Life

Tell Tale Cart Returns

I’ve lost faith in humanity. A weekly occurrence but this one was deep. This one cut me to the bone.

Supermom and I were entering the Mecca of merchandising known as Walmart. I was reflecting over the logistics problem presented by shopping carts. I was actually thinking… if everyone entering the store would bring a cart back inside then we wouldn’t have a cart issue. Underpaid teens wouldn’t have to stand in the rain loading up wet carts. Shopping would be a happier experience. Ergo, world peace.

I do my part. Whenever I go to Walmart and see someone nearing the end of their shopping cart usage I ask, “Hey can I take that inside for you?” or I say, “I’ll take that.” People usually respond with a Thank You and I have time from the parking area to the shopping are to decide if I like the cart. If I am near the entrance to the actual store then I ask for more details from the cart owner. Something like, “Does that cart make a thumpy sound or pull hard to the left?” It was in a scenario similar to the latter where my faith was shaken.

Back to the story. It went something like this.

Supermom and I were walking into Walmart. A lady in her later-twenties was leaving and taking a single shopping bag out of her cart. She made eye contact with us and immediately was able to assess that we didn’t have a shopping cart. Mostly because we didn’t have a shopping cart. She pushed her cart towards us and said, “Do you need a cart?” I replied, “Awesome. Thank you!” Then she added, “It isn’t bumpy or weird or anything.” She added that comment of her own free will as if it was assuring me that we made a good decision to trust her cart suggestion. We were standing beside three rows of newly returned carts so it would have been easy for this lady to stay un-involved. To leave us to an uncertain fate.

But she acted. She heroically offered her experience and opinion. I felt like the luckiest man alive. Here someone had given me a rare gift. A fully functioning shopping cart at Walmart. A unicorn. Guaranteed to be bump and weirdness free.

We pushed our way into Walmart and the happy adrenaline began to wear off. By the time we reached the aisle of Clearance items behind the greeting cards, I realized the truth… That bitch lied to me. This cart was bumpy AND weird AND everything. It shook like Michael J. Fox and sounded like a pair of tennis shoes in a dryer. There was a loose weld on the bottom rack and the metal slapped against itself the whole time. If I had purchased buttermilk it would have been churned by checkout. The handle had a filmy greasiness along the bottom edge. Body lotion or boogers? Who knows. I was confused. Violated.

Why on earth would she have offered me this total piece of shit cart? Why would she have put in the extra effort to tell me that it was neither a) bumpy or b) weird. I didn’t ask about the cart. I didn’t indicate I needed one. She sought me out for discomfort and despair. Was she following me? Laughing at my misfortune? Am I going to be on a candid camera show?

I don’t care. I’m enraged and disappointed all at once. I trusted her. She screwed me over. I had flashbacks of the Tell Tale Cart. We have enough struggles in life and now I have to worry about random sociopaths sandbagging me with shitty carts at Walmart.

If you get confused by people in public, this post is for you. Me too. You’re welcome.

-Underdaddy to the rescue.

The Cant Opener

The loneliest place in the world… when you start to make a fresh batch of five can soup and the can opener breaks. Mother of all things righteous, why have you left me defenseless against fate? Have you ever stabbed open a large can of diced tomatoes with a Calphalon steak knife?

I have.

I can tell you that there are prettier situations. While stabbing is good for dealing with unresolved aggression it is not handy for keeping metal shards out of your soup. Or blood. Probably a conspiracy by the “Big Bandage” industry.

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What has our world come to? In this age of improving things with science and technology and materials engineering, how do we still have such shitty hand tools? A can opener should last longer than five months. I bought the most expensive one at Wal-Mart. I counted the additional cost as a wise investment, something that would pay back over time. Instead I bought a goodtime Charlie that abandoned me at the first sign of a struggle.

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My great grandmother had a can opener that I am pretty sure was made during the great depression. Forged from carbon steel and tears of sadness. That can opener was made to beat the Nazi’s and spread freedom. It could peel through a Panzer tank. It might actually be how the Russians got into Hitler’s bunker.

