Thursday, August 14, 2014

Southland Comforts

It is time for my annual rant against convenience stores.
In the early 80s when I was unemployed and developing a strong taste for bad vodka, my sole daily meal often was two 7-Eleven hotdogs slathered with free condiment. The condiments were filler and persuaded me that I was getting my daily intake of veggies--cucumbers, tomatoes, onions and whatever else might be thrown into the mix. I had no illusions that this was a satisfactory meal. I’d once researched a story on the “all beef hotdogs” and been astonished at their contents. The buns were no better, containing a little wheat and a lot of chemicals to give them a decade-long shelf life.
Once or twice, when I was foolish enough to run out of drink late at night, I would gather my change and hit the same 7-Eleven to buy a bottle of bad wine. I’d get the runs the next day, and the high sugar content would give me a terrifying headache, but those were not major concerns at the time.
After I stopped all this stupid behavior, I went back to school to become a counselor so I could use my accumulated and wide-ranging wisdom to save all the addicts; in fact, I worked in the very same place where I’d been a client a decade earlier.  I failed dismally in my quest to save the world, but was privileged to work with an assortment of drinkers and crackheads, meth and heroin folks, cokers, pot-smokers, Robitussin office boys, vanilla extract housewives, youngsters addled by Xanax and pain-killers, the occasional Listerine lady who drank a quart of mouthwash a day, and one gentleman who, having destroyed the linings of his throat, stomach and liver with booze, fortuitously discovered that he could get blackout-drunk by doing alcohol enemas. I stayed away from that particular client and foisted him off on the intern.
While working at the various rehabs, I developed a lecture on the evils of neighborhood convenience stores that cater to every bad habit known to man. Of course they sell alcohol, snuff and cigarettes, sugar-based products, rolling papers, marijuana-like ‘incense,’ caffeine, and fast food of negative nutritive value. They also have ATMs for quick money to spend on, say, lottery tickets to satisfy your gambling jones. Or legal antihistamines. Or a disposable phone to contact your dealer, for that matter. Since ATMs often accept credit cards, you get to increase your debt with minimal effort and in small, easily overlooked increments. The convenience stores sell porn in the form of magazines and at times DVDs. They’re open 24/7, are costlier across the board than other shops, offer little or no fresh fares (the one near me now has bananas and an occasional apple), and encourage bad planning. In short, what may be “convenience” for one is relapse territory for another.
Part of getting your act together after many wasted years, I used to tell my addicts, is, well, getting your act together: Planning ahead, buying groceries, budgeting, and ridding one’s self of as many small bad habits as possible. A diet devoid of quarter-pound hot dogs is also a good idea, as is avoiding those slippery places that cater to your wrong instincts. Bars, liquor stores, the wine and beer aisle of your local supermarket and yes,   the local convenience store, really all should be shunned.
I’m not sure how well my lectures went over.  One young man told me he bought everything at his 7-Eleven, and it wasn’t uncommon for a recently dried-out drinker to make such a store his first stop on the way home after leaving the rehab.
Me, I still go there from time to time, but it’s been years since I went there for more than a cup of marginal coffee.
Who would have thought the little business created by an employee of the Southland Ice Company of Dallas, Texas, would have such an influence on my life...

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