6 People At The Grocery Store (Plus 1)

shopping-cartI’m not a shopper.  I don’t have a philosophical problem with shopping. In fact, I’m a huge fan of our consumer society. It’s just that I’m too many civilized generations removed from The Hunt to appreciate the joy of finding that perfect item — on sale.  This doesn’t mean I don’t shop — I do.  Every week, like my Cro-Magnon ancestors, I go out into the urban wilderness to claim my rightful place in the food chain.  It’s called grocery shopping, and in North America, it’s a mutant hybrid of a scavenger hunt, an obstacle course and a futile battle against stupidity.  Here is just a sampling of the moronic forces arrayed against us every time we venture forth to buy food.

My Real Name Is richard.petty\943 Even before you get into the store, there are the people who think that, just because they have a video screen in the dash of their car, they can drive as if the parking lot is a RealTime simulation of Nascar Heat 2 from Playstation.

Where Am I? — These are the folks who enter the store and stop dead –as though they’ve just broken the Time/Space continuum and have no idea what dimension they’re in.
“It’s a grocery store.  That stuff on the shelves is food.  You came here on purpose!”

Me Go Here Now — There are the people who have no reasonable sense of direction, nor any concept of organization.  They stop in the middle of the aisle; back up, turn around, start again; think about it, stop, turn, bash into the cart next to them; stop, try again and then nonchalantly head off in the direction they started with.  And even though you get stuck behind these idiots three or four times, when you see them at the checkout, all they have in their cart is a frozen pizza, a package of disposable diapers and two cans of dog food.

Me Stop Here Now — These are the folks who stop their cart sideways in the middle of the aisle, tying up traffic in both directions, while they contemplate the pickles.
“It’s a condiment, for God’s sake — not the Bayonne Tapestry!”

There’s A Reason I’m Lonely — These are the people who ambush you into listening to a long-winded monologue that starts with the price of sugar, goes through the hurricanes in the Caribbean and finally fades away — somewhere between the guy next door who won’t cut his grass and the drug dealer across the street — but only because you quit being polite and just walked away.

OMG!  I Haven’t Seen You Since Tuesday — These are the friends who meet at the congested intersection of Dairy and Frozen Food, or in Produce, or — oh, hell, it doesn’t matter — because they invariably launch into a protracted conversation about how much they loved their vacation, how much they hate their vocation or Henry’s hemorrhoid operation.  You can’t get past them, around them or over them without pulling out a gun.  And on particularly bad days, Henry and his proctologist are standing there, as well.

And finally, just when you think it’s over:

I Forgot You Have To Pay —  These are the people who stoically stand in line at the checkout for twenty minutes; then, when it’s their turn, wait patiently while the cashier beeps every item — until, at the very end, they suddenly realize they’re in the middle of a financial transaction and start fumbling for their money.

Light At The End Of The Techie Tunnel

TechiesI gave up trying to work with the electronics industry many moons ago.  Techies and their minions all think they’re medieval village priests with a direct line to the One True God — and they’re insufferable because of it.  However, recently I discovered there’s a light at the end of the tunnel.  Some of the folks might be real people, after all.

Let me explain:

I was killing some time and went into an electronics store to try and find a set of labels to identify which cord fits what in the ever-expanding octopus that now accompanies my technological life.  FYI (and you know this) every digital device on this planet comes with a cord (cords?) They’re all black, they’re all tangled, each of them fits only one thing, and they’re everywhere.  Anyway, I found what I was looking for — 10 sticky labels for a reasonable $9.95 — and went to pay.  This is not the actual conversation.  I’ve shortened it and taken out most of the swearing, but the conclusion is verbatim.

Perky Clerk:  Good Afternoon.

Me:  Hiya.  Just this. (places item on the counter and fumbles in pockets)

Perky Clerk:  Do you have our Rewards Card?

Me:  Nah, I’m from across town.  (pushes the item closer to the cashier)

PC:  Would you like to get one of our Rewards Card, today?  It’s free and you get a 20% discount on today’s purchase and 10% off any future purchases to a maximum of $1,000.00 a year.  Plus, you get …

Me:  No, I’m good.

PC:  For example (Perky Clerk picks up item and scans it — N.B. all the sales information is now in the system) you’d save $2.00 plus tax.

