Invasion of the Body Snatchers – I’ve seen both versions of this sci-fi opus. And have a particular fondness for the seminal version. There is something about the black and white medium, that seems, well, more real. And more horrifying. Perhaps it’s a state in which it is more easy to deny the proof of your eyes. You saw it, but did you really see it. And what you don’t see is what truly terrifies you. Your imagination steps in and magnifies ideas that were only pinpoints into voracious thoughts, filling your consciousness and crowding out all else.
We probably saw it on TV originally, but it only made its best impact in that venue of our film education, the Harvard Exit. Seeing it on TV with interruptions for car or Alka Seltzer ads every ten minutes can seriously dilute the effect of the tension. So with those distractions out of the way, we were right there with the protagonist Kevin McCarthy as he tries to cope with the rising fear that the people he is helping, really are fearful for good reason that their friends and loved ones have been replaced by something eerily like them, but ultimately not them at all.
I had a similar real-life experience recently. At Winco of all places.
Once a week we forage for our weekly provisions at our friendly neighborhood Cubfoods, I mean Winco. We each have our duties. Karen has made her list and I push the cart. I can pull a can off the shelf and put it in the cart, but she has to make the more expert judgement when it comes to which cut of chicken or steak to buy. We travel a well worn path throughout the store, which always culminates at that toll booth, the checkout stand.
We share in the chore of moving our catch from the basket to the conveyor belt, but that task complete, we take up our unique duties. While she gets out the checkbook and monitors the register for price errors, I manuever the cart out to the other end of the conveyor belt and commence to bag the groceries. I have become adept over the years we’ve been coming to Winco (twenty, count them) at filling the bags efficiently and in the main intelligently, though I do come into criticism for the weight of a single bag (cans should be grouped together, right?) or the placement of that carton of eggs (it is in a protective box after all).
This time there was a breakdown in the norm. As I finished with the last bag, Karen had left the clerk (my assumption – the check was written and surrendered) and was talking to a lady with a baby. I swung the last bag into the cart, and was turning the cart around into the exiting traffic, when the clerk called after me with an authoritative insistence in his voice – “Sir, you need to pay for those!”
I had entered the Twilight Zone. I looked at the clerk and he looked back at me. I was sending thoughts his way – don’t you see that I’m a packer, not a payer. And scanning the crowd for my wife. She had moved along, but was still talking to the mom with a baby. And was completely oblivious to our current deadbeat status. I sleep-walked my way back to the clerk and paid up. My thoughts were no longer on the embarrassment of being put on the spot, but who was this person who looked like my wife, and why hadn’t she paid the clerk, a task that she had always performed in the past ad infinitum.
She chalks it up to a “senior moment.”
I just want to know what happened when we passed through the produce department this time.