Paper or Plastic?

It appears to be supermarket/big box store week here at Trail Baboon. Monday we talked about satellite surveillance of the parking lot and our personal habits around the cart corral. Yesterday it was the Future Of Bananas.

Today there is evidence from New York City and Warroad, Minnesota that hi-jinks happen at the cash register and most people, even careful shoppers, usually don’t go to the trouble to check.

In New York, an investigation found half of the supermarkets overcharged for the products they were selling.

And in Warroad, a grocery store cashier has admitted stealing money gradually over the course of three years. He says he took “about 100” dollars each shift for a total of around 5 thousand dollars. Authorities claim he siphoned off 52 thousand dollars. I know the people behind me in line are going to have to wait, but I guess I need to talk to a manager about the discrepancy in this bill.

I admit that I will stand in the middle of the grocery store aisle choking traffic for ten minutes while I weigh the merits of two rolls of paper towels, comparing them for value based on square footage, sheet count and thickness of the ply. But I do not watch the prices as they go up on the screen when I check out, and I don’t review the receipt.

Newly concerned about being hornswaggled, I contacted Captain Billy of the Muskellunge and he confirmed my worst fears:

Aye, we don’t even call ‘em “supermarket cashiers”. “Land pirates” is the name we has for ‘em. If’n I was to come ashore lookin’ fer likely candidates t’ join us aboard th’ Muskellunge, the grocery store check out line is the first place I’d go, on account of the people what works there is strong from standin’ all day, fast with their hands, an’ they is already well acquainted with every variety of homo sapiens what walks th’ earth. When we is pillagin’ a village, my “land pirates” is th’ ones I sends in first, ‘cause they ain’t surprised by nothin’.

I assured Captain Billy that the vast majority of supermarket clerks are honest and kind and not at all piratical. He laughed.

“Suit yerself,” is all he said.

Do you check the prices as they ring up?
Do you review receipts?
Paper or Plastic?

Have a Banana!

Five years ago there was a banana extinction scare in the news, and it had me fearful for the future of my favorite yellow fruit. The article I read said it would take five or ten years for the crisis to ripen. Now that future is here and surprisingly, so are the bananas. Does that mean the scare was a hoax?

Not according to writer Dan Koeppel, who published a book two years ago called “Banana- The Fate of the Fruit That Changed the World.” He claims that the yellow banana we know and love is doomed because the very same seedless variety is sold worldwide and it is gradually being attacked by an incurable disease. The Cavendish banana will someday be gone from our store shelves completely, just as the smaller, more flavorful Gros Michel (“Big Mike”) banana common in the 40’s and 50’s has disappeared. It was also a victim of blight.

Imagine that. Two generations hence what people think of as a “banana” will look and probably taste quite different, and that’s only if a suitable replacement can be developed.

So enjoy a wacky bright yellow banana today. Have your picture taken while holding one. Do it for your great, great, great grandchildren, who may never have the chance to eat one. They will doubt that there ever was such an unlikely and garish bit of produce, unless it is immortalized in art.

In fact, we should commission all sorts of banana works. Glass, wood, steel – anything that can physically outlast the banana itself, which would be just about everything. Make banana cave paintings and sculptures so that, like the Easter Island Heads, they can be both a monument and a mystery for people in the distant future. They’ll say “the sculpture appears to be some sort of tropical fruit, but why was this totem chiseled from rock in a location so far north?”

We’ll have to carve them out of marble, because because hoarding bananas in the fallout shelter doesn’t work!

I hate the idea of losing anything lovely due to shortsightedness and monoculture.
But if you had to nominate a fruit for extinction, which one would it be?

Parking Lot Attendant

Since I am open to any new idea that could lead to gainful employment, my attention was caught by an online article from CNBC about a relatively new business that predicts the performance of big box retailers by analyzing on satellite photos of their parking lots.

Yes, people look at parking lots from space. This is good news for me, since my “skill set” includes basic counting and the ability to recognize cars from overhead.

It’s not the planet finder job I was hoping for, but if I could break into this just-getting-off-the-ground profession, I’d be working with extra terrestrial equipment! And what better use is there for our off-planet photographic capabilities? We’ve already seen enough depressing images of melting glaciers and toppled forests.

Let’s find out who’s shopping at Wal-Mart!

According to Eamon Javers’ CNBC report, today is an important day for this new technique, as the second quarter profits are going to be announced and the satellite analysts have parted company with some of the other experts regarding Wal-Mart’s performance. Conventional methods say Wal-Mart will be down from the second quarter one year ago. The parking lot surveillance data from Remote Sensing Metrics says Wal-Mart will be up a bit, based on a surge of cars in June. If the space camera is vindicated, you can expect more off-planet surveillance and new ways to analyze the data. We could look at parking lot trash patterns, vehicle slot alignment trends, handicapped spot pilfering rates and trunk loading vs. back seat stuffing matrices.

I would be interested in working out a Cart Corral Correlation.

