Bay's Travel Blog

I don't travel much, but blogging is trippy.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Cravings

I was talking to my sister Amy about frozen pizza, which started me thinking --

I wanna eat out.

We don't go out to restaurants very often around here, so when we do go out to eat, I have a really hard time making up my mind about where to eat.

Amy lives in Las Vegas. There's, like, a fabulous restaurant every 2.35 feet in that town.

East Tennessee has considerably fewer fabulous restaurants.

If I could go out to have a fabulous meal -- right now, this very second -- I would go to P.F. Chang's. Tricia Morris introduced me to P.F. Chang's a couple of years ago, and I think we always went there at least once when she was in town. Unfortunately, she hasn't been in my neck of the woods since last May. Last May??? I haven't been to P.F. Chang's since last May? This is not possible!!! I need lettuce wraps!

And the chocolate cake.

I'm gonna die of these cravings. Maybe I should just take some Benadryl and go to sleep.




(But I would rather eat at P.F. Chang's.)

(Or ... anywhere close to Amy's house.)

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Another hummingbird



We had a spot of rain this afternoon, so I staked out a nice front-row seat for the hummingbird feeder. I only had to wait a couple of minutes before this little guy came along. Woo hooo! Hummingbird season!!!!!!

Monday, April 24, 2006

Who doesn't like pie?

Celebrating my freedom yesterday, Woodrow and I made a pair of chocolate chess pies. If you have never had chocolate chess pie, then you don't know what you're missing. It's more chocolate than chocolate pie, but less fudgey than fudge. And when I say "less fudgey," I mean only slightly less. It's so slightly less fudgey than fudge, I always top it with whipped cream. Cuts the sweetness, y'know.

We devoured the first pie last night -- after a dinner of grilled pork chops, roasted new potatoes with garlic & rosemary, and fresh asparagus with Hollandaise sauce. Yes, we were clearly going overboard.

The second pie is now half gone. It won't see Tuesday, I fear.

Big thanks to Emily for taking a picture of the pie before it's completely gone!

What's that? You want the recipe? Well, of course!

Chocolate Chess Pie

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.

Mix together:
- 1/2 cup melted margerine
- 3 cups sugar
- 1/2 cup baking cocoa
- 4 eggs, beaten
- 2 tsp. vanilla extract
- 1 12-oz. can evaporated milk

(Mix thoroughly after each addition to the mix.)

Pour the mixture into two 9" unbaked pie shells. Bake for an hour. Allow to cool; serve with whipped cream. Mmmmmmmmm. Store covered in the fridge; holds for a few days.

Note: The mixture before baking is very liquid. It works best to have a very stiff pie pan or to put flimsy aluminum pie pans on a toaster sheet for stability. Otherwise, the stuff sloshes all over the place.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Wow. What a letdown.

Well. It's 1:31 in the morning, and my last shift ended at 12:11 am. I am officially no longer an employee at my nearest grocery store.

I thought I would feel liberated and joyous at this auspicious moment, and instead I'm plagued by the niggling idea that I gave up too easily. I let the depressing people get me down. In the time since I gave notice a week and a half ago, I've had four really nice nights at work and two really icky ones. I even called in sick for one night. (And I was very glad that I did, since I spent most of that night feeling rather unwell.)

The thing is -- working in the grocery store wasn't all bad. It wasn't unrelieved hell. The vast majority of the customers were wonderful people. Most of my co-workers were interesting and very nice people. Some of them were even fun, and I often found myself laughing out loud while working my fingers to the bone.

If I were to determine a percentage of the time at the grocery store during which I was actively laughing out loud and having fun, I would have to say it was fun about 67% of the time. Compare that to the years at the ad agency, and a grocery store wins hands down as a "fun place" to work. It's also more fun than being an accounts payable clerk at a large manufacturing plant. I mean, accounts payable is a lot cleaner than running a cash register, but cubicles somehow dampen one's sense of humor. You chuckle. You don't laugh out loud.

One wonders if I'll find myself back at the grocery store next week. I would have to put my foot down and tell the store manager, "OK, I'll work here, but only for five-hour shifts, 20 hours a week at the most. I refuse to work longer than five hours at a time. And I want to work with Kim a lot. A WHOLE LOT. And Genzy, too, if that's possible. But those are my conditions, and that's the only way we will make this work."

I will miss my customers. It's so strange, but in only three and a half weeks, I already had a lot of customers whom I considered regulars, and I will miss seeing them.

