Friday, August 21, 2009

Beer Busted, Last Call

Click Here to Read the Previous Entry in This Series.

Let me describe my latest visit to Cool Breeze. I am seriously not making this up.

I pull into the turn lane on the main drag, and while waiting for an opening in the oncoming traffic, I survey the layout of the Cool Breeze battlefield. You have to do these things, plan properly, or you’re at risk. We have 2 cars in the small parking lot, three in the safer side parking lot, and 2 cars at the drive-thru. Good. I might make it through this one alive.

I turn in, and barely make it on to the little entrance ramp, when one of the cars starts to swing out of the small parking lot. He’s got more than enough clearance to get past me, but instinct tells me to sit tight, even though the tail end of my car is still on the main drag. Sure enough, this guy decides he’s going to do some maneuvering to get things lined up. Translation: he’s drunk.

He pulls forward, backs up, pulls forward, backs up, but completely forgets the part about turning the steering wheel. I’m somewhat mesmerized, as his car is beyond clunker status and seems to be held together by baling wire and duct tape. Off to my right on the main road, I spy a semi barreling my way.

Oh boy. That big rig is not going to clear me and shows no signs of slowing, so I’ve got to clear the drunk and get in the parking lot.

Luckily, right then, Sanford floors it in reverse and runs over the concrete island separating the small parking lot from the drive-thru. Good. He’s not going anywhere at the moment, so I squeal up the ramp and into a slot in the safer parking section.

I get out of my car just as Sanford is trying to get his junker off the concrete island. Lots of grinding and scraping. Amazingly, he manages to get it off that thing, and even avoids hitting any of the three cars that suddenly zoom into the parking lot and head for the drive-thru lane. Mysteriously, the scraping noise continues, and I see that the right half of his back bumper is dragging the ground, sending sparks into the air as he careens out into the main road and survives getting smashed by another semi with only inches to spare.

I take a deep breath, hold it, and dash across the drive-thru lane. I slow to a more nonchalant pace in the smaller parking lot, and watch with only slight curiosity as some woman opens her car door and begins throwing empty plastic milk jugs on the ground.

As I approach the store door, it flies open and out stomps a very angry woman, who is yelling at someone still in the store that they are, indeed, a bitch. Of the mother-loving variety. Right then, somebody honks, and everybody races for the safety of the store or a car. They know the drill.

Inside, while I’m waiting for smelly, dumb-ass people to move out of the way so I can get to the beer, the woman with the plastic jugs comes clattering in. She now has a little dimwitted friend with her. Said friend points in the direction of the manager’s office door, and mutters that the bathroom is over there. Then she fondles some Slim Jim’s while Juggie heads that way.

They don’t have a public restroom in here. Just like the sign on the wall and the sign on the front door explain. I shake my head, make it past the woman with her polyester-clad butt in the air while she reviews the pork rind selection on a lower shelf, and grab a 12-pack of Michelob Ultra (the best, by the way). I turn around and head for the counter to pay.

And the day suddenly shifts toward the Apocalypse as I stand in line.

Juggie is throwing open every door in the building and then slamming it shut, unable to find the nonexistent bathroom and bitching about it the whole time. She even pauses at one point, right in front of the “no bathroom” sign, scratching her head and seeing if she can spot another door. Still clutching those jugs.

The lone girl working the counter is swamped, dealing with the craziness of the people in front of me, so she just ignores the door slammer for now. (The current customer is insisting that he wants one of those little brown bags for EVERY can in the case of beer he just bought. Dude, how many people can possibly be in your car? Just re-use the same bags, geez.)

I can hear somebody talking over near the drive-thru, so I’m assuming there’s one other employee around, but at this time of day there should be at least five. Must have been a drug bust or something. This place is always short-staffed after one of those.

There are two little kids beating and clawing the crap out of each other, apparently debating ownership of the candy bar they are both gripping, while Mom completely ignores them as she sniffs one of those grimy vials of fake designer cologne. (“Three for five dollah!”)

