The Stories

Shock the Monkey – Part 5: The Haphazard Horrors of Helium Hell

Click here to read this snowstorm story from the beginning.

Brief Re-Cap: At the end of our last episode, I was on the precipice of becoming a human piñata for a gaggle of shady characters at a shady retail establishment. My sins are many, but in this particular case I was at risk because I had the nerve to honk at unruly children who were building an impromptu snowman in the parking lot, thus blocking my exit from Shady Wines. Leading the insurrection was the proprietor of Shady, who initially seemed very invested in taking the first whack at my ass. But instead…

  Surprisingly, the convenience store owner does not wave his hand in a secret signal indicating that his underlings should take my life. Instead, he yells out to the budding photographer/Spawness of the construction-minded urchins: “Get those damn kids out of the way!”

  Well, then. I think I like him. I might stop here more often. But probably not.

  So, Momma motions for the kiddies to get in the car. Rather than glare at me, as I’m fully anticipating, she throws an evil eye at the store proprietor, probably vowing that her relationship with this emporium is over. But she’ll be back. She has “creature of habit” written all over her Jordache jeans and Earth shoes.

  The rest of the milling crowd returns to their previous criminal distractions. Nothing interesting to see here, no blood, no gunfire, no torn weave trampled in the snow. Once my path is clear, I slowly roll forward, softly crunching the short-timer Frosty (hurray!), then I pull out onto the main road. I need to get to the grocery store. There’s a carton of eggs there with my name on it, even if no one but me cares, at all.

  I spend the next thirty minutes navigating the treacherously-slick hazards of what is normally a five-minute drive. Once again, the middle of the three lanes going in my direction is relatively clear. If you just stay in this lane, you shouldn’t have any issues. And most people are doing this. Working together is a fine thing, even if most Republican Senators in this country don’t have any conception of such an ideal.

  But, of course, we have the clueless renegades that don’t truly grasp the situation, ignoring the noble examples of their fellow human beings. They are trying to drive in the outer lanes, which means they are generating an unending geyser of regurgitated snow which flies into the air and then splats on the cars behind them, compromising visual abilities and potentially causing good people to contemplate doing very bad things.

  End result, the smart people in the middle lane have to plod along at five miles an hour, waiting for the stupid outer-lane people in front of them to either have an unfamiliar bolt of enlightenment hit them or to smack against a curb and bust an axle. Usually, it’s the latter. Once one of the stupid cars puts themselves out of commission (“Is the driver bleeding? No? Keep going.”), the smart people floor their accelerators, en masse, and we race along until we encounter the next non-thinned member of the herd. Rinse and repeat.

  Eventually, after I have worn my throat raw from rounds of creative cussing that no one else but me can hear, I finally make it to the Kroger Signature on Camp Wisdom Road. As soon as I pull into the parking lot, I realize that something is fundamentally wrong with the local environs. The snow here looks odd.

  Then I realize that the asphalt is covered in a very advanced state of slush. It’s still mostly frozen, but we have quite a bit of water in the mix, resulting in a gritty soup that everyone is plowing through whilst searching for a primo place to park. Why isn’t the liquid part just gurgling down a drain somewhere? Either the laws of gravity don‘t apply to this magical slice of real estate or somebody did a lame-ass job with the plumbing infrastructure.

  I slosh the car into a parking slot and then kill the engine. Immediately, I can hear other store patrons running around and bitching shrilly about it being cold and wet. Really? What did you expect, Ignoretta? The ice-snow has been falling from the skies all day. Did this not give you any idea what to expect, comfort-wise? Maybe you should have paid more attention in your high-school science classes instead of dreaming about playing squat tag with the star quarterback under the bleachers.

  I pop the door open and hop out of the car. My feet plunge at least six inches into the frigid soup. For whatever asinine reason, I have chosen to wear Converse low-toppers on this little adventure. As you may be aware, these cheap sneakers are currently the rage in some footwear fashion circles, experiencing a resurgence in popularity after a few decades on the down-low. They are poorly made items, offering little protection from the elements and providing no arch support whatsoever, resulting in flat feet, eventual spinal misalignments, and the need to keep buying more Converse because they don’t last that long.

