Tag Archives: penny stories

I’m Being Chased By Zombies Today, So Here Are Some Things To Entertain You

28 Jun

That title wasn’t a lie to get you to click on my blog.  I really am being chased by zombies today, and I really did plan ahead and find a couple of things to entertain you in my absence.  You’re welcome.  If the zombies don’t win, I’ll see you all on Monday.

1) I wrote a thing.  It’s not a big thing at all, but it’s a thing I quite like.  It is also a thing that has nothing to do with finance.  It’s called The Astrophysicist and The Napkin.  You can read it here: http://voices.yahoo.com/the-astrophysicist-napkin-11504108.html?cat=44

2) I do have some finance info to share.  One of my readers sent me an infographic on debt collection, which appeared on his blog at the beginning of June.  I don’t repost things unless I find them a) highly amusing, or b) highly insightful.  This entry is mostly part b, but it does have pictures of blobby-robot-type creatures with telephones, and that kind of stuff just makes me giggle.  As such, I’ve decided to report the infographic here.  Read on and learn some important things about what is and is not legal in debt collection.  You can see more tips and tricks from Colin at http://frugaldad.com/

american debt collection infographic

Source: http://FrugalDad.com

How To Properly Spend Your Time While Waiting For Your Meal In A Restaurant

21 Jun Challenge accepted.

So while driving to New Orleans yesterday, I saw this sign.

My first impulse was to run into the building, yell “Congratulations!” Elf-style, and depart.  However, we’d been on the road for six hours and I was under strict instructions not to reenact any movie scene at a restaurant that would prevent us from eating at said restaurant.

When we (calmly, with no Will Ferrell antics) walked inside, I immediately noticed that every available wall surface had been covered with laminated quotes about life, death, marriage, children, jobs, etc.  You name it, and Wintzell’s Oyster House had something to say about it.

Naturally, I found some that were related to money, and pennies in particular.  I snapped a few pictures, and figured I’d post them here today.

Then I read The Bloggess’ newest entry, about unfinished quotes by anonymous writers.  As is usually the case after reading anything by The Bloggess, my plan took a sharp left turn down the path of whimsy and creepy trees.

Thus, we arrived here- the part where I present:

Personality Profiles of Fictional People in Penny-Related Quotes

1) 

This is good advice, spoken by a regretful Canadian accountant.  You have to keep a close eye on those pennies.  Otherwise, they might run right out in front of Congress and get themselves abolished.  Just look at what happened when Canada got all lassiez-faire about raising their pennies to a higher standard.  Such a shame.  People- do your part.  Don’t let a good penny go to waste.  It’s 10 o-clock.  Do you know where your change is?

2) 

Truer words have never been spoken by a pensioner living on a fixed income.  This man is over 65, has finally paid off his house and car, and uses his Social Security check to buy groceries for himself and cat food for his wife’s 17 cats.  The wife left him for a cabana boy three years ago, but the man just can’t bring himself to get rid of the cats.  Especially not since he began training them as attack ninjas who activate at the sight of that back-stabbing two-timing nag of a demon woman.  Yes, the cats have proven very useful indeed.

3) 

This is a classic case of OCD.  The inability to see the forest for all the damned trees that won’t get themselves into a reasonable tallest-to-smallest order by species even though you’ve asked politely at least a dozen times.

Oh wait, that says gowned foolish, doesn’t it?  Hmm.  This presents two possible explanations, then.

a) The poor girl has sensory issues, and fabric texture goes a long way towards making each day bearable.  Thus, she spends all her money on luxurious silk dresses, the kind that do not have a tag sewn in anywhere.  Her spouse does not understand this, and just thinks her delightfully quirky if slightly fiscally irresponsible.  He doesn’t mind the silk neckties that she makes him out of the old dresses, however.

b) She’s a Kardashian.

(Note- these two aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive.)

4) 

There’s nothing like a sign in an Alabama restaurant that takes a dig at its clientele.  No, that’s not a commentary on the general intelligence of Alabama-dwellers.  It’s just that I’m pretty sure this guy was sitting three booths away from us at the restaurant.  He’s the good-ole-boy type with a heart of gold and a head full of rocks.  And now a gut full of small change.  He’ll go home tonight, announce to his wife that he’s planning to make a change, and request transportation to the hospital.  He’ll repeat the story to the pastor at church on Sunday, and again back at the bar on Wednesday night.  The waitress will sigh, and tell Ol’ Billy that she’d sure like to see some change in him, same as she does every week.  Ol’ Billy will get to thinking on that over his third YuengLing, and it’ll all start again.  Ah, the vicious cycle of poverty.

It’s such a privilege when I can put that Psychology degree to work.  Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to finish this…

If I ever end up on Death Row, remind me that this ought to be my last meal. It’s that good.

A Most Terrible Fruit-Based Murder

14 Jun Those poor, poor baby carrots.

Those poor, poor baby carrots.

Last night at Art Club, a terrible thing happened.  There was a murder in the kitchen.  The poor innocent baby carrots saw it all.  They will never be the same.  Warning: the following pictures contain graphic depictions of a fruit-related homicide.  Don’t fall into the trap of thinking the googly eyes make it any easy to see.

Let me back up a bit, and explain how this all started.

