Sunday, December 19, 2010

Dollars, but no sense...

My oldest daughter is more than a Drama Queen. She is also Sultana of Savings. She tries to educate me how I can save money too, but I told her my brain just can’t make the leap.

She encouraged me with something like, “Price-matching at ____Mart is so easy, you don’t need a brain. Even you can do it, Mom.”

It’s hard to believe that they’ll just take my word on a price. It sounds too good to be true. I mean—I could say any number. If they don’t require proof, they could get ripped off.

It longer to find the super-low prices to match than it would have for me to grow the corn to grind for the chips to make the Doritos I wanted to buy. But the lure of saving fifty cents fired up my blood and I searched for more things I could price match.

At the checkout stand I timidly told the clerk, “The Doritos are on sale at CompetitorMart for $2. I’d like to price match.” It worked. I saved fifty cents.

Emboldened by my success, I price matched another item. And another. I kept going. It was so addicting—throwing out numbers and watching the clerk change them based solely on my word. Such power! Before I knew it, I realized I was going the wrong direction! I price-matched up. Yes—UP! I named an amount eleven cents higher than what the item was priced at. And the clerk took my word for it. He conveniently couldn’t get it to void, and after seven attempts and four angry glares from the customer behind me, I agreed to pay the higher price.

By the time I got home, I realized I may have saved $3.75, but probably overpaid by more. I ripped myself off. I decided I’d best leave the saving to the pros.

So now I let my daughter do the shopping and saving and I’ll stick to what I’m good at—the eating, the sleeping, the exaggeration, and avoiding cooking.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Mind over Matter: Use it or Lose it...or Both

The last big snowstorm left us with a thick icy coating on our driveway, front steps, and the right frontal lobe of my brain.

For reasons known only to the voices inside my head and the Magic 8-Ball, I willingly went out to shovel/hack the driveway.

Accompanying me and my personalities was my iPod. Do not confuse this with an iPod any of my children or anyone under the age of 30 would use. It is a tiny red iPod Shuffle, possibly a prototype dropped from Santa’s sleigh years ago when nobody knew what iPod stood for. This ancient half-decade-old device holds approximately 7.2 songs.

Most importantly—it is too un-cool for my children to use, so it’s always fully-charged and right where I leave it.

I spent thirty minutes of ice-chipping, back-spasming, rocking to the oldies. I guess I’m fortunate my neighbors didn’t think I was having a seizure and call the paramedics—or that I was hopped up on something stronger than the BeeGees and call Officer Standoffish.

Interrupted by a visitor, I shed my outerwear quickly, leaving it on the stairs inside.

Later that evening I had to run an unexpected errand and thought, ”I’ll grab my iPod again.”

I snagged the white earphones and ran out the door. It didn’t take long to realize they were flapping in the wind—and it wasn’t because I was running so fast.

My little red iPod had detached from its white tether and was lost somewhere in the vast vagueness that was my day.

I retraced my steps since removing my snow gear. Stairs, couch, kitchen, couch, bathroom, couch, refrigerator, couch, bathroom. It was gone! I shook out my boots, dug in the snow bank, and even looked under the shelf among the cobwebs and Cheerios. No trace.

It must be buried deep in the banks of snow alongside my driveway. I envisioned it showing up in the spring—a rusted red shell of a music player. A shriveled-up Apple core.

I alerted my family who was sympathetic (which I think is a device they use to disarm me).

My daughter even went outside in the dark to search for it.

Daily I asked, “Has anybody found my iPod?”

Silence answered me. I decided to wait until my family actually came home to ask again.

I’m sad. I have long been without style, but now I am without style and can’t tune myself out.

Life goes on.

Today while pretending to work, I looked up and saw my little red iPod, neatly wrapped and tucked in the little cubby on my desk.

Someone found it for me! And the truly lovely gesture was—nobody claimed credit or asked for a reward. Just left it there as a quiet little present for me to find.

I waited until my family came home.

“Did you find my iPod?” I asked my dear husband.

“No, I thought it was lost.”

“Did you find my iPod?” I asked my video-game-fiend son.

“No, I thought it was lost.”

I asked the weight-room dweller who was driven by hunger enough to exchange his pint of Ben & Jerry’s for me to cook him dinner.


The 13-year-old was next and also disavowed knowledge.

The neighbors didn’t answer when I rang their doorbell. The UPS guy made a quick U-turn when he saw me sprinting towards him.

Nobody was willing to take credit for the miraculous return.

And then I saw it. The empty white earphone cord dangling from where I’d dropped it days before. Puzzled, I looked at my own iPod, Old Red, tucked into my palm—headphones wrapped neatly.

Was it possible more than one set of white ear buds exist in our house?

I wondered it aloud, “Does anyone else have white head phones around here?”

Anything but silence greeted me as virtually everyone replied, “I do.” I think I even heard the UPS guy chime in.

