Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Members Only

When my sister and brother-in-law gave my wife and I a paid membership to Costco for Christmas, I initially thought it was a nice gesture. But then I realized it was not very nice. Not very nice at all.

It was a rainy day last Sunday when my wife and I went to Costco to activate our Costco membership, and to also potentially shop for Costco-related items. I decided to get a shopping cart, because it seemed like we were in for the long haul. I was surprised to realize that Costco shopping carts were much larger than the shopping carts I was used to. Ya’ know, the kind of carts you only see at stores that carry puny-sized items that come individually wrapped, like toothbrushes.

There are friendly “bouncers” at the Costco entrance doors, except they are not very friendly. But what they lack in friendliness, they make up for in body fat. They are there to check your Costco membership card, and if you do not have one, you are s.o.l. They do not accept excuses, like, “I left it at home,” or “I thought this was BJ’s” or “I swear I’m 21.” In fact, it is in your best interest to actually tape your membership card TO your forehead as you walk through, so there is no confusion. The last thing you need is some guy who mildly resembles Kiefer Sutherland jumping out of the bushes with a box-cutter to question your motives.

In our case, the bouncers made an exception, since we were there to GET our membership card. Of course, this didn’t come without a little good cop-bad cop. When my wife asked one of the bouncers - a middle-aged, overweight, disgruntled woman who was sitting in a chair - where we should go, she said angrily, “Over THERE,” as she half-heartedly pointed over her shoulder, while inspecting other patrons’ membership cards the entire time. For sympathy’s sake, I should mention that the “chair” she was in was a wheelchair, but that didn’t seem, at the time, to be an excuse for her rudeness. Then, another bouncer - a middle-aged, overweight woman who was standing up - said, “I’m sorry Miss, it’s right over there,” as if to say, “Don’t mind her - that crotchety, old thang. She may seem tough on the outside, but deep down, she’s a sweet person. But I’ll tell you one thing though - you’re not gonna get past HER without a membership card! No way, honey! She’ll wheel you right over you like you were an empty candy bar wrapper, I’ll tell you that much! But that’s why we love her here. Hey - that’s Barbara, you know what I mean? Ha ha ha! Anyway, you two have a good time shopping at Costco today, and good luck getting your membership card, okay?” Or something like that.

To get to where we needed to go, we were forced to walk against the flow of the oncoming, exiting human traffic, and it was extremely difficult to weave my way through the hoards of unhappy shoppers while wheeling a humongous, empty, shopping cart. So I gave up on the cart. If giving up my shopping cart at that moment in time meant that I would have to instead balance all of our purchases on the tip of my nose, I was fine with that.

While we waited on line at “customer service,” there was some drama going on behind us. Someone had the audacity to ask the lady behind me if she “was on line,” a question that brought the wrath of said woman. “YES – I’M ON LINE – UGGGHHH!!!” I nudged my wife. This was not going to be fun, I could tell. As a side note, the woman behind us, who had slightly overreacted to this rather innocent question, was there to present to the customer service desk a half-used bottle of lotion that, apparently, was not to her liking. “YES I USED IT, YOU IDIOT – BUT IT’S TOO WATERY! TAKE IT BACK!!!” is the only dialogue that, I can assume, ensued. (As a side note to that side note: If my life ever gets to the point where I have nothing better to do than return small bottles of lotion to an extremely large store, where I will be forced to wait in line to do just that, please, at the very least, revoke my membership to that store. Or kick me in the groin. Either one.)

