by Harry Parmenter
It’s that time of year. Turn the clock ahead, keep an umbrella in the car and get ready for Girl Scout Cookies! Yes, adorable little girls in their adorable green vests selling adorable boxes of cookies outside Vons with adult supervision and a table full of every flavor known to woman (see what I did there? MeToo!): Shortbread, Lemonades, Caramel deLites and the perennial headliner: Thin Mints!
Each box is now up to five bucks a pop (Still a bargain! Not a hater!) and, of course, contains helpful nutrition details on the side, viz: “Sodium 95mg, Sugars 10g, Calories 150” for the “Thanks-A-Lot” (?) brand, courtesy of our good friends at the FDA. Don’t you just love going into some fast food joint for a guilty pleasure trip just to feel the rain on your parade of “Onion Rings 7500 calories from fat?” Government, always there with a handy hint like, why don’t you get your fat self out of here, Parmenter, and go eat some Kale?
Anyway, ‘tis the season when you can purchase an assortment of tasty GS cookies from a variety of public places, and from a variety of enterprising young citizens under four feet tall. By the way, in our current bilingual nation, GS Inc. might want to take a page from the NBA where, for example, the Denver Nuggets recently endured a shellacking from the Vadaresque GS (no affiliation) Warriors while wearing “Los Nuggets” jerseys. “Los Thin Mints;” you know you want some—with hot sauce!
The Ides of March mean, among other things, that every time you walk in or out of the supermarket a group of unspeakably cute little girls with their endearing, squealing voices entreat you or anyone else in the general vicinity with “Mister, would you like to buy some Girl Scout Cookies?” All while Mr. Mister, in my case, avoids eye contact and hopes they’re talking to somebody else because if they’re not, there are only three options: A) blow by them as if my need for Imodium A-D has reached DefCon 5, B) whip out the cell and pretend I am in the midst of a work crisis: “What’s a non-conforming gender?” or C) look the fair-haired eight year old in the eye and say, “Are you talkin’ to ME?” I realize the latter will result in a story on The Huffington Post in a minute and a huff, bisected with their typical converted pyramid of “journalism” (Hint: it used to be “inverted pyramid,” i.e. Who/What/When/Where/Why).
Inevitably I try to slip by unnoticed, but then remember I forgot the plastic bag stuffed in my back seat pocket for the few items I usually purchase, as the irksome ten cent state tax still rankles. When the tariff was initially levied, I did elicit a hearty guffaw from a cashier once when I noted, “Well, a dime bag was a completely different thing when I was a lad.”
So I collect my purchases and approach the exit with a looming sense of trepidation and guilt. I run the traps of self-loathing in seconds: are you really going to walk on by and crush the dreams of these little girls bouncing around in the cold after dark with their moms, whose piercing stares will subconsciously memorize my mug for future reference? (Six months later I’ll be at some random gathering and some woman will give me the skunk eye and, when introduced, say to herself, “Yeah, there’s that skin flint who wouldn’t buy a lousy box of S’Mores from poor little Ashley.”) Won’t you give the kid a fiver for something, anything, even if you never crack open the box? You, the dumbass who blew five Benjamins on the impotent Rams to beat New England in the Super Bowl? You, who dress like a refugee from a holiday in Cambodia? You, who just took five twenties out of the ATM?
The sliding doors part and an enchanted cry to buy is heard again, this time clearly directed at me. Telling them my wife already bought 38 boxes in the last two weeks which will sit in the garage freezer until next year, when they will be tossed or given away before the ritual repeats itself, isn’t an option. Begging off with the been there/done that excuse works with adults, but doesn’t cut it as those plaintive eyes look deep into my troubled soul, their faces brimming with goodness, excitement and innocence, pure, beauteous innocence; untarnished by the inevitable soul-crushing struggles and setbacks of maturity.
The snappy brown vest, the important troop number patch, the merit badges of achievement rewarded and embryonic egos enhanced … am I going to be the scoundrel who bursts that balloon of hope, expectation and naïveté? I can … not, at least this time. This time I will press a twenty dollar bill into the palm of tonight’s little miss sunshine, and tell her to put it toward the cause and keep the cookies. Not because I don’t like them (B+ overall, and btw, this year I didn’t see the ones I do enjoy, the tropical Samoas; put the lime in the coconut, and eat ‘em all up), but it’s those calories from fat, don’t cha know.
Forking over the real green deal elicits a sweet young face exploding with gratitude, contagiously spreading to the other scouts, warming the cockles (whatever THEY are) of my cynical, a-fib heart. The girls jump up and down, teaming up as they put the bill into the till, making my day.
There’s a spring in my step not caused by ligament damage as I walk to the car, having successfully shelved my inner Scrooge. An affirmation, Norman Mailer once said, is the greatest achievement of art. And doing it outside the supermarket doesn’t hurt, either.
Thanks-a-lot girls! See you next year!