Tuesday, December 17, 2019

It's the Vegetable Cloud

We are geographically blessed when it comes to grocery stores.  We live in the opposite of a food desert – we are within easy walking distance of three excellent grocery stores and within a short car ride of about ten more.

The plethora of grocery stores near me has resulted in a complicated optimizing algorithm whenever I set out to procure dinner.  Best vegetables and baguettes? DeMartinis.  Brown Gravy or anything vaguely British?  Draegers.  Paneer or Foccacia?  Sprouts.  Nuts or non-dairy milks?  Trader Joes.

But the Safeway – the Safeway has everything.  It doesn’t have the best versions of everything, but it’s open later than all the other groceries, and I’m there nearly every day.

I feel like I’m friends with all my local Safeway employees, but I can almost guarantee that feeling is not mutual.

Anyhoo, the last couple of times I have been at the Safeway I have heard a high-pitched noise in the produce section that I assumed came from repairs to the refrigeration or something.

BUT- tonight, after a few cocktails at a friend’s house, I stopped by the Safeway for a carton of milk and late-night potato chips - and the high-pitched sound was still emanating from the produce section, even though there was clearly no one working there.

I was just intoxicated enough to investigate.  I found a stock clerk in the produce section and asked, “What’s that noise?”

The clerk looked a little panicked and said “Sorry, no English, only Spanish.”

No problem, I thought, I have been taking Spanish classes for years.  However, I could not remember the word for noise, and I’m sure I never knew the word for “high-pitched”.

“¿Que es el grito?”  I asked.  (“What is the scream?”)

“Es el nubio de los vegetales,” she answered, as she ran away.  (“It is the vegetable cloud.”)

“Hmmm,” I thought.  And then the noise started up again just as the misting system sprayed the vegetables with water, and I thought, “Aha!! The vegetable cloud!!”

I am pleased to know the source of the noise, but I hope they fix it soon, because it really does sound like the bell peppers are screaming.

Saturday, December 14, 2019

You're Still Here?

Since Amy has been at college, her Subaru has been parked next to our disused basketball hoop, gathering pollen.  By the time I finally got around to driving it, the battery wouldn’t hold a charge, and also, the key wouldn’t come out of the ignition.

I naturally turned to YouTube for help.  I found a five-minute video entitled “Can’t Get Key Out of Subaru Crosstrek Ignition”.  “Perfect!” I thought, “I love how YouTube has a solution for everything.”

The video was literally five straight minutes of a disembodied hand trying all sorts of methods to get the key out of the ignition, none of which worked.  It turns out that the title of the video was entirely accurate.  People post all kinds of nonsense.

One morning Larry jump-started the Subaru and I drove it to the Subaru dealership, which is conveniently located next to the Valley Fair Shopping Mall.  The technician told me he would need the car all day, and I was well chuffed, as I love a day at the Mall.

Before venturing to the Mall, I typed “Coffee Shop” into Google Maps to see what was nearby and found Yeganeh, a spacious Persian gathering place with a great spinach and feta omelet. 

Side note:  During the week Larry and I visited Ellen in Berlin, the three of us would go out to dinner, and then take a walk.  As we strolled, Ellen would obsessively type “Cake” into Google Maps, looking for late-night sacher torte.  It never worked while we were there.  When she got back to the states, I asked if it had ever worked, and she said no, but nonetheless she persisted.

After working a Sudoku and enjoying my omelet, I made my way to the Mall and into the enormous Macy’s.  I absolutely love Macy’s for the very same reason that many people hate it:  the service is deplorable. 

The service at every Macy’s I have ever shopped in has been dreadful for as far back as I can remember.  Dreadful service is a counterintuitive business model, and yet, Macy’s is still open where other stores have closed.

To me, Macy’s has always had a post-apocalyptic feel, as there are acres of items, few other shoppers, and certainly no visible employees.  The quality of many of the goods is sub-par, so it’s like a super-sized Goodwill where you have to sort through everything.

