Senior Citizens and Coupons

Today is senior citizen day at Publix. Are you surprised? Senior fucking citizen day.

So I never remember senior citizen day at Publix until I am in Publix. I should remember because it’s every Wednesday. Its not until I am through produce that I notice there are a lot of elderly couples at the store and there are a lot of carts left unattended in the middle of aisles with old lady purses in them. It is only until I get to the cereal aisle that I say to myself “motherfuck. Its Wednesday, isn’t it?”

Today I arrived at Publix to buy two things. I bought a bunch of flat leaf Italian parsley and a pint of heavy whipping cream. My total was $4.65.

Checking out is always fun on fucking senior citizen day because senior citizens come in pairs. Apparently when you get old and your faculties start to go you need your life partner with you at all times to pick up the slack. Either that or its like that old people dating site “Our Time” and they feel they spent the last 50 years of their marriage “apart” so now they need to make up for lost time by pissing everyone off around them. I have actually explored this with my mother, she told me, as my father gets older he has gotten more clingy to her and can’t do anything by himself. Maybe it’s the drop in testosterone? Maybe I don’t give a fuck.

I got in checkout lane 10 right behind some wandery woman with a notepad and an open purse. She didn’t have a cart but she was old and old people ask a lot of questions, so I assumed she was going to ask the cashier where the soup aisle was or something. She looks at me, gives me a tight smile and MOUTHS “my husband” and points to some vast space beyond my vision. I walked away.

I got to the next aisle, Rich was checking out a couple of old people and he looked like he was finishing up. Rich is a nice guy, but I really don’t have the patience for him. Yo, fucking….I didn’t go to Publix for two months because of school and Jared was going or I was going to Teeter, I show up during finals week and he hugs me. Like we’re old pals. He bags my fucking groceries. What’s Publix’s motto? The friendly place? Where you can get sexually molested and pay 10% more for groceries? We got fried chicken? I really don’t know.

These people in front of me had two carts. It’s not a holiday, they didn’t have kids around them, what are these two people in their 70’s doing with two carts of groceries? He finishes checking them out. Apparently they had quite the rapport during this transaction because Rich keeps pausing between looking up their bags of green onions and their boxes of Triscuits to tell them jokes. All I want is to pay for my parsley and heavy whipping cream.

The she pulls out a baggie of coupons. I notice that the bagger is still trying to bag all 15 jars of their peanut butter. Rich dutifully scans each, and every one, of their coupons. They saved $17.37. For fucking $17.37, I will dig out the change from my bag and give it to them just to get them out of the store faster.  I understand why the elderly use coupons, fixed incomes et cetera.  But I’m also on a fixed income, its called a salary.

I don’t understand the allure of coupons. I mean, critically, yes, you can essentially pay $0.10 less for a can of hairspray than someone who didn’t spend an hour of their time hunting down the coupon and cutting it out and then remembering when to use said coupon thus pissing everyone off because sometimes the coupons don’t work. Or worse, you have to buy two of the same product in order for the coupon to be valid so you send your spouse or child back to the aisle to pick up another can of hairspray while you smile tightly to the people who already have their shit on the thing and are committed to being in this aisle and say “he’ll be right back.”

Being a small business owner I am constantly doing math. Simple math, relax. For instance, if I charge $100 per hour for my time that means that I am able to bill up to $2400 per day. Sometimes if I don’t take my medication, that actually happens. Let’s say I sleep for 6 hours, mealtime’s equal about 3 hours, 2 hours a day for miscellaneous things, that takes about 11 hours leaving me with 13 billable hours. The hard cost of a Sunday paper is $1.50. But let’s take into account gas and mileage to wherever I am going to buy this paper because I do not have a subscription to the daily newspaper. Let’s say it costs me another $1.50 in gas and mileage to get the paper and that’s if I don’t buy anything else. So we are up to $3. I am going to leave out the snarky comment about the Post and Courier and just say I get my news elsewhere, so the sole purpose of buying this newspaper is for the coupons. I am spending money to be advertised to.

