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Saturday, February 26, 2005

Crap magnet

If you ever have the chance, do not go into public places with me. Why? Because for some reason my public-place karma is way off kilter and I attract the worst of the worse. Today was one of those days.

1. Movie theater: On the screen "Because of Winn Dixie" (a charmer with a little something for everyone -- even the jam-band-loving dad), behind me a woman who really should have thought long and hard before going to the movie with her kids, her friends and their kids. I'm afraid even the luxury of the stadium seating didn't protect me from the cough, cough, hack, hack, sneezing going on over my shoulder. At one point she talked to her friends and she was just so terribly stuffed up, and she coughed a lot in our general direction. I just imagined her awful germs finding their way into our open bag of popcorn and onto our straw. You know it was bad because I am typically not a germophobe. I might have married one, but I usually look at germs and laugh. That's how bad it was.

Movie theater bonus: About 3/4 of the way through the movie, I noticed a woman from the mom-friends group behind us come down, whisper to her friends and then leave the theater. Not having the movie-theater manners of their departing friend, one mom leaned over to the other mom left and said, "She has to go XXX is sick. Yeah, he's throwing up." Meaning one of the kids behind us had to leave the feel-good kids flick because he couldn't keep the buttered popcorn down. Just remembering all of this makes me want to fill the bathtub with Purell and jump in!

2. Applebee's: Took the girls to an early dinner at Applebee's (their oriental chicken salad isn't very oriental, but it is craving-worthy. And luckily the maple butter blondie wasn't nearly as good as I remembered it from when I had it 18 months ago or so). Seated next to us was over-the-hill, hippie musician who knew everything. He talked loud enough that Maxine couldn't help but be drawn into his conversation of meaningless stuff he knows. I quietly taught Maxine that you can still listen to people's conversations without staring at them (a favorite pastime of mine). Then the guy started ragging on fast-food restaurants (dude, you're at Applebees, you might be sitting down at a table, but you're not in a place where you can really be looking down your nose at fast-food joints).

At the mention of McDonald's, he said, "They're the worst. Well, they're the second worst. Taco Bell, they're the worst!" And continued to rant about sanitary conditions, where the animals are raised and the food produced, and on and on and on.

Maxine turned to me and whispered, "He's talking about two of my favorite places!" She buried her face in my shoulder. I asked, "Are you embarrassed?" And she said, "No, I'm mad."

Through the remainder of our dinner, he continued to use his louder-than-his-friends and much-louder-than-necessary voice to remind his friends (and half the restaurant) how much smarter he is than them.

Blockbuster: Can't really say that anything bad happened there, except as we walked in the "friendly" employee said, "Hi, how are you tonight? Are you familiar with the end of late fees?" Guess they're doing a CYA over there.

The one thing I really did learn is that movies are best rented before noon on a Friday, not at 6 p.m. on a Saturday. For all the complaints about the lack of a night life in this town, all you have to do is walk into a neighborhood Blockbuster to see what people round here are doing. Guess if you're an up-and-coming band, you should score a gig at Blockbuster if you really want to play to a crowd.

And one final rant: What's with movies these days? Is it just the pre-Oscar dearth of quality movies? If you're not looking for a scary movie, you're SOL. I walked around that store twice before giving in and buying "In America" for $7.99. Nothing there seemed worthy of giving two hours of my life to. (The girls grabbed the last copy of "Raise Your Voice" and I let them buy "Cinderella Story" ... it's a Hilary Duff marathon around here tonight!)

posted by Laura at 7:24 PM | 3 comments

Friday, February 25, 2005

My name in print!

I'm a writer. I should be paid for my words. But I'm pretty darned excited to know that my words might be printed for free in an upcoming Entertainment Weekly!

I wrote a Letter to the Editor and they emailed back for confirmation and permission to print!!!! (I'm so excited that I'm using multiple exclamation points.)

posted by Laura at 7:09 AM | 0 comments

Thursday, February 17, 2005

The world must know, take 2

Earlier today Blogger ate my post. Of course it was a yummy post about a cool trick to try with Thin Mints. Thus, I am going to try to re-create it here (warning: writing things a second time because of a technology hiccup really irritates me, and I'm never as clever as I was the first time, trust me).

A student shared a cool trick with me recently. She said you can take your Girl Scout Thin Mint cookie and turn it on its side. Bite off a little bit at the top and a little bit at the bottom. Submerge the bottom nip in a cup of hot chocolate (I haven't tried this in hot chocolate, but I can vouch for hot coffee) and suck on the top nip as though you had yourself a Thin Mint straw. It's surprising how little sucking effort it takes to get coffee through the cookie. Once you taste the coffee just pop that cookie in your mouth.

The thing just disintegrates in an explosion of chocolate mintiness on your tongue. It's simply amazing. I really liked Thin Mints before, but now it's love.

