Thursday, February 21, 2002

EVERY DAY'S AN ADVENTURE. I'll skip ahead, past the burglar-alarm mishap, to my before-work trip to Safeway. Just an express-lane trip to get a few things we forgot when we went shopping last night.

I picked up everything else before venturing into the liquor department, which, in the District of Columbia's granny square in this country's bizarre quilt of hootch legislation, keeps separate hours and has a separate cash register. As is the custom, I parked my shopping cart outside this walled city. Ever the wine snob, I chose a $4.99 bottle of Chilean red because I thought the Gato Negro label's black cat was cute. Liquor Lady complimented my taste; I mentioned my black cat and she countered with her two gatos negros, regaling me with the story of a recent trip to the vet.

I walked back into the family-friendly portion of the Safeway and my cart was gone. Liquor Lady turned on her microphone and announced that the cart outside the liquor department belonged to "another customer." I knew darn well it wasn't "another customer" who had taken it, and sure enough a store employee was arriving just as I found it parked, with additional items, in an unmanned lane.

"Oh, was this yours?"

"Yes. Did I do something wrong?"

No eye contact, a hint of a laugh.

"Am I not supposed to leave my cart there? I thought I wasn't supposed to bring it into the liquor department."

No eye contact, a hint of a laugh.

I didn't push it. The bitching, that is. I must have known I'd need my self-righteous indignation later. I did push the shopping cart, and I found an express lane that didn't put me in the mind of Space Mountain. Rare moment in history, that. Of course, the cashier was nowhere to be seen. After about a minute she returned from some errand she was doing for the one lady in line in front of me.

This was one of those impossibly cheery cashiers, and Lady in Front lingered to keep conversing as the cashier rang me up.

"Your Safeway card, sir?"

"I'm TRY-ing," I said, and eventually Lady in Front waddled out of the way so I could slide my invasion-of-privacy card through the reader to sell my soul in exchange for big discounts. I also slid my credit card. Meanwhile, the cashier was helping the man behind me cash in some rolled pennies. She asked the man to sign the roll, then asked me to sign my receipt.

I flashed her the "I'm TRY-ing" look and eyed the lane's single pen, which Mr. Hancock behind me was wielding carefully. The cashier took a moment to register this little problem before asking a colleague for an "ink pin," and eventually I was able to complete the simple transaction.

From Safeway, I headed for Mangialardo's, an excellent little Italian deli not far away on the iffy fringes of Capitol Hill. I got the usual: G-Man, hard roll, oil and vinegar only. The G-Man is a sub/hoagie/grinder/hero named for the FBI agents who frequent the place. There's no shortage of law-enforcement agencies in Washington, especially on the Hill. And as I returned to my car, parked on the street at a meter into which I'd fed a dime, an unmarked but unmistakably fuzz-y car from one of those law-enforcement agencies was double-parked and blocking my exit. Official police business? Of course not. The cop needed a sub.

About a minute later the lawman emerged. It wasn't a real D.C. cop; I couldn't tell what agency he worked for. He didn't say anything to me — no eye contact, a hint of a laugh.

"You know," I said, "there are parking spaces for law-abiding citizens."

Officer Friendly was startled. After a long pause during which he contemplated who-knows-what, his reply was a sarcastic "God bless you, too, sir."

I pressed my luck: "This here is a road. People drive in it."

"God bless you. Have a nice day."

"Give me back my dime!"

Wait: Did I say at some point that I thought the people this guy arrests were "probably guilty"?

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours? Weblog Commenting by HaloScan.com