Let me just mention that before we got out of the car to enter Costco, my wife flipped down the sun visor, and took out her pocketbook, so she could do her makeup again. When I asked her why, she said she wanted to look good for her Costco picture. If anyone sees my wife, please do me a favor and ask her to see her Costco membership card. Her picture looks like a police fingerprint, with hair. It’s black and white, and about .006 centimeters large. Mine doesn’t look much better, except that my mouth is wide open. I’ll explain. While my picture was being taken, there was more drama going down in the ever-increasing customer service line. This time, a grizzly-old woman, who was wearing a Calvin & Hobbes sweatshirt, was yelling at the woman who had asked the OTHER woman if she was in line. The only thing I managed to catch from the entire incident was the woman wearing the Calvin & Hobbes sweatshirt screaming, “He TOLD you he was SORRY – what the HELL ELSE to do you WANT!” Then, and I’m not even kidding, they had to be separated. Now I didn’t know what to think. The woman who I thought was innocent before was now involved in another altercation. But, in her defense, the other woman WAS wearing a Calvin & Hobbes sweatshirt. I don’t know. Anyhoo, I was laughing at the whole fiasco while my picture was being taken. They also cut off the top of my head, which was amazing considering they asked me to squat down for the picture. There I was, in the middle of Costco, squatting down like I'm taking a dump with my clothes on, while two strange woman were on the verge of coming to blows.

I found another cart, and our shopping excursion began. It basically went as follows: My wife would say to me, “Do you think we need (fill in the item),” to which I would reply, “I don’t think we need 48 gallons of (fill in the item),” to which she would reply, “Ya’ know what? Fine. You do the rest of the shopping,” to which I would reply, “Okay, let’s get (fill in the item).” This went on for a few hours.

I have to admit; I just don’t understand the concept of Costco. I mean, I understand that it’s a store where you can by items in bulk, and everyone has taken their turn making fun of that (“Who needs that much mayonnaise? Ha ha ha ha ha!”), which is fine. I get it. But I don’t understand the utter randomness of it all. I think I saw a guy exiting the store with a mattress and bag of Tostitos. I noticed that there was a section of the store where you could get an eye exam. Not an EAR exam (Costco says, “What do you think we are, doctors?”) – an eye exam. There is no rhyme or reason to it. My wife told me that they sell caskets, but not AT the store – only on their website. Because when it’s time to buy a casket, that’s something you want to do from the comfort of home. I thought I was going to get a t-shirt at the end that read, “I went to Costco to buy tires for my truck, and all I got were these lousy grapes.”

So we bought our stuff, and now we don’t have to go shopping again for approximately six years. At least not for Handi-wipes. And as we were leaving, I was informed that you have to display your receipt to one of the workers, so they can check your goods and make sure you’re not trying to steal anything, like a casket. At that point, their retina (remember – eye exams are IN-house) scans the receipt and matches those items to your shopping cart in a magical 2.3 seconds (they are the same breed of special humans who check bags before baseball games).

Anyway, as we approached, I noticed a woman wearing a Costco apron who was covered, head to toe, in mini-stuffed animals. Some of the stuffed animals, like the ones on her head, had springs attached, so they bounced around joyously whenever she moved. My wife then excitedly turned to me, and whispered loudly, “She’s famous!” Now, I assume that she meant “famous” in the context of, my mother-in-law and her friends are aware of this woman, and often mention her when the topic of “Costco” arises, and not “famous” in the context of, “Crazy Costco woman caught canoodling with Brad Pitt! Witnesses say the bulk-item bombshell gave Pitt one of her stuffed animals. What does Angelina have to say? Find out next, on E!” Regardless, she retina-scanned our receipt, and we were on our way home.

Unfortunately, it was raining at the time, and because Costco’s items are so ridiculously large, they don’t offer bags. So some of our stuff got wet on our way to the car. All I’m saying is, I hope our lotions didn’t get watered down.

Cause I will NOT hesitate to bring them back.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Dear Overnight Mouth Guard

Dear Overnight Mouth Guard,

When my dentist told me two years ago that, because I grind my teeth so badly while I sleep, I would have to wear a mouth guard every night for the rest of my life, I have to admit - I was skeptical. Apparently, if my teeth-grinding continued at the rapid rate it was at, my teeth would simply turn into grains of sand within two years, and I would begin to start accidentally swallowing my own teeth sand while eating a nice dinner at a fancy restaurant, which would not have been cool. The only way to put a halt to this erosion was to wear a mouth guard, so I could rest easy knowing that my top and bottom teeth would not be playing a game of tug-of-war inside my mouth, because they could not get through the impenetrable force-field of hard plastic that cost around $800.