Juggie hooks back up with her counterpart, and there is fierce discussion on whether or not there is indeed a comfort facility in this establishment. She keeps dropping the jugs, because they’re so heavy, being empty and all.

One of the racks stuffed with hundreds of cheap, garish t-shirts crashes to the ground. I immediately suspect Polyester Crack, but she’s suddenly nowhere to be found. Maybe the rack has just had enough of ugly people touching it, and it took its own life.

Someone loudly clears their throat, so I look to the left. And there he is, one of THOSE guys. We’ve all run into their type, and none of us can stand them. They’re usually middle-aged, trying to be super cool with their walk and talk, think they are the smartest person in any room, and, here’s the kicker: everybody owes him. Everybody. Nothing is ever his fault.

You can tell this just by the look in his eye.

He’s standing at one of the obviously closed registers. Counter girl notices him as well. “That one’s closed,” she informs him (as if you can’t tell, moron). “The line’s over here.”

“I’m gonna stand right here. You can come to me, got something to talk about.”

Hoo boy. Counter girl is not up for that. “I’m stayin’ RIGHT HERE. What do you want?”

“I wanna know why I can’t use the bathroom.”

“We don’t HAVE one.” (You know the poor girl is SO tired of having this discussion with belligerent, clueless people every day.)

Juggie and Dimwit overhear this last bit and can’t believe it. Juggie actually screams across the store “YOU AIN’T GOT NO BATHROOM?!?” Her partner chimes in with “Why AIN’T you got no bathroom?”

Counter girl is over it, time for reinforcements. She yells for the manager. “Mr. Kim, man wants to talk about the bathroom!”

Dear gawd. Am I really witnessing three separate people all bent out of shape because they can’t pee in the GD store? Come ON. What does that sign say? That sign. Right. Over. There.

Mr. Kim trottles up, and AssHat starts in. “I bought this here beer. And you gotta let me use the bathroom.” (What the hell kind of logic is that? I bought a beverage and therefore I should have access to your plumbing?)

And it goes from there. It’s doesn’t matter what Mr. Kim says, AssHat is just gonna keep bitching, saying the same idiotic things over and over, like he has for his whole sorry life. (Why do stupid people repeat themselves like that? Saying the same phrase 47 times is NOT going to change anything.)

Juggie waves her jugs at the counter girl. “We need some water in these.” Counter girl gives her a look that clearly shows she is two seconds away from climbing OVER that counter and cutting the hell out of Juggie and her bonehead friend.

Luckily, another cashier wanders around the corner just in time to take the jugs and prevent any bloodshed. Because she would just have to mop the blood up later, and who has time for that? Interestingly, no one asks Thelma and Louise why this water is so crucial in their lives right now. It’s better not to know, because knowing could make you an accessory to a possible crime of some kind.

When it’s finally my turn, counter girl (we’re buds, she gets my cigs without me having to say anything) gives me a different look that says “if you would like to shoot me in the head and end all this, I’d certainly appreciate it.” I give her a look back that says “How thoughtful of you to ask. However, I’m a little pressed for time. Please ring up my beer before I pick up this enormous piece of ghetto jewelry and slit my wrists. Thank you.”

Behind me, I hear a very loud ripping noise that sounds suspiciously like cheap polyester giving up the fight to contain a very large ass. I don’t even bother to look.

I finish my business and head toward the door. To my horror, “Everybody Owes Me” is also leaving at the same time. He’s done berating Mr. Kim, but he’s still talking, apparently to ME. Great. For some reason, perfect strangers always think they can talk to me. And that I care in some way. I don’t. At all. Ever.

So we walk out, and he’s ranting away. (I avoid eye contact and try not to encourage him in any way.) He’s never gonna come here again. (Thank you.) What does a man have to do to get respect. (Uh, actually BE a man?) Why does he have to put up with this BS everywhere he goes. (Gee, I can’t even imagine why.) And I’m gonna piss in his parking lot. (Um, what?)

