Report on Reading at Elliott Bay

My household ran out of toilet paper. We purchase many of these staple supplies from CostCo, mainly because I hate going to the grocery store, my wife does not drive, and the ritual of procuring palettes of staple supplies produces in me a sense of well being and ease. To know I have enough toilet paper and rice to last a typhoon puts me at peace.

For some reason many of the household chores in our house have been divided along classic gender lines. I take out the garbage. I run the odd chores to the store because I am male. We had run out of toilet paper.

In the morning I went to purchase toilet paper. I was to return promptly with the toilet paper. Our house is encircled by construction and by the time I had penetrated this maze of road construction I had to rush to work or be late and so I left the house and an hour and a half later called home to inform my wife be no toilet paper until I returned home that night after my reading at the Elliott Bay Book Company in Seattle where I was on the bill with Stacey Levine, The Watery Graves of Portland, and Tom Blood.

I had not heard The Watery Graves play before and enjoyed them very much and then promptly e-mailed them about my scheme to somehow incorporate music into a reading in way that maintained verisimilitude (rather than descend into the variety show transition of “and now we will have some music.”) They politely said it was a good idea BUT they were too busy for such things. Good form on their part to compliment me, and then say no.

After the reading after the drinks after the reading after the drive home I returned to the region of the suburbs where I live, which is all under construction. Late at night the ripped up asphalt lay behind bright orange cones difficult to make out in the darkness of the blacked out streetlights. The Safeway on Pacific Highway was lit up. Construction crewmen worked in the store updating the store with many of the contemporary innovations such as an in store bank, an in store Starbucks and so forth. Safeway is open 24 hours. It was twelve-thirty or something and I had to get the toilet paper after having left that morning and failing to return with it. I had to, as a man, procure TP. The automatic doors were wide open. People ran machines building things in the store. I found the paper and then discovered that all of the registers were dark. I loitered at the line of the registers waiting for some sign of a clerk. Construction guys ran back and forth and then I stepped into the line of construction guys to get out the store safely with my TP.

An exhausted man covered with white plaster, a man with a mustache, asked me where I was going. I had almost made it out of the door with the TP.

“I would like to pay,” I said.

“We’re closed.”

“Safeway is open 24 hours,” I said. I gestured at the sign.

He didn’t look though. “We close at eleven,” he said.

I read the sign to open, “Open 24 hours.”

“We have closed at eleven for the last three years,” he said. And then he grabbed the TP out of my hands.

“Can’t I pay?”

“We’re closed,” he said.

“Who are you?” I asked.

“I’m the manager here,” he said.

“But do you have a name and a business card?”

“My name is Dan,” he said.

“Dan, do you have a business card.”

“That’s all you need to know. My name is Dan.”

“That’s not very professional, Dan,” I said. I was delaying, trying to figure out how I could get the TP. Could I just grab it and run? Would Dan follow me? Would Dan call the police? Is stealing TP even illegal? “Don’t you have any form of identification?” I asked.

“You can talk to the day manager. Ken starts at seven,” he said.

“Why are all of the managers men,” I asked. But I started to leave already. I wasn’t going to get any TP out of that store.

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