Wednesday is technically “payday” but I can’t actually use the money until Thursday. But I work on Thursdays until 2 p.m. So, after work, I showered, put on some “outside*” clothes, pocketed my cellphone, donned my MP3 player and selected an “up-tempo” playlist, got my shopping list off the refrigerator, grabbed my purse and keys, and headed out the door.
First item on the list: Flu shot. Being a former zoomie, I am entitled to veteran’s benefits, including medical care, which I obtain at my local VA clinic. Thursday was one of the two days this year that the VA clinic was giving flu shots, and they were only giving them out from 1 to 6 p.m. So, off I tootled in that direction.
In my town, the streets are laid out in a grid pattern with those going east-west designated as numbered streets, and those going north-south designated as named avenues in alphabetical order. In other parts of town, the avenues are named for cities that have a college or university, but in the part of town where the VA clinic is located, the north-south avenues are letters of the alphabet. To get to the clinic, I travel for some distance down the “funny” section of 66th Street and turn off onto an avenue. However, instead of going to 66th and P, as my dad did every morning when he worked downtown, I have to go to L. (If you think about it, it’ll come to you. . . )
I figured that the primary care clinic would be supervising the administration of flu shots so instead of parking at the front of the building and entering through the main entrance, I parked on the side and went in the side entrance, which is the entrance closest to that clinic. Obviously, I wasn’t thinking. The VA is a government agency and, like every other government agency, no matter what you do, there will be forms to fill out and steps to follow. So I had to go all the way to the front of the building to the first station and fill out a form. At some point between the time my dad was in the Marines during WWII, and when I joined the USAF, they stopped issuing serial numbers — as in ‘name, rank and serial number’ — and started using your Social Security number as your serial number. This is why I had to fill in the form with (among other things) my name and my “last four” — the last four digits of my Social Security number (which I refer to as my “nicknumber“).
Upon completion of that step, I proceeded to the next station in the process. One person stuck a thingie in my ear to take my temperature and the other person noted “97.8” on my form, and asked me if I was allergic to eggs (I’m not). Then I could proceed to the next station and the step where I actually got the shot, got a little round Band-Aid put over the injection site, and was allowed to proceed on my merry way. Unusually, the whole process only took about 10 minutes. By now it was 3:30.
The next item on the “to do” list was to go to the bank and get a money order in the amount of my rent, which is due the first of the month. To me, it is worth it to spend the $2 to buy the money order, since money orders do not have your bank account number or the bank’s routing number on them like a check does. The lobby of “my” branch of the bank closes at 4 p.m. If I could get there before 4 p.m., I could just go inside, walk up to the counter and buy my money order from the teller, rather than having go around to the drive through windows (which close at 6 p.m.) and conduct my business via pneumatic tube. The tellers know me on sight (I buy a money order for the same amount ever month — !) and I don’t have to send them my driver’s license through the pneumatic tube capsule. Luckily, traffic was cooperative and I got there with 10 minutes to spare. A pleasant chat with the inside teller, money order purchased, and off I trundle.
The next item on the list was to get my car’s yearly state “road-worthiness” inspection and get the state inspection sticker put on the windshield/windscreen as proof of same. There’s a place near where I live where I’ve traded for years, and we know each other. They do oil changes, install and rotate tires, put in antifreeze, and perform other such routine maintenance services. They are also a licensed state inspection station. By now it’s coming on 4:30 p.m., but they stay open until 6 p.m., so I’ve plenty of time.
My 1987 Toyota “Crayola” has a 5-speed manual transmission and there is a slow leak somewhere in the hydraulic line of the clutch. If the fluid gets low enough, my clutch won’t “clutch” and I can’t change gears — quite inconvenient if you happen to be out driving around when it happens. The cheap solution to this problem is to keep a bottle of hydraulic fluid in my trunk. I can tell when it’s starting to get low and I pop up the hood/bonnet, uncap the reservoir and top it up — which I’d done before I left the house, and a good thing, too. However, when I backed out of the driveway and turned the wheel to straighten out so I could drive off, it groaned like a soul in purgatory, which is how the Crayola tells me that the power steering fluid was low, too. So when I pulled into the parking lot to get my car inspected, I asked the guy to check my fluid levels because I thought my steering wheel fluid was low. (It was.)
This place charges $14.99 to do a state inspection, but the windshield wiper blade on the driver’s side had to be replaced before the car would pass inspection. If you’re replacing one wiper blade, you might as well replace both of them, but the cheapest pair they had that would fit my car was $24 and change. However, my local Wal-Mart is right behind this place — just down a rather steep little berm, and a short walk across a parking lot. The inspection guy suggested that I walk over and pick up some less expensive wiper blades, bring them back, and they would put them on for me. He told me what lengths the book said I needed to buy (an 18-inch and a 20 inch — the driver’s side one is bigger), and that I needed to make sure to get the kind with a bayonet style mount. So down I hike, and come in through the customer door that leads from the garage where Wal-Mart does their car repairs, and go on around to the automotive section of the store.