Surely he’s joking, but I’m not sticking around just in case. I quicken my pace and hop into my car. And as I’m backing up, he actually unzips and hauls it out. Seriously. Right there, in front of the baby Jesus and everything. And he lets it rip.

I calmly shift into Drive, and head out. For my viewing pleasure on the short trip home, there are few things lying on the roadside as mementos of today‘s adventure: an empty milk jug, several discarded cans of beer, some vaguely-familiar polyester pants, and a banged-up rear bumper.

People are just so trashy.


Click Here to Read the Next Entry in This Series.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Beer Busted, Part 3

Click Here to Read the Previous Entry in This Series.

And now it’s time to meet some of the fine folks here to serve you at the illustrious Cool Breeze alcohol emporium. Grab a snack, find a seat and away we go.

First Disclaimer: I really don’t know the names of any of these employees. No name tags. I’m sure Mr. Kim would never spring for such an extravagance. (I did briefly know one guy’s name, “Robert”, when he mentioned it in passing one night. I never saw him again, but you get used to that in here.) So I just make up names for these people. It helps pass the time when the bonehead in front of my is trying to pay for his beer with food stamps.

First we have Playetta, this tongue-pierced black girl who will do ANYTHING for a tip. You walk in the door and she acts like it’s the best thing that’s ever happened to her, all bubbly and chattery and making sure you have everything you need. Which is fine on its own, I guess.

But then when you go to pay, she all but shoves her tip jar at you. She’s going to “accidentally” touch it at least three times during the transaction. And if you’re supposed to get 15 dollars in change? It’s all singles. And she counts them back to you very, very slowly. I guess her theory behind this is that you will get frustrated or bored or something and tell her to keep the rest just so you can leave.

She used to just flat-out ask you for a tip. (“Honey, throw a couple dollars in the kitty so Momma can get some milk.”) But Mr. Kim put a stop to that, no explanation provided and I never asked for one.

I’ve learned to just use a credit card any time Playetta is the next one available at the checkout counter.

Second Disclaimer: Tip jars at a convenience store? What’s up with that, you may ask. I have no idea. I can’t imagine anything that any of them could do that would motivate me to provide monetary gratitude. You ring my crap up, you put it in a bag, and I pay you. But every register has a tip jar. And there’s always money in them.

Interestingly enough, right above the counter is another of Mr. Kim’s day-glo poster commands. “Any one ask tip get FIRED!” Apparently there was an incident of some kind. I’m blaming Playetta. After all, there was the one night she pretended to stretch, showed me half a nipple, and then winked at her jar. That was the night I switched to plastic. Don’t leave home without it.

Next up is Big-Head Farm Girl. She country. White-trash country. The pretzels are “back over yonder” and “I ain’t seened that wresslin show but I wanna” and “how many beers is in a 12-pack again”? She is living proof that people do indeed fall off the turnip truck just yesterday. And they get up the next morning, and fall off again.

Her head is enormous, like a giant, pale-white, freckled beach ball. And her, um, bosom, is just as astonishingly huge. In fact, that triangle of white globes could probably be used to land planes if the power goes out at the local airport.

For a brief bit, we had Tattoo Guy. He was completely covered in them, all different shades of the rainbow. When he would stand in front of the cigarette wall, with all THOSE different colors, he would actually disappear. You didn’t know where he was when it was time to pay up. So you would have to stand there and wait for what looked like a carton of Marlboro’s to reach your way and then shove your money in that direction.

He didn’t last very long. Mr. Kim probably fired him, thinking the guy wasn’t showing up for work, when he was standing right there.

Let’s see, there was Big Bear for a long while. He was a huge guy that never said a word unless it was absolutely required. But he was very fast, always had my total ready before I even set everything down on the counter. I’d be bagged up and ready to go in 2.5 seconds. And he had my cigarettes memorized, would have a pack ready without me having to say a word.