Yes, I too thought this was a rather childish act. So after a couple or three Thin Mint straws, I figured I should be able to just dunk the darn cookie and get the same effect. But not even close. Since I won't submerge my fingers when I dunk, there was a little solid piece of cookie and the coffee hadn't evenly soaked the dunked cookie. The last danger in the grown-up approach was that the chocolate coating on the cookie melts into your coffee -- sure there are worse fates, but the lack of chocolate takes away from the total zen experience of a Thin Mint melting in your mouth.

posted by Laura at 9:11 PM | 0 comments

LIMEs unite

After a playground conversation earlier this week, I started thinking about perfect mothers. I am not a perfect mother. And while I try most days to be a darn good mother, I have hung up my perfect mom aspirations. (I promise I was thinking this on Monday, two whole days before I got this week's Newsweek.)

And in the spirit of not being perfect, I have decided to form a new ... not club, not organization exactly ... a new thing I guess. LIME (League of Imperfect Mothers Everywhere). Anyone is welcome to join. That is anyone who has come to terms with their imperfection, anyone who can resist the urge to compare their children to others at least 51% of the time, anyone who can let their children dress themselves in stripes and florals and let that child go to school looking that way, anyone who can feel OK that their child gets B's or C's on report cards ... you get the idea.

LIME: Accepting our imperfections since 2005. Now we just need a super-cool logo.

posted by Laura at 9:01 PM | 0 comments

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Leaving the supermarket yesterday I was approached in the parking lot as I was loading my groceries in our new vehicle. The woman and her son, who must have been 10 or 11, walked up and she asked, "Do you have any spare change?"

My immediate answer was no. I was taught to not give to people on the street. I give to a variety of charities regularly, including one that provides food to the needy. But to the people on the streets or in the parking lots, I just say no. Once I was walking with a friend as a guy playing guitar asked us for some change. She didn't hesitate as she walked over and handed him a one-dollar bill. I was shocked. But she's a very good person, and it's just in her nature.

After I said no yesterday, I watched them as they walked from person to person in the lot, asking for change. I noticed that they both looked rather skinny. I felt incredibly sad on so many levels. I especially felt bad for the boy. He didn't meet my gaze when his mother asked me for money. Perhaps she gets more handouts when she drags the boy with her, perhaps he's learning important lessons about life that I never did. But most of all I couldn't help thinking about how this could scar this child. We do so many things that could affect our children for the rest of their lives. Often we don't think about the impact until later. I wonder why that woman wouldn't just let her kid sit by the storefront and not drag him around. I really think this is a woman who cares about her family. She's doing what she can, what she knows to survive. As I pulled off, I watched her start her approach to another car. As she did, she grabbed her son's hand -- a natural maternal instinct in a crowded parking lot.

I wish -- instead of saying no, instead of giving money -- I had reached inside one of the grocery bags and pulled out something to give them. A can of soup or a box of fruit snacks could have made a difference to these people.

posted by Laura at 11:01 AM | 0 comments

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Repositioning

Ever noticed sometimes things get new names, but other than that new name almost NOTHING has changed? Here are some examples:

The end of late fees: As explained by the friendly Blockbuster employee: We still have due dates, but now we have an extra week to return them (which raises the question: why not just make the due date seven days beyond what it currently is?). If you don't return the movie that week, Blockbuster will charge your credit card the entire amount for the movie (1. I'm guessing there's no pre-viewed discount there. 2. When exactly did they get and store my credit card number for these no-late-fee occasions? Lucky for me, I'm guessing the card I signed up with years ago isn't active anymore!). Apparently, you have a window of opportunity to still return the movie, at which point you are charged a "restocking" fee. So, the ads should really read: The end of late fees, the beginning of restocking fees.

No-haggle car dealerships: We went to one (I won't name names, but it happens to have the same name as a great Hall of Fame QB) Saturday trying to deal on a Nissan. On their window stickers they have their "no-haggle price," which is a little less than the MSRP (but not nearly as close to invoice as you can haggle for at traditional dealerships). The salesman didn't seem to understand what no-haggle meant. Because, of course, we haggled a lot on the value of our trade-in, and he even uttered these words: "We can work on the price on our car too, because we are here to sell cars."

Sure enough, it felt like every other car-buying experience I've ever had. Sitting at his desk while he runs the sheets to the sales manager behind the glass (instead of solid walls, this one was like a fishbowl and we could at least watch them while they pretended to act in our best interest discussing the prices). He came back with a monthly payment that made our jaw drop -- nearly $200 over what we said was doable. He says, "If we get it to this price will you do the deal?" I say, "Sure." He makes me sign my initials to that price. (I should check and see if they get that number if I'm legally bound by my initials to buy.) He comes back, looking glum. Can't get it to that number. B and I say, "OK, we're outta here." (The whole time he was gone the second time, we had a conversation about what complete BS the no-haggle premise is and that we should have just left before he ran off to the fishbowl again.) He says, "Oh wait, do you have five more minutes?" Me, being hungry and grumpy and only about 7 minutes away from the best (if not only) Jewish deli in the state, said, "No."

