I got home from work a little later than I anticipated on Wednesday. I made the mistake of making small talk with a long talker on my way out of the office. I learned a lot about his upcoming weekend plans and even more about my unwillingness to just leave a conversation. The gusts of wind tried to interrupt my bike ride home but I was wearing a windbreaker—so better luck next time, wind. You’ve been broken.
Every day when I get back to my apartment, I have a very set routine. Step one: throw keys on the table, where they belong. Step two: prop my bike against the wall, where it belongs. Step three: throw my hat and jacket on the couch, floor, or anywhere they don’t belong. Then I move to the fridge—short for refrigerator. I think it was Einstein who said “time is relative” and it doesn’t matter what time I get home; as soon as I’m through that door, it’s dinnertime. As I opened the fridge on Wednesday I was hit with an intense sense of dread. There was nothing in there. Not like, ‘I don’t feel like having hot dogs or eggs again for dinner’ nothing. But like, nothing-nothing. Even the Brita water pitcher was empty. It probably had some of those black specks in it, but as far as I know, those specks are not edible or able to be explained by modern science.
Brita filter specks or no, I had to go to the grocery store. I could have gone out or ordered in, but I wasn’t in the mood for direction-based eating. Plus, I’m an adult who purchases items at the grocery store because it’s both economically and nutritionally responsible. Also, very few restaurants serve Hot Pockets or Eggo waffles.
My hunger was really setting in while waiting on the elevator. The views on the top floor of my building are breathtaking, but not worth the seemingly endless waits for vertical transportation. The guy from down the hall got out of the elevator as it opened up. I don’t know him, but I’m also not a monster so I said hello as I stepped past him into the elevator. He started asking me something. A question, presumably. But fortunately, those doors are on a pretty strict schedule and shut just in time. He probably didn’t even see me pressing the ‘close’ button. The ride to the first floor and the walk to the store were about the same length—short. I live right behind the grocery store. It was my 2nd most important requirement when searching for an apartment building behind only an in-apt washer and dryer. The essentials.
Since I was simply there for dinner, and nothing else, I grabbed a small basket and got going. I wasn’t sure exactly what I wanted so I just started wandering the aisles. Right off the bat, I grabbed some double chocolate muffins from the bakery. I figured I should plan ahead for breakfast while I was there. I started picking up more little treats as I saw them. It was like I was discovering food for the first time and had to stock up in the fear I would never get this opportunity again. Three aisles in and I had to upgrade to a full-blown cart. Complete with wheels and that seat thing for my imaginary toddler or purse. While I had plenty of food, nothing quite legally qualified as ‘dinner’ yet, so I pressed on.
The frozen food section hit me with a wave of options. Chicken tenders, chicken fingers, chicken patties, and chicken wings were just a few of the options that I ended up going with. At that point, I had plenty in my cart. I could have thrown a house party and still had leftovers. And that house party would probably want some frozen pizza, so I continued through the frozen section. I had made it through 85% of the aisles and finally had what I considered to be enough food to call it a day. But, the completist in me had about 15% more to go. So I went. My stomach drove every decision, including a tub of large curd cottage cheese. A food only an empty stomach could love.
I finally reached the checkout, with a cart overflowing with carbohydrates and bad decisions. It was the first grocery store trip in months that I actually remembered my club card and didn’t have to provide my phone number, which is actually my parent’s phone number. I don’t like to fill out applications on my own. It’s my one flaw. My second flaw might be getting all of that food, because I hit the $100 mark with about half of the cart still to put on the belt. Thank goodness the cottage cheese was 50 cents off or it could have been a disaster. Instead I reached into my back pocket confidently, knowing that I wouldn’t have to pay my credit card balance until 30 days later.
My confidence turned to terror as I felt nothing in my pocket. Was I in the wrong pocket? No, I was definitely checking my back pocket. I checked the other three pockets out of due diligence, but my wallet was not there. I didn’t have my wallet, and it was too late for me. If I would have noticed my empty pockets back in the frozen section I could have abandoned my cart and cottage cheese and simply run away. Instead, I’m stuck making eye contact with a teenager who is just biding his time before going on break while I tried to convince myself the problem would just go away. It didn’t going away. But I could go away. Just like that flock of seagulls, I ran. And, because my stomach was calling the shots, I grabbed one of my bags on the way out. I didn’t even have time to check to see if my cottage cheese was in that bag or not, I just got out of there. I’m not proud of what I did, but I was also pretty hungry so it’s difficult to fault me for it. When I think about it all, I wasn’t much different than Aladdin, the protagonist [read: hero] in the Disney movie, Aladdin.
Perhaps it was karma, or perhaps it was the wintery conditions, but I didn’t make it nine steps outside before being nailed by a car speeding through the parking lot. It wasn’t his fault, but that didn’t mean I couldn’t press charges. The pedestrian is always right! Except apparently, when he’s a thief.
I was giving my report of the accident to the officer, who I explicitly told, “to be cool about this next part,” and it turned out he was not good at following directions. Because here I am, forced to write you this letter from my inside my cozy cell. Now that I’ve gotten a hearty taxpayer-funded meal in my belly, I can see the error of my ways. You’re the governor of this great state and I am a humble citizen who simply lost his way and needs you to pardon him and his hunger. I cannot be held responsible for the actions of my empty stomach. I think the cottage cheese, that I’ve mentioned a few times now, can vouch for that.
In summary: Cottage cheese.