Me:  No, like I say, I’m from across town. I’d never use it.

PC:  Our Rewards Cards are good at over 200 locations all across the country.

Me:  I’m sure it’s a great deal, but really– no thanks.

PC:  Alright. (Perky Clerk looks at me as if I were the Village Idiot’s half- witted brother)  It’s up to you.

Me:  (various grunts and shrugs)

PC:  Could I have your email address?

Me:  What?  No, I don’t want the card.  It’s just this. (pushes item at perky clerk)

PC:  That’s fine, sir. This is for our warranty.

Me:  Warranty?

PC:  All our merchandise comes with “Our Personal Guarantee” 90 day warranty or you can purchase an extended warranty for 1, 3, or 5 years.

Me:  These are paper labels with glue at one end!  What kind of a warranty am I’m going to need?  No, I don’t want the warranty. (pulls money out of pocket)

PC:  All our merchandise comes with “Our Personal Guarantee” 90 day warranty, sir.  (Perky Clerk gives me the “Why are you being such an asshole?” look.)

Me:  (lays the money on the counter)  I don’t care.  Here’s the labels; here’s my money.  You don’t need my email address.

PC:  (still perky)  I’m sorry sir, but I can’t do the transaction without your email address.

Me:  Yes, you can.  I saw you.  You scanned it just a minute ago.

PC:  That was a price check, sir.  The system won’t recognize a sale without an email address.

Me:  I’m not giving you my email address.  All you’re going to do is clutter up my computer with a bunch of sales crap I don’t want. (unruly muttering behind me)

PC:  You can go to our website and decline our promotional offers at any time, sir.

Me:  I don’t want to go to your web site.  I don’t want your Rewards Card.  I don’t want your warranty.  In fact, I don’t want any of this bullshit.  I just want to buy some labels and get the hell out of here. (straightening up defiantly while unruly muttering behind me gets louder)

Perky Clerk:  Sir, may I suggest you quit being a douche and just give me a fake address so I can get on with my job.

Me:  Oh — uh — right.  Boy, do I ever feel stupid.

Perky Clerk:  No worries.  We get that a lot here.

Black Friday: Who, What and Why?

black fridayToday is Black Friday, the ultimate orgasm of North American conspicuous consumption.  By close of business today, millions of people will have spent billions of dollars on tons of crap they couldn’t possibly need.  Not only that, but consumer debt will take a measurable leap skyward, as most people will be spending credit card money they don’t even have.  And why do we do this?  Because we have to.

It’s very fashionable these days to decry our consumer society, but I’ve noticed that the same people who are always yipping about how “Money can’t buy happiness” usually have an abundance of both.  Obviously, money can’t buy happiness — but let’s get real — it certainly takes the sting out of any bad mood I’ve ever had.  Likewise, it’s pretty hard to be genuinely joyous when your only leisure activity is lying awake at night, worrying about how to pay the rent.  I’ve been rich and I’ve been poor; take a wild guess which one I prefer.

Let’s put this thing into perspective.  Black Friday isn’t about money or shopping.  It’s way more primeval than that.  Black Friday is the hunt.  Trust me, if you scratch the 21st century off those folks camped out in front of WalMart, you’ll find a pack of spear-waving Cro-Magnon, on the prowl for mastodon.  They may have traded in their pointy sticks for an American Express card, but so what?  Grog the Caveman, wearing a sabre tooth tiger pelt, and Morgan the Media Consultant, playing with the latest iPhone, are basically the same person — separated by a few millennia of history.  It’s all about prowess.  Both of them are telling the world, “Hey!  I am a successful Homo Sapien.”

Across the length of human history, the rules haven’t changed that much.  We might all mouth the civilized platitudes (“Money isn’t everything,” etc.) but at the end of the day, successful people usually find a way to tell the world about it.  Whether it’s a solid wall of sound stereo system or an ancient, esoteric salad ingredient, the rest of us know who’s making their way in the world.  And that’s why Black Friday exists.  Bargain hunting is hunting, and loading a 60-inch TV into the back of your SUV is no different from dragging a woolly mammoth back to the cave.  So conspicuous consumption be damned!  Shop ’til you drop, North America!  It’s in your DNA.