(Fair Disclosure: I probably have 30 pairs of Converse sneakers in my closet, as we speak. I can’t help it. I know they’re bad for me, but I want them anyway, which basically summarizes all of the dating choices during my younger years.)

  The freezing water permeates the lower part of my body. My socks are immediately drenched and both pant legs of my jeans suck up a few gallons of water. I have just inadvertently experienced one of those twisted Swedish spa therapies where people jump into ice water after drinking vodka, invested in the health benefits but soon learning that there can be a wee chance of complications, like heart attacks and the inability to ever be fertile again, because your testicles are now lodged in your chest.

  I suck it up and slam the car door. Hell, I’m already soaking wet, this can’t get any worse. I trudge toward the entrance to the store, fighting upstream like salmon in an Alaskan river. But I don’t want to spawn with anybody. I’m fairly certain of that. (Wait, that one guy over there looks kind of cute, with the ice crystals in his hair and the sexy way I can see his breath. But I’m on a mission, so I’ve got to swipe left.)

  I stumble through the automatic doors into the little vestibule area where they have tiny little stacks of firewood for outrageous prices, as well as those hateful gumball machines that incite gluttonous riots among the “We Love Barney” set. We also have those little yellow fold-out signs proclaiming “Wet Floor!” in both English and Spanish. Ya think? If you don’t have the common sense to realize that this floor might be wet then you deserve to fall and bust your ass.

  I get into the store proper and start to head toward the line of moist shopping carts that some poor soul has had to retrieve from the soupy parking lot. Suddenly, this rude little child emerges from the shopping cart corral, manipulating a cart even though his irritating little hands can barely reach the steering bar. He shrieks out some type of vicious war cry and then shoves the cart forward with all his strength, cackling madly.

  The cart shoots across the entryway and slams into a Valentines display. Boxes of chocolates fly into the air, bags of candy rupture, and there’s the pitter-patter of hundreds of those tiny, slogan-etched sugar hearts plinking to the ground for miles around.

  And his Momma? She’s talking on her cell phone, of course. She doesn’t miss a beat in her conversation, simply walking over to grab his tiny, evil hand and leading him off to another part of the store that he can destroy. No apologies, no attempt to clean up the mess. I’m guessing that this bundle of joy is enrolled at St. Monica’s Catholic School for Wayward Sinners. Our Lady of the Pointless Offspring.

  I ditch the idea about obtaining a shopping cart, and I grab one of those hand baskets instead. I have got to get in and get out of this hellhole as soon as possible and try to avoid becoming collateral damage and/or an accomplice in the violent beating of an errant parent. This is going to be a rough mission.

  I head to the right, where I know they have the condiments aisle. My only quest in this section of the store is a jar of mayo, that’s all I need. I tromp my way along, my shoes squelching and leaving little puddles of dirty water. On better days, I might have been concerned about the watermarks, possibly even ashamed. Not today. If some low-paid employee with a worn-out mop wants to get in my face about this, I will leave carnage in my soggy wake.

  I turn the corner and discover that the Valentine effort in this store was not limited to the now-wrecked table of advertised goodies in the entryway. Me and my drenched shoes are trudging through the “Floral Market”, which normally features gaudy groupings of tired tulips but, due to the Manufactured Day of Love, they have hundreds of helium-filled Valentine balloons lodged against the ceiling. All of these airbags have long, crinkly-ribbon tails that stretch nearly to the floor. I’m sure at one point an efficient clerk had tightly corralled them in a designated area, but that is no longer the case. We have free-range balloons, far and wide, bobbing about and possibly procreating.

