A bit of absurdist life-affirmation during inexplicable melancholy…

So I’ve been feeling sort of down lately. Can’t say why, exactly. Maybe it’s my introvert soul (which shall  be described as though it were a hedgehog for the immediate future) coiling about itself and sticking out its spines after the holidays. Maybe it’s because I’m slogging my way through January Term in my senior year of college, a bit bored for lack of substantial homework and a bit stressed about what the next few years of my life are going to look like. Or maybe it’s because my car battery died and I’m irrationally afraid it might explode when I try to jump it tomorrow afternoon, or because my refrigerator has been lately issuing forth the most hellish screech at the most inappropriate times (such as at six o’clock in the morning) while buttoning its lip once the repairman comes to try and diagnose the problem. (What do you want, fridge? Out with it! I’m sick of you! Do you need a snack? You’re full of snacks, so take a chill pill, you stupid fridge!)

Anyway, I’ve also been eating oranges lately, and I started drawing again (I drew a turtle and a frog-man-wizard-thing, one an attempt at photo realism, I’ll let you guess which), but I doubt that either of these things has much to do with my mood.

Regardless of why, the point is that I’ve felt a bit sad for the past week. But sometimes, when you’re feeling down, the world presents itself to you in all its glorious and joyous absurdity. This evening I went to the store to buy some dishwashing soap and dishwashing detergent, because I planned to do dishes but found myself lacking both of these at the same time by some miraculous happenstance (maybe I just hand-wash and dish-wash at a remarkably even pace?) So I’m at the supermarket, which can be a bit of an oppressive place when you’re feeling sad. All those jovially decorated products vying for your attention, gaudy colors in combinations unseen in the natural world. I spent five minutes trying to decide which neon-bright variety of dishsoap to buy. Lavender scented seemed the most subdued, and struck a romantic chord (I think lavender has some romantic association in my past, I’ll have to check with my wife). But I went with the blue one, because it had oxy-grease-fighting-power, and that seemed useful.

I went with generic liquid dishwasher detergent, because I have no idea how to parse through the varieties of detergent. It comes in little dissolvable packets now. That seems cool, but I have no idea whether my dishwasher could handle such a marvel.

Two checkout lanes were open, so I queued in the one with a shorter line, just in time to bear illicit witness to the most enthusiastic exchange of trivial information I think I’ve ever heard.

Shopper: “Oh, wow, so they really don’t make you bring your card anymore, everyone gets the member price?”

Now, I must impress the nearly manic level of amazement and excitement with which the shopper, a young women who appeared to be in her late twenties, uttered these words. It wasn’t quite this, but it was close. It took me a moment to process that they were, indeed, talking about the fact that this particular chain of supermarket had recently ceased requiring “membership cards” to receive discounted prices, instead offering that “everyday low price” to everyone, everyday.

Cashier: “Yeah, it’s really sped things up. No one every brought the cards anyway, people always had to key in their phone number. Some people, y’know, they’ve moved a lot and have to try three or four numbers before they get the right one. It’s a lot better now.”

Again, such enthusiasm, I cannot convey it with words. This cashier woman seemed to vibrate from the depths of her being with appreciation toward her benevolent corporate leaders who had seen fit to do away with memberships and all the corresponding hassle and wasted time. I don’t know whether the cashier had obtained some sort of contact high from interaction with the shopper, whose peppy demeanor seemed to mark her as the origin of the enthusiasm-fest. I certainly smiled, a genuine smile, not a smirk, at the sheer joviality before me.

Shopper: “Thanks, you have a great evening!”

Cashier: “You too!”

My turn! I set my two different dish-cleansing products on the counter and reached for my wallet.

Cashier: “Hi, find everything ok?”

I said that yes, I had. And, perhaps inspired by the apparent happy rapport between the cashier and her previous customer, decided to go a step further, informing the cashier of the purpose of my trip, the unfortunate coincidence of finding oneself with a pile of dirty dishes a nary a drop of dish soap or detergent in sight.

Cashier: “Ah, yes, sometimes you’ve gotta do some by hand. Especially with those big dishes, you can’t fit ’em all in the dishwasher at once!”

Flabbergasted, I agreed with her. Yes, indeed, I would have to clean some of the dishes by hand, I in fact always did, because dishwashers are limited in space, and some dishes just do not fit. I said nothing more, but I took a closer look as the cashier woman as she took my ten dollars and opened the register. She was a shorter woman, with black hair fringed in grey in a pile of curls atop her head. Wide-lensed and thick-rimmed glasses perched on her nose, and she handed me approximately fifty cents and my receipt.

Cashier: “Have a great day!”

You too, I said, failing to notice that it was in fact 7:53 P.M., not day save by the standards of the most nocturnal of night-owls.

But wait, there’s more.

At the moment I collected my plastic bag, a very thin man wearing a very large coat and with the scraggliest, most voluminous beard I have seen in all my days walked up to the register. He slammed a gallon bottle of cheap whisky and a twenty dollar bill on the table, and said:

(I kid you not, though names have been changed because I don’t remember the names)

“How ya’ doin, Delores?”

“Just great, how’re you Steve? Get into any mischief downtown today?”

“Oh yeah, sure, but now I’m headed home right after this.”

Says the man with the gallon bottle of whisky and rapport with the cashier, as though this is a usual occurrence. Never before in my life have I seen a man who looked more like the stereotypical homeless alcoholic, yet here he was, cheery as Christmas, chatting up the nice old lady cashier and buying enough booze to drown a child like its his regular groceries. I don’t know whether the scene ought to have made me sad, or morally upset, or what.

What it did do was tickle me. It made me feel a bit happier as I walked to the car, my doldrums and worries forgotten thanks to this glorious…something? I don’t even know what else to say. Life is really, really weird sometimes. That’s a good thing, I guess.

-Jeremy

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