The Mystery


It turns out that my love and I both happened to be at the same Meijer’s, the one at the far side of town that we don’t go to except for weird reasons. We were both there picking up a couple pharmacy items. We both left and drove the same path home. While doing so, we both listened to the same episode of the same dear-Lord-the-Simpsons-is-awful-anymore podcast. Along the way, we both got caught by the podcast hosts mentioning the same trivia about Homer Simpson established this episode. We both arrived home within a minute of each other. Now: could I prove, to the satisfaction of a court of law, that we were not there together? That it just so happened we both were doing the same thing two times over? No, and I don’t know how to even start, in case I should need to. I’m asking if someone out there will cover for us, just in case it comes up. Thanks.

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In Which I Am Again Baffled By Modern Capitalism


So I was in Meijer’s, remembering to buy sandwich bags and forgetting to buy trash bags, because we’re in one of those occasional phases of life where we don’t have the right number of bags. I came upon a big pile of boxed consumer goods: a Michigan State University Spartans Crock-Pot.

I’m aware, Crock-Pot is an official licensed kitchen-appliance-themed product. We pretend that the non-trademarked name for them is “slow cookers”. And I’m aware that the Spartans are an official licensed university-themed product.

So there I stood, in front of a pile of Spartan Crock-Pots, pondering the box’s promise that this is “Officially Licensed”. Licensed by who? To who? Did someone at Spartan Master Command want the real Crock-Pot, trusting that nobody would buy a Spartan Slow Cooker? Did someone at Crock-Pot Master Command insist that, hey, this is the Lansing/East Lansing Market. We can’t make do with a University of Michigan/Flint Lansing Campus Crock-Pot?

Did they license to each other? Is this the future of capitalism, companies just looking for other companies they can swap licenses with, all in the cause of creating piles of small yet durable consumer goods between the aisles of discount department stores? I could use some help having a reaction to all this. Please come over. I’m by the Surprisingly Many Women’s Soaps aisle, curled up and weeping.

More Gifting Events


My mathematics blog had some more comic strips to talk about, and there’s even a Jumble puzzle to solve. You might like that. I did.

I got a gift receipt spat out with my purchase at Meijer’s. I was surprised. It’s not the time of year when many people give gifts to people they kind-of-but-don’t-really know, like nephews and co-workers and siblings and parents and friends. So why would a gift receipt be assumed to be needed?

More, exactly what in the purchase raised the suggestion that I might need a gift receipt? What I got was: a couple tubes of toothpaste, a condolence card, a bag of frozen tortellini, and four boxes of what I would be better off saying was soda, except that one of them is Vernor’s and if that’s not pop then nothing is pop. It’s a ginger ale and it’s extremely ginger-y and there’s no disputing that, and you won’t find that where people say ‘soda’ except in specialty shops. Why would they figure anyone needed to return anything from this for credit?

Well, obviously, because I accidentally bought a packet of tortellini with meat, instead of the cheese tortellini I would swear it was when I took it out of the freezer bin. So I have to exchange that and — hey, I’ve got the gift receipt! Also the real receipt too, of course. But the point is, how could they know I really wanted the cheese tortellini instead?

Adventures In Modern Consuming


I want to feel excited. The last big shopping trip we did, we used up all the coupons left in our little plastic folder of coupons. All that remains in it are some receipts with the codes we got after telling companies’ web sites how the shopping experience was and a loyalty card for the carousel ride at the Freehold Raceway Mall food court in Freehold, New Jersey. Being able to use up all the coupons we had feels like we should have unlocked a new achievement, like, “Market-Driven Consumer Capitalism Temporarily Bested: Plus 1”. But deep down I know what it really means is we let an offer of 50 cents off two packs of Sargento cheese sticks expire without noticing it in the middle of May.

We forgot to buy shampoo.

Why I Should Be Making A List Before Going To Meijer’s


What We Needed What I Got
Butter Noodle-Roni
Eggs Pond thermometer seems useful
Toothpaste Pasta-Roni
Condensed milk More Noodle-Roni maybe?
Paper towels If I pick up some hamburger buns, we might turn out to have veggie hamburgers, which we can then eat
Soda crackers Leftover Easter egg coloring boxes? And only a dime? Score!
Chow mein noodles Didn’t know they even made Woody Woodpecker chew toys for pets
Printer paper I could get a Strawberry Fanta Zero from the freestyle Coke machine up front
Those felt pads for the bottom of furniture so they scratch the floor up a little more slowly It’s not like salt for the sidewalk will rot by next winter
Peanut butter Chunky peanut butter

The Tangle At Meijer’s


I stand at the brink of the Home Decorations aisles at Meijer’s. Amongst the printed posters, ready for hanging in no home I have ever seen, is this holiday imperative: “Don’t Get Your Tinsel In A Tangle”. I stare at it. I try parsing the instruction. I can tolerate a reasonable level of twee; I’ve read some of the later Wizard of Oz books for crying out loud. But I try imagining the person who sees this and figures it’s exactly what he needs to Christmas up his home a little. I get lost, wondering if I can be even the same species as such a person. I start to have that sensation of feeling lost and bewildered and kind of like when I’m in Best Buy with a $5 gift certificate that’s expiring next week and there isn’t a single thing even remotely tempting to buy, even including USB plugs to connect to strange and obscure mini or micro USB devices.

Finally an associate comes over, and gently guides me to the Pet Care section, where I’ll be some other associate’s responsibility, and I can try to work myself back to normality by comparing the English and Spanish instructions on small-animal bedding material.

