Thoughts from the ammo line

Ammo Grrrll meditates on low finance, as in FINANCING KETTLE CORN. She writes:

Sometimes, when the world is too much with us, we have to fall back on lighter topics. Today is such a day. After 10 days of a miserable flu, I just don’t have the stomach for weighing in on the many layers of disgrace in Charlottesville. No “humorist” can take on such a depressing subject. And so I offer this.

On one of my last trips North on the 347 out of my DLV, I noticed that the hand-lettered Kettle Corn sign on the side of the road had added the cheery news: “Credit Cards OK.” At last! Kettle Corn all around!

Now I am a big fan of entrepreneurship. And also a huge (and getting huger) Kettle Corn fan. But it will be a cold day in Hell (or even Arizona which has a similar climate ) when I hand my card over to the smiley non-English speaking gentleman peddling stale snacks and “fresh” shrimp by the side of the road. What could possibly go wrong there?

Then I pondered further: who does not carry $3.00 in cash? Who needs to finance Kettle Corn? And, if you are in that dire of financial straits, would Kettle Corn not be a lower priority than, say, milk. Or tuna. Or even Top Ramen?

It sounds like a punchline to a Jeff Foxworthy “You might be a redneck, if…” joke. “You might be undercapitalized, if…you have to use a credit card for Kettle Corn.” (My very favorite “Redneck” riff of Jeff’s is “You might be a redneck if… you think a 401K is your mother-in-law’s bra size…” Good one, Mr. Foxworthy.)

I believe that – IN GENERAL – men and women differ in their attitude toward carrying cash. Women, in my experience, prefer to use checks and credit cards. When I was a teenage clerk in my father’s drugstore, it was not unusual to have a woman customer write a check for very small amounts, even under a dollar! Men never did this.

Women often seem to be a little scared of cash, either in the belief that they are more vulnerable to being mugged, or, more likely, that they don’t trust THEMSELVES not to squander it faster than if they use credit cards or checks. Now, personally, I am much more cautious and reluctant to spend my cash than I am to whip out my plastic. Men, in general, will carry cash, sometimes in quite startling amounts. And I don’t mean just criminals.

There are many people committing no crimes at all who are wary of the massive amount of government and corporate intrusion into our lives who prefer to leave as little a trail and live as far off the grid as is humanly possible. Everyone has Googled (spit, spit), say, patio furniture, and three minutes later got a pop-up ad for – what are the chances? – patio furniture! Which then appears every day for ten years. It is truly terrifying how many entities know every thing about us there is to know, including, but not limited to, our exact location.

The story may be apocryphal, but I once read that a major jewelry store in New York decided to send out thank-you holiday cards to men who had purchased expensive bracelets and necklaces on their credit cards. Which surprised the heck out of many wives who had not been the recipients of these gifts. Uh-oh. Whatever genius thought up that campaign must have been looking for work as a Salvation Army Santa by the time all the stuff hit the fan. Yet another argument for cash. And we haven’t even yet mentioned strip clubs.

Once, in a particularly bleak period when Mr. AG and I were both between jobs, we had a credit card that was not maxed out, but no cash whatsoever. I don’t know if we didn’t realize you could get a cash advance on a credit card, but we didn’t do that. Which meant that I could take all my laundry to an expensive dry cleaners and pay by credit card, but I didn’t have a handful of coins with which to go to a laundromat.

The truth is that you have to have a certain level of wealth in order to practice thrift. When hamburger is on sale, my thrifty neighbor back in Minnesota will buy twenty pounds of it, make some into patties and fry up the rest for chili and spaghetti and bag it all for the freezer. But he needs the initial $95.00 or so in order to “save” money. Plus a big freezer. Lots of poor people don’t have either one.

And I know that many struggling families budget very close to the bone. Once, when I performed at a Women’s Wellness Night in rural Kentucky, the sponsors had advertised $3.00 in advance and $5.00 at the door for tickets. Several dozen ladies had misunderstood this and showed up at the door with exactly $3.00 and not a penny more. They were in danger of being turned away in tears when I insisted that they be let in and told the organizers to take the extra $2.00 apiece out of my pay. (I tell you this not to break my arm patting myself on the back for this very minor $50.00 contribution, but to avoid having to answer our favorite troll’s daily inane “gotcha” question: “Why didn’t YOU make up the difference, AG?” Answer: I did. And felt blessed to be able to do it.)

Which brings us back to that Kettle Corn. There is a very sentimental old union activist song called “Bread and Roses” with the lyric: “Hearts starve as well as bodies; give us bread, but give us roses.” Maybe sometimes, a night out for comedy or a bag of Kettle Corn is worth your last $3.00. Go for it. But please. Not by giving your credit card to a guy by the side of the road. It may be embarrassing to explain to Visa that no, that full set of four radial tires in San Diego is not your purchase, nor the hefty liquor and entertainment charge at the strip club in Tijuana, but yes, that Kettle Corn is a legitimate charge. Three bags.

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