Snowstorm 2011: Closing the liquor store

I'm a freelance writer. Which obviously means I also work part-time at a liquor store.

So on Tuesday evening (5), when the chaos we all knew was about to ensue, I ventured out (which already involved dispersing-with one small hill that had drifted in the center of the driveway) to relieve my boss and close down the store around 9:30 or whenever it got dead. Hah. It's fortunate I live only about three blocks down the road... .

As I pull in to our strip of 10-12 stores -- of course -- the liquor store is the only store with four cars running in front.

Five to around 6:30 was chaos in the store. It's now fully snowing out, but driveable in a slippery, crash-y, sorta way. All the amusing kind of folk came in who hadn't forgotten the most important thing to buy before getting snowed-in but somehow hadn't thought to get it the day before because they figured they had to go to work anyway. I sold about $1000 worth of beer during the first hour.

At 6:30 the people stopped coming. It's blizzarding now. The snow and wind was coming so hard you could hardly see. Plows came and roared around the lot for a while as I ran out to move my car this way and that. But just as they cleared one side, it had two inches on it 15 minutes later.

After 6:30 I had a total of three customers.

Shortly after 9 I feared becoming snowed-in and got the hell gone.

At 7:30 a happy Mexican family -- mom and two kids -- came in and bought cards. They asked for 20 singles, but my bosses never leave me with more than 7 or 8, so I had to decline. They happily bought a sixer of Red Dog (really? Red Dog?) and strolled away into the madness, smiling. No clue where they went. No clue where they came from.

About 20 minutes later two people walked in wearing paintball masks, bundled tighter than South Park's Kenny. They pulled their gear off onto the ground, sucking-in air as if they hadn't in a while -- they were regulars -- two 20-something girls. Nice girls who are planning weddings and such. They explained that they didn't want their drunk boyfriends driving out to get more beer, so they jokingly said they'd walk the quarter-mile to the store, got dressed, and then they actually did. I sold them a case, got them a box, located some twine and watched them build a sled to pull it home. They disappeared into the swirls of snow and plows. No clue.

I figured to close up hella early. Even the plows eventually gave up. Every other store in the strip never even opened, and I'm sure the dude over at 7-11 just brought camping gear.

But first I thought I'd mop-up, since I wasn't getting anything else done except watching snow, texting "WTF!" and frequently making sure my vehicle didn't become buried under and/or plowed into a bank.

But just afer I finished cleaning and was counting-out around 9-o-clock, a young dude burst into the store. 30-something skinny-ass dude. Striding long, but not in too much of a hurry, he's still aight -- he still peruses every one of the cooler doors, musing the most appropriate micro-brew for the evening (which, I gotta say I can understand, but keep in mind -- it's the damn middle of the third worst blizzard to hit Chicago in half a century). He grabbed a 12 pack, grabbed a sixer and rolled up to the counter where I practically shouted at him, "What the hell are you doing out there, man?"

"Gotta stock up, bro."

He said it, too, as if he held all the wisdom in the room.

I don't need to point out to anyone in upper-Illinois that he's had two or three days to stock up. By this time, the snow is coming down about an inch a minute. Nobody is driving except for 2-3 cars following a few snow plows home.

My theory is that he was on something we termed "Stoner time" in college: he said he'd "leave in ten minutes," put on the TV, got hungry, ate, fell asleep, woke up, looked out the window and said "Ahhh CRAP!"

(In Stoner Time, "ten minutes" can mean anywhere from two minutes, to about three hours.)

But then he went anyway. Because it's beer. And he was about to be snowed-in without it.


The rest of my story was about like everyone else's: drove home on an unplowed, one-lane road veering ditch-to-ditch, had to shovel a spot in 40 mph. winds just to pull slightly into the driveway, parked, watched the car get buried, got drunk, played guitar, recorded some songs on Garageband with the girlfriend, woke up, opened the back door and watched the cat sniff and then get mad at snow that was higher than he was, opened the garage and climbed out onto the mountain to dig our way down off of it just so we could snow-blow the rest while listening to Gogol Bordello, threw second set of wet clothes on the ground, brewed some tea and picked up the guitar again (Lis and I will have an album soon, if this keeps up).

Happy Groundhog Day!


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