“Paying one’s debt to society” always conjured up images of sweaty chain gangs in striped uniforms breaking up gravel, à la O Brother Where Art Thou. Wrong. It turns out paying my debt to society smells like peanut butter and chocolate, and tastes like those plus butter and sugar.
We led our neighbors on a perpetual guilt trip growing up. In terrified teams of two or three we’d trudge up one front walk after another ringing doorbells. When the door swung open, there’d be an awkward moment of whispering, shuffling, and poking the eldest in the back, and then eventually someone would gabble out: “WouldyouliketocontributetotheHikeforLife?” Or if not that, then “Would you like us to mow your lawn? Only $10!” or “Our 4-H club is selling raffle tickets – if you buy one you might win a cow at the County Fair?” A lot of them said “No” and shut the door. But a lot also took pity on us and handed over their cash. In retrospect, that’s pretty amazing; your average suburban household has no use for a livestock.
Which is why, when a scrubbed-face pair of little beggars arrived on our porch selling buckets of cookie dough two weeks ago, Carl and I exchanged looks of martyrdom. And then he pulled out his wallet. The children ran off with a fistful of one version of dough, and our over-priced bucket of the other kind arrived yesterday. Fair trade? No. Fair penance for trying to pawn a cow off on the neighbors? Probably.
Those kids had better not rat us out to the Cub Scouts. I hate flavored popcorn.