• Terry Groves

B.R.A.T.S. Sneaking to the Store

When you are young, the most simple activity can be an adventure.

I recall when I was in grade 2, sneaking to the store to buy some candy. I don't recall where I got money from, perhaps birthday cards. That would have meant early December and, in Winnipeg, that would mean snow. I distinctly remember it raining that day, but, we are talking a long time ago and I may be confusing two different memories.

Regardless, I wasn't supposed to go to the store, probably wasn't supposed to have the money in my pocket but, I was a brat. I bought, among other things, a couple of Tootsie Rolls. I had seen advertisements on TV about Tootsie Rolls lasting a long, long time. I was concerned that, if I started eating them, I wouldn't finish them before I got home. My purchase had to be consumed before then so I wouldn't be carrying any evidence. Throwing away candy was not a consideration.

I asked a couple of kids I saw but they didn't seem to understand my question. I don't recall the outcome of that dilemma, just that anxious feeling, having done something I knew I shouldn't and being not willing to throw away my candy. I would rather be caught rather than toss my treasures, but preferred to eat my candy and get away with it too.

There were several stores in that strip mall by Jameswood School. One was a craft/hobby store that sold plastic models. This was another store I wasn't allowed to go in. I guess my parents figured, having no money, being in a store could only lead to trouble. They were probably right. Anyway, being a brat, I went in there anyway. I wasn't thinking of stealing anything, those ideas wouldn't come for a while yet, I just wanted to look at the models they had for sale. My older brothers and I were already into that phase, especially war ships, aircraft and tanks.

There was another customer in the store, a man, and he too was looking at plastic models. He was engaged in a conversation with the store owner. At one point the store owner handed a small model box to the man saying, "This one's free."

Now, I knew what free was, I was allowed a lot of those kinds of things. I asked the man if there were any more free ones. Then I got worried. If I came home with a model, free or not, Mom and Dad would know I had been in the hobby store, a forbidden place, and I would be in trouble. I was almost relieved when the man laughed and said, "No, that was the last one." Thank you, my butt thanks you because I would likely have gotten a licking for that one.

Another memory from that mall was a day my older brother Robin and I went to the convenience store. We had 12 cents between us. We were on a mission to get pop. On the way there Robin had been talking about a new kind of pop, Mountain Dew, and that was what he was going to get.

The pop came out of a vending machine, and was in glass bottles. Cans were available but then you had to have a can opener, no pop-tops in those days. The bottles were in a stack on one side of the machine, behind a tall door. There were several slots offering Coke, several more with Pepsi, one with Orange Crush, one with Grape (yuk), and one with Mountain Dew.

I went first, slipping my nickle into the machine. As a joke I grabbed the Mountain Dew and pretended to pull it out, thereby taking the one Robin wanted. I got the expected reaction; his arm pulled back, hand bunched into a fist.

Then I selected a Coke, because I didn't want to get pounded.

To my amazement, another bottle of Coke rolled into the space mine had just occupied. I didn't know these machines worked like that. If I had let Robin go first, we both could have had a Mountain Dew.

Robin grabbed his bottle and we went to the counter to spend our last 2 cents on candy.

"Two cents deposit." the store clerk said.

We had no idea about bottle deposit, didn't understand what he was talking about.

"If you want to take the bottle out of the store, you have to pay two cents." I am certain the store clerk thought he was dealing with a couple of imbeciles. We were simply two, uninformed young kids.

In my mind we were ok, we had two cents, but I wasn't certain if the two cents was for each bottle or all together. In my little kid mind I put together a simple question to learn the answer. "One 2 cents or two 2 cents."

From the look I got from the store clerk I was confident he was confident he was dealing some pretty stupid kids. He never did answer my question so maybe it wasn't us who were so stupid.

We bought 2 cents worth of candy and ate it while we walked around the store sipping our drinks. I thought it was a jip. We paid for the drink and then we had to pay more for the bottle to hold it. Why not just charge seven cents up front so you know what things cost?

It was a long time before I ever bought pop in a bottle again. In those days, there was no deposit on cans. Too, I did eventually come to understand the deposit and how it worked, that I would get my two cents back when I returned the bottle.

Things like this made me wonder how people got to know all things they did. How come my parents were so smart that they frequently knew what I was up to even when I was doing it a long way away from them? I nurtured the idea that, at some point, they were given a book or other instruction that allowed them to learn all the things that parents need to know. I was in for a shock.

Since those days, simple things like shopping have lost their luster, their sense of adventure. More frequently now they are just chores that need to be endured. Sometimes I find myself longing for those days when everything was brand new, full of wonderment and excitement. What are some of the things you felt like that about that have faded over the years?

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