It Must Be The Receipt-Giving Season


I’d made a very slight run to Meijer’s, and got, and I want to list this for you because it kind of matters:

  • Cough drops (I’ve had a cough lingering from a cold I originally got in 1994, which makes this cold a very efficient purchase, averaged out over the years)
  • Toilet paper
  • Packs of sliced cheese (5 of them)
  • Quorn imitation-chicken nuggets
  • Boca vegetarian burger patties (2 packages)
  • Bread (2 loaves)
  • Soda, or as it is known in the local vernacular, “pop” [said as “Pope” but with a short vowel] (3 boxes of 12-packs)

Along with the receipt and a couple coupons the machine spat out at me one (1) gift receipt, and I’m trying to think which of these items triggered the “this might be a gift, better offer a gift receipt” part of the register’s programming. Spitting out a gift receipt for a package of long underwear or a magazine, I understand, but, a bag of cough drops? One but not all five packs of sliced cheese? Something in potentially poor taste? This is all very mysterious.

Playing Without Fire


We got a bundle of those battery-operated LED tea lights, the kind that look like candles without those problems of open fire and wax and smoke and stuff. We were going to get just a couple, but we couldn’t find just a couple of battery-powered tea lights because the Meijer we were in is renovating so that nobody can find anything anymore. I walked along the aisles, sinking further into the helpless despair that comes from finding magazines on display next to men’s shirts or houseplants scrunched up a little too close to the mouthwash aisle. Maybe I was overreacting, but I sure felt at parts like I was going to have to survive by eating my own shoes and drinking rainwater out of a fountain drinks cup scavenged from the parking lot. Maybe I need to go to a different Meijer’s until the renovations are done.

It turns out over by the regular candles they had the imitation candles, which we probably should have guessed. I didn’t see them right away, so guessed maybe they’re in housewares, or maybe by the lamps, or maybe a little farther out, and I think I was going to give automobile parts a try on the grounds I had nothing to lose, when my love found them. And we kept finding packs of more tea lights in each bunch. Tea lights turn out to be very economical when you buy in quantities of over four thousand at a time, and we’re now very set, lighting-wise, for both our decorative and for our teeny tiny localized power failure needs.

They’re bilingual tea lights, so as to let us pretend they’re Sans Flamme brand lights, unless they actually are called that and the bilingual directions and warning label is a coincidence. Among the warnings, printed in English and in French, is: “This is not a toy”. The warning comes out a good deal more merry in French: “Cet article n’est pas un jouet”. This makes it sound like the thing battery tea lights aren’t is some kind of jest, or an obscure sport from the Old Country, or maybe one of those long early medieval poems about French kings killing Angevins. It depends what a “jouet” is. Between middle and high school I took four years of French classes. I’m helpless to do more than agree that household articles are owned by relatives.

But now the warning’s given me a challenge. Is there a way to use tea lights as a toy? The obvious way is to use them next time we play Monopoly, letting them take the place of traditional tokens like the thimble, the dog, the pawn that immigrated from the Sorry board before that was lost, and the tiny Rubik’s Cube earring that broke off its mount long ago but, hey, tiny Rubik’s Cube you can use as a Monopoly token. Tea lights would fit right in, because then when we got tired of the game we could turn them on and declare that the game was ended by arsonists.

Except! I can’t call a board game token a “toy” and neither can you. I may not have a perfect conceptual theory of what a toy is, but I’m fairly sure that if you imagine getting it for your eighth birthday, and realize your response would have been an age-weary groan, then it isn’t a toy. It’s some kind of socks or perhaps a decent set of trousers. And there’s no using tea lights for socks, battery-operated or not; any decent pair of socks is powered by the feeling of discomfort you get after they’re soaked through by an unexpected puddle. An indecent pair of socks is made whole again by darning, a process people were able to do until the early days of television when you had to be careful about your language.

I grant this all sounds like the tea light subject is getting away from me. But the point is I’ve got plenty of battery-powered tea lights, and I’m interested in ways in which they could be used as toys. I think it’s because I’d like assurance that the prohibition on their use as toys isn’t just because the manufacturers are opposed to fun but because they’re worried of the consequences of a toy-tea-light-based explosion or the like. So, this is why I haven’t had the time to do any of my real work lately.

Towards A More Perfect Bag


I noticed, on the edge of the plastic bag from Meijer’s, this warning:

Patent No. 8,067,072 And Other Patents Pending

Now I’m enchanted. I mean, I understand how you might have one patent for a plastic bag, what with it being a totally non-obvious idea of having a sheet of plastic folded up again that holds stuff and can be held at the same time, but, what about the patents pending? What other mysteries of advanced technology and imaginative design have gone into this thing I got to hold a canister of canola oil because we forgot it the first time through and I ran back in? I’m kind of hoping they’re Wi-Fi enabled plastic bags, because I like the thought of recycling centers just turning into vast natural repositories of accumulated Wi-Fi signal until they reach the point that the styrofoam packing we weren’t supposed to put in the recycling bin and that’s become an unwanted pile of junk over there can send out its own e-mails about how excited they are regarding their own patent applications.

So Who’s Not There?


I got to talk with someone who designs those sensors for sinks and air dryers. Well, at someone. I couldn’t get his attention.

Still, I don’t get why public restrooms decided we had to give up faucet technology. It was really good. Anyone could go into a Meijer’s restroom any time, day or night, and fauce as much as they want. They were happy days, but that’s all gone now. We’re saved from going out with dried hands, or wet hands either.

Maybe the problem isn’t the sensors. Maybe the trouble is I don’t exist. That’d be a good gag on the guy I met. Of course, that means I’ve got more library cards than I really should.

Also my spell-checker says “fauce” is a word, so I think my spell-checker is messing with my head.