June 29, 2010

June 29, 2010

Always Watching, Wazowski

After much cajoling by TheBoy and pretty much everyone who found out my television was a 19-inch CRT model, I got a new TV this weekend. The catalog model looks like this:

Which translates in my living room as this:

Still good, I think. (Yes, I was watching CBS Sunday Morning, aka “Old People News.” Shutup.)

I went to Sears, which while not as flashy as Best Buy, is still a little better than BJs. Seriously, I considered getting my TV from the same place that provides my pallets of Diet Coke and giant tubs of hummus. A deal’s a deal, whether or not you can eat it.

However, the BJ’s TV was a weird brand whose name I can’t even recall now. Sears was offering an RCA, whose mascot reminds me of (what’s the story?) Wishbone.

Though some people tell me the new TV is “only” 32 inches, I prefer to think of it as being “ZOMG” 32 inches. The last time I had a TV this large was…never. Plus, it's hooked up to a laptop so I can watch DVDs, internet media, and torrents. O.o

Until my mom moves here this August (yes, did I mention that?), I find myself in a two-TV situation. I suppose I could set up a situation room in my apartment. Hmm.

June 28, 2010

June 28, 2010

Sarah Vowell

I recently discovered the work of Sarah Vowell. I say “discovered” like she was a heretofore unknown continent or something, though I’d been exposed to her on The Daily Show and This American Life. Those, though, were brief interviews/segments, and didn’t really inspire me to run out and grab her latest book.

However, as so often happens, I found myself at the local library needing to stock up on an armful of commuter reading without a clue as to what I’d get. Yeah, I have a list of “classics” that I want to read at some point during my lifetime. But Anna Karenina isn’t exactly great bus reading material, if you know what I mean. And even if you don’t, really.

So anyway, I was perusing the 970s (yay, Dewey decimals) and saw the cover for Assassination Vacation. Picked it up, read a bit, and found it pretty good stuff. I figured I’d best read her work chronologically (I’m anal like that), so I started with Take the Cannoli: Stories From the New World and went from there to The Partly Cloudy Patriot, Assassination Vacation, and The Wordy Shipmates. Wham bam, thank you ma’am. They were great.

Take the Cannoli is an essay collection about all sorts of things. Vowell’s childhood, movies, phobias, etc. She’s just as quirky as you’d expect from someone who frequently contributes to both McSweeney’s and NPR. Makes for great, light bus reading.

The other three books are heavy on American history. Don’t take that as a negative: I love history. I went to Boston to walk the entire freaking Freedom Trail. But if the thought of learning more about John Winthrop doesn’t enthrall you, you might want to skip The Wordy Shipmates. I’m just saying.

She's not laugh-out-loud funny, no. More smart-but-nerdy funny. Let's just say I could relate. Maybe you can, too.

June 24, 2010

June 24, 2010

To the Ducklings

Dear Ducklings,

I’m pretty sure that your memories are limited to the past couple of days, so I’ll introduce myself as one of the people riding a bus that had to stop for you a few weeks ago. You were crossing Constitution Avenue on your way to the National Mall. I’m not sure whether you’re native ducklings or tourists (both go to the Mall), though your lack of cameras, giant maps, or generally-stupid questions* made me suspect you were local.

Now, I don’t mean to pry, but the proverbial “why did the chicken cross the road” question has to come up here. I understand why you were walking towards the Mall. It’s grassy, it’s monitored by the National Park Service, and it has plenty of cool things to see. The real question is, why did you ever leave it? Did you want to check out the Department of State? How would you even get in without a badge?

But okay, for whatever reason, you needed to get back across the road. And it was the reaction to that crossing that restored my faith in humanity a little bit.

You see, ducklings, Constitution Avenue is one of just a few through roads in the District, and one of just two that borders the Mall. As such, it’s a mess during rush hour. Your waddle across the six lanes of traffic could easily have been the end of you. For realsies. I have seen pedicabs almost run over by irritated drivers and cars towed onto sidewalks. The lanes must remain clear at all costs.

But that morning, a few weeks ago? We all patiently waited for you to cross the road. We pointed. We smiled. We laughed. I myself, though mere minutes from another day of work drudgery, oohed and aahed. And I have more than once wanted to knife anything on a bike, in a semi, or otherwise interfering with my bus.

