After writing some fiction, I set out to find the amazing Walgreens nearby that, through the disgruntlement of few, carried a reputation for being terribly awful. Rubbing my hands with glee in anticipation of witnessing such a crummy majesty, I could barely contain my excitement choosing SW 15th Road as my avenue to such a terrible enlightenment. As I skipped merrily through the humid air, I noticed a few people out running. Then a few more; then hundreds of them, sweating, panting, iPodded and Nike’d. Could they all be making a break from this terrible Walgreens?
Along the dull SW 15th, the runners streamed past; one chap seemed so excited he stopped to run in place and did some shadow boxing, sniffing wildly through his nose. I guess he won by default because it was dark. The lack of anything special about SW 15th caused me to question my map-reading skills; but like all grail quests, this self-doubt was the work of Lucifer himself, sent forth to tempt my quitting skills. Pushing harder through the barrier of beaten confidence, the red sign emerged from the darkness and I heard the thrum of angel wings fluttering in the stars. This is fuckin’ it!
Behold, the long queue of idling vehicles at the drive-thru pharmacy, just as one online review had prophesied; and the full-to-bursting car park in which the 30-minute wait was not enforced, again, heralded in the scrolls. And gods above and below it was true — a BILINGUAL store! Signs in both English and Cuban, whatever that is. Dreamily tipee toeing through the aisles with my oversized plastic basket containing last week’s sullen coupons, my lips tingled with excitement: this is really the place! Procuring some fizzy water and granola bars, I made for the check-out counter and it struck me: this can’t be the place… There’s almost no queue of people waiting to purchase their goods. There’s a lady buying something, a dude behind her waiting, and me. Sullen, downtrodden, on the very verge of crestfallen, I discerned Lucifer’s temptations once more. For you see the queue did got longer; and longer. The lady purchasing a simple bottle of (I dunno, let’s say) vitamins had something wrong and needed the assistance of the sole check-out girl for an interminable length of time. Things were looking good again.
While the vitamin jezebel took her sweet time and all of ours, I watched the workings behind the counters. In the printing/film developing section there worked man in a waistcoat — unquestionably, this must be a magnificent man, attired in such threaded finery. He’s going to do something awesome, I just know it. Eventually, Vitamin Helper Girl calls for backup and a young woman comes along to open a till, to complete the purchase of the irate man in front of me who simply wants to pay for his 20-pack of magnum rubbers. I must be patient. The reinforcement, from the moment she stuck the key in the machine begins to have problems; now it is the waistcoated one’s time to shine. With his manicured goatee and swishy-swishy arms, he tries to aid the floundering backup — but wait! He then gestures for me to come forward and complete my purchases! My heart flutters, my eyes ache, this is it, ye gods of yore, I will be forever immortalised in the history of the worst Walgreens in America, a country in which you must speak English or die!
The waistcoated one brought me forward, speaking English of a perfectly acceptable calibre (what fresh new trick of Satan is this?) and opened up his till. Within a moment, another staff member came to him with a problem and he tried to speak her out of it, only to realise he was about to help me, and shooed her away. The staff member sighed, sulked and lo, flipped us both the bird, it was so magical I want to do it again. The Vitamin lady was still tutting, the condom man’s face was a veiny red, and my waistcoat had run off to help the initial backup with her till problem. I stood for a moment, enjoying the experience, the spectacle, the sheer religious wonderment of life.
In the following moments my goods were bought, and I walked out the door nearly breathless. On a high, I decided to walk down SW 13th to enjoy some new scenery, but must have instead walked along 2nd Ave, over a river, into some Kansas which Toto and I had never been. In fact I got a little lost and found some scary places, flanked by street people who looked like they had a deadly thirst for Perrier and granola. But I also stumbled across some interesting places to eat which I would have stopped at if I wasn’t on a bit of a diet right now. Stupid health, who ever invented it?
Eventually I found my hotel — despite the gigantic glass building mentioned in the previous post, the landmark went hidden while I was among the high-rises, bridges, cement works, building sites, and Perrier-thirsty vampires of SW 3rd St.