Those dratted 45 Seconds !

Has this ever happened to you? You’re off to run errands — you get in the car, and realize you have forgotten (fill in the blank: shopping list, coupons, sunglasses, water …). Unless you’re super-organized, you have done that. And if you never have, please don’t tell me!

the nearly-forgotten, all-important bottle of cold water.

So the other day, I got in the car, backed out of the garage, reached for my water bottle and … no water. Now this is the desert and September is still plenty hot, so I don’t go anywhere without a bottle of water. So, I stop the car and get out and go back to the house, unlock the steel security door and then the wood door, go inside and snag the water, go back out locking both doors and then unlocking the car which I’d locked out of force of habit. The whole exercise was less than a minute — let’s call it 45 seconds. How much difference can 45 seconds make?

Two blocks later I turn the corner just as the school bell rings and the door burst open at the elementary school, unleashing a torrent of kids. The kids have enough sense not to run into the street, but the parents are another matter making illegal U-turns, double parking, stopping in the middle of the street and motioning to their kid to run across to them, and otherwise doing everything possible to snarl traffic. The flashing sign says “15 miles an hour.” I wish! It’s more like 15 feet an hour. Finally, I inch through and end up right behind a big yellow school bus belching exhaust fumes.

school bus

We get to the corner just as the signal turns red. The school bus, of course, can’t turn right on red, so we sit there for nearly 90 seconds (this is one of the longest signals in Las Vegas coming from a small street onto a main boulevard) until we get a green light. I whip around the dratted bus, finally seeing clear street ahead of me — but not. There is some kind of slow down, but I am now behind a panel van and can’t see what’s happened.

It turns out that what’s happened is somebody just rear-ended another car, and it’s in my lane, but of course I don’t know that because I’m behind a van. The other two lanes move forward, but not mine. After two signal cycles, I manage to change lanes and as I drive by,   I toss them a dirty look — only to realize the car in front of me is stopped dead. I screech to a halt with maybe three inches to spare. The driver in front of me tosses me a dirty look in his rear-view mirror.

At this point I’m thinking I should just turn around and go home, but my $10 free merchandise coupon expires today and I desperately need some new socks. I’m finally free of the school zone, the van, the accident and now it’s a straight shot to Kohl’s. I know what I want and where to get it, so I should be able to get in and out quickly. And I do! Well, almost. I snag a package of athletic socks which are $13.50 — perfect.

So I get to the cash register. There are three registers open and only two people in line. I get there at the same time as another lady — we glance at each other and then I step back and let her go ahead — she only has one item, a coffee pot.

But it isn’t smooth sailing. Why did I think it would be? Cashier #3 closes for her break.  Well, still two cashiers so it can’t take that long. The next person in line has a huge stack of shirts and shoes and several coupons. She’s just ready to pay when the cashier says “would you like to open a Kohl’s account today? It would save you 20%.” Oh, merciful heavens. They go on and on — she’s not sure; she wants to know how much 20% would come to; she already has so many accounts; what would her husband say…

At last cashier #2 is free and the lady in front of me — the one who has just the coffee pot — steps up and explains that this is an exchange. The cashier rings it up at $15.30. “But when I bought it before, it was only $13.50. I shouldn’t have to pay the difference.” The cashier scans something, pulls out an ad and tells her the sale price has expired. She isn’t going to let it go. He finally calls for a manager. At least I’m standing there with a package of socks and not a quart of ice cream! I have now been standing in line for about 8 minutes. All because I went back to get a bottle of water!

Cashier #1 is now done with the lady who finally declined to open the credit card and I step up. With my coupon, it comes to $3.50 plus tax. I have money in my hand when he says, “Oh, wait, that’s not right.” Noooo!!! It’s a good thing I’m holding a package of socks and not an axe or machete because I am very close to a homicidal rage. “Here,” he says, swiping something across the scanner. “It’s $2.80.” “How did that happen?” I ask. “I gave you the 20% off family and friends discount.” It saved me a whole 70 cents — the best thing that’s happened to me all day.

