Friday, November 28, 2014

Camping Out at Cabelas

My DH was thrilled to read online that Cabelas would be open on Thanksgiving Day. So naturally, being in Greenville for Thanksgiving, we stopped on our way home to pay homage to the famous purveyors of the great outdoors.

An empty parking lot was the first hint there was an issue. However I will give my DH credit there were a few cars driving through the parking lot, so it seems others had also read somewhere the store would be open on the holiday. Always being optimistic, my DH got out of the car assuming that the store was open and just did not have much business - overly optimistic. 

As we walked toward the store, a red neck couple walked toward us. She had a cigarette hanging out of her mouth and he looked like he was hunger over from a night of waging on cock fighting. "They ain't open."

"Seriously," my DH said."I read online they would be."

"Nope. But me and the little wife here are going to be first in line tomorrow morning when they open at five. That's our tent." 

He pointed to a fairly large army green surplus tent "pitched" right in front of the door. They had concrete blocks holding down the guy wires. The tent was so large I had assumed it was an outside sales area when we first drove up. 

"Spent the night at the outlet mall last year to be first 'cause she wanted to," he continued. "Wasn't much impressed. So I thought we'd try here this year."

Later when my DH and I discussed the couple, I commented, "They did not strike me as Cabelas' target audience."

"No, in fact I think he would be ambitious going from Wal-mart to Target."

On the way home I feared my DH would see the combination of staying in a tent in front of Cabelas overnight as nirvana. But I took solace that those fine folks had put any idea he may had of that to rest - forever.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

A Family Thanksgiving

For Thanksgiving our family, let's say, goes back to the original premise - we share a meal with savages. Oh, we have guests also. It is the family member responsibility to warn their guests about the "issues d'jour" of our blessed bunch ie who is not speaking to whom, which members are certified bat shit crazy and should be avoided at all cost, and who are curtailed by restraining orders. Other than that, the holiday is most enjoyable and the food is scrumptious, Well there was 1972 when Cousin Sal went missing (we haven't heard from him since). That year we had a big BBQ instead of turkey - a little odd I thought, but I digress,

Chances are someone is going to forget some major item. There is an aunt and uncle who are always late. Last year I wanted to vote them off the island, but the group, in the benevolence of the holidays, decided we would just start without them. It was agreed this year we would tell them the meal was being served at 11:30 in hopes that surely they would make it to the table by 1pm, the time everyone else was told we were eating. 

There is the family "bride". We have long lost count of the number weddings, divorces, and annulments she has had. We just assume if she shows up with a young man on her arm, chances an invitation will soon arrive and he will not be around next year.

There is the older aunt who brings food that is never completely cooked and everyone has to "try" some so as not to hurt her feelings. And the cousin who insists on bringing a dessert each year even though you know she cannot boil water. Often she doesn't even hide the grocery store box. Everyone is expected to bring the same item - change is not good. One year I took loaves of homemade French bread instead of my "assigned" homemade dinner rolls. Dinner was delayed simply by the confusion in the buffet line over something different. 

One would think that as the older generations have died, replaced by the newer ones that most of the insanity, the hard feelings, arguments over things the parties cannot even recall, and other ridiculousness, that cool heads and sanity would prevail. But no! Apparently there are still bats in the belfries and skeletons in the closets. 

Ah, families - we don't get to pick them but we  are lucky to have one. I am thankful as we all gather around the table that our family tree branches and the gene pool is deep. I also count heads and make sure we are not having BBQ this year.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

A Baking Day

Today was my Thanksgiving baking day. In a few words - I am getting too old for this. The plan was simple: ice some sugar cookies, make some pralines, and bake a batch of brownies. These tasks were neither new nor difficult to me. I have been icing sugar cookies for years. I am known, I am proud to say, for my pralines. And the brownies are, well, brownies. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to bake brownies.

The best part was that I had the house to myself. My DH had an appointment in Columbia and would be gone most of the day. I was prepared having bought everything I needed in advance. By 9am I was ready to start.

I had baked the sugar cookies last week and froze them. I spread them out on cooling racks so they would thaw without getting soggy. Meanwhile I pulled out my handy Kitchenaid mixer to make the icing. I went to the cabinet and got my box of special sugars, sprinkles, and colored candies to decorate the cookies.