I will miss the little old ladies (some as young as 60 or 65) who lived alone and would come in and talk recipes with me.

I will miss that good looking young man who always came to my register and would greet me with, "Hello, nice lady!"

But all of that said, I won't miss the few co-workers who hated the store, hated their jobs, and hated the customers in particular. That was the most shocking and unpleasant revelation. Finding out that I was hated when I was a customer was unsettling, because these people covered up their revulsion to my face. It was only when I started working with them that I found out that they cursed and shook their fists at customers who came in after 11:00 at night. Hey -- I didn't set the hours for the store. I like shopping after 11:00. No crowds, and I always get a great parking spot.

I won't miss standing up for hours at a time.

I won't miss feeling like I'm disappointing someone because the line isn't moving faster, even though there's no help for bagging the groceries and I have to do everything by myself.

Oh. I won't miss ringing up pig's feet. Ew, gross, yuck. I didn't even know people really bought that stuff!!!!!!

Tomorrow... I am free. I wonder what I'll do? Probably laundry!

Thursday, April 20, 2006

FOOMP!



As I mentioned in March, the trees in East Tennessee have an amazing capacity to leaf out in one day. They go along for weeks with buds, and then one day -- FOOMP! Voila. Leaves.

That day this year was yesterday. My world was not this green just two days ago. I had weeds in the grass, yes, but no leafy trees to gaze upon. I saw a couple of hummingbirds, this is true, but no shade from the maples on our street.

Now we have fully leafed-out trees. The weather is so warm that we've already had a number of thunderstorms. (One is, in fact, moving in as I type this.)

Ahhhhhhhhh. I can breathe again.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

YUM!!!!!!!

Wesley bought salmon filets the other day at the grocery store, and today he decided he was going to grill it. I looked for recipes online, and found this one at http://homecooking.about.com . Peggy Trowbridge gets the credit for making my dinner not just fabulous, but downright incredible.

Easy Herbed Grilled Salmon

- 1/2 pound boneless salmon filet about 1" thick
- 2 T. lime juice
- 2 T. white wine (we used chablis)
- 1 t. mayo
- 1/2 teaspoon each of kosher salt, onion powder, garlic powder, lemon pepper, dried oregano, dried basil, and dried dill weed
- sprinkles of paprika

Preheat grill to high heat. Put salmon filets in little trays made of heavy-duty foil, which have been sprayed with non-stick vegetable oil spray. Sprinkle lime juice and white wine over filets. Spread a little mayo over the filets. Mix together herbs (except paprika) and sprinkle them liberally (maybe even heavily) over the salmon, finish with paprika over that. Then put the salmon on the grill, cover the grill, and cook for 10 minutes per inch of thickness. (In other words, if the filets are each 1" thick, grill them for 10 minutes exactly.) No turning the salmon, either. It'll cook.

That's it. That's all there is to it. And it's SO GOOD, I swear, if I had this dish in a restaurant, that restaurant would immediately become my favorite. It's -- seriously -- YUMMY.

Go buy salmon. I will wait here for your reports.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

It's About Dang Time!

Finally! Only three months after Amy! I've FINALLY got a hummingbird captured on film! Well, on pixels, anyway. Now if only the bugger would choose a sipping hole CLOSER TO THE DANG STINKIN' CAMERA SO I CAN GET A DECENT SHOT!

::: pant, pant, pant :::

Anyway, it's nice to hear the buzz of a hummingbird's wings again.

Edited to add:
By the way, this photo was taken with my faaaaaaaabulous new camera (given to me last October by my faaaaaaabulously tasteful sister Amy) and my faaaaaabulous new tripod (given to me at Christmas by my incredibly smart husband). If I had not had the new equipment, this would be one terrible picture of a red plastic hummingbird feeder with a black blob on the opposite side. Thank you, Amy and Wesley!!!!!!!!!!!

Monday, April 17, 2006

In good news...

I finally saw a hummingbird at my feeder here in Tennessee. Amy's baby hummingbirds are flying the coop -- literally -- and I'm celebrating because I have seen one male and one female at my poor, lonely, little hummingbird feeder here at home. Now if only I could get a picture!

And I only have three days of work left before I'm free again! C'mon, Saturday, hurry up and get here!

Saturday, April 15, 2006

The Croc Market, Week 2

I thought I should give an update on my coral pink Crocs and how they're faring at the grocery store. Poor widdle Crocs! They're getting all scuffed up!

