Dear Kmart "Son of a Bitch" Guy,
You probably don’t remember me. About ten years ago—during my stockperson days at Kmart—I was hanging cardboard display signs from the ceiling near the customer service desk; I believe there was an Independence Day Blowout Sale. Anyway, I was using my trusty 12’ pole to attach an oversized sign to the metal braces when the plastic anchor dislodged from the end of the pole, causing the sign to plummet straight down toward my head. My short life of gathering carts from the parking lot flashed before my eyes as I dodged the sign milliseconds before it cleaved my head like a guillotine blade into a tangerine.
As I staggered about, totally dumbstruck and nearly breathless, you suddenly emerged from behind a Pepsi floor display and strode toward me the way a brazen cowboy enters a saloon. Your 10 gallon hat, snake skin boots, tight leather vest worn over your impressive beer gut and expression that screamed “I’ve been everywhere and done everything” certainly justified your cool strut. You pulled-up inches short of where the near-beheading occurred and you glided your weathered fingers over your scruffy chin and punctuated the most petrifying moment of my life by stoically peering up at the rafters, then down at the sign resting by my feet, then back up at the rafters, then back down at the sign again and deliberately shaking your head while casually muttering, “Well…son of a bitch.” Then you simply meandered behind a nearby rack of Martha Steward bed sheets, like a grizzled messenger from the future who was two seconds too late to warn me that the plastic anchor was defective.
Ever since, I’ve branded you “Son of a Bitch” Guy from Kmart.
It’s very likely you wear a starched dress shirt to a 9-5 desk job, eat dinner nightly at the family dinner table, and mow your backyard on the weekends. In other words, you’re probably just another ho-hum working schlub. However, I can’t imagine you asking your wife to pass the meatloaf, or securing your tie with a Windsor knot before morning coffee. I imagine you wearing your cowboy getup, crouching behind a billboard along the highway, patiently waiting for a traffic accident so you can mosey up to the wreckage and utter a detached “Well…son of a bitch,” before walking away like it’s nobody’s business. Now that, I imagine, is your 9-5 job. At least it should be.
Showing up just seconds after a mishap—be it inconsequential or monumental—should be your modus operandi. People should be able to set their watch by your appearance. A witness to a blunder shouldn’t have time to ask himself “Where the heck is ‘Son of a Bitch Guy’ from Kmart?” before you show up and do your thing. If a bumbling waiter drops a heaping bowl of piping hot French onion soup all over his trousers, you stroll to the scene from behind the reception desk: “Well, son of a bitch,” and out the front door you disappear before anyone digests the incident. A hapless jogger snags her foot on an uneven slab of sidewalk then careens into a park bench: “Well, son of a bitch,” before she begins to gather her wits. Some poor electrician toiling to restore cable television slices into the wrong wire: “Well, son of a bitch,” as the freshly limp body droops from the wires.
You would be like Batman or Superman, but rather than showing up seconds before the calamity and saving the day, you would show up seconds too late and simply add insult to injury. Well, that’s how it would seem to the untrained eye, at least. No, you wouldn’t be a hero in the traditional sense.
Nonetheless, you are already a hero to me.
The thing is, there is no Batman who is going to knock the gun out of the mugger’s hand in the nick of time, and there is no Superman who is going to swoop from the sky to rescue you from the swiftly oncoming stampede of wildebeest.
However, I have come to believe that there is a “Son of a Bitch” Guy from Kmart appearing mere seconds after every moment of hardship anywhere in the world, muttering the only reaction that is truly appropriate. You just have to know enough to listen.
Heck, maybe you never actually appeared in the physical sense that fateful day at Kmart. Maybe my mind was so discombobulated in the immediate aftermath of my near cranial bludgeoning that my imagination conjured you as a sort of defense mechanism to remind me that shit happens, so gather your senses and attach that sign to the ceiling, dammit. Otherwise, how are customers going to know there is an Independence Day Blowout Sale?
In the years since I gathered my last cart and hung my final sign, you’ve given me the advantage of a perspective I wouldn’t have otherwise gained. Whenever I’ve suffered a near-disastrous goof or found myself in a dysfunctional situation since, I haven’t expected a Superman or Batman to bail me out. I haven’t expected anyone to bail me out, for that matter. However, I have come to count on that unflappable voice to materialize from nowhere: “Well, son of a bitch.” And life went on.
And life goes on.
“Son of a Bitch” Guy from Kmart, I hope you are out there somewhere right now, poised to spring into action the second after someone’s misfortune. More importantly, I hope whoever survives learns the same lesson I have.