Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Time again for prairie celestials

with 28 comments

During the first week of April native plantophile Robert Kamper kept me apprised of how the prairie celestials, Nemastylis geminiflora, were coming along in the greenbelt right behind his house in Round Rock. Early in the afternoon on April 11th I went out there and was pleased to find over half a dozen of the flowers scattered about, including the one shown here.



❄︎         ❄︎         ❄︎



So yesterday morning I went to Sprouts to buy some produce. While walking around the store I noticed in the dairy section that there was a Manager’s Special on the house brand of cream cheese, whose current regular price is $1.79 each. The sale sign told customers they’d get $2.58 off if they bought two packages. How could I pass up a good deal like that? I put four packages of cream cheese into my cart.

A little later, as the cashier was tallying my items, I noticed that each package of cream cheese was ringing up on the register at the regular price of $1.79. I pointed out to the cashier that the cream cheese was on sale, and I asked if the discount would show up at the end (some stores—do you hear me, Central Market?—annoyingly do it that way rather than showing the discount right after each item appears on the screen). The cashier seemed not to know the item was on sale. After a little back and forth, she finally asked whether I was talking about a Manager’s Special. Yes, I told her, that’s what it was. Her answer was that, oh, Manager’s Specials typically only last one day, and because of that they don’t get entered into the store’s computer and therefore don’t show up at the register. She asked me what the sale price was, but I didn’t remember exactly how much of a discount I was supposed to get, so she had to run all the way to the dairy section in the most distant part of the store to read the sign, do the calculations, and then come back and manually ring up each cream cheese for 50¢ rather than $1.79.

What kind of a way to run a business is that? Is each customer required to announce at the register that an item is a Manager’s Special? There was nothing on the sale sign that said I had to do that. Think about all the people who get enticed into buying Manager’s Specials and don’t notice at the register that they’ve been charged the regular price after all. A cynical shopper couldn’t be blamed for saying that that’s the whole point. What do you think, shoppers?

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman





Written by Steve Schwartzman

April 18, 2022 at 3:42 AM

28 Responses

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  1. The prairie celestials were a special find. The Manager’s special was not. At one of the supermarkets my sister goes to in Australia if the cashier enters the wrong amount the customer can get their money back and the item is given to the customer at no cost. My sister diligently checks her receipt before exiting the supermarket and from time to time spots a mistake. Not everyone is as diligent as my sister though.


    April 18, 2022 at 4:02 AM

    • Whole Foods, the natural foods grocery chain that you may have heard of (and which started right here in Austin) used to have the policy you mentioned: any item that rang up incorrectly was free. Since Amazon bought Whole Foods five years ago, I don’t know if the old policy is still in force. Fortunately the prairie celestials have remained in force each spring in that Round Rock location.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 18, 2022 at 4:09 AM

      • Yes, it’s fortunate that prairie celestials persist. It’s a pity supermarket policies (the good ones) don’t follow their example.


        April 18, 2022 at 5:28 AM

  2. I don’t know how far Round Rock is from Austin but I would travel a fair distance to visit a flower as lovely as this Prairie Celestial.

    I had just the opposite experience at our local Whole Foods this past Saturday. Mary Beth enjoys quiche so I buy her one when I shop there. They haven’t had any for weeks, of course supply chain, so I was quite happy to see a few and grabbed a quiche florentine without even checking the price. When I got to the checkout the reader wouldn’t recognize the bar code so the cashier asked me if I remembered the price which I didn’t. She said how about $7? I said sure but I believe it had to be more and offered to go check. No worries she said, rang up the $7 and told me when in doubt they go low. I am sure that I regularly paid $13 or $14 for them. When I got home I told Mary Beth that I should have bought two since they were frozen but of course had no idea about the snafu. I knew that she’s my favorite cashier for a reason.

    Steve Gingold

    April 18, 2022 at 4:07 AM

    • You’d be in luck: Round Rock is a large suburb contiguous to Austin on the north, so getting to the location with the celestials took me not even 20 minutes.

      As you were writing your comment, I was telling Amanda (Gallivanta) that Whole Foods, which began in Austin, used to have the policy that if an item rang up wrong the customer would get it for free, and that I didn’t know if that policy is still in force since Amazon bought out Whole Foods five years ago.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 18, 2022 at 4:18 AM

      • I only got probably 1/2 off but I can’t complain since they usually go for more. I knew Whole Foods originated in Austin and still headquarters there with three different support offices.

        Steve Gingold

        April 18, 2022 at 5:55 AM

        • Half off is still a great deal. Next time I’m in Whole Foods I’ll try to remember to ask whether they still honor the policy that an item that rings up wrong is free.

          Steve Schwartzman

          April 18, 2022 at 6:05 AM

          • I went back to Whole Foods for some berries and checked the price. $19.99 each. An even better deal. Sorry I wasn’t stocking up on them.

