The Substitute Teacher Series: From Middle School Math to High School Detention

This is a revision of a previously posted story. For privacy purposes, in this particular series, I do not disclose real names, other than my own, or locations. Although the original story content was positive and uplifting, I thought it might be too specific and possibly identifying, therefore, I chose to revise.

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My 2nd sub assignment: 4th and 5th graders

After a class of 25 kindergarteners, this was a piece of cake.

The morning began in a computer lab, along with another teacher, helping students with practice math games on the computer. Good students … no problems here, unfortunately, no hilarious anecdotes either.

I spent the rest of the day in the office/classroom of the teacher I was subbing for. For 50 minutes at a time, I tutored small groups and individual students who needed help with reading and story comprehension. I loved that part of the assignment; I would be happy tutoring all day, every day.

Tuesday – Detention Duty:

On Tuesday, my assignment was half-day detention duty for high school students. Not really knowing what to expect, I was a little apprehensive about this.

The sub coordinator gave me the lowdown:

1. The students would arrive at a certain time. They would use detention time to work on homework assignments.

2. They could request breakfast and lunch, which would be brought to them. They could only leave to go to the restroom and I would need to accompany the entire group to and from the classroom where the restroom was located.

3. At the end of the day, each student would leave with a parent.

I must have had a “what have I gotten myself into” look on my face, because the sub coordinator was quick to add that students in this program are generally good kids, they’ve just racked up too many unexcused tardies, absences, or other minor offenses. That was good to know.

In a situation of this sort, I think it would be normal to anticipate some attitude, but all I encountered was politeness and respect. To the school system and the parents: kudos.

At the end of the day, the classroom emptied and I packed up my entire library, in the form of a Kindle reader. On the surface, detention duty didn’t sound like a positive gig, but it was surprisingly pleasant, and I got a boatload of reading done.

*These are true stories. In this series, all names, except my own, have been changed.

This is a first draft, no editing. Please accept my apologies for any grammar, spelling, and punctuation errors.

The Substitute Teacher Series: Lessons I Learned In Kindergarten

So, you may wonder, how does one add a speck of adventure to one’s life and still maintain the illusion of retired bliss? Answer: you decide to give substitute teaching a whirl.

As noted in a previous blog entry, I applied at three separate school corporations, anticipating a rather sparse supply of requests from just one. The application process for one corporation was completed on Wednesday, by Thursday I had gotten my first call to fill in for a teacher on Friday.

My first job: kindergarteners. How utterly sweet.

Mrs. Bailey*, the teacher I was subbing for, needed to be home with her own two children, who were both sick. A very dedicated teacher indeed, she was there when I arrived at 7:30 am, to get me started on a positive note. Little did I know, that by the end of the day, I would need all the positive notes I could gather.

Mrs. Bailey went over the itinerary and timeline with me, gave me the inside scoop on helpful students, and students with particular needs, then she left me to fend for myself.

Thank God, I had done my homework by googling “Substitute Teaching” to find videos and blogs from those with experience. Good advice included greeting students at the door as they come in. What they don’t tell you is that, at the kindergarten level, you should anticipate a total classroom meltdown when students arrive and find their irreplaceable teacher replaced by someone they’ve never seen before.

The meltdown starts slowly, as the students trickle in one-by-one, then, builds to a deafening crescendo as the classroom fills with twenty-five 5 and 6-year-olds, asking where Mrs. Bailey is, even though you’ve repeated it ad nauseam since the first student arrived. Yes, I could have waited until everyone was present to tell them altogether, but the mother/grandmother instinct kicks in when you see the furrowed brow of a small child and you can’t help but to try in any way possible, as soon as possible, to ease their concern.

I’m able to quiet them for mere seconds while I tell them one last time why their teacher is absent. I tell them my name is Mrs. Newby, and I will be their teacher for that day. For the rest of the day, by every student, I am called Mrs. Newber. I don’t correct them; it doesn’t seem that important.

