It was a typical mid-October day in the breezy Bay Area. The sun shone relentlessly through the blue-smazed skies. As we pulled into our local Whole Foods to do some shopping, how was I to know that the next half-hour would produce one of the most dynamic, riveting and reviling experiences of my seventy-seven years on this teetering terra firma?
My gal, in her empathic concern for my immuno-compromised health, would, as was the custom, do the shopping while I waited patiently in the car...listening to the news, or scanning my phone for whatever. But I knew something wasn = t quite right as I began squirming around trying to ease the cramps that were developing amidst my midst.
At first I thought it was some recurrence of a urinary tract infection I had just beat off with an array of antibiotics. However, upon further analysis I determined that it was a build up of feces that had been enshrouding itself for days within my already battered colon. Realizing that an expulsion of my toxic waste was becoming more imminent by the minute, I called my partner and urged her not to dawdle, or spend time grazing the produce section of the store. I needed to get home and unload as quickly as possible
Thankfully she agreed, but only to call back a few minutes later to let me know that the checkout lines were longer than usual due to the new protocol of self-checkout lanes. As I continued to wrestle with containing the inevitable blast of bunk that seemed to have a mind of its own, I determined that I had best make a bee-line to the Whole Foods commode at the side of the store...hoping to god that I would gain easy access to the facility.
Much to my delight there was only a young woman in front of me awaiting to powder her nose. In my gnawing weakness and desperation I murmured to her, babbling embarrassingly, that A Jeepers...I really need to go! @ She seemed to understand, but displayed no intention of giving me the right of way. Meanwhile, the lagging line behind us began to grow with the increasingly exigent participants holding back their urge to purge. The woman in front of me waited for a door to open. I waited. We all waited, and no one was in a mood to discuss global warming, William Shatner = s foray into space or anything else for that matter.
Muted groans ambled down the line when finally a door to the restroom opened and the good janitor appeared with his mop and pail. The young woman wasted no time in making her way to the loo as I, and the burgeoning line behind me, took a long breath of expectancy in our collective journey to the promised land. As for my journey...it was far from over.
I managed to lean gently against the wall as I waited for the second restroom to open. This pressure prevented an unwanted expulsion of ca-ca from sneaking down my leg and onto the Whole Foods bathroom corridor. While I waited I was reminded of an episode in second grade. Back in the early 50's the boy’s toilets in our elementary school were missing the comfy seats that drop down for us to do our thing. Instead, one had to sit on the cold ceramic rim of the toilet itself. Perhaps there was some cockeyed idea that boys only stood while expelling their turds, or were ‘tough, and didn’t need a seat. Maybe it was a glitch in the supply chain, or a delivery problem due to a lack of truck drivers, Who knows?...After all, it was only seven years since the end of World War II.
Whatever the reason, I was not about to humiliate my eight-year old self by wiggling my skinny butt over that facsimile of a seat. I had my pride...moreover, I could have easily slipped into the bowl itself and been traumatized for the rest of my school days. No way was I going to dump into that excuse of a crapper. So I came back to the classroom with a stomach ache from hell, wherein the teacher, not knowing what to do, placed me in the dunce chair, right in front of the entire classroom, where I writhed away in abject wretchedness.
Finally, I was summoned to the principal = s office whereupon I entertained dear old Mrs. Axelrod (a dumpy old lady with an empathetic grin) with a puddle of poop onto her office floor. Meanwhile, Anna, a large Scandinavian woman took me back to the scene of the crime, stripped me naked and wiped me clean. My mother, having been called in, was also in attendance for the exhibit, and soon scuttled me away homeward bound.
As I was recollecting the incident and containing the wad of wonder within, I ambled to the second occupied room and banged mercilessly on the door. The response was not a positive one, but fortunately it was unintelligible to the entourage of got-to goers lined up behind me.
When the man finally opened the door and strode away I dropped my head and looked askance so as to make sure not to be an easy target of scorn. But as soon as the door opened, the good ol = janitor made his move into the room, and placed a banner over the door indicating that a cleaning was in process. Meanwhile, I kept bouncing back and forth against the wall anticipating my chance to avoid disaster. I mean imagine...dropping a bomb at Whole Foods and really stinking up the place, while there would be no Anna to wash me up this time.
