The Day the Dollar Died (Part XVI)
XVI. Where Shopping is a Pleasure
Filed under: The Day The Dollar Died Series
by John Galt
February 8, 2010
The title is a saying from a long time Florida grocery chain, Publix, and this story is in no way a reflection on the wonderful people who work there or the shopping experience inside of their stores. If there’s one business that I could heartily endorse, without a doubt it is this grocery chaing. The following story, is and shall continue to be FICTION….hopefully….
February 26, 2010 07:00 A.M. Eastern Time
The mailman pulled up unusually early, with his Home Guard escort riding shotgun literally and my discomfort for what appeared to be an ex-convict type acting as a new domestic security force quite apparent to both of them. The doorbell rang and as I opened to door to Ed, an elderly gentleman who was near retirement and worked our neighborhood for seven years now and with him was another man in a black outfit carrying a twelve gauge shotgun and looking like a reject from Survivor or some other reality television show. As I opened the door slowly I greeted the old man with some major apprehension, “Hi Ed, do I dare ask what’s new with you this morning?” Ed put a half smile on his face and spoke in his official United States Postal Service voice, “John Galt, this is to inform you that I have two pieces of mail that you are required to sign for and acknowledge receipt of. The items are from the United States Department of Labor, Office of Economic Continuity Employment Services Division and from the United States Department of Homeland Security. Please sign here and here to acknowledge receipt and then press your thumb here on the identification pad.”
To say I was stunned was an understatement. To see this elderly gentleman handing two packages over to me, each looking like small books in yellow manila envelopes, gave me pause but the tone of his voice alarmed me somewhat. “Uh, Ed, what is it that I am signing for, ” I started in my reply, “because if this makes me legally liable for something I want to have my Miranda rights read to me.” At this point in time, the Home Guard clown with the tag of “Chuck C” on his badge felt obligated to speak up and said in an aggravated voice, “Just sign for it and shut up. We have hundreds of these to deliver and you’re already on one list and if you don’t do as you’re told and shut your pie hole, I put you on two more and really give you things to sweat about.” In the background I could hear my wife yelling out, “Tell him to go to hell!” I knew that would not work so I moved out on to the porch, looked at my old postal friend who was now shaking and sweating and did as I was instructed. I felt that I had to respond to this clown so I dared to speak, “Chuck, what is your issue, or is that your real name? I know you guys all have fake names so people do not get mad at you but why do you have to treat people like crap. Ed and I go way back so why you are riding around terrifying the elderly with your shotgun and attitude?”
That was a mistake. Chuck C. stepped up to me and went nose to nose trying to intimidate me even though we were both about six foot four and opened his mouth with a response that stuck with me forever, “Because I can and I get paid for it. Good day sir.” Ed looked over at me sympathetically and nodded, heading next door to James’ house where I feared the worst when those two met. I could not wait to hear the outcome as I now have signed and thumb printed my life over to another bureaucrat and had the joy of meeting the President’s new pride and joy, a circumvention unit designed to accelerate the changes the new oligarchy saw fit to protect their changes to be made to the Constitution.
After getting my wife to calm down and stop hyperventilating I sat down on the sofa and opened the first package from the Department of Homeland Security first. At the top of the letterhead was a bolded portion that caught my attention:
FIREARMS AND AMMUNITION RESTRICTION ACT OF 2010
EFFECTIVE DATE: FEBRUARY 20, 2010
READ AND OBEY ALL SECTIONS WITHOUT EXCEPTION. FAILURE TO ABIDE BY THE REGULATIONS WITHIN THIS DOCUMENT WILL RESULT IN FINES AND/OR INCARCERATION FOR PERIODS OF NOT LESS THAN 1 YEAR WITH A MAXIMUM OF 5 YEARS
“Hmmmmm, this is not going to go well,” I thought to myself. As I scanned through the list some of the summary portions which gave you a breakdown of illegal activities were stunning:
ILLEGAL POSSESSION OF AN UNREGISTERED FIREARM…..$1000 FINE….1 YEAR PER VIOLATION MINIMUM SENTENCE
ILLEGAL POSSESSION OF AMMUNITION NOT REGISTERED AND AUTHORIZED FOR USER…..$1000 FINE….1 YEAR PER VIOLATION MINIMUM SENTENCE
UNAUTHORIZED DISCHARGE OR SHARING OF FIREARM WITH UNLICENSED USER…$5000 FINE….5 YEARS PER VIOLATION MINIMUM SENTENCE
“My God, honey you have to come here and read this,” I yelled out to my wife. She was busy getting dressed and reminded me of something more important, “You had best get dressed and ready to go. Our shopping window is only from eight in the morning until eleven and we need to get some things if we are hunkering down.” I glanced at my watch and noticed it was already seven-thirty so for once the wife was right and I had to get it in gear. I hurried back to the bedroom somewhat exasperated by what little I had read thus far and told her, “They do not want anyone to own guns. I can not imagine anyone taking a chance with these type of stupid regulations they have published. They must be giving this to every gun owner in the area, that’s all I can figure.” She seemed disinterested trying to stay focused on the major issue of the moment, namely food, and started to give her authoritative checklist to me as she finished putting her war paint on, “Make you sure you have your D-Card and do not forget what little cash we have left. We need to get rid of it as soon as we can, they are going to phase all physical currency out over the next ninety days. And don’t you dare bring that gun with us, if we bring a firearm to a public location they will arrest you and you will be in the Arcadia detention center.”
