There comes a time in every man’s life when he must look deep into his own soul and observe his true self, honestly and without prejudice. What he finds may not necessarily please him, but he cannot truly claim to know himself otherwise.
I had the opportunity to perform such soul searching the other night, and I witnessed incredible darkness and ugliness in the depths of my being, an unspeakable evil impulse kept in check only by an awareness of societal norms and a bit of common sense. I am not proud of this discovery, but it is a part of me, and I hope to cleanse myself in some way by acknowledging it.
I wished death on another person. Not in a ha-ha-ha-you-should-die way. I found myself actively, overtly plotting to end the life of a fellow human being.
I was in the checkout lane at the grocery store, behind a man I’ll refer to as Hank Hill because of the uncanny resemblance.
Our paths intersected only for a few brief moments, but in that time, Hank Hill committed a series of transgressions against me such that I found myself convinced that this man needed to die for the common good. It was logical and justifiable. To my surprise, I found myself mentally evaluating the consequences of my actions, actually thinking ahead to the trial – what my defense strategy would be, how much prison time I’d be facing, who would water my plants while I was away. It was ennobling, in a way, that I was preparing to sacrifice a good portion of my life in order to spare others a similar fate.
Perhaps you think I am overreacting, that there is no sort of behavior in a supermarket checkout lane that can justify such genuinely murderous thoughts.
Perhaps you are wrong.
I arrived in the lane just as the shopper ahead of Hank Hill had completed paying for her groceries and rolled her cart away. I noticed that he had several items in his cart, but the conveyor belt was empty. Hank Hill was not about to unload his cart until he was acknowledged and greeted. And so, having ensured himself of the checker’s undivided attention, he rolled his cart up to the register and, then and only then, began placing his items on the belt.
I will grant you that this was a minor inconvenience. Hank Hill had perhaps a dozen items and not a full cart, which would have upgraded him to annoying from merely odd. I had to wait to load my items on the belt until he was finished, lest my items roll up the conveyor into his way, but being a reasonable person, I was willing to wait patiently as he methodically placed one item at a time onto the belt.
Once I saw that his cart was empty, I placed the divider and began to unload my own cart. I finished just as the checker scanned the last of Hank Hill’s items and announced the total.
Hank Hill looked at the checker, then at the register, then at the checker again, and then slowly pushed his cart to the end of the lane. He reached into his pocket to pull out his checkbook and pen.
I heard a faint growling noise and looked around for the source before realizing it was me.
Hank Hill opened the checkbook, looked at the checker again, then at the register, and began to write out a check.
Since the era of the debit card began, I have found it difficult to maintain my patience with people who still insist on writing checks for their purchases. Even so, many of these anachronists are at least borderline-courteous, and will write out the check ahead of time, leaving the amount blank, to minimize the delay for the next person.
Not so Hank Hill, who was now checking his watch for today’s date, and writing out the check in what I assume was calligraphy, based on the speed at which he was moving. He was writing a check in roughly the same amount of time it takes Ed Norton to swing a golf club. Meanwhile, behind him, Ralph Kramden was beginning his slow burn.
Still and all, Hank Hill had not yet justified his own homicide. If anything, he was guilty of nothing more than a colossal indifference to the world around him. Or perhaps he was suffering from cerebral palsy or advanced syphilis and was physically unable to move at a faster pace.
I took a closer look. He didn’t seem differently-abled. If he suffered from any physical ailment, my guess was chronic constipation.
Hank Hill’s groceries had already been bagged and placed in his cart by the time he had finished writing the check. The checker handed him his receipt, then greeted me, and began to scan my items.
I turned to the end of the lane. Hank Hill and his cart remained resolutely in place, blocking my path. He was placing a knit hat on his head.
Again, with the exception of the profoundly handicapped, I have never seen a person take more time to complete such an ostensibly simple task. It was like watching a one-armed man gift-wrap a bicycle.
My vision inverted suddenly and Hank Hill became a negative image of himself. The sound of pounding surf echoed in my skull and I saw my thoughts like a movie projected inside my head. I was following Hank Hill out to the parking lot, jumping him from behind and wrapping my hands around his neck, watching him choke to death, slowly, just like everything else he did. Then I was dragging him to the cart corral and smashing his head repeatedly between two of the carts, before laying him out in the snow and driving my car over him three times for good measure. Then I was pulling his checkbook from his jacket pocket, writing “FUCK YOU ASSHOLE” on check number 1073 and placing the checkbook back in his pocket before driving off, convulsed in maniacal laughter.
“Your total is fifty-four twenty,” I heard a voice say.
I turned to the checker, who was waiting patiently, then to the end of the lane again. Hank Hill was gone. I had a sudden panicked thought and looked down at my hands. Seeing no telltale bloodstains, I meekly swiped my debit card and rolled my cart out of the store.
Thus I faced down the evil that dwells within my blackened heart. Either that or it was low blood sugar. Regardless, Hank Hill lives, to annoy others to the point of homicide, and the stupid sonofabitch has no idea how lucky he is.