On a busy Saturday afternoon a week ago I took all three boys with me to run some errands. That was my first mistake. A one-hour trip quickly turned into three hours (Homegoods now has a TOYS AISLE), and by the end it was way too close to dinner time. I promised my children all kinds of comfort foods (noodles! chicken nuggets!) as I raced through my last errand, depositing a check in the ATM. They were both screaming that THEY wanted to put the check into the machine, and in my rush to get out of the shopping plaza I left my bank card behind. The ATM machine ate it, and I had to cancel that number and have a new card shipped. The result was I had a little enforced holiday from spending. I couldn't purchase anything online or with cash for 7 days.
Which, you know, should not be a big deal.
I had my SNAP card for groceries. There wasn't anything I thought I NEEDED immediately. I figured our pioneer ancestors went months without visiting a store. Surely I could go a week without a disposable coffee or anything from Amazon.
On Tuesday we got new baby chicks. I felt extra pioneer-ish.
Then on Thursday morning the chicks' brooder light burned out. "Oh my God!" I screamed as I walked into the kitchen and noticed the absence of red light, "Help help help, the baby chicks are getting cold!!!" I tend to overreact a LITTLE BIT, but still we needed to get a replacement bulb.
We looked at Ace Hardware dot com and saw that they probably had one at the store down the street.
"Okay," I said to Dan, "how much cash can we scrounge in this house?"
From our wallets and the change jar we amassed $11. That was enough for the bulb we saw online. I zipped off with Lijah to Ace Hardware.
There was only one red heat lamp in the store. It cost $13.50
For the sake of our baby chicks I threw myself on the cashier's mercy.
"I lost my bank card. This is all the cash I have. We have baby chicks in a brooder at home, and their heat lamp just burned out. Can you just... make this cost eleven dollars?"
She looked at me. She looked at her computer screen. She looked at the line of people forming behind me.
She opened the till and took my quarters. "Because I love chickens," she said.
Apparently grace (in the order of magnitude of $2.50) still exists at Ace Hardware Bedford.
The next day I was out doing my grocery shopping at Whole Foods. I had my SNAP card, so I could buy up to my balance of actual food, but no non-food items or prepared food. Unbeknownst to me, Whole Foods was running a one-day-promotion on rotisserie chicken. Two whole cooked chickens for $10. The prepared-food section was stocked accordingly, with hot chickens piled to the sky.
Man, did I want a cooked chicken all of a sudden. It was almost lunch time too... But prepared food requires cash, so I would have to go home to a vegetarian lunch.
I ran into my friend Christie who is the goddess of one-day sales. "How many chickens are you buying?" she asked. "I'm on my way to an appointment but I had to stop and get the deal."
I agreed that it was a FANTASTIC sale but that I didn't have a bank card, and I explained about the ATM, and the limited scope of SNAP benefits, and I threw my yelling kids into the story to make me look like less of a white trash idiot. Or more, I don't know.
"Oh shut up, I'll buy you two chickens," Christie said. "Do you want teriyaki or barbecue?"
On my way to my car I reflected on the wellspring of human generosity I hadn't even noticed until I lost my bank card. Then I laughed that both these stories are about chickens, albeit in various stages of alive-ness. Maybe it's not me, maybe it's the chickens. Maybe our societal love for chickens, both alive and deliciously roasted, trumps currency.
Or maybe it is about me, about my ability to accept grace. Maybe I have to lose something to realize I'm deserving of human kindess regardless of my inability to pay.
A replacement bank card arrived in the mail late yesterday. Back to hard-headed self-reliance.