Coffee heat rising

Dear-Sir-You-Cur of the day…

Sprouts Corporate Headquarters
5455 E High St Ste 111
Phoenix, AZ 85054

Dear Sirs and Mesdames:

Here’s a suggestion for you: Why not hire cashiers who possess basic civility and ordinary politeness? Surely these are not SUCH rare commodities that you can’t find any minimum-wage workers who possess them.

This noon I dropped by the Sprouts at Northern & 19tth Avenue, here in lovely uptown Phoenix, hoping to buy some ingredients to make food for my little dog and to make lunch for myself. Found the stuff for the dog food…and found a cashier who…well…I wouldn’t treat a dog the way she treated me. Among the several things I set on her conveyer belt was a package from your deli cabinet department labeled “Penne Pasta NRE Chicken.”

What, I asked — politely enough, I thought — is “NRE” chicken?

She gave me a disgusted glare that suggested she thought I had an IQ in the negative numbers, and grunted “I dunno.”

“Well, EFF you very much, too, dear,” thought I. Because I was pretty nonplussed (to say nothing of hungry!), I bought it anyway — if I’d had my wits about me I would have said “if you don’t know what you’re selling, then don’t sell it — I ain’t buying it.”

I’m sorry that your employees think I’m white trash and that they can treat me accordingly. They’re probably right in their assessment of my roots (though my net worth is something in excess of 1.5 million bucks just now…). But even when you think people are WT, nice folks don’t make that line of thought obvious. Merchants who wish to keep selling to members of the public teach their employees to keep their scorn under control.

Please, please, PLEASE rest assured: I will NEVER go into that Sprouts again. I probably will never shop at the Sprouts at 7th and Osborn, which is an infinitely better store. Nor am I likely ever to shop at the Sprouts at 16th Street & Glendale or the Sprouts at Thunderbird and 43rd, both of which I’m given to patronizing as I drive between destinations.

Done. Finished. Kaput with Sprouts.

oh…the “NRE chicken?” Whatever it is, it’s almost devoid of flavor. Another good reason not to shop there again, hm?

Yrs truly, [Etc.]

 

Bye-bye Costco!

Finally….lost patience with shopping in Costco. And made a little discovery in that department — one that should have been obvious.

No doubt I’ve remarked before on what a PITA it is to shop in a Costco store…not because of Costco itself, but because of the way the customers behave. People seem to lose their minds when they go into one of those vast emporiums of American consumerism. They lose track of everybody around them. Apparently all they see is the vast stacks of Stuff for sale, piled up to the warehouse-high ceilings. They cut you off. They bang into your cart. They let their bereft little kids sit and wail, strapped in a cart or stroller.

The last time I got so annoyed I stalked out, it was because somebody walked off with the shopping cart I’d spent half an hour or 45 minutes filling up.

This has happened more than once. Not the walking out…the walking off. People get so engrossed with staring into the meat counters or perusing the piles of junk, they’ll just push a cart down the aisle without realizing it’s not their cart. By the time they notice, it’s out of your sight — and chances are they don’t even remember where they started pushing it.

This time… {sigh!} I swear: what a place!

After circumnavigating the warehouse and picking up the stuff I need, I approach the front of the store. Only a couple of checkout lines are open, but it looks like not many people are standing there.

Wrong!

When I get up front to claim a place in line, I see management has decided to enforce the covid-inspired six-foot rule. This causes the lines to back up the aisles. Waaayyyy up the aisles. So what looks like a two- or three-person line actually extends halfway to the back of the damned store — which is vast!

Well. I’d already stood in line half my lifetime to get gasoline.

Did I really want to spend the other half my life trying to check out a few groceries?

Well.

No.

Left the cart standing there and headed for the hills.

This shucked off one annoyance. But I still faced the problem that groceries needed to be bought!

So on the (long!) way home, I decided to duck into the big Fry’s at Tatum and Shea, a conservation zone for the Rich and the Snooty fauna of Paradise Valley.

Fry’s, for those of you live points east and south, is actually Kroger’s. Some of their stores are huge, and the one in Paradise Valley is among those.