As she rattled all of that off I provided the standard reply of “yes dear” or “yes honey” until she blurted out the last part about Arcadia. “Um, what Arcadia detention center,” I asked innocently enough, “you mean the prison east of town out there off Highway Seventy, right?” She looked up at me with those saddened exhausted eyes that I had become accustomed to and told me what James’ wife told her, “Our neighbors spoke with someone down the street who’s husband was taken away. She was allowed to visit him yesterday after two days with no visitors. Apparently this guy was active in the Tea Party movement and some of those right wing websites like Beck’s and Free Republic so they seized his computer, all of his guns, his two German Shepherds and his Jeep Cherokee. She told James that this place was huge and covered the entire parking lot out by the Sweetbay and Tractor Supply where they had hundreds of folks rounded up behind barbed wire and in large tents surrounded by guard dogs and and Home Guard troops.” I looked at her with a blank stare and she snapped her fingers and blurted out, “Hey! Are you paying attention? This is serious, no time to be screwing around.” I nodded, grabbed my shotgun and locked it up in the gun safe and grabbed the grocery list and all of the cash and coins we had left. Little did I know, shopping at the Publix grocery store we were “assigned” to would be a very unique experience.
February 26, 2010 08:01 A.M. Eastern Time
As we finally found a parking place the shock of what I was witnessing sunk in. It was bad enough having to print up the “authorized” list of items we could buy which were color coded by day of the week and quantity allowed, but there was a line in front of the store with well over one hundred and fifty people plus an assortment of guards, more of the OEC clowns with badges and tables on the sidewalk and two paddy-wagons from the local police off to the side of the store with two people already inside and two officers standing outside the truck expecting more business. The line was typical of most government operations with what appeared to be a renew your driver’s license mentality of all involved wearing a tag or a gun.
While we waited in line, the long time of standing on the sidewalk had given me a chance to read each OEC sign on the closed shops be it the fabric store, swimsuit store, or Gecko’s Bar and Grill. Some of the signs had the phrase “NONESSENTIAL” stamped on them which I presumed meant the businesses were permanently closed as there was no reopening date printed out. On other businesses the signs had a date, time and the ration color code along with the insipid “PUTTING AMERICANS BACK TO WORK” sticker on the doors. I wondered if PetSmart would re-open but I did not have time to go and check it out nor would I dare leave my wife alone in the long line considering the atmosphere of tension permeating our little shopping center.
After an hour and a half in line, we walked up to somewhat portly gentleman who I recognized some twenty years later as a former classmate from Riverview High School. I decided to lighten the situation up a bit I handed my identification and D-Card to him and before he glanced at the cards said, “What’s up Porky?” A sneer of disgust swept his face and I realized that I had hit a nerve. He looked up at me and started his government routine, “Well John, it has been a long time. If you would like to shop here without having issues, you can address me as Officer 13991, Mr. Poltrain, or sir in the future. All government agents here have been through rigorous training to insure the public can enjoy their shopping trip and obtain the goods they need. Any signs of disrespect could, in the future, put you at the end of that line and that would be about the time your shopping window expires. I hope you understand where I am coming from JOHN.” His emphasis and snotty attitude said it all. Now I did not regret gluing his notebook shut before class in the eleventh grade and wish I had participated in the great senior panting of the slob. Now here was the dirtbag who thought there would be demand for his “great looks in Hollywood” sitting here earning God knows what getting revenge on everyone he felt wronged him. I nodded and said “Yes sir” and he handed my card back to me as the shock of what people like him with this kind of power will get away with began to cause my heart to shudder.
