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An actual post about the weather and getting free tea at Waitrose 

7 Apr

If there’s anything that’s helped London bounce back from last month’s attack, it’s our collective British sun guilt. The weather has been truly amazing lately — sunny and 17 (62) degrees almost every day. The flowers are in full bloom throughout the parks and seemingly everyone — from tourists to office works on lunch break — is outside.

st james park flowers.png

I’ve been running in the late morning as usual, but almost every afternoon I’ve come up with a reason to get out and enjoy the weather more. Usually it’s to go to Tesco to buy one thing (yesterday it was a cantelope, but they were out of cantaloupe so I got a mango). Today I walked unusually far to go to Waitrose to buy yogurt and get a free cup of tea. I’ve been shopping at Waitrose for years now, but I haven’t been taking advantage of their free tea or coffee with your MyWaitrose card offer until recently. Every store seems to do it differently, though. Some give you the cup when you check out, others have a special separate kiosk and you just have to scan your card. And on top of that, they recently changed the policy so that you have to buy something to get the free tea (which I thought was the policy all along. How many free cups of tea did I miss out on every time I walked by a Waitrose?). I had the following exchange at the Waitrose checkout till today:

Cashier: That will be £4.50. Do you have a MyWaitrose card?

Me: Yes ::Begins fishing through wallet::

Me: How do I get the free cup of tea?

Cashier: You have to have a MyWaitrose card, it seems like you don’t.

Inner me: Did I not just say “yes” when you asked and am I not at this moment getting it out of my wallet?

Me: I have one, here it is.

::Awkward silence::

Me: So where do I get the cup?

Cashier: Wait.

::Cashier immediately starts serving the next customer, who practically pushes me aside::

::Other cashier brings over stack of cups, cashier finally hands me one::

Cashier, calling out as I walk away with the cup: You have to have a MyWaitrose card!

It was such a bizarre exchange! Perhaps it was my mistake by phrasing it as a question. Next time I’ll be sure to say “I have a MyWaitrose card and would like my free cup of tea, please,” but if it’s the same cashier, it seems verbally and physically confirming the ownership of a MyWaitrose card is somehow not enough.

A new friend for the day [seat queue]

17 Jun

american buffalo london

I made a new day seat single-serving friend today. I was queuing for American Buffalo (starring Damian Lewis and John Goodman) behind some American students. They were talking about going clubbing in London.

But if you know me, you’ll know I did not strike up a conversation with them. No, my single-serving friend was behind me. He smelled a little like the men who cluster around the computers in the public library, and I’ll admit at first whiff I thought he was an old homeless man. But he stayed in the queue, reading his newspaper, while the other 10 of us were glued to our phones. Ten minutes before the box office opened, he struck up a conversation. I can’t remember about what, but before I knew it, we were comparing West End shows and swapping day seat stories — something I know way more about than the club scene.  Our seats ended up being next to each other, so the conversation continued 4 hours later. He told me he had traveled to all 50 states and hit 91 of America’s 100 most populated cities — an impressive feat for an American, yet alone a 70-something-year-old English man. Then he gave me this bit of advice:

“If there’s one place in the world you should never go, it’s Akron, Ohio.”

This came completely out of left field — we were discussing California beforehand, and I hadn’t even told him I was from Cincinnati. He said the whole city of Akron was completely deserted during the day, and there wasn’t even a McDonald’s in the city center. I should have asked him what year he was there, as it was probably awhile ago, and I like to think downtown Akron now has a McDonald’s and perhaps even a Chipotle. It was so refreshing to talk to someone who had been to both more U.S. states and West End shows than I have.

After the show we both agreed the acting was better than the play — Damian Lewis and John Goodman were both brilliant. Then we got up and parted ways with a simple — “See you in the next day seat queue!”

Stoplights, As and 4s, and London, Kentucky

3 Dec

Before I begin, allow me to post a photo of my pants:

boston terrier pants

Yes, friends, I am finally in possession of magical Boston terriers wearing santa hats pants. And they were on sale plus 40 percent off, so I got them cheaper than I would have had I bought them on Thanksgiving. So thanks, Old Navy employees who had no idea where they were then.

I went to Walmart today for an eye exam. I don’t go to Walmart often. Not because of some hoity-toity “I watched a documentary on Netflix” beliefs, but because it’s not exactly close to my house and the sheer size of the superstore and parking lot scares me. Sometimes when I’m in London walking everywhere I miss the convenience of driving, but today I wished I could walk to Walmart. The store is only four miles from my house — a supposed 10-minute drive — but I got stuck at every stoplight and was late for my appointment. At least when you’re walking you can jaywalk. And then I swear it took another five minutes just to get from the turn in to the parking lot to an actual open parking space. Thankfully the vision center was near the front door, or else it’d be another 10 minutes just to walk from one end to the other.

