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Sunday, December 21, 2014


It is that time of year again.  I made my list, and I checked it more than twice, but by the end of the day, I certainly did not feel as if I fell under the category of 'nice'. 

My week started with the realisation that the 23rd of December was a Tuesday, this year, and not a Wednesday as I had anticipated.  Although I knew the 'big day' was on a Thursday, my mind had made itself up that I was leaving Austin midweek.  The matter of a day really did not make much difference, as my departure was going to be during the week, but for those of you who have been reading my posts, and have worked out that I am indeed an organised person trapped in the body of one whom is disorganised, you will understand to what complete chaos this recognition led!  I had lists.  Many, many lists.  One of my lists consisted of the amount of dinners I had left to make before my departure, and I had calculated the use of vegetables down to Tuesday evening. When I am away, Dana and the fridge become mere acquaintances, which just acknowledge each other when necessary.  Anything 'left' in the fridge before I leave is almost sure to be in there when I return, and despite the 'freshness' of the items I purchase from my favourite veggie store, it would have already been in the cooler for a week by the time I left.  Suffice it say say, anything that I had failed to discard before leaving, would be rather putrid upon my return.  I had to recalculate the vegetable situation, and write another list!

However, I digress!  My week continued to befuddle me!  I had a nail appointment on Wednesday, but as it was an alternative Wednesday, my technician could not give me my usual appointment time, and this was another thing that I had failed to remember.  As I waited for the 'reminder' to pop up in my emails on Tuesday, the day got later and later. Eventually at 3pm, the 24 hour cue came into my 'inbox'.  Three o'clock in the afternoon is not a particularly good time on any day, to leave work, drive half way to downtown, and then back again.  I was unsure as to why I had agreed, but as I have now allowed my nails to grow for four and a half years, and not bitten them 'down to my elbows', (a phrase my mother used,) they have rewarded me by growing at a very fast rate, which means that more often than not, they become more of a hindrance, which in turn means that at the time of making it, any appointment would probably have been accepted, without thought of consequences. 

As like most artists, Michele, my manicurist, has her idea of perfection, and on Wednesday, my nails did not reach that standard.  After spending the usual amount of time 'painting', she was not happy with the result.  I was perfectly delighted, but apparently they did not make the grade and adjustments would have to be made.  If my appointment had been at the usual 9am, I would probably have just sighed and sat back, but time was marching on, and I had to get to the post office before it closed, as I had items that needed to be in the mail by that evening.  Despite not being completely satisfied, Michele resigned herself to the fact that I had to go, and reluctantly waved me on my way.  I reached the post office with five minutes to spare, and was told that although the mail is collected at 5pm, from the box outside, the counter stays open for another half an hour.  (I am not going to tell Michele!)  The queue was very long. Most of the people in front of me had large boxes, that were being measured and taped, but everyone appeared to be in good spirit.  I returned to the office, after depositing my letters, and worked until 8:30 pm.  It is days like this when I realise that my trusty crock pot was worth every penny!  Upon our return home, dinner was ready, the recalculation of the vegetables worked to our advantage, and we enjoyed the repast!

By Friday evening, I was ready to drop!  I had made two more trips to the post office, and the workload had increased, rather than succumbed to its usual end of year slowdown.  On the upside, my nails had been 'wowed' over, several times.  However, even after all the hiccups, most things had gone to plan.  Several people had asked if they could have things shipped to the office, for us to 'fly home', and space permitting, we had agreed. Everything had arrived by the weekend, and my cases were starting to fill.   Despite the fact that I was tired, fraught and perhaps a little more testy than usual, the 'dropping' could not take place.  Samantha and Edward dropped the dog off, as they were heading off to Dallas for the weekend (as they had a wedding to attend) and I still had lists to check twice.

Dana and Frank left for the office on Saturday morning, and I finished my usual tasks by nine o'clock.  I left the house and was mall-bound by 9:15am.  Parking was not a problem, and I locked my car and walked into the complex by 9:30am, list in hand.  I had one item to buy, personally, and many items for many other people.  My first stop was into one of the less well-lit stores, and I sent a few pictures of stock to my sister, for her immediate perusal.  Fortunately, she was quick to respond and the first purchase was made within ten minutes of my arrival.  I was feeling rather happy, and as the crowds had not started to materialise, I was certain I could still be categorized among those on the list headed 'nice'.

I forwent the cup of coffee that I had promised myself, as the queue was a little too long, but as I had already enjoyed a large mug of nectar at home, it was not too much of a sacrifice.  I followed my store map and was very quickly at the next port of call, for my sister.  Talking myself through the process of taking the picture, going back into the 'messaging app', then adding the picture to the message, caused many others to look at me in an odd manner.  I didn't try to explain, as trying to explain that I am not as proficient with a hand held device as those who use it for everything, would probably have been a waste of time.  Saying, 'no, it is not that easy', is something that is often alien to a teenager!  A dozen pictures, and several dozen more messages later, I exited the store with a bag full of items, mentally wondering how I was going to distribute these, and those not yet bought, into the two suitcases that were already almost packed to full capacity.  Weight was not as much a problem as 'girth', this time, as many of the items I had been requested to 'ship', were rather bulky. I had also made the mistake of thinking that I may be able to take a few items of personal clothing and perhaps a couple of pairs of shoes to wear!  However, if it is possible, I do not like to say 'no', to any reasonable request. 

