Posts Tagged ‘Walmart’

Reading Glasses

2015-01-03 19.52.16_resizedDo you remember when your kid was a baby, and addicted to a pacifier?  It didn’t matter if you bought one pacifier or ten, it invariably got lost and somehow could never be located when your baby really needed it.  This dire state involved sending out one’s husband to the all-night Rite Aid or Wal Mart in hopes of getting another or else no one in the family was going to sleep that night.  Of course it couldn’t be just any pacifier so one had to give very detailed instructions:  it had to be silicon not rubber, ages 6 months to a year not newborn to 6 months, it had to be a Nuk not a Mam or a Gerber, etc.  and if instructions weren’t followed to the letter it meant yet another trip to correct the iniquity and meanwhile the baby wouldn’t stop screaming.

Now that I’m long past that stage in life, it seems I’ve entered another that is just as angst-ridden:  The Reading Glasses Stage of Life.  Like the pacifiers of yore, it doesn’t seem to matter if I buy one pair or ten (thank goodness for Dollar Stores):  they’re never where I want them when I need them, which is constantly.

Lately I seem to be grappling with another strange problem:  my eyes are constantly changing.  Besides needing one power for reading and another for the computer, depending on the light or amount of eye strain, my vision is constantly fluctuating, sometimes even within an hour.  So I might start reading at +2.0 and then as the night progresses, find that a +1.50 or +1.75 works better, or vice versa.  (I’ve tried prescription progressives, but after losing two pair at $200 each, I’m back to the Dollar Store varieties).  Since I own 5 pair of glasses in a single prescription at any given time (ideally one for each room in the house, the car, and my purse), this means I have 15 pairs of glasses lying around somewhere in varying magnifications, but I’m never really sure where, and it also means that when I locate a pair, I have to try it on and guess which power magnification it is, so just getting ready to read is something of an ordeal.  No, my glasses don’t look alike – – but having 15 pair of 15 different styles makes it hard to remember which ones are the +1.5 versus the +2.0.

So the last time I made my pilgrimage to the Dollar Store (after not being able to find a single pair of reading glasses that day), I decided to heck with it, and I left the little sticker with the magnification power remaining on the lens.

“Hey, you know you forgot to take off the sticker from that pair of glasses,” my husband commented, when he saw me reading at home later that evening.

“Yeah, I know,” I said, “I did it on purpose, so I’ll know the amount of magnification,” I answered.

“You look really dumb,” he said.

Intimidated, I took off the sticker and placed it on the inside of the temples.  But the sticker fell off and I was back to square one.

The next time we went shopping  – – in TJ Maxx  – – I wore my Dollar Store glasses with the sticker on the lens.

My husband was mortified.

“You look ridiculous leaving the sticker on your glasses!” he said.  “But worse, the store is going to think you are stealing their reading glasses from the ones they have for sale!” he added.

I had to admit, he had a point, so I took off my glasses and put them in my purse, sticker intact.

“Oh, great,” my husband complained, “now the security cameras are going to think you’re shoplifting by putting them in your purse.”

“Fine,” I said, taking them out of my purse and putting them back on.

“You look ridiculous,” he said with genuine embarrassment, and left me standing there as he retreated to the car.

One of the great things about living in Maine is that you can look really dumb, or weird, or eccentric, or different, and no one gives a hoot.  Maine seems to attract people who march to a different drummer  – – a polite way of saying people who don’t fit in anywhere else.  (I guess that’s why I’m happy here.)

My solution  – – pardon the pun – – was visionary.  Now I always wear two pair of reading glasses:  one on top of my head, and one hooked onto the top of my shirt.  Both have the stickers, but show different magnification numbers.  That way, it’s obvious that these are two completely different pair of glasses for different purposes, and I’m merely being an eccentric but practical nerd, rather than a  kleptomaniac.

Even though I look really dumb.

