Archive for March, 2011

Just Say No To Solicitors…?!

Someone needs to explain to me the whole “No Soliciting Rule”, because it seems like every store I go into has at least one solicitor out front with an American flag, a card table, a poster board sign asking for donations to one worthy charity or another. The head scratcher here isn’t that there are solicitors, but that there are solicitors on private property, standing next to signs that read something along the lines of “Target/Wal*Mart/Stater Bros./Vons/Albertson’s does not support solicitors and we do our best to provide you with distraction free shopping”. So at this point I am really confused, if these stores are really committed to providing me with a distraction free shopping experience, and obviously the stores are built on private property…why are there ALWAYS solicitors outside these stores?! I would really like to have a distraction free shopping experience…or at least a distraction free store entry and store exit experience. But the distraction free experience isn’t even the biggest part of my concern, the bigger concern for me, and what I think should be the bigger concern for stores is that my shopping experience in these stores, thanks to Solicitors, is rarely guilt free anymore.

Today as I exited Vons after picking up my delicious “build your own” sandwich I just knew the friendly solicitor who saw me walk in and said a bright “hello” was going to hit me up for a donation on my way out of the store. Five minutes later, sandwich in hand, I prepared for the “would you care to donate to …” (I later learned he was collecting for community anti-drug programs for teens), but I was surprised, this guy changed it up. His spiel was “can you help save a life?” Okay, now, I understand why he asked that question, because who wants to be the bitch who responds to the “can you help save a life” question with “nope, can’t help ya out on that one buddy” after they just bought an overpriced sandwich?! No one…no one wants to say no to that! But at the same time, I don’t think anyone wants to be asked, “can you help save a life?”, “Can you help our basketball team go to a meet”, “can you help our homeless shelter”, “can you help keep kids off drugs”, “can you help keep teens out of gangs”, “can you help keep Girl Scouts raise money, buy cookies”, “can you help defeat measure 9xx”, “can you help…” every time they walk in and out of a store. But just saying “no I can’t help save puppies being put to death in local underfunded animal shelters” doesn’t mean it’s the end of the guilt trip…like any good infomercial…WAIT THERE’S MORE.

After successfully dodging the initial plea for support there is the catch all phrase that drums home the selfishness of your refusal, three little words, to tighten the guilt screw “God Bless You!” I don’t know what it says about me that this “God Bless You!” is the final straw…in some ways it’s almost like that friend that always draws God into an argument as the argument ender. God is the “big” gun in any argument, the God argument is the nuclear arsenal, and there is no arguing with it. I mean good luck walking away from a request to donate when you have just said “no, I don’t want to help protect unwed mothers from abusive partners” and this person calls after you as you scurry away hoping to make it out of earshot with your fancy three-ply tissue boxes or Charmin Ultra before you have to hear, “God Bless You”…this all just starts to make you feel like a real heel.

Of course it is good to give, and I am not saying that I give or don’t give every single time I am asked, but where is the line drawn at solicitation? Sometimes after a long day or when you are running in and out of a store at lunch I really, really wish corporate America would man up on something other than cutting prices and maybe if not get rid of the solicitors completely corral them in certain areas or get them to be around less, or prevent them from wandering the dark parking lots asking you if you want to buy discount cards for local eateries scaring the hell out of you at 8:00 in the evening. All of this and more is the reason why the UPS guy dropped off a 48 pack of Charmin on my doorstep the other day.


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Workplace Anger

There are days when you wake up, get ready, get in your car, drive to work in seclusion and hearing noises only you want to hear pour out of your radio and then you get to work, anticipating yet another boring, but bearable day…and then BOMB’S AWAY. Someone starts talking to you and you want to start screaming…SHUT UP…SHUP UP…SHUT UP!!!! That was my today at work. There was a complaint lodged that I don’t remove the pull tabs off my soda cans at work before I add them to the recycling. So now, I plan NOT to drink my half can of soda at work anymore, I refuse to pull the tabs off the stupid cans. If they want them off…they can pull them off…I AM NOT FUCKING DOING IT.


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Coach, eBay, & The Listing I’ll Post One Fine Day

You know how some people have cleaning projects, or hobby projects, home improvement projects; well in that same way I have shopping projects. On my list of shopping projects is to find a particularly delightful Coach purse that was sold in 2006. It is a beautiful white leather tote with a red suede poppy flower stitched on it. I was obsessed with that purse when it first came out, and I still obsessed with it 5 years later. Unfortunately Coach is not Hermes, other than some moldy oldies, they don’t have the same venerable collection of bags year after year. Instead I am left to scrounge through eBay in the hopes that I will find the purse in brand new condition at a price I am willing to pay. So far, the pickings have been slim to say the least! But, I have learned a lot about the world of eBay and that weird subculture of Coach on eBay. If I were to write an eBay listing for a Coach item and I didn’t care about the outcome of the auction, my listing would go something like the translation portions below:

Beautiful Rare 100% Authentic COACH Legacy Gigi 11131 Whiskey EUC
(Translation: I hope I have used enough eye-catching adjectives and eBay Coach lingo to catch your attention. This purse is as rare as a mass produced purse made in China could be!)

