To Purgatory and Back - in a Shopping Cart
Enter the other side of life
It’s every husbands’ nightmare…my wife sends me out to the grocery store late at night to get item x…which may be something so innocuous as milk or bread, or something so sinister as feminine hygiene products of which I refrain from elaborating on. The latter item being the true test of love only the brave of heart dutifully endure this gauntlet of public shame with all the enthusiasm of a trip to the gallows.
Grocery stores suck the life out of me, with their dreary inner decor. The moment I enter those double glass doors that separates two dissimilar worlds, the ‘whooshing’ sound of the doors seems to extract my soul from me. Suddenly I’m transported to another reality, a dreary place where time becomes indistinct. Maybe it’s the garish fluorescent lights that gives it its surreal quality? Maybe it’s the mind-numbing muzak piped in to mask the pervading ambiance of apathy.
Lifelessly shuffling along in various states of diminished capacity as inmates of an asylum, the paltry assemblage of soulless humanity ebbs and flows along cluttered aisles amongst a peppering of dull apathetic drones they pretentiously call employees. Meandering along endless aisles of sundry products, a cardboard and styrofoam universe of redundancy, we carefully avoid eye contact as we pass. Intrusive forms of interaction are forbidden, lest we disturb the fabric of our meager subsistence.
I catch a glimpse of myself, a reflection in the glass; only to see a grotesque caricature of my former self staring back at me, minus the soul.
Weaving in and out of traffic in a shopping cart with one bad wheel that clatters and bangs along, the pursuit begins.
Clank, clank, clank!
My shopping cart and I wobble and clatter along, like Jacob Marley’s chains being drug behind him. Catching my reflection, I see a grotesque caricature of my former self staring back at me, minus the soul. The din of noise prevails, a cacophony of discordant noises clashing.
Frequently traffic is blocked by a 'double-wide booty' obstructing a 'single-booty wide' aisle. Carts routinely clog congested aisles as shoppers meticulously contemplate the merits of brand x, oblivious to the impasse they cause. I narrowly avoid a five-cart pile-up on aisle three.
A macabre scene
Finally locating the sole article of my late-night quest, I reluctantly navigate to the check out to find winding lines of unimaginative patrons staring ahead blankly, waiting to advance. It’s a macabre scene not unlike the walking dead locked in a holding pattern. Racks of tasteless magazines with ludicrous titles vie for attention for a clientele suspiciously void of cerebral activity, flat-liners on an EEG. For a moment, I briefly contemplate the prospect of mugging someone as they exit the store for any product that remotely resembles the object of my quest; tossing money at them as I sprint away with an overweight security guard in hot pursuit, dough-nut in hand.
Sir….sir?!!! the voice repeats.
Numbly I manage to shred my stupor long enough to see a clerk speaking at me. It takes several attempts to breech the catatonic state I’m in. He’s saying something…his lips are moving.
“All you have is one item? Just go through the express lane at the office window”.
Slowly the sound begins to come in range, but the words are out of sync with his lips, like an old movie voice-over. I stare ahead blankly.
“It’s OK,” he assures me.
Clank, clank, clank!
My shopping cart and I wobble and clatter unceremoniously towards the direction he pointed.
“Can it be true,” I ask myself? “Have I just been released from this mercantile purgatory?”
My former self
Moments later I exit those double glass doors with the resultant whooshing noise, I suddenly feel my soul re-invigorating the corporeal remains of my former self.
And now you know why I cringe when asked to go to the grocery store.
© 2012 Jim Henderson