Blowing in the Wind

I always feel guilty walking past the bell ringers outside the supermarket. My father is a generous guy though, and every Christmas he donates a substantial sum to the Salvation Army. I have no reason for the guilt, largely because I have no money.

But I had a dollar in my pocket when I walked past. I was thinking about my father, remembering the way he fondly talked about voting for FDR: “He didn’t live long after that, but I was glad I got the chance— he did a lot for the poor people in this country.” It was a strange little tangent for my mind to take, and as I looked across the parking lot I thought for a moment that I might leave the cart in the parking space. But then I thought, “what would dad do?” He’d put it in the right place, of course. So I braved the whizzing traffic and pushed it across.

On the trip back, a car stopped and started honking at me. I looked back, and the man behind the wheel was about the same age as my father. He was pointing frantically at the pavement. I looked down, and saw the dollar bill blowing in the wind. I felt rather silly chasing it; I felt like the baby on the cover of Nirvana’s Nevermind.

The next car in line stopped and asked: “Was that money blowing across the road?”

Yes, I said.

I really should have given it to the guy with the bell. It would have saved the traffic disruption. But I’ve had less sympathy for those guys around here. I found out last year that because so few people volunteer to be bell-ringers these days, most of them around here are paid to stand there and make shoppers feel guilty. The incident also reminded me about the difference between Arkansas and California. In California, I wouldn’t have had to chase the bit of green paper because no one probably would have mentioned it. They would have waited until I left and picked it up.