Don’t Squeeze the Charmin

A squad car pulls up next to the apartment building I’m approaching.  I nod to the two officers and they smile back.  One of them seems familiar.  It’s below zero out.

“Well, I suppose you don’t mind letting us in.”

It is the same cop.  He’s a white guy with salt and pepper hair.  There was a standoff with an armed guy in the apartment last winter.  I let him in that time too. 

“I see you guys here too often.”

“Yeah,” he says.  “What’s up with that?”

I shrug.  “It’s a shithole.”

I feel like a bit of an asshole for saying this, but I’m glad I don’t live in the building.  Millennium’s apartments tend to be rundown.  Their rents are the cheapest in the area and that’s reflected in the quality of some of their tenants.  No one living in the building will still be living there a year from now.  The people come and go.  The guy in the standoff was evicted.  I never met him, thankfully. 

“Some woman is threatening her neighbors because somebody stole her toilet paper.”

I have a laugh along with the cops.

“That’s funny I say, because someone was giving away free toilet paper at an apartment a block over.”

The package was probably misdelivered by an Amazon driver. Things have settled down inside the building. I’m pretty sure I know which woman got her wipe swiped because she had one of my packages stolen and left a threatening note for everyone to read about a month ago. I don’t miss living in apartments when I was young, hearing neighbors blast their TVs through the walls or their heavy steps pacing overhead. It’s a kind of confinement. I remember an incident when I lived in Uptown. Some drunk was singing and yelling all night long. The police wouldn’t come. He had a bottle in hand, lying on his back on the hood of a car. I wanted to kill him but I restrained myself. 911 has always been a joke in Minneapolis. Anyway, it’s good to live in a house, to own your walls and not share them with anyone except the people you know and love. We have one Meth head on our block with an arrest warrant, the guy who was burning shit in his yard. He’s on tape stealing a 25,000 dollar Bobcat from a local business. But the cops have yet to take him down. He’ll be out the same day, of course. Eventually, he might do some jailtime although I wouldn’t bank on it. Over Christmas he was fleeing the police on a stolen John Deere lawnmower. They discontinued the pursuit. Nothing runs like a Deere. Good god, if only he’d been wearing a Santa hat! It gets to be a movie you’ve seen too many times.

The cops thank me again as I’m finishing up the boxes.

“You guys get 8 hours in on a Saturday?” the younger one asks me.

“I might go 12,” I tell him.  “Our staffing is shit.  Half the station has Covid or doesn’t want to work.”

“Really?”

He seems real interested, like he might be thinking of a career change.  I do make more an hour than he does, which is bullshit.  If I were younger and lost my job, I might consider becoming a policeman.  But I’m about to turn 50 and I’ve put in 15 years at the PO.  I’ll grind out the next 10 to 15 years even though I get very bored.  I suppose there are worse things than boredom. 

Staffing shortages are killing America’s workers.  I might have had Covid last week but I didn’t get tested.  It was nothing, just a mild sore throat and an occasional headache.  I masked and kept my distance from others.  When carriers call in sick, the packages get delivered but the regular mail just stacks up.  We simply don’t have enough people.  Too many carriers are quitting.  The PO is very slow at filling positions.

More than anything, I’m tired of my children going to school at home on their computers.  We left them alone for the first time yesterday.  Theo couldn’t log into his afternoon class and cried in bed all day.  2022 feels as bleak as 2021.  I felt such relief when I got my first shot, like this was all ending—the deaths and the malaise of mask wearing.  Everyone is tired, so very tired, like Covid is draining us all of our will to work. 

It’s 11 below out and the yellow busses aren’t running. The pandemic may never end but winter will. I’ll be in shorts and tennis shoes soon enough. One more year, one more winter, one more block . . . until I’m an old man staring out a window, coffee cup in hand, waiting for the mail to arrive. Maybe when I’m retired, I’ll start buying my toilet paper online out of spite.

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