By Freida Marie Crump
Greetings from the Ridge.
It takes very little these days for Herb get himself into a royal snit and last week he was snitting full-bore as we stood in the checkout lane of the grocery store. The lady ahead of him had her hands full, both of groceries and children, and a goodly-sized line had backed up behind her as she carefully laid out a row of food stamps.
If I’d seen this coming I could have predicted Herb’s reaction and we’d have found another register, but when I saw the smoke coming from his ears I knew that I was in for an afternoon of lectures from Professor Herb.
“Where was her husband?”
“I don’t know, Herb.”
“And all them kids! Why doesn’t she just stop?”
“Got no idea, Herb.”
“And I’m paying for it! I’m paying her way to keep turning out kids she can’t afford! Why can’t she get a job like the rest of us?”
“How do you know she didn’t have a job?”
“With all those kids? How could she possibly keep a job?”
“That’s just the point, Herb.”
“You know that’s what’s wrong with this country, Freida. Too many folks feel entitled just because they’re born. Nobody thinks they gotta work for what they want! There’s just a handful of us supporting the rest!”
There’s no mollifying Herb when he gets on one of these rants. I always suggest he go for a walk or take a nap. Some days he does a lot of walking and napping. However, I did take one small step for mankind and suggest that he no longer accompany me when I shop for groceries. Didn’t work. Herb loves cruising the aisles of a grocery store and he’s forever throwing exotic things into my shopping cart . . . things that pique his interest and things that I can’t identify, much less eat.
Such was the case again yesterday and before I could stop him he’d hopped into the car. “Herb, there’s no use going if you’re just going to get upset.” The man’s hearing is optional. He can turn it on at off at will.
We walked into the supermarket and while I scanned my list of needed items Herb started fingering the exotic olive oils and Chinese celery. Wise shoppers choose items by taste and price. Herb’s a pushover for a pretty package.
We’d just headed down the canned goods aisle when she came into view. The little old gal was a bundle of coats and sweaters as she inched her cart slowly through the rows of canned soup. I veered a bit to the right and inched on by her but when I turned around I saw that Herb hadn’t moved. He was watching as she’d carefully check the price of each item, slowly shake her head and put the can back onto the shelf. When she finally chose something she reached into her battered purse, retrieved the stub of a pencil, and wrote down the price. Again and again the disheveled little lady would look at an item, check her coin purse, then pick something less expensive.
It broke my heart to watch her but I had shopping to do and the world must go on. I lost track of Herb for the rest of my grocery excursion and was relieved to end up at the checkout lane without any of his outlandish purchases.
As luck would have it I pulled my cart right in behind the little lady. She watched the digital register with anxious eyes as the checker scanned her purchases, gripping tigh tly to her change purse. The gal behind the counter said, “It comes to $18.75 but it’s already paid for.” The lady looked at the girl and blinked. “What?” She repeated, “Somebody paid for your groceries. I guess it’s your lucky day.” The old gal may have had tears but I couldn’t tell. I was too busy wiping my own eyes. And that’s when I saw Herb peeking around the magazine rack.
We got into the car without saying a word. I was in shock. Finally I said, “Herb, I thought you…” He stopped me. “That’s how it should be done, Freida.”
I can’t tell you how it pains me when the old coot is right.
You ever in Coonridge, stop by. We may not answer the door but you'll enjoy the trip.