Wednesday, July 21, 2004

Shopping For Reasons

I went to Super Stop and Shop today to return copious amounts of cans.  For those of you who aren't aware, in CT, you pay five cents per can as a deposit, and if you return them, you receive that money back.  So I horde a whole bunch and bring my garbage bags in to return 'em at the big grocery store.

In there, I met an old man.  He was wearing a Connecticut Post baseball hat (one of the local newspapers), a worn-down shirt, plaid shorts, tan sneakers and black socks.  He looked like a guy who might've been homeless, but had too nice a watch on.

I offered him the machine for bottles because he only had a few and I had a lot.  I figured I'd save the old man a long wait.  He was surprised by my trivial attempt at chivalry, graciously accepted, and hurried his way through his bottles.  I explained to him how the machine worked because it's a little temperamental, and I had a system down by now.

After he had finished with his bottles and I began my process, he says, "Excuse me sir, may I ask you a question?"

Well, if you're gonna call me sir, you sure can.

"Sure," I said, trying to size him up as I'm shoving bottles into a mechanical monster's mouth.  He appeared a little off, something that isn't tangible, but noticeable if you're prone to notice those things.

"When you drink, do you get depressed?"

Here's where my mind began to go haywire.  I'm processing if he is homeless, a reporter trying to get information without identifying a source, homosexual, etc.  Finally, I decided to just give it straight and let him give me the answers.

"When I was your age, I could drink a lot and it wasn't anything.  See, booze affects a part of your brain that has all of your energy.  When you're young, you have lots to give up, but as you get older, it starts to affect you differently."

I nodded my head in a totally inexperienced, naive-appearing encouragement.  Is this guy preaching to me in the bottle return store?

"See, I'm 60 now, and I even notice a difference from when I was 40.  The other day, I had a few drinks, and all of a sudden I was thinking of all these ways to hurt myself.  That had never happened to me before.  That's what depression is, when you want to hurt yourself.  It's funny."

Normally, I feed into these discussions.  Weird people approach me all the time, looking for answers.  It's not something I think about.  When I'm in NYC, my friends always have to slow down because every homeless person is asking me about life, or some weird, abstract idea they have.  Sometimes it's aggravating, but generally I make a point of trying to steer some of them somewhere better.  You'd be surprised how fast I can understand someone on a level that's pretty high.  I've had people talk nonsense to me, and yet I totally get where they're coming from.  It's a curse.

This time, however, I didn't do anything.  I just turned around and dumped science on a guy who may have been asking for help.

"Well, yeah, alcohol is a Central Nervous System depressant.  As you age, your metabolic rate decreases and your ability to mentally and physically tolerate foreign substances decreases because your CNS isn't as strong" (yes, that's a quote).

"Oh, so I just explained something to you that you already knew," he says, and turns around and leaves.

All of sudden, I can feel something go click.  It's not something I can really explain, but it's like a piece of my inner-self goes -click- and I know I did something wrong.  For lack of a better explanation, it's a metaphysical cut where someone is seeking a tether that you cut off.  It's like a sinking boat and a guy throws you a line that you just toss right back at him.  It sucks.

I blew it off and went back to my car to drop off the boxes before I went in to get my money.  He walks by me again in the parking lot and says, "Don't get depressed!"  I laugh, and keep walking. 


My mind is processing all of these things that I don't care to explain, but I realized that in my selfishness and as a defense mechanism, I just blew off a human being.  Guilt rushes in and I have to shut off feeling for awhile.  I go in, get my loot and a lottery scratch-off for giggles, and head back out.  As I'm walking out the door, I see this 30 something year old guy yelling at one of the old ladies working there.

"But my wife TOLD me there was a sale," as his face was turning red.  I laughed, and thought it was weird to see two people in a few minutes that were total opposites.  One who threw out a line and was rejected, and one who holds so tight onto it, he won't let go.

This is the kind of stuff I feel bad about for days.

Oh, I made $26.40 which means that I returned 528 cans and bottles.  Man, am I thirsty.


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