After I made the icing and started decorating the cookies I realized that the icing was too thin and was running off the sides of the cookies. Unless my "theme" this year was going to be 'Designs by Kindergartners", I needed a Plan B. After some thought I salvaged the cookies. It wasn't pretty but they looked presentable. Of course this involved two extra bowls of icing and a lot of patience.

Pralines were easy. I could do them in my sleep - or so I thought. However when the first batch came out as burnt pecan brittle rather than rich creamy pralines - the nightmare began. What the heck? So I made a second batch. The color was right, the aroma rich, they were creamy. Then as I poured the thick "creamy" candy onto the wax paper suddenly it all became a hard granular crumbly mess. 

It took a third try but finally I had a batch of creamy pralines. Of course I also had a batch of burnt brittle and another of hard crumbles, both worthless piles of brown sugar.

The brownies came out OK - otherwise I would have lost all faith in my baking abilities. 

By the time I had fixed the cookies, finally came through with a decent batch of pralines, and baked a pan of brownies it was 2pm. It took a good hour to put everything up, load up the dishwasher, and clean up the kitchen.

By the time I had that done and supper cooked my DH came home. He took one look at me, "You look exhausted."

"Well, I have been baking all day."  

"That's all?"

Monday, November 24, 2014

A Movie Review - The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1

When we last left her . . . Yes, Katniss Everdeen (played by Jennifer Lawrence) is back in the third part of the Hunger Games Trilogy, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1. The Capitol is bearing down even more to stop the rebellion brought about from the end of the Quarter Quell games. Survivors of District Twelve (which has now been destroyed) are now living in District Thirteen. Wait - Thirteen was annihilated prior to the first movie, right? Ah, not so fast grasshopper. 

Julieanne Moore as President Alma Coin (of District 13) with her grey hair, drab jump suit, and calm tone is a measured leader ready to use Katniss as the symbol of the revolution - the Mockingjay - against the Capitol. However Katniss is more distracted with Peeta being held prisoner by President Snow. Throughout the movie you sense a conflict there, although Katniss is dedicated to the people of Panem, it is Peeta you feel she is truly fighting for. 

Over all, I found the movie not as exciting as the first two.  This last part of the trilogy has been divided into two parts. The action is moving along, you are following the story, and wham! the director's name comes up and you realize the story will be continued in Part 2.

We are reminded of the great loss of Philip Seymour Hoffman who was making this film when he died. In fact I spent more time during the first 20 minutes of the film paying attention to Hoffman and mourning our loss than watching the story. 

I was disappointed, but I'll give "The Games" a second chance when Part II comes out. Hopefully the holiday movies will be better than the past few have been lately. I am beginning to sound like a bitter New York Times critic  just without the talent, the experience, the elan, or the credit.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

But Don't Get Me That

Some people are impossible to buy gifts for - take my DH. Throughout the year I will try to make a mental list of items he has mentioned or I have noticed he needs. Inevitably by the time Christmas rolls around he has usually purchased each of these items himself. Or better yet, he has managed to tell me not to.

An example was last week we were shopping and happened upon this 96 piece socket set. Given 56 pieces of the last 96 piece socket set I gave him are MIA (never to be heard from again), I figured it was time to replace the entire set. As we stood there looking at the box of shiny things, (often I think he is a crow) he commented, "Now that is a nice set." 

To myself I said, "Check". I added that to my mental list of gifts for him - that so far had nothing on it.

In the next breath he added, "But don't get that for me for Christmas, I don't need it."

Yesterday we came upon a Digital Infrared Thermometer. I saw it first and made the fatal mistake of pointing it out to him. "Don't you need one of these?"

He picked it up, read the package, and put it in the buggy. "I do." Then he got on his cell phone did research to find out what was the best one for his needs, and decided he would order that one also. So much for that idea.

He has been wanting the software of the trails for all the National Parks to put on his GPS device. I have been paying close attention to see which of the various versions of the software he prefered. Then a day or two ago he was reading about one of them when he commented, "Now don't get this for me for Christmas. I haven't decided which one I want."

Christmas morning he will give me some thoughtful gift I never knew I needed (but really did). He has for 34 years. Christmas morning I will give him some lame present. Before I lament that everything I thought he wanted he either bought himself or told me not to buy, I can predict his reaction.  "If you had been paying attention there were several things I wanted."

Friday, November 21, 2014

A Historian, A Best Selling Author and I walk into an Arts Center

My first experience signing books did not make me feel like Patricia Cornwell. It also did not make me feel like giving up my day job. Wait what day job? I digress.

I was invited by the Arts Center in another town where my photography is sold to sign my books during their holiday open house. When they learned about my two books they were excited and said their audience could relate to them and they would be popular. I called a month or so ago to find out how many I should bring. 

"Well," Alex, the director, said, "Ken Burger [a very accomplished writer] sold over 60 last time he did a signing. But then again he has had three best sellers."

"Yes, but realistically, give me an idea."

After some hem and hawing, Alex suggested maybe 10-15 of each and then I could leave what was left at the center to be sold. I thought some and decided that the last thing I wanted was to completely humiliate myself by showing up with a stack of books and after an evening of a very well attended open house, leave with a stack of books.

So last night I walked in with a small bag containing a 7 copies of each - my idea of a happy medium. Full disclosure I had a large box of more in the car. Those were copies I planned to use as gifts and put in my gallery in town. 

When Alex showed me where to sit my stomach cramped when I saw I was stationed next to Ken Burger, the accomplished best selling author. (His book Baptised by Sweet Tea is a delightful read.) Great, talk about insult to injury. On the other side of Ken was a nice gentleman with his collection of guides and histories of local revolutionary battle grounds. What a group. Ken was most accommodating, of course what did he have to lose.

As soon as the doors opened the crowds poured in, which surprised me. This was a small southern town. But, then again there was free food and wine. Because of everyone's southern upbringing, they were forced to speak to me simply because I was sitting next to the hometown star, whom they all paid homage to. I was quick to stand, offer my hand, and introduce myself. The more polite ones asked about my books. The interested ones were actually engaged and asked questions.

One or two bought books and asked me to sign them. Then one lady walked up. "I need three sets and would you please sign one set each to Susan, Roseanne, and Skippy. That's S-K-I-P-P-Y." 

Whoa, I thought that's 8 out of 14 books. Meanwhile I felt for the history author. Everyone was very polite and spoke to him about everything but his books. Everyone who came in knew Ken. And overall he sold several books. Suddenly I realized I was down to 2 books and this nice lady was asking for two of my wedding books. I politely asked her to give me a second. I quickly went to the front of the center where my books were displayed and yanked a bunch of copies off the shelf.

The evening went on and the stack in front of me continued to slowly decrease. One lady came up, introduced herself as an English Lit professor at the local college. Then she said, "I have read your book. I like the way you write. The book is well done. I would like to buy one." I thanked she as she picked the book up. 

Another lady and her daughter approached the table and picked up the wedding book. "I'm a little late for this one. We just had her [referring to her daughter standing next to her] wedding." She looked at the title. "And I wore a blue dress." I quickly explained, as humorously as I could, the story of the blue dress. She chatted for a moment and put the book down. I wished her Happy Holidays and she and her daughter walked off. 

Later on I saw the mother and daughter in the book section of the center looking through the wedding book. And next thing I knew she was back at the table asking me to sign a book for her. I happily signed it and  thanked her for buying it.

It wasn't long before I found myself making my way to my car to fetch more copies. When all was said and done, I had books left over that the Arts Center could keep but I had none to take home. In the big scheme of things this was not much, but I was very surprised. I was so busy talking about my book I never saw if anyone purchased my photography, although several people commented about it. 

Everyone needs an evening like that to boost their moral. At least I did not humiliate myself sitting next to a best selling author. 

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

The Six Days of Christmas

One of the joys of Christmas is the family getting together. Since there only four of us, well five with our son-in-law and now six with our dear little granddaughter, planning this only involves the menu and whether we are going to have king crab legs or a standing rib roast (our family Christmas standards). The kids are home for Christmas eve and Christmas morning. 

For the first thirty years or so that I knew my DH, his family all got together Christmas Eve for their big family Christmas which was Norman Rockwell at its best. There were three generations (well four the first two years I was there), a huge meal, kids every where, a large tree, gifts, and a grand time. Then my DH's parents died and his siblings had their own grandchildren so that tradition ended. The family still gets together but it is on some other night during the holidays.

This year my DH wanted to know when my daughter and her family would be here. Actually he meant what time on Christmas eve would his granddaughter be here. My daughter had already told me they wanted to be at their home on Christmas day so I knew they would not be with us Christmas Eve or Christmas Day for that matter.

