168 Clif bars

I just purchased fourteen boxes of twelve Iced Gingerbread Clif bars to a box.

Hey, it could have been worse. Yesterday I was watching Filipino comic Rex Navarrette talking about balut, which to me looks like the world’s biggest hard-boiled egg fail. He described it as the ‘Pinoy Clif bar.’ That’s one of many reasons I like Rex’s comedy, that and my affection for Filipino cultures, from relatives to friends and beyond.

But no, I didn’t buy 168 baluts.

Self-revelation: I can be the world’s cheapest bastard. I pick up pennies in parking lots. I’m still attempting to use up a lifetime supply of drinking straws (want any?). I have enough saran wrap for several kinky parties. I built most of my garage storage out of junk, including a doghouse made from rejected forklift pallet pieces. I hate going to Costco (which is not to say that I hate Costco, just the experience), and my standard check to the cashier is about $550. I built my wife a holder for odd-shaped art stuff which I call the Nebelwerfer, after the WWII German rocket launcher. It’s five coffee cans canted slightly upward in a cluster on a stand. If I ever handmade you a gift, I probably made it out of garbage.

Not that I mind spending money to take friends out to a nice dinner, or to leave a decent tip, or something else socially productive. Nothing is finer than the opportunity to do a hospitable kindness people will enjoy. I do not mind spending money. But oh, oh, oh, how I hate to waste it. Or anything.

So I always check the grocery store’s bargain baskets and shelves. You never know what in hell they’ll be trying to get rid of. Case of decent wine, $7 a bottle? I’m on it. Ten jars of alfredo sauce, half price? Guess what we’re going to be eating. And the other day, I was at my local Fred Meyer buying ant poison and groceries. Stopped by the bargain corner, and saw boxes and boxes of Clif bars. Pumpkin Something and Iced Gingerbread.

I don’t care for Clif bars. Not that I hate them, just that if I were buying a chiseled-calf hipster-beard overpriced bicycle-advocate vegan granola-based energy bar, I’d pick almost anything else first. They neither look nor taste that appealing to me. And that’s good, because not only am I supposed to eat some form of breakfast, it has to meet my strict criteria:

It must cleanse my mouth of the residual coffee aftertaste, which I hate, and is the sole pleasure benefit of me eating in the morning.

It must require zero effort, because first thing in the morning, I will not make any, and if I have to speak, my first words will be vile.

It must be bearable without being appetizing, providing no temptation to overdo it, because I need to be less fat.

It must be minimalist, because I’m forcing myself to do this for reasons of good health. I really don’t want any food in the morning.

Pumpkin anything can be a weird taste for me, but I figured I’d buy a box of the Iced Gingerbread: twelve 59¢ breakfasts, and reasonably healthy to boot, would fit all my specifications. Paid, took home, tried them, found them bearable, and went back to the store to clean them out. Some days it’s helpful being absolutely indifferent to the looks you get, and believe me, when you have fourteen boxes of Clif bars in your shopping cart, you get some strange looks.

Cashier: “Wow. You must really like Clif bars.”

Me: “Nah, not much.”

Cashier: “Then how come you’re buying this many?”

(Such inquiries would be unthinkable some places, such as Seattle with its privacy bubbles. This is Idaho. In Idaho, people are rarely standoffish toward friendly conversation, and there is no invisible ‘I am the consumer and you must deify me’ bubble. Thus, by Idaho standards, this was not at all intrusive. He was acting like an Idahoan, presuming approachability and friendliness, anticipating only goodwill. Standoffishness would have shocked him, especially from a heavyset bearded guy, thus presumably an Idahoan Character. I find this aspect of Idaho invigorating. Seattle tolerates but ignores characters, not daring to comment, and any wacko buying fourteen cases of Clif bars is a character. Idaho talks to them and treats them like people. I will miss this.)

Me: “Cheap breakfasts, and nothing I’ll be tempted to eat two of. Yogurts cost over a buck, and are more perishable. I just saved myself about $80 over the next few months.”

(That, he understood completely. Idaho has a low minimum wage, vestigial social services, and a lot of very poor people, and the cashier was probably one of them. And his count was perfect: 168 Iced Gingerbread Clif bars.)

Cashier: “Enjoy! Have a great afternoon.”

Me: “I’ll try. You do the same.”

I’m writing this in March. By the time I have to start thinking about breakfast again, the leaves will be starting to turn autumn color. By my logic, the sicker I get of them, the better: less temptation, and more eating them out of obligation to realize value.

I was a terrifying accountant, in a past life.


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