I saw cheap, remote-controlled drones for sale today.
I had the day off and stepped out to run a few errands, after my girlfriend Shana had left this morning. Shana never stays for breakfast or coffee, always out-the-door as soon as the cab arrives, usually within fifteen or twenty minutes of rolling out of bed. I had to pick up several dress shirts at the dry cleaners that I was late getting to – as usual – and I had a prescription re-fill ready for pick-up at the pharmacy that I had called in a week earlier. I also needed to pick up some toiletries at the Family Dollar store.
Last night was date night. Shana arrived shortly after 8PM and we kept it low-key. We hung at my place, had some dinner delivered – Chinese – and for dessert, we split a pint of Ben & Jerry’s. After I cleared the table and put the dishes in the sink, we watched two episodes of Breaking Bad – that’s our show, we always watch it together, playing catch-up two or three episodes at a time, often after smoking a fat blunt of loud – and then did the romance thing. I called for a cab after we got up at about 7AM to take Shana home to her mother’s house in West Oak Lane, where she lives with her seven-year old daughter.
I had to stay late at the bakery yesterday. One of my associates had called out sick and it was on me to finish up both our to-do lists our manager had left us. That meant prepping the donuts, scones, croissants and muffins for the morning rush that my associate would have handled, along with baking and setting out an extra four dozen sweet potato, pumpkin, cherry and apple pies. Now that the weather had turned cooler and Thanksgiving was approaching, the pies were selling briskly.
Shana was due to arrive by cab at 7:30PM and if anything, Shana is prompt. 7:30 means 7:30, or 7:45 at the latest. I’ve dated Shana for over a year, since we met in one of the check-out lines one night at the 24-hour Save-a-Lot, and she had never been more than fifteen minutes late for anything. I always thought her punctuality was kind of odd; being on time is not a skill set you see much of in the ‘hood, where a minute can mean an hour, or two.
Anyhow, by the time I cleaned up at work, organized things in the bakery for the next shift and clocked out, it was approaching 6PM I should have been done my shift an hour earlier, and I still had a 15-minute subway ride followed by a 25-minute bus trip ahead of me. I had to shower and change when I got home and neaten up my apartment a bit before Shana arrived, so I texted her and asked that she come at 8PM instead of 7:30. On the way home, I decided to put off my errands until this morning. I just didn’t have the time.
After I walked Shana out to the cab and paid the fare in advance, tip included, I turned on the coffee maker and wrote my shopping list out on a small piece of scrap paper and tucked the list into a corner of my wallet. I ate breakfast, got some coffee in me and smoked a cigarette. I then quickly washed up, got dressed and set out on foot to run my errands.
The weather was mild this morning – a beautiful, bright, fall day, sunny and not a cloud in the sky – so I skipped the bus ride and walked the eight or ten blocks to Chelten Avenue. I was headed to the west end of Chelten Avenue, the end of the avenue that isn’t dominated by small, grungy 24-hour laundromats, neon-lit, brightly painted Puerto Rican corner stores, pay-as-you-go cell phone shops that seem to come and go with the seasons, and small, one-man newsstands that mostly sell lottery tickets, cigarettes and cigars. I had a plan: I would swing by the Family Dollar Store first and work on my shopping list, put the items that I would purchase in my Adidas gym bag that I carry with me as a man purse, then I’d hit the pharmacy and swing by the dry cleaners on the way home.
I grabbed a shopping basket when I arrived at Family Dollar and quickly went to work finding what I needed. It didn’t take long. As always, the store hummed with activity, the usual bad music piped in over the speakers, interrupted occasionally with stern warnings from store management about shoplifting and reminding shoppers that surveillance cameras were recording their actions. I double-checked my list when I was done to make sure I had everything, crossed the items off with a pen that I had clipped to my shirt.
Four-pack of toilet paper
Mennen Speed Stick deodorant
I added an impulse purchase: a cheap, three-pack of black socks for $5 from a rack in the front of the store.
I then got in line to check out and that’s when I noticed the drones for sale. Ten of them were neatly stacked, five and five, above the glass display that featured razors, tobacco products, cell phone accessories and baby formula, all under lock-and-key, immediately behind the four cash registers at the front of the store. The packaging was almost aggressive, the bright orange and white cellophane-wrapped boxes, boldly labeled in black and green with some smaller print in red, grabbed the glare of the overhead store lights like big, gaudy pieces of costume jewelry.
“Next in line….”
What could I do with a drone?
“Next in line….”
What could I do with a drone?
“Next in line, register three….”
Oh, that’s me the cashier is talking to….
I stepped forward and placed the shopping basket on the counter. I left it to the young cashier to empty my basket.
“Sorry, I was looking at the drones you have for sale….”
I squinted, and I could make out some of the larger print on the boxes. Advertised in black block lettering, the brand was Blade Tech – never heard of them – and the model of drone was the Raptor III – whatever that meant. There was also what I guessed to be some sort of Asian script on the box. Japanese? Chinese? From where I stood in front of register three, I could see that the boxes advertised a 2MP camera, a 6-axis Gyro Design for Stability, Bright LED Lights – I guess you can fly the drones at night – and a 15 Minute Flight Time. Easy to Use! was stamped boldly across the boxes in a bright green font. I couldn’t make out the rest of the print in a much smaller red font.
My mind wandered for a moment. What could I do with a drone? Don’t you have to be licensed? Registered?
The cashier started to scan my purchases, one-at-a-time, chewing gum like a pony.
I nodded towards the display behind her. “Drones. You sell drones.”
No response. She looked down at her cell phone and grabbed it, texting something quickly with one hand, rigorously working her thumb and then set the phone back down, resuming our transaction.
You gotta be kidding me….
“You sell drones. I said you sell drones.”
Still no response. She was focused on the business at hand…. or, more likely, her cell phone.
“How much are they?”
I was getting annoyed.
“The drones, above and behind you, on top of the display case.”
“Oh, we just got those jawns in. Don’t think we’ve sold any yet.” She blew a small bubble and snapped her gum.
“They’re $49.99. You want me to get one down for you?”
“No, thanks. Not today. I don’t know…. maybe I’ll get one for my nephews…. I’m sure my brother and his wife would love that.”
She rolled her eyes at me, snapped her gum again and scanned my last item – the socks. “Your total is $14.30.”
What could I do with a drone? How about blow up this rude, inattentive bitch who’s waiting on me with a drone-based missile!
I kept my mouth shut as I reached for my wallet.