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What's $3 worth?

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Scene 1: A driveway deep in the countryside. A board on two sawhorses is set out with a hand-scrawled sign that says simply "Vegetables." On top is an ice chest barely big enough for a six-pack and a small cash box with the words "honor system" written on it. I stop, roll back the top of the ice chest, and find a dozen cucumbers. A note says they're three for $1.

I take nine cukes, carefully fold three $1 bills together, put them in the cash box and drive off, happy.

Scene 2: The food court at Costco. Unfortunately, cucumbers aren't enough, it's running late, and we have to make another stop at the big-box shopping center. I run into Costco to buy some portobello mushrooms to grill for our vegetarian guests but am handed upon entry a coupon for $3 off a pizza. I wait in a long line of coupon-holders, order the pizza, but forget to hand over the coupon. I remember on my way out and, $3 being three times what I have left in my wallet, go back to see if they'll honor it. The frantic but efficient counterman says OK, then leaves the counter, heads to an out-of-use cash register, takes my Costco card, has me fill out a form, performs a code sequence on the register involving a small key and enough numbers to launch an ICBM, asks me to sign something, and hands me three $1 bills. I apologize profusely, stunned that the refund takes 10 minutes.

I drive off with a large vegetarian pizza and an extra $3 in my wallet. So why do I wish we were just having cucumber salad for dinner?

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