Sunday, January 31, 2010

Flying Solo

I’m not allowed to go the grocery store by myself. This is not a joke. All my friends know this to be true and are annoyed that I complain about this totalitarian state, as they would be only too happy to foist the weekly grocery trip upon their husbands.

Not only is my husband the Bob Villa of our group (that’s a whole other blog), but he’s also the Chef Boyardee. When we host a dinner party I can always detect slight disappointment on our guests’ faces when they learn I did the cooking that evening.

Given that my husband does most of the cooking, it only makes sense that he does the grocery shopping. I used to do some grocery shopping, but my license was revoked one fateful day when I came home with 3 bags and a receipt for over $60. To fully understand the ramifications of this event you have to know that my husband’s record is 8 bags for under $40 (and he doesn’t clip coupons). I buy what I want; he buys what’s on sale.

The effort and creativity required to achieve such results is staggering; it requires multiple trips to the store a week, a near-photographic memory of the price for every item in the cart (this from a man that can’t remember what I said to him an hour ago) because when an item rings up incorrectly – it’s free, and a willingness to regularly look past the “sell by” date (“that’s just a suggestion”). When you open our freezer door you’re met with a blinding array of bright yellow and orange “Manager’s Special” stickers on the contents (what we’ve come to call “used meat”). It’s a fine line between ptomaine poisoning and a bargain, and we walk it every night in our house.

One day I had the bright idea to go the store with him. If I couldn’t go alone, I could certainly go if I had adult supervision, right? Wrong. He got to hold the list, and push the cart, and I was sent on individual sorties for single items.

“Why don’t you get a jar of mayo while I look at the used meat and day-old bread? Why did you buy Hellmann’s?”

“Isn’t that a good brand?”

“How much did it cost?”

“I don’t know.”

“Ok, well we can go back and check. See the store brand is $0.39 less for 25% more” and the swap is made, and so on. This is not really fun for me (or him either as he pointed out), so we don’t shop together anymore.

Only when we’re really up against the wall (guests arriving in an hour, he’s mid-soufflĂ© and we realize we are 2 eggs short) am I allowed to go to the store alone. I’m given a list, and only enough money to pay for exactly what’s on the list, and the bag is checked when I return.

Recently when he was away on a business trip I took our always-running grocery list to the store. My first solo flight in years; I was nervous but certain that I could pull it off. He hadn’t been home for 10 minutes when he noticed my purchases in the pantry and then went to the refrigerator, “What did you do?”

“I thought I’d help you out and do the grocery shopping.”

“Honey, I know you were trying to help, but it’s OK, I don’t need the help. Luckily it looks like you bought the right things and no one got hurt. It’s my job to do the grocery shopping, its man’s work.” And with that I got a loving pat on the head and a kiss on the cheek. I’m not the pilot; I’m not even the co-pilot. I’m the junior flight attendant - in coach.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

The Ropers

No, not those Ropers (but now I know how old you are); these Ropers were my washer and dryer. They were dubbed “The Ropers” because, well, they were Ropers – Roper brand appliances that is.

Years ago I moved into a new apartment that actually had a small utility room for in-apartment laundry – I was thrilled. Before I even moved in I slotted the next Saturday to purchase a washer and dryer so that I could schedule delivery for move-in day and not go twenty minutes longer with the human beating that is the public Laundromat.

I figured this would be a quick in-and-out trip to my local Sears to make my selection, that is until my then boyfriend / now husband stepped in. “You can’t just go and buy something, you have to comparison shop.” I get comparison-shopping; “should I get the black cashmere cardigan, or the gray? Or both?” These are weighty topics that one should not rush into without retail guidance. But appliances? Really? I have to shop for these? I can’t just buy them?

Six hours later, after criss-crossing town a few times and visiting any store that sold appliances (including Montgomery Ward – that’s how old I am), I was the proud owner of The Ropers. My boyfriend assured me that despite the fact that I’d never heard of a Roper, it was a quality product (manufactured by Whirlpool as a matter of fact – so why don’t they just call it a Whirlpool then?), that were the right size for my little utility room and, as a bonus, were also the lowest priced.

The Ropers were, shall we say, rudimentary. The washing machine had one setting - wash. You could decide how long you wanted to wash something, but that was it. You had to hope your delicates could survive the 10-minute cycle in the Roper. For consistency, the dryer also had one setting (they were a pair after all) – dry. The heat was nuclear, flexibility was provided with a similar timer setting as the washer – do you want 15 minutes of radiation exposure, or 55?

