“And finally you just wake up one day and you ask yourself, ‘Why aren’t I working at a place where they treat you like a human being instead of like a fuckin’ cog in the fuckin’ wheel?'” said my colleague to whom I will refer as B.O. because those were his initials and for no other reason.

That’s “cog in the machine,” I thought. The cog is the wheel.

“And when shit goes wrong, they blame the cog.”

I was getting that feeling in my heart. Shrinking. “So much for the spirit of democracy,” I contributed. We waved each other off and a pulse of headache teleported me to my car. “Okay, man,” I said as I turned the key in the ignition. “It’s okay.” A lilting Irish tune came on and I floated out of the parking lot and down the road toward the local grocer.

My eyes burned holes in the road. Was this the futuristic noir adult life I’d envisioned in my youth? Sort of. Except for the grocer. Childhood fantasies never involved food.

Out of the car, another pulse teleported me to the parmesan cheese and olive oil aisle. I floated down the aisle, eyes burning holes across the shelf, ruining dozens of dollars-worth of food products. “Olive oil aisle,” I recited. “Oliveoilaisle.”

I bent down and clutched  a cylinder of parmesan cheese. “Today is a good day for this cheese. I will eat this and listen to jazz music and cope with my stress and enjoy my futuristic noir lifestyle.”

At the checkout, a sixty-something man with handsome white hair scanned my goods with the carefree gusto of a volunteer.

My total blipped on the digital price-telling marquee. I crammed a hand into my pocket and shuffled around for my credit card. I was done with physical cash in this futuristic noir thriller. I produced and slid my card.

<CASH BACK?> said the futuristic credit machine.

<YES> I selected. Whoops.

“I meant to press <NO>,” I said, pleading for sympathy. “I’m done with physical cash.”

“If you don’t want it, just select that one on the bottom and enter ‘zero’ as your amount,” the old-timer said. I did so and it worked.

“Thanks.”

“See? There’s always a way out.”

I took a beat to look him in the eye. He looked back and smirked as sixty-somethings who treat life like volunteer work smirk.

“Thanks,” I said. “Not for the cheese.” I turned and the automatic double-doors showed me the way out.

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