I am a procrastinator.
Although my explanations for delaying any decision or activity are crammed with reasonable details, I am also fraught with unreasonable guilt for the pile up of decisions left unmade and activities left undone.
One day I’ll get to that bucket list which is now a barrel list.
One day I’ll see to that niggling pain I’m hoping will disappear (obviously, it’ll definitely disappear by the time of my funeral, so I’m kinda covered on this one).
One day I will discover how many licks it takes to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop.
For the last couple of years, on my one hour and fifteen-minute route into work, winding through farm fields, cow pastures, and five-house towns, I have passed a little wooden shack—a farm stand selling vegetables. I remember thinking, One day. One day I’ll stop and check it out.
Finally, the excuses of I need to get home, or I need to get to work were put aside because one of those John Deere combines that claimed 620 horsepower but only 6 mph speed stopped traffic on my tight and twisty farm road. Coincidentally, in front of that farm stand. I now had absolutely no excuse not to investigate that which has been a colorful blur out my window. Countless bountiful months—those spring through fall harvest seasons—simply whizzed by for years where my only excuse was “not enough time.”
Farmers have a way of putting the advice of “stop and smell the roses” (or the newly mown hay, or the freshly dropped cowpie patties) into crisp and unignorable perspective. It is not so much advice as it is a forced bit of guidance.
I pulled off onto the semi-circular dirt road that advertised the large hut with a few wooden shelves full of tomatoes, green beans, shallots, and corn, okra and peppers, potatoes, and beets. Each bin held a price, and I stared dumbly at them for a full two minutes. I glanced up to see a dry erase whiteboard with an entire menu and coordinating costs that matched the bins’ prices.
Ten cents for any tomato larger than your fist. Five cents if it’s one you can shove wholly in your gob.
No way, I thought. That’s got to be wrong. Or maybe they all tasted like they should sell at a K-Mart Blue Light Special event.
I found a five-center to test, overestimated the size of my mouth as I crammed it in, and then experienced the delayed response of one who realizes just how determined tomato innards are to gush past the house of their skin and any other boundary one feebly tries to embrace them within. Juice, seeds, and an exclamation of surprise came flying out my mouth.
But this is a farm stand in the middle of nowhere. Who’s watching, right? Who saw me splatter the wall and the front of my shirt, and the whole whiteboard menu?
Umm … maybe the fifteen cars idling on the road waiting for the great green beast to give them passage around him. Apparently, my faux pas was entertaining enough to produce a couple of honks and one “Nice work!” from the audience.
I trudged back to my car and found an oil rag, hoping I could erase some of the whiteboard’s woes I’d crafted. Word by word, and price by price, I replaced the tomato splattered menu with fresh listings, thanks to the dry erase marker on a ledge beneath it. I was mid-way through my work when I stopped to marvel at the taste of something so magnificent and a price so unmatched. I can’t believe I’d been missing out for years on this vegetal treasure chest.
Returning to my work, I’d turned to hear the squeaky hinges on a truck door slam. An elderly man in grass-stained overalls tottered toward me on legs so bowed they looked like parentheses rather than appendages.
“You changing the prices, young lady?”
“No, sir,” I answered as he stared at the marker and rag in my had.
He snorted and pointed to the vegetables, “You city folk come by here lookin’ for a bargain and still aren’t happy with what you find. I’ve told Beatrice that her prices are too low anyway, but she’s just a good-hearted woman easily taken advantage of.”
“I’m not city folk, and I promise I’m not changing the prices. I’m just redoing the whiteboard because I accidentally splattered tomato all over it. I was trying to do the right thing.”
He pointed toward the empty see-thru plastic bin with the sign above it displaying the words Money Box – Honor System. “The right thing round here is to pay before you consume, and most people—city or farm folks would know that.”
I felt like I was back in school, chastised by the principal for some second-grade misdeed. And I also felt a little bit miffed that I’d been unfairly accused of said misdeed, but I knew what it must look like to this guy, so I unzipped my purse and searched for my nickel.
Of course, I had no change. Of course, I had no dollar bills—no fives or tens.
I pulled out a twenty. “Do you by chance have change?”
The farmer slapped a hand to his thigh and cackled. “Do I look like an ATM machine to you?” He shook his head and moved back toward his truck, mumbling, “You city folk.”
Except I wasn’t whatever negative version of city folk he had in mind. And I was about to shout that out when I saw the old guy returning. He held up a silver coin, dropped it into the plastic box, and then said, “This one’s on me.”
I nodded with my humble thanks. “Please tell Beatrice her tomatoes are amazing.”
He shrugged and snorted. “I have no idea whose farm stand this is actually. I was a couple cars behind you in the line and was getting grouchy with the wait. I saw what happened and just had some fun while stretchin’ my legs. You drive safe now.” He got in his truck and pulled back onto the road, the traffic now cleared.
With a face likely as red as the tomato I’d mostly eaten, I finished off repairing “Beatrice’s” whiteboard.
When I was done, I pulled out my $20 bill and dropped it into the “Honor Box.” The way I looked at it, I was half paying a fine for all the wasted time of never stopping by and purchasing the best tomatoes ever, and I was half paying for that exceptional fruit.
Some life lessons are a little pricier than others, and somehow, I felt like it made sense to purchase a twenty dollar five-cent tomato.
Next time I’d bring a pocketful of change.
And a change of clothes.
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