Sunday, November 23, 2003

Today’s Word: Repine

I stand in the aisle choosing out the cheapest package of size four diapers I can find; anything under ten bucks will have to do. A little girl with long, platinum blonde hair swings her dirty bare legs from the kid's seat in her mom's shopping cart next to me. She's a scrawny thing – the girl – with wiry arms and a dirty face. I hear her babbling to her mother, who pays her little attention, and note that her accent is thick as molasses. She's asking for a toy she saw two aisles back; something glittery and pink.

Two checkout lines are running when I arrive with my box of Rice Krispies, gallon of milk, and diapers. I choose the aisle with just two people rather than four waiting to pay for their sundries. These two are mother and daughter. They share the same bulging waistlines and thick, brown sideburns that grope down to their jawlines. On the black conveyer belt lay their purchases: eight bags of porkrhines, a box of Klondike bars, Sauerkraut in a twenty-four ounce glass jar, and a box of ten Slim Jims double packed with finger-sized columns of yellow cheese. I have time to count all this because the mother is asking our clerk how to win a free turkey from the store. The clerk, a pretty black woman whose nametag says Crystal, has to explain that you don't win the turkeys, you buy them ahead of time and they will be baked and ready on Thanksgiving Day.

She's patient with these overweight white women, even though it's late and probably near the end of her shift. Crystal doesn't repine the situation by sighing loudly or rolling her eyes. She seems to expect this state of affairs, glumly answering as her hands pack away their valve-clogging treats.

They leave and Crystal tallies my items. Fourteen dollars and change for this little bit. I notice Crystal doesn't touch the keyboard when she taps in numbers. Her nails, perfectly painted in a French manicure, won't allow it. The clack, clack of her fingernails on the register keys is somehow satisfying and yet defiant, as if to say, "this is a real job, just listen to the sound of these keys, just like the computers in your office."

I pay with cash; the last twenty dollars that were in our checking account until lunch time this evening. Now we're broke and facing another week before payday with just one gallon of milk and one package of supermarket brand diapers. All this regardless of the fact I work in an office. It comes to nothing.

I think about the prejudice of work as the glass doors swoosh open before me. Outside smells like a woodworking garage, but I know it's just a trick of the night. In reality, the smell has wafted down from the pulpwood mill about three miles east. Somewhere along the way, the stench has meant up with something better to produce a scent, if not altogether pleasant, at least more breathable than the rancid fart air that usually belches from the mill.

Driving home I listen to the last ten minutes of a radio program about UFO conspiracy. An intelligent sounding guest explains how there is no God; human beings are an experiment of a more highly evolved species. In fact, we are called "containers" or "vessels" by our progenitors, but no one knows why exactly. Our history has been essentially "reset" at least sixty-five times over millennia untold whenever we started down a path the aliens didn't like.

The show goes on like that, and I listen intently for a few miles. Then my mind begins to wander as it is wont to do. Idly, I wonder what the cost of such a project would have been for the aliens. Did they have to raise taxes for it? Did the older aliens demand a prescription drug plan out of the deal? I also wonder how we're doing. I worry that we might be corrected again.

Maybe next go around diapers won't cost so much.

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