  Unimpressed with this inverted forest, I’m now fighting my way through a murky misama of pink and red seaweed, with each clingy tendril insisting on sticking to my clothing in some way. (Why do I go out in public? Why? Give me a remote cave and an endless supply of beef jerky and I’m good forever.) I finally break through to the condiment aisle, with floating images of teddy bears and unicorns still attached to my body via some satanic adhesive that I don’t understand. I rip that crap off of me and approach the mayo display, on the verge of actually accomplishing something on this travesty of a day.

  Sadly, I encounter one of those maddening examples of “People Who Should Not Be Allowed to Shop Without Proper Supervision.” She’s blocking my access with her confused body and her illegally-parked shopping cart, studying the various options with religious intensity. I guess she’s waiting for her Preferred Deity to illuminate the proper jar with a golden-hued splash of celestial guidance.

  Since I can actually be a decent person, for at least a few minutes of any random day, I give her a little bit of time, my fingers flexing as I contemplate clawing my face. But it doesn’t take long before I can’t deal with it anymore, I just want to get out of here. I reach around her and grab a container of Hellmann’s mayo. (This is the only worthwhile mayo on the market. Do not buy anything else or I will look at you with pity.)

  Confused Woman gasps, and then utters “That’s MY jar. Why are you stealing it?”

  What? Is she serious with this? There are 100 jars that look exactly the same on the shelf. Oh, the hell with it. I don’t have time for arguments or impromptu therapy. I shove the jar at her, which she grasps with odd-feeling fingers that make me shudder and envision serial killers that fixate on bottles of lotion placed in a basket. I grab another jar and race down the aisle.

  Only to find said aisle blocked by two shopping carts facing in opposite directions, with the cart drivers both chattering on their cell phones as they peruse the offerings on the shelves without actually selecting anything. One of them is upset with somebody for not knowing exactly what they want for dinner. The other one is relaying details of some sordid event that transpired last night at a questionable, presumably alcohol-laden venue known as “Champs”. (I believe I overheard the phrase “And I have no idea what happened to my panties”, but I still had unicorn glitter in my ears after navigating the Obnoxious Land of Aggressive Holiday Inflatables, so I might be mistaken.)

  I clear my throat to get their attention. Can you let me through? They both glance at me, briefly, and then continue with the babbling without moving their carts an inch in any direction. One of them even gives me an “Oh no you didn’t” look before continuing to share the saga of her misplaced undergarments and the confusing fog of memory that happens after one too many shots at a bar where everybody knows the name of your personal couture.

  I could seriously cut somebody right now. This is just not worth it.

  My own phone rings. It’s Partner.

  I flip the phone open (an action which instantly time-stamps this story as something that happened in the ancient past) and I proceed to launch. “I’m at the store right now and it took me two hours to get here and these people are crazy and my feet are soaking wet and I don’t understand the heathen children or why people destroy things or why they can’t get out of the way and all I remember from the shopping list is the mayo even though I know we need more but my mind is frozen and I’m losing my grip on reality and… and… ARRRRGGGHHH!”

  I have been reduced to primal grunts and screaming. I’m so proud of myself at this moment.

  Partner: “Wait… what?”

  Me: “ARRRRGGGHHH! There are too many dumb-ass people on this planet!!”

  Partner: “Okay, breathe. You’ve got the mayo. Just get the onions and the eggs and then get the hell out. I’ve got to go to a meeting. Breathe.” Click.

  I snap my phone closed. He’s right. I am better than this. I cannot let the stupid people drag me down. I take the recommended deep breath and then send laser beams of hatred at the chattering duo in front of me. Something registers, and they both end their respective conversations with surprising speed. One of them even offers me an apologetic smile as the carts break apart, clearing my access to the rest of the store.

  I take another deep breath, since the first one seemed to have a tinge of benefit, even if I’m not sure why. (Is it possible that those Yoga People really know what they’re talking about, with sucking in good air and letting the bad air out? Possibly. But I’m from Oklahoma, where our skeptical, backwoods ways have us questioning the concept of being able to make your own self happy. Suffice it to say that mistrust is a cornerstone of my haphazard upbringing.) Still, I’ve been through enough today. Surely I deserve a break at this point. I take one confident step forward, and then life slaps me in the face once again.

