The Early-Bird Drunk And The Snapped Backpack Strap

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If there was ever such a class as “Impaired grocery shopping on the weekend” I am quite certain that the first session would start off by telling you to – whenever possible – get in, get out, and get back home before the early-bird drunks rouse from their Friday (or Saturday) night stupors. I learned this the hard way recently at the expense of my favorite “big shop” grocery shopping backpack.

I got up at the usual time – roughly 6 a.m. – and dawdled ’round with the dogs while getting enough coffee in me to brave the huddled masses that awaited me at the big grocery store in the heart of downtown. I wasn’t in any hurry because it was cold and cloudy and I didn’t have anywhere else to be that day.

With my empty backpack draped over my shoulder, I caught the number 10 inbound and made it down to the store at around 10:30. The place was already packed… it was “poor people pay day” (the 5th of the month which is the day food stamp money hits the EBT cards) and it was already a complete shitshow.

You know… of all the things I miss since this last stroke, it has to be my short-term memory that I miss the most; everyone knows that you need to avoid grocery shopping on the 5th at all costs… and of course I had completely forgotten all about it. Worse still? It was fucking Saturday.

FML

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If you have ever watched one of those shows on TV where someone has won a timed shopping spree, where are you only have a limited amount of time to fill up your entire cart before the buzzer rings, you can picture what grocery shopping is like in the inner city on the 5th. It is total chaos, mayhem, and rampant assholery on steroids. It’s like everyone’s in a hurry, acting as if they are the only humanoids in the place, and appears to have left everything they have ever known about left and right lanes and oncoming traffic out in the parking lot.

It’s a little like some horrible mutation of carnival bumper cars where all the drivers are tripping on fucking acid.

It took nearly an hour to scratch and claw my way through the store, and half that again to stand in line at the register, but soon enough I made it through the sliding doors and across the shopping finish line with all of my fingers toes and limbs relatively secured.. more or less. Congratulating myself for surviving, I walked around to the side of the store where the shopper’s under-sized bus stop bench was waiting patiently for me to sit my wide ass down and collect myself for a few minutes before I had to start digging for the quarters I would need for the number 10 bus headed outbound from shopping hell.

Once I got close enough to see the bench, alas, I was instantly filled with dread. Waiting for me there was a visibly shit-faced man.. About 20 years my junior.. who brightened at the sight of me as if I was his long-lost crazy uncle. I felt, welling up inside of me, like I was about to have an out-of-body experience.

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He stood up, grinning from ear-to-ear (and smelling like a bartender’s swill bucket that hadn’t been emptied for a week), and asked me if I needed any help with my bag. I politely refused, telling him that I was all set but thank you anyway, and sat down with my bag at my feet.

Undaunted, he began to tell me how much I looked like someone he knew (although this person’s name escaped him at the moment) and began to admire my beard by way of telling me how much trouble he’d always had with that funny little bald spot in the middle of his chin… “it just would never grow enough hair there for the beard to look legit “he told me.

This went on for a good 10 minutes… him changing subjects faster than I could think up an acknowledging facial expression (or properly placed affirmative “mmm hmmm”). I was never in polite, nor did I treat him unkindly or dismissively, but I did find myself squelching a snicker when- from out of nowhere – I was reminded of the teacher’s voice in those Charlie Brown cartoons. You know the ones, right? Where her voice is the sound of a muted trumpet?

Yeah.. that’s where I went.

By the grace of God I finally saw the bus pull into the store parking lot and weave its way down to the bus stop. I excuse myself, told him the bus was coming, and stood up so I could dig for my quarters and begin to sling the 80 lbs or so of groceries onto my back. My new friend jumped up, grabbed one of the straps to help it over my shoulder, and tore it off of the main body of the backpack.

The thing about city buses is that they are on a strict schedule, and by strict I mean they can do whatever the hell they want and We, the Sheeple have to like it. Those of us who rely on the system have learned, the hard way, that they can take their sweet assed time getting to us, but they will not wait for us if we aren’t ready to board when they pull up and open their door. Failure to comply means you’ll be waiting an hour for the next one.

I mention it here because I had no time to waste, fussing around with straps or drunk people fucking up my bus mojo. The more badly he felt about what had happened, the harder he tried to help make it right… And the less time I had to be patient with him and play nice about letting go of the damned bag so I could get on the bus and avoid sitting with him for another unbearable hour.

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I gave the driver a “please give me a second to wrestle my bag away from this drunk alligator” look and politely told this guy that it was no big deal… I could fix it when I got home… and that I hoped he’d have a nice day. It took him a second, but he came to understand that I was politely telling him to let the fuck go and back off.

He did, and I escaped… although my poor bag proved to be irreparably damaged and had to be replaced.

Note to self: Buy your damn groceries on a weekday, and never ever ever on the 5th.

[Images courtesy of Cordelia’s Guide]

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