Friday, May 13, 2011

Indiana Jones and the Lost Coupon

I was in the grocery store picking up a few dinner items and a bouquet of flowers for my wife. In the line in front of me stood two younger men with untucked button-up shirts and khaki slacks. They were young professionals just like me picking up a few things on their way home from work. As we stood patiently in the express checkout line together, the couple in front of us were waiting for their total from the cashier. The woman had short red hair and a slim build, and the man was wearing an ill-fitting leather jacket over his torso and a fedora on his head. They had frowns on their faces and a significant number of items in their cart (way more than ten items I might add). He was arguing with his wife over the coupons she had forgotten at home. They were part of the new recession-caused shopping habit of coupon clipping. Apparently, she had seen something shiny on the way out the door, and had forgotten the cost saving slivers of paper at home. He berated her openly at the checkout, and most other patrons turned a deaf ear to it. The two men in front of me did not.

After the arguing couple had paid for their groceries and made their way to the exit, one untucked gentleman said to the other “Only douche bags and Indiana Jones wear fedoras; where is that guy's bullwhip?” I couldn't have said it better myself (although, I wish I had).

I started thinking of what Indiana Jones' life would have been like if he never got his Doctorate in Archeology. Maybe he was once just a young Henry Jones Jr, taking his core classes at a junior college when he got his high school sweetheart Deirdre Campbell pregnant. He would be forced to drop out and get a “real job” to support his fledgling family. His hopes and dreams would have fallen through the cracks of life like a Holy Grail in the caverns of Alexandretta. Rather than fulfill his fate as a Archeology Professor and worldwide adventurer, he would find himself an assistant manager at a pet store in Indianapolis. His natural calling was never meant to be tending to puppies, kittens, hamsters, and God forbid the snakes and rats. He knew that, and everyone else did too. Even his dog knew it, and the Husky named “Indiana” would look at him with his Elway-esque blue eyes as if to say, “what happened to you, Henry?” He would fall into spells of depression countered only by euphoric dreams of fighting the Nazis or Communists over some ancient relics like the Crystal Skulls of Brazil or the India's Sankara Stones. Yet, each time he would find solace in his imagination, Deirdre would call him back to reality to change the baby's diaper or go to the store for more Triscuits or milk. This would not be what Henry Jones Jr. wanted for himself.

His father would have been wholeheartedly against Henry's marriage to Deirdre, as was their trusted family friend Marcus Brody. They too knew that he was meant to participate in historically significant crusades, and should not just be settling for domestic mediocrity. Henry Sr. and Marcus were always inviting Henry Jr. to join them on their adventures, but each time, Henry Jr. would have to decline. It was hard to get time off from the pet store, and he was needed at home to care for the baby. Marcus and Henry Sr. would send pictures from their travels. Whether it was them eating monkey brains in India or touring the ancient ruins of Egypt. They had no pity on him, because neither of them thought Deirdre was good enough for him. She was a Succubus of epic proportions. Henry Jr should have gone on to graduate and teach Archeology at Harvard, Yale or Marshall College. But alas, this was now his chosen lot in life, and he had to live with it.

Such harsh truths ate at Henry, cutting to the core of his psyche and leaving just mere morsels of the man that once had such great promise. He would find adventure in other places. Creating caves made of stacked cardboard at the pet store that he and his trusty sidekick Rick (the other assistant manager) would expertly navigate to save the almighty night deposit from packs of ravenous guinea pigs or bunnies. At home, he would immerse himself in the fantasy of popular nerd fiction movies like Star Wars, Willow or Howard the Duck (anything produced by George Lucas). But if Henry III woke up, he would immediately have to change the channel to watch Dora the Explorer or Wonder Pets.

Each day would seem longer than the last. He would wake up, put on his khaki pants and fasten the buttons on his company mandated safari-style shirt. His walk to the bus stop for his 45 minute commute was a welcomed respite. His mind was free to wander and conjure up thoughts of grandeur and adventure. Just as a smile would come across his face, he would find himself at his stop, and he would exit the #9 bus to walk to his final destination.

The winters in Indianapolis were cold enough to make your bones shiver. But now, he and Deirdre had moved to Florida to be closer to her parents. Henry Jr was still a man of habit. The leather jacket and fedora were an everyday staple of his wardrobe, and neither heat, rain, humidity or more heat would ever change that. Not a day went by that he didn't adorn his body with those two items. He had purchased the hat and jacket as a college student, and those were his connection to the “good old days.” The days when his mind was filled with thoughts of what his life could be. Now, they are old and moth-eaten, and ever present reminders of what could have been.

Deirdre had taken the rout of many a stay-at-home mom. She had lost the luster of a young woman, and replaced it with a glow of animosity and beaming hatred of what Henry Jr had made her become. She too had hopes and dreams, but all he ever talked about was how he was meant for greater things. He was a shell of a man because of her superheroine fertility, and he never let her forget it. She too could have been a Archeologist, but their lovechild ruined that dream for her just as it did for Henry Jr. Every outing the two of them partook together was filled with argument and bickering. Who always had to do the dishes, who never asked how the others' day went and ultimately ending in who ruined whose chance at fame, fortune and life fulfillment.

I believe I may have witnessed the modern day equivalent of Deirdre and Henry Jr at the grocery store that day. On the outside, he was berating her for forgetting the coupons, thus causing them to go over their weekly grocery budget. But if I had looked deeper into their souls and pulled their still beating hearts from their chests like a Thugee High Priest; I would have seen what was really bothering them. It wasn't the chance to get buy one-get one Triscuits. No, it was the chance to be a folk hero or a world renowned Archeologist.

How dare those two nine-to-five working gentlemen in their untucked button-up shirts pass judgment? Who were they poke fun at that pot-bellied leather jacket clad man with a fedora on his head? Maybe he was somebody special. Maybe he was a hero, enjoying a relaxing day off with his wife. Maybe they just caught him at a moment of temperamental weakness. And just maybe he did indeed have a bullwhip, but he left it in the minivan while they went into the grocery store to pick up some Triscuits.

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