The store was packed and there were only four carts left when we got inside. The store looked completely different and there was a large wipe board with notes about items out of stock or daily ration variations. “Look at that honey,” I said to my wife, “the clowns are already running low on toilet paper. The sign says two rolls per shopping trip per week.” My wife nudged me after I said that as a Home Guard officer wearing two Tasers and a night stick just glared at me. We unfolded our list and noticed that you could only follow the arrows and select the color coded items and that zig-zagging and backtracking in the store was not permitted. As we approached the first aisle it was just paper goods or what was left of the paper goods and she nudged me again demanding to know what the list said. “Well super shopper, according to this we can get two rolls of toilet paper, one roll of paper towels, and one box of facial tissues per person this week,” I paused not realizing what she had printed out, “and just where did you get this honey?” She looked at me and told me how our log in directed us to everything we would need to know about the new shopping restrictions and why we had to follow the list. “They’ll fine us and dock our bank account if we do not follow the rules,” she said worried and concerned as we walked into the next aisle and I shoved the goods into the nose of the cart thinking we would fill it up.
The second aisle consisted of cleaning materials but I noticed immediately the sign at the approach which proudly proclaimed:
ALL ITEMS SOLD FOR HOUSEHOLD CLEANING ARE NON-HAZARDOUS AND ENVIRONMENTALLY SAFE PER OEC REGULATION 1.1113299.9900.5A
It was sort of eerie to both of us and I figured out what was up almost immediately. My wife looked at me to get an explanation and I replied to her, “Later, let’s not talk here.” We grabbed some dish-washing liquid and bar soap right off the first two sections but noticed that the name brands were gone and there was nothing but goods in plain white wrappers with the Proctor and Gamble label and the words “Bar Soap Adult 3.5 Oz.” and no ingredients or anything on it. After passing an empty section which used to have all of the laundry detergent, it began to hit home. “Honey, they are having trouble with deliveries. The just in time system has broken down. I knew this would not work,” I told her almost bragging but trying not to draw the attention of the group in front of us or behind us. The shopping in this section was completed but we needed food more than anything and as we made the turn to the next aisle, we witnessed a scene developing at one of the registers.
“We want candy bars and ice cream and we do not give a damn about your lists nor your rules. We have been shopping here for ten years and never had to put up with this crap. If you want to stop me from buying this, you try lady, you just try!” The rather large lady and her two somewhat ashamed children were staring down the assistant store manager, an OEC compliance officer and the poor cashier who was just trying to do her job. “Ma’am, we have to follow the rules and you must also,” the assistant manager stated. The lady had heard enough, threw a twenty dollar bill down, grabbed the junk food and threw them into a bag and started to walk away yelling “Keep the Change!” Before she made it to the door, an officer walked in and she pushed him out of the way screeching all the way about how this wasn’t legal and she wanted to see a supervisor. The sunshine was let in as the door opened and just as she thought she had made her break, the officer who was pushed down by this flower grabbed his taser and dropped her right there with two horrified children screaming and crying as one of them scurried over by her mother trying to eat one of the Snickers bars that had fallen out of the bag. The kid unwrapped it and shoved most of it in her ten year old mouth, leaving a chocolate mess on her face while the young boy, maybe age seven was screaming “Mommy” over and over at the top of his lungs. Two other officers walked over, handed the bag to the OEC assistant, and drug the woman outside so the door could close and put the plastic cuffs on her and the children, escorting them off to the side where the paddy-wagon was parked.
“Don’t you dare squeeze the Charmin,” my wife quipped which made me and the couple behind us bust out laughing but everyone else in the store was completely freaked out and now instead of a bustling, noisy grocery store, it sounded more like a library. The third aisle was just as spooky as an old library as there were five and ten pound plain white bags labeled “USDA Flour” and “USDA Sugar” mixed in with the various corporate brands. I grabbed one of each as that was our weekly allotment and whispered to the wife, “Let’s get everything in our allotment. We may need it.” Aisle after aisle was like this with some areas completely out of inventory like coffee, microwave meals, Spam, and frozen dinners with pizza apparently being the number one choice for all of Sarasota today. As we turned out of the frozen aisle only getting a little of the goods we were looking for, we noticed two Publix employees emptying out the ice cream section and putting frozen meat in the cases to replace the desert section. “So much for that late night ice cream snack” I whispered to the wife.
