I take Daddy to Wal-Mart to get groceries for the week. This is a ritual not to be taken lightly. Taking an eighty-year-old is an experience you should not miss. First, we went to the bank for cash, because he hates to write a check at Wal-Mart.
Me: “Why can’t you write a check?”
Me: “Because why?”
Him: “Because they give the check back to you.”
Me: “Why’s that a bad thing? You get the check back so it doesn’t go through as many hands and keeps evil cashier people at Wal-Mart from having access to your account number.”
Him: “I just don’t like it.”
I suspend the conversation at this point, because once he says, “I just don’t like it,” there will be no clear winner ... ever.
We pull up close to the bank and he tells me to pull over to the side. This “side” he talks about has a parking lot ... as we get closer, he points to the parking lot with no verbal direction. I pull into the lot and see that there are no spaces available, so I say:
Me: “Go ahead, get out, and go in; I’ll find a space.”
Him: “Well, I told you to pull to the side.” (He meant the CURB but didn’t say it.)
I wasn’t going to push the subject. Obviously, he was attempting to project his thoughts into my brain by concentrating hard and pointing with his finger. A talent of a true Jedi master that is only perfected when you reach eighty years of age. (Or if you’re a woman.)
I drive around the corner of the lot and see a space, so I pull in, only to look towards the bank building and see two large SUVs blocking my sight of the front door. Simple reasoning tells me HE won’t be able to see ME either, so I back out and pull under some trees to wait. A few minutes later, someone comes out and pulls out of a space located directly across from the front door.
I ready my mind to pounce upon the available oasis of convenience and get ready to engage in battle with anyone who might have the same idea. Nobody is waiting, so I craftily dash into the available spot and wait.
Daddy comes out in a few minutes and looks directly at me ... then turns his gaze to the right ... then to the left ... and back to the right. “He doesn’t see me,” I say to myself, so I lightly honk the delicate horn on my little Isuzu to alert him to my whereabouts. He looks right at me ... then to the right ... and again to the left. I decide to honk again, but I let the signal blare a bit longer—hoping I don’t scare the beejesus out of the other eighty-year-old man standing by the car parked on my right. Hearing the horn, the other eighty-year --old man looks up ... to the right and then to the left.... “Hmmm …” I think. “Must be contagious.”
Daddy then looks straight at me, and after a few seconds, you can see the light turn on and he sees me. He gets in the truck and we continue our happy trek towards Wal-Mart.
We go up and down each aisle as he tells me what he wants and I go to pick it up and put it in the basket. He peruses over the prices and says, “God dang, that’s high priced!” (edited for language). I pick it up and put it back on the shelf, saying goodbye to the Red Delicious apples, knowing we will not be enjoying them this week or perhaps ever again.
We finish our shopping and proceed to the checkout counter seeing a choice of a line with a live Wal-Mart cashier and five people with full baskets or an EMPTY line at the Self-checkout. I start walking towards the people-less self checkout when Daddy says
Him: “Why ain’t you going to the line with the cashier?”
Me: “Because they all have lots of people in them; this is faster.”
Him: “I don’t like these; it ain’t right.”
Me: (FAMOUS LAST WORDS BEFORE MY IMPENDING DESTRUCTION) “Oh, it’s fine, it’s going to be much faster than waiting in those lines.”
… Sigh …
I drag each item happily across the scanner and was about to congratulate myself on finding an empty line to show my unbelieving father how fast and convenient these self-checkout lines really are—when the trouble started....
The total came to $107.17 and my father pulls out a huge wad of $20 bills flashing them in his hand to all who were in line around us—people who were surely just out of prison for robbing eighty-year-old men at gunpoint. I take the greenbacks and start feeding them them one by one into the machine as it flashes the countdown on its shiny, trustworthy screen.
I finish paying the $107 with five twenties, a five-dollar bill, and two ones. Daddy then digs in his pocket for the seventeen cents. (I forgot to tell him it makes change.) He gives me the exact change and I triumphantly start to feed it to the electronic marvel only to hear a “plunk” and see the coins come back to me in the return slot. I try again with the dime, nickel, and two pennies—just to have them vomited back at me while a guttural growl comes from the technological wonder in front of me.
I ask my Father for another dollar bill, so we can get out of there and I can save face from my decision not to go to a living, breathing Wal-Mart cashier. He tells me he doesn’t have one, so I ask for a quarter and insert it only to see it take the same route of its ancestors and go into the return coin slot.
I take my trusty check card and tell my Father, “I’ll take care of this real quick,” only to be met with the stare of the Darth Vader-esque man who has already declared victory over his unworthy opponent and is ready to go home and watch Andy Griffith.
I swipe the card and enter my PIN number, and a few seconds later, the evil screen flashes a message of “Incorrect PIN number, please try again.” So I swipe the card again, not yet conceding victory to the Jedi master who is getting ready to melt my brain by pointing his finger at my sweat-beaded head.
The screen once again tells me that it can’t recognize the transaction, so I call over the live Wal-Mart cashier who has cast much favor with eighty-year-old men everywhere. She can’t make the machine work either. She calls a manager, who brings out a huge ring full of keys that obviously unlock the mysteries of the Universe. She is also unsuccessful at getting it to co-operate. They call for back-up.
I see people behind me getting impatient and hear their death threats in my mind. They try to push through to get out, so I gently push my shopping cart gently to the side … only to hear a “bonk” noise ... kind of like the sound a one-gallon jar of sour dill pickles that has fallen four inches from the bottom of the cart to the ground and lost its lid sounds. Much like that ... in fact ... EXACTLY like that.
They call a maintenance tech to come over and clean up the briny mess while still trying to figure out how we can pay the seventeen cents still due. Nobody can figure it out and my father is looking at me ready to negate my existence with a death ray because he is missing Andy Griffith. The lady who came over with a mop and bucket looked at the gallon jar and said “Maaan ... I never did like pickles that much.”
I go to get another jar of sour dill pickles to replace the one that committed suicide from my cart and leaked its pungent ecto-plasma over the floor and under the register, guaranteeing that its memory will linger for weeks or months.
They finally get the machine to work where we can go on our happy way. We get home and Daddy says, “Dang ... they charged us for two jars of those pickles.”
I didn’t dare tell him I was the one who ran it twice.
I called my bank when I got home to see what was wrong with my card and related my story to the customer service rep who was laughing so hard she couldn’t help me. Next time ... we’ll go to a live cashier.