While I’m on a complaining roll, I don’t like eye exams. I’m always convinced I got something wrong. I remember during my very first eye exam for contacts in eighth grade the doctor said, “Read the letters for me.” I saw a distinct “4” but since he said “letters,” I said “A.” And since I was still painfully shy at that age, I didn’t correct him or change my answer, so I probably got the wrong prescription. Every time I go I swear my prescription changes by .25. Are my eyes really getting worse, or am I just bad at the test? “Which is better, 1 or 2?” “Can I see 1 again?” “2… no, wait, they’re the same, no, maybe 1…” I’ve had many eye exams since eighth grade and I still can’t seem to get things right. So I left today with a prescription .25 worse than last time, but at least the eye exam was cheap. And I found Hershey’s Special Dark Cocoa at Walmart, which they don’t sell at Kroger, as well as cinnamon chips, which apparently are like chocolate chips, but cinnamon. I’m excited to use both in oatmeal, but probably not at the same time.

I’ll leave you with this eye doctor quote of the day:

“There’s really something not right about a person whose first thought is ‘London, Kentucky.'”

(After I told him I was visiting from London, England and he jokingly replied, “Not London, Kentucky?” And I told him he’d be surprised by how many people first ask “London, Kentucky?” I was going to devote a whole blog post to the phenomenon, it’s happened that much. Some I hope are joking, but I’m afraid too many are serious. Perhaps I just need to fake a British accent.)

Fun Times at the Chinese Consulate: Virtual Edition

30 Nov

In two weeks I’m heading up to Chicago again for my annual visit to see one of my favorite cities, some old friends, and of course the Chinese consulate. As usual, I am trying to fit too many things into a short amount of time, as I’ll only be in Chicago for 24 hours before I head to Milwaukee to visit one of my best friends and celebrate our December birthdays. I need to get more pages added to my passport, which I can either do by mail (which takes four to six weeks, which would be cutting it close) or at the Chicago Passport Agency. The complicated part is that the Chinese visa office needs my passport to add the visa, so my passport cannot be in two places at once, so I am trying to determine if it’s possible to get both things done in 24 hours. Since I like to avoid actual human interaction and paying 10 cents a minute on my pay-as-you-go phone, I decided to email the Chinese consulate to inquire about their same-day express processing. Maybe I could drop my passport off as soon as I got into Chicago (presuming Megabus was on time), pick up my passport and shiny new visa the next morning, and then go straight to the passport agency before my train to Milwaukee. (There’s no way that plan could backfire, I know!)

Here is the email I sent to the Chinese consulate:

I am interested in applying for a multiple-entry tourist “L” visa. If I come to the office and drop my application and passport off between 2 p.m. and 2:30 p.m. and pay the extra $30 for the rush service, when is the earliest I can pick up my visa on the next day?

And this is what they wrote back:

You need to provide the hotel reservation and flight ticket for applying the tourist visa.

… OK, that is helpful information, but in what way does it answer my question? I guess that’s what I get for taking the lazy way out. I may have to forget about the passport pages until I get back to Cincinnati and pay for express processing through the mail. I don’t miss the high taxes and parking costs of living in Chicago, but I do miss the convenience of having consulates and major government agencies just down the block. Come on, Cincinnati, both Detroit and Hot Springs, Arkansas have passport agencies, it’s time to step up your game!

My experience with Cincinnati Craigslist: People Suck

29 May

Sometimes you just have to recognize that people suck. I come to this realization every time I use Craigslist.

In Chicago I was a Craigslist pro — I occasionally had the deadbeat that wouldn’t show up or rescinded on an offer, but most of the time the person showed up, handed me a wad of cash, and took away my couch/vacuum/TV or whatever without any questions or problems. Craigslist was the greatest thing ever!

…until I tried to use it in Cincinnati. Stephen gave me one of his laptops to sell for him while I’m in the states. I created a nice ad with photos and was excited when I got an email about it minutes after posting it. And then I read the email.

“Hi,” the email started, friendly enough, “would you be willing to trade it for this?” And then there was a link. I thought it might be a different computer. This is what it was:

A $40 waterproof camera. For a $400 laptop computer. In what universe would that be an even trade?! This is not Monopoly or Oregon Trail — I clearly stated in my ad “cash only.” I figured this woman was some type of spambot so I didn’t bother to reply. Instead I pulled up my ad and added “No trades.” In all my years of Chicago Craigslist I have never been offered a trade. Cincinnati Craigslist was not off to a good start.

Several hours later I received another email from an interested buyer. This one sounded more promising — he merely said he was interested and asked about the condition of the computer and why I was selling it. I wrote back and then waited for his reply, thinking it would be something along the lines of “Great! Let’s meet in the parking lot of Izzy’s off the highway since you said in your ad you wanted to meet in a public place.” Instead, this was his response:

Hi,I am very keen,I really appreciate your response to my earlier mail.I will like to buy it so please do withdraw the advert from Craigslist. I will also like you to know that i will be paying by check due to the fact that i will not be able to meet up with the cash due to my disability in nature.I will have to make an arrangement with the freight agent to come for the pickup as soon as the check is cleared and cashed..I will need you to provide me with the following information to facilitate the mailing of the check.I want your honesty in return to my faithfulness to you during this transaction.P.S Few more photos will be appreciated as well.

