The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

Columns

March 28, 2008

Shopping leads me to state of oblivion

It’s official.

I am an “oblivion.”

An impassioned, thoughtful reader used the unique sense of the word to describe me and my behavior at Wal-Mart. Apparently the description only applies to me and only while I am at Wal-Mart but at no other store of any variety — at least according to the reader.

When I first read the word — oblivion — I thought the person might be calling me some insult culled from our terminology of prehistory: Like amphibian, for instance. Or, troglodyte.

“Am I a brute?” went my mental dialogue. “Is an oblivion a brute?”

No, not according to the impassioned reader, who contextually defined an oblivion as a person chatting it up at Wal-Mart who is oblivious to shoppers around him. Specifically, the reader defines an oblivion — me, specifically — as someone who stops in Wal-Mart aisles, to chit-chat or engage in some other social activity, and is completely oblivious to other task-minded Wal-Mart shoppers behind and around him. Shoppers like me unnecessarily clog up the aisles, the concerned letter writer lamented.

I get it. An oblivion is a Wal-Mart shopper who is oblivious. (Oblivious to other shoppers in his immediate vicinity.)

Gentle shopper, if I have ever held up your Wal-Mart shopping experience by three, maybe four seconds — five at the very most — because of my oblivion tendencies, please, please, gentle shopper, do not spit upon me. Please give me the benefit of the doubt. Actually, please accept this opinion column as a written apology for my brutish inconsiderateness. Please excuse this oblivion.

My father and mother are both oblivions, so the oblivion’s instincts and nature are encoded into my DNA. It’s not my fault I am an oblivion.

Of course, oblivion is a word – a noun. So, the earnest author of the letter-to-the-editor that prompted this discussion was correct in using oblivion as a noun. According to my “Oxford Concise Dictionary” (10th edition, published 1999), there are four usages of the noun oblivion:

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