Michael Thomason mug

Michael Thomason

I know I’ve got this all wrong. I can feel it in my bones, but still can’t make any sense of it. Nobody would make things this difficult on purpose. But they do.

The issue: I wanted to kill weeds along the fence rows out at our place in the country so I went and bought me a pump sprayer rig with a 40-gallon tank. It mounts in the bed of my Kawasaki Mule and has a 12 volt pump motor. This seems perfect to me. I like the idea of easing along a fence line sipping a cool drink and listening to the radio while comfortably perched on a soft bench seat as I “work.”

So, to be able to spray weed killer, the pump needs 12 volts. I don’t want to hook the pump to my Mule because I’m afraid it will be too much for the small battery. Therefore, I head back to the big city and go looking for a good deal on a battery to run the pump. I can recharge it in the shop after each usage. I’ll not name the particular store because I’m sure I’ve got the battery buying business all wrong. Although my battery buying expedition was infinitely frustrating and confusing, I’m not wanting fire and brimstone to rain down on their heads, or anything like that. But a near miss would be nice.

The long and short of it is, you can’t just buy a battery. There are strings attached. In these modern days of recycling, reclaiming, global warming and ecological good stewardship of the natural world for the mutual benefit of all, you are required to produce the previous battery for recycling. They charge you $12 extra if you don’t come with it tucked under your arm, balanced on your head or held between your knees. It’s called a “core charge” and the intent is to encourage the ignorant battery buyer to help keep lead out of the environment. There several pounds of lead in a battery and unless reclaimed, it will contaminate the entire earth from whence it came, which seems a circular argument but this just reinforces my ignorant state. So they apply a core charge.

I stood at the counter and smiled as I shared the good news: There was no need to go swap an old battery out and bring it back in to recover my $12 because there was no old battery. Since there was no old battery, there was no need to charge me for one. The cashier smiled back and told me I could just go find any old battery laying around and bring that back and then I’d get my $12 refund. I replied, smiling less now, by asking if he had heard the part about me not having any old battery anywhere. I just wanted to buy this brand new one. I went on to explain that perchance in the distant future I might bring this very one back to recover my $12 but that might be a long time and besides the loss of value due to inflation, I could very well be dead or in prison by then. Besides, what about any new battery I bought to replace this one in the uncertain future? Would it not therefore be lurking out there until its reclaim day? Isn’t this just kicking the can down the road? Is this not like looking into a mirror with another mirror? Is this not infinity? When would I ever get my $12 back? The cashier said I’d only get $10 back because there would be a handling charge. I gasped a little as I bit down on a knuckle, struggling to understand how this was not one act of piracy stacked atop another. Even if I did go along with the pyramid scheme and beg, borrow, or steal an old battery, I would only get $10 back. The cashier simply responded that was the law and then looked past me at the crowd of customers bunched up waiting their turn. I was holding up the global economy over $12. Most of the folks gathered about seemed sympathetic. An older gent offered me one of his used batteries to turn in. I guess most folks have a collection to draw from. I don’t. I politely refused his kind offer but gave him my receipt. I told him he could claim the $12 himself but it was only going to be $10 by the time he got back, and since gas was now close to $3 a gallon, it might be more a financial burden than first imagined. The clerk raised his eyebrows and in a firm voice exclaimed: “Next!”

I’ve been out $12 and in a befuddled state ever since, near as I can tell.

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