  From behind me, a cracked and crazed voice rings out, echoing across the store.

  “That man took my mayonnaise! Somebody stop him!”

Click here to read the next installment in this series.

29 replies »

  1. “(Fair Disclosure: I probably have 30 pairs of Converse sneakers in my closet, as we speak. I can’t help it. I know they’re bad for me, but I want them anyway, which basically summarizes all of the dating choices during my younger years.)”

    For me, it was espadrilles. So so many espadrilles. We finally had to move to another state and “somehow” the movers lost them. That’s the Hub’s story, and he’s stuck to it all these years.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Luckily, Partner is also a Converse aficionado, so we are able to be co-dependent in our addiction without fear of the other undermining our needs in a subversive “moving incident”. Unluckily, our suspect dual-yearning is exacerbated by the presence of a Converse discount outlet a mere few miles from our domicile. Many a weekend we can be found within the walls of said emporium, mutually-salivating over yet another pair of random footwear that neither of us needs. It’s tragic and sad… 😉

      Liked by 1 person

      • I prefer to regard it as the life-affirmative declaration that I will (possibly) someday receive my invitation to the screaming cool dance necessitating the limited edition Dia de Los Muertos Chucks I’m thus forced to buy. Preparation is everything.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Why, in the name of all that is sacred in Saveway/ Krogers/ Ralphs/Pak’n’Save/WhateverYourLocalSoullessInconvienient Store, must cussdumbers leave their carts abandoned in mid-aisle? It’s an instant skyrocketing blood pressure inducing act that leaves me with a throbbing brain vein primed and ready to explode and literally leave me seeing red. Then, dare you place your trembling hand on the overladen groaning cart to gently ease past, suddenly your’e intruding on someones personal space! At best. At worst, of stealing their change purse. Even though the Cartier is now at least three yards away, ruminatively selecting either the quart pail of triple chocolate or Strawberry Creeme ice cholesterol. IF you then manage to pass by without receiving a hiss and an Olde Country curse, consider yourself truly blessed.
    As you may gather, this is a pet hate. Jeez, swing the cart to one side, PLEASE.
    As for condiment Lady; if it was me, it would be ‘clean up in aisle three!’ or she’s off to visit the Mayo Clinic. Stat. My defence? rage induced anxiety.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I fully acknowledge your pet hate and I raise a glass in honor of your dedication to such a noble cause. There is absolutely no reason why people can’t operate their Cartier in a chaste and reasonable manner. Yet WE instantly become the criminal element in this equation if we dare to politely point out (verbally or physically) that someone is being an ass with their errant basket. If you can’t behave in public, keep your ass at home. Why is this so hard for some people to grasp?

      Liked by 1 person

    • Exactly. Jack knew how to give back in a fully-justified manner. Five easy squeezes, you might say.

      As for the eggs that may or may not be left, I can honestly say that I have no idea at this point, as I haven’t reviewed the next installment which was scribbled over a decade ago. I’m just as curious as you are… 😉

      Liked by 1 person

    • Based on this and other comments, it appears that my Hellmann’s remark was not fully appreciated by one and all. (And looking back, I can see the unnecessary snideness.) Let’s just say that I was “in character” at the time and took out my dissatisfaction on the rainbow of personal preferences out there… 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I’m another fully paid member of the Hellman’s (Is that aptly named or what? Hell man’s. Huh) Mayo Hater club. But I hate ALL mayo, not just that brand, so does that cut the pity a little bit? I’m biting my nails to find out if the question for hen fruit is successful, and the onions haven’t all rotted as you clawed your way to the Produce section. That nutbag with the mayonnaise obsession? If I were feeling puckish (and yes I spelt that correctly. Puck is a mischievous fairy, sprite, or jester) IF I were feeling that way, I might screech back at cracked Betty that Jesus told me it was MY jar and that she could have the rest of them. Damned dingbat giving all us other dingbats a bad name over mayonnaise. Oh, the horror!! Alternatively screaming for Security and claiming your personal and highly psychotic stalker had found you and violated the 5000 yards safety zone would be satisfactory too. Sometimes snow brings out the worst in people, you ever notice? Good God. It occurs to me that being the passive-aggressive little weasel that I am, I’d have phoned up Partner and told him to bring home the edibles. I mean he was already out there in that shit. And after the Great Snowman Incident (as it will come to be called), you’d clearly had enough co-mingling with humanity (the overrated activity that it is) and deserved to go home, find a cat to snuggle up with and see how far down the level on your favorite alcoholic beverage bottle you can get in one sitting. Arrgghh indeed! O_o