(P.s. My husband is not a snide ogre.  He just has a thing about glasses with stickers when they involve me.)

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Outrage @ Walmart

On Friday I returned a purchase to my local Wal-Mart, in my home town.  In line in front of me was a lady in her 80s, shriveled from osteoporosis and who knows what else, slumped in a motorized wheelchair and unaccompanied.  She had taken great care to look sharp:  a bright red hat, red lipstick, a dash of rouge and a touch of eye shadow, but not enough to hide her frailty.  She was waiting for the Store Manager, who finally came to the counter with a look of impatience and a scowl.

“Like the clerk told you, ma’am, you need to first call the police and  file a police report, and then we’ll take your information,” the Store Manager said.

“How am I supposed to do that?   Do you have the police’s number?”  she asked.

The manager did not let the lady use Wal Mart’s company phone.  “Call 9-1-1.” she said brusquely.

“Can you please call them for me?” the old lady asked.

“No ma’am, I cannot.  You have to be the one to talk to them,  I cannot make a report for you.”

“Here is my cell phone. I’ll talk to them. Can you at least dial for me?” the lady asked.

“Fine!” the Store Manager said with a big harumph, as if she was doing the old lady the biggest favor in the world.

Here is what happened:  as the lady was shopping in WalMart, someone stole the lady’s purse which contained her wallet with all her money, ID, credit cards, and keys.

Here is what should have happened:  the store should have gone on immediate lock-down, with each person leaving the store subject to inspection for the stolen purse and its contents.  Police should have been called immediately by the employees.  But not only did the store not care a whit about this poor lady’s situation, they treated her as if the whole episode was a huge inconvenience to them and not their problem, which considering her purse had been stolen inside their store, was nothing short of chutzpah.  A clerk or store manager should have been pulled from the sidelines (there were plenty of them standing around doing absolutely nothing) to devote all their attention to helping her, calling a family member or a cab.  The lady asked if they would help her call her bank and let them know about her missing credit cards, and they refused.  She had no way of getting home (the robber had her house keys, and she had no money for a cab); she had nothing except her cellphone, which she was too shaky to use.

And while this drama was being played out before my eyes, I thought,

This would never happen in Maine.

Yes, there is crime in Maine.  There are drunk drivers and tool thefts and in the city there is shoplifting and drug deals gone bad.  But no one in Maine – and I do mean no one – –  would steal a purse from a disabled little old lady who is all by herself in a wheelchair.  And I also guarantee you that in the unlikely event that her purse would have been stolen, the little old lady would have been surrounded by both customers, clerks and the store manager who would have ensured that she was taken care of, both emotionally, physically, and practically, and they would have made however many calls needed to be made along with an offer to drive her home.

“Where is the common decency?”  I thought out loud.  “What kind of animals prey upon utterly helpless people like this?”

But the clerk only shrugged her shoulders, her eyes and heart apathetic.

And I thought:  when people get used to things, they become complacent.  They convince themselves that it’s just how things are, that there is nothing you can do about it.

Maybe things really are like this in my hometown, but there is something we can do about it.  We can choose to not put up with it, and if we cannot change things as they are, then we can only make a change for ourselves.

I am very glad to be returning to Maine.  Because I don’t want to live in a society like my hometown’s,  where apathy and lack of decency and fear is is the new normal.    There are plenty of good people in my hometown, but oh, how the rotten eggs permeate and bring ruin upon all of us.

Quite simply, I’ve had enough.

In Search of the Perfect Clothesline

(click to enlarge)

 

Because we are living mostly off-the-grid and are highly dependent on sunny days for our electricity, I needed a washing machine that used very little electricity or water.  Our water comes from a well, but its source is hundreds of feet below the ground.  To get it up to the surface requires a 3/4 horsepower pump – which uses electricity.  So the less water used, the less the pump has to work.