By counting the carts inside the cart corral and comparing that to the carts cast aside at curbside, could we concoct some conclusions concerning community spirit as it correlates with carelessness around cars? I bet we could!

Give me a magnifying glass, and I’ll get to work!

Do you always return your shopping cart to the corral, or are you an abandoner?
Tell the truth!

Ask Dr. Babooner

Dear Dr. Babooner,

My wife is a professor of Human Relations at the University and one of the “ground rules” of our marriage is that she can not use examples from our life at home in her lectures or publications.

Recently the dew point has been very high and the world outside has been quite uncomfortable. I was walking across campus one afternoon when it became so unbearable I ducked into a nearby building for a moment’s respite, only to realize that my wife was teaching a class in one of the large lecture halls.
I thought I would slip into the back of the room to cool off, but when I approached the door I heard her voice clearly say the following thing:

“According to the Kinsey Report, every average man you know much prefers his lovey-dovey to court when the temperature is low. But when the thermometer goes ‘way up and the weather is sizzling hot, Mister pants for romance is not.”

Dr. Babooner, I was shocked and heartbroken. “Mr. Pants” is a special pet name for me that I thought we used only in the privacy of our home! And here she was tossing it around in public to describe one of the most intimate aspects of our relationship!

A number of other things bothered me too. She was ending a sentence with an adverb. That’s wrong, is it not? Plus, I don’t think the Kinsey Report ever said anything about love and temperature. And on a more fundamental level, as far as our personal dynamic goes, Mr. Pants for romance always IS.

Hints of academic fraud, evidence of grammatical incompetence and heartless personal betrayal combined with a public mischaracterization of my readiness have combined to make me wonder what has happened to the woman I love!

Can this marriage be saved?

Sincerely,
Mr. Pants

I told “Mr. Pants” that one should never give second hand or overheard statements too much weight in determining the course of a relationship. Shakespeare did a lot of that in his comedies, and his characters are always wrong about what they think is going on. Do you want to wind up being humiliated? And Shakespeare was a guy who wore funny pants. Coincidence? I doubt it.

But that’s just one opinion. What do you think, Dr. Babooner?

A Case of Green Lung

Here we are in the heart of August with heat and humidity at amazingly high levels. It has been a wet, lush summer in the Twin Cities and it’s hard to imagine better conditions for promoting the rampant growth of just about any plant. Every time I walk out the door it seems that some new green thing has leapt out of the soil and is tall and vigorous enough to look me in the eye. A lot of these show-offs are common weeds, but I don’t say anything about it. No sense getting the encounter off to a bad start with name calling.

In the middle of a hot day there’s nothing like a piece of fresh watermelon to provide some relief. I enjoy watermelon today but as a child I was tormented by the pit disposal question – do you spit them out or swallow? Spitting was more fun, of course. But if you are hanging out with a group of 8 year olds, once the projectile launching starts escalation happens quickly and in warfare there is no turning back. Better perhaps to unilaterally disarm by gulping down the watermelon seeds, although that had its hazards too. I had my mother’s assurance that a melon wouldn’t sprout in my stomach, but friends, uncles and my brother all told different stories. Parasites were a favorite topic when the guys got together and the descriptions were vivid.

And now comes this story about the 75 year old guy who had a plant growing in his lung. Ron Sveden went to the hospital over Memorial Day weekend because he had lost his appetite and was experiencing bad coughing spells. The x-ray showed an ominous dark spot on his lung, and Sveden and the doctor expected to find a tumor.

Instead, it was a sprouting pea.

What a gift for an older fellow with health issues. No tumor, AND a chance to talk to a national audience about your emphysema and how you feel lethargic and dehydrated. Not to mention the great potential for giving self-gardening tips to people who may not be interested in growing lung peas but may have an interest in esophageal strawberries or abdominal potatoes. Imagine the State Fair horticulture competitions once this idea catches on!

How is your garden growing this summer?

Folk Zero

News accounts of the sudden departure of flight attendant Steven Slater from his JetBlue plane on the tarmac in New York City portray him as a besieged worker fed up with the thoughtless treatment he was receiving from passengers. Reports about the reckless endangerment charges facing Mr. Slater usually hint that he has achieved folk hero status among service workers who also feel exasperation at the behavior of the people they are serving.

Personally, I find it hard to laud Mr. Slater. What I’ve heard about his reaction to a boorish passenger (cursing on the intercom, grabbing a beer, hitting the emergency escape chute and sliding to the ground) sounds like a case of a grown man having a childish tantrum. Still, a tantrum will draw attention, and in some cases, fans.

It is not unprecedented in the annals of transportation for irresponsible renegades to win accolades for their foolish mistakes. Casey Jones comes to mind. He’d be unknown today if he hadn’t been driving the train too fast just to get it into the station in time. What was the rush? Back then it was easier to get an ode or a ballad written about you if you had the throttle and died using it.

