Kronos was the king of the Titans. There was a prophecy that foretold that one of his sons would overthrow him. Kronos responded in fear and made sure to be present whenever his wife Rhea gave birth. As soon as a new little god made his way out of Rhea’s Titan sized birth canal, Kronos was waiting with open jaws to gobble up the little tike. Of course, Rhea managed to fool him one time. Wives can easily trick their husbands at will. Immediately after giving birth to baby Zeus, she had the wherewithal to hide the infant and feed Kronos a rock instead. In my imagination, rock tastes different than baby god, and if he couldn’t tell the difference on the way in, he certainly should have been able to tell the difference on the way out. For some reason, Kronos remained oblivious to the whole deception, and Zeus eventually rose up, defeated Kronos, and cast him into a pit. Zeus ultimately let Kronos out of the pit and allowed him to rule the Elysian fields, but I imagine he had plenty of time to think when he was still in the pit. Kronos probably thought back to when he was a little deity and rose up to overthrow his father, Ouranos. After chuckling to himself about an absolutely divine example of dramatic irony, he probably remembered that he had castrated his father during the coup process. After that memory, living in a pit probably didn’t seem to be such a bad deal for an ex-ruler of the universe. It wasn’t an ideal retirement package, but at least he wasn’t castrated. Eventually ruling over the Elysian fields seemed pretty good too. After you have been Master of all Creation, you are overqualified for pretty much everything, so a little gig in your old age would at least give you something to do. When the Romans came along, they changed Kronos’ name to Saturn. They even named a day of the week after him. “Saturn’s Day” or Saturday is the day of the week when children have the opportunity to worship Saturn by doing something to humiliate and embarrass their fathers.
It was on one such Saturn’s Day that I awoke fairly early. We were living in Tampa in a place we affectionately called “the Mafia house”. The house was a three bedroom/two bath that we were renting from someone called “The Owner.” Rent was dropped off with an Italian property manager. We would drive into a small office complex and walk up to a door that lacked the conspicuous signage of the surrounding businesses. It simply had a number. All the shades were drawn, and there was a man behind a desk. We would walk in and hand him an envelope. He would say, “Thank you. The Owner likes to have the rent on time.” The house also came with a crack-head who lived with the lady next door. He had a penchant for sneaking over in the middle of the night to stare into our bedroom window.
When I awoke on Saturn’s day, Jennifer and Avi were still asleep. Zachariah was up playing alone in his bedroom. I walked over to the kitchen to inspect the refrigerator, and when I got there the cupboard was bare. I decided to go to the grocery store and pick up some eggs and bacon. I was planning on surprising Jenn with a nice breakfast. I threw on a T-shirt and found a pair of Jenn’s sweat pants. The sweat pant is not an item of fashion that is normally in my wardrobe. I think that naming clothes after bodily functions is something that must be strangely unique to America. Ironically, sweating is the only bodily action deemed worthy of a clothing moniker. We don’t have stink shirts or fart pants, just “sweats.” This particular pair of sweat pants did not fit me very well. I have narrow hips and eternally long legs. When I pulled them up, the bottoms were somewhere in the middle of my calf, and the elastic was precariously perched in a loose fashion on the precipice of my hipbones. It was the perfect outfit for a quick trip to the store. I called to Zachariah, and we headed out.
The particular grocery store I chose was not my favorite, but it was functional for what I needed. They had horrible customer service, but not many people shop first thing Saturday morning which allowed me to get in and out fairly quickly. I grabbed the eggs, found the bacon, picked up a few extras, and proceeded with cart and son to the check out. Because of their poor service, there was not a soul in sight to offer assistance with the bagging of the groceries. I was a bag boy for a summer in high school, so it never bothers me to head to the end of the counter and see if the old skills are still there.
I was a great bag boy. Customers would request me. I could bag groceries faster than any other young man in the store. I never mixed chemicals with foodstuffs. I never mixed meats with other products. I dispersed can goods throughout the grocery bags so that no one sack was too heavy. When you got home, your groceries were already organized according to where you had to put them away. I was so good at being a bag boy, that some people considered me a bag man in spite of my tender age.
I headed around the counter to my old place. Groceries started flying into plastic bags with ease and surety. Every thing went in its proper location. Zachariah headed through lane seven toward the place where I was standing. Meats went with meats. Dairy went with dairy. The hands hadn’t forgotten how to work their magic. Zachariah came around the corner and tripped. Zach tended to trip pretty regularly when he was young. This is a trait he inherited from his mother. He reached out his hands to prevent the fall and managed to catch himself before the floor came up to meet him. I was glad to see that he didn’t fall. I wasn’t glad to see that he had caught himself on the sweat pants that I was wearing. Where he didn’t fall, they did. They fell with such amazing alacrity that one could almost hear the soft material hitting the floor.
When a sweat pant falls that quickly in a public forum it begins to approach the speed of light. Just like the man on the train in Einstein’s theory of special relativity, as the speed of light is approached, time begins to slow down. I needed no complex formulas or equations to verify what Einstein had predicted. I had empirical verification. As I was standing at the end of the grocery counter watching my pants travel to the floor at three hundred million meters per second, time actually stood still. The passing of a few seconds seemed to take days. I stared in awe and amazement at the pants. Theoretically, they were only about six feet away from my eyeballs, but by traveling at the speed of light, they had altered my reality and appeared to me as if they were six miles away.
When standing in your underwear in a grocery store where time has stopped, you finally have the opportunity to contemplate the universe without impediment or distraction. All of the projects that have formed in your mind with the words, “If I ever have enough time, I will…etc” become possible. The words of the Psalmist came to my mind. “When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars that you have established; what are human beings that you are mindful of them, mortals that you care for them?” In the history of the universe, God had watched the unfolding of solar systems and neutron stars and seen life crawl up out of the primordial ooze. The Lord had overseen the agricultural revolution, the industrial revolution, and the technological revolution. At this moment, where there was no time at all, God was looking down from heaven and seeing all the vicissitudes of history pouring into the vortex of a grocery store where time come to a halt. “Oh, look,” God said, “There’s Kurt standing in his underwear in a grocery store contemplating the universe.” Actually, God said, “There is Kurt…” because God never uses contractions when he speaks. Fortunately, God quickly saw the problem and unhooked time from the little snag upon which it had caught itself, and things sped quickly back into normal life. As the cashier began to scan the last item, I shrugged my shoulders, reached down to the floor, and rebalanced the sweat pants on the edges of my hips. The cashier was very sweet. She handed me my receipt as if nothing had happened. She didn’t even crack a smile.
After such an extended period of contemplation, I walked out of the store with my mind packed full of God. I was reciting a mantra of praise over and over as I pushed the cart. “Dear God, thank you that I had underwear on today because it’s not something I’m always in the habit of wearing. Dear God, thank you that I had underwear on today…”