We also want to avoid wasting water, because that flows into our septic system.  A full septic tank is not a pretty smell.  Do you feel frustrated and unfulfilled by your current job?  Realize that there are people who make their living doing nothing but pumping out septic tanks day in and day out, in all kinds of weather.  Makes you start appreciating the persnickety boss and suffocating cubicle at your current place of employment, doesn’t it?

If there is cloudy weather for days and days, and our battery supply is depleted to the point of no electric service, we do have two possiblities:  one is that we simply flick a switch and we are reconnected to the grid via our local power company.  When we’ve had to rely on this, our electric bills have typically been $10 – $25 per month.  The reason they’re so cheap is that we’ve invested a lot of time and thought into how we can cut down on energy expenditure.  Our house is super-insulated which means in summer we don’t need a/c even on the hottest days; in winter it retains heat so well that the woodstove is more than adequate and at times we’ve even had to crack open a window because it gets too hot inside the house!

We’re extremely careful about turning off lights that aren’t in use and using power strips that can be easily turned off to avoid energy vampires.  Most of the lights in the house are LEDs, which use much less electricity than CFL bulbs – – only 10 watts per fixture.  These look like any old recessed lighting fixtures, but they give off wonderful light, are much more pleasing and softer than CFLs, yet more natural looking, brighter and more intense .  I highly recommend them to anyone considering an update to their home’s lighting system:  www.cree.com

We put the largest windows on the south and west sides of the house.  On clear winter days the sun’s rays are absorbed by the glass and warm up our rooms nicely.  This is known as “passive solar.”

There are some things in the house that are powered by propane gas: our back-up heating  system, our kitchen range, our hot water, and our generator.  If we have a week of no sunshine and then there is a major storm and the power lines are down (and this happens a lot), the generator is a life-saver.  The downside, besides the noise, is that propane gas is rather expensive.  We have a 1000-gallon propane tank buried underneath the ground, but at $2.30 a gallon, it’s not something you want to drain quickly.  That’s why we don’t have a clothes dryer – – it eats up too much propane gas.  When I cook, it’s usually on top of my stove, because I find that using a pressure cooker cooks food very quickly and uses a whole lot less gas than if I bake something in the oven.

When looking for a washing machine, I first went to www.energystar.gov This was very useful also when looking for a refrigerator.  You can find out how much energy a particular appliance consumes, and compare different brands.  I found out that a medium-size Miele washing machine was the lowest for both electricity and water use, and it had excellent reliability ratings.  I wasn’t scared off by the smaller capacity, since I’m doing laundry for only 2 people these days.

There is only one problem with a Miele washing machine: the price.  At $2,000 – $3,000 there is no way I was buying one – – new, that is.

Thank you, CraigsList!  A guy in New Hampshire was selling his as-new Miele machine for $1200.  I waited a couple of weeks and then I emailed him.  “I noticed a couple of weeks ago you were selling a Miele washing machine.  There is no way I can pay you $1200, but if you’re willing to take $450 cash, I can be there tomorrow and take it away.”

It even came with an extended, transferable warranty.  I was very excited.  And, I’m happy to report, it does live up to its promise.  Our Miele washer really does get the clothes cleaner, using a bare minimum of detergent, water and electricity!

Hanging the wash is a work in progress, however.

Our laundry smells of fresh mountain air – it’s wonderful.  And we have lots of trees from which to string a clothesline!

A sunny November morning

But the trees have to be at least 20′ apart and here the woods are too thick.  And the line can’t be too far into the woods, because of mud in the spring and snow in the winter.  The clothesline has to be in an area of sunlight, because the cold temperatures and short days in the fall and winter mean the laundry will otherwise not get dry.  Location, location, location!

I do have a single clothesline strung, but am looking into stringing more on the side of the shed.  That’s when I found the Cord-A-Clip.  Even though we did not end up getting a Cord-O-Clip, as I watched the info video on YouTube, I got positively teary-eyed.

It made me think of my mother-in-law, a’h.

