reflections on the observational universe

A few weeks ago, I was at Whole Foods on Halsted and Waveland.

We had descended into the basement-level parking deck and stood at the elevator bank waiting to go up to the first floor store. A dad walked up with his young son, who was probably 4 or 5.

When the doors opened to enter the elevator car, Tina was encouraged to go first. I followed her, and the dad and son followed us in. Not before I turned around, the son says, “Daddy, we’re upside down.”

I saw him out of my periphery. He was looking up at the mirrored ceiling. I smiled to myself and wanted to congratulate him on a stunningly astute observation. The dad replied “What?”

The son was pointing up toward the ceiling. The dad seemed to shush him, indicating that they were in public and his observations were silly. The boy embarrassingly hid into his father’s crotch, and looked at me smiling down at him and he stuffed his head away from me near his dad’s jeans pocket.

The Petit Prince flashed into my mind. “My drawing was not a picture of a hat. It was a picture of a boa constrictor digesting an elephant.” images

Children who aren’t allowed to see the world with creativity and difference become stifled. They become the product of a insipidly sheepish world afraid to be different, or say things differently.

The boy who drew pictures of a boa digesting an elephant become a orthodox to certain behavior. That is to say, they become “straight thinking.”

Then the colorless, fruitless monotony sets in. Tina and I often watch the zombies of our universe, crossing streets mindlessly. Driving cars as if it’s their little world and we’re just strangers in it.

I wanted to tell the boy to read the Petit Prince as soon as he could. Read it in english. Then read it in French, and understand its every nuance.

A couple weeks ago, I was picking up some things at our local Aldi. Aldi has a growing number of organic foods, locally produced and 1/3 to 2/3s less expensive than any other grocer in town. They also have the best prices on cheeses and other non-organic produce.

When we shop, we tend to make two to three stops. We’ve been eating smoothies every morning and if we shopped the local grocery store or even Whole Foods, we’d go broke before we could sip our first sip of juice.

Our Aldi is stuffed with diversity. Everyone from the best-looking couples you’ve ever seen to people who haven’t had a bath in weeks.

Speaking of baths, I was checking out in one of their infamous long lines. I was behind a young Asian girl who only had two bags of flour on the conveyor belt. The guy in front of her was about 6’3″, 350 to 400 pounds, African American. He wore a tattered brown coat and sweatpants.

When he finished putting his groceries on the belt, he brought a brown stick separator to place between his stuff and her two bags of flour. I noticed that she was sheepishly staying back on the conveyor belt.

Then I noticed why. An odor pierced my olfactory nerves so deeply, so strongly, my eyes started to water. It was as if I were in a portapotty after Lollapalooza and stuck my head deep into the toilet and inhaled deeply into my nose.

It was nauseating.

I watched as the cashier checked him out, and — as if the most professional customer service expert ever — she didn’t act like she smelled him. She was patient with him as he swiped his SNAP card and tapped in his pin. She smiled as she handed him his receipt and he smiled back in his thunderously jovial voice said, “Thank you. Have a nice day.”

The Asian girl finally got to the register, where remnants of the big man remained. The cashier swiped two bags of flour over the electric eye. “Shoot, I forgot something. Can I go back?” She asked the cashier. You could see the cashier look at the two items she remembered and think, “What a dumbass.”

“Sure,” said the cashier. “I’ll take these two things off. Go on.”

So the cashier rung up my stuff. We made small talk. Howdy dos.

The world keeps turning around the sun. The sun in the galaxy. The galaxy in the universe.

This speck in a vast sea of dark matter, clouds, and light.

You have a significant place, it’s just a speck, but it’s big. So be creative today. Make some observations that make other people embarrassed. You don’t want to be a dumbass who waits in a long line at the grocery store only to discover the third thing on your list is still back on the shelf.