when box boys were great

Not long ago I checked in on Facebook at my local supermarket and made the following comment:

Checkers and baggers don’t know how to properly fill a bag anymore. By gum, when I was a box boy we knew how to do it right, dag nab it!

I was surprised by the number of reactions I got. But it’s a sore point for me. I have some history there.

Alpha Beta signI was a box boy in high school. I first worked at Village Market, one of three stores owned by the Goodwin family of Crestline up in the San Bernardino mountains. I  then worked at the chain store Alpha Beta, which I enjoyed. There were several of us Hemet High seniors who worked there and we took pride in what we did. We developed a rhythm of keeping one hand in the bag to place the item while filling the bag with the other. Of course this was when we used paper bags. That technique was not possible with the advent of the single-use plastic grocery bag. Fortunately the voters in California last year voted to ban those single-use bags.

That means that people bring their own bags of different shapes and sizes, which, as one commenter suggested, is perhaps confusing the staff. But as I replied, “Put me at the end of a checkstand and I’ll fill each bag properly, no matter its shape or size.”

How hard can it be? Neither checker nor bagger seems to understand that if you put the milk and juice in first the other stuff will fit around it. But it’s easier for them to leave those items out of the bag. Over at Sprouts they have the same problem. They don’t understand how to position my frozen entrees so that everything else fits in the bag as well. sigh (Although I have to say that the fellow at Sprouts on Sunday did a really good job. I was impressed. I wish that was the rule and not the exception.)

But back in 1970-71 at Alpha Beta store #74 in Hemet, we knew how to bag groceries and how to bag them right.


pitching in

I was feeling that it was hard to stay engaged with my church, Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd here in Hemet. I have written about our rector’s retirement, about the useful and positive year we had with out interim, Fr. Rob, and about how after that year we still did not have a new rector. What we have been doing is going week-to-week. Various priests in the area who are available and who don’t have their own parish show up on Sunday morning to conduct the service. I was glad our lay leadership was seeing to that since the alternative is lay-led Morning Prayer, as we can’t have Communion without an ordained priest. Still, I was frustrated. These supply priests, as they are called, are capable and competent, but they are visitors and don’t have a personal investment in the parish.

Good Shepherd's new logoThen we all got a surprise. Our very capable and competent communications director, Sandra, notified our Senior Warden (i.e. board president) that she had found a full-time position at a church in Tennessee. Sandra had been only part-time here.

I was then asked if I would help out by maintaining the church web site and handling the weekly e-mail newsletter. I was going to volunteer anyway so I was happy to pitch in. Added to that is the church Facebook page and monitoring the two email accounts.

This gives me a new sense of purpose at Good Shepherd and I am happy to be involved.


grocery delivery

When Terry and I lived in Gilroy and were both commuting to Silicon Valley (an hour each way by car in rush hour, longer when I was taking the train) we would take advantage of grocery delivery from Safeway. After a long week it was nice not having to worry about going to the grocery store. As I moved in to more of a telecommuting situation and Terry to a home-based office, we gave that up.

Here in Southern California, Vons and Albertson’s (now part of the same company) have long offered delivery, but neither has a store in the San Jacinto Valley. I have however, seen their truck around here so I guess one of the stores in a neighboring community provides the service.

instacart logoMore recently our regional chain, Stater Bros., has been promoting delivery here in the valley via a company called Instacart. Even Smart & Final has signs saying that they deliver. I’m glad the service is available. I’m sure that there are many people with transportation issues or personal mobility problems that can make good use of the service. For me, my work is home-based and it’s a good thing for me to actually get out of the house. And I like to select my own produce and specify which cuts of meat I want.

Since I’m the one who does the bulk of the cooking I enjoy being in the store making sure I get the right ingredients. The two go together.


hard times for newspapers

For those of you who are old enough, perhaps you remember the Judy Collins song from the 1970s, “Hard Times for Lovers,” and the album of the same title with that enticing nude photo of Judy on the album cover.

These days it’s hard times for newspapers.