My mother-in-law was a TV addict.  She always felt grateful for television.  When she came to this country after the War, she didn’t understand or speak English, and everything and everybody was so different from what she was used to.  She had no money, but she did have a husband and two small children to nurture.  Rent had to be paid and food had to be put on the table.  There was no time to go to night school – – there weren’t enough hours in the day between caring  for the children, and she and her husband working their heads off.

At night when things quieted down, my mother-in-law watched TV.  She learned English from “I Love Lucy” and “Bonanza.”

But as that age of innocence devolved, TV embraced the culture of marketing.  And with it was born “As Seen On TV.”

My mother-in-law was its biggest devotee.

To my mother-in-law, if something was As Seen On TV, it was irresistible.  A product had to be good if it was clever enough and wonderful enough to be As Seen On TV!!!  Soon, the mail carrier  and UPS man were on a first-name basis with my mother-in-law, due to the weekly arrivals of innovative gadgets that were all stamped, “As Seen On TV!”

In her later years, she was thrilled when WalMart and Target created special sections in their stores, whose aisles were limited to items that were As Seen On TV.  It made shopping so much faster – she only had to go to that particular aisle when looking for presents to buy for her family!  Because if it was As Seen On TV, it was surely the most unique, clever and perfect present in the world!

When I saw the Cord-O-Clip, I knew my mother-in-law was smiling down at me from Above.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i4RLDKKdoQQ

If my mother-in-law were alive, I imagine this Chanuka we would have gotten presents marked “As Seen On YouTube!” because towards the end of her life, she really loved shopping on the Internet . . .

We miss her!

More shopping: Trader Joe’s comes to Maine!

Maine is a mostly rural state with lots of little towns. Even the big cities (Bangor, Portland, Augusta, and Lewiston-Auburn) are really little cities.  When something novel happens here in Maine it is BIG news.  And tomorrow’s opening of Maine’s first Trader Joe’s is, as one reader of the Portland Press-Herald newspaper declared, “the most exciting event in Portland’s history!”  Another writes, “Is it too early to proclaim opening day as a state holiday?”  They were not  being facetious.

Alas, Maine’s new Trader Joe’s is a 90 minute drive from our house.  That’s nothing compared to the devotees who regularly drive 3 hours to stock up at Trader Joe’s closest store unitl now, in Boston.

The other day I was doing errands in North Conway, New Hampshire, which has a giant outlet center with every possible type of upscale designer and regular store, 2 supermarkets, and a Walmart.  I got into a conversation with a 20-something woman who moved there only 2 years ago.

“Is there anything you miss?”  I aksed her.

“Yeah,” she sighed. “I’d kill for a Target!”

http://www.pressherald.com/news/sneaking-a-peek-at-joes_2010-10-28.html

http://www.mpbn.net/News/MaineNewsArchive/tabid/181/ctl/ViewItem/mid/3475/ItemId/14027/Default.aspx

Farm Stands and Shopping

My local pumpkin stand

I rely heavily on local farm stands for my produce, mostly because they are closer than the nearest supermarket, which is 45 minutes away; but also because the  farm stand food is truly fresher and tastes better and I like to give the locals my business.  This time of year some farms also offer hayrides and labyrinth corn mazes to explore.

In autumn there are tens of varieties of pumpkins (some kinds are better for pie, others for jack-0-lantern carving), gourds and squash (bumpy, smooth, multi-colored, sweet, mild, large and small) and apples (my hands-down favorite is Honeycrisp), but besides the more common varieties there are also “heirloom” or historical apples native to New England.  There is one farm stand that sells their own milk in old-fashioned glass bottles, as well as  fresh eggs,  honey, and homemade cheese (the cheese is unfortunately not kosher).

What makes the farm stands unique, however, is the way they sell the fruits of their labor.  Usually no one is around.  The  produce is sold by the peck  or the piece (i.e. 3/$1.00) rather than by weight.  You simply leave your money in a basket or cash box and make your own change with the money that’s already there.  The honor system is alive and well in the White Mountains of Maine and New Hampshire.