[Seriously, who the f thought pedicabs on Constitution during rush hour was a good idea? They go like 5 miles an hour. In traffic. WHYWHYWHY???]

Ducklings, you brought us all together that day. You made me hate my fellow man a little less. For that, I thank you.


* I was once asked by a tourist for directions to “the museum.” Seriously, wtf.

June 23, 2010

June 23, 2010

In My Opinion: Sex and the City 2

Chief among the many reasons to see a movie based on a pre-existing work—TV series, book, etc.—has to be a desire to see the characters in a new medium. Like seeing Harry Potter’s world come to life on screen. It’s a familiar experience made completely different. Similar thing, I think, with movies based on TV shows. Instead of 30 or 60 minutes with the gang, you get 2 hours.

Or, in the case of Sex and the City 2, two and a half hours.

I knew before seeing the film how bad the reviews were. Believe me. I was acutely aware. But this movie and I were like Carrie and shoes or Samantha and just about any man: a little obstacle isn’t going to get in the way. Is the idea of a weeklong all-expenses paid vacation to the Middle East realistic? No. Is it insensitive to our economy? Probably. But let’s remember that this is, ahem, a work of fiction.

I daresay that amount of outrage viewers felt was proportional to their identification with the characters. One reviewer lamented for the days when the girls faced real Girl in New York Struggles. Um, because work-life balance, adjusting to marriage, the difficulty of motherhood, and menopause AREN’T struggles? Not that I can identify with any of those, of course, but they seem like problems enough to those who do. And if you’re looking for the Carrie of today to have the same struggles as the Carrie of 1998, well, keep looking.

[By the way, how great was that ‘80s flashback? Despite being born in 1983, I was all over it. So many shoulder pads!]

Though I wasn’t crazy about the Aidan plot (I’m a Berger girl all the way, and I almost yelled “YOU FORGOT YOUR PASSPORT” at the screen), I didn’t mind the Arabian excursion. (Or the camel toe jokes it inspired.) Samantha at menopause is as funny as ever she was. Shrill Miranda annoyed me a little, but that’s because she reminds me of myself. And I want to live in Carrie’s house, period, because I could so totally spend all my days thinking about a couch.

It’s not that this movie was bad. It just wasn’t what people were expecting. And that’s too bad for them.

June 22, 2010

June 22, 2010

All Aboard

When each direction of your commute involves two buses over the course of an hour, you get to know your fellow riders. In my opinion, the bus hits the perfect middle ground between the anonymity of the train (you could get stabbed and no one would notice) and the carpool (everyone has to pretend to care about everybody). You see the people on the bus, you may smile at the people on the bus, but the people on the bus are not going to tell you about their kids, medical issues, or financial woes. Unless you ask. (Don’t ask.)

I’ve taken to giving my fellow riders nicknames. I’m the George W. Bush of the bus, I guess, though I don’t have a Heckuva Job Brownie or a Pootie-Poot. What do I have, you ask?

I have Army Lady. She chats with the other people who get on near her stop (I think they’re part of a homeowners’ association) and is always in the tan outfit. (I am told this means that she is actually Navy Lady, but that’s too bad.)

I have No Way Jose, who once a week gets on with two large coolers. Like, larger-than-a-carry-on-suitcase large. Two of them. I like to think that they’re filled with food and beverage, though I suppose they could just as easily be filled with body parts or drugs.

I have Jumpsuit Guy. My first bus terminates at Pentagon, so I obviously ride with a lot of military people. I’m confused, though, why someone working at Pentagon would need to wear a jumpsuit. Is he working on planes? Piloting them? Yes, it’s a cool outfit and all, but it seems a little unnecessary for your OFFICE JOB.

I have Pink BlackBerry, who inspired me to get a similar rubberized skin for mine because it is SO FREAKING COOL.

And while I have no idea whether anyone else has given me a nickname, I’d like to request Bookworm. Because there’s no better way to discourage casual conversation from fellow riders than reading a book.

June 21, 2010

June 21, 2010

Don’t Be a Square

There’s a very real chance that you’re more tuned into the tech zeitgeist than I am. I barely tweet. I have not been tagged in any drunken Facebook photos. I don’t play World of Warcraft, own an iPhone, or have cable. So it’s not like I’m the person you turn to when wondering what the kids are doing these days on the Facespace.

