true story from long ago
In line at the grocery express lane, definitely less than my allotted 15 items; broth, rolling papers, frozen peas and olive oil. This lane is furthest from the automated doors and adjacent to the customer service counter. The store manager is at that counter, helping a woman fill out the application for a grocery card so she can cash her payroll checks here. I am with the first serious boyfriend in college, at this time he is my ex, and we are just drug buddies. I'm only half listening to him ramble on about some amazing new 7" by some amazing new band. The lottery tickets are significantly more interesting to me, not only all the hope that can be placed on a small square of cheap cardboard, but more so the graphic design and creative elements behind the tickets themselves. Bright colors, easily interpreted illustrations, strong and simple themes. I wonder about how one goes about being employed as a designer of lottery tickets.
There is an older woman in front of us, counting out change from a small beaded purse. The fluorescent lights give her an odd pallor. She looks purple underneath the artificial buzz. She must have been in the south or at the salon recently, her tan does not fit our location or the season. She is slow with her counting, pulling out each coin one at a time. It does not bother me.
I see a man, walking between two unattended check-out lanes. His arms are fully extended, cradling what must be twenty some odd boxes of macaroni and cheese, generic brand. He is unabashedly walking out with them, no attempt to hide his act.
A man appears out of the blue and yells, "stop!"
The mac and cheese guy panics, he throws up his arms and his spoils fly out in a random pattern. A few of the boxes break open, peppering the floor with elbows. He leaps over a check out stand running towards the door.
The security guard has multiplied without my realizing. The three of them easily tackle mac and cheese man in the vestibule, the automatic doors opening and closing, confused by their unmoving presence. One guard sits on his back, holding his head to the floor, another hold his legs down while the third paces in front of him. Macaroni and cheese man is talking, he says, "My glasses got knocked onto the cement. I don't want the lenses to scratch. Hey, hey, my glasses are on the cement!"
The pacing man responds in the way only a toy cop can, "I don't give a fuck about your fucking glasses!"
The manager, now ignoring woman-filling-out-form asks me in a very calm voice with a hint of an eastern accent, "Did they get him, should I call the police?"
"Yeah, yeah, they got him alright."
"Are you sure, they really got him?"
"Yeah, can't you see, he's right there! Make the call." I have not noticed the cashier waiting for me to pay until the manager starts dialing. I hand her a ten dollar bill and don't count my change. Exboyfriend has not said anything about indie rock for the last ten minutes and I am grateful.
The scene in the vestibule remains unchanged as we walk out. Mac and cheese guy is repeating, albeit quietly, "But my glasses are still on the cement." The air is cold and I can hear sirens in the distance as we start the walk back to my apartment building.
"Poor guy," I say to the exboyfriend, "all this trouble and he didn't even think enough of himself to try and steal a name brand."