Jul 29, 2005

Employee Discounts Part 2

No sooner did I bitch and complain about big car companies sharing their employee discounts with the whole freakin' world...now MY own company has done the same. No more secrets from you going forward. Staples is offering for a limited time only my 12% discount.

So I checked my Outlook address book and did my duty by sharing the news with all of my friends and family. What the hell? It's not like I'm going to be using it by this Saturday.

I've really got to wonder why all these big companies are spreading the employee discounts so thick like crunchy peanut butter on Wonder bread? Maybe sales are down and they need this influx of sales from dedicated employees who might have disposable income to spare?

I think I've done my part to help out the sales of Apple and Buy.com. I just bought a 60GB Photo iPod at a phat price and I didn't need to know anybody to get a good deal. I simply googled a Buy.com coupon and a few websites offering MP3 player reviews and voila! Instant gratification. I got free shipping and $20 off my purchase. Really the only thing I had to pay for was the Massachusetts 5% sales tax.

Damn you, Mitt Romney.

Jul 20, 2005

Smokey and the Bandit

My interest in wanting to see Smokey and the Bandit again all started from a family ride back from The Cheesecake Factory last Saturday. My father-in-law George was riding shotgun and popped in a cassette tape he had lying around in the console of the car to add some music to our ride home down Route 9. Suddenly a very familiar song started playing and we all started talking about how that song defined the movie Smokey and the Bandit. I said, "Oh, I should rent that movie from Netlfix. I LOVED that movie when it came out."

Here are a few bars of the classic Jerry Reed song Eastbound and Down just to set the mood so hold on tight because this is going to be a long Blog.

East bound and down, loaded up and truckin',
We're gonna do what they say can't be done.
We've got a long way to go and a short time to get there.
I'm east bound, just watch ol' "Bandit" run.
Keep your foot hard on the pedal. Son, never mind them brakes.
Let it all hang out 'cause we got a run to make.
The boys are thirsty in Atlanta and there's beer in Texarcana.
And we'll bring it back no matter what it takes.

Probably the reason why I’m so passionate about this movie after watching it a second time nearly 28 years later is because my dad made his living by driving a 18-wheeler. He was a long-haul trucker and proud of it. He hauled Puma sneakers, delivered frozen fish up and down the East Coast to a popular Fish & Chips fast-food chain called Arthur Treachers and delivered Moosehead Beer.

In fact, he was even what some might consider a scab during a big trucker’s union strike in the early 80’s because no one wanted to take any chances driving on the interstate. It wasn’t uncommon to hear stories about drivers getting shot at from highway overpasses and I can remember being so worried that my dad was going to get hurt doing his job.

But really I just always thought he did a cool job. He was never one of those dads who dressed up in a suit and tie every day to go to work. He got to wear blue jeans with rolled up packs of cigarettes in his T-shirt and eat cheeseburgers at Truck Stops (a.k.a. Choke ‘N Puke) and had a CB Radio with a handle. In case you’re interested, his CB handle was Hi-Ho Silva and mine was Little Beaver. I’m not kidding.

Here’s a bit of background on the movie before I get into the details of the plot. It was filmed in 36 days and cost $4.5 million to make. Smokey and the Bandit was released in 1977 and was the 2nd highest domestic grossing movie of the year earning over $200 million in US and Canada alone. (In case your curious, the #1 movie was a little film called Star Wars).

The plot is pretty simple: Bo ‘Bandit’ Darville (Burt Reynolds) takes on a bet from Big Eanus Burdette (Pat McCormick) and his son Little Eanus (Paul Williams) that he can drive from Georgia to Texas and back in 28 hours with a tractor trailer full of Coors beer (400 cases to be exact) within 28 hours.Bandit gets a whole bunch of cash from Big Eanus to buy a gorgeous Trans-Am so he can use this fast car as a blocker on the highway, but has to convince his best friend Cledus Snow (a.k.a. Snowman) to drive the truck. It doesn’t take much convincing and with his Basset Hound Fred in tow, they’re off with the clock running.

Along the way, the Bandit picks up a stranded bride named Carrie (Sally Field). It seems Carrie just left her husband-to-be at the altar and who just happens to be the son of Buford T. Justice (Jackie Gleason) who quickly becomes in hot pursuit of the Bandit.