These days you don’t have to be in charge, you just need to make a Big Gesture.
And it doesn’t hurt to do it in the most news-starved part of summer. Carping about “the public” passes for a type of heroism today. In a different era, Steven Slater’s antics might have led to the creation of a timeless ballad.

Something like this.

Tall tales are told of the trains of old
And their legendary crews.
How they pushed for time is extolled in rhyme
And musicians play their blues.

But there is no doubt that one man stands out.
The conductor, William Lyle.
How one day at work he went quite berserk
When they would not clear the aisle.

Old 98 was four hours late
And the passengers were tense.
They’d been slow to start, but with speed and heart,
They’d arrive an hour hence.

The brave engineer was immune to fear
As his engine gulped for air.
But the brakeman knew, and the fireman too
That these riders didn’t care.

For they filled each bench with the meanest stench.
They were dressed in prison stripes.
And each one was fated – Incarcerated!
For crimes of the foulest types.

These bleak disapproved were all being moved
for the public. To assure
that these reprobates would serve out their dates
In a prison more secure.

And among them strode on this steel rail road
The conductor, William Lyle.
He was not a fool. He had one firm rule
That they must not crowd the aisle.

When the engine died outside Telluride
There was very deep concern.
That these souls in pain would, as one, de-train.
And then never would return.

They were common robbers. Big bank jobbers.
Murderers and thieves.
Shooters. Stranglers. And grammar manglers.
Who all might take their leaves.

Several of them stood. There was no one good
And most couldn’t have been worse.
Going for their duffels, they broke out in scuffles.
They were not afraid to curse.

There was just one force keeping peace, of course.
The conductor William Lyle.
Who said on the spot, “You’re a nasty lot,”
“But you must not crowd the aisle.”

Did they just not hear? In their rage and fear
They became an angry hoard.
The conductor brave, his own life to save
Chose at that point to un-board.

He kicked out the door and dove out before
He could suffer more from fools
Even though his act was a first. In fact,
he broke just as many rules.

He flew out of sight to inky night
Mr. Lyle was heard to rave,
“You’re a lawless bunch but I had no hunch
That you all could not behave!”

When is it right to exit in a huff?

Sound the Alarm!

I yield today to former mainstream media reporter Bud Buck, who continues his quest to re-establish himself in this new digital environment by any means necessary, including the time-honored technique of breathless conclusion-jumping and its close companion, baseless fear mongering. He sent the following commentary:

Citizens, it is time to wake up!

I look with increasing alarm upon photos and videos traded back and forth on the Internet under the guise of “memes” or “jokes”, and the callous way people laugh at them without a thought to what is REALLY GOING ON!

The latest one surfaced on You Tube just within the last week, and it is horrible. I hesitate to show it to you here, but I fear I must as a way of jolting a sleeping populace into action. The plain fact is that formerly docile beasts are finding the courage to contest our authority. Prepare yourself for a glimpse of the next monumental challenge to our civilization – an animal-led Armageddon!

What is so funny about this?
An unidentified reindeer (probably Prancer or Blitzen) just ran off with that man’s wife! Apparently this is good for a laugh for many unthinking Americans who are unable to put themselves in the shoes of that unfortunate woman or her powerless, strangely ambivalent husband.
I, for one, am shocked and appalled!

Animals who in the past were content to show their disdain for us by swishing us with their tails, nudging us with their noses and bumping us with their flanks have how taken the next horrible step and are abducting people with increasing regularity! How rapidly is it increasing? Up until yesterday, I had never seen anything like this before. That’s a 100% hike in just the past 24 hours!

And then there’s the ransom note:

Tird of wearng thse dam bells.
Think change time is now.
I hav her in place wher U don’t find.
Meet by glashur to trade wife for food, freedum.
Com alone. No game warduns or Santa.

That note is no less chilling for my having just made it up. I’m sure it will surface just as soon as Dancer learns to hold a Sharpie with his hoof and Rudolph lights the scene so this outrageous demand can be scrawled and sent.

The cheek of these beasts!

No doubt they will point to “global warming” as a justification for their uprising and they will lay it at our feet just as they litter our path with steaming dung, accusing us of carelessness for our hydrocarbon rich lifestyles while ignoring their own wanton methane production.

I know this has just started, but where will it end? I fear a monumental contest has begun and I know we are not prepared. Please, until further notice, don’t turn your back on the animals!

This is Bud Buck!

I told Bud I would run his “commentary” because I had absolutely no other ideas for a blog entry today, and in an ironic twist I would use his “warning” as a caution for all of us to be skeptical of those who would use alarmist techniques to bull rush us into irrational action.

Why is this dog smiling?

Animal uprising indeed! Stop the nonsense!

After I sent that message to Bud, I turned to my faithful pet and saw this troubling sight. Those startlingly pink lips and razor-sharp buck teeth stood in stark contrast to the sad determination in those dark brown eyes. I suddenly realized I sleep each night with these potentially vicious fangs just a few short feet away.

Her eerie smile will keep me awake, I guarantee it.

Four Legs Good, Two Legs Bad? Discuss.

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