Digressions #1

Joseph looked into the toilet. He had flushed but the pressure from the plumbing wasn’t too strong because little stringy bits, a fragment of a red pepper, and a corn husk swam around in circles. He had stir-fry and corn bread last night. Not the perfect combination but they were the last of his leftovers in the fridge. He had to go do groceries soon. He hated doing groceries. Especially when it was time to check out. He always felt bad for the cashier. While ringing up items the cashier would try to make forced conversation with the customer. Sometimes the customer would be distracted, texting a friend on their phone which would make Joseph sympathize with the cashier. On principle Joseph would always place his phone in his front pocket when it was his turn, feeling like this was good manners owed to the cashier. Sure it tickled his ego that he was respecting the cashier’s humble position by putting his phone in his front pocket, by giving the cashier the attention he or she deserved. It excited the same feeling he felt when opening a door for a woman and receiving a smile and maybe a quiet thank you or a nod of the head. But then of course he wouldn’t say anything because he was always unsure of what to say beyond simple pleasantries. “How’s your day going?” “How are you?” So the two would just stand there in silence, cashier and customer, and then when all the groceries were bagged and with the transaction complete Joseph would thank the cashier and walk towards the exit and feel a tinge of sadness that the cashier would have to repeat this same experience with little deviation for eight hours a day for an indefinite length of days. But if his goal is to make the cashier’s day a little better through pleasant conversation, well what is he supposed to say standing there anxiously wishing the items would be rung up quicker, wishing for the whole ritual to be complete? Talk about the grocery store? Because that’s a conversation a grocery clerk loves to have. Talk about current events? Yeah, that’s a great idea. Let’s talk Trump versus Hillary for two minutes and forty five seconds then walk away as much strangers as we were when we first met. And how should you react if they admit they are a Trump supporter? Dismantling Trump is easy and fun but you can’t do it in the span of two minutes and forty-five seconds. So should you talk about the items being rung up? How much can you say about a bag of pre-cooked stir-fry? Tell them you’re lazy and don’t like cooking stir-fry with actual ingredients, that you prefer the frozen already made-up stir-fry. And then have the cashier silently judge you for being a lazybones. Oh geez, I bet all cashiers silently judge customers based on their purchases. Miss Fatty McLard buying her ice-cream. Thirteen year old Billy buying Lubriderm and Kleenex. Molly with hollow cheeks and sunken eyes buying little jewelry bags. So is everyone who works in the retail or service industry just judging their clients and customers? Hell, who wouldn’t? What a privileged position to be in. It’s like working at a Planned Parenthood and being the nurse that gets to tell fourteen year old Maria she’s pregnant, or that recently-out Jeremy is HIV positive. Oh what a feeling of voyeuristic delight! This must have been the same feeling the Levites had when they went through the veil of the tabernacle, put the showbread on the acacia wood table, lit the menorah, and then the high priest visited the holiest of holies to see the face of God. Those stupid members of the tribe of Dan or Gad or Benjamin or Naphtali weren’t allowed in, but the Levite priests were. Every time the Levites would hang out with the tribe of Simeon or Judah they probably chuckled to themselves over their special privileges. They were given this special honor because they lucked out and were born into the tribe of Levi instead of those suckers in Ephraim or Reuben. But because probably nothing happened in the holiest of holies, the high priest would have to fabricate the experience of being face to face with God and then tell these stories with gesticulating arms for exaggerated effect to the Levite priests, who would then boast to their Levite brethren, who would then boast to the other tribes only further mystifying the God of the Israelites. But nevertheless there was always that single high priest who knew everything was just theater. There’s always a person on top who knows that everything is a sham. In Ancient Egypt it had to be the Pharaoh. He posited that he was the son of God, which no doubt most people bought into except for maybe the atheists amongst them who were probably the ones given the worse job during the pyramids’ construction like collecting the cumulative shit from the toilets to use as fertilizer back in the Nile Delta and cursing the gods for their lot in life. But even the Pharaoh would have to spread his cheeks on the toilet or squat above a hole in the ground or go directly on the ground, whatever their primitive toilets were, and he would then be reminded with every shit that he too took shits even though it was common knowledge that gods don’t shit, only beasts and humans are burdened with this indignity. So with every shit, Pharaoh would be reminded of his common humanity with the most humble laborer moving massive stone blocks across the desert to Giza, never mind that Pharaoh’s cadaver got to be housed in a four hundred foot high triangle. And as Joseph looked at the swimming fragments in his toilet, he smiled to himself that even a Pharaoh from four millennia ago probably also stared into a toilet, at his own feces, making similar Seinfeldesque observations about himself and the world.

-Nathan Le Master, April 2016

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