The long mournful sound of a train eased into my mind. I woke up enough to calculate that it was probably the late night train, usually around 2am or so. But hang on, hadn’t I already been up at 2am to let the dog out for the umpteenth time? Dive! Dive! Dive! The alert blared in my head. As I was booting up to full awake, part of me was wondering why, living in the center of the country and having not one single thing to do with submarines, my automatic pilot had chosen that sound to bolt me into fight or flight. I made a hurried assumption that it was the irony of the incongruous noise, that could jolt me from a full stop to where’s the fire.
I glanced over at the clock and blurted an “Expletive Deleted!”. The dog downstairs was heard to grumble something about it being too early for this kind of nonsense. I’ve found that irony does not have the same, or any, effect on canines. It was now 6:30am and the reason the night had lasted forever, was Mr. I Got To Eat Stupid Stuff had to be let out every 45 minutes, lest he talk to Ralph all over the kitchen carpet. And today was “Going to Town” day and I was in a state of Oh Sh*t, because the sun would soon be up, and that meant that “Day Walkers” would be stumbling around in the same locale I was. No Bueno!
Part of the joy of being reclusive and living so far from town is the only somewhat daily contact is with our exceptionally windy mail man. He not only delivers junk mail and a few packages, I get the whole meal deal of what is on his mind for every visit. I am not sure if he does this with other people on his route, if so, he must be late for supper, I mean really late. Maybe he knows I’m a recluse and it’s his mission to bring some much needed human contact to me and the dog. If that’s the case, thanks, but I’m good to go. So far, he hasn’t gotten the hint.
The somewhat svelte and totally missing Mrs Hottie Chef used to do all the necessary town stuff. And that was good for as long as it lasted. But now, it’s up to me, with the usual consequences. I’ve found brushing shoulders with the town folk not as much fun as advertised. As such, I have chosen to schedule my supply trips in the predawn hours. There is a minimum of like minded and sullen shoppers and we all have the decency to not make eye contact.
What’s left is shelf stockers, but the Frito Lays guys and other vendors are no problem. Courteous and quick to get out of your way, because even in these troubled times, the customer is still king. It’s the in-house stockers that are the proverbial turd in the punch bowl. Angry people, working a job they disdain, for a barely supportable wage. They can be formidable foes. The whole passive aggressive blocking of the aisle while pretending they didn’t see you. Now you’d think this is a guy thing. Competition, one upmanship, all the stuff guys bring to the party when dealing with other guys, to which I reply, nope. Chick stockers can be worse than the guys.
Most days, I don’t have time for this type of silliness, and will just go to the next isle. However, with the dog and the night, and the Mrs being gone, I stepped into a blocked isle and decided that today was a day when blocked aisles were only suggestions of impediment. If the stock boys and girls wanted to play hardball, well, I hail from a land where hardball is fun, but frozen snowballs in the backlot get you the respect and stature you need to win the girl and sleep on the top bunk. That whole Minnesota nice thing? That’s just a passive aggressive patty cake game they play with people not of the tribe.
I was short on a critical staple and found my opponent about halfway down the cake mix and flour isle. It was a guy, 30 something with a gut and a goatee. I parked my cart about 20 feet in, and stood, staring at him. By the way he turned away from me, I knew that he knew I was there and waiting. Another shopper came into the aisle, behind me. Most times, day walkers are completely oblivious to their surroundings. It was a middle aged woman and she inexplicably paused, looked up and decided that maybe she didn’t need anything in this part of the store. Somewhere, distantly, the theme song to the Good, The Bad and the Ugly was trilling in the background. 45 seconds had elapsed and I had started to push my cart directly at him. He hunched his shoulders just a bit and busily rearranged some cupcake mix. His rack was parked right in front of the Gold Medal All Purpose Flour that I needed. I stopped a couple cart lengths away and he started to look my way, but I quickly faced the product rack and perused the wonders of 15 different kinds of the same thing. As he mustered up some direct eye contact, I just stood there, looking at the same spot. With a shake of his head, he gave in and looked away, so I pushed my cart closer.
After about a minute of this, he started to lose his nerve and called out “Oh, didn’t see you there.” Uh huh. “Did you need to get past me?” I shook my head and gave him a laconic “Nope” as my cart bumped his rack. He licked his lips while wiping his hands on his pants. One more little tap with my cart, and that was it, he grabbed his rack and vacated the scene. I took my flour from the shelf and hummed the theme to Clint Eastwood’s great spaghetti western. I noticed that Rack Boy had moved 2 isles down, and briefly considered a second go at him, but Mom always said it’s best to leave the table a little hungry.
The rest of my trip through the store was remarkably serene, until the checkout girl started to lecture me on how not to put the chemicals in with the fruit and veggies. I looked at my cart, with veggies, fruit and such in the top rack and the evil chemicals and socks in the bottom of the cart. Then I noticed she had a nose ring and was very tempted to ask her how that worked with a cold. Do you get snot bubbles out of 3 holes or what? However, she side tracked me with asking what this type of pepper was and what was that thing, and then I noticed she bagged the Lysol cleaner in with the frozen spinach. She probably hates spinach and by this time, my inner Mom was telling me sometimes it’s best to just shut up and get the heck out of town. Yes, Mom. I’ve seen where Amazon will mail you groceries. Not sure if it works out here, and if it did I’d be seeing a lot more of my chatty Cathy mailman. There are days when staying home and playing broken hearted country & western train songs is your only solace. And look at that, the mail man is coming up the drive.