Thursday, April 10, 2014

Cuts Like a Knife

Bronchitis.  It's what's for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  At least it was for me when I returned from my business trip a couple weeks ago.  I was laid up in bed for days, coughing up a lung, shivering, sweating, and generally feeling run down.  A few days later my head started to clear up, I took a look in the mirror and noticed that the stubble on my face had taken over.  I reached for my travel bag and searched for my razor.  No dice.  Looked through my suitcase.  Not there.  So I called the friend I stayed with on the road, and he confirmed the razor was at their house.  Damn.

So I ventured out to find the identical razor so my existing cartridges would fit.  I went to my local RiteAid, which seemed like a good candidate to carry the Gillette Sensor Excel razor.  But after navigating my way through the labyrinth of aisles to the men's grooming section, I found only bare shelves.  All the razors were piled high into two nearby blue RiteAid shopping carts next to a RiteAid employee who was spraying some fragrantly toxic cleaning solution over the shelves.  She looked up from her spraying and said "Oh I'm so sorry, all the razors are here", pointing at the full carts.  The toxic aroma didn't allow me a moment to think of digging through the bins, and I high-tailed it out of there.

I continued on to Vons, CVS, and Walgreens in search of the elusive Gillette Sensor Excel razor.  None of these stores carried it. What they did carry were those razors that have no fewer than 5 blades in a cartridge.  Which reminded me of every SNL/MADtv skit ever created mocking 14 & 20 blade razors.  No need to be shaving with something the size of a hockey puck. Besides, every store put every single razor and box of cartridges behind a security barrier, so that a customer would then have to summon an employee just to ask questions.  No thanks.

Surrender was imminent when I pulled in to another CVS to buy whichever razor seemed the least ridiculous.  But this magical CVS stocked the Gillette Sensor Excel!  The search was over.  Except the razor was barricaded behind some security contraption.  Fortunately CVS had the good sense to place a big red button the size of a Staples EASY button nearby which read "REQUEST CUSTOMER ASSISTANCE".  I pressed the button, which momentarily interrupted the Bryan Adams song blaring throughout the store to announce "CUSTOMER ASSISTANCE REQUESTED IN SHAVING".  I had inadvertently pressed it twice, so it delivered the message two times in a row.  And then Bryan Adams came back on.  

I waited.  I didn't want to press the big red button again, but nobody was coming around to unlock my razor.  Another Bryan Adams song came on.  I pressed the red button.  "CUSTOMER ASSISTANCE REQUESTED IN SHAVING" boomed over the PA.  I began to feel like the test rat who presses a button repeatedly in order to get the cheese, or the chocolate, or the cocaine, or whatever.  I briefly thought about breaking the anti-theft device so I could get the hell out of there.  But an employee poked her head around the corner to tell me "I'll be right there, I just have to get the key."

She returned with the key and fumbled with the lock for a few moments before handing over the razor.  I told her "I had no idea these were such high-theft items."  She replied "Yep.  Gotta keep the homeless people from stealing them."  I nodded my head.  "Or else we'll have a lot of clean shaven homeless around" she joked.  I told her "Thank you" and walked toward the registers to make my purchase. 

On the way to the registers, I thought about how ironic it would be if I just walked out of there with the razor.  But I noticed the magnetic security sticker on the packaging, and I compulsively began peeling it away until a voice at the self-checkout startled me: "You can checkout over here."  I looked up and a CVS employee was waving at me, smiling.  I asked her "But this has a security thingy on it.  Can you take care of that?"  She waved me over, and swiped the razor over the scanner and put it in a bag.  Didn't even demagnetize it.  Those security swindlers.  And I was on my merry way to a clean face.

Thursday, April 03, 2014

Lust for Life

A couple weeks ago I had a tough decision to make when my bag of coffee beans reached its untimely end:  Buy more now or wait to buy more?  I realize that's not a tough decision at all, and it probably sounds really stupid.  You run out of coffee beans, you buy more coffee beans right now because if tomorrow morning comes and there's no coffee in the house, you'll be frantically scrambling for a way to avoid the dreaded caffeine-withdrawl headache at all costs.

But as I stared down the barrel of the empty coffee bag, the consideration of my impending business trip made me think twice about being mindlessly drawn as if through a tractor beam to my local bean provider to secure coffee for another couple weeks.  I'd be gone for 11 days - plus the 4 days until I departed.  For a coffee purist like myself (don't get any wise ideas about calling me a coffee snob), that's a little too long to let good beans sit around.  So I decided to put off the bean purchase until I returned from the trip.

It started off simply enough.  The first morning I just looked to our box of teas in the pantry to fill the caffeine void.  Because the wifey only drinks decaf teas, there should be plenty of remaining caffeinated options.  And there were.  Options like tea labeled "Best consumed before 2012".  I grabbed a caramel vanilla black tea and steeped it for as long as I could take before needing a fix.  It was tasty, but not satisfying, and an hour later I could sense the subtle notes of a headache creeping in.  Fortunately I knew we needed groceries from Trader Joe's, and TJ's always has the pot of complimentary coffee in the middle of our neighborhood store.  Caffeine-withdrawl headache day one averted.

Now that I had the Trader Joe's option in my back pocket, the next two mornings were crafted around visits to TJ's to buy one or two items.  All the while sneaking back to the coffee pot to fill up those little tiny dixie-sized cups that don't amount to the volume in a regular ceramic mug.  Unless you go back several times trying not to draw the attention of the employee making samples of gluten-free vanilla granola submerged in whipped cream and organic strawberries.  Hello again!  Slurp.  I told a co-worker of mine about my borderline homeless person behavior, and he said I displayed traits more like a junkie.

On the final day before departure, my coffee sneaking paranoia got the best of me after I had visited the last of the Trader Joe's in my area.  So I was struck by the brilliant idea of killing three birds with one stone by visiting a studio where I've freelanced in the past year. I could grab a cup of coffee while visiting with the Executive Producer, meanwhile giving my money to a betting pool surrounding a certain sporting event which happens mostly in March but continues into April.  It's a donation really.  There's no expectation of ever seeing that money again.  I finished my visit, put the coffee mug down and walked out with a caffeinated bounce in my step, knowing that I'd made it through the final morning at home without having bought a new bag of coffee beans.

The next cup of coffee landed at my tray on the airplane after my brief runway-wobbling induced nap.  I was traveling to the land of coffee, so I knew the next 11 days would be a snap.  As I reached the last day of the trip, I reminded myself several times that I needed to buy beans.  I stopped into my favorite coffee roaster away from home and requested the same bag of beans I bought last time I was in town:  Harar.  The barista said "Oh the light roast?"  The last time I bought Harar it was medium roast.  I said "Is it light?  I thought it was medium."  She replied "No it's light.  If you want medium you should buy the Sumatra."  So I bought a pound of it.  The next morning at home I opened the bag and it was dark roast.  The bulging bag of Sumatra makes me pine for the days of my junkie visits to Trader Joe's.