Carrie and Bo...hmmm....sounds like our finalists in our American Idol competition. Weird.

Everyone loves the Bandit and I have to say that Burt Reynolds must have been having the time of his life playing him. Smokey and the Bandit is the movie you have to watch to understand why women found him so sexy and why everyone loved this movie back in the 70’s. He spent most of the movie just driving the Trans-Am making jumps over ponds and crashing up cars, but it was his playful banter with Carrie and his cat-and-mouse chase with the sheriff that just makes this movie work.

I’ve been doing a lot of research on this movie. I discovered that Jackie Gleason received hardly any money to be in the movie, but wanted to do it only if he could play the character of the sheriff in his own unique way. He created his signature phrase, "SumBitch" especially for the movie and ad-libbed his entire part from beginning to end. I seriously doubt the movie would have been so popular had it not been for him playing the cantankerous sheriff.

There are some really, really funny lines in this movie that made me laugh out loud. Considering that I saw this back in 1977 when I was seven years old, most of the catchy dialogue must have went right over my head. Such as when a fellow trucker called The Silver Tongued Devil says to Bandit, "Keep your wheels spinning and your beavers grinning" or after Bandit has just used a broken bridge to jump a river. Carrie says, "That was great! I want to jump something else! I want to jump a car, or a house, anything!" to which Bandit replies (still shaking) "Then jump me!" Classic!! [Click here to read more classic quotes]

Since the film did so well, the producers went on to make the sequel in 1980 and then the last of the trilogy Smokey and the Bandit Part 3 in 1983. I’m definitely going to rent them so I can see if these sequels ended up standing the test of time as much as the original.

If my experience watching Smokey and the Bandit means anything, you should think about one of your favorite movies back when you were a little kid and watch it again. Nostalgia can prove interesting because it reminds you of where you’ve come from. Back in the day, people smoked all the time in movies, calls were made on payphones not cell phones and romance was a deep, meaningful kiss between the stars rather than the soft porn it’s turned into today.
Goonies, anyone?

Jul 19, 2005

Two Fat Chicks

It's official. I'm fat. There--I freaking said it and there's no turning back now because everyone is going to read this and know.

How do I know I'm fat aside from the obvious tonnage and the near death experience living day-to-day in this mortifying heat? I know I'm fat because a smart-ass teen referred to me and my mom tonight as "...those two fat chicks" as they were walking ahead of us in the parking lot of Kohl's at The Shoppes at BlackStone Valley.

It happened like this. These 3 teenage boys were walking along side of us, but they were kind of hugging the edge of the curb. One of the kids said really loud, "This place is soooo dead tonight. I bet I could walk right down the middle here and not get hit by a car." So as they were passing us, my mom obviously couldn't help over hearing his boastfulness and we all know my mom can never say anything quietly: "Yea, go ahead you big dummy. I'd like to see you get hit."

I kind of snorted because I hate it when kids talk really loudly and then get all bent out of shape if you actually acknowledge their existence and what my mom said was kind of funny. Well, I had it coming because no sooner were they a little bit ahead of us that one of the kids must have told the other kid that were were laughing at them. "Who...those two fat chicks?"

THOSE-TWO-FAT-CHICKS. I let the words sink into me as I was walking with my mom back to our car. Thank God she didn't hear him say that!

Those two fat chicks. Those two fat chicks. Face it. I'm a fat chick.

It's really, really, really hard hearing the truth and it's even harder hearing it from some jerk like that kid in the parking lot. He shouldn't even register on my radar. He doesn't know me. He doesn't know how good of a person I am. He doesn't know that I'm a super great inventory analyst at the number one office supply retailer in the country and I keep his smart little ass in stock of Swingline staplers and jumbo paperclips. He doesn't know the first thing about me except that he knows a fat chick when he sees one.

So what do fat chicks like me do when they're forced to face the facts? Do I hang my head in embarrassment over what I've let myself become or do I do something about it? Well, I think that decision is best left for another day.

Once I got my mom settled into the car, we turned on the radio and treated ourselves to a little Billy Joel song on the oldies station and cracked open a bag of Jelly Belly licorice jelly beans that we had just bought at Target. Afterall, I may be a fat chick--but I'm not a stupid fat chick.

