This Random Life

September 19, 2008

Earlier I quoted Ronnie Crocker explaining how the damage in the older part of Galveston has a certain “random” appearance.  In truth, day to day life in the Greater Houston area has taken on an air of randomness.

Take grocery shopping.  The other day I was at Randalls and the milk, eggs, and bread were sold out but there was fresh meat.  Many of the fruit bins were empty, but there were organic carrots.  Another day HEB had whole milk and non-fat milk, but no 2% milk.  So it goes.

Today I arrived at HEB just after eight in the morning, just as a restocking crew was entering the front door.  I didn’t know who they were at first.  I thought maybe a busload of hungry people had come here together for some sort of mega shopping spree.  By the way, the main entrance under the humongous sign is closed, allowing for better crowd and line control.  The only entry now is through the other doors near the pharmacy.  At this time of day there is no line.

Entering the store, I wandered over to the eggs while the stocking crew rushed into the various grocery aisles.  By the time I got to the laundry supplies, I realized who the people were and what they were doing.  Faster than angry worker bees they were unpacking pallets and cases that had been prepositioned in the aisles.  “Does anyone see Downy Wrinkle-Free?” one woman asked.  They ran and darted to search and find the designated shelves for all their items.  Clearly they were unfamiliar with the store.

With a few “pardon me’s” and such I picked out my 3x concentrated All and my Snuggle and then gingerly navigated along.  How odd to see all these quarter- to half-empty shelves fill up so rapidly before my eyes.  Yet, the random omissions jumped out at me, forcing good-natured substitutions.

No canned mushrooms.  I’ll buy a couple jars.  I wonder if they’ll have fresh ones in the produce deparatment?  Nearly all the bread was gone, though the other day there were huge arrays of plastic crates of the simplest white and wheat bread in the main open aisles.  Now you see it, now it’s gone, like a collective magic trick.  The plain bread is not what I usually buy, but I’m more than happy to take it.  If it’s there.

I remember after Rita when the Galveston Kroger re-opened.  I was picking up milk and the main next to me grumbled, “Is that the only type of milk they have?  I’m looking for _______”.  I don’t remember just what he wanted.  I do remember piping up, “I’m just happy to have any milk at all.”

And I was.  And I am.

The last few years we’ve been told over and over that we shouldn’t “settle.”  What once were luxuries have became necessities that we deserve, the bigger house, the more glittery car, the cup of coffee with the more exotic sounding name.

I just don’t care about that anymore, not that I did too much before.  Yes, I did buy the free-range chicken.  It’s not a status symbol, but more that I’d rather not eat a bird that grew up in a factory where it’s beak was cut off.  But honestly, in a time like this, I’ll eat Tyson’s and be glad to have it. To their great credit, HEB provides any sort of chicken you could possibly desire, from factory-farmed to halal.  But I digress.

These are the days of randomness, and we learn to go with the flow.  The store may be open.  The store may be closed.  The pumps may have gas.  The pumps may be empty.  The pumps may have gas but have no power.  Or, they may have everything except someone who knows how to turn them back on.  I may make it home from the post office in ten minutes.  It may take an hour.  So it goes, so it goes.

I know there are reasons for why it happens.  Physics and climate.  Logistics.  Human nature.  So many things explain so many, many things.  In a day like this, I can’t ask why.  I only ask what, and what am I going to do next.

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