The fresh meat aisle was a fiasco, the only words that hit us both. Instead of a solid row of neatly wrapped meats of various weights and sizes there was a shortage of almost everything. The butcher leaned over and said, “Can I help you?” It was the usual polite voice we had come to expect at our local grocery store and the professionalism of the chain still shined through in this bizarre setting. I replied to him, “Can you do specific cuts or sizes for us?” He nodded his head no and sadly looked at us and started to read from a laminated card, “My job is to help guide you to the healthiest choices within your ration limits. I can no longer do custom cuts for you but I can offer you meal suggestions and caloric intake guidelines to keep you from ingesting too much fat and wasting your ration allowance.” I noticed he seemed almost hostile, as if he were biting his lips when he read it. “No thank you” I replied, “we’ll just select from what is left out here.” My wife grabbed the two pounds of chicken, two pounds of ground beef and one pound of pork chops we were allotted this week. “Did you notice honey,” I whispered as I pointed around the former seafood area, “there’s no fish, fresh or frozen. Plus they have closed their deli. Let’s get some soft drinks and bottled water and get out of here.”
The recycling goons had finally received their wildest fantasy as I noticed the sign by the gallons of drinking water just below where it said “LIMIT 4 PER CUSTOMER” and it blew both of us away. The government has actually added a one dollar per gallon jug deposit on every jug of water thus raising the price from the recent high before the crash of a buck seventy per gallon to now well over three dollars per gallon with the other fees attached to them. “What does our list say about this deposit honey? Is it refundable?” I asked like an idiot. She looked up and down and finally found it where her face turned red and she said way too loud for comfort, “No refund and if we do not return the empty jugs within seven days we will get a one dollar per jug per day fine. This is bull….” I cut her off before she invited the taser happy fellow at the front and we plodded to the register to check out.
I scanned my D-Card and handed it to the clerk. Old Porky must have tipped off his friends as one guard was standing there watching every move I made to insure I did not create a scene inside the store. The elderly clerk smiled and looked at my wife and I knowing that we had been coming to this store for years. The idle chit chat moved from the weather to the traffic for some reason and into a more serious issue when a code “8888″ flashed up on the register when the water was scanned. “Sir, I’m sorry to tell you this but you are not authorized to purchase bottled water,” the cashier said politely. My wife whipped the list out and said firmly, “Ma’am I beg to differ. I printed this list from our account last night and right here it says we can buy the maximum of four gallons per week.” The cashier pressed a switch and the light blinked at the top of her register and the assistant manager and OEC compliance officer walked over. “What seems to be the issue?” the assistant manager asked. “I have a list which says I can buy water, your cashier says I can not. Who’s right the Federal government or your cash register?” my wife snapped out in an aggravated voice. The OEC officer looked at the list, nodded to the assistant manager and he punched a code in so the approval would go through. “Thank you,” my wife snapped out, “I know you guys are stretched thin.”
The assistant manager looked back at us after the OEC flunky walked away. “It won’t matter by one o’clock,” he said, “we will be out of inventory if the two trucks do not arrive soon and we’ll be closed. Good luck to you folks, as it is only us and WalMart in this county that will be stocked and that appears to be a hit or miss proposition.” The cashier finished ringing us up as he walked away, my wife’s face turning a little pale. “Please place your thumbprint on the scanner sir,” the cashier cheerfully said, “and thank you for shopping at Publix.” What I failed to notice while all this was going on is that the elderly man who normally would bag our groceries was simply placing them back into the cart. I looked at him and said, “Plastic please sir, but paper is fine if you’re out of the plastic bags.” The elderly gentleman looked up at me and said in a low tone of voice, “Sir, we can only bag reusable bags. Grocery bags have been banned as of this past Monday. You have to bring a canvas bag for shopping or carry the items up one at time by yourself.” The fat slob I went to high school with was laughing as we loaded the groceries on to the back seat of our car and he decided to add to the irritation of the day.
Porky started up, “John, I’ve decided to help you out. No hard feelings. Here is your Publix parking permit, space number two thirty-nine, valid from eight in the morning until eleven thirty on your scheduled days.” I looked at him and asked the obvious, “Uh, where is this space at, uh, I didn’t know our grocery stores had assigned parking?” “This is a prime spot,”as he pointed to the lot across seven lanes of traffic off U.S. 41, “you’re located in the northeast corner about five hundred yards from here. Have a nice day and God Bless America.” As I turned flaming red in the face my wife grabbed my wrist and she calmed me down. I could hear the fat slob laughing as he and his guard buddies yucked it up at my expense. “This will not end well honey,” I told my wife, “someone is going to shoot back sooner than they think and these kind of people will find out you can not keep the people pinned down and treated like caged animals for long.”