Jul 18, 2005

Employee Discounts

You'd think working for one of the Top 3 Office Supply Retailers would afford me a hefty discount on office supplies...but it doesn't. It's one of the biggest misconceptions going about the perks for working at this major retailer. I seriously think one of my biggest perks is actually our Moobella ice cream machine we have in our All-In-One sundry shop where I can choose a flavor of ice cream and even a mix-in ingrediant all from the press of a few buttons and WHAMO-a beautiful dollup of pre-mixed ice cream in a cup for less than $2.50.

Sweet, creamy fat-filled ice cream aside, I only get a 12% discount a few times a year and there's usually all these conditions that must be met to even get the discount. We don't have a published schedule so anyone could actually plan in advance to hold off making a big purchase like a laptop until employee discount day. We typically find out a few days in advance letting us know that discount days are coming and I get a bad taste in my mouth when the announcement is made during a particular time when sales are slow in the company or there's a big seasonal event like Christmas. Who wouldn't want a discount on office supplies during Santa time?

So it's with great amusement that I've been noticing all these car companies offering the general public (i.e. anyone living in America) their employee discount on car purchases. I think Ford started it, but I could be wrong. What a way to sink employee morale at Ford. Imagine it's bad enough working on a production line day in and day out inspecting the quality of an anti-lock braking system, but at least you get 20% off of a brand new car. Now someone like me can get the same exact price as you on a new car. Where's the motivation now to work at Ford? What other perks could they possibly get that makes it worth while to show up every day to work and give 110%?

I know that I would be pretty ticked off if all of a sudden everybody could get my measley 12% discount on Post-It notes and pencils. I certainly wouldn't feel special even if it's for only certain times of the year. In fact, I would feel extra resentful towards my employer.

And my employer is really stingy with the office supplies at the corporate office. My mouse at my desk is terrible and just this weekend I forked over $9.95 of my own hard earned cash to Wal-Mart to buy a new optical mouse because I knew there was no chance in hell that I would ever get to replace my tired old mouse with a new one if I relied on the actual company that I worked for. Certainly I might have waited around for my 12% discount days to buy another mouse, but I needed it NOW!

All I'm saying is this revolutionary idea about offering the same price for a car as a Ford Motor Company employee would get is a dangerous precedent to set and it would make me think twice about buying a car from Ford. Somehow I just wouldn't feel too safe anymore knowing that a certain sparkle has dimmed in the eye of the worker checking my anti-lock braking system.

Jul 8, 2005

The Hunt is Over!

I finally own Darth Tater!

The Star Wars toy that I have been endlessly searching the toy aisles for endlessly over the past three months is finally in my possession courtesy of Target at Lincoln Plaza in Worcester. I knew eventually I'd come across it in some markdown bin about 2 years after all the hoopla over Revenge of the Sith died down, but I just never imagined I'd find it so soon.

Jul 6, 2005

To Catch A Thief

Mom was extremely upset last night because someone stole the fancy antique clock in the coffee shop of her nursing home at some point over the holiday weekend. "I mean, who would steal a clock?" she asked me in disgust.

This isn't the first time something precious has been stolen either. A few weeks back, the thief walked off with a very nice portable stereo with detachable speakers that was perched high up on a shelf in the very same coffee shop. So now the old folks are left without two basic neccessities: a clock to watch time slip by and a radio to play their polka music.

Because of these recent thefts, my mom has worked herself into a tizzy and now eyes every nursing home worker and outside visitor with suspicion. The nurses's aide letting us back into the locked building last night is a suspect, the custodian with the shifty eyes could be the one and it's never occurred to my mother that maybe it's actually a resident that took these things.

Alicia, the administrator, came back from her 3-month maternity leave yesterday and was forced to deal on her first day back with many residents loudly voicing their concerns that they've been infiltrated by a no-good crook!

I tried to tell mom last night that there's nothing to be worried about, but she reminded me about the break-in about a month ago. "Well, that was just kids looking for Oxycontin from the medication carts." "Oh, Yea?" she asked, "What if they break in again and take one of us hostage?" (Now that would be pretty funny, wouldn't it?) I asked her, "How much do you think they would get for you?" She thought for a second and replied, "Huh..not much."

It's pretty pathetic that anyone would steal from a nursing home when these facilities have so little to begin with. But theft of personal property is a major concern It's been my first hand experience that residents have things stolen from them all the time-bottles of perfume, cans of soda left on nightstands, money in change purses left hidden under pillows next to dentures.

