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Suburban Island

Checkout Crisis
Wednesday, Oct. 15, 2003, 9:54 p.m.

QUESTION: Did you forget something?

WHAT I LEARNED: Sometimes I do leave home without it.

Ordering carryout Chinese food is one of our favorite occupations lately – or so it seems. Who could have predicted the pitfalls it could present. I know I didn’t see it coming. It all started with our standard carryout order – 2 orders of steamed dumplings, 2 orders of crab rangoon, one order of beef fried rice, and 2 California rolls – or some variation thereof. I place the payment over the phone, I place my handy-dandy plastic cash back in my purse, and I wait for my delightful dinner to arrival like magic at my door.

Or do I…

This week got off to a rousing start when I ordered the carryout and rushed off to the store to pick up a few things. I love to grocery shop but this was a rush job. I had a list and I was grabbing items off the shelf and tossing them into the grocery cart like a house on fire. I was racing through the store with my son in tow. He had agreed to come along after some major cajoling on my part – never underestimate the guilt eliciting power of a mom - and he was now a living breathing cog in the wheel of the grocery-grab-and-toss process that had been set into motion the moment we entered the store. My plan was geared to move us out of the aisles, into the checkout line, and back at home before the Chinese food in those cute little white and red cartons with the wire handles was even hitting the road to our house.

It was not to be.

That’s because as we pitched 12 packs of soda, rolls of Pillsbury cookie dough, ice cream of several varieties, boxes of pasta, 2 foil pouches of albacore tuna, a big pack of string cheese, a package of potato rolls, chocolate candies from Holland that my son swore were worth $1.99 a pop, and a 4-pack of paper towels with fall designs embossed on the edges onto the checkout counter, I realized something. That something was that my plastic cash was not in my purse. It was not in the little side pocket with my cell phone and my Starbuck’s card. It was not in the zipper compartment crammed full of receipts and 5 dollars of change all in nickels and pennies. It was not at the bottom of the bag with the extra sweeteners packets and half a dozen pens. It was not in my palm tree and beach themed wallet - coincidentally totally devoid of cash and checkbook at that very moment in time. It was not accidentally mixed in with the lipsticks and blush in my make-up bag. It was in fact, not anywhere in my purse.

That’s because it was at home, on the desk, by the phone. I had been undone by a Chinese dinner for 4. I am sure I am not the first person that this has happened to and I am sure I will not be the last. Sometimes you just have to accept things as they are and grab all your stuff off the convey belt of life as fast as possible and toss it back in the cart until your ship comes in or your teenage daughter drives down to the store with your bank card – whichever comes first.

In my case, my daughter turned up with the card and the news that the carry out had arrived – we had lost the race. There was nothing to do but get back in line, put everything back on the checkout counter, and hope the cashier just kept her comments to herself.

Lesson learned. Not quite.

The next day I went to the local Best Buy with my daughter and one of her friends. I had settled on the MASH Season Four DVD set, which I have been coveting for quite awhile and my daughter had collected a few sale albums which she assured me were a real bargain. Time to check out. We stood in line, finally got to put our stuff on the counter, and that’s when I realized it. My card was not in my purse. Damned those coffee drinks I had bought that morning at Starbucks. I had paid with the card and then stuck the card carefully in my jacket pocket for safekeeping but since the day had warmed up, my jacket was now reposing jauntily on a dining room chair. Thank God for teenagers with driver’s licenses and a couple sale albums to purchase. The kid went home and got the card.

Lesson finally learned - at least for this week.

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