Friday, July 30, 2010

Hot lunch

Hot lunch, wearing me out
Hot lunch, you can scream and shout

(To the tune of "Hot Legs" - that one's for my mother, the only fan Rod Stewart has left.)

The kid starts school in a few weeks.  She was in 4K last year, which was only half days.  Now she'll be the big mouth on campus all day long.  That means I need to figure out what to do about lunch (unless maybe her father is planning to take care of it . . . . ha ha!  Oooh, my side is splitting! I kill myself!). My initial thinking is that I will have her buy the school lunch on days where there is a decent meatless option.  On days when there is not a meatless option, I will send her with a lunch.  But, what to send?

At home her lunches often consist of veggie "chicken" nuggets, which aren't too tasty unless heated (and I'm assuming it won't be feasible for her to heat stuff up at school, even if she did know how). Same with veggie hot dogs.  I often pair these items with black beans, apple sauce, and other side items.

I chatted with a mom whose daughter just finished kindergarten at the same school, so I asked her for some details on how the lunch program works (it's nice that they have pre-paid accounts these days so that kids don't have to carry/lose cash). I feared I wouldn't be able to send peanut butter but she told me that I can send peanut butter - I just have to make sure A doesn't sit at the peanut-free table in the lunchroom.

So, a question for the veg people and carnivores alike: what can I send in my child's lunch?  I am pretty sure she will quickly tire of peanut butter sandwiches and cheese sandwiches.  I am totally down with tofurkey, but short stuff is not.  I would love to hear some creative ideas!  Remember, though, even though she is a vegetarian, she is still a five-year-old who would happily eat macaroni and cheese three times a day.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Summer Goals: Now? How about now? Maybe now?

I thought I'd update my summer goals and see how I'm faring.

1. See a live concert. Sort of. I saw a local band that played at a free summer concert and a local musician who performed at the outdoor bar we visited last weekend. Do those count? We are going to the state fair in a couple weeks and at that time we’re sure to enjoy a performance from a band with a name like “Gary and the Gobstoppers.” Although I haven’t attended a true paid-good-money-for-this-ticket-even-the-insane-service-fees-because-I-truly-love-this-band concert, I can report that I fell in love with a new band this summer: Mumford & Sons. I listen to their songs over and over. I looked up their concert schedule only to find that they’d already toured the U.S. and are now in Europe. Could they not have called me in May and let me know? “Listen, you’re not hip enough to know who we are yet, but you will love us come June!” Woe is me.

2. Purchase and prepare a vegetable that is unfamiliar to me. Yes. Well, except for the “purchase” part. My nephew’s fiancĂ©e brought me a kohlrabi and gave me some basic preparation tips. I boiled it and then, unsure of what the firmness was supposed to be, I nuked it for a couple of minutes just for good measure. Then I added a bit of salt and ate it. I got a little nervous because one of my friends had compared the taste of a kohlrabi to that of a radish. I would rather eat the gunk I’m always scraping out of Gideon’s yeasty ears than to consume a radish. However, I found the taste to be more akin to a cross between a potato and a water chestnut. It was good. I don’t know that I was so enamored with it that I’ll make this dish all the time, but I’m glad I tried it.

3. Work on leaving the dogs uncrated while we're not home. Houston, we’ve had a setback. The dogs were doing fine for several weeks. Over time, however, we started to notice some mischief taking place while we were at work. Paper dragged out of a wastebasket and chewed up. A’s artwork pulled off the fridgelator and chewed up. And so forth. I didn’t get too upset about the artwork, believe it or not, because my daughter churns out artwork faster (and in greater quantity) than Campbell’s churns out soup. The kicker came when a photo album got chewed up. All of the photos taken over the past six years or so have been stored digitally, of course, but the old stuff is in albums. And needless to say, I have a strong emotional attachment to them. P got mad (when he came home at lunch and observed the photograph-related carnage) and threw all of the pooches back in their crates. However, I’m fairly certain the primary culprit is Kaiser, our foster dog (I accuse him not because he's not ours, but because he is the one who shows the most interest in eating things that don't belong to him). We’re going to try just crating him and see how it goes.

4. Get back to my goal weight. Sadly, no. I did drag my sizable arse to Weight Watchers a couple weeks ago. It wasn’t pretty. The part that makes me bitter is that I feel like I’ve gotten a fair amount of exercise. I walk the dogs a lot, I go to step aerobics fairly regularly, and I ride my bike (including the recent 35k event I completed). So, I don’t know what to do. I’d give up entirely except that I can’t see how that would help anything. I'd rather not reach maximum density if I can avoid it.

