A Tragicomical, Unsophisticated Blog about the Weird, the Absurd, and the Banal

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Grocery Dispute

Looking back on it, Vicky was disappointed that her breakdown hadn't been more spectacular.

For several months, maybe even years, it had been building. A ferocious lump in her ribcage twitched and muttered, clawed and burned. At first, it just fired up every time some self-righteous customer bragged about riding his bike or bringing her own fabric bags to carry away terrifically expensive, organic, gluten-free, vegan, over-packaged food. Then it was the parking inconveniences. Then it was the apartment, the heat, the police sirens, the loud neighbors, the gnawing and itching I-have-no-idea-what-to-do-with-my-life.

One year, four months, and nine days after she started working at Conseco's Market, she came in for her evening shift more tired than usual. She hadn't been sleeping well. Loud neighbors. But it was pretty much a normal day on Esplanade, except there was some quality about the humidity that made it difficult to breathe.

At 10 o'clock, after a day of hearing the blaring PA system request her for managerial assistance, Daniel said something that sounded a lot like, "Manag- what? Fuck..." over the mic. She was sitting in the "break room," practically a closet in the back with a unusual window that made it possible to smoke in an indoor-ish area.

And for some reason, Vicky heard herself say over the PA system, "Repeat page please." A long pause. "Repeat page please."

"Managerial assistance to the register, please."

"Daniel, repeat the page, please."

"Managerial assistance to the register, please."

"Daniel, you said, 'Manag-what? Fuck...' Correct?"

"Please come to the register."

"What's the problem."

"...Is this really the place to be having this conversation?"

Then Vicky laughed. A cacophony over the PA system that made her involuntarily cringe even as she kept laughing. The absurdity of it. Hearing her own voice and laughter over the PA system sounded like someone else talking, a clipped, professional exchange devolving in content. What a cliché. This was the scene from Airplane where the announcers start arguing over an abortion.

But Daniel was not playing along. Not yet.

“This is precisely the time and place to have this conversation, Daniel. Loud and where everyone can hear. These people deserve to know. And this has got to be the last customer in the store – we’re about to close. What seems to be the problem?” Vicky leaned back in her chair and lit another cigarette.

“A customer wants me to accept expired coupons.”

“Customer. This is the voice of god. The manager, at least, which should be good enough for you, here. I kindly invite you to fuck yourself.”

“Vicky, maybe you should go home and I can close things down…”

“You? You can’t count to five, Daniel.”

“That was uncalled for.”

“That was uncalled for? Uncalled for? I’ll tell you what’s uncalled for,” Vicky said and then stopped.

After a moment, Daniel said, “Yes…?”

“Is the customer still there?”

“No. He stormed out. But there are a lot of people staring.”

“Well, now, hear this. It’s been a long, hot day. My back hurts. I have a degree in art history and I’m managing a grocery store. This is to be expected. It’s a good joke. For a long time I wasn’t laughing, but now I am and why aren’t you? You could be, but I wouldn’t know, because I can’t hear anything but the PA system in the back. You know, this thing is great. I never feel like I’m the one talking over this system. I hear my voice, but I can’t believe it’s me talking. And it’s this voice that’s speaking now. Now. Now. Fuck.”


“Yeah, Daniel.”

“There’s no one in the store.”

“You lied?”

“Yeah. Except for coupons.”

“So I guess I don’t have to fire myself.”

“Not if you don’t want to. I won’t tell if you don’t.”

“… I'm firing myself.”

They closed the store. The next day, she woke up early for the first shift. For weeks after that, she worked doubles after another manager quit and she had to pick up the slack.


My short story, "The Law of Gravity," is now available for purchase through Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine's issue #56.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

More more things

And a Brief Note on Things, Weddings, and Where the Hell I Am in Life...

1.) Reading The Lorax as an adult is a far more emotional and political experience than I ever imagined.

2.) An exchange at today's wedding, "It's been years since I've seen him." "Yeah, what happened to him?" "He got divorced."

3.) A few days ago I resolved to make it my mission this year to stop Worrying. Most likely I'll elaborate on this in the future. But suffice to say for now that this decision will take a few weeks or months to implement.

4.) Today I witnessed one my childhood friends, Mindy, getting married to her high school sweetheart. It was wonderful. However, my favorite part of the wedding was watching and listening to my parents dance and socialize with their college friends. To my college friends: I look forward to your future children's weddings.

5.) Got a job. Got an apartment. Working on getting a car.

6.) Charter schools are complicated.

7.) Words fall through me.

8.) I'm going to apply for grad school again this year. This will be interesting.

9.) Sorry this post isn't particularly fun. It's past midnight and I'm rather tired after the wedding. Tomorrow: Ren Fest. Tonight: Sleep.


Saturday, August 11, 2012

Well, Here We Go

The Immediate Life Checklist:
1.) Get a job (Check)
2.) Get a reliable, affordable car -- preferably a Honda Civic (In Progress)
3.) Get an apartment that accepts cats, has a gas stove, is near a bus stop, and off-street parking (In Progress)

Some people are blessed with an ability to enjoy life and not take it too seriously. I am, unfortunately, not one of them.

So, this isn't going to be an interesting post because I'm going a little crazy right now trying to get Everything In Order (everybody got that?). Don't worry. We'll get back to our regularly scheduled scribblings soon.

I try not to talk about my real life very often on this blog, because I think the day to day grind is boring. I've got a journal for that. This is supposed to be fun. Right now, though, my thoughts are pretty Mundane and require a great deal of Grief.