Let’s say it takes me an hour to get through all the ads and cut out all the coupons, that brings my billable hours down from 13 to 12, and lets say round trip to buy the paper was another 30 minutes, so 11.5 hours. Now I have to make my weekly shopping list to accommodate all the coupons I clipped, factor in another hour for that. 10.5 hours.

What if I need to buy multiples of things in order for the coupon to work? The purpose of a coupon is not to make you save money, but it’s a way for you to betray your brand loyalty and try a new product. Do you think Johnson and Johnson really cares enough about you to have you save $0.15 on a bottle of shampoo? They don’t, they want you to try theirs and be utterly convinced that its superior to Proctor and Gamble’s shampoo and you will buy J&J’s shampoo at full price next week. It’s the whole “you have to spend money to make money thing.” Another way that corporations get you to spend more money is by convincing you to “stock up.” It’s why the old people in front of me bought 15 jars of peanut butter. That peanut butter will turn rancid (or they will die) before they eat it all and even if it was $1/jar, that’s $15 out of their pocket and into Publix’s.

Alright, I got my list, I am at the store, taking into account gas and mileage to my Publix, we will factor in another $1.50. The reason I am accounting gas and milage into this budget and not into another budget is because coupons expire, so I am assuming that I will need to make a special trip to the store to use them. Let’s also consider that sometimes not all coupons work at all stores, for the sake of this argument I am assuming that I will only go to Publix, but in reality I may end up at Earth Fare and Harris Teeter as well. Especially since I will only buy meat at Earth Fare or Whole Foods. But that’s for another time.

A lot of times when things are on sale, the shelves go empty and you have to flag someone down and have them look in the back, or give up. Both of these things take time. An average shopping trip for me is about 25 minutes. The reason it is 25 minutes is because I know there are some aisles I don’t go down and I know where the stuff I buy is so there isn’t a lot of wasted time. In the event that I were to use coupons I would have to find the items. So let’s say, for the sake of round numbers and arguments that I am using 15 coupons on my shopping trip for 15 new products I wouldn’t normally buy making my shopping trip 20 minutes longer bringing it to 45 minutes.

Coupons are usually for new products that are more expensive to begin with. For instance, if you usually spend $10 on a package of five razors, and you get a coupon for new razors at $2 off but they are also $10, but there’s only three, you are spending more even though it seems like less. One other way to look at this is that the new razors may have new technology thus making them last longer, so it actually could be a wash.

It’s time to check out, factor in an additional 5-10 minutes for coupons, also there is a lot of fine print, so you may not be able to use some of them anyway.

Where we at?

$4.50 hard cost

And about 3.5 hours billed at $100/hour for a total of $354.50 just to use coupons. Let’s say you save $10 using coupons ignoring that you may have purchased an inferior product or more product than you actually need that you will now have to store, your actual cost is $345.50.

I don’t use coupons not because it makes no sense fiscally but because I can’t get a coupon in the Sunday paper for produce or meat, only flyers which are free at the entrance of the store.

Anyway…Yeah…Senior citizen day.

Why I fucking hate Panera

Since I was a very small child I hate certain noises. I dont fear them, I don’t have Aspergers nor am I Autistic. I may have a mild form of Misophonia. Whatever. Certain noises make me want to smash things.

Enter Panera.

I like the idea of Panera. Overpriced, mildly ok food, clear plastic cups, soup, wifi, hooray right? Fuck no.

They serve chips and some people can’t fucking handle it. And certain fucking adults can’t handle soup either. Clearly there are some mothers out there who never took the parenting class where they covered manners and how to implement those lessons on their young.

It would do wonders for those of us at Panera who know how the fuck to eat like a grown-up if they could post some fucking rules in a conspicuous location that would cover the following items:

  • Clean up after yourself, don’t leave a shit ton of crumbs all over your table
  • If you table 100 napkins out of the dispenser don’t leave them on your table.  Nobody will ever use them, trust us, just throw them the fuck away. It’s less hurtful to the environment if you do it because if i have to do it, I’m going to go outside and kick a tree.
  • Return your buzzer to the proper location. Don’t be a dick. Plain and simple. It’s not that hard, they made it pretty easy on you.  Unless you’re too stupid to handle that and in that case please leave.
  • If you’re going to order chips, chew with your fucking mouth closed or I will personally come over and remove your teeth with my foot so you will be forced to order that bread thing from this point going forward.
  • If you order soup do not slurp or your privileges will be revoked and you will go to hell where satan himself will give you lessons on manners for all eternity.