However, after a few of my friends joined something called “Foursquare” (or so my Facebook news feed told me), I decided to look into it. Now, in case you’re not familiar, Foursquare is a website that lets you “check in” at different locations with your mobile device. You get points for each check in, and badges for checking in at multiple locations in one night, for checking in at over 100 locations, etc. Yes, it’s like Girl Scouts, but with more nerdiness and fewer cookies. No offense to anyone who’s big into Foursquare, but seriously. It’s not enough that Twitter tells us what you’re thinking every minute of the day? We have to know WHERE you’re thinking it?


However, I did realize that my commute afforded me a unique opportunity among my people when it came to Foursquare:

THAT’S RIGHT. Think about this the next time you check in at your local Buffalo Wild Wings, okay?

On a related note, why-oh-why are people labeling their houses on here? Hello stalkers! This site is like a predator’s dream come true. Good old technology.

June 17, 2010

June 17, 2010

Sorry I Missed It: Pawn Stars

Pawn Stars airs on the History Channel History. The stars of the show are three generations of the same family—grandfather, dad, and son—who run a pawn shop in Law Vegas. The grandfather is known as “Old Man” and the son as “Big Hoss,” and that hints at the personalities right there.

Raised as I was (religious, Midwestern), I know very little about pawn shops. Someone once suggested them as a good source for musical instruments (I was a band member for many years, after all), but I shook that off with nervous laughter. Me? In a PAWN SHOP?

Little did I know they’re such fascinating places.

Pawn Stars is a gritty Antiques Roadshow. It’s Roadshow for the rest of us. Let’s compare:

Antiques Roadshow (AR): “We would never think of selling this. It’s a family heirloom.”
Pawn Stars (PS): “I need rent money. What can I get for this?”

AR: “I can’t believe this isn’t an authentic Civil War gun.”
PS: “Aw &$*#. &$*# &$*# &$*#. I paid $800 for that piece of &$*#. My wife is gonna KILL me.”

Don’t get me wrong: I love the Roadshow. I’ll be attending the D.C. stop in August, and I couldn’t be more excited. (Well, I could. I still need to find an antique, and those things are expensive. Where’s my $5 rummage sale find that turns out to be worth a gajillion dollars?”) But sometimes, I want to see people without presumption, selling their crap for fast cash.

And Oh What Crap. Cannons, guns, Coke machines, you name it. Cars, boats, guitars. And the beauty of the three stars of the show is their freakish knowledge. To make it in the pawn business, you have to know a little about a lot. And whatever you’re selling, from art to clothing to an ejector seat (I know!), they know about it and know someone who can expertly appraise it.

The first six episodes of season one are on Hulu here. When I get to Vegas (yes, it’s on my list…yes, because of the buffets), I’m going to make the store a stop. Only in Vegas, baby.

June 16, 2010

June 16, 2010

Music to No One’s Ears

While eating breakfast at a Cosi recently, I encountered a (let’s hope) unique product called the “squagel.” It’s a square bagel for those of you wondering, and it tastes like any other bagel. It’s fine. It really is. But who thought “squagel” was a good name? I understand the combination of SQUare and bAGEL. But you know that phrase “rolls of the tongue”? This does not. It does not roll of the tongue. It does exactly the opposite. It lands on your tongue and stays there, putrifying. Try saying it out loud. See? See how that felt unnatural? Yeah.

Speaking of things better left unsaid, who told Michael Buble that “You’ll make me work so we can work to work it out” was a good lyric? I’ve been hearing that song a lot on the radio lately, and it’s a perfectly fine little ditty. He’s no Harry Connick, Jr., sure. But Mr. Buble has charisma, and a great swing, and darn good rhythm for a white guy. Yet there must be a rule about using the same verb thrice in a sentence, no?

Wow, I’m really in the swing of it today, huh? Next thing you know, I’ll be ranting about how when I was a kid, “friend” was a noun and not a verb.

June 15, 2010

June 15, 2010

Boston, Part 2: The Less-Good

In deference to friend-of-blog Patricia, I did not use the word “bad” in the title today. I just want to point that out. While Boston is not my beloved a la D.C. or Chicago, I have to admit that it was a pretty great place (see: yesterday’s entry).