I rarely buy groceries there, partly because I’ve gotten into the habit of buying at Costco, which is just up the road, and partly because Fry’s made a deliberate business strategy of driving the AJ’s in Moon Valley out of business by installing that huge megastore and underpricing the nearby AJ’s. That AJ’s was one of the best stores in the city, and it was relatively convenient to my house. I so much resented this unethical business strategy that I’ve made it a practice not to shop at Fry’s.

But I guess that habit is gonna have to go into the trash bin.

That store had everything the Costco offers…and then some. The meat is first-rate. The fresh produce department is far superior to Costco’s, with many more choices, all of them offered in grocery-store style, not warehouse style: meaning you can pick and choose the fruits and veggies you want and not have to buy a lifetime supply of any one item. The liquor department still offers an excellent selection of cheapo wines — recently Costco has gotten rid of their better choices in the $9 to $12 range, meaning that the extravagantly priced AJ’s actually has a superior selection of those. Yea verily…the Fry’s selection outclasses AJ’s. Hot dang!

Costco offers cheapo clothing good for daily around-the-house wear. Recently they’ve gotten rid of their Gloria Vanderbilt jeans — about the only brand of jeans that fit around a middle-aged woman’s butt.

Lo! the Fry’s has a casual clothing department, too. And it far outclasses Costco’s. It not only has a vast selection of junk clothing, it also carries sandals and walking shoes — in regular shoe-store fashion, so you can try them on.

The jeans are Levis. These used to fit when I was a young thing, but I doubt if they will today. No big deal: I can order Glorias online.  And I suppose i can track down a Western-wear store and at least try a few pairs of Levis in fat-lady sizes.

I found THE prettiest casual white sweater! GRAB! Wore it to meet some friends yesterday. Perfect with jeans.

Barge up to the checkout lines — this store seemingly has an infinite number of them — and get behind just one woman, whose order was already more than halfway checked.

Buy the loot, haul back out to the car, fill up the back end.

Now to get home…

Turning left out of that parking lot to go in the direction of the Funny Farm via Shea Blvd is…well…highly problematic.*

Usually I accomplish this by going to the east end of the lot, turning south on Tatum, and then executing an Arizona Turn: that is, turning right and then pulling a U-ie in order to go left. Then proceed back up to Shea and cruise west as far as it goes.

This, as you might imagine, poses certain risks. And it poses an existential question: does one really want to risk one’s life for a pile of groceries?

So yesterday I decided to see what would happen if instead of circling back up to Shea, I proceeded south on Tatum to Lincoln and then cruised west on that huge thoroughfare. This would take me two miles out of my way, but the trade-off would be a far greater likelihood of survival.

All is going well until we hit Lincoln. Within about three minutes of turning right onto that venerable thoroughfare, we come to…a dead stop.

They’ve got the road shut down to ONE LANE.

Of course. Makes sense, this being Phoenix. Lincoln is one of THE main routes between North Central Phoenix and Scottsdale, the other being the majestically slow Camelback Road, several miles to the south. The traffic is dead stopped.

Well, actually, we move forward a few yards at a time, every few minutes.

It takes a good thirty minutes to traverse that mess.

Note to self: take Shea westward out of the Fry’s parking lot. Some things are worth risking your life.

At any rate: ultimately I decided that henceforth major shops are to take place at that Fry’s. Its offerings are far superior to Costco’s, and if there’s any price savings at CC, you couldn’t prove it by me.

As for standing in line till the cows come home just to save a few pennies/gallon on gasoline? Why?

The two QT’s on the fringe of the ‘Hood compete with each other for commuter customers, meaning their prices are not far off Costco’s. Surely it’s worth a few cents or even a whole dollar to avoid a crazy drive and a 20-minute wait in one of a dozen lines of eager penny-pinchers.

________________

* Costco persuaded the city to install a signal at the parking lot’s exit onto Cactus, but…bring camping gear! Sooo slow is the thing that it’s likely to be breakfast-time tomorrow before you get to turn left. Risking your life to go around Robin Hood’s Barn via the Tatum exit is much faster and less tooth-grinding.