So, in closing, fuck panera.

My $78 meeting

It all started at 9:30 this morning.

I had a meeting in DC.  Still being somewhat new to the area, I am not familiar with all of the neighborhoods in DC yet so I am not sure the most effective route to go when I have to go in most of the time. Typically @jaredwsmith goes with me but since we had the new cleaning lady coming today he stayed home.

Sidebar: this is our 3rd cleaning lady.  the first on never did the inside of the microwave and she insisted on doing my laundry.  The result was a shit ton of stuff ruined because it didnt belong in the washing machine. The second one didn’t show up…twice then presented a lame excuse as to why and expected to still have a job.  So now we have Stacey. End sidebar.

So off i go to the vienna metro station which is at the scariest road i have ever been on.  I arrive promptly at 10:00 am. Then the trouble starts.  its a little known fact that if you arrive to Vienna after 8am, you will not be parking anywhere legal.  I forgot this fact this morning.  I was hoping that it was a myth.  It is not. Whats worse is the only way to get out of the parking garage is $4.50 on your metro card.  I have $3.50 on mine. So i circled the parking lot for 15 minutes looking for a spot and I couldnt leave because I wouldnt be able to get out.  I was literally trapped in a concrete fortress.

So what does any desperate-to-be-on-time person do? Invents a parking spot! I found a cozy little place on the sidewalk that would accommodate my volkwagen beetle nicely and pulled right in.  Concerned and looking for approval, I call my mother who tells me I am going to get towed.  She never supports my semi-illegal things. Late and stressed, I leave my car and head into the metro station.  I fill up my card with $20 and get on the train.

I have the metro system down pretty well.  I dont like the long escalators but the rest of it is ok.

This is when the trouble starts.

Let me take a moment to discuss Google Maps. Nothing says “lost” like a kid walking in circles looking at their iPhone. This was me.  I was begging to be mugged or converted to a religion i had never heard of.

I find a bus stop. Albeit, not MY bus stop but a bus stop where I promptly get on a bus and tell the bus driver I am looking for D6.  She kicks me off the bus and tells me to cross the street. I realized later that she meant while there was no traffic. I hop across the street but ask for directions from strangers on two occasions. Once was a nice lady who told me to walk down the block and another a guy in a hard hat smoking a cigarette who actually didnt say anything just shook his head and went back to his phone.  If that is how all construction workers communicate that would explain why things never get done.

I find bus stop number two. On the sign it says “D6”. and I wait. and wait. and wait.  I met a friend in the interim.  Martha.  A nice african american woman in her late 50’s she was also waiting on D6.  But like all good things in life, there is an expiration date. That expiration date was as soon as we got on the bus.  she didnt want to sit next to me. Google transit said the ride is only supposed to be 24 minutes.  apparently they werent ever on this particular bus because every single asshole on this bus wanted to get off not at a stop. I found them to be selfish and lazy.

I had a red sticky note on my puppy notebook telling me what stop to get off at.  so as soon as we got on Macarthur street, i jumped for joy.  Remember how I said the other bus patrons were lazy?  I felt I needed to set and example and get off at the stop 1.4 miles early.

Thanks google maps for brightening my day yet again.

Hot, late, hungry and hoofing it up a hill with a 30 pound purse on my shoulder I call the person I am supposed to be meeting with.  His secretary tells me no problem and she would let him know.

I get to the top of the hill and the road is no more.  I have to go left or right.  I go left.  New rule: if you look at google maps and it looks like you go right, go left.

I pick a direction and go about a block, realize its incorrect and head back. Keep in mind I have already gone a mile.  Luckily, not in heels.

Next thing I know, i am surrounded by houses and the german embassy.  At this point I give up.  I call @jaredwsmith to tell him im canceling my meeting and he says he will come get me.

At this point I call the office back. She tells me she will tell him but isnt that weird..I am not on his schedule for the day.

