Friday, January 08, 2016

January 8, 2016--Snowbirding: Checkout at Walmart

"Them sons-of-bitches they cut me this year."

We were on the checkout line at Walmart in Boynton Beach with a cart full of staples for our place in Delray.

"Can't trust a one of 'em." Muttering to himself was a bent-in-half old man--at least 90 by the looks of him--just ahead of us with a half-filled shopping cart.

Ours contained gallon jugs of bottled water, beer, soda and juice, various paper goods, and other essentials that would help get us started during our three months in Florida. His, a few comestibles, some shirtsleeved shirts, underwear, and two six-packs of Bud.

"Sons of bitches," he said again. "Wish there'd be somethin' I could do 'bout it," he spit through missing teeth, this time in our direction.

"Like I said, they cut me."

"Cut you?" I said, with Rona signaling behind his back that I should mind my own business.

"Them bastards in Washington. My social."

"Your social?" Tired from the drive of more than seven hours from Beaufort, SC, it took me awhile to figure out what had got him so riled up.  "I get it. That is I think I do. You're talking about . . ."

Rona continued to be annoyed with me.

"Like I said, my social." He turned away from us, to Rona's relief, as by then he was first in line.

"Help me out here, would you?" he said to the cashier.

"Anything I can do," she smiled.

"How much is this one here?" He was holding up a blue plaid shirt.

"Let me scan it for you." She did. "It's on sale. It says," she pointed to the screen. "only $9.95."

"OK," he said, "You can ring that one up. Now what about this one?" This time he showed her a seven-pack of jockey shorts.

"They're on sale too. Just $4.95."

"Easy for you to say," he snapped.

"Sorry, sir. I'm just trying to be helpful." She continued to smile at him.

I could hear him grumbling, not appreciating her cheery spirit.

"Maybe we should change lines," Rona whispered to me.

"All the other lines are filled with even older people," I exaggerated. "Let's stay where we are. He's almost through."

"How much are the beers goin' for these days?" he asked, "On sale too?"

"Sorry, no. I think those are $6.95," she said. "Want me to scan 'em?"

"I'd rather you total up what I owe you this far. I mean for the shirt, the shorts, and this here beer."

"I can tell you that. It says $21.85. Not including tax. Want me to calculate that?"

"Not necessary, though what they do with the tax is beyond me. Don't do me no good. But that adds up already to more'an I got," he again spat. "Let me put the shirt back. I'll take the shorts. I'm runnin' out of underwear. That way I can get them and pay for the two six-packs." He again looked over toward me, shaking his head.

I nodded back at him. Directly to me he once more said, they cut my social, them sons-of-bitches."

"I think I know what you mean," I said. "They also cut my Social Security this year. I used to get . . ."

Rona jabbed me in the back and I shut up.

"Tell the truth, you don't look like you'll miss it. You got that cart all loaded up and she's quite a looker, your niece or whatever she is."

"My wife," I said softly.

"They're making me pay more for my Medicare and won't even pay to have these choppers fixed." He opened his mouth wide and pointed to all his missing teeth. "Can't any more eat a goddamn apple. Worked all my life and this is what they do to me. I should say, what's left of me." He paused, sighed again, and said, "Not much. Not much is left of me."

"A lot of people feel the same way you do," Rona said, breaking her silence.

"Tell the truth that's no comfort to me. Only makes things worse."

"What do you mean?" Rona asked, even more empathetically.

"Everythin's gottin' worse. For everyone. Tell the truth I don't see much hope. Maybe 'cause I'm so old and bent like a pretzel that I can't see anything good coming along. A good day for me is if I don't fall down flat on my face in the parking lot."

"I wish I could . . . ," Rona stammered.

"That's awfully nice of you ma'am.  Sorry to have upset you. It's a nice day, the sun's out, you're here to have a good time. Don't let the likes of me upset you."

"That's OK," Rona tried to assure him.

"But as I said," I thought he winked, "Them sons-of-bitches. . ."

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