Thursday, June 28, 2007

Lost in the supermarket

After work, gym, and shower, I hit Trader Joe's to pick up some goodies for tomorrow night's book club. The joint was jumping even at 9:00 p.m. As I made my way through the narrow, kooky luau-themed aisles, I couldn't help noticing a trio of shoppers, two women, one man. I'm bad with ages, but I'm guessing all three were in their early to mid-twenties; I noticed them because the guy was talking, loudly and nonstop, about their selections, as they dropped things into the cart. He was sort of narrating and...instructing his companions, as they moved through the store. "Now, see, this is two for $2.99, so that's like a buck fifty apiece. That's a deal! Okay, this here is a whole meal."

We seemed to be following the same trajectory through the store--I'd round a corner and there they'd be, coming up the next aisle. At first I was just annoyed, at the blah blah blah and the way they shuffled along in my way, three abreast, the cart blocking traffic in both directions as they conferred over the freezer case. But I started to get kind of fascinated, because why was this dude describing the entire process to these women as if they'd never been shopping before? On and on he went--comparing prices, urging them to "scavenge" for the less-manhandled packages toward the back of the shelves. It was like some sort of weird grocery tutorial. How to select food items and place them in the basket for eventual purchase. The women did not seem grocery-incapacitated; they were not, apparently, aliens or visiting foreign dignitaries, slumming and soaking up the mysteries of TJ's economical domestic brie and frozen chicken burgers. If anything, the group seemed roommate-y. I couldn't figure it out--was dude just a know-it-all blowhard, incapable of NOT vocalizing his shopping in real-time detail? Or had the girls survived to post-college age without somehow learning how to procure comestibles for themselves?

When I left the checkout stand, I found one of the women smoking a cigarette in the parking lot. (Did she barter goods and services for the smokes, I wonder?) I guess Groceries 101 had gotten to be too much and she needed a little break. I hope they selected a lot of prepackaged meals; if they'd gotten this far without mastering the whole food-market thing, they sure as hell weren't gonna be able to cook.

If I know her, she's busting out the Alice Cooper right now

Word to my mother, who today punched her very last clock after 17 years with the Mukilteo, WA school district (and nearly three decades altogether in the public school system). I imagine that, just like the kids in "Grease", she ran screaming from the building, throwing papers in the air, and sailed away in a flying hot rod. Probably not sewn into the black spandex catsuit, though, I'm hoping.

It was cool, having my mom on summer vacation with us when I was growing up--going to Baskin-Robbins or the pool, staying up ridiculously late, me, Mom and Sis all lying on the living room floor directly in front of the big box fan on the hottest nights. Mom agreeably scared the living shit out of us with inappropriate horror movies on the late show; I remember being so freaked out by "Wait Until Dark" that we cried, sobbing in terror but too afraid even to approach the t.v. to turn it off. Which was what you had to do, then, because remotes were for the Jetsons and rich people.

It got a little less cool, I suppose, when my mom took her hard-earned summers easy while I had to trudge out to some dipshit teenager job: frying corn dogs, selling ugly purses and vases in a gift shoppe. When I regrettably stumbled down the adult career path that requires me to show up at work FIVE WHOLE DAYS IN A ROW, EVERY WEEK, GOD, I grew impatient and irritated with Mom's obsessive day-counting in June, and the anticipatory fog of gloom that descended over her two weeks before Labor Day. I don't think the transition has fully registered with Mom, yet (and probably won't until September). This summer, Cookie is spending six weeks on a language-study program in Italy (go, Cookie!), and Mom is at something of a loss, not having her best friend handy for the first summer since they were 12 years old. "I'm going to have such a rotten summer," she wailed to me on the phone, two weeks ago.

"I do not want to HEAR it," I snapped, annoyed. "It is going to be summer EVERY DAY for the REST OF YOUR LIFE! You can do whatever you want, every single DAY!" It is my fondest DREAM, y'all, seriously.

But I'm sorry I barked at you, Mommy. You have done a good job--as an interpreter for the deaf, for mainstreamed kids; as an advocate for countless other special-needs students, and physics geniuses, and illiterate teenaged miscreants to whom you explained, "This is how the world works, not just high school. Do your time, go along to get along, and then get out while you still can!" You got bitten, by that one little horrifically neglected wild child...and you managed to ensure that that poor kid saw a dentist, later that year. You interpreted dozens of commencement ceremonies and no doubt have the words and signs to "Wind Beneath My Wings" committed to memory by now. You taught deeply autistic Pedro to exclaim with delight over "po-la bear!" and "butterfly!" And you were never above putting on a black plastic garbage bag and dancing around as a California Raisin for a pep assembly.

Congratulations, Mom. Turn your tassel! Now let's blow this popsicle stand!

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Defensive, driving

Perhaps it is just my finely-honed editorial and comprehension skill, I don't know. But let me try and explain it to you. The sign says LANE ENDS/MERGE RIGHT. So I did that. For future reference, the sign doesn't say LANE ENDS/DRIVE BLITHELY ALONG UNTIL IT TAPERS TO OBLIVION, NEARLY SIDESWIPE KIM'S CAR, AND THEN IN YOUR PANIC GIVE KIM THE FINGER.

Glad I could help. Keep practicing, you'll get it...fucking donkey.