After about five days on the Crocs, I flipped up the ankle strap and turned 'em into clogs. I do so love clogs. I'm a clog kinda gal, I guess. It wasn't that the ankle strap was bothering me -- but when I moved it, I didn't miss it. The shoes still stay on my feet! These things are amazing.

My feet still hurt at the end of a five-hour shift, and they hurt more at the end of an eight-hour shift, but I no longer have to take Vicoden to alleviate back pain. That's the best benefit of these shoes -- a pain-free back!

Observations from the Grocery Store
- Holiday weekends are NUTS. I mean -- crazy bongo-playing lines everywhere.

- Egg cartons -- the foamy kind -- don't hold the bar code ink very well. And I think the cash register (which is smarter than I am) is confused when you're selling 8000 eggs per hour because it just refuses to take the egg bar code any more, anyway.

- Just when I figure out one mystery (how to input a coupon that doesn't scan the first time), some other mystery becomes the big problem of the week (how to make the credit card scanner accept worn-out credit cards).

- Some co-workers are a ray of sunshine.

- Some co-workers are black holes of misery and pain, with black clouds hanging over their heads.

- Some of the nicest employees are on food stamps because they earn so little at the grocery store that they're below the poverty level. Please keep this in mind when you're shopping. These people are *people*. And they're getting paid diddly-squat to serve you.

- Mesh bags of white onions should be illegal. Onion skins grate against the mesh and fly in all directions. Onion debris is the second-messiest thing in the grocery store, surpassed only by leaky chicken packages. If a fastidious customer is kind and puts the mesh bag in a plastic produce bag, then the cash register doesn't want to read the bar code on the strap of the mesh bag. It's a no-win situation.

- The reason bag boys fill the bags so full isn't to irritate you or to make you feel weak and helpless. It's because they know that a little flimsy plastic grocery bag costs the store 1.5 cents. They're supposed to put at least 8 items in there, but there are a hundred rules about what things can't go with other things. So you bought a 2-pound package of chicken. That goes in a bag by itself. But you have 15 cans of vegetables and soup. The bag boy is going to try to make up the bag-cost difference by putting all the cans in one bag.

- If you are purchasing fresh meat from the meat department, put each package in one of the really thin plastic bags. However. Put each package of meat in a different flimsy bag, and make sure the bar code shows through on the clear side of the bag. If you put three packages of thin-cut pork chops in one bag, the cashier has to remove at least two of those packages and scan them one at a time. If the printing on the bag obscures the bar code, then she has to remove the third package, too. And then she has to cram all three packages of meat back into the bag. It's inefficient in the extreme. And you are going to be mad because it takes so long to get your groceries scanned, but it's definitely not the cashier's fault.

- If you're buying chicken, please put it in one of the clear meat department bags. Chicken leaks everywhere and it contaminates the cash register and the conveyor belt, which means we have to stop scanning everything and disinfect the entire thing OR we have to just make sure no one's groceries touch the scanner, cash register, counter, or belt. And that hurts. Oh, my back, my arms, my hands, my everything.
Exception to the above observation: My friend Krisi who works in a grocery store in New Hampshire says her store's meat department packages the chicken better than my store does. They have far fewer chicken catastrophes there. You may also be lucky enough to live where the chicken doesn't leak. I envy you if that's the case!

Second Biggest lesson learned from a shopper's point of view
If you're at the grocery store at 11:30 pm on the Friday before Easter, there's a good chance there's only one cash register open. The reason there's only one cash register open is because one of the three front-end managers at the store is charged with counting all the tills and ensuring that they "balance out." This is a huge job on any normal Friday. It's massive on a holiday weekend Friday.

So there you are, shopping as you always do on Friday night after your own second shift job, and you want a six-pack of beer for your Saturday afternoon of watching golf and grilling burgers. Perfectly reasonable of you, too, I might add. If I watched golf, I would need beer to alleviate the boredom, myself. Oh, wait, that's just me. Nevermind. We're talking about you, the shopper.

When you leave the refrigerator section with your six-pack of beer, you will discover that the line at the cash register is now eight carts deep. The cashier -- who is not a front-end manager, nor has she even really finished her training -- is up to her eyeballs in voids. These voids are caused by people who got in line at 11:00 with a package of ground beef, two packs of American cheese, and 8 packs of KoolAid. (I am not making that up.) The two gentlemen who chose these items and waited patiently in line are trying to pay for these things with their food stamps cards. However, neither of them has sufficient funds on their food stamps cards to cover this proposed purchase. Now they want to void off the cheese and the KoolAid. This requires the attention of one of three front-end managers, one of whom is wildly trying to make 20 separate stuffed tills balance out, one of whom is balancing the Front Office safe, and the other of whom is having to run from the back cooler to the front, re-stocking eggs, while still sweeping and mopping up around all the closed registers.

