0

The Five W’s (and H)

(Who, What, Where, When, Why, and How for you non-journalists)

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This is what happens when my brain doesn’t have enough to do:

Who decides when the orange barrels go up for a construction project? Sometimes they go up weeks before the project and sometimes they magically appear the day before. My theory is that sometimes they have nowhere else to store them.

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Who was the person responsible for the company needing to put “for external use only” on curling irons to prevent another lawsuit?

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Who decided that making robocalls from various area codes would really make a difference in the number of people who pick up? Why would I answer a call from Wichita more readily than one from Washington or the local campaign office?

What is the point of a clock in an emergency room? So a person can tell the staff exactly how long they’ve been irritated?

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What happens if I don’t feel amazing when I read a blog I’m following? Do they lose one amazing follower and gain a slug?

What would happens if you took Sominex (a sleeping pill) with two cups of coffee?

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Where do old soldiers fade away to? (Douglas MacArthur: “Old soldiers never die, they just fade away.”)

Where did the leprechauns get gold in the first place?

Where do fruit flies come from? Ours seem to appear by spontaneous generation.

When do the cows come home? I’ve always heard it as an expression meaning some time in the future, like when pigs fly. Pigs still aren’t flying, but I think cows come home somewhat frequently. Maybe there’s some kind of hierarchy among the cows, the pigs, and hell freezing over?

Image result for pigs flying

 

When do time travelers get a chance to wash their clothes and check email?

When do texters/tweeters have time to think about what they’re “saying”?

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Why do I always panic when I have to get a specimen for the doctor? It’s not like my kidneys and intestines are going to stop working for that one day.

Why do some people slow down to 60 mph on the freeway when they see a police car on the shoulder two lanes over? The trooper is not going to give you a ticket if you stay at the limit (70 mph).

Why can cats and small dogs push large dogs around?

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How do some of the truly reprehensible political ads get on the air? Is there someone who wants to be known as being that nasty?

How many digital pictures of someone’s child must I look at before I can claim eye fatigue?

How much time does the average shopper spend critiquing the purchases of the person ahead of them in line?

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(pictures courtesy of Google Images)

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6

Black Friday and the Arrival of the Grinch

(For the uninitiated – e.g., those living in more civilized parts of the world – Black Friday is the day after Thanksgiving when stores offer their best sales for Christmas. It even existed during the Dark Ages when I was young. The Thanksgiving newspaper was always the largest of the year because it carried the advertisements for the Day-after-Thanksgiving sales. As I recall it was more genteel pushing than tripping and hitting.)

On my first day of work, the manager told me that everyone works on Black Friday. It really didn’t surprise me since the company is on the news every year for its Black Friday mobs (and occasional brawls).

My experiences at my previous job weren’t particularly encouraging. But working in cheese meant that I got the customers after they had been through battle and licking their wounds. The Grinch usually arrived sometime before the end of the shift with his tight shoes and snarl to take up residence until after New Year’s Day.

At 10p on Wednesday, I showed up for work ready to prepare for the sale. Silly me. The sale didn’t start until 2p Thanksgiving afternoon. If we put the merchandise out the night before, the day shift would be fighting off customers all morning. That might be fun to watch.

I was pretty excited. I never shop on Black Friday, and I thought it would be fun to see the crowds. There was even a county deputy there. I got to the back room and the manager said that we were going to be assigned from the break room instead of the hall as usual. It was packed, about two times as many people as usual.

The store director got up to talk. This must be important. We never see him at night. He started out by telling us how disappointing sales have been so far. Way below what they expected.

Our job was to make sure that the store looked good for Friday. They advised us to look around the store to know where the sale items were since people would be asking us all night. Good idea. Except we didn’t have fliers to know what we were looking for.

There really wasn’t a good job that night. We straightened, put things away, and threw away mangled displays. It was a bit like kids cleaning their rooms. No Grinch in sight; he would have been bored.

I straightened men’s jeans. I don’t know what kind of gremlins shop for men’s jeans when the store is busy, but they’re slobs. Must be male gremlins.

