I’m the sort of guy who tries to play by the rules. I pay my taxes, I recycle, I use my turn signals, heck – I even thought about paying for WinZip once. (I didn’t pay, but I thought about it, and I think that’s at least honorable.) Kids, you might want to pause here and ask your grandparents about shareware.
Anyway, it’s a bit of an obsession for me. I hate seeing things miscategorized on craigslist. I hate people who cut in line. The misuse of the word ‘everyday’ seriously ticks me off on a daily basis. Every day, a helpful noun phrase. Not everyday, which is an adjective. In fact, it’s only my honest nature that prevents me from committing felony property damage on a commercial sign I drive past each morning (every day) that says “Low Prices Everyday!” as if that were a new day of the week between Saturday and Sunday. I won’t get pedantic and further state that if they’d just re-arrange the sign to read “Everyday Low Prices!” we wouldn’t be having this discussion.
Or maybe I will.
That does, however, allow me to segue back into my original premise – that of minding the rules. It so happens that I am forced by economics to shop at a local SuperWonderMart® that operates under the principle of Everyday Low Prices, or Always Low Prices, or Underpaid Workers Everyday, or something like that, accompanied by an insipid smiley face – which is ironic because that’s exactly the opposite of what I’m feeling when I shop there. I wonder if there’s a little sticker with an image of one’s soul being sucked out that they could give out to adults when they enter the store?
Anyway… rather than fight the surging throngs of the Great Unwashed as they clamor for parking spaces within convenient waddling distance of the doors, I prefer to choose a parking space that favors my timely egress from the parking lot. I am looking forward to my escape before I even get there, so I plan accordingly. If possible, I park next to one of the cart corrals, with the hope that at least one side of my car will be spared from the careless damage inflicted by crumb-critter encumbered redneck mouth-breathers who figure all cars are as worthless as their own.
I was lucky this night and scored a spot right next to the corral, at least a hundred yards from the door, but only one lane from the parking lot exit. I entered the store for my weekly dose of depression, economic disbelief over the cost of breakfast cereal, and abject horror at the general state of humanity. The sights, sounds, and smells are generally enough to last me the entire week – and thankfully these are commodities I don’t have to pay for.
Having completed the assault on my senses and my wallet, I escaped the store as quickly as possible, weaving through the crowd of cars parked right at the entrance to facilitate the loading of large quantities of Bud Light. As I approached my car, I saw that something wasn’t quite right.
There was a note under my windshield wiper.
I feared the worst – that the note would say “I backed into your car and somebody saw me, so I’m leaving this note. Ha Ha!” – which would be pretty typical for around here. Before even looking at the note, I took a walk around the car, checking for damage. Strangely there was none that I could see. Curiosity got the better of me, and I took the piece of paper out from under the wiper and unfolded it. It was not what I expected.
It was, in fact, the bathroom cleaning log from the ladies’ room at SuperWonderMart®, dated that very day. On it were the times and initials from when the assigned associate (I love the use of that word instead of peon) checked the ladies’ room for “cleanliness” (those would be great big air quotes if you could see me). I was perplexed. Why would someone go to the trouble of taking the log sheet from the bathroom and putting under my windshield wiper all the way out in the parking lot? It finally occurred to me to turn the sheet of paper over.
On the back was a neatly hand-written note. Here is what it said:
Handicap slots are for people who need them.
And, much more ominously:
I was both shocked and confused. Had I somehow taken a handicapped space without realizing it? I checked. No blue sign, no wheelchair icon on the pavement – in fact I was three rows away from the nearest handicapped parking space in the lot. Still, the accusation that I had broken the rules was like a slap to the face. Worse, that MANAGEMENT had been informed of my heinous transgression. What would happen? Would I be blacklisted from SuperWonderMart®? Would my money no longer be welcome there? Would people who needed handicap slots look at me with contempt? I checked for security cameras, saw none, then got in my car and left. I considered going back in and pleading my case with management, but I decided against it.
I contemplated the note for my entire ride home. Did the author confuse shopping carts with wheelchairs? Was the blue of the cart corral confusing? Was I in the Twilight Zone? (The one with Rod Serling, not the one with sparkly vampires.) I had been accused of breaking a rule, and the motivation of my accuser bothered me. It took the better part of the evening to accept that I was probably the victim of a prank or a nutcase.
The next day at work, I was sitting at my desk when I heard the sound of a low-flying helicopter outside. I dropped my pen, sat upright in my chair and said “Oh, no.” My co-workers asked what was wrong, and I could give them only one answer: