It's been damn near tropical around here lately, and anything less frozen over than Dick Cheney's heart has begun to thaw. This means, first of all, that it is safe to walk around outside without worrying about people like Mr. Fischer, who "cares too much about the environment" (read: is too damn cheap to spend $5.99 at True Value) to put some salt down on the ice. It also means the end of the shovel mafia and the beginning of lots of new ways for the neighborhood kids to try to fleece the rest of us. God knows there's no relief from people wanting to make a buck.
My neighbor Margaret and I had the unfortunate accident of leaving our houses at the same time yesterday, and because it was too awkward to do anything else, we agreed to take a short walk around the block together. On the back side of our block was a girl who had set up what appeared to be a lemonade stand. Normally I hate lemonade stands, for all the obvious reasons, but as we approached this one, I saw a sign that read "Pickles for Nickels!" God bless you, child! A pop-up pickle stand? If my mouth muscles were still capable of forming smiles, I would have been beaming!
I decided to make some small talk with the child, and as it was 1:00 on a Tuesday, I started with "Why aren't you in school?" I thought I was using my "friendly grandpa" voice, but the glare I got from her mom suggested otherwise. "I have virtual school," she said, "so I finish at 11:30." Virtual school? 11:30?!?! Your tax dollars at work, folks. The smug nod from Mom indicated that she was apparently cool with that, probably because it let her get some child labor out her kid in the afternoon. The mom was undoubtedly on the clock for her "virtual job" somewhere, enjoying the sun while the money flowed in. Anyway, end of that conversation.
I pulled a nickel out of my pocket and asked for a pickle. "That will be 50 cents," she said. What the fuck? The sign says pickles for nickels, I pointed out (actually, it said 'nickles,' the correct spelling of which was probably part of the non-existent afternoon curriculum). "Right," she countered, "Nickels, not nickel. You can't buy anything for just one nickel." It's hard to argue with that last point, but this was still undoubtedly false advertising, and I was ready to pull the plug on the whole bullshit exchange until I saw Mom coming over wielding a menacing sneer and a pair of garden shears.
So I paid 50 cents for a small, sour, flaccid pickle that was truly not worth any number of nickels. I mean, it wasn't Vlasic, but it wasn't good. Credit to the kid, I guess, because she closed the deal. I remarked to Margaret that Trump probably would have been proud of her. "Indeed," she answered. "Couldn't have been prouder if she stormed the Capitol herself." Well, god damn.