Okay, I had a few issues with Beantown. I have already vetted these through Patricia, so I feel permitted to air them here.

Let’s talk about the public transit. You KNOW I’m a fan of buses and trains, people. I have traveled to a lot of cities, but you know how many times I’ve rented a car? Zero. Zero times. Because if the place doesn’t have good mass transportation, it’s probably not worth visiting. (Orlando, I’m undecided on you. How about we get a bus system that, oh, I dunno, GOES TO FREAKING DISNEY?)

As I researched the T, I was heartened to find it nowhere near as daunting as some would have you believe. Yes, the lines branch out at the ends. But after Korea’s fourteen-lines-and-half-are-blue debacle, I was up for a challenge. I’m proud to state that TheBoy and I got on all the right trains. So navigation was not an issue.


But each line has dedicated cars. I guess the tracks on each line are unique, so you can only use a certain type of car on each one. Note that D.C.’s cars are interchangeable. Sure, they might burst into flames at any time, but you have equal chance of burning up on any of the lines. Efficiency, Boston. Think about it.

The entrance gates in Boston involve loud panels that whoosh. That’s intimidating enough, but then you have to get used to the 1-2 second delay before said whooshing occurs. For a D.C. rider used to instant-open gates, I almost faceplanted every. single. time.

On the green line, you can actually walk on the tracks. Forget Korea’s “sealed behind glass doors” tracks. Or even D.C.’s “several feet below the platform” tracks. No, in Boston, they walk right up on those tracks, yo. The green line also requires that you scan your pass on the train. Where the driver is. Like on a bus. And we even were on a car that required you to pull a little cord to request the stop.

(Oh, and Patricia, I forgot to mention that one blue line train totally passed our platform without stopping…after we had run to try to catch it. Are the stops not, um, mandatory?)

Don’t even get me started on the New York-like distance between lines at a transfer station. Trying to go from blue to orange? Buck up: it’s a bit of a jog.

Let’s talk about the streets. I understand that they were built in the days of horses and, y’know, walking. So they’re going to be narrow and windy and whatnot. But seriously?

This happened on multiple occasions. Let’s hope no one’s directions say to turn left on Monument. You’ve got literally four choices there, people. All of the above.

Finally, let’s talk about the people who asked to use my phone/for bus money/etc. “I came up for the day from _____ and someone stole my wallet. Can I borrow a couple of dollars?” Here’s a thought: contact the police and try to get your wallet back. Wear a moneybelt. Send smoke signals. I got a million more, but there’s no way I’m letting you use my phone. I am bitchy, here me roar.

Other than that, though, it was a lovely trip. GO CELTICS and all that.

June 14, 2010

June 14, 2010

Boston, Part 1: The Good

The Memorial Day weekend was a great travel opportunity for many people. You may have gone to grandma’s, or the local park, or even just your backyard. Hopefully you ate, and talked, and napped a little. TheBoy and I, bereft of backyards and nearby relatives, headed to Boston. We used my mom’s Delta miles (annual flights to and from Korea add up quickly) and ended up paying only $5 each. That alone seemed impetus enough to go.

I won’t give you a blow-by-blow account of the entire trip, since that’s way more information that you would ever need. (“1:37 p.m. – My feet began to hurt. I considered eating our emergency travel snacks.”) Here are a few of my favorite things, though:

1. The Freedom Trail. Sixteen historical sites tracing the American Revolution, with everything from Paul Revere’s House to the Bunker Hill monument. The best part? There’s a bright red stripe linking each site, just like they do in hospitals. As someone who’s always loved those little hospital floor stripes, I was ENTHRALLED.

2. Neighborhoods. Sure, there are a lot of great touristy sites in the Boston—museums and parks and wharves, oh my. But we spent hours just wandering the ‘hoods. I’m a little disappointed that not once did a Wahlberg pop up, but whatever. I got to see the headquarters of Houghton Mifflin and brownstones and all sorts of other cool stuff.

3. Skydeck at Prudential Tower. Some people have mountain climbing in their blood. They see a tall peak and must ascend. I, on the other hand, prefer my ascent in a climate-controlled elevator and lasting no longer than 30 seconds. Cue the Skydeck—gorgeous views of Boston from 50 floors up.

Though we weren’t able to watch fireworks from above (point for the John Hancock Observatory), it was still pretty freaking cool.