I plunk down my money and head, gratefully, for home. I catch all the green lights, take a quick jog over the freeway (which is what I should have done on the outbound trip) and am home, safe and sound with my new socks in just over an hour. A trip that should have taken 30 minutes — 40, tops — ate up all that extra time just because I went back to get my bottle of water.

And the worst part? As I get out of the car, I realize I never even took the top off the water bottle.



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One cat is not enough …

… but two are way too many. Actually, this was originally said about children, but since I have four cats, I think this is applicable.

People who don’t have cats have some odd ideas — like they’re aloof, not affectionate and want only to be left alone. Well, let me disabuse you of this idea — first of all, meet my two-bodied cat. WHAT? You’ve never heard of a two-bodied cat? Well undoubtedly you’ve heard of a two-headed animal! Sure — you’ve seen them in The Enquirer when you’re standing in the check-out line. There are two-headed goats and dogs and even kittens, so why not an animal with one head and two bodies. Seen here is the Smokey cat with the Blackjack appendage.

Yes! It's the rare two-bodied cat -- a cat with one head and ... oh, wait, maybe not.

Yes! It’s the rare two-bodied cat — a cat with one head and … oh, wait, maybe not.

Oh, wait — it’s not really a two-bodied cat — it’s two cats who specialize in “synchronized sleeping.” But they don’t sleep all the time — they just get in their normal 16-18 hours a day. After all, it can be exhausting being a cat.

After hours of exhausting practice, Smokey and Blackjack have finally perfected "synchronized sleeping." They are hoping this will be considered for the 2018 Olympics. In the meantime, they practice as often as possible.

After hours of exhausting practice, Smokey and Blackjack have finally perfected “synchronized sleeping.” They are hoping this will be considered for the 2018 Olympics. In the meantime, they practice as often as possible.

There’s Paddy O’Cat who has learned to sleep wherever  he happens to be when the sandman strikes. Yes, he could possibly stagger another few feet to a chair, but that Persian rug will have to do.

Paddy has learned to grab a few hours' nap wherever he happens to be. It's not easy being a cat, you know!

Paddy has learned to grab a few hours’ nap wherever he happens to be. It’s not easy being a cat, you know!








And LopEar who proves that there is still a use for phone books in this world. They make the perfect cat pillow.

Although phone books are not used much any more,  they make the perfect pillow for a big cat.

Although phone books are not used much any more, they make the perfect pillow for a big cat.

Lop Ear has also learned the joy of sleeping outdoors, while Smokey prefers the bed. The trouble with sleeping on the bed is that someone is always coming in and flipping on the light! Honestly, how’s a cat supposed to get her quota of sleep with all that going on?

Will someone please turn out the flippin' light? I'm trying to catch a little snooze here!

Will someone please turn out the flippin’ light? I’m trying to catch a little snooze here!

So I hope you have learned that cats are wonderful companions — full of affection and joyously playful. Oh, wait … maybe I have that all wrong.

I think I’d better go sleep on it.




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September 11

September 11 has a different meaning for me than for a lot of people. It was my dad’s birthday. He would have been 114 this year — not a fate that I would wish on anyone. I’m sure that for many of us 9/11 has a different meaning than the one most people think of. This is somebody’s wedding anniversary, birth of their child, the day they started their first job or some other significant event. Disaster isn’t necessarily the first thing that comes to our minds.

However, it was and always will be a day of mourning in the minds of most Americans — a day of terrible loss and tragedy.

I was working at the U.S. Attorney’s Office at the time — I was Victim-Witness Coordinator and my job was to help people who were victims of crimes and to assist witnesses who had been subpoenaed to come to court. It was a job of mostly helping people and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

And it was because of my job that one day over a year after 9/11/2001 I received a phone call from our main office in Washington with an unusual request.

“Robin,” our national coordinator asked, “would you be willing to assist with notifying victims of the World Trade Center tragedy about the trial of the defendant?”

“Uh, like what do you mean, exactly?”

