Monday, November 7, 2011
Cruise Control - Part 4: Bonnies and Clydes and Wal-Marts
Click Here to read the previous entry in this series…
So we’re in the practically-deserted Wal-Mart parking lot, with folks huddling in and around our little caravan of once-again not-moving cars. Issues are happening and people are reacting, with the lovely burble of digestive disobedience on the soundtrack. This is standard protocol with our family. It’s just usually not taking place before dawn in a city that is not a place we want to be. Unless we’ve been up all night and someone made a random, alcohol-based travel decision.
Then things started to get interesting.
Someone dashed inside the store to purchase the required medicinal elixir for the casualty in Mom’s van. Well, one of the casualties, anyway, they were starting to stack up. I suppose we all could have gone into the store, out of sheer boredom, but arranging for all of us to get through the doors at one time would be like arranging for a hurricane evacuation out of Houston. We just didn’t have the time for a retail adventure, en masse.
Instead, we loitered. After all, that’s what we were doing, can’t get around the fact. We were standing there with nothing to do and not buying anything, the suspicion element increased by the fact that it was the wee hours of the morning, and there were so many of us with no purpose standing in that parking lot. It should not have come as a surprise that we should attract the attention of local authorities.
Okay, only one local authority. And he was a security guard for Wal-Mart, so we’re not talking sirens and squad cars. Not yet, anyway. But he was attracted. And not in a good way.
Mr. Man comes shuffling out of the building, in that slow-moving way people have when they are not in the best of shape. (I’ve never understood why so many security guards are in such poor physical condition, or why companies would hire them for such an important position. If some fool is running out the front door of your store, lugging a stolen TV and a box of diapers, don’t you want somebody on your team who can actually tackle their ass before they get out of the parking lot?)
Maybe it’s just me.
Anyway, the man was shuffling, looking around in what might be a slightly-furtive way as he stepped somewhat off to the side, away from the revealing light of the entrance doors. He actually looked like he was about to take a leak. (Because walking to the back of the store and using the actual facilities would be far too much work, right?) One hand was moving around in his crotch area, but to be fair, it might have just been a reassurance grope and not a preparatory maneuver. (Some men like to touch their wee-wee’s constantly as validation. Fact of life.)
Then he spotted our clan. This was an excellent piece of detective work on his part. After all, we weren’t easy to see, what with being the only people in the otherwise empty parking lot. Big stretch of nothing and then, BAM, crowd of babbling out-of-towners probably having one of those rave things. Very hard to see.
The guard’s hand shot away from his jewels, so I’m guessing the verdict with that business was self-love and not recycling. He stared for a bit, perusing, then whipped out his phone and began discussing developments with a counterpart, or maybe ordering pizza. The odds were probably about even.
Well, surely he couldn’t have a problem with us being there. After all, one of our tribe was actually inside, making an indirect retail contribution to his eventual severance package. We weren’t doing any harm, just waiting on a beloved relative to return to the fold, bearing purchases most-likely manufactured in countries with lax labor laws and a history of human rights violations.
But then I turned to see what my family actually was doing.
Well, we had a few folks gathered around Mom’s van, vigorously wiping down a seat of the car after Roni had decided to redecorate things. An innocent passerby, not knowing the full story, might mistake this innocent act for something a bit more sinister. Like a pack of hoodlums mopping up blood at a crime scene just before tossing a lifeless body behind a Dairy Queen. Hmmm.
Next we had Darrin’s truck, with some more activity that could be possibly misperceived. Dawn and Crispy were clamoring around in the bed of the pickup, rifling through the luggage on a quest for who knows what that somebody needed. Trouble is, there were a lot of bags, some of them buried, meaning the search party was stretched out on their bellies across the bags, poking and prodding and straddling. This meant their rear ends were rhythmically popping above and below the side of the truck.
It certainly looked like we had some randy people up in that grill, sayin.
Now, I’m sure the incestuous implications of this arrangement did not trouble Mr. Security Guard in the least. You didn’t get a face like his without some cross-pollination somewhere in his tree. But public fornication was another matter, especially in a small town, where fornication is simply not allowed unless you are on the football team, pastor of a church, or the one doing the fornicating.
But we weren’t done. Nope, moving a little over from the truck of lust we had the outnumbered but still defiant group of smokers in our family. These folks were busily sucking down as many cigarettes as they could before somebody made them get back into the smoke-free, nerve-snapping environments of the vehicles. Right at that moment, an unnamed family member chose to let loose with a bellowing gush of laughter that could be perceived as tequila-derived, then hurled her still-lit cigarette to the ground, with the wind catching it just right so that burning embers skittered across the pavement for half a block.
Great. If I was tallying correctly, we could easily be charged with murder, public indecency, inbreeding, attempted arson, and littering. This was going to be some serious paperwork. I turned back to the security guard, fully expecting him to be almost upon us by this time.
But he wasn’t. He was still way the hell over there by the door, tinkering with one of those little carts those people drive around the parking lot, the kind you can’t see until you almost run them over, with them getting cranky and honking at you with their tiny mouse-squeak of a horn. The cart didn’t want to start, and the man felt that pushing the same button a hundred times would somehow resolve the issue.
This had to be the laziest security guard I had ever seen in my entire life. He couldn’t walk thirty feet over here? And if he thought the little cart somehow made him look more authoritative, he clearly hadn’t driven one in front of a mirror. Then the vehicle roared (okay, hummed) to life, and the man hopped on, engaged something, and headed our way. At the pace of roughly .000013 miles an hour. I’ve had molasses drip off my fingers faster than that. (Long story, another time.)
But rapidly or not, bad news was approaching. I turned to say to the family “Hey, remember that talk we had where we all realized that someday we would have to change our names and leave the country?”, but before I could get my mouth open there was a commotion from the Little Engine That Could. I turned back around, and discovered that the cart had come to halt (barely discernible from actual movement) and Lazy Man was talking on his phone again. He nodded and grunted a few times, then killed the engine (it sounded like a gnat just flew into a wall), hopped off the little tram, and went back inside.
Maybe the donuts were ready in the bakery?
Before the store doors fully closed after the guard lumbered through, the family member assigned Clara Barton duty came racing out with the goods for the personal plumbing incident and dashed towards Mom’s van. This set off a chain reaction of people realizing that we were about to be on the move again, with folks hopping into cars, making sure everyone was accounted for, fighting over who got to sit where, and selecting the crunchiest and most-annoying snacks to irritate your neighbor with.
As the train left yet another station, I glanced back into the parking lot, which was now completely deserted, save for the tiny cart. She looked at me with sad little headlight eyes, pleading for me to take her with us, yearning for a more exciting life somewhere down the interstate, a dreamed-of place where people would take care of her properly, wash off all the dirt and soot and donut glaze, make her feel clean again. I smiled sadly and waved a warm goodbye, promising that someday her rinse would come.
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