4. Boston Common. No, it’s not Central Park. Or the National Mall. But it has swan boats. Swan. Boats. Boats shaped like swans. You know what Central Park has? Murderers. The National Mall? Hobos. I’ll take the swan boats, thanks.

Those are some of my favorite parts of Boston. It wasn’t all good, though—stay tuned for more about that. Not that I’m discouraging you from checking it out or anything…I would just encourage you to check out a little bit of awesomeness I call Chicago.

June 10, 2010

Kristin Chenoweth Jumps Out of the Cake

In a moment of serendipity, I learned that yesterday was Aaron Sorkin’s birthday while watching The West Wing. (I was also eating dinner at the time, but let’s be real: there’s a very good chance at any given time that I am eating something. That’s not so much serendipity as fact.)

The folks at an entertainment periodical to which I have subscribed for almost a decade (dear lord) asked readers to consider their favorite Sorkin-created moments. Interestingly, the article cited two scenes from Sports Night, the short-lived show Sorkin ran before WW.

Now, obviously, my favorite Sorkin work is WW. It combined my loves of Washington, D.C., articulate people, and stealth education. The typical episode has geography, history, and literature lessons. It’s Sesame Street for adults, sans puppets.

Yet I also have to think about Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip. Though also short-lived, it combined my loves of show business and Matthew Perry. Plus, a more endearing protagonist than Amanda Peet’s Jordan I dare you to find.

Trying to isolate one mind-blowing scene from WW’s seven seasons is like asking someone to pick their favorite day from 1994. “Um, they were all good? And there was that one week in September when I went to Disneyland that was really good? Then I got the flu in December and that sucked?” Yeah, not so much.

But the benefit of Studio 60’s short lifespan is the crystallization of its good and bad. Ask someone to pick their favorite day from that week at Disneyland in 1994, and they’ll respond a little quicker.

All this to say to introduce my favorite Sorkin moment:

Sting. Lute. Matt and Harriet. Sock knocking. YESYESYES.

June 9, 2010

June 9, 2010

In My Opinion: Iron Man 2

Movies whose titles feature superheroes and numbers rarely need an explanation or introduction. In the same way that you don’t need my comments on Spider-Man or Batman, you probably don’t care what I thought of Iron Man 2. That, of course, doesn’t prevent me from telling you; thank you, bill of rights.

Since a blow-by-blow of the plot is probably unnecessary, let me address some of the criticisms of the movie.

First, that it has too many characters. As anyone who’s experienced a serial story before knows, long-running plotlines demand characters. Lots of characters. Relatives, friends, long-lost relatives, long-lost friends, and the rare-but-uber-useful “long-lost friend that turns out to be a long-lost relative” (bing-O!). If you expect a character such as Iron Man to be interesting for any amount of time, you have to give him people to deal with. Especially since he doesn’t have any fun physical deformities mutations to amuse himself with. So, sure, we end up with a crazy defense contractor and a psycho Russian and a hot spy chick and Samuel L. Jackson playing a white guy. In the Marvel universe, these things just happen.

Second, that it’s all spectacle. Um, yes, hello. COMIC BOOK. When your source material features onomatopoeia, take the hint. You’re not exactly looking at Shakespearean caliber stuff here. Though you may get actors of Shakespearean caliber to participate in your project. I’m looking at you, Sir Patrick Stewart. Oh snap.

Third, that it’s a self-indulgent showcase for Robert Downey, Jr. Let’s give props to the man for turning his life around, knock on wood. I also think the Iron Man character himself is a bit of an egoist—wouldn’t you be, if you were in his place?

Of course the movie was loud and bangy. Colorful, too. But that’s exactly the sort of thing I look for in a superhero movie. I don’t want them to brood and mope and emo all over the place. Give me capes and tights and flames any day.

June 8, 2010

June 8, 2010

Do As I Say

All right, so here’s a question to all of you who oversee an employee, a child, indentured servant, etc.: How do you do that without treating the person like a slave?

I’ve asserted more than once that I’d make a terrible manager, because a) I don’t like people and b) I’m way too comfortable with telling people what to do. I readily whip out “Because I said so” as an argument. Age, experience, gender, social status—doesn’t matter. Decades of being an only child have culminated in an expectation that my demands will be followed unquestionably.