For being such a low-pressure social setting, Art Club can do funny things to a person.  It makes one person bring in dragonflies, makes another root through desk drawers to find old art supplies, and makes a third put a poll up on a blog asking/begging for inspiration.  (That last person is me, in case you missed it.)

The winner of yesterday’s poll was “D) Nothing.  You should just hover by the food and put googly eyes on the carrot sticks.”

You people know me so well.

As soon as I arrived at Art Club last night, I was informed that despite the Internet Having Spoken, I would be forced (forced I say!) into making An Art.  No hovering was allowed.  My well-crafted plan to eye-bomb the vegetables and have them stage an off-off-off Broadway musical number at the end of Art Club would not be allowed to proceed (not least because off-off-off Broadway show tunes aren’t allowed at Art Club.  The fascists.)

I dragged my poor injured self (seriously- I partially dislocated my patella on Saturday.  I have a fancy knee brace and everything now) over to a chair and sat down.  I promptly stood back up and started wandering.  I wander a lot, but especially at Art Club.  There are just so many places to get inspiration from.  I grabbed one of the 12” x 16” canvases and snagged two jars of Scrabble letters and typewriter keys.  I sat back down in my chair and stared for a second.  Then I got back up and got a pencil.  Then I sat down again.  Then I got back up and got a ruler.  Then I sat down again.  Then I spent five minutes trying to convince fluffy-white-muppet dog to come over and let me pet him.  Then I gave up and stared at my canvas again.  Surprisingly, after all that effort, the canvas was still blank.

I opened the typewriter key jar and started spreading out the letters.  A line from my blog has been spinning around in my head for a while, and now I can’t actually remember if it even made it into the blog.  In any case, I thought it was a cool quote, even if I did write it, and I wanted to illustrate it.

Yes, I know.  “C) A quotation-based piece, since it turned out so pretty last time” came in last place in the poll, but I can’t help myself.  I like words, and especially the way they can evoke beautiful images through the simple lines of the letters.

Also, I’m really good at drawing trees.  And this particular quote let me draw a nice forest scene again.

But I’m getting off-track.  We were discussing a murder, not my artistic tendencies.

So, before all this chair-sitting and not-chair-sitting stuff happened, the apple bird came into existence.  Carved carefully with a rather large (for the job) knife, the apple bird was painstakingly crafted, crisp slice by crisp slice.  The three of us in the kitchen (definitely NOT hovering over the food, as that wasn’t allowed) just watched in amazement.  Once completed, the apple bird stood in majestic repose upon the cutting board.  We all stared, transfixed by its beauty.

The apple bird: the most majestic of the fruit-based avians.

The artist scooped up her creation and went to show it off to the others.  As soon as she left, a voice was heard to say sadly, “Now that bird is going to have to die a terrible death tonight.”

No one admitted to saying it, but we all heard it.  And we all knew it to be true.

That bird would have to die that very evening.  Beauty can never last.

Fast-forward an hour or two.  I am now sitting in my chair, and have been for some time.  I am sketching a lovely forest scene on my canvas, and everyone else is doing Art Stuff too.

Actually, that part is kinda boring. Fast-forward another hour.

Now I am painting a lovely forest scene.  I am using a sponge (I know, I know, I’m so clever)  to create an authentic worn path/ field of grass/ tree canopy look.  Everyone else is still doing Art Stuff too.

Suddenly, there is a scream from the kitchen, cut short by the sound of a knife hitting a plate with a sickening thwack.  I leapt up from the table, ready to spring into action.  No one seemed to notice, or more likely, were purposefully ignoring the now-muffled weeping emanating from the kitchen.

You guys, the scene in the kitchen was awful.  The baby carrots were sobbing, the baby tomato was poking the apple bird’s severed head with a toothpick, the cookie mobster (code name: Salacious Crumb) was falling apart with laughter, the cucumber was contemplating the life choices that had brought him and his three adopted offspring to the park this evening, and the apple bird died a beautiful yet tragic death.

You know what? The googly-eyes kind of do make it easier to look at, don’t they? Interesting…

After that, it was a bit difficult to finish my An Art.  But I peeled away the bad thoughts and found the seeds of inspiration again.  I dug to the core of my artistic abilities, and pared off my insecurities.  I plucked the fruit of inspiration off the orchard-dwelling tree of…. you know what?  I’m going to stop there.  I’m getting off track again.

Back to the murder scene.

Everyone was trying to figure out who did it.  Was it truly the cookie mobster (code name: Salacious Crumb)?  Was he really so careless as to leave a literal trail of evidence?  Or was it the cucumber in an effort to keep his kids from begging to go to the park during a critical hockey match ever again?  Could it have even been the baby tomato, with his gleeful expression at the apple bird’s demise?

The world may never know.

In any case, I wonder what kind of food will be at the next Art Club?

Oh, and I did finish my An Art.  Wanna see?

Truly, this is An Art. Or rather, truly, those resemble trees. If you squint a bit. And turn your head to the left. And look at it in the right light. See? Told you they were trees.

One By One

31 May

There’s this really cool pine tree in my backyard.  18 years ago, it was a normal pine tree.  It grew in the proper direction (ie up), had the right number of trunks (ie one), and seemed unlikely to collapse and take out the back of the house.

17 years ago, it got struck by lightening.

