In a city that works overtime to make you feel alone, there is perhaps no more depressing mundanity than a trip to the Duane Reade. A wave of ennui smacks you in the face as soon as you walk in—generally through the out door because some schmuck who never learned to read or doesn’t care to is exiting through the in, but very slowly because he’s talking on his cell phone and is clearly unaware that there are other people around him who might also need to make use of the goods and services the store somewhat grudingly provides.
As you contemplate your purchases in that sickly light, boredom gives way to the heartsick realization that you are about to buy banal household items which—after a seemingly interminable wait at the one open register, where a clerk is scanning things at the rate of an item per minute—you will then cart home to your tiny box, where you will use them, replace them, and eventually die. That will be your contribution to the legacy of our species’ evolution; you bought a bunch of generic cotton balls and asswipes and then your body made its inevitable way into the earth (probably next to those very same asswipes, which will never biodegrade no matter what they promise on the label).
God forbid you’re there to pick up a prescription; the line of old Jews fumbling for their insurance cards and skeevy unshaven types who cannot remember what time they were told to come back for their syphilis medication but won’t let that stop them from carrying on a long and heated argument with the pharmacist will make you wonder whether or not it’s just easier to die from the fever you’re running. (It’s certainly quicker.)
Outside it is always dusk—the saddest time of day. Everything smells like cheap plastic and failure. You’d drop to the ground and kick and scream like you did when you were a kid and your mother made you come with her to the carpeting store, but God knows what kind of filth is teeming about on those despondency-inducing floors.
On the other hand, apparently they are serving beer now. So maybe it’s not all misery and horror.
Photo by scalleja, from Flickr.