Then the round robin started. I needed to see what date suited my brother and his family (all I have left on my side) to get together for our "Christmas". I knew they would be trying to set a date with my sister-in-law's family. Wait, my Stepmother's family had not set a date for their holiday dinner. That would need to work around the calendars of her three daughters (and their husband's) as well as my brother and me. So I emailed my Stepmother. 

In the mean time my DH's family suggested the 25th or 26th for their dinner. This could take a while to come to rest given there were two generations here of  siblings, their in-laws, as well as their children and their in-laws. This is when charts and graphs come in. 

All along my daughter was coordinating with her husband's family for a date. Naturally he had brothers and sisters trying to work dates out with their significant others and their families. 

By the time everyone's calendar had been consulted, emails had been exchanged, and phone calls made, the dates of the 20th, 23th, and 26th were "penciled" in for various celebrations.  Once again, my DH asked, "So when are the children coming?" 

I realized after all this, with celebration plans made with my family, my step family, and my DH's family - nothing had been settled about Christmas Day. After all this fuss of trying to schedule family "Christmases" nothing was scheduled for Christmas Day. Oh the kids will be here sometime around the 24th, 25th or 26th. It will all work out. But should Christmas involve an electronic calendar with a reminder system. 

I guess I can be a child at heart - Christmas this year will start on the 20th and last until the 26th. With one caveat - there is nothing scheduled for the 25th. So there will be 6 days of Christmas.

Ah, but one must keep in mind the magi do not arrive until January 6 next year - remember the 12 days of Christmas. I cannot handle 17 days, magi or not. Even with yuletide spirit, there is only so much family I can take. 

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

A Blue Christmas

Pulling out the wrapping paper to wrap the several  Christmas gifts I have already bought (of which I am pretty proud of myself, thank you very much) I found everything I needed in two boxes. Gathering the extra bags, bows, spools of ribbon, paper, and tags and carefully packing them in the boxes with the extra wrapping paper last year paid off. Remembering where I put it was even better.

I have enough rolls of wrapping paper to last for a while, several seasons at least. For years I have feared running out of decent wrapping paper and prior to each season have bought additional rolls forgetting my supply on hand that was accumulating like tribbles on Star Trek. 

I am one of those women who on Christmas afternoon collects the used ribbon out of the pile of shredded wrapping paper. I carefully flatten it out (I used wired ribbon) and roll it up to be recycled for the following year. That stuff is expensive and why not re-use it after all then it is precut for certain size boxes. 

At least I do not require the family to carefully unwrap each package simply by cutting the tape so each sheet of wrapping paper can be ironed out to be reused it the following year. Don't laugh, I have a friend who does and Christmas morning becomes a little unpleasant with Mom constantly reminding everyone, "Remember don't tear the paper, I want to reuse it next year!" But I digress.

Tags are another issue. One year, I realized when I was collecting the ribbon that I could reuse the tags that were carefully tied on each, at least the ones from my DH and me to the children. Since I use the nice heavy card stock ones that tie on the package bows (or ribbon) with a small ribbon, they usually survive the melee of Christmas morning unscathed. But that idea only lasted one season.

The tags come in huge collections of cards in different sizes, decorated differently  - poinsettias, sleighs, pine cones, star flakes, ect. Each year I put the unused cards in a zip-loc bag. And each year I usually buy another set. You can never have enough tags.

Anywho, I found myself with my presents, my paper, my ribbon, and my tags. I wrapped the first gift. When I reached for a tag I decided not to open the new container of tags but go to the bag of those left over from years past. When I got the bag out. I realized why they were not used - they were all blue and silver. Who used blue wrapping paper? I did not think I could even use a blue snowflake gift tag on my next wedding present or boy shower gift. 

Well blue is the color of Hanukkah. That would make sense that there would be tags for Hanukkah presents. But why Christmas and Hanukkah tags together? Was this a statement that I needed to have more Jewish friends? Or perhaps that Jewish folks needed more Christian friends? The tags however were all secular in nature, just colored differently - most had red and green somewhere in the design and the others blue and silver. 

So now I had a bag with several dozen holiday gift tags in blue and silver. I doubt I could find (non Hanukkah) paper in blue and silver if I tried -even if I wanted to. Throwing out anything is against my constitution. I'm not sure this is a hoarding gene I got from my mother or that sentimental issue all southern women have - we are attached to anything we have ever had for more than 2 months. So I will carry on and add the blue and silver tags from the newest collection to the bag. 

