Tag Archives: frustration

Lame Adventure 394: Bragging Wrongs

See this bunch of spinach; it only set me back eighteen cents.

"I did not fall off a truck!"

“I did not fall off a truck!”

Yes, quite a steal because it was selling for $1.99 a pound. If there is one thing New Yorkers love to do it is brag about scoring something for almost nothing. I admit that I am guilty of this crime. And never more so, when six years ago I purchased a queen-sized, eighteen inch thick, pillow top mattress that was selling for $2,400; the Balthazar from the Simmons’ Shakespeare Collection. For you Shakespeare aficionados, surely you recall that Balthazar was a merchant in The Comedy of Errors. For everyone else, I drew a blank on that, too, until I Googled “Balthazar” and “Shakespeare’s plays” two minutes ago. When I went mattress shopping, I haggled with the salesman over price. I insisted that I was not going to spend more than a grand including tax and delivery. The best he could offer for this mattress was $1,600.

My eloquent response was a grunt in fluent monosyllabic, but he stopped me when I turned to leave. He insisted I wait for him to make a phone call. In the back of the showroom he made this vital call out of my earshot. Whether he was discussing the situation with The Powers That Be at his company or just counting sheep to dial tone, I’ll never know. He hung up the receiver and reapproached. He announced in a dramatic tone on par with Hamlet’s soliloquy or a cold sufferer that had experienced eight seconds of nasal relief via neti pot:

Mattress Salesman: There was a fire in a factory. The entire inventory has to be cleared. There’s one queen-size Balthazar. You can have it for $800. What do you say?

Me: Does it smell like smoke?

He claimed it did not. I agreed to purchase it. When I shared this news with my friends, one was certain that it would be delivered with a giant blood stain in the middle reasoning that it had probably been stuffed with a dead mobster’s body. But the mattress was delivered corpse-free and factory fresh. It truly was a great deal, especially when I ignore how impossible it is to find sheets that fit it.

My propensity to haggle has yet to extend to my grocer’s produce section. There, I search for what appears freshest at a price that is least extortionist. That day the spinach looked particularly verdant. If there was a spinach centerfold, this one was bursting with all the right leaves.

At checkout I noticed that the cashier ringing my groceries had not properly placed my spinach on the scale so the price for my bunch came us as eighteen cents. In these types of situations, I abide my personal code of ethics and point out the error. To knowingly remain silent would be theft or at least cause me a pang of lapsed Catholic guilt. Furthermore, I could tell this cashier was new. The cashier re-weighed the spinach. The price increased to $1.15. I reminded her that she needed to delete the eighteen-cent charge. The cashier then deleted the $1.15. I pointed out that error to her. She re-inputs the $1.15, but again, she fails to remove the eighteen cents. When I reminded her that she still needed to remove the eighteen cents, she added another $1.15. As the cashier removed the second $1.15, and I searched for a blunt object to bash in my own brains, a second cashier approached:

Second Cashier: What’s the problem?

I explained the situation, but strategically omitted the part about wanting to beat myself senseless with a lead pipe. She looks me up and down.

Second Cashier: You can’t afford eighteen cents?

Evidently, I looked like ten dollars that day, and I might add that in low lighting with my flab sucked in, I can still pull off eleven ninety-nine.

Me: It’s not the eighteen cents that’s the issue here. She needs to learn how to do this.

Second Cashier: Oh. Right. [To First Cashier] Let me show you how to do it.

The Second Cashier removes the $1.15. This goes on three more times. Neither of them can remove the eighteen cents. Both clerks are baffled, but only the Second Cashier looks ready to beat the register with … Hey, how about a lead pipe?

Me: Okay, stop. I’ll pay both the eighteen cents and the $1.15. Put the $1.15 back in.

Second Clerk: No. You’ve earned yourself an eighteen-cent spinach.



I return home with my essentially stolen spinach and immediately share this story with my friend and fellow haggler, Coco.

Coco: Wow! Score. You are on a bargain roll, paying couch change for greens.

