So, I usually don’t go to the store after work because it’s crowded and that leads to shopping rants, but I feel like cooking something…different. I want red meat, something bleeding after it leaves a pan, and I don’t want to dicker about the price. I very simple very small piece of red meat cooked with peppers, very hot peppers, and onions, yes, and with it green things that have been steamed, yes, yes, this is a good thing.
The Isley Brothers get questioned by my spell check as if they’re walking down the streets of St. Louis, but Google is down with that. That’s the great thing about the UniNet; there is music there you cannot find anywhere else on earth. In point of fact, it is the single best source of old music there is ever. “Livin in the life” is one of those songs I can listen to with the volume up and the windows down and it is a great day. The sun is shining, the temperature is perfect, and I’m reliving that part of my life when music was the greatest thing ever, except for sex, and life now really is pretty damn good when you get down to it.
“Turn that nigger shit down!” an old woman sitting in a truck yells at me as I pull into the parking lot.
My buzz is dead. My squee is harshed. My entire day has been torpedoed. My mood sinks with no survivors.
I get out of my truck, start to go into the store without saying a thing, and then I walk over to the woman, who at that point looks like she trying to find something better to do than speak with me.
“I’m sorry, I was playing my music too loud, you were saying?” I ask in my most civil tone. What I want to say is, “Bitch, please, just roll up your windows so that cigarette smoke can concentrate on feeding that tumor on your soul before you spread that Ebola of the mind to anyone else.”
This a woman not far from my chronological age. Could we be further apart? She looks twenty-seven months pregnant. This is someone, regardless of all other considerations, is on the verge on High Fructose Suicide. Whatever else she was looking for, me standing there in front of her, was not on the top of the list. I’m not the droid she was looking for.
“I ain’t said nothing to you” she declares and she opens the glove compartment of the truck and for a brief moment I wonder if she’s looking for a handgun. But there is an endless stack of nothing but paper in the glovebox.
“I certainly thought you had,” I say, “and I thought there for a moment you had confused the issue of race with that of severe economic depression, where the ruse of skin color is used by those with a greater degree of access to resources blame a disadvantaged minority for the oppression of those only slightly better off instead of addressing the root problems of under education and wealth concentration limited to those who have always controlled it.”
Okay, I didn’t say any of this. I thought it, but there was no way in hell I was going to actually have the presence of mind to say it. Dammit. All I could think of is say, “Have a nice day ma’am” because I’m sure as hell not going to now. It’s 2014. It’s late 2014. We’re supposed to have flying cars and robots and we’re supposed to be wear shiny clothes that keep us warm when it’s cold and cool when it’s hot but no. What we have is some dentally challenged High Fructose Junkie trolling for lung cancer while she’s blaming Ron Isley for her lot in life.
How did we come to this? How did this woman get to be her age and not shed any of the ignorance that life came steeped in back in the 1960’s? Yes, certainly it existed before then but her formative years, were she to have had any, had to have occurred about that time.
While I’m checking the ingredients of barbeque sauce it occurs to me that things, while certainly better since I was a kid, are more or less the same, except for the labeling. On the front of the package a soft drink can make the claim that it’s thirst quenching and refreshing but the contents of what’s inside reads like something you’d find in a bottle right before you embalmed someone. So they’re allowed to sell products with advertising in big bright and bold letters but it’s really what’s inside that counts, isn’t it?
Whether people will admit it or not the argument that kids use, “Everybody else is doing it” isn’t just an excuse it is actually a pretty savvy observation on what decides what is right and what is wrong. Indeed, if everyone else was jumping over a cliff, it is in human nature to follow right on over, even when intellectually, we know it is not the thing to do.
Moreover, there is really very little I could have said to the woman that might have changed her mind about what she thinks because she is very likely someone who never has changed the way she’s thought about anything, having never really thought much. She’s a brand loyal, every day consumer, whose comfort zone means connecting the dots from one product to the next. Everyone has their favorite shows, they know that time the shows begin, and they never miss an episode. If you sat down with these people and asked them how long they would continue to watch the same shows on television even if there was an endless series of reruns they might tell you they would grow tired of the same thing every day but here we are. Television shows have evolved very little, they all have a derived formula for success and after they end the next programming tool will not look much different.
We get accustomed to a circular pattern of consumption, in both time, food, entertainment, and life.
As I’m walking back to the truck the woman flicks a cigarette butt into the parking lot and it smolders away. After all, she’s grown up with the idea that the cigarette butt doesn’t belong to her once she’s finished. It’s ceased to exist. You might be able to sit down with her and explain the chemicals in the butt are worse than those in the cigarette but even as she would agree that this is so, the effect on her actions would be short term. This is how she has always done things. Even if she is jumping over a cliff she still feels more comfortable jumping than she does trying to change the way she thinks.
I crank up, “Living in the life” and sit there with the window down. As the song nears the end I pull out and grin at her.