L.A. Noir: The Donut Man

“I was driving for a tow company in L.A. We had official police tow contracts for three cities and it was busy, with lots of freeway work. Towing stuff for cops, AAA stuff, and crashes. You know, the crashes can get gory as hell.”

“There was this one driver named Ralphie Bermudez. Ralphie liked crashes, gory ones. The gorier the better, stuff that nobody wanted to see. He loved that shit.”

“So he’d show up at just about every really splattery gross crash, but he’d stop on the way. And he’d get a dozen jelly donuts and bring them to the scene.”

“He’d walk up eating one, try to hand them out, kinda squeeze them at people. ‘Who wants a jelly donut? Jelly donuts for everyone!’ People would get grossed out, like, c’mon Ralphie. That’s not cool. He’d just keep chuckling.”

“Yeah, that was Ralphie. Jelly donut Ralphie.”

BEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEP

I went to the supermarket tonight near midnight as I often do. The only reason I ever go to Ralphs is that it’s open late; otherwise I’m at the produce market, Trader Joe’s, etc.

The Ralphs on 17th Street in Costa Mesa, CA is very bright, painfully so. I feel like Lou Reed coming down off heroin when I walk in there out of the dark into the fluorescence. The produce is horrible except for one or two items, so it’s strictly a packaged goods and dairy kind of place for me most of the time. I really like the people who work there, though.

Lately I’ve been going to another Ralphs less than a mile away if I can; it’s only open until midnight, but the Westcliff Plaza one’s staff has revolted and replaced the corporate Slow Jam/Office Rock muzak with their own mix CDs, so that my 20 minutes of grocering are smoothed by a few tracks of 70s funk or 1940s jazz etc.

Tonight I made the mistake of going back to 17th Street and experienced the worst innovation yet. They’ve put a door buzzer in because of all the beer runs etc. and every time anyone enters or leaves it makes a piercing, cringe-inducing 70 db BEEEEP. No, not BEEEEP. More like BEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEP. It’s the sort of sound I associate with fire alarms at hospitals. Can’t be ignored, makes you stop in your tracks and flinch. I could see people making involuntary attempts to cover their ears each time it went off, which was about every three or four minutes. We were all on a broken starship from a shitty science fiction movie.

I grabbed the stuff I absolutely needed and checked the fuck out. At first I thought the noise was a broken alarm, but the checker confirmed the worst; it was permanent and would go off on every use of the door. I expressed disbelief. “I feel like writing a letter!” She handed me a comment form to send to them. “I’d really appreciate it”. I told her I probably wouldn’t be back for a while but I’d send in the comment letter.

Another customer came up and we bonded over the hell-noise. What the hell were they thinking? As I left, I told the checker “The mental health costs they’ll pay out to you guys are going to be way worse than a few beer runs.” She high-fived me.