Adventures in Intoxication 12: Incubation, Lost in the Supermarket, and the Sins of Our Elders
Saturday, May 12th, 2012 at 1:08 pm by Brandon Vogel

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Fever can often be the incubator for creativity. I experience strange visions during my waking hours during sickness, and even more fantastical dreams upon finally achieving sleep. This can be further enhanced by the addition of the wonder-product Nyquil, which, even when it doesn’t work…works.

I found myself in such a situation this past week, whereupon I felt sick to my stomach Wednesday, but chose to work anyways (albeit from the comfort of my own apartment), went in to a client site on Thursday for a presentation, and then felt awful that evening. It started out slowly enough during a night of Skyrim with the Waitress, who noted that I felt unusually warm. I shrugged it off as having eaten excessive carbohydrates a few hours earlier, which tend to raise my body temperature as they digest. As I continued to sit and watch Gargamelia the Wood Elf hack and slash her way across the Nordic homeland, I began feeling a familiar discomfort in my pants, as if my core temperature was markedly different from that of my, shall we say, dangly bits. I stood up and went into my room to put on more comfortable attire, and during the process of changing, began violently convulsing with chills.

I would continue to do so for the next eight hours or so. The Waitress tried to comfort me, and indeed her presence and touch was calming and helped alleviate some of the spasms, but despite this I was still having incredible difficulty sleeping. I reached for the Nyquil, and took a single dose. The disorientation set in, but the severity of my symptoms did subside a bit. The last time I recall seeing on my cell-phone was 4:03 AM. What dreams were had, I will not share here, but rest assured they are well documented on virtual Post-It notes for future creative endeavors.

I awoke at 7:00, went back to sleep for another hour or so, and then decided to call out of work.

The vast majority of that Friday was spent asleep. This time, there were no dreams; time seemed to pass instantly. I awoke a little after 4:00pm, feeling mildly refreshed. After a quick shower, I proceeded to indulge in video games for the next four hours. The Waitress, who had arisen upon my first alarm and gone to work, stopped by briefly to show me her new vehicle, and offered to cook me dinner the following night. I agreed to procure the necessary ingredients, which led me to my next great adventure the subsequent afternoon.

Supermarkets, on a Saturday afternoon, are an interesting place. You see all sorts of different individuals, of different ages, of different walks of life converging for a common necessity. This day was no exception:

There was the haughty (but hottie) Lule-Mom, in designer yoga pants with a fit suggesting that she was indeed true to the exercise implied by her attire, sneering at the selection of organic vegetables and wishing she had taken her Volvo SUV to Whole Foods instead. Despite this, her cart contained a bulk package of Kraft Macaroni and Cheese.

A large man with cocoa skin waddled down the cookie aisle, his sleeveless shirt proudly displaying weathered and fading tattoos upon flesh that quivered with each step. It was rather cool in the supermarket, as the air conditioning had clearly been turned on although it was relatively mild outside, but yet this individual was coated in a thin layer of sweat. He was a prime candidate for Bob Harper.

Unattended children ran amok through the half-aisle in the middle of the store that was reserved for cheap toys and cheaper light bulbs.

In the canned vegetable aisle, an elderly couple, posture at about thirty degrees from vertical, was debating the merits of the store brand versus name brand sliced mushrooms.  If I had to estimate, the price difference could not have amounted to more than thirty cents. The gentleman took off his navy blue V.F.W. hat and scratched the back of his mostly bald head, possibly as perplexed as I was that the conversation was even taking place.

As I headed to the checkout, making a mental note of the stereotypical encounters I had while meandering through the aisles, I was fortunate enough to have a register open just as I approached. As I deviated from my pre-determined course, another couple of older women managed to sneak in front of me. I say older, and not elderly, because they could not have been older than sixty, and more likely in their mid-fifties. One was of above-average weight, although not nearly as big as the Gammorean I had seen in the cookie aisle, and the other was probably a hundred pounds on a good day, far too skinny to be healthy. Together, they would have comprised a normal, unremarkable entity. Their cart was only filled one-third to capacity, so I was under the assumption this would be a quick wait in line. Little did I know the horrors that would await me, trapped in a swirling miasma of the sands of time.

They paid by check.

You can’t be neutral on a moving train, so sayeth Howard Zinn. There is absolutely no reason to be paying the grocery clerk with a check in this day and age. Hell, it was an outdated form of payment over a decade ago when your young, eager author joined the noble ranks of Wal-Mart cashiers, let alone in a world where we can pay by smart phone. Certainly, the concept of a debit card cannot be so foreign to these people. The pizza-faced teenager behind the  counter was certainly a bit unnerved as well, as it took him a moment to process the situation and run the check through the reader and printer. After the obligatory five minutes of scanning the tabloid covers for an interesting story (or hot cover photo, as I’m not above synthesizing that for alone time), I looked around in desperation as the people at the adjacent registers who would have otherwise been behind me collected their bags and headed for the exit.

Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, I rolled up to the register with my sixteen (or so) items, and silently cursed the extra four (or so) products that had prevented me from going to the express lane. My personal check out time was infinitely shorter than those of the preceding customer, and after paying via debit, I sauntered towards the exit.

Another older gentleman was working his way to the exit with a package of Capri Sun. From a distance, I allowed him to go, so as not to cause an awkward situation where we would meet in the middle and have to decisively choose who got the privilege of leaving first. As he left the door, he suddenly lost his grip on the box, and dropped it at the threshold of the automatic door.  He turned around to pick it up, his eyes caught mine, and he said “Oh, somebody must have dropped this.”. Pushing the box to the side, inside the door, he then briskly walked away. My first thought was that he was embarrassed to have dropped the package, but then I realized that earlier, during my decision to let him go in front of me, he had not come from the direction of the checkout area.

Dinner, that night, would prove satisfying. Despite my own internal struggles and personal hardships, at least I’m not stealing a twelve-pack of Capri Sun.

The moral of the story is that there’s always someone worse off than yourself. 

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