"I think I'll go shopping tomorrow," I told Greg over our Thanksgiving meal. The meal, btw, was actually just some take-out in plastic containers, but it'd been given to us for free by the chef, so no complaints.
"Don't," Greg replied immediately. "You're not that type of person. You'll have a terrible time, then you'll find some way to blame me for it."
"I won't blame you. Why would I blame you? I'm making a conscious choice, and I'll be fine."
Greg chewed his turkey, thinking. Then he said, "You can't stand going shopping under the best of conditions. Really. Remember two weeks ago when you went to Barnes and Noble?"
"That wasn't my fault. I just have bad experiences. Bad shopper's luck."
"You yelled at a four year old over a Harry Potter book."
"The kid was hogging the whole section. I couldn't... see around him."
Greg stared blankly at me, chewing. "Okay. All right. Just... don't blame me when you have a terrible time."
"We need a new rug. I can probably get one for cheap. And you mentioned that game that's gonna be on sale. What's it called?"
"Right." I jotted the name down on a piece of paper, knowing I'd never remember. Folded the paper and shoved it into my back pocket.
We fell asleep early, a dreamless sleep as heavy as anvils, and then woke up at 4.30. Greg dressed and left for work--he was working the front lines of Black Friday--and I combed my hair, kissed the dog goodbye, shoved earbuds into my ears, and set off to buy a rug and a game while listening to the cast album of 'West Side Story.'
I don't blame Greg for what happened next. But he should've been more persuasive in his argument: "You're not that type of person," he said, but I thought he was being amusing. What he should've said was, "You are an insane person, and have no right being around others. Stay home or I will take the dog and move into a hotel." Maybe that would've gotten his point across a bit better.
So I take the train across the river into the Bronx. I take the train, and it's mostly empty, and the sky is an iron color because it's not quite day, but it's no longer night. The sky is kinda 'eh, whatever.' A man is sitting across from me, looking as if he had one hell of a Thanksgiving. He's hunched over, one large hand covering his face, and the one eye I can see is bloodshot and droopy, and with each jerk of the train he slips a little bit further down in his seat so that by the time we pull into the next station his head is about the only thing in the seat--the rest of his body has slipped down into the aisle.
Right. So. I get off the train, go down the station stairs to the sidewalk, and am suddenly in the middle of a throng (I think that's the right word--sounds threatening, right?) of people screaming in three different languages. Stores along the street are open, doors thrown wide, and all of the stores are blasting chipper, bouncy Spanish music that I can hear over Maria singing about how pretty she feels. And everyone is dressed as if they're going to war in the Arctic, even though it's only 50 degrees.
I push my way thru this crowd towards Namesless Box Store, my goal. I was already doing "that thing" with my jaw that Greg says I do far too often--I was grinding my teeth, which makes my chin jut out. Also, I was clenching and unclenching one hand as if massaging a hamster.
"There's a place for us..."
Nameless Box Store looked like Saigon during the American evacuation. Complete chaos. People pouring in, coming out with giant flat-screen tvs in boxes featuring a grinning blond chick. Seriously, that must've been the main sale because I saw that grinning chick everywhere, in every aisle, shoved haphazardly into shopping carts or balanced on the shoulders of brave men. As I pushed--literally--my way into Nameless Box Store, past the armed guards stationed at every door, the blond chick grinned at me from every side.
"Hold my hand and you're half-way there..."
I somehow managed to make it to the electronics section, at the back of the store. I was thinking about picking up a few DVDs, considering a clothes purchase, and anxious to get a new rug for the living room.
I didn't see the enormous group of people behind a rope. Just didn't see them. The combo of West Side Story in my ears and thoughts of purchases to be made distracted me. Plus, really, once you're inside a store, you're INSIDE THE STORE--the only lines you expect are the ones at the check-out. Who the hell lines up to browse? But apparently the grinning blond chick had made necessary a line, as if she were the popular whore in a whorehouse.
The first sign of trouble was a group of Nameless Box Store employees yelling at me. I ignored them because I'm often shouted at, for various reasons, and I've discovered that if I simply ignore the shouting, I'm left alone.
