Death And Costco

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Judy and I took a road trip to visit her brother, who lives in the “cradle of civilization,” Staten Island, New York. Staten Island is a classic place, and worth visiting if you miss the 1980s.

Anyway, on our way home, I decided to stop at my mother’s house. Shortly after we arrived, the skies darkened, winds turned the leaves on trees, and a bizarre light suffused the area. In a matter of minutes, the power was out and we were in the basement rummaging for candles.

The trip had made me feel very in touch with my mortality. Perhaps it was because we hadn’t seen Judy’s brother in a while and his hairline had receded.  Perhaps it was because when we sat down to play Risk we found tallies of games played years ago. I don’t know exactly. But for whatever reason, I had this feeling that my daughters were growing quickly, and that people I love were getting old while I wasn’t paying attention.

I noticed the eroding power of time.

And on another level, thoughts of my own mortality paid me a visit as I lay in my brother in law’s bed with Judy, unable to sleep at 2am. The bedroom window was cracked, and sitting on a concrete wall in front of the house, a girl spoke on her phone.

“He will be WASHED. I’m gonna WASH his ass!” (Pause) “BITCH, I already been in jail so don’t think I fucking care. He’s gonna git WASHED.”

I crept over to the window holding my breath, and looked down. She shone yellow under the streetlight, her back to the house, hand waving in the night, alone. I was waiting for a gunshot. I was hoping her mother would come, find her, tell her everything was temporary, and give her a hug or something.  She’d find another man.  One she didn’t want to murder.

So the thing is, once the power went out at my mom’s house, the vague feelings of threat that had built up in me during our visit to Staten Island, conspired and gave me the urge to “stock up” on supplies.

To get stuff.

And so 15 minutes later, my mom was flashing her “membership card” at some 90 year-old security guy, and Judy and I were strolling into a Costco.

An aisle at Costco

Now, I’m a very cultured guy, but I’ve never been in a Costco.

After a few minutes of walking around aisles wide enough to allow the easy passage of very obese people and wondering if we really needed 28 glue sticks, I started thinking about the middle of America. I thought about the Iowa caucus.

“Rick Fucking Santorum. Sheesh.” I grabbed a sleeve of 36 D-size batteries and threw it into our cart. “I bet my immigrant Italian ancestors were nothing like his immigrant Italian ancestors.” I said aloud to no one in particular, “Who the hell has seven kids in this day and age? God Bless him though…”

An old woman who was eyeing a huge box of discounted Christmas lights heard me. She said, “God Bless” and tottered by.

I looked at Judy, my waifish yoga wife, and compared her to a 300-pound woman riding around in one of those electric wheelchairs. I thought of three Judys in one big “Judy body” while I reached for a Red Cross Emergency Kit. “Maybe Judy needs to gain a little weight,” I thought to myself.   I threw a 3 million candle spotlight into our cart.

A mom and her son, both huge, were looking at bags of chips.

“Those bags are bigger than the other ones we got,” the son said while giggling.

The mom giggled back at him. They stood there like that, in front of the chips, shoulders shaking, necks all loose, laughing. I walked by them and picked up 1000 feet of aluminum foil.

“I can’t believe Weisenthal thought Michelle Bachmann’s eyelashes were real” I thought. “Damned Krugmanite should stick to FRED charts.”

Costco sized eyelashes.

I spent a long time contemplating a generator before Judy pulled me away.  I listened to a salesman talking to an old guy about Tums.

“If you have a few people in your family taking these,” he explained slowly in a serious tone, “buying in this quantity is a very economical way to go.”

The old guy nodded thoughtfully, and added the gallon-sized tub of Tums to his cart.

All around me, different people were having different conversations but the words I heard were the same… “big,” “bigger,” and “biggest.” An 87 year old woman wearing a Costco visor was handing out free samples of grape juice.

“Where could I find the green tea?” I asked.

“Aisle 32,148,” she said, as she continued to pour the juice into tiny plastic cups.

She didn’t even look up. She was like an 87 year old robot, lifting the plastic cup from the stack, placing it on the counter, and then filling it with purple… over and over. I felt a pang of sympathy for her and remembered how it used to be when old people retired.

“But hey,” I thought. “She probably had credit card debt, and should be happy Costco gave her the opportunity to pay it off.”