And if I happened to check out with someone else because his line was full, he would quietly slip my cigs to the other clerk. He really took care of me. He was amazing. In fact, I think I loved him. It really tore me apart the day I discovered that he had… left me… to service another special customer in another store. I was devastated.

Please give me a moment while I collect myself.

Okay, then. Next we have Angry Girl. She was always mad about something, it just oozed out of her. She never said what it was, I certainly never asked, and she was never actually rude or anything. But you could just tell some burning fury was boiling in her veins, her eyes all wild with murderous passion. I’m surprised the caps didn’t just explode off the beer bottles when she touched them.

We have Skinny Bitch, who could get away with wearing a wristband as a tube top, because there’s just nothing to her. There’s certainly no room for brains up in there, and she proves it daily. If she only has to re-scan your beer three times, you’re lucky. And don’t pay with plastic, she has NEVER mastered that credit card machine. She will either be unable to get it to work at all, or your total will come to $4,000. Pay her in cash. You will have to tell her how much change to give you, but it’s safer.

As mentioned, every once in a while Mrs. Kim will ring you up. Along with being unable (or unwilling) to speak English and you have to pantomime the whole transaction, she is unable to find the bar code on any item. When you set your things on the counter, be sure to place them in a way that the bar code is directly in front of her, and then point. If necessary, gently take the wand away from her and scan everything yourself. There’s only so much time in the day.

Tall Nipple-Ring Guy likes to belch and scratch himself, apparently as a form of communication. Bathing is something that he does not strongly support. Just warning you. Use him if you’re in a hurry and he’s the next register open, but you’ll want to get a Silkwood decontamination rinse as soon as possible. Otherwise, pretend to look at Funyons until someone else is open.

There are two security guards that work on the weekend. A white guy that says “Yo” to the regulars when they come in, and a black guy that says “Sup”. They don’t look old enough to drive, but they carry guns, so I’ll just have to assume that things are in order and that Mr. Kim is not importing child labor from the Philippines.

The black guy does not speak after the initial grunt. It’s a very simple and efficient relationship. The white guy is a talker, and will launch into extreme detail about every single thing he has done, touched or excreted since the last time he saw you. I do not know this man’s name, but I can tell you how many canisters of propane he bought the last three times he went to CostCo.

And finally we have my current favorite, Smudge, so named because HER tattoos were clearly not professionally done. They look like they were created with magic markers by someone going through detox shakes. During a windstorm.

She’s actually really smart, and can throw out one-liners that 97% of the customers will never get, which is how we bonded. On the down-side, she taawwllkks rreeaaalllllyy suhlowwww. Seriously, she can turn five syllables into a two-night miniseries. So everybody thinks she’s simple, which makes it even funnier, because she just says whatever comes to her mind, knowing nobody is paying any attention.

Stupid Customer #1: “Where you keep your motor oil?”

Smudge: “Innnn myyyy carrrr.”

Stupid Customer #2: “Why can’t I go get my own bag of ice?”

Smudge: “Summbudddyy DIIIEEEED inn therrre. It waaasss sooo saaddd.”

Stupid Customer #3: “How come you always out of my cigarettes?”

Smudge: “Mebbeee Gawdduh donnn’t wannntt youuu to smokuh. Youuu tawwkk to Geezuz abowt it?”

She KILLS me. Sometimes I bust out laughing while standing in line, and she’ll look at me and giggle a little, but then we both knock it off when we remember that, basically, half the people standing in line will cut your ass just because they’re bored.

Which brings us to the star attraction of the depths-of-humanity science experiment known as Cool Breeze. The customers. The crazed psychotics and sociopaths that wander in the door and make you wonder how this nation can possibly survive.

We’re about to meet some of them. But first I have an appointment with Geezuz tuh disscusss myyy smmokkinnn prawblum… Wuurrrrdddd.

Click Here to Read the Next Entry in This Series.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Beer Busted, Part 2

Click Here to Read the Previous Entry in this Series.

