Day 126: Exercise your full rights as a consumer.

Apparently, the extent of my rights as a consumer is my right to buy “prepackaged material by the unit” – and not just prepackaged items in a larger package, like all those candies and little bags of chips that say “unit not labeled for individual sale,” but items that are loose in their packaging, like two Oreos or three eggs. Sort of like shopping in the bulk section, but in a way that makes the rest of the package unsalable.

I have no idea why anyone would want to do this – but, since I had to go to the grocery store anyway, I decided to give it a try anyway.

I had both kids with me, and anyone who’s taken children to the grocery store knows how awful that can be. Once, when I was a child, I crashed the cart – which my mother had, for some reason, allowed me to drive – into a display of glass jars full of pickles. The result was, of course, glass and pickles and brine all over the floor.

Nothing like that happened today, but there was an excessive amount of bickering and poking and whining and grabbing and buy-me-this-ing. I was on edge before we even got to the store, and by the time we got to the beer section – where I was going to ‘exercise my rights’ by buying a single bottle of beer – I was ready to start throwing pieces of raw meat at bystanders.

I selected the single I wanted to buy: a bottle of Stone’s Ruination IPA, a six-pack of which runs about $16. I put a bottle of it into my cart. I yelled spoke sternly to my children, again. I put a package of honey-roasted cashews one of them had grabbed back on the shelf, though with the cheap wine, and not the nuts. I started toward the registers, and snarled at an old lady on the way.

At the checkout, I unloaded my cart: bananas, grapefruit, onions, ground beef, chicken, cereal, corn tortillas, ibuprofen, washing soda, gluten-free rolled oats, eggs, orange juice, whatever. A bottle of beer.

The checker balked at the single bottle. I asserted my rights. She called her manager. He also balked. I re-asserted my rights. I yelled at the children. I told the dude behind me in line to piss off. The manager re-asserted his balking, and asked me to behave in an appropriate manner.

I paused. I thought about the question we often ask Jack when he’s misbehaving: was I making a good decision? No, I realized – I wasn’t. I needed to change my approach.

I grabbed the bottle of ibuprofen, opened it, poured a few into my hand, and dropped the rest of the bottle on the ground. I popped the pills, four or five of them, into my mouth. I grabbed the beer, opened it – I always carry one of these with me – and drank it, all of it, maintaining eye contact with the manager the whole time. He gave me a look of mounting disbelief, and I gave him a that’s-right,-what-the-fuck-are-you-going-to-do-about-it? look in return.

I set the empty bottle back on the conveyer belt, tossed a fiver at the checker, said “I don’t need any of this other shit,” and walked out. The children, after a moment of hesitation, followed.

I felt pretty damn good about myself. Like a boss.

Lorna made me go back and apologize.

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