When Something <i>Won’t</i> Work


Too much to say about tonight, and all because I left my apartment.

I’ve been holed up most of the weekend working on a new software project that hit a brick wall earlier tonight. My logical reaction is to bash my head against said wall for hours; if I don’t get the answer, the time wasted is punishment for my inability to predict the problem in the first place (which is the real mark of a veteran programmer: knowing when something won’t work).

But instead, I decided to run some errands. I need contact lens solution. We’re out of washing detergent. And for some reason, neither I nor my roommate have a toilet scrubber. I think I may have left mine for the new tenant in my old apartment; is that thoughtful or repulsive? And I need to have dinner, so I’ll take a good book and stop at Dix afterwards for a nice pulled-pork sandwich.

I walked the three blocks to London Drugs, and even before I rounded the corner, I could tell from the lack of foot traffic that I was out of luck: Closed, Please Call Again. Damn. Where else could I get contact solution?

Five blocks later I was at the new IGA Marketplace on Burrard. At a pathetic 8 blocks, it’s the closest supermarket to my apartment in downtown Vancouver. Out of all the places I’ve lived in this city, it’s ridiculous that my most urban address should be the least convenient. And to add injury to insult, I might as well have been shopping at the 7-Eleven to judge by the prices. Toilet scrubber: $7.98. Contact Lens solution: $10.98. Mini-bottle of Tide: $11.98. It occured to me that I wasn’t realistically going to wash clothes or scrub toilets tonight: these purchases could wait. As for the contact lenses, it was almost time to throw these out anyhow.

I kept running into this guy in a black-white-yellow Adidas windbreaker while I hemmed and hawed over my purchases. I know I looked pretty confused in there; it took me ten minutes to find the contact lens solution. I stood in front of the toilet brushes for a few minutes, put one in my basket, walked around the aisle, took it out and put it back. All the while, Adidas guy was doing the same thing, a few steps behind me. Then it struck me: he was a Secret Shopper! One of those security people stores hire to catch other people shoplifting. And being a long-haired, unshaven, bleary-eyed freak, I probably had several security cams trained to my ass to boot. Everywhere I went, he was there. Finally, after I put all my items back and headed for the exit, I noticed him leaving ahead of me. All the better to whirl around and cuff me once I’d left the store, no doubt. But alas, he simply walked on ahead of me with a small bag of groceries. I wonder if he thought I was tailing him?

Time to eat. The kitchen as Dix is closed. Nothing else appealing is open. I go home. The utter failure of the evening settles upon me. I’ve accomplished absolutely nothing. Upon reflection, I realize that if I’d thought about it before I left my apartment in the first place, I would’ve known that London Drugs would be closed. I would’ve known that I didn’t need those household items badly enough to pay downtown prices. I would’ve known that it was too late to get food at Dix. My brain knew all this. And yet it sent me out on a wild goose chase.

Sent out is the operative part of that conclusion. Sometimes you just need a good walk to clear your head, whether your conscious wants to admit it or not. The moral of the story: your mother knew what she was talking about when she told you to go outside and play.

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