What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Romaine. After discovering that romaine lettuce was temporarily poisonous to people, anything containing that devil’s weed was unceremoniously yanked from the shelves of grocery stores across the country. That’s fine. E. coli isn’t exactly something most people want spread around. But please, in your haste to throw out all things green, spare a thought for the poor tortoise keepers among you. Even if romaine wasn’t a staple food for my tort, it was an element of the spring mix he got on a fairly regular basis. With romaine being potentially toxic for human consumption, of course spring mix it disappeared from the shelves too… which has left George with a mix of kale, mustard greens, and collards that he is clearly not in favor of based on his attitude for the last several days. The supply is also a lot more limited with people also opting for the “whatever is green” option to meet their salad needs. We’ve reached the point where I’m 100% willing to risk a few measly human deaths to have a happy and well-fed tortoise again. 

2. People. It’s kind of adorable that anyone who knows me thinks I can be guilted into changing my position by showing me pictures of or telling me stories about people. I think my position on people as a group is pretty well known. There are, of course, exceptions and people who I dearly love and highly respect. For the most part, though, I literally can’t even with people. By contrast, though, if you harm one little hair on the head of an animal that’s not culturally accepted as livestock, though, and I’d be happy to melt your face off with a blowtorch.

3. The United States Postal Service. We’re now well into day five of watching my latest prescription refill travel the approximately 40 miles between DC and Baltimore. After two days of lingering around our nation’s capital, the precision tracking app provided by the USPS tells me that it’s once again on the move… of course it neglects to mention where it’s headed or when it may arrive other than blithely saying it will be on my doorstep my 8PM tonight. That seems unlikely since the rest of my mail arrived hours ago and, well, since this is the 2nd soon-to-be-missed delivery estimate. Yes, I can call in a “bridge” request and CVS will front me a few days of meds from a local store – with the requisite $80 co-pay of course – but that’s not the point, really. I don’t think expecting a delivery service that would arrive to me in a more timely manner than if I drove way the hell down to Tampa and picked the order up myself from the warehouse is really anything out of order.

Sometimes smart isn’t enough…

I’m a reasonably smart guy. I’ve never hidden that fact or been embarrassed by it the way some people seem to think you should be. There are, however, times when native brain power just isn’t enough.

This morning I went through my usual Saturday – did things like take a load of trash to the landfill, stop by the bank, and roll past Tractor Supply for the biggest bag of bird food available. Then I made my fatal mistake.

You see, today is Saturday. I didn’t think of it as anything other than Saturday. One of 52 that we get every year. It’s the day of the week even I get groceries. What every other person in the county apparently thought of today as, however, is “the last Saturday before Thanksgiving when they should take the whole family to the supermarket and pick up three carts full of food.”

It didn’t even occur to me. If it had, I’d have changed the plan and done my shopping at 5am to avoid the masses. I should have known better, should have been more aware. I was awash in a vast see of dumb as hell and have no one to blame but myself.

Mercifully I’m home now. If you want me to leave, setting the place on fire is probably the only way to shake me loose… and even that isn’t guaranteed to get the job done.

Feeding myself…

I’ve written before about my love of roast beef for Sunday dinner. It’s the ultimate comfort food that takes me back a few decades in a single bite. Plus, it makes the whole house smell amazing all day long. I mean, come on, who doesn’t love the smell of roasting flesh permeating every square inch of their home, right?

As usual, of course, that’s not my point. What I’m trying to figure out this morning, is when a basic rump roast weighing in at a little less than 3 pounds (and needing another 1/3 of a pound of fat trimmed) started costing almost $20. By my back-of-the-napkin math, the steer that roast came from sold at auction for approximately $1.7 billion, or roughly the cost of 1.5 stealth bombers.

While it’s true that I’m probably going to make 4 complete meals from this roast and with sides the average cost per meal will still be about $5 a plate, $20 for a roast is a price point that bothers me on a philosophical level. I’m not what’s called a price conscious shopper. I have a list and I want to cross everything off that list in one stop rather than chase nickels and dimes all over the county. Ain’t nobody got time for that.

So look, I’m not going to start having Tofu Dinner Sundays or anything but I am starting to think it may be time to invest in a chest freezer and buying the whole damned cow direct from the source. The chances of it getting any cheaper from here on out seem somewhere between slim and none.

A trip to Walmart (or Barbarians at the gates)…

When it comes to grocery shopping in southern Cecil County, Walmart represents the least objectionable of three craptastic choices. Right off the bat that should tell you everything you need to know about the grocery situation here in the northeastern corner of Maryland. I would seriously consider selling a kidney if someone would build a Giant, a Safeway, or a Kroger somewhere closer than the current 90 minute round trip drive to get to any one of those options.

