It doesn’t take an earth-shaking event to provide a topic for blogging. Well, actually, if the earth were to shake again here in southern California, I’d probably blog about it once I decided I was safe–this usually takes several hours if the magnitude is 4 or greater–and ascertained that my computer was still usefully attached to power.

This morning, however, the inspiration came because of a few little slips of paper, coupons, actually, cut from the ad sections of the LA Times last Sunday. I can tell they came from a recent Sunday because they still haven’t expired, although they’re sure to do so before I can use them.

It wasn’t all that long ago that most coupons from the paper had no expiration date. One could cut out everything in sight and feel fairly sure that one day in the future, those pieces of paper would still be worth something when presented to a grocery cashier, even if it took months before we needed corn flakes again.

Those were also the days of “real” double coupons; we’ve spoken about this before. For a while when my kids were younger and I was a stay-at-home mom with more time than money, I really indulged in couponing, and I took advantage of a great many rebate offers that I found on pads at the grocery stores. You know, those little forms that say Send your name and address and six boxtops to…, which was usually some address in MI or WI. Years ago I could have rattled off the Zip Code, but it’s been a long time.

At any rate, some of the offers to be found were really great. For the cost of a stamp (which was considerably less than first-class mail now) and a few minutes to gather my Proof Of Purchase, I could expect to receive a coupon good for a free item, or at least one worth $1.00 off my next purchase. These  coupons didn’t expire, either, and I’d save them up until I ran out of all my laundry detergent and toilet paper at the same time, when the coupon stash would get pulled out of the drawer and I’d go stock up again.

There was another trigger, too, but one which didn’t come around very often. This was TRIPLE COUPONS!, which was heralded with big block letters on a store ad. Usually these special marketing ploys required that you carry the ad into the store along with your coupons, limited the number you could use, and lasted only a short while. I could understand that; stores couldn’t make much profit if shoppers could redeem a $1.00 coupon–tripled–against a $2.95 item. It didn’t keep me from taking advantage of such sales whenever I spotted them.

The greatest of all, though, was a promotion by Vons Markets in our area. Are you ready for this? UNLIMITED TRIPLE COUPONS! SATURDAY ONLY! I gathered every box of coupons I had, put on running shoes, and headed for the store. I shopped in a frenzy, but with at least some thought for other people, never taking ALL of an item (unlike some of the other couponers there that day.) When I left Vons, I had several carts full of groceries and a receipt that was something like twenty feet long, half of which was deductions for my coupons. The beginning total was more than $3,000, and I paid——-less than $10, all of it for Sales Tax. Every item I bought was free. I was in seventh heaven!

My hubby was not quite so pleased. While he applauded my shopping sense, he found little to smile about when he realized that he had, somehow, to find room in his garage for several years’ worth of laundry detergent, shampoo, Scotch Tape, toothpaste, and paper towels. We had enough sodas, ketchup and mustard to host a barbecue for thousands. I’d never again need to wonder if I had enough bowl cleaner.

In the history of the world, it wasn’t all that long ago. It was a different time, though, and I’m a different person now. For one thing, we no longer have to decide between clean clothes and clean teeth, pending receipt of the next paycheck. Okay, I’m kidding; we were never quite that desperate. These days I wouldn’t even consider taking on the crowd if such an event were to occur again. It’s unlikely to happen, anyway, But if some store did put on such a circus, the excitement, the chaos wouldn’t be the same.

Everyone’s coupons would have expired.

I’ll see you again, after the commercial.