 1.Your full name
2.Your mailing address a residential or office address
3.Your phone number.

Hope to hear back from you asap.

…What? What part of “Cash only and meet in a public place” did this guy not understand? The whole point of Craigslist is to avoid waiting for checks to arrive and clear. I so badly wanted to give the guy a snarky response, but decided to be the “bigger man.” He’s probably a scammer, so I politely replied that I was only interested if he could meet in person and supply cash. Waiting for a check to clear makes no sense to me — if you have money in your checking account, just go to an ATM or bank and withdraw it as cash and meet me somewhere. If you’re disabled, give the cash to a friend or family member and tell them to meet me. It shouldn’t be that complicated!

In short, I am not having a great experience with Cincinnati Craigslist so far. People (particularly scammers) suck.


Melon love and Scooter McGee

15 Nov

Yesterday I walked to Sainsbury’s for the last time in 2011. As I was halfway there I realized something — I didn’t really need to buy anything. I was just going out of habit. I could have turned around, but I pressed onward in the misty air in the pursuit of melon. Because lately, I’ve been obsessed with melon. In the US, or at least at regular non-overpriced grocery stores (I’m looking at you, Whole Foods), it seems you can only get three types of melon — watermelon, cantelope and honeydew. A few weeks ago I discovered galia melon, which Wikipedia tells me is a hybrid of cantelope and honeydew. It looks like a cantelope on the outside, is green like honeydew on the inside, but tastes like heaven — in other words, nothing like honeydew, which tastes like the rind of a cantelope. This melon is so good it was worth the long walk and potential encounter with Crabby McScooter’s handler.

Yes, apparently I’m not the only one who makes a habit of shopping every Monday morning. For the past few weeks I’ve encountered this old woman in a motorized scooter. She’s incredibly bossy, but I wouldn’t have noticed her too much if it weren’t for the man with her. Since she’s in a scooter and can’t reach much, he helps her do her shopping. And he talks. A lot. I encountered him for the first time in the frozen meat aisle a few weeks ago. We were both looking at chicken and the old lady was crabbing about something. “Can you believe this?” he joked. “I don’t even get paid for this!” I smiled and laughed and pushed my cart away. Then I saw him again the next week in the vegetable aisle. I assumed he was the lady’s husband, but I heard him refer to her as Mrs., like he was some type of employee of hers who apparently doesn’t get paid. The lady was once again complaining and he looked at me and said, “And I’m not even getting paid!” Once again I smiled and laughed and went onward. A few minutes later I overheard him in the butter aisle giving the same “I’m not getting paid” spiel to another shopper. I started wondering if he was somehow being paid by someone to say that he’s not getting paid, because he surely said it every chance he got. I ran into him again by the milk and he just kept talking. I don’t think he had an exact recipient of his words in mind, he just liked to hear himself speak. Last week I heard the crabby scooter lady’s voice an aisle over and decided I’d rather make a detour than have to smile and laugh to “I’m not getting paid,” once again. I thought for certain I was on the opposite side of the store, but I turned down the cereal aisle and there he was. “Can you believe this?” he said. “No,” I wanted to say. “I am trying to avoid you and you miraculously turned up on the other side of the store,” but instead I smiled and laughed. “The things I do,” he went on as Crabby McScooter rolled away. “I’m not even being paid!”

Once again Old Scooter McGee was at the store yesterday, and I waited for the familiar voice of her helper as I planned my escape route. But to my dismay, she was with a young woman, no more talkative gentleman friend.

I guess he got tired of not being paid.

How I almost maybe became the next Kate Moss

28 Sep

I was walking down Baker Street this afternoon when a woman stopped me. Figuring she was a tourist looking for directions, I obliged her.

“I’m looking for 10 girls…” she started. My first thought: “You lost your entire school group?!”

…”to participate in a day of fashion,” she continued. “Do you live in England?” I said yes, even though I’m technically a visitor. “Are you over 18? Then you qualify!”

She continued on to tell me about this day of fashion — they would “do me up” in the best clothes and editors from the best fashion magazines would be there. They would give me a photo to take home to remember the occasion — “not some tacky boudoir type” she assured me. “We’re just looking for the remaining two girls to fill the spots,” she said, then asked if it was something I’d be interested in. I was still unsure what this “something” was — was it simply a makeover? Was it a modeling casting? And most importantly — was it free? She never mentioned it being free, and if it was, I’m sure there would be a ploy to get you to buy the clothing or makeup or pay to have some agency represent you. For whatever reason my scam-o-meter went off, so I declined. Even if it was just a fun day of fashion and modeling, my various clothing hang-ups and inability to undress in front of people would prevent me from being a successful model (that, and I’m not 5’11” and 110 lbs with a perfect jawline.)

Should I be flattered that she stopped me? I had made an effort to wear nice clothing and makeup today. Or should I be offended that she thinks I need to spend a day learning how to dress? It was an odd encounter and I’m still curious what this day-of-fashion-with-a-non-slutty-photo-souvenir is really about. I guess I’ll never know.