Still, I wondered, was I being punished for all those years of neglecting to wear that hellish overnight, denim head-set for my braces, that resembled a football helmet from 1934? And the rubber bands for my braces? And the retainer for my post-braces life? What cruel twist of fate handed down a lifetime sentence of wearing a mouth guard to a 25 year-old man, who was just reaching the prime of his professional and dental life? If I had only worn that head-set! I knew the day of reckoning would come, but I never wanted to face it.

The hardest part of it all was the realization that I would have to wear YOU, my mouth guard, for eternity. It wasn’t as if my dentist had told me to wear you for a few months, and then I could dispose of you like the various dental apparatuses of childhood. Because alas – like Herpes, there is no cure for teeth grinding. I was stuck with you, like a conjoined twin whose twin is an extra row of fake teeth. And not only that – I would have to wear you every time I fell asleep, which included not only the requisite nightly eight hours, but also the occasional afternoon nap. I would have to bring you on airplanes, just in case. “Would you like to check that, sir?” No thank you – it’s just my mouth guard. Also, it is a good thing I am not narcoleptic, because then I would have to wear you constantly.

It was difficult to get used to you, I must admit. I was accustomed to wearing a mouthpiece on various athletic fields as a kid, which was actually kind of cool. Plus, those ones were much softer. Wearing an extra-hard mouth guard during the largely unathletic event of sleeping is not quite as cool. Also, it was difficult to swallow with a foreign object lodged into my upper row of teeth.

But at least you smelled good. Oh wait – did I say good? I meant to say, “like someone dropped a pound of raw sewage into my mouth.” Morning breath is bad enough, but morning breath with a stank-ass mouth guard in your mouth is at least five-times worse. In turn, I would not being going out a limb to say that you adversely affected my love life. This has led to exchanges similar to this:

Wife: Are you feeling frisky tonight?

Me: Why yeff, I ab.

Wife: What’s that smell?

And it was one thing when you embarrassed me at home, but on the road was even worse. Every time my wife and I were invited to sleep over somewhere, I had to put you into your little blue carrying case, and pack you into my gym bag. And all you would do is clang, clang, around in there. “Oh, it’s so good to see you guys! Let me take your stuff. Hey Mike, what’s that clang, clanging around in your bag? Did you bring a board game?” Oh no, actually that’s my overnight mouth guard. But we can still play with it if you want. Just don’t let the dog near it.

But you know what, mouth guard – I think you’re starting to grow on me. I looked at you the other day, shook my head and said to myself, “Oh mouth guard – you son of a gun!” We’re like two totally different cops from a movie who can’t stand each other. I’m the cop who is nice but grinds his teeth, and you’re the cop who is a jerk and smells like ass. But we’ve done so many things together, that it’s only right we’ve become friends. We’ve got each other’s back. Back row of teeth, that is. Ha, ha, ha!

I’m getting used to you, mouth guard. It just wouldn’t be a normal morning without me waking up, pulling you out of my mouth with the accompaniment of a long strand of nasty salvia, brushing my real teeth, and then brushing you. I love drying you off with toilet paper, and then returning you to your blue case, only to count the hours until I can see you again. Every once in a while, I give you a bath in a cup of mouthwash. This way, you won’t smell bad for like, three seconds.

Well, I guess what I’m trying to say is, I love you mouth guard. I wouldn’t want to spend the rest of my life with anybody else.

You’re much better than Herpes.

Your best friend,

Mike

Thursday, January 12, 2006

The breaker breaker

My role as “Mr. Fix-it” around the house was again enhanced, when, a few months ago, I changed the cover on our doorbell without any assistance whatsoever from a professional in the field of doorbell cover replacement. Of course, this task took me about twenty minutes, and I did seek confirmation of what to do when I realized that one of the screws was attached to several wires. I even debated turning off all the power in the house before I loosened the screw, until it occurred to me that I would have had to seek assistance for THAT as well, since I have no clue where there exists a “central power system” in our house. I assumed it was somewhere in our laundry room, where there is an intricate series of knobs, levers, hot water heaters, pipes, switches, and the like, all of whose functions were adequately explained to me several times from several different people when we bought our house, to which I nodded my head in agreement. “Of COURSE I know what knob to turn in case our collateral left faucet breaker starts leaking! What do you think I am – an idiot?” Anyway, upon further review, I decided not to search and destroy our power source, but instead went with my normal philosophy when attempting to do, well…pretty much anything, which is, “* # @ ^ it.” This particular time, it worked, although, usually, “* # @ ^ it” ends with a call to my father or father-in-law to come over for coffee, and, if they remember, to bring their tool set. The point is, I fixed the doorbell cover, and I was proud. It was a fleeting moment however, because things have been pretty much downhill since then.

