National Sticker Agency

I am well aware that the individuals who work at grocery store checkout counters and control our airports and borders have little in common except for the fact that neither make the rules that get enforced at their respective locations.

This I know.

I am also aware that a mix of both earnest hardworking Americans, and slightly less than earnest hardworking Americans work at these locations.

But regardless of either of these things, it blows my mind the massive oversights that occur when rules are put in place.

It all started with a banana.

I like bananas. And when I'm traveling they make a good breakfast to keep in the room because they are cheap, filling and they travel decently well.

So the day before I was going to leave Vancouver on a train to Seattle, I went to the grocery store to grab some food to eat on my 4.5 hour train ride.

Going 4.5 hours without food is not a big deal for most people, but I'm a child, and I need to eat every 2 hours otherwise my eyes glaze over and I turn into a slightly less aggressive version of the Incredible Hulk, kind of a More Significant Than Average Gangly... or something.

I decided to shop for my groceries around the corner from the apartment I was staying at. Just three blocks away there was a discount grocery store.

Which I will admit made me a little bit nervous that I was wandering into the island of misfit toys. Like I was going to find half empty boxes of cereal and cartons of MELK. However I will also note that my family regularly patronized the Entenmann's Outlet near our home in Long Island where soon to be expired cakes and pastries were sold, and I tell you, there was nothing wrong with that place.

Anyway, I digress.

So I went in and was pleasantly surprised at the selection of pretty healthy looking groceries. I grabbed a banana, a grapefruit, some bread and jam and a granola bar to eat on the train.

I get up to the counter and I swipe my credit card and the woman said something I didn't understand before she said it again

MasterCard?

No, visa. 

We don't' accept visa.

And I had a momentary brain freeze where I couldn't process what she said.

For years I have watched commercials for MasterCard and Visa and wondered why there were 2 different kinds of cards since every place I had ever been accepted both. 

Visa’s slogan was especially memorable:

“Everywhere you want to be.”

After my brain defrosted I was filled with a tiny rage.

Well god damn it I want to be in this discount grocery store in Vancouver right now! Never, in my 10 years of having a credit card had I been to a location at home or in 20+ countries abroad where I was told that Visa was not accepted.

I took a crazy shot and asked my new checkout nemesis if she accepted American Express?

She did not.

I kind of turned into a cranky baby at this point and said, “Well those are the only things I have.”

And I left my food on the conveyor belt and stormed out.

Not really stormed, more like just walked normally. But I felt stormy.

Seeing as I made no traction at the discount grocery store, I went to the complete opposite end of the spectrum and stopped by the Whole Foods later that night.

This time I picked up some blueberries, a banana, and an apple. I managed to get the one banana not connected to his siblings.

It was more expensive I’m sure but I was still so angry at discount grocery store that I didn’t even care.

That night I washed my apple, and blueberries, took off all the stickers, and prepped it all so it would be ready to eat with no trash. I felt so responsible. I felt like I was some kind of forethought genius.

Cut to the next morning when I’m checking into my train. I get my ticket, clear customs, and am putting my bags through the metal detector. 

The metal detector man stops me after I go through the metal detector, points at my fruit and says:

Do you have a sticker?

Thinking he's talking about some sticker I had to get from customs to bring 3 pieces of fruit on the train, I started fumbling for my passport. Did I really need certification to eat fruit on the train? It wasn't like I was dragging a wagon full of tangelos.

He continued:

The sticker, where is the sticker on the fruit?

Oh, I took it off.

You can't take it on the train if it doesn't have a sticker.

But I just took it off?! (I whined)

Throw it out.

And I had to put my apple, and my banana, into the trash.

Had I been thinking clearly I might have asked if I could just eat the banana right then and there but my mind was so filled with grown up rage that the only thing determining whether or not this banana and apple set were acceptable was A STICKER!

Apparently Lisa Frank is in charge of border control now.

(That's an elementary school reference to the manufacturer of most childhood sticker which if you don't understand, I don't blame you.)

I was so angry for so many reasons that I started speed eating my blueberries on the train fearing that some other Fruit Gestapo would commandeer my hard fought overpriced fruit.

I had so many questions. What kind of sticker determined the fruit was fruit? What if I just had a separate plastic bag of blueberries, would they have been ok since each individual blueberry didn’t have a sticker? Did the stickers actually get scanned?

But mainly I was just raging, mainly because Visa wasn’t everywhere I wanted to be, and neither was my fruit.