I’ll leave you with a video from Mumford & Sons. I do adore a good banjo (which probably explains why I love blue grass but have zero tolerance for country). I also find myself very intrigued by the lead singer – as in, I’d like to know him in the, um, biblical sense. However, I read on their website that all members of the band are “in their early twenties” and then I remembered that I am an old lady.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Go on and kiss dee girl

P and I had a date last night.  Actually, it was a double date.  And no, before you ask, we are not swingers. Yesterday morning, the kid asked me to read her a book while she was still in bed, so I complied.  I'm always happy to read to her, but I have to confess I do weep a little on the inside when she asks me to read Barbie Mariposa to her. After I finished reading the book I told the kid, "A babysitter is coming over tonight to take care of you.  Daddy and I are going on a date."

Her eyes lit up.  "Are you going to kiiiiiiiiiiiiss?"

"I don't know," I responded.  "Do you think Daddy will try to kiss me?"

She nodded.  "He might.  We are family, you know."

I suppose I should be glad we've progressed from the days when she was certain she would grow up and marry her father.  I know every little girl goes through that phase but it is a little bit oogie, if I'm being honest here.  Propriety is slowly building, I suppose.  She often asks us to look away while she is changing her clothes. Of course, I could be wrong about the propriety thing. The other night I gave her a bath and afterward she was monkeying around in her room.  While still completely naked, she laid on her back on the floor, pulled her feet up behind her head, and said, "I'll have to show Daddy that I can do this!"  I delicately suggested that she might want to wear some drawers before striking that pose for her father.

So anyway, we went on our date and had a lot of fun.  We went out to dinner and then sat at an outside bar and listened to a local musician. When we got home, it was around 10 p.m.  I checked on my sleeping daughter and leaned down to kiss her forehead.  "Good-night, baby girl," I whispered. "I love you."

Her eyes popped open.  "Did he kiss you?"  I laughed and told her to go back to sleep.

I'm starting to think she watches too many Disney moves.  Her head is filled with princes and princesses and kisses that have the power to save lives and kingdoms alike.  I climbed into my bed and turned on "Lockup" (cuz I'm classy like that).  My other half eventually wandered in, kissed me good-night and said, "Okay, I gotta finish watching Shutter Island in the other room."  I know, the romance of it brings a tear to the eye, doesn't it?  I just hope I don't get locked in any towers any time soon, because I'm pretty sure I'm S.O.L. 

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Saturation Point

My squishy-faced boy

When my brain finally explodes (and I have every reason to believe it will), it won't be motherhood that causes it.  Hell, I don't even raise my voice until after I've picked up the same mateless shoe off the floor for the hundredth time. It won't be the fact that no one seems to understand the difference between the words "lose" and "loose."  It won't even be the fact that Nickelback persists in recording music even though every word, every note is an affront to humanity in general and to good taste in particular.  Nay, my mental collapse shall likely be caused by our collective treatment of our non-human friends, they who have every bit as much a right to exist on this sagging planet as we do.  One more animal abuse news story might just send me over the edge. Actually, maybe one almost did, because I caught this story yesterday about a donkey being strapped to a parasail.  Just when you thought that the sadists of the world had already come up with every possible way to make quadrupeds miserable, eh?

As you'll recall, I've spent the last ten years donating my spare time to rescue work.  Specifically, I work with Boxers.  Our rescue organization has saved nearly 700 dogs to date. As any rescue or shelter volunteer will tell you, acting on behalf of animals in need is not heroic work.  You don't have time to beat your chest and announce to the world how awesome you are. You don't stop to celebrate all the animals you've helped, because you know it is a drop in the bucket in the grand scheme of things. You just keep your head down and keep going, one dog (cat, horse, whatever) at a time.  Right now, my focus is on finding my foster dog a home.  Not just any home - the right home. I find something to love about every single dog I foster and I must do right by each one. It is a process I have repeated over and over again for the last decade or so. 

Most of the dogs we see in rescue are not outright abuse cases.  We did receive three dogs seized by the sheriff last week.  They were being used for breeding and there was also a dead dog on the premises.  We had to euthanize one of the dogs for (extreme) aggression, but the other two are doing well.  Over the years we've taken in a couple of starvation cases, an embedded collar case, and a few other pooches in distress.  The vast majority, however, have simply been victims of circumstance.  Perfectly nice dogs (NOT damaged goods!) displaced by new babies, not taken along to the new house (situated in that mysterious town that does not seem to allow pets), or sometimes simply, "I have no time for him."  Sure, some surrender reasons strike me as being more valid than others, but it is not my place to judge.

