Friday, August 5, 2016

Rats in my Engine

The guy wore a Walgreens shirt so I figured it was okay to ask him.

“Excuse me,” I said. “Do you sell nylon stockings?”

“You mean like for ladies?” he said.

I said yes. I fought back the strong urge to explain to him that although I needed ladies’ nylons, I needed them for a very manly reason.

He led me to the back of the store where assorted packages of nylons hung on hooks. “What size?” he said.

I hadn’t anticipated that question. So I said I’ll take the smallest. And all along the Walgreens guy maintained his professional poker face as he took the package of nylons down off the hook and carried it to checkout for me. But I just knew that inside he was dying to know what this hairy old cripple was going to do with this pair of ladies’ nylons. I figured that he ruled out that I was a) buying them for that special woman in my life or b) going to rob a back. People don't give a hairy old cripple credit for being able to pull off feats like robbing a bank or snagging a woman. And he also probably ruled out that I planned to wear them myself. Hairy old cripples don’t do that kind of kinky stuff either. Or maybe I was flattering myself. Maybe he had bigger things on his mind, like how the hell he was going to pay his rent with the money he makes working at Walgreens.

I paid for the nylons and left. And never once did I publicly defend my purchase to him or the checkout guy or any onlookers in line. I could have explained it all away by simply telling the truth and announcing that I have rats in my engine. The previous day I took my cripple van in for an oil change. I’m sitting in the waiting room and it was like one of those moments when the glum surgeon enters to break the news that your loved one’s routine hangnail removal operation has gone terribly wrong. The oil change guy said the engine of my cripple van is full of rat droppings, which meant rats were regularly crawling up into the engine of my cripple van while it’s parked and having a fucking rat picnic! And I’d better do something about it pronto, he said, or they’ll chew through the engine wires and then I’ll really be screwed! I was stunned and incensed. Why those sniveling little nihilistic rodent bastards! Don’t they know how much a cripple van costs? Die vermin die!

The oil change guy said to buy mothballs and nylons. Put the mothballs inside the stockings and hang them in the engine. The smell will scare away rats.

But I didn’t explain this to anyone at Walgreens. I just left and let everyone keep on thinking whatever they were thinking about me, if they were thinking anything about me at all. And that was a breakthrough. Cripples sacrifice a lot of privacy. It’s part of the gig. If I wasn’t crippled, I could have made that purchase completely anonymously—use the self-checkout machine, pay with cash so the NSA won’t even know.

But when you’re a cripple who needs help with just about everything, lots of people get their nose in your business. Some people learn your eating, sleeping, spending and shitting habits. And there’s this tendency on the part of the cripple to want apologize or to convey a rationale that justifies your needs. The pressure is especially intense for cripples who believe they are spokescripples for all other cripples.

But that gets exhausting. At some point you just say fuck it. In the immortal words of Popeye, I am what I am. Or was that Descartes? Whatever. No need to explain.

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