The Unauthorized Guide to the Universe: Volume 4


Photo by Luxe Palmer

Welcome to the Unauthorized Guide to the Universe, an advice column written by yours truly, The Universe. Listen in to others’ questions about life, love, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness or submit your own by DM-ing @prhs_bear_truth on Instagram or leaving a comment below. All questions are anonymous.

Sincerely, The Universe

I just got my driver’s license, and my parents are asking me to get the groceries now. How do you go grocery shopping by yourself for the first time? -Independent Iris

Dear Iris,

Honestly, we all struggle with this. Independence is scary. Driver’s license? College? Jobs? Grocery shopping? The stuff of nightmares. In all seriousness though, getting your driver’s license is the main doorway to the rest of your entire adult life. You are now able to drive yourself places; you no longer need to rely on your parents to cart you around to soccer games, school, Target, and sleepovers (no, actually, I don’t know where the average teen goes these days). Once your parents start asking you the dreaded words– Would you mind going to the grocery to pick up a few things?— your adult life has officially started. It’s time to get groceries.

You can choose to read this as a metaphor for the rest of your adult life, but I really am just giving you an unnecessarily in-depth guide to actually getting your groceries.

Things to bring to a grocery store:

  • Your car
  • A mask (if you’re in a pandemic for some reason)
  • 2+ reusable bags (save the environment, gosh darn it. I worked hard on that thing.)
  • A complete list of everything your parents want you to buy
  • Either your or your parent’s credit/debit card, or cash
  • Confidence.
  1. Don’t get into a car accident whilst driving to the grocery store. If you’ve already achieved Driver’s License status, this most likely means that you’ve passed a rigorous test in order to ensure that you know how to drive. (If you somehow obtained your license illegally, please do not introduce your horrific driving to the roads, for the sake of my own personal mental health and the safety of literally everyone else.) Use a map on your phone that audibly reads you instructions to get to the grocery store if you don’t know where it is. I can’t believe I’m teaching basic driving lessons, but Rule #1 is don’t look at your phone while driving.
  2. Once you have reached the grocery store, parked and locked your car, it’s officially time. (If this is during a pandemic, put on your mask before entering the store, for the sake of my own personal mental health and the safety of literally everyone else.) Take your reusable grocery bags and walk into the grocery store with confidence. It’s your time to shine.
  3. Make sure you have your list of purchases to make (my intern says they’re called grocery lists. How clever!) and begin scouting out each item and placing it in the cart you just acquired. If you already know the general location of each item, complete your list methodically, going by each section. If you don’t know the store as well and/or you can’t find a specific item, do not– I repeat– do not be afraid to ask an employee for help.
  4. VERY IMPORTANT TIP: Asking a store employee for help. This is the most intimidating part of grocery shopping by yourself. Just know– this is their job. They are literally paid to help you. Take a deep breath. Walk up to someone, preferably dressed like an employee (maybe a blue vest, a name tag? Someone who looks like they know what they are doing), and, with previously-mentioned confidence, ask, “Hello! Could you tell me where the _______ can be found?” or “Hi there! Do you guys happen to carry _______?” Make sure you remember your pleases and thank-yous. You’re a grown-up now. If the said employee is in fact able to help you, they will either lead you to the product, in which case you will say “Great! Thank you for your help!” or something similar, or they might leave you for a short time to ask another employee where the product is. If this is the case, stay near the same area where they left you, so they can find you again and give you an answer. And never, under any circumstances, unless actually dire and you really use your manners, say “Ugh. Can I speak to your manager?” I don’t think I need to say any more.
  5. Once you have located all your items and have placed them in your cart, navigate your way to the checkout and make yet another very important decision: self-checkout or regular checkout? If you have less than ten or so items, you can also pick the Express Checkout. Self-checkout is what I’d recommend if you’re socially awkward and know how to operate a self-checkout machine. Regular checkout, in which an employee checks your items out for you while you stand and watch. I’d recommend this if you are feeling anxious and/or do not know how to use a self-checkout machine. It’s not my preferred method, but to each their own. If you choose self-checkout, efficiently scan your items and employ your reusable bags, placing each scanned item in them. Once complete, the screen will give you instructions on how to pay for said items. If you get stuck, refer to Step #4: Ask an employee. If you choose regular checkout, put your items on the conveyor belt, along with your reusable bags, so the checkout employee knows to use them. Use your manners once again; if they ask credit or debit, say the correct answer; don’t hand them your card, use the little paying machine on the counter facing you; retrieve your bags and receipt; say thank you.
  6. With receipt and purchases in hand, regardless of chosen checkout method, proceed to the nearest exit, locate your vehicle, thoroughly check behind you when reversing out of your parking space, and drive home. Congratulations! You bought groceries! Once you reach home, politely ask your parents to never make you do that again.

