I don't know what draws me in. It's probably that Aldi is cheap and on the way home. Plus when I leave, I get to see what the nearby Gold Club (strip joint) has posted on their sign (this week: Come See Our Stimulus Package).
On the way home from work, I trudge up to the door. I dig a quarter out of my pocket to unlock a shopping cart, mosey inside and proceed to stock up on cheap food. It's all in inexplicably random portions at Aldi. The smallest can of pears could feed a band of guerrillas for a week, while the largest tin of corn wouldn't provide me with enough nourishment to blink. Surprisingly, the mahi mahi is well-sized and looks tasty.
All of this is, of course, a prelude to the Standoff In The Checkout Line, which comes about because I can't pay. I want to. In fact, I whip out my Capital One card and swipe it a few times and then scratch my head as I realize Aldi does not take credit or personal checks, only debit or cash, of which I have neither. My debit card is lost somewhere at home, probably in the vicinity of my recliner, where I had lost it a week earlier after buying some cheap trinket online.
My inability to pay causes a lot of consternation in the face of the cashier, who explains the credit/debit rule to me with a tone that tells me she's told this story before. Still, you do not want to be the guy who can't settle his bill at Aldi. To put it mildly, it's not good for your pride.
This is where the Standoff In The Checkout Line really turns into a standoff, because I don't want to tell this woman I have no way of paying for all the food in my cart. I also don't want to tell her I will run up the road to hit the ATM, because I can't. But after a few awkward moments where nobody speaks and the rest of the line stares daggers at me, I decide to go for option B. At least that will give her the hope that I will come back and pay for all this stuff.
I slink into the parking lot and start to improvise. I call a friend:
ME: Hey, if I were to write you a check for $40, would you run to the cash
machine right now and get me $40?
HIM: Dude, I don't have $40.
ME: Fair enough.
I get back in the car, snicker at the sign at The Gold Club and speed over to my bank to make a withdrawal. I think it may be open, even though it's 5:3o and I know it's not. I arrive. It's not open. I don't know why I thought it would be.
Next, I get the bright idea to go to another grocery store (which actually takes credit cards) and try and cash a check, even though I know they won't. My exchange with the guy at customer service goes something like:
ME: Hey, I actually just bought some stuff at another grocery store, but
they don't take credit cards, and I need cash but don't have my ATM card, and
they're holding my food for me, and I'm wondering if you guys would cash this
personal check that I'm already starting to write out?
I decide to pass on the check cashing joint on South Boulevard and go home. It's now been at least 25 minutes since I left my shopping cart alone to die of exposure next to the check-out of a bag-it-yourself credit-shunning food repository.
I feel like I've really failed. At this moment, the cashier at Aldi thinks I'm coming back to pay for a heaping mound of food. At some point, she'll realize that I've stood her up. Some lowly stock boy will forever curse my name as he replaces the things I've gathered from every forsaken corner of the store. The task will take hours. The mahi mahi will be ruined.
Plus, that cart still has my quarter.
What's worse is that after the 2o minutes of carefully looking for the cans without dents and the bananas without blemishes and the milk jug without a leak, I'm going to have to go to some other grocery store and do the exact same thing. I have an irrational hatred of supermarkets and buying food, which doesn't square with my love of eating food. It's kind of like being the kid who loves sitting the front row at Sea World but hates it when Shamu gets him wet.
Now at home, I get mad at my recliner. I'm angry because this whole thing started back when the chair swallowed my debit card. I've long since checked every cushion and crevasse and nearby swath of floor for that piece of plastic. Still, I decide to take out my frustration on my La-Z-Boy. I give it a good shove.
And lo, what is revealed underneath, resting in two inches of dust? My debit card.
Ten minutes later, I'm back at Aldi, bagging up the food that hasn't become either luke warm or thawed. I feel satisfied. I feel relieved. I feel like I've done a good thing.
The mahi mahi will turn out to be disappointing.