Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Shock the Monkey, Part 5

Surprisingly, the convenience store owner does not wave his hand in a secret signal indicating that his underlings should take my life. Instead, he yells out to the budding photographer: “Get those damn kids out of the way!"

Well, then. I think I like him. I might stop here more often. But probably not.

So Momma motions for the kiddies to get in the car. Rather than glare at me, as I’m fully anticipating, she throws an evil eye at the store proprietor, probably vowing that her relationship with this establishment is over. But she’ll be back. She has “creature of habit” written all over her Jordache jeans and Earth shoes.

The rest of the milling crowd returns to their previous criminal distractions. Nothing interesting to see here, no blood, no gunfire, no torn weave trampled in the snow. Once my path is clear, I slowly roll forward, softly crunching the short-timer Frosty (hurray!), then pull out onto the main road.

I need to get to the grocery store. Them eggs be a waitin'.

I spend the next thirty minutes navigating the treacherous hazards of what is normally a five-minute drive. Once again, the middle of the three lanes going in my direction is relatively clear. If you just stay in this lane, you shouldn’t have any issues. And most people are doing this. Teamwork is a fine thing.

But of course we have the clueless renegades that don’t truly grasp the situation, ignoring the noble examples of their fellow human beings. They are trying to drive in the outer lanes, which means they are generating an unending geyser of regurgitated snow which flies into the air and the splats on the cars behind them, compromising visual abilities.

So the smart people have to plod along at five miles an hour, waiting for the stupid people in front of them to either have an unfamiliar bolt of enlightenment hit them or to smack against a curb and bust an axle. Usually it’s the latter. Once one of the stupid cars puts themselves out of commission, the smart people floor their accelerators, en masse, and we race along until we encounter the next non-thinned member of the herd. Rinse and repeat.

Eventually, after I have worn my throat raw from rounds of creative cussing that no one else but me can hear, I finally make it to the Kroger Signature on Camp Wisdom Road. As soon as I pull into the parking lot, I realize that something is fundamentally wrong with the local environs. The snow here looks odd.

Then I realize that the asphalt is covered in a very advanced state of slush. It’s still mostly frozen, but we have quite a bit of water, resulting in a gritty soup that everyone is plowing through whilst searching for a primo place to park. But why isn’t the liquid part just gurgling down a drain somewhere? Either the laws of gravity don‘t apply to this magical slice of real estate, or somebody did a lame-ass job with the plumbing infrastructure.

I slosh the car into a parking slot and then kill the engine. Immediately, I can hear other store patrons running around and screaming shrilly about it being cold and wet. Babies. What else would you expect when it’s snowing?

I pop the door open and hop out of the car. My feet plunge at least six inches into the frigid soup. For whatever asinine reason, I have chosen to wear Converse low-toppers on this little adventure. As you may be aware, these cheap sneakers are currently the rage in some footwear fashion circles, experiencing a resurgence in popularity after a few decades on the down-low. They are poorly made items, offering little protection from the elements and providing no arch support whatsoever, resulting in flat feet and eventual spinal mis-alignments.

The freezing water permeates the lower part of my body. My socks are immediately drenched and both pant legs of my jeans suck up a few gallons of water. I have just inadvertently experienced one of those twisted Swedish spa therapies where people jump into ice water after drinking vodka.

Holy cow. I can barely breathe it’s so cold.

I suck it up and slam the car door. Hell, I’m already soaking wet, this can’t get any worse. I trudge toward the entrance to the store, fighting upstream like salmon in an Alaskan river. But I don’t want to spawn with anybody. I’m fairly certain of that.

I stumble through the automatic doors into the little vestibule area where they have tiny little stacks of firewood for outrageous prices, as well as those hateful gumball machines that incite riots among the Barney set. We also have those little yellow signs saying “Wet Floor!” in both English and Spanish. Ya think? If you don’t have the common sense to realize that this floor might be wet then you deserve to fall and bust your ass.

I get into the store proper and start to head toward the line of moist shopping carts that some poor soul has had to retrieve from the soupy parking lot. Suddenly, this rude little child emerges from the shopping cart corral, steering a cart even though his irritating little hands can barely reach the steering bar. He shrieks out some type of vicious war cry and then shoves the cart forward with all his strength, cackling madly.

The cart shoots across the entryway and slams into a Valentines display. Boxes of chocolates fly into the air, bags of candy rupture, and there’s the pitter-patter of hundreds of those tiny, slogan-etched sugar hearts plinking to the ground for miles around.

And his Momma? She’s talking on her cell phone, of course. She doesn’t miss a beat in her conversation, simply walking over to grab his tiny, evil hand and leading him off to another part of the store that he can destroy. No apologies, no attempt to clean up the mess. I’m guessing that this bundle of joy is enrolled at St. Monica’s Catholic School for Wayward Sinners. Our Lady of the Pointless Offspring.

