Monday, July 17, 2006

Lost my will to live somewhere in the frozen-foods aisle...

Look. I realize that you—my vivacious and enormously-attractive audience—are busy people. You’ve got appointments to keep, clients to manage, and glamor to exude. No matter what continent you’re on or what sort of web browser you use, you manage to juggle important responsibilities with an active, stimulating social life. When you come here (and I’m very, very flattered that you come here, especially you Brazilians), you want trenchant commentary on the pressing events of the day and feature pieces on poo-slinging punk rockers. You do not want to hear about my trip to the grocery store.

Well, too bad for you. Because I went to the grocery store today and I’m raring to tell you all about it. Settle in, beautiful readership, and I’ll try to make this as painless as possible...

Alright. Usually, when I want to buy food, I go to one of two places: (a) a touchy-feely organic co-op or (b) an upscale fancy-dancy yuppie haven. While both of these places are close, they are not the nearest grocers to my apartment. The closest place for me to buy food is a little place I’ll refer to as The Grocery Store On The Threshold Of Hell. Or, for brevity’s sake, The Shittiest Goddamn Grocery Store In America. Oh, that’s no shorter than the first, is it? I suppose I’ll have to call it The Florescent-Lighted Hellhole Of Shame And Rotting Produce. Or perhaps The Hideous Chamber Of Surly Cashiers And Overpriced Toilet Paper.

Forget it about the name. Whatever name I choose can only convey the barest fraction of the awfulness of this place. Imagine, if you will, a large room painted a less-than-appealing dried- blood color and crossed by aisle after aisle of things that are similar to, but not exactly what you want. Around the fringes of this shameful place is a disarrayed display of fruits which will turn brown the moment you get them home, a butcher’s corner crowded with all manner of inedible fleshy things, and a long row of refrigerators holding huge jugs of milk, all of which expire in less than sixteen hours. This is the frame which surrounds the thirty-six varieties of whitebread, the festering lagoon of spilled tomato sauce, the marked-down bottles of diabetes-inducing fruit drinks, the baffling profusion of barbeque chips, and the ATM machine which screeches and screeches and screeches like some kind of horny carrion bird.

For you timid types, do not worry, you will not have to suffer Satan’s Shabbiest Grocery alone. Oh no. No no no. You will, in fact, be surrounded by people who hate the place just as much as you do. Some hate it so much that they’ll have no choice but to take it out on you. “Motherfucker better not be taking the last case of Diet Coke,” they will mutter under their breath as you take the last case of Diet Coke. Others will bang their overloaded carts into your ankles, rolling their eyes in exasperation at your stupid habit of lingering too long by the headache medicines. Throughout all this, shirtless children will roil around you and strange men will wander past, bellowing one curse word after another into their cell phones. Finally, the employees will be ever-present, ever-willing to cluck their tongues at how dumb you are for asking for a paper bag. No one gets a paper bag at The Food Vendor Of The Damned. You get a plastic bag, no matter what. And if you bought three items, you get three plastic bags. One for each of them. That’s just the way they roll there. Don’t bother wondering why.

But such thoughts will be far from your mind as you take hold of your sixteen plastic handles. The only thing you will be thinking then is, thank you sweet Jesus, I’m done, I’m done, I’m going home and never coming back here...But—alas—you aren’t finished. For you still have to walk out into the seven zillion acre parking lot, an unlit and cracked expanse of blacktop home to countless abandoned cars and no less than a dozen junkies and derelicts who will not rest until they shake you down for “bus fare”. Compounding the peril are the former customers of the Nightmare Wasteland Awful Awful Place who have made it to their cars and are speeding away with no regard to your rights as a pedestrian. Will they kill you? It depends on how fast you run! Run, doomed grocery shopper, run! Run for your life! Run far, far away from this miserable hellhole, never to return!

And on the weekends it’s even worse.