A Rant & A Reflection

Apologies for what is about to be a…really…long…entry.

Since when did stores stop accepting cash as a means of payment?

As I hopped off BART today, I suddenly realized that I hadn’t packed myself any snacks. I know that for most of you, going all of three hours without food isn’t really that big of a deal (especially after eating a hearty breakfast), but for some reason, I just can’t hack it. So I popped into my favorite snack shop and asked for a bagel. This is what unfolded:

Store Clerk: That will be $1.00
Me: ::hands her a 20::
Her: Do you have a smaller bill?
Me: No
Her: ::swipes bagel out of my reach, as if I would suddenly lunge for it and run out of the store, robbing them of a whole dollar:: I’m sorry (in a completely un-sorry tone), I can’t break this.
Me: Okay…Why?
Her: I can’t break this, I’m sorry.
Me: ::in my head:: Gee, way to articulate yourself. ::out loud:: Do you take a VISA debit card?
Her: It’s a $.75 fee. ::starts turning her attention to the customer behind me::
Me: ::in a really annoyed tone of voice:: That’s fine. Thanks (with emphasis on the ‘s’).

Since when did paying for something with money become a not-okay-thing to do? This store probably doesn’t accept personal checks, and it charges you for using a credit or debit card in order to encourage you to pay with cash, and then they tell you that they won’t even take your cash! I realize that when she said, “I’m sorry-in-that-falsely-courteous kind of way, I can’t break this,” she probably meant, “It’s pretty early in the morning and we just don’t have enough change for a 20 right now. I’m genuinely sorry.” But instead of saying the latter and making my stomach understand why it would be empty until lunch, she succeeded only in pissing me off. The lack of communication in this world disgusts me. If you’re going to inconvenience other people, then you should at least tell them why. Or, if you’re going to protect yourself and your friends from your abusive boyfriend by hitting him on the head with a baseball bat only to find out later that he died, you should try to explain to the court exactly what happened, rather than babble on about the sisterly bond in female relationships (see Boys on the Side for reference). In both cases, explaining oneself makes the other party far more likely to be sympathetic and nice about the whole thing. Instead, I’m pretty sure the store clerk and I put a damper on each other’s mornings.

“Oh really? You’re still living at home with your parents?”

This is the question that the other people in my Japanese class ask me when they find out that I am a junior at a college in Portland, but that my family lives in Fremont. It’s usually followed by, “Oh, so you don’t have to pay for food or rent or anything like that?” Of course they are only jealous that I get to ignore some of the harsh realities of life for a little while longer, but I can’t help but feel like there’s a slightly condescending edge in their voice. I was reading in Kim’s journal about her cooking mishaps and it made me think about my own cooking abilities and how they are limited to most things involving breakfast items. My mother always told me that “if I could read, I could cook,” and I have taken this little message to heart. I read rather well, thank you very much, and so I must cook very well then, too. Then there’s that reading program’s slogan about how “reading is the key to unlocking doors to the rest of the world.” I think all this propaganda about reading has really screwed me over in life. I read A LOT. But I don’t do very much. Listening to everyone else I know talk about their really cool internship or their really cool job this summer has made me realize that. Everyone else is doing something really interesting. Don’t get me wrong, I love learning Japanese, but I’m still just a student. Anyone can sit in a room and read to gain knowledge of a subject, but that doesn’t mean that they can do it. I think this point is best emphasized in the discrepancy between my ability to read and write in Japanese, versus my ability to speak it. I ace all of my written tests, but I can still barely string together a sentence during conversation. This last week without my parents and my attempts at organizing my first two weeks of travel in Japan have illustrated just how high maintenance life is. Perhaps those people are right to be slightly condescending when they find out that I’m only taking classes this summer and have no job and live at home with my parents. Being a student is so safe. It’s one of the few things that I actually have talent for. But I can’t be one forever and I suppose I should start putting all of my book-smarts to good use. It’s just such a big risk.

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