“Well, after the bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma, relatives of the victims complained that the federal government did not keep them informed about the progress of the case. We’re trying to be proactive and let the relatives of the victims know as much as we can.”

“So I would be passing on information and updates?”

“No, no, nothing like that. What we have is names of people whose relatives died in the World Trade Center. You would call and see if they want to be kept appraised of the progress of the trial.”

“Who is being tried?”

“The government has identified one defendant — Khalid Shaikh Mohammed*– who helped to plan the attack.  All we want to know from the families is if they want to be put on the witness notification list and to verify their address and phone number. (This is in the days before e-mails and texts.) You know that ordinarily the Victim-Witness Coordinators in New York would do this, but there are too many people to call. We’re asking Coordinators in other parts of the country to help out.”

“Listen, let me ask my boss and get back to you.” It sounded like a pretty major task. I went to the office next door where Vickie, my fellow Victim-Witness Coordinator and partner-in-crime as we liked to call ourselves, was finishing up a phone call.

“Listen to this,” I said as I related the gist of the phone call from Washington.

“We’d have to ask Kurt,” (our supervisor). “It could be pretty time-consuming. Did they give you a time-frame?”

“Uh, no.”

“How many people would we be calling?” Vickie was always the practical one.

“I guess it depends on how many people pitch in to help out.”

After some discussion and clearance from the boss, I called Washington back and told them Vickie and I would do it. They sent us a list of about 100 names and we divided it up.

It was with some trepidation that I made the first call. The response was one of disbelief followed by a lot of questions. Most of the people I talked to were glad that somebody in the nameless/faceless government actually was reaching out to them. Some of the people wanted to talk; many of them had questions; some of the them cried, but they all thanked me for calling.

We took it slow, Vickie and me, fitting the calls in around our regular work, and doing only a few a day. The emotions could be pretty stressful — on both ends of the line. Two calls in particular remain with me today. The first was to a woman with a distinctly middle-Eastern name. I didn’t know how she would feel about our country prosecuting someone who could possibly be her relative.

“What do you mean? Who is this Khalid Mohammed?” she asked in heavily accented English.

“He is charged with plotting to fly the planes into the World Trade Center,” I told her. “The government plans to put him on trial.”

“No trial! No trial!” she shot back, her voice rising. Oh boy, I thought — this is going to be messy. “Stoning! Stoning!” Her voice was harsh and then she started to sob.

“Ma’am, we don’t stone people in this country.”

“He should be stoned,” she said again in a voice I could barely hear. I heard a conversation in the background and then a softer, younger voice came on the line.

“This is Adiba’s * daughter. You must understand, my mother is very emotional. My brother was killed on 9/11.”

“I’m so sorry. I can certainly understand how she feels. I’m very sorry about your brother.” I wanted to say, but didn’t, that if I had my way, Khalid Mohammed would be taken to Ground Zero and publicly stoned.

The other call that I remember was a woman whose husband had been killed. “It’s been over a year,” she said, “but I still wait for him to come home. I’ll be fixing dinner, and glance out the kitchen window and for a split second I expect to see him come up the walk.” Her voice got very soft. “Then I remember.”

It took me a minute to get past the lump in my throat. “I’m sorry about your husband,” I told her. “I’m sorry.” I was saying that a lot these days.

I said there were two calls that stood out in my mind, but really there were three. The last one was to a man. When he answered the phone, I told him who I was and then said, “I’m calling about Franklin Abernathy.” *

“This is Franklin.” I looked at my paper. Franklin Abernathy was listed as the victim who had been killed.

“You’re alive?” I said rather stupidly.

“Yes, I am.”

“Wow!” I said. “That is good news! That’s great!”

I explained briefly why I had been calling and he said, “Well, you don’t have to notify anybody about me. I’m right here.”

“Vickie!” I yelled as soon as I got off the phone. “I got one! I found someone who is alive!” You would think I had dug him out of the rubble myself. “He’s actually alive!” I said racing into her office and waving the paper.