More googled advice:

1. Remember as many of the student’s names as possible: Out of 25, I consistently remember 3 names.

2. Use clapping rhythms and sing-songy diddies to get their attention: They mimic you in unison, for as long as you clap or sing. Once you’re done, you’d better start clapping and singing again, or chaos tends to ensue.

3. Never sit down, always walk amongst the students and keep them on task: The result is complete and total exhaustion by the end of the day. Kindergarteners have extremely short attention spans, so keeping them on task is like pinning Jello to the wall, as they say.

Kindergarteners need assistance with everything: Twenty-five of them needing assistance all at once can be overwhelming. This time of year (Fall/Winter), they need help with coats, hats, mittens, keeping their shoes tied … they need assistance with their projects since they haven’t yet mastered the art of using scissors, or glue sticks, or only coloring on their own paper and not their neighbors.

Kindergarteners are easily bored: Five seconds after passing out the crayons, they are bored of coloring. Pass out the glue sticks, they’re bored of gluing. Pass out the scissors, they’re bored of cutting.

Kindergarteners have a lot of energy: You cannot clap, sing, dance, or twirl too much for a kindergartener. A few of them come in twirling and stop only long enough to join in a clapping pattern in unison with the rest of the class, then … back to twirling.

Kindergarteners have mob mentality: If one needs something, they all need it. When one pointed out a barely detectable boo-boo that needed a bandaid, they all needed a bandaid, even for faded boo-boos long forgotten, until the request for a bandaid from a fellow student brought back all the pain and suffering from a month old rug burn or mosquito bite.

Kindergarteners cry a lot: To a kindergartener, everything is a crisis and a reason to shed copious tears: “Mrs. Newber, I want to color my clouds green, but Shonda says clouds are white and won’t give me the green pen [tears].”
“Mrs. Newber, is it snack time? My tummy hurts because it needs a snack NOW [tears].”

Kindergarteners tattle: “Mrs. Newber, Joseph poked me with his finger, right here (teary-eyed & in obvious pain and distress, points to shoulder).”
“Mrs. Newber, Dylan said he’s going to be line leader. He’s not supposed to be line leader.”
“Mrs. Newber, Marcy is not in her seat.”
Me: “Are you tattling?” Student: “But … but … !!!”

Kindergarteners are competitive: Each student’s name is printed on a clothespin, which is clipped to a behavior ladder on the wall. The clothespin moves up or down in accordance to the behavior of the student whose name is on the clothespin. Every child, whether they’ve earned it or not, wants to know if they can move their clip up on the behavior chart, and every good deed is reported as worthy of moving up the ladder.

On my first day, I learned that, although substitute teaching is not for the faint of heart or the depleted of energy, it is extremely rewarding. I learned that even kindergarten teachers are not paid nearly what they’re worth. I learned that kindergarteners sense distress and are extremely compassionate; they want to give you a lot of hugs. I learned that there is still a lot to learn, even from, actually, especially from, the very young.

*This story is true, but all names have been changed.

This is a first draft with no editing; my apologies for any grammar, spelling, or punctuation errors.

Hardly Working: The Lazy Man’s Guide to Seeking Perfect Part-time, Temporary Employment

Recap: When the 2013 school year started, my 9-year-old grandson moved away to live with mama. I, Grammy, had a big role in his day-to-day activities up to this point. Now that he was gone, I would need to find something to do to fill the time, yes, but mostly to fill the void of being ‘The World’s Most Awesome Grandma.”

What to do?

I’ve been retired for 9 years and love the freedom; I’m not ready to be tethered to a structured 9 to 5 yet. Rather than settling down for a specific job, I got the bright idea to become a floating employee. That would allow me a couple of things: experience in a variety of areas, and interesting blog fodder.

At this point, employment was just an idea; I didn’t really have a plan.

I was running errands one day and saw something I hadn’t noticed before, it was a sign for a business called Spherion. The part of the sign that caught my eye was, “staffing agency.” I stopped in and chatted with a recruiter and decided to sign up. That was in September; I’ve yet to get that first call for work through this agency.

In conversation over supper one evening, John mentioned that one of his training peers had been a substitute teacher at one time. That piqued my interest, so, I did a little research to see if I qualified to substitute teach, and how to go about applying. I applied at 3 school corporations with the thought that I would get more opportunities; more work and more variety.

The application process for Yorktown was completed on Wednesday; Thursday evening I was called to fill a position for Friday. I was called in for work 3 days the following week as well. And boy howdy, did I ever get variety. Day 1: Kindergarten, Day 2: fourth and fifth grade math, Day 3: high school detention, and Day 4: high school English.

Now, for the fun part … blogging about it.

Stay tuned …

A Street Fair to Remember

Every year since time began, we buds have gone to the Atlanta Earth Festival the last weekend of September. Since the Carmel Arts Fair is on the same weekend, Joni suggested we go there instead.

Mary Beth and I met mid-morning at Joni’s. Did I mention that sometimes the husbands crash our girl parties? This time was no different; John and Dave were the party-crashers.  Dave was our chauffeur, and John rode shotgun. We took Joni’s Caddymobile again, because, even as tiny as we all are, we wanted as much space between us as possible. Apparently space trumps air-conditioning, because, as on our previous trip, the Caddy remains air-challenged.

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When we girls started having grandbabies, we decided that grandbabies trumped any buds outing, no matter what. Connie had the opportunity to spend the weekend with her grandsons, so we planned this particular trip without her.

Like sisters, we piled in the backseat, drew imaginary lines between us and whined if one of us got in the other’s territory.  On the way, we reminisced about the years we worked together … the days of yore … the olden days. After a few years of working in Kokomo with my buds, I left to pursue my dream of commuting over an hour one-way to Indianapolis, paying for parking, and permanent employment as an information operator. A job I hoped to use as a springboard to bigger and better job opportunities. It did eventually happen, but I was on that springboard for 8 long years. In the meantime, the buds I left back in Kokomo each got crying dolls, so that when their workgroup got too whiny, the dolls would become a crying choir. I still feel the sting of regret for leaving the fun behind to pursue a career in 411.

When we arrived at our destination, Dave-the-chauffeur, blocked an entire roundabout to let us out; what a guy. John waited with us at the gate of the city while Dave parked the car.  The guys quickly lost sight of us as we flitted from booth to booth.

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My first stop was a jewelry booth where each piece of jewelry was reversible. Reversible necklaces are genius. I checked the price tag and knew immediately that I was out of my element. This was not Walmart. My next stop was a booth with paintings. Price tag check: $1600 and $3800 respectively.  Uh oh, the $50 I withdrew from the ATM that morning was not going to go far. For $50, I would be lucky to get out of there with an elephant ear and a lemon shake-up.

Mary Beth surprised us all with a pre-lunch appetizer of beignets, which, I believe, is French for fried dough sprinkled with powdered or cinnamon sugar. It was a slightly different texture than an elephant ear, but certainly satisfied my elephant ear craving. I bought a cherry flavored Hawaiian ice to wash it down with. It was just okay; I probably should have opted for a different flavor.

While Mary Beth fetched our beignets, Joni and I took advantage of humorous photo ops with the life-like sidewalk sculptures:

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We decided to eat lunch at Mudbugs Cajun Café, which is where Mary Beth purchased the beignets. I had a catfish basket. Others ordered po’ boy sandwiches of BBQ pork, catfish, or chicken.  The food was good.

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We meandered down one side of the street and up the other.  The King’s Court Singers, sang “Men In Tights” on stage, then later they marched through the streets in their medieval attire, waving and offering greetings of “Good morrow!”

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We sauntered through the World’s Smallest Children’s Art Gallery where art projects were displayed by children from local schools. The petite art gallery even made the World Book of Records.

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After much meandering, sauntering, soaking in the entertainment, and price tag checking, I found something beautiful and within my price range. A father and son team from Anderson, were selling cheese boards that the son had crafted from wood, with attached wire cutters for precision cheese slicing. The son was very cheerful and helpful, making sure I got one exactly to my liking. I chose one for my son and daughter-in-law for Christmas, which I impulsively gave to them that evening. I’m not good at keeping secrets either. My daughter-in-law, or as I like to refer to her: my daughter-in-love, loved it. She thought my favorite cheese, Velveeta, would look fabulous on it. She thought that cheese in cans would look lovely sitting on the fancy board as well. So, there you have it, I am not totally devoid of class, and I have the best daughter-in-love in the world. [The one on the left]:

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A block or so away from the end, which was also right where we started, we happened upon a man face down in the road, surrounded by art fair security. We quickly surmised that the man was in need of medical attention. John and Dave had been sitting at an outdoor table a few yards away and saw it go down, sort of. The man had just purchased food from a vendor, then, turning to walk away, stumbled over cords in the road. He did a face plant into the pavement, where he continued to lie for at least 20 minutes before an ambulance and paramedics arrived to whisk him away to the hospital. The accident was unpleasant enough, but to have hundreds of people walk around you as you lie in pain and humiliation cannot be any fun either. His food purchase was still hot and fresh. As he was lifted into the ambulance, I wondered if someone would ask, “Excuse me, are you going to eat that?” Then I reminded myself once again that this was Carmel, not Walmart.

John and Dave were like the best Ninja bodyguards ever, staying far enough away as to not stifle our shopping, had we, in fact, chosen to purchase a jaw-dropping $3800 piece of art, or a $700 reversible necklace, yet close enough to stealthily ward off paparazzi and evil-doers.  As our shopping venture wound down, Dave-the-chauffeur ran to get the car, and once again, hosed up the roundabout as we piled into the car. I LOVE that guy!

As usual, Dave and Joni were an exceptional host & hostess team. They gave us all a sightseeing tour of Carmel, their hometown. We saw the condominiums they had considered moving into, Booth Tarkington Civic Theater, the Center for the performing arts (Palladium). It was 2:00 pm when we got back to Joni and Dave’s.  This is what a fun day with my buds looks like in the paradise that is Carmel.

Now back home again to the other paradise that is Walmart.

Hotel Thurston: Hope’s Big Adventure Part One

For purposes of understanding, I suppose I should preface this story with a bit of vague personal history. I retired in 2004 to help care for my then newborn and very precious grandson, Elliot. He was our first grandchild, and my weekdays were packed with shear joy from the time mommy or daddy dropped him off in the morning until they picked him up after their workday.

 ~In the meantime, a lot of stuff transpired~

When Elliot was old enough to start school, 3:30 pm became my favorite time of day because that’s when he would get off the bus at the end of our driveway, and, as is the way of Grandmothers worldwide, he was always greeted with smiles, hugs, and pre-homework snacks.

John retired in 2009, but almost immediately was contracted to train new hires at the company he retired from. He joined the daily grandparent routine as much as possible and enjoyed it as much as I did.

~More stuff transpired~

Fast forward to the present: Elliot’s mom is in the military and stationed 2 hours away. Elliot went to live with her for the school year. I’m happy for her and Elliot, but very sad for me (Grammy),  John (Poppy), and Jonathon (dad).

Sans Elliot, I felt a need to add a little adventure to my daily routine. To appease the writer in me, I put out a fleece amongst friends to see who would be willing to put me up for an evening and let me blog about it. I got a few bites.

My very first adventure trip was the evening of a girl’s night out to the Indiana State Fair, the girl’s night out that was crashed by two of the husbands, Dave and Dave.

~This is where the story really begins~

It was late when we returned from the state fair, so Joni put me up in “my” room. I’ve stayed at Joni’s a few times, in the same beautiful, cozy room each time. She calls the room the Beanie Room because of the large collection of Beanie Babies occupying the shelves of a bookcase in that room. This time Joni and Dave had added a TV with DISH connection. I felt as though I were in a swanky Beanie Baby themed hotel room. Joni told me I could watch TV to my hearts content; they slept with the TV on in their room, therefore would not be bothered by sounds in the night. I watched TV to my hearts content. It was heavenly.