The thing is, the tree didn’t die.  Despite a two foot long blackened fissure down the middle of its trunk, that tree refused to slowly decay into firewood.  I mean, if I were a tree and a bolt of lightening turned me into my own Siamese twin, I’d probably give up growing.  After all, lightening strikes the highest point.  More height would just invite more lightening (that bit about lightening never striking the same place twice?  Totally false).  But this tree is not me (which is good because a tree writing a blog would be really weird), and so the tree kept growing.

17 years later, it’s still growing in the proper direction (ie up), but now it has two separate trunks that twist and turn and generally give the impression that we hired Tim Burton as our arborist (note to self- hire Tim Burton as our arborist).  It still seems unlikely to collapse and take out the back of the house, which is good, since the tree is now tall enough to not only take out the back of the house, but a significant portion of the front of the house as well.

This tree has killed other trees (one of which nearly fell on my brother.  Somewhere there’s a video of that…), grown over two separate hammock-hangings, fought off the ever-encroaching kudzu, hosted countless generations of squirrels, chipmunks, cardinals, blue jays, and woodpeckers, and currently provides shelter for a pair of very noisy owls.  It’s no longer the tallest tree in the yard, but it’s certainly no shrimp at around 50 feet.

It’s a monument to tenacity, this tree.  Despite a major setback, it kept fighting for its right to grow and produce pine cones and slowly be consumed by kudzu like the rest of Georgia’s trees.  It healed itself, and its remaining scars are the most beautiful things in the yard.

The way I see it, if a freakin’ tree can survive a direct lightening strike and continue growing, I ought to be able to survive a few minor setbacks of my own.

So grow on, you magnificent tree.  Rest assured that the city’s chainsaws will never reach you.  I cannot make the same promises re: Tim Burton’s influence.

Not pictured- the top of the tree. I couldn’t fit the whole thing in without climbing onto the roof… which I’m not allowed to do anymore.

 

Art Club, and its Related Realizations

24 May An art-type product?  Definitely.  Anything else? No, probably not.  But still cool to me.

Now this is the law of the jungle

As old and as true as the sky

The wolf that shall keep it may prosper

But the wolf that shall break it must die

As the creeper that girdles the tree-trunk

The law runneth forward and back

For the strength of the pack is the wolf

And the strength of the wolf is the pack.

                                                                                                                             -Rudyard Kipling

Last night was Art Club.  I really like Art Club- even though I can barely hold a paintbrush.  My talent lies with the written word, not with tubes of paint.  The good news is that Art Club doesn’t care.  They let me come anyway, and I get to spend hours in a real artist’s studio, just doodling or staring off into space.  It’s also a very low pressure social situation, and it’s helping me make new friends out in the real world.  Plus, last night they had gluten-free yogurt covered pretzels.  So really, Art Club is a win all around.

But not always.

At Art Club two weeks ago, I felt like an imposter.  Everyone else painted beautiful pictures, made mixed media collages, or hodge-podged papers, while I sat and stared at a blank canvas or fought with a temperamental vintage typewriter.  I had found a scrap of wallpaper that looked like a cross between animal skin and tree bark, and typed a poem onto it.  I’d also found a rectangular piece of canvas-covered wood.  I figured the paper and the canvas would look good together, but I couldn’t figure out how.  I spent most of the evening isolated from the others, growing more and more frustrated with myself.

I ended up leaving that night with a blank piece of canvas and my scrap of wallpaper.

But last night was different.  As I drove to the studio, I had a minor epiphany (yeah, I know.  I’m prone to epiphanies.  Bear with me here).  I realized that the reason I am so bad at art was because I am so good at forcing perfection.  I can’t let myself go, because I might make a mistake and ruin a canvas, or use too much glue, or spill blue paint on the studio’s fluffy white muppet of a dog.  But art isn’t about perfection- the exact opposite, actually. (Except painting the dog- that’s always frowned on).

So, being the well-trained social scientist that I am, I decided to conduct an experiment.  I would make myself draw, with  well-defined pencil strokes, something on my canvas that night.  I would have to add color, I would have to figure out a use for the wallpaper and the poem, and I would have to leave with a finished art-type product.  Those were the rules.

I kind of hate myself sometimes.

I sat down at the table in the studio and I picked up a pair of scissors.  I cut apart the words of the poem into phrases and single words.  I replaced the misspelled words with proper spellings, and laid the poem out on my canvas.  Then I picked up my phone and consulted Google Images for a picture of a jungle tree.

Then I made myself start drawing.

It kind of, sort of, looked like a tree.  With winding roots.  Almost.

The artist who runs Art Club came up to me at one point and asked what I was working on.  I meekly explained that I was creating a background for my poem, and she asked what poem I had chosen.

It’s from The Jungle Book, I said.

Oh?  The artist asked.

Yep,  I said.  AND THEN I STARTED SAYING IT.

OUT LOUD.

AMONG PEOPLE.

You guys- I haven’t quoted poetry to anyone since I was 8 years old and it was a school requirement to pass 3rd grade.

Then an even weirder thing happened.

As I said the words of the poem, a new meaning sprang into my mind.  The pack cannot exist without the wolf, but the wolf is nothing without its pack.  It may be the law of the jungle, but it’s also the law of life.  My family wouldn’t be my family without me (they’d be someone else’s family).  I also wouldn’t be anybody without my family (because they’re the only ones who tolerate my crazy).  The same is true for my friends.  They’re my pack, and without them, I’m not much.

