Monday, October 13, 2014

The Awkward Purchase

My go-to late-night TV genre is something the creators of South Park once dubbed "Informative Murder Porn." These true-crime "shlockumentaries," as I call them, have titles like "Forensic Files," "Wicked Attraction," "Sins and Secrets," "Solved," and "In Cold Blood." They depict (allegedly) true accounts of star-crossed teenage lovers attacking their interfering parents with a block of kitchen knives and spouses poisoning each other with anti-freeze cocktails masquerading as nutritious smoothies. Ken Burns it's not, but it's the stuff of a good night's sleep. Anyway, at some point in each episode, the killer is invariably caught on closed-circuit security camera at Wal-Mart or Home Depot buying industrial strength bleach; duct tape; a cheap roll of carpet; and forty yards of rope all at the same time. If Netflix is to be believed, these purchases occur with sufficient frequency that box stores should just start selling "Murder-Cover-Up Kits for Dummies" for quick pick-up, like maybe next to the First Aid Kits. 

It's occurred to me, though, that we've all made some benign version of the Murder Kit purchase at one time or another, in the form of the "awkward purchase." Without needing to exchange a single word, these purchases tell the cashier exactly what the next 24 hours will entail for the customer. For example, a "friend" just bought a 20-count box of Super-Plus Tampax; a bottle of Midol; last week's issue of Us Weekly; and a King Size bag of Peanut M&Ms from her local pharmacy. I'm told she was forced to scour six aisles for each of these items individually when clearly the pharmacy just needs to start selling "Day One of Your Period" kits. Another "friend" had a similar experience not too long ago when her children (whatever their names are) brought home the latest day-care contagion along with an impenetrable mound of shitty art projects. This friend was then forced to buy Gatorade Fruit Punch and Immodium AD at the same time. Nothing says "My kid coughed directly onto every mucous membrane in my face and now I'm shitting my brains out" like that awkward purchase. 

But the combination liquor/convenience store down the hill from my house is ground zero for the awkward purchase. I once saw a rather bedraggled-looking fellow push across the counter there a box of multi-colored flavored condoms; a 12 ounce bottle of Sour Apple Pucker; and a pack of Camel Menthol Ultra-Lights without so much as a blink of shame registering on his face. But I caught the clerk's eye, and we both knew what was up. He smiled knowingly as I paid for my Junior Mints and $11.00 bottle of white wine. "Enjoy 'Twilight' on DVD!" he called cheerfully as I exited the store. I smiled, thanked him, and told him I would.

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