Dictated by completely unnecessary necessity, I drove to the nearby Trader Joe’s. The intended outcome was to acquire sparkling water, some butternut squash zig-zags, and a piece of fruit, thereby stimulating the economy by another $6.73. What I walked away with, however, was a fleeting regret for ever having had a vasectomy.
A sudden desire for something salty had brought me to the first aisle where the chips were. I stood there, my eyes moving along the great wall of chips longingly. The corn chips, the quinoa, the vegetable, the potato, the root vegetables, all were perused and coveted, but with the knowledge that none would ever be mine. I felt like an East Berliner looking over the cracks and graffiti of the Berlin Wall and imagining leaping over the top to freedom, but knowing deep down that freedom was not mine to have (In this scenario, the East Berliner, while not technically allergic to freedom, has a diagnosed sensitivity that develops into cold-like symptoms at even the smallest exposure to freedom).
Further up the aisle, where the packaged meats and cheeses sat in varying degrees of freshness, came a frustrated and emphatic, “That makes no sense! That’s a terrible purchase!”
On paper, this would presumably be something spoken by a domineering spouse who is both frugal and perpetually frustrated by every single choice made by their significant other. Or it might be attributed to someone who, by the very nature of having lived through the Great Depression, appreciates the value of each penny. What got my attention this day was the fact that these words were spoken by a 9-year old boy to his dad.
Based solely on how they were dressed, I presumed that white-collar dad had picked his son up post-soccer practice and they’d stopped at the store for an easy-to-prepare dinner. Now, perhaps the boy had had a particularly difficult practice, perhaps he had not slept well the night before, or maybe the boy felt overwhelmed by the combined pressures of balancing team sports with the navigation of public school academics. Whatever the reason, this boy had no patience for what he saw as an inappropriate purchase.
White collar dad held a basket in one hand, a package of meat in the other. The boy gestured at the package and said, “What are we gonna do with that?”
“Have it for dinner,” white collar dad said.
The boy picked up another package of meat and used it to further his own argument with a visual aid. “You should get this one, instead.”
“This one costs less,” white collar dad said. “Besides, we get more in this package.”
Visibly irked, the boy let his shoulders drop slightly. “Yeah, you’re saving two dollars, but so what? We aren’t going to eat all that. It’s gonna go to waste. It makes more sense to only buy what we need.”
At this point, I began to suspect that white collar dad’s profession was not one that involved strong negotiation tactics. “Well, yeah, …but we get more with this one.”
“But we don’t need all that! You’re saving two dollars, but all you’re gonna do is end up throwing food in the garbage. You’re buying garbage.” The boy let out a deep breath and placed his preferred package back where he’d found it. “Whatever. Do what you’re gonna do. If you want to create waste, fine.” Then, the boy turned his bowl cut head and soccer jersey toward the shelf of trail mix, where he remained while he decompressed.
Within the recesses of the balding head of white collar dad, the wheels of decision-making turned at whatever speed they were comfortable doing so. White collar dad glanced at the package he held, then at the one his son had put back, then back to the one in his hand, and back and forth, back and forth. Then, after the wheels completed the required number of turns, white collar dad made a decision. He replaced the package in his hand with the one his son had selected. In the context of television, this would have been a touching moment in a sit-com where the live studio audience reacted with an audible, “Aww.”
Now, I’ve never had a desire for children of my own and have actually insured by way of a vasectomy that that option be removed from consideration. In general, I remain confident that I made the right decision in allowing a medical professional to do a little numbing, a little slicing, some snipping, and a bit of suturing. In fact, when I see a parent who obviously regrets their own choice, my inclination is to smile confidently at my decision, stand with my chin high, and then pat my crotch proudly and reassuringly. At least, it would be if doing so publicly wouldn’t result in my immediate incarceration.
However, every once in a rare while, I think that having a kid might not be so bad. For a few minutes in Aisle 1 of Trader Joe’s, thanks to a little kid in a soccer jersey who possessed a keen sense of environmental and financial responsibility, I had one of those moments.