    Liked by 1 person

    • My personal trajectory with mayo-like condiments as been an odd one. In my wee bairn days, I relished Miracle Whip, especially the lovely trifecta of MW, bologna and cheese on a sandwich. (Now I only remain a fan of the queso, although I do fancy a FRIED bologna sandwich every now and then.) Later on, I went through a phase where I didn’t care for any type of mayo, preferring mustard instead (even potato salad, which I love, had to be mustard-based). At some point, I eased back into mayo, Hellmann’s this time, and now it’s all I ever want.

      The crazy condiment lady wouldn’t have bothered me all that much if it hadn’t been for ALL the other madness that had taken place up to that point, that day. (And we’re still not done!)

      As for Partner picking up the edibles on his way home, well, it did cross my mind to ask him. But once I got out on the roads (never getting more than 5 miles from my house, mind you), I wasn’t about to burden him, considering his round-trip to work was good FIFTY miles in that icy wretchedness.

      And if I hadn’t stupidly left the house, we wouldn’t have this humdinger of a tale, now would we? 😉


  4. Oh my. Bad weather does bring out the worst in people, but snow…that brings out the crazies. All the weather prognosticators have to say is ‘maybe snow’ and any and everything that so much as resembles bread is grabbed from the shelves as well as milk of all sizes, brands and flavors. I have yet to figure out why the mention of snow brings out the desire for milk sandwiches but it does.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I remember the “bread and milk” prerogative from my childhood. At the first sign of inclement weather, all of the adults became obsessed with snatching up bread and milk at the Piggly Wiggly. Even as an otherwise clueless urchin, I was always thinking “what is so important about THOSE two items?” I can think of far more interesting things to hoard if I’m going to be isolated for any extended period of time… 😉

      Liked by 1 person

      • As an adult who has seen this phenomena happen time and again, I still don’t understand. Now, bread for sandwiches yes, milk? You’ve got me. Personally I’m more inclined to get a few cans of soup and lots of chocolate.

        Liked by 1 person

    • I have to say that I’m rather enamored of this whole “Karen” meme and concept. It just seems to fit perfectly in so many situations. I’ve often thought about getting me a stack of those “Hi, My Name Is” stickers, scribbling in “Karen” on all of them, and then carrying them with me when I am out in society. If somebody annoys me, they get a sticker slapped on their whiny outfit. Whether they want it or not…

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Wow, love the ending about the mayo thief. LOL. Love your essay about the icy trip, especially the Converse sneakers. Haha, we have all been there–knowing something is bad for us but continuing it anyway. I wonder if there’s an English word for it (since English likes to have a word for the smallest shades of differences and enjoys burdening itself with numerous subtleties).

    Liked by 1 person

    • My life is a serial drama of being obsessed with things that are not good for me or at least have no real value whatsoever. You’d think I would have learned by now, but nope.

      And you’re right about the overabundance of very similar but infinitesimally different words in the English language. It’s no surprise that folks who are learning English as a secondary language often end up on prescription medication… 😉

      Liked by 1 person

      • That’s so true. Many non-native-speakers have language anxieties and there should be a word for it, giving the fact that there are numerous non-natives speakers in the world. LOL.

        Liked by 1 person

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