Thursday, April 28, 2011

Small Town Anthropology

I dropped the kids at school and motored the 10 miles to town to buy a birthday present. I decided to go to a place that was mostly foreign to me – the Mall.

When I rolled into the lot, I got a SWEET parking spot right in front of the main doors. In fact there were very few cars in the lot, just about 5 or 6 full sized Buicks, Oldsmobiles, and Fords.

As I got out of the car, it dawned on me that the mall would not be open at 8:15 in the morning. So I stood in the nearly vacant parking lot in my Carhartt work clothes staring at the font doors, when a sudden urge to go to the bathroom fell upon me.

The parking lot was, of course, the first option, but I thought better of it. Perhaps one door was unlocked for early employees or janitors. There had to be a restroom in there somewhere.

To my surprise, the first door I tried was unlocked. In fact they were all unlocked! How careless!

I crept inside with cat-like stealth and took in my surroundings. The lights were on, but all of the store fronts had little jail cell curtains covering the entrances. I scuttled up to the main hall junction and ran smack dab into a group of burglars.

They were in a pack headed down the hall. They were all in their 60’s and 70’s wearing JC Penny track suits and white sneakers. They nodded and smiled as they cruised by.

The thrill was too much to pass up. I joined them.

As we passed the Sears, I spotted two more gangs of burglars roaming the mall in a startling systematic way… counter clockwise. The last piece of the puzzle clicked into place. I had not joined a roaming gang of geriatric burglars, I had joined the Mall Walkers!

I had heard that such a tribe of people existed, but I truly didn’t think I would ever get a chance to see them, much less, participate in their ritual. I felt a bit like Dian Fossey as I scurried along behind them, trying to decipher their language and migration patterns.

I spotted the entrance to the restroom next to Bed Bath and Beyond across the way. I avoided sudden movements so as not to frighten the Mall Walkers as I traveled directly across the main concourse.

I did not hear the alarm. I did not smell the pheromone. I did not receive the psychic signal. But something alerted the Walkers, and they all turned to look at the intruder.

I had broken the cardinal rule of the Mall Walkers. I had left the designated path. My Carhartts suddenly seemed grotesque to me. How I longed for a track suit and white sneakers in that horrible moment.

I coyly strolled to the restroom and avoided eye contact. When I emerged from the restroom, I kept a keen eye out for the alpha males. I’ve heard they’re the most dangerous. I wondered if there was a silverback waiting in the Crocs booth that separated me from my nearest exit. I made my way past the Orange Julius without breathing.... trying not to show fear. I heard they bite you if they sense fear.

The morning sun seemed too bright after my time in the Walker's lair. On top of that, I couldn't find the car right away. I think that's a mall thing.

Once located, I steered my Subaru across town to Target. They open early, and the patrons wear pajamas at 8:30 am, not track suits.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

DMV Lines

The Department of Motor Vehicles line painters must have good senses of humor.

I went to get my motorcycle license at the DMV, and I got stuck behind some poor student-driver trying to park an SUV in a compact car spot. The catch was that they were ALL compact car spots – I’m talking, Mini Cooper size.

It’s pretty dern funny if you think about it for a second.

Inside, the waiting area was arranged like a game show with the chairs from one side of the room facing the other side. I chose the side with a couple of big guys. I figured if this turned into a fight, we could take the elderly lady and the woman with three kids sitting across the way.

I saw that everyone had a number ticket, but there was no Take-A-Number machine in sight. I figured out that there was an alien energy field that was keeping anyone from making eye contact or talking unless their cell phones rang, and then they were forced to speak very loudly. I began to feel like I had slipped into the alternative reality where Captain Kirk has a goatee.

Eventually, I asked one of the guys behind the counter where the number machine was. With a Prozac smile, he motioned me over to a line of people blocking the machine, which was crammed against the wall. I looked to see if the line of people were doing the Red Rover hand holding thing so I could break through. Before I had picked out the weakest link in the line, he took a number for me and handed it over; number 374.

I sat down and listened as they called number 008… then 565… then 141...
I scanned the room to see if anyone else thought this number sequence was a bit strange. When my random number lit up, I asked the lady at Counter #5 if Willy Wonka installed their number system.

She didn’t respond, she had perfect skin, and I heard ticking, so I think she was an android.

She asked me why I was there. I told the android that I would like to take the motorcycle test. She looked at my license, then told me to look into a set of huge binoculars and read off some numbers.

Then she asked me to look back in the binoculars and tell her where the red dot was. I told her it was in the box. She didn’t respond. I asked if it was supposed to be in the box. She said it was. I asked if it was ever not in the box. She said, “If it’s not in the box, you don’t get your license.”

I was happy that the dot decided to be in the box when I looked. I wondered if the dot was malicious or just randomly wandered out of the box sometimes.

After poking Computer #3 with the correct answers, it told me to go to Counter #1. I took my place hiding the number machine. When it was my turn at the counter, Prozac Smile asked me why I was there. I told him that I took the test, and the computer instructed me to go stand in front of the Take A Number machine.

Prozac Smile happily informed me that while I had passed the test with 100%, there was a riding skills test that I couldn’t take because the lines had to be repainted in the parking lot across the street.

And so, I left, with no motorcycle license, to find the nearest Shriners’ Lodge, so that I can borrow a motor scooter for the skills test that isn't scheduled.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Tooth Fairy in Rehab?

My son lost a tooth.

It wasn’t his first by a long shot. He’s old enough to know that too many questions about the Tooth Fairy, the Easter Bunny, or Santa could derail the money train.

He did what he was supposed to do. He taped it under his pillow. The Tooth Fairy was supposed to give him a buck or two and that would’ve been the end of it.

What can I say? I have no excuse. I’ve been wrapped up in the remodel that I’m doing in my house. It’s all I think about these days.

After two nights of Tooth Fairy no-shows, my son said to me while I was tucking him in, “Dad, why hasn’t the Tooth Fairy come to get my tooth?”

This, of course, hit hard. He’s growing up fast, but he’s still so innocent in many ways. It’s a parent’s job to keep the magic alive as long as possible, right?

I knew what I had to do.

I sat on the edge of the bed and looked at my beautiful son.
After I gathered my courage, I told him:

“The Tooth Fairy is a drinker, son. I’m guessing three, maybe four shots of tequila a night. She wasn’t always like that. When I was a boy, she was a strict vegan and a serious light-weight when it came to booze. But then the Easter Bunny and the other One-Nighters, like Santa, kept getting the spotlight despite that fact that Tooth was working nightly shifts – 365 days a year.

It started with wine coolers, then she started hitting malt liquors and Boons Farm. These days it’s all about the Cuervo Gold.

So, you see, son, she’s probably just sleeping off a binge and she’ll be back in business tonight.

If she leaves you Canadian money, don’t fuss about it. The Looney is stronger than the dollar right now.

Sweet dreams, little man… sweet dreams.”