Boy, I Know How to Pick ‘Em – Blasted Grocery Store Lines

Why does it seem to be the case more often than not that I pick ’em wrong? A perfect scenario to illustrate my point occurred at Dominick’s in the South Loop last week. There were only two lanes open on a weekday afternoon at what happens to be one of Dominick’s largest stores – a very nice store, actually. I had to choose between the “15 or Less Express Lane” that had at least nine people in line or another lane that had just two people. You can almost guess what happened next. Well, I chose the lane with just two people … unfortunately, the 70ish clerk was totally inept and it took her 10 minutes to do what anyone else would accomplish in 60 seconds. It didn’t help that the lady right in front of me had 15 coupons and paid by check, both of which totally threw this clerk for a loop. Now, don’t get me wrong – I am all for hiring workers of all ages, but train them properly – young and old alike – so that my precious time is not wasted. My daughter was not bothered by this as much – she was so engrossed in reading one of her celebrity rags that she barely noticed that we were waiting in line for 15 interminably long minutes. In the meantime, all nine people had been rung up at the Express Lane and were on their merry way. I cannot count how many times I have stepped into a grocery line that looked promising only for the customer in front of me to have an item ring up wrong – price check! Or had a customer in front of me search for pennies in her purse only to come up short and make the clerk take an item off her order. Or had a customer in front of me…

Continue reading

Idiotic Volunteer Clerks’ Guide to Thrift Store Etiquette

Well, I am striking another Chicago-area thrift store off my list. I cannot forgive the idiotic behavior and ill manners of the ladies working at the Miseracordia Twice Blest Thrift Shop in Palatine. If this was the first time I encountered rudeness at this shop, I would give them the benefit of the doubt. After all, they are volunteers supposedly working for a worthy cause – to benefit people with developmental disabilities and their families. But every time I have been here, the ladies working there have been crabby and bordering on nasty. This visit, however, pushed me over the edge.

Continue reading

Windy City Memories … of the Way Department Stores Were

I have been thinking a lot lately about all the department and discount stores I frequented over the years … going back to my earliest memories as a young child through the 1990s. I have always had a knack for sniffing out bargains and some of my fondest memories fall into that category, while others are more dramatic. Of course, being a native Chicagoan, I too bemoaned the demise of the iconic classic department store Marshall Field’s and will begin there. Everybody has their own memories of Field’s (I am not talking Frango Mints), but among those that stand out for me: My dad getting really annoyed with me because I was afraid to go down the escalator at the Old Orchard Field’s – he had already descended to the bottom and had to come back up and fetch me, age 7 or 8. My mom taking us to see Santa Claus at State Street (despite being Jewish) including lunch at the Walnut Room – and that awesome Christmas tree, age 8 or 9. My mom taking me shopping at State Street after my eyes were dilated by an old stodgy ophthalmologist – everything was a big gorgeous blur of color, age 10. Witnessing an old lady with blood pouring down her stockings – her leg had somehow gotten caught in the moving escalator. This happened at the Old Orchard Field’s and again I was shopping with my dad, age 11 (good thing I had not seen that at age 7 or 8 – would have caused a permanent escalator phobia). That glorious bargain basement and all the wonderful things bought at a steep discount. Fast forward to 1981 – registering for wedding presents at Old Orchard 14 years before the demise of my marriage. Exchanging baby gifts at Old Orchard with my newborn baby and nursing her in the ladies’ room, July 1987. My now 2-year old stepping out…

Continue reading

San Francisco Grocery Shop Made me Salivate

I just returned from a brief 2-day stay in San Francisco. I was there for a job interview, and as usual, during my free time, decided to explore areas I had not frequented during my last two trips in 2010 and 2006. I discovered an amazing grocery store – like no other – at least in the Midwest. On my way to The Mission, I stumbled upon Rainbow Grocery. I started to salivate the moment I walked into this cool grocery store – I think my mouth was actually hanging open in disbelief at the sheer quantity and quality of the drinks, teas, bulk foods, produce, cheese, etc. Good thing Jeff was not with me – he could have easily spent $100! Given that I have been unemployed now for more than 3 months, I have gotten cheap and try to cut corners wherever and whenever I can. I was tempted to buy everything, but spent less than $4.00 on a very small sampling of bulk dried mulberries, date nuggets, and two natural chocolate mint patties by SunRidge Farms.

