Monday, October 26, 2009

Meltdown in aisle eleven.

There's a game I've been playing in the darkness before dawn. Nothing weird – I am fully clothed. The game is kind of like horseshoes only it involves a bag of dog shit and the neighbour's renovation bin.

After walking the dogs, I stand at the end of the driveway – bag of warm shit in one hand – and face my target, a good pitcher's mound away. I toss the shit, underhand, into the black air. Loft is good, unless it's frightfully windy. The object is simple: If the bag of shit lands in the bin, it's going to be a good day. If it misses, landing with a plop on the driveway, my day will suck.

The good news is, this morning I hit the bin. But, if the poor bastard making minimum wage in the Huntin' and Fishin' department of Canadian Tire is on stress leave today, I take full responsibility. You see, I missed the bin on Friday.

It is no secret. I hate shopping more than George Bush. And Big Box store shopping is like George Bush when he smirks. My 7-minute window of tolerance was put to the test last Friday when the school closed its doors for PD day and I found myself in Canadian Tire.

I am trying to make this short and sweet because I am even boring myself. The boys wanted to paintball but they needed supplies. Since I "do not work" in the eyes of those who actually change out of their pyjamas to go drink the company Koolaid – I was naturally the chosen one. The driver. The picker upper.

When it comes to paintball, we normally head over to Banshee Paintball – a Nirvana of violence for teenage boys. Imagine weapons and fireworks and t-shirts that say things like "My Balls. Your Face." Add the staff of helpful men, all who refuse to grow up and love talking about paintball guns and airsoft guns and blowing things up – and you've got a reason other than Oxycontin for heading to Dartmouth.

But we were in a hurry.

The Recreational Killin' department at Crappy Tire is at the very back of the store. When we arrived, there was a Canada Post employee already waiting, but he wasn't in a hurry to deliver the sack of bills destined for my mailslot. There wasn't a Canadian Tire employee in sight, nor had I passed one in Seasonal, Electrical, Automotive or Paint. According to the postal worker, he'd been there for a while. Clearly, the act of "going postal" was a misnomer. That was going to be my job.

So, we waited. While the boys checked out fishin' stuff, I watched a child refuse to leave the hockey aisle, even after his mother asked him nicely about 15 times. I was just about to go beat the little fucker with a lacrosse stick, when I decided to take my frustrations out elsewhere.

I picked up the phone next to the cash register and started pushing buttons. The boys saw what I was doing and backed away. I didn't have my glasses on, but I was hoping to hit the loud speaker button that blasted messages throughout the store. Being a bad day, all I got was a "Hello".

I started with a "Could we get some fucking help down in redneck country."

"Isn't that you?", she said.

"No, this isn't whatever underpaid lacky is supposed to be here! This is ME! An unsatisfied customer currently having a hot flash in the fucking deer hunter section of this poorly-lit fucking cesspool of a inconvenience store!"

"I'll get someone down there right away" she said, hanging up.

"Right away" seemed like a breech birth. Enter the sweaty, minimum-wage underachiever who told us he had been trained to fill the C02 canisters but had forgotten how. He also lacked the authority, and the keys, to open the glass ammunition cage where the paintballs resided, so he'd have to call for backup – only his backup was on a smoke break.

By this time, I was only inhaling and was beginning to twitch. The boys were trying on bright orange hunting gear, trying not to notice I was seconds away from smashing through the glass cages with a toilet seat so I could grab a a hunting knife and hold the postal worker hostage – when the backup Canadian Tire associate returned – lungs full of nicotine, but at least retaining his knowledge of C02. Meanwhile, the other poor bastard, who didn't know his ass from a camping stove, stood perfectly still, trying to avoid eye contact.

By the time we were ready to go I was nearly fetal, with Jack rubbing my back saying, "It's okay Mom, calm down, we can go now." I had donned an inner straitjacket and surrendered to the almost 45-minutes of my life wasted in bowels of Canadian Tire. 45-minutes I will never get back. We could have driven to Banshee and back. The boys could have been romping through the woods. I could be at my desk staring at the computer going deeper and deeper into debt. Instead, I succumbed to Stockholm Syndrome and nearly asked for a job application. Why the hell not? I too could stand there, slack jawed for 8 hours – do absolutely nothing – and get paid.

When minimum wage boy announced he had to escort us to the check-out, I was like a twice-lobotomized Republican. He explained the escort procedure was protocol with ammunition, and just before we left, he asked if there would be anything else.

"Yes", I said, calmly. "Could you please hand me one of those rifles – loaded – so I can blow my fucking brains from here to Household Goods."

"Uh, he said, his eyes darting from Plumbing to Footwear. "Sorry Ma'am. I don't have keys to that cabinet."

(Ma'am. That's short for crazy, miserable old bitch.)

We finally headed for what I presumed would be one cashier with 14 people waiting. The boys were chatty and excited about their day. I trudged along like a medicated girl Osmond. My spirit was broken. Next stop would be Tabi for elastic-waist pants and matching holiday-theme vest.

Passing by Sporting Goods, I glanced over to see the mother of the boy who had refused to leave. She was sucking her thumb, rocking back and forth on the linoleum between street hockey pads and the glass cabinet of darts – to which there is no key, or no one to open it, should she decide to mutilate her wrists with a sharp object. I went over, placed a baseball mitt under her head, and walked away.

But that was last week. This morning, the shit hit the bin.

Banshee Paintball is upstairs at 122 Portland Street in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia.
Call 902.469.BALL or check out