Thursday, December 08, 2016

Make It Stop Blinking!

Make it Stop Blinking!

Forced into a one day exile from substituting, I found myself with a whole day to fill.  In case you don’t know, I retired a year and a half ago.  As part of a special retirement deal that purges “The Big Salary People” from the school system payroll, I promised to work one fifth of a school year for five years as a substitute teacher with one year of pay thus apportioned.  One caveat is that no retiree substitute shall work more than four days in any one week or the county feels that I shall be regarded as a full time employee and, thus, eligible for benefits like insurance and a full time job.

So I awoke today on my mandatory day of exile with only the barest sketch of a plan on how to fill my time. First up. Read the newspaper. Check.  Have a pepperoni and cheese bagel, Check. Read my email. Check. Respond to email. Check. Find some silly You Tube videos to send to friends (Trolololo Song). Check.

At this point, I realized that it was time to get busy.  I knew that I wanted to pick lettuce from my raised beds before the Siberian Express descended on our fair city tonight.  I also knew that I wanted to begin decorating the house for Christmas and that meant that I needed batteries for my fake window candles.  In fact, I was even contemplating buying some more candles to put in more than just the front facing windows. 

My trip to Heritage Family Market in Fincastle was reflexive and relaxing.  Cruise down I-81 to Daleville and get onto that road that goes there. Only the blind mergers and oblivious trucks kept me from truly experiencing requiescence.


There are jewels inside yourself. Precious, profound and ready to be discovered.


Heritage was hopping today, but I lucked out by getting there when Dwayne (I’m on a first-name basis with all the clerks) had a break in slicing deli meats and cheeses. So I put in my usual order for sharp yellow cheddar, pepper-jack, havarti, and beef bologna-a half pound of each all sliced on setting one. Dwayne knows that part, and I never have to tell him.  Sometimes I get low-sodium turkey breast, pepperoni, or hard salami just to mix things up a bit.


I hustled off to shop while Dwayne filled my order.  I picked up my bag of corn chips and two tubs of assorted flavor gummy bears. Heritage has been open for a couple of years now.  Its owners and workers are members of a Pennsylvania Dutch community from Mission Home, VA near Charlottesville.  They sell all sorts of food essentials, especially baking goods and candy.  Their place in Fincastle is quaint and draws a rich collection of professional and common folk. Today, a little boy and his hunting overall-attired father were checking out when the boy pleaded with his father to let him give the money to Tim at the register.  It was so sweet that I found myself smiling with a tear as did the old German Baptist lady in front of me in line. Requiescence attained.


I wished Matt, the checker, a good day and headed off to Roanoke to visit Big Lots for my batteries and fake candles.  Traffic was pretty intense, but I couldn’t be shaken from my sense of peace.  Honestly, I swear this is true. Very few people work these days. Seriously.  They may be “working”: but they aren’t working. They’re out driving around.  Today’s not the first time I’ve noticed this phenomenon.  I’m sure that my teacher friends can’t possibly understand how this would be possible.


After dodging blind mergers and oblivious trucks and very nearly dying at the Peters Creek Road (my normal) exit when I was nearly rear-ended by a merger and a truck, I made it to my Big Lots at the old Hill’s department store on Hershberger Road.  It’s a dingy place, but often filled with surprises and treasures.  Today, I got a little of both.


I took my basket by the friendly Salvation Army bell ringer and entered the store. I scoped out the batteries and found that I could get 30 Ray-O-Vac Al Kaline [sic] batteries for $12 (40 cents a battery) or 24 Ray-O-Vac Al Kaline [sic] batteries for $10 (41.6 cents). I opted for the 30-pack.  Then I made my way to the Christmas candles.


My path, however, was blocked by an older mother and her adult daughter who were loudly screaming at each other in normal conversation about what decorations to buy to “GO OUTSIDE THE HOUSE!”


“MAMA. THESE LIGHT WOULD GO GOOD OUTSIDE THE HOUSE.  DON’T YOU LIKE THESE LIGHTS?  HOW ABOUT THESE LIGHTS?  WE COULD USE SOME OF THESE LIGHTS AND THEM LIGHTS, etc.”  Still in my state of requiescence, I decided to leave them to the space and go shop elsewhere until they finished their task. 


