Situation Normal. Atmosphere Breathable. Brainstem Injected. Dialogue Engaged.
Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Mugger Anna & The Liquid Pumpkin

Dateline: 1:15 pm. Wednesday, November 16th, 2005 (a true story romance)

"Can I leave early today?"

"Sure, when?"

"Like, now?"

"Yeah, get lost. I've gotta get rid of you early sometime this week anyways. I'm gonna get in trouble for giving you all that overtime last week.

"See you tomorrow."

I sped home with a mission on my mind. I needed things. In order to procure them, I'd need my checkbook. It was the essential tool I required to bounce a check at the supermarket.

The grocery store is sparsely populated in the middle of a weekday afternoon. Blue haired crones wobbled before the dairy selections, clutching their carts for support, squinting at the labels, desperately seeking full cream unpastuerized milk. Sorry Ethel, farmstyle doesn't pass the FDA requirements anymore. Gnaw some butter sticks instead. Your dentures can handle it.

Tired floppyhaired middleaged housewives in sweatpants moped through the potato chip aisle, long ago conditioned to tune out the mewling of their bouncing brats. As they plodded along, fleshy knobs of cellulite jiggled above their knees like fishing lures on a pond. Their slumped shoulders and dead eyes were a dazzling showcase of tired dejected defeat.

Midday is also the designated cleanup time for stockboys. Today's busywork was particularly brutal: Two guys had to move a massive Pepsi display tower to scrape and mop encrusted soda from the tiles beneath. The smell reminded me of a boy scout camp latrine. Somehow that old Pepsi had festered down there until it transformed into putrid brown enamel. One of the stockboys had a paint scraper, the other a mop. They took turns at it: Scrape, mop, scrape, mop, awakening the gunk, unleashing an unappetizing olfactory hazard upon unsuspecting passers by.

The only other odor in the supermarket that came close to being that offensive was the pet supply aisle, which I happened to traverse to reach the checkout lanes. With detergent opposite the cat litter, my nose was severely conflicted. Downy fresh, cat's anus. Tide spring breeze, dog breath. Dear God. I'll never own a pet that lives outside of a glass box.

After I'd purchased (so to speak) my bounty of Triscuits and pizza, I decided to treat myself to an overpriced cup of foamy sludge. Yep, you got it. The Starbucks kiosk by the exit. I justified this to myself by way of the weather: Today is Chicago's first day below freezing, and the gale force winds were stripping skin off my face each time I ventured outdoors. Normally, I prefer the burned black tar they serve at gas stations, not the frou frou psuedo-exotic diaper scoopings Starbucks cheerfully unloads on yuppies.

I ordered a pumpkin spice latte. I wish you could hear the sneer in my voice upon the pronunciation of latte. My sole concession to pride was that I described my desired size as "big-ass," not the silly Italian signifier they put up on the menu. And I'm a liberal!

Standing at the serving counter chatting with the clerk was a pretty blond-haired blue-eyed girl buried under heavy winter garb. She looked vaguely familiar, yet I was sure we'd never met before. Could she be the girl on who lives in my town? The girl I used to message with a few months back? My imaginary sweetheart?

I collected my beverage and turned for another peek, but she was fleeing out the revolving door. Damn. So I went outside to stow my groceries and continue my quest. Second target: Wilco's new live album, Kicking Television. I've been dreaming about it since it hit the shelves last Tuesday. My burning desire. Sad, I know. Shut up.

When I got outside, she was running away across the parking lot. Odd. I set my piping hot pumpkin spice Starbucks sugarbomb atop my car and tossed my groceries into the passenger side footwell. Then I saw her again. She was sprinting back to Dominicks Finer Foods now. Odder yet. I pulled my door shut and reversed out of my spot and drove towards the lane in front of the store to leave. There she was, next to the pop machines, smoking a cigarette. The pop machines sheltered her from the wind, along with her all-black getup, including a black skullcap. She looked like a mugger. A really sweet, angelic, pixie-like mugger, but a mugger nonetheless.

