Associating is free fun at the store

It’s all a matter of what matters

Tell me what to what you pay attention, and I will tell you who you are. -- Jose Ortega y Gasset

Go back to last weekend. I am a man on a mission. Some men go to the moon. Some to the grocery store. We start life with the myths of youth. We can do anything. C.S. Lewis called them lies breathed through silver. I'm older now. I just need to exchange the plain yogurt I bought earlier for Greek yogurt. My mistake. Miles to go before I sleep.

My first attempt to park comes up short because a shopping cart has been abandoned by its former owner in my intended space. The cart corral is mere yards away. Maybe time was of the essence. I have lots of time today. I pull into the next available space.

Walking toward the door I fall in step with a family of three. The dad looks hip, lots of tattoos, pale pink shorts and a hipster hat parked on his head. The wife seems to have placed a close second in the tattoo competition. Her hair is of different colors. I like the colors. The daughter seems mismatched. She is about 8 years old. Looks like they just brought her back from an Easter photo shoot at Sears. I never shop at Sears. Which means, what do I know? The father turns to the group and says: "Everybody know their assignment?" I know mine. Exchange the yogurt. We part as I enter the store.

The line at customer service is long. I resist the urge to pull my phone out. I think I'll free solo on this. The woman in front of me has two boys. One is about 2 years old, the other 4. The youngest lies spread-eagle on the floor, making a sort of grocery store angel. The floor looks dirty. I resist giving a dirty look. The mother watches her phone. The older child watches his brother. I watch them both.

I watch as a woman walks by with two large golden balloons. One is in the shape of the number 1, the other is the number 2. She is beaming. I remember my 21st birthday. No balloons, but I like the sentiment. The little boy continues lying on the floor. The wind blows where it wishes, wrote Bresson. Little boys certainly lie where they wish as well. Finally, the mother gives the youngest a rap on his side when the cashier tells her she is ready for her. He reluctantly stands up. I step one foot closer to my mission.

The mother is buying lotto tickets. Lots of them. She has the number combinations on her cell phone. She patiently reads them off to the bored clerk. So much effort made for those numbers, I think. Numbers breathed through silver, I think. Maybe I should buy some tickets, I think. They depart; time for the main event.

"Cash or back on your card?' the cashier says with a flat voice even before I can explain my miscue. She doesn't care. She has sold a lot of lotto tickets. Based on the growing crowd behind me, she is going to sell a lot more. My explanation doesn't matter to her. When I was her age, everything mattered. Or maybe that was a myth, too. I feel disappointed that I can't explain. I wanted to explain.

Walking toward the front door, I intercept the hip young family of three again. Each one holding a bag. The father says, "Let's do a checklist!" with the enthusiasm of a cruise ship activities director. "Pizza?" he calls out, and the little girl proudly holds up her bag and responds, "Got it." "Vodka?" and the young mother holds up her bag "Got it!" "And I got the tic-tacks," he beams as they resume their march to the front door. Now that is covering your bases. They seem happy. I feel happy. I march out behind them thinking of a new mission.

I get home. "Honey, what do you think about having pizza tonight? Want me to go out and get some?" Dreams breathed through silver. Maybe I'll wear my hat when I go back out.

NAN Our Town on 04/18/2019

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