A guy was two people ahead of me in the store today. He looked a lot older than I am, but that might be because he was bent over, seemed mildly confused about what was going on, and the Geezer kept looking around as if there was something happening around him, and maybe there was. He grinned at me and waved, and I waved back and looked around to see if it was really me he waved at.
I got up to the cashier, and I had about five items, and this Geezer comes up and starts asking me where I’ve been, how am I, and the first clue that I get that I might not actually know this person is he didn’t ask me about my dogs. Everyone always asks about my dogs, really. He doesn’t seem to understand that I’m trying to conduct a business transaction and the cashier, despite having my cloth bag right there in front of her, is putting one item in one plastic bag at a time. I have five items. She is using five plastic bags. I think I understand now why there’s a floating mass of plastic trash in the Pacific the size of Texas.
She revving up to check the next person out, I’m rebagging my stuff, and the geezer is standing there talking to me like we’re old friends and I still have zero idea who he might be. Worse, infinitely worse, as I’m trying to get my stuff out of the plastic bags and into the cloth bag, he reaches over and grabs me by the arm.
Okay, he’s old, and he’s clearly a little over the hill when it comes to his memory, or I am, one of the two, but at the same time, damn, man, who just reaches over and grabs other people? I’m not a touchy-feely type man to begin with. So, there’s the check out chick, who reaches over and puts something in my bag the guy behind me just paid for. There’s the old dude, who is still talking to me like he’s known me all my life, and then there’s the dude behind me who suddenly realizes that he and I are both trapped in some sort of weird alternative universe where no one really knows what’s going on. The cashier arches a brow at me, as if to tell me that my Senior Citizens Convention needs to meet elsewhere.
I get my stuff situated but the Geezer is just standing there, not letting me move, and I have to start moving forward to nudge him. There isn’t an easy way to tell someone to get the hell out of the way, so I just nod and tell him why yes I remember perfectly that time in Charleston when the gorilla… wait, what?
Another man, much younger than the Geezer, and for that matter, me, comes along and herds the Geezer away from me, and rolls his eyes at me. I’m not sure if he was eye rolling because the Geezer had trapped yet another person in conversation, or if he thought there are two Geezers, who can’t stop yapping.
So I’m left there, and I wonder if I heard the man right, if he said something about a gorilla in Charleston, or if he noticed I wasn’t paying attention and messing with me, or if my hearing, which has been bad for decades, decided to interpret something he said wrongly.
The guy that was behind me walks by me and I see he’s carrying ten items in about eighteen different bags, and it doesn’t register with him that he’s doing anything at all wrong, because paper bags were so last generation, and cloth bags, well, you know, I have no idea why they haven’t caught on, but suddenly I realize that he’s a lot younger than the Geezer and I.
I still remember when bottles, from shampoo (now that was a long time ago) to soft drinks, were all glass, and I remember when all bags were paper. I miss wooden boxes and the feel of a glass bottle when pouring a liquid. It was more stable than the light plastic stuff. The manager of the store comes over and speaks to me, because I’m just standing there lost in thought, and I realize, she too, is a hell of lot younger than I am.
I remember listening to old people, in their forties, when I was a kid, talk about how my generation was going to ruin the world with rock and roll and long hair. But I think we’re doing it with plastic instead. Our revolution wasn’t some dramatic change in the way things were run, but a very subtle insertion of a toxin, that took the place of nearly every container and packing material we once knew.