Continue reading

Ladies’ Restrooms Gross Me Out – What Gives Girls?

I have thought about blogging on this topic for a long time, but didn’t have an appropriate venue until now. I just don’t get it, but it must be true because I have come across this phenomena way too many times, as have those closest to me – namely Jeff, my daughter, my sisters, and a few good friends. In simple terms, women seem to be slobs, at least when it comes to public restrooms. I cannot tell you how many times I have been shopping and needed to use the ladies’ room. I have encountered really gross stuff, whereas Jeff has used the men’s room at the same store, mall, etc. and told me it was clean. And I know he doesn’t have a different definition of clean because he never misses the toilet and always puts the seat down at home – I love you, dear! And when my daughter has to pee really badly and cannot wait, she will use the men’s john if it is a single one. And at those establishments, she has reported that the men’s john was spotless whereas the ladies’ room, which I waited to use, was disgusting. What gives girls?

Continue reading

Statistics Can Provide Food for Thought …

When I was in high school and was forced to study statistics, it was a subject I viewed more with dread than relish – oddly, the latter is how I view statistics now. I think the big difference is that back then they were simply numbers with no meaning. Once I entered the world of medical and health-related public relations, statistics became a powerful tool to tell a message within the context of a greater story. But it goes beyond that – I really dig the probability that well-researched and juxtaposed statistics present – for instance, what is the chance of getting struck by lightning versus getting struck by stroke versus hitting a hole in one. Well, I just heard a compelling hospital radio ad today stating that every 45 seconds, somebody in the U.S. has a stroke. Of course given that I have already done in-depth research on stroke for PR initiatives and know that an estimated 795,000 Americans suffer stroke every year …  I am left pondering how the hospital’s PR firm arrived at this statistic. When I got home, I did the arithmetic and I am guessing they used something like this formula – the number of seconds in a day is 86,400 multiplied by the number of days (365) in a year is 31,536,000, divided by 795,000 = 39.6. The seconds are a constant, but they obviously used a slightly different overall number of stroke victims.

Continue reading

It’s All About That Je Ne Sais Quoi

When I was 13, I became obsessed with everything French, which led me to take 3 1/2 years of high school French instead of the far more practical Spanish. I vowed to visit Paris one day, which I did for the first time in 1979 with my Dutch boyfriend, who became my husband and then ex-husband. I did not snag that suave French lover as I dreamed of, but alas I was sort of fulfilling my dream and much sooner than anticipated. Well, the wind blew out of my sails pretty quickly when Parisians mocked my ridiculous American accent and pretty pathetic command of their language. While I could read and understand French fairly well, in retrospect, the French taught in my high school was totally impractical when confronted with the real thing. While Paris was beautiful and I certainly enjoyed Normandy and the Loire Valley, somehow my French obsession waned with the rudeness encountered in those Parisian cafes and bistros. My Francophile obsession was replaced with a Dutch obsession, and when I learned een beetje Nederlands while living in Rotterdam in the early 1980s, my paltry knowledge of French dissipated. Still, a love of the European remains, and I recently rediscovered that je ne sais quoi and what attracted me to everything French decades ago. I discovered Serge Gainsbourg by chance when I saw his and Jane Birkin’s ultra-talented daughter Charlotte Gainsbourg in 21 Grams, The Science of Sleep, and I’m Not There. Serge was not just a tortured French bad boy, as evidenced in his 1986 alcohol-fueled Gitanes-puffing televised exchange with Whitney Houston, but a brilliant singer/songwriter/stylist with an undeniable je ne sais quoi. And then I became obsessed with Jane Birkin, or should I say the model-gorgeous, youthful Jane Birkin, circa 1960s-1970s.  I devoured everything I could find about this iconic couple and uncovered some gems and a few duds along my path of discovery. I didn’t…