It dawned on me that I was the one who put away my iPod—right after I finished using it. And then I promptly forgot what I did.

My family laughed at me when I admitted my iPod was really never lost—only part of my brain was. The part that controls memory. And judgment. And reasoning. And taste in music and iPods (those last two my children added).

I learned an important lesson from this situation.

And if I remember it, I’ll share it.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Snow, Officer Not-so-friendly, Ordinances, and Offspring

Limited Winter Parking Ordinance #11-3-45:

“It shall be unlawful for any person or owner of any vehicle to park a motor vehicle, travel trailer, horse trailer, utility trailer or other like vehicle on any street in this municipality between the 1st day of November of each year and the first day of April of the following year, for a period of time longer than three minutes when loading or unloading passengers and for a period of time longer than thirty minutes when loading, unloading or delivering property between the hours of 12:00 a.m. and 7:00 a.m. on the streets of ___________City. Violation of this ordinance shall be punishable by citation or impounding and removal of the vehicle.”

I know this is the law.

Tell it to my two offspring who moved home within the last month when one of the said children is only home between the hours of 1 a.m. and 7 a.m. and the other said child is burrowed somewhere between the stacks of computer equipment and empty PowerAde bottles.

And they both park their cars on the street.

And their keys are buried in: A) a pile of PowerAde bottle rubble; or B) inside a large satchel that could hold the entire contents of my pantry after a trip to Costco.

And I’ve threatened them if they block me in the garage ONE more time.

This is the difficult situation I found myself in last Monday after a large snowstorm had dumped around 8 inches of snow on and around my house and the cars parked in front of it (not to be confused with the Blizzard of 2010 which blew approximately 1.79 centimeters of snow onto my driveway).

Officer Friendly’s not-so-amiable step-sister, Officer Standoffish, stopped by my house that afternoon. She asked, “Do you know who owns that car out there?” She pointed to a really big snow drift in front of my house—on the street—that turned out to be a Hyundai Accent.

I wondered how she could tell it was a car. Maybe her Taser was also a metal detector. I thought it was best not to find out.

I recollected out loud that my daughter-in-law owns a Hyundai Accent. She’s been in the Air Force since June. The military reference had no noticeable impact on Officer Standoffish. I thought her hand twitched towards her baton. She said, “It’s illegal to have a car parked overnight on the street between November 1st and April 1st. The mayor wants us to remind everyone that the snow plows have a hard time plowing when cars are parked on the street.”

Come again? I looked at the 8 inches of snow in my cul-de-sac. This is the very cul-de-sac that has never seen the likes of a snowplow. I had wondered if we were even on the city map.

I said. “Maybe you could remind the mayor that it would be nice to have our cul-de-sac plowed.”

Officer Standoffish became Officer Iceberg. “I’m not getting in the middle of that one.”

I gulped as I realized I’d opened my mouth and my brains had leaked out. I quickly apologized, “Sorry. I was kidding. I know snow removal isn’t your job. I’ll move the car.”

Officer Iceberg drove away in her four-wheel drive vehicle. I thought about moving the car—but man, that was a LOT of snow to clear away and there was probably ice under the snow. I went inside where it was warm.

A couple of hours later, I heard a vehicle pull into our cul-de-sac. I looked out my office window. IT WAS A SNOWPLOW! In our cul-de-sac!

“Crap!” I thought, “I should’ve moved the car!”

It was too late—the plow was gone.

Five minutes later, I heard another engine—THE SNOWPLOW CAME BACK FOR A SECOND PASS THROUGH THE CUL-DE-SAC!

I ran through the house like a madwoman trying to find the keys. Out the door, in my slippers, without a coat, leaping snow-covered hedges (okay, it was a snow-covered crack in the sidewalk), clawing my way through the layers of snow and ice to find the key hole so I could unlock the car.

I moved it into the driveway and waited. The snowplow never came back.

I shook the snow out of my slippers, wrung out my sopping wet shirt sleeve, and trudged back upstairs to work.

I went to run an errand later and as I backed my own car out of the garage, I realized I’d blocked myself in.

I’ve written myself a new ordinance to abide by:

“It shall be unwise to procrastinate, for a period of time longer than three minutes when telling an officer of the law that you will move a vehicle off a snow-covered street in front of your house It is also ill-advised to make a wisecrack to any officer of the law because you are mad at the mayor, because both the police and mayor know where you live and can create extreme paranoia within your small little mind. It is also prohibited to leave your locks unchanged when your adult children move away because they will come back and let themselves into your home and take up residence again. It is hereby advisable that you not only change the locks, but move as well, so the local police force, mayor, or adult offspring cannot track you down. Violation of this ordinance shall be punishable by having to live with the consequences of your actions and getting your perfectly good slippers wet. And then you will also run out of Diet Coke and find yourself blocked in your own garage by the original offending vehicle.”