We sat and looked at the paper together. “That’s good,” Vickie said. “That’s really good.”

“Damn straight.” After all the days of hearing sad stories, heartbroken sobs and going home feeling totally drained, it was beyond wonderful to have a beam of sunlight shine down.

For all the ones who had their lives shattered that day, there will never be enough tears to assuage that hurt. But today I’m going to give thanks for the ones like Frank Abernathy and hope that they are celebrating the anniversary of the day they didn’t die.

* After all these years, I don’t remember the actual names.







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The Fast Food Shuffle

It was Sunday night and I never make dinner on Sunday night. I usually have a big bowl of popcorn and glass of cold milk. (Okay, right here let’s take time out to tell what we all drink with popcorn — and I know everyone goes for something different.)

It might have started back in college when the dining hall was closed Sunday night. They fed us the main meal at noon and then we got a sack lunch for evening. It was always the same — a sandwich of indeterminable meat-like substance which my roommate, Ruth, called “mousemeat,” an apple and a little bag of chips. The counter in the student union building did a big business Sunday evenings. But I digress …

popcorn bowl
A nice big bowl of hot buttered popcorn! My normal Sunday night dinner.

For some reason this Sunday I didn’t actually have lunch. When I got home from church I just wasn’t hungry. It might have something to do with the half a pistachio muffin, the slice of almond ring and the oatmeal, cranberry, raisin cookie that I scarfed down during our adult Sunday School class. (Well, actually, two oatmeal cookies — but they were organic so that makes it okay. And I only ate the second one because it was the only one left, and you can’t keep just one cookie for next week …) So when I got home I just grabbed a couple handfuls of sunflower seeds and called it good.

I made it down to the pottery studio for a couple of hours — and when I got home about 5:00 decided that I was hungry. I remembered that I had a coupon for a free milk shake from Del Taco which was only good for Labor Day weekend. It was free with a purchase of $3 or more. Hmmm… well, I guess I could force myself to get a cheeseburger to go with the shake even though that would be a knockout combination of calories, carbohydrates and cholesterol (the deadly three). But, what the heck — I’d hardly had any lunch. Oh, except an ice cream bar — forgot about that.

I was still wearing my “clay clothes” so wasn’t fit to go inside and I hate using a coupon at the drive-thru because they never get it right and there’s a big hassle at the window, but I wasn’t about to get cleaned up just to go to Del Taco, so on to the drive-thru.

del taco logo

Now has this ever happened to you? I’m approaching Del Taco; I can see that there are no cars in line and just as I pull into the parking lot, two cars come from the other direction and slip in right in front of me! Dang! So now I’m back of somebody who is apparently ordering a six course dinner for a houseful of dinner guests. He’s finally finished and the next car pulls up and the driver goes through some elaborate ordering ritual, consulting the other three people in the car who obviously have never been here before and apparently need an explanation for everything on the menu. But at last they place an order and move on.

When I get to the window I tell the girl I want a Double Del Burger ($3.09) and then explain I have a coupon for a free shake. “Oh, our ice cream machine is broken. We can’t do shakes.” Now what?

“When will it be fixed?” I ask.

“I don’t know.”

“Okay,” I tell her. “I have a coupon for a free shake that is only good this weekend. What do you suggest?”

“I don’t know.”

Her voice sounds small and uncertain. This is evidently the first time she has encountered this problem. I’m now trying to figure out my best bet.

“Is there another Del Taco nearby?” I mouth the answer with her: “I don’t know.”

“All right,” I tell her. “Just cancel my burger.”

“You don’t want the burger?”

“No. If I can’t use the coupon for the free shake, I don’t want the burger, either.” it’s not that I wanted a burger in the first place, but a shake and a burrito didn’t sound right.

By this time the cars in front of me have gotten their food and left and I just sail on through. Now I’m trying to figure out what to do for dinner. Now I actually DO want a burger. WAIT!  I remember that I have a coupon from Burger King for a free Whopper!

