This was a piece I wrote this summer. In the summer I tend to get a little overwhelmed by all of the extra human activity and the damn heat. If I had xanax this story would have been completely different, if even written at all. It got lost in the stack, so here it is. Enjoy.
I finished work early and began the process of hauling ass out to my folks spread in the cool and quiet Sierras. Cool and quiet being the key. It was hotter than hell in the desert and my brain nearly ceased it’s already minimal function. I was in survival mode. The Friday afternoon buzz of summer vacationers and motorhomes on top of normal traffic also makes me want to go “banana sandwich”. Growing up in the boonies has its downsides, and coping with living in town is one of them. I was preparing for a swift exodus back to sanity. The catch was I had to make a few stops before I could get to the high pines and cool canyon creeks.
I had to get some groceries for my folks and the store was filled with beautiful women. Any other time this would be welcomed. I’m 30, single, and just a notch above the ugly line when I’m lucky. I was tempted to strike a conversation with the smiling LuLu Lemonite grabbing avocados with me, but I was in full blown evacuation mode. No time for initiating love Doctor Jones. These yoga panted Sirens weren’t winning today.
I got to my house and grabbed my pre-packed gear and my now insanely hyper dog. She knows where we’re going and she loves it more than I do. When I pulled onto the freeway I felt my stress and tension begin to thin out. I had the casinos in the mirror and the western mountains in my sights. Town is such a filthy word anymore, city is unspeakable. I can’t believe that I live in one. I realize that I have become a globalization statistic. One of the masses drawn away from the country into urban areas to find work. Millions of rural-sick moths moribund to the flickering lights. How many of us were stuck here? It was too god damned sad to think about. If I could ever make livable money from writing I’d be living back in the sticks in a heartbeat. I don’t need opulence, just some space and quiet, and possibly a whiskey still.
I wasn’t home free yet. I had one more stop to make and I wasn’t excited about it. I needed to pick up some ammo and a few little things for my quickly approaching elk hunt. I found myself in a certain chain outdoor store that rhymes with “Chuddelas”. I like to call it Super Super Walmart. It’s always a squiggly lipped adventure when I have to come in here and drop money on anything. Sometimes my mood is comical and the laughter comes in spurts. Most of the time it’s a painful experience.
I hate shopping box stores but occasionally you have no option. Consider this a lesson in
birth consumer control.
After following an elderly couple driving down the parking lot corridor at 0.7 miles per hour, complete with constant brake checks for no apparent reason other than the driver’s restless leg syndrome meds were wearing off, I found an almost shady parking spot to keep my setter from being in one of those animal cruelty commercials. The tiny shade tree could be pissed over in the right conditions, but it was something. I filled her water and asked her to wish me luck.
I managed to catch the waddling migration of an entire family group of Americus Obeseus Uprighti, a group clad in Waterfowl Monarchy gear and appearing to be russian nesting dolls in the flesh. They had spoils – toting bags of carmel corn (by the pound of course) and other bags of I don’t know what. Once considered rare or an oddity, this species is now dominate in my region. Richard Attenborough was narrating the sun fried script running through my head. I dodged another large bodied young family who’s offspring were trying to hit the handicapped door button as hard and as frequently as possible – “The young males seem baffled by the ‘magic door’, their gaped mouths only eclipsed by their fathers..”
I made it through the 4 foot wide manuel doors and was greeted by an enthusiastic middle aged woman in safari khakis, The Guide to the Deals. She offered me some sort of paper but I couldn’t make out the words coming from her mouth. I managed to mumble “No thanks, already have one.” She could have been offering me the true meaning of life or a trip to the moon, but when I get into a megastore, my senses become focused on the things I came for and nothing else. I don’t want to talk, I don’t want to browse, I want to get in, get the job done, and confront the least amount of forced smiles and name tags as possible. You still should smile and be nice to corporate megastore workers – the ground floor people not the managers. These jobs suck ass and it’s not their fault they’re being treated like robots by managers and customers alike. They are human.. well most of them. The ones that aren’t human get to wear ties and non-khaki shirts.
I used to work in retail, does it show? I’ve seen the bellies of these beasts and it’s a hellish and depraved landscape, a god damn war on the human spirit and a false prophet for the unicorn named the American Dream. Corporate retail is a major reason the Chinese are growing rich, and we are growing poor. Yes that was a broad blanket statement but you know what I’m getting at if you have half a brain. Buy local and American made whenever you can. My local dealer didn’t have my desired rifle load and couldn’t get it for some time. Don’t be like me in this rushed situation – Plan ahead.
For some reason the aisle with the rifle ammo is the only one in the store you can’t take a double wide rascal scooter down. Two physically fit men would touch ass to ass trying to squeeze by one another. From wide open scooter pastures to submarine quarters.. you’re a strange beast Chuddela’s. Surprisingly, this was also the most popular aisle in the store. I knew what I wanted and exactly where it was, but it still took me several minutes to get past two guys that formed what we will call the Cholesterol Curtain – mouthes agape and guts shining. They weren’t there to buy anything, they were just looking at all the different cartridge boxes. They were completely oblivious to the situation at hand, that myself and another fellow needed to get by. When a clearly uttered and almost Canadian “Excuse me, sorry!” elicits zero response from the intended mark, you know something is amiss. Situational awareness is something that is almost extinct in this culture, as you’ve probably noticed. I don’t know if it’s been robbed by shitty TV or a disconnected entitlement that comes from only conversing online with distant strangers who share your exact same world view.. but I digress. I snagged my two boxes and quickly slipped back through those shiny Randy guts, seemingly undetected.
