In the 1980s my friend John Coote took me to a store in the Pacific Northwest he thought had a big future.
From the minute I walked in the door, I was shocked that a bunch of suckers – I mean, shoppers – were paying a not-so-insignificant membership fee just for the opportunity to hand over bigger wads of money at the cash register. I swore I'd never be that stupid.
If only I'd have bought stock in the company that day! You've probably guessed the store was Costco – and, like those other suckers, I joined up the first chance I got when they moved to a neighboring town.
One of the things I liked about Costco was they used to open an hour early for small-business owners like myself before they unleashed the hordes of unwashed common shoppers. In that hour I invented “The Costco Game,” where you guessed a person's profession merely by looking at all the stuff piled on their cart. Or carts.
I know that other people play The Costco Game because my wife and I were recently stuck in a long line of Costco shoppers and I overheard a conversation in front of me between some friends who live on a ranch way out in the sticks, and an old hippie gal.
The free-spirited dame looked at my friend's two overflowing carts and asked, "What kind of restaurant do you have? I own a vegetarian cafe. You do own a restaurant, don't you?"
"Nope," was all my friends replied. They didn't divulge that they lived two hours away, 45 minutes of which is on a dirt road, and they only got to "the big city" twice a year: once to sell cattle and the other to buy staples at COSTCO.
Unlike greenies who order vegetarian omelets made with brown eggs and goat cheese and then think they aren't eating any animal products, my friends raise their own beef, collect their own eggs, milk their own cow and grow their own veggies.
Not to be discouraged, the stubborn gal looked at the cart immediately in front of her that was overflowing with cases of toilet paper, Kleenex and paper towels, and guessed again: "Well, if you don't own a restaurant, I bet you manage one of the sorority or frat houses in town.”
"Do you own a bed and breakfast?"
Three strikes and you're usually out. Right there I'd have declared the game over and my friends the big winners of The Costco Game – but the undaunted gal was more curious than ever, and she broke all the rules of the game by getting personal. "Do you have a huge family?" she asked.
"Nope. Just the two of us," replied the shy wife.
The befuddled hippie woman took an even closer look at the cases of beans and feed sacks full of Cheerios, multiple boxes of toothpaste and shampoo, cases of soft drinks and gallons of salsa. She also noticed what wasn't there. The only meat product in the entire load was the dog food. There were no beef steaks or pork roasts.
Suddenly a light bulb went off and she said, "You're vegetarians, aren't you? I don't see any milk or eggs, either. Better yet, you are vegans! Would you like to come to one of my monthly vegan smorgasbords?"
"Nope." For the first time the polite ranchers showed signs they were growing weary of the game. They hurried up, paid their bill and hustled out of the store.
I caught up with them in the parking lot to visit, and we were all standing by the flatbed as they tied down their load. Soon a car stopped as the hippie woman recognized her fellow game contestants.
She put her head out the window, and I think she was about to venture another guess when she read the three bumper stickers on my friend's flatbed. One said, "I Love Beef" and another had the picture of a handgun and the words, "I Love My Handheld Wireless Device." The third one really seemed to have befuddled the veg-head: "My Food Poops On Your Food."
It took a while but after it dawned on the lady what the bumper sticker meant, she peeled out of the parking lot in anger … at least as much as a tiny smart car can "peel."
The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of Farm World. Readers may log on to www.LeePittsbooks.com to order any of Lee Pitts’ books. Those with questions or comments for Lee may write to him in care of this publication.