May. 5th, 2013

Pot Pie

May. 5th, 2013 01:22 pm
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When I was in graduate school near Chicago, I lived on a little stipend from the University. They deposited my checks on Friday. That afternoon I'd go down to the bank and withdraw a little cash so that I'd be able to buy groceries for the weekend. The bank had one of these new-fangled ATM machines, so I didn't have to make it down there before the bank closed (which was 3:00 PM, by the way; we used to joke about "Banker's Hours.")

One Friday I got there at 4:30, shortly after the bank closed, with a long weekend ahead of me, and the ATM was broken.

Use the other ATM? There was only one. Go to another bank? They weren't networked. I was facing a long weekend with no food in the apartment and about two dollars in my pocket.

I could have charged some groceries on the credit card, right? After all, I'd had this credit card for years, paid it off on time, and hardly ever used it anyway. They kept increasing my credit limit a thousand here, a thousand there, until I had a five or six thousand dollar credit limit on the thing.

Unfortunately, in these ancient days, grocery stores DID NOT TAKE CREDIT CARDS. I had asked why, down in Chicago. I didn't bother to ask back home, because in those small towns everything seemed about ten years behind the curve; things weren't open on Sundays, most places didn't take credit cards, you just accepted that. But Chicago seemed more With It, Hip, and Groovy. You'd think I could charge some food.

The guy at the store told me it was against the law to charge groceries. Something about not encouraging the poor to go into debt, he told me. I never bothered to check to see if this was true. After all, this was Chicago, and someone tells you it's against the law you just automatically accept that. Anything you might reasonably want to do is illegal in Chicago. It's a rule of Nature.

It was frustrating. I had enough of a credit balance to buy a good used car, or maybe even a new one, but I couldn't buy a hamburger. I had no food and something like a buck seventy in cash to last me until the bank opened at 10:00 on Monday. What was I to do?

I went to the grocery store. I bought a loaf of white bread, a dozen large eggs, and as a treat for my Sunday dinner I splurged on a Banquet chicken pot pie for 35 cents. I never liked those, and there isn't much to like; a tiny pie full of chicken gravy with a few peas in there, maybe a carrot cube, and enough chicken to show in a laboratory analysis. But when I had nothing else, it was mighty good.

I made it through the weekend, obviously

Since that time I picked up one of those little pot pies from time to time, in memory of the Busted ATM Weekend. I'm glad I did, because eventually I grabbed a Marie Calendar's instead of Banquet, and the Marie Calendar's are good! The creamy mushroom chicken is especially nice, and the spilled over gravy on the plate is Feline Contingent Approved.

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