Tag Archives: erma bombeck writers’ workshop

You Get What You Pay For

Although I’m single, I’ve had several long relationships with Ziploc bags I rinse and reuse. You could say that in some circuitous way, my grandma has set me up for these questionable couplings.

She was an outspoken woman whose kitchen at any point in time was an abstract art gallery of repurposed and pilfered goods—washed and dried paper plates, aluminum foil smoothed out and reused until the tears couldn’t be (off-brand) taped up, and sugar and salt packets slipped in her purse from the local Juicy Lucy (two burgers for $1!)

This was a woman who believed that once meat was cooked, it didn’t need to be refrigerated and could be left out on the hot countertop until it was either consumed or it disintegrated.

(I once arrived at her condo, Florida sun blazing down, to find a picnic basket on her porch from her neighbor, the contents of which being potato salad, roast beef and cheesecake. “I found my dinner!” she triumphantly cried.)

What did need to be refrigerated—or more specifically, kept in large (off-brand) plastic zipper bags in the freezer—were ketchup and mustard packets from various fast food establishments that always gave out “free condiments.”

For most people, the assumption would be that a packet of sugar or ketchup was available for your convenience to use at that time. My grandma wasn’t “most people.”

I clearly recall an instance when I was younger in which we went to McDonald’s for ice cream. As we pulled up to the pick-up window, she leaned over the driver’s seat and gave strict orders to the window worker to include the condiments, which I naively assumed to be the optional nuts for her sundae.

In retrospect, I should have been prepared to hear her demand not the nuts, but the free packets of ketchup and mustard to add to her collection back home.

“Free condiments means free condiments,” she said with a chortle. “When you’re paying (99 cents) for each ice cream, you better get what you pay for.”

She wasn’t alone in her frugality though. These sundaes were purchased after a dinner during “Early Happy Hour” when drinks were 2-for-1 at most chain restaurants—as long as you ordered both drinks at the same time.

That meant when you walked into the restaurant during that time, you would be greeted with senior citizens pushing their oxygen tanks off to the side of their booths to make room for their two Rum and Cokes.

I never witnessed anyone slipping a few extra limes into their bags to take home, but there were rumors that Gram’s neighbor snuck out a steak knife from Outback.

I guess you get what you pay for.

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