This leaves the door wide open for abuse, obviously. As I see it, “Please make 100 copies of this” is a few short steps from “Dance like an organ grinder’s monkey while you load the copier, mwahaha!”

And that’s just with co-workers. I have no idea how that would work with kids, who are perfectly sized for picking up things that have fallen on the floor, or holding things, or watching stuff while you’re in the bathroom, or whatever. Am I the only one seeing this potential?

So parents, managers, et al: what’s the secret?

June 7, 2010

June 7, 2010

Hillwood: Where Fabulous Lives

That, my friends, is actually the motto of Hillwood. Unironically, unabashedly “fabulous.” This alone perhaps should have warned me away.

Okay, a little background: I love historic estates. I like touring old houses packed to the brim with old paintings and furniture and books. As someone whose ancestors came over on a boat not-so-long-ago, I envy those who can trace their heritage back to the Puritans. I mean, I have Antiques Roadshow tickets for the August stop in D.C. The closest thing I have to an antique is a bag of ancient peas in my freezer. (I kid. You know my freezer is immaculate.)

Anyway. Hillwood estate and gardens, located in D.C., was the home of Marjorie Post. She was heir to the Post cereal fortune, so it’s sort of like The House That Grape-Nuts Built. While the place isn’t ideally-located (you have to DRIVE there), I figured it was worth a trip.

Turns out that it also involved some groping, accidental trespassing, and bruised ego or two.

First strike: the location. To get there from Alexandria involves driving several miles in D.C. You know how I drive in D.C.? I went the wrong way down a one way street once, the day before the inauguration of President Obama. That gives you some idea. So having to wend my way up Rock Creek Parkway with the winding and the bridges and the sudden stops took at least 6 years off my life. (I will now be dying at age 34.)

Second strike: the snobbishness. I’ve already told you about my less-than-stellar experiences at the Phillips Collection. As TheBoy and I walked into Hillwood, we overheard someone marveling that he was able to get into “Advanced Exhibition Strategies.” Apparently, that is a real class. Somewhere. Somewhere arty. Because what this economy needs is ART MAJORS. Rest assured this “I’m so much better than you that I shan’t even pretend” attitude continued through the ticket desk and throughout the staff.

Third strike: the groping. Ironically, ‘twas not me who was groped, but TheBoy! We were sitting on a bench, looking at the property map. A gentleman comes over and tells us that that particular bench was not for sitting (um, wha?) and moves us to another, identical-looking bench. I thought he had grabbed TheBoy by the shoulder. Turns out there was also some back cupping. Me-OW.

Fourth strike: the misplaced furniture. Perhaps I’m took spoiled by tourist attractions that are, y’know, meant for tourists. As we entered the house, I was forced to check my camera. (Yes, apparently I couldn’t be trusted not to take pictures. They had to completely remove my camera from my person.) Anyway, as I was trying to do that, I placed my brochure on a nearby table. That, it turned out, WAS NOT TO BE BURDENED BY EVEN THE WEIGHT OF A SINGLE PIECE OF PAPER DESPITE BEING MADE OF STONE.

While touring one of the rooms, I mimed kicking over a chair. (You KNOW I was frustrated if I pretended to hurt furniture.) Fully knowing that the room was on camera. I hope it gave the security guard a good laugh. Though he too was probably an art major. In that case, I hope it gave him a good scare.

If that’s what fabulous is, you can keep it.

June 3, 2010

June 3, 2010

Help Yourself

If you, like me, relatively young and at least 20 years from retirement, perhaps you too have been a victim of the game I call “Assistant or Co-Worker?”

In the game Assistant or Co-Worker?, you are asked to perform a menial task outside your normal tasks and barely covered in the “Other duties as assigned” line of your job description. Examples:

- Servicing the coffee pot
- Unjamming the copier
- Novice-level IT support (e.g. how to print, how to reply to an email, how to take a screenshot)
- Changing lightbulbs
- Refilling the water cooler

Let me be clear: I’m not averse to doing any of these things should I come upon them during my normal work routine. We all have to pitch in where we can to make the work environment liveable. But please don’t ask me to do these things specifically because I am younger or newer than you. It’s not my fault you came of age during the era of slates whereas my birthyear begins with 198. It happens.

