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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.

“I hate this fucking game!” (a guy in the library, obviously not doing school work!)

“… the first lady – Michelle Obama – …” (like we didn’t know)

“He bit it. He died. He slit his own throat.” (the things Philosophy majors talk about… scary.)

“…she looks younger now that she’s fat.” (the things girls talk about…)

“He has big dreams, but reality is going to come crashing in.” (a woman talking about her son.)

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.

 

 

 

 

 

So, here’s the sitch. (I’ve always wanted to say that in real life but the proper moment just never comes up.)

Recently (about six minutes ago), I was walking down the hall. Well, OK, the hall was actually a sky-walk (one of those tube-y things on college campuses that connect buildings so no one actually has to set foot outside). Anyway, there I was, walking down the hall/sky-walk.

I’ll admit that at that moment I was being one of those people who walk and text on their cell phones at the same time. I was trying to, anyway. I don’t really text that much, let alone walk and text at the same time. We are talking high-level functioning human stuff, here.

Even better that I was texting this guy from Saudi Arabia who doesn’t really speak English. He’s in the English language program at my University. Basically, we hang out sometimes and, er, talk. (We are “conversation partners”. It’s all rather fancy.) So, when I text him, I can’t be all: “lets meet 2morrow 4 food-age, bro!”, or, “wassup homie?!” — you know, my typical text language. Yeah. I can just imagine the confused stares that would bring about.

OK, so there I was, doing all this multitasking, when suddenly, a wild college student appeared! AKA, a thirty year old lady in fancy pants (dress pants, you might call them). I was gaping (I’m sure looking all intelligent) down at my phone when I heard,

“Do you have a pen? – I could have?”

Me: uhhh… wait what just happened? “Um, I don’t know….”

So then I dig immediately into my (rather tiny) purse and spot the four pens that are hanging out in the bottom underneath my keys and my magic gum (I’ll tell you about that another time).

I have a brief mental moment of consideration. These are like good pens. Not those little BIC ones that are found on every floor of every room in every building on campus. These are my Pilot G2 babies. I have a red and a black and a green and a blue (for every occasion!). Should I give one of these to this random person – fully knowing that not only have I never seen her before, but I will certainly never see her again, AKA, this is me giving away my pen. I mean, she didn’t even say that lame thing that people say when they’re all like, ‘hey, can I borrow a piece of paper?!’ You are not going to be giving it back, though, and both parties know this.

So, I did my little purse-digging, briefly (hopefully not too long) stared at my little pens, and looked back up at her with a sad face, saying, “No. I’m sorry!” And then she walked away and I clutched my pen-containing-purse to my chest and ran quickly away in the opposite direction. The End.

 
Does this make me a horrible person? I don’t think so. The only reason I ask this is because just before I was walking down that sky-walk/hallway I had been in a Philosophy class. Dang you, Philosophy.

I feel like this is sort of similar to those situations when homeless people/others ask you for change while you’re walking down the street, and you don’t want to give them any – for whatever reason – so you go and pat your back pocket, shake your head like you’re surprised to find nothing there and go, “Sorry, I don’t have anything. Must have left my two rolls of quarters at home today. Sorry!” (I’ve even done the back-pocket maneuver. You think I’ve ever kept a wallet back there? Nope.)

What really gets me is that I messed up my text message because of it! I’m supposed to be helping this guy with his language skills, and I go and send him the following: “So how about we meet tomorrow after your class tomorrow and then maybe go to the farmer’s market?” Tomorrow. Did you get that? Well, then again, maybe that helped him.

Maybe this a life lesson: Don’t attempt to walk and text at the same time, Jenni. It’s just not going to work out for you.

Whatever. You still can’t have my pen.

 

 

I may be going to the movies this week. Alone. (“what?!”, you say.)

My school’s having this free-movie-ticket day/party, and the one friend I usually go to these types of things with can’t go/I’m getting tired of going to these things with my one friend. (It’s sort of like in high school, when the teacher goes, “you can pick your partner to work with today!” and you turn to that one friend over and over again and just nod.)

Free movie tickets! The best things in life! I am so not passing this up. But, at the same time, I feel like it’s considered “weird” or “strange” to go to the movies alone. Who goes to movies alone? (“Hey, group of friends, look at that sad, lonely person sitting by themselves and eating popcorn with no one to share it with! What?!”)

In the same vein, it’s “weird”, maybe even weirder, to go to a restaurant alone. Why, though? Are restaurants strictly “social” places these days? Like clubs, or, um, golf courses? You just go there to eat stuff, yeah? And it’s not so weird to eat alone at, say, Taco Bell(? Where do you people eat these days?)

Another thing I’ve noticed: Cool people eat alone. I follow authors on the Twitter and they’re always going on about “oh going out to eat now for a bite of lunch where shall I sit since I am going alone?” (Not an actual Tweet.) When I read that, I don’t think it’s weird, what they’re doing. I admire them! Because it feels weird to do “alone” things that are meant to be “social” things, according to society (and that annoying group of friends that always sits behind you everywhere you go, including this website. Don’t look over your shoulder, b.t.w.).

If they can do it, so can I. Right? (So can you!) Being alone at the movies seems easier than dining alone, anyway. Once the movie starts, you become one with the staring, gaping, popcorn-popping crowd. (That feeling is awesome, b.t.w.)

Wow. So much b.t.w. is happening in this post. Should I stop typing now? Probably. But I’ll never do that!

Ok, so, I’m going to do this! (Maybe. There aren’t any good movies out, anyway, are there?) I’m pro at being alone. I need to practice being alone with lots of people around! …

(and, another one ending in the silent ellipses. You’re welcome, internet!)

P.s. Have you seen this fantastic internet video? How To Be Alone: