Thursday, May 14, 2015

Getting the Kahlua (aka Yet Another Weird Title)

My recent weekend in Mexico made me think of something that happened when late Other Half and I lived in Tucson. Sometime in the 1980s, I forgot exactly when, my non-drinker aunt went on a Caribbean cruise and discovered Kahlua.

Ken and I traveled to New England every year, in late August or early September. My aunt asked me to bring her a bottle of Kahlua. The liqueur is made in Mexico, so she thought we could get it cheaper in Arizona.

I knew we could get it even cheaper In Mexico, and I knew who could help us do that. We had a friend who lived in the city, but her family lived in a small town in the U.S., across from the international border. So one Saturday, Ken and I and our friend, whom I’ll call “Maria,” made a trip to Agua Prieta, Sonora, to buy a bottle of Kahlua.

First, we stopped at a shop on the U.S. side of the border and changed about twelve dollars into pesos. Then we borrowed a car belonging to Maria’s family, crossed the border, and went to a shop where Maria was acquainted with the owner.

Maria did her best to persuade the owner to give us a lower price, but he was having none of it. I really wanted the Kahlua, so I reluctantly paid full price. I don’t remember what that was, but I do know that it was less than I would have paid in the States.

When we crossed back into Arizona, Maria took a shortcut down a dirt road. A pack of four or five stray dogs appeared out of nowhere and ran in front of the car. Sadly, one of them didn’t make it to the other side of the road. I freaked, but there was nothing we could do.

On the way home, we ran into a thunderstorm near St David. I wanted to pull over to the side of the road and wait it out, but Ken vetoed that suggestion. As we approached Benson, the storm worsened. Sheets of rain and high winds pummeled the truck, making it difficult to see any vehicles in front of us.

That’s when Ken decided to get off the road. He pulled into a truck stop on the outskirts of Benson. We sat at the counter because a lot of people apparently had the same idea Ken did. And there was a private party going on in the dining room.

Shortly after we arrived, the power failed. The lights blinked twice and went out. About a minute later, a woman in the dining room screamed. Her scream was followed by a very loud crash. I figured someone had dropped a tray loaded with glasses and dinnerware.

I turned to Maria and said, “I think somebody goosed the waitress.”

Friday, April 24, 2015

Not Funny, But I Laughed Anyway

Last week, when I went to the transit center to catch a bus to the mall, I saw a man who supposedly was in charge of his small daughter. Daughter looked about two years old, but she might have been younger. She wasn’t that steady on her feet. At first, she careened around, straying away from Dad and getting in the way of people who were rushing to catch other buses.

Our bus wasn’t scheduled to leave for 15 minutes. The bus door was open, and the bus driver was sitting in the driver’s seat, taking a break. Daughter soon discovered the open door.

Dad stood around grinning, presumably with pride, as the toddler awkwardly and repeatedly climbed into the bus, struggled to her feet, turned around, and jumped onto the sidewalk. She thought that was just great. What the bus driver thought is not known. I thought it was an accident waiting to happen.

Later, about halfway through their trip, Dad took an over-the-counter medicine bottle from a tote bag, opened the bottle, and knocked back a pill or two. Then he grabbed Daughter’s sippy cup and washed down the pill(s).

While he was busy doing that, Daughter retrieved the medicine bottle from the tote bag and proceeded to whack Dad in the head. And she wasn’t doing it gently. She hit him five or six times, but he didn’t try to stop her. I so wanted to say, “Well, we know who rules the roost in your house.”

But I didn’t. Instead, I started laughing. And then Dad started laughing while Daughter continued to whack him in the head. About a minute later Daughter stopped hitting Dad and noticed the open window. She drew back her little arm, aimed the bottle at the window, and made an attempt to pitch the bottle into the street.

Dad grabbed the bottle just in time.

Friday, April 03, 2015

Don't Try This at Home---or Anywhere Else

Teenagers do crazy things today, but then, they always did. A few days ago, I was telling an acquaintance whom I’ll call “Sue” about one of my high school friends. After celebrating St. Patrick’s Day just a bit too much, he ended up unsuccessfully trying to outrun a police car.