Lame Adventure 306: Technical Difficulties

Shortly after I figured out how to set the time on my department’s fax machine from Scottsbluff, Nebraska to Gotham City, it started jamming.  I diagnosed that it needed the roller replaced.

“Help me. I need a new roller.”

Therefore, I notified an assistant at the Grind about the situation and asked if she could set up a service call.  She told me that our 14-year-old fax no longer rates a contract.  She advised we get a new one.

Me:  But it only needs the roller replaced, we’re talking a $2 part.  It can send faxes just fine.

She said she’d discuss it with our company’s I.T. guy, Mr. Hat.

Mr. Hat:  I’ll get you a new one.

Me:  Can’t you take a look at it first?

Mr. Hat: I’ll visit next week.

Translation: he thinks it’s a lost cause.  As far as waiting days to visit, his office is located three floors away from ours.  He could visit in less than three minutes.

Me (bleating to my colleagues):  Why must this take days?

My sidekick, Greg, and (not) Under Ling (anymore) are as baffled as me.

Greg:  Can you get the part online?  Maybe we can install it?

Two years ago, Greg and I performed brain surgery on our color printer.  We got it to work again.  I call Canon and speak to a technician named Mike who asks me the model of our fax machine.

Me: We have a CFX L4000.

Mike: I don’t have that one on my list.  When did you get it?

Me: During the Hoover administration.

Mike puts me on hold.  He is probably accessing Canon’s Obsolete Machines Database or his Magic 8 Ball.  He returns and explains that they no longer service this model but he gives me the name and number of a local technician that might be able to help.  I call the technician and I’m told that they no longer service our machine because they can no longer get replacement parts.  She declares:

Technician: Nobody really sends faxes anymore.  Everyone uses email.

Me (deadpan):  Email?  What’s that?

There’s an awkward pause except for the crickets on the other end of the line.

Me:  That was a joke.

She rocket launches into a sales pitch trying to entice me with a souped-up fax machine that can do countless things that I’m tuning out.

Technician:  I’ll even give you ten percent off!  What do you think of that?

Me:  I think we’ll use email.

I walk over to our fax machine and have a blunt chat with it.

Me:  Listen, if you don’t suck up the paper anymore, you’re gonna end up in a landfill.

Instantly, it prints a fax.  Greg and (not) Under Ling (anymore) are both up on their feet.  The three of us gather at the fax machine.  We’re jubilant.

Greg:  What did you do to get it to work again?

Me: I told it it could end up in a landfill.

I call our colleague, Rhonda, and ask her to send a test fax.  She does and again it works!

Test fax.

I leave The Grind for the weekend feeling empowered.  I fantasize about marketing my phenomenal powers of persuasion.  The ability to speak to office machines could save small businesses thousands if not millions and make me millions.  Whoa!

Finally, I may have found my calling in life!  Suddenly, my unique skill will turn my dismal finances around.  With my newfound success I can afford that beach house I’ve never wanted since I can’t tan or swim.  Yet, why be selfish?  I’ll write a check that will pay for my niece’s entire college career and even throw in a car for Sweet Pea.  Milton and I will always sit in premium center orchestra seats and see every Broadway show.  Come to think of it, I must finance the staging of one of my pal Albee’s plays.  I’ll donate heavily to whatever event Martini Max is spearheading over in New Jersey, even if it involves Jerry Lewis, who I utterly loathe.  Plus I cannot forget my fashionista buddy, Coco. She gets a blank check to feed her Christian Louboutin shoe habit.  Also, what about my loyal colleagues, Greg and (not) Under Ling (anymore)?  He can have that baritone sax he wants and she, a crate of videogames.  I should not just focus on material gifts for my posse.  I must also pursue worthy philanthropic concerns.  Gee, where to start?  The world is such a troubled place.  I’ll go through my junk mail for information about what crusades George Clooney endorses.

When I return to work on Monday, our fax machine is jammed again.

Ominous red alarm light.

For an hour I give it the office machine equivalent of mouth-to-mouth.  My credibility as an office machine whisperer and potential seven-figure income are on the line.  Unfortunately, nothing I do, even speaking to it in the single word of the French I retain from five years of inattentive study (“merde!”) can persuade it to pull up paper.