Theft Damage Control: Battening down the hatches

So yesterday morning I traipsed to the credit union, whereinat to deal with the stolen credit, debit, and ID cards. Bob, the front man there, didn’t seem too worried. He said the steps I’d taken to inform credit card issuers and others involved should head off any attempts to hack into our accounts.

I had delayed telling my son about the credit-card heist, because I feared he’d have a sh!t-fit and there was a limit to how much I could cope with. But Bob felt no one would be able to get into our shared account for the mortgage, nor, he thought, would they be able to get into my new AMEX accounts or much of anything else. So that was reassuring. Sorta.

Meanwhile, now that I have a new AMEX account, I’ll have to tell every creditor who auto-charges on that thing what the new card number is, a prospect that exhausts me. Yea verily, yesterday Apple sent an email demanding that I enter a method to charge up a $3.25/year bill for use of their vast web space. I couldn’t make their guy or their machine or whateverthef^ckitis understand that they need a new credit card number and that is all they need. So next week I’ll have to drive way to Hell and gone out to the far west side, whence the Apple store has decamped, find a human being, explain what is going on, and see if THEY can re-up my subscription.

Endless!!!

After fleeing the credit union, I stopped by the big new Sprouts near the university campus. It was quite a nice shopping experience…that store is larger than any of the other Sprouts stores I’ve seen here in Phoenix. Their produce is wonderful, they have drinkable cheap wine, and a wide variety of other loot. I came away feeling pretty pleased.

Which led to a rumination about Costco…  As in why am i PAYING to shop there??? Especially ever since they closed the store nearest to the ’Hood, necessitating a twenty- or thirty-minute drive across the city. I got everything I needed at Sprouts…and then some. True, at Costco you can buy clothing, shoes, sheets, towels, office supplies, and on and on. But hey! You don’t buy that stuff every week. And besides, if it’s something you really want, Instacart delivery is free for Costco members. If you sent an Instacart runner over there once every month or six weeks, it would pay for the membership…which is 60 to 120 bucks.

Sprouts has an excellent selection of drinkable low-rent wines — Costco seems to have gotten rid of all its decent brands in the $9 to $12 range. Sprouts has a much larger selection of fresh produce. And it carries CBD oils and creams, which go a whole long way toward soothing the peripheral neuropathy. A-n-n-d how crazy IS it to drive halfway across the city to stand in line at the pumps for twenty minutes so as to save a couple bucks on a gasoline fill-up? We have two perfectly fine QT’s right up the road, both of which generally undercut the competition.

So I think I’m going to shop a WHOLE lot less at Costco. Matter of fact, I may stop shopping there altogether.

Costco Jeans Redux

Okay, so this morning I traipsed up to the Paradise Valley Costco to return the annoying Buffalo Jeans that did not fit…unlike the identical pair of the same brand and the same size in a different color. As usual, no argument was made.

Checked the women’s clothing department in hopes that MAYBE this branch of the store would still have Gloria Vanderbilts. But no. Of course not.

Asked an employee in the clothing aisle. She said she thought they were discontinued.

Yesterday I did ascertain that you can buy Gloria’s from Amazon — at significantly more than Costco has been charging for the same jeans. Also, many of the styles shown there are not available in all sizes. Annoying.

So I guess after this, it’s off to the country/western store to buy Wranglers. They never fit as well, but at least they’re not stupid stretchy gym tights. Ugh!

Can’t really blame Costco for deciding to change up its stock. After all, I’ve been buying Glorias there for a good 20 years. Maybe more! They can’t carry the same stuff forever. I guess.

Seems like they at least coulda waited till after I shuffle off this mortal coil…

Shopping Adventure in the Absence of Instacart…

In the “How Dumb Can You Get?” department, today I believe I scored a gold medal for Olympic how-dumbness.

This morning I decided nothing would do but what I must drive up to Costco so as to purchase, among other things, two pair of size 12 blue jeans in my favorite brand: Gloria Vanderbilts. My usual size 8s and 10s no longer fit, after the extended period of sedentary solitude occasioned by covid confinement and then by the broken shoulder.

I had tried to put an order through Instacart to achieve this purchase, but ran into an Olympic-sized snafu, and a chucklehead who barely spoke English as their excuse for customer service. After this jerk put me on hold with obnoxious Muzak blasting into my ear at high decibels, I hung up and went on about my way.

