The Art of Being Poor and the Fresh Fruit Problem
I like stuff, all kinds of stuff, and shopping soothes my soul in only a way that I imagine medical marijuana would. Walking into a TJ Maxx and seeing rows and cluttered isles of stuff fills my heart with glee. This is why I am always broke. The kind of broke where you stop answering your phone to avoid the bill collectors, and checking your mail becomes a panic attack inducing event. I am to this day broke, we currently have $11.86 in our checking account, but I was never as broke as I was the year my children went to Florida for spring break.
I had for weeks made endless lists of what I would pack for them, taking the time to arrange each carefully selected outfit so all they would need to do was reach in the suitcase and pull out an appropriate ensemble. Each child’s toothbrush was packed in a zippered bag and each child’s sandals carefully placed in the suitcase. I knew they would have a great time with my mother, and was excited that they were allowed such great adventures. However, what I most was excited for was I didn’t have to feed them for a week. Money was more than tight; stretched as thin as an aging socialites face, but for this one week I would have two less people to worry about. I devised a plan. I had exactly enough money to make one homemade hamburger ranch pizza. If I divided out the pizza into squares I would have enough to eat for four days at two meals a day and the other meals I would supplement with ramen noodles. I had my grocery list and a battle plan. It was time to visit the Food Giant.
I find no more stores as ghetto-tastic as Food Giant. It smells of fried food with a hint of desperation. In my mind those with money shop at the glamorous stores like Wal-Mart where you can buy your tuna fish, a pack of underwear, and a lovely vase for your mantle. The Halle Berry’s and Angelina Jolie’s of the world shop at Whole Foods and Target; which is not even a possibility in Paducah, KY. When Demi Moore lived here (for all of about 10 minutes) I can only assume she walked the isles of Food Giant and said a prayer to the Gods of whole wheat while turning up her nose at the processed squishy white bread. But I digress…
I walked the isles and carefully picked out my two cans of off brand Pillsbury pizza dough, the store name bottle of ranch dressing, the pound of hamburger meat, and a bag of shredded cheese. I strolled through the store with store with my five items and started making my way back through the store to the checkout. I passed the deli and was not tempted, until in the cooler I saw it, fresh fruit. There in a plastic cup covered with saran wrap sat my Holy Grail. The cantaloupe was the perfect shade of orange. The grapes were still green and plump. The sliced strawberries had left their red juice on the cantaloupe. My mouth watered. I needed this fruit. A debate was raging in my brain. I knew I had just enough money to buy the five ingredients but I argued that without the fruit, scurvy could be a real threat. I again argued that I only had enough money for the five items, and again I argued back that this was late on a Monday and I was paid on Thursday. Any person who has been truly poor; for any amount of time, can tell you the exact number of days it takes for a check to clear at any given establishment. At Food Giant it was two days. With no doubt that check would clear on Wednesday night, but my lust of fresh fruit and fear of scurvy won and I put the cup into my cart and walked up to pay.
All of these years later, I still remember the drive home. The fruit sat in its bag and glared at me to eat it. My purse lay haphazard on the floor and my check book spilled out from the top. I drove home and unloaded my six items. I grabbed a fork and sat on my couch to taste my forbidden fruit. It was cold and wonderful. I ate each piece slowly, my eyes closed to block out any other sensations. Soon the cup was as empty as my checkbook. I resumed my life and began to call my bank’s 1-800 number at what seemed like intervals of 30 minutes. Just like clockwork the check came out on Wednesday night, the cup of fruit that had been priced at $2.11 cost me $38.11. It is still the most expensive and the most delicious cup of fruit I have ever had.