They come out at night.

Maybe it's the glare of fluorescent lights, stark against the night, that draws them like moths. Maybe it's the easy promise of a 40 ouncer and a pack of smokes. Or maybe just because it's open all hours.

For whatever reason, the downtown Safeway in Portland, OR, between 10th and 11th on Jefferson, while plenty creepy during the day, gets really freaky at night. Just say "Psycho Safeway" or "Safeway of the Damned" or "Crack Safeway" to anyone in Portland and they'll know what you're talking about. It's the downtown Safeway that pulls in the night people, the cranksters, the junkies, the you-don't-have-to-go-home-but-you-can't-stay-here people. The ones who are at their peak when the day people sleep.

There's probably one in your town, too. You know what I'm talking about.

Dialogue and I encountered a much creepier and more insidious Safeway of the Damned a few months ago, on our way to The Horny E2 Portland Conflagration. If memory serves, it was in Woodinville, Washington.

We had pulled off the freeway intending to make a brief stop in search of sustenance. As soon as we spotted it, we knew this was no ordinary Safeway. To begin with, it had a gas station. The parking lot was gigantic, more than enough to hold an entire county's worth of minivans.

As we disembark, the parking lot is strangely silent, though moderately close to full of cars. Hesitantly, we approach the behemoth supermarket.

The inside is clean. No trace of the muddy boots of the construction workers who erected it, no sticky spots on the floor to give evidence of the dangers of shopping with children. It looks as though the thing was transported in by airlift from some city-cized dust-free factory where it was carefully injection molded by men in space suits, all in one huge piece.

It's still quiet. The cash registers beep innocently, the cashiers barely whisper to the customers through peroxide brightened grilles of teeth.

One of the bag-children is mopping the spotless floor as we pass the bank of cash registers, she pauses, letting us pass. I don't look back to see whether she erases the imperceptible tracks, but I imagine it happened that way. Dialogue continues to the deli; I go to the bathroom.

This is not a Safeway bathroom. A Safeway bathroom is stuffed in the back of the store, next to the meat department, has doors that don't lock, no toilet paper, various industrial cleaning supplies stacked against one wall. This is the personal toilet of Martha Stewart, or June Cleaver. The walls are stylish wallpaper and adobe tiles. Individual adobe tiles, not those cut-to-fit strips of linoleum you buy from the hardware store. The sinks are brass and marble, as are the toilets. Angels sing when you flush the toilet and Chanel No. 5 is atomized throughout the stalls from an unknown location.

Perhaps I remember it slightly grander than it was, but still. The only thing that gave it away as a Safeway bathroom were the five "Dirty Hands Spread Disease" signs posted around the sink.

The woman who gave us our deli food didn't seem to be a genetic experiment or space alien or cult member, but I can't be positive. It may all have been a clever ploy.

My guess is that, by now, all signs that that Safeway ever existed have been removed. Someone's built a particularly lush playground on top of what used to be the parking lot. One night, after Dialogue and I passed through, it just disappeared.
Addendum to the above, as my traveling companion is not me, and did not see my evidence for the paranormal features of this particular Safeway. I went towards the deli to grab a diet soda from the little fridge thingie they always have there. Put it on the counter, dug my credit card out of my wallet, looked up........into a white face.

Now, I'm no class warrior or anything, I have no opinions either way about people of non-nothern european origin working anywhere in any job. But I have never been to a safeway where the deli was not manned by a cacophany of different ethnic backgrounds, none of them honkies.

I look to the right, further back into the deli area. Two more employees, both white. All three are clean, with well done hair cuts, clean uniforms, and no evidence of being welfare mommies or daddies. Rattled, I pay for my soda and await prole's emergence from the bathroom.

She does, and informs me of the creepiness there. I decline to investigate the mens room, certain that I'll be destroyed before I can return to the awaiting vehicle. She also, I can tell, notices the odd racial mix of the employees behind the deli counter, but instead of mentioning it, buys some Jo-Jos.

Soda and Jo-Jos obtained, we flee for our lives from the small pocket dimension which had taken up residence near the I-5's offramp.
I hope never to see such a scary sight again.

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