Sometimes, people come up to me and say, "PoC-- (pronounced so that the "o" sounds like the "aw" in "faucet," rather than the "u" in "puck")--PoC, you run a nice blog. Me and the missus like to read it together after a long day of collating at the salt mines. But your content... French philosophers. Italian man-writers. Interactive game shennanagins. Can't ya ever just right about something a normie like me can relate to?" Well, hypothetical salt-mining normie, this post is for you.
Yesterday, I was at a dinner party potluck. It was a pretty good time: good foods, good drinks, good people. The only negative quality, sadly, was me. I felt like I was coming down with a cold, and was fighting off a headache all night. So when a change of venue was suggested around 11:30 pm, I made my excuses, and 23-skidooed my way home. But, since it was on the way, I thought I'd stop by the local and Zehrs grocery store, and pick up a bag of chips. Yes, I had just been at a party that greatly, greatly filled me, but well, I was feeling a little sick and a lot sorry for myself for going home while everyone else was having fun, so I felt justified in claiming a little comfort food.
A brief digression, so that the full impact on the following makes sense. Zehrs was now the closest grocery store to my home that is open 24 hours. It wasn't always that way. Once upon a time, it was the Sobey's that rested a mere 800 m from my house. But they reduced their store time, and notified their customers of said change via signs on every entrance and exit, and numerous more in the store. And I was okay with that. If you're making a profit on the customers you get between 11 pm and 7 am, well, it's your right to change your hours. What rubbed me the wrong way was that the signs claimed that the change was to "serve our customers better." That claim, on the other hand, felt down right insulting. I appreciate some honesty from the places I frequent, and if you're going to pretend that reducing hours improves my life, then I am seriously going to consider going elsewhere. Thus--and this is the point of the digression--I was well disposed towards this Zehrs, which was attempting to woo over dissatisfied late night customers such as myself by extending their own hours in response to Sobey's reduction.
Oh, what a fool I was.
I went in, and grabbed my chips. I then strode towards the check-out--and hesitated. The words of my roommate echoed in my head. It's no wonder you're feeling sick a lot, he told me. You keep weird hours, and you don't eat very well. You should at least start taking some multi-vitamins... vitamins... vitamins... He's a big believer that repeating himself acts as a memory aid. And in this case, it worked. I headed over to the pharmacy aisle, and looked for the multi-vitamins. And after I did that, I headed over to the health foods, where they actually were. The strange thing is, there is apparently a big call for quarter to twelve health products, as there were four people there ahead of me. I waited for the crowd to disperse, quickly picked the right balance of quantity vs. price, and finally strode over to the self-check-out. And that was when I got my first hint that something was going to go very wrong.
"I'm sorry," the woman told me, "we're shutting down the tills." Assuming she was referring to the self check-out lines, I nodded absently and went over to the one regular till that was open. The first person in front of me was served, then the second, then the third. Finally, it was my turn. The cashier looked at me, hesitated, and, not quite meeting my eyes, put up a "closed" sign. That's when he directed my gaze to another sign, back at the self-check-out area: "All tills are closed from 11:45 to 12:00 am." Apparently, that was the time the store had chosen for rebooting their cashier computers. I would have to wait 15 minutes before I could be allowed to make a purchase.
And that's where the trouble began.
It turned out that earlier that day, there had been a brief power outage. And while the store had seemed to recover quickly, the cashier computers had contracted a small bug that now was making itself known in the form of full-blown, debilitating viruses (I could relate.). As a block, they all refused to reboot. The fifteen minutes stretched into a half hour, and then into a 45 minute slog. The workers offered free doughnuts as compensation. It would have been more tolerable, if not exactly pleasant, if not for two things.
First, there was the employee attitude. I don't think of myself as a particularly demanding person, nor customer. I understood that the situation was beyond what they were accustomed to, and out of their direct control. I even appreciated the rhetoric they were using--when asked when the tills would be opening again, the harried attendant at the front of the increasing line of increasingly impatient people could only repeat "soon." He couldn't commit to an actual time, because being held to it would only make things worse. I understood that. What was more annoying is that some of them took the motto that the best defense was a good offense, and reminded us that, as customers, it was our responsibility to educate ourselves on the store policies, and there was a sign up clearly stipulating that they would experience some down time. Silly me, thinking I could just waltz into a store during its open hours and expect to be allowed to make purchases.
Second, and far more pressing at the time, was the annoyance not in my head but in a lower body part. You see, I had decided that, since I wasn't feeling 100%, I wasn't going to drink at the party. Thus, I felt my habitual social nervousness at being around people in such a situation, without anything to take the edge off. And as a consequence, I looked for something to fill both my mouth and my hands. I could, I suppose, have gone for a steady stream of food, but instead I opted for a steady stream of water. I must have had at least a half dozen cups while I was there. By this point, then, I was, to put it politely, floating in my eyeteeth. While the attendant told us, once again, that everything would be up and running in "just a little while longer now," I was fidgeting back and forth, all but crossing my legs, like a five year old in a line at an amusement park.
While I waited, I thought about the "what if"s that led me to this experience. I had been roped in by a series of unfortunate coincidences, the exact opposite of the happy serendipity I've discussed in another post. If only I had been feeling well. If only I had left a little earlier. If only Sobey's had still been open 24 hours. If only I had known about the shutdown. If only I had opted for just the chips--or just the vitamins. This dithering in the middle of healthy living had cost me. If only there hadn't been other people at the vitamin area. If only there had been one fewer person in line. If only I had gone straight to the regular check-out. If only there hadn't been a power outage. So many random events build on each other, all to the apparent final purpose of getting me to wet my pants.
It's the sort of thing that makes you believe in destiny.
Finally, by about 12:30 or so, the computers decided to bow to the inevitable, and started computing again. I flew through the self-checkout, happy to be granted the privilege of giving this grocery chain my money. As I dashed home to revel in precious porcelain possession, I ruminated on all I had learned that night:
Never leave a party early.
Vitamins are for the daylight hours.
Don't trust places that keep hours you wouldn't work yourself.
Computers can't be trusted. Ever.
Just say no to that fifth glass... of water.
And, most importantly,
Vitamins waste time, and lower your quality of life.