It was a quiet Friday night at the grocery store, picking up the essentials for the week ahead, when I spotted it on the floor, peeping out from behind the rack of discounted fruit. A five dollar bill!
As human nature would suggest, I took a look around, as if somehow the link between this five dollar bill and anyone in the store would be immediately obvious. The store was a ghost town. There was almost no one to be found.
I took another look around, this time to see if anyone else saw it. Clearly there was no risk of anyone swooping in to collect it.
Normally, when it comes to picking up a coin off a sidewalk, I wouldn’t think twice or look twice to locate an owner. I would just do it. But this case seemed different. Maybe it was because it was private property. But what hit me the strongest was the fact that it was five dollars, not five cents.
As these thoughts were blazing through my mind and the ensuing analysis of whether to pick it up or not, I’m not sure if the fumes from my recent oven cleaning had anything to do with it, but I could have sworn the five dollar bill said “Psst… Psst… André! Not meant for you!”
I took another look around to see if anyone else heard that, but again, the nearest customers were either squeezing the Charmin or inquiring about whether they stocked Grey Poupon. I looked down again and considered what the five dollar bill was saying. Continue reading
On a recent visit to the mall, I noticed a little girl was carefully perusing the contents of the row of gum ball and toy vending machines, with the same intensity I demonstrated when I was shopping for new appliances. She was contorting herself around the machines, checking out all of the contents and trying to predict which items were to come out next.
I understood that this was a major purchase and she was looking for the best value for her hard earned allowance money. That was me 40+ years ago!
After much scrutiny and analysis, she pointed to a machine, put in her coin, turned the crank, opened the plastic bubble and voilà! Pure joy and a huge smile! I could only assume that she got what she was looking for as she was visibly delighted with her prize.
I was reminded of my own childhood and my borderline addiction to those machines. I remember my sock drawer was proudly filled with little gum-ball-machine toys I had collected from trips to the grocery store or the department store.
I don’t think my experience was all that unusual though. With those machines at eye level for a kid, it was so easy to beg parents and relatives for coins, to get something I “positively need, and promise I won’t ask for anything again”… until the next visit.
But what is it about those machines that ignites our curiosity? If common sense prevails, one would think that being able to hold, feel and inspect a product up close to make an informed decision would the more balanced way to go. However the separation of human and product by a plastic window seems to appeal to our sense of adventure.
Or is it because we have become the product of our own life-long Pavlovian experiment since a very young age: put in a coin, get a treat? Continue reading
In May 2001, I posted an entry on my web site (which was actually a blog before blogs became popular) called “The Rules of the Express Lane” which seemed to attract a fair bit of attention from my friends and family. From the positive response I received, I gathered that everyone had experienced similar creative interpretations of what the Express Lane was for. To this day, the Express Lane still seems to be an irritant for many given our busy lifestyles… and given the glares I have witnessed people give each other, so I thought it might be interesting to dust off that story, update it and post it for your reading pleasure:
In my many years of visiting supermarkets and super-duper-markets, I have noticed that there are two kinds of shoppers: Continue reading