It is, of course, the true abuse cases that make the news, if only for a fleeting moment. I can deal with the day to day neglect, because my fellow volunteers and I can make those dogs better, treat them like one of our own, and then find them a new family that will cherish them. We can handle that. Rather, it is the knowledge of vast suffering, often taking place behind closed doors that weighs so heavily. Did you see the video a few months ago of the guy kicking a small dog inside an elevator? If you're lucky, you missed it. But that is the sort of thing that goes on every day, everywhere.

The only thing that brings me any solace at all is that, slowly but surely, the legal system is taking animal abuse and neglect more seriously.  Although the story has faded from the news now, I have not forgotten about the torture of dairy cows at Conklin Farms in Ohio (you can Google it if you have a very strong stomach).  One of the key abusers is facing animal cruelty charges and I can only hope he will be convicted of something. To be sure, most convictions still result in small penalties - usually a cash fine. Few seem to do any jail time at all. However, I have faith that it may get better, that justice will be done.

In the mean time, I'll keep plugging away, doing what I can.  When my heart finally breaks for good, I only hope the doggies remember that I really did try.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Me and my Craigslist Bike - TLA

I think it's been pretty well established that I am capable of forming a deep bond with inanimate objects (as evidenced by the fact that I'd sooner give up a kidney than to surrender my iPod). In that vein, I heart my bicycle. I purchased a season pass for a local river side trail and have used the trail a fair amount this summer. I ride to a park (from the spot where I park my coolmobile), rest on the bench pictured above, and then pedal back. I sit on that particular bench because it has the name Cletus inscribed on the back, and I really think it is a shame that there are no babies being named Cletus these days.

This morning, I biked in a charity event with a friend of mine. For days we had been watching the weather with a growing sense of unease and dread. Rain was predicted. There were five courses and we had signed up to bike the 35K course. I think with the conversion that's about 173 miles, right? Seriously, though, how come we measure some things using the Metric system and then others are out of the question? I can buy a two-liter soda but can only buy milk and gasoline by the gallon. I find that perplexing. When I was a kid, they made it sound like the U.S. would be converting to the Metric system at any second and that it was imperative that we get on board with it. That was when Carter was in office and it still hasn't happened, so I dare say the sense of urgency has dissipated considerably. Do they still make kids fill out those stupid conversion worksheets?

Anyway, it did rain for the entire duration of the bike tour this morning. Every blessed minute. I am way too prissy to be out in that kind of weather, but I'd raised $120 in pledges and I did not want to let my sponsors down. My Craigslist bike, with its new tire and new gel-filled seat, saw me through. As it turns out, the rain wasn't as much of a downer as you'd think. There was no earthly way for me to get overheated, so there was that. As we pedaled along, we chatted about this and that, noting periodically that the precipitation really could have been worse (we didn't have high winds or that crazy kind of rain that comes at you sideways and whatnot). Honestly, I don't think we were too disturbed until we realized our feet were wet. I could feel this ucky little squish squish squish with each rotation of the pedals. By the end, I was so soggy that I felt like I would never be acceptably dry again. The water was pouring off my helmet. My back was gritty from mud flying up off the road. I can only hope that I looked as pretty as I felt.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Mine eyes have seen the gl . . . nothing

I've been having trouble with my right eye for the past six weeks or so. The gift of sight is not overrated, let me tell you.

My optometrist informed me during my annual exam last October that I would probably need bifocals eventually. Bifocals! I thought bifocals were the last stop before support hose and a wash-n-set hairdo. However, I can't help but notice that I am probably drifting in that direction. I find that when I am, say, reading a book and then attempt to look at the time on a wall clock, my eyes say, "Hang on a second, we'll get you the time. Seriously, hold your horses. What is your hurry, lady?!" And then finally, "Okay, it's 7:05." My eyes definitely aren't shifting easily between near and far anymore.

So, I was expecting to have increasing issues with the near/far thing, but what I didn't anticipate was for one eye to go all wonky without my consent. When I wake up in the morning, my right eye sometimes seems fine, but then my vision deteriorates as the day goes on. I've been getting headaches pretty regularly, too. I finally gave in and made an appointment with my optometrist and went after work today.

