So there I am; the day has arrived. It’s our best friend Jacqui’s 21st birthday, which means months of anticipation and planning have finally led up to this day. A day that has ended in me running late for the over-priced and perfectly coordinated limo that is picking us all up at her house to take us to dinner and a night out on the town. It’s going to be a great night. All I have to do now is pick up Jacqui’s 21st birthday present, a six-pack of Strongbow Cider, her favorite drink.
I make it to Kroger. I should have been at Jacqui’s ten minutes ago. I call and make some lame excuse about needing to get money out for the night and that’s why I’m running late. The truth is that I had procrastinated on something worse than homework or studying. I’d procrastinated on friendship. I’m just kidding. Neither this story nor I is that emo. I was really just running late that night. And like always, I can partially blame it on Atlanta traffic.
Back inside of Kroger, I power my way back to the beer aisle. I can’t remember ever seeing Strongbow at this specific Kroger, but I assume that like all of the others, it too will have Strongbow. I’m scanning the aisle. I see the “lesser” ciders, but no Strongbow. There’s only a cold, empty space in the oversize fridge where the Strongbow should be. Only it’s sold out. I’m dead in the water.
I feel like the dad who forgot to go Christmas shopping until Christmas Eve. I’ve been hyping up this birthday present to Jacqui for the past few months, not to mention the fact that I am already running way too late to go by another Kroger.
My last hope is the make your own six-pack that Kroger offers. You know, the one that lets you pay three dollars more for six beers that are missing the box. Not normally something I spend money on, but this is an exceptional situation. I rush down to the appropriate section. I’m scanning the selection like a book—left to right, top to bottom. “Strongbow…Strongbow…Strongbow,” I repeat in my head. Halfway down, all the way on the left, I see it. I grab it. Thankfully, another one appears behind the first, followed by four more. A full six-pack, other than the mixed-up box, it seems like the birthday present has been saved. I slide all six of them, one-by-one into the cardboard container. I have the last six Strongbows in the Sugarloaf Kroger.
I make an about face to start my march to the checkout counter, my one, or six depending on your point of view, purchases in hand. Then, disaster strikes. I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to explain what happens next or my reaction afterward.
Like I said, I’ve turned around and am beginning to walk away when my right hand suddenly decides that it no longer cares to carry what for all intents and purposes might as well be the last six Strongbows in Georgia. Hollywood slow-motion ensues and I watch this small cardboard gift filled with six black and gold bottles crash, shatter and bleed out on the floor.
The next logical step is to look around. Clearly everyone as far away as the pet-food aisle heard the commotion, but I don’t think anyone saw. So I pulled a Fogell (or a McLovin) from Superbad and denied having anything to do with the broken bottles and mess. I make my way to the front of the store, pick out the closest bagger and let them know that “someone” spilled my friend’s birthday present all over their floor.
I felt bad about leaving the mess for someone else, and worse for not getting Jacqui her cider, but I had to go. I guess in my mind, being late for a good friend’s party is even worse than showing up for a good friend without a present. I can only hope Jacqui agrees.
I book it out of the parking lot and pull back into that Atlanta traffic I am blaming my tardiness on. A few seconds later I have made it to Jacqui’s. It turns out that I’m not even the latest of all of our friends, although the limo has arrived on time. Go figure.
While we waited for the last two stragglers (you know who you are) I filled the time with the same story you just read. After a few dozen repetitions, a few heartfelt apologies and multiple expressions of disbelief at my rudeness, the situation seemed saved. In fact, I’m pretty sure she enjoyed the story of my failure and rudeness more than she would have enjoyed those six Strongbows.