A loaf of bread costs $1.29 but if I swipe my frequent shopper card, which is tucked into my wallet behind the debit card I can’t use because the seventy-eight dollars YouTube is sending me didn’t show up this morning when I checked the account online after entering my secret code and the name of my favorite niece, the bread only costs 99 cents.bread

Instead I use the other debit card, which after entering a different secret code online and the name of my first pet, I discovered still has $14. By mistake I enter the pin number for the first debit card in the store’s reader, and the transaction must be voided, requiring me to swipe my frequent shopper card again, but this time the machine won’t read the magnetic strip on my frequent shopper card and the checker briskly flashes my card over the scanner so that I can enter the pin number of my second debit card. And then push a button that asks if I want to donate to a charity of the grocery store’s choice. And then push another button asking me how much cash I want the checker to hand me even though I don’t really want any cash and there’s only $13.01 left in the account to take anyway.

The bagger asks me if I want paper or plastic and I tell her I don’t want either and she tells me I must put my loaf of bread in one of the two so it doesn’t look like I’m shoplifting. We use the plastic bags to clean the catbox and paper bags to recycle newspapers. I try to decide which we need more right now.

The checker looks at my receipt and tells me I saved thirty cents by using my frequent shopper card, addresses me by the name on my frequent shopper card (which isn’t a name anyone I know calls me) and wishes me a good afternoon. The bagger hands my bread to me in a plastic bag and starts handling the next customer’s food.police car

As I’m driving home I pass a flashing police car that’s pulled some unlucky victim to the curb and I suddenly panic about what would happen if I got pulled over because the car insurance renewal came in the mail and I paid the bill that was due Saturday on time but the 2inch by 3inch piece of paper that says I have car insurance is sitting on my desk at home with the other bills along with the matching piece of paper showing that my husband’s car also has insurance. And he’s at work, not knowing that he’s driving without the current 2inch by 3inch piece of paper from the insurance company.

I must warn him not to speed as he drives home. I put the bluetooth in my ear, check the rearview mirror for stalking police cars, and then stare at my phone’s keypad to dial his number. He answers just as I drive into a school zone, where cell phone use is prohibited and fines are doubled when children are present, or is this a zone where fines are doubled from 8am – 5pm? The yellow lights on the sign don’t blink anymore and I can’t remember if I can be making this call right now or not. I slow to 25scholol zonemph just to be safe.

The car behind me honks. I hang up the phone.

I find the two insurance cards on my desk at home and am about to go back to my car with one of them when I notice my computer won’t connect to the internet. I check the little boxes under my desk and the green lights that are supposed to be blinking are auspiciously not doing their job. Since I want to get online tonight for the annual interrogation called “getting health insurance” I call the cable company to tell them my service isn’t servicing. After listening to menu items that have recently changed I’m chided for calling because service outages can be reported online. This is the fifth time in four years I’ve been told I could report service outages online. And in these four years no one at the cable company has realized we can’t report service outages online without service.

The helpful cable company employee who lives on the other side of the planet but pretends to live next door insists that I identify myself by giving him my cable company account number, which I’d be happy to look-up for him as soon as my internet is reconnected. We overcome this obstacle when I tell him the last three cities I’ve lived in. And the name of my favorite sports team.

I explain that I do not have internet service whereupon he implies it’s my fault the little lights on the black box under my desk aren’t blinking. When I tell him I’ve already pushed the reset button and disconnected the power he scoffs and puts me on hold, no doubt to get a cigarette and a cold Nimbooz.

I carry the phone with me to the car to put the insurance card in the glovebox. The wind is starting to blow and since I need both hands to open the car door and carry the insurance paper, I put the bluetooth back in my ear.

The cable company’s repetitious easy-listening dregs of computerized musical composition are strangely juxtaposed against the house sparrows chirping happily on the cable company’s black wire that most of the time connects my home with the complicated world. Halfway to the car my bluetooth also begins chirping, though probably not to commune with the sparrows, more likely to let me know how it feels about the cable company’s taste in music or that it’s running out of power and will die in the next three minutes.

As I open the passenger car door I notice the front right tire looks a little low and make a mental note to fill it with air the next time I buy gas from the station at the highway even though it’s 2 cents more expensive than the gas at the grocery store and I get bonus points on my frequent shopper card when I fill the tank but the air pump at the grocery store costs a dollar while the air pump at the station on the highway is free.

The friendly cable company employee finishes his cigarette and returns to the line. I can barely understand what he’s saying since my ear is chirping, and he can barely understand what I’m saying because the wind interferes with the bluetooth microphone.

Finally I hang up.sparrows

I watch the sparrows for a few minutes, then go inside.

The sparrows don’t need shopper discount cards, secret passwords or upgrades to their electronic devices every year.

Who’s happier?