Who knows blue and silver may come into vogue as holiday colors one day. After all my dear florist told us several years ago lime green and silver were the "in" colors that holiday season. I just don't see it. 

Monday, November 17, 2014

Movie Review - Night Crawler

There are few characters that show little (or no) empathy for their fellow man. Even Hannibal Lector had a heart, albeit demented. Lou Bloom (played brilliantly by Jake Gyllenhaal) in Night Crawler  is another. In fact half way through the movie you begin to wonder if Bloom is missing not part, but all of that portion of the human brain that makes one feel for a fellow human. He comes across as calm and polite, but is really ruthless and psychotic. The story line is that Bloom is minor criminal looking for legitimate work. He stumbles upon a job as an independent photo journalist. And once he starts, nothing or no one will stop him from getting the story. He gets so involves he becomes part of the crime to get the story.

I cannot imagine the role being played by anyone any better than it is by Gyllenhaal. Rick Garcia does an excellent job playing his young side kick (also named Rick Garcia) who, unlike Bloom, has a conscious but finds himself involved in more than he signed up for.  But after that the casting falters. One of the other main characters, the news director of the TV station Nina is played by Rene Russo. In my humble opinion this was one of the weak spots in the film. This was a role of a professional woman forced to make a decision over her dignity or her career. Had a different actor played the role I think it would have improved the film.

All that said, that may not have saved the film. Night Crawler crawls. The story is interesting. Bloom's character is engaging. But I kept waiting for more, for a twist that never came, for a revelation that changed the story, for the ah ha moment. As we sped (literally) through the movie, chased the story, viewed blood and gore, witnessed shoot outs, and car crashes, I tired of the action and the drama and yearned for more story. 

The film had so much potential. It got rave reviews. After hearing the hype, I went in excited and anticipating a good movie. I came out tired and questioning what I missed. If there is a sequel, and the end left plenty of room for one, I'll save my $10.50. So close but no banana.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Living in the Reel World

There are a few "female" indulges I rarely get to enjoy. One of them are the cheesy (as my DH calls them) Christmas movies the Hallmark Channel runs every year. In seasons past I have been able to catch part of a few of these movies while I was cooking in the kitchen and my DH was elsewhere. If he were in ear shot I would have to hear about how "that kind of worthless trash" was wasting my time. Whatever. As far as I am concerned sometimes we all need to waste a little time and a few tears on trite stories about love and loss, family and friends, secret Santas and angels, and happy endings.

Then last weekend I was feeling lousy - feared the oncoming of the flu but luckily that was not the case. Anyway I ended up in bed for the better part of 36 hours. During that time I managed to watch parts of 6 or 7 of these holiday movies on the Hallmark channel (while I slept on and off). Escape is wonderful.

I quickly realized that there are several plot lines that all the stories pull from:

  • usually there is at least one single parent
  • a new love interest
  • chances are someone is going to lose their job
  • a parent, a former spouse, or a fiance has been killed in a tragic accident on either a past Christmas Eve or Christmas Day
  • just when you know the main character is going to chose the right person, fall in love, and life is going to turn around, a former love interest (with some fatal flaw - enough to make them a little evil) returns to foul up everything
  • some plots include an angel somewhere in the mix  - disguised as a normal person who randomly appears
  • there may be some iteration of Santa Claus either lost, needing help with Christmas (looking for the missing Christmas spirit), or watching out for the down at heart 
  • or there is a family member of Santa either in denial or trying to cope with the reality of it among us mere mortals
  • chances are someone will have a name like "Holly" or "Kris" or "Kringle" or "Claus"
  • but whatever, the good folks always win in the end, true love trumps all, the children get that impossible wish they wanted, and it always ends up snowing on Christmas
Yes they are "cheesy" and trite, but at least you know the ending is going to be good. 

These are not considered serious holiday movies in my book. And, no, these are not my favorite holiday movies by far. I still have fond memories of our first color TV set and the original claymation of "Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer" narrated by Burl Ives. We never watched "It's a Wonderful Life" as a child so I do not include that in my childhood repotroir. When the girls were young "Home Alone" was our family favorite and we watched it every season - at least once. Then Will Ferrell came through with "Elf" which trumps all as our family favorite.

