Friday, June 29, 2007

your tax dollars at work

On Wednesday, I was sitting at my desk wondering what I should do now that I'd finished up all of my work. And then I noticed that the police were barricading off our street. I looked down the block, and I saw that they had barricaded the next block down as well. They also seemed to have blocked off the cross street south of us. I pointed this out to the secretary, and we saw that there were several police cars around the Carl's Jr. across the street. Oddly enough, however, the police weren't stopping all of the gawking pedestrians who were sauntering along the street.

A couple of unmarked police cars were waved through the barricades and went to the Carl's Jr. A news chopper circled overhead. But there was nothing on the radio or online to tell us what was going on.

We saw the cute security guard from our building go over to talk to the policeman who was blocking State Street. But then we saw someone ask him what was going on, and he shrugged his shoulders like he didn't know.

Then the UPS guy called to say that he wasn't going to make it to the building, since the area was all closed off. He said that he was in the Marriott, and that they were debating evacuating the building. He also informed us that the reason for all the fuss was a suspicious package that had been seen somewhere, although he didn't know where. The secretary said, "I can tell you where. It's at the Carl's Jr." The UPS guy also told us that he had been told that our building was in lockdown. The secretary and I looked at each other and said, "I sure hope that's not true." People had been coming and going from the building the whole time, and they hadn't announced anything over the loudspeakers.

Finally, about two hours after everything started, we heard a soft exploding sound, and we figured they'd detonated the package. Sure enough, about fifteen minutes later they started removing the barricades.

That night I saw a brief story about this on the news. Turns out the package contained . . . a trumpet. They'd sent a bomb robot over to inspect it and then detonate it. So some poor guy lost his trumpet. But at least we all got some entertainment.

The news story said, "Police say this underscores an important lesson. If you leave something somewhere please tell the police." That's some good advice. "Someone call the police! I think I left my book on the bus! And I left my trash in the trash can! And I left my car in the parking lot!"

Saturday, June 23, 2007

a shopping expedition

As you all know, I went without a car for a long time, so I know what a pain it is. Also, lots of people were very nice about giving me rides places. And so, I promised myself that when I got a car, I would use it for Good. That's why I hang out with the Old Person every weekend. And that's why, when my ward passed around a sign-up sheet for those who owned cars and would be willing to take others grocery shopping, I signed up, even though I'd rather go to the dentist than go shopping.

I then got a phone call asking me if I'd be willing to take a Korean girl in my ward to Walmart. I said sure, and the girl on the phone said, "That's great! I told her you would, and she's really excited." The girl then said something about us going at 9:30, and I asked if she meant 9:30 that night. She said, "No, of course not. You should arrange it with Korean Girl. But I told her 9:30 on Saturday morning."

I hang out with the Old Person at 10 on Saturday mornings, so I called Korean Girl and told her that I would be free after 2 on Saturday to give her a ride. "Okay," she said, "2:00." "Are you saying that you want to go at 2:00?" "Yes, 2:00." "Okay, I'll see you at 2:00 then."

I sometimes give Korean Girl rides to church, and she usually comes up to my apartment to meet me, since we live in the same complex. I assumed she would do the same on Saturday, but she hadn't shown up by 2:20. I gave her a call to ask if she was ready and whether she was going to come up to my apartment or whether I should pick her up in the parking lot by her apartment. "Parking lot." "Okay, I'll see you in the parking lot then. I'll be there in just a minute." "No, at 3:00." "At 3:00? I'm ready to go now, so is now okay?" "No, at 3:00. We go at 3:00." "All right."

At 3:00, we left for Walmart. I figured we'd be there about an hour. Little did I know . . . .

It turns out the Korean Girl was not only unfamiliar with Walmart's layout, she was also almost completely unfamiliar with American products. "What is this kind cheese, Cindy? What is Hot Pockets? What is good kind food?"

We spent about 45 minutes looking for the kind of meat she wanted. "I want meat, Cindy." "What kind of meat?" "Meat. Um, beef. Yes, beef. I want beef." "Okay, what kind of beef?" "Normal." "Ground beef?" "Yes, ground beef. I want ground beef." I took her over to where the ground beef was. "No, not this kind beef. Not ground beef. I want normal beef. For cooking." "Okay, so a cut of beef?" "Yes, but not steak. I do not want steak." "Do you want a roast?" "Yes, roast. I want roast." I showed her the roasts. "No, I do not want this kind beef. I just want normal beef. For cooking. This beef is too . . . not thin. How you say other than thin?" "Thick?" "Yes, thick. Too thick. I need less thick beef." "Okay, well the rest of the cuts of beef are in this section, so why don't you just look around for what you want." "Um, I do not know. I want normal beef." "Yes, I know, but I never buy cuts of beef, so I can't help." "You do not buy beef?" "No, so I can't help you."

