Friday, August 22, 2008

To Save A Few Pennies

You get what you pay for.

I've always said it and I've always believed it. I think if you don't want to spend twelve dollars every single year on a toaster you should probably just spring for the fifty dollar one to begin with and have it last a decade. (That is of course unless you have a two-year-old.) Don't get me wrong. I shop the sales. I use coupons. I seek to be thrifty. But when it comes down to it, I still believe- you get what you pay for.

Monday my three older children headed off for their first day of school. (Wow. Listen to that angelic choir sing. ) Anyway, as soon as they were dropped off I headed to the city to go to what us country bumpkins like to refer to as "the mall". I had a coupon for Gymboree. Their clothes are really sturdy but also very expensive so I go there when they put everything on clearance and I have a coupon. Then the prices are almost but not quite as good as Target's. AND, the clothes there are not exclusively made in China which is a plus. The mall is a good 30-40 minute drive away and I wanted to get there early. I did. By early I mean that the stores didn't open until 40 minutes after I arrived. This presented a problem. See, I don't have the LUXURY of a double-stroller at the moment; something I have clearly taken for granted the last six years. (The stroller was a casualty in what we are calling The Despereaux Incident.) So I had Krptonite(1), MonsterTruck(3), Mr.Yuke(4), and a whole bunch of senior citizen mall walkers whom I had to keep from hurting each other for the better part of an hour without anything for the kids to do.
And that's when it hit me. That thing I had been waiting for had finally arrived. For those of you who live in places that have a sales tax, you know what always happens to the change section of your wallet after not too long. It becomes completely filled with pennies. Even if you try to spend them any chance you get, eventually the pennies will make it impossible to close your wallet anymore and you will hope that it is December so that you can give them all to the Salvation Army guy in exchange for three minutes of no-bell-ringing. My wallet has been in such a state for almost a month. Several times I started to empty it into my piggy bank (yes, I have a piggy bank- a real piggy-) but every time something stopped me. Somehow I knew there was something I was going to need those pennies for. And here it was. I could take the kids down to the mall pond by Macy's department store and we could throw in pennies until the store opened for business. Genius! (Yes, I actually had 40 minutes-worth of pennies in my wallet. Ah, the joy of sales tax.)
So we're throwing pennies. The boys are having a great time. They can't believe how fortune has smiled on them and they are getting to throw SO MANY PENNIES for SO LONG into the fountain pond thing. Even Kryptonite(1) who was sitting on my lap was getting into it. She hasn't really mastered throwing yet so most of her pennies ended up on the floor in front of me where the boys would scramble to be the first one to scavenger them. Occasionally hers would bounce into the water though, and this made her extremely happy.

Aim notwithstanding, she had good form. Her windup would have rivaled Paul Byrd. She meant business. On one of her bigger throws, she whipped that penny back all the way to my face, and then- she accidentally hooked my glasses and hurled them with her penny onto the floor. Unfortunately, this was one of those throws that had enough force behind it to bounce into the pond after hitting the tile.

Fortunately, the glasses landed where I could reach them if I got on my hands and knees and pulled up my sleeve and reached really far and hoped that while my face was turned away from her for 1.3 seconds she would not fall into the pond and drown. Remember those mall-walkers I mentioned? Yeah. I got several disapproving looks from them as they passed by, clearly not impressed with the hugely pregnant woman taking money (I WAS NOT!!!) out of the fountain. They tutted and averted their eyes and shot me second glances and crusty looks. I fished my glasses out and thank goodness did not have to catch any children in the process. I smiled at my children and was explaining how we NEVER put our arms into the pond except to reach our glasses and we don't touch the water and get back from the water please stop that right now- when I put on my glasses only to discover-
Remember when I said that my glasses BOUNCED into the pond right after they hit the tile? Well apparently, that collision caused the right lens to pop out, cuz- it just wasn't there. I looked all around the ground near the bench and the offending tile and everywhere within twenty feet. It wasn't anywhere. I KNEW it had to have landed in the water. GREAT.

The lens was completely invisible. I got back on my hands and knees, felt all around and searched with one eye/hand, while the other eye/hand tried to play lifeguard to a by-now extremely curious set of toddler/preschoolers. MonsterTruck(3) of course wanted to be extremely helpful and within 2.1 seconds he was laying on his belly with both arms in the water. That's when he noticed it. "Hey! There's money in here!" Um, yeah?

I palpated the bottom of the fountain every place I could reach for fifteen minutes and then realized I was going to have to resort to more extreme (and embarrassing) measures. I walked over to the Hallmark store and called to the employee through the gate. She looked at me with an insipid expression that seemed to say, "Um, are you like- stupid or something? Cause see that gate thingy? Yeah, that means like- WE'RE CLOSED." I said, "Hi. : ) I know you're not open yet, but could you please call mall security for me? My baby accidentally threw my glasses into the fountain and the lens popped out. I can't find it and I was wondering if they could turn the lights on in there?" She glared at me but she did call the maintenance guys who deal with this sort of thing.
We sat down on the bench again and waited for Mr.FountainPondRepairandMaintenanceMan for ten minutes. When he finally came he looked extremely harrassed, as if he was thinking, "Every day it's the same thing. You come to work and next thing you know you're fishing in the mall pond. If I had a dollar for every right lens I fished out of this stupid fountain, I could quit this glamorous line of work and follow my real dream of becoming a world-class figure skater...." He looked me up and down once, sighed and said, "Where did they fall in?" I pointed out the spot very specifically and then Mr.F. proceeded to use his pool skimmer ("shovel", according to MonsterTruck(3)) to scrape the bottom of the entire pond. Every single inch of it. Except for the 2 foot space I had pointed out. I actually paused to wonder if he was doing it on purpose just to make me wait longer because he was put out about having to leave the clogged toilet situation he was previously dealing with. I pointed out the area for a second, and then a third time but it was sort of like he had a blind spot. It didn't matter how many times I pointed out the area, he was not going to actually scrape the bottom of the pond there where I couldn't reach and my lens most likely was. He sat down on another bench across from me for a moment, heaved a big sigh, and said, "Wellp. There's only one other way." His gaze turned to a scowl as he began removing his work boots and socks and rolling up his pants. Okay, so maybe he wasn't ignoring me on purpose. Maybe he is just really dense.

