Dial a Doctor: Part 2

Nancy’s voice sounded petulant and angry this time, like a small child who found another occupying her favorite seat. My Mom had answered the phone this time, while I spent my day off sitting at overly small desks during Grandparents and Special Friends at Kevin’s school (Essentially I followed my little brother through his normal morning routine, listening to lessons in class, evaluating his progress, and introducing myself to his cute single teachers — and unsuccessfully concealing my innate aura of desperation.).

Again the phone rang during lunch. “Hello,” Mom said.

“Yes, I am calling from the hospital. Is your husband available?” Mom answered no, that he was still at work but would be home at . . .

“I asked him to call me yesterday before four. I made that clear. Yet he did not call me. Now I have to call again today.”

Mom of course has no response for this obvious fact. She informs Nancy that we had called Dad concerning the message and gave him her phone number. To Mom’s knowledge, Dad had indeed talked to someone at the hospital. Who, she could not be sure, but he was aware of his medical restrictions before the surgery.

“Hmph . . . well, he did not talk to me. Be sure that he calls me before four this afternoon.”

“Oh, well, alright. Good . . .”

Click

” . . . bye.”

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Save Me

Yesterday’s conversation with Dad’s doctor recalled a short email that I dispersed last summer after a particularly trying experience with Food Lion’s club card. It is a little dated — I have since bought into the bonus card — not to mention vitriolic, but I thought that it might interest some of you, who like me become exhausted with gimmick:

I believe the check-out lady at the local Food Lion hates me. Or at least, loathes my continued existence in her store. Samuel Johnson once wrote that the failure of most human relationships is the accumulation of insults and fractures too minor to mention and too numerous to ignore. Such is the marketing principle of these supermarket bonus cards: to slowly accumulate wealth. Yet the constant badgering and store-inflicted guilt too can accumulate, like a cancer, into a stubborn refusal to buy into the card at all, to willfully lose money.

Such is the case here.

Like most markets today, Food Lion offers a member-oriented bonus card, which offers the cardholder additional savings on groceries and free coupons for bizarre items like Chow Mein Noodles and vegetarian TV dinners. Once Mom gave me her card to buy six galleons of milk, a dozen eggs, and a pound of bacon. Upon checkout, the discount card earned me three coupons for Tampons. I refuse to sign up for the card; although, on occasion, I borrow Mom’s for large purchases (in a family of ten that occurs once a week). Typically during these rare moments, I only save about four bucks, ten at the most for a hundred dollar purchase. The check-out lady hates the fact that I could care less about the lost pocket change.

Whenever she asks for my card and I respond with a smile that I have left it at home, I am sure to look down so I cannot watch her shake her head. I do hear the sharp click of her tongue though. Clearly she disapproves of my attitude. An overly exasperated sigh follows, before I hear the beep of scanned cereal. Sometimes, the cashier’s pained voice will whine out to those standing behind me:

“Excuse me ma’am, do you have your card to scan? This gentleman cannot save without his card.”

She scans my neighbor’s card and begins packing my groceries into bags. I stand still like the fool in the corner who forgot his times tables. Purchasing fifty dollars worth of groceries earn me two dollars back and a coupon for cigarettes. I do not smoke.

“Don’t you like savings?” she asks.

Sure, I consider. I enjoy lollipops too, but I don’t think I’ll jump into traffic just to swap a freebie at the doctor’s office. I do not say this. Simply put, the prospect of playing this asinine game, when the savings could be granted to everyone with or without a card, prompts me to sacrifice several dollars a week just to annoy her.

I leave the store irritated, reminding myself to avoid her station next week. Though I know this will not happen, we somehow are drawn to one another like opposing charges: she sees a potential client while all I spy is another marketing trap, another ubiquitous plastic card to tack onto my keychain, another member of the nameless rabble who shop there.

Yet that’s the thing that troubles me the most: the total insignificance of the stupid card. With most of the cashiers — other than her — they station a manager’s card at the check-out so when some card-less shmuck like myself buys groceries, we can procure a few extra bucks. If the manger’s card cannot be found, they ask the next person in-line if they could swipe their card — usually without the guilt. Therefore, on any other day when the food-store fascist is absent, anyone regardless of race, creed, or key-chain can save a few extra bucks on bananas, bagels, and band-aids.

Or if they ever allow us to input our phone-number code, I’ll staple my phone number above the register, thus triggering such a massive influx of savings that Food Lion will crumble within a few years and I will have to drive an additional five minutes to a store with more amiable grocers. Although with the rising price of gas, it is lose-lose either way.