It was big moment for someone who generally avoids being out among people.  (I told you I was prone to epiphanies).

It doesn’t actually change anything, since it didn’t make me suddenly willing to go out every night, but it did bring a deeper and more personal meaning to a poem I’ve loved for many years.  It also inspired this blog post.

Oh, and my experiment was a success.  I made an art-type product.

An art-type product? Definitely. Anything else? No, probably not. But still cool to me.

And it’s now hanging on my bedroom wall, right across from my autographed picture of Tom Felton.

The Worst Things to Say To Someone In Debt, Part II

17 May

Since I started this blog back in January, I’ve gotten a lot of penny advice about my student loan debt.  (Actually, I got a lot of it before I started this blog, but I didn’t bother to write it down.)  Penny advice, for the uninitiated, is any piece of advice that is obvious, unhelpful, or just downright rude.  It comes from people trying to offer their two cents, but what actually comes out of their mouths isn’t worth half of that.

In March, I wrote a post called The Top 10 Worst Things to Say to Someone in Debt.  A lot of people liked it.  Some of them wondered if it was all true (sadly, yes).  Others wondered if it made people stop saying things like that to me (sadly, no).  Still others wondered if I’d ever considered carrying a taser to silence the stupid people (Ok, there may have only been one person wondering that, but part of me felt like they may have been on to something).

The good news is that since people are still offering me terrible advice, I’m still writing it down to share with you.  You’re welcome.  So sit back and enjoy, or sit back and cringe inwardly like I do.  Either one works.

The Worst Things to Say to Someone in Debt, Part II

5. Why don’t you sell some of this stuff?  This is a hold-over from Part I.  It’s still on the list because it is still so commonly asked.  The short answer is, keep your hands off my books.  More diplomatically, I have sold (or tried to sell) the things I don’t use.  The problem is, no one wants to buy CDs from the 90s, and even fewer people want to buy a sibling.  The things that I still own are things that have a higher value to me than their prices.  They are books that I can get lost in over and over, movies that can still cast their spell, CDs with autographs and memories attached, and siblings that for whatever reason just don’t sell.  I’ve got a dozen or so DVDs listed on half.com right now, but the point remains the same.  If I buy something, I plan to use it until it breaks.  I’m not interested in its resale value.

4. Have you tried clipping coupons?  The short answer: yes.  Yes I have.  Coupons are very nice, when I can find them for the products that I use.  I have food allergies, and it’s rare to find sales or discounts on gluten-free foods.  Also, I have an extremely picky rabbit who has demonstrated several times that she would rather be hungry than eat any other type of food than her normal brand.  Naturally, that is the brand that never goes on sale.  So yes, I do hunt for deals and I do take advantage of sales, but I won’t sacrifice my health (or my pet’s health) in order to save 30 cents.

3. What do you want to do with your degree/ what are your goals?  This one isn’t actually unhelpful, but it still bugs me.  Mainly, I want to get out of debt.  Beyond that, I have no idea what I want to do.  Ok, that’s not true.  I do know what I want to do, it’s just hard to admit to it because it has little to nothing to do with my Master’s degree.  I want to write, I want to create things, and I want to be able to use my imagination every day.  When you say things like that to people, they smile politely and say, “Well, that’s nice.  But what do you want to do for a job?”  Convincing people that what I just said IS what I want to do for a job takes a lot of effort, and I usually just cave to the social pressure and say that I’m still trying to figure that out.  Lack of direction seems to be a more acceptable answer than the desire to work in creativity.  Go figure.

2. Isn’t there a better job out there?  Oh, I do love this one, especially when it’s said to me while I’m at work.  Actually, that’s really the only time I do hear this line.  I’m not sure why people feel the need to ask me if I’m looking for other employment when I’m obviously already employed somewhere, but I do wish they’d stop asking me that in front of my boss.  It makes for an awkward conversation later on.  While I’d love a full-time job, the simple answer is that there just aren’t many of those to be had, and even fewer of those in my field of study (or my field of choice).  Besides, I like my jobs.  They let me be silly, nerdy, and/or stay in my pajamas all day.  So no, there really aren’t better jobs out there.

1. Why don’t you go back to school?  The simple answer is because that’s how I got into this mess in the first place.  While being in school does defer my loans, I’m pretty sure that the loan companies would eventually catch on if I just went from degree program to degree program.  And before the inevitable follow-up can be asked, no, there actually aren’t grants out there that I can apply for.  I’m a middle-class white girl with a Master’s degree.  No one wants to give me money so I can go earn another degree.  Those grants are for first-time college attendees and single moms and those with more variety in their genetic backgrounds.  My Scottish/Irish self just does not qualify.  Believe me, I’ve checked.

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So there you have it.  Five more unhelpful things that people say to me regarding my student loan debt.  The good news is that for every bad thing someone has said to me, there are at least a dozen good things that I’ve heard.  Also, I checked my student loan balance this morning, and it’s $7,533.  That’s exactly $4,000 lower than my starting balance of $11,533.  4K paid off in five months- not quite where I had hoped to be, but much further than I would be without the blog.  I’ve found a lot of support through this blog in just five months, and I could not have gotten this far in my quest without each and every one of you.  Thank you.

