Wednesday, November 26, 2014

A Root Beer Thanksgiving

Last week I flushed toilet paper down a commode that didn't accept toilet paper, flooded a foreign bathroom and decided to retell the story on the world wide web. 

Just when I thought I couldn't get any more mindless, this week I decided to go to Meijer.
On a Monday evening. 
On the Monday evening before Thanksgiving. 
I'm a glutton for punishment.

The wind blew ferociously at 5:10 PM as I pulled into the mega Meijer parking lot, which was 90% full. People flooded like dizzy flies to the bright lights of the storefront. 
I didn't have a long list, still I had divided it into sections and aisles using my best recollection.
Simple things like Irish steel cut oats, lacy swiss and marjoram leaf.
Seemed easy enough. 
Except nothing - including the Irish steel cut oats, lacy swiss and marjoram leaf - were where I expected them to be. 

Which lead to this:

Anticipated, organized route:                                                Actual, horrible route:


The red circles indicate visible tension, verbalized swear words or me trying to imitate the look of disapproval Dear 'Ol Dad used countless times between years 1988 and 1998. Yep, I used that. 
Seemed to work in by the specialty cheeses, not so much in the cereal aisle. People who eat Kellogg's SMORZ are so rigid.

I walked down the potato chip aisle four times and didn't have a single bag of potato chips on my list. In aisle six I almost apologized to a gal for crushing her five bags of powered donuts between her two cases of root beer, but then I realized she had five bags of powered donuts and two cases of root beer in her cart. No tap of my cart could have ruined the diabetic sugar high she was about to experience. 

I made it to the refrigeration section (for the first time that night) and couldn't get to the butter because two gals who had gone to nurse's training together in 1977 were reuniting for the first time since then. 
"Move it to Facebook, ladies!" I said (in my head) as I nudged my way between them to get a box of butter. I gave it two seconds of consideration then grabbed a second box in case snow comes before Thursday. Never know. 

Powdered sugar. 
All afterthoughts which returned me to the battlefield. 

It's been years - sincerely - since I used anything but self-checkout at Meijer. By the time I reach that point in my shopping, I try to interact with as few folks as possible. I gauge the line length, the characters in it, and the items in their cart. I work hard to get behind blue collar men who have nothing but milk, antacids and beer in their cart, but sometimes luck just isn't in my favor. 
This was one of those nights. 

The first gal in front of me purchased her groceries using two different payment methods: EBT and cash. There was a stark nutritional difference between the items she bought with cash, and the ones she bought with EBT. 
Fact: A head of lettuce costs a fraction of the price of a bag of powered donuts. Or a case root beer. Just sayin'.
She had two young girls with her, maybe four and six years old. They defined hyper and defied rules. To pacify the two, the gal gave them each a plastic bag. Wanna guess where the bags instantly went? Yes - right over their heads. 
It made me sad. 
I was strangely relieved when the gal gave them each a quarter to ride Sandy. 

Sandy has been abused. 
Especially during the holidays. 

My chance at the register. 
Except the machine wouldn't take my MPerks number. I tried it again. 
Annnnd one more time before tapping the HELP button. 
By the time help-girl-Mandy made it to my aisle, the register shut down. 
"I'm sorry, our registers keep restarting due to usage tonight. You'll have to move to another line."
I had one hundred thoughts running though my head; none of which I'd say aloud in front of the Original Jean

I moved to the next line and waited behind a woman who chose not to scan her food, but rather "search" for it in the register. It became a word game. 
A Wheel of Food Fortune, of sorts. 
Exept, she spelled as well as I due: Tiribly. 

She ate like a champ but she spelled like an orangutan. 
She also collected every coupon Meijer had issued in the last six months. Couldn't blame the woman, though I totally did after fifteen more minutes in line. 

