The sun went down fifteen minutes before Hank drove into the Macey’s parking lot. It was about half full, just like usual. When it came to finding a parking space, Hank was always optimistic. He followed his optimism all the way down one aisle of cars, all the way back up another and down a third. Each time he reached the end of an aisle closest to the grocery store his hopes of finding an awesome parking spot lifted, then got smashed, by the empty “senior citizen” and “expectant mothers” stalls.
The handicapped stalls never gave him that kind of trouble. He could always spot them from a good 20 feet off ‘cause of their blue lines. But those dang fake out stalls were always such a let down.
He hadn’t ever heard of anyone actually getting a ticket for parking in one, but that didn’t mean he wouldn’t. Isn’t that the way things usually worked out?- no one else ever ended up getting caught doing somthin’ stupid like that, but it’d be just his luck to have some self-righteous Clearfield police officer stop at the Macey’s on his coffee break while Hank was gettin’ himself a video from the RedBox, his car parked in a space with a sign if front that said “This Stall Reserved for Expectant Mothers”.
He imagined exactly how it would happen. He’d get back to his car while the policeman was still writing him a ticket. The policeman would make some joke about Hank not looking like he was “very far along” right when someone he knew came walking by- somebody from work or church or something. Then he’d never live it down. They’d be making jokes about Hank being pregnant for the next three years. And of course there’d be the fine to pay.
No, it wasn’t worth it. Better to park down at the far end of the aisle, where there were a bunch of empty spaces without signs on them.
When he walked up to the Red Box there were six other people standing there. Some dude and his girlfriend were at the front of the line. She was standing so close to him it looked like they’d been stuck together with Krazy Glue- her arm was wrapped around his waist; his left hand was stuffed down her back pocket and his right hand was pressing buttons on the screen. Hank thought it’d be kinda nice to have a girl like that stand that close to him.
There were two guys behind them. It was obvious that they were going to each rent their own movie- they weren’t standing next to each other, they were standing one behind the other. Plus, what kind of guys would stand together in line at the RedBox? Not any guys that Hank new.
Last was a mom with a kid. Or at least, sometimes it was a mom with a kid, and sometimes it was just a mom. The kid kept running over to the automatic doors that went into the store. He would stand in front of them just to make them open. Then somebody would come walking out of the store, pushing a cart full of groceries and his mom would yell at him to “get back over here Freddy!”
Six people, but they were only going to make four purchases. If each one took as long as the dude and his girlfriend were taking he’d have to wait in line a long stinkin’ time before it was his turn. But they might not take that long. Hank didn’t usually take that long, so why should they? And besides, some of these people might just be returning movies instead of renting them, right? That usually didn’t take very long at all. Unless the person doing the returning didn’t know how to do it.
The kid was standing by the doors again. But this time the door wouldn’t open for him. Dumb kid was standing too close. The heat sensor at the top, or whatever it was, couldn’t see him. So he walked over in front of the other door. His mom wasn’t watching him. She was talking to somebody on her cell phone saying something about “what time were you going to be home and no she wasn’t going to get Transformers because it was a stupid action movie and they watched a stupid action movie last time and this time she was getting something with some romance in it…”
The kid finally got the door to open. No, somebody inside the store with a cart full of groceries got it to open which meant that it was an exit door which meant that… when it opened it smacked the kid and knocked him over. How dumb do you have to be to stand there and let a door that slow smack you in the face? Now he was crying and rubbing his forehead where the door hit it and sitting right in front of the person with the cart full of groceries making it so she couldn’t get past. His mom was still talking on the phone saying something about how “he really is a nice dad he’s just tired when he comes home from work and that makes him a little cranky and he probably would be nicer to the kids if they would just do what they were told once in a while…”
Wasn’t she going to go over there and get her kid out of the way?
“Hey, your kid…” Hank started to say. She just kept blabbing on her phone. She didn’t hear what Hank said. That seemed to happen to Hank a lot.
“Hey, your kid just got smacked in the head.”
He said it a little louder this time, but there was a Honda with a loud exhaust pipe driving past which meant that she still didn’t notice that he was talking to her.
