Friday, July 13, 2012

O Target! My Target!

They say the dots are lost souls.

I'm watching the items pass by, each with a ding and an accompanying eye twitch as the charges incrementally increase. My plastic's already out, and mind zeroing on which bag should have been doubled-up that wasn't, lest I have another accident in the parking lot.  It's all muscle memory at this point, like breathing or changing a diaper.

I'm at Target. Again.

Amid the fog of scanner-gun radiation and the red and white glare bouncing off the white-tiled flooring, my senses are dulled.  Their extensive market research and focus-grouping likely told them this is the ideal shopping stimuli to part suburbia from their wages. That, and the eight-gallon drums of trail mix an the end of every aisle. In this mind-altered state, I only pick up a few bits of the orders barked by the clearly agitated mother towards several kids I can only assume are under her care. 

No! You can't do that!....I won't....No!....Wait here... As she storms into the bathroom, the kids collapse on the door like bugs on a screen door.

Sigh. Is that going to be me? I ponder the question as Flo informs me of the damages.

The receipt's fine print says - Congratulations!  You just spent more today than you've put away in the college fund this month. Would you like more info on our cashier-training program?

I'm here once a week on average. I don't love it. I don't hate it. I don't make well thought out plans before I go. It's just a store providing the majority of the things I find myself needing on a regular basis. And by myself, I really mean for my (oft out of town for work, staying up all night studying for grad school) bride and our two year old who's stuck squarely in the difficult to please / wants everything phase. 

That's just a phase, right?

Since I'm the designated hunter-gather for our clan and there's one a mile from the house, another five minutes from my office, and a common landmark throughout our suburban landscape, I'm here often in search of our most pressing needs and wares. I manage to sneak in the occasional caffeine hit at the internal Starbucks and maybe some light fondling of the shiny High Def televisions in the electronics aisle, just to ensure the testosterone keeps flowing. But that's between us.

With the scheduling demands of my full-time job plus cooking, bath time life guarding, yard upkeep, dog walking, general household item repair, and toddler wrangling, my trips are usually relegated to the weekends. These trips are what we jokingly (mostly) refer to as my "free" time. 

A weekend family excursion upcoming, the need for sunscreen, toddler-sanctioned snacks, bug spray, first aid, and floaties brings me in for a mid-week visit. I stand out. The weekend melting pot crowd of suburbanites missing as I'm the lone male sans red shirt in the entire store. 

I hit the parking lot squinting into the blinding glare of natural light while retracing my steps to remember where I parked.

Is this the door I came into?

Is that the cart deposit station I was four cars down from or was it the one one row over?

Is that the red mini-van I parked opposite from or is that red mini-van on the other side?

Wait, what car did I drive today?

That Chipotle wasn't there when I came in???

The ninety-five degree weather numbs my already dulled senses as I pick an aisle and hope. I imagine the Donner Party having a similar feeling when they said let's try this way!

Don't Kevin. Keep it in your mouth. That's the most important thing you can do right now! THE most important thing.

I recognize the bathroom mother's voice behind me as I stuff my goods into the trunk. (Wait, is that a metaphor? Let's move on.) I turn to see her and her flock heading to their own vehicle. Kevin, a tennish boy has lagged behind and stands motionless fewer than two cart lengths behind me.  He's half bent over and appears to have just spat on the pavement.

Uh-oh.

I turn to return my cart while trying not to stare.  I know what's coming. We've all been ther...

That thought interrupted by the distinctive sound of what I would guesstimate as a couple of Coke cans worth of vomit hitting the super-heated asphalt directly between me and the car.  Cereal by the looks of it.  That's definitely milk.  Yup. Cereal.

The aroma hits me almost instantly in the humid air.  Leaving the carnage behind, Mother hasn't broken her stride. Her weathered eyes fixated on finding her own vehicle.  The other children following her lead as if they're afraid to break ranks and get left behind. She says to no one in particular, so much for that..

Was she talking to me? Wait, is that going to be me someday?  Will the great bulls eye finally numb me to the point of forcing my own children to march on, vomit or not? Will one day I not find my car and wander to off to the edge (of the parking lot)?

I resist the urge to breathe as I shut the door. Both the acrid smell lingering in my nostrils and the three thousand degree air inside force my larynx shut just in case.

My mind instinctively shifts to did I get everything? mode. I exhale.

See you this weekend Target. 

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