Plus, yes, I was grooving on the showtunes. Seriously, I hadn't listened to West Side Story in a while, and had forgotten how great the score is. So I was in a zone, and simply wanted to get Greg's game, a rug, and a few other things, and didn't realize there was a complicated system in place to prevent me from doing those simple things.
Also, I was beginning to find the blond chick kind of distracting because she was everywhere, grinning at me.
The group of Nameless Box Store employees were shouting at me as I wandered down an aisle of DVDs. While ignoring them, I checked out a special edition of The Wizard of Oz, and thought it'd be nice to own but not something I'd ever actually watch, dismissed it, and took in a Deadwood box set. Weighed my options: I might watch Deadwood once, because I really liked the first season and have always wanted to see the second and third, but did it really have replay value? Then I pushed on, surprised at the lack of crowds in the DVD section, toward the game aisle.
That's when I couldn't ignore the shouts anymore, because the shouts were coming from a teenaged girl with a complicated hair design. She was suddenly in my face.
"We'll find a new way of living..."
The young woman's voice cut through Bernstein's kinda-treacly music. "Do you not see the line?" she demanded. I popped the earbuds out. The young woman was gesturing, in a very vague way and with a hand bearing the longest fingernails I'd ever seen, toward a few hundred people. The people were behind a rope. They were all looking at me as if I were the last helicopter out of Saigon.
"I'm just looking," I said. Confused.
"You ain't looking, you're shopping. Why the fuck else would you be here at 5 AM."
"Get in the line."
See. I have a thing about being told to line up. I don't know why, but I do--I resent lines. I understand lines exist mostly to give some semblance of order to a chaotic world, in that you can't just wander up to a McDonald's counter whenever you want but instead must wait your turn. But shopping IS chaos. Purchasing is orderly. Know what I mean? You don't line up to shop, you line up to purchase.
So I said to the young woman who was shouting at me to get in a goddamn line in order to look at potential purchases, "You're a fucking idiot." Sure, not really called for. She was just following orders, etc. Doing her job.
The young woman changed her fingernailed vague gesture into a 'aw hell no' swipe, and said, "What did you say?"
"I said you're a fucking idiot. I'm just browsing. Can't I browse without being attacked?"
Again, I'm not defending my actions. But I can't defend the concept of lining people up in a store just to look at merchandise, either.
"That's it," the young woman said. She whipped her head and its complicated architecture of hair toward the group of Nameless Big Box employees standing a few feet away. "Call Carl."
One of the employees pulled out a walkie-talkie and mumbled into it.
"Carl?" I asked. "You're gonna call Carl because I want to look at a Wizard of Oz DVD?"
"Security," she told me.
"You're making people stand in a goddamn line to look at shit, and you're calling security on me?" Yes, I really said that. Again, not justifying, but... come on.
So Carl was contacted, and he dispatched his minions, and suddenly I was surrounded by four or five rent-a-cops--ARMED rent-a-cops, as if I was a threat to the safety of others. Guns. Seriously. Fucking sidearms in Nameless Box Store. I don't care if it was the Bronx, there's no reason to shoot people over merchandise.
The rent-a-cops surrounded me. One asked, "Is there a problem?" He was looking at me, but the young woman answered.
"Yes. He didn't stand in line."
"I didn't see the fucking line," I said. "Who looks for a line to get to the DVDs?"
"Sir, there is clearly a line right there," one rent-a-cop said. "See those people?" Yes, I saw those people. They were now almost impossible to miss, since they were all staring at me. "They're standing in line, waiting for their chance."
Chance to what? I thought. But I said, "I've been here a million times and there's never been a line just to walk from there--" I pointed to a spot a few feet away where there were shelves of shoes and socks "--and here." I pointed to where I was standing, which happened to be by a display of Twilight books.
"It's not a usual day," the rent-a-cop said. He had a hand on my arm. I suspected one of the other rent-a-cops was fingering the handle of his gun.
"You're all nuts."
"You gonna get in line?" the cop asked.
I considered it. Considered getting in line. "No. I'll leave, though."
"He called me an idiot," the young woman said. I bit my tongue. Ground my teeth.
Yeah, so, I stalked out of Nameless Big Box store, and... yeah. The less said about the whole thing, the better.
Inappropriate sharing, incomprehensible ramblings, uncalled-for hostility: yup, it's a blog.
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