Somewhere around this point, she pulled out her electronic translator. It wasn't very helpful, however, since the word that came up was fatback, and she specifically said that she wanted beef and not pork. Her next idea was to ask someone else. She spent about twenty minutes looking for someone to ask. (I think she was looking for a Walmart employee, which was clearly a lost cause.) Finally, she just took the kind that looked right to her. Which would have been the sensible solution from the beginning.

And then we moved on to hotdogs. She came over to me with hotdogs in her hand and asked, "What is good kind sausage?" "Well, those are hotdogs. Do you want sausages, or do you want hotdogs? They're different." "I want this." "Okay, so you want hotdogs?" "Yes. Is this good kind sausage?" "Hotdog. That's a hotdog. And I don't buy hotdogs, so I don't know." "You don't buy hotdog either?" "No, I don't like them." "Oh, but what is good kind?" "I don't know. I don't buy them." "Okay, but what do people in America like?" "I don't know. I don't like hotdogs, so I don't discuss them with others." "Okay, but do you know this kind, Oscar Meyer? Is it good sausage?" "It's a hotdog, and I don't know what kinds of hotdogs are good." "Okay, how about this kind? Is this kind good kind hotdog?" "I still don't know. I don't know what kinds of hotdogs are good." "Okay, but you know this kind? Is this kind good?" "I don't know what kinds of hotdogs are good." "Okay, we should ask somebody. Who should we ask?" "If you want to ask somebody, that's fine." "No, I will not. Maybe I get this kind. Wait, what is difference between this kind and other kind?" "Well, the one is long and skinny, the other is short and fat." "Which is good?" "That depends on whether you want a long and skinny one or a short and fat one." "Okay."

We mananaged to get through the juice and milk section in only about 20 minutes. Then it was laundry detergent. "What is good kind laundry detergent?" "Well, I use Tide, but I don't know which is best." "Oh, but what do Americans think is best?" "Everyone likes different kinds. There's not one kind that everyone agrees is best." "Okay. What is All?" "Um, it's a kind of laundry detergent." "How is All different from Tide?" "Advertising? I don't know." "Okay. What is this word?" "Bleach? Um, it's like an extra cleaning thing, or something. And it can fade colored clothes." "Okay. What is difference between this kind All and this kind All?" "Um, scent, maybe? You can smell them to see which smells better." "Okay. I like this smell. But what is concentrate?" "That means you can put in a smaller amount, and get the same result." "Okay. But maybe I should get other bottle, because it is bigger." "Yes, but the concentrated one says it washes more loads. Because you don't need to put in as much." "Okay, but it is still smaller." "Yes, but that doesn't really matter." "Okay. Maybe I get big bottle. Oh, but what is Wisk?" "It's just another brand of laundry detergent." "Is it better than All?" "I don't know. I always buy Tide." "Oh, but do Americans like it better than All?" "I still don't know. You're just going to have to pick one yourself."

Finally, we had to find lettuce. "I do not see kind lettuce I want." "Well, maybe they don't have it here." "We must ask someone else." "Okay, go ahead." "No, you must ask. I do not speak English well enough." "But I don't know what you want." "I want lettuce. Other kind, not this kind." "I don't think that's going to help." "You must ask." "Sorry, but I'm not going to ask the surly Walmart employee what kind of lettuce you want."

And so it went.

And at this point I should probably apologize to anyone who ever took me shopping, since I know I'm a pain to shop with too. Although I've never made anyone spend 3 hours grocery shopping.

Friday, June 22, 2007

a modern fable

One day a girl named Cindy was watching football on TV, and the announcer said that one of the athletes was suffering from turf toe. "Turf toe," Cindy laughed. "Is that like a minor case of athlete's foot or something? Maybe that football player should stop being such a big baby."

Shortly thereafter, Cindy got turf toe herself. "I want to die!" cried Cindy. "The pain is too horrible to bear!"

From time to time, Cindy's turf toe injury recurs. Then Cindy is in much pain, and she wishes she hadn't made fun of the football player.

Moral: Laughter is not always the best medicine.

Alternate moral: Don't mock people's pain unless you're willing to walk a mile in their orthotic shoes.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

An educational conversation

Bus passenger: Did I ever tell you about how Napoleon went to Mexico?

Bus driver: No.

Passenger: Well, he did, and I can prove it.

Driver: That would be hard to prove, since that was before anyone knew about America.

Passenger: Well, I can prove it, just like I proved that the sun revolves around the earth and not the earth around the sun.

Hopefully tomorrow we can cover more enlightening topics, like
Elvish Reactions to the Aztecs' Defeat at Waterloo;
Atlas's Weight-Training Regime; and
The Hollow Earth: Was it discovered by Leonardo da Vinci or Vasco da Gama?