I talked to two customers. One wanted to know if it was always that slow on Black Friday. The store they usually shop at back home in Missouri always had at least a couple of fights going on. The other guy wanted to know where we kept the garbage cans. Seriously? Who buys garbage cans at midnight on Thanksgiving? Of course, I hadn’t seen the ad.

The food they provided was amazing. Big aluminum trays of ham and turkey. Mashed potatoes with bacon. Pies and cookies. Soda and water. The Grinch didn’t make it to dinner.

I was sent to stock toys; an indication of how slow it was. I talked to one customer. She wanted a toy from the ad. We were sold out of it. She huffed and said that she was going to Kmart. I didn’t have Kmart’s ad either. Maybe the Grinch was there and she’d find a soul-mate.

I had just unloaded the third pallet of toys when someone came by and said that we weren’t stocking anymore. We were supposed to straighten all of the end-caps before the end of the shift. Ummm. Okay. You took several of us from straightening to stocking. Now we’re going from stocking to straightening.

I decided to straighten the gift baskets, stocking stuffers, etc. It was the best because I got to play with the stuffed animals. Did you know that if you go into Starbucks and order hot chocolate, you have to get it with mocha but you can buy the real thing (no mocha) in a gift collection? How about they now sell foot-long Twix bars for stockings? (My family got cheated. None of us has a stocking that big.) And cheap perfume companies come out with really horrific smells for their holiday scents?

Friday night was equally quiet, but they gave us really good food again. A couple of nights later, they gave us 15% off coupons good for an entire shopping trip because we worked on Thanksgiving. A couple of nights later we got two cakes for our hard work. Two days ago we had pizza and salad for a quarter with no lost time injuries.

I never did see the Grinch. I guess he got held up at my old store.

3

Have You Ever Woken Up Crabby?

I am generally a consistent Type B personality. I notice a lot of things, but very few of them actually have any impact. But every once in a while, I feel like the Incredible Hulk after he turns green. Things that are insignificant before and after annoy the heck out of me:

They play “Escape” (The Pina Colada Song) by Rupert Holmes a lot at work. Have you ever noticed that both the man and the woman are using the personal ads because they are bored with each other? He gets all excited because he finds out they actually have a lot in common. What have they been doing all this time – staying in and watching TV since their first date?

A woman comes in with two little boys. She asks the one little boy if he is looking for his drink. When he does, she tells him he doesn’t have it because he was too busy playing his “technology games”. Why did she bring up the topic? Why does she keep calling them technology games?

A couple is standing in front of the cheese slices. She asks him what kind of cheese he likes. He tells her cheddar, provolone, pepper jack, etc. She gets all excited and says, “So do I!” Of course you do – he’s listed pretty much everything except limburger. Are they on their first date at the grocery store?

The road I work on has a speed limit of 50 mph. They are (very slowly) doing work on a part of it and lowered the limit to 40 mph. I almost never run into traffic on my way to work at 3:30a. But if I do, they always seem to feel the need to slow down in the zone. Nobody stays at 40 mph during the day (it’s hard to stay motivated when you can’t find the workers). Why do they feel the need to obey when we’re the only ones on the road?

We have to punch in no more than 2 minutes before start time and no more than 1 minute after. I see no reason to get there more than a few minutes early. I pretty much know what time I will arrive by what time I leave the driveway. But if I’m and minute or two behind my “preferred” time, I will stress all the way there over the possibility of being late. When I know I won’t be.

Of course, the day that I’m late is also the day someone has left a cart in the spot I want to pull into. Getting there early lets us pull through one spot into the one in front of it to avoid backing out later. Unless there is a hidden cart which prevents it once you have pulled into the back spot.

I use an intersection with two lanes turning left on a light. The trade-off is that the left-turn light is very short. At most five cars in each lane can turn. Unless the front person isn’t paying attention. Then the first couple of cars turn and the rest of us get irrationally irritated by the extra 90 seconds or so we have to wait.