They made things that would last because their lives depended on it. Imagine trying to survive the apocalypse on canned goods with a can opener that won’t grip the side of the can. Spoiler alert… you would die from exhaustion while trying to smash open your cans with a rock. Granny’s can opener might have required three hands to operate but it would cut through steel ball bearings if it had to. Not like this lifeless wad of steel that can barely push its way into some whole kernel corn. I’m disappointed in humanity.

 

If you have ever had a cheap utensil break mid-use, this post is for you. There is a thin line between civilization living with the brutality of a cave-man life. That line is long term food preservation. All you need to cross it is a damned can opener. You’re welcome.

-Underdaddy to the rescue.

All The Time

School starts back in less than two weeks. Summer this year was only about ten weeks long. We had lots of scheduled events and even some unscheduled ones that leaned hard on the fast-forward button of life. My oldest two girls are going horse riding for the second day in a row tomorrow. I let them go again because summer is drawing to a close, learning will soon replace riding for several months.

I don’t know why my mind has been fixated on perception of time but I was thinking about it on my drive home. When the kids go back to school they will probably tell their friends about riding horses all summer long. A teacher might ask about some of their summer routines and they might respond, “Oh sure, I did that all the time.”

If someone had asked me on a late August day in the 90’s what I did “all the time” I might reply in several different ways.

Swimming with my brother and sisters as soon as the water was warm enough. The pool was our summertime babysitter. Untold hundreds of hours of swimming. Millions of hot dogs on square plastic plates with a side of Macaroni and Cheese.

Watching TGIF shows on Friday nights and eating Little Caesars pizza. The good kind. The square pizzas with the cheese fried into the corners. Drinking a glass full of coke with a couple of gigantic ice cubes and a layer of pizza grease floating on the surface because I didn’t stop to wipe my face between eating and drinking.

Riding horses and bicycles at the State Park near our house. Camping in the front half of the horse trailer under an air conditioner that leaked condensation. I remember one night during a thunderstorm especially clear. I was curious if the lightning hitting the ground near our campsite would destroy one of the tall pine trees and crush our trailer. The spidery purple flash and thunderous boom made it a risk I was willing to accept.

Playing Nintendo with my mom because she was addicted to Mario 3 and my TV was the only color TV that would hook up to the Nintendo.

Going squirrel hunting after school during my freshman and sophomore year. In a time when a shotgun in a truck was just a way to save time and not have to stop back by the house. Never thought twice about it.

I remember a summer when my cousin came to visit every day. It seemed like every day. We played GI Joes from breakfast until bedtime. We had a cassette tape of Bart Simpson singing “Do The Bartman”. We adventured in creek beds and streams and found a couple of places where people dumped old junker cars.

Friday nights in middle school were spent at my friend Michael’s house. Sometimes we played Gin with his grandmother. Sometimes we walked the country roads and got to experience some dangerous independence. Wild dogs and/or sasquatch were always at the edge of the streetlights.

In college, I was working at Red Lobster and would get finished with work late. Supermom would meet me after work and we would go dancing. Several times her dad would join us and we always had the best time. Cheap beer and crowds of mismatched people.

All of these things I can remember had a first and a last time. The first is usually memorable but the last one sneaks by you. Disguised as one of the times in the middle, it is over before you even know what has happened. I could recreate some of the events but it would be for nostalgia. You can’t capture an old memory. Memory has too many pieces. Too many moving parts. They boil down to a specific feeling for each and every instance. A smell. A feeling. A song. A swirling picture in your mind.

I hope my girls are taking note of the things they enjoy in a routine. The routines that seem infinite until you look back and tally the actual count. Years, weeks, days, and hours. Measures of time. They all have a finite number. We eat them like candy and spend them like quarters at an arcade. I spend a few of my slices of time tucking them into bed or giving out random hugs. Listening to creative ideas and encouraging them to try new things. I do those things some-of-the-time.

Tonight, my girls are whisper-yelling in their beds about an hour past when they should be fast asleep. I go out about every fifteen minutes and threatened to bring down the thunder. I never do. They will eventually fall asleep. Judy Cornbread is sleeping on the foot of their bed because the girls are her pack. Night unwinds in a usual way. We do this all the time.

 

I hope they keep that familiarity of the people and things they enjoy all the time because…

 

All the time, for the Summer 2017, was ten weeks.

 

-Underdaddy to the rescue.

