This story happened a few years back when I lived in California and is another bothersome example of just what I mean when I say that the world would be a better place if we all just shut up and did our jobs.

And just because I told Sarah yesterday that I’d quit cursing people for being the dumb asses that they are doesn’t mean that I can’t keep writing about them.

Case in point, it was Thursday and a fish day; one of the two supposed days of the week when the  grocery store on E. Bidwell got in fresh fish and consequently  I was looking forward to some steamed fish with ginger and chilis.
The [same] bright-eyed, doltish, no help, worthless pud of a meat cutter, cum fishmonger, came over to help me.
‘I don’t know when it was put out’, he blurted.
‘I didn’t ask’.
‘Well, you always ask’.
I’m not asking because you never know’ .
He hovers over the display case waiting for the next something else that he can’t help me with.
‘Get away from me shit for brains’, I think, ignoring him as I look at the fish.
My hopes diminish by the tray. I’d seen better red tide kills on Padre Island than what was displayed on beds of ice under this glass. None of it looked fresh. For that matter none of it really even looked edible. However I did take the lack of ammonia smell that usually hung over the fish case, that pervading gagging smell like some English countryside bog gas , to be a good omen.
Even the salmon, the good old solid dependable salmon was letting me down this fish day. Where its appearance was usually firm and fresh with a good color today looked wet and unhealthy. The orange color had done some phase shift into an unappetizing pastel pink.
Fresh frozen (is that an oxymoron or what?) said the sign near the orange roughy. The filets which should have been near white in color and course in texture were instead an off blue and slick and slimy like the belly of a week old cadaver.
Fresh said the sign above the sea trout. Yeah. judging by the appearance, desiccated with the milky eyes of a lifelong sufferer of cataracts, the trout were fresh 3 or 4 weeks ago when they washed up on the Jersey shore.

‘Oh, come on’, I’m thinking. ‘We are only 125 miles from San Francisco for crying out loud. The Pacific coast of the United States is thousands of miles long so why is this such a freaking problem’?
I keep looking. The least offensive looking fish in the display case was the cod and fresh said the sign.
‘May I smell one of the cod filets?’
(he passes one over on a piece of wax paper).
‘Whew! not good’, I thought. It had that sick sweetish smell of decay. A new low, even for this store.

My head was full of angry buzzing noises and on the edge of my periphery I sense my doppelganger searching for a cudgel, anything, with which to smash the fish case and the ineptness parading as an employee to smithereens. My mind was arguing between what was worse: murder and mayhem or the distinct possibility of having a stroke in the meat department of a suburban grocery store.

I lowered the fish and took several deep breaths before handing back the filet. He took it back. ‘Its fresh,’ he declared.
‘Not bloody likely’, I said.  And I saw my doppelganger smile malevolently as it reached for the meat cleaver that lay unattended on the counter.
I took several more deep breaths and said, ‘You just told me that you didn’t know when it came in.’
‘This fish hasn’t been frozen’.
How having not been frozen somehow equated to fresh was beyond me. But then for a brief instant it all made perfect sense. From his perspective the fish was fresh or it wouldn’t be in the case, on ice, with a sign over it saying fresh.

With that my blood pressure dropped, my fists unclenched and my doppelganger disappeared. He smirked at me when I told him that ‘You can’t argue with logic like that.’

And it was with that annoyingly unnecessary bit of condescension that I snapped back into my real world where true unmerciful logic reigned and I recollected the harsh but practical advice from my second favorite bumpersticker of all time: ‘Make the World a Better Place – Kill Yourself’.