Let’s talk about the fine interior design of the elegant “Cool Breeze” market, and the lovely staff you will find within, shall we?

First, you need a little detail on the proprietor, Mr. Kim. I believe he is Korean, though I cannot provide any documentation of this, it’s just a guess. In any case, English is not his native tongue. He does not, however, let this situation hold him back, resulting in some head-scratching attempts at communication.

Mr. Kim greatly enjoys creating hand-made signs, using oddly-cut pieces of neon poster board and a black magic marker. He scribbles his curious sayings (things like “We not MEAN ask ID. It LAW!” and “Break pack buy all!”) and then plasters them all over the store. You cannot walk more than two feet without encountering at least five directives from Mr. Kim.

He is very fond of cheap novelty crap. As far as the eye can see, there are displays crammed with rude t-shirts, extremely fake jewelry, toys that will obviously injure your child, CD’s featuring bands that no one has ever heard of or ever will, knock-off perfumes, “designer” watches made out of paper and glue, and camping gear that will dissolve the first time it rains. You get the picture. (“Fine quality! Buy friends!”)

Amazingly, there are always at least two customers pawing through this junk, ooh-ing and aah-ing and hyperventilating like it’s the best sex they’ve ever had while standing up. And they BUY these things, racing to the counter in complete rapture. It’s a fascinating but ultimately depressing reflection on the state of American society.

Mr. Kim does treat all things as equals, though. He does not segregate. At least when it comes to stocking the shelves. Which is why you will find diapers next to the dog food, car batteries in the wine section, and tampons next to the gingersnaps. (“Take on trip!”)

Speaking of the wine section, I’m not really sure why he has one. He actually spent some time on this, a tiny little room off to the side, with wood paneling and mood lighting and a surprisingly broad selection. But the only time I ever see anyone in that room is when their car won’t start. People around here just want beer. Besides, corkscrews are for gang fights, not for a bottle of Merlot.

There is no public restroom, with at least 4 neon signs indicating such. (“No bath! No ask!”) Yet customers ask for one almost as much as they ask for a pack of Kool filter kings. Why are you asking that? We KNOW you live just down the street. You walked here, for gawd’s sake, because you got fired from Bucket O’ Chicken and the repo man got your Cadillac.

If you face the front of the store, you see a huge counter, lined with registers, running the length of the building. This is where Mr. Kim’s troops brace themselves for the idiocy of mankind. Behind this battle line, there is a massive display wall, holding cigars, cigarettes, medications (“18 or NO drugs!”), rolling papers, trashy magazines, more cheap t-shirts with slogans like “Our time is nwo!”, energy pills that are really just speed, croutons, and Jimmy Hoffa. You know, all the things the little kiddies shouldn’t buy with their lunch money.

Off to the left is a short hallway that leads to the bagged-ice freezer, and eventually the drive-thru window. But you’re not supposed to head this way, (“Not exit! No go!”), which confuses everybody the first time they buy a bag of ice. You start heading this way, and Mr. Kim will pole vault from wherever he is in the store, and put a stop to it. “We get ice. Wait!”

What the hell is he keeping over there?

It’s certainly not his family members. He lets them run all over the place. There’s Mrs. Kim, who every once in a while will work one of the registers but mostly just stands around and looks like she misses home. To be fair, I’m just assuming that this is Mrs. Kim. She’s about his age, she chatters with Mr. Kim in the same language that is not English, and they both look like the mid-teen girl that is constantly poking them and asking for things like an iPod or a tattoo.

And you really DON’T want Mrs. Kim to ring you up, on those rare moments when she isn’t listening to the Miss Saigon original cast recording in her head while standing next to the pickle barrel. Since she doesn’t speak English, all she does is scan your items and then just look at you.

