I went to CVS the other day to buy pantyliners. It was an ordinary trip, other than the fact that I got pulled over for running a red light, though I'm sure it was yellow when I had the right of way. I don't drive around blowing red lights with my infant in the car. My parents were also with me, it was their car in their suburb, the suburb I grew up in. My dad, who was in the front passenger seat of the car, got testy with the police officer, but I didn't even care.

Running a red light is one of those traffic infractions you can't really avoid. True, if you stop at a yellow light, you will not run the red. However if you stop at a yellow, especially an unripe yellow, you may be rear-ended, honked at, or probably shot at in some states. Nobody stops at the yellow. It's a barrier that was erected to preempt people's defense for running a red (it was yellow, I swear!), which is now used for selective enforcement.

Getting my first traffic ticket in 15 years is not the depressing part of my story, however. The depressing part was going into the CVS. You see, I've been living in New York City for the better part of a decade, and there is no CVS near me. The tiny pharmacy near me is a mom and pop, which was previously named "[Something] Apothecary." It is now named "[Something] Chemist." Needless to say, it is no beheamoth monument to capitalist abundance that is even the most modestly sized CVS.

This CVS trip was an in-and-out affair, with my parents staying in the air conditioned car and minding my child while I ran inside. I first went to the shampoo area, thinking the pads might be in that area, because it was in the front of the store and menstrual products are probably best sellers, so they would naturally be in a convenient place. Nope. Next I tried the lotions area. Then the baby and baby-adjacent stuff, thinking menstruation is related to babies. But nope. I spun around to see what was by the registers: a huge sign said "food."

I found the pantyliners in the shame section in the furthest rightmost corner of the store, near the incontinence pads and adult diapers, also near the medications for colds and allergies, as if menstruation is somewhere between a disability and a disease.

I wanted something made of unbleached cotton, because I didn't want the dioxins near my mucous membranes. Though there was an entire aisle of all sorts of menstrual pads and tampons, there was not a single choice using unbleached cotton. The best approximation was "organic cotton." Who cares of the cotton is organic if you're just going to bleach it anyway, I thought, as I grabbed the overpriced "organic" pads.

I made my way through the "food" section, to get to the cashier. Having once upon a time been bulimic, having a nasty sweet tooth, and being raised in a junk-free home, I am always tempted by processed food. The siren call of corn nuts, Cheezits, gummy bears and sour cream and onion chips was deafening. None of this stuff was food. I know food and I know inappropriate relationships with food, and all of this stuff was just legal drugs. Addictive and dangerous, without any of the psychotropic benefits of legal drugs.

When I got to the registers, only two out of six or seven were manned. The other registers permanently closed for some reason. A woman checking out in front of me was obese. I occasionally think of myself as fat because I weigh 160 pounds after giving birth, when I had never broken 150. But I am slender compared to the woman checking out. I felt my ingrained contempt for her start to well up, a response conditioned no doubt by years of poor-on-poor hunger games sponsored by our shittiest citizens. But then I remembered the "food" and the endocrine disrupters embedded in literally all of their menstrual equipment, and I thought better of hating this stranger.

The two cashiers were also in rough shape. They were men who looked to be in their teens and early twenties, with acne and bad haircuts. Both were flabby, though not fat, but altogether in terrible shape for being such young men. I stepped up to the counter and paid. As my card chip cleared, I picked up a point of sale item by Trolli. It was a single serve packet of sour gummy worms with the sugar crystals in a separate bucket. Rather than eat your gummy drugs straight up, I guess you are supposed to lick them, dip them into the green sugar, and eat them again. "Gross," I said looking up at the cashier. "Everyone says that," he replied, sheepishly.

"Do you want your receipt?" the cashier asked, handing it to me before I had a chance to decline. I grabbed it, trying not to actually touch it. Thermal paper, out of which receipts are printed, contains a high concentration of endocrine disrupters. I looked the young man in the eyes, thanked him, and bid him a good day. I could tell that he was grateful for a little bit of eye contact, that the few customers he has probably don't look at him, like really look at him as a person.

I left the CVS feeling depressed as all hell. Why? Let's start with all of the endocrine disrupters, from the stainmaster carpet, to the dioxin in all of the bleached cotton, to the shrinkwrap on everything, to the "fragrance" in the cosmetics, to the plastic "beverage" bottles, to the thermal paper of the receipts. Or how about the drugs masquerading as food; a public health crisis being sold in pharmacies of all places. Or the toxin-addled customers dragging their poisoned bodies around. Or the cashiers who make minimum wage and have no benefits. Or the grotesque illusion of choice: TWENTY kinds of menstrual pads but not a single one is unbleached cotton.

There's a reason people are shopping online. It's just less depressing, and chances are better that they will have the one product that you really want rather than the cheap poison shit that some crony out there wants you to become addicted to, so he can sell you rehab too.