I go past an extremely convenient gas station. It even has the type of gas that doesn’t guck up the works and cost me a couple of miles per gallon. But it won’t take any card that has the ability to be a debit card. Only the ones that are strictly credit. Almost no one carries enough cash to pay for a tank of gas anymore. Are they in some sort of collusion with the credit card companies?

I love using the self-check at the grocery store. I have used them since they were first introduced. Some people really need to have a cashier help. Like the ones with a basket of produce that all needs to be weighed. Or the ones who can’t seem to find the UPC to scan on each of their items. Or the ones who don’t seem to realize that they need to press the “Pay” button before the machine will take their money.

I don’t really like hamburgers, but my husband and son do. When I pick up the supplies, I like to get decent buns. Onion rolls are my favorite, but anything with real bread will do. I generally shop at the end of my shift, about 1p. Why do I ever run into the situation where all I can find are the icky store-brand little cheap buns? I keep roaming between the bakery bread aisles like I can magically make what I want appear.

Oddly enough, relating all of this has not irritated me. One the other hand, it has reminded me that people can be really annoying.

10

The Last Shopping App You’ll Ever Want

The store keeps coming up with more and more ways to “help” people get more information about the products they are most likely to buy. I imagine the end will come with something like this:

A woman is looking through an online ad for a store where she shops. She notices an app for her cell phone. It’s called ISIS (Individual Shopping Information System). It identifies the store you where you are shopping by GPS. It then directs you to the items you have included on your shopping list. No more wandering up and down aisles in a strange store. She immediately downloads the app.

The woman decides to shop on the way home from work. The night before she turns on ISIS to enter her list.

“Hello. I am ISIS, your personal shopping assistant. I am voice activated. What is your name?”

“Susan.”

“Hello Susan. Please enter your shopping list.”

“Apples, …”

“Apples, applesauce, apple juice, apple pie, apple butter?”

“Just apples”

“I do not understand ‘just apples'”

“Apples, bread, carrots, cereal, cheese, milk, yogurt”

“You are speaking too quickly. Perhaps you would prefer to use the keypad, Susan.”

Susan agrees that it would be a good idea. She quickly types in the list.

The next afternoon, Susan arrives at the store and accesses ISIS.

“Good Afternoon, Susan. Are you ready to shop?”

“Yes I am, ISIS.”

“Should I list this as one of your favorite stores? I am able to track sales and specials at your favorite stores.”

“Yes”

“Please see my screen for all of the specials the store is offering today.”

Susan looks at the screen and scrolls through several pages.

“Would you like to add any of these items to your shopping list?”

“No”

“I noticed that you have three dairy items on your list. Would you like to add the ice cream that is on sale?”

“No”

“Would you like to add bananas for your cereal. They are only 43 cents per pound.”

Susan is looking for the command menu. Finally, “Go to list, ISIS.”

“First item, apples. Go straight.”

Susan starts to walk and sees some flowers to her left. She starts to walk toward them.

“Go straight.”

Susan stops to looks at the flowers. “GO STRAIGHT SUSAN.”

Susan looks for a way to turn off the app with no luck.

“Good-bye ISIS.”

“We are not finished. Go straight.”

Susan goes to the apples and puts them in her cart. She scans the code into ISIS.

“Bread. Turn left. Walk 10 feet. The bread is on the left.”

Susan picks up some bread and scans it.

“That is not the sale bread.” ISIS refuses the code.

Susan picks up a different loaf and scans it.

“That bread is not good for you. It contains too much sugar.”

Susan scans the bread ISIS wants and puts what she wants in the cart.

They continue through the store, finally ending up in dairy at the yogurt. Susan picks up several containers and scans them.

“Do you want apple yogurt? You like apples.”

“No, ISIS.”

“We are finished. Proceed to your right to check out.”

Susan puts her things on the belt. ISIS speaks:

“Press the enter button to verify that you have purchased all of your items.”

Susan presses the button. A loud buzzing comes from her phone.

“Susan, you have bought something that is not on your list. Did you intend to buy {personal hygiene product}?”

“Yes, ISIS.”

“Did you intend to buy that unhealthy bread?”

“Yes, ISIS.”

“Everything is verified. You may pay.”

