Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Slow News Day

Last week Kathleen had stopped by to pick up a CD I’d burned for her with some software she needed and she mentioned that today would be the most likely day for being able to get together for lunch.
Those of you who read Brian’s blog, by the way, know that Kathleen has gotten the word that hers is one of the many jobs that’s going away in the upcoming layoffs.  While it sucks to know that she’s losing her job, she does at least have the advantage of knowing for sure, unlike some of us.
In any case, as I was going to be heading that way to get gas and to stop at the Wal-Mart that is slightly less ghetto than the one here in Leesburg, last night I decided that I should shoot her an e-mail and see if she wanted to have lunch today.
As it came time for me to venture out I hadn’t received a response, so I decided to shoot her an IM.  As soon as I signed on, though, she put her “away” message on.
I realized that it probably wasn’t intentional, but I decided to send her an indignant e-mail anyway, hoping that she’d know I was joking.
After I gassed up and was on my way to Wal-Mart, my phone rang.  It was Kathleen explaining that she hadn’t seen me sign on and sounding sufficiently apologetic that I had to explain that I just found the timing kind of amusing.
In any case she was leaving work early today, so she didn’t want to take even more time to have a long lunch.
So I headed to Wal-Mart to do my shopping.  Once I had what I needed it was time to pick a register.  All of the self-checkout registers were in use, and experience has taught me that being behind one person in a self-checkout line is roughly equivalent to being behind fifteen people in a regular line.  
I saw that there was only one person in the express lane and headed there, only to discover that she had taken the ten item limit under advisement and decided that it probably didn’t apply to her, and so she was buying half of the store’s stock of everything.
Standing there uncertain as to what my next move should be I noted that there was an open self-checkout, and so I quickly swooped down on it.
Reaching over to press “English” on the screen, I noted that it said, “Do you wish to discontinue scanning items?”
Apparently someone had started using the register, then decided to stop using it and simply walk away, leaving it in a sort of “hung” state.
After confirming multiple times that I wanted to clear out all items that had been scanned I found that I had to wait for a cashier to come in and enter a confirmation code so that everything could be voided out before I could actually scan any of my items.
Even when people aren’t able to be physically present to inconvenience me they somehow manage to find a way to get the job done.
After Wal-Mart I headed to Super Target before going home.
A while ago I decided that I needed to find something that’s at least reasonably healthy (at least compared to most of what’s in the vending machines) that I can buy in sufficient quantities that I’d have enough to snack on all day at work.
I decided that trail mix was probably the ideal solution (again, the bar is set at “healthier than what’s in the vending machines”), and had started buying this “Sam’s Choice” stuff from Wal-Mart that was good and fairly cheap.
I soon got tired of it, though, as all of the varieties just had way too many peanuts in them.  I like peanuts, but if I’m going to buy a “mix,” I’d kind of like for there to be something else in the mix.
I found that, while slightly more expensive, Super Target has a better selection of mixes that aren’t quite so heavy on the peanuts, so I stopped there to pick some up for the weekend.
Once I got there I was struck, as I usually am, by how amazing it is that apparently no one around here ever has to work.
What’s further confusing is how it’s possible for there to be actual stay-at-home mom’s, with multiple children, in an area where the median cost of a home is in the neighborhood of a half a million dollars.  Who are the husbands who make enough money that their income is sufficient to support a family of four here?
Further, how the hell do I get their jobs?  I can tell you that if I had sufficient income to support a family in Loudoun County, I sure as hell wouldn’t be wasting it on crap like supporting a family.
Inside the store I saw a sufficient number of school-age children shopping with their moms that I had to fight the urge to grab one of the mothers and ask her why the hell her kid isn’t in school on a Wednesday afternoon.
The police have put up a flashing sign reminding drivers that school is back in session and encouraging them to exercise appropriate caution.  What difference does it make that school is back in session, though, given that kids apparently never go to school anyway?
Last week when I was in line behind someone I heard her saying that at her kid’s school the teachers have four “workshops” every month.
Every month.  That means that once a week school is closed and that, on non-holiday weeks, kids only go to school four days a week.
Factor in snow days – which are usually called well in advance of a flake of snow even dropping – and I guess it’s no wonder that kids are never in school.
Whenever I do out to someplace like Wal-Mart or Super Target I find myself increasingly tempted to take advantage of some of the deals on flat panel HDTVs.
I just can’t help but think how nice one would look up on my mantle and about the possibilities for rearranging my living room that would be opened up by moving the TV.
Of course, I’m held back by the realization that I would then need to buy a new home theater system to accompany it (at the very least a progressive scan DVD player), and then I would need to switch to DirecTV or Dish Network in order to get HD content, as my cable company doesn’t offer any.
Then there’s the whole “who knows how much longer I’ll have a job” thing, and so I end up coming home sans flat panel TV.
Besides, if I had did have an HDTV and a progressive scan DVD player, my Sin City DVD would get worn out from playing the scene in which Carla Gugino gets out of bed wearing only a thong and walks around casually topless in glorious high definition over and over again.

I Can’t Believe It’s Good News Department:
I keep forgetting to provide an update, for the sake of those of you who may remember me ever mentioning it in the first place, about the IRS auditing my 2004 tax return and saying that I owed them money.
A couple of weeks ago I received a response from them after sending them documents to prove that the income from my exercise of stock options in 2004 actually was reported to them in my return and was duly taxed and so I did not owe them $700.
The form letter I got from them said that, thanks to my help, they were able to clear up the apparent discrepancy and that my case has been closed and that, as I knew all along, I did not owe them anything.
So that was good news.
Well, it’s good news that’s predicated on the looming possibility of getting really bad news.
It’s not purely good news.  I mean, getting a letter from the IRS telling me that I don’t owe them money after all is good news, but that’s only because I’d previously gotten a letter from them telling me that I did.
So the good news is dependent on the potential for bad news.
It’s not like getting a letter from the IRS saying, “We at the Internal Revenue Service think that you’re a swell guy and a snappy dresser and we want to take you out for ice cream, our treat.”
That would be purely good news (though it would also make me a bit suspicious).
Honestly, how often to any of us really receive purely good news?  The last time I did, I think, and when I say last time, I mean the very last time because I can’t imagine that I didn’t use up my lifetime supply of purely good news (and luck), was when I found out that I’d won $10,000.
I think that from now on the only good news I can count on is the “Good news; you’re brain tumor isn’t totally inoperable” variety.
Okay, hopefully nothing quite that extreme, but at least something like, “Good news; you’re not getting laid off…this time.”
Of course, whenever I hear the words “good news,” I can’t help but think of the Professor on Futurama, who often prefaced announcements that generally were anything but, with the words, “Good news everyone!”
Specifically, I think of him announcing to everyone that he’s developed a formula that will allow humans to survive unaided underwater and produces an extremely large round object.  Fry looks at the pill that would choke a horse and says, “I can’t swallow that,” to which the Professor responds, “Good news – it’s a suppository!.”

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