From a personal standpoint, "Love Actually" is my favorite holiday movie and I have seen it enough times that even though I know most of the lines, it still entertains me every time I watch it. Coming in as a close second and third are "The Family Stone" and "The Holiday". 

So while our world may not be perfect, escape into the reel world does us all a little good. After all, for the holidays it is a wonderful life after all, even if it isn't OUR life that is so wonderfully perfect. At least we can live vicariously through others, trite or not.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Movie Review - Birdman: or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

I was an English major in college and if there is one thing an English major can do it is recognize symbolism and literation. Stay with me here. Often when we read a book or see a film it is the back story, the symbolism, the underlying meaning that is the true story. All that said, Birdman: or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) was just noise to me. 

The plot (as IMDB describes it) is "A washed-up actor who once played an iconic superhero must overcome his ego and family trouble as he mounts a Broadway play in a bid to reclaim his past glory." The washed up actor, Riggan, played by Michael Keaton, seems to be possessed with (or actually more aptly by) some super natural powers. Emma Stone is almost unrecognizable in her role as Riggan's daughter, Sam. Other cast members include Naomi Watts, Zach Galifianakis, Jeremy Shamos, and Edward Norton which makes this all the more frustrating.

I found the first 35 minutes of the film just poor dialogue among a group of cast members trying to put on a Broadway play. It was frantic and dramatic - symbolizing nothing (to misquote Macbeth). And the genre of the movie is "comedy"? I missed the humor. I missed the plot. I never knew who the characters were because they were never introduced. It was if I had missed the first several key scenes or I was watching the second of a three part series without having had seen the first one. There were enough vague references, snarky comments, and loud exchanges to clue me in that there was some past history among the characters. 

The young man selling popcorn said it was the best movie he had seen this year. That led me to one of two conclusions: either he had only seen one movie or he and I are on opposite ends of the spectrum when it comes to movies.

Bottom line - the movie sucks. Two regrets: that I wasted my time seeing it and that I wasted your time with the review of this worthless film.

A Covered Mantle

After some thought I punted the Elf theme for the mantle and went back to the drawing board. Plan B - gold trees and white snow with branches and bird nests. I made a plan and spent 2 days going from store to store buying the needed decor.

When I got home, I set it all up on the mantle for a trial run (knowing it could not be permanently installed until Thanksgiving). I was most happy with myself. The design was crisp, festive, elegant ,and incorporated nature (feathered birds) with the gold trees and white snow. I began taking it all down to store until it was time to "officially" put it up.

Then it dawned on me, we had discussed placing the Christmas tree in front of the fireplace this year. If we did that the mantle would be behind the tree and there would be no reason to decorate it. Needless to say all the work I had put into this was for naught. So now I had spent two days and the trips to four stores getting all of this together. So much for having a plan. Good thing I had enough sense to leave all the tags on the decorations and keep the receipts.

I then spent several painful hours returning all my purchases. One store specialized in (literally) 100's of 1000's items of small Christmas balls, rolls of ribbon, bows of garland, wreaths, anything glittered that will stand still, and trees in any theme or color from black to purple to white to the traditional red.  They had a rendition of Santa Claus and Reindeer in any size, style, make or model one can imagine. When I went to return the bag of items I had bought from the store they were happy to issue a refund. 

Unfortunately, they had yet to come into the 20th (or even the 19th century for that matter). Instead of being able to scan the bar code on each item, compare it to that on my sales receipt (which I had), the customer service rep had to go through each item, write the number down, look up the department and note it on a sheet of paper, organize each return by hand, add the prices up on a calculator, have me fill out a form including everything from my Drivers License number to address to the color and birth date of my dog (OK just kidding on that part). By the time I left I felt as if I had just walked out of Santa's workshop and had dealt with an elf sitting on a high stool using a quill pen.

The next store was the opposite experience. I had originally questioned the receipt they had issued me for the 35 items I bought. Instead of a long strip of paper listing each item by code and price with a total on the bottom, the cashier handed me a ticket no larger than 1 x 2 inches. The only things printed on this ticket were a single bar code and  the sum total of my purchases. I was suspect at best. The cashier assured me that was all I needed to return any or all my purchases to any of their stores for a full return. 