I ditch the idea about obtaining a shopping cart, and grab one of those hand baskets instead. I have got to get in and get out of this hellhole as soon as possible, and try to avoid becoming collateral damage and/or an accomplice in the violent beating of a stupid parent. This is going to be a rough mission.

I head to the right, where I know they have the condiments aisle. My only quest in this section of the store is a jar of mayo, that’s all I need. I march that direction, my shoes squelching and leaving little puddles of dirty water. On better days, I might have been concerned about the watermarks, possibly even ashamed. Not today. If some low-paid employee with a mop wants to get in my face about this, I will cut them down.

I turn the corner and discover that the Valentine effort in this store was not limited to the now-wrecked table of advertised goodies in the entryway. Me and my drenched shoes are trudging through the “Floral Market”, which normally features gaudy groupings of tired tulips, but due to the Celebrated Day of Love they have hundreds of helium-filled Valentine balloons lodged against the ceiling. All of these airbags have long crinkly-ribbon tails that stretch nearly to the floor.

So now I’m fighting my way through a forest of pink and red seaweed, with each clingy tendril insisting on sticking to my clothing in some way. (Why do the store people do this? Do you really think that I’m actually going to BUY one of these things after it’s attacked me?)

I break through to the condiment aisle, with floating images of teddy bears and unicorns still attached to my body via some satanic Velcro that I don’t understand. I rip that crap off of me and approach the mayo display.

Where I find one of those maddening examples of “People Who Should Not Be Allowed To Shop Without Proper Supervision.” She’s blocking my access with her confused body and her illegally parked shopping cart, studying the various options with religious intensity. I guess she’s waiting for God to illuminate the proper jar. But it looks like she hasn’t paid her phone bill, because the message isn’t coming through.

So I give her a little bit of time, my fingers flexing as I contemplate clawing my face. But I can’t take it, I just want to get out of here. I reach around her and grab a container of Hellmann’s mayo. (This is the ONLY worthwhile mayo on the market. Do not buy anything else or I will look at you with pity.)

Confused Woman gasps, and then utters “That’s MY jar. Why are you stealing it?"

What? Is she serious with this? Screw it, I don’t have time for arguments or impromptu therapy. I shove the jar at her, which she grasps with odd-feeling fingers that make me shudder and envision serial killers that fixate on bottles of lotion placed in a basket. I grab another jar and race down the aisle.

Only to find the aisle blocked by two shopping carts facing in opposite directions, with the cart drivers both chattering on their cell phones as they peruse the offerings on the shelves without actually selecting anything. One of them is upset with somebody for not knowing exactly what they want for dinner. The other one is relaying details of some sordid event that transpired last night at a questionable venue known as “Champs”.

I clear my throat to get their attention. Can you let me through? They both glance at me, briefly, and then continue with the babbling without moving their carts an inch in any direction. One of them even gives me an “Oh no you didn’t” look before continuing to share the saga of her slutty girlfriend that had one too many shots during happy hour.

I could seriously cut somebody right now. This is just not worth it.

My own phone rings. It’s Terry.

I flip the phone open and proceed to launch. “I’m at the store right now and it took me two hours to get here and these people are crazy and my feet are soaking wet and I don’t understand the heathen children or why people destroy things or why they can’t get out of the way and all I remember from the shopping list is the mayo even though I know we need more but my mind is frozen and I’m losing my grip on reality and… and… ARRRRGGGHHH!"

I have been reduced to primal grunts and screaming. Very proud.

Terry: “Wait… what?"

Me: “ARRRRGGGHHH! People need to DIE!!"

Terry: “Okay, breathe. You’ve got the mayo. Just get the onions and the eggs, and get the hell out. I’ve got to go to a meeting. Breathe.” Click.

I snap my phone closed. He’s right. I am better than this. I cannot let the stupid people drag me down. I take the recommended deep breath and then send laser beams of hatred at the chattering duo in front of me. Something registers, and they both end their respective conversations with surprising speed. One of them even offers me an apologetic smile as the carts break apart, clearing my access to the rest of the store.

Too late, sister. Rambo has arrived, even though he’s sporting cheap, squishy shoes that don’t have any traction and there‘s a Care Bear floating behind him. I am done with my natural tendency toward niceness and pleasantry. I’m completely over ALL of this. I just want to get back to my house where I don’t have to interact with people. Lock all the doors and secure my Fortress of Solitude.

From behind me, a cracked and crazed voice rings out.

“That man took my mayonnaise!"

Click Here to Read the Next Entry in This Series.

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