At the stop light I fish the coupon out of my purse. Sure enough, it is a coupon for a free Whopper with the purchase of a regular drink and fries. Well, drat, now I’m going to have to eat french fries, too. Burger King is a couple of miles in the other direction, so I make a U-turn on head back.

At the Burger King there is only one car ahead of me and they move on quickly. The voice comes over the speaker:

“I’m sorry to inform you that our broiler is out and we cannot prepare Whoppers or Whopper Juniors. Will you still be ordering?”

“No,” I tell her. “I wanted a Whopper.”

“I’m sorry.”

There is no one behind me and I back out.

“Now what?” I ask myself. The little voice inside my head — the one that makes sense that I don’t listen to all that often, says, “What about the food you have at home? The left-over roasted chicken and that corn you got on sale?”

Oh, pooh, now I have to go home and cook — or at least zap — something. And there will be no feast of calories, carbohydrates and cholesterol. I tell myself this is a good thing. Thirty minutes has elapsed since I left home on this fruitless journey and I’m not even hungry anymore.

As soon as I finish writing this, I’m going to go make a big bowl of popcorn and pour a glass of cold milk. Sunday night dinner.


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Going to the Y

To begin with, I truly admire anybody who gets themselves out of bed and works out whether at a gym, or riding a bike, or going for a hike, or doing laps at the pool. I set what I thought was an attainable goal — 6 mornings a week for 40 minutes. Amazing how many things can interfere from a phone call that changes my focus to a one-day-class that breaks my routine to simply not wanting to get out of bed. Still, I’m pretty faithful. And I find the people at the Y intriguing.

YMCAThe one who puzzles me most is the woman who carries her purse with her everywhere. She doesn’t do the treadmill — she walks the track lugging her handbag. There are small cubbies and even new lockers right there on the workout floor where people can stash their stuff, but she apparently feels the need to have her handbag with her. Perhaps it’s like carrying weights — except there’s only one.

A couple of the women come in full makeup — blush, lipstick, mascarra — the whole bit. Why? I wonder as I wipe sweat out of my eyes. Surely they’re going to go home and jump in the shower when they’re done here. I mean, this is the Y for pity sake — it’s full of old people, not like 24 Hour Fitness where the Spandex-wrapped hot bods go to see and be seen and perhaps hook up. This is the place for people who are simply doing what they can to keep those moving parts moving, hoping to keep arthritis at bay.

I find it rather discouraging, however, that nobody seems to change. I’ve seen the same two fat women (okay, that’s not PC — so sue me) for a long time and in spite of their religious trot around the track and their faithful attendance at the aerobics class, they’re still fat. Maybe coming here and burning calories allows them to enjoy a guilt-free bowl of ice cream every night.     aerobics class

Then there are the people who take the elevator to the second floor workout room and head for the stair-stepper. I will never figure that one out.

George, who has been there ever since I originally signed up 10 years ago (and no, I haven’t been going for 10 years!) is still doing the same routine. He is a good-looking man who doesn’t seem to age — must be somewhere in his mid-70s. (But that’s what I thought 10 years ago.) His routine is the same except he used to come in and put his foot up on the barre and touch his head to his knee. He now puts his foot up on a chair and leans toward it. If he’s been doing this faithfully for 10 years and he’s losing ground, what hope is there for me who only does this every few years for a couple of months at a time?

I am most impressed by the man who has evidently had a stroke. Not an old man, either; maybe middle-aged. He leans on a cane as he makes his slow progress across the floor. He has a smile and cheerful “hello” for everyone. He works the machines and I often hear people encouraging him.

I’ve only been here 25 minutes and I’m ready to leave, impatient at how long 40 minutes can be. Camille shows up — haven’t seen her in weeks. She steps on the elliptical next to me. “How’ve you been?” I ask. “Well, the surgery went okay. I’m taking it slow.”

I’m ashamed to realize I didn’t remember her telling me she was going to have surgery. Now I can hardly ask about it.

“What have you been up to?” she asks, adjusting her stride and bumping the level up to 4. I glance at my machine — I’m at level 1.

