At Target (the fourth trip this week, because every time I go, I seem to forget something), my cart is filled with the toddler-sized Lunchables TM that you can only get at Target, as well as six packs each of kids and adult sized wax earplugs. Mini wears them to keep water out of his tubed ears during bathtime, and I wear them–well, I don’t want to embarrass anyone, but let’s just say I’m a light sleeper.
We are stocking up.
Target occupies that vague no-man’s-domestic-consumer-land between the mundane one-item purchases of Vons and Pavillions and the 12-pack of paper towels and four-box sets of Ziplocs at Costco. This is where you get the best deal on Horizon Organic Milk, but you have to watch the expiration dates more carefully than elsewhere. This is a great place to buy South Beach Diet Bars by the box, at about half the price as elsewhere, but there is no produce to speak of and there is no meat section.
Oh! what I wouldn’t do for one store that carried everything I need at a reasonable price! But no, my fate is to carry around in my head an ever-expanding database of items, prices, and relative ease of purchase. When I pick up a can of Tinactin foot spray, I do not just pick up a can of Tinactin foot spray, I pick up the item with availability at both Target and Pavillions, no longer available at Costco, retailing for $7.89 at Pavillions, which is located less than a mile from home, versus $5.24 at Target, located 1.2 miles from home, factoring in gas costs (lowest at Arco, located .25 miles from home), best purchase is made at . . . TARGET.
Did my parents know that one day this would be how I would put my superior-but-not-quite-gifted intellect to use? I doubt it. But no doubt they’re bursting with pride and joy.
Today, I am eavesdropping, as is my habit, because you never know what you might hear in the line at Target. I mean, sure, it’s not likely to be intellectually stimulating. But there’s a better than average chance that it will be interesting. Like the time I had Mini with me, and he was sitting in the shopping cart, nestled comfortably in his hygenic shopping cart cover and eating Gerber Graduates cheesy poofs, which I have been known to use as a bribe to keep him quiet whilst traveling the aisles at various shopping establishments. Or, you know, to get him to shut his trap during his post-nap “why are you persecuting me so?” phase. &c.
And the girls behind me–I call them girls not to demean them but because they were that, teenagers, the days where they would need to resort to junk food bribing hopefully way in the future–took the waiting time as an opportunity to critique the nutritional choices of a parent they did not know. That parent–me–was within earshot, but this didn’t seem to concern them, or perhaps even occur to them, and so they juxtaposed their own upbringing with the upbringing my son is getting.
“We never got to eat Cheetos.”
“We never had anything like that either.”
“Yeah. And remember how everyone had Lunchables ?”
“Not me! Never. My mom always wanted us to eat healthy.”
“Mine too! Sometimes on Halloween we got candy . . . “
Can I tell you that it is peculiar, and a little disheartening, to hear an “In my day, we had to walk sixteen miles barefoot” kind of story out of a sixteen-year-old’s mouth. But the good news is that, as it turns out, it is equally obnoxious whether it is coming from someone young or old. It is an all-inclusive fuckwatt move, and does not discriminate whether the person doing it has more experience or less experience than you do.
Today the eavesdropping has taken a turn for the surreal. The Target checker is participating in the chatter in a manner to which I’m unaccustomed.
“These are the ones they make drugs out of,” he tells the woman in front of me in line, pointing to a stack of cold medicine. I am pretty sure he is wrong, because he is pointing at a stack of Contac Cold & Sinus, which is sold on the regular old shelves, not even “over the counter” over the counter, like they do with the few products that still contain pseudoephedrine that are still on the market. Apparently, my fellow Target consumer is not so well-versed in the goings on of the tweaker underground, however, because she looks scandalized, in a No-Tell-Me-More-No-Don’t-No-Do kind of way.
She says something I cannot hear. And then he says something I cannot hear. And then he nods, knowingly.
And instead of just being like, “Who cares?” or “What a bunch of dorks!” I get annoyed, because I cannot hear them, and more to the point, because the checker clearly has no idea how crystal methamphetamine is manufactured, and yet he would have this random customer believe that he did. Because he is trying to convince her that the cold medicine she is buying is like a heartbeat away from being an illicit trailer park amphetamine, which A) it’s not, and also? WTF? Is this some form of courtship with which I’m unfamiliar? Why would somebody want to pose as somebody who knows how to make drugs? To a stranger in Target? What is his backstory, I wonder? Because he seems to want to imply that it involves drugs, but clearly it does not. Then again, something is wrong. But what?
After what seems like an eternity, the woman carts off with her drug contraband and Tweakerwannabe starts ringing up all of my assorted items. Around the same time I become conscious of the overly impatient woman behind me. She is in a hurry, and making a show of it. Initially, I resist the urge to make up a generalization about her based on the fact that she is wearing scrubs, and probably considers herself terribly important. Then I notice she has lined up her order on the belt behind mine, and it consists of a pack of Always and a box of Midol. I could not have staged it better if I were Tom Robbins. Or Freud. Or Tom Leykis.
So I opt for the misogynistic reading, and try to ignore the aura of impatience that is coming from her generalized direction, because Tweekerwannabe has moved onto me now, and has made note of the fifteen hundred packages of lunchables I’m buying.
“You just want a little bite to eat?” he asks.
“They are the perfect size for toddlers,” I explain, annoyed with myself for even bothering to explain.
“Are you a toddler?” And I think, wow. I’ve wandered into that Saturday Night Live skit, haven’t I? I point at Mini, who is eating his cheesy poofs, oblivious to the insanity that is swirling around him.
“Today, all of the customers are so nice,” he gushes. “And the employees are assholes.”
I smile, unsure what to say, not wanting to set him off. Impatient woman sighs again.
“Usually it is the opposite–the customers are assholes, and the employees are nice,” he goes on.
This really pisses off Impatient Woman. I wonder if she works in Target’s PR Department or something.
“I’m not supposed to say that, but it’s true.” And then he starts laughing. And I smile, uncomfortably but amicably, because that’s what I do. Impatient woman sighs again, loudly, and shifts her weight. It is tiring being so important. Finally, he finishes I am able to gather my things and go.
“Nice rock,” he says, as I’m gathering my change. I look at him, then at Mini, and Mini says, “Ah Gah?” pointing to his cheesy poofs. And I say, “That’s right, Mini, all gone. Let’s get the fuck out of here.”