Saturday, July 10, 2004


Lucky Odyssey

(An Average Day in L.A., 12/1/94)

Driving home trying to figure out what to make for dinner, I heard the ad enticing me to visit the friendly , helpful, knowledgeable man in the meat department at Lucky.
“That’s it!” I said to myself, out loud. It’s not unusual for me to talk to myself in the car. “I’ll make pasta with prociutto, broccoli and garlic sauce! There’s no meat in the house. I can stop at Lucky. It’s on the way home.”
I found the friendly, knowledgeable, helpful meat man stocking the cooler with roasting chickens.
“Where do you have prociutto?”
“What’s that?”
Uh-oh. “It’s Italian spiced ham.”
“Never heard of it. If I never heard of it we probably don’t have it.” He went back to stocking the cooler. Yes, indeed, knowledgeable and helpful.
Settling on making my continuously variable no recipe “Rob’s Famous hodgepodge Of Whatever Is In The Cabinet Delight,” I wandered the aisles trying to remember what we were out of in the home kitchen.
I ran into my good friend and neighbor (and landlord), Dave. He was just finishing up and was getting into the checkout line, but I still had things to locate.
Several minutes later I was done with my shopping. Dave was still at the checkout counter with a long line behind him, people obviously getting frustrated. Two managers were working on the machine. I couldn’t stop myself from giving Dave a good-natured hard time.
“Did you break the cash register?”
“Don’t get in this line! There’s something wrong here!”
I looked at my options.
With only six or seven items in my carry-basket, I easily could have gotten into the express line unchallenged, but with at least twelve people in line there, it appeared to be anything but express. All of the other lines were much shorter.
Quickly stepping into a line with only two people turned out to be a poor way to occupy the next fifteen minutes.
The woman at the front of the line was nearly done and next was a guy with only a few things and he was already loading them onto the conveyor. The woman was getting her last items checked and was preparing to pay.
I looked over the guy in front of me. His thick, dark sunglasses hid his eyes, but nothing else.
I couldn’t help but notice his cheap, ill-fitting wig of light brown hair with his own gray sideburns and fringe sticking out from under it. His sunglasses also couldn’t mask his pockmarked face, his extreme overindulgence in after-shave, or his shiny polyester resale shop seventies disco shirt. The contents of his basket were dozens of cans of cat food and a bag of apples.
It was the first of December and the woman was cashing her welfare check. The line stopped completely as the register broke down. There was something wrong with the printer or something having to do with paying by check.
By now, I had put my things on the conveyor and there were people behind me. There was no way out.
Mr. Saturday Night Fever stood silently in front of me while the cashier tried to solve the problem. I began to count the cans of cat food, just out of curiosity. There were over fifty cans-- about half a dozen each of several different brands. A week’s supply for nine or ten cats that apparently all demanded their favorite flavor.
A finger started to incessantly poke me in the back. I turned and there was a woman about fifty of so, slightly pudgy with stringy salt and pepper hair and a few missing teeth. Pointing at one of the checkout stand magazines featuring a gallery of photos and stories about America’s Favorite Serial Killers, she launched into her thought for the day segment on the talk show in her head, where I was the day’s guest.
“How about that Dahmer guy? He got what was coming to him didn’t he?”
“Yeah, I guess so.”
“They should have killed him the day they caught him.”
The guy in front finally spoke. “What the Hell is taking so long?” The sunglasses couldn’t mask his affected lisp either.
The manager came over to help the cashier as the poking in my back resumed.
“You know, maybe they should have let him live longer so that he could have been miserable in prison, you know, all locked up like that with everyone hating him openly... YEAH! They should have made him miserable for a good long time and THEN beat him to death!”
“I guess they could have done that.”
“They SHOULD have!”
Then from in front of me: “These MEXICANS with their FOOD STAMPS! Why can’t I get food stamps for my CATS?”
Poke poke poke. “O.J. is guilty, I know it.”
“Really? Were you there? Do you know someone working on the case?”
“No, I just know it.”
Then from in front of me, louder this time: “Wish I could get food stamps for my cats!”
Poke poke poke with one hand, pointing at a copy of the Sun with the other: “She deserved it though. Will you look at that! She was a coke snorting lesbian! Just like that Heidi!”
“Heidi Fleiss is a lesbian?”
“She WILL be after a little while in the SLAMMER! Why do these FOREIGNERS get FOOD STAMPS? I should get food stamps! It costs A LOT to feed my cats!”
Finally whatever the problem was got resolved and the line moved forward. I escaped the store, got myself home and ordered out Chinese.

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