“Help, I’m Alive” – Part I

Paying for the items in my shopping cart suddenly didn’t appeal to me. I threw in a box of fruit snacks and strolled to the women’s clothing section, flirting with the idea of stealing a little longer. A younger, more pretentious version of myself would have never been caught dead shopping at this superstore let alone shoplifting from one. The younger version of myself only paid a few dollars at thrift stores for vintage finds or bought thirty dollar designer mascara. Always one extreme or the other. A reasonably priced skort made in China from a polyester blend was likely not an option back then. I threw the black skirt and short hybrid that clung to a hanger into my shopping cart. I contemplated opening the box of fruit snacks but decided against it. That’d be too brazen.

Glancing at the check-out stands, zombie-like people in disheveled clothing with carts full of everything from junk food to vitamins lingered in lines. I made my way to the self-checkout section of the store.

I’d recently seen an infographic online of a self-checkout stand instructing social media users not to use these stands because it is essentially working for free and stealing jobs from society for a large capitalistic corporation making a profit off your free labor. It encouraged people to stand in long lines and ask employees of stores to open more check stands so they will have to hire more people and this would spur growth in the economy. I saw this photo on social media while I was stuffing a fifty-nine cent bean and cheese burrito into my mouth on my lunch break. A glob of greasy cheese and watery hot sauce fell onto my phone screen. As I went to wipe it off, I accidentally gave a “thumbs up” to the idiotic photo. I loved self-checkout lines.

I didn’t feel like checking out of any these lines though, self-checkout or not. Two ladies in yellow vests with bulbous happy faces on them were busy with a customer whose receipt had gotten stuck at the register. He seemed upset and unpleasant. The two yellow-vested employees jabbed at the shiny screen with their fingers and ran key cards and jingled real keys and finally, slapped the monitor. They were sufficiently distraught by the stuck receipt and the male customer threw back his head, raised his arms and shook them like he was angrily cursing the god of self-checkout stands. I pushed my cart up to the two ladies and the distraught man.

“Hi, yeah, I’ve worked on these before — is it possible you have an email set up? Like, to your savings card? I know that sometimes, my receipt just gets emailed to me automatically, do you have your email set up on your phone? Do you want to check?” I shrugged with my suggestion, wide-eyed in anticipation. I wondered what kind of email address this man would have. It must be something like “GiantBaybee49@aol.com” or “cruze4abruze@aol.com” Surely, it was at AOL.com. He must have been in his late forties, living with his mom, a giant toddler with a license to drive and make independent decisions about the type of deodorant he’d buy from a discount store that he desperately needed a receipt for. He was neither grateful nor amused when he hastily pulled out his phone and found the receipt sitting in his email. He grabbed his cart filled with his unbagged items (you had to provide your own shopping bags at these types of stores now or be charged for them) and made a beeline to the automatic sliding doors leading to the exit.

“Thanks for your help,” one of the yellow-vested ladies offered to me as she walked to the next customer having a meltdown over the self-checkout register. The other yellow-vested lady with the key card and real keys had already been called to another customer meltdown across the store and was on her way. I looked at my shopping cart and rolled it outside the automatic sliding doors.

When I got home, I realized I had left my phone. I checked it and was immediately annoyed. Texts from my father, texts from a girlfriend, texts from a guy I was trying to not develop a crush on, then texts from someone I was definitely not trying to sleep with. His texts were the most pervasively intrusive texts. If he didn’t receive an answer from me in ten minutes, multiple question marks and accusatory statements began appearing on my phone. I shut off my phone and threw it on the couch. Then I threw myself on the couch. Why am I this way? Most people are happy to have people care about them enough to text them. I dug through the couch for my phone and began replying.

Once everyone was thoroughly convinced I was neither dead or drunk, the conversations stopped. I didn’t have much to do so I began to drift off to sleep.

I was woken up by a pounding on the door. It was dark out now, but I couldn’t focus my eyes to see what time it was. There was yelling and incessant knocking. Like a drunk person, I rolled off the couch and stumbled to the door. But actually, why was my mouth so dry? What was this headache? This terrible taste in my mouth. I glanced my focusing eyes around the room and found bottles and bottles of wine strewn throughout. Collapsing, I cried. It had happened again.

(To be continued…)