Behind me, a lady was struggling to carry a huge bag of red meat. She was grunting as she lugged it toward her double-size shopping cart. I imagined her, as a cavewoman or something, trying to drag a dead boar to her fire. She was hunting here, at Costco.

Other people were pawing over discounted books. One large woman was reading the back cover of a book about the South Beach diet and another, equally large woman, came over and told her that it changed her life.

Men were buying quantities of meat, and cases of beer. They wore sports jerseys and Nascar caps. The mood was light. The people were happy. They were filling their carts. They were getting good deals on big stuff.

What more was there?

We got to the checkout and I realized, in a panic, that there was no way we could fit this stuff into my small car.  I worried about this, out loud, to my mother.  A man in the next checkout lane overheard our conversation.

“Oh, you find ways to fit it all in. You always do,” he said.  Lightheartedly, he laughed, and I felt like I was a member of some new club.

This man was my brother. He spoke in open-ended terms, he sounded wise. He too had found it difficult to fit the absurdly large quantities of stuff into his car, but he had managed. I would manage too.   I could consume.  There was no reason to worry.

I laughed with him. “Oh, I’ll fit it in! Ha! Ha! Ha!”  I thought about purchasing a larger car.

What Costco looks like from heaven.

We exited Costco through automatic sliding doors and I looked out over the vast parking lot towards where the horizon should be (instead there was a BestBuy or something). A funnel cloud descended, slowly and silently from the close black sky.

I thought the coincidence of my first Costco trip coinciding with my first funnel cloud was just too much.

The hulking warehouse. The parking lot. The cloud.  Death.

It made me feel American.

But at the same time, I lost a little faith in my purchases.

———————————————————–

Dying? It’s okay, we all are. Follow me on Twitter.

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10 responses

  1. The one and only time I’ve shopped at Costco it was circa 2002. I was completely overwhelmed as my friend expressed great joy in being part of the club while she proceeded to load up her cart. For some reason I felt compelled to buy the tums(indigestion had set in) and a case of mandarin oranges(young children).
    It only took about one week before my young children decided they did ‘NOT’ like mandarins and about 2yrs(exp.) before I realized that indigestion has never been a big problem for me.
    I have never been back..

  2. I thought the strip search on the way in and out of Costco was a bit much so I stopped going.

    Or it could be that I just need to lose weight so I can feel better about the strip search.

  3. C’mon, Costco is a very large chain and they got to be that successful by selling a massive variety of goods, services and food.
    Not everything they sell is bad, in fact their produce and fruit is outstanding and their meats are of the highest quality.
    No, I am not affilliated with Costco in any way, I am just a conscientious shopper who appreciates quality and good prices.

  4. 1st time on your blog, epic post. really reminded me of White Noise by Don Delillo. Those costco thoughts always rush through my mind when I’m visiting my parents in Tucson…its the main event there. Cheers, well done

    • Think you just nailed my main influence on this post. Loved that book. Haven’t read it in years. Loved the supermarket scene though with Murray and his “important hair.”

      Thanks for the visit.

      -DT

      • I too was thinking about the chapter in White Noise where the family shops and consumes. Genius piece to use for inspiration from one of my all time favourite books. Your shopping experience sounded bleak and overweight. That funnel cloud also made me think of the Airborne Toxic Event. Anyway, great post, they are just getting better. Now off to work out if I want to go and see Deerhoof play tonight or not. Also, did you pinch this from White Noise too: Dying? It’s okay, we all are.

  5. Wow, true, the Airborne Toxic Event… amazing how this stuff sticks with you and then gets regurgitated out… I hadn’t even thought of that.

    Maybe I should stop reading! I didn’t realize how much it was influencing me.

    -DT

    p.s. and no on the “Dying, it’s okay.” But now I’m feeling really unoriginal. Off to write a hybrid limerick/haiku post about having sex with dolphins. Pretty sure that’s never been done.

    • Don’t let unoriginality stop you from writing. It never stopped Tom Clancy or John Grisham and you’ve got a long way to go before you even scratch the surface of their inane contrived writings. The hybrid limerick/haiku is a stroke of genius. Perhaps you could flood your twitter feed with them and eventually you’ll become a viral sensation. I mean, that’s what everyone wants isn’t it?

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