Many years ago, I joined the scout group The Brownies just because I thought the name meant that there would be regular servings of delicious, moist and chewy chocolatey treats. I was wrong. Still, I did move on up to the Girl Scouts a couple years later. I gained some practical knowledge from the experience, the least of which was its motto, “Be Prepared.” I took it to heart.
It paid off big-time when I joined some friends for a hike.
“Go ahead and make fun of me for carrying this big heavy purse,” I said in answer to the guffaws of the others. “Someday you will be sorry and I am not one of those people who is too polite to say I told you so.”
We hadn’t hiked very far when one of the hikers said, “Denise, I don’t suppose you have a band-aid in there? I am getting a blister.”
“Sure,” I said, rummaging in the shadowy depths of my purse. “Here you go. That’ll be $2.50.”
“$2.50! That’s highway robbery!”
“Take it or leave it,” I said smugly.
As the day wore on, I collected $7.00 for two aspirin, $8.50 for sunscreen, and $22.50 for a splint for Becky after she stepped in a gopher hole and broke her ankle.
I turned a deaf ear to the grumbling masses, who foolishly had scoffed at the sacred Girl Scout motto. I walked with my hands in my full pockets, whistling cheerfully and jingling the coins just to annoy them.
It wasn’t until we stopped at the primitive toilets that I made some real money.
“Hey!” yelled Brenda, “There’s no toilet paper in here!”
“Ahem,” I said, pulling a plastic bag of assorted rolls out of my purse. “Do you prefer one-ply or two-ply? Floral print or plain? Scented or unscented?”
“What difference does it make?” snapped Betty.
“Well, I get 75 cents a square for the plain and $1 a square for the fancy.”
By now, the troops were getting restless. The possibility of a mutiny just made things more interesting. When we somehow ventured off the marked trail and became hopelessly lost, the stakes soared. We were out of food and water and the sun was setting. We decided to make camp for the night.
“Just let me clear this brush,” I said. I pulled a chainsaw out of my purse, jerked the cord, and the motor came to life with a roar and a belch of smoke. This cost the group $85. Fortunately for them, I also had a credit card scanner in my purse.
I made another $22 off the soft drink and bottled water sales. I would have charged more but they were warm. The portable generator in my purse was on the fritz, and the refrigerator went out.
“What I wouldn’t give for a cigarette,” groaned Marie.
“A cigarette?” I repeated as I peered into the depths of my purse with a flashlight. “What brand? Filtered or unfiltered? Slim, extra long, or regular? Soft-pack, hard-pack, or flip-top? How about some mentholated? $24 a pack.”
“Forget it!” said Marie. “I’ll give up smoking!”
“Really? Nicotine patches or the gum? $12.50 each.”
“You couldn’t possibly get all that stuff in your purse!” grumbled Marie.
“It’s a skill,” I said.”It runs in the family. Do you remember when we went to the circus a few years ago and we laughed and laughed when those 36 clowns got out of that tiny car? Clown number 28 was my dad.”
After a fitful night in the woods, during which I made another $22 for insect repellent and $125 for a snake bite kit, we met to decide on a strategy for our rescue.
“If only we had a map,” said Lisa.
“Oh, I have a map,” I said. “Also a compass and a cell phone. The bidding will start at $500. Who’ll give me $550?”
You know, I earned a merit badge in the Girl Scouts for my mastery of knot-tying, but the overhand knot with a half-hitch and a sheepshank knot look altogether different when they are tied around your ankles and you are swinging upside down from a tree. I could cut my way free with my Girl Scout knife, but they took my purse with them.