Friday, March 4, 2011

There's a time and place for almost everything

So here in Germany, there is an elaborate system of standing in line at the grocery store. Once you've got it down and have abandoned all concern for your own personal space, it's a breeze. It goes like this:

  • Put your groceries on the conveyor belt, with the heaviest/sturdiest items toward the front, and the lightest/most delicate items toward the back. Leave as little room between items as possible, stacking like products when necessary. This facilitates the next customer's being able to place his items down after you.
  • Place the divider, if one is available, as close to your goods as possible. Take two steps away from the conveyor belt and two steps nearer the person in front of you. Stand as close to their actual anus as you can without making physical contact. You will stand like this until it is your turn to pay, breathing down their neck as they pull out their method of payment. The person behind you in line will do the same to you. This takes some getting used to, but you will manage it eventually.
  • As the checker scans your items, take each one and place it in a cloth or plastic bag or back into the shopping cart. Here is where your original method of heaviest-first comes in handy, because the checker will scan so quickly that your stuff will literally fall off the counter if you are not fast enough. Pay as close to the penny as possible without making the other customers wait so long their teeth fall out. Walk away.
Now, I was in the very beginning of step one when a disgracefully drunken man in his early 40s pushes past the person standing behind me in line and asks to place his beer bottles down on the ledge in front of the conveyor belt. Normally, this is perfectly acceptable, if:

1. The person in front of you has finished placing their items on the belt, and

2. You are actually the next person in line.

Neither of these conditions had been satisfied, so I told him simply, "no." Carefully but quickly I continued placing my items heaviest to lightest on the belt. Ordnung muss sein.

Well, he didn't like that too much, and said dass es ihm egal war--that he didn't care. And began shoving his bottles down on the belt, standing on top of me to do so and completely obstructing my attempts to finish placing down my groceries.

Now, dear Reader, you know me fairly well by now, so it won't come as too much of a shock to you when I tell you that at 9am after a late night out and with some drunken fool blowing his foul, hot, nasty breath in my face and violating even the reduced European standard of personal space that I reacted with my reptile brain and simply placed my right arm from the hand to the elbow along his chest, stepped in with my right foot and shoved him about five feet back to wherever the fuck it is he came from. His girlfriend--a 6'1" (184 cm) tall black lady--goes, "whoa, whoa, whoa!" I give her a look that says,

You want some too?

She looks away.

Now, reader, you're going to wonder why I was so easily provoked this morning, but, as I say, I'd had a late night, was barely awake, was bleeding from my vagina like a halal cow and had had neither food nor water nor coffee nor cigarette since awakening. And here is some pathetic fool burning the hairs out of my nostrils with his disgusting vodka breath at 9 in the morning, not following the super-important rules. Fuck him, and fuck her too.

As we're standing in line, with one customer between us, he complains loudly to his girlfriend about how "unfriendly" I am and how a bit of common courtesy is in order. My heart starts racing, my hands shake. I tell him, "Look, it's not my fault you're drunk as a skunk at 9 in the morning. You can wait the two seconds until it's your turn."

The woman keeps opening her big yap to broadcast her personal philosophies, maintaining that it doesn't matter when one consumes alcohol, whether it's even 6 or 7 in the morning, the point is to live and let live. The two of them continue drunkenly babbling at each other about what a useless cunt I am, how unfriendly and unbelievable my behavior is. Neither of them will address me directly. And so I'm left with only two options--continue arguing with them, or do my best to ignore them. I chose the latter, inching forward in line and using all the restraint I can muster in order to keep my cool.

I pack my shit and step out of line, set down my bag, sit on the window ledge, cross my legs, and wait for the couple to complete their transaction. Mind you, for the entire duration of the several minutes we'd stood in line, they were unrelenting in their commentary on my behavior. I have now been listening to them for as long as I can remember; I cannot recall a time ever in my life when I could not hear their voices. And I am beyond livid at this point.

Finally they wander out of line and I stand back up, stepping forward until I am two inches from the drunk man's nose. I square myself, and ask him:

Do you have anything else you want to say to me?

He replies, at the top of his lungs and so patronizing you could spit:

No! I hope you have a wonderful day!

I turn on my heel and walk out of the store. As I pass through the front doors I can hear the two of them laughing with one another, but now I cannot make out any words. Face burning, I make my way home, wondering what had really just happened back there.

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