Much to my deliverance the other door soon opened, the gal walked out and deliver I did! Dropping my pants in a frenzy of biological passion I wasted no time in eliminating an endless deposit of rot that encircled the toilet bowl a couple of times before coming to a resolute halt. Wow, I said to myself. Had I not lost my wits at that point I would have certainly taken a shot at that shit with my trusty smart phone and sent it to the doctors who have tended to my anal dynamics over the years. They would have been proud to see the voluminous, compact display of excrement, just as they recommend as a goal for all their constipated clients.
The next challenge was to efface the remnants of the goop. I was glad to see a large roll of what seemed to be toilet paper just to my right. I pulled down the edge of the roll attempting to garner enough paper to begin the job.
But lo = and behold, I couldn = t locate the damn edge of the fake toilet paper. The roll was ensconced in a large plastic cover, apparently to dissuade potters from using it up in one swoop. This, of course, was a very clever way of making a few more pennies for Whole Foods and their sovereign lord and master...AMAZON. But I struggled on, practically wrenching my back, leaning over, trying to slip my hand into the plastic cage that contained the so called paper. Ultimately I managed to grab an available leaf and slowly, carefully rolled down enough to finish and flush.
A Well, @ l thought. A Better wash up now @ and moved on to the sink. Now there were two lever like arms protruding from the left and right of the faucet. I figured they controlled the hot and cold water. Wrong! Apparently they had no discernible function at all. However, upon placing my hands under the faucet I was greeted with a splash of soap and cold water. Quickly I continued to wash away. But before I could get to my face, the water stopped and hot air came blasting out of the faucet!
You can imagine my bewilderment at this point, trying to picture how one was to wash, then dry their face from a faucet blowing hot air. Of course, I quickly realized that the designer of this techno-marvel had no apparent interest in that aspect of the design. There might have been paper towels somewhere, but in the trauma of being blown off by a faucet, they were beyond my purview.
As I sauntered out of the store and into the car, I began analyzing the entire episode trying to transcend the scatological experience I have already described in detail. The first thing that occurred to me was that had there been the usual array of human checkout-checkers my partner would have been back to the car in a reasonable amount of time and we would have gone our merry way home where I could have discarded the dung in the peace and quiet of my own personal privy with the wonders of the finest toilet paper money could buy. I also would have had the company of my cat, who would often visit me in such circumstance as if she understood what was going on, eager to give me tactile encouragement. But no! self-checkout prevented such a scenario in the name, once again, of Amazon = s penny-pinching, predatory practices.
Self-Checkout has to be the one of the banes of corporate avarice. Who really wants to spend time searching for the various codes for different items when one is already exhausted from searching for one = s essential items? Meanwhile there is a roving checkout assistant who has to sprint back and forth between the machines to help the customers who don = t know what they = re doing. I suppose this works out for shoppers who have only a few items, but for a cart full of groceries...forget it. And this is not to speak of the lost work and wages this technology induces, or the loss of personal contact we = re used to with the workers at the register.
But I digress. As I took the wheel and headed out of the place, this and other thoughts began to envelop my troubleshot mind. Of course, it = s not just Whole Foods running this scam on its customers. It = s all over the country, and perhaps beyond. It = s automation gone amuck, all in the name of the almighty dollar. The examples of this are everywhere: ID = s, passwords, secret codes (to gain access to just about anything) e-mail addresses, even replacing a lost key to your car. Yes indeed, the corporate-robotic revolution is alive and well.
As I drove down the banal, all too familiar avenue, I was enveloped with crazed rage. Righteously pounding on the dashboard only one thought hammered away at my reptilian brain. A They can eat my shit ...They can eat my shit @ I repeatedly cried into the middling afternoon. > They = ...in this case, being the > corpocracy = and all their wondrous concern for our well being. Of course, only the sweet woman sitting beside me could hear these desperate exhortations. Normally I would receive a lecture regarding my intemperate behavior. But this time she understood, and patiently allowed me to unleash my wrath without a whisper of an argument, looking toward me as if Don Quixote had suddenly been raised from the dead.
Marc Twang, October 2021