In other words, things have gone from "wildly busy" to "completely out of control."

And every single person in line in front of you and your six-pack wants cigarettes.

And the only person bagging groceries is the cashier.

By the time you get to the cash register, it is now 12:07. After midnight. And these cash registers are on a computer that won't let the cashier sell beer after midnight. You will not get your beer, and there's nothing she can do about it.

Lesson learned: If you are ever in this position, and you know that midnight is creeping up, urgently alert the front-end manager who's sweeping and mopping *before* midnight. I'm not saying yell at her, but you must get her attention. Seriously. Don't be sweet and patient and polite. You have been waiting in line forever, and darn it, you got there half an hour before midnight. You really should be able to get your beer, and the only person who can help you is a manager-type person. She doesn't know to bump you to the front of the line unless you let her know about your shopping needs.

How I've Changed As A Shopper
Now I know to unload the heavy stuff from the bottom of the cart myself so the cashier doesn't have to do it. I know now to bag my own groceries if there's no bag boy and the line behind me is two carts long. You might think, "The cashier has a method for bagging and if I try do it myself, I will get in her way." This is not true. The cashier will kiss your feet if you bag your own groceries.

Sadly -- very sadly -- I'm now aware that some of the people who work late really hate the shoppers who come into the store during the hour before closing. I have always been a late-night shopper. I had no idea that a front-end manager I've seen hundreds of times was making faces at me behind my back, and it hurts. It isn't my fault the store is open until midnight and they have to work that late.

The Upshot and the Lowdown
I gave notice on Thursday. My last night at the grocery store will be Saturday, April 22nd, which is the local high school's Prom Night. The store will need all the adults it can find just to keep the place open.

On Friday while I was washing and waxing my beautiful Prius, I stepped on something very sharp that stabbed deeply into the bottom of my heel, and now I'm afraid I won't be able to work out the remainder of my week. The pain is pretty darned significant. It wasn't bad last night, but it's swollen and painful today. I'm supposed to be at work at 6:00 to 10:30 tonight, and ... I'm just not sure I can physically do it.

When I gave notice to the store manager on Thursday, he said, "If you ever change your mind, you know where we are. I would hire you back in a heartbeat." I wonder if he would still feel that way if I failed to be able to work because my heel hurts so much?

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Today's best paragraph

In a note to friends of mine about how my WDW planning is coming along:

Backstory: We have always driven down early and stayed in Lake City or Ocala before checking in. Once we stayed just offsite on our way back, and then again near Atlanta. Usually we drive from Illuminations to Ocala. There were so many reasons for splitting up the drive -- the kids were always trying to kill each other in the backseat. Or 'way back in '96 and '98, we actually started driving at 2:00 in the morning so the kids would sleep most of the way down, which effectively prevented fratricide, but necessitated stopping somewhere so Wesley could get some sleep before having to go to a theme park.


Snort! I cracked myself up.

Yippee! (Woo Hoo, The Sequel)


I ... have ... vacation plans!!!!!

It's official; it's a fait accompli; we're going to Disney World!

Nothing better happen between now and the end of September. I'm just sayin'. Is all.

The layout pictured here is about our '98 trip, which was also 8 days long. Oooo, it's so hard to believe my children were ever that young and cute. Now they're vicious teenagers. Snort!

This year's trip has been a long time in the making. Our last family trip was in November of 2003. I was very, very sick before we went to Orlando, and I was very, very sick for the first three or four days. Then I had a total shopping disaster that wrecked two days.

(Note: Never buy a Tinker Bell watch which must be re-sized, because it will eat up too much of your time!)

We were supposed to go back to WDW last year, but darling Guido the cockatiel had his health problems which cost really a lot of money. (And he still died, anyway, but I try not to think of that.) So instead of Mickey and Tink, we had an extra dose of Charleston and beach. And that was wonderful, really. I can't say that going to Edisto Island is a grave disappointment. I just really like Disney World, too.