I felt guilty now because it was obvious that he was very displeased at the turn of events from the looks he kept shooting at me and my children. The boys' eyes grew wide as they watched Mr.F. STEP DOWN INTO THE FOUNTAIN. You could see the wheels turning and I knew that from that moment on, for the rest of the years those boys live with me, I am going to be having to repeat to them each and every time we pass a fountain, "STAY OUT OF THE FOUNTAIN!!!! YES, I KNOW THE MAN DID IT ONCE BUT HE WAS A WORKER AND HE WAS HELPING ME AND YOU MAY NOT GET IN THERE!!!!!". It is going to be a long 16 years. : ) ("I just cleaned this fountain YESTERDAY." Um, sorry? Is my lens dirtying up the water that much?)

Well, Mr.F. walked the entire pond, feeling around with his foot. I cringed when he got to the area that I thought my lens could actually be in because, what was he thinking? That stepping on my lens was a better solution than not having one at all? But I did appreciate that he was actually in the correct vicinity for the first time in half an hour and had some little hope that he would find it.

He didn't. He emerged from the fountain at about the same time that MonsterTruck(3) realized how to remove the money from the fountain so that he could throw it back in. (Hey, at least he was occupied.) Mr.F. had me write down my name and number and said they would call me if they found it. I did so, telling him I was mostly worried because I live WAY OUT in the country and that's a long way to drive without being able to see.
Right about that time Mr.MaintenanceMan#2 came on the scene to join Mr.F. They conferred for a minute and then decided that if the lens was plastic maybe it floated away under the bridge to a different part of the fountain. They decided to try turning the fountain on to see if that would float the lens over to one side. They opened up some panel in the floor and fiddled with a lot of different controls, raising the water pressure in first one place, then another. Mr.F. was by this time CONVINCED that my lens was not actually in the pond at all and that it had somehow just evaporated. Mr.M#2 began scanning the floor around me and Mr.F. took the skimmer thing and scraped the bottom of the pond right in front of me one more time (actually, right there it was the FIRST time). As he did this Mr.M#2, with his hands held out as if he were about to stop a major car accident, shouted, "WAIT!!! I SEE IT!!!" (The mall stores had actually been open for quite some time by this point and his hollering attracted the stares of many unsuspecting shoppers.) Sure enough, right where I had pointed those three times that Mr.F. had either ignored me or did not understand what I was conveying about the pretty water, was my lens. Mr.F.: Well I SURE didn't feel that when I STEPPED there.
(And you thought God doesn't answer prayers. ( : )
Mr.F. handed me my lens and said with not a little malice in his voice, "If you go down to the optical shop we have here in the the mall they can TIGHTEN THAT UP for you." Me: Ha ha! Okay, thanks! REALLY, thank you so much for helping me. : ) He was annoyed enough that a "You're welcome" was quite out of the question. I have some nerve.

So, we gathered up our stuff and headed (FINALLY!) to Gymboree. So much for getting there early. Luckily, they weren't busy and they had just moved everything to clearance the day before when they got their new inventory in so there was tons of good stuff 20 and 40% off. I picked through the racks and racks of clothes and finally had my choices narrowed down to a couple shirts each for the boys and a few outfits for Kryptonite(1). I got up to the checkout counter pleased that I was going to be able to get the things I wanted to get last week, only now instead of paying full price, I would be getting 40% off AND I had that additional 20% off coupon I'd been saving. I pulled the mailer from my bag to tear out the coupon and my face fell. THAT STUPID THING EXPIRED AT THE END OF JULY. I am so glad I drove all the way to THE MALL in the CITY so that I could waste 400 pennies and an hour of my time apparently trying to scoop lunch money out of the fountain, so that I could save an extra 20% off the clearance price JUST TO FIND OUT MY COUPON IS EXPIRED!!!!! I needed a moment. The salesgirl asked me if I had any coupons today and I said, well yes, I thought I did but I JUST discovered it has expired. She smiled at me and said in a professional voice that if I came in on Thursday, everything in the store would be an additional 30% off. My head was about to explode. Um, okay. Can you hold these for me until then? She did and we went home to wait with anticipation (and dread) for our return trip to the mall.

So to save a few pennies, I threw away hundreds more and half a tank of gas and very nearly my glasses, but- you get what you pay for.

I'm expecting great things from these clothes.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Nope, NOT Dead.

Of the last four weeks, Husband was business trippin' for three of them and I had company for the other one. I survived the business trips. Barely. More on that later.

School is starting Monday. (Insert ecstatic shriek of joy here.) I survived the summer. Barely. : )

I'll get back to blogging soon.