Friday, May 30, 2014

That Bracelet Was Definitely Overpriced


A few months ago, I gave away some jewelry making supplies. I guess I didn’t give away enough of them. I still have too many beads and findings, but I don’t have enough space to store them.

I usually pack surplus supplies in a gallon-size Ziploc bag and drop them off at a Goodwill store. I really would like to give them to someone, but I don’t know anyone in North County who could use them. On second thought, maybe that’s just as well.

About twenty years ago, I gave a small stash of beads and findings to a twelve-year-old girl. I don’t remember her name, so I’ll call her “Nicole.”

Back then, I worked part time in the fabrics and crafts department of a big box store. One Monday evening when customers were few and far between, I spent ten or fifteen minutes hanging out at the cutting table, discussing the pros and cons of polymer clay with Nicole and her grandmother. I’ll call the grandmother “Ellen.”

When Nicole wandered off to explore the crafts area, Ellen confided that she had temporary custody of Nicole and her thirteen-year-old sister. I won’t share the details here; however, Ellen did share them with me that evening.

The girls’ immediate family was, to say the least, dysfunctional. The parents were divorced, and the sisters had a really contentious relationship. Ellen claimed that the girls couldn’t stand being in the same room with each other.

Ellen supported and encouraged her younger granddaughter’s interest in making jewelry using a variety of materials. She said the hobby distracted Nicole from fretting about family problems and the impending permanent custody hearing.

Nicole had just started making polymer clay beads. She also had created a large inventory of earrings using glass beads. Nicole had sold several pairs of those earrings to a local woman who owned a store.

I told Ellen I planned to sort through my beads and findings and give some away. I asked her if she thought Nicole would like to have them. Ellen gave me her phone number and told me to call her when the supplies were ready to be picked up.

Later that week, I went through my stash and came across a sad looking beaded bracelet I had made a few years before. I had strung the beads on tigertail (inexpensive beading wire) and finished it with the cheapest crimps and clasp I could find. The tigertail had kinked, and the base metal crimps had split.

The bracelet was unwearable, but the small glass pony beads were salvageable. I thought about taking the bracelet apart, but decided to just toss it into the bag as is. When Ellen picked up the supplies, I handed her the bag saying, “There’s a really ugly bracelet in the bag. Nicole can take it apart and use the beads to make something else.”

I never saw Ellen or Nicole again. However, several weeks later, I visited a local consignment store. Upon entering the store, I noticed an earring display with a sign that read, this jewelry was made by Nicole, a twelve-year-old [name of town] resident. I don’t remember how much the earrings were selling for, but that ugly bracelet hanging in the middle of the display had a price tag of $1.50.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

The Sprinter: Back on Track


[This is the long-delayed "sequel" to an earlier post, Introducing the Sprinter, published on July 3, 2013.]

A year ago at this time, I was impatiently anticipating the return of commuter train service to North County. I missed the convenience of riding the Sprinter when I traveled between cities. I especially hated riding a much too overcrowded bus to Escondido at 6:30 a.m. every Wednesday.

Why was I anticipating the return of the Sprinter?

On March 8, 2013, North County Transit District (NCTD) shut down the trains due to a problem with the braking system. The shutdown caused serious transportation problems for thousands of people (including me), many of whom (but not including me) depend on the train to get to work or school every day.

Of course The-Powers-That-Be (TPTB) still had to move all those people.

In order to do that, TPTB leased luxury commercial coaches that ran about every fifteen minutes during peak periods. The plush buses really didn’t have much leg room, but the seats were comfortable. And passengers didn’t risk life and limb stumbling over baby carriages, walkers, and personal shopping carts on the way to their seats because those items were stored in a separate compartment under the passenger section.

About a month into the shutdown, TPTB phased out the use of the commercial coaches. For a short time, several rickety buses brought in from Los Angeles helped to move commuters. A fellow passenger claimed that the L.A. buses dated back to the sixties. I didn't doubt it. Every time the drivers hit the brakes, something fell off those buses.

And then the L.A. buses disappeared. After that, what seemed like a half-zillion passengers were stuffed into NCTD buses operating on the most popular regular routes and two newly created Sprinter Shuttle express bus routes. Riding on one of those shuttle buses was like being trapped in a traveling sardine can.

The system remained shut down for over two months. After the repairs were completed, several agencies had to inspect the braking system, the tracks, the signals, and who knows what else before the Sprinter could start hauling people again.

On May 17, 2013, I noticed that the yellow boarding platforms were down. They had been pulled up when the Sprinter shut down. I figured that was a good sign. And it was. The Sprinter was back on track the next day.

Tuesday, May 06, 2014

Screaming Preschoolers and Dismembered Dummies



A few weeks ago, a little boy, who was probably about three years old, had a major meltdown at the library. You had to be there to believe how bad it was. He carried on for what seemed like forever, but was probably only six or seven minutes. His mother either didn’t know how to deal with his tantrum or chose to ignore it.
After a few minutes of listening to his screaming and sobbing, other patrons began making snarky comments about the woman’s parenting skills. The security officer finally told her to take her son outside until he calmed down.
Witnessing that little boy’s meltdown dredged up a memory from my own childhood. Actually, it isn’t my memory; I was too young to remember. It’s a family story I had heard ever since I was in elementary school.
When I was about two years old, my aunt worked at a dry goods store. If my mother took me into the store on the day the clerks were changing the clothing displays, everyone on the sales floor held her (yes, her) breath. As soon as I spotted a mannequin without an arm or leg or, better yet, a head, I’d throw myself on the floor and commence screaming and sobbing. According to Mom, my histrionics were something that had to be seen to be believed.
I’m fairly certain that shoppers who witnessed my meltdown made snarky remarks about my mother’s parenting skills. And my aunt probably fled to the back office and hoped nobody realized we were related. Not a chance. We lived in a small town where everybody really did know everybody—well, mostly everybody.
One day, when I was in the middle of freaking out, the store owner emerged from his office and walked over to Mom. Trying to keep a straight face, he said, “Take her out of here. She’s ruining my business.”
Returning to the present day, I eventually learned that the little boy who freaked out at the library was upset because his mother had turned in a video he thought was his to keep. And, no, no one every figured out why I went ballistic over dismembered dummies. That forever will remain another personal unsolved mystery.