Anyway, we have our ressies, and we're going to stay at the Beach Club this year. And the trip will span Woodrow's 14th birthday, and he says the only place he wants to eat for his birthday dinner is the Yachtsman Steakhouse. Wesley is so proud, I fear he may burst. Beef! His boy wants to eat a manly meal -- steak! What manly men these fellows are!

So... anyone wanna meet at Illuminations and cry with me? I always cry over the fireworks. I need someone to remember to bring tissues!

Sunday, April 09, 2006

WOOOO HOOOOOOO!!!!

I got some lovely news.

Miss Snark ran a little writing contest last weekend. It wasn't so much a contest as it was an exercise in playing with words. We were invited to try to come up with stories shorter than 500 words which utilized a number of insane phrases -- Miss Snark's choices.

My sister Amy told me about the contest at 12:30 Sunday morning, and I dashed off a story right then. *That* was fun. Seriously. Oh, I do so love the English language.

I slept on the story that night, and the next day as the deadline loomed, I edited it to death. I finally sent it off to Miss Snark feeling like I had just dredged the floor of a NYC taxi cab for flavorful gum.

I shared the story with a small group of friends, one of whom wrote back, "That's the strangest thing I ever read." Well, gee, I didn't think it was *that* bad. None of the other gals said anything positive or negative, which just chipped away at my confidence even more. It no longer felt like fun. It felt like failure, even though Amy reassured me the story was darling and clever and made perfect sense.

Monday, Miss Snark started posting the entries in the order she received them. I was about a quarter of the way into the lot, with 110 entries joining mine. I was more and more horrified with my drivel as I read through the entries. Most of the writers wrote clever, funny, darling stories about literary agents and their poodles. There were a lot of fantasies and sci-fi entries, and some were so bizarre and creative that Kafka would have wept with jealousy.

One of them was so stunningly perfect, I knew it was the winner and gnashed my teeth and pulled at my hair.

Then the comments started trickling in, and I was overjoyed to receive praise from six different readers. No one said, "That's the strangest thing I ever read," either. They said my story had a nice voice. One reader declared it her "new hot favorite."

I could drag this out forever, but the good news is that Miss Snark posted her winners today, and my story -- out of 111 entries -- garnered an honorable mention.

Considering that Miss Snark keeps her gin pail filled by selling real books to real publishers, I am overjoyed. An honorable mention. Me? My drivel? I could die happy right now. And I mean that. Die. Happy. Deader'n four o'clock. And smiling while expiring.

I have to go cry now. I'm sure y'all understand.

The Importance of Cornbread

I'm planning a regular dinner, which I'll make before I go to work at 7:00 tonight. Wesley leaves for work at 5:15, so honestly, I could make dinner any time after three. Pork chops and cornbread and black-eyed peas, yessirreebob. It's a calling. I have to have some proper food.

I'm pretty sure I've shared my cornbread recipe with just about anyone who's ever commented on the South's proclivity for the stuff. I am extremely picky about cornbread. It's not supposed to be sweet, y'all. It's supposed to be savory.

First thing you need to know is that it has to be cooked in a cast-iron skillet. I have never even tried to cook cornbread in anything else. I don't know what a non-stick baking pan would do to it, and I do not eat square cornbread. It's supposed to be shaped like a wedge of pie. If it's square, you can pretty much count on it being sweet. Yuck.

Here's the Bay Method of Cornbread:
Ingredients
- About 2 cups of self-rising cornmeal (preferably White Lily brand)
- About 1.5 cups milk or buttermilk (or you can clabber your own buttermilk by adding a tablespoon or two of vinegar to regular milk)
- About 1/4 cup of bacon grease (yes, bacon grease, not vegetable oil or shortening or canola oil or olive oil -- *bacon grease*, don't worry, though, I'll tell you how to get it)
- 1 large egg, slightly beaten

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. In a well-seasoned, 10-inch, cast-iron skillet, prepare four or five pieces of bacon. Set aside the bacon. Chop it up for your salad, snack on it, whatever, it doesn't matter, you really just need the grease *and* you need a hot, hot skillet.

While the bacon is frying, mix up your batter of the cornmeal, clabbered milk, and egg. It'll wait while you finish the bacon.

Pour off the fresh bacon grease into your cornmeal mix, return the skillet to the hot eye on the stove to keep it hot. Pour the batter into the skillet while it's hot. Seriously. It should sizzle quietly. This will ensure a crisp crust.

Bake at 425 degrees for 20-25 minutes or until the top is golden, tending toward brown. Cut the pone into wedges immediately upon removing from the oven, serve as quickly as possible with butter or margerine. Cornbread is best when it's hot.