I told Dr. K what's been going on. He instructed me to sit in the chair and then we played the "this one/that one" game for a little while. I began to feel vaguely alarmed when no setting seemed to improve the vision in my wonky eye. He squirted some dye against my cornea and then ran a few more tests. The diagnosis? My eye is so dry that it is compromising my vision. And why is my eye dry? "This is common once you turn . . . forty." Waaaaaaah!

He sent me home with a new pair of contacts (some type that are meant to combat this type of situation) and a bunch of vials of artificial tears. I have to go back in two weeks to have my pupils dilated so that Dr. K can get a closer look at the back of my eyes. He doesn't think there is anything structurally or monumentally wrong, though.

When I got home, I called my mom. "My optometrist says I'm old," I told her. "So I don't know what that makes you and Pop. Older, I guess."

"Oh, I don't think so," she replied. "I'll run some numbers and get back to you."

And people wonder how I got to be such a smartass.

Monday, July 12, 2010

I have some pride, but it is sweaty

I attended my first Pride event on Saturday. It was held at a local park. A friend of mine was visiting from DC and we decided to go.

This was the third year for our local pride festival, but I was out of town on the same weekend the past two years and missed it. So, I was excited to attend. I'm always happy to see my mid-sized, fairly conservative town branching out and getting more diverse. I may not be gay, but all were welcome on Saturday. Plus, you know me - I'd attend a fair for lepers if I thought it would afford me an opportunity to eat fried foods and listen to a live band.

We arrived at the festival just after it opened at 11 a.m. There were two protesters on the sidewalk (facing the street) in front of the park. I couldn't read their signs very well, mostly due to the sheer wordiness of them. People with signs really need to give some consideration to exactly what passing motorists can read from a distance. I mean, if you want to spread your hate effectively, make sure your signs are legible and clear. Consider block letters, maybe.

We started off by visiting all of the various tents and booths. There were a number of vendors and non-profits there (and several churches, including my own). There was an opening speaker, a local college professor who was very worked up about bad legislation and how it affects the LGBT community (and I think it is worth mentioning that he is heterosexual - just someone who dislikes how society uses the legal system to oppress/suppress certain portions of the population). Later, a band played a lengthy but enjoyable set. I bought some raffle tickets and attempted to win some gift baskets (but of course won nothing).

Although we were having a great time, we couldn't help but notice that the temperature was soaring. We sat in the shade but still found ourselves getting awfully . . . damp. Once the temperature hit 90 or so, we opted to leave and find some air conditioning. Bars work so well for that purpose, don't they? On our way out, we noticed that the crowd of protesters had swelled to four. That takes some dedication, to spend your Saturday waving your poster board and pacing a sidewalk in oppressive heat.

Later in the afternoon, a storm blew through town and the temperature dropped at least 20 degrees. We went out to dinner with A&P and then went back to the pride event at around 7:30. We watched a comedy act (although the term "comedy" is used only loosely here - they were not funny) and then the closing musical act. After that, a DJ fired up some tunes and we sort of boogied in our chairs as I fretted about the mosquitoes circling my succulent flesh.

All in all, it was a good time and I enjoyed hanging out with my friend. As much as many folks want to believe that this sort of event is chock full of nudity and lewd behavior, it was downright sedate. Really, it was just a group of people spending time in a park on a summer day. It saddened me to realize that for some of the couples who were there on Saturday, pride fest is probably the one day of the year they can freely hold hands in public. I don't know why the term "gay lifestyle" persists. I have a few gay friends and would you like to know what their lifestyle consists of? Going to work every day. Mowing the lawn. Sometimes they get a little crazy and go to a movie. I know one same-sex couple who just finished gutting and refinishing their bathroom. I know, it's pretty scandalous.

If you feel the need to protest something, I have a few ideas for you. Groups worthy of protest:
  • People who don't understand how merge lanes are intended to work. Seriously, the idea is to be going approximately the speed of traffic when you attempt to merge.
  • People who talk on the phone while being rung up at a store. Are they a doctor? Is someone dying?
  • Restaurant patrons who always insist on sitting at a different table than the one the host/hostess has offered. The food tastes the same wherever you sit. It's time they knew.

I'm sure I can think of more. In the mean time, peace be with you.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Time, not linear after all?

At what age do kids have an understanding of time and how it operates?

I remember thinking, at around age seven, that I went to school half the year and that the other half of the year was defined as that marvelous, magical season called summer. I have no idea how or why I thought that, but trust me when I say I was devastated to learn that summer vacation was a measly 2 1/2 months long.

I also recall my mother telling me to stop asking "when when when" and "now? how about now?" all the time. One day she said, "I'm going to tell you when five minutes is up. Starting now." It seemed like about a week passed. Maybe it did - she's tricky that way.

