Monday, November 19, 2007

The Checkpoint

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Letting out a soft grunt while straining to lift a jar of pickles nearly half again my size, I remembered to bend my knees to protect my back. I hate giant wholesale clubs. Store aisles shouldn’t be wider than the street I live on. Worse yet, it was construction day and a large part of the cereal section was now inaccessible. Grizzled highway workers shooed patrons to the side of several orange cones as a large asphalt machine rolled over a lone box of Cracklin’ Oat Bran. CRUNCH.

As much a hated the place, leaving was even worse. I paid for my items, and moved to the store’s exterior doors. Feeling once again as if I were about to sneak across a former Soviet state’s boarder, I prepared to flash my photo ID. Tall fences and barbed wired forced shoppers to funnel through a single checkpoint area, and a fascist-looking guard wearing a neatly pressed store uniform and brandishing a TASER, paused each would be exit-er to check identification. I suspected wives and children had been lost this way.

“Papers. Your papers please,” echoed the detached but authoritative voice. It was finally my turn for screening. “And what was your purpose for this trip?” the guard asked.


He looked skeptical. I wasn’t sure how could theft could have been a problem when everything available for purchase weighed upwards of 50lbs, but I wasn’t about to ask. The guard eyed me suspiciously as if all this store exiting were just part of an elaborate plot to spirit away pallets of deodorant via some sort of clandestine underground railroad.

“We're actually having a barbecue if that helps,” I offered. The guard seemed to consider this for a moment before finally easing up and moving his hand away from the TASER. I’d talked my way to freedom.

As I loaded the car of pickles onto the flat bed of my neighbor’s borrowed truck, I couldn’t help but emit a thoughtful sigh of relief. Well, maybe it was more of a grunt, I really don’t remember which. Either way, I was nearly halfway home before my pulse finally stabilized and a thought had finally occurred to me: shopping shouldn't need a cover story.

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