Interestingly, I found a handwritten recipe -- sort of -- in one my mother's old cookbooks. It is unfinished, but it appears to be my Aunt Sybil's jalapeno cornbread recipe. Unfortunately, the baking directions aren't included, and it sounds like enough stuff to make two pones of cornbread.

If you're adventurous, here are the ingredients. Let me know if you have success with the baking --
- 3 cups cornmeal
- 2 1/2 cups clabbered milk
- half cup bacon drippings
- 3 eggs
- 1 cup chopped onion
- 1 cup cream corn
- half cup chopped jalapenos
- 6 slices bacon crumbled
- quarter cup chopped pimento
- dash of garlic powder

By the way, Aunt Sybil was a *truly* great cook. She could throw things together like nobody's business and put on feasts fit for a king. Well, a Southern king, anyway!

The Biggest Freak in the Store



I made a thingamabob for my namebadge Saturday before work. It took about three minutes. The latest Club Scrap kit, "Color in Black & White," was full of goodies which made it too easy not to make something.

I used a square sticker that said "Art is Life," and I inked it with orange and pink inks. Then I grabbed a circle die-cut with the combed grey print on it and inked it turquoise, blue, and pink. Covered the whole thing with ThermoWeb Double-Sided Adhesive, trimmed it to size, and smooshed the whole thing with microglass beads.

So now I have pink shoes and some nametag bling. I want desperately to alter the front of my nametag with alcohol inks. And some collage stamping. And maybe a few strands of copper turnings.

I may as well stamp "I am the biggest freak here" on my forehead.

Yes, I covered the name of the grocery store. I don't feel like offering them any free advertising. They're not my favorite corporate entity at this moment in time.

A guy came through my line whom I recognized from undergraduate school. He was seriously the biggest freak at my entire college, and that includes the soccer team. I was nice to him when everyone else was mean; if people started picking on him (and they *did* pick on him, even at the advanced age of 18 and older), I made them stop. He was a math genius, and he had a killer crush on my sister Amy when she was still at school.

Since I was nice to him, he transferred his affections to me, which was awkward. I had a boyfriend. (Named Wesley.) I wasn't at all attracted to him, and he was undeniably strange. I always thought that if I knew anyone who was going to take a gun to a post office and open fire, it would be him. And I have a special fondness for geeks. There's geeky, and then there's psychotic, and they really don't go together well at all.

So here he comes through my lane, and I haven't seen him in 18 years or so, and I practically hollered, "HEY! [Name]!!!!! How in the world are you?"

And he stared at me, silent, with a dumbfounded expression on his face. I rang up his three items and told him the total, and he paid me without ever saying a word, while I blathered on cheerily about how nice it was to see him, and that I never see anyone from college, and isn't the weather weird, and so on and so forth.

Now, maybe he behaved strangely because he's a strange guy. But inside my head, I've got this whole dialogue going between my various insecurities, fears, and disappointments. Inside my head, I believe that this former classmate was staring at me and thinking, "Oh, wow! How far the mighty have fallen! I can't believe she's a cashier. What is wrong with her that she is actually working in a grocery store? That poor thing. Gosh, I'm glad my life isn't so pathetic and horrible that I have to work in grocery store. Her mother would be horrified!"

Of course, as I wrote the paragraph above, I realized how stupid it sounds. My mother would be very darned proud of me for being responsible enough to be gainfully employed. I'm earning an honest wage, devoid of subterfuge or shame. What I do doesn't denigrate minorities or harm the environment. I help people who need to feed their families, clean their clothes, or have a glass of milk with their Oreos.

Well... I sorta help those people. Truth is, I am a terrible cashier. I am too slow; I can't remember the PLU numbers for the produce or how to void an item. At least I made a 100 on my produce test last night.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

The Croc Market Report

It's a bull market, investors, and we give this Croc Stock our highest rating. Invest now! Invest later! It doesn't matter; these shoes ROCK!!!!!

Seriously, I tested the new coral-pink Crocs with a grueling 7-hour shift, during which I got only one 15-minute break after only an hour and a half into my shift. That means that I stood for at least 4.5 hours without a break. Seriously -- no breaks, none at all, not even to visit the loo. The closest I came to sitting down was kneeling to pull trash out from under the magazine rack behind my cash register.