If you were able to successfully complete these steps and have acquired the required grocery items, good job! You have officially “adulted.” If you were not able to make it through the steps, it’s okay. It takes time to build up the very specific breed of confidence needed to go to the grocery store. Meditate on your goal and try again.

“Should I get a haircut? There’s an obvious answer but I want your thoughts.” –Long-Haired Lionel

Dear Lionel,

It depends on your current style. I’m particularly proud of the 1970s pop culture era, so if you have anything near a ‘fro or those classy long and feathered locks, keep it, kid. However, if you are not able to keep up with the maintenance said ‘fro or feathered locks, maybe opt for something more low-upkeep, such as a buzzcut. I’ve heard from my intern that there are a good few “á la mode” hairstyles circling the pop culture modems.

I asked said intern for the best “hot looks,” and they recommended shag ‘dos á la Folklore-era Taylor Swift, a disconnected undercut (which somehow sounds painful), a classic faux hawk (or mohawk if you’re very self-assured), or (this is a very new trend, it just hit the latest media servers) letting your two-year-old sibling, cousin, or a random kindergartener from the local elementary school take a pair of scissors to your hair as they wish. This will promote independence and responsibility in your young ones, as well as give you a sweet new ‘do. I highly recommend it.

Should I get a job as a teenager? If so, what are some good jobs to go for? -Unemployed Uniqua

Dear Uniqua,

If you live on Earth, money is essential. It’s an unfortunate fact, but it’s true. And with college or any other adult life path approaching sooner than you’d expect, it would be advisable to start saving up. Or move to another planet.

If you choose to stay on Earth, consider getting an easy part-time job or paid internship in order to start saving up money for the future. It’s also just nice to have some pocket cash, in case you want to go rollerskating with your friends or buy yourself a nice pet beetle. Who knows? If you decide you’d like some extra change in your pocket, here are a few high-school-friendly jobs to consider.

  • The fast food or restaurant industry: It might not be the most elegant job, but you’re guaranteed minimum wage and getting a part-time job at, say, the local pizzeria, will allow you time to do your homework before or after your shifts.
  • Internships: Internships give you both experience in the job field you may want to pursue and, if it’s a paid internship, that good old-fashioned hard-earned cash. Try to find an internship close to something you’d think you’d like to do in the future. If you want to go into the computer industry, congratulations! There are a vast number of computer science based internships that you could apply for. You can also go out for an apprenticeship, which are common in many manual labor industries, such as with electricians and mechanics. If you know your way around Instagram and Facebook, consider a social media and/or digital marketing internship.
  • Small business: Everyone loves Etsy. If you love crafting or making any kind of sellable homemade item, even just some clay sculptures or jewelry, consider selling it on Etsy. This is an easy way to make cash right from your home. The greatest part about starting your own small business is that you can regulate your own hours, you’re your own boss, you can work in your basement, and you get the majority of the profits.
  • Lifeguard: It’s a classic. If you’re cool with slathering on sunscreen and monitoring very loud children for most of the summer, being a lifeguard may just be the job for you. Some requirements are the ability to save a life, of course, and it’ll help if you’re a pretty good swimmer.
  • Starbucks: I suppose this goes along with the restaurant idea, but being a barista at Starbucks is actually a pretty dang good job. Starbucks employees get health coverage, a 401(K), paid time off, paid tuition through Arizona State University’s online program, free transit passes, free coffee and tea, an in-store discount, the all-important Spotify premium, and more. It’s not a bad gig. If you think you could master the subtle art of slinging coffee for customers at a fairly quick speed, consider joining the largest coffee chain in the world. If Starbucks isn’t offering (which they usually are), consider a local coffee shop, too.
  • Babysitting: Become every parent’s hero. If you’re great with kids, know CPR and the Heimlich Maneuver, and have flexible hours (typically in the evening), take Ann M. Martin’s advice and become a babysitter. You’ll have to be able to wrangle kids into bed, feed them vegetables somehow, and entertain them without setting the house on fire or injuring any participants, but other than that, it’s a piece of cake. If you don’t love kids, try pet- or house-sitting as well.
  • Tutor: Are you smart? I figured you were. In that case, private tutoring can give you an opportunity to help struggling students while earning that sought-after moolah. Specialize in any subject and offer your services to your fellow peers or elementary/middle schoolers and, for a small fee, you can help them turn that F into at least a C+. If you’re considering the route of tutoring, make sure you can actually teach someone something, and patience and the ability to try another way is usually handy.

If any of these options don’t quite suit you, Google it. Now, as my intern says, go get that bread, Uniqua.