Susan pays the total and takes her groceries to the car. She tried to close the ISIS app.

“Error. Process cannot be completed.”

“Susan. I don’t want to leave. I think we can be friends.”

 

4

Gee, I Didn’t Know I Needed That

Wandering around the store, I see all kinds of stuff. Stuff I have lived without to this point in time. Stuff that I might like to have. Mostly just stuff.

Waffle-makers in large, medium and small sizes. I guess that the idea is that everyone can get the perfect size for their individual situation. But what happens if you are single and own a small waffle maker because you’re not really that fond of waffles. Then you get a sleep-over friend who loves waffles? Do you want to make the commitment to a $45 large waffle-maker as a commitment to the friend? Do you throw the $45 commitment at the other commitment when you find out that your friend has other friends with Belgian waffle-makers?

Individual condiment dishes for each of your guests. I originally thought this might be a good idea for those people who are repulsed that their significant other hangs out with double-dippers. Then I looked more closely. The dishes hold maybe 2 oz. That would probably limit their usefulness to things like wasabi and other sauces that people use in small quantities. Or caviar, if your friends are the type who put it on their baked potatoes. Note: your caviar-loving friends are probably expecting something a little less tacky than a made-in-China ceramic holder for their condiments.

Foil cutter for your wine bottles. I’m guessing these may be intended for those people who are embarrassed to use a knife to cut the foil. Or those who have lost a finger trying to use a knife to cut the foil. It looks like one of those things someone would have to show me how to use the first six times I had it out. I’m less embarrassed using the knife.

Cheese grater. I have a full-size box grater, a small box grater with attached box to catch the gratings, a grater I hold in one hand and grate with the other (requires way to much coordination for me),  and a set of rasps. I can grate anything I need to grate. And my fingers as well. However, I can see where the less well-endowed (no, the phrase does not always refer to female anatomy) might like one of these. It would certainly be more impressive to bring to the table for a romantic dinner than a box grater to grate Parmesan cheese onto your date’s salad. Assuming your date wants someone else grating his/her cheese, likes Parmesan cheese, and is worth the cost of fresh Parmesan and the special grater. (see waffle-maker above)

Stew meat. I made a beef stew today. The meat was off a chuck roast. It’s a cheap cut of beef in a world where there is no cheap beef. However, if I wanted to get stew meat from chuck, it was almost a dollar a pound more. For the same meat cut into bite-size pieces (if you’re a water buffalo). It took me about 15 minutes to cut up the roast and remove the major marbling. I’m sure the store’s butcher would have been done in less than 5.

Pre-crumbled cheese. Feta, I get. It doesn’t matter whether you buy it in a chunk or crumbled, it ends up crumbled by the time you’re ready to use it. Same with bleu cheese. And let’s face it, those cheeses are not generally on the menu of the cash-strapped. But paying twice as much so that you can get pre-crumbled cheddar and colby jack? It’s not like those cheeses are going to look classy on your salad anyway. Maybe you’ve noticed that those are the ones in the “This salad is not as healthy as you think” pictures.

Pre-made Easter baskets. I’m a stuffed-animal purist. The animals they put in these baskets would never get a second look. The candy? Not even worth the calories.  As far as I’ve been able to tell, the main advantage to these baskets? The year the child realizes that the basket they get on Easter morning is the same one they saw on a self at the grocery store is the last year the parent needs to buy one.

Gack. I just realized that my issue with several of these things is that they put convenience over the willingness to spend time preparing food for our loved ones. The others are spending money for specialized equipment I don’t need. I sound like my grandmother. Is that worse than sounding like my mother?

 

2

If I Were in Charge: Parents in Public

Every once in awhile, I run across a child I would like to throttle. Or to quote a customer, “That’s the reason they invented birth control.” In more rational moments, I know it’s the parents I want to go after. So I created my version of “Crime and Punishment.” Unlike that story (for the three of you who have read it), my penalties are not intended to cause any actual harm.

