I attempt calculations with a pencil and paper. Although I did put the grocery receipts to one side for later, now that it is later, they are no longer there. I jot down prices from Safeway on-line instead, traitor that I am. I hunt for conversion tables, cups to ounces, teaspoons to ounces, solids not liquids. I decide not to factor in exchange rates, current or otherwise. I have put off this particular exercise for quite a while, terrified that my home made loaves of bread will in fact be dear, too dear, more costly than a golden sheaf. Fear coupled with aversion to reality, and far too much busyness during the holidays has dulled my sensibilities.
Now I must know the truth.
He passes by me carrying a lap top into the garden, but pauses as I peer at tiny labels through mucky bifocals. “What are you doing?” he asks suspiciously, enough to make me stab my ear with the pencil. “Oh nothing really.”
“Can I help?” he offers, a clear indication that he is aware of subterfuge. I parry, “only if you happen to know how much an ounce of flour costs,” I beam with superiority.
“No problem, pass me the calculator.”
“Calculator! You can’t use a calculator.”
“Why not?” Because this is basic arithmetic from people required to know both their 12 and 14 times tables by the age of eleven, or earlier. Failure to perform guaranteed that you’d be shipped off to the colonies for treason. Although I seem to recall being absent that day, due to a possibly herniated wart, a fact I gleaned from irrelevant leavings from my Human Biology class.
“No, it ensures accuracy and eliminates unnecessary errors.” He picks up my tatty scrap of paper scribbles with disdain. He stabs buttons on the calculator. So that’s $2.16 per loaf, plus tax, plus electricity.”
“Oh I don’t think we should count electricity.”
“Because we have that natty new machine so I don’t have to turn the oven on.”
“Still uses power.”
“What do you mean? Isn’t it on for about 4 hours?”
“Only 3 hours and 50 minutes actually, it’s a very efficient model. I’m sure it doesn’t use anything more than the radio surely?”
“What!” He looks at me as if I have the brain the size of a peanut. “Of course it uses more than a radio, it uses heat!”
“Heat, power, electricity, it’s all much the same surely?”
“Er…..no. Actually they’re all completely different….”
“Isn’t it just the same as using the pilot light?”
“The pilot light?”
“Yes you know, like when you make yoghourt overnight on the pilot light for free.”
“Firstly it isn’t free, secondly you don’t make yoghourt any more and thirdly and most importantly in my opinion, we don’t have a pilot light!”
“Oh I know that, I just meant it’s the same principal.”
“The saving money principal.”
“Well lets just say……it looks as if it’s all much of a muchness.”
“But we’re bound to save money by not driving to the shops to buy bread every couple of days!”
“Probably offset by driving to the shops to buy flour and yeast every couple of days don’t you think?” he adds adjusting his waistband.
“Hmm we do seem to eat far more bread now that it’s so irresistibly fresh.”
“By the way……..I kept meaning to ask you, but somehow I never quite get around to it?”
“Ask me what?”
“How much did that very efficient model cost?”
“Ah…….just give me a minute, I’ll nip upstairs and find the receipt for you, I know I’ve put it somewhere terribly safe,” I leg it, in Billy the Whizz mode, but I can still hear him, “it’s o.k. you can just tell me………”
Meanwhile, life "continues" with a "vengance."