Julyness

Sometimes we get busy and in a few short days we turn around and life has happened all around us. This is my attempt to capture a few moments over the last week and a half.

Annual Toy Clean

We are overrun with toys. Four kids with eight grandparents. Birthdays. Christmas. A little something for Easter. A little something for Valentine’s Day and the occasional “If you keep your senses about you in Wal-Mart then we will buy a treat”. For the sake of calculation let’s assume that each child has ten times in a year that they might receive a small toy or sticker book. That is a total of forty occasions with a minimum of five potential donors. I figure this gives us an annual toy potential of around two hundred units.

Last weekend we cleaned the bonus room above the garage. Those estimated toy numbers were an understatement. We threw away somewhere around seven bags of trash. Three bags of broken toys.

Someone peed in a tin box with a rabbit painted on the top. I have to focus on the rabbit to forget about the pee. What in the actual…

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The dog took a shit on a doll’s head and the kids reaction was to shove it under a bookshelf. I guess Judy Cornbread has made allies out of the girls. One of them at least.

On the bright side… Jane wants to be a vet.

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Supermom BDay Party

Supermom celebrated another 22nd birthday. The eleventh 22nd birthday so far.

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We visited the safari park and enjoyed a fresh coating of animal slobber on the side of our van. Buffalo are scary. Camels are assholes. Emus are creepy stalkers. Llamas do not wear red pajamas.

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Also… see if you can spot the error in the informational sign. Comment at the bottom. Winner gets a thumbs up.

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Early Baby

My brother and sister-in-law have been expecting a baby who was due in August. He decided on an early arrival and showed up about eight weeks early. It was a scary couple of days and has been a cautious few days since he entered the NICU but everything looks to be trending in the right direction. I’m sure he is just hard headed like his father.

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They are in the middle of construction of a new home and I got drafted to help finish some tile grouting. I found it therapeutic. For about thirty minutes. Then it was exhausting. I was oddly satisfied once we finished even thought I couldn’t move through my full range of motion for the next two days. I will never own a successful tile business and that is okay.

Fourth of July Party

We had a local pool party to celebrate the 4th since Baby D made his hasty entrance. My sister and her baby, Keanu, were also in town for the holiday. I felt life come full circle when we were all gathered around the pool and I watched someone else’s child become the focus of some hilarious action. It was a certified Pool Biscuit. I’m not saying he shit in the pool but I will say that no one else shit in the pool and there was definitely shit in the pool. I blame Grandaddy for not monitoring the diaper status.

Gecko on the Run.

So we found the missing snake. I already told you guys that information. However, we have had an escape of Vanderwal the Gecko. We searched for an hour but a gecko has sticky feet and the ability to walk on walls and the ceiling. That means he has five times as many places he could be and we didn’t find the snake for a week. I’m hoping that the dog or cat eat the gecko long before we locate him via smell. I would love to find him alive and well but that doesn’t seem to be in the cards. Maybe he will crawl on someone’s face in the middle of the night!

Cracker Barrel Urinal

We ate dinner at Cracker Barrel tonight. For the readers who don’t know about Cracker Barrel. It is a southern food restaurant that serves deliciousness. Chicken fried chicken with hash brown casserole is pure dopamine. Or serotonin. Whichever is the happiness chemical. I ate the happiness.

I also drank sweet tea. Not iced tea. Sweet tea. You put the sugar in while the tea is hot so it gets super saturated. It is impossible to sweeten iced tea after it cools. I traveled to Boston once and a waitress brought me iced tea with packets of sugar. That is the sadness chemical. I drank sadness that day.

The reason I told you about the sweet tea has to do with going to pee. If you drink enough sweet tea you will have to pee. I went to the Cracker Barrel bathroom and while standing at a urinal an old man walked up to the urinal next to mine. Guy code demands that you approach this situation one of two ways; a) small talk about the weather, music, or exclaiming how much you have to pee or b) look up and never make eye contact.

This man was old enough that he has abandoned social rules and decided that telling a joke about big penises was acceptable. The joke where one man says “this water is cold” and the other says “its deep too!”. Usually the joke has the setting of two men peeing off a bridge but not when this renegade comedian told the tale. No sir! These two ficticious men were just like us, standing at a urinal. All I could think about was the totally gross fact that two men in this joke had dipped their penises into a public urinal. Who cares about length at that point because it has become a poisonous disease vector. Congratulations on your endowment, pity that it will probably fall off in a few days. Remember children, reproductive parts are not water quality sampling devices.

