While filling the shopping cart with groceries the other day, I suddenly found myself standing in front of the magazine racks, searching for something to read.
I didn’t have anything in mind, particularly. after all, I get subscriptions to several magazines sent to the house regularly — Time, Newsweek, National Geographic, Smithsonian. I’ve cut down a bit — no more Acoustic Guitar, Guitar Player, or U.S. News and World Report — but I can’t let go of those four just yet.
My wife also gets several magazines delivered to the house — mostly on gardening. When we go to the store, she makes a point of stopping by the magazine stand to pick up a few more. Usually it’s something filled with fluff, like People or Us. I once cracked, “The magazines you have delivered to the house are all about seeds, and the ones you buy from the rack are just seedy.”
No reaction. not even a courtesy smile.
I might have to subscribe to funny Times to improve my comedic delivery and timing.
Anyway, I rarely pick up a magazine from the stand, but this day I had a taste for something different. I felt like a man who had spent months dining on steak, chicken, fish and pasta, and suddenly had a hankering for a taco.
But what magazine to buy?
I would let the rack speak to me.
But when I gazed across the titles, I felt like “a stranger in a strange land,” as Moses says of himself after fleeing Egypt — or as Robert Heinlein titles his science fiction novel about a man raised on Mars who comes to live on Earth.
Because as I gazed at the magazine titles, I wondered how I could be so out of touch with what the rest of the grocery-store-wandering world found important to read about.
At the lower right portion of the rack were a garage-load of magazines about cars, trucks, motorcycles and other conveyances — 28 different publications in all.
To the left of the rack were bushels and bushels of magazines about food and food preparation — 22 of them.
No other subject came close to those numbers.
Judging by those 50 different publications, a Martian would have to assume that Americans spend most of their time down-shifting to get home in time to keep the quiche from burning.
I still didn’t know what I hoped to find at the magazine rack, but it wasn’t a racetrack or a recipe that I was looking for.
Maybe something nice and outdoorsy? I used to like to read Outdoor Life, and Sports Afield, and Field and Stream when I was a kid. maybe something like that?
I scanned the rack, but it appeared that fishing had been banned since the last time I visited Earth. maybe all the fish had been spoken for in the food mag recipes? Or maybe they were flattened by high-octane hemis when they vainly tried to flop across the road? Or had the early-bird fishermen landed all the fish-mags by now?
In between the food and car journals stood a stout number of publications touting men’s and women’s health. there were maybe a dozen or so of them, bridging the gap between eating too much and sitting too long in a car instead of walking. but the covers all featured pictures of glowing folks in colorful synthetic clothing who looked as if they’d been noshing on pinecones after jogging in their complicated running shoes, so I took a pass.
Above the health magazines lurked an equal number of publications dedicated to sports — football, baseball, hockey and others. I used to play several sports when I still had knees that didn’t sound like maracas when I ran, but I’ve never found much pleasure in reading about sweaty millionaires with a chip on their shoulders about management, so I punted on them, too.
There were nine different bride’s magazines — a bit much, it seemed to me, to dedicate so many publications to what should be a once-in-a-lifetime event. by that yardstick, shouldn’t there be at least an equal number of journals dedicated to colonoscopies, or prostate exams? Despite all the bride magazines, there were no groom magazines — though there was one on dog grooming. but I don’t have a dog, and the bride I stood next to 42 years ago came with an extended warrantee, so no.
I started to panic. Surely there must be something on that rack that would call out to me. I must have some reading interest in common with the earthling shoppers strolling past me.
A scattering of other magazines filled out the rack — tattoos, rap music, cowboys, knitting….
I walked away without buying anything to read. I still don’t know what it was that I was looking for, only that I didn’t find it on the rack.
At the checkout aisle, there were still more magazines — my last chance. Among pronouncements of Bieber Fever and surreptitious sightings of celebrity beach bodies (good and bad), I noticed a tabloid that trumpeted, “ALIENS WALK AMONG US!”
I lowered my head, paid my bill, and walked out without making eye contact with anyone.
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The author splits his time between Naples and Chicago. not every day, though. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.