I'm standing in Fred Myers at nine o'clock at night, glancing back and forth between a little list and an enormous wall of school supplies. I'm on a mission to fill up a backpack for the School Supply Drive that our church is having, and the list is very specific, which is baffling to me, because when I was in school nobody dictated the brand of pencils or colors of folders we got: we were given a basic list of this, that, and the other, and then we went crazy getting whatever Truly Represented Us (that our parents would actually spring for).
I finally manage to cross the last item off the list, and pop into line behind a small family that is also buying school supplies, most likely for the school-aged child that is part of the group. I smile at the baby. She crosses her eyes at me. Babies are like that.
They finish, and now the cashier is ringing me up. In classic Cashier Form, he says the most obvious thing possible,
"Back to school shopping, eh?"
"Yep!" (I don't feel like explaining what I'm actually doing, but I'm game to small-talk.) "It sure has changed since I was a kid! They're very specific about things now."
"I'll say," his voice is bitter. "I hate that my kid will use like one glue stick but I still have to get five."
"Oh," I say cheerfully, since he's obviously misconstrued my consternation. "I don't mind providing extra for those kids who might not have-"
"It's not that," he interrupts. "I was one of those underprivileged kids who couldn't afford supplies. People should totally help out. They just shouldn't make it mandatory."
"Mmm," I say, and we finish my transaction in silence, which is good because what I want to say is,
"Oh, it's exactly 'that'. You think 'people' should totally help the underprivileged. Just as long as it's other people. In other words people who aren't you."
It makes my blood boil. He knows what it's like to be a kid who can't afford a glue stick, he benefited from people who gave a little extra, and yet he begrudges doing the same for this new generation. It would be one thing if he couldn't afford to spring for extra supplies, but to be able to do it and then just complain about it? I don't understand people, I really don't.