And look- a pretty graph!  (You all know you wanted to see it.  I know exactly how many of you clicked on the picture of my budget last week.  73).

The colors are nice, but that blue line needs to get its act together pronto.

Penny-Sized Penny Stories (And A Commentary on A Facebook Comment)

10 May

The best theme for today’s Penny Story is “miscellaneous.”   Rather than a cohesive (or as usually the case for me, a mostly cohesive) blog post, I’ve got several small money-related stories.  Penny penny stories, if you will.

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1. Art Club

At art club last night (Yes, I am in an art club.  No, this does not mean I can draw. I live in fear that the club will discover this and kick me out), I asked if anyone had a cool story about a penny.  I got this one:

“When my sister and I were kids, she told me that if we put pennies under our pillows, they’d multiply.  Being young, I believed her.  I would count out some pennies, put them under my pillow, say the magic words with her, and then recount the pennies.  There would always be more pennies afterwards than there were before.  This might have been because I was too young to count properly, or because my sister was sneaking extra pennies into the pile, but it was still pretty cool to me.”

You’ve got to love older sisters and their tales of magic.  I’m pretty sure I terrorized both of my younger sisters with fake magical powers when we were younger.  For some reason, they both still like me.  Go figure.

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2. Art Club Part II

Also at art club last night, someone else mentioned that they knew a person who would sweep up pennies on the floor and then throw them away.  Yes, you read that right- they would THROW AWAY THE PENNIES.  Like they were made of dust rather than precious copper and zinc.  I’m proud to say all the club members paused at that statement.  These people get it- pennies matter.

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3. The Best Facebook Response By A Student Loan Company

Let me start by saying that I do enjoy working with my undergrad student loan company.  They are polite, helpful and supportive every time that I call.  This might be because I’m actually sending them money each month rather than just calling to complain, but that’s beside the point.  The point is, I got an email from them the other day, telling me that if I liked their page on Facebook, I could be entered to win either an iPad or a Macbook.  I already have an iPad and I don’t really care for Macs (chill out hipsters- Macs don’t care for me either.  Long story), but I figured it was worth it to see what kind of stuff the company had on their FB page.

It turns out they answer questions and respond to every comment on their FB page, usually within minutes.  That’s pretty impressive, and shows that the company is living up to their claim that they’re open 24/7.  So, not being one to miss an opportunity to plug my own blog, I posted a comment.  This is what happened.

There’s so much brilliance here, I can’t even handle it.

I wasn’t completely sucking up.  Like I said earlier, Nelnet is much nicer than my graduate student loan company.  That’s mainly because my grad student loan company can’t be bothered to answer their phone or check their fax machine.  Once I finally do reach a human, they’ve been invariably polite and helpful.  It’s just a lot of work to get to that point.

But let’s refocus on this reply, particularly the “we wish we could keep you forever!” line.  They wish they could keep me forever?!  What is that supposed to mean?  The way I see it, there are two options:

  1. “We wish we could keep you forever!” = “We love having you send us money each month! Thanks for being a great customer!”
  2. “We wish we could keep you forever!” = “Legally, we can’t keep charging you interest forever, but boy do we wish we could!”
One is nice and polite, the other is a bit more sinister.  I’m not sure which I’d prefer: a company that sucks up to me as much as I suck up to them, or a company that never misses an opportunity for truth in advertising.  When I saw that line, I figured that either Adam here is a master of double-meanings, or he read Monday’s entry about why I overthink everything and thought it would be funny to mess with me.  Either way, well played Adam.  Well played.
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That one line by itself would have been good enough, but Adam chose to follow it up with “let us know if there is anything we can help you with.”  At this point, I realized that he probably didn’t click the link and read my blog.  I think I’ve made it pretty clear here exactly with what I could use help.  In case I haven’t, allow me to make a short list:
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  1. A full-time job, preferably one with a yearly salary well into the 5 digits.
  2. A check (or two, or three.  I’m not picky) for $8,851.13, made out to either me or the loan company, and preferably drawn on a real bank account.
  3. For people to see that paying off debt doesn’t have to be such a scary thing- and that sometimes doing it publicly can be a lot of fun.

In Adam’s defense, he’s got a lot on his plate: FB comments to moderate, clever double-entrees to craft, and since he’s likely a social media intern, probably his own student loans to worry about.  He can’t be bothered to click on every link that someone posts on the FB page that he’s been assigned to monitor.  But his response to my post, whether intentionally clever or not, made my day and provided the inspiration for this entry.  So, really, a double win.

Not a bad start to a Thursday.

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As always, if you have a story involving a penny, a person named penny, a phrase using the word penny, or just a cool story that you can tell in under 500 words (unless you’re me, and take over 1,000 words to get to the point), drop me a line and let me know.   Comments are below, and the email address is on the About Me page.  Or the About The Blog page.  Or the About Penny Stories page.  I can’t remember.  Sorry.

Why You Can’t Pay For Me

4 May

I’ve been blessed to have a lot of friends in my life who are willing to pay for things for me.  They’ll cover the cost of a round of bowling, they’ll buy me a smoothie at a coffee shop (that’s not being cheap- I’m allergic to caffeine), some of them will even buy me a ticket to the aquarium (but only if I’m sick and they need me to drive them).  They do these things because we’re friends, and they know that I’ve done/ will do the same things for them.  It’s a give-and-take, and I love that about my friends.