Since it’s the lesser of the local evils, that’s were I end up most weekends. I was there yesterday and here are my studied observations on the experience:

walmart1. There are approximately 237 billion parking spots surrounding Walmart, yet nine times out of ten I end up pulling down the lane behind someone who will sit and wait for the family of six to load their two carts of groceries, buckle the kids into their seats, adjust their mirrors, turn on their GPS and select the “home” option, back halfway out of the spot, stop for no apparent reason for 30 seconds, back the rest of the way out into the lane, spend 20 seconds trying to shift into drive, stall out, restart the car, and then drift away at approximately .175 miles per hour. All of this might even be acceptable if it were midnight on the day after Thanksgiving, but it’s 11AM on a Friday. There are acres of open spots as far as the eye can see, but the douchtard in front of me wants this exact spot for some reason. Well, congratulations. You got it. You saved yourself at least 15 extra steps you’d have had to take from one of the already available spots. This trip is not going well and I haven’t even gotten out of the truck yet.

2. There are three carts inside the door. One filled with some combination of leaves, trash, and possibly a diaper, one that has apparently hosted a seagull convention, and the third and final option… That one apparently doesn’t have any bearings in one of its wheels, so I get to spend the next 40 minutes wiping bird shit off my hands or listening to THUNK, THUNK, RATTLE, THUNK, THUNK, RATTLE, THUNK, THUNK, RATTLE, THUNK, THUNK, RATTLE every time I take a step. I don’t know if there’s a hell or not, but If there is, I’m absolutely convinced the background noise is THUNK, THUNK, RATTLE.

3. Walked by the ammunition case. No ammo. Or more specifically no ammo for guns that anyone actually owns or uses on a regular basis. Can’t blame Walmart for that one, really. It’s just another disappointing part of this little voyage of the damned.

4. Milk, eggs, bread… Even Walmart cant screw up the staples too badly. Just when I thought things might be turning a corner a three year old girl came charging out of nowhere and flung herself at my cart. Looking up to see what she probably expected to be the face her theoretically loving parent, what she got was a surly look from an unknown middle aged guy with a goatee. Clearly this was not what she was anticipating as the result was a yelp that I can only equate with what happens when you step on a dog’s paw and the child attempting to sprint away and running directly into a bottled water display set up in the middle of the aisle. It seems that with enough momentum, one can really bounce off the side of a few pallets of bottled water. Who knew, right? The last thing I saw was her theoretically loving parent showing up from the next aisle over and clearly wondering why her little darling was lying flat out on Walmart’s floor.

4. I wanted to make a roast on Sunday. Roast beef was a regular fixture at Sunday dinner at my grandmother’s house and about once a month I pull out the stops and make one with all the trimmings. I have found decent cuts of beef at Walmart from time to time, but they’re few and far between… as you might expect, this trip was not one of the exceptions to the rule. It looks like I’ll be partaking in the much more recent family tradition of Taco Sunday again this week.

5. I walked up to a checkout counter that had just cleared its last customer. Not waiting in line to checkout is practically unheard of here at my local Walmart and I thought maybe I was going to get a break here at the end of this test of my endurance. Of course it wasn’t. The cashier was apparently engrossed in her conversation with the last customer. After unloading my cart onto the belt, she was still engrossed. I pushed the cart forward so I was standing directly in front of her and she was still engrossed. I’m pretty sure if I hadn’t started adding my two cents to their conversation, she would probably still be engrossed. Look lady, I don’t need you to be happy to be there. I don’t even need you to be pleasant. All I need you to do is slide my crap across the little scanner thingy, take my money, and let me get on with the rest of my day. The sooner that happens the happier we can all be.

Basically, the only good thing I can ever really say about a trip to Walmart is that no one has yet set my truck on fire in the parking lot. That’s probably only a matter of time, though, because truly the barbarians are at the gates.

Today’s post is the latest installment of “By Request,” where the readers pick the topic and I rant about it.

What I Did on My Furlough Friday (Part 6 of 6)…

I feel like we’ve reached the end of an era together. Now that I’m sitting here writing at the tail end of Furlough 2013, I’d love to say I’m sorry to see it go… but in the perpetual war between free time and spending money, money has won out yet again. It’s just as well that next week will bring back the standard 5-day work week. Another five of six weeks of being a part time worker would have probably ruined me completely for ever having a full time job again. If you haven’t had the experience in your adult life, a 4-on, 3-off schedule is pretty damned easy to get use to.

