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You wake up and you feel it almost immediately. You try to shake it off, brush your teeth, eat breakfast; it’s still there. Maybe it’s in your house, along with all the good and terrible memories. You get in your car, drive away toward somewhere. Where can you go? Shopping? Maybe that’s how people become shopaholics. Addicts. Maybe they’re all the same. Maybe we could all easily become like them; we were just born into different circumstances — found ourselves in a better place when we popped out into the world, and now we all struggle to stay upright where our mothers left us.

You pull into the mall parking lot. You turn off your car, but you know you’re not going in, so you roll down your window and sit still for a few minutes. It feels a little better. But running away doesn’t solve anything. What you’re looking for can’t be purchased at any store. Time is the only thing that helps. Time passes you by out the car window; people march in and out of the store, lugging out bags full of things they may or may not need. You put your seatbelt back on; you’ve sat there long enough, let enough time go by, and it’s still the same and it still will be the same for quite some time.

You could call someone. A friend. But it seems that these days all of your old friends are busy living their own completely different lives. It just doesn’t work anymore. Maybe you need to meet new people. Maybe you need to move. Anything to avoid staying here and falling slightly down, becoming something else. What were you born to be? This? Maybe new friends can’t help you. Maybe a new city can’t help you, either. Maybe nothing can. Maybe everything is just a cover-up, just a distraction. Just like sleep. That’s why you feel it the most in the early mornings, when you can still hear the birds chirping in the dying trees across the street, before the motors start and don’t stop until well after nightfall. That’s why some days, when you don’t have a calendar full of tasks to complete before you head back to bed, when you wake up and look at the clock and realize how many hours are going to stretch out in front of you, you feel it. Life. Just living. What the birds and the squirrels would feel if they had brains like we do. Emptiness. Or, rather, not emptiness. A lack of something that is full of something else. An empty fullness we try to cover up with the society we’ve created. With the laws, the stop signs, the uniforms of employees and school children. With religion. With purpose; an easy purpose, one-size-fits-all, that can be found in several different very old books. And, of course, with shopping.

You may have heard this one before: “I work at a grocery store.” It’s really not that exciting. It’s really not how I enjoy spending my time. But, you know, it pays (mostly) for school.

This morning, I went to work. 6 AM, baby. Yes, there are people awake at that hour. Sometimes, there are even people shopping at that hour. I know, I agree – they are insane.

I work in the produce department. Maybe you’ve heard of it? We have lettuce. We have apples. Etc, etc, etc.

We have what is technically called (in the produce biz) “perishable” food. That means most of it needs to be refrigerated. That means it is either fresh produce or freshly packaged produce, and expires/molds quickly. (Non-perishable would be canned or boxed stuff, stuff that doesn’t need refrigeration and can last for thousands of years on the shelves in your pantry.)

Sometimes, we have to throw our produce away. Sometimes this happens because it gets damaged (think: small child likes to poke holes into apples/peppers/anything slightly squishy), sometimes it happens because no one buys it before the expiration date (this is often the case for packaged produce).

This morning, I had to throw some of the latter away. Before we throw the stuff out, we have to scan all the barcodes to record what is getting thrown out. I did this. I scanned each package of salad/fruit/veggies out one by one and dropped them into an extra-large garbage can. Most of it looked perfectly fine. It wasn’t damaged; it wasn’t brown or moldy. It was simply past the date on the package, so I had to throw it out.

I do this all the time – throw away perfectly good food. It’s my job. Everyone at my store does it. Each night, multiple shopping carts full of trash bags full of food are thrown away. You get used to it, don’t even think about it – it’s expired, throw it away. It’s expired, throw it away.

This morning, though, I got angry. As I dropped bag by bag by cup of produce away, I got angry. Why?  Why was I doing this? Why couldn’t I give this stuff to someone? How many people in the world could use this food? How many people right here in my own city? 

It wasn’t fair. It wasn’t right.

I wonder how much perfectly good food is thrown away every day. I do my own share of it – along with  every other person who works at a grocery store, along with however many other people who work at  how ever many other places who throw away food that could go to people who need it.

Yes, there are expiration dates for a reason. And sometimes, stuff really does need to be used/thrown away by its expiration date. But not always, not usually.

It’s not only expired product, either. And today, it certainly wasn’t:

It’s November 2nd. Halloween is over, Thanksgiving is coming (along with Winter -eeek!). My store still had a giant box full of 30 or so Jack-O-Latern-sized pumpkins left over from Halloween. What did we do with all of those pumpkins?

We threw them away.

Why? I don’t know.

We could have marked the price down. Hell, people still would have bought them at their original price ($8, buy one get one free).

We could have donated them to our local food bank.

We could have given the damn things away for free.

No. We threw them away. Into the giant trash compactor they went.

Again, why? Why was this OK?

How is waste like this not illegal?

How many people could have used those pumpkins, for one thing or another?

Maybe they would have just carved them up as belated Jack-O-Lanterns. Maybe they would have simply plopped them on their front porches for Thanksgiving decorations. Maybe they would have only wanted them for the seeds. Maybe they would have made pumpkin pie. Maybe they wanted to shoot at them with their giant shotguns.

No. We threw them away. Without a second thought from the store manager. It was easier to deal with them that way – toss them out.

I think people forget about other people. I think they don’t care. I think they like to do what’s easiest for them. I think they are self-centered and narrow-minded.

I think they waste a lot of fucking pumpkins.

 

 

 

 

 

Oh God, is the current political race so boring (romney v. obama, obama takes it – can we skip to november now?) that we have to dramatize issues that aren’t even issues?!

I mean, I avoid this stuff as much as possible. Not the real issues, not the news, not important world events — the elections. (Can we seriously get some new people to vote for? None of the above? No one at all?)

The elections, and the crazy people that pop out from who-knows-where (where do they hide, and how do we make them stay hidden?) and make everyone freak out about the crazy schemes that they’ve been planning since the last time they ducked down into their hidey-holes.

Now I see everyone freaking out about birth control and Planned Parenthood and women’s rights…

“Oh, shit! These white guys wanna take away the pill!? Oh, no they don’t! Over my dead body! Sisters, unite!” (Are you imagining them as super-heroines after that last line? I sure am!) “We will stop this! Let’s blog about it! Let’s go on The News!”

Step back, darlings. How long has abortion been legal? How many people want that changed? How many of those white guys? How does the issue of birth control compare to abortion on a scale of one to ten? Are you getting this?

Contraceptives are here to stay. Divorce is not going to become illegal. (Unless Rick Santorum wins! Yeah, let’s vote for THAT guy, America!) What are some of the other ridiculous ideas that are springing up and causing a ruckus? Why are we talking about this? Why is it on the news? Why are we pretending it could happen? No. It’s not going to happen. Settle down, there.

Maybe we’re all just trying to pass the time. November is so far away. Think of how many horrible political commercials you’ll have to watch in all the time between then and now! (I’m sorry!)

Speaking of those commercials, what are we, eternal high schoolers?

“Oh. My. GOD. Did you hear what Romney did?! He TOTALLY changed his mind on that issue! Can you believe it?! WHO does that?”

“Obama… yeah, right, what has he been DOING the past FOUR years? Remember how (when he was a freshman) he had ALL THOSE plans? Yeah, where did THOSE go?”

You’re welcome, commercial writers. Feel free. Take what you need. I’ve given you the basic building blocks, right? Be sure to quote me!

Really, though, if I didn’t despise “election time” so much, I might enjoy how completely ridiculous the commercials are. But I just can’t bring myself to watch and enjoy them. They’re like fake reality shows from our government! Gee, what a great time to be alive.