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Tom goes to the grocery store, and the hijinks ensue

I sat down to write a really intellectual-type column on why Arizona has to save democracy by getting rid of that stupid, selfish, me-me-me open primary (OK, so maybe it wasn't completely intellectual) when I realized that I wasn't ready. There weren't any ham-and-Swiss Lunchables in the fridge, no salt-and-vinegar chips in the pantry, and no bananas in the bowl. (Yes, I eat bananas. They're like fruit, only they taste good.)

Really, how is a writer supposed to work under these conditions? If they'd had Lunchables in Baltimore in 1830, Edgar Allan Poe wouldn't have been such a tortured soul. Of course, his writing might not have been as deliciously dark. He might have written "The Telltale Collarbone" or maybe "The Foreclosure of the House of Usher," but at least he wouldn't have been so gaunt and necrophiliac-ish. (If he lived today, he'd write "Sara Lee" instead of "Annabelle Lee.")

I wanted the column to be crisp and concise, so I got up to go to the store. In the old days, when I first started writing magazine articles, I used to write everything longhand in a notebook. I'd sit in my chair and watch TV as I wrote. At my side was a bowl of regular Doritos and a can of El Pato Mexican tomato sauce. When I switched to a word processor/computer, I learned really quickly that El Pato was not only hell on a human's digestive system; it also wasn't good for a keyboard.

I got in my car and headed for the store. Leaving my neighborhood, one turns onto a street that leads pretty quickly to a larger street via a two-lane left turn. I generally get into whichever line is shorter, but I'm always wary if I'm in the right-hand lane because of the tendency of the knuckleheads next to me to either not know or not care that two lanes are turning left, so they lazily and/or hurriedly veer out into my lane, pushing me against the curb like we're playing bumper-car roller derby.

It's actually pretty easy to tell which drivers are most likely to do that. Really old people who have a death grip on the steering wheel are pretty iffy. If you pull up next to a vehicle with Mexican plates, you just have to let them go. I don't know what the hell two side-by-side bent arrows mean in Mexico, but it obviously isn't two lanes turning left.

The absolute worst: scrawny young white dudes listening to gangsta rap. They're guaranteed to cut you off. Maybe Tony Montana did it in Scarface. When they're not attempting vehicular manslaughter, they're actually quite funny to observe. One time, I was driving somewhere with an African-American friend of mine in the passenger's seat. As we approached a car full of scrawny young white dudes blasting (I believe it was) The Game, I told my friend to duck down.

When we pulled up next to them, I waited for the magic word to be spoken by the rapper. When it was, I looked over and said, "I'm sorry, what did that guy just say?"

The passenger in the other car said, "What?" and I repeated the question.

The passenger said the line, "I'm a' bust a nigga.'"

I asked him to repeat it, and he said it louder. Just then, my friend sat up and said, "What did you say?!"

That's how you get a car like that to run a red light and veer into the right lane.

Sometimes they'll veer into the right lane, just missing me, and I'll honk. Nine out of 10 times, they'll flip me off. Please explain that to me before I die. I don't need to know if there's a general unifying theory in the universe. I don't need to know why King of the Hill has been on for 13 seasons. But I have to know how somebody can drive like a jerk, almost kill somebody and get to flip somebody off.

I will occasionally follow people like that to wherever they're going. If they stop in a shopping center or the mall, I'll park near them so they can see me. Then I'll just wait in the car. They won't get out, because they probably think I'm going to mess with their car when they leave. (I never would, but they don't know that.)

They'll sit, and I'll sit. In the summer, I'll sit with the car off and the windows rolled up, ratcheting the creepy factor way up and forcing them to sit in their car at the same time. (That also helps me maintain my physique.) Some will try to wait me out, but silly them! The only people who have more free time than I do are the chronically unemployed, and most of them don't have cars. Most simply drive away, after which I roll down my windows and wait for the funk to rush out before I head for my original destination.

A lot more stuff happened to me that morning on my trip to the store. I'll have to share it with you later, but not next week, because it's Thanksgiving. Just know that I'm pitching an idea to Marvel Comics about a character named the Shopping Cart Vigilante.

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