Commuters Complain about Curious Cabdriver

By SOME KERNELS OF TRUTH Sept. 27, 2014

BRONX, NY — Multiple Bronx residents are banding together to protest the intrusiveness of an overly curious cabdriver who works for 123 Livery Service on Burnside Avenue.

“I called them for a taxi a couple of weeks ago and as soon as I got in, the driver wouldn’t stop asking me questions,” said Morris Heights resident Susie Atkinson. “I could tell he was harmless and just trying to make conversation, but it was still annoying. He asked if the address I was going to was where I worked, what I did for a living, stuff like that. It was non-stop,” Roberts said.

Another local resident, Gordon Martin, said he has gotten the same cabdriver using 123 Livery Service and was subjected to a similar barrage of personal questions. “I called for a ride home from a friend’s place one night and he didn’t stop talking the whole way,” Martin recalled. “I didn’t think much of it until he started asking if I lived in the area and was heading home and if so, how much was my rent there? I found that way weird. He was polite and just seemed genuinely interested but I didn’t feel like telling him that, so I lied. I told him I was staying with a friend and had no idea,” said Martin.

Other 123 Livery Service customers report that the driver, known so far only as “George,” also enjoys asking riders about their musical tastes, ethnicity, and opinions on the Cross Bronx Expressway’s traffic problems. In addition, he has been known to ask passengers who ride in pairs or groups if they are related to one another.

“What he’ll ask is really random, but he always throws in some personal questions. It’s like he doesn’t know where the line is or when to stop talking,” said one passenger who refused to be identified for fear of retaliation. “It’s not that I think he’s dangerous or anything, but I do need to use the car service a lot and don’t want to be told no cars are available when I call, or be kept waiting. They do that if you piss them off, you know,” explained the passenger.

A petition is currently circulating within the neighborhood asking that Driver George refrain from asking his passengers so many questions. Customers plan to turn the petition over to 123 Livery Service once they’ve collected 100 signatures.

Management for 123 Livery Service could not be reached for comment.

* * *

NoteThis article is another fake news article I decided to write after I enjoyed writing this piece. I was inspired to write this one after taking yet another cab with an overly inquisitive driver — so I guess you could say it’s based on a true story since this has happened to me, and many other people I know, quite a lot over the years. :)

Local Parent Faces Backlash for Notifying Young Son of Upcoming Divorce Via Text

By SOME KERNELS OF TRUTH Sept. 23, 2014

POMONA, NY — Area resident Linda Wilson is facing criticism for notifying her 8-year-old son Michael of her upcoming divorce from his father via a text message.

“When I read that text, I couldn’t believe it. Her son was right there on the message! That’s just so wrong,” said Maria Cooper, a close friend of Wilson’s who received the message. “I wrote about it on Facebook and before I knew it, everyone was agreeing with me and telling her the same thing,” Cooper said.

Despite the criticism she received, Wilson says she sees nothing wrong with the message she sent on Saturday, September 13 to close friends and family.

“There were so many people I had to tell, it just made sense to do it with a group message. And I didn’t feel right leaving my son out of that,” Wilson told reporters. “Maybe if he’d been home I would have told him directly, but he was at his friend’s house. I had no choice,” she said, adding that she worded the text very carefully. “You can see for yourself; heck, you can put it in the paper for all I care! I did nothing wrong,” Wilson said, granting permission for the text to be reprinted in its entirety.

The message read: “I have some news 4 u all. Me & Joseph — of course that’s ‘Dad’ 2 u, Mikey! — aren’t going 2 stay married. We’re getting a divorce as soon as possible. Sorry 2 text this. I wanted you all 2 know as soon as we decided, but it’s hard 4 us to talk about right now. Writing it is easier. Thanks 4 understanding. Luv u all!”

Wilson says her son was dropped off at her home about an hour later by his friend Aaron’s mother. “The minute she got to the house with him, she lit into me. It was totally uncalled for,” Wilson recalled. “She said Michael had been so upset when he read my text that he couldn’t talk at first. She asked to see what had upset him and he handed her his phone. She said I shouldn’t have done that, but who is she to say that? My son deserved to be part of the message I was sending, plus he loves texting,” Wilson said.

“Besides, I said right there in the text that this was hard for me to talk about! He should understand that,” Wilson added.

Calls to Wilson’s soon-to-be ex-husband were not returned as of press time. Son Michael also declined to comment.

* * *

Note: This is not a real article, as you probably guessed! I wrote it after a friend and I were texting about how parents should and should not break the news to their kids about a divorce. Towards the end of our exchange, I joked that one way parents surely should NOT do so is via a text. We found this ludicrous idea funny and thought it could make a great article for the Onion, similar to pieces like this recent one. My friend said I should write this up and pitch it to them, but they don’t accept freelance submissions. But you know what? There’s no reason I can’t write some spoof articles for my blog; they don’t own the concept of fake, humorous news, AMIRITE?! :) So, hope you enjoyed this!

Recognizing The King of Queens on its 16th Anniversary!

KoQ publicity photo from official website

The King of Queens