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By Otis Twelve

Just Ask George

April 28th, 2024

So, last week while I was approaching the Hillary Step on my third attempt to summit Mount Everest, I began to ask myself if all the effort was worth it. I looked up ahead of me at the mob scrambling up the ropes set into the rocky face and then below me at the long line of adventurers sucking on their frost-flecked O2 masks. They had joined me there in the Death Zone 28,838 feet up in the thin Nepalese air, where I could see the idiocy of the entire endeavor.

Billionaires, socialites, trust-fund babies, retired optometrists, bloggers, vloggers, YouTubers, and a hedge fund manager fleeing an indictment in American Samoa all strung out on the knife edge ridge that leads to this, the final barrier between these so called “adventurers” and the literal top of the world.

I felt myself growing dizzy. Dizzy with the idiocy of the enterprise. Dizzy as my vision narrowed into a black and white tunnel of approaching unconsciousness. Dizzy as Tommy Roe on a Tilt-a-Whirl…Wait…What? I shook my head to clear away the mental fog…The voice came out of the void…

“Paper or plastic, sir?”

At long last, I had made it to the front of the queue.

“Paper…and double sack everything. Thanks,” I said.

Hazel–that’s what her smiley face name tag said–started scanning my yogurt while Mary Lou vainly wrestled with the paper sacks trying to insert one into the other.

Back in my teenage years I had once been a grocery sacker–yes, back in the Golden Age of sacking. I had mastered the art of double sacking, and as I watched her struggle, I had to consciously hold myself back. I mean, I was sympathetic, but in the end, thought it best that she learned for herself, don’t you think? I believe that true Art emerges from the struggle.  Mary Lou was on her own.

As Hazel progressed to my orange juice (extra pulp), my frozen chipped beef (for my favorite dish of S.O.S.)., and the rest of my curated purchases…

Note: I prefer to “curate” my groceries as opposed to “shopping” for them…it’s classier. Anyway, as Hazel scanned and Mary Lou sacked, I looked over at the self-checkout area.

There is no adventure there, no thrill, none of the danger involved in letting random people handle your food, or potentially place your eggs under your cantaloupes. The only slight bit of excitement involved is when you are forced to face the dreaded “Look Up Item” prompt, and you have to swipe through endless pictures of green leafy vegetables, none that match your organic Slow Bolt Arugula.

No one can help you then.

Day-to-day life can be so mundane. But in the midst of our routines, there are so many adventures to be had. Skip the self-checkout. Brave the congestion at Lane Number 9 where Hazel is spraying disinfectant on the stuttering black conveyor flecked with beads of 2% milk and a suspicious blueish stain that keeps reappearing as the belt repeats, repeats, repeats….

Why brave Lane Number 9?

Why? Well, as George Mallory said on the slopes of Everest in 1923:

“Because it’s there.”

This column originally appeared in Omaha Magazine.