Monday, September 20, 2010

Shopping in a Strange Land

Some walk cautiously to a challenge. I run - like a cheap red shirt in a load of whites.
Today I blindly sprinted to a Costco shopping trip. How hard could shopping be?

The first snag came when I rolled into the parking lot. I got a sweet parking space….because they didn’t open until 10. And they don’t screw around with that rule. The door might open at 5 to10, but if you try to go in, they release an orangutan with diaper rash to knock you around a little.

The second obstacle is the little white Costco card. It’s like a passport at the Canadian boarder. There’s a code of conduct attached to the presentation of the card that I haven’t fully cracked. Some people just flash the card and the ninja Navy Seal guarding the door smiles and nods them in; others hand him the card and he scrutinizes the photo before giving the nod. Not knowing which card-holder I was, I tried the in-between. I held the card up like the Orbit Gum girl and gave him a knowing smile while I crab-walked carefully by him (never turn your back on a ninja Navy Seal). His look was a cross between pity and confusion. But since he didn’t snap me in half, or whip out some nun chucks, I must be close to cracking the code.

The third challenge was to navigate the labyrinth with the Texas shopping cart. The cart was so big, I thought I was supposed to ride in it, but I couldn’t find a start button, and the elderly lady who helped me climb in refused to push me. So, I started cranking around the store like a granny in a 70’s LTD. I bought a pallet of my wife’s favorite cereal, 3 or 4 thousand granola bars, a “bottle” of shampoo that was the size of a baby harbor seal, and an enormous shrink-wrapped thing that I can’t recall putting in my cart.

The fourth difficulty came at the checkout line. I apparently missed the training session, which provides checkout rules. As I put my items on the conveyor, a man was putting them back into the cart without my permission. The woman with the scanner was zapping stuff like a spider monkey on meth: gallons of milk, gallons of syrup, gallons of socks, gallons of babies… you name it. Without looking, she scanned all of the things that funny-boy had put back into my cart. Then I handed her my credit card – big mistake. My novice cover was blown. Check-out Lady whispered into her lapel, Funny-boy took cover, and I instinctively protected my neck with a 3-pack of family sized ketchup in case Ninja Navy Seal Man attacked from behind. I was instructed to slowly put the credit card away without making any furtive movements (I don’t know what furtive means either) and use a debit card, check, or cash. I got it sorted before the complete lock-down happened, and I made for the door.

Fifth conundrum; just when I could see sunlight and freedom, some fancy pants with a highlighter stopped me at the door. Through a series of ostrich-like hand gestures and aboriginal clicks and grunts, I figured out that he wanted my receipt for some reason. Okay, I’m game. I handed him the receipt, he swiped it with the highlighter and then gave it back. Now, tell me that’s not weird. Freak.

On the plus side, I found out that shorts and mid-calf white socks with sandals are back “in”.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

The Wacker

I’m wet and tired.
Although my underwear is wet, that’s not the point of origin. The wetness came from rain.

It’s usually hot and dry here in Sept. The rain came because I planned to rent an expensive piece of equipment to finish a big outside project that should have been finished a long time ago. I heard it raining this morning. I saw it raining this morning. I felt it raining this morning. Yet I still went to my summer home (the Home Depot) and rented a plate compactor, called (get this...) the Wacker.

A plate compactor is not a particularly big piece of equipment, and it only weighs enough to crush 5 or 8 bones, as opposed to all 206. So, my male brain told me that I could just bebop back to the house, unload this little beast from the trailer, compact my soon-to-be front yard, load it back up, return it to the Depot, and be back in time for tea.

I was never a good student of history. There are exactly ZERO examples from my life to indicate this would be successful.

I mud-wrestled the plate compactor to the job site, swam over to the shed for some ear protection (it was raining hard by this point), swam back, and pulled the starter cord on the Wacker.

I have a little experience with pull-start engines, and I know for a fact that the cord is supposed to wind back into the thingy. If it doesn’t go back into the thingy, there will be no wacking.

I stood in the rain and looked at the cord in my hand for a few minutes. I got on my knees and asked the thingy to suck the cord back up… pretty please. I tried to push the cord back into the thingy. I made wind up noises to get the thingy in the mood. Eventually I reasoned that the thingy did not want the cord. I called Home Depot and the nice lady told me that the only person in the Milky Way who could help me with the thingy was on a lunch break and would be back by Thanksgiving, give or take a few months. I thanked her for her cheerful message of doom, hung up, and got out a 10mm socket wrench and took the thingy’s head off.

A chunk of metal fell out, and at the same time the thingy wound up the cord again. I bolted the thingy’s head back on and pulled. This time the engine started, without the metal chunk and everything! But I was afraid to turn it off. I kept thinking that the chunk of metal was probably important, and my time with the Wacker was limited. Even after I finished compacting my soon-to-be yard, I started looking for things to compact before I had to turn it off. Dog toys, dog poo, plants, bugs… whatever.

When I got back to Home Depot, I created a new puddle at the rental counter while I dug the hunk of metal out of my pocket. I was expecting orange-aproned Will to do a proper examination with requisite "Mmmm" or "Jimminy Crickets, you're lucky to be alive!", but the guy didn't even look at it. He took it from me, threw it into the trash can, and insisted that I have a good day.

By the way, dry underwear is AWESOME.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Full Moon

I’ve got the heebie-jeebies.

Not to be confused with the freaked-outs or the willies. And it’s nothing like the case of the heebies that I had when I was 16 years old... alone in the house... at nigh... watching the Exorcist on HBO... with every light in the house on, my back to the wall, white-knuckling an old baseball bat. Apparently, I thought the anti-Christ was no match for a Louisville Slugger held together with Elmer’s Glue and electrical tape.

Tonight’s case of the heebie-jeebies started with walking the dogs down the trail under a full moon.

We have two dogs. Ollie is docile and mostly made up of a tongue. Probably an anteater mix. Do not get your face near her or you will get a nostril or ear plugged at lightning speed. Tebby is small. Not small enough to wear a tiara and sit in a purse, but small enough to get a bath in the sink after she rolls in wet deer poo (what IS it with that?).

Tebby is a Cockapoo. This has nothing to do with the story, I just like saying it. She is also an avid hunter and not afraid of going after a juicy elk or a fresh 200 pound bear (oh, the stories).

On this night, though, she was spooked. Something had her freaked out, and it wasn’t long before I was jumping at every little twig crack or dry grass rustle. I started envisioning a cougar or bear or wookilar jumping out of the pine trees and eating my head. I thought about holding Tebby and Ollie up on each side of my head as a sacrifice to whatever evil beast was stalking us, but that would negate the walk, and I really don’t like it when Ollie sticks her tongue in my ear. Instead I picked up a rotten stick. Nothing says “Don’t mess with me!” better that a stick that might make you sting a little or leave a red mark.

By the time we got back to the driveway, both Tebby and I were as jumpy as crack-heads at a police ball. Ollie was licking grass and apparently oblivious to the hungry dragon, or whatever it was, in the bushes.

I noticed my stick had fallen apart somewhere along the way, but obviously served its purpose of making me fearsome enough to warrant a second thought from the beasties of the night. We made the front porch with the moonlight on our backs and a sigh of relief that we were uneaten.

Do they make machine washable armor? How about shark cages with openings so you can stick your feet out? Pepper spray footie pajamas?