I walked by the knife counter and there was a heated debate between two harley riders/S&M aficionados about “what grip was better” on some of those flea market Game of Thrones blades. You know, those fucking three pronged triton looking pieces of shit that trench coat kids from high school covet but serve no real purpose. The heat and present company began to increase my tension.
I then did several searches of the aptly named “Hunting Area” trying to find game bags. After asking one of the other khaki guides of this Sadistic Safari where they were, he said “Other side of the store by the registers.” Of course they’re up there. Makes total sense, my mistake for being an idiot. I’ll get those after my last reason to come here.
My final task was to size some Danner Ridgemasters. I love my Pronghorns and when Danner announced this new American made version I got pretty excited. It’s a new boot season for me, which I’m sure more than a few of you get excited for like I do. My excitement went from full staff to ice bath when I reached the boot area. I asked the khaki Captain of Footwear where I could find these advertised Ridgemasters.
“They don’t exist.”
Ok then.. I didn’t even want to prod further. Pull up the site on my phone and show him, pick up a catalog laying three feet away and point at them? Not worth the breath. Chuddela’s had broken me.
At this point this was the most philosophical visit to an outdoor store I’ve ever had. I’m sure if I went into the fly fishing department I would get some Kierkegaard, and god save those nihilists in the Home Furnishings department. It was time to escape. I didn’t want to dawdle in this misguidedly sanguine khaki nightmare and emerge to find Sara MacLachlan serenading my poor dog sleeping in my camper shell.
As I took flight I was cut off in the main aisle by a pair of the slower, sweatier cousins of the Americus Obeseus Uprighti – the Americus Obeseus Rascal Rex. They have mysterious breeding habits and are confined to more or less level and smooth surfaces. The only difference between the uprighti and the rascal rex being the bipedal nature of the former, but often they slowly (d)evolve into the latter. It’s one of nature’s many blunders.
They were blocking the entire walkway and moving at their own pace, which wasn’t ample enough for my escape. I managed to duck through a camo hell hole that had large posters of the faces of those bearded faker frat boys who don’t like gays and make duck calls. I accelerated around a rack and got in front of the wheeled stampede. It was a resounding victory for bipedalism, though soon I’d be confronted much the same as a motorist.
At the cash register, where I found my game bags, I managed to get through rather swiftly. The register person was distracted talking to her friend about the best way to ride a certain horse saddle, which was interesting to me cause that stuff makes me curious. I know almost nothing about horses despite being surrounded by the wild assholes of the desert and having a lot of horse people in my family. I donated the “round up to the dollar” change to conservation, the least I could do for shopping here, and a .37 cent prick of light at the end of this retail death box.
I hauled ass unimpeded to the parking lot. I got to the truck smoothly, no waddling russian nesting dolls in the way, and drove to the freeway on ramp. That’s when things got strange.
I was about 200 yards from even beginning to merge and I heard a fit of honking. I looked over to a semi that, if I were left unmolested, I was prepared to slip behind as I entered the freeway. No problem. He continues to honk. He was gesticulating wildly and I wasn’t sure what he was getting at so I made sure my truck wasn’t on fire and that I had all four wheels… yep, all good on my side chief. He merged into the fast lane and slowed, and I merged right next to him. He continued to honk and gesticulate int0 the mirror. A strange move from a strange trucker freak, god only knows how many corporate retail experiences he had prior to snapping like this. Perhaps he was methed out of his gourd, perhaps I recently flirted with his wife at the supermarket.
His baffling behavior led to reasonable and predictable outcomes. I couldn’t pull back to let him over because all of the fast lane traffic he displaced was now piled up right behind me. We had a two lane traffic dam for about a mile as I was slowly pulling past him. He was honking and screaming at me. Or was it at his gods, demons, a wife I couldn’t see in the sleeper? Whatever it was he was REALLY starting to lose his shit. While I pulled past his cab I was laughing and blowing him kisses as he honked and yelled and flashed his lights. I was floored and my overloaded Toyota wasn’t going any faster, so I relished my slow motion passing moment with the insane trucker, a fitting send off before I made my way into nature.
I stopped my shit-head taunting when I realized then that we were connected on a strange level with the Americus Obeseus Rascal Rex impasse that I navigated around in the store. Were we just like those two bumbling rascal pilots? Selfishly and pleasurably blocking the disgusting sense of self-entitlement and importance of all in our wake? Were we simultaneously devolving back to our primordial beginnings as gelatinous blobs floundering in puddles of filth on our
rascal truck seats? I was contributing to my own rage, blindly cursing what I’ve helped create. We were peas in a pod, the rascals, the trucker, me. Some over-tuned dick heads with tension lashing out at the mundane in our own ways. They were probably moths like me, drawn out of the country and into the deadly false light of the city. Circling the bulb and slowly finding out that there is nothing for us behind it. No matter how many times you tap it, the only thing that’s going to happen is you’re gonna burn your wings off.
I reached the exit just ahead of the trucker. He was still honking and working up a heart attack. Within a few minutes I was on a dirt road. I had many miles of dirt roads, mountain meadows, brookie fishing, mountain quail and grouse spotting, and breathing in the sweet dust of late July. I saw 0.0 humans. Not a one. My chest loosened and my breathing strengthened. I blasted Jeff Buckley, then Dead Kennedy’s, then turned off the radio. I felt the wind in my face and became human again, if only till I reached the pavement on the other side.