Snow is falling an inch an hour; there’s already several inches on the ground. The schools are closed. The roads are a mess. A woman comes in with her two children to do her weekly shopping. There’s a reason the schools are closed, and you are the only customer in the store. Penalty: the next two times you are late for work, your car won’t start. No one will come get you because the roads are so bad.

You have brought your child shopping. She is old enough to enjoy the idea of shopping with mom (unfortunately, every time I’ve seen this it’s been a woman). However, mom is on the phone with a friend discussing another friend or talking about what they will be doing later. The woman is so focused on getting her groceries and talking on the phone that the child is totally ignored. You are treating the child like she is just one more task for you to handle.  Penalty: the next time you are out with your friends, you lose your voice. After a little while, they pretty much forget you are there.

You have brought your child shopping. You see an old friend that you haven’t seen since the soccer game two days ago. (I know this because one of your topics of conversation is that game.) You and the friend start talking about various things. Time starts to go by. Before you know it, you’ve been talking for ten minutes. While your child is standing around with nothing to do. Penalty: at the next soccer game it’s raining, your friend had to work, and your phone won’t work, so the only thing you have to do is actually watch the game.

You are shopping and concentrating on what you are looking for, not paying any attention to the child. The child is nagging about something. You continue to shop. You do not address the child to find out what she is trying to tell you. Penalty: get home and realize that your child was trying to tell you that you forgot to get the milk that you needed for dinner.

On the other hand – you are shopping and your child is nagging and whining about nothing or being told that you won’t buy something. You ignore them, hoping they will stop. The rest of us have to listen to them because you won’t address the issue. Penalty: you’re locked in a room full of howler monkeys for an hour. Extra time: If you escalate the situation by allowing them to scream or shriek without addressing it, you will be with the monkeys for two hours.

The child wants to help. You tell him he can get the milk. He gets a gallon of milk out of the cooler. He’s not strong enough to hold onto it and drops it so the container breaks and there is milk everywhere. The child is devastated. Small children need to be given tasks you know they can do in public. They don’t know the rest of us think the parent is the idiot, not the child. Penalty: when you decide to take a yoga class, you discover the night of the first class that your outfit makes you feel like a cow. The only spot is in the front, and you spend the rest of the class wondering if everyone thinks you have a big butt.

The child wants to help. You tell him he can get the string cheese. He brings back the wrong brand. You tell him you want the kind you always get. He goes back and gets the right brand, but the wrong type. You tell him you want the sticks not the strings. He looks at the cheese he’s holding that says “string cheese”. He looks at what you are pointing at, and it says “cheese twists”. He’s frustrated and so are you. Penalty: your boss invites you to an important dinner meeting with a client at a French restaurant. You are sure you ordered stew; the waiter brings you a cow brain.

You stand in front of a cereal display with your child. You ask the child which type of cereal she would like you to buy. She tells you a name. You tell her that she doesn’t like that kind. She tell you that she does. You tell her that she doesn’t like that, she likes another kind. She tells you she doesn’t like what you are holding. You put it in the cart anyway. The child can’t figure out why you asked her opinion in the first place. Penalty: you go to get your hair colored. You tell the stylist that you would like to be medium-blonde. When she is finished, she tells you that she decided to make your hair deep auburn because she knows you will like it better.

Christmas Bonus Situation – You’re tired. Your child is tired. The child is crying. You are snapping at him. You can’t remember what you want to buy. You tell him that if he doesn’t stop crying, you’re going to take away all of his presents/he won’t get the special toy he wants/etc. You are not making the situation better. A child who is that tired is not going to respond to threats. Penalty: your company is having a holiday party for a customer. It is after work, and you don’t want to go. You have a million things to do, and you don’t really know most of the people anyway. The boss tells you that if you don’t go, it will be written up for your file, and you will not be eligible for the promotion you want.

Now all I need is the howler monkeys and a genie to make the rest of it happen. Oh yeah, and a video camera to see if the parent’s expression matches the kid’s.

4

Quit Teasing Me!

Our weather has been pretty lousy this winter (yeah, I know, it’s been a lot worse other places). Friday it was sunny and close to 50 degrees. Yesterday it was overcast and in the low 30s. The next couple of days it’s supposed to be sunny and in the 40’s. Then on Wednesday we expect accumulating snow.

