Plea to festival-goers: Bring your plastic

I am standing in line at the liquor store watching two dazed and confused Wakarusa Festival-goers pay for large bottles of tequila in small change.

In an exemplary show of teamwork, the black-haired girl with multiple nose rings and studded bracelets is emptying the contents of her pockets, backpack and hemp wallet onto the counter while her impossibly pale, fuchsia-headed friend counts and stacks the coins into what I assume are columns of one-dollar value.

And though it is 5:30 in the evening and there are several people in line behind them, the festival-goers seem blissfully unaware of any reason to move things along. Or that maybe the coin counting should've occurred in the parking lot where eight more of their festival-going friends are stuffed into a van, probably desperate for something to do.

There is a woman my age in line ahead of me, a bottle of wine tucked neatly under her arm. She smiles and waits patiently. Another middle-aged woman stands behind me. I can't see what she is buying, but she's not fidgeting, so I guess she's hanging in, too. And I'm proud of our collective forbearance because these girls don't exactly smell like fields of lavender.

Suddenly, the black-haired girl, having dumped her entire fortune on the Formica, starts to count aloud as she builds her own stack of coins. This throws the fuchsia-haired girl completely for a loop, and she stops mid-count.

"I'm getting all confused," she says in a deadpan voice.

And then, incredibly, she takes her hand and sweeps all the little stacks into one big pile. She's starting over! The woman behind me heaves a sigh.

Another festival-goer enters the store. It's a young man with buzz-cut hair wearing a nondescript T-shirt. "He could be my son," I think, until I notice the permanently tattooed dots encircling his eyes and jagged arrows inked onto his cheeks like some kind of medieval mask. His eyes are glazed over, and he makes a beeline for the coolers in the back. I wonder where this poor boy will ever find gainful employment, except maybe on the Renaissance Festival circuit. And that's IF he can do a British accent.

As the girls continue to count their silver, their dotty friend falls in line, clearly annoyed with his position in the queue.

"Don't leave me, man!" he yells to his friends who are now rejoicing over the three dollar bills the fuchsia-haired girl just found in her shoe.

"Cool," says the black-haired girl. "Just four bucks more."

As the lady behind me begins to tap her foot, the tattoo guy starts mumbling to himself. I can tell he is formulating a plan.

All of a sudden, he bolts through the line and hands the clerk a fistful of money. He's holding a quart-size can of beer and is heading for the door.

"Dude. Here's a buck fifty. I just can't do the line, man."

The clerk, who is in the festival age bracket himself, says, "No way. You'll have to wait like everyone else."

"I can't do that, man. But keep the change ..."

The clerk stands his ground. "No. Get back in line or give the beer back."

"Du-ude," the festival-goer says, as if he's just been asked to euthanize his dog. "I can't do THAT, man."

So the poor guy schleps to the back of the line, just as the girls conclude their 15-minute transaction.

"Don't leave me, man!" he cries as they cruise out the door, laughing and hugging their liter bottles of Cuervo.

Thanks to electronic debit card processing, the lady in front of me is soon leaving with her sauvignon blanc, and it is finally my turn.

"Sorry about the wait," the clerk says, sheepishly.

"It's OK," I say as I hand him my plastic. Because I was once a festival-goer, too. I spent many a weekend in the '70s traveling in packs, camping out, bathing in rivers, listening to music and, yes, purchasing all manner of goods with pocket change. Besides, I know the festival is good for our local economy (at least the part selling booze, cigarettes, bug spray and munchies.) And as long as they behave, I won't mind if the festival-goers come back next year.

But only if they bring their Visa cards.

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