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Check your messages, check your bags

I bused to the maildrop, where plenty of mail was waiting for me. Too much mail, really.

Nothing from Corina, who's twice promised me a letter, but there was something from Sarah-Katherine.

You want the details of what she said and how she's doing in New York? Usually in the zine I'm all up in my own business and sometimes all up in the business of others, but there are limits, and today, you get nothing!

♦ ♦ ♦  

Waiting for the bus and seeing none coming, I spent 20¢ to hear my messages at a phone booth, but only heard, "The call you have made requires a 20¢ deposit." Hey, that ain't right.

I hung up, but my two dimes did not come tinkling back. Hey, that really ain't right.

The instruction placard said to call 2-1-1 for refunds, and it's a free call so I dialed 2-1-1. A bored lady answered, and I explained what had happened. She apologized for the phone stealing my dimes, and asked for my name and address.

"My address?" I asked. "You're going to mail me 20¢?"

"Well, actually, we're going to mail you a check for 20¢."

"A check for twenty cents? What a colossal lot of bother for everyone. Can't you just connect my call?"

"No, we can't do that, sir, but we will mail you a check. May I have your name and address please?"

"I don't even have a bank account. What am I going to do with a check for twenty cents?" I could take it to one of those check-cashing swindles, where they charge 15%, and after waiting in line for ten minutes, if I could somehow convince 'em I'm Doug Holland without any ID, maybe they'd give me 17¢.

"It's our policy, sir. All refunds are issued by check."

"Well, I didn't write a check to your phone booth."

"I'm sorry, sir. It's our policy."

"Yeah, and you only work there," I said, "so I won't yell at you. Could I please yell at your boss, though?"

"Sure," she said cheerfully, and after a few minutes on hold with "Yesterday" when I would've preferred "The Girl From Ipanema," her boss came on the line. He was reading from the same script, though. No, he couldn't complete my call. No, he couldn't force two dimes into the coin return. No, he couldn't even mail me two dimes, only a check for two dimes. "It's company policy," he said for a third or fourth time, as the #27 bus I'd been waiting for rolled by without me.

"Never mind, then," I said. "I'll just vandalize the phone booth and we can call it even."

♦ ♦ ♦  

The #27 only runs every 15 minutes, so I figured I'd take the subway home instead. It's not a long walk to Market Street, and there's a new Walgreens between 4th and 5th. I foolishly thought it might be swankier than the run-down Walgreens near my house, and I wanted a candy bar, so I walked in.

You can't walk in, though, without passing through a full-body scanning machine, and it beep-beeped at me. A security guard was there almost instantly, and he said, "Excuse me, sir," very politely. I smiled and said hello, and started looking around for the candy section. "Sir!" he said again, "we need to check your bag."

"I don't have a bag," I said semantically.

"Sir," said the guard, but I was in no mood. All I wanted was a candy bar, maybe two, and then a quick subway ride home to the hotel. At the candy section, the guard was still yammering at me. "Your bag, sir. We need to check your bag." Shelves of chocolate and caramel, but where's the candy bar I'd come for?

"Don't you have the Snickers with extra peanuts?"

"Sir," he said, still impressively polite despite my ignoring him, "something in your bag set off the sensor, and I'll need to check your bag."

"I don't have a bag," I said again, "and all I did was walk into the store." 

"We need to check your backpack."

Hearing him say 'backpack' instead of 'bag' felt like victory, but I'd run low on arguments so I said nothing more. "We need to check your backpack, sir," he said again, a little louder.

I stared at him for several seconds, weighing whether to mountainize this molehill. "The fuck you will," I said.

"Then I'll have to ask you to leave," he said, pointing toward the door.

"No, man, you don't have to ask. It's my pleasure to leave," and I left, without another word and without even flipping him off. The sensor didn't beep as I walked out, like it had beeped when I walked in.

Outside the store, I leaned against the wall and pulled my notebook out of my backpack, to get the conversation on paper.

As I was scribbling, a borderline-bum-looking old man came out of the Walgreens and gave me a thumbs-up. I thought he was just a happy bum, and wouldn't have even connected his thumb with what had happened, until he said, "You told him, but good."

I gave him a wavy hand, the gesture for 'so-so'. I don't think I'd told the guard but good, and there were great things I could've said that didn't pop into my head until it was too late. Certainly, I should've demanded to speak to a manager, who maybe would've offered me a check for 20¢.

The scanners are supposed to detect the store's tags, to alert the guard if someone's walking out with unpaid merchandise. Which makes sense, OK, but what's the point in making people walk through the scanners as they enter

And if I'm a suspected shoplifter, then watch me closely, follow me down every aisle. Nobody's gonna "check" my backpack, though. 

What does that mean, anyway? "Check your bag." Was the guard saying they'd stash my backpack behind the counter until I left? Or did "check your bag" mean he wanted to search it?

Doesn't matter. Nobody's going to do either.

Still kinda pissed and still wanting a candy bar, I walked two blocks to the next Walgreens. Again I had to pass through a sensor as I entered, and again it beeped. This time, though, no security guard approached.

I walked to the candy section, and like the other Walgreens they didn't have any Snickers with extra peanuts, so I harrumphed right outta there. Again the sensor didn't beep as I left.

Came home and wrote half an angry letter to Walgreens, asking if it's now their policy that all shoppers will be persecuted, but I gave up midway through. Walgreens doesn't care, and I had better things to write than that letter.

♦ ♦ ♦  

Coupled with Monday's salt-shaker story, it prolly sounds like I'm looking for trouble, but I don't demand silk gloves and a free handj*b with every purchase.

All I ask of a company or a worker is, don't actively try to make your customers' day worse.

♦ ♦ ♦  

And I never did have that candy bar.

From Pathetic Life #24
Wednesday, May 22, 1996

This is an entry retyped from an on-paper zine I wrote many years ago, called Pathetic Life. The opinions stated were my opinions then, but might not be my opinions now. Also, I said and did some disgusting things, so parental guidance is advised.

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