It also drives me up the freakin’ wall.

I don’t like people paying for things for me.  It’s not out of a sense of a “oh-you-shouldn’t-have” politeness, or feeling like I then “owe” someone something, (since I don’t keep track of dollar amounts to make sure it all comes out fair and no one is going to argue that I’m a proper Southern belle).  Instead, it’s more that I feel robbed when someone pays for me.

Let me explain this a bit better.

I work hard for my money.  As in, spending seven days a week, on my feet, sometimes at multiple jobs in a day, work hard for my money.  I’m proud of my paychecks, even when they’re smaller than I would like, because I know that I have earned them.  I have helped someone find a video game, cared for a child, pulled multiple sources of data into a single report, or created something new.  I have dealt with nice people, with worried people, with angry people, and with outright mean people.  I have sweated, cried, and bled over each job. (Literally on all three, actually. But that’s another story).  Each time I get to type a paycheck amount into a line on my budget and see that balance rise, I feel proud of myself.

I also work hard for my budget.  I know, down to the last dollar, where my money is going each month.  I don’t miss bill payment due dates, I don’t overdraft my account, and I’m getting better about not stealing money from other budget line items (using gas money to buy a DVD is totally fine when said DVD is from the gas station convenience store… right?).  Being a good steward of my money is important to me, and on the rare occasions that I succeed, I get to feel proud of myself again.

I do set aside money each month to pay for fun things, like bowling and smoothies, but when that’s gone, it’s gone.  If I want something else, I pick up a few extra babysitting jobs to afford it.  When I am able to purchase something that I’ve worked to earn, whether it’s a new book, new phone, new clothes, or even a vacation, it’s a victory.  I get to feel proud of myself for  third time.  I’ve worked and been patient, and now I get to reap the rewards.

This is me every time Maureen Johnson publishes a new book, Tim Burton makes a new movie, or the Backstreet Boys release a new CD. It’s sad, but true.

So when I tell you that I can’t afford to go to the movies because I’ve spent the entertainment part of my budget this month, and you reply with an offer to pay for my ticket, I know that you are trying to be nice because we’re friends.  You are also implying that my company is worth the roughly $55 cost of a movie ticket these days.  Both of these are cool, and I want you to know that I appreciate them both.  Sometimes I will even take you up on these sorts of offers.

But you’re also taking away my chance to feel proud of myself, and I kind of resent that.  I hate feeling like I haven’t earned something, whether it’s a trip to the movies or a grade on a test.  It bothers me, and the feeling will hang around the back of my mind for ages (OCD- the gift that keeps on giving and giving and giving and giving and giving and…).  Keep in mind that if I turn down your offer, it’s likely more for my own sanity than it is anything else.  And feel free to ask again next week or month.  Chances are, I’ll have saved some money and will be able to go.

(Oh, and while we’re on the subject, “oh, it’s just $8.  You can afford that” is not an acceptable response either.  I just said that I can’t afford it.  I’m (probably) not trying to duck your company, and even if I was, implying that you know how much money is in my pocket better than I do is not the way to get me to agree.  Just wanted to throw that out there.)

I get weird looks all the time about my budget.  My peers think it’s insane that I already have such a strict money policy, people older than me think I’m too young to be worrying about such things, and people younger than me get a scared look in their eyes- like they’re worried they may end up like me.  I don’t know if it makes me independent, crazy, frugal, stingy, sensible, cheap, or just plain weird, but I like my budget.  I can’t always control what happens to me, but I can control what I do with what I get.

And the end of the day (and the month), I’m proud of myself.  While I may not have everything that I want, I know that I have earned the things that I have, and I’d rather have that any day. (Unless we’re talking about a giant ball pit.  You can totally buy one of those for me.  I will not object at all.)

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So how about you?  What do you take pride in?  What makes you feel all warm and fuzzy at the end of the day?  Leave a comment and let me know.

Things Video Game Store Customers Say

26 Apr

I love hearing about the questions that customers ask bookstore employees, especially ones like “I read a book when I was 8, and it has a blue cover with a flower.  Do you have that book in stock?”  You know, the kind of questions that the phrase *headdesk* was invented for.  Sadly, I have found that this phenomenon is not limited to bookstores.

I’ve been working in a video game store for about 10 months now, and over that time I have heard/witnessed some awe-inspiring displays of… shall we say, less-than-intelligent behavior from my customers.  Today, I’d like to share some of my favorites with you. (In order to stay with the Penny Story Thursday theme, we’re going to consider these One Cent Comments.)

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1. What a Charming Child.

Me: Welcome to [store name redacted].  How can I help you today?

Customer: We’re looking for Wii games.

Me: OK, they’re over here.  Any particular game in mind?

Customer: Well, what do you recommend for a boy my son’s age?

Me: Mario is always a best-seller, and there’s a new Mario Galaxy game out now.

Customer’s son (a charming boy about 9): Mario is a f****** f*****.

Me: *speechless*

Customer: So what else do you recommend?

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2. I’m Not Tech Support.

Me: *answers phone* Thank you for calling [store name].  How can I help you?

Customer: Yeah, I’m trying to set up my Xbox, and it says there’s not enough… Ns?

Me: That’s a network overload issue.  Are you on wireless?

Customer: Yeah.

