My weekly entries all seem to have a certain shtick. Each tends to be from the perspective of an introverted misanthrope who has irritating interactions with the society that he finds so tiring. Therefore, I have very little interaction with said society, which, sadly gives me very little to write about. Sure, I leave the house to go to work, shop for groceries, and I’m a familiar face at the random gas stations where I pick up my beer. But beyond that you’d be hard pressed to see me anywhere else.
There’s something a little embarrassing about being the guy who stops at a gas station habitually to pick up either a twelve pack or a tall boy. I especially don’t like it when the clerk becomes familiar with me. There’s one clerk in particular that’ll say, “Hey man, good to see you again.” or “Hey man, haven’t seen you for a while.” or “Hey man, where you been hidin’?” If this clerk would simply ask his coworker standing next to him, he would be informed that I stop at their store with stunning regularity—he’s the one who’s rarely there.
I’ve often thought about my deteriorating reputation in the eyes of the clerk who sees me purchase my poison every day, but then I remind myself “What do I care?” It’s not as if I’m a congressman, school teacher or the pope. I’m just a random schmuck they have the displeasure of interacting with on a daily basis. That is, until I spot a clerk from one gas station working at a completely different gas station. That I admit is embarrassing. There’s me just one day prior buying a tall boy of Busch Light from her, and now here I am standing before her again the very next day buying a can of Busch Light on the other side of town. At first I was simply embarrassed, but that embarrassment soon turned into irritation. I wondered what the hell the deal was. Is there some kind of convenience store exchange program so that privileged cashiers can experience what it’s like to sit behind a different counter and look lackadaisically at a whole new set of regular customers? Or in my case, the off-putting, familiar face of a boozer who likes to spread his patronage throughout his community.
For the record, I’m in and out of those places. No small talk, no eye contact. It’s as if I’m purchasing herpes medication. You don’t see any customers leaning against a pharmacy counter clutching a box of Valtrex while exchanging pleasantries about the recent chilly weather, and the breathtaking colors of the autumn leaves.
No, I’m in and out. Sometimes I utter a curt “thanks” and split before the clerk can even give me my change. I leave the lowly clerk like how Batman leaves Commissioner Gordon standing solitary on a cold building top—holding three pennies while quizzically staring at the empty space where I was just standing not two seconds before—scratching his head in confusion.
As I said, I’m not the type of individual who loiters in a convenience store. I quickly make my way to the back of the store, passing the pull-tab machines with the depressing black stool positioned beside them to accommodate the people that spend great lengths of time before the money-stealing machines. With the familiar suction sound of the cooler door opening, I grab what I need and I’m on my way. I simply want to get in and out, yet occasionally I’ll get the person ahead of me in line who’s addicted to scratch tickets.
For starters, I’m not of the sort who believes in luck, only cosmic coincidence. And, if by chance there is such a thing as luck, I don’t got it. And neither do the sorry saps that stand before me in line purchasing lottery tickets. Ironically, the people who subscribe to the idea of luck appear to be the least lucky people in the world. It’s usually a woman in her late forties who appears to weigh 105 pounds soaking wet with bottle-bleached blonde hair with dark roots, clownish mascara and lips slathered in a garish shade of red lipstick. She’ll stroll up to the cash register wearing stretch pants and an ill-fitting tank top that accentuates her bony shoulder blades that protrude like a Stegosaurus’s back. She’ll look at the kid behind the register and croak, “A hard-pack of Winston 100’s” as she rummages for her change pouch in her denim purse. This then makes me wonder when was the last time I ever saw a soft-pack of smokes. It must be like at least a decade right? Perhaps I should tell this woman that she doesn’t have to be so specific.
Here’s the kicker: the woman will then add a little addendum to her order: “Oh yea, and three Extreme Cash Bonanza tickets and a couple Super Cashouts.” I can appreciate the way she feigns remembering that she needed some scratch tickets as she stood at the counter. We’ve all been there. We’ve all remembered that we were supposed to pick up a loaf of bread or a gallon of milk while we’re standing before the convenience store clerk—only in this woman’s case it wasn’t milk or bread but rather tens of dollars worth of scratch tickets.
The clerk will then clarify her order by asking, “Two Super Cashouts?” To which she’ll reply, “Make it four, please.” And then just before the clerk returns to his post behind the register she’ll toss out one more, “…and a Lucky Diamonds”. The clerk will then roll his eyes and turn back around to tear one more ticket from its perforated edge—separating it from its spool of loserdom. The clerk then rings up the smokes and tickets and the bill will come to forty-six bucks and some-odd-cents. The woman doesn’t even bat an eye. In fact she doesn’t do anything except stand as still as a statue before she forks over the cash—never once allowing her gaze shift to her rear as a sizable line has formed behind her while she was busy feeding her beast.
I stand just behind her wondering what makes this woman feel that she is in any way lucky. She sure as hell doesn’t look lucky. It’s looks as though Karma has been taking a crap on her for the past two decades. What in her history makes her think that this roll of the dice will come out favorably? And, when was it that she first decided, “F@#k it, I’m dedicating half my days wages to lottery tickets in the off chance it may catapult me from this crap-hole of a life.
She doesn’t dawdle after receiving her thick stack of cardboard crack. With head lowered, she breezes past everyone in line behind her and quickly exits to her ’98 Navigator. I’m sure she reassures herself that she was just swinging past the convenience store to pick up smokes. She didn’t make special trip just for scratch tickets. No, that would be a sign of an addiction. But hey, I can hardly judge because next in line is me holding a silo of Busch Light as the clerk says, “Hey man, where you been hidin’?”