Continue reading

Ode to Public Tennis Courts

Jeff and I are tennis fanatics and love to play, but we do not have the funds to join a private tennis club, especially now that I am unemployed. So we play on park district tennis courts or sometimes at the nearby high school. The behaviors that we have encountered on these courts could fill a novel, but I will highlight some of the most memorable ones in this blog. The major problem is that the park district tennis courts seem to have been built as afterthoughts – erected after the playgrounds and baseball fields which are in very close proximity. Our favorite court is a single one amid a lovely pastoral field with very beautiful houses on the perimeter. Alas, the brainiacs did not build this lovely tennis court with a fence – it is open and quite close to the playground with a path leading to the court. Just today we had the pleasure of a very odd man riding his bicycle in circles on the concrete abutting the court. Then he suddenly stopped riding and sat on his bike for 15 minutes watching us play. After he rode off to a nearby bench and continued to watch us from afar, a 2-year-old boy toddled over to the court followed by his slightly older brother and dad. He started to scream and the dad decided to play catch with both boys way too close to the court. After a few minutes of this, they went back to the playground, only to return two more times. The last time, Jeff tried to tell him that this was distracting, and he replied, “That’s OK, keep playing, you aren’t bothering us!” This particular distraction happens way too frequently. The parents appear totally oblivious that we are actually trying to play tennis and have let…

Continue reading

Thrift Stores – Rising Prices

It has become increasingly difficult for me to donate to thrift stores because they have gotten increasingly greedy with highly inflated prices. The purpose of most thrift stores is to benefit a cause and programs for disadvantaged, disabled, or other people in need. Most of these causes are very worthy. However, many of these thrift stores seem to have lost sight of this, as well as the fact that many of their patrons are on limited budgets. Sure, some shoppers are antique pickers like myself, but the vast majority shop thrift because they cannot afford retail. Alas, it is extremely discouraging when one sees that thrift store prices have exceeded retail in many cases, albeit with one important difference. These thrift stores are selling USED items for more than one can buy them NEW retail – what? Case in point, one of my favorite thrift stores – WINGS has a great cause, and I feel for them since their original Palatine location burned to the ground. The mission of WINGS is to provide a continuum of integrated services in an effort to end domestic violence and homelessness one family at a time. They used to have really good prices and on occassion, still have some bargains, but their pricing is random. Jeff and I recently donated a huge array of our prized possessions to WINGS after our garage sale was rained out totally on its second day. Many of these items were antiques and collectibles left over from the days when I had a booth at an antique mall. So not junk, by any means. Much to my consternation, when we were in there on Saturday, I saw that many of my items had been underpriced! Yet right next to some of my antiques were ordinary items that retail new for a small fraction…

Continue reading

Tennis Musings

Shortly after finding myself unemployed in mid-June for the first time in 20 years, Jeff and I decided to take our tennis obsession to a new level and attend our first USTA event. We had the nice opportunity on a weekday to see several good matches at the Nielsen USTA Pro Tennis Tournament in lovely Winnetka, Ill. I had nearly forgotten about this beautiful day in late June until three players surfaced front and center at the US Open, which Jeff and I have been watching religiously. Although Nielsen runner-up Bobby Reynolds was  eliminated in the first round of the US Open by David Nalbandian, it was nice to see him honored on Tuesday night as a member of the Washington Kastles, who won the 2011 World Team Tennis Championships. It was very exciting to see veteran journeyman Michael Russell give Andy Roddick a run for his money in round two. He won Set 3 6-4 and inevitably went down in Set 4, 7-5, but what a gutsy  performance. Not bad for a 33-year-old whose greatest claim to fame was getting to the final round of 16 at the 2001 French Open. I think his guns have gotten even more impressive than they were in June – his arms are really enormous. And then of course Chicago boy Donald Young, who showed such promise as a junior champion but has struggled as an adult. Donald displayed bad boy behavior at Nielsen, screaming profanities at the umpire, even losing a point due to his antics. I found it hard to root for him even though he was clearly the better player that day and did win his match after calming down. I missed his spectacular 5-set US Open win over good-natured Stan Wawrinka, but did catch part of the press conference. He needs to learn some humility and grow…

Continue reading