On my way home today I stopped at the 7-11, which used to be a White Hen Pantry before they were bought out. The former White Hen used to be run by a couple of American brothers of middle-eastern extraction. They not only had a full contact deli, along with hot soups, and other lunchtime activities, but their menu attracted every plumber, roofer, carpenter, landscaper, electrician, tree trimmer, firefighter, mail carrier, cop, and gainfully employed working man in the area from noon to three every day. If I ever needed a handyman to fix something I only had to pull into a parking place and take numbers off the trucks.
Now that the place is a 7-11, it remains open 24-7. But, I'm not sure anyone cares. There is no longer a deli. Instead of ordering a fresh sliced turkey, ham, and provolone on rye with tomato, lettuce, and mayo, plus a container of chili, your options are limited to three-day-old tuna sandwiches in the cooler. For those who want a warm meal, there's a feast of huge hot dogs spinning round and round under an infrared lamp. A very pleasant family from India operates this new incarnation. They couldn't be more polite. But they aren't selling anything anybody wants for lunch. I haven't seen a single hungry man wearing a tool belt inside the place since they opened.
However, I have lower standards in food, so occasionally, I will stop by for some yogurt, cheese corn or a Dove bar, usually on my way home at the end of the day.
Tonight, as I brought my blueberry yogurt and triple chocolate Dove bar to the counter, I had to wait while the clerks checked out the high school i.d. of a young man who wanted to purchase cigarettes, or so I thought.
Because their scrutiny of his date of birth was taking so long I said, "What's the matter?" I am nothing if not a busybody. Actually, there was no one else around so I just decided to butt in.
"His birthday is 12-31-08" said the first clerk.
"When was he born?" I asked, looking at junior's pimply face and noticing that he was buying papers, not cigs, so he was probably smoking weed and those pimples might even be signs of meth, no matter what fancy ass suburb we were standing in.
"Nineteen ninety," said the second clerk. While I was doing the math, the clerks asked the kid to produce something more legitimate, like say, a driver's license. The kid said he was driving on a ticket. I was going to suggest that he go get the ticket, since it would have his date of birth on it, but, instead, I just laughed at him and said. . .
"Nineteen ninety? You're only seventeen!"
Pimple Boy just stood there, looking at me, unblinking, totally impassive. Clearly, this young man was used to spewing B.S. at adults. I stepped back so I wouldn't get too much on my shoes.
"You won't be eighteen until the end of the year," I announced, laughing at him for his lame attempts to circumvent the law.
Didn't this kid know how old he was? I was this close to pulling out my cell phone and dialing 911. "Hi, there's a kid here at the 7-11 who doesn't seem to know how old he is. Could you come over and do the math for him so he knows he's too young to buy smoking papers for his dope?"
Luckily, just in time, I remembered that I'm a senior citizen and the clerks were supposed to be handling all that stuff. Even though they were doing a terrible job.
Then the kid got a little smile on his face. Clearly he had figured out a way to outsmart the nosy old bag. With all the confidence of a true con man, he informed me, in no uncertain terms. . .
"I AM eighteen. This is a leap year."
Brilliant. Leap year was good enough for the clerks, for whom English isn't even a second language. I was going to say something like, "What are you smoking?" But I already knew. Besides, I was laughing so hard I just took my bag and left.