In any case, I know that kids have a screwy view of the progression of time, because I know I had that same view. However, I don't recall how long that state lasted.

Here are my daughter's definitions of various measurements of time:

"On this day" = today

"On the next day" = tomorrow or any day after that

"Last year" = yesterday or any day prior to that, dating back to Biblical times

"Almost Halloween" = From November 1st up to (and including) October 30th (she wants to be Belle for Halloween this year and has been nagging her Meemaw about making her the costume since well before last year's jack-o-lanterns had rotted on the porch).

We also still struggle with her disbelief that P and I existed before she was born. A friend of mine is coming for a visit and I mentioned to my daughter that my friend and I have known each other since he and I were 14. She asked, "Was I your daughter when you were 14?" When I informed her that she wasn't even close to existing at that point, she got pretty pissy about it.

She also seems to believe that she doesn't necessarily have to keep aging, that she might decide to go in the opposite direction at some point. She sometimes alludes to the fact that she may be a baby again the future. I hope she doesn't plan to pee and poop herself quite so much this go-round - I kinda got my fill of it the first time.

That's a free spirit for you - not even time can hold her down, man!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Three-Day Weekend, How I Love Thee

Seriously, you should come around more often. Don't be a stranger! I love you for all you have given me, but mostly I love you just because you're you.

As usual, I planned fun activities for the whole weekend. Spontaneity is for suckas! On Saturday, we attended a Pow Wow. We've missed it for the past two years because we were on vacation over Independence Day both years. I've always enjoyed it, though. I love the pounding of the drums and the dancing. I'm always amazed by the intricate beadwork and other details on the native garb. It was hot as all get-out on Saturday, but the participants never let on that they were probably wilting on the inside. The three of us consumed two massive shaved ice treats and were still half-dead by the end of the Pow Wow.

On Sunday, we took the kid to a farm. We go every year. She lives for the kittens that reside in the barn (would someone please tell her that we are dog people?). My favorite this year was a goat who was only ten days old. I actually had heart palpitations over the cuteness. Once they get a little older, they only come to you if you have food, but he hung out with me even after our milk bottle was empty. I was also smitten with a piglet who was scampering about. I assured him that I don't eat his people and he was down with that.

I asked one of the farm employees a question I've always had in the back of my mind. Every year on the farm there are new baby goats, pigs, etc. Obviously, most are not there the following year, as it would not be practical to keep all of them. This is a working farm but is mostly billed as a family/tourist destination. From what I've observed, the animals are well cared for and I've noticed that parents are diligent about keeping their kids from harming the wee creatures. Anyway, I asked the guy if some of the animals are sold at auction. He hesitated for a second and said, "Well, some of them. We keep most of the females for breeding stock." What happens to the rest of the males was left unsaid. I guess if you are a four-legged creature born on a farm, you'd better hope you were born with a vagina.

On Sunday night, we trekked downtown to watch the fireworks. It started to rain about five minutes in, but for once I'd had the foresight to bring umbrellas. This was the first time the kid had seen an "official" fireworks display. For the past two years we were in Virginia and the year before that she was only two and I felt it was too late, too much. Now, she's at just the right age and loved the fireworks. She started asking "is this the end?" after a few minutes, though.

On Monday, we didn't do anything spectacular. I took the kid shopping with me and then took her to an indoor amusement center. It features a carousel, train, climbing area, and games. I hit the jackpot on one game and received 100 tickets in one shot. Yes, I'm that good. However, you could have a million tickets and the only prize you can earn is . . . well, let's face it. It's all crap. I came home with a heap o'Smarties in my purse.

Until we meet again, three-day weekend. How's September work for you?

Monday, July 5, 2010

Dear Disaffected Youth,

Yes, I am talking to you, you with the sullen face and spotty customer service skills. You, who will not look me in the eye when you hand me my receipt. If you hate your job that much, would you just get a new one, for fuck's sake?

Listen, I did my time in retail in high school and college. I started working in retail when the minimum wage was $3.35. Would you like to know how much I made? $3.50 an hour. A whopping $.15 over the lowest wage one could possibly make. I worked at a clothing store called Show Off. And you know what? I didn't hate it. My co-workers were fun and we all got along (well, except for that odd Jamaican girl who stood in the fitting room all day and drew pictures on scrap paper). It really was not a bad gig. Sure, some of the customers could be surly. Women would pull tricks like taking a blouse into the fitting room, smearing it with their own make-up, and then demanding a discount on that item. Even if a customer was rude to me, I never returned the rudeness. If I had, not only would I have gotten in trouble with my boss, but I'm pretty sure my mother would've kicked my ass if she found out. I was raised to be cordial to people, to put money in someone's hand rather than tossing it on the counter, and above all to make regular use of societal niceties like "please, thank you, and excuse me." It doesn't seem that hard.