When I walked into that store's location in our town, I feared the worse. One has to remember our store in this chain is famous for having items with bar codes that do not match the prices on the shelf or better yet - bar codes that are not even recognized by the system. However when I handed the customer service my smaller than a lottery ticket size secret coded receipt and my large bags of purchased items, the girl did not flinch. In less than two minutes, she had processed my return of 34 of the 35 items. No long hand written form, no calculator, and no requirement of any additional information from me. was required.

The remainder of my returns went very well. In fact returning the items took a total of 30 minutes as opposed to the full day it took me to mull over, mutter to myself, pick-up, put down, pick out, and painfully finally come to rest on each and every item. What a waste of my time and energy. I may have questioned the theme of my mantle design, however, there was one thing I was sure of: now there was going to be a damn tree in front of the mantle. And, if not, our mantle would be bare - in nothing else than just in protest of my DH changing his mind.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Patient Pedestrian Postal Patrons

There is something about my walking into the post office that brings about a certain dynamic. It never fails. Yesterday I was in line several patrons behind an older lady buying money orders who had to go through her large purse to find the random piece of paper with the name and address she needed. Then once all that was done, the postal employee completed the transaction and told her how much it would cost. Then she acted totally surprised and had to, once again, go through her purse searching for money.

Next in line was a gentleman wanting stamps, not just any stamp but a certain type.  He kept making the postal employee retrieve additional sheets of stamps from the back until he finally was satisfied with a design.

By this time, a young lady (a diva no less) had approached the desk - ignoring the long line waiting to be served. As soon as the finicky stamp customer had been served she quickly approached the postal employee and sent him to the back on some mission. A minute or two a small letter was brought forth and given to the young lady, who turned on her heels, gave the rest of us pedestrian patrons patiently waiting in line a haughty glance and left.


Luckily the next two customers called to the desk moved through fairly quickly. Then came the little gray haired lady who did not comprehend the "security and restricted" question the postal employee is required to ask. (You know,'Does your package contain any nonmailable or undeclared hazardous materials such as: Aerosols, Lithium Batteries, Nail Polish, Perfumes containing alcohol, Pool Chemicals, Paints, Matches, Certain Glues, Live Animals, and Cremated Remains?')

"Well if you mean 'glue'? Then yes, I am afraid there is glue on the box. You see I am sending some of my homemade cookies to my granddaughter Mary Lou. She just loves my Snicker Drops. And I always make a special box for the cookies and of course I have to use glue on the box."


The postal worker assured her that no, that type of glue was not a problem and asked her how she wanted to send the box.

"Oh in the mail of course."

"Yes mamm, I understand that, but what service, First Class, Priority, Priority Over-night?"

"Oh they need to go overnight so they will be fresh when they arrive."

The employee measured the box, weighed it, and declared, "OK, that will cost you $32.42. Do you want the package insured?"

"$32? Why oh my? That seems a lot. I remember when a psotage stamp was 5 cents."

"Yes mamm, I understand. You know you could use one of our Flat Rate Boxes. I think the medium size box would work and that would only cost you $12.95. But you would have to use this box [she showed her the Flat Rate box] instead of the one you have now."

"How much is the box?"

"The $12.95 includes the cost of the box."

"Oh deary that will be nice." And she immediately started opening her box to transfer the contents. Before the employee could explain that the customer needed to do that on another counter so as not to hold up the line, she noticed a bottle of nail polish.

"Mamm, you cannot send that bottle of nail polish," the employee said pointing to the bottle.

"Oh, that is finger nail paint. And it is Rose Pink, it will look so good on Mary Lou. She has the prettiest rosy pink cheeks."

"Yes, mamm but that is on the list of restricted items."

That digressed into a "discussion" of the difference between finger nail paint and nail polish. I truly felt for the young postal employee, who by his response, I was pretty sure had never heard of 'finger nail paint'.

The young man behind of me asked, "Please tell me you don't collect stamps or are trying to slip restricted goods into a package. And for God's sake if you want a postal order please have the name and address ready," he laughed.

The lady behind him added, "And, remember don't be surprised if they asked you pay for your postage."

I just laughed and replied, "Trust me, I am prepared. My goal is to set a record once I get to the desk."

Another lady behind me laughed," My goal is to get to the desk."

[As a postscript, what I needed done I could not do on usps.com. Trust me, I do not go to the post office for kicks and giggles.]