Resigned that I’m just a fax machine whispering fraud, I do what I hate.  I admit defeat.  I call Mr. Hat and ask him to order us a new one.

Two minutes later he enters our office carrying the fax machine he ordered a week earlier — when our problems started.


It’s so state-of-the-art, it can work within five minutes, even though it takes Greg and I closer to two hours to get it going.

Five minutes to get it to print. Another 115 minutes to get it to fax … Probably because everyone uses email.

I reason:

Me:  All we needed was 24 five-minute intervals to set it up.

“Talk to me. I’m a good listener.”

Lame Adventure 59: Intelligence Test

There is a Whole Foods, or as my sister, Dovima, prefers to call this market, Whole Paycheck, in Tribeca near my place of employ.  Since milk and the bananas I get – the ones that are called free range or possibly it’s whole trade – are priced the same as the Fairway near my apartment, I do not feel fleeced when I make these purchases during my lunchbreak.  Whenever I am in Whole Foods, I only buy what I set out to get, and therefore, I am a barnacle to my budget.  That is the only way I can afford to set a toe in this temple of gastronomy without agitating my acid reflux.

Whole Foods in Tribeca under cover of leafy trees.

The purchasing of two simple staples can easily be accomplished relatively quickly in the ever-evolving express checkout lanes.  Since this location’s inception, these checkout lanes have continually transformed.  Initially, there were two high definition TV screens for the two separate sections of registers, one section for registers 1 through 12 and the other for registers 13 through 24.  Inevitably, one section always moved faster than the other so the challenge was to determine which section that was.  Often, the faces bearing the more miserable expressions were a good indicator, but in New York, you cannot always rely on the disgruntled look since some people just naturally appear that way.  Specifically, I’m thinking about my millionaire landlady, Iris O’Gougely, but I digress …

In recent months, Whole Foods in Tribeca has switched to a more egalitarian one monitor for all registers approach.  How this works is there are now five color-coded lanes with big white arrows pointing downward, a simple way of communicating to customers where they should stand and wait their turn to go to a register while watching the screen above.

Stand under the arrows.

The monitor’s screen now has five fat stripes, the same color as each color in each lane.

Screen with five fat stripes.

Customers stand in the lanes, and as registers become open, a number appears in the color of the corresponding lane’s stripe showing the open register’s number.   A pleasant female voice simultaneously announces that number.  Working from left to right, the next open register then proceeds to the next lane’s stripe color.

This system is working with precision efficiency as customers follow instructions and go directly to the registers corresponding to their lanes.  Unfortunately, the system breaks down when I take my place in the yellow lane, a lane that is between the blue and green lanes.  In the blue lane to my left, stands my fellow customer, a jughead that I call Mr. Blue.  Up on the monitor, in Mr. Blue’s blue stripe, appears the number 12.  For added emphasis, the voice announces, “Register 12.”  A second or two later, in my yellow lane’s yellow stripe, appears the number 7, and the voice announces, “Register 7.”  As I am walking toward Register 7, I slam on the brakes for I see that Mr. Blue, who was supposed to head to Register 12, coincidentally the register closest to where he was standing and waiting, has gone to Register 7 instead.

Meanwhile, just as I am back-peddaling to Mr. Blue’s register, Register 12, I hear the voice announce, “Register 8.”  The customer in the green lane who is supposed to go to that register is Ms. Green, a woman wearing a hat that resembles a birdcage crossbred with an inverted garbage can.  She steps up to Register 12 instead.  As order briefly freefalls into chaos, I lose the ability to hide my frustration feeling sandwiched between dolts.  I morph into Darth Vader, emit a deep breathy groan, and flash Ms. Green the hairy eyeball.  She giggles, “I think I’m supposed to go to 8!”  She makes a fast exit in Register 8’s direction.  I resist suggesting in her wake, “Give the finger to Mr. Blue at Register 7 for me.”

I hope that Mr. or Ms. Red found their way to Register 12.