Being philosophical doesn’t really tell you much about how I used my final scheduled off-Friday for the immediate future. The answer to that one is simple: I did all the stuff I would have otherwise done on Saturday – grocery shopping, banking, stopping by the post office, and enjoying a late lunch at Chiplote just to top off the day. Now I’m back home writing, editing, and trying to remember that English is my first language and I should really know how to use it. All things considered, it’s been a successful Furlough Friday… I just hope it’ the last time I have to use those two words together in a sentence. Somehow I can’t shake the feeling that it’s just an operational pause before we reach a whole new level of stupid when the new year kicks off on October 1st.

Be sure to tune in here tomorrow for “My Trip to Walmart…”, a Post By Request coming to you whenever I get around to turning it in to actual sentences based on the notes I took while shopping for groceries this afternoon. With a plug like that, how can you not want to come back and check it out?

Attention citizens…

Attention Citizens of Maryland,

We live slightly to the south of the 39°43′ N parallel marked by Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon in 1767. Due to our geographic position in the northern hemisphere, we can, from time to time, expect that frozen precipitation will fall out of the sky and in accordance with the basic laws of physics, come to rest upon the ground. When it occurs in quantity, this natural phenomenon is colloquially know as a “snow storm.” Like its warmer, wetter cousin the “rain storm,” this is a perfectly natural event and tends to occur regularly during the months of December, January, February, and even March.

These storms, particularly the ones that take place late in the season tend largely to be quick hitters – lasting for a day or two at most before melting off because the ambient air temperature is well above freezing. Now I’m not a fancy, big city weather forecaster, but it strikes me that calling for wall-to-wall news coverage of a rainy day seems silly. I’m not sure why doing the same thing for snow is really any different… and yet, somehow, it is obviously considered a completely different animal.

So, my fellow citizens, here’s the thing: If you’re panicking right now, running to the supermarket to stock up on six metric tons of toilet paper, or driving across the state for a snow blower, you’re a moron. Every time there’s snow in the offing, the news gins up video of people lined up buying shovels, ice scrapers, and salt from their local big box store. In my mind, that only begs the question: Who are all these people who up until now have had no need for a shovel or a scraper? I’ve had the same “snow preparedness kit” since I moved into my first “grown up” apartment. Same shovel. Same scraper. No salt (because it’s mostly just a pain in the ass that ends up with more in the house than on the driveway). Is it really possible that so many people have never before had the need for a snow shovel or the means of clearing ice off their windshields. I’m just saying. It’s not like these are items that are consumed in use or their technology is getting better every year, so the one you bought for the last storm will work just fine for this one.

Maybe I’ve missed the point. I suppose if one shovel is good, having three or four must be better. And certainly every vehicle on the road needs half a dozen ice scrapers. I guess I’ve just never caught the bug for panic buying. You’ll eventually use all 300 rolls of Charmin, but running out and picking them up because it’s going to snow is an activity that’s simply lost on me. Still, we’re a mostly free people, so go forth and hoard if that’s what you think needs done in the face of nature’s “wrath.” I’ll be here with my feet up judging you and mocking your all too predictable asshattery.

Kind regards,

Jeff

Select “Panic” in 5…4…3…2…

So you guys may have seen that the media are making a big stink about the impending hurricane of doom that will be sure to devastate the East Coast over the weekend. Judging from the current models and from watching these things semi-professionally for the better part of the last ten years, I’m more inclined to think that eastern Maryland will end up getting a little soggy on Sunday and maybe have a few branches blown around if things “get bad.” That said, there’s always the off chance that this thing doglegs left and shoves a wall of water directly up the Chesapeake. That would fall directly in the category of Situation Other than Good. With the track edging east with every model run, that unhappy outcome seems less and less likely.

What seems more likely at this point is that the regional weather personalities and newscasters are going to whip the local indigenous population into frenzy by close of business Friday regardless of what the reality looks like. What this means is that every idiot with a pickup truck, a car, or a moped is going to come out of the woodwork and descend on Walmart, Costco, and every grocery store within driving distance and buy six gallons of milk, two dozen eggs, five loaves of Wonder bread, and a metric ton of toilet paper. I ordinarily don’t begrudge anyone their pre-apocalyptic stockpile, except in this case their panic is going to conflict with my normal grocery shopping schedule.

In the event that this was an actual emergency, I’d be the first to institute the no harm, no foul rule, but in the case of purely fictitious disaster, I’m less inclined to give stupid people the benefit of the doubt. My inclination at the moment is to go ahead and make due this weekend by drawing down my own fairly impressive stockpile. Sadly, like Christmas shopping on the day after Thanksgiving, I just don’t know if I can stay away from the spectacle of so many asshats gathered in so few places. I know I shouldn’t, but I might not be able to keep myself from going to watch the spectacle first hand.