Sunday, July 8, 2012

Purgatory on Earth

Forgetsy Friday brought to you by Las Vegas, which distracted me so much I forgot to hit the publish button.

There are times in life where you witness something that is so bone chilling and so traumatic that you turn your whole life around. That is exactly how I felt this morning. Initially, I assumed that what was happening would be brief. Like ripping off a band-aid, it would hurt, but it had to be done. It would be over in a flash and I could go on about my day smiling at strangers like a crazy chick on really good meds.

What actually happened was quite the opposite. I closed my eyes to gather myself, and upon opening them I gasped as a strange panic gripped my heart. I was staring into the gaping mouth of Purgatory. Whether you're Catholic or not, the term is likely known to you. For those unfamiliar, according to the Catholic Encyclopedia, "Purgatory is a place or condition of temporal punishment for those who, departing this life in God's grace, are not entirely free of venial faults, or have not fully paid the satisfaction due their transgressions."  

As a Protestant, I grew up being a "good person Christian", which means that if I were a good person everything would work itself out. It's like Christian Light. Same great taste, but not too heavy. Still, Purgatory scares the bejeezus out of me. See, I'll probably end up in Purgatory for that. Add all of the Oh Em Gees to that and I'm looking at a good century or so in the holding place. From what I saw today, that place would be worse than even Hell. 

I know you're probably saying, "Why does she keep going to Walmart?" But you're wrong. That's a pretty scary place at times, but I liken that to a 3rd world country more than I do a place of temporal punishment. Walmart is voluntary. I could grocery shop somewhere else, but I choose the punishment in lieu of higher prices. Where I spent my morning isn't exactly a place I ever want to go. There's no discount for choosing it over any place else. In this country you practically have to go there if you plan to actually exist. 


We arrived at just after 9 AM. I knew immediately it would be a bit of a wait when the parking lot only had 1 open spot available. It's not like I had a choice in the matter. My son had waited patiently for me to arrange time off work to take him, and I don't like wasting time off. We were there. There was no turning back. 

Upon entering, I couldn't escape the feeling that the scene was familiar. Rows of chairs were occupied by people of every age, race, and creed. The line leading up to the first counter was quite lengthy, and judging by the scores of people sitting on the floor, it had been for awhile. The smell made me think of a 70s hippy sit in, or even more currently, Occupy movements.

The longer people waited the more frustrated they became. The people we encountered in the first few minutes of our stay informed us that we would be waiting between 2 and 3 hours. They smiled with sympathy and kindness, but 2 hours later I heard that same nice polite woman swear at her husband, and quite aggressively I might add. It turns people into angry monsters. The confusion on everyone's faces as to how in the hell it can take 10 minutes to process one license renewal was evident. You could read their expressions clearly. It cried, "Why God? Why hath you forsaken me? What sin so great could deserve this punishment? Please let me leave!"

The individual windows are occupied by Government employees who have no experience with the technology they must use to complete the transactions. I watched them peck away at the keys, looking over the tops of their glasses, talking to each other about who would get the early lunch for the day, and generally avoiding any real contact with the paying customers in their care.

It's slow. It's painful. It makes me cry a little (mostly on the inside). It causes panic and a tightness in my chest. It is Purgatory on Earth. Now that I've said it out loud, I am more worried that ever. I think prison would make me less uncomfortable, yet I have to go back again in a week when my son takes his driving test. I might be sick just thinking of it.

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