In the meantime, I'm glad, at least, that I'm not alone. The other day my three year-old niece looked up to me after she'd ran around the living room several times and, with gravity and deep existential concern that only a toddler can muster, said, "Do you think this is a game?"

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Cover Letters (Tribute: Joey Comeau)

Notes from the Road: Currently in Oklahoma to witness my dear friends S's wedding (the Forbidden Union). Though the hotel is a lot nicer than we all expected for the price, this isn't ideal conditions for blog post composition. Yet, I'm with old friends and, after ten hours on the road, I'm still glad to see them every moment.

And then there's other things. Truth be told, I haven't been able to give SDR as much attention as I would have liked these past few months. I've been reusing material that I wrote months or years ago for exactly situations such as these. I'm very glad to share these pieces with you, but it's not necessarily by choice.

Since June, I've traveled from Louisiana to Minneapolis, four times back and forth between Iowa City and Minneapolis, and now from Minneapolis back and forth to Oklahoma. I've applied for more jobs than I care to share. Before I left New Orleans, I told AC that the job search was already weighing heavy on me and, in an uncharacteristic demonstration of disgust, he said, "Yeah, I know. Job searching is just so physically, mentally, emotionally exhausting..." It's that last point that resonates with me, and it took a few weeks for me to decide why.

Job searching, writing cover letters in particular, is a process of sharing with strangers your personal and professional triumphs and aspirations and then being told, more often than not, that "It's not a good fit," or, that they've found "a better qualified candidate." It's a horrifying, humiliating, scarring process if you stop to think about it.

IB told me that after writing so many cover letters she got to the point where she wasn't really writing cover letters anymore. They had devolved into weird, personal missives. One, which told the brief story of her odyssey to become a community organizer, landed her a job. After meeting her coworkers, I understand why this was attractive to them -- they are an emotionally involved lot, but nonprofit folk tend to be.

This all reminded me of a project and book by Joey Comeau, poet and author of A Softer World, called Overqualified. It's a series of fake cover letters he wrote channeling some of the more absurd points of job searching. You can read some of the letters here -- or buy the book and support indie authors.

Anyway, a tribute. This in response to my favorite job posting for a position I Really didn't want:

Dear Sir or Madam:

I am very glad to apply for the Private Investigator position with Walker and Ritter Investigators. With my qualifications, vastly superior to all the other candidates, I would make a terrific contribution to the company. What are those excellent credentials, you may ask? Well, being professional investigators, I leave that for you to discover (good luck). If you haven't been able to find substantial evidence supporting my claim in one month's time, then I guess we'll just have to both consider my craft and acumen proven. In the meantime, I have most of a page left, and I'd like to tell you a story.

There is a small bar/cafe in the Lichtenberg borough of Berlin that I visited with my classmates and friends. It was a cold day in January and we had just finished a long day of touring museums, including the infamous Hohenschoenhausen prison, the Stasi headquarters. It was a beautiful cafe. We sat crowded around a small, rectangular table drinking scotch and beer and talking idly about the city. I was taking notes, St. looked at me strangely and said, "Sam, stop writing." I asked him why, and he replied, "Because we just went to the Stasi museum. I'm German. Writing makes me nervous."

Indeed, the prison made us all nervous, especially the final stretch of the tour. All twenty of us Americans and two Germans stood huddled in a small, concrete, frigid enclosure with two impregnable metal doors on either side of us, wire mesh above, while the tour guide spoke.

I'll paraphrase: "There's a joke: Bush, Gorgachev, and Honecker are being chased by cannibals. Bush turns around and shouts, 'Spare me and I'll take you to a capitalist paradise.' And the cannibals eat him. Gorbachev turns around and shouts, 'Spare me and I'll take you to a worker's paradise!' And the cannibals eat him. Honecker keeps running and shouts over his shoulder, 'Keep following me and you'll be in East Germany in ten meters.' He looks back and the cannibals are gone."

We all laughed, and then the guide said, "It's funny, isn't it? But that joke was told by a twenty year-old man to his friends at a gathering after church. He was arrested and taken here." The guide gestured around him. "This is where prisoners in the later years were allowed to stand outside for fresh air. It was the only time any prisoner was allowed to be outside. You couldn't see the city or hear it -- you didn't even know you were in the city. But, at night you could see the stars in this tiny, concrete enclosure. And if you could see the sky, there was hope."

Chilling and uplifting, didn't you think? We come from very different backgrounds, Valerie Ritter, but I'm sure that you and I had a moment of empathy when you went on the same tour two weeks ago on vacation. The "rest chambers" are really unnerving, I found. But, I'm sure that you also felt some twinge of professional respect, just as I did.

You're probably wondering  how I knew that you were at the Stasi prison two weeks ago. Furiously wondering. Probably wondering how I know you didn't have anything but an Americano from Cafe Envie for breakfast because you hit the snooze too many times, very uncharacteristic. You order Caesar Salad with Ranch dressing on the side. You're left handed, but try to pretend to be ambidextrous. Last month you memorized the Salic Law speech from Henry V just to see if you could. You're obsessed with puzzles and logic games. Every evening you play Go, Chess, or Scrabble against opponents all over the world and typically win. Sometimes it's just Sudoku.

For the reasons stated above, and those credentials I'm sure you will never find, I believe I would make an exceptional member of your team. I very much look forward to hearing back from you and wish you all the best in discovering my contact information.