When I was a youngster I had a paper route. I delivered The Daily Enterprise which was a morning newspaper out of Riverside. The Press was the afternoon newspaper that focused on the city of Riverside. The Daily Enterprise covered the rest of Riverside County. The combined Sunday paper was The Press-Enterprise. The paper did a good job of covering local news and treated its delivery boys (and in those days it was just boys) well. I made decent money and learned how to be responsible: I had to collect from my subscribers and then pay my bill at the end of the month.

Press Enterprise mastheadToday it’s all motor routes and the same guy that delivers The Press-Enterprise (just one paper now) also delivers the Los Angeles Times. The Press-Enterprise is owned by the Southern California News group which also owns newspapers in Pomona, Ontario, and San Bernardino along with the Orange County Register. The coverage area is greatly expanded and local news is correspondingly diminished.

When the Dodgers headed to the World Series the local news on TV showed the front page of the Orange County Register. It was the exact same front page we had in The Press Enterprise.

But that’s the reality of today’s newspaper biz.


born to herd

When we took Tasha to the vet for the first time after bringing her home in 2005, she told us that Tasha looked like a beagle-terrier mix. We agreed given her appearance and behavior. We further refined our breed designation when Terry opened a new page on the dog calendar that a friend used to give her every year. Terry looked at the picture and looked at the name of the breed and she immediately knew that was correct: border terrier! Tasha has to be a beagle-border terrier mix.

TashaShe certainly knows about herding. If I don’t head into the kitchen about 6:30 to start dinner she’s nearby trying to get me in there. If we don’t head into the bedroom right after dinner to put our feet up on the bed and read the paper, she makes clear which direction she wants us to go.

One recent evening I didn’t need to worry about dinner as it was going to be leftovers in the microwave. We were watching the The Carol Burnett 50th Anniversary Special which we had recorded. It ran longer than I had expected and it was about 7:00 when we turned the TV off. Tasha made sure that I headed right into the kitchen. Then as I was getting dinner on the table, Terry went off into the front hall for some reason. Tasha went trotting after her to get her back into the dining area. (“What does a puppy do have to do to get these humans to stick to the schedule?”)

That’s our Tasha. Born to herd.


simplifying my walk

For a number of years now I have listened to lectures from The Great Courses on my iPod when I took my walks. It has worked out well and I really enjoyed it. Recently I wrote about how I couldn’t get a clean copy of the lectures onto my iPod from iTunes. What I did was start streaming my lectures from the Great Courses app, which has worked out fine now that we have a more generous data plan on our iPhones.

Great Courses for iPhone appInitially I was concerned about the transition from WiFi to cellular as I got out of range of our house. Turns out that’s not an issue. That is all handled seamlessly and I listen to the lecture without interruption as I head out.

The other advantage is even better. At one time when I downloaded lectures from the Great Courses I could click a button and it would download all 24 or 36 lectures automatically to iTunes while I walked away. Some time back they changed that, and I had to download each lecture individually. Big pain.

Now that I’m streaming I don’t even have to think about that. And instead of having both my iPod and my iPhone (with the fitness app that records my time and distance) on my belt, I only have my iPhone.

Simpler and easier. Much better!


forever in corduroy?

I have long been a “forever in blue jeans” kind of guy. I haven’t always worn blue jeans, but somewhere along the line I started wearing them and have done so for many decades.

corduroy pantsI did not wear blue jeans during my Claremont cockroach days. I certainly did not have a lot of money for new clothes then. I did not have a lot of money, period. But one of my Claremont friends turned me on to a hole-in-the-wall clothing outlet store where I found a pair of corduroys at a really good price. They were my favorite pair of non-work, casual trousers until I wore them absolutely threadbare.

That was in the mid-1970’s. I haven’t owned a pair of corduroys since. Until now. I reinstated my Lands End account online to order a pair of slacks for church, since the pair I had been wearing were seriously falling apart. I got an email from them that offered fifty percent off a regularly priced item. And they tantalizingly featured cords in that same email.

I ordered one pair half off full price and another heavily discounted, apparently on close out. So now I have two new pair of corduroy.  Terry loves them and I am really enjoying my soft, comfortable corduroys for the first time since 1975 or so.