My MPerks were rejected at that particular register, too. The machine couldn't handle a "7".
After several tries, Mandy returned and entered a magical code that stopped the beeping and lowered my blood pressure. 
The only reason why I didn't absolutely lose my head at that point was 



2. One of work's very best customers was ironically using the self-checkout line right next to me. What luck. He and his wife greeted me, 
no doubt wondering why I looked so strung out and stressed. 
They - on the other hand - looked relieved and refreshed: HARVEST 2014 IS OVER
I smiled and tugged at my hair, trying to wisp it out of my face. 
They asked how Argentina was; I'm fairly certain that 
they thought I had just stepped off of the 10-hour flight. 
Nope, just grocery shopping in my own personal hell. 

By the time I made it to the exit doors - AKA FREEDOM - I had only forgotten one thing: the insulated casserole dish carrier I was fixin' to unintentionally shoplift because I left it on the bottom rack of my cart. I picked it up and handed it to the greeter and let her know I didn't have time cycle through hell again. 
Something about my tone caused her to not ask any questions and smile extra wide. 
It was annoying. 

I got onto the interstate and headed home and Cody called shortly after. 

"Weird as this sounds, someone just posted about a black cow on Facebook. The kind with ice-cream and root beer. Any chance you picked up root beer at the grocery tonight?"

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

¿Sabías que?

I haven't much time to write, as my schedule this week is at the mercy of someone else. 

However, did you know that 
you're not supposed to flush toilet paper 
in Argentina? 

Nope, you're supposed to dispose of it in a little trash can just beside the commode. 
If - however - you do flush the toilet paper, did you know that it will be rejected immediately and the entire commode will overflow?
Out of the stall. 
Across the bathroom tile. 
Into the hotel lobby. 
And you may be forced to run out of the bathroom like a dumb North American with the bottoms of your khakis soaking wet. 
Did you know that?

I didn't either. 
I do now. 

I didn't take this photo. Credit goes to The Lost Man Project.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Dear Jacob,

Dear Jacob, 

That's the only name by which I know you from the endless dotted lines we've signed and forms we've completed together, though we've barely met. Buying a house is tough stuff, huh? Looking in every closet, inspecting every step and giving the lender every single request, short of a blood sample. 

As we briefly shook hands in the yard on the day of our closing, you immediately asked what you needed to know about my old - your new - home. Truth be told, I had a tennis ball lodged in my throat that very moment. I couldn't think of much to say, but I've since thought of a thing or two:

You've probably already learned that the toilet paper dispenser doesn't stay in place. It was like that when I bought the house, and like that when I left six years later. Creatures learn to adapt. Never found a way to fix it well. I have confidence that a young man like you will figure it out. 

You can thank my old pup Dixie for the marks on the inside of your basement door, and also the missing carpet. When she was very small I'd leave her in the basement - Doggie Dungeon - as I went to work. She made it quite clear that a pup with such spirit didn't belong in a basement all day. Considering her visible - destructive - statement, Momma agreed to Doggie Daycare and everyday I'd drop her off at the farm before work. Dixie was a great dog

The the south bedroom closet walls are filled with hand-written thoughts from a young gal. Not me. They were there when I arrived and I never had the guts to paint over them; she was quite the philosopher. Not a grate spellur, butt who am I two juge? Afteral, all we nead is luve. 

The original wood floors are possibly my favorite part of your house. They're scraped and dented and perfect. They've seen a lot of traction; they tell a lot of stories. You will - however - need socks in winter. I was twenty-seven on February 25, 2012 when a man from Kansas showed up on my - your - Maple Street doorstep because of a white lie my older brother told. He was wearing a beige Polo pullover, a navy ball cap, square toe Anderson Beans and starched jeans. He cleared his throat and shook my hand. Within a month, he and I were two-stepping across those hardwood floors and looking into the eyes of the rest of our lives. Yikes. I married him the next year. Your floors are scraped and dented and perfect. But trust me, one washing with Murphy Oil Soap and they look brand new again. It works wonders, effortlessly. Murphy Oil Soap - buy stock in it. 