“Oh, not much. Trying to keep cool. I planted some little plants last week when it had sort of cooled down, but when it got hot again, the poor little things just fried.”

“I wish I had a garden,”  she sighs. I’m instantly ashamed. I have so much — a nice home, friends, time and money to do whatever pleases me, a strong healthy body that lets me do whatever I want — and here I am whining about spending a few minutes at the Y. I look around at all the people pumping, striding, bending and pushing, and I feel like an imposter.

We chat for a few more minutes until she says, “Well, that’s it for me.” She slows down and steps gingerly off the machine. A friend comes up and says, “you ready to work on your abs?” Camille laughs. “Not today — it’s too soon. How about a walk around the track?” She gives me a wave and they set off.

I look down at my timer. 50 minutes! I’m ten minutes over. Bonus!

I trot down the stairs, pleased with myself. Now I can start my day with a clear conscience — and tomorrow I’ll only have to do half an hour!


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The hazards of coffee

“Robin, do you have a leak in your roof?” Susie had come by to collect me for lunch and was staring at my dining room ceiling.

“No, not that I know of. Why?”

Silently she pointed upward.  There on the ceiling were a couple of dozen dark spots of various sizes. We have been having some rain lately and I suppose it’s possible but surely I would have noticed. I stared for a minute. “Oh, I know,” I said. “I spilled coffee yesterday.”

“You spilled coffee on the ceiling?

Is it time to eat?

Is it time to eat?

“Apparently so.” Drat. How am I going to get that off of there? “I spent all morning on my hands-and-knees scrubbing the kitchen floor, but I never thought about the ceiling.”

We both stared some more. “Just tell me how you did it.”

I sighed, remembering. “You know how you reach for something when you’re really not looking and mis-judge it?” Susie nodded. “I was reading the paper and reached for the coffee cup and instead of grabbing it, I knocked into it and it went flying.” I took a tentative step and winced when I felt the slight squish in the carpet. Still not dry.

“Yes, but how did it get up there?”

“It was really quite remarkable — I probably couldn’t duplicate it if I tried. When I knocked the cup, it didn’t tip, it just sort of jumped onto the floor and landed right side up with such a thud that the coffee sprayed out like a geyser. I was drenched. Everything on the table was soaked. Thank goodness I hadn’t yet showered and dressed for the day. The only thing that didn’t get wet was Lop Ear because he was under the table.”

Lop Ear, hearing his name and assuming that meant it was time to eat, perked right up, his bad ear twitching.

“No, you big lunk, it is not dinner time. Go eat that dry food that’s in your dish.” With a sigh of great long-suffering, he turned around and laid back down under the chair.

Later that afternoon I dragged out the step stool, grabbed my bottle of vinegar water and a sponge and set to work. The vinegar water barely made a dent. It’s hard work scrubbing a ceiling, by-the-way. Okay, let’s try something else — I fished under the sink and came up with 409. Not all that much better and let me tell you, that stuff stings when it gets in your eyes.

Okay, next to try — hmmm… spray Clorox. Okay, that must be it. You know, standing on a ladder spraying something over your head and trying to keep your eyes closed at the same time is NOT easy. But I think I’ve got it. Well, pretty much anyway.

So now my dining room smells like bleach, two-day old coffee and the rug is still slightly squishy — I’ll deal with that tomorrow.

Besides, who looks at ceilings anyway? Well, besides Susie.






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Bargain Day !

Don’t you just love when you find a great bargain? A couple of weeks ago I got that Rosenblum zinfandel at about 1/3 the price it was going for elsewhere and yesterday I found some more bargains — and I wasn’t even looking. Not wine, though, other stuff. Let’s start with the plants!

