Get A Haircut, Hippie!

If you can see the photo above, that’s from October 29th of last year. By that point, I had let my hair grow out for five months – I usually get it cut after three or four months.

For some reason, I didn’t take a photo of how long my hair had gotten before getting it cut on this past December 31st – over seven months past my latest cut. Maybe I just did like the aesthetics of it all – with all that hair, I looked like some sort of rabid scientist. Or, Bernie Sanders 50 years ago, maybe?

Because the location is so close to my neighborhood, I go to the local Walmart here in Pinellas Park (as is my habit) to get the haircut. They impose a bit more for it now – it used to be just under $15, but now it’s – I want to say $16.75. Hey, I’m older and can’t memorize every detail with acuity as I used to – so it’s $16.25 or $16.75, I can’t remember which.

I kind of fancied my hair longer – though combing it and seeing it all go askew within an hour didn’t make me happier overall. Maybe I should just keep it short.

A Mile In My Shoes

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Last week, I had mentioned that my weight had gone down dramatically and that it wasn’t really something I had designs on – just a byproduct of eating less. In recent years, my typical weight had been 275, and now I’m down to about 235. (I just paused to weigh myself and got a reading of 238.5 just after a breakfast – I don’t get “hung up” on exact numbers, I just use the scale for a ballpark estimate.)

A good friend mentioned to me that I should get some apple cider vinegar, so I got some on a recent trip to Wally World, along with getting my quarterly haircut. I just began this regimen in the past couple of days, so it’s too early to tell for sure if this will have any effects, positive or negative. What I’ve read about it on the Internet is mostly positive, so we’ll see. I’m not really looking at it for weight loss, because I’ve already done that to an extent – but for something that will reduce over possible diabetic effects. For myself, I’d like to get foot sensitivity back.

To help myself in that effort, I walk around my neighborhood roughly 15-20 minutes a day, usually more than half of a mile. This week, I’m looking at expanding those efforts to get to a point where I walk at least a mile a day. With a spate of on and off rain hitting Florida this week with an early tropical system possibly forming in the Gulf, finding the time to do this will be a bit difficult, but I should be able to manage it.

I’m also noticing that my overall mood is improving, and that’s something that shouldn’t be overlooked, either.

20 Items Or Less, Revisited

My most recent trip to Walmart was a bit bizarre. The automated checkout machines and those attending them added to the weirdness, something I’ve mentioned a few times in recent months.

This most recent go-around, I have two minders watching me, as I’m the only person using their automation. Perhaps everyone else now knows better? I start using the price gun to scan everything off, and got reprimanded for not placing anything on the stand on the left of the machine. Of course, the last time I did things that way, the machine kept stopping on me, but let’s not the facts get in the way of the rules, right?

Now, both of them watch me like a hawk, and it’s rattling me a bit. It’s some weird combination of the Soup Nazi scene in Seinfeld, the scene where Ralphie Parker goes to see Santa Claus in A Christmas Story (with the teenage elves not pleased at the pace young Ralphie is moving at), and two drill instructors in the ear of one recruit at the same time in any Army movie.

I forget to run a package of ham thru the machine, and I had to stop and amend my purchases. I punch in the ATM code, and it’s the right code for one of my other cards, so one of the attendants takes the card right of my hands and starts perusing it with considerable impatience. Did I mention I was a bit rattled? I get the card back, shooting the attendant a dirty look.

Needless to say, it’s the last time I’ll use their automated system, unless I have no other alternative. They put those machines in, but yet they make anyone who tries to use them feel like a hardened criminal. Good reverse psychology, I suppose.

The Stress Of The Season

I went to Walmart this Sunday morning around 10:30. Talk about a madhouse.

Usually, I prefer going early, like 7:00-8:00 or so, but events conspired against me a little bit today that got me there later. Plus, the things I had to get were scattered a bit throughout the store, which prolonged the agony a bit.

A lady with a couple of kids cut me off as I was trying to get around one of the slow pokes, and I must have grimaced or somehow facially exposed my dismay. She went “wow” at me, like why are you so upset? I didn’t really want to get into it with her, as I wasn’t there to discuss my feelings.

When something like that happens and I can’t hide my anger, I do a couple of good deeds to try and balance things out. There was a woman in line in front of me with a baby girl of toddler age, who had just lost whatever she was playing with in her hands, letting out a large cry. The object disappeared underneath a display area where candies are found when you check out, so I thought I’d find it, and turn it over to the parent to see if the toy could be salvaged or discarded, depending on how dirty it was.

I couldn’t find it, but I got a nice “thank you” from the parent.

When I got back to the car, there were grocery carts strewn all over the place, including blocking out some parking spaces. (I’ll let you in on a little secret: I applied at Walmart last week and applied for a Cart Pusher position at this store. Haven’t heard from them.) I took three  of the carts blocking the area, and sent them to the nearest cart bay.

Got back home without incident.

20 Items Or Less

As I do every week, I went to Walmart Saturday. This Saturday trip was a little different, as I got to the store just before 8:00 in the morning, because that’s when their hair salon opened up, and I wanted to get a haircut.

Why do I talk about my Walmart trips all the time? Good question. I think Walmart has become something either people love to do or despise doing. In many ways, it is a microcosm of Americana in this early part of this new century we’re all apart of.