Jacob, there are some beautiful, old trees in your yard. They're tall and huge and bold. They'll sway with the breeze and creak with the wind....loudly. Don't be afraid. They'll also drop a ton of sticks; don't forget to pick those up. Under those trees I hosted a baby shower to welcome my niece who is now 5, threw a wedding prep party for our nuptials, and in the end - organized a garage sale. Those old trees are a great source of shade and history nestled in a tiny town. Embrace them...without being a tree hugger, please.

The folks who owned the house before me planted a lot - A LOT - of hosta around the house. If you agree, I'll be back in the early spring to transport my own starts to our home. It will be good for them to be thinned out, anyhow. 

The rest are in your couch cushions. 

The Greens Fork Family Diner - a short walk from your front porch - is really fantastic. I've never had a bad meal there and I eat...a lot. NOTE: Last time I visited they only accepted cash. 

I left very little in your house, Jacob, but each item was intentional. Assuming you've moved your toothbrush into the new house, you've already found this quick read in your medicine cabinet. I hope you'll read it and live by it. You can read the full story behind that little sheet of paper here

Tuesday morning is trash day. And if you set out your trash past 4:45 AM Tuesday, it's too late. Trust me. Set it out the night before. Trust me. The trash man is too busy to stop and back up for your trash once you've missed him for the week, and crying does nothing. Trust me. In order for your trash to be picked up by the trash man, it must be sitting in the middle of the street - unavoidable - and not on the sidewalk. Trust me. The trash man on your route reminds me a lot of the Soup Nazi in Seinfeld. Except, you don't have to wait one year. He'll be back next week. 

No trash pick up for you!

You won the neighbor lottery - I'm serious. Good, hard working, All-American people. A 1/2 cup of sugar or a weekend of making sure no one burns your home to the ground - you're surrounded by really nice folks who will help when needed. I hope you'll get to know them. 

Jacob, have you ever stepped on a lego? It's like this unexpected shock through the body that wakes you up and raises your blood pressure. Or, makes you want to throw up. The day you moved in was the same day I stepped on this little beauty on the hardwood floor of your dining room. Hurt like hell  a lego. 

I have no idea where I got the lapel pin or what significance it held in my previous life, but I thought it was a pretty solid sign: Time for me to go and you to arrive. 

Jacob, I hope you love your home as much as I did. It is such a solid, well-built house with unmatched character. Homes aren't made today the way that your's is built. Take care of her. 

When I moved in, I tucked $100 into an undisclosed wall to ensure none of those walls would ever talk. 

If you were wise, you'd do the same this week. 

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

All In A Day's Work

A couple weeks ago I wrote about the dread of going to the doctor's office to dress in a paper placemat  and lay the ground work for an upcoming international trip. My patient Doc gave me a list of things I'll need before the trip so my skin doesn't fall off upon return 

She'll need a Photo-Tony-Romo-Benghazi-Stripizoid in the next month. Oral. 
Follow that up with an ingestible Benzoid-Astro-Instagram-Drug-Czar-Typhoid-Anti-Hysti-Shine-Mine-Yours-Ours
Taken twice daily following her arrival in Argentina. 
Don't take that with milk - She'll regret it. 
Now, when she gets back...that's a whole other deal. 
Let's look into a Herbo-Phobo-Robo-Cop-Azoid, every other day, also skipping days that contain a "T" in the spelling. 
We'll wrap things up with an Ammo-Camo-Glammo-Trifecta-Othro-Moto-Oxtail. Hold the tail.
Yeah, that's it. 

and he sent me on my way. 

Turns out, that was the easy part. 

