SLACKJAW by JIM KNIPFEL
August 21, 2011

Some Days Just put the Screws to You

 

When a light bulb explodes inside a ceiling fixture, it’s a pissy annoyance. In my case it means climbing up on the bed, unscrewing some doo-dads with one hand while holding everything else in place with the other, carefully removing the heavy glass cover without spilling all the glass shards across the bed and floor, removing what’s left of the jagged and shattered bulb without electrocuting myself, putting in a new bulb . . . well, let’s just say this all takes a very long time. And yes, “How many blindos does it take to screw in a light bulb?” does come to mind every time I do this. The answer is more than one, I can tell you that.

            Now, when an exploding light bulb is the first thing you encounter in the morning—I mean seconds after getting out of bed you hit the light switch and a bulb explodes—then your day is pretty well officially fucked right then and there, and there’s no escaping it. Might as well lock the door, sit in a corner and wait until it’s time to go to bed again. Any move you try to make beyond that is only going to lead to disaster, believe you me.

            That’s what I should’ve done Wednesday when the bulb exploded at six a.m. I didn’t, though, because I am a moron -- but a moron who needed some basic groceries. I knew I was fucked. I really really knew it. But I went right ahead and tried to do things anyway.

            I’d been trying to get out to buy groceries for three days at that point, but something always got in the way. On Tuesday morning for instance, I actually stepped out and got to the store at about quarter after seven, only to find them closed. I’d been there at that time in the past and they’d always been open so I didn’t know what the deal was. Figuring maybe they opened at seven-thirty and that I’d just been lucky in the past, I waited a bit after I’d changed the damn light bulb, and headed over to the store at seven-thirty.

            Again when I reached the door it didn’t swing open automatically as it usually does.

            Before turning around and shuffling home dejectedly and groceryless, I had another idea. Maybe it wasn’t a matter of the store being closed. Maybe the automatic door was simply broken. I reached out a hand and gave it a little push, and sure enough it was unlocked. Oh, how these mechanized conveniences come to control us. Relieved, I walked inside and felt around until I found a basket. The place seemed awfully quiet. There was no radio playing over the loudspeakers, and a lot of the lights still seemed to be out.

            No matter, I grabbed a basket and headed for the first aisle.

            “Hey buddy—we’re not open yet,” a man yelled from the other side of the store.

            I paused. No one had ever called me “buddy” in there before. “Oh,” I called back. “Okay . . . Well, when do you open?” I was waiting for Ilsa, the angry German checkout lady to come to my defense. We’d been getting along quite well of late. Unfortunately Ilsa was nowhere to be seen.

            I waited an unusually long time for the man to answer. “I dunno,” he said. “Eight.”

            “Oh,” I said. “I’ve been coming here at this time for months—is that some new policy or something?”

            There was another long pause. It almost felt like he was conferring with someone who was crouched around a corner. “I dunno,” he said at last.

            “Okay,” I told him as I replaced the basket. “Well that screws me.” And it did. I wasn’t going to wait around outside for half an hour, and I wasn’t going to walk home and come back.

            I left the store figuring I could make what I had in the fridge last one more day.

            Back home, the guy who’d been promising to stop by to pay me the money he owes me called to postpone. Again.

            Then I had to get on the phone myself and cancel several long-held plans because the guy who owed me money had bailed on me again.

            At the post office an hour later, everyone was speaking Chinese, which I found very disconcerting. When I got home I found an answering machine message from a neighbor inviting me out to lunch. This was a particularly good idea, I thought, considering the dwindling food situation in the apartment. When I called him back, however, he had no recollection of having left a message, and clearly had no interest in springing for lunch.

            I was beginning to notice a pattern here. There were clearly forces at work whose sole purpose was to fuck me up at every step.

            Then the rains came. That was good, I thought. At least it would keep me from taking any more steps outside. But it wasn’t long before the sound of water slapping on concrete behind my apartment became the sound of water slapping on more water behind my apartment.

            Well, shit. The drain back there was clogged again, and if I didn’t get back there to clear it, I’d be dealing with another flood in here before long. Only problem was, I’d never quite figured out where, exactly, the drain was located.

            By the time I got out back to start feeling around, the water had risen several inches, and was already lapping at the door frame. I rolled up my pant legs and pulled off my socks.

            Yeah, I should’ve never flicked that fucking light switch.

 

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