Well, okay, maybe not the queen. That might be my sister, who — I think — was probably at the door when they opened the first one in 1976 in San Diego. It was known as Price Club then, but in 1983 it became Costco.

From that beginning, it has grown into the second largest retailer in the world, behind Wal-Mart (which I am allergic to) and the largest retailer of organic foods (a feature I appreciate).

My intention, however, is not to just sing the praises of this gigantic retailer (I am not arbitrarily a fan of gigantic retailers), but to chronicle my relationship with it.

For years my sister would tell me that I needed to go to Costco for something she had just described to me. The fact that I lived almost three hours from the nearest one, in Louisville, never seemed to register. She, of course, lives about five minutes from one.

But then, low and behold, one day I was pulling off of I-75 onto Man-of-War, and there before me was a huge COSTCO sign. Opening soon.

Making a trip to Charleston shortly thereafter, my daughter and I checked out hers. I was hooked (probably brainwashed from all of my sister's praise). I joined on the spot.

It got as bad as my on-going quest to find a bakery when traveling; everywhere I went, I looked for a Costco. Spartanburg. Orlando. Boca Raton. I could at least visit them for gas — always cheaper than the area stations, and it's “top tier”, which is recommended for my car.

So, Costco it is. You have to be careful, though. Packaging tends to be big. As in BIG. That's great for making organic applesauce, but pretty impossible for one person to eat all of the organic strawberries before they go bad.

Conversely, I probably have a year's worth of paper towels out in my garage. Maybe toilet paper, too. I think I'm into my second year on the Lysol and Dawn out there. Which may say more about my cleaning than the packaging quantities . . .

The cheesecake I bought recently came in 12 generous slices. That kind of impulse buying can get you into trouble. Especially if you're supposed to be losing weight.

At first I though I'd eat one slice a day. After the third day, my weight had gone up two pounds. I decided it might be prudent to freeze the rest. Maybe one piece a month?

Another thing you have to remember it to get it while they've got it. Last fall I bought what looked like cozy fleece lounge jammies. They were. The next week I went back to get them for my daughter and sister. No luck--no smalls; no mediums. Lots of extra-large. So much for early Christmas shopping.

Similarly, at Christmas they ran out of my favorite baklava, shortbread cookies, and appetizer meatballs. And sometimes they just quit carrying one of your favorite products. So, not everything is idyllic there.

Last week my sister texted me: “Beware of old men with baskets. They look straight ahead and rush through. One dropped shoes on my head.” My daughter has similar complaints about Monday mornings in Charleston.

Me — I'm the problem shopper who just walks off to look at something and leaves her cart probably blocking the whole aisle.

Before closing, however, I will add a personal accolade: I have a nephew who is handicapped because of a drowning accident when he was 18 months old. Despite his disabilities, he is a capable worker, but he cannot drive.

So he rides one of those specially made three-wheel bikes to work. He always chained it up outside the warehouse, but one day someone stole it.

His Costco coworkers donated over $1,200 to replace it. The boss rearranged schedules so that he could ride with another worker until the new bike came. And when it did, he told him to bring it into the warehouse and lock it up there.

Of course, it's not my Costco, and maybe wouldn't be all of them, but that kind of caring attitude means a lot to me.

So, if you can overlook those jerks at the gas pumps who decide to clean out their cars while five cars wait behind them, or the old guys inside with their speedometers set at “full speed ahead, take no prisoners,” you might find that you like Costco as much as I do.

Or you can check out Sam's Club.

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