The person with the cart full of groceries was telling the person behind her that if he would just back up so that she could back up she could help that poor little boy out of the way and then they could both get through the door. But the guy behind her was being a real dork and instead of just taking her word for it he had to see for himself whether there was really a kid sitting on the ground in front of her cart which meant he had to leave his cart where it was and stand right behind her cart while he leaned forward as far as he could…
So Hank walked over and picked the kid up himself. As soon as he lifted the kid up the kid stopped crying and just looked at Hank. He wasn’t sure exactly what the best way was to hold a kid, so he kinda just held on to the kid under his arms with his own arms kinda stretched out while the kid stared at him. He still wasn’t crying when Hank put him down next to his mom. She looked at Hank sorta funny, like she wasn’t sure if she should say “what the hell are doing with my kid?” or “thanks.”
“He got smacked by the door.” Hank said.
She didn’t say anything else. She just grabbed hold of the kid’s hand and turned back around so she was facing the RedBox.
It didn’t seem like there was really anything else to do or say. So he decided to just get back in line behind the mom where he had been before. Except right then some guy with arms that were a little too big for their sleeves walked up and stood behind her.
He looked right at Hank with a face that Hank had seen before. Well, Hank hadn’t actually seen this guy’s face before. But he had seen the look on that face before. He had seen it on girls faces at the dances back in high school. He had seen it on the faces of people driving next to him during rush hour. He had seen it when he was thirteen and the kids at the house next to his would let him play basketball because they thought that because he was five inches taller than any of them he might actually be good. And it didn’t always say exactly the same thing, but the different things it said weren’t really that different from one another. This time it said, “Yeah, I know you were standing in line here, but now I am, so what are you going to do about it, dork?”
And it was right. There wasn’t anything that he would do about it. He would just get in line behind the guy and that would be it. He sure as heck wasn’t going to try and fight this guy, or anyone else for that matter. Wasn’t worth it. Getting his nose busted up and looking like a fool, what good would that do? Better to let this guy go around thinking he’s real tough, than to make something of it and get his teeth knocked in. Besides, he’d only have to wait a few extra minutes, so it really didn’t matter.
At least that’s what Hank tried to tell himself. But as the minutes passed and he inched his way closer to the RedBox, the fact that this jerk in front of him had stolen his place in line- like some fifth grader at the drinking fountain on his way in from recess- worked it’s way under his skin. He couldn’t stop thinking about it. Why did people like this guy think it was ok to act like such jerks? And why did he let people act that way- to him especially- without letting them know that they were jerks?
While the jerk-with-muscles was swiping his credit card a scenario began playing itself out in Hank’s mind. It was sort of like when Napoleon Dynamite asked his own personal jerk, Don, for a Summer-Wheatley-for-President button and then as soon as the guy gave it to him, he chucked it down the hall just to show him what he thought of the guy. Only instead of a high school election pin, Hank imagined himself grabbing the guy’s movie as soon as it slid out of the slot and chucking it as far as could. He imagined it bouncing off the pavement and doing little cartwheels before the case split open and the disc popped out and slid along the asphalt and got all scratched up. He imagined the jerk staring at him, not quite believing what had just happened. He imagined himself running away just like Napoleon had, running across the parking lot as fast as he could, then jumping like Michael J. Fox into the bed of some lucky truck as it pulled out of the parking lot, with the jerk dude slowing to a stop behind him, waving away a cloud of smoke that the truck had left behind.
It would be hilarious! The disc was sliding out of the slot and the guy hadn’t even noticed yet- he was checking out some teenage girl as she walked into the store. The opportunity was there. It would be so awesome. It would be so…
That guy would probably catch him before he took five steps, if he didn’t just lay him flat the moment he grabbed at his movie. Besides, how would acting like a jerk do anything to get another jerk to stop acting like a jerk?
The jerk was walking away now. Hank could see which movie he had rented. It was the same one he was going to rent. Hank stepped up to the Redbox and made his selection. The RedBox told him that that selection was temporarily unavailable- it had been rented out.