Tag Archives: shakespeare

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 105: Tile and the Packing Peanut

Anyone who works on the serf-side of the tile and stone world will tell you that this is a material where, if it can go wrong, it is guaranteed that it will because tile, a product that is often beautiful, is also synonymous with mental anguish.   Hand crafted artisan tile in particular is essentially a bitch goddess.

For example, a customer approves a sample of a ceramic tile that is white, the material is ordered, but what the customer receives looks yellow.  The sales associate is asked to explain this phenomenon.  A flurry of phone calls are made, samples are shipped back and forth, the customer grows increasingly frustrated and the sales associate descends into the second coming of Ray Milland in The Lost Weekend.

Or, something can go terribly awry with the installation.  The customer that paid a king’s ransom for a gorgeous stone goes irate, and even though the material was perfectly fine, he screams it is defective when it was the sub-contractor that did not supervise his crew, five brothers named Clem, that lied through their missing teeth to get the job.

My role in the tile universe is to oversee the tile samples displayed in all of my company’s retail showrooms.  Our showrooms are shrines to tile so it is imperative that what we display looks perfect.  The second I sniff the scent of anything peculiar, I hop onto my Acme brand pogo stick and propel myself into my superior’s office.  Recently, I noticed that a color code differed between a sample and a tile vendor’s literature.

Many times when I contact our vendors what I spew is the first they’ve heard of the situation.  My company has a reputation for being insanely anal.  In this instance, the vendor is a guy I’ve known for many years.  He is not sure if our sample has since been reformulated or the label was mistyped.  He offers to send us a mini-sample kit with a condensed version of his entire line at no charge.  Free is my liege’s second favorite four-letter f-word.

Liege brings to mind a quote from Shakespeare’s Henry V, “Self-love, my liege, is not so vile a sin as self-neglecting.”  I must urge my sidekick, Greg, to reference that bit of poetry to Elsbeth, our boss, but it might prompt her to ask me confidentially if Greg has masturbation on the brain.  I could suggest that she must have he and I confused, and also remind her that he is the one with the longer sideburns and I, the flatter chest.

I am sitting at my desk crunching numbers for a sample order I must place.  This task is so underwhelming that I fill the concert hall of empty space in my head with my total recall of Tennessee Williams’ masterpiece, A Streetcar Named Desire.  Greg approaches me.

Greg:  Hey, Elsbeth’s mini sample kit arrived.

Me:  Stella!

Greg:  Should we open it?

Me:  Sure.

I follow Greg into our warehouse and see a large box.  He slices it open with a box cutter.  We are now staring at a massive pile of packing peanuts that reminds us both of Cheese Doodles.

Packing peanuts for all!

This inspires us.

Me:  Let’s melt one!

The chosen one.

Greg scoops out a peanut, pops it into a drinking cup, and then pours hot water from the water cooler into the cup.  It dissolves instantly and our office reeks of corn.  All of our colleagues rise out of their stupor.

"I'm melting!"

Ling:  How bored are you that you’re melting packing peanuts now?

Under Ling:  I want to see the melted peanut!

Under Ling eye view.

The Quiet Man, the rock star working in the back of our office, removes his headphones and speaks for the first time since last Thursday.

The Quiet Man:  That biodegradable packing peanut you melted there is made from cornstarch so that explains why it smells like corn.  Technically, it’s edible, but I wouldn’t recommend you eat it since it’s unlikely that it was produced in food-safe conditions.  I’m sure they have no nutritional value, either.

Greg and I absorb this speech.  We resist the urge to applaud.  The Quiet Man reinserts his headphones and resumes ignoring us until October.

Me:  I’m sure they taste better than that bowl of organic twigs I called breakfast.

Looks like breakfast to me!