Supremely oblivious of what is about to happen, I wander into the local SafeWay (for the non-US residents, an absolutely ridiculously large grocery store that has over the past few years desperately attempted to go somewhat more up-scale by turning down the lights so it is not as obvious how dilapidated the tile is) to purchase a few staples.
By staples, I hope you understand I mean “regular purchases” and not “vile low-budget iron fastening implements for which I mysteriously developed somewhat of a phobia after trying to fix an industrial-strength dispensing device in 1996 and winding up rolling on the floor with a staple two-thirds embedded in my index finger”. Either way, he quoteth Airplane, that’s not important right now.
For some reason, all grocery stores in the US seem to have adopted a “come in on the left, exit at right” strategem, enforced simply by having carts and baskets available only at the left entrance. For non-US residents (welcome back), imagine a building about 300′ (100m) wide with between two and four sets of sliding glass doors — the trek from one end to another is anything but trivial, and although judging from the wide availability of electric shopping carts with seat I am somewhat more mobile than the lower echelon of the American shopper, I still bristle at walking that kind of distance if I am not being paid to do so.
From left to right it is.
Another mysterious convention is that that magical left entrance into the grocery store leaves you smack-dab in the produce section, which somewhat more logically has the flower section attached to it. This is where I find myself, looking for something quite mundane (potatoes, if my Reaganesque memory is correct), when my eye falls on a large, cooled, neon-lit display case for pre-made bouquets. To wit, I read the notice posted above it in smooth, permanent, 2″ high lettering.
“A DOZEN ROSES IS 14 STEMS”.
Time seems to halt. As a matter of fact, the entire farking space-time continuum seems to warp into a transcendent tunnel between my eyes and this reality-bending notice.
All I thought I knew about math, units and the order of the universe bends, fades and sputters out of existence. By mere proclamation, SafeWay management has redefined the laws of nature.
Of course, after a surreal second or two everything seemed to come back to normal. No new dimensions opened up, and (as I witnessed to my left as a decidedly clumsy, young, confused and home-maker looking person demonstrated) apples still obeyed gravity. As well as the Third Theory Of Fruits Exploding On Gnarly Hard Tile — but that is a matter for another time.
Even now, as I write this, I am confused. Is this mere incompetence from a Merchandising Department on a Kindergarten level? Is it a plot to make Pinter’s head explode in the grave? Is it a portal to another dimension? I am still, and probably forever will be, flabbergasted. What I can tell you is that I am now, and as long as that notice is up, will be petrified of the SafeWay floral section. I yearn for effective séance methodology so I can ask Douglas Adams what Wonko The Sane would have thought of this.