When the same thing happens to me in 20 or 30 years, I promise not to make the new kid show me how to reset to holograms or clean up the liquid around the brain jar that has replaced my body.

June 2, 2010

June 2, 2010

Sign Here for the Oatmeal

You don’ t know what you have until it’s gone. There are a great many things I take for granted because they’re all over the place. Crayons. Carbonated beverages. Cotton t-shirts. I’m not particularly thankful for them, but I use them enough to be saddened should they ever disappear. But how could they, right? How could something so pervasive in every day life suddenly be found nowhere?

Then Quaker punched me in the face.

See, I eat a lot of oatmeal. It’s a quick breakfast, and I’m told it is one of the highest satiety foods, which means it makes you feel full. I’m all about mind-stomach trickery, so it’s perfect. Now, you may have noticed that I am A LITTLE BIT PARTICULAR about things, with oatmeal being no exception. I like Quaker Simple Harvest, Maple Brown Sugar with Pecans. It has nuts, sesame seeds, maybe bits of a libertarian or two. Lots of fibery stuff in there. Delicious. I used to get 48-packs of it at Sam’s Club. Then they stopped selling those so I’d buy multiple boxes at a time from the grocery store.

Then they stopped selling those, and I panicked. At one grocer, the oatmeal was marked down with the word “Discontinued” on the label. I bought the remaining 8 boxes without a second thought and sent TheBoy to other locations of the grocery chain to buy any and all they had.

A couple of weeks ago, that stock ran out.

I checked the Quaker website. Oddly enough, my oatmeal was still listed as a current product. No flashing lights and sirens, no discontinued notice, nothing. There’s even a little product locator widget that told me this very oatmeal was still being sold at several Target stores in my area.

Off to Target I went. Four Targets. Four. Zero oatmeal. Not even a spot on the shelf where the oatmeal was until the one other person who likes this oatmeal besides me grabbed it.

You lie, Quaker. You lie.

But I knew that Amazon sells, like, everything except lice and babies, so I checked there. Hallelujah, they sold my oatmeal! I decided to comparison shop and found a website called Alice.com that sold my oatmeal for even cheaper! Sure, I had to buy six boxes at a time, but that’s pretty much what I buy anyway.

The moral of this story is that I have become the girl who buys oatmeal on the internet. I can no longer mock people who use Peapod and may now be stoned by anyone of the “Eat local” ilk. I eat so UNlocal that it involves UPS.

June 1, 2010

June 1, 2010

WaWa in the World?

On a recent trip to southern Virginia a part of Virginia more southerly than my usual confines, I visited my first WaWa. For those of you going, “WaWa wha?” don’t feel bad. It’s apparently an East Coast chain of convenience stores, like 7-11 or Sheetz. (I still haven’t been to a Sheetz.) Unlike Ikea, the Container Store, or a Bubba Gump Shrimp, I will not make a special trip to find a convenience store. Obviously. I guess some people do, though, judging by some of the Sheetz vs. WaWa debates I’ve seen.

What makes WaWa so special? Two things as far as I can tell.

1. Custom made sandwiches that you order with a shiny touchscreen.

Let me remind you that I am not great with choice. When searching for an apartment, I narrowed to one zip code, then to 6 complexes, then to 2 complexes, then compared pros and cons of each. If I ever have to buy a house, I’m going to save us all some time and kill myself.

Thus the chance to choose from dozens of bread/filling/topping/temperature combos is not an ideal for me. But I suppose I would learn after a few visits what I want and how I want it, and that’s where the beauty of this system comes in. You punch a few buttons, grab your receipt, and wait a couple of minutes for a sandwich made fresh to order. It’s faster and more efficient than many quick-serve restaurants I’ve seen. For the record, that is a LOT of restaurants. A great number of my childhood meals were eaten in a vehicle. I think my dad’s still trying to get the lettuce out from under the floor mats.

2. Wicked fast service.

I’m not just talking about the sandwich making people. I’m talking about the regular cashier. The WaWa I visited had this giant barcode scanner that could easily have dwarfed a small child. It made this great sound, too, like something out of a Michael Crichton movie. I wished I’d bought more than a sandwich, banana, and Diet Coke just so I could prolong the scanning.

So that’s two reasons right there. I haven’t even gotten into funness of the name WaWa. You probably have to drive across a state or two to find your closest one, but isn’t that what summer is for?