My mother has actualy woken up in the middle of the night startled by a strange noise only to discover a CNA worker rifling through the top drawer of her nightstand. When my mom demanded to know what she was doing, the aide actually had the nerve to say my mother's top draw had come off it's track and she was simply putting it back in place--at 3am in the morning. Now what do you think she was really doing?

My mother has even had inconsequential things taken from her such as pages from her Horse page-a-day calendar and recently a favorite tie-dyed shirt. Upon discovering another resident wearing her t-shirt, she marched right up to the woman and demanded to know why she was wearing her shirt. "You know damned well that's not your shirt. That's my shirt. Who the hell wears a tie-dyed shirt in this place except me!" The woman replied, "I didn't have any clothes so the aide gave it to me." Really? So now my mother's closet is a back-up option to other residents if their clothing hasn't come back from laundry?

To combat theft, I bought my mom two inexpensive filing cabinets with locks. She keeps her most valuable possessions inside these four drawers. I do realize that if anyone really wanted to steal something they could just jimmy open the lock and take anything they wanted. These filing cabinets are meant to secure documents rather than personal treasures. But it's at least a small deterrent to anyone looking to score off of my mother.

The realization that I can no longer give my mom gifts such as a nice figurine or a beautiful picture frame can be very depressing at times. And if I buy her expensive clothing, I understand there is always the chance that the laundry department could lose or ruin the clothing. When you live in a nursing home, every purchase has to be weighed heavily because you just don't know how long you'll get to enjoy it.

Keeping track of your own stuff is hard enough. But it seems now residents have the added worry of wondering when the next big thing will be stolen out of common areas such as their coffee shop and dining hall. Unfortunately for the residents in my mom's nursing home-they've got one more thing to worry about. When will the thief strike next?

Aside from the potential hostage crisis, that is.

Jul 5, 2005

I Scream for Black Licorice Ice Cream!

Licorice. Either you love it or hate it. Fortunately, I LOVE it with a passion. I am a black licorice connoisseur. I am always on the hunt for the latest new product featuring black licorice such as licorice Altoids or the back-from-the-dead Switzer brand. I had heard a rumor from someone that I work with that Cold Stone Creamery had black licorice ice cream, but when I visited their store on Route 9 in Southboro--they didn't even know what I was talking about. In fact, the girl kind of looked at me funny like I might have suggested mixing cinnamon Listerine in their vanilla ice cream.

But this past Saturday the rumor was proved magnificiently true. I got the chance to try a scoop of black licorice ice cream (one of five new summer flavors in honor of National Ice Cream month) at Cold Stone Creamery. It was delicious and here's why:

I was expecting vanilla ice cream with bits of black licorice mixed into it because that's kinda what this ice cream place is known for--mixing in candy to their expensive creamy ice cream to make all sorts of crazy combinations. But their black licorice ice cream is completely smooth with no mix-ins whatsoever. Just a dizzingly fragrant scoop of grey-colored ice cream (or the color of wet cement-whichever is easier to imagine) that melts on your tongue and engulfs your senses in the joy of all things black licorice. I can't even describe the flavor or do it justice. It's just really, really good. I've never tasted anything like it.

Their menu also offers a combination mix with the black licorce ice cream called Black Tie Affair: Black licorice ice cream with Raspberries, Cherry Pie filling and Whipped Topping. I didn't even bother to give it a second glance. I would think all those other sweet tastes would crowd out the bouquet of this unique and special flavor.

But I can't lie to you and act like I'm not intrigued about the potential mix-ins. Personally, I would go old-school Choo Choo Charlie and mix in fresh chewy Good & Plenty. Or imagine what a milk shake would taste like using black licorice ice cream? I could try making that at home since I ended up buying a pint of it, but I doubt it's going to survive in my freezer long enough to be part of any personal experiments.

Doesn't matter. Something this good isn't going to last forever and I know black licorice ice cream is probably just about as appealing to customers as their other new flavor-Wasabi Ginger-so as long as I can enjoy it for the rest of July I'll be okay. It's the simple pleasures in life that are the most appealing to me--even if it leaves my breath stinky and my tongue black.

It was worth it!

Jul 4, 2005

Happy Fourth of July from Minnie!
Photo by Spencer J. Perry