Over the summer, we gave our “HVAC” system a makeover of sorts. HVAC stands for “heating, something that begins with ‘v,’ air conditioner,” for the layman. Anyway, our AC was blowing lukewarm air, and we had to call someone to come over, and, for lack of a better term, fiddle with it. He did, and he fixed it, but he also informed us that we needed a new filter for our heating system. Que?

Our heating system is one of the larger appliances in our house that I pray never breaks, because I am very scared of it. I would sooner start looking for a new house than attempt to fix a monstrosity that operates by magically igniting a system of burners. When the guy told me that we needed a new filter for this thing, he very kindly went out of his way to show me how to replace it, which, in “normal masculine guy” time takes approximately 5.6 seconds. Of course, I stopped paying attention when he said, “You might have to use a screwdriver to undo this hinge.” After we purchased the replacement filters, they sat in our laundry room for, no joke, three months, until we invited my wife’s uncle over for coffee, and casually showed him our new filters. 5.6 seconds later, wa-la.

Needless to say, my wife is very impressed with my handiness. And she was never as thrilled as she was a few weeks ago, when I attempted to speed up the cycle of our dishwasher by turning the knob while it was operating. (Again, * # @ ^ it.”) Our dishwasher has a knob that lets you know at what point the cycle is in, and I figured if I assisted this lazy knob in its journey to the end, we could leave the house faster. Using my philosophy, an entire dishwashing cycle can be completed as fast as a human can turn a knob, which, right now, doesn’t make any sense. Right then, it did. All I can really say about this matter is that it didn’t necessarily work, and almost ended in divorce. When the cycle ended, our dishes were soaking in a pool of water; water that, I can only assume, is adequately drained when the knob is left untouched. Whatever.

Now, the previous matter aside, I am usually not the one to harm those things that operate within our house, regardless of how poor my skills are at fixing them when they do malfunction. In fact, my wife was the culprit recently, when, while attempting to blow-dry her gorgeous, flowing mane, she short-circuited our entire block. I don’t know what kind of voltage is in a hair-dryer, but I am fairly certain that it was enough to recharge stalled tankers during Operation Desert Storm. This particular blackout was so bad that several small, metal springs actually popped out of the outlet she was using, something that doesn’t even happen when my electric nose-hair trimmer is at full-blast. Anyway, luckily for her, her husband was around. Having a father adept in the electrical field, I am very familiar with many of the terms to use during such occasions, like, “trip the breaker,” and “break the circuit tripper,” and “circuit the break loop,” and “trick the circuit break.” Unfortunately, I don’t know what any of these terms mean, although I did know that there was a circuit something in – you guessed it! – our laundry room. I tried flipping some of the switches, all the while wondering whether or not I was cutting off a power source in some foreign country, but nothing worked. Then my wife called my father-in-law, and over the phone, he was able to guide my wife to the correct switch to turn, something his son-in-law couldn’t do live and in person. Whatever.

Currently, there is an incessant buzzing sound coming from – you guessed it! – our laundry room. I have no idea what it means, or where it is coming from, or if we should evacuate the premises. I am pretty much just hoping that it stops on its own. No luck so far, but I’ll let you know.

Some may consider these occurrences quite embarrassing for your average, warm-blooded, male. But quite frankly, I don’t care. I just wasn’t born with these skills, and it’s too late in life for me to acquire them now. I give up. Besides, that is what family and friends are for – to casually invite over for various occasions so we can trick them into fixing the things that I am too stupid to fix. So if you ever get an invite to our place, don’t forget your tool set.

And feel free to use the doorbell.

But, just to be safe, wear gloves.