“Rare green comet passing by earth.” That was the headline ticker playing on the television above my head, during my teeth cleaning at Laird Dental. The ticker continued, “Last seen 50,000 years ago.” Last seen…by whom?, I wonder. By my distant relative as he lay there under the stars, having his thick hairy leg chomped by a sabre-toothed tiger? And the image on the screen looked more like the cover of Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon than a comet. It occurred to me that I was 50,000 years old, having known that reference.
“All done,” announced my hygienist.
“Did you see that green comet? None of this matters,” I said, with the polisher barely out of my mouth.
“What’s that?” she replied.
“That green comet. It won’t be back for 50,000 years. All THAT is going on out THERE. And here I am getting my teeth cleaned. Why bother? Why are you cleaning them? None of this matters. The politics we talked about earlier, the weather…my teeth. We’re just a blink in this whole thing. And it will just keep going on without us.”
My hygienist just looked at me. The kind of look that lasts a few beats too long and makes you realize you need to say something before you’re the afternoon’s office gossip fodder. “I sound crazy, don’t I?”
One beat…Two beats…Three beats.
“You have some tooth polish on your lip.”
I was back in my car, driving along Laird, worrying about the green comet. It reminded me that I needed to pick up some groceries. Namely, avocados, asparagus, spinach, and a few other items that are not green. I swung onto Esandar Drive and pulled into the Longo’s plaza.
Within 15 minutes, I had what I needed. I headed to the 12-item express checkout. With 18 items. Ugh. 18 items…Am I going to get grief? Screw it. It doesn’t matter. None of it matters. There won’t even be express checkouts in 50,000 years. I put the items on the conveyor belt. The cashier looked at the items. Then he looked at me. He’d seen this before. I gave a weak, squinty smile – the kind you make when you ask your server for “Just one more thing” – for the fourth time. I looked at his name tag so I could apologize and use his name. You know, to get that human connection. The tag read, M-A-something-something-Y. Marky? Macky? Mashy? Dammit. My 50,000-year-old eyes didn’t have their glasses on.
“Sorreeee, I thought I only had…does it matter?” I didn’t really sell it. And he was definitely not buying. The items were already in my bag.
“That’ll be $68.27; how would you like to pay?”
Holding my phone up, “Apple Pay?”
“Go ahead.” Beeeep.
And then it happened. The thing that happens every time I check out at any large grocery store in the neighbourhood. The thing that makes me wonder if there isn’t some weird Groceteria Law that states: All receipts must be handed directly to the customer, rather than dropped in the bag, unless otherwise asked!
It’s a thing. Trust me. You won’t be able to un-notice it now. Sometimes I just wait, silent, not saying a word. Seeing who will crack first. And so it was, this time. My bag was open. One hand on each handle. Tight-lipped and resolute. I’m Clint Eastwood in The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly. Minus the wet stub of a cigar. Or the cool factor. And yet still, the receipt passed right over the bag, to be handed directly to me. I didn’t flinch. The customer behind me was waiting. The whole store was watching, I just knew it. I’m pretty sure there were faces outside pressed up against the glass, too. The pressure mounted. One beat… Two beats…
My squinty smile reappeared, “Is it okay to put it in the bag?”
“Does it really matter?”he asked.
Damn. He was good. M-A-something-something-Y, for the win.
Along with being co-founder of advertising agency Grip Limited, and partner in ManleyUnderwear.com, David Crichton has won numerous awards for his writing, including a Kitchener-Waterloo Kiwanis Club Silver Trophy, in Grade 7.