We could have gone on for hours just nickel-and-diming over the car(s). When the time is right to buy a car, I will not go back to a place that is build on a BS premise. I'd rather do the deal with a car dealer who embraces their sleazy, undermining ways.

posted by Laura at 1:23 PM | 2 comments

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Brain dump

Don't believe what you read

I got a bill from a local hospital for some lab work a few months ago. Turns out the front desk at the doctor's office wrote the wrong insurance provider down, prompting my insurance to make sure I wasn't two-timing. So I got bills from the doctor and the hospital. I filled out the paperwork where I proved my fidelity and 60-90 days later things were taken care of. Then yesterday I got a bill for $45 -- the portion of the lab work my insurance wouldn't cover. I considered just paying it, but then I realized I never paid for lab work before. I called the hospital. I was on hold for only about 10 minutes. Then I explained I thought it was strange, and perhaps I should call my insurance. But the nice woman on the other line said something about having a contract with my insurance provider and she would just take care of it.

I just wonder how many people would not take the time to call and just pay the bill. How much overpayment is going on out there in the world, and how many companies are righting the wrongs when we do overpay? Goes to show you, question everything!

This does bring me to another point that has always bothered me. The way insurance just says to medical providers, "You charged $100 for this, we only approve $75." And the medical provider accepts that $75 and calls the $25 an adjustment. Do people without the insurance industry have that power? Sorry, I won't pay that amount, you WILL accept this. If only we would decide that the service was only worth $75 to begin with, then we might save a lot of money on medical care and insurance because there wouldn't be thousands of people employed arguing over that $25 difference. I'm so naive on all this crap, but it just seems to make sense to my simple mind.


Pre-reading fun

Madison was reading some pre-reading books (yeah, I know that makes a ton of sense) last night. They're the ones that give confidence to the pre-readers. It's really a trip as she figures out the formula and then "reads" entire 12-page books. For instance, in The City, I read the first page: I see the police department. Then she gets the rest by the pictures. "I see the post office."

Some of my favorite moments come when she reads her own way. In the book about opposites, she read, "Wet and ... not wet." Can't argue with that. Another book describes where animals sleep. Madison read, "Camels sleep in ... the hot!" Back to the city, for some reason Madison calls police, "police cops" (and when we saw one recently at a stoplight, this 4-year-old said, "He's going for a donut!" I promise I did not teach her this gem.), where she was supposed to see the fire department, she saw "the fire cop."


An open letter, of sorts

Dear Academy Awards, Golden Globes, SAG awards, Emmys, etc. etc. etc.,

Let me begin by saying yes, I am a bit resentful. But I think I'm speaking for a large portion of the viewing public and fans of awards shows when I ask: Are these presenter and nominees gift "bags" really necessary? We see the irony in loading up these celebrities, who are at the top of their games, who really can afford all of these fabulous items not intended for mere mortals.

I know why the manufacturers of the booty do it. First, if the celebrities have these items, the rest of us must want them. Second, there's always good press in giving your goods to these poor celebrities. You just know that Extra, Entertainment Tonight and any number of other entertainment media will tell us entertainment junkies everything that the celebs get.

Yes, I really want one too. Unfortunately, I don't see myself ever being selected as a nominee or a presenter (things could change, but my career path just isn't shooting in that direction right now). I'm jealous of these fantastic items and these lucky people (much like I am every time Oprah hosts her Favorite Things show). You might see this as me begging for your generosity and just sending me one, but that's not what I'm asking.

I am making one suggestion (not in my personal interest because just as I cannot afford the items in these gift bags, I could not afford to be in the running for this suggestion): Collect one or two more of all of these give-aways and have an eBay auction. (This goes for you and your favorite things too, Oprah!) Or maybe some of the celebs who realize while it's fun getting free stuff, they can easily afford all this groovy crap, could donate theirs to an auction. Raise money for tsunami victims, raise money for your favorite charity, raise money for scholarships. Whatever, just think about giving to others at the same time you're giving to the not-very needy.



posted by Laura at 2:09 PM | 0 comments

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Lock the door!

Down the hall from my office is a nice, single-stall bathroom. For some reason it just feels more dignified to walk into a bathroom with its own door than into a row of stalls. I also get the sense it's cleaner because it doesn't attract the same number of users as the multi-user bathrooms out by the classrooms.

Quite a while back, I went to walk into the bathroom and opened the door to find a woman sitting there doing her business. I really don't know who was more scarred from the incident, me or her. You can believe that experience made me check and double check the lock on that door every time I walked in. I still have a lingering nervousness when I'm in there that someone will just come strolling in. I guess I have faith in humankind that when you're in a public restroom you will lock the door.

Today, as I went for my pre-class visit, I opened the door to find a man in there! He was doing his business -- as janitor replacing the trash bags, filling TP, etc. This wasn't quite as revolting as walking in on that woman, but it still has me rattled. If you were a male janitor in a female restroom, don't you think proper etiquette would include locking the door so you don't startle the customers? I'm forced to believe this was a deliberate act on his part because the look on my face must have been entertaining.

posted by Laura at 3:52 PM | 1 comments
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