Last week, I was in Pennsylvania for my brother’s golf tournament. That’s Mom at the ninth hole driving a stake into the ground for one of the sponsor’s signs. As soon as she saw me produce my camera, she grabbed the hammer and immediately started hamming it up, pretending like she was some migrant worker toiling in a field or something. Why does she do this? That’s just Mom. I saw her eyes glitter when I pulled out the camera. I guess the idea of a matron pounding stakes just tickled her.
For some reason, on this visit I got a strong sense for just how hard it must have been for her in the 70s. Seven kids ages 1 to 14, no real job, and a hole where my dad had once been. She is quite a character and always has been.
The night before the tournament Mom and I were at Troy’s house alone.
He had taken his wife and kids to church. I was going to go visiting myself, but before I could get out of the house Mom came rushing into the kitchen, a pensive look on her face, the long white tail of a grocery receipt trailing behind her.
“Tim, you got that car?”
“Sure,” I said. I had rented a little compact car for the trip.
“Take me down to the Giant,” she said. Giant is the big chain grocery store in Pennsylvania. “They ripped me off,” she said. She waved the receipt in the air beside her head and scowled.
“Look, look,” she said.
Flattening the receipt onto the kitchen counter, she showed me the problem. “I got 7 dozen rolls, but they charged me for 12 dozen.” Sure enough, there were 5 line items for a dozen rolls listed on the receipt, an empty space, and then 7 more line items of rolls.
“Should we add it up?” I asked. I reached into my pocket for my Windows phone, which had a calculator app.
Mom scoffed. “You can never add it all up,” she said. She shook her head and grimaced. “There’s tax and a super saver discount.”
The tax and discount were also line items listed on the receipt, but I didn’t want to argue.
“Let’s go,” I said.
We were going drive down and talk to one of the Giant managers in person over a possible overcharge totalling maybe seven or eight dollars.
“It’s not the money,” Mom said as we drove the few blocks to the store. “It’s the principle. They’re always ripping you off. I hate that, I hate that.”
We got to main doors and Mom told me to the stop the car. She got out and told me she’d be right back. I parked and followed her inside.
I found her waiting in line at the customer service counter. When it was our turn, Mom did all the talking.
A manager was called in. He was a young man, maybe just out of high school. He said he need to take the receipt into the back to reasearch it. A few minutes later he came out with a few sheets of computer print out. He told Mom the problem with her receipt was a printing malfunction. An anomaly. Mom sighed. I asked the manager if the total on the receipt my mom had matched the total he found on his print out. He said it did. He showed us both amounts.
Mom sighed again.
“Is everything okay, ma’am,” the manager wanted to know. “Do you feel good about this,” he asked.
“Okay,” Mom finally said. “It’s fine.”
We said our good-byes, turned, and walked together toward the car.
“Do you feel okay about that Mom?” I whispered. I wasn’t sure what else we could do.
“Well,” Mom said. “I’d have felt better about a refund. But, what are you gonna do?”