Pikachu In The Hood

We left Cracker Barrel and headed for home. Suddenly, Supermom’s phone dinged and she squealed in excitement, “Pikachu! Turn Right!”. We raced to the right to track down the elusive Pikachu. Holy grail of Pokemon-GO!. The Poke-Stop that we were trying to locate was in the parking lot of the Sacred House of Judah Church. We drove through a couple of housing projects.

I know I might not be qualified to say we were in the hood but I would offer the following evidence. 1) Three small children without parental supervision were throwing rocks at a man walking down the sidewalk while quasi-leaning on a single crutch. It is mid-summer and he was wearing a jacket. 2) Sixty percent of the driveways had inoperable vehicles and the other driveways had old police cars purchased at public auction. 3) A very large lady, who I assume is of Scottish descent because of her red hair and ivory white skin, was dressed in a camouflage night gown and Crocs. Nothing else from what I saw. She was speaking very aggressively and pointing a long pink fingernail at a tall skinny man talking on a cell phone and trying not to make eye contact with the enraged woman. In the pauses between her yelling I could see she was missing a single front tooth. In my mind, the man’s name was Curtis and her name was Merida and she was upset that he didn’t come home last night because he laid out drinking beer and smoking weed with his friends. Curtis had some explaining to do. We drove without stopping to ask for directions.

As we emerged from the hood, we saw the Sacred House of Judah Church. It was an elusive building because the name had actually been changed to Word Truth Church. Supermom began an epic battle with Pikachu who, like the neighbors nearby, was unhappy about our presence in the neighborhood. She tried to place Pikachu under arrest. He resisted. On the third attempt, Pikachu was apprehended. He was wearing a backwards cap that was colored similar to The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. These smartphones try to track and adjust for everything. It was weird.

If you like birthdays, kids taking dumps in pools, looking for Pokemon in dangerous parts of town, cleaning playrooms, premature babies, or safari parks… this post was for you! You’re welcome.

-Underdaddy to the rescue.

Potassium Roger

I haven’t had a good old-fashioned rant in a while. At least not in the written form. Usually a good source for finding consternation and inducing ranting is a trip to Walmart. Not today. I have decided to rest those useless protests in favor of another. Fair warning to people with a lofty opinion of me I am wearing my swear-bear pajamas and will probably drop some eff-bombs. I find it therapeutic to type the words. It makes me more “Zen” during my normal day-to-day life. Nirvanish? Placified?

Okay. Let’s talk about Kroger. Alternative to the Walmart grocery oligarchy. The Target of middle-class grocery-only vendors. The comfortable shopping relationship that gives just enough to keep you involved but never lets you know where you truly stand as a customer. We no longer have a Kroger on my side of town and it is a damn shame because that one was a great place. We recently got a Zaxby’s though. But this isn’t about Zaxby’s, it is about the grocery store.

Sometimes I stop on my way home to pick up a few things. Essential items, like bread or milk or some combination of protein/carb/cheese that we are having for dinner. We never have all the things we need to prepare a single dinner. So off to Kroger I go. I walk into the warm lighting (from the old style fluorescent tubes), grab one of the mutant grocery carts (who designed these things), and emerge in the vegetable section. What the vegetables lack in ripeness they compensate for with random arrangements and narrow aisles. Maybe the aisles just feel narrow because I am avoiding the never-ending traffic of the suburban mom. These ladies give two-shits about who or what is in their way. I can see it in their eyes. They are stressed and on-edge. They need one fucking loaf of whole grained organic bread so kindly move your ass out of the way. Meanwhile, I loiter in front of a few while I try and decipher what goods are in what aisles based on the hanging descriptions. The arrangement is awful. If the carts had horns I would be honked at. Or gored to death. I guess it depends on what kind of horns. Hateful glaring is much quieter. I barely notice. I’m too busy giving my own hateful glares at the blank spot on the shelf where the generic item should be. Now I get to buy name-brand whole kernel corn.

