14.12.04

Full of Snark, Ready to Unload

Okay, so craigslist can be really great. And different cities have different characters, which is great. But it can also be just gloriously, gloriously inane; just monumentally, you-get-an-award, stupid. Though stupid isn't quite the word...well, you'll see. Without further ado, here's,

"Have a funny story from the grocery store?"

Recently it occurred to me that if there's one thing most folks have in common, it's that they have to go to the grocery store...
Pretty auspicious start here - really demonstrating a powerful insight into the human experience. This occurred recently - the epiphany that people eat?

...and USUALLY at some point or another, something funny/crazy/embarassing has happened at some point in your "grocery store career".
Ah yes, the wonderful literary tactic of "not having any real precision over language and so just writing whatever/you want/with slashes/to convey/everything/and yet/nothing." Coupled with the ol' "extraneous use of quotation marks," this makes for a pretty high cringe-factor in the first sentence/run-on series of jumbled thoughts.

Thus I'm looking to put together a book of "Tales From the Grocery Store". All I can offer as of now is the possibility of having something you've experienced/written being in a book for all to see.
Translation: I am an opportunist, but a lazy and unclever one. More intelligent literary scammers might blather on about "partnerships" or how they're "accepting submissions," making the opportunity sound coveted for some made-up literary merit they're trying to confer to the project. Our Dear Writer here, however, doesn't even go that far - you get the privilege of (presumably) making this person rich, and gosh won't it be real neat to be in a book?!?! Sadly (for DearWriter at least), the publishing industry is not nearly so opaque as, presumably, craigslist readers are (a poor supposition to begin with), and Dear Writer, in the improbable event of actually following through this project to completion (or, indeed, initiation), will get fleeced for their....hmmm, not hard work, ah yes, "lazy scamming."

So please send me any "Tales From the Grcery Store" that you think I as well as others would enjoy.

As an example, here's one of mine...

“One evening a couple years ago in Falls Church, VA, I found myself at a grocery store carrying around a gallon of milk. I had hit that point where I was already carrying too much but I refused to cave in and go pick up a basket. So, rather than set it down on the floor and risk dropping other items, I elected to set it down on one of the eye level shelves as I searched for some salad dressing. Evidently I didn't set it down correctly, because it fell to the floor and splattered everywhere. When I looked around to see if anyone saw, only one person did. It was Popeye Jones the former Washington Wizard. He gave me the nod of approval, so I causally walked away, picked up a new gallon of milk, and quickly left the scene. I did give a chuckle and a wink to Mr. Jones as I heard "Clean-up on Aisle 4" over the intercom as I strolled on out of the store.”
Not, in and of itself, an unintersting incident - combining admission of one's own foibles, random and unexpected glimpses of celebrity and also of the humanity of said celebrity, as well as the basic criminality in us all - however, it is so pitifully (as in the original meaning of the word - inducing pity) rendered as to make one want to e-mail this poor sap and plead with them not to waste theirs or anyone else's time on this certainly doomed endeavor.

Now, I've got some pretty interesting stories from my own "grocery store career", and those of others - though given that example, I doubt Dear Writer would "enjoy" them. Be horrified, yes; enjoy, probably not.

The thing that galls me most about this post is the pitiful (as I said before - original meaning) grasping for whatever it is that the poster thinks being an Author is. Does she (this is a woman - I'm not being sexist here, but the signifiers are all over) think that Authors actually make a lot of money? Are famous? What does fame connote for her, in that case? More money? Attention? Does being an Author mean that you're smart?

What's going on here is an almost perfect manifestation of the psychosis induced by contemporary American culture and society. A post on a cool virtual community phenomenon - craigslist - confers the poster coolness. A post about a book confers the poster intellectual credibility, and an understanding that they will soon Make it Big with this great idea. A mention in the post of a human intimacy with a celebrity - a celebrity whom, from what I can tell, is out of the league - confers the imprimatur of celebrity on the poster.

All in all, it amounts to an awful, anguished, lonely cry of "Pay attention to me! I matter!"; which is both true and not true. It's not true in that, in the ways that this poster is currently thinking - money, fame, coolness, genius - this poster will not matter to American society or culture (which are, of course, vapid beyond belief, have the attention spans of fruit flies and do nothing but obstruct humans in a search for greater meaning). But in the larger sense, this person does matter, can matter, as much and as dearly as anyone else.

There is a wonderful story and animated film, "The Man who Planted Trees," by Jean Giono, about a man who, well, plants trees. That's it - for his entire life, he plants trees in Provence, every day, dawn 'til dusk. The closing lines:
When I consider that a single man, relying only on his own simple physical and moral resources, was able to transform a desert into this land of Canaan, I am convinced that despite everything, the human condition is truly admirable. But when I take into account the constancy, the greatness of soul, and the selfless dedication that was needed to bring about this transformation, I am filled with an immense respect for this old, uncultured peasant who knew how to bring about a work worthy of God.
Look - people matter. Just because you don't have your name in 72 pt. sans serif font don't mean there isn't a reason for living. Okay? Good.

this is in or around Anywhere
it's NOT ok to contact this poster with services or other commercial interests

51536424

I've always wondered - is this number an auto-generated unique ID tag for this post, or what?

Comments:
I'm reading Babbitt right now and I'm not sure that I hate him as much as I'm supposed to. Sure, he's an unreflective automatic bigot whose life looks to me to be empty of all meaning, but it strikes me that hating him for it is just self-congratulation on the part of the reader for not being so shallow. I appreciate Sinclair's message that bizness ain't everything, but I don't believe that there are too many people out there who have self-actualized, and I'm certainly not one of them yet, and maybe I never will be.

Nice of you to point out, though, that on the way to Enlightenment, we can still be of real worth. A lesson too often forgotten.

But that's just throatclearing - I really just wanted to encourage you to tell some horrifying stories of your grocery store career. Having been a stockboy for a summer in High School, I think I can match you blow for blow.
 
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