Have you ever, while you were packing into cardboard boxes all your spinster auntly accouterments (I allude to the complete Proust — in French — that you keep on the mantle, as if ; ceramic baby-smoking-a-cig figurine; giant rubber toad; 80′s vintage 4-track w/ gazillion basement recordings on cassette) run out of newspaper? Requiring an emergency run to to the U-Haul depot on Ben White Blvd? On a Saturday?
Admittedly, you are between a rock and a hard place here. If you don’t replenish your packing supplies, your whole Ambitious Plan comes to a grinding halt, at which point all you can do is fester on the lime green recliner, surrounded by cardboard chaos, emitting muffled sobs.
But if you do go the the U-Haul on Ben White Blvd on a Saturday — which U-Haul is, you will discover, held in the highest possible esteem by all other South Austin residents as the most desirable Saturday destination in Central Texas — you will be 48th in a queue of sweaty truck-renters, few of whom possess magnetic personalities, and each of whom requires an extended period of personal quality time with the U-Haulist behind the counter.
To be perfectly accurate, there are two U-Haulists behind the counter, thus two lines of sweaty truck-renters. But, as is required by rent-a-truck law, only one of the U-Haulists possesses sufficient security clearance to operate the top-secret truck-rental computer. This slows transactions down to a maddening trickle, which has the effect of escalating the anxiety amongst the clientèle, who by now are packed in cheek to jowl like hogs to the slaughter. The interminable line, the incompetence of the customer service dudes, the overwrought frenzy of movers who see their security deposits slipping away with each passing minute — you get the picture. U-Haul on a Saturday is like the IndyMac Bank on Failure Day.
If you conclude from the above that I chose, last Saturday when I ran out of wrapping paper, to go to U-Haul rather than sit weeping in my corrugated prison, you are correct. After waiting 25 minutes to spend twenty dollars on two boxes of paper, I dropped one of them in a puddle in the parking lot and was nearly creamed by a speed demon piloting a 17-footer.
Well, my obstreperal lobe blew right then and there, all over the dented hood of some poor schlub’s eggplant-colored Saturn. On the way home, with no internal regulating mechanism to prevent it, an imp of the perverse caused my car to turn in at the Bluebonnet quick shop, where I grabbed a roadie* from the handy ice bin and heard myself utter the most beautiful words in the English language: “pack of Marlboro reds, and make it snappy.”
Four-and-a-half packs later, it is Tuesday, and the self-preservational blaming gas produced by my blown lobe (obstreperone), has begun to kick back in. I have called my oncologist and renewed my date with Chantix. I love Chantix. Apparently there are six or seven people in the world who are not transformed by this anti-smoking drug into homicidal maniacs, and I am one of them.
Meanwhile, did anybody happen to hear a piece on NPR the other day about some Christian weight-loss group’s vilification of fat, and obesity as a moral issue, etc? I can’t find it anywhere on the site now, or, indeed, on the entire World Wide Web, and I’m beginning to think I imagined the whole thing.
See, I was going to tie this all together with a big tirade on the bogus notion of health as a moral issue — how people are always yelling at you to quit smoking or quit eating or quit procrastinating when you should be packing or quit doing anything the doing of which is considered a moral failure, ostensibly out of their concern for your health, but in reality because “health,” in accordance with some convoluted Christian doctrine embedded in the cultural subconscious, has become a kind of yardstick by which conformity within the social order is measured, and how shaming people who are insufficiently obsessed with their cholesterol puts these concern trolls in a morally superior position and creates an underclass of “unhealthies” who have brought it on themselves through their blatant ingestion of Cheetos — but I’m too exhausted from all the delicious smoking. Let’s just say that if you ran into me at the coffeeshop and suggested that my self-indulgent punk rocker lifestyle caused my breast cancer, you wouldn’t be the first. The idea that you, through some assiduously applied, sanctimonious personal health program, can “prevent” cancer, or death, or whatever, and that such practices should win you higher status in your tribe, is a fucking load of crap.
* A roadie is an extra-large can of cheap beer that all Texas quick shops stock on ice right next to the door, thus simplifying the important work of driving drunk.