And since Mr. Kim, for some odd reason, has taped up the total window on the customer side of all the registers (I never bothered to ask), you have no clue what the total might be. Someone has to tell you. Luckily for me, I’m a regular and I know what my purchases should cost. If a newer patron is stuck with Mrs. Kim, one of the other clerks will have to lean over, yell out the total, and then go back to sacking up someone’s tampons and gingersnaps.

Now, Kimmy Junior is in full “goth wannabe” mode like so many girls her age. Wears lots of black outfits with metal jewelry, never looks happy about anything, and spends a lot of time sitting on this tiny chair that she probably picked out because it’s so uncomfortable and causes physical pain to go with the pretend emotional pain the she’s created in her head.

She IS still girly enough that she paints her pink Converse low-tops with glitter glue, and when she’s in a good mood she’s actually kind of cute and charming. But most of the time, it’s Gloom City, with her looking pale and tragic on the miniscule chair. And she’ll often leap up from the sad pose, scream out something like “Boys are stupid!”, and run out from behind the counter, slamming through the front doors and out into the parking lot. (Girl, you better not honk while you’re out there, just sayin.)

Mr. Kim will wait a few minutes, sighing, regretting birth-control decisions of yore, and finally wander out front to talk to Little Neurotica. (But you can bet your ass he’ll be back in two seconds if a customer even looks like they might try to get their own bag of ice.) Mrs. Kim, since the opera in her head has apparently reached intermission, usually wanders into the office where there is presumably a cot that she can use for swooning purposes. And then revive herself with lemon tea and gingersnaps.

And how is it, you might ask, that I have time to observe the familial dysfunctions of the Kims, when I am supposedly only here for the beer?

Because the remaining group of people behind the counter, who are responsible for simply taking my money and getting me the hell out of there, is one of the most astonishingly sloth-like, inbred, incompetent, ignorant, noisy, braying, belching, unwashed collection of human beings I have ever seen outside of the Department of Motor Vehicles.

That’s why.

And we’re about to meet them. But let’s take a short break. Perhaps you’d like to join Mrs. Kim at the snack bar until we return?

Click Here to Read the Next Entry in This Series.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Beer Busted, Part 1

So here’s the deal: We live in a “dry” area of Dallas, meaning nobody up in this here hood (except restaurants) can legally sell alcohol. It is not possible to run down to the corner convenience store and grab a six-pack of beer. You have to drive to other parts of the country to do so. Totally sucks.

How, one might ask, is it possible that different parts of the same city can have conflicting regulations concerning adult beverages? Good question. It seems that when one city (Dallas) swallows up another city (Oak Cliff, our hood), existing laws in the swallowed territory CAN remain in effect even though they do not apply to the rest of the Mother Ship city.

Okay, I get that. It’s irritating, but I get it. Trouble is, when Dallas sucked up Oak Cliff back in the early 1900’s, there WEREN’T any laws prohibiting alcohol sales. You could buy whatever the hell you wanted, thanks and come again.

What gives? Turns out that, in the 1950’s, some bored former Oak Cliffites (Cliffians?) decided that communism and demon alcohol were on the verge of destroying our country. So they rallied together and somehow passed a local ban on the vending of alcohol. (How this was also supposed to halt the communist invasion, I don’t know. Maybe they originally just wanted to stop the importation of Russian vodka and things just got out of hand.)

Bottom line, if you visit our house and would like to enjoy a nice glass of wine, you better bring the vino with you, or we’ll have to load up the truck and head to a more progressive part of town.

Just south of our humble dwelling, there lies the smaller town of Duncanville. This little burgh also used to be “dry” back in the day. But several years ago, there was a change of heart by city officials. (We can make money off the drunkards through sales tax. Hurray!) The laws were changed.

Which means that, almost overnight, tons of mom-and-pop convenience stores sprang up along the city limits between Duncanville and Oak Cliff, with the sole purpose of providing quick relief for the parched and sober Cliffers. There was rejoicing and singing.