The dressing rooms are unlocked and unstaffed, so you can take armfuls of stuff in to try on.  There’s always some sign about a limit of 6 or 10 garments, but I have never been challenged as I take in 30.  I don’t want to be a dick to the invisible employees, so I always put my stuff back on the racks, and in the process often grab another 30 items to try.

I had been at this for several hours, roaming through Designer, Casual, Sportswear, Formal Wear, etc. when an actual employee approached me.  I thought she was about to offer to help me, which was unprecedented, but no, as God is my witness, she looked at me quizzically and said, “Are you still here?” and then walked away.

Eventually my feet got tired, so I retreated to the farthest back dressing room in Formal Wear and played Solitaire on my phone for a while as I listened to dejected plump women try to find formal outfits.  Thank God I haven’t been called upon to dress up in years.

When I finally tired of Macy’s, I spent a good twenty minutes trying to find someone to ring up my purchases, then decided to do some Mall-walking for healthful exercise as I waited for my Subaru technician to call. 

There is a soup dumpling place at the Mall that has had a line twenty people deep every single time I have walked by it for the past few years.  I don’t get it. I tried soup dumplings once, and they were only OK.  There are so many better things you could put in a dumpling.

I watched doting parents dump their screaming infants and distracted dogs in Santa’s lap for a while.  I enjoyed being very rude to the kiosk vendors who tried to put lotion on my hands.  I ate some cucumber sushi.  I browsed through the ultra-expensive stores that hire security guards just to give the security guards something to do.  I used my favorite Mall restroom, the third-floor Nordstrom ladies’ room.  There’s a great view of the bay from up there.

When my car was ready, I was actually a little wistful.  Like nearly every American, with the notable exception of my very own daughter Amy, I fricking love the Mall.

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Yes, Lady, Is Broken

I, like my mother, am a late and reluctant adopter of most new technology.  Larry recently reminded me that for the first few years of their existence, I insisted that I did not need a smart phone, my flip phone was fine: until the day my friend Alison was able to look up the seven deadly sins at a luncheon, and I realized that I NEEDED a tiny pocket computer.

My mother resisted the smart phone until last summer, when she had vertigo and couldn’t drive.  I pointed out that if she had a smart phone, she could get recent immigrants to come to her house and drive her places.  The vertigo blessedly passed, but she now uses Lyft to drive her anyplace that she fears might require parallel parking, a maneuver that she flatly refuses to perform.

A few years ago, Larry replaced the manual irrigation controls for our yard with some online thing that I refused to learn to use.  So recently, when I complained that I was being awakened at night by a sprinkler malfunction, he accompanied me to the side yard and began using his phone to turn on sprinklers.

One of the sprinkler zones had one dud sprinkler that didn’t pop up and sort of burbled.

“I don’t know,” I said, “I’m not sure that would wake me up.”

“Things sound louder at night,” Larry said, “I’m sure that’s it.”

I agreed to ask the gardener to fix it.  When he showed up a few days later, I realized that I was going to have to use the website controls to demonstrate the problem.

I said, “I think maybe one of these sprinklers is broken,” and started pushing buttons on my phone.

Suddenly a ten-foot geyser of water shot into the air from a zone that Larry and I had not tested.

The gardener and I both stood looking at it in awe for a moment, then he turned to me and said, in perfect seriousness, “Yes, lady, is broken.”

We admired it a little longer, and he said, “You turn it off now, and I fix it.”

I said, “I’m not sure I CAN turn it off, though” and it took me a solid minute or two to figure out how to make it stop.

He tinkered with it for a few minutes, then he looked at me very dubiously and said, “I think I fix it, can you turn on?”

After a few false starts, I did manage to turn it on, and he had, in fact, fixed it.

On the plus side: the sprinkler is fixed.  On the minus side: my gardener now thinks I’m a complete idiot. Or maybe he knew it all along.