In some ways I am very much a boy. One of my y-chromosomal deficiencies is shopping, as has been recently chronicled thru my IKEA experience. Last month, while I was up in Weed, I took the co-pilot seat on the monthly "big shopping" trip to Yreka. Many of you city folk may not realize that when you live out in the country you really can't be running to the supermarket every other day, not when that means a 30, 40 or 50 mile drive each way. So you plan ahead. Since I was basically crashing at my friends house while the Berkeley apartment was being remodeled, I felt it only fair to make at least one shopping run, despite my aversion to commerce and over consumption, I do believe in eating.

So I took the passenger seat with my hostess one Tuesday afternoon and we hit the road with an empty trunk and a bin of tote bags. I discovered only after we were on the road north that the modus operandi for a "Big Shop" allowed for side trips, which in this case meant we would be stopping at The Spawn of the Devil Store (Wal-Mart) and the Dollar Store. I had clearly not taken enough medication to get me through this forced march of consumerism, but I felt obligated since the Wal-Mart stop included chemicals for the spa, which I used every single day. And yes, I cannot tell a lie - I bought an item that was not on the shopping list and was not edible, it truly is a vortex of evil and impulse spending.

But this post is not about any of what I have meandered on about thus far. Nah, tis about our checkout experience from the Arkansas-China outlet store. We had finished in the garden section (spa products) and since there was an open register with only one other customer, we decided to checkout there. Did I mention we had bough a month's supply of individual serving meals for both the cat and the dog, on sale don't you know. Let's just say we had a full basket in excess of eighty individual items. But only one person in the queue in front of us and she had exactly six items. We were good.

I now change professional garb and step in my psychologist demeanor. The lady in front of us wanted to divided her purchases into two groups, not unreasonable she could have been picking up a few things for a friend. However, I heard her say:

"I only buy food on this card." and she produced a Visa debit card, which was then followed by having to guess several times at her passcode and then not having enough in her account to cover the four food items. I made the assumption that she was poor and considered paying for her food items.

She and the slow burn clerk then switched to a second card, which was a $25 gift Wal-Mart debit card someone had given her for Christmas (our story takes place in March). That had enough remaining balance to cover the food items, but having to put food on anything but her food debit card as very disconcerting to our slowly becoming bizarre shopper.

By this time two more shoppers had pulled up behind us, but when another register was opened they bum rushed it and did not allow the next in line (me!) to take my rightful place. So we stayed behind our single shopper, who had now moved on to her non-food items and another card, this time a credit card. This card went through but there was an issue with one of the items, which apparently had been listed as on sale for $2.59 but was showing up on the register as $2.89. A call could have gone out for a price check but the register clerk decided not to go there and keyed in the 30 cent savings. Methinks the large male in line may have influenced her decision, but I was only standing that close to hear the next bit of disturbed dialog.

All items are now purchased, but wait. There is the matter of cashback, which I (because now I am paying very close attention) understand goes only on the credit card, but this was the credit card that had to be used in place of the first debit card that did not have enough credit to debit the four food items; so the concern is whether one can cope with using the credit card twice in the same day. I am not sure if this is because the credit card gets frightened if removed from the wallet more than once a day or if perhaps two transactions dated the same day on the monthly statement resembles the sign of satan. I'm just speculating here.

Our shopper is not poor; I inferred this from the Lexus key she pulled out when searching her cavernous purse. Not poor but definitely certifiable. Wait, you say, too harsh an assessment. OK then, she finally decides she can indeed use the card twice and runs it through the card reader again in order to get three dollars cash back. Three dollars!

Hold on, you say again, maybe she is poor. She finally gets her three bucks and tucks them into her wallet with what I can see is a stack of bills totaling at least several hundred dollars.

I would say more but I was busy stacking thirty individual cat dinners in succulent gravy on the checkout counter. Eventually our queued up shopper drifts away into whatever universe she alone inhabits and the checkout lady turns her attention to me, I say:

"There are thirty of these cat dinners if you want to scan just one."

"They make us run them through one at a time," she sighs.

"I'll want to put these on separate credit cards."

I couldn't resist.