I Can't Believe In Everything

Tess Lynch has written what amounts to an ode to late-night shopping.

I don’t enjoy many things as much as I enjoy shopping in the middle of the night, particularly at grocery stores. When I moved to Studio City five years ago, I walked (ill-advised!) to the Ralphs on the corner every evening, almost exclusively between the hours of 3 and 5:30 AM. Sometimes I was driven by insomniac energy, sometimes I was drunk and starving, a few times I was buying nefarious things to do nefarious deeds with. I don’t have to tell you what I bought; the privacy of grocery shopping is well-respected. We all buy toilet paper and condoms and tampons and laxatives, at some point, and we know that exposing our items to a clerk is shameful enough. When I sneak peeks at other people’s groceries, I feel my karma slip past my knees and into my shoes; I try to withhold judgment because my bag o’ donuts and bacon and Clearasil and cat treats tells its own little sad story. Find me a person in line at a grocery store between the hours of 3 and 5:30 AM who is not buying something which reveals an almost too-personal bit of information about them; add to this the context of shopping for things in the middle of the night, which implies that you’re either in dire straits and must buy Angeleno magazine — you were driven from your bed by this need — or perhaps that you work all day and you’re now about to sit down to dinner, which is, it looks like, leeks and a lazy man’s quesadilla, and then you’ll watch everything you’ve Tivo’d and take some of that Omega 3 you just bought because you’re so worried that your job is killing your brain, the phone never rings, you’re sleeping when the rest of the world is awake, etc etc.

I fell in love with late night shopping last summer. Over the weekends, and eventually week nights, I would sit, alone, in my room. Once my roommate's girlfriend moved into her new apartment - or something, I can't claim to really have paid attention when he told me why he was never around, or maybe he just never told me - I had the room to myself. I would sit there in the evening and watch whatever sports event I could find on television or online. I became infatuated with hockey, playoff basketball, and european soccer. I would attempt to keep myself entertained by talking to a friend on Facebook, but that would only get me to midnight. I'd spend the next hour or two reading, or staring into space wide awake.

So I'd walk down the block and get into my car. I would roll down all of the windows, letting the summer heat envelope me. I would plug in my iPod and listen to either the eponymous Matt & Kim album or the song Banshee Beat by Animal Collective - no exceptions - and I would imagine being in a band and heading north and performing and showing that I was happy and that I was successful despite setbacks, or that I would go north and somehow these songs would make everything better, or that I didn't have any of the problems that made me imagine these things in the first place.

drive and drive and drive

So I would get in my car and I would drive down Country Club, up 15-501, onto Estes, to the Harris Teeter at University Mall. I'd have to wind through a maze of locked doors and shopping carts set up as a rudimentary security system when entering the store. I'd walk the same route through the store every time, despite generally leaving with no more than some sort of danish or candy bar. Sometimes I wouldn't get anything. I would exit through the same maze through which I entered, and I would get in my car. I would roll down the windows and I would plug in my iPod and play the eponymous Matt & Kim album or the song Banshee Beat by Animal Collective - no exceptions - and I would drive home.