As I drove to my parent’s nursing home after my workout, whatever invigoration I’d earned from my morning exercise seemed to be swiftly leaking out of my body. I needed coffee. 

Pulling into a 7-11, I gathered up the remains of my post workout meal – a protein shake and an apple – to place them in a garbage can. Since my brush with criminality, I’ve keen to keep my car clean until my daughter’s juvenile indifference to my sanity eventually gains the upper hand. But, to my annoyance, there were no garbage can in front of the convenience store. Peering at the other stores lining the mini-mall, I noticed they were bereft of trash receptacles too. Goddammit. 

When I was a kid, littering became the almost mortal sin of the 1970’s. Are you old enough to remember that commercial with the crying Indian? I am. Maybe I’m deluding myself, but I seem to remember there being garbage cans everywhere but, about ten years ago, I noticed them starting to disappear. I’m not a conspiracy theorist kind of guy, (’m sure Oswald killed Kennedy) but I figured public establishments stared getting rid of their garbage cans in an uncivil and parsimonious effort to save a buck. Since I work for a municipality, I’m aware what a racket the waste disposal business is, but this kind of soulless bean counting makes me angry. 

Holding my garbage, I saw myself reflected in the glass door, my head obscured by a “We Have No Public Restroom” sign. This was probably in response to the tendency of some homeless people to use public accommodations as a shower – and junkies using it as a shooting gallery. Man, and I needed to pee too. Aggravated, I pulled open the door, nodded to the clerk, and made my way to the coffee station. Was it just me, or did he look annoyed that I was bringing outside trash into his store? “Not my problem,” I thought to myself.  “Take it up with Vito.” 

After making placing my donation to organized crime into trash slot barely wide to accommodate a Twinkie wrapper, I poured myself a cup of coffee, put on a lid, and walked to the cash register, wincing as my bladder signaled my kidneys were done filtering the two bottles of water I guzzled at the gym. But, of course, there was a patron ahead of me – and he was buying lotto tickets. 

“And I’ll take twenty Megas,” the man said. “Twenty Powerballs, and lemme have some a bunch of those ten dollar scratch offs.” Of course, the man didn’t want the machine to pick his numbers and handed the clerk a slip with the custom digits he hoped would propel him to millionaire status. As the cashier busily punched in the numbers, I wondered if pinching off my Johnson in public would lead to a public indecency charge. Why not? After stealing vacuum time at a car wash, progressing to sex offender seemed like a natural step. 

It took monumental effort, but I somehow managed to resist shaking my head as I watched the customer fork over wads of cash to feed his vice and, judging from his appearance, he didn’t look like he could afford it.  Now, I’ll buy a lotto ticket when the prize gets obscenely high, but I usually get only one. I seem to recall a mathematician proclaiming that, whether you purchase one ticket or a thousand, your odds of winning stay basically the same. But then again what do I know? I’ve spent money on stupid shit too. I guess people must narcotize their pain somehow. What did Sinatra say? “Basically, I’m for anything that gets you through the night – be it prayer, tranquilizers or a bottle of Jack Daniels.” Maybe I should stop being so judgmental but, as I watched the man avariciously clutch his tickets and scratch offs, he seemed to be caught up in a kind of divine reverie – perhaps imagining all the fancy cars and bikini clad vixens his windfall might provide. Ah yes, hot fur und Ferraris. But I could almost hear Klaus from Family Guy yelling, “NOT FOR YOU!” 

Taking advantage of his dissociative moment, I moved towards the counter, only to be rebuffed. “You know what?” the man said. “Gimme a mess of those twenty dollar scratch offs too.” Enough was enough.

“Excuse me,” I said. “But I just want to get a cup of coffee. May I cut in?” The man looked at me like I’d suggested having carnal knowledge with his mother and shooting his dog to boot. This wasn’t the clerk’s first rodeo, however, and, knowing lotto people tend to hog cashiers, rang up my purchase with a smile. 

“Thank you,” I said, bolting for the door. By now I was nearly incontinent and wondering if I’d have to dump my coffee and piss into my cup. I guess adding public urination to my rap sheet would be no biggie. As I drove to the nursing home, I also figured speeding would only help burnish my street cred with the guys in the prison yard. Aryan Nation? What a bunch of pussies. Maybe I could the hang with the waste disposal boys and convince them to extort stores into putting put out more garbage cans – or else. 

Decades ago, when I first started waiting tables, I erroneously gave a middle-aged man a much lower price for a very expensive special. He ordered it and, when I realized my mistake, went back to tell him the correct price. He didn’t care. “Give me my meal at the price you quoted!” he yelled, glaring at me with a hostility that took my breath away. So, I did – and my prick of a manger made me make up the difference. I never forgot that customer and, I must admit, I hated his memory for a long time. But now, grousing paranoically over the paucity of mundane objects like garbage cans, I realized that I’m now the same age as that customer was. I saw him through the lens of relative youth back then but, after twenty years suffering from the slings and arrows of mendacious profit driven nonsense, I now understand where he was coming from. I’m just sick of people’s bullshit and, in some respects, I’ve become became just like that guy- a middle aged grouch. Ain’t karma a bitch? But as I raced toward my parent’s nursing home and urinary liberation, I figured 7-11’s restroom apartheid was the result of corporate bean counters wanting to save a couple of bucks on toilet paper. 

Those soulless motherfuckers. 

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