Now, if you had been here, you would’ve reminded me that today is Good Friday. And yes, that would be the Friday before Easter, the first big holiday we’ve had in over a year for which large numbers of people imagine that it’s probably-sort-of-kind-of safe to get together with their families. Right?

Pissed as hell with Instacart — whose employee has now become aware that I have checked out and has begun to harass me with nuisance telephone calls — I clamber into the dog chariot and head on up toward Costco, over Phoenix’s homicidal surface streets.

There must’ve been a thousand people inside that store along about 11 AM. I exaggerate not. This store has an enormous parking lot and almost every space was filled. I parked next to a sporting goods store that occupies the pad just to the north of the Costco’s. Under the best circumstances, any given Costco is crowded and hectic. But when the stores are really crowded, they morph into Sites of Nightmare.

So there I am inside this concrete cave trying to get from point A to point B through churning mobs of people, each one of whom believes that she or he is the only person in the place  and navigates accordingly.

Turns out that it was a good thing the scheme to deploy an Instacart runner was foiled. If any such soul  had been sent forth into the fray to try to find a pair of Glorias, they would’ve been flummoxed. Apparently, Costco has decided to quit carrying Gloria Vanderbilt jeans, one of the very few brands that accommodates the rear ends of aging women. All that was left were the sad dregs of their last shipment, clearly meant to be the LAST shipment.

Hell and damnation!

Eventually I decided to experiment with a couple pairs of Buffalo jeans by David Bitton. These are made of stretchy tencel — no, not the desired denim, but the stretch might give them an outside chance of sorta-maybe-kinda fitting. I buy denim jeans for a simple reason: I do not want to live in stretchy athletic tights! I like saggy baggy comfortable jeans. That is why I like Gloria Vanderbilt jeans.

But…whatEVER.

An hour of banging from one wall to the next wall to the next wall to the next wall inside the Costco eventually elicits the dog’s treats, a roast chicken, no make-up of any interest whatsoever, a bottle of cheap Portuguese wine, a box of grapes, a box of Campari tomatoes, a chunk of cheddar cheese, a chunk of blue cheese, a box of blueberries, and…some other stuff, I’m sure. A lengthy stand in line transfers ownership of these items to me and finally I am out the door.

Escape into one’s vehicle is most surely not escape from the madding hordes — this is being, after all, lovely Phoenix: capitol of the lunatic Arizona driver.

I’m making my way home by surface streets, electing not to risk my fellow homicidal drivers’ lives with a one-handed jaunt down the freeway. Incredibly, the southbound I -17 has been detoured onto Conduit of Blight Boulevard! No kidding: four lanes of 70-mile-an hour-traffic is pouring onto a surface street best described as “annoying” during its better moments.  Conduit of Blight is aptly named in the map of my personal geography. It passes through some of the dreariest agèd ticky-tacky in the city. Naturally, the residents are out and about, and — typically– one of them is tooling along blasting everyone around him with his boombox. Literally, the bastard has got the thing blasting so loud that even with all the windows in my car closed, each THUMP from his bass speaker causes my rear-view mirror mirror to vibrate!

This lovely serenade follows me all the way down to Gangbanger’s Way, where I hang a left, dodge away from the bastard, and whip into the ‘Hood. This, need I remind you, is why I do not carry a pistol in my car.

What a place!

Shopping in the Age of Covid

Dunno whether it’s old age, the effects of the present ailment, or what: these days a Costco junket with a side trip to Home Depot is demoralizing and exhausting. Made what I expected to be a quick trip to Costco to pick up the new reading glasses, figuring also to grab a few items on the accruing Costco List.

First though, I had to wait for Gerardo & Crew to show up to prune several large trees than grew amok over the summer, and so… Before I could get out the door for the shopping project, one of my two clotheslines broke when I hung up a freshly laundered bedsheet. Can’t complain about that: it’s been ten years since I installed them, and I do use them once or twice a week. But dayum! So now I needed to buy some new clothesline rope.

