Daniel in Japaniel


with 3 comments

It’s all done. I’m ready for the flight. I have the perfect bag. When I look at it I sigh. I have no idea if it will hold me through Japan, but I’m packed.

I’m not an avid smoker, or at least I’ve never been in the position where I’ve stood in line to buy a pack of cigarettes. However, whenever I’m in line at a store (WaWa or otherwise), I never miss an opportunity to watch the ritual of the purchase. I assume, as the cashier turns around to reach up for Marlboro Lights, I’m (he’s) thinking “I wonder how many I’ll get through until I buy more.” The question is both a challenge to myself and my health. The only thing I can equate it to would be buying condoms. You’re thinking as you look at the rows of fantastically decorated boxes, “Will I really have sex X amount of times before the expiration date”. Will this make me a worse person.

Among many of the neurotic things that pass through my head as I work the courage to buy condoms (I am that person), what seems to come up frequently is my mind’s vain attempt to ease my nervousness. What appears are exchanges with cashiers, they grab my box look back and me, then slowly smile. The smile registers as affirmation. They’re saying “what a good person, use contraception, reduce the risk of STDs”.

But in planning my trip, I’ve already cut out the cashier middle man. I picked Giant as my go to. It’s 24/7, so that means I can appear at 1 in the morning and maybe only run into restock staff. But, more importantly, Giant has self-checkout aisles. Normally this aisles flicker helplessly as cans of tomato soup roll back on conveyor belts, causing a scene, forcing cashiers to huff as they flash their magical uni-help bar code cards. However, these bilingual automatons are blessings to the late night contraception consumer. I don’t have to worry that as I scan: a tooth brush, sewing kit, poncho, old bay seasoning and a 12-pack of trojan reds, that the cashier will be busily dreaming up what I have in store for the night. Instead I can just happily scan away, thinking “man I could easily be a cashier!”

When I arrive in the pregnancy test and diaper aisle, however, my brand isn’t there. I still walk out triumphantly with my travel size tooth brush, but now I’m left searching my head for nearby 24/7 self-checkout stores. My closest option is Wal-mart.

Wal-mart, for whatever reason, missed out on the robot revolution. My only guesses are that they either a) enjoy the cattle call their 24 aisles produce, or, b) fear more lawsuits over mistreatment of workers through replacing them with these machines. They do, though, trust Coinstars (which our local Giant does not), allowing me to waltz in through the sliding doors with my empty pretzel jar full of a year’s past loose change. As I’m walking, I’m already accessing my mental Google map of the store to produce the most efficient path out of Wal-Mart. Because, unlike his jolly neighbor, Wal-Mart is always packed. They luckily they do have my brand, so I proceed to check out. Without a place to put my ten pound jar of coins, I’m forced to hand over the box with my left arm hugging the pretzel jar. The cashier makes a joke about tipping me, but instead of joining in her attempt at humor, I just give her my terrified animal look as I pull away my jar of (what she thinks is, apparently) my tip bucket.

I ask for no bag, and proceed to CoinStar. I let the box perch itself on the edge of the machine while I pour my change in and relive the unnecessary fretting of the midnight passed. I think about my upcoming trip to Japan, my ineptitude at all things consumer related, while vague images appear of me attempting this feat abroad.

“What’s your brand” a friend asked me (what started this idea for a first post). This summer has been a lot answering in sound-bites. I’m not sure what I’m ever saying in response. The question is “What are you doing in Japan?” and I usually respond with the typical meaningless itinerary breakdown. The same thing with packing. I can only make shrewd guesses at my needs. I won’t know if I will use all 12 of my compatriots before they expire until November 11, 2013 rolls by. The same as I don’t know if Japan will be the fulfilling experience it promises to be. I do know my neurotic guesses and assumptions lead me nowhere. But of course, that’s part of it. I’m only excited at finally casting away the branding of this trip. It will soon die as a concept, become an experience, then immortalize itself as a memory.

There should be no worry , then, in the naming of things. My answer is “Trojan Reds”


Written by Daniel

September 2, 2008 at 6:12 am

Posted in shopping

3 Responses

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  1. Keep writing!


    September 2, 2008 at 12:54 pm

  2. At this moment you are getting your bearings in Japan. How crazy! I hope your beautiful packing job is serving you well as you explore spirituality and pass out play-do.


    September 4, 2008 at 3:07 am

  3. god speed Daniel Wolfe. god speed!


    September 4, 2008 at 7:53 pm

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