You are bidding on a beautiful Coach Gigi handbag from the Coach Legacy Collection!
(Translation: I hope the ! induces you to bid.)

I fell in love with this purse when I first saw it as part of Coach’s 65th Anniversary, and I had to have it, but soon realized it was a bit too big for me! I only used the purse four or five times, so it is in EXCELLENT condition with no signs of wear to the leather or lining.
(Translation: I got really great use out of this bag, and I am one of those people who doesn’t set their purse down on the floors of gross public washrooms and stuff like that, and I am really persnickety about how my stuff is kept, so I can get away with saying it was used for less than one week! Also “excellent” is subjective, excellent to me for a 5 year old bag may not sync with your idea of “excellent” but that is the beauty of subjectivity.)

This purse was not a style that was made for the factory store; it was sold at the Coach retail store and cost well over $500+ tax. The purse has been stored in a dust bag in a temperature-controlled closet.
(Translation: I might very well have purchased this bag from the Coach Factory Store, but it was not made for the Coach Factory store, do you see the difference? Also, if I had bought it at the Coach retail store when it was full price, I would have easily paid over $500, but in reality I didn’t spend nearly that much money on the purse.
This purse was stored in my closet, in my house. I have air conditioning and heat in my house, and my closet is in my house, so it logically follows that this purse, which was stored in a dust bag in my closet, which is in a temperature controlled house, was stored in “temperature controlled closet”.)

This is the same purse that was carried by Anne Hathaway in the movie Bride Wars!
(Translation: I hope you somehow think you will look like Anne Hathaway if you buy and carry this purse!)

The lining of the purse is the beautiful Coach Stripe, with one zippered pocket and two multifunction open pockets, a d-ring for keys, with dog leash closure.
(Translation: The purse is lined, yay, whoopee, great, who cares. There are three pockets and one d-ring in the purse to help you organize your stuff, chances are you will never use any of these “helpful” pockets, and you will still spend 5 minutes searching for keys and a cell phone that you can hear, but you can’t see under the detritus of old receipts half-empty packs of chewing gum, a wallet the size of a mini-pig, and twelve different shades of lip gloss.)

The dimensions of the purse are approximately 16” x 14” x 3.5”. Please see the pictures below, there are no signs of wear on the purse and the COACH hangtags and pendant are attached.
(Translation: I have included more than 10 pictures of one purse, because I know that someone is going to ask me for a picture of the purse on a pumpkin or something equally weird, so I am doing my best to nip that one in the bud.)

The purse comes from a smoke free, pet free, clean home.
(Translation: I am not stupid enough to post a picture of the purse with my hideous cat like other people do, and I would never admit my house wasn’t clean)

This purse is used; if you are looking for a purse in new condition please do not bid.
(Translation: FYI, EUC stands for excellent used condition. Also in case you missed it the other three times it was mentioned, this purse is not in new condition it has been used, please don’t send me a question asking “is this purse new” or be surprised if you win the auction and a used purse shows up on your doorstep.)

I do not represent Coach in anyway.
(Translation: I think you are an idiot if you believe that I work for Coach or that I am their representative on eBay. I sincerely hope that a multinational company like Coach has a better business plan than eBay auctions for getting rid of stuff that has been sitting around in their closets. Anyway, I don’t really know why this disclaimer is necessary but I have seen other people use it in their listings, so I thought I would add it to mine as well.)

Paypal only, payment is expected within 24 hours of the end of the auction, shipping within the U.S. is $15.95 I only ship USPS Priority Mail, and I will not ship internationally.
(Translation: Seriously, I am not willing to got to the Post Office and wait in line at the post office, and I have a large flat rate Priority Mail shipping box sitting here at home and free carrier pick-up, so you only get one shipping choice, take it or leave it.)

So, there it is…my fantasy eBay listing. If any of you see a listing on eBay that is totally sarcastic, it’s mine…BID…BID!!!!

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California: Freeways & Viewmasters

It’s hard to believe, but in a few shorts months I will have lived in California for 10 years. That’s 10 years of eternal sunshine, congested freeways, palm trees, and stolen shopping carts perched like modern day scarecrows in undeveloped dusty lots. In that time there is a lot of I have come to hate about this State (mostly the tax) and a lot of I have come to love (mostly the Inland Valley Library system ironically supported by the tax), but more than that I have come to realize there is more to California that the stratification you see on TV, it’s not just the haves and the have nots. There are the people that live the California dream of beaches and tans and the people that work the boring mindless drone of their jobs that are just like jobs in every other part of the country, just in better weather.  There is the California you see from the freeway at 65 mph, when there is no traffic, but then there is also the California you don’t see from the freeway.