Now, as I mention in the previous post, we’d had a right little gully washer the day before and as a consequence, a lot of folks had realized they needed to replace their wiper blades. Apparently, a lot of cars take a size 20 wiper blade, because none of the brands that cost less than $24 a blade had a size 20. I could get an 18, a 19, and a 21, but no 20. So I got a size 18, a size 19 and a size 21 of the el cheapo brand, waited 10 minutes at the cash register while one of the mechanics, and a lady from another section of the store tried to figure out how to get the cash register to do what they wanted it to do (the regular cashier was out sick), finally got checked out, and back I hike. I clambered up the berm, and explained the situation. After a good deal of jiggling and poking about, they finally managed to get the “old school” bayonet adapter on the blade and figured out how they attached to the wiper arms. Turns out, the size 19 fit the driver’s side just fine, but the size 18 was too big to fit the passenger’s side as the tip of the blade hit the rubber gasket at the edge of the windshield/windscreen. Rather than have me hike back down and get a shorter one, they put the old blade back on the passenger side, as it still functioned adequately, and put the inspection sticker on my windshield/windscreen.
Next item on the list: Groceries. Off I go back to Wal-Mart, this time by car, as this is where I buy my groceries. The way Wal-Mart is laid out, the left end of the building is where they keep the groceries including such non-food items like paper goods (paper towels, tissues, toilet paper, paper napkins/serviettes, paper plates, etc), food storage items (aluminum foil, waxed paper, plastic wrap, resealable plastic bags, etc.) cleaning supplies for kitchen and bathroom (dish washing soap, spray cleaners, disinfectants, sponges, brooms, mops, etc.), laundry items (detergent, bleach, fabric softener, etc.), trash bags, and bug sprays. Toiletries (shampoo, tooth paste, tooth brushes, shaving soap, shaving lotion, razors, combs, brushes, hair elastics and pins, hair color, hand lotions, people washing soap, makeup, “feminine hygiene” products, etc.) are on the other side of the store past the check out lines, the pharmacy area and the section for over-the counter medications like aspirin and antacids, vitamins, nutritional supplements, bandages, antiseptics, etc. Typically, milk, eggs and butter/margarine are located at the rear of the grocery section so that en route, you will have a chance to pick up all those other food items you didn’t realize you needed until you saw them. (Untypically and illogically, bread is at the front of the store. It should be at the back of the store with the other items you need to stop by to pick up on your way home from work because you’ve run out, i.e., milk, eggs, and butter/margarine.)
Usually, everything I need “grocery” wise is on the left end of the store. However, this time, I needed a new aerator thingie for my kitchen sink faucet, which is in the “plumbing” section (beyond toiletries), and I needed to get that 17-inch wiper blade, which is in the same “row” as plumbing supplies but almost at the back of the store. Also, I needed to go to “customer service” to return for refund the two wiper blades I couldn’t use, which is located at the front of the store, in front of the check out lanes that are between toiletries and groceries. I had to do this first, as they won’t let you any further into the store with items you bring in from outside the store, whether you have a receipt for them or not.
Now, when shopping, you should map out your route through the store so that you pick up the cold and frozen items last so they don’t warm up before you can get them home. Alas, if you shop at Wal-Mart, this entails a lot of walking. I start on the aisle that is next to the farthest aisle from the front of the store, work my way forward to the aisle that’s just before the frozen food aisles, go back around to the aisle at the back of the store where the milk, butte,r yogurt and eggs are kept, then come up the side where the cheese, lunch meat and bacon are kept, then hit the frozen food aisles, and head straight to the cashier. However, this time, as I needed several toiletry items, a sink sprayer, and that 17-inch wiper blade for my car, I swung on around from customer service and got those first, as well as a bottle of melatonin to see if that would help me sleep better, then hiked halfway across the store to groceries.
I finished my shopping, got home, and had to unload the three 5-gallon bottles of drinking water (which weigh 40 lbs/18.1 kg each) that are in the little red wagon I keep in my entry way, so I could wheel it out to my car, load it up with my groceries and wheel the whole lot back into my house and into the kitchen, effectively unloading the car in one trip. Once I got my groceries put away, I had to put the water bottles back into the wagon (the only place I have room to store them until needed). By then I was exhausted. I ate my hamburger and fries, watched TV for a while, then hit the hay.
I’m happy to say, it is still rainy today. This is what our Doppler radar looks like at the moment — green is rain, and there’s a big wad of green over my town right now.
And every time I’ve gone past the back door, I’ve noted that the sidewalk to the alley is wet, so it’s been raining slowly but steadily all day, which is the way I like it best — it gets a chance to soak in and do some good. It’s supposed to rain again tomorrow. I hope so. I have nowhere to go but to my office to work, and that’s just across the hall from my bedroom.