I will concede that the meat department is awesome. They have beef that was fed pre-softened grasses and heard bedtime stories nightly before they were slaughtered into steaks. And there is an attractive caring woman on the label which really sells the whole approach. It really comes out in the flavor too. Plus, the flower area is super handy at times. I think they sell free range roses.

But God help me find the bread in that forsaken labyrinth. Do they even sell bread? I circled five times looking for bread. I never found bread. Is Kroger gluten free now? Onward to make my tacos.

I found myself in the Aisle of Varied Ethnicity. It was a puzzling mix of politically correct sensitivity and, at the same time, not. For instance, one of our go-to dinners of choice is Taco Salad. I categorize this as “Mexican Food”. I eat lunch about four times a week at a “Mexican Restaurant”. I feel validated because the packaging and the restaurant sign both use “Mexican” as a descriptor. (It may be the best food on the planet. I know that my idea of Mexican food is extremely Americanized but I like to believe that children growing up in the hot, cactus-y, central American deserts at least have the pleasure of enjoying every meal with a bowl of salsa and bottomless tortilla chips. I can’t live in a world where that isn’t true.) How surprised am I that someone has labeled the area of tacos, refried beans, and jalapenos as the Latin American Foods section? Very. I have zero problems with that but I am confused how the Asia food section still gets a breakdown into Thai, Japanese, or Chinese. Is Panamanian cuisine indistinguishable from Mexican? Are there no foods that are unique to Guatemala? What did Mexico ever do to you? Maybe we should shift to a spicy, greasy, or hippie type of classification on our food so not to offend any group. After all, every culture has a signature meat/carb/cheese dish. Except Asian food because of the whole lactose intolerance thing which is okay because they have soba noodles and sushi which is a fair trade.

I’m veering off topic. My main point is that I can’t find anything. The informational boards at the ends of the aisles list individual items instead of general categories. Example, one board might advertise; Brown Mustard, Black Olives, Ranch Dressing… A real store would slap Condiments on the sign and still have room to describe the rest of the aisle. Don’t woo me with tales of exotic toppings. Just tell me where I am in this Neverland. I get all my fitbit steps just looking for things on my logically arranged shopping list.

When I am wandering around in lost in the vintage-1990-value-shopper food wilderness I am forced to admit a dark truth.

I miss the familiarity of Walmart.

It is my safe zone.

It’s the people that really make it great.

The broken smile of the older lady on register 4 who should be able to retire but Medicare doesn’t cover her diabetes supplies. The man with the bottle thick glasses who has to check items out very slowly and in precisely the right order. He is going to be on Criminal Minds one day played by a more attractive but equally crazy actor who kidnaps remote tollbooth workers to feed a toe eating fetish. Or the lady who rode to Walmart last night on the back of her boyfriend’s Honda Shadow to run in and get some supplies. These people were either camping or cooking meth and given her twitch and what seemed like a few too many scabs, I’m going with meth. That’s judge-y of me. Maybe they had been camping AND making meth.

Totally plausible. These two were in the self-checkout lane when Skinderella realized that she hadn’t eaten in four days and wanted a prewrapped turkey roll from the deli section. She ran and grabbed the lunch meat roll and, with a giggle, launched it towards the checkout like a football pass. It landed in the self-checkout area and exploded a colorful lettuce and tomato burst. Her boyfriend muttered something that rhymed with “Crazy Bitch” and continued to scan his beer. Commerce and comedy at 9:00 at night. I made my trip worth the drive. Happy Memorial Day! This is what the veterans were fighting for!

But not at Kroger. Most of those trips are monotonous grinds of a hurried life. Memorial to nothing in particular. There are crazy and dangerous people at both venues but the difference is somewhat like a well run zoo versus a walking tour safari park where the tigers might eat you in the parking lot because the rangers don’t give a shit. Plus the tigers are high, hungry, and mad that they dropped their turkey roll.

Who knows where I was going with this. Welcome to my week. If you find any piece of this remotely interesting this one is for you. I realize I didn’t manage to swear as much as I felt I was going to at the first. What can I say? Shit happens. Hope I didn’t fuck up the experience. I’m such an asshole. Oh and to Kroger. Nothing but love, locate the bread better, get some real carts with capacity. Carry on.

You’re welcome.

-Underdaddy to the rescue.