I made a few phone calls to see where I could find all of the immunizations required by our travel partners, and was surprised at the number of calls I had to make. The choice became 1. drive to Cincinnati to a clinic with tinted windows that also requires you to sit in your car and wait for your scheduled time should you arrive early (this place exists) or 2. Drive counties away but on two different days. I decided on option two; maybe I could get some harvest photos en route.
I called and made an appointment and arrived two minutes early. The office smelled like  a combination of old wood, burnt rubber and rubbing alcohol...there are worse things, I guess? I gave the gal my insurance card and in return she handed me seven pages of paperwork to complete. Listen, I'm all for questionnaires, but I prefer they give me some kind of valuable insight, like what my native American would have meant if I was born in 1891. Nonetheless, I went back to the waiting room to record my health history.

I could not pronounce some of the ailments listed on the form; and for that I consider myself lucky. 

No I haven't been in Africa in the last two years (only in my sleep).
Yes I experience over eating; daily. 
Can I commit to returning to the United States without manure residue on my footwear? "No promises" I scribbled. 

A young dad and two children came into the office as I was knocking out sheet number four - that sheet was my signature in three places so the IRS knew I was there....or something like that. The young dad had the patience of a saint and translation skills you only acquire through years of schooling; or parenthood. 
"Ugh romp fooey marb...geet fleep mappy troob" said the little girl. 
"No, we can't have McDonald's until we're done here..." he responded. 
I was impressed. 

I took my paperwork back and was greeted with a smile and "Our database shows you have no health insurance. And as you'll see on the sign (written on a post it note, hanging on the side of her computer) we don't take credit card; cash or check only."
Oh boy, this is going to be fun. 

After five minutes of me reading aloud the numbers off of my insurance card and the gal confusing zeros and "Os", she asked me to call the number on my card and ask them to fax her my proof of insurance. "Don't tell them where you are; they don't like government employees. Just tell 'em you need the proof," she said. 

What ev.
I returned to my seat and dialed the number, reaching "Raghuma Bob" who had a hard time understanding my request. He asked to speak with the lady behind the desk. I knew this wouldn't be good, firstly by her comment regarding government employees and secondly because two more families had entered the office. She was at capacity. Raghuma Bob gave me three different numbers for her to use to verify my proof of insurance in her system. I thanked him, hung up and found my place back in line. The office had gotten very busy. I looked past the lady at the front desk to the coworker behind her. Amidst the chaos, she was sorting band-aids by color and placing them in plastic bins in rainbow order. All in a day's work. 

I gave the gal my new proof of insurance numbers and she had no luck again. "I need you to call Bob back and simply ask what you insurance activation date is. That's all I need." 

Are you kidding me?! I thought to myself as I went back to the waiting room yet again. Why I am making all of these calls? Why am I not in the system? Why are there now seven children in the waiting room?  I called the 1-800-NUMBER again and got Kim this time. We communicated well, but the waiting room had become so loud that she was having a hard time hearing me. She, too, couldn't find me in the system. I told Kim that I just talked to Raghuma Bob five minutes ago and he found me. I stepped outside of the doctor's office in an effort to quiet the background noise. Turns out she was looking for Lindsay Sanki. I'm slowly learning that this new last name is a tricky one. I had a phonebook salesman call a year ago and ask for Lizzy Skanky. I can assure you he's never called our office again. 

Anyway, I received my insurance activation date and got back in line to visit ol' girl. She tried very hard to smile as I reached her desk but I think she was just about over me; as I was her. I gave her my activation date and BAM! She found me right away.....but then her hand went over her mouth. 

"Are you Lindsay Bowman?"
"I was. That's my maiden name."
"THIS WHOLE TIME I've been searching for you using your maiden name and those identification numbers! No wonder nothing has worked!" she revealed, laughing. 
I...was not.

"Do you mind needles?" she asked, wiping my arm with rubbing alcohol.
"Nope, I usually don't even notice the pain," I said. The needles are the least of my concerns at this point, I thought to myself. 

Within five minutes I had taken four shots in the arm and was out the door. 

With rainbow-order band-aids, of course.