Lately, I have had the misfortune to run into a lot of young people in the retail and service industries who haven't mastered basic etiquette. What I typically do in those situations is to kill them with kindness. I refuse to feed into the negative energy. I had two bad run-ins within the last three days, though, and I'm losing faith.

On Friday, I decided to take a lunch (I normally eat at my desk). I stopped in a local sandwich shop (not a chain restaurant). I ordered a toasted veggie sandwich. I also grabbed a bag of chips and a diet soda. The cashier seemed to be having a bad day/week/life, did not say hello, and acted as though taking my order was somehow hastening her death, but I was as polite as I know how to be. I sat down with my chips and waited for my sandwich, which seemed to take an inordinately long time. Finally, Miss Cheerful brought the sandwich to my table, set down the red plastic basket, and walked away without a word. I took a bite. "Wait, that's not Swiss cheese," I thought to myself. I opened the sandwich. Yeah, ham and cheese. I walked up to the cash register.

"Listen, I'm a vegetarian and you just served me a ham and cheese."

Without looking at me, she took the basket, turned, and handed it through the window to the kitchen. Then she mumbled something about getting me a new sandwich.

I went and sat back down at my table. The more I thought about it, the angrier I got. I don't think I ate any of the ham, but still . . . what if I had a deadly allergy or something? This situation just seemed inexcusable to me. I waited a while longer and walked back up to the cash register. The cashier would not acknowledge me, so I walked towards a woman who was standing in the kitchen doorway. "Listen, I need to talk to somebody," I said. "I am a vegetarian and I was just served a ham and cheese sandwich."

"She made a mistake. I'm making you a new sandwich right now."

"It's not so much the mistake as the rudeness," I replied. "No one has apologized in any way. It's a little frustrating."

"Well, I am sorry, "she said, in a way that made it clear that she was not.

I turned on my heel and told the cashier I just needed a refund. So, I got my $4.69 and drove back to the office, fuming all the way. You know, I really don't think I'm an intolerant person. If someone had just said, "We are so sorry! We'll get you the right sandwich right away," I would not have been nearly as angry. The sandwich should have been free while they were at it, but I would have settled for a sincere apology.

Incident number two occurred today. I was at a department store with my daughter. I spotted some black capri pants on a rack that had a "60% off" sign on top. I tried them on and voila, I needed to have them. Yes, I have about ten pairs of black pants already but never mind about that.

I took them to the nearest register. There were two girls behind the desk and neither acknowledged me. They were complaining to each other about how they had been scheduled for a long day and that there weren't enough associates to cover them for breaks. Finally, one of them walked away and the other proceeded to ring me up. I noticed that the digital display indicated that the retail price of the pants was $40.00. The tag clearly listed $36.00 as the original price. I pointed this out to her.

She shrugged. "I don't know. I really couldn't tell you."

"Well, the pants are $36.00, so the total should be 60% off that amount. Do you need me to go to a service desk or something like that?"

"This is the service desk. You know, sometimes we change all the tags and maybe the system just didn't get updated." Then she said the next part very slowly: "Do. You. Get. That?"

Oh no, she di'int. I felt a surge of anger that started behind my face somewhere and caused my jaw to clench. My daughter was behind me, sitting in a rented mall stroller shaped like a yellow taxi. "I'm in the cash cab!" she was singing to herself. I was keenly aware of her presence and didn't want to say anything that would shatter her innocence prematurely. I turned back to the cashier.

"I have a college degree and can handle basic math," I responded. (My degree is in English and the truth is that sometimes basic math does escape me, but in this case I was fully capable of calculating the difference between $40 and $36).

I leveled my gaze at the youthful cashier. "How do I go about getting the price adjusted." I didn't really phrase it like a question, since it wasn't.

She huffed and puffed and sighed loudly and overrode the total. She all but threw the bag at me. My first inclination was to head out to the parking lot and key every car, just to make sure I got hers. However, I instead circled the store in search of an authoritative looking employee or a main customer service desk. I found neither. Instead, I waited until I got home and submitted a complaint through the department store's web site.

What I'd really like to do is to send my mother to kick some ass.