I try not to go more than a month or so without a good shopping rant just to keep people from thinking I’ve died. There are two constants in my life and the first is I cannot sleep well and the next is I hate to shop. That once actually worked in my favor when I lived near a grocery store that was open all night. At three in the morning it’s just you and the freaks and you have to wonder if everyone there is a freak, what does that say about you? People at four in the morning shop differently than those at four in the afternoon; late night people show when they are stoned out of their minds and buy interesting things. Day shoppers are just plain mean and dangerous.
Knowing I have to go the Big Store, which I will refer to from this point on as BS I get nervous and that makes more aware there are idiots around me. Fumers are those people whose cars or trucks are putting out enough smoke to clear a New England State of mosquitoes, if not small aircraft. It’s wrong to judge a man by the amount of pollution coming out of his tailpipe and…you know, maybe it isn’t wrong at all. Maybe we should all do exactly that, but to make matters worse he’s got one of those thumping car CD players and whatever he’s listening to he doesn’t have to worry about anyone thinking his music is too loud because there is no way in hell anyone thinks that’s music. Worse, I’m trapped behind this one and we’re both trying to make a left turn. The light turns green, and Thumper slowly fumes his way ahead, and because it’s a four lane, I think I can around him, and away from him.
I would be wrong once again.
Thumper goes outside so I take the inside lane and just as I’m about to go around him he changes lanes suddenly. I brake hard, and as I do, the guy behind me passes me, and Thumper nearly clips him because Thumper has only now looked in his rearview mirror and discovered he’s changing lanes on top of two different vehicles. But Thumper locks up and I have to lock down, too, to keep from hitting him. Traffic backs up from the next light and I am trapped behind Thumper again. There across from us is chain pancake restaurant and heading for the door are three amazingly large women. They are heading into one of the worst places on earth for high fructose maple syrup and unadulterated white sugar products. They walk at a pace I could double if I was crawling and my face was super glued to an anvil. There is enough fabric in those three pairs of pants to clothe a small village.
BS has the best selection of supplements and I just need two items, only two, and I can be on my merry. Getting into the store is a problem even though I plan to park at the end of the parking lot. There’s someone in a car talking to someone walking along, and it doesn’t look like those two are going to let the rest of us in at all. A car three places behind me blows his horn and the shuffling woman stops walking altogether just to spite him. The rest of us are trapped as well. I can’t think of a place in nature where one member of a species will block others from moving out of malice and at the detriment to their own journey.
People texting and walking are beginning to be more common and they are not accustomed to anyone walking at speed. Everyone is supposed to be walking at a Pancake People Poke so I startle textans when I damn near run over them with a shopping cart. I’ve learned that most textans will freeze when confronted with a moving object so I get within a couple of feet of the textan and say loudly, “Heads up!” and cut hard to the right. It scares the hell out of them every time.
There isn’t a naturally occurring phenomenon to compare this sort of behavior with. There isn’t another species of animal who intentionally gets distracted to the point of collision. Nor is there a species of animal who when startled will intentionally become immobile, unless they have a shell. It’s the illusion of a shell that humans have that makes them nearly collide and makes them brake hard when startled. They assume they are protected by some mysterious force when wrapped in their own worlds and they assume this world offers them protection from the real one. Both theories are fallacious and dangerous.
I stop and I watch people shop. There are humans who trundle along, pushing a cart, talking on a cell phone, and right beside them are their kids who are pulling stuff off shelves, jamming up the aisles, and it’s like a clog in an artery. The people behind them agree to this as part of the shopping culture, where there are obstacle people and that’s acceptable behavior. Those of us who want to be somewhere else aren’t in this equation at all.
The aisle where the supplements are is just wide enough for one point two-five carts. Two carts cannot pass one another in this aisle and most people recognize this as fact, and rarely will anyone take a cart in. I’m trying to find the two items I need so I’m standing a little ways back. A woman pushed a cart right in front of where I’m looking and starts searching for a list of stuff and telling someone on her cell phone she’s found the B but which B is the right B? I don’t think she’s seen me, and if she has I’m fairly certain I haven’t registered on her radar. She picks up bottles of B, puts them in her cart, walks off to one side leaving the cart in my way, and never looks back. I take the bottles of B vitamins and put them back on the shelf and wait. Sure enough, she comes back to the cart, puts the new stuff in the cart, still talks on the phone, and ever notices the B is gone.
There isn’t a naturally occurring phenomenon to compare this to at all. I can’t think of an animal that will go to the trouble of obtaining something and then not notice it’s been taken away and all the while, the other animal that took it is, of all practical purposes, invisible. She wanders off to another aisle and I put more of her stuff back on the shelf, get my two items and leave.
The lane where the “Ten Items or fewer” sign is being ignored opens at the perfect moment and I glide over first. Right behind me is a woman and a man who are, indeed, ignoring the sign. They have a billion items in their cart, and the woman sends the man out for more as I’m leaving. It’s odd there is a system in place to facilitate those of us who want to be elsewhere, but those who do not care where they are assume no one else does either.
Have you ever noticed the cashiers and checkout stands are flanked by edible items whose nutritional values delve deep into the negative numbers? Liquid high fructose corn syrup, chocolate flavored white sugar, and high sodium snacks nearly barricade consumers into the buying corral. Food for the bored, for the idle, for the indifferent and the culinary suicidal, is stacked head high to a little kid up to the eye range of an adult. The ads are flashy and promote excitement in eating a product that address neither hunger nor need. I am nearly certain this does not occur in nature, but it does, in point fact, occur in places where cattle are raised. Farm animals eat whatever is put in front of them and never think to question what they are eating or why.
I wonder how many of the people here really think about what they are buying and why. I see a woman walking out with two huge plastic planters and I wonder how long they will function as they are supposed to. If she actually used them to put plants in they are so light they’ll crack after a year, and how long they will last in a landfill can be measured in decades. I see a man dragging a plastic pool out to his truck and I know those things have a short lifespan.
We pay homage to the transitory nature of life by giving that same feature to the earth. When we flock to a Big Store we’re not feeding survival but We’re not living when we come to a place like this. We’re renting the sensation of living, but paying with our lives.