Wednesday, December 7, 2011


Takin' the Guzzi to the warehouse store...

A 56-DEGREE late autumn afternoon: the sky is clear and I need a break from the action. Aria, my black Guzzi Breva, has been idle in the garage for the better part of two weeks and she needs some loping moments on a back road. But on my agenda is a visit to the warehouse store where I am to pick up some photographs previously e-mailed in by my beloved for development.

I see this as an opportunity. I fire up the B-1100 and head over knowing that I can’t return home with a pallet of toilet paper or a fifty-five gallon drum of dry-roast mixed nuts since I can strap neither to the bike.

Also, given that this is a Tuesday afternoon, the outer reaches of the parking acreage – there are smaller countries in Europe – will provide a nice little laboratory for practicing some braking, cornering and maybe a slalom or two.

BAD THINKING. Forgotten in my logic is that this is the heart of the holiday shopping circus. Within a half mile of my destination, I begin to know what cholesterol must do to the circulatory system. Almost nothing is moving. Instantaneously I am blocked from the rear. I look at the long line of automobiles stretching ahead, behind and around suburban curves and rethink Carl Sagan’s use of the term “billions and billions.”

Twenty minutes elapse before I make it to the parking lot. No space is empty, even in the farthest reaches. Spaces only come available. The traffic line creeps. I feel more than vulnerable on my little bike. Shoppers departing back blindly from spaces in cars loaded to the headliner with cases of soda and bubble water and motor oil, bales of paper towels, multipacks of deodorants and shampoos, lugs of cantaloupes and gunny sacks of oranges or walnuts. Steel shopping carts the size of three-quarter ton pickup trucks drift driverlessly across the tarmac seeking the nearest low spot or newest new car to ding.
Individual drivers in search of a parking slot plant themselves in traffic lanes waiting while successful shoppers puzzle-piece their take into the back seats of now-surprisingly small full-sized Explorers and Suburbans. The whole world stops.

Once inside, the behaviors continue. Many customers engage in an activity known to me as “the Costco Walk.” Aisles in these stores are wide; ample room exists for folks to push their pick-up sized baskets or flats all the way to the back of the store unimpeded except when the come up behind someone engaged in the Costco Walk.

A Costco Walker moves very slowly if they move at all. When they aren’t moving, they position their cart at a 45-degree angle across the middle of the aisle. Typically, they aren’t perusing merchandise; they are engaged in conversation – many times loud – with a spouse or partner or sampling a food product. About the time I feel the need to say, “excuse me,” or to try to squeeze by, they begin to move. Too often, however, this is just a stutter step – a fake. They stop further in the aisle and continue their leisurely exchange. Shoppers back up in all directions. If the shopping carts came equipped with horns, I’m sure the store would sound like rush hour on Broadway in New York City. To be honest, the place could use a traffic helicopter hovering just over the twenty-foot high steel shelving racks. There seems to be congestion around cold medications. Emergency store employees are not yet on scene. To get to frozen foods, an alternate route would be…

I hang a left taking a narrow passage between discount books and discount socks/underwear. But toward the end of the alley, a Costco Walker is sampling Peruvian dried apricots. Someone pulls up right behind me and begins to thumb through the latest James Patterson novel. As in the parking lot ten minutes before, I am trapped, blocked, almost incarcerated. The rattle of carts, the nagging of partners, the impatience of children riding in baskets, the drone of holiday music – in short, the sounds of the commerce that makes this country great – begins to pound on me. I think of the classic horror movie trailer line: “What if you screamed but no one could hear you?”

I ARRIVE AT THE PHOTO COUNTER only to discover that the pictures are not ready. Developing services need to be prepaid and we hadn’t done that on line.

ONCE BACK ASTRIDE the Guzzi, I survey the parking area and flash upon the Demolition Derbies that used to be held at the end of the racing season at the Silver Dollar Speedway up in Chico when I was a kid. I think about the physics that will come into play should my beautiful Italian bike be broad-sided by an overloaded Dodge Ram 2500 and choose a route that will get me to the margins of the lot in the shortest order and with as few turns as possible. Once free, I don’t head home.

Six miles up the freeway, past the town of Lincoln, a beautiful country road stretches from the valley floor to the gold country foothills. It calls. There will still be autumn color, I know. There will be curves.  There will be little traffic.  The music I will hear will not entice me to consume - rather it will be music I select for myself.  Aria, the little black Guzzi, will get in her lope.

© 2011
Church of the Open Road Press

1 comment:

  1. Eloquent and you painted an accurate picture w/o being demeaning. Incredible skill and fun to read. Probably more dangerous than triple digits on a mountain two-lane.