Saturday, May 26, 2012

Three Dollars and Two-Bits

I am definitely not old but have lived long enough to have memories.  Our children are raised, grown, and married.  My list of errands wasn’t long:  cloth and thread - a receiving blanket for our youngest daughter, then mayonnaise, lip stain, and some non-dairy cheese, and finally a quick visit to check on Uncle Nat, who was 94, before I headed home, hopefully to do some writing.

I was disappointed at the fabric store.  They’d never heard of Bamboo muslin, which my daughter had seen on-line and thought would be nice but with a price tag of $26 for each receiving blanket, she’d called and asked if I had time to make her some. I found a nice soft flannel printed with “I love Grandma.”  Thought that was a nice touch. 

At check out, I mentioned that I didn’t bring coupons… I hate coupons.  The clerk smiled and asked if I had a smart phone.  Mine is so new to me that I had to think if it was smart or not. 

“Well, I have an iPhone.”

“That works.  You can download the Jo-Ann app and it will deliver your coupons.”  I stepped out of line, flipped open Apps, checked I was getting the right one, and voila!  The $8+ price became $2.97!  I love my new phone.

At the market I picked up what I needed as well as a few assorted items I noticed on the shelves that weren’t on my list.  You can’t convince me that there isn’t a plan to guide you, mazelike, through a store to see everything on your way to finding what you actually came to get.

Again I left my quarterly discount card at home.  Have I said that I hate coupons! 

I quipped to the clerk, “I left my cash-back coupon at home.  Do you have a way of pulling up my discount?”

She swiped my membership card and voila again!  I saved nearly $10.  Yippee skip.  I’m on a roll.  Maybe I should get out more often.  This is fun.

Pulling out of the parking lot to visit Uncle Nat, I saw a clean-cut young man dressed in fatigues and sitting on a green duffle.  He held a sign – “Stranded Vet.  Can you help me get home?” 

The light was red and I fumbled in my bag for my wallet and a few dollars.  Before I could get them out, the light changed and the cars started moving onto the highway.  Oh, well, I thought, he’s probably not really a soldier in distress.  Maybe he’s got a knife and is waiting for an unwary traveler. 

My writer’s mind spun off into several scenarios, most of them grisly and having to do with concealed knives, razor sharp blades, glinting in the light, and maybe abduction.  I stopped at the next light, chiding myself for being fanciful, turned, and circled back. 

My wallet was near empty.  I pulled out two ones and then thought, No, make it three.  If the situation were reversed you’d need three.  Beside that leaves you two for emergencies. 

I saw him as I made a rolling stop in the parking lot across the street.  He hadn’t moved.  Should I do this?  What if he’s an addict?  Am I just enabling?  He seemed harmless enough but isn’t that what they said about Jeffrey Daumier.  You are a silly, imaginative woman, I chided myself as I pulled into the left turn lane, one over from the maybe-soldier. 

He’s just a boy, I thought.  I threw my purse on the floor and rolled down the driver side window, made eye contact, and waved the money I held.  He looked both ways and ran across the road toward me.

“God bless you, ma’am.”  He said as he took the money from my outstretched hand.

“I’ve got kids in the military,” I replied as my eyes slid across him and to the light.  It was green again and I was forced to move with traffic toward my appointment with my uncle.

I wondered to myself again if I had done the right thing or been made a fool of.  And then I remembered my dad stopping on the street many years ago.  I couldn’t have been more than six or seven.  He let go of my hand and walked back the way we had come.  I stood and watched with my mother.  Reaching into his pant’s pocket, he pulled something out and shook hands with a stranger.

“Do you know him?” I queried. 

When he shook his head, I felt confused, shocked that my dad would talk to much less touch someone so dirty. “Then what were you doing with that bum?”

“That’s not a bum, sweetheart,” he replied.  “He’s just a man, down on his luck.  That’s all.”  My eyes must have questioned him because he continued in a softer voice,  “I’ve been there and I know.”

The younger version of me turned to look at the retreating figure, as my mother gently chided, “It’s not polite to stare.”

Times have changed.  My errands called me onward.  Musing, I thought that three dollars was not much more than two-bits when I was a child - maybe a burger, or fries and a drink, but maybe, just maybe, it would help a young man return home.

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