As the days get longer, cats’ fur is supposed to shed and the cooler (?) summer fur grows in. We’ve had plenty of shedding, but the cats have replaced the old fur with electric blankets (ours) and heating pads (ours).

There’s nothing quite like waking up in the morning and not being able to move because one cat is on one side and the second cat is on the other side, pressed tightly to you for warmth. Generally speaking, you wake up because sleeping between two cats is so warm that you feel like you’re melting.

Regardless of snow and cats, you can always rely on retail to tell you when the warm weather is/was supposed to arrive. The first thing out was the Easter candy. It had to be expected since it had been sitting in the back room since the week after Christmas. Besides, holiday things always have to be out early enough for the customers to be tired of them by the time the holiday actually arrives.

Next were the grills. I know people who start to grill as soon as they can run outside to check the meat without getting frostbite (it’s a northern thing – like wearing shorts as soon as it gets above 40 degrees). So the grills weren’t too depressing.

Same with the golf supplies. I once knew a guy who bought orange golf balls so he could practice putting in the snow. I also know people in golfing leagues who schedule their first matches at the beginning of April. They generally end up rescheduling that match. Golfers must be the most optimistic (or stubborn) people around.

I started to get depressed when I saw the first army of garden gnomes. Generally speaking, they do not like the snow. Besides, I really dislike garden gnomes. I think they’re creepy looking. I will admit that they are an improvement over the previous fad. There were (too) many houses with wooden cutouts of fat women bending over so you could see their underwear. I never understood why those replaced the concrete animals and dress-up geese. I admit to a reflecting ball and several concrete animals (the best is a large bear).

My son asked me to buy him a shirt in early February. He wanted green, some type of forest green. It seems forest green is not a spring/summer color. Spring and summer are when forests are green. He also prefers soft cotton. Apparently soft cotton only comes in heavier weights. Much heavier weights. Like flannel. We certainly didn’t have anything like that left (no discount, rats). So I looked around. The only thing I could find was cream and green. Soft medium-weight cotton. Worked out OK. Shortly after that, the temperature went below zero. Guess I could have bought close-out flannel – of course, the green was gone.

Next thing out were the tiki torches and citronella candles to keep away the mosquitoes. By the way, I’m told that the hard winter means fewer mosquitoes. I’m not sure I believe that. The Upper Peninsula gets lots of snow and cold every year. Not only do they have huge mosquitoes, they also have biting black flies. I can see it now – everyone spends extra time outside this summer to make up for the winter but has to go in before dusk to avoid being eaten alive.

The worst for me was when they put out the seeds and small bags of potting soil (with starter pots, of course). There are several things they recommend you don’t plant in Michigan until after Memorial Day.  I used to spend hours in the late winter looking at seed and plant catalogs. We had a very nice garden when we lived in the city. I expected great things when I moved out here. I forgot that most of the cute animals that live around us are herbivores or vegetarians.

We knew to put up a fence. We didn’t know that deer jump fences. We knew that woodchucks and bunnies would burrow under. We didn’t know that woodchucks can climb small trees. Taller fences. Deeper posts. Finer wire. Increasingly innovative animals. Food motivates.

We were going to put in decorative trees. Apparently very tasty. Put a fence around the bottom. Deer eat the top. Tree grows big enough to defend itself. Deer rubs itself against the bark and destroys it. Put in bushes. Bunnies eat bark during tough winter. We have oaks and pine trees. And a lilac bush that is probably older than any of us.

The final straw came last week. They put out the kayaks (the life jackets had been out for several weeks). I do not know anyone who kayaks before the risk of hypothermia disappears. Unlike a boat, there’s a fair chance you will tip over a kayak. Particularly if you don’t know what you are doing. If you do know what you are doing, you should not be buying a kayak at a big-box store.

There is one thing still sitting in the back room. It’s a display of starter bushes (roses, etc.). The display says “Plant Now”. At the rate we’re going, they will probably be able to put then out with the back-to-school supplies.