So I am tired, hot, sweaty, tired, hungry and almost out of money on my metro card and im not even on this guys schedule for the day.

I call @jaredwsmith back. He says he will take a cab to vienna to get my car so I dont get towed. The bright side: my car was still there, the down side: I had a $50 ticket on it.

So at this point we have spent the following to travel 21 miles for a meeting that never was:

  • $50 ticket
  • $22 cab fare
  • $5 metro fare

The day Panera changed my life

As some of you may remember, when I last did freelance I worked at a Panera on Hilton Head Island (I didn’t work AT panera just IN panera…) everyday from usually around 11am til 9-9:30pm.  Now that I am back to doing freelance full time I am starting to remember some of the challenges that I had in finding semi-well lit areas with a mild temperature and ample opportunity to plug my laptop in. I liked panera because every booth had a plugin, it was well lit, the staff was friendly, the coffee was hot and it was right by my gym.

With these memories unfolding as I try and get my sea legs back bring me back to a time when I had only first heard of Panera.

When Panera opened on Hilton Head everyone was excited.  Since I lived in a cave in South Dakota for 5 years and a bomb shelter in Minnesota for 18, I didnt know what a Panera was. I pretended to be excited and hungry like everyone around me.

The day panera opened there was electricity in the air.  I was going through an arbys phase (read: fat phase) so I wasn’t too keen on trying Panera on that day.  I wasn’t too sure what the expect and I couldnt leave the fate of my lunch unknown.  What if I didnt like it and then i would be hungry the rest of the day? So I skipped it.  I actually avoided panera for about 2 weeks before I finally gave in.

Panera’s driveway is on the busiest street in Hilton Head.  Its a 4 lane death trap that they expect you to dart over just for dry baked goods. I digress.

I got into the parking lot without incident. I drove around the parking lot three times (ala @jaredwsmith) looking for the perfect parking spot.  I was really just trying to prolong the time that I had before I had to go in and face my uncoolness.

As a side note: I hate trying new things. I have had my hair cut the same way since 8th grade, it has always been the same shade of brown.  I always eat turkey sandwiches with american cheese and I drink plain coffee with milk and sweet and low.  I won’t even try splenda.  If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. I especially hate trying new restaurants.  I get very cranky when my blood sugar is low and I would hate having to go somewhere, drop $10 on lunch and then not eat it because I dont like it.

I slowly walk up to the door and I am greeted by a mob of people hungrier than the entire continent of Africa.  The door at this specific panera is at an angle and the counter is at another angle creating a sort of triangle effect which makes it very difficult to create straight and orderly lines of people.

I decided to duck behind the person furthest back in the line so I could decide what kind of turkey sandwich I wanted to get. There are 6 distinctly different turkey sandwiches on the Panera menu, with all the types of bread, the permutations are endless. My heart was racing. The crowd was thinning and I was rapidly approaching the counter.

When the girl got to me she was plump and friendly making me feel that if I ate here enough I might be plump and friendly as well. I felt good about the decision I was making.

I asked for “a turkey sandwich”. She asked which one “the one with turkey on it”. she was sweet and obviously saw me sweating through my bra and she simply suggested the sierra turkey sandwich.  I was grateful to have her in my life at that moment. She asked what I wanted as a side item, bread, an apple or chips.  I asked for an apple.  turns out they are macintosh apples which are disgusting and fodder for another blog entry. She handed me a cup (she knew how salty that sandwich would be) and asked if I wanted a cookie as well. I accepted the cookie (read: fat phase).

Then she told me my total. $14.56. No kidding. I had to dip into my emergency candy reserve funds to pay for lunch. I handed her my visa and while it was processing she tried to ease the pain by telling me that “it was for the best” and that I would “just LOOOOOVE the sierra turkey sandwich” and that “its SOOOOOOO good”. She handed me a buzzer and then started at me blankly as I looked at her and then looked at the buzzer. What the fuck was I supposed to do with this thing?

She then looked at the floor and then eventually looked past me and asked for the next person in line.  I was, for a fleeting moment, this girls best friend. I wandered around the new mob of people that were starting to accumulate in no particular fashion around me.