Trouble is “mom-and-pop” means “not part of a decent corporate chain and therefore there’s no professionalism whatsoever”. The properties are poorly designed, the employees apparently were recruited under the nearest interstate bridge, and banjo music plays continuously. No one has a full set of teeth.

The closest of these shacks is a structure with the soothing name of “Cool Breeze”. Sounds relaxing, right? Visions of walking along the beach during a beautiful sunset. Wrong. This place is proof that hell is full and the dead are walking the earth.

First off, it’s a challenge even getting into the parking lot. There’s only one main entrance, which is also the main exit, so you have to fight upstream against all the excited people who have already made their purchases and couldn’t care less if you get yours.

As you pull in, there is a small parking lot on the left, directly in front of the building. Do not EVER park in this section. You will be trapped in there for days. Because the idiot owner put in a drive-thru window on the right side of the building, and the line of cars at said drive-thru will often back up past the entrance to the little parking lot and out into the main drag.

And don’t be thinking that someone in the drive-thru line will be polite and LET you out. Remember, this is the closest source of alcohol for our area of Oak Cliff. Meaning all the hard-core drunks in this part of town head straight to Cool Breeze as soon as they get off work (or get fired again), and they MEAN. They are not going to let your ass out and waste an additional twenty seconds before they can get their lips wrapped around a tallboy.

And don’t even think about honking. They will grab a crowbar or an empty cooler and beat you to death with it. These people don’t play.

And another thing about the evil drive-thru? Remember, there is only one main entrance/exit to this place. So once you’ve done your business in the drive-thru, you have to drive to the back of the property and turn around. (There’s a gigantic parking lot back here, but no one ever uses it. There are no lights. If you can get killed right in FRONT of the store, no telling what can happen to you back there.)

Once you’ve done the U-turn in the death lot, you then have to motor back through the drive-thru, squeezing past the stalled line of cars yet to be serviced. And since many of the drive-thru patrons grow increasingly irritated while sitting in line waiting for the slow-ass serving wench to lug a 24-pack to the window, they have no patience by the time they come out of the U-turn and they FLOOR it on the straightaway, screw whatever they might hit.

On the far right side of the property is a single line of parking spaces, facing a fence that separates Cool Breeze from the salvage yard on the other side. (It’s a quality neighborhood.) THIS is where you park. It’s the only section of parking where you have a pretty good shot of actually being able to leave the property after making your purchases. On the down side, there are a number of ways in which you might get killed before you ever make it back to your car.

Your first obstacle is the theoretical express lane for those cars done with the drive-thru. Look carefully before crossing. It may appear completely safe, the sun is shining and birds are chirping. One second later there can be a massive SUV headed directly toward you with no intention of stopping, thumping music blaring and already-empty beer cans sailing out the windows.

Next, you have the stalled line of cars waiting to pull up to the drive-thru window. They may look harmless, because they are not currently moving, but it’s deceiving. Don’t you DARE try to cut between the cars at a moment when it’s time for everyone to move forward a notch, because they will NOT stop if you are in the way. You may find yourself smashed into the back of a vehicle with a trailer hitch up your ass.

And don’t forget, drunkards usually don’t care WHAT they drive. Therefore, this line is usually full of decrepit, illegal vehicles, belching clouds of toxic black exhaust. Do not attempt to breathe until you are well clear of the drive-thru.

And don’t get uppity once you make it to the small parking lot in front of the store, thinking you’re safe and all. You can still get clubbed by an ice chest because somebody thought you honked at them. It doesn’t matter that you are not even in a vehicle and could not have honked. They drunk. Do not make any loud noises, and get your butt inside the store where there’s at least a small chance that one of the employees might possibly render you medical aid, if needed.

And once you’re inside that door? Oh. My. Gawd.

Click Here for the Next Entry in This Series.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

The Seventeenth One: Mt. Saint Helens

We’ve all been there.

You’re in a public place. Or semi-public. It doesn’t really matter. The point is that there are people around and you cannot do certain things. You should not be investigating any mucus-based blockage in your nostrils. Touching your genitals, even if it’s a simple readjustment matter concerning comfort, is verboten. And by no means should you loosen the control valve when it comes digestive gaseous buildup.