Me: Ok, try resetting the router.  That might fix it.

Customer: The router?  I don’t think one of those came with the room.

Me: Oh… um, are you at a hotel?

Customer: Yeah.

Me: Ok, then you’ll have to call the front desk for help, sir.

Customer: I can’t do that.  They don’t know I’m here.

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3. Silly Rabbit, Girls Don’t Play Video Games.

Me: *answers phone* Thanks for calling [store name].  How can I help you?

Customer: Yeah, can I speak to someone about Call of Duty: Black Ops?

Me: Are you looking for a price on the game?

Customer: No, I need some help.  Is there someone there who has played the game?

Me: I have played the game.

Customer: *long pause* But, you’re a girl, right?

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4. Bad Connection.

Me: *answers phone* Thanks for calling [store name]. How can I help you? (You’d think I’d learn to stop answering the phone.)

Customer: Yeah, I was trying to see how much you’d give me for my DS Lite?

Me: Ok, we have to see the system in person before we can give a quote.

Customer: Yeah, but how much is it worth?

Me: That depends a lot on the condition of the system. We have to make sure it turns on, loads games, doesn’t have scratches, that sort of thing.

Customer: Yeah, I want cash for it.  How much?

Me: Well, you have to be over 18 to get cash, and we still would have to see the system in person before I could give you a value.

Customer: I’ll send my momma. (No joke- the kid said “momma”.)  Ok, how much would you give me for Call of Duty?

Me: I’d have to see the game in person too.  Trade-in values are all about the condition of the game or the system.

Customer: Have you heard of the game?

Me: *patience wearing very thin* Yes, I have heard of Call of Duty.

Customer: Ok, how much for it then?

Me: I. Have. To. See. The. Game. First.

Customer: Ok, fine. I’ll call back later and talk to someone else.

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5. Burning Down The House.

Me: *Answers phone* (we all know where this is going.)

Customer: Yeah, I just bought a Wii game there and it doesn’t work.

Me: I’m sorry to hear that.  If you bring it back with your receipt, we’ll be glad to replace it.

Customer: Here’s the thing.  I’ve bought pre-owned games from you in the past, and they never work.

Me: I’m very sorry to hear that.

Customer: *cuts me off* Yeah.  So, I’m going to bring this game back and you’re going to replace it.  And if I get home and it doesn’t work, I’m going to burn your house down.

Me: *hangs up, turns to manager* I’m going to go take my break now, ok?

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6. In Which I Finally Get To Use A Sweet Home Alabama Line.

Customer: *storms in, slams game on the counter*  I bought this here last Saturday and it doesn’t work.

Me: I’m sorry to hear that.  I can replace it for you.  Do you have your receipt?

Customer: *stares coldly* No.

Me: That’s ok.  Do you have a membership card with us?

Customer: *still seething* No.

Me: Oh.  Well, I can’t return the game without a receipt or a membership card.  Would you like to tra-

Customer: *slams hands on counter and leans into my face* Are you s****** me?

Me: You know, I’ve never understood that phrase, but no, I am not s****** you.

Customer: *grabs game, storms out of store*  I’m never coming back here again!

My manager: We’re going to really miss having him around.

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7. Just Pull A Bit Harder.

Customer (note- a fully-grown man): *walks up to counter, hands me a Wii remote box, still hanging on the magnetic locked display rack.*

Me: Um, what happened?

Customer: *shrugs* I couldn’t get it off the rack.

Me: *glances across the store at the new large hole in the wall* Oh, ok.  *Grabs magnet, unlocks rack*

Customer: Oh, so that’s how those work.

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8. The Kinect Is Not For Everyone.

Customer: Can I get the controller for the Xbox?  I have my Driver’s License. (An ID is required for getting the display controller.)

Me: Oh, we have the Kinect on today.  You don’t need the controller.

Customer: No, but I want to play the golf game you have on today.

Me: Yes, it’s a Kinect game.  You just stand in front of the TV and swing like you really had a golf club in your hands.

Customer: *look of deep distrust*  Can I just get the controller, please?

Me: I promise you, you don’t need the controller.  Just stand on the mat in front of the TV and wave your hand.

Customer: *stares*  Whatever. *walks away*

Me: I swear, I’m not messing with you!

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9. We’re Not Babysitters.

Customer: *opens door, shoves child inside*  Stay here.  I’ll be back in an hour. *leaves*

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10.  We’re Still Not Babysitters, Unless You’re Willing To Pay.

Customer: *opens door, shoves child inside.  Looks around and spies employees at the counter*  Hello!  I’m just going to be a few doors down, ok?  I’ll be back in twenty minutes!

Coworker: That’s fine.  Childcare is $20 an hour.

Customer: *stern look at child* Don’t you break nothing while I’m gone. *leaves*

(Sadly, the child immediately went after his mom, and my coworker and I never got our $20.)

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Finally we have my all-time favorite customer interaction.   It’s been implied so many times before, but last week I finally had a customer come right out and say it.

11. You’ll End Up Like Those People

Child: *brings his mother two video games*

Child’s mother: No, you get one.

Child: But I just traded in one game.

Mother: Yes, and you’re only allowed to have two video games at a time.

Child: C’mon, mom, please?