Then my buzzer lit up and started shaking violently. I was overly alarmed.  Now I had this crying device in my hand with no cradle to put it in. I must have looked panicked because a man in a striped brooks brothers shirt pointed me in the direction of my $14 sandwich.

I looked at him like “yeah, i know, just testing you!” and walked down the aisle. I was greeted by a manager at the end asking me how I was doing that day.  I was confused, starving and broke.

I got my bag and vacated but not before getting a diet pepsi. The drink station was chaos. There were kids and adults everywhere just looking for carbonated syrup. I waited in the back until everyone cleared out and walked up to the station.  I got my diet pepsi and I went to put a lid on it.  I have a small issue with lids.  Particularly clear plastic ones that need to go on clear plastic cups.  It took a little finess, readjusting my purse and putting my bag ‘o sandwich on the floor, but I got it.

Triumphant, I walked out of panera with my head held high.

I got back to the office, ate half the sandwich then threw it away with the apple and half of the cookie.

 

Searching Craigslist for freelance work is like whoring for heroin in pittsburgh

Now that I am a free agent, i need to find some business for our small web firm (we do design, programming and SEM if you are curious).  What better place than to troll Craigslist?

I have provided you all with a glossary of terms that can be found in the “computer gigs” section of Craigslist…

  • Must be experienced: “we have been burned thinking we could hire an infant to do our marketing in the past.”
  • Partnership opportunity: “we have no money but we think its a super rad idea so you should too!”
  • I have a small budget: “I have no budget.”
  • I am in a tight schedule: “I expect this to be done in less than 24 hours.”
  • My last guy quit on me: probably because youre a pain in the ass.
  • Be creative!: “give me $5,000 worth of work for $500”
  • Lets barter!: “I want something for nothing”
  • I need a NDA: because your idea to rip off Facebook is such a great one
  • I need 2500 followers on twitter ASAP!!: and I need $1,000,000, we dont always get what we want.
  • Great for students!: we have no money and we think a kid who has an equal amount of experience will make us famous.
  • Fair pay: your opinion of “fair” is not the same as mine.
  • Part-time work!: because i am looking for $12/hr to lick envelopes
  • College credit available: “stand on a corner and pass out flyers to strangers who throw sodas at you”
  • It’s 90% done!: Bullshit.

the day the world broke in half

Today started as every week day does, or did, until today.

  • 7:30 first alarm
  • 7:45 second alarm
  • 8:30 third alarm
  • 8:50 get out of bed
  • 8:55 get in the shower
  • 9:05 get out of shower
  • 9:06 find the least dirty thing on the floor
  • 9:10 smear on some mascara
  • 9:12 curse my job by saying “off to another day of sarcastic remarks and name calling! I fucking hate my job at that fucking place”
  • 9:36 arrive at said fucking place
The rest of the morning was spent receiving sarcastic emails, being told to fix problems that I didnt create (after being told explicitly not to perform things that would create said problems) and dreading the moment that He came in.

I am not interested in a bitch-fest. If you are dying to know the ins and outs of my (old) day job, the admission to that shit show is a $15 bar tab.

The beacon of hope in my day is when my only good friend in a 100 mile radius asks me to lunch.  Today was Chick Fil A. Probably the best $6.58 i have spent in a long time (chargrilled chicken sandwich and a diet coke, thank you).  While we were finishing we felt what we thought was a large truck outside with its engine running.  then it felt like a huge plane above. then it felt like an earthquake.

At the exact time the earth was having a seizure, I was receiving my walking papers via email (yes, i was “let go” via email). I got the news on my iPhone in the car on the way back to “that fucking place”.

I can’t call my mother – which is exactly what I do whenever anything monumental happens (a canine bowel movement that is remarkable or you know, an earthquake in Northern Virginia) – the cell service was completely done. So what do i do?  I tweet! The next best thing to my mother is twitter.

The rest of the day is full of tension and job applications. I left promptly at 4:46.  I didn’t say goodbye or cry or anything else that people should do when they lose their jobs.  I simply walked out and didn’t look back.

My world was literally rocked today. Literally and metaphorically and I liked it.