I stared at her as I slowly rolled by. She saw me, I'm sure. There's no way my gawking had passed unnoticed. That's when the coffee drink on top of my car toppled backwards, exploding on the back windshield and the rear passenger window. Glaciers of tan mud began freezing to my car immediately. I was simultaneously mortified and intensely amused. Only me, folks. Had she seen this? I hope so.

I was already cursing myself for not having the guts to approach her and ask: Is that you? Are you Anna? The Anna? In my mind, a repeated litany: "chickenshit chickenshit CHICKENfuckingSHIT!"

Then, an imaginary scenario in my mind: If I'd slowed down, would the drink have nailed her? Or better yet, if I'd gotten out of my idling car to talk to her, would it have landed on my head? That'd be a hell of a romantic was to say hello. First impressions are important, you know. No amount of sexy stubble would've saved me there.

Believe it or not, this event put me in a great mood. Let's face it, it's good material. I never pass on an opportunity to publicly humiliate and self depricate myself. I'm my own best dartboard. I was giddy and smiling the whole time I was in the Best Buy at Harlem Irving Plaza getting my Wilco CD. I even made out with it when I grabbed it off the rack, leaving a sheen of bubbly saliva all over the cellophane. The clerk wiped her hands on her pants after she slipped the slobbery package into the yellow bag. Gave me an odd look, too. I'm getting used to that.

I wonder if maybe-Anna saw my coffee mishap. I wonder if that was her cavorting about the parking lot. If it was? Well...

Anna, my darling, we'll always have Starbucks.
4:49 PM - Bottle Rocket Fire Alarm


November 16, 2005 6:19 PM, Blogger Bobby said...

Next time - a stack of key lime pies in front of a ballet dancing studio.

November 17, 2005 2:25 PM, Anonymous sarcastrix said...

I so hope this one's true. It's just too perfect.

Well, except for the making out with the CD bit. That's just weird.

November 18, 2005 3:48 AM, Blogger Latigo Flint said...

Sexy stubble always saves.

By the way, I think your description of a slightly bumbling, flummoxed, Hugh Grant-ish Steve just made me ovulate a little... and I'm 110% Man and not even a tiny bit liberal.

November 18, 2005 6:37 AM, Blogger Bottle Rocket Fire Alarm said...

Sars, it is true. As for the CD case? I had to exaggerate something or it wouldn't truly be a Viking story.

November 18, 2005 8:48 AM, Blogger Dave Morris said...

I had a similar experience with a less-happy ending. Instead of pumpkin spice latte, I had ordered a cup of their new flavor, "Paint-Eating Acid Espresso." Bummer.

November 18, 2005 11:04 AM, Blogger Kerouaced said...

That was good. My friend set two coffees on the sunroof of his car and forgot about them until he opened the sunroof. He's pictured on my blog and got named the Captain while on our trip to Montreal..

November 18, 2005 11:10 AM, Blogger Murph said...

One time I bought a piping hot cup of coffee and nestled it securely between my legs while I was driving down a bumpy road. Then, just after I hit one of the road's biggest potholes, I realized that I forgot to get my $.25 in change. Needless to say, my face was red.

November 18, 2005 3:22 PM, Anonymous Al said...

"My sole concession to pride was that I described my desired size as "big-ass,""

I always say "large", and they always correct me, and I always say "Whatever it is here." It started out as a stupid form of civil disobedience, and has since evolved into a beautiful little piece of traditional theater.

November 19, 2005 12:16 PM, Blogger clothosfate said...

It would be hilarious to figure out just how many people the 'coffee on the roof of the car' thing has happened to... I am one.

Starbucks, or Gutrots if you prefer is also on the bottom of my 'places to go for coffee' list, but when I do and they give me those weirdo names for cup size... I ussually say "Uh sorry? I don't speak yuppie... I said M E D I U M."

Oh, and I love the title.

November 28, 2005 10:36 AM, Blogger karen gsteiger said...

Damn, too bad I wasn't cavorting around the HIP that day. I tend to avoid that place like the plague, though. Horrendous parking.


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