You just don’t do it.

So there I am, trapped in the workplace, on the one day when everybody on the planet reported to the office for some ungodly reason. And here it comes, a gas bubble the size of Tucson working its way through my system. Great.

I really don’t know how this happened. I didn’t recall having anything particularly toxic during lunch. I’m sure it was something from the company cafeteria. We rarely have time to actually leave the building because upper management toys with our lives at any given opportunity (hate them, by the way), so I’m sure I schlepped my way through one of the industrial bread lines for nourishment.

Anyway, it’s mid-afternoon, and the grumblings begin. At first I ignore the signs, assuming that I can just discreetly belch here and there and life will be good. But then things quickly start expanding like I have a leaf blower up my ass.

Oh dear.

Now, most folks would just quietly slip off to the restroom and set themselves free. I’m not really able to do that. I can pee on cue in front of anybody. No problem there. But when it comes to products from the other recycling portal, I slam shut. I don’t know what may have happened in my childhood that led to this issue, but I simply can’t toot in a general admission arena. Even in a facility expressly designed for such relief.

Can’t do it.

So I suffer through the afternoon, alternating between bouts of severe pressure and those misleading moments where you think the gas has been routed somewhere else in your body and you just might survive. The body is a wonderland of chutes and ladders.

Finally, it’s the end of the day. People are heading out in droves, laughing and chatting, happy to be free for the next few hours. I curse every one of them as they clatter by me, willing them to move faster. Because I’m fully aware that the mere act of movement could lead to personal tragedy, and I want the witness pool cut down to nothing.

When it’s down to just me and the cleaning staff left on the entire floor, I make my move. I race to the exit stairwell, purposely avoiding the elevators so there are fewer potential workmates that want to talk about politics. This is an old and decrepit stairwell, people don’t use this thing unless there are no other options. Surely I’m safe.

I throw open the door to said stairwell, and make an assessment. Even with the voracious rumblings from my intestines, I can tell that you could hear a pin drop from the upper floors. There is no one else in the entire building using this flight of stairs.


I launch myself forward, conquering flight after flight. Stupidly, I have parked on the lowest level of the parking garage. But I think I can make it. I just need to be quick about it.

Two floors from my destination, the gas bubble can no longer be denied. He wants out, and he wants out NOW. I weigh my options, and decide that surely, in a deserted stairwell, the risk is minimal. I send the signal to launch.

And right at that moment, I hear doors on every level above me slam open, and hundreds of people are pouring into the stairwell. What in gay hell? How can this be happening?

I send a secondary signal to abort the launch. But it’s tough going, there’s a lot of union employees complaining about the change in plans and they are not happy and want to talk to their union steward before complying. Damn them. I’m sweating and moaning and can’t breathe.

Cramping, I’m just one floor away from freedom. Sadly, this stairwell is a twisty one, where you have six steps, then a right turn, six more steps, another right turn. You get the picture.

And it’s on one of these turns, leaping through the air, that I lose all bodily control.

It’s ground zero.

In another place and time, I would have been quite proud of the enormous power unleashed out of my ass at that moment. But it was not the right time. Nor the right place.

The noise of the thunderclap shot upward, bouncing off the concrete walls and intensifying during the journey. I’m sure that ears were bleeding by the time my ass product worked its way to the upper levels.

There is total silence after my rolling thunder dissipates, everyone slamming to a halt as they process what they have just heard.

Then a lone country voice: “Well, gawd damn."

I throw myself over the stair railing and plummet to the bottom level. I rip the door open and race to my car, tires squealing as I floor it to get out of this hell.

I call in sick for the next three weeks. I have plastic surgery to disguise my face, arrange to have my name legally changed, and I petition the government to allow me asylum on an island that no one has discovered yet.

Fiber kills, people. Believe it.