A Costco-Walmart Adventure

A couple of days ago I received a call from a friend. She needed to go shopping for groceries. Being a Lion whose motto is We Serve, I jumped at the opportunity. Most sane people would have found a simpler service project, but not me. I had to drive 45 minutes to get to the starting point of this adventure. The friend is a caretaker, and her latest job is taking care of Norma a 101 year old lady without any family. She relies completely on the people she hires to do her favors.

Traffic was light at 2:00 in the afternoon, and I got to the house in forty minutes not forty-five. My friend was waiting for me at the door, and we were ready to go. I asked her if she had a key to the house to get in, She waved the key at me, “good” I said. “Did the lady give you money to shop with?” She dug into her purse and pulled out two blue cards one debit, and the other a credit. “Good,” I said again. “My lady wants me to go to Costco,” said my friend. “Did she give you her membership card?” Again, digging in her purse, she whipped out a Costco card. “Great,” I said, “let’s get going.”

Neither of us had a clue as to where the Costco was. Thank God for cell phones. We both found the address for the nearest one and I pumped the location into the GPS. We were off for an adventure.

I joined a Costco back in the nineteen-eighties when an agent came to our company to sell memberships. I bit on the bait and joined. The store was immense, but not convenient. Prices on things were good, but I don’t buy a TV every week or month. I was more interested in food. The Costco hook is packaging. The prices are good, but one must buy a package. For a can of tuna at a low price I might have to buy a package of twelve cans. My membership ran out and I never rejoined, but I did join Sam’s Club which was much closer to my home.

We started shopping in the meat department. My friend loves chicken wings and drum sticks. She picked up two discreet packages and went home with 32 drum sticks and 48 wings. Thankfully, four drum sticks were packaged in one plastic unit, but there were eight units to a package. The price was low, but who will eat that many drumsticks before the last one goes bad in the freezer? I figure it’ll be June, 2021 before they run out of drumsticks. We spent a lot of time looking for stuff and passing most bargains. My friend told me that the last caretaker was asked to leave. “Why,” I asked? “Norma told me that her last caretaker spent over $400 at Costco. I took a quick count of what was in our basket. “Do you realize we have over $130 dollars worth of groceries in the basket right now, and we have a lot of shopping left to do?” She thought about it for a second and said, “lets check out and go to Walmart.”

At the register I pushed the debit card into the reader and got a message “enter your PIN.” What? Do you have the PIN?”

“What is a PIN?” she asked me. The second card was the same. I reached for my wallet and pushed my American Express card into the reader. “We don’t accept American Express,” said the clerk.

“Oh shit, you mean to tell me the largest retailer in the world does not accept the number one card in the world?”

“Sorry sir.” I pulled out my emergency VISA and paid.

We managed to find a Walmart about five miles away and finished the shopping minus two items, Italian bread, and Biscotti. The total between the two stores was $320. At least we didn’t spend $400.

We spent an hour in Costco, and another hour in Walmart before we began to find our way back. It was dark, and thankfully I had the GPS to guide me. It was about six p.m. when we parked in the drive. My friend said she would go in first, check her client, and then open the garage door so we could unload quickly.

Two minutes later my friend reappeared, “can you help me?”

“What is wrong?”

“I can’t open the door.” I took the key from her and tried it on the two locks. It worked fine on the dead bolt, but it didn’t move on the regular lock. “We need two separate keys to open this door,” I said. “Now what?”

My friend began ringing the door bell. “Norma can wheel herself over and open the lock for us.” After several minutes and a lot of ringing, we peered through the side-light window and saw Norma slouched in her wheel chair and vigorously pointing toward the left. My friend went to the side yard only to learn that the gate was locked. She went to the opposite side and found the same. “Maybe Norma was pointing at the neighbor,” I said. We quickly went to the next house and rang the bell, and told the neighbor our story. It turns out the neighbor didn’t have a key either. The neighbor lady said “I’ll call the police.”

It took about five minutes for a cop to arrive. He listened to our story and said he would be back. He went to his patrol car to get his lock pick. By the time he came back, a fire truck arrived with three firemen. They went straight for the door with a tool that looked like a battering ram. “Oh great, now we will get in, but we’ll have a door that doesn’t close again.” Lady Luck was with us because within two minutes they had the door open and they rushed in to see if Norma was okay. My friend followed them. I stayed outside with the cop who insisted on seeing identification and asked for more information. “This happens a lot,” he said.

“Yeah, well it has never happened to me,” I said. I realized later that he meant this happens a lot at this house. My friend came out to ask me in, and the cop asked if he could go in to check on Norma too. “Of course,” she said. The cop and Norma were acquainted with each other and spoke for a few minutes. After he left we lifted Norma back into her wheel chair. I was right she had slid down while trying to come to the door and was inches from sliding onto the floor.

Finally, I unloaded the groceries into the garage. As we were going in and out Norma kept warning us not to let her cat out. On about the second trip, I looked up and saw the cat at the edge of the garage door looking out. My friend looked up and saw her too. Immediately she ran toward the house to scare the cat back into the house. That is all I would have needed to make the night complete, a missing cat. Thankfully, the cat skedaddled back into the house and we shut the door behind her.

I wished my friend good luck and left. I got home by 8:00 p.m. The first thing I did after relieving myself was to pour a generous shot of whiskey over ice to reward a successful service call.

Believe it or not!

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