Joni’s husband, Dave, works at a golf course and had to be at work early the next morning. He said he would brew coffee for Joni and me before he left. In the morning I awoke to silence and figured Dave had gone to work and Joni had probably been up for hours. I got dressed and tiptoed downstairs to look for Joni and coffee, but mostly coffee.  No Joni. We got in late; I thought, she must have slept in.  No coffee; I thought, that Dave, what a slacker.

The kitchen was dark and unfamiliar. I fumbled around trying to find a light switch. I ran my hand along the wall and found a switch, which I flipped on.  My ears were pierced with the sound of angry wolverines. I had found the switch to the garbage disposal. I quickly turned the switch off, but needed a few seconds to recover; I was in a mild state of shock from the sudden broken silence.

I found another switch and held my breath as I gingerly flipped it on. A glow of soft light came from the screened-in patio just off of the kitchen.  I grabbed a newspaper that was lying on the edge of the kitchen table, opened the sliding glass door and slunk my way to a comfy chair. A few minutes later, I heard soft but hurried footsteps on the carpeted stairs. Ah, Joni’s up …

No. It was Dave. He hadn’t set the alarm clock because he trusted his internal alarm. This particular morning his internal alarm failed; he had overslept. He shoved a cap on his head, ran out the door and drove away.

A few minutes later, Joni appeared. The perfect hostess, she offered all sorts of breakfast and coffee options, but I suggested we go out to breakfast. We’d already decided it would be a day of shopping for both of us, so we’d just head out before the stores opened and grab a bite to eat. I’m not much of a breakfast person, and I was glad to discover that Joni isn’t either, so we decided on Dunkin Donut’s drive-thru coffee and possibly an early lunch instead.

Coffee in hand, we headed over to Sam’s Club where I thought I had hit early Christmas bargain pay dirt: summer clearance items. However, Joni shamed me into realizing that it would be in very poor taste to give summer clearance items as Christmas gifts, no matter what a great buy, and no matter how much they would be in demand when next summer rolled around. I would buy them anyway. Joni would never know. Instead of a terrycloth pool-side chaise lounge cover for Christmas, Joni would get a ceramic Santa I got on clearance at the end of the holiday season at Hobby Lobby last year.  Win-win.

An enormous warehouse store, Sam’s club is the twilight zone of retail grocery shopping. Shortly after my summer clearance extravaganza, Joni and I were separated. She became hopelessly lost within the bowels of the frozen food section. I pushed my cart for hours gazing upon Paul Newman’s Own salad dressing by the case and M&M’s in 40-pound bags. It was not unlike my shopping trips to regular stores in the fact that I ended up in the magazine aisle.  I put my hand on the cold, gray, metal magazine shelf to steady myself as I skimmed the covers in search of one that really piqued my interest. I was intently reading the cover of a food magazine when I felt a tap-tap-tap on my hand. Curious, but disinterested, I looked in the direction of my hand; there was a large, and by large, I mean the size of a child’s shoe, bright green katydid sitting millimeters away from my pinky finger. For a split second, I thought it was a clever refrigerator magnet, or a life-like toy bug, but then the antennae moved to tap my hand again. I let out a short, high-pitched squeal, danced a little jig, and jumped back about a foot. The katydid held his ground.

Sam's Club: a popular shopping destination for katydids.

Embarrassed, I looked down the aisle to see how badly I had humiliated myself. There were 3 grown men who were so engrossed in shopping that they never even looked up. Either that, or my squeal was so high-pitched that only dogs could hear it. Perhaps high-pitched squeals were a common occurrence in Sam’s Club, what with the fantastic bargains and all. I high-tailed it to the front of the store, grabbed a manager and whisked her back to see the giant bug. I pointed to the katydid, who was still busily reading magazine covers. Joni appeared out of nowhere and offered her empty coffee cup and lid to the manager as a humane bug trapping device. The manager scooped the katydid into the cup, calmly telling me she was getting used to it. Just the day before, she had to escort a preying mantis outside the store in a similar manner. The place was obviously bugged. I suggested they hire new security.

