I posted last week about bringing my lunch to school. It got me to thinking about when I would purchase my lunches in the cafeteria.
Once I entered Junior High/Middle School I no longer had to pack my lunch. I actually got to buy my lunch in the cafeteria. I know a lot of people complain about school cafeteria food but when you are 11 and you actually get to eat spaghetti and meat sauce from a can (think Chef Boyardee) on a regular basis because that is what the school served, it IS GOOD. A lunch platter at that time cost 80cents.
Since we were a large family and met certain criteria we were issued a card for discount lunches. I called it Well-fare lunches, although it was not. The card that was issued was the size of a baseball card and had 10 spaces on it. Monday through Friday. The card was valid for two weeks. Every two weeks I had to go to the school office to get a new card.
I would go through the line, present the card and pay half for the lunch, which was 40cents. The only problem with this card was that it was yellow. Big Bird Yellow. There was a slight embarrassment every time I would present the card. Not only could the other students see I was presenting a discount card, and of course would heckle me, but the lady at the register with the hair net, always rang up the wrong amount. She was so used to hitting the 80cent button that she would get all flustered, moan something under her breath, and have to void the transaction, re-ring it into the register and punch the hole in the card. So the embarrassment level went up a bit because I was also holding up the line.
In the beginning of the school year, because of this process and the uneasy feeling I rarely used the card. I would buy whatever items I could for the 40 cents that I was given to me every morning. I don’t know if someone ratted me out, but eventually I got into trouble for not using my card.
My dad, being the genius that he is, decided on a different approach. He was going to let me decide. He was giving me control. He said something like “You can decide whether you eat lunch or not. I will give you 5 dollars every two weeks. Whatever you don’t spend you can keep. I expect you to buy lunch with it, but you decide what you want to do with it.”
5 bucks! Wow I could buy the full price lunch 3 times a week. Then I thought it through. If I used the discount card at 40 cents I would have 50cents left over every week. Comic books were 40 cents at the time, so every two weeks I could buy 2 comic books. Man, my dad rocked. He was paying me one comic book a week to eat lunch. There was no embarrassment using the card anymore because I had something to show for it at the end of the week.
Then I thought it through even further. If I would just buy milk and a Jell-O every day it would only cost 20 cents. I would have 3 bucks left over at the end of the two weeks. That was 7 comic books every two weeks. I was still buying "lunch" with the money so my parent's couldn't be mad.
So that is what I did. I would pour the milk over the Jell-O and I would slurp it up with a straw (seriously drinking Jell-O with a straw was fun, try it). Everyda, for a few months, I had Jell-O and milk for lunch.
Then my parent's started to check the card to make sure it was punched. Either someone ratted me out again, or the boxes of comic books gave it away.
It was good racket while it lasted.