Now, after a while, my feet *did* hurt. That was inevitable with this kind of work, but the truest test of the Crocs was... my BACK didn't hurt!!!! It really didn't!!!!!!!! When I got home I realized, "Hey, I don't have to take Vicoden for my back." That's a first!!!!!!!!

The store manager even called me, "Pink Shoes." As in, "Hey, Pink Shoes, how ya doin'?" He didn't mean it in a derogatory way, either, like, "Hey, Pink Shoes, I'm going to fire you because you're not wearing brown leather shoes." He meant it as a compliment, a sort of, "What fun shoes you're wearing, you nut job," kind of way!

In other news, I didn't quit my job. LOL! You may be wondering why I even said that, but honestly, even with the Crocs firmly on my feet, I really thought I would give notice today. I am soooooooo poorly suited to real-world jobs, and the grocery store is nothing short of manual labor. Did I go to to college for *this*?????

I fear I am *exactly* the kind of spoiled, high-maintenance, hothouse flower that I always thought I might be. So I really thought I would quit today. But Wesley talked me out of it, reminding me that "I am the grown-up" and "Disney World" really are my catchphrases of the seasons.

Man, I *hate* it when he's all logical and reasonable like that!

Unfortunately, I'm working ten hours Saturday. I wasn't supposed to. I was supposed to work six hours. (And I was so relieved to get such a short shift!) But a teenaged cashier forgot to ask for that day off so she could take the ACT. How on *earth* can I be the person responsible for denying a young person her shot at a college education? I can't!!!

Therefore, I shall work. My Crocs will give me strength. And I *swear* I'm going to be more forthcoming about, "Hey, managers, I need a break... NOW."

Besides, I am meeting the *most* interesting and wonderful people at the grocery store. The customers are sooooo interesting!! That part is fun, even when my feet are complaining *loudly*.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

She's such a Croc-up

AAAAHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!! (And a thanks to Emily for putting the Country Crock bucket under my foot and snapping the picture, too!)

Yea, verily, I have Crocs. My feet will be happy now. So will my back. And my sense of artistic equilibrium. Because I cannot resist these peachy-pink Crocs, and they feel like buttah. Seriously. If you don't care a flip about fashion and you need some seriously perfect shoes, these are the shoes for you.

Now that I have some of my own, I understand why some Crocs fans have started Crocs fansites. I want a dozen pairs in all kinds of colors. I can't believe that shoes made out of what feels like FunFoam can feel this fabulous and cost only $30.

Run, do not walk. Oh, wait, that's right, you don't have them yet. OK, limp to the nearest Crocs retailer. You will be running and skipping soon thereafter!!!!!

Big, huge, slobbery thanks to everyone who wrote to me about Crocs when I said my feet were killing me. You've changed my life for the better!

Now if only I could stop making Croc puns...

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Some things I need to know

I almost entitled this post "everything I needed to know, I learned in the grocery store," but that would kinda be a lie, so I backpedaled. Sawrrrrryyyyyyy.

Ahem.

Some Things I Needed To Know That I Learned Working In The Grocery Store
by Bay

1. The vast majority of the people in the world are really, really, really nice. And patient. And kind. As long as you smile at them and make them understand that you're doing your best to serve them, their patience is darned close to everlasting.

2. Every day, mothers bring approximately 890 babies to the grocery store with them. 97% of those babies are completely asleep and killin' cute, and I want to cuddle every single one of them.

3. Mothers who can shop for groceries with a sleeping baby on the shoulder are the most amazing athletes in the world, second only to pregnant women in Orlando in July. Both groups are way ahead of triathletes in terms of strength and stamina.

4. If you have not worked outside the home for nine years, nothing will prepare you for a seven-hour day behind a cash register -- except a sister who fusses at the end of your second tear-filled day, "If you let this job defeat you, I will be disappointed in you."

5. Customers who bag their own groceries should all be granted sainthood. Immediately.

6. If you think it's hard work when the store is busy, it's nothing compared to when it's slow. Cashiers can't sit down even if there's no customer in line. We have to stand up all day.

7. The cash register really IS smarter than I am.

8. People who work in a grocery store never once ask you where you went to graduate school, what you scored on the SAT, or what you "did" before you became a cashier. They don't care. You won't ever play intellectual one-upmanship games in the grocery store.

9. "Part time" doesn't feel like part time.

