Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Maintaining Appearances

Since interaction with people outside work is so limited, I've started to find myself caring what random people think.
And since the only people I ever speak to in-person outside work are store employees, this concern has drifted from amusement to genuine fear.
When I first arrived in town, I made a game of it. Stopping at Target in the middle of the night to buy fifty feet of rope, kitchen scissors, one-hundred "contractor grade" trash bags, duct tape and a gallon of all-surface cleaner was like a game to me. Would the clerk ask what I was doing? Would the police be notified?
Sadly, neither thing happened.
My natural paranoia filled in the blanks, letting me know in no uncertain terms that the check-out personnel were on to my game and judging me for how pathetic my cries for attention were becoming.
For a few weeks, I would visit the grocery store as normal. Food options are limited since I have only a microwave in my hotel room. Buying only enough to fit in my little hotel refrigerator started to look pathetic there in the shopping cart.
I knew that again the check-out people were judging me, only this time it was for living in a hotel completely alone, catching up on old TV and playing video games.
As I picked up groceries yesterday I made no conscious attempt to look less pitiful, yet I noticed that my food choices had evolved somewhat.
The cart was loaded with single-serve cans of multiple flavors of Diet Coke and foods which, while certainly microwavable, could only accurately be described as "appetizers".
Chicken nuggets, if of sufficient quality, are relatively low carb.
Looking from at the cart from the honest angle, one sees the diet of a man living in a tiny space all alone with an evening highlight of finding some kind of dip to use with the nuggets.
From a more objective (and generous) angle, I could have been hosting a party somewhere.
The contents of the cart could serve pretty well as the menu for a viewing of some type of sports thing or (more likely) that non-stop Lord of the Rings Extended Edition showing I've been promising to waste twelve hours on for about forever.
Given an objective view, the items in the cart can be less pathetic than reality would suggest.
When presented with a choice, I will almost always take the viewpoint which defies reality anyway.
But why do I care? It isn't a decision I made consciously. The concern I harbor for the opinions of total strangers says something about my own self-image, probably.
While an in-depth self-analysis is certainly in order here, I also avoid those. So the mystery will remain unsolved forever and I will always exist to store employees as a riddle wrapped in an enigma slathered in buffalo sauce.
Perhaps someday we will be judged not by the content of our carts but by the content of our DVD collections.
Today is not that day.

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