The Papa Files by Vincent Cardegin
Several years ago, after I came back from a store and was sitting comfortably in my office trying to write but mainly watching recordings of The Big Bang Theory, How I Met Your Mother, and The Flintstones, my wife came in and wanted to know what I had bought. Her phone had alerted her to the purchases, but it did not name the items. She wasn’t upset, just nosy. It was a new app.
Well, I had certainly bought more than what was on the list, but I tossed it and the receipt in a garbage can at the store, and I had already put everything up, so I wasn’t sure if I could remember it all. I knew the main stuff, milk, bread, eggs, coffee, juice, butter, bacon, probably, but all the others that wound up in my cart were a little vague. My wife followed me as I wandered around the house, through the kitchen, the bathroom, office, and garage, trying to remember. I recalled cottage cheese, dental floss, staples, and a new Philips screwdriver, but according to her phone there were more.
“What cost $1.98?” she asked. I have (what is to her) the bad habit of never looking at the price of things, so I didn’t know. “What did you buy that was $6.99?” she continued. I had no idea. “Okay,” she said, walking away, still looking at her phone.
I felt put upon. I didn’t do that to her, and so she shouldn’t do that to me, even if it was just for fun. From then on, I saved every receipt. I put them in a manilla folder in my file cabinet. The next time she asked me what I bought, I handed her that little (sometimes very long) slip of paper and explained what I was doing. She seemed a bit annoyed but looked down the printout, and then naturally wanted to know, “What does GV PREM 18MR mean?” I couldn’t tell her. “Well, what does LUTEIN 20HG mean?” It was a mystery to me. I never could fully decipher Exwork’s receipts, but they sounded like things she herself had written on the fridge list.
She has not asked me about it since. But I continue to save the receipts just in case. In fact, I save the previous year’s receipts in a plastic bag. That’s probably not necessary, especially since the cheap ink fades over time, and quickly. I’m convinced it’s a formula created exactly for that purpose, so customers can’t return something they bought years ago. But it’s now a hobby for me. I look forward to retrieving the receipt from my shirt pocket or wallet, wherever I put it at the store, and sliding it into the front of the folder when I get home. I am, of course, always alarmed at end of the year at how thick the folder gets, but hey, most of it is food!
Also I remember many years ago, when every month the bank returned to me the cancelled checks I wrote for bills and purchases the month before. I kept them all for decades. Wasn’t sure if I needed to, until in the mid-80s when some company sent a lawyerly letter claiming that I had not paid for whatever it was I had bought the previous year. I found the check, copied it, sent it, and never heard from them again. That might have been an accounting error on their part, but I had the impression they were trying to scam me for more money. I wonder how many people actually sent them another check?