In the year 2008, I was living with my mom in yet another cabin, in yet another private wilderness. I had just graduated the previous year and was starting to feel that anxiety. The one that said I needed a change, some room to grow, be independent.
So, I moved into town, with my former piano teacher. She was single, with a couple of cats, a penchant for dying her hair vibrant colours, and practicing her accordion at 5am. We had many strange adventures, which I will relate here eventually. But for now, this story is all me.
We lived pretty much in the centre of town, on an alleyway that ran along the highway. In front of the house was a children’s park, and behind the house was a 7-11. So naturally, nearly every weekend, we had to call the police to settle a drunken dispute happening in our vicinity. We were a shiny, well kept duplex in the middle of near-slum.
Little did we know that the police should have been investigating ME.
In exchange for living at The Lady’s house rent-free, I was responsible for cleaning the house and the music studio once a week, as well the spring/fall maintenance and cleaning. More than a fair trade.
It became tradition for me to walk over to the 7-11 after I finished my work, to reward myself with the Meal Deal of the Day: chicken strips and potato wedges for $5.
But before I ordered my food, I would grab a drink. I had a whole strategy worked out: get a Big Gulp cup, fill it with ice, pick my drink from the cooler (because I did not care for the taste of their fountain pop), pour it in, seal it up, recycle the bottle, order my food, run home before it gets cold or the ice starts to melt.
Do you see anything wrong with this strategy? Because I certainly didn’t. All I saw was a sweet, suite life.
I did this for almost two years. Twice a week, every week. Sometimes more if I had a rich week of babysitting.
One time, I happened to go in when my friend Heather was working there. To my surprise, she rang me through, and charged me $1.00 more than I was expecting. I respectfully and gently disputed it.
She explained: “Here, look at the receipt. $5.00 for the food, $2.00 for the drink. $7.00.”
I was flabbergasted. “But I’m pretty sure I grabbed the ONE DOLLAR Big Gulp cup, Heather!”
She smiled, as one would smile at a cute, innocently naive child.
“I saw you take a $2.00 bottled drink and put it in the cup. I’m sorry, darling, I have to charge you for that.”
Seeing my dumbstruck face, she tentatively asked, “Wait. Have you done this before?”
Gulp. BIG gulp. “Uh huh.”
“How many times?”
“Approximately 208? Maybe more?”
Her eyes widened. And then she began to laugh.
“CARLY! What a criminal mastermind you are! Didn’t know you had it in you!”
In hindsight, it was pretty brilliant, even if I’d had absolutely no clue that I was cheating the system.
I still owe that 7-11 $208, maybe more. And I still think about it every time I get a Big Gulp or a bottled pop at a convenience store.
One day, I’ll buy approximately $208 worth of candy at a 7-11, and then I’ll get really sick and/or super fat. That should balance the scales a bit, right?