Sue thought that story was really wild, but I knew I could top it. So I told her about the night, or rather the early morning, that we changed drivers in a moving car.

“Why would someone do that?” She asked.

“There was a state trooper coming after us.”

I had been to a party with four friends, whom I’ll call “Kate,” “Ben,” “Don,” and “Duke.” (Honest, those were not their real names.)

We were heading home around 1:30 on a Wednesday morning. Duke was driving; I sat in the middle, and Ben was next to the window. Kate and Don were in the back seat.

Duke was flying down the road when a car raced by in the opposite direction. He glanced in the mirror and said, “That’s a statey, and he just hit the brakes. He’s turning around. They’ll hang me. Don you’ve got to change places with me.”

Oops! News flash. Duke had no license. Neither did Ben (yes, I knew that). But poor Don sitting in the back seat did. So, with Ben leaning in front of me to steer the car, Duke and Don changed seats. I was lucky I didn’t get kicked in the face.

The trooper initially was so far behind us that he didn’t catch on to the switch. Don wisely pulled over when the cop hit the lights and siren. Unfortunately, after an appearance in court the next day, Don also was without a driver’s license for about six months.

I told Sue that I learned a few lessons from that escapade: 1) Driving without a license is a dumb thing to do; 2) Switching drivers in a moving car is even dumber; and 3) Taking the blame for someone else’s wrong choice is beyond dumb.

“Wow, people don’t do things like that anymore,” Sue said.

Yeah, they do. Check the Internet.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

ACK! Annoying Telemarketers and Mystery Callers

A politician from a state in the Northeast recently announced her intention to refile a bill aimed at reducing telephone solicitations. Apparently there wasn’t enough interest in the bill when she first proposed it during the last session. Good luck to her in getting it passed this time. I wish a politician would propose something like that here. Unfortunately, in the long run, it probably wouldn’t discourage scammers and other annoying callers.

Last month, I got a phone call from a telemarketer who claimed he was calling on behalf of a legitimate charity. I politely told him I couldn’t take the time to talk right now. He ignored me and went into his spiel. I decided not to be nice and hung up on him. For the past couple of months, I’ve gotten what I suspect are scammer-type phone calls. So although the charity the man mentioned is a legitimate one, the caller might not have been a legitimate representative of that charity.

The telephone was a great invention. However, from what I’ve experienced, telephone sales pitches from strangers generally are beyond annoying. And then there were those phone calls that made me wonder what the heck was going on. When we lived in Arizona, we would pick up calls when we were at home. In 2000, over a period of three or four months, we got an unusual number of hang-up calls that I know weren’t from telemarketers. Maybe several people simply punched in the wrong number, but I really don’t think so.

During that time, we also found mystery messages on our answering machine (I’ve blogged about this previously).We never did find out what those were all about. Maybe we offended a couple of people in 2000, and they decided to annoy the heck out of us. Why do I think that? I guess it’s probably because at least two people left messages asking to speak to Other Half, and one of them asked to speak to me. Oddly enough, no one ever called when we were available to answer the phone.

These days, I usually let the digital answering system screen calls. If no one leaves a message, I know the call wasn’t important. I picked up on the telemarketing call last month because I was expecting a call from someone I wanted to talk to. Unfortunately for me, after telling the telemarketer I was busy, he hung onto the conversation like a piranha fish hangs onto its prospective meal.

I’m convinced that telemarketers are so focused on selling something that they never listen to their "targets." They just hope to wear people down by yakking away faster than an announcer relating the possible side effects of a medical product hawked on TV.

In, I think, 2001, I wrote an essay about telemarketers and published it on the late, but not lamented, Themestream site. Sometime, but not soon, I might revise that essay and publish an updated version on the nonfiction page of my other website.

Friday, March 06, 2015

Show a Little Respect, Customers

Employees who toil at jobs in retail stores and restaurants often leave comments and complaints on a certain online forum. Sadly, sometimes tactless customers point to cashiers, sales associates, or servers and warn their kids, “If you don’t study hard, you’re going to end up like her [or him].”

That’s so rude and disrespectful. It’s nobody’s business if someone chooses to work at a store or restaurant. Some people actually prefer to work at those places. Customers are too quick to assume that the cashier, sales associate, or server isn’t capable of finding a better job.