Mexican Bird of Paradise

Mexican Bird of Paradise

First of all, I finally grabbed the trowel and clippers, pulled on my gardening gloves and removed the dead snapdragons from the little space under the kitchen window. I love to have flowers there because it makes the entrance festive — but not when it’s a bunch of dead stalks. So now, what to replace them with? It’s a bit of a problem because the area is small and right up against the stucco wall so it gets plenty of heat, but it is also north-facing so only gets direct sunshine for a few hours in mid-summer. Flowers need sunshine to bloom. I don’t know if that’s a scientific fact, but I’ve discovered it’s true as I’ve tried a variety of flowers there — mums and snapdragons and impatiens. So, off to the nursery.

Texas Sage

Texas Sage

I’ve found that Lowe’s has a pretty good selection of plants, so headed there. The one farthest from me — but easiest to get to because it’s just off the freeway — always has some good bargains and unusual plants. Today, they had something called a “Potato bush” which wouldn’t fit in that space, but maybe could replace my now-dead butterfly bush. When I re-landscaped a few years ago, I chose plants that were orange and purple — sounds ghastly, but really it’s a striking combination. Beautiful purple “Texas Sage” and Mexican bird-of-paradise which is bright orange. I’m not carrying that color-scheme through to the little planter, but am determined to keep it in the front yard. But I digress …

I looked at all the plants and discovered that almost all of them said, “full sun,” which ordinarily in our climate would be ideal. But not in the shaded flower bed. I did a couple of circuits around the garden center just to be sure, and as I was getting ready to leave, noticed a bright yellow tag over by the plant food. “Clearance — 73 cents.” Really? Big bags of plant food for flowers. “Originally $12.97.” Really?? There were only two bags and I grabbed them both. “Are these really 73 cents?” I asked the cashier. She scanned them quickly. “You bet.” “Wow! I’ll take them both.” That’s enough plant food to last a couple of years even if I do remember to use it every 3 months.

I left sans flowers, but feeling quite pleased. Now on to the other Lowe’s. but first, a quick run into K Mart to check out their garden center, only to find it totally devoid of flowers. Nothing — nada — zilch. Well, boo. On the way out, however, I passed a big bin of notebook paper marked 50 cents. Terrific! I needed some notebook paper to put in the backpacks I’m putting together for the church’s “back-to-school-backpack” drive. I’d meant to go to the Dollar Store, but here it was marked 50 cents a pack! Wow! I scooped up 6 packs and was astonished when the cashier said, “that’s $1.89.” “No, I told her, they’re 50 cents each — it should be $3.24″ (8% tax). She checked the cash register receipt, she counted the number of packs of paper. “No, for some reason it deducted another $1.25. It’s $1.89.” I put two dollars in her hand and grabbed my paper, not even bothering with a bag. Such a deal!

And as I was heading to Lowe’s I remembered, “Hey, this is the day that Long John Silver’s is giving away fish and fries!” I’d seen the ad for free fish and fries — no purchase necessary — between noon and 3:00 p.m. It was close to 2:00 by this time and I figured I’d missed the bulk of the crowd. Only a few people waiting to pick up their orders and one woman ahead of me in line. She had a handful of coupons and was evidently ordering for an entire tribe.

“… and the shrimp basket,” she said as she shuffled through her papers, “and, uh, one of the fish-chicken-combo, and, uh, let me see … oh, yes, a two piece with fries, and … how much is that now?” Oh my gosh, just as  I was about ready to grab the coupons out of her hand and yell at her, she said, “I guess that’s enough.” “More than enough,” I wanted to add, eyeing her massive girth. Of course, who am I to talk — I’m not a size 10 myself.

I got my fish and fries which were actually pretty good — at least the fish. Fries are fries.

On to Lowe’s where I was not surprised to find that their selection of plants was meager and of no interest whatsoever. I took a quick peek at their plant food section and spotted the exact same bag of plant food that was 73 cents at the other Lowe’s and here it was marked $1.79. Feeling very smug, I smiled at the cashier and walked out empty-handed.

I still have to find some plants to go under the kitchen window, and now I have enough plant food to last for the next three years. And oh yes, when I got home, I discovered it was the same as the plant food I’d bought earlier this year at the nursery and paid $13 for the bag. Am I good, or what?

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