Friday, July 18, 2014

Camels and Zebras and Llamas, Oh My!


According to a few short online news blurbs and a Facebook comment, a tractor trailer truck transporting circus animals was involved in an accident on Interstate 90 last Saturday. The camels, llamas, and zebras riding in the truck were part of a circus performing in a nearby town that weekend.

Although the driver of the second vehicle involved went to the hospital, apparently none of the animals were seriously hurt. I hope the injured driver is doing well and the animals have rejoined the circus. I never will know for sure though, because I can’t find a follow-up to this story, and I seriously suspect there wasn’t one.

Would you believe that reading about the mishap reminded me of something that happened way back when? (Of course you would.)

One winter evening in the late 90s, Other Half and I stopped for dinner at a Friendly’s restaurant. When we left the restaurant, he sprinted across the parking lot to our vehicle, eager to get out of the cold and light up a cigarette.

I was eager to get out of the cold, too, but I stopped in the middle of the parking lot and checked out a pickup truck that was parked at the edge of the lot. The truck had a camper shell, and the camper shell was occupied by an animal that, at first glance, looked like either a humongous dog or a small pony. Instead of heading to our vehicle, I moved closer to the truck to get a better view. That did not go over well with Other Half.

“Hey,” he hollered. “Get in the truck. Let’s go.”

“Not yet,” I said. “There’s a weird animal in the back of that truck. I’m trying to figure out what it is.”

“Never mind, it’s none of your business. Let’s go.”

“In a minute,” I said, moving closer to the pickup. At first, I thought the animal was a mutant form of Great Dane, but the neck was too long, and the head didn’t look like a Great Dane’s.

Between concentrating on getting a close look at the animal and trying to ignore Other Half’s grumbling, I failed to notice the man approaching the pickup.

Busted! The man did not look happy to see me sneaking up on his vehicle.

I’m sure he wondered why I was so interested in his, um, cargo. I was about to confess that I was just curious. However, I suddenly remembered some advice I’d heard somewhere (I forgot where): If caught in the act, play dumb.

“Um, what kind of dog is that?” I asked.

“It’s a llama.” He said.

O-kaaay.

I really wanted to ask more questions. For instance: How the heck did you convince that thing to hop into the back of a pickup?

But I didn’t. I took Other Half’s advice and minded my own business.

[Note: There were several llama farms operating in the area at that time. So it might not have been that unusual to haul small/young llamas around in pickup trucks. Still wonder how they got them in there, though.]

Saturday, July 05, 2014

Confessions of a Dollar Store Junkie


In 1989, super cheap discount stores were a fairly new concept in merchandising. One afternoon, during my lunch hour, I checked out the merchandise in a ninety-nine cent store that recently had opened in Escondido, California.

I wasn’t impressed. The store was messy, and most of the merchandise had been imported from China. The items I briefly considered buying looked as if they would fall apart about two minutes after I handed over my money.

Obviously, I thought, this type of store won’t be in business too long.

Obviously, I was wrong.

Ninety-nine cent stores didn’t go away. They just increased their prices by a penny and morphed into dollar stores. These days, dollar stores seem to be popping up all over the place, like dandelions in the spring. And most of the stores seem to be doing very well.

However, companies frequently have to fight uphill battles in order to get approval to locate in some municipalities.

Several city governments have passed regulations prohibiting dollar stores from locating in “prime” areas. People living in small towns (especially some people living in a certain small town) often are opposed to any form of dollar store locating anywhere within the town.

And although many individuals swear they would never shop at dollar stores, tens of thousands of other people do shop at them. Otherwise, companies wouldn’t be opening so many of them.

And yes, I am one of those other people.

I confess that I shop at dollar stores, mostly at the Dollar Tree stores that are everywhere in San Diego County. The county also has a variety of ninety-nine-cent-type stores. Oddly enough, all items in most of those ninety-nine-cent stores sell for a dollar each.

I don’t buy food products, makeup, medicine, or vitamins at the Dollar Tree. However, there are a lot of “basics” that I do buy there, including greeting cards, office supplies, and kitchen and cleaning supplies.

I refuse to pay four dollars or more for a greeting card. The Dollar Tree has a variety of very nice greeting cards that sell for a dollar each or two for a dollar. And I’m always able to find cards with verses that are appropriate for the intended recipient.

I do most of my writing and editing on the computer. However, I take notes, lots of notes, the old-fashioned way. I then enter my handwritten notes into the computer (well, I do if I can read my scribbling) and trash the paper copies.

I once spent way too much money on notebooks and other must-have office supplies at Staples and Office Depot. These days, I buy my notebooks, note pads, index cards, and most of my pens at the Dollar Tree.

Last, but definitely not least, it’s no secret that I’m domestically dysfunctional (and I do have published proof). I spend the fewest hours on housework that I can get away with, while still ensuring that the apartment is clean and presentable.

I dislike spending a small fortune on dishcloths, dish towels, sponges, brooms, mops, and dustpans. Paying only a dollar for each of these items suits me just fine. And I’m still using the dish towels, broom, mops, and dust pan I bought more than a year ago.

When it comes to buying certain items, frugal me will continue to buy them at the Dollar Tree and other dollar stores (sorry, Cheshire). I’ve found that most of the present day dollar stores are cleaner and better organized than the first one I walked into 25 years ago. And they offer better quality merchandise today, even though most of that merchandise is still imported from China.

And just for the record, I am neither employed by nor do I own stock in Dollar Tree, Inc.