Monday, February 21, 2011

The Steak or King Crab? I'm Just Not Sure... (Life is Just so HARD!)

Okay, here's the deal.  I 'typically' keep my yap shut.

Why?  Well, because what 'Goes around comes around'...  AND I don't want this kind of stuff to be 'coming around' to me.  I don't wish poverty on anyone else, and I certainly don't wish it upon myself, my family, OR anyone else I know.

BUT (this is a BIG 'but') can I VENT for just a moment? 

Great, thanks.

So I'm at the local WalMart the other evening.  Three high-school aged girls (okay, so maybe early 20's, but to me they looked like they were 12) are standing ahead of me in the Express lane (20 Items or Less!!!) with somewhere in excess of 40 items. 

Not the actual girls, but, hmm, maybe???

Giving them the benefit of the doubt, maybe they thought because there were three of them that this meant that they only had 13.333333 items each, coming well under the '20 Item' count. 

But, here I would be making the assumption that they could actually count, let alone do 'percentages' on the fly.

Soooooo, it's 5:45pm, I'm looking to get home and the three laughing girls ahead of me put the food on the conveyor, the food is scanned, the total comes up, and...

Suddenly - everyone gets quiet.

What happened to the raucous laughter?

What happened to the careless abandon of spending a winter's evening with friends?

What happened at the magic of being out with your BFF's shopping at WalMart?

Oh, I know, and you will in a minute also. 

Let's shift gears for a moment and get a little more 'visual'...

On the conveyor ahead of me I see:

KING CRAB CLAWS (roughly $2,000 per pound - well, I've watched that show "Deadliest Catch" from time to time, they OUGHT to be a couple grand per pound...)

Not their actual crab, but crab nonetheless...

Succulent NY Strip Steaks!  (Roughly $7.59 per pound - apparently cows put up much less of a fight than the above 'Giant Under Water Long-Legged Death Spiders'.  Mmm, Beef!  Yumm-O!)

They also had a whole lot of 'other' stuff in their cart I would not buy because, between you and me, I'm shopping for my family - we have very basic nutritional requirements (i.e.:  Pasta, potatoes, chicken, tuna, and Hershey bars).

It is at this point when I notice that one of the girls is reaching into her over-sized bag and rooting around for something.  She sports some cool nail art and is very well-dressed for a late-afternoon jaunt to WalMart.  This girl?  She's a "Player"

A Kardashian?  Could be, but this girl and her friends were fully-clothed, and normally from the 'K' family is running around half-nekked, sooooo, probably not.  

Yes, fabulous nail art!

I soon discover what she is looking for.  Her friend explains to the slightly-annoyed woman at the register that "She's got to call to see how much credit is left on her card."  

The woman standing at the register looks at me with a kind of, "Sorry buddy, there's not much I can do about it right now" look and shrugs...

The girl finds what she is looking for, pulls it from her purse, reads a number from the back of her credit card and begins hitting 'Keys', lots of 'Keys' on the keypad.  Between the sound of Touch-tones I can hear Automated Prompts being played at the other end of the call. 

Five minutes later she looks at her friends on line with her and says, "I only have $118.00 left on my card.  I can't afford the King Crab AND the Steak so which one do you want to put back?"  

Debate follows:  "But I LOVE steak and if you're eating steak, you might as well have King Crab too.  It's a 'Surf and Turf' kind of thing!" says Girl #2.

"I know, but I don't have enough for BOTH!  Pick one."  Says the girl with the phone dangling from her ear.  

"Well, if we have to choose, let's go with the steak - but can we get some onion rings with them?" asks Girl #3.

Over the next several minutes, the girls moved food items into and out of their basket in order to get the total down below the magic $118.00 target.  At the end of the exercise they spent $116.47, and yes, they got the steaks AND the crab but left a stack of un-purchased groceries at the check-out station.  More yakking ensued as I stood in my suit, overcoat, gloves and scarf.  I wanted to get home but the lines at the other registers were longer than this one.  And then, they were gone...

What made this transaction particularly memorable was the following:

The phone retrieved from the over-stuffed purse was a BlackBerry (a RIM device).  This requires a data plan, and cellular commitment with a monthly expenditure of anywhere between $60 and $90, and in general, a longish-term contract.

The number she called with her BlackBerry phone? 

Turns out that it was the NY State Benefits Hotline. 

She called to see what remained on her NY State Benefits Debit Card.  

This handy plastic card allows people receiving New York State public assistance to buy items without the stigma of 'Poor-dom' which was normally attached to 'Food Stamps'...

As I stood with my $27 dollars of groceries in my Blue WalMart basket waiting for the girls to find their way out of the store, I wondered aloud as I approached the register, "Hi, I don't know, should I go for the 'Great Value' Peanut Butter house brand, or go for broke with the top shelf  'Peter Pan'?"  

The woman smiled back at me and said, "Go ahead, get the good stuff, it looks like you've earned it."

"Yeah, I guess I did - I spent the extra 79 cents for the 'Good Stuff'.  You know what?  Toss in a jar of some of those Smucker's Blueberry Preserves for me while you're at it, I'm feeling crazy tonight."

When I left the store, yes, I was a 'bit crazy'. 

I'm better now, but I'm still crabby.  

And me, without the claws to show for it... 

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