Sunday, December 18, 2005

So That's the Way It Is?

by BH

Weary had been working on his grocery list since his last trip to the store. It was a meager list, consisting of items such as milk, eggs, and Frosted Mini Wheats; the kinds of groceries any single man needs to survive. He always saved his shopping for Sunday mornings, knowing that he would be able to roam the aisles of the supermarket in relative peace. Weary’s most recent Sunday morning trip to the store had been trying though. He had noticed a number of broken items on the floor throughout the store. He had seen mangled beet stalks, dented cans of soup, and cantaloupes that looked as though they had exploded. When he asked a store clerk what had happened, she had acted as though nothing was out of the ordinary.

“What do you mean?” she said.

“Well, look at this stuff. I mean, isn’t this a little unusual?”

“I’m sorry. I really don’t know what you’re talking about. I guess I could ask the manager.”

Feeling discontented, Weary had left the clerk and the store wondering if he had imagined what had transpired. He asked his mother if she’d noticed anything out of the ordinary during her last trip to the store.

“I noticed that they had sold out of whole free range chickens,” she said.

He was growing ever more convinced of his mother’s deteriorating mental acuity, but still trusted her enough to give her the benefit of the doubt about strange occurrences, or lack thereof, at the store.

Weary double checked his list, put on a jacket and a knit hat and departed for the store, confident that his last trip had been an aberration. He got into his pickup, backed out of the driveway and began the drive. As he neared the supermarket, he began to notice strange things happening on the road. After making a left hand turn, one driver rolled down his window and gave the drivers around him the thumbs up sign and a fist pump. Another driver, after successfully stopping for a red light, proceeded to get out of her car, jiggle her way through some sort of choreographed routine, and get back in the car.

“What the hell is going on?” Weary asked himself.

He arrived at the store in a fog. Weary had witnessed several other bizarre, unexplainable moments along the way. There was the homeless woman who threw to the ground an aluminum can she had picked up, just before putting it in her plastic garbage bag. There was the man walking his dog who, after watching the dog relieve itself, ran ten yards up the street, pointed to passing drivers, then returned to his dog. Weary had no idea what to think of this, only hoping that being inside the store would provide him some level of protection and comfort.

As Weary entered the store, he was overwhelmed by what he saw. Whereas the week before he had noticed only a few items on the ground, the entire store was now littered with seven days worth of strewn about groceries. He watched shoppers navigating the store as though nothing unusual had been happening. Weary decided that he was going to be unable to get any actual shopping done, but a long drive to the store needed to be rewarded with some amount of clarification about why things were transpiring in such a manner. He saw one man who, after selecting two very ripe avocados, pulled out a sharpie, signed one of the avocados, and handed it to a passing shopper. He saw another man pull a bottle of barbecue sauce off the shelf, remove a handkerchief from his back pocket and pretend to wipe the bottle as though it were a baby that needed changing. One shopper pulled down a box of cereal, put it in her cart, grabbed another box and slammed it to the floor. This, he thought, must be why there are groceries all over the floor. The most blatant violation of intelligence occurred when one shopper, walking down the main aisle, made a sharp left turn down another aisle, stopped his cart, and pointed down the row. He hadn’t made it to the item he needed, but had merely completed a necessary step in reaching his goal.

As he watched dumbfounded, Weary saw two men heading for a lone six pack of Coors Light from opposite ends of an aisle. Both men, noticing that this was the last one in stock, increased their pace in order to be the first to reach the beer. One of the men, despite his best efforts, tripped prior to reaching the six pack, falling to the floor in front of his triumphant counterpart.

“Yeah, bitch!” shouted the man who had reached the Coors first. “You’re in my house now bitch!”

Weary watched for sixty minutes, taking in the celebrations, the taunting, and the utter insanity of the whole spectacle. He watched as shopper after shopper celebrated each one of his or her actions. To Weary, the idea that people would go nuts over-celebrating something they were supposed to achieve seemed odd.

“Why would I taunt someone or do a dance celebrating something I’m intended to do?” uttered Weary aloud. “Am I going crazy?”

“No, you’re not going crazy,” said another shopper who had overheard Weary’s question. “You’re just na├»ve. You want shopping to be done the way it was when you were a kid. You want to see a shopper who acts like he’s been shopping before. You want to see someone who can put an item in his cart and hand it to the checker without doing a dance in celebration. You long for the day when a guy who beat another shopper to the Coors Light knew that his counterpart felt bad enough not having the beer, without having to taunt him. You’re ‘old school.’”

“Old school,” Weary thought. “Is not acting like a jackass an ‘old school’ idea?”

“So that’s the way it is these days?” asked Weary.

“That’s the way it is,” the shopper replied.

Weary left the supermarket, his mind racing, wondering if there was any hope for a return to normalcy. The change had happened without anyone really noticing. Did this mean that there was no hope? “No. I can’t give up hope,” thought Weary. “There have to be others like me who think shopping, without the hype, is still good. Others must feel that shopping, in its purest form, is entertaining enough. Don’t they?"

1 comment:

sondog said...

Dude, you are one humongous set of ears away from being the Mitch Albom of our generation. Good stuff. The NFL is becoming pretty un-watchable for me this year. If I see Johnny Morton make one more first-down point over the last two games for the Niners, I may have to drive to SF to shoot him.