Yes, it’s true that some individuals might not have the skills to get better jobs. However, many retail and restaurant employees are working their way through college, and that type of employment suits their schedules. And individuals who have retired from successful careers often work at retail jobs because they want to keep active or to supplement their retirement incomes. One woman, who was formerly a hair stylist, recently retired from her job at the cosmetics department of a neighborhood store—at the age of 84.

When I was a cashier/sales associate at Smart Mart, no parent ever pointed to me and told their child, “If you don’t study hard, you’ll end up like her.” Maybe people were just a tad more respectful in that area. Then again, that city was located in a somewhat economically depressed part of the state. Well-paying, full-time jobs were hard to find there.

However, if any parents had pointed me out to their children as an obviously bad example, I would have told them, “I am studying hard, and guess what? I’m on the dean’s list. Furthermore, I’m going to move out of this area and get a better job just as soon as I finish the requirements for my degree.

And I did.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Bus Lines: Ditching the Morning Bus Ride Drama

The bus route that goes by my apartment complex is probably the best one in the entire transit system. I used to ride that bus to Other City around 9:30 a.m. at least once a week. I liked taking the bus, instead of the train, because I had less of a walk to the library.

But I won’t ride that bus in the morning anymore.

Some very needy people board the bus when it reaches a certain stop a few miles from my destination. I’ve learned that those passengers probably have just left a neighborhood homeless shelter or a nearby soup kitchen.

Unfortunately, several of them seem to have mental health or anger management issues. According to a deputy sheriff, many of them are on probation or parole. During almost every trip, at least one of them will become disruptive. Their loud rants and ramblings about politics, the transit system, and whatever else upsets them frequently offend other passengers who can’t pass up the chance to verbally spar with them.

Sometimes these sad individuals verbally attack other passengers whose only offense is asking them to please quiet down. I was brought up to be nice, but there are times when I have to fight the urge to tell them to shut up.

Yes, I do know better. Some of these people are scary.

Other passengers have told me that the transit company is reluctant to ban passengers with a covered disability out of fear of violating ADA regulations. One very rude and disruptive passenger said that she could say or do whatever she wanted to and get away with it. She boasted that the transit company would never ban her from riding the bus because she is disabled and would complain to the ADA.

Apparently the only way disruptive disabled passengers can be banned from riding public transportation is if they physically attack the driver or another passenger.

I feel very sorry for these people whose lives are in shambles. And I realize that they have the right to ride public transportation. But I’ve decided that I just can’t put up with their outbursts any longer. I don’t think that what they seem to believe is their right to freak out during a bus ride supersedes my right to have a safe, reasonably drama-free trip to the library. 

Friday, January 16, 2015

Another Mom and Pop Store Out of Business

[Note: This is sort of a rerun. I previously posted about this store, but this post is, obviously, the final one.]

The other day, I decided I needed a few more small plastic containers to house my endless supply of beads. So I took a walk to a nearby discount store. The store was closed. Permanently.

I’m not sure when that happened as I hadn’t been there for a couple of months. Maybe the owners decided not to renew their lease on general principles. Then again, maybe the national discount chain that is currently remodeling a nearby store had something to do with the decision to close the Mom and Pop store.

Although I previously had bought beaucoup small plastic containers and a few other things there, I wasn’t impressed with the place. It was a dark, dusty, disorganized store filled with mostly low quality merchandise. Like the store that will supplant it soon, it wasn’t actually a dollar store. Most of the items sold for more than one dollar. The most expensive item I noticed, a personal cart, was priced around seven dollars.

As I mentioned before, I will always wonder if the store owners thought their customers didn’t deserve a clean, well-organized store.

And as I mentioned before, the store was owned by members of one ethnic group, but the majority of customers were mostly low-income members of another group. During the past two years, I  went there maybe once a month. I usually noticed one or two customers and/or their children trashing the displays, but most customers were respectful of the inventory and the owners. 

Just my opinion, but I think the owners should have made more of an effort to keep the place picked up out of respect for the people who kept them in business for years.

Sorry if I’m perceived by some readers as being insensitive or politically incorrect, but, honestly, I’m not really sad to see that one go.