Costco wasn’t even very crowded. But…a-a-a-z-z-z usual the store abounded with nitwits who get in front of you, trundle along in the center of the aisle so you can’t get around them, and take their sweet time. One lady was saved from a looming homicide by the extreme cuteness and charm of the two kids she had with her…otherwise, the world would be short one road-hog by now…

Been needing to buy a new set of sheets for quite some time. Mine are still fine, but they’re getting old…and it was one of those sheets that got thrown on the ground when the clothesline snapped, thereby reminding me that I really should splurge for an extra set. Just in case.

Seventy bucks for a set of Costco’s not-quite-fanciest 100% cotton queen-size sheets!

Even more for the sweaty uncomfortable synthetic blend sheets: eighty bucks for one brand and ninety for another. Jeez, guys…rayon’s not actually made of gold…

Anyway, that about doubled the cost of that junket.

Of course, Costco does not carry small items like clothesline rope. (You expected a bear?) So to get that, I had to stop at Home Depot on the way home.

The place was almost empty. How they stay open escapes me. Personally, I’ve come to truly hate shopping there. If I can order it through Amazon, I will. But I really didn’t want to wait a day or three to do the laundry, so decided to zip in and grab a skein of the stuff.

Every time I go in there, I’m reminded of how much I hate hate hate computer checkout stands. HD has now pretty much eliminated all their human checkout clerks, except for one hapless lady in the garden department. To get the clothesline rope, you have to hike all the way to aisle 18 — which is damn near to the fencing departmenttrudge up aisle 18 halfway to the back of the store, search up and down till you find the stuff shelved down near the floor, then turn around and hike all the way back to the garden department to find a living, breathing check-out clerk.

Really. There’s a Target and a Dollar Store just down the road from Costco. I should have gone into one of those places to get the damn clothesline. Or done what I originally thought to do: Order. It. From. Amazon!!!

Further annoyance awaited: As part of my covid-avoidance strategy, I wash every damn piece of produce in Dawn detergent and wipe down every damn plastic bottle & package with disinfectant before bringing it in the kitchen.

This is what we had to do when we lived in Arabia, on the shore of the Persian Gulf. And every time I repeat this “new”routine, I think my poor mother! What must she have thought when she first learned she would be spending the next ten years with this kinda routine? Then I think, Goddamnit, we’re living in a frikkin’ Third-World country today. When we came back to the states in the late 1950s, no American ever dreamt of submerging every bit of produce in skin-searing detergent before you could put it away. Or, as my mother had to do once or twice every week of the ten years we spent overseas, dipping every piece in Clorox. Because, whoop-de-doo, we were a First-World country!

But moving on.

Finally ensconced in the house with the garage door shut behind me, I felt dirty…like a dusting of viruses no doubt had settled upon my clothes as I trudged through those vast, warehousey stores. So decided to throw what I had on into the washer, along with the rest of the colored clothes. This added a load of laundry to be hung up to dry (on the rack in the garage) to the tasks of cleansing the day’s purchases and cooking dinner.

In short order, Ruby comes tearing out through the garage and shoots out the side door in a screaming frenzy: ARF ARF GRRRRROWWWWLLL ARF ARF ARF GRRRRR ARFETY ARF ARRRRFFF! Some alien force is operating in the alley!!!!!

Cripes. Now there I yam in my lady BVDs, having just shucked off my jeans, shirt, & socks and thrown them in the wash. Chase the dog to the back fence, sneak up, peer over the wall… Two guys are out there digging up one of the fire-hydrant-size Cox gadgets that sits in the alley.

Poor fellas. They have a couple of shovels that they’re pounding away with. That dirt out there has been packed down with a steam-roller. It’s about the consistency of concrete. Periodically they (or someone) knocks the Internet connection off line…so it’s anyone’s guess whether this grutch will go online today.

{sigh} Really should get up and stretch a length of that clothesline out there. But that will entail dragging the ladder around from the far side of the house, through the swimming-pool gate, and then dragging it back. To say nothing of climbing on it. The hapless sheet has gone through the dryer and is now put away. The new sheets can wait for another day for their first laundering. It’s four in the afternoon… Feels like it’s about 9 p.m., and I sure wish it were because what I’d like right now is to go back to bed and sleep straight through to the usual wake-up hour, 3 ayem.