After about fifteen years of not eating breakfast (unless consuming my own body weight in sausage and bacon on the morning after the night before), I’ve recently taken up cereal. It’s hardly a lifestyle choice, more a doctor-enforced measure to counteract years of eating Iceland’s CJD Burgers, but actually it’s been nowhere near as painful as I’d imagined.
To be honest, even when I ate breakfast, I was never much of a fan of cereal. When we were kids, Little Sis and I used to get excited about the occasional appearance of a variety pack of cereals, but I think that was largely due to our fascination with the tiny boxes that looked exactly like scaled down versions of the real thing. We probably used to fight over who had the Sugar Puffs, although I must admit that my preoccupation was always with ensuring that I never had to eat the Coco Pops. I never did understand why ‘turning the milk brown’ was given as a unique selling point of that stuff. I don’t like milk at the best of times, but at least let it be white if I’ve got to drink it.
The cereal section of most grocery stores in America seems to be bigger than most supermarkets back home. As in ‘bigger than the supermarkets themselves’. It can take a good twenty minutes just to take in all the choices. But after your first visit to the cereal aisle, you quickly realise that the choice is illusory. Because when it comes down to it, all you have to decide is whether you want your cereal to taste of sugar or cardboard. Whether it’s made by familiar names like Kelloggs or Nestle, or the slightly more exotic Kashi or Peace Valley, there’s simply a straight selection between sickly sweet cinnamony frosted weird-coloured honey glazed crunchy stuff, or recycled cereal boxes that have ironically been turned into cereal themselves. With occasinal raisins thrown in to break up the paper-based monotony.
Once you’ve realised that, it’s just a matter of choosing between the two styles, and then picking the box with the nicest design on it.
I’ve taken to buying my cereal from a corner deli across the road from where I work, but I’ve finally decided that this has to stop. In part it’s because I don’t like the designs on their slightly more limited range cardboard cereals, and partly because their cereals are about $2 more expensive than the same thing in a normal grocery store.
But mainly it’s because they keep stealing a penny from me.
My personal cardboard selection costs $4.99 at this store. Every single time I go there, they tell me that the cereal costs $4.99 and I hand over a $5 note. And then I wait for the change. The change never comes. They just look at me blankly, and then call on the next customer to step forward.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t need the single cent, and I’m not trying to be some kind of latter day Scrooge. I’ve never even asked that they hand it over. But there’s a principle at stake – why don’t they just label the box with a $5 price tag, instead of making me feel like I’ve been duped every time?
Or maybe it’s just that the dollar is so worthless these days that they think the penny has no use to anyone?
Especially to a namby pamby cardboard cereal muncher like me.