Thursday, October 12, 2006

Are Cans Bottles?

It's been a little while since I've posted an entry here. I should probably write about the lovely inauguration of our new college president that occurred last weekend. And I could also write about the agonies and headaches associated with assembling with winter course schedule and arranging all for all the visiting faculty. And I might still do so. But for now, just a quick entry concerning my trip to the grocery store last night.

I ended up staying on campus later than I had wanted, in large part because I was working on the winter schedule. (In particular, I noticed that we had a genetics lab scheduled, which is a problem since intro genetics isn't a lab course.) Anyway, I was in a bit of a rush, because I was going to cook dinner (spicy Chinese eggplant) and I was already hungry. I needed to get whole milk for Doreen, and I needed some toothpaste. Fine. Easy. I grab the two items, chat with a few acquaintances -- we're a one-grocery-store-town, so I almost always see people I know when shopping -- and get in line.

In front of me is a middle-aged couple with a dozen items or so, including: A large Hershey's chocolate bar, a banana, two apples, five or six pink yoplait yogurt containers, a bottle of red wine, some breath mints, and a 12-pack of some variant of 7-up. The cashier processes the items while the man watches the items and their prices as they appear on the screen. The cashier tells him the cost. The man squints at the screen and says in a terse, slightly hostile voice with an accent that I'd place somewhere between New York and Philadelphia: "Why is there a bottle deposit on can?" and gestures once at the 12-pack of 7-up. He seems genuinely pissed off. I gather that he's noticed that there's a deposit for the cans on the screen, and that the deposit is listed as a "bottle deposit," and that this imprecision is cause for considerable anger. Or maybe he really thinks he's getting duped by the cashier.

The cashier at first appears flummoxed by this question. But then he gathers himself together and offers a response, delivered in the sort of slow, deliberate cadence that is usually reserved for six-year-olds, the partially deaf, or non-native English speakers. He says: "well. when. you. have. removed. the liquid. from the cans. there is. a machine. out there. [points to the entrance to the store.] where. you can put. the cans. and get. your. money. back." The shopper stares at him silently. After a few moments he swipes his American Express card without a word, signs, and walks off.

Awesome. I like how the cashier made reference to "removing the liquid from the cans." I usually refer to this as drinking. But that's rather narrow of me. Perhaps other people buy cans of beverages and just pour them out right away to get their five cents back. Or, maybe sometimes people put full cans in the "can return machine." (This is basically the inverse of a large soda-vending machine. You put a can in it, it reads the bar code, sucks the can into its interior, crushes it, and then gives you a nickel.) I now have a deep desire to see what would happen if one put a full can of soda in such a contraption.

I then proceed through the checkout line without incident, although the cashier and the bagger both look incredulous when I tell them that I don't need a bag. I drive home, get out of the car, walk into the kitchen and realize I am holding a half gallon of fat-free milk. I don't know how I managed to do this. It's not like I forgot that we needed whole milk. I remember explicitly thinking "whole milk ... whole milk ... whole milk ... " when scanning the milk options. I have no explanation for why I grabbed fat-free. Perhaps my blunder can be blamed on a combination of hunger and delirium from having spent too much time ironing out winter schedule details.

Tonight I will try yet again to purchase whole milk. I hope to do better this time.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

LOL, welcome to the new global economy. I also find myself lapsing into pidgin english occasionally, such as yesterday when a co-worker from my lab asked me for some "erotic cells". I finally explained that he needed human AORTIC cells. And here I thought I was going to lose my spermatogonia.