When my parents came to visit, we went walking through the trendier part of town. We came across the grocery store my friend likes to call "By people from L.A., for people from L.A."
And to say it's a grocery store is kind of a misnomer. It sells some things that are food, but only a few things, like organically farmed leeks and umami paste from Japan. Then there are some bamboo baby wipes, various kombuchas, and of course, a man in a leather vest and floppy hat with a waxed mustache. He sits at the check out counter, a minimalist desk with nothing on it, and looks only at his phone until you stand directly before him.
So, we're walking by said grocer, and I tell my parents, you should go in there. Check it out. Feel the vibes. They go in, and they are, confused, which is not a result of their age, but the fact that they don't spend time in L.A.
But I convince my dad, he should try some kombucha. He can't pronounce kombucha, but he's game to try it because he's in the desert and he's ready to live the life.
My mom says she'll pay, and she pulls out cash. The bolo tie wearing grocer only looks at her upon her shadow darkening his iPhone screen, and when he sees she is attempting to pay in, gasp, cash, our so far seamless dive into the L.A. lifestyle comes to a screeching halt.
The thing is though, my septuagenarian dad has already opened the kombucha, and is seriously taste testing it, trying to figure out just what the f he's drinking.
So, we have to pay at this point.
"Ummm, are you sure you want to pay with that?" The urban cowboy asks.
My mom assures him she does.
He stares at the bills, like they might actually be a new form of life he's never seen, and they might be possibly perilous to his health.
He tries again to get her to pay any other way, including Bitcoin, and my mom puts her foot down. He sighs, bends down, disappears from view, and emerges from behind the stark desk with a cash box.
He tries to open it for a while, realizes it has a mini key, then searches around for the key. When he finds it, the box creaks open, and my mom, an accountant by trade, begins the painful process of watching him try to make change for a five.
It's hard. There are coins involved.
Meanwhile, my dad is outside, staring at me.
"Are you sure this stuff is still good?" He asks. "It tastes like it might be bad."
"It's fermenting. It's good for your health."
He's not sure about that, but he takes another sip.
Cut to my mom, demanding the man make exact change. At this point, it's the principle of the thing. She has demanded excellence in both my brother's and my math skills since elementary school, and I can see when she finally wins this war, because she will win this war–we all know you don't get into a land war with my mother over arithmetic– she will tell my father and I that all politicians should be required to pass algebra one prior to assuming office, and that cash isn't just for drug dealers, its for people with basic arithmetic skills. Although she's been known to tell the teenagers at her local grocery store, when they try to get her to pay with plastic, that she works in a cash only buisness. This reliably weirds them out, and they immediately cease conversation.
My dad smacks his lips.
"You're sure this is supposed to taste like this?"
I look at my mom. She's clearly agitated. I can see him poking at his phone. He's using the calculator app. I cringe. I can feel the bad vibes from the sidewalk.
"People pay for this?" My dad asks.
"Well, they try to," I say.
My mom is walking out of the store. The man behind the desk looks offended. My mom walks with intention. I tell my dad we should be prepared to move.
"I think I could drink another one of these," he says. "Should we buy another one?"
My mom has made it out the door. Metaphorical steam is coming from her ears.
"They sell them everywhere, dad. We can get one later."
"I think, that all politicians should be required to pass algebra one," my mom starts, "and that if you can't do simple arithmetic to make change you shouldn't work a cash register."
"Well, technically he didn't have a cash register," I say. "He was actively trying not to use any form of cash. You made him do that."
My mom looks at me like an alien has replaced her daughter.
"You want a hat like he has?" I say, raising my hands.
"No," she says. "But I do want some of their salmon jerky."
And she goes back into the store and grabs a bag of their salmon jerky. I watch in horror as she hands the bedraggled, but utterly hip, pseudo grocer a ten dollar bill.