The Ropers went from my apartment to my condo and it was about this time that I thought as a homeowner, I should have a proper washer and dryer – something that offered a bit more “subtlety” than The Ropers could offer me. My then live-in boyfriend / now husband (the same one) said that when The Ropers went to the big washer and dryer corral in the sky, we could get new, more capable units. And then one day the dryer stopped drying. I couldn’t contain my excitement and started plotting a course for my new purchase. Unfortunately my all-too-handy of a partner fixed the issue with a $13 part and 20 minutes labor. Rats!

The Ropers followed us to our first house together, where one day the washer stopped washing. This is it; I knew victory would soon be mine! Another trip to the parts store for a $50 water pump and two hours labor by my now-husband and we were back in business. Foiled again!

Couple years later and we’re now in house #2 with The Ropers. They’d tracked me to my fourth domicile in seven years; I was going to die with these things, I knew it. Shortly after moving to this house an aunt was in town on business and came by for dinner to check out our new place. Over dinner we talked about how our washer and dryer were industrial strength units fit for military service and how I couldn’t get new ones until they died. She was amused by the whole story and said offhandedly (and I’m NOT making this up); “Well they’ll die someday as long as they’re not Ropers.” My eyes got wide as saucers and I squeaked, “They are Ropers”. I’m pretty sure a corn niblet came shooting out of her nostril when she lost it mid-chew. We never found it, but we have dogs so we never find a lot of things.

The Ropers lived with us another year until finally our refrigerator died (wait for it, there is a connection) and my husband was put in charge of buying a new one. Long story short, we ended up with all new kitchen appliances (something about being dazzled by the new stainless steel versions of everything we already had and wasn’t broken – I need to meet that salesman – I could learn from him). The kitchen appliances were then to The Ropers what a 54” flat-screen plasma is to a 19” tube television; my husband wouldn’t have it and I landed new, state-of-the art front-loading units.

About a month later we put The Ropers in a yard sale and they were sold in first 20 minutes to a nice couple who bought them for their college-aged son who just got his first off-campus apartment. The single “wash” and “dry” settings were thought to be a big plus for his limited domestic sensibilities. I have no doubt that The Ropers are still going strong, but I do feel a pang of guilt knowing that when his girlfriend moves in she’ll probably pick up where I left off.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Where are all the seats?

This one’s been rolling around in my brain for quite a while and last week an incident at the airport brought it to the forefront and is now being thrust upon all of you!

Where are all the seats? They’re being taken up by purses, briefcases, suitcases and coats, everything but people! This is the case at the airport, movie theatre, buses, trains/subways – you name it. Somewhere along the line it has become acceptable for inanimate objects to occupy seating.

Last week I was at the airport for a business trip and found myself looking for a seat in the gate area (why is it that planes that seat over a hundred people are serviced by airports with gate seating for forty?) when I approached a man with two open seats adjacent to him; the one directly to his right had a newspaper on it and the one directly to its right which was empty. I proceeded to sit down in the empty seat only to be told by the man, “I’m sorry, my friend is sitting there”. “Your imaginary friend?” I said to myself (it begged asking, but even I’m not that rude). What are we, twelve? We’re saving seats now?

Turns out that I can be a “little” rude after all because without skipping a beat I found myself saying (in my outside voice) “And your newspaper would be sitting here?” pointing to the seat directly to his right occupied by three sheaves of a newspaper. This took him a back a bit and he considered the questions for a good five seconds before struggling to say the words…”I guess I could move it”.

Really, really, you mean you’d actually pick up your newspaper and let a person sit down? No, it’s too much. I can’t accept (I said to myself, again – I do a lot of that). What I said out loud was “No, that’s ok, I’ll find another seat”. Which I did, only to see the man refuse two others who wanted to sit down and then finally when his friend returned (turns out he wasn’t imaginary after all), regale him with the story of our encounter complete with a poorly veiled finger-point in my general direction.

What is up with this? Buses and trains have luggage racks for this very purpose, yet people put their stuff on the seats. And when you ask if it can be moved, you get an eye roll, typically accompanied with a big “harrumph” and punctuated at the end with an audible sigh over the injustice of it all – as if the backpack were a third class citizen!

We need to go to the streets and take back the seats! People have been discriminated against for far too long and I for one am going to reclaim my rightful place in society as a second-class citizen and show that backpack that I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore! Are you with me?