The battery on my phone was running down very quickly, and cracks started to appear in my perfect plan!  I had been foiled in one store, where the item that was requested came in two sizes.  I bought the smaller one, not wanting to spend someone else's money unnecessarily, and then received the message to say that the larger size would be preferable.  Once again, having the opportunity to do a good deed, I hate to disappoint, and I returned to the store to 'swap it out', only to be asked a little later, 'would you mind getting another one?'  The request was so gracious I could hardly refuse!

With one more stop to make for my sister, I set my phone on to the camera application and walked into the popular haunt.  The pictures I took would not 'go through'.  I walked out of the shop, and tried to get my phone to 'behave'.  I then walked back in, as I realised I had walked out with their 'shopping bag', which also has a sales tag attached, should anyone wish to purchase it.  What a delight it would have been, perhaps the cherry on the cake, if I was hauled away for shop-lifting!  At least (one hopes) they would have given me a chair throughout the interrogation, and maybe even a cup of coffee, which I was now regretting not having bought!  However, digression aside, I walked back out again, and turned off my phone, with the intention of turning it back on and getting the pictures to 'send'.  The phone was dead.  The picture of the empty battery appeared before the screen went black, and I stood and did what we are told not to do, when the gentleman in the red coat and long white beard comes to town.  I pouted!  Not only could I not find out what to buy for my sister, but I could not communicate with anyone.  I stood for a few seconds, before the light bulb started to dimly shine in my head.  Directly below me, on the ground level, was a shop that displayed a half eaten piece of orchard fruit as their logo!  I raced down the steps, pushed past the now crowds of people, and threw myself at the mercy of a young man in a red t-shirt.  "Do you offer the function of phone charging?", I pleaded, literally standing, but metaphorically kneeling with my hands clenched in a praying action!  He smiled, and replied, "Pick a station!  Anything else I can do for you?" Relieved, and holding back the tears (I better not cry, as the gentleman in the red coat and white beard is coming to town) I jokingly asked if they had coffee.  He replied that he had often thought that their 'genius bar', should double up as a 'real bar', in times of emergency, but his request has never been complied with!  Much as I am not a fan of the orchard fruit wares, their store is quite amazing.  I stood and watched in amazement at their organisation.  As soon as someone walks through the door, a salesperson is there to ask if they can help you.  If you refuse assistance, they allow you to browse without hindrance.  If you require assistance, by the time you have explained your need, they have 'tapped' the request through on their 'pads', and the appropriate aide is at your side.  The most delightful part of the whole experience, for me, was that even though I did not wish to purchase anything, I had obviously been a customer for their product, and their continuing customer care (in my case, purely charging my phone) was excellent!  I was asked periodically, throughout the twenty minutes, if I was still 'doing okay', and when I told the sales assistants that (as a middle aged person) I was incredibly impressed with their store, they appeared to be surprised.  I suppose it was like explaining that it is 'not that easy' to a teenager.  To them it has 'always been'!

I returned to the store where I did not pilfer the shopping bag, and decided to 'face-time' with my sister, as the photos were still not 'going through'.  We quickly ascertained what, and what not, to buy, and I made my way to the counter.  I was already on their email list, and did not wish to announce my telephone number, so that they could email me special offers!  It was now my turn to 'not understand'!  "If we don't have your phone number, we cannot email you the special offers", was the remark that was rather confusing.   I refrained from testing her intellect, took my items, and left the store. 

My final destination was the 'other' shop where the lighting is so subdued, you need to wear night goggles to appreciate the stock!  Normally, as I have said before, this is the store where I am seated in the centre and left with a cup of tea, until such time as I can leave.  This time I had to make my own purchase (or a purchase for another) and decided that the best way to pick out a suitable item, would be to see what was being bought by those of a similar age to the would-be recipient.  After following one girl around the store, twice (fortunately it was dark, so she did not see me, and therefore I was not reported as a stalker!) I came to the conclusion that the whole store was set up to sell to 'youngsters'.  Everything in there would be 'hip'!  I selected an item, joined the queue, and waited for my turn.  No!  I did not want to give my phone number to receive emails, and would it be possible for someone to turn the lights on so that I could find my way out!  I had forgotten to leave the trail of luminous breadcrumbs on the way in!

With arms stretched due to the weight of my purchases, I dragged myself back through the mall, and out into the parking lot.  I packed up my car, quickly got into the driver's seat, and backed out of the space, to accommodate the lucky winner who had espied a possible 'leaver'.  The traffic was horrendous, both pedestrian and vehicular! 

After a modicum of grocery shopping, for non-perishable items that needed to be replaced, I returned home to Dana and Frank.  Having woken them from an afternoon nap, the dog gave me a more demonstrative welcome.  I spent the rest of the afternoon packing the goods, making sure I had everything on the list, checking it twice as it went into the cases, and converting dollars to pounds, before drawing up my invoices!  There is a certain enjoyment to being a 'personal shopper', but the organisation leaves something to be desired!  Perhaps we should ask the 'orchard' folk to give us some tips.

With the pouting only lasting for a very short period of time, and the crying really was metaphorical rather than literal, it was obvious, this morning, (Sunday) that I had been re-categorized to join the list that is headed, 'nice', as I spotted the gentleman wearing the red coat, and sporting the long white beard, as we went out for breakfast. In fact, I think it fair to say that my little 'episode' was completely forgotten as there were so many gentleman in red coats, sporting white beards, along the way!  

In the words of my late father, "This time next week, it will all be over"!  If all goes according to plan, I shall have arrived in England, with all my luggage (Almighty willing) and all the wares would have been distributed to their respective recipients.  It will then be time to count down the days to the new year.  I still have lists, and I expect they will be rewritten, added to, and of course, checked twice.  To those that partake, I wish you a "Merry Christmas", and hopefully you will all join me in .............. another story!

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