Mother: No!  Too many video games will rot your brain, and you’ll end up working here like those people. *points to me and my coworker.*

Me: *represses urge to smack her with my Master’s degree*  (also, I should add that half the store has Master’s degrees, and the rest are either in college or hold Bachelor’s degrees.  We’re also all gainfully employed.   I can totally understand why someone wouldn’t want their child to end up like us.)

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And there you have it.  That is the kind of stuff I deal with for six to eight hours, two to three times a week.  Don’t get me wrong- I do really enjoy my job.  I get paid to talk about video games, and it gets me out of the house and among people two to three times a week.  But sometimes, I just have to wonder if common sense is really so common after all.

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For those of you who have shared the horror of working in retail, what are your favorite customer interactions?  Leave me a comment and we can commiserate together.  Also, if enough people like this post, next week I’ll tell you about the time I worked at a skating ring and a customer threatened me with a knife over the price of a Slushie.

The Top 5 (Fictional Characters Named) Penny List

19 Apr

The entertainment world is full of pennies, and no- I’m not referring to the size of a script writer’s check.  I’m referring to the abundance of characters named Penny.

Everyone loves a good Penny.  She’s smart, she’s funny, she’s pretty, she’s animated (sometimes literally), and she tends to end up saving the day (or dying in some magnificently touching way).  Penny is a character that is definitely worth more than her name implies.  When a Penny shows up on screen, you know something big is about to happen.  As such, I’ve compiled a list of my top 5 favorite Pennys (or is Pennies?) from over my decades of television and movie watching.

The Top 5 (Fictional Characters Named) Penny List

5. Penny (from Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog)

Look, we’re all trying to save the world here. Just sign the petition, and then you can go save the children from the burning bus while I go do laundry with your arch-nemesis.

Penny in Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog is a woman bent on saving the world, one petition signature at a time.  She’s also a girl without a washing machine in her apartment.  Naturally, she gets caught in the crossfire between Dr. Horrible (with whom she unknowingly does laundry with each week) and Captain Hammer (who not only saves her from a runaway van, but takes the time to sign her petition.)

For being a superhero to the down-trodden, getting to do laundry with Neil Patrick Harris every week, and never giving up her hope for a better world, even when ****** misfire *** slow-motion ***** hands *** spleen **** lab coat (spoilers redacted.  Sorry.), this Penny wins fifth place.

4. Penny (from The Big Bang Theory)

This is the last time I play Pictionary with a Physicist.

The Nebraska-native Penny brings more to the table at The Big Bang Theory than female secondary sex characteristics Get it? It’s a geeky way of saying she’s more than a pretty face).  Her country-wise humor, her menial job, and her incessant need to do laundry all add up to a character that I can relate to.  Plus, the looks on her face when one of the guys says something really nerdy are the same looks I get from my friends on a daily basis.  It’s nice to see a familiar expression on TV.

For her growing knowledge of geekdom, her ability to stop Sheldon in his tracks with a single “oh, honey,” and just generally being a brilliant foil to an apartment full of genuises, this Penny earns fourth place.

3. Penny (from The Rescuers)

There’s nothing sweeter than a little girl and her teddy, especially if that bear is stuffed with a fist-sized diamond.

In 1977, Disney brought us The Rescuers.  The young orphan girl, Penny, has been kidnapped by an evil pawn shop owner and forced to dig for treasure in the bayou.  Unfortunately for her captors, Penny is a strong-willed six year old who has no problem standing up for herself.  When two talking mice show up to rescue her, it’s Penny who comes up with the ultimately successful escape plan.

For her unfailing determination to get home, her never-ending faith in her dreams, and her ability to order a crocodile around even while being carried upside-down, this Penny wins third place.

2. Penny (from The Proud Family)

I was with it right up to that Driver’s License picture. No one ever looks that cute in those pictures.

Penny Proud is a surprisingly excellent representation of a teenage girl in the early 2000’s, even if Suga Mama did steal every scene in every. single. episode.  The Proud Family managed to navigate the hard issues of racism, bullying, and negative stereotypes while still remaining funny and accessible over its four year run.  What makes this even more impressive is that the show was produced by Disney- a company notorious for its occasionally questionable stereotypes.

For being a typical teenage girl, dealing with a crazy family, crazy friends, and occasionally some hard lessons, Penny Proud earns a well-deserved second place.

1. Penny (from Inspector Gadget)

Reading is power, especially if your book is the grandfather of tablet computers.

Penny is the niece of the bumbling Inspector Gadget, a bionic police detective.  Together with her dog Brain, whose collar spouts radio antennas whenever he gets a phone call (from 1983), and a book that seems to have inspired both the iPad and Google (from 1983!), Penny is often the real reason the cases get solved by the end of each episode.

For not only using the same technology that we use today to solve police cases, but for using it 30 YEARS AGO (raise your hand if you feel old now), this Penny has earned her place on top of the list.

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So that’s the list.  I do have to give an honorable mention to Penny from Disney’s Bolt.  While the movie focuses on Bolt’s love and devotion, the few cut-away scenes that we see of Penny plastering the town with Lost Dog fliers and refusing to work until Bolt is found make it clear that Penny is just as devoted to her pet as he is to her.  Plus, that final warehouse scene still gets me every time.

Let me know what you think.  How would you have ranked the Pennys?  Am I missing your favorite Penny?  Leave me a comment below and let’s talk about it.

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