For many of you, this is old news. Or perhaps you have taken for granted the gravitas with which your favorite big box wholesaler conducts its business. As a new member, I'd like to remind you.
First, you cannot enter without showing a card. Second, in order to obtain said card, you must 1) pay money, 2) produce a valid driver's license, 3) get your picture taken and printed on the card, just in case you intend to loan your card to a friend who's in dire need of bulk mustard. Third, you cannot stand near your cart while checking out. As the sign instructs, "Carts on this side ---> Patrons on other." If you forget this, you will be reminded. Fourth, you mustn't bring a bag into the store. Not even a fabric Baggu. This is to "prevent theft." Not really sure how a bag makes it easier to sneak away with 2 gallons of olive oil, but okay. Lastly, you must keep your receipt and your membership card out for the man (not the same guy who checks you when you enter) to cross reference your receipt to your cart, "you know, to make sure you weren't double charged," explained the well-meaning cashier who initiated me into these Eyes Wide Shut-type rituals. I left feeling like I must look very suspicious. And also proud that I escaped without spending over $250* -- they should give out prizes to anyone can spend under $100.
After transferring my smaller items into my Baggu bag before putting them in my car and unloading all the other massive items into my trunk, I wheeled my cart into the cart-wrangling area. (Mr. SevPrez yells at me when I don't do this). Running back to my car in the rain, I felt a twang of fear that a large man was going to materialize and yell at me for not returning my cart correctly and strip me of my membership. Is this what it was like in the U.S.S.R.?
If I am uncomfortable with my card-carrying status (it may be the final rite of passage into adulthood?), my gigantic bag of Stacy's pita chips and tremendous hunk of manchego cheese will console me until I feel better.
*My biggest act of restraint was taking the box of 80 pigs in a blanket for $15 out of my cart. You can't see me but I am bowing.