Field Trippin’: Part 2

Rats and human bones

Yeah, the whole trip felt like that . . .

Of all the nonsense that befell Unity over the following months, nothing frightened me more than the sight of the kids stumbling to the edge of the highway, ready to play Frogger with speeding yuppies from Kingsmill and weekend historians.

The man behind us shouting on his cell had already called the police by the time we left the deli.  Ms. Jane was screaming for the kids to return when he noticed us.  Ms. P and Catherine were still buying snacks on the opposite end of the plaza.  Sporting a greasy comb-over and a haunting odor of Axe body spray, the man – who I will forever christen as Little Pesci – addressed me first, obviously mistaking me for the leader of educational band; although it was Ms. Jane who answered.

“Are those your children?” he asked.  He had this way of saying ‘your’ like an old woman in a Pollyanna movie, as if only the children’s guardians would possibly summon a pack of middle school students from rushing headlong into traffic and playing dodgeball with a Buick. That fact that he happened to be right only proved the guy was a total prick as well as an idiot. Continue reading

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Musical Haunts

Lately songs have become lodged in my head, whispering lyrics as I sleep like the ghost of some blond pop diva.  I speak of course of Natasha Bedingfold’s “Pocketful of Sunshine,” one of the most addictive songs on the radio this year.  If you happen to hear its wispy synthetic prelude, careen off to the median and throw yourself from your car immediately (or turn down the volume), lest you subject your family and loved-ones to long off-key interludes of “Take me Awaaaay . . . to my secret plaaaace . . .”  Airborne infection occurs within seconds; normal healthy siblings will fall into chorus or dance after a single verse:

Natasha’s secret place apparently excludes non-beautiful people who cannot street dance — or look horrible in white.  Ryan meanwhile took most of family to see Neil Diamond Tuesday.  The average age of the audience included 30-year old men and 40-year old women, shaking and dancing to the rhythm of Neil’s blue jeans.   During one energetic song, we told by the row behind us to sit down and slump in our seats as we stood to dance.  Apparently the older curmudgeons, too old or lazy to stand and clap, felt angry at the prospect of paying eighty bucks to watch our porcine rears shake and obstruct the stage.  Some people enjoy to dance; other enjoy to sit quietly and listen.  Either is good, but for those that choose the latter, a $20 DVD succeeds much better than an $80 concert ticket.

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.