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  • mariokiefer

The Thanks We Get

I thought the gods had forsaken me when I woke this morning just after eight a.m. That’s so late! I am usually up between 6:30 and 7:00 and at the grocery store by 7:15. But alas, I must have been tired when I hit the sack last night.

When I rose, I quickly dressed, then a ran a brush through my hair. We had to get to the grocery store as soon as possible. The Sunday before Thanksgiving is always a madhouse and I just was not in the mood to tackle grandma for the last Butterball. (I would if I had to. Damn it, that turkey is mine!)

When we pulled into the parking lot of Randall’s (Randall’s, people, not HEB. I knew that shopping at HEB this morning of all mornings would be like participating in The Hunger Games), my fear dissipated. The lot was not overly crowded. Perhaps, the gods had forgiven me for sleeping-in so late.

Not having yet had coffee, Ric made his way to the in-store Starbucks while I checked last week’s lottery tickets. (Alas, we did not win so I must still go to work in the morning.) But I purchased new tickets for next week. Fingers crossed, I still may end up rich, some day.

To be honest, we already had picked up much of what we needed last week, so this week was not so terrible. Mostly we needed the fresh veggies - those things that I did not want to leave wilting in the refrigerator for a week before they were used. Of course, once again the gods disfavored me. I left the store having forgotten the potatoes. (How on earth did I forget the potatoes? I mean, seriously, we get one or two each week. Why would I forget them this week when we assuredly would need more than the usual? But, I digress.)

The store was not overly busy or crowded and we had a relatively simple time as we perused each aisle picking up this thing or that for Thursday’s feast but also trying to remember those things we might need for our repasts Sunday through Wednesday. Naturally, we needed more spaghetti noodles. (Is anyone surprised by that?) As we walked down the aisles, I heard my partner muttering under his breath, “Why is everything so expensive?”

“Our current inflation rate is 6.2 percent,” I growled in reply, “and it’s only going to get worse.”

I could almost feel the gods furrow their brows in consternation. They did not want to hear my negativity on this day. So, I sent a silent prayer to the one true God asking Him to give me patience (and to give it to me now!)

Having made our way through the last of the aisles, I moved toward the only open register. There was nobody in line! This was going to be a good day, after all. But of course, the trickster god sent a rush of four others to speed before me and jump ahead to the register, now forming the dreaded queue. I sighed in exasperation and took my place.

“It’s the nephew’s birthday on Thursday as well,” I said to Ric. “Would you go pick up a birthday card for him while I wait our turn?”

For once, Ric did as he was asked without complaint.

I watched in dismay as the woman at the head of the line reached into her purse to pull out her coupon wallet, then reached into that same purse to find her glasses so that she might read the tiny font on the wrinkled paper that promised her ten cents off her items if only she purchased four more than what she needed. Then I sighed as she pulled out her checkbook.

I watched another cashier casually enter the checking area next to this one, then call out that she was open. I turned my cart to make my way to the now open alternative, then almost cried out when a weasel came bounding from one of the aisles and usurped my rightful position at the front - oblivious to those of us who had been waiting (patiently, I daresay) before him. Now, I am a nice guy and not prone to outbursts of anger, and not wanting to cause a ruckus I said nothing. But the sound of the telltale tap-tap-tap of my shoe repeatedly hitting the floor beneath it signaled my disapproval for all to hear. Fortunately, the interloper had but a few items and was quickly done. I would have offered him the spot ahead of me had he only asked instead of usurping it.

I worked furiously to place the items from my cart onto the conveyor belt and, as is my habit, to organize them accordingly so that the bagger might put like items together.

Okay, now listen carefully, children - this is very important: when you gather items from the vegetable bins and you place them in those little plastic bags that are provided, you must, must, must give the top of those bags a small little twist to tie them up; not so tight that you must rend them open when you get home, but in the type of knot that slips right out when you tug on the end. Despite my repeated requests that Ric do this, he refuses.

The trickster god seized his opportunity. When I picked up the bag to place the onions on the belt, the bag opened and the onions rolled down that belt and onto the floor behind me.

“Noooooooo!” I wanted to scream, but clamped my lips together instead.

The kind woman behind me graciously retrieved the runaways and returned them as I muttered, “thanks.”

I know that my “thank you” should have been more effuse, but the Imp of Impatience was now firmly rooted on my left shoulder chittering away in my ear. But as I saw the woman’s rueful smile, the Gnome of Guilt (guilt for my lack of graciousness, I supposed) began to gnaw at my right. To appease the Gnome, I turned a crooked smile to the woman and nodded once again to acknowledge the efforts she had made on my behalf.

I moved up to the pay station and inserted my card. I punched in the 4 digits that magically opened my checking account to the stream of 0’s and 1’s that would transfer money from my account (6.2% more than I felt it should) into that of the grocery conglomerate that owned this store, then turned to watch the bagger cavalierly place the six-pack of soda atop my loaf of bread.

In my mind’s eye, I saw myself lunge at the sinner and take him by the throat, but when reality returned, I heard the Gnome whisper, “He is but a child - and a special needs one at that. He simply needs instruction.”

I smiled at the gangly teen and politely asked him if would mind placing the bread atop the heavier item.

“Sorry,” the child muttered before he complied.

I turned to see that the queue had grown to six people and that Ric was nowhere in sight. I could not, in good conscience (or so the Gnome insisted), make them wait any longer. So, I paid for the items and made my way out the doors where I unpacked the items from this grocery cart and placed them into the tub that I keep in the bed of the pickup truck. Ric arrived just as I completed this task - sans birthday card, of course.

We left the parking lot to drive home and, although I duly maintained my speed at the posted limit, the tailgater behind me must have been in a hurry. The Imp on my left broke out in a mischievous grin and I heeded his call to lightly tap my brakes then slow down to five miles under that limit.

I heard the Gnome on my right say, “That’s unnecessary and inappropriate.”

I flicked the Gnome from my shoulder and watched him tumble out the open window of my vehicle only to be run over by the tailgater behind me. Then, succumbing to the Imp’s temptation, I too, broke out in a wicked grin and cackled at the Gnome’s misfortune.

Finally home having vexed the tailgater the entire way, I unloaded the groceries. But the refrigerator was full and I had to make room to house all of the items. Thus began my week of giving thanks, but I feel 6.2% less grateful this year.

And when I closed the refrigerator door having now stored all of the newly purchased items, I saw the Gnome standing there, shaking his head at me in disappointment.

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