My Target Diary – Part I
by Caitlin Brady
A note to the reader: For me, not all but most roads lead to Target. I live close to one, so that helps, but I’m also drawn there to search for something more powerful— a spiritual truth only accessible in a mass retail store.
Every time I go to Target, I play roulette with my expectations, my dreams, and my faith. This is my journey to enlightenment, and I invite you along. Target is an inferno; I purge myself in its flames, emerging always a little stronger, wiser, and more aware of the restocking schedule.
Unsure if Columbus Day is an actual holiday, but it is always a holiday at Target. What a great philosophy. If you think you don’t have anything to celebrate, think again. And if you still think you don’t have anything to celebrate, buy something anyway. You’ll gradually accumulate a heap of festive purchases (meaningless objects) to encircle yourself with at home, a junk nest to sit in and feel safe inside.
A gridlock of cart traffic on the 2nd floor forces me in line behind an exposed ass-crack. It’s 11:45 am, which means I am seeing this ass-crack before noon. Stranger crack before noon doesn’t shatter my world but it challenges my personal code. It makes me afraid that one day I too will be so hardened by my fellow man, by fellow shoppers, that if my crack hangs out and I know it’s out ‘cus I can feel it’s out— that I won’t bother. Like Let them look. It’s what they deserve. Stick some business cards in there like Take one. Call my business line. (business line = euphemism).
I make it downstairs, see the check-out line and ditch my set of stainless-steel nail clippers and one Luna bar.
Overheard: A man wearing a fedora on the escalator shouts that he’s “dangerous as hell,” and “invented the machine gun.” I take his word for it. If he was in WWI, he is probably a mummy. If he is a mummy, his outfit makes sense.
Observed: ass-crack nihilist / Pinstripe mummy
Conclusion: In-drawer cutlery organizers may not set me free
The elevator doors ding open to screams, laughter and crying, sirens and air-breaks join the mix.
Seeking Clorox toilet wand refills, unsure re: value size or regular. I pick up a linen lampshade but abandon in dishwashing aisle.
Child with wet hands and rattail runs into me in electronics. I make my eyes as large and blank as possible to scare it away. Target is for everyone.
A man talks to himself out-loud about which flat-screen TV is best. Why ask an employee when you can perform a monologue. You have the answer, just say it. He turns the display speakers up full blast, scrambles my brain.
Overheard: Two Target employees complaining about Trisha.
Observed: Halloween is in clearance; I grab a good-looking lantern string of printed human skulls.
Conclusion: Bought unscented white pillar candle, forgot Clorox; no closer to god.
Target is packed with holiday deal-seekers. My last trip was less than 24 hours ago. Hunting for blonde wood clothing hangers because I’m coping with low self-esteem through closet re-organization.
Not only were they sold out of these hangers (just like yesterday), but they were also entirely ransacked of rotisserie chicken slices, under-sink shelving, and reed fragrance diffusers. At a total and complete loss.
Overheard: Nothing but the white noise of adrenaline
Observed: a baby halfway submerged in a cart stacked to the brim, staring through the plastic walls with dirt (schmutz?) on its face. We connect in a stare. Claustrophobic, exhausted, we are one.
Conclusion: Hardened baby stares make me drink earlier in the day
I wake up feeling dead inside, which is the ideal mindset for Target. Even so, I try to let the day go by in a conscious effort to avoid it and save money. But as the sun sets I get cabin fever and use the excuse of recycling batteries to go out, and eventually, to Target. It is bitterly cold, and I second-guess the criticality of this mission.
Even as a grizzled Target veteran, I’m amazed by all the shit that gets stolen here. Small things like cabinet knobs, tea lights, dish towels, packs of socks; medium things like Tupperware, picture frames, pet toys, and human toys, usually identifiable by husks of ripped packaging placed back on the shelves, unnoticed till inventory.
I look down at the one thing I’m buying, a set of screws, and at the marathon check-out line; the idea crosses my mind. I imagine getting tackled to the ground by Target security over a picture-hanging kit of 2 screws. I imagine saving $2.99. What dollar amount is worth breaking community trust?
Overheard: Elderly man’s violent cough attack in Pizza Hut. No one helps. Someone rushes toward him but runs past to Starbucks.
Observed: a 5-foot tall wall of potato chips
Conclusion: If you go out in freezing cold to recycle batteries and buy 2 screws you will lose feeling; in your digits, in general.
An unofficial Target Tao is that if you’re curious about a product, break it open and try it. Once I bought liquid hand soap only to get home and find a finger-punched hole through the protective foil. After this I became a Target minuteman. If I find punctured or ruptured products, I remove them from the shelves while shouting “who do they think they are?” loud enough for everyone to hear. Target is for the people, and nobody should have to wait as I waited over tainted hand soap in the exchange line behind a woman returning 10 cans of cat food.
Another Target Tao is that if you’ve decided to purchase all your items but are short on cash, dump them at checkout. First, haggle the cashier and insist they miscalculated, insist that item is on sale and you know better than they do. As the lane light blinks and they call their supervisor, survey your cart to dump anything else in case the supervisor won’t budge. It’s not a matter of dumping impulse buys for essentials; what is essential, what is impulse. Target is impulse. Target is essential impulses. Everyone here would kill and eat the other if nature demanded it.
Observed: Girl buying Brides, bulk Kleenex, organic garlic salt.
Conclusion: I am rejuvenated.
Some days when I wake up I wonder: “Do I deserve to be happy in this life?” Regardless of the answer, I go to Target.
In the elevator I listen to Flo Rida to get pumped. I shimmy in my coat and bare my teeth at the security camera. The one other shopper in the elevator checks her phone.
All this build-up and still no blonde wood clothing hangers. Who do I have to fuck or kill for these. Who took all of them. Why is this store so large but so useless. Pyrex is on sale, so I get some of that.
Overheard: “Rare and potentially fatal brain infection”
Observed: Honey Buns and Valentine’s Fun Dips
Conclusion: If I were to hypothetically sacrifice one close relation to an awful fate in order to justify having an “off-day,” who would it be?
Caitlin Brady is an MFA candidate from Texas who writes fiction and humor. She studied screenwriting at New York University and collaborated with Animal Kingdom Films (It Follows, Short Term 12), on a feature-length script.