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–In which our hero is accosted late at night and forced to listen to uninsightful blather as his provisions are bagged.

As anybody who’s read these essays or any of my other writings knows, I have a lot to say, and I know it may not be to everybody’s tastes. But this is the Web, I’m not bagging your groceries, and you can leave whenever you want. (But not now, please)

You see, last night as I was at a gas station filling up the IITBmobile, I remembered the IITBcave needed milk. I’ve been to this station before, and the 20-something clerks have been friendly, so I felt no qualms about doing a little late-night one-stop shopping. I find the milk, I pick up a sandwich because I’m hungry (and I can get 300 bonus [certain gas station chain] Rewards points).  And since it’s after midnight, there’s no wait, and I can get out and on my way quickly.

Or not. What follows is a rough reconstruction of the actual conversation the overweight, middle-aged (he told me his age) late-night gas station attendant had, as I’m tired, hungry and eager to get home, and he is holding my two gallons of milk and sub sandwich hostage as he “bags” them.

Him: So how much of this is for me?

Me: None, sorry, it’s all for me.

Him: None for me? The least you could have done is lie to me.

(I hand him my (certain gas station chain) Rewards card and my credit card to pay in a vain attempt to end the conversation here)

Me: (I say nothing because by now I’m rung up and ready to leave, but he’s still bagging my milk)

Him: The government’s been lying to me for 40 years. It doesn’t even matter about what.

Me: (Still not saying anything because I’m both unnerved and trying to be polite. I grab my sandwich and put it into a bag with the one gallon of milk he’s managed to finish with to hurry things along)

Him: Like property taxes. All these homes are going under, but property values are going up so they can charge more tax.

Me: (compelled to say *something*) Uh… Well *I* was never good at math. Maybe that’s their excuse. Good night. (Hurry out the door to my car).


I can only imagine the palatial estate this gentleman lives in that he had to worry about paying the property taxes on. And from personal experience, the government has always been very forthright with me concerning how much money they want me to give them. I can therefore conclude that this good sir who was working his hardest to provide me with quality milk, food and information, was, in fact MISTAKEN about the government lying.

To protect you, my fair readers, from being subjected to such misinformation as this: I’m offering these five guidelines to arm yourselves with. Ready? Here we go.

1) Don’t go into stores after midnight. There’s a reason people who work this late work this late. If you do shop this late, go to a major chain that has those automatic checkout machines. It saves you time and all that pesky interaction.

2) Keep to yourself. Try to make yourself as indistinguishable and unrecognizable as possible. Try a knit cap, sunglasses and a scarf. I guarantee the clerk will not speak to you.

3) Learn sign language. I know, it’s politically incorrect to pretend you’re deaf. And in most cases it is. But you’re trying to escape from a crazy person here, so the ends justify the means. Side note: Learn real sign language. There’s a possibility, slim though it may be, that your clerk may know it too, and if you don’t, you’re just an idiot waving your hands around nonsensically pretending to be deaf.

4) Get a job there with him. He’ll come to despise you the way he did the rest of his coworkers, which is why they stuck him in the late shift in the first place, and he’ll never speak to you again.

5) Play along and start talking crazy yourself. If you’re tired and hungry enough, you could even be sincerely crazy by this point, but I’m going on the assumption that it’s an act. Warning: This is listed last because it’s the most likely to backfire, and you could end up getting stuck there in a battle of idiocy. Proceed at your own risk.

So there you have it. Feel free to try these out not just at gas stations, but anyplace you feel you may need a quick conversation stopper.

And sir, on the off chance you’re reading this, for someone who works someplace where the name emphasizes the quickness with which one can get in and out of the establishment, your service left much to be desired.


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