10. Everyone's cart is full of stuff you never think to buy, but it all looks absolutely delicious. You will crave a fruit salad like you have never craved a fruit salad before in your life. You will fantasize about pork roast and fresh asparagus with marinade. Every cake, pie, pint of ice cream, potato chip, and fruity kids' drink is going to tempt you. DO NOT allow yourself to breathe through your nose if someone buys fried chicken from the deli.

11. At the end of a shift, the last thing you want to do is walk around and buy your own groceries. After a day of dreaming about food, you will go home and eat stale crackers with peanut butter and drink half a gallon of tap water, anyway, and it will taste like heaven because you're finally sitting down, barefoot, with the music of your choice playing in the background.

12. The anti-bacterial soap in the employee washrooms is very strong. (Thank heavens, because I'm nearly a germophobe.) Get a tiny bottle of lotion to keep your hands from drying up and falling off the ends of your arms.

13. They tell me it gets easier.

14. Please let them be right!

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Because I'm the grown-up, that's why.

Throughout the course of my children's lives, I've had to explain my actions and instructions with the phrase above. Why do I have to pay taxes? Why do I have to go to jury duty? Why do I plan out our meals a week at a time? Why do I shop sales? Because I'm the grown-up, that's why.

When my oldest sister has a disaster at her house and she calls me to say that her plumbing doesn't work, I tell her to call a plumber, because that's what grown-ups do.

Once you reach adulthood, you just have to take responsibility and do the things that must be done. No one else is going to do them for you. Fairies aren't going to wash the dirty laundry while you sleep. Santa Claus isn't going to stuff your stocking with the funds to fix the plumbing. You can't take a vacation if you don't have the money to pay for the hotel.

(Well, you can, but then you have to pay the interest on the credit card.)

So, OK, this is one of those times that I have to be the grown-up. After nine years away from the real-world job market, I had to get a part-time job. Writing wasn't bringing in the reliable, steady cash flow that I needed in order to keep living in the manner to which I've been accustomed. It was either "get a job," or "don't take vacation this year." And I do not want to go another 12 months without hugging Mickey Mouse. I need some Disney time, or I will go stark, raving mad.

The last time I had a real job, I was a temp. My temp agency loved me. They made tons of money by leasing me out to various companies. I apparently made a really high score on their little aptitude test, and I had a college degree. I was a reliable, responsible, trustworthy grown-up. Every single temp job I ever held resulted in the client offering me full-time employment. They were always really surprised when I said, "No, thank you." And that was just another reason the temp agency loved me -- I didn't leave them for a permanent position.

I didn't go back to the temp agency this time because I knew I wanted to be able to take a second shift, part time job. The sort of temp work I did nine years ago was full time clerical work, and I don't know any accounting department that's open at 9:00 at night. So I applied at the local grocery store. Why? I don't know. I've never worked retail, much less in a grocery store.

When I was in high school, my mother wouldn't let me apply at the grocery stores for a job. She got me a desk job at the local museum. I was the only person there on Saturdays and Sundays, and nobody ever came in back then. I mean, the place was stone-cold dead. I think I saw 20 visitors in the entirety of my senior year.

During high school and college, I worked most summers at camp, which was a very active job and which I loved to pieces. If it didn't pay so little, I would probably still be at camp.

One summer, I was a Coke sample girl. That was the summer of '84, when the local Coca-Cola and Pepsi bottling companies were slugging it out over sales. That's the only grocery store "experience" I've ever had. The Coke delivery guy would set up a fountain in the refrigerated food section and I would hand out little cups of Coke products to shoppers and tell them about the sale prices for Cokes.

Man, I almost froze my tush off that summer. It was cold in the refrigerated foods sections of every grocery store I ever visited! But I made a lot more money than I ever made at camp.

Now I am old. I haven't worked outside the house for nine years. I'm not athletic. I'm too cerebral. And I'm an introvert -- I mean, I really am. And I think the cash register at the grocery store is smarter than I am.

I worked seven hours yesterday. The first three and a half hours went by very quickly. The last three and a half hours seemed more like a week. I am figuring out how to bag groceries. I'm not great at it, but I'm getting it. It's the cash register that scares me.

I like the customers. I really like most of my co-workers. (One experienced cashier seemed horrified to have to deal with a new employee, and she got downright disgusted with me because I didn't know there's a button at the end of the counter to turn the belt on and off. I mean -- she *really* snorted and rolled her eyes at me.)

I need to buy incredibly padded shoes. I need to get over my fear of the buttons on the cash register. I need to just do this.

Why?

Because I'm the grown-up, that's why.