Sunday, August 29, 2010

The Inconvienence of it All

At the top of our street, across the busy road on the corner, is our neighborhood gas station and inconvenience store. It's existence and whole purpose of being is to add insult to injury and frustration to my life. It is a never ending bad practical joke perpetrated on society, worthy of it's own 24 hour live feed on the comedy channel.

There is no possible combination of bad decisions and poor planning that could have led to the layout of the lot and it's relation to the traffic, so the perpetual joke started right from conception with engineers and civil planners doubled over in laughter while signing the building permits. The franchise is located on one corner of a major 4 way intersection. Each morning I dread the exercise in futility of trying to turn off my street onto the busy thoroughfare while a constant stream of late for work gas buying coffee drinkers pour off the store lot and pull in line with the already packed flow. When combined with the cars turning off the street directly opposite to ours, it can take 10 minutes to a 1/2 hour to complete this task. I usually read the paper at the top sign, and wait until the mile long line of cars behind me, each waiting their turn at the front of the line begins to honk in unison, indicating there is a chance I can turn without being horribly disfigured in a fiery crash.

Although the traffic congestion the store presents is loads of fun in itself, the real carnival ride begins when you pull in to the lot. The store is staffed by a cast of characters that were edited out of Walter Disney's first full length feature. There is a sweat little dwarf that is wider then she is tall, and must use a ladder to reach the cash register. The stock boy, lot attendant and janitor is a cross-dressing ex trucker from South America with a deep voice and even deeper coat of thick wavy hair on his legs and back clearly visible over (and under the dresses), and the afternoon cashier is the hard of hearing father of the owners great uncle from the old country who moves with the speed and dexterity of a senior three toed sloth. Rounding out this cast of characters is Mr. Potato Head, the day shift cashier, who sold his likeness to Hasbro in the early 50's without consulting an attorney, and sadly, is on record as making the worst business deal in history. Although this poor guy is instantly and delightfully recognizable to every person born after 1952, he lives in anonymity selling cigarettes and beer to minors.

In theory, the store is supposed to offer a quick and easy option for purchasing small items accidentally forgotten off the weekly shopping list or enable you to pick up a small snack or a refreshing beverage while filling your vehicle with gasoline. Quick, easy, get in, get out, and on your way. It is supposed to be simple and fast, and in exchange, you pay a slight premium on the items and avoid the long lines and the extended drive to the local market . A mutually beneficial and consensual relationship between you and the store owner. You profit in time, he in taxable earnings, extending the benefits to the local tax base. In theory but not, I'm afraid, in practice.

I stopped in there the other day because I noticed the Princess's Trolls had consumed all the milk yet again. I grabbed my quart of milk and actually had to exit the store with it to get to the end of the line waiting for Mr. Potato head to mash the keys and collect the money with his oversized paw like hands. As the line moved along snaking through the isles between display shelves, I browsed the items available to purchase. There were dusty cans of peas and carrots each with a price tag of $4.23, one pound bags of sugar for $7.67, the one canister of salt for sale had broken open at the bottom and was taped closed and looked to be about 3/4 full. They had those plastic lemons and limes that contain synthetically produced fruit like juice substitute for that emergency 4:00am Margarita, and many jars of maraschino cherries who's purpose here I could not fully understand. Of course there was the $3.00 loaves of bread to go along with the $3.00 micro tubs of the I CAN"T BELIEVE IT'S NOT BUTTER butter, and the frozen wieners and hamburger patties which proudly contain 10% real meat and/or meat by products.

As I get second to the head of the line, I place my now warm and quite heavy quart of milk on the counter. The 13 year old in front of me pays for his beer and smokes, and exits the store to his waiting crowd of fellow skateboarders who zoom off through the lot weaving in and out of the sea of vehicles waiting in line for gas, or trying desperately to merge in to the steady stream of traffic on the street. Mr. Potato Head asks, what I want and I point to the Milk. "Dude." says Mr. Potato, "That other guy just paid for your milk. I thought it was his". So I pay yet again in case the kid comes back for his money, exit the store and start the daring and dangerous process of trying to merge into traffic then make a quick left turn without someone smashing full on in to the back of my Doggy mobile.

Once I get home, it's time for a nice cold glass of refreshingly over priced milk. As soon as I open the lid I realize that the best before date listed on the jug is a distant memory which is further punctuated by the sour aroma and chunky texture. Great .. sour and expired.. I could have gone back and exchanged it, or even just got my money back, but is it worth the inconvenience? Sadly no. I put it back in the fridge hoping that the trolls will become to ill to mess up the house for a few nights.

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