By Peg Steiner
Some of you drink more than you tell your doctor and some of you eat three Sister McMullen cupcakes at a time and some of you sneak a smoke—we all have stuff we do that we really enjoy right down in our marrow, DNA, cells, blood. Stuff we keep to ourselves. Secret stuff.
My greatest clandestine activity this time of year has been gaining my turkey points at Ingles Grocery Store.
(In Atlanta, Georgia, where I lived forever and a day, I would not have purchased any item of food at an Ingles because—to a store—they all stank, stunk, did stink. You walked in and cringed. It was as if they had grown themselves a new smell. Like the spotted bananas and spoiled milk and broken eggs had made a custard of odoriferous odor. And, yes, I know this because once or twice they ran a sale that I had to go to [to which I had to go]. But here in Asheville, Ingles is the Way, the path, the oasis. I love my Ingles. I invite the manager to any and every event [she never comes. I guess she can’t fraternize with the customers. Too bad. I got some bad apples recently and she could have saved me some time by returning them for me.)
For those of you who do not participate in this sport: from mid-October to Thanksgiving Day forevery fifty dollars you spend, you getone turkey point. If you spend $900, you still get one point. Normally I plot the accumulation of my turkey points way ahead of time, but this year I had stuff to do and got started late. I had only three weeks to get my 6 points since my standards, the few that I maintain in retirement (where you can wear your pajamas under your coat and do whatever you please), require that I have my Thanksgiving turkey in the refrigerator at least a week ahead of time, just in case there should be a shortage of poultry.
I had to keep track of the prices as I put each item in my cart. Which meant I had to weigh stuff. And think. At $1.69 a pound. Multiply. Round off. Beans $3, zucchini $2=$5. Since I could not find my little pocket calculator, I had to add the columns in my head. I didn’t know I remembered how. I can still add. Lovely.
For some reason I had to say it all out loud. So here I go with my cart and my list and my pencil, mumblecounting all the way. And it all had to total $50 before tax. Which meant I had to go to the store at least twice a week.
Most years I have been ashamed of my avarice. I’ve got money. I can easily afford many turkeys. This year I decided that I am too old for secrets so I embraced my secret passion. I announced my mission to everyone I ran into at Ingles, total strangers. People with real groceries to buy. Harried mothers. Young men with tattoos. The ashen man with five loaves of white bread, four bags of frozen tater-tots, and seven liters of Mountain Dew. The check-out clerk, trained not to smirk.
Well, I thought, I might make some new friends—or get my first restraining order.
Yesterday I achieved my goal—my six turkey points. Tomorrow is the big day. My sweet hen turkey. Tastier by far because she will fly to my open arms freely free. I think I’ll name her. Henrietta.
Peg Steiner, a retired English teacher, lives in Asheville and awaits Ingles Turkey Giveaway. She could obviously use a hobby or two.