            Steve Gingold

            April 18, 2022 at 9:30 AM

  3. Such a delightful flower. The delicate color combination reminds me very much of the crocuses in our garden back in Omaha.


    April 18, 2022 at 4:17 AM

    • The flower brings delight indeed, even more so for me because I seldom come across that species. I think I first heard of crocuses in the last stanza of the Rodgers and Hammerstein song “It Might As Well Be Spring”:

      I’m as busy as a spider spinning daydreams,
      I’m as giddy as a baby on a swing,
      I haven’t seen a crocus or a rosebud,
      Or a robin or a bluebird on the wing,
      But I feel so gay in a melancholy way,
      That it might as well be spring,
      It might as well be, might as well be,
      It might as well be spring.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 18, 2022 at 4:25 AM

  4. It is the same here! My current worry is inflation though. When I was a child I used to add up the bill as I went round the supermarket with my parents, and with the high inflation rate in the early seventies I could memorize what certain products had cost a week earlier. Oh, for that memory now!


    April 18, 2022 at 4:54 AM

    • Whatever frailty overtakes memory, at least now you can keep track of prices with the camera and calculator and other apps on your phone.

      Like you, inflation worries me a lot. The United States government announced that the rate has risen to 8.5% but savvy people know it’s really higher because the consumer price index (CPI) that’s used for the calculation excludes food and energy, both of which are are necessities and both of which have conspicuously risen in price. You might as well say a person who’s been shot is healthy if you exclude the parts of the body that the bullets have penetrated.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 18, 2022 at 5:44 AM

  5. After a long day at work, shoppers are often too tired to check whether they actually got the special as advertised.

    Peter Klopp

    April 18, 2022 at 8:49 AM

  6. Sounds like sharp practice to me! The prairie celestial, however, is beautiful.

  7. So beautiful


    April 18, 2022 at 8:29 PM

  8. That’s a perfect and beautiful blossom!


    April 19, 2022 at 9:21 AM

  9. The only place I’ve found prairie celestials is on and around the area of the Willow City loop. Since they’re in the iris family, like the prairie nymph, they’ve seemed to bloom at the same time. I need to visit a few local spots where I’ve found prairie nymph in the past and see if they’re arriving.


    April 20, 2022 at 8:00 AM

    • Now that surprises me: I don’t connect prairie celestials with the Willow City Loop (which by the way I heard someone the other day say was pretty poor this year, like so much of that area). Prairie nymph is another plant I rarely come across. My first encounter was years ago at McKinney Roughs east of Austin, closer to Bastrop. Good luck with spots where you’ve previously found native members of the iris family.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 20, 2022 at 10:15 PM

  10. Sorry I haven’t commented earlier on your fine photo of the Nemastylis geminiflora. A few days ago, I thought I had seen the last of them for this year – then on a whim, went out and found four blooms. But overall, in spite of your ability to turn a sow’s ear into a silk purse, this year’s colony of Prairie Celestials was shorter, and certainly fewer in number than last year’s – most likely due to our current drought conditions. It appears that rabbit browsing kept some of the leaves shorter than they might otherwise have been. Not sure whether I should thank you or not for mentioning my name and Postal City. Not sure whether that last sentence was half-serious or half in jest…


    April 22, 2022 at 10:15 PM

    • I was happy with the celestials I found in the greenbelt. Even if fewer in number than last year, they certainly served my photographic purpose.

      Regarding your last sentence, the logician in me wants to point out that ‘half-serious’ amounts to the same thing as ‘half in jest,’ similar to the way in which some people see a glass with liquid up to the mid-line as half full while others see it as half empty. Regarding my text’s last declarative sentence (before the final question it entailed), some people see the world a lot more cynically than others. Whether I read too much into the situation at the store, I don’t know. Some things that seem intentionally deceptive are due to ineptitude rather than malice.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 22, 2022 at 10:35 PM

      • Glad you were happy with the Celestials you found. I would have been happier if we had some rain this year. But especially happy to see that the pleated leaves under my Texas Persimmon finally bloomed this year.

        I had the same thought about half-serious and half jest. But then, I can be redundant at times. I actually like to think that I’m a 500 mL in a 1 L beaker type of person.

        Caveat emptor is a good mantra to use whenever entering any store, I would suppose. Cynicism is the gateway to paranoia, according to an aphorism I think I just coined.


        April 23, 2022 at 9:39 AM

        • And then there’s that other saying: “Just because I’m paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not out to get me.

          The lack of rain is evident in the relative floral sparsity I’m seeing in my part of Austin compared to other years. I just came back from a site where I’d normally be finding more on this date than I did today. On the good side, some flowers have come up, including the first rain lilies I’ve seen in 2022, no doubt prompted by the modest amount of rain we recently got.

          Steve Schwartzman

          April 23, 2022 at 1:14 PM

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