When I got to the grocery buying portion of the trip, I’m keeping track of the number of items I’m getting. Should I get 20 items or fewer, I can go to the automated checkout sections they put in the store a few weeks back. I do my shopping, and sure enough, I’m right at 20 items.

I belly up to the checkout section on the north end of the store, and the attendant who I had encountered a few weeks ago who helped me with entering the bananas on their kiosk seemed in a sour mood.

The attendant declared, “Twenty items or less, sir.” I guess she was thinking I wasn’t keeping track.

“But I have twenty items exactly.” I responded.

“Okay.”

I wouldn’t have declined the offer if she wanted to count the number of items I had for herself. But for her to assume I wasn’t keeping count, but it was strange that she immediately backed down. I’m not mad at her, as she was probably doing her job and probably has to deal with a lot of technological novices who aren’t adapt at using the automated machines yet. They should, however, be welcoming people who want to use their machines. I don’t go to the store to run some sort of scam on them.

I like the machines, though it has probably cost a few people their jobs at the store. I like scanning and going at my own pace, instead of hurrying to place bags in the cart and make split-second decisions that might squash that loaf of bread. Maybe it’s the future, or maybe it will be something that doesn’t mesh with the public like the “new Coke” back in the 1980’s.

 

Oh, We’re Fine…Again

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Hurricane Matthew earlier in the week as the eye struck the southwestern tip of Haiti.

I’ve noticed that a lot of people liked my first “Oh, We’re Fine” post that I wrote back on September 3rd. I just hope all of you realize that I was talking about another Hurricane that hit last month: Hurricane Hermine.

Yesterday, it was another hurricane’s turn, this one named Matthew. The eye of Matthew was much farther away, missing me by some 200 miles. The storm was a much bigger deal for the east coast of Florida as it was here on the west coast of the state, as Category 4 winds were being projected along the coastline north of West Palm Beach all the way up to Jacksonville.

I’ve been watching these storms come and go since Hurricane David in 1979 when I was almost eight years of age. But on Thursday afternoon, I saw someone I had never seen before. Newsmen like Shepard Smith at Fox News and weathermen like Brian Norcross on The Weather Channel spending airtime making urgent appeals for those in evacuation zones to do just that: evacuate. Then yesterday, National Hurricane Center director Rick Knabb made another such appeal.

Usually, the reporters and weather people give you the information and the public officials make the appeals to the public to flee as needed, and each side usually stays on their side of that hypothetical road. However, there were scattered reports that the people weren’t taking matters seriously, especially in northeast Florida where (as is the case here in Tampa Bay) major hurricanes don’t usually visit.

Even though the storm wasn’t scheduled to hit here, people took the storm seriously in my area. Schools were closed in the event the track did the unthinkable and moved much closer to Tampa Bay. A trip to Walmart I took late Thursday morning was unusually packed for such an hour and day, with a huge bottleneck in the northwest part of the store where water was available for purchase. Unlike a viral video that has made the rounds, the gathering of water bottles at my store was orderly.

I spent the day peering at nearby trees. They shook a bit in winds the gusted to minimal tropical storm force, but as the day progressed, the winds died down.

Life went back to normal here. They will clean up the East coast, might take some time. But things will go on. I do wonder if someday lawmakers will throw fines or imprisonment at those who don’t evacuate, but I give it a few years before that sort of thing becomes law even if lawmakers are so inclined. We don’t think about emergencies until there is one.

Pauly Checks Out The Automated Checkout

Saturday brought another pilgrimage to my local Walmart (more than a few call it “Wally World” after the fictional theme park in the first Vacation movie, the one with Chevy Chase and Christie Brinkley in it) which I usually do on Friday or Saturday. I find it best to go to the store by about 8:30 or so to avoid the masses, and avoid the people in their cars who hover for a specific parking spot when there’s 200 or so open spots on the sides of the lot, or in the back.

I counted the number of items I put in my cart, the total being right at 20. That qualified me for an express checkout. On top of that, it qualified me to use the automated checkout machines that had been installed at my store within the past month.

Believe it or not, this was not my first encounter with an automated checkout machine. My previous experience took place in 2000 at a Charlotte Harris Teeter store. Seeing that this was my first such checkout in 16 years, I went very slowly.

The mechanics of how to use the machine were play simple. With a hand scanner, or with a scanning device in the middle of the kiosk, you ran the product through the machine so that it read the UPC code on each item, then kept a running total of the cost on the screen.

When I got to the bananas, there was a bit of a snag. Bananas don’t have a UPC code on them, because when you pay for that fruit, you pay by the pound. I sat there a few moments, and without asking for help (I’m a guy – I don’t like admitting I’m lost, and I don’t like admitting I’m stuck on something) an attendant came over and explained how you have to search for it. Then, you put it on the middle of the kiosk so it can be weighed.

It was a pretty good experience, and I figure (unfortunately) that this may be Walmart’s future, so I had better learn how to do it sooner rather than later. I wouldn’t recommend using the machines if you have 20 items and you’re there alone, as it might take you a bit to organize, scan, and bag the items.

And with this technological advancement, the future gets a bit closer. What’s next, drones that will pick out the items we want?