If I had to put where I currently live on the “have/have-not” scale, it would be somewhere in the middle, probably a tiny bit closer to the “have” side than the “have-not” side. Comfortably nestled in between cities where the average neighbor is a professional, a college graduate, or student working to become a professional or college graduate it’s not a bad place to live. The lawns are mowed regularly, the park seems to have a bunny infestation but other than that it is quite nice, and on the days when the smog hasn’t gotten too bad there is a spectacular view of the mountains. Most of the people in my neighborhood are “want to haves”. They want to have a nicer car one day, they want to have a bigger house, they want to have a better lawn, in short if we were closer to the freeway, we would definitely be the California you tend to see from the freeways. The repetitive architecture of the houses and closeness of the homes would make it seem like you could easily jump from one roof to the next if you were flying by in a car.

If where I live is the “want-to-haves” then where I work is the “mostly-haves”. Every house I drive by on my way to work has a different style, color, roofing material, landscaping, and garage door style, the unifying quality is the manicured perfection of each lawn and the wide yawning newly slurried smoothness of the roads. Mature trees aren’t the only mark that you are now in the world of the mostly haves, the street is also free of cars. Why is that streets in nicer areas are suspiciously devoid of cars parked at the curb?! This is the California that you would see in a “This Is California! Commercial” without going super high-end and showing people a “bungalow” in Malibu that makes your mouth water and pocketbook shriek and fall over dead from a heart attack. This is the other California, the more idyllic California.

A couple of weeks ago I went “off the freeway”, down the road, passed the newly fashioned ARCO stations with mini-marts and the organized chaos that immediately surrounds freeway off-ramps. As I jerkily shifted from third to fourth gear it was hard to believe the changes that took place from one stoplight to the next. How to say this without sounding racist, I don’t know, but English all but disappeared from the signage, and for a couple of blocks the only thing I recognized was the relatively clean stuccoed area of wall where a Blockbuster Video sign was obviously recently removed. This was not the California I was used to. This non-chain store, neighborhoods with un-manicured lawns California were as foreign to me as a different country. In fact I made it my usual practice to avoid areas like this. It could have been a perfectly safe neighborhood, but to me it was totally suspicious. As I pulled up to the house I was going to I looked at it with dread, my windows were up and I could already hear the loud dialogue from the television pouring out into the street and wafting into my car.

After knocking on the front door and explaining who I was and why I was there I was taken to see some trees I was supposed to look at, and my mind was in a mess. The minimalist look I love in design and the “corporate park “ like cleanliness of my work and home neighborhoods was completely missing. Instead the front entry area was a jumble of an old couch and cardboard boxes filled with toys and bric-a-brac with stains enough to prove they had been through a couple of rainstorms with no protection. Rounding the corner I was hit with a smell. I have read that your brain never forgets a smell, that smell is in fact one the strongest of the senses, and if you have ever smelled carpet left out in the rain, the dried out in the sun in an endless cycle, then you know the smell that hit me. Forcing myself to smile and keep up a light banter when all I wanted to do was run back to my car and inhale the smell of sun warmed upholstery and mint coming from my newly opened pack of gum, I pushed forward to see the trees. Walking past more rolls of carpet and down a crumbling driveway the man swung open the door and there were the trees.

In the middle of the backyard, next to a chicken coop smelling exactly like a chicken coop smells, were these branching fluffy Japanese Maple trees. Their delicate branches twisted and drooped as they formed their tell tale mushroom cap appearance. They were Zen in the middle of the chaos of a backyard that featured a broken down Barbie Hot Wheels. Trying to block out the boking chickens, and grimy pink plastic that would have never been allowed in Malibu Barbie’s neck of the woods I couldn’t help but think “where is a Viewmaster when you need one?” Here are these trees, that if they were found in the orderly confines of a Lowe’s or in an Oriental Nursery I wouldn’t have blinked at a $250 – $350 price tag. In this backyard with every single one of my senses saturated with the unfamiliar and disliked $80 seemed too steep. It was the Nordstrom effect. Put the same shirt in a Nordstrom and a Marshall’s and you get 3 times the price at Nordstrom, except this backyard wasn’t even Marshall’s, it hoped one day to be Marshall’s. I really, really needed a Viewmaster with familiar scenery loaded into it.

Saying my thank yous and heading back to the freeway I couldn’t help but think if this area tucked away from the freeway and away from major cross streets was the area of the “will never haves”. To even say it sounds un-American. After all, we are a country that still believes that everyone can be anyone. But let me know how easy it is to believe that when you are staring at apartments rented by the week and motels exclaiming “AC IN ALL ROOMS” while the motel sits in the middle of a city with summer time temps regularly climbing over 110. Maybe the freeways I so love to hate are Viewmasters in their own way. I leave one area with Starbucks on every block, apartments rented on long-term leases and when I get off the freeway Viewmaster I enter another area with Starbucks on every corner and trucks with gardeners filing in to do battle with lawns that would probably fail a drug test they are so green and perfect. But there that part of California that is not in between the want to have and the mostly haves that I like to forget. The part where HOA’s and fear of neighbor backlash isn’t a concern, the place I am willing to say I NEVER, EVER want to live or work.

I am not sure what it says about me that I want the homogeneity that is my modern “Levittown”, USA over what might be reality. Mostly I wonder what the “THIS IS CALIFORNIA!” commercial would look like if it was made by someone who rented their apartment with AC by the week.


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