I’m standing in line at the video store. To the left of me is a wall
covered with video displays. To my right is a point-of-sale candy bin
filled with what looks to be a half-ton of chocolate-covered raisins
and varieties of microwaveable popcorn.
Jodie Foster assumes at least 20 comic poses in the display titled
“Stuart recommends: Jodie Foster Week.” I don’t know Stuart, but I
find his display anemic and lacking in imagination. None of Foster’s
better performances are represented; instead, Stuart seems to focus
on some of the actor’s more unfortunate attempts at slapstick comedy.
I’ve seen almost all the movies in the Jodie Foster display, and
I’m bored and mildly annoyed at the candy bin, its presence making
any number of disturbing assumptions about my dietary and
Among them: 1) I can’t sit on a couch for two hours without
consuming hundreds of times my recommended daily allowance of fat,
sodium and carbohydrates; 2) My blood sugar is on such shaky ground
that the sight of this plentitude can push me into paying 50% above
retail rather than just waiting to drive to the market; 3) I’m on
board with this whole idea of chocolate-covered raisins and
microwaveable popcorn being the traditional food of home video and
DVD entertainment; and 4) I own a microwave oven.
Assumptions like the last one really get to me, because they lead
to a fifth assumption, which is that it is in my nature to own a
microwave oven -- that I’m exactly the kind of indoctrinated consumer
to feel the need for a microwave. And this assumption wouldn’t bother
me so much in itself were I not so sure that somewhere in the world
are happy people living rich and sustaining lives that don’t involve
I own a microwave oven, so I’m standing in line holding DVDs in my
left hand and a cellophane-wrapped three-pack of microwaveable
popcorn in my right.
I check my watch, and realize with a shock that I’m less than an
hour away from violating my quid pro quo arrangement with Meg, which
is that I show up to dates on time and she doesn’t feel I take her
for granted. It occurs to me that I’d get out of this place a lot
faster if the kid in the leather jacket in front of me would quit
arguing with the clerk over whether “The Matrix” was a pretentious
mishmash of Eastern philosophy or a brilliant allusion to the
Catharist Heresy of the 11th century and the papal reaction to it,
which in a nutshell was “Kill all Cathars.”
I glance at my watch again, the motions of doing so reflexive,
like the motions of a yawn, because whenever I feel I’m running
behind I know exactly what time it is. But I go through the motions
of lifting and turning my arm and looking into the face of my watch
anyway, because I picked up years ago that doing so communicates to
others a sense of urgency.
I am also mildly aware that this gesture tends to rub people the
wrong way, that it can sometimes communicate a sense of being put
upon, and since I’m aware of this, the gesture is less a request for
expedience as it is an act of hostility.
The clerk sees me raise my watch and he furrows his brow, an act
that seems to involve every third muscle in his head, and I see that
he’s received the latter communication. He looks up at me with put-up
indignation, and in response I go through the motions of checking my
watch a third time.
The watch tells me seven seconds have passed since the last time I
looked at it. I feel annoyed at the watch, the stupid thing. Then I
realize that my hostility is misdirected, that my watch is a good
watch and just doing its job, and in realizing this I start to wonder
who or what I’m really annoyed at.
Am I annoyed at 1) the store clerk for holding up the line when
you know he had to be told at some point not to get into trivia
debates with customers? 2) the leather-jacketed customer, for being
an inconsiderate bobble-head in preventing me from meeting my
contractual obligations with Meg? Or, 3) a bunch of ill-fated
11th-century heretics who didn’t have the sense to spot a truly
harebrained interpretation of the Scriptures when they saw one?
Of course I can’t help but be also aware of a fourth option, which
is that I have only myself to blame for being in a position of
tardiness, as I am much more in control of my scheduling than the
clerk, the customer or the heretics. It wasn’t their fault I couldn’t
get myself to the video store earlier. In fact, if it were put to one
of the heretics, he’d probably argue that the whole issue was in
keeping with Catharist doctrine, which holds that any calamity that
befalls us in this veil of tears is of our own making.
But that’s a lot more personal responsibility than I’m willing to
assume at this time, so I find myself rejecting all of the above and
going back to being mad at the watch. The stupid thing.
I’m starting to wonder if I should just set the DVDs and popcorn
down and leave when the customer in front of me resolves everything
by shouting, “For God’s sake, it’s just a movie! Move it along, why
don’t ya?” In seconds, the leather-jacketed bobble-head has left the
store, the line has moved briskly forward and I’m standing in front
of the clerk, whose blue name tag indicates his name is Stuart.
Apparently still smarting over our nonverbal encounter regarding
the watch, Stuart mutters, “Patience is a virtue.” I know I should
just ignore this and leave, but suddenly all my low-grade irritation
over the presumptuous candy bin, the watch and the waiting rise to
the surface, and I tell Stuart his Jodie Foster display is devoid of
all poetry and cohesion.
I instantly regret my rudeness, as Stuart chooses to further widen
this breach of social etiquette by replying that he could say the
same about the outfit I’m wearing. The laughter of the customer
behind me clearly indicates that in our battle of tempers, Stuart has
prevailed, but I lamely seek to make his a Pyrrhic victory by
announcing I will take all my future DVD business to Blockbuster.
Stuart grunts his utter lack of dismay, and I decide to cut my
losses and leave in a huff. As I get in my car, I check my watch yet
again, and realize with great sadness that no matter how many rules
of the road I choose to ignore, I will still be late for my date with
* DAVID SILVA, a Burbank resident and former Leader city editor,
is a Times Community News editor. Reach him at (909) 484-7019, or by
e-mail at email@example.com.