Season after Pentecost, 2023
Going to Kmart is always an adventure (last time, I saw Jesus parked there) because Kmart is weird and a prime location of social awkwardness.
I'm always tempted by their low prices (the Kmart near me seems to be perpetually going out of business) but repelled by the emptiness, bad lighting, and weird people.
Also, Target is just as close, and they have better design. I feel more anonymous at Target. Kmart has so few customers that I guess I'm given special treatment by those who think themselves part of the Kmart family.
And the Kmart family is made up of those annoying relatives that you're not even that related to.
Anyway, back to the matter at hand. As I get out of my parked car, I here a voice.
"Hey bud, your lights are on."
Now, as a way of explanation, let me say that my stylish '93 Ford Crown VicLand-Yacht has automatic headlights: they come on when it gets dark, and go off after a fixed amount of time after you get out of the car.
The timer is a safety/convenience feature. At summer camp, the full three minutes is useful after parking the car in the darkness and having to walk to the tents. So, I just leave it set at the maximum (three minutes) all the time. Plus it weirds people out.
But COME ON! My car is almost 13 years old. Was it the only model to do this? (If so, I might cling to it forever). Surely other automatic headlights have this feature, and surely people use it. So in the past decade, hasn't seeing someone get out of their car with the headlights still on become commonplace?
Apparently no. And the consensus seems to be that helping someone possibly avert a dead battery takes precedence over an assumption about an automatic headlight feature.
I can appreciate this. It's good to know that people are looking out for each other.
But, back to the matter at hand, "hey bud?" I think not. Since when have I been your "bud?" What a crude greeting.
And it doesn't stop there:
SALUTATION: Hey bud
DECLARATIVE: your lights are on
Granted, my automotive vocabulary allows me to contextualize the statement "your lights are on" and interpret it as concern for my vehicular health.
But that didn't stop me from thinking about returning with: "Hey bud, your lights are off."
I would much prefer Hoosier Harry to have said, "Pardon me, do you know that your lights are on?"
SALUTATION: Pardon me
INTERROGATIVE: Do you know that your lights are on?
Maybe I've thought about this too much. I've certainly written too much about it.
Then as I walked to the entrance of Kmart proper, my approach was heralded with the incessant ringing of a shrill, piercing bell. A costumed militant was collecting money.
A costumed militant was collecting money
As a poor student, I've been trained to look out for people who want my money (other students, cashiers, girlfriends) and avoid them when possible.
I tried the making-eye-contact-so-he-knows-I-see-him-and-doesn't-have-to-get-my-attention approach. This method is tried and true. I have a powerful gaze and can let people know that I am not interested in their collection scheme, free credit card, or flyer that I will immediately throw away with a direct, powerful stare.
"Hi," he said.
I was crestfallen. Now, I could barely hear him over the bell, but I thought his greeting was really offensive.
How can I not know he's there? That bell -- I'm telling you -- it was seriously loud. And he's standing right by the entrance. What am I going to do, go in the exit?
We're not friends, so the only reason you have to say "hi" to me is to alert me to your presence. This is unnecessary.
"Donations are going to be down because of the hurricanes," I thought about saying, but I don't think he would have heard me. Or cared.
"Ring bell, get money, ring bell, get money," he was probably thinking.
Not to mention that the bell was seriously loud. He's ringing it outside, but right under the overhang of the building, so all that sound is just reflected right down at him. Hearing damage would start right away with a job like that. Not fun.
He didn't really need my money. If I had really been on top of things, I would have given him a small bag on my way back to my car (my headlights have since turned themselves off).
"Hey bud, try some ear plugs."
I mean, it's Kmart. How long can you spend in there? If you can stay inside of a Kmart long enough to kill your car battery, you're a weirder person than I am. Maybe that's the real issue here.
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