Milk

He walks through the aisles until he finds the one with the milk. They actually keep the milk in some sort of cooler, which he should have expected but didn’t. He pushes the cartons around, looking for the one with the latest expiration date. To him, it doesn’t really matter, he’ll just sniff it and know if it’s drinkable, but to her it’s different. If it’s past the date, or even if it’s just too close to it, she won’t drink the milk. She’ll toss a whole gallon if the expiration date is too close, so it’s important. The important thing to him is that the milk has to be two-percent. He’s tried the other kinds, the skim milk, thin and translucent, the whole milk, heavy as sin, and he settled on two-percent, which isn’t, like, some really uncommon preference, just what he prefers. He tries to remember what the average gallon looks like when it’s sitting in the refrigerator under that dim fluorescent. If he can just bring to mind the exact flicker, the ambience back-lighting the average jug, he’s pretty sure he can get the exact same product they always get. He likes to be consistent, not just in the actual type on milk, but of the brand, and the container. He generally avoids promotional jugs, those shaped like Spider-Man or a cow. Not that he’s had some kind of bad experience. He’s just had such good experiences with the two-percent in the normally-shaped. But funny thing, he can’t ever remember exactly what brand they buy. He knows the label is blue, which is only marginally helpful since all the two-percents he can see are blue, some sort of dairy product standard. That’s why the attempts at recall. That’s why the light needs to be just right, at least in his head. He has vague impression of a parallelogram, some four sided thing, but maybe it was more of a rounded square. The names don’t sound familiar at all. Happy Cow, Dairy of the Heartland, Moo-tastic, store brand. He’d think something should ring a bell, but it isn’t. He’s lost in a pasteurized sea, lacking an anchor, and it all seems a little ridiculous. Finally, he gives in and just picks up Moo-tastic, even though he’s pretty sure this isn’t what he normally buys, and he walks away from the cooler and toward his cart, shivering slightly and not as happy as he could be.

He heads over to the counter and stands looking at the tabloids while he’s waiting, but his eyes aren’t really focused on them. Standing in line is almost zen-like, everything sort of blurs and he’s basically immobile. When he’s not quite ready to go home, he’s been known to seek out the longest line or the one with the most incompetent cashier, just so he can meditate a little longer. It never really sticks in his head what goes on while he’s waiting. Someone could have a heart attack in front of him, could shoplift a candy bar or even something bigger, could sing an entire aria from Das Rheingold. Wouldn’t matter. Except today, he’s having a lot of trouble getting in the mind-set because something else is happening, music dripping from the bulbous speaker above his head, and it’s sort of awkward, because he brags about Pavarotti himself not distracting him, but he’s pretty sure that whatever he’s hearing is a lot less overbearing than any one of the three tenors, including Jose Carreras, and it’s totally screwing with his head. He can’t even, like, stare blandly in front of him because something about the cheesy synthesizers and the robotic sounding voice is just worming its way into his skull like an alien invader and gradually taking away his free will. That is, it’s gradually eliminating the choice he’d make if he could–to stand and think of nothing at all–and replacing it with a mandate to think of less-than-nothing, this song, whatever it is. He suddenly resents the store and begins composing a letter to GreenCo’s corporate offices in his head, which would be a lot easier if there wasn’t soundtrack.

“Dear sirs,” he would start, “Thank you first of all for your wonderful stores.” But maybe that’s a little too kind, maybe it will get him off on the wrong foot. Well, he can revise later. “I shop there all the time, and have only one small complaint.” Actually, scratch out small, don’t want to downplay the importance. “It’s the music. Sirs, I love music. I listen to it all the time. While browsing the (confoundingly large) milk section of the cooler, I was actually humming a few bars of Mozart, something obscure.” That’s personable. Quality stuff, arouses sympathy. “My complaint is that the music in your store is–how shall I say it–forced upon me. Were I offered a selection of pieces upon entry, pieces which would perhaps play through a built in speaker in my cart,–I know this technology exists–the music would add to, rather than detract from, my shopping experience. Please take my ideas under consideration, and thank you for your time.”

A satisfying note, he thinks.

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