We’d had all the adventure we could handle at Sam’s Club, it was time to move on. My trunk was fully loaded with Sam’s Club purchases, and unbeknownst to Joni, possible probable Christmas gifts. It was well past lunchtime and we had worked up an appetite.

Joni suggested a place she and Dave liked called Granite City Food and Brewery. I think Joni had the crispy shrimp tacos. I had a bacon, tomato, and avocado grilled cheese sandwich. The food and service were both good and we caught up on life events: kids, grandchildren, weddings, in-laws and future in-laws, since my son was getting married in a few weeks.

After lunch, I dropped Joni back at her house. We said our goodbyes and parted ways. On the way home, I thought of all the changes in my life and how certain friends have been there through so much of it, the good, the bad, and the ugly. I’ve thought of friendships that fell apart because of a misunderstanding, or when the weight of a difficult time became too much to bear. Even success, sometimes especially success, can put a strain on relationships. I felt more determined to be the kind of friend who could weather the difficult storms, and the successes of my friends and family. I’m incredibly blessed for all the Joni’s and Dave’s in my life, and this Joni and Dave in particular.

A special thank you to the Thurston’s for taking me in, making me laugh and giving me something fun and meaningful to blog about. A special thank-you from John as well, for providing a safe adventure for his wife of 40 years.

State Fair 2013: Girls Day Out

When I hired on at AT&T in 1986, three employees took me under their wings: Mary Beth, Joni, and Connie. I retired in 2004, but I still run with this pack of wild women that I refer to as my buds.

Recently, Mary Beth mentioned a girl’s day out to the state fair. A few days later the phone rang; it was a conference call and my buds were on the other end. Calendars in hand, we figured out a day all of us were free and penciled it in: Tuesday, August 6. Every Tuesday at the state fair is $2 Tuesday.

Two-dollar Tuesday included $2 admission with a voucher from Turkey Hill Dairy and tastes of each vendors specialty food for $2, which they were calling $2 bites. There were a variety of other $2 offerings that day, but admission and food were the main ones we were interested in. Another perk of Two-dollar Tuesday was riding the tram for free if you were 55 and older. Any other day of the week, we would have had to pay $1 per ride.

My buds are die-hard 60’s music fans, and that was the real reason Two-Dollar Tuesday was the day of choice. On the Marsh free stage, Marsh hosted the “Happy Together Tour,” which featured Flo & Eddie of the Turtles, Chuck Negron of Three Dog Night, Gary Puckett, Mark Lindsay of Paul Revere & The Raiders, and Gary Lewis of The Playboys.

August 6th arrived. We met at Joni’s house, where Connie and I found out that Mary Beth and Joni’s husbands, both named Dave, who are also die-hard 60’s music fans, were crashing our girl party. It was decided that all 6 of us would pile into Joni’s Caddymobile, a 2000 white Cadillac, in which the air conditioner had died a few days before: four post-menopausal women and 2 men in a car with no air. We were up for the challenge.

Front seat: Joni’s Dave was the designated driver, then Joni, then Mary Beth’s Dave. Back seat: Mary Beth, me, then Connie. Windows down, hair flying in the warm, gusty breeze, I could tell by the stares that we were the envy of every Carmelite as we cruised through hoity-toity Carmel on the way to our destination.

Feeling carefree and wild, we were at the top end of the 55-mile-per-hour speed limit. The wind whipping through our hair came to an abrupt halt as we fell in line to enter the parking lot. There were 2 lanes and irritation mounted as we realized we were in the slow lane. Finally, we were parked and out of the car stretching and complaining like the typical 50 & 60-year-olds that we were. We were there to have fun if it killed us.