I strolled over to the foreign canned foods.  Big Lots always has cool foreign canned goods.  I found some unusual pouches of Indian cuisine.  Just heat up the pouch, toss the bag in water for a minute then pour over rice.  As I was reading labels all alone in MY aisle, a young man with a red vest, dark glasses, and neatly trimmed beard and goatee turned down the aisle and stopped right behind me.  Right behind me-Within an inch of touching my shoulders and rear end.  He marked my move every time I stepped to the side to increase my personal space bubble.   My creep meter was on red alert.  I felt like he was staring at me in some sort of seductive way.  So I rather quickly moved on to the tea aisle before doubling back to the Christmas decorations.


The two ladies were still going at it on the lights aisle, but they had at least moved away from the fake single candles.  I found that I had two choices for single LED plastic candles with base: a three pack of GE candles for $12 or a single pack of no-name candles for $4 a piece. No difference in price and no difference in looks.  Both seemingly matched the candles I already have.  So decided on the GE candles.


Earlier while I was futilely waiting for the two loud ladies to exit the area, I pulled up a Big Lots coupon on my phone: $5 off a $15 purchase or $15 off a $50 purchase.  I loaded it onto my phone for the checkout.  So as I stood there by the candles I decided to get three 3-packs of GE lights at $12 a pack in addition to the pack of 30 batteries also for $12.  12x4 =$48.  To take me over the top, I settled on a cheap stocking stuffer for my wife.  It didn’t have a price, but I figured that it would certainly take me over the top. 


I beat the two loud ladies and the strange man to the checker and proceeded to watch my stuff ring up.  Then I handed my phone to the clerk, and she entered my coupon.  My total: $47.38 cents.  My $15 dollar discount?  Where was it I asked politely.  She didn’t know, but the coupon didn’t seem to register.   I asked her to try again. Same result.  By now the line of strange people was stacking up and they were all glaring at me.  I was THAT guy who was slowing down the process and making them late for missing more work while driving around on roads.  I wasn’t mad.  How could I be?  I was still retired, still in exile for a day, and still immersed in my requiescence.


But the $15 gnawed at me.  Instead of exiting the store, I hung out by the service desk reading the fine print on my phone coupon.  I couldn’t find anything that would preclude me in using it for the booty that I bought. So I interrupted the checker and the glaring customers and asked her if I could talk to her manager.


Mindy came right away.  She’s a great manager.  When she took over the store a couple of years ago, she set to redesigning the lay-out, clearing out the junk and improving the customer service.  She’s the best.  I explained my issue calmly in my most relaxed cadence.  She checked my ticket, added all the stuff up, and immediately figured out the problem.  My total before taxes was $49.97.  It seems that the stocking stuffer had cost exactly $1.97 bringing me three cents away from qualifying for the $15 discount.  The register had, indeed, given me a $5 discount which brought my total to $47.38 after taxes. So I asked Mindy if I could just go back and get something else to bring me to the magic level, and she agreed. So I got another 30-pack of batteries and got my $15 discount.  So I ended up paying just over $49.


While all of this was happening, another guy came up to the customer service register with some batteries and was waiting patiently for me to finish.  We began some general chit-chat he made some quip about how he’d never worked so hard at being retired.  When I asked him what he retired from, he proudly told me that he was the very first African American who ever served in the Roanoke County Sheriff’s Department. That absolutely made my day.  I felt honored to meet him.


When I made it home a little later, it was already almost 1:00 and my day of big plans was slipping away from me.  So I went out and picked my lettuce and came back in to load my new candles up with batteries.  Job completed, I put the candles in their widows and left to process the lettuce.


Darkness descended.  Life was still chill for me.  Then I saw my new candles…they were blinking.  I don’t like blinking lights.  Somehow, I’d chosen blinking candles.  Candles that sit in my windows and blink all night like a lighthouse beacon.  They won’t settle down.  They just blink a orange-ish fire.  Incessantly.  No discernible pattern.  BLINK-BLINK. BLINK. BLINK-BLINK-BLINK-BLINK. BLINK-BLINK…  I just wish the damn things would STOP BLINKING!




These jewels are just like flowers.
Some are taking root.  They are in the process of being fertilized and getting ready to sprout.
Others are growing and budding, preparing to flower.
There are also beautiful blooms inside, brimming with fragrance and lively vitality.
Others are in stages of decline, getting ready to retreat, recycle themselves,
and naturally cycle back to the beginning.