Further proof that I am now officially an old fart:
I was at the grocery store checkout Sunday morning, and the cashier and the bag girl were talking about their Saturday night escapades. And one said to the other, right in front of me, as if I wouldn't have a clue what they were talking about, "Yeah, I took a two-liter bottle and did like you told me, and, man, it was excellent. That works just great."
I couldn't help but chuckle a little, and they looked at me.
"You know, kids," I told them in a Jack Webbish deadpan, "that stuff just leads to harder ductwork."
My true old fart behavior, for which my wife mocks me, is how I correct the bag boy/girl when they don't put the cold stuff all together. The "paper or plastic" question doesn't carry the moral weight it does in Madison. Most people choose plastic, and so bag packers don't really have a sense of structure for bagging groceries. I tell them., "Put the cans in paper with the eggs on top. Put cold things together. Chemicals separate from food. Otherwise, use your discretion."
I tell you, my year of bagging groceries experience has been stretched so far now, you'd think it had built character or something. Bob Dole's generation had the Great Depression and World War II to hold up to all subsequent generations. We have disco and the exaggerated toil of old part-time jobs.
Every other time I'm at that grocery store, their sound system plays "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald." A great song, but not exactly the kind of music conducive to grocery shopping for most people. I'm in the dairy aisle, getting a little choked up as I always do when I hear that song, and I get the sense that the song's charms are lost on the Floridians. "Does anyone know where the love of God goes when the waves turn the minutes to hours . . . " The kind of song that says happy shopping.
When checkin' time came, the old clerk came on deck sayin', "Fellas, it's too rough to scan ya."
It's true that depressing music increases sales in bars, but how many dark, smokey grocery stores have you been in? There you want to check everything out under the bright lights. It's bad enough when you shop when you're hungry, because you'll buy microwavable snacks you'd never consider on a full stomach. Hot pockets. Pizza in any form other than pizza. Thank the gods there's no such thing as grocery goggles. Many a poor human has awoken to some frightening bed companion, now revealed by the light of day to be the whore of Babylon, asking what's for breakfast. The last thing you need is for the breakfast itself to be the very embodiment of regret. Just hand your new friend the breakfast burrito and let's just pretend this never happened.
There are many sorrows that an administrative secretary may try to drown in a half-gallon of double-chocolate brownie royale, but maritime disasters aren't one of them. If a freighter with 26,000 tons of Precious Moments figurines went down with all hands, I have yet to hear the song.
"The rescuers say/they'd have made Whitefish Bay/if they weren't carrying so many Beanie Babies . . ."
© 1999 Randel Shard