We all had our cell phones in case we got separated, so as soon as possible, we ditched the guys, ignored their calls, and took off on our own. The Hoosier Lottery was just inside the gate; I saw a cloud of dust kick up as Connie and Joni made a B-line to buy tickets. That out of the way, we snaked our way through the vendors for $2 bites of a variety of tempting, grease and sugar laden snacks. My fair food of choice, when they made it fresh and handed a large puff of it to you wrapped around a paper cone, was cotton candy. Now it’s bagged days, maybe weeks, in advance and not nearly as appealing. Elephant ears are at the top of my list these days. A vendor was cooking up $2 bites and calling them mouse ears, it was the perfect size and selling, as they say, like hot cakes.

It was great hopping on the tram every little whipstitch, but disappointing that none of us ever got carded to prove we were old enough to ride for free. Just a few years ago, I would not have seen the humor in riding a tram packed full of blue-hairs. I still don’t see the humor, actually, but it beats walking.

At 5:00 pm, one of the Daves, after having circled the fair 4 times in the tram, saw that the Marsh free stage seating was starting to collect some early fans. At 6 pm, he decided he should latch on to some seats. Good thing, too, since it ended up being a packed house and a standing crowd beyond the seats. It was fun to see so many aging fans enjoying the music and legends of yesteryears rock scene.

By the time we left, the vendors were closing down. We piled back into the caddie with no air and headed to Joni’s house. With few complaints and very little whining, the trip was a success.

We got back late, so I spent the night at Joni’s house, which requires a whole other story. Stay tuned for more excitement …

Grocery Shop – It’s A Steal

I’m generally in my own world at the grocery store. List in hand, I am mentally preparing menus and figuring store-brand savings over major-brand-with-coupon savings. A couple of months ago, however, I was particularly alert and aware of my surroundings.

In the produce section, the strawberry sale caught my attention. I parked my cart to the side so as not to block other shoppers from the display. The berries are pre-packaged, so my method of berry choosing is to first look for berry boxes that are packed full. Next, I compare the berries in the full boxes and choose the reddest, ripest, most beautiful berries. Even with all the care put into choosing the pre-packaged boxes, it’s been my experience that the top layer is always the most appealing. The berries that are hidden below the beautiful top layer are generally only partially ripe and quite sour.

I’m not sure what goes on at the first of the month, but whatever it is, it drives the senior citizens out in droves to shop for groceries … or whatever. While still in the strawberry section, my berry selection method was put to the test and found wanting. I found myself sandwiched between two serious senior shoppers who are now dumping the pre-packaged berry boxes and using one of the empty containers to select the very best berries from the berries they’ve dumped and really packing them in tight. How can this be? Isn’t it against the law, or at least against store policy to dump pre-packaged, pre-selected produce and take the very best for yourself? I’m not sure about this … it seems like cheating, but then, I feel cheated when I get home and find all the knobby, sour, barely pink excuses for berries hidden beneath the top layer. Hmm.

I’m one of those shoppers who will open a bag of cookies and partake as I’m shopping, or I’ll open a chilled, single serving beverage and drink it in the store. The same price is scanned whether the package is full or empty. I am taken aback, however, when I see people taste test the produce; ripping a few grapes off a vine, or grabbing a handful of nuts or candy from the bulk bins and popping it into your mouth seems like stealing. Sure, it’s only a few grapes or a small handful of nuts or candy, but multiply that by hundreds of people and that equates to many pounds of unpaid for food.  Not to mention contamination. There really isn’t a way to wash salted nuts or bulk candy without ruining it.

I don’t know what caused me to be so attentive on this particular day, but I believe I’ll go back to being in my own little grocery-shopping zone; it’s much less distracting … and when I’m in the zone at the store, once I get home, I find that my produce is much more appealing as well.

Wrong Hands

Cartoons by John Atkinson. ©John Atkinson, Wrong Hands

White Elephant in the Room

random insight from an unwanted houseguest