Yes, we do have supermarkets in rural Maine.  Hannafords is the name of the largest chain store and they are pretty well stocked.  My house sits halfway between two Hannafords:  45 minutes to the west, in New Hampshire; or 45 minutes to the east, in Maine.  Both of these locations also have Walmarts, including one Super Walmart which is also fully stocked with groceries.

Amazingly Hannafords does have a “kosher aisle” that consists of 8 packages of Kedem Vanilla Wafers, 3 jars of gefilte fish, 2 boxes of matzo, onion soup mix, and 4 yarzheit candles.  Yesterday I spoke to the the stock manager in charge of the wine department and asked if he could get kosher wine.  He said occasionally (meaning Pesach time) they get Manischevitz.  I asked if any other brands were available and he said once they got Baron Herzog, but in that understated Maine way of saying things, he said “it wasn’t a big seller.”  He assured me that if I wanted it he could get it, however, and he’d place an order for a few bottles which should be in on Friday’s truck.

In New Hampshire, where taxes are lower, alcohol is sold in State Liquor Stores which are run exclusively by the State.  Not only is liquor much cheaper there (many people come from other New England states to stock up), they occasionally get kosher wines  such as Bartenura, Herzog, and Recanati and the prices are more reasonable than in cities with a large Jewish population.  But the supply is random, tenuous, and you can’t place requests or an order for more.

So far we’ve been bringing up our own supply of hard cheeses and meat; I can get Empire chicken at Hannafords by special order for about $1 more per lb.  If one is willing to pay a premium, one can order virtually anything , including perishables, via the Internet at all sorts of kosher food websites.  The point is, we are not starving.

The long distance to major shopping, and with no neighbors to loan me a cup a sugar, ensure that I plan my menus carefully and that my pantry is well stocked with emergency supplies, especially in the event of really bad weather.

In fact, we see this as an opportunity to eat better.  The stresses of the last few years, plus having “treats” around when the grandchildren would visit resulted in a loss of self-control.  I’ve got 60 lbs to lose and that is one of the many goals I’ve set for myself in Maine.  We’ve gotten rid of all junk and snack foods, relying more on whole grains, fruits and vegetables, and are exercising more.  I’m not doing anything drastic so the weight will come off slowly, but I hope to be a little bit thinner and feeling better about myself the next time I visit my “home town.”

As far as other types of shopping, we live about 45 minutes from a major outlet center in New Hampshire.  No sales tax!  While I’ve raided Children’s Place and TJMaxx a few times for my granddaughters, I haven’t really shopped for myself.  It’s funny, but once you live away from the city, you don’t really need much, and when you try to live with what you need versus what you want, shopping is not such a temptation.

There are two stores I love, however.  Reny’s is in Maine and it’s like an old-fashioned Woolworth’s department store.  The prices are great and it feels like I’m in a 60s time warp.  The other store is in New Hampshire and called Christmas Tree Shops.  I wonder how many Jewish tourists avoided this store because they thought it sold nothing but Xmas decorations? In fact it’s like a giant A to Z or Amazing Savings (or Pic ‘N Save if you’re from California).  You never know what you’ll find but it’s always cheap and fun.  I’ve found all sorts of Israeli food there (such as crackers with “Pas Yisroel” written in bold letters) and Elite chalav yisrael chocolate bars for $.89!

That said, the most-visited store when you live in Maine is the hardware store.  There are both a Lowes and Home Depot next to the outlet center in New Hampshire, but big-box building supply stores are shunned by locals, who resent all that they stand for.  Even though the prices at small hardware stores are necessarily higher, Mainers support them vigorously.  Rural hardware stores are crammed to the gills with anything and everything.  Only the proprietor can find what you need, which he does with dogged determination and helpfulness.