared Dale would snatch me by the hair and drag me out of there if he didn’t. 

“So, what kind of medicine do you practice?” he asked as we stood in line to pay. 

“Medicine, me? I’m no doctor,” I said through a chuckle. 

“Oh, I thought you were.” 

“My friends say I try to be, always diagnosing them,” I replied. “Why, have doctors been buying it?” I asked. 

He shifted from one foot to the other.  “Doctors and chiropractors are putting them in their offices.” 

“Really!” I was pumped. I felt like an astronaut and a physician in one sweep. 

“You could charge your friends, you know,” he suggested. 

I pondered it. 

Three weeks after our Costco trip, I’d come home from a three-mile walk in Florida’s humidity. My hair had grown from six inches of frizz. I heard the doorbell ring and went to answer. And there it was in all its glory. My white-glove delivery. 

“Where you want it?” the delivery woman asked. An hour later she was gone, and I was an astronaut in my own house. 

Now, you’re probably wondering how this story ends. Well, a picture is worth a thousand words. But unlike Mr. Olympian, I’m not showing you my muscles. 

However, I will tell you, the machine is my best anniversary present ever. This from someone who has owned plenty of exercise equipment and been going to gyms for decades. You name it, I’ve done it: spinning, rowing, Zumba, yoga, and Pilates. But vibrating, well, it takes me to a whole different level, so to speak. 

If only there was a better way to tell people what I’m doing to get these strong legs. Without thinking, I keep defaulting to one word that gets me in trouble. 

The first time it happened was at one of our family dinner gatherings. Fifteen or so relatives were congregating in the kitchen scarfing pizza and drinking wine. Everyone was talking and nobody listening. A typical American family. 

“What’d you do today, mom?” my daughter asked as I studied my pizza slice, picking pepperoni off and stacking it on
a napkin. 

“Nothing much. I vibrated three times and went to Publix,” I said. 

I slid the un-pepperoni slice inside my mouth and looked up to see my daughter’s mouth wide open and both her hands over her daughter’s ears. The whole room was silent, with every eyeball on me. 

“No, not that!” I screamed to my dirty-minded family. In unison, they burst out into sidesplitting laughter. 

But I got the last laugh. I mean, seriously, how many of them can say they roll with doctors, chiropractors and astronauts? Okay, maybe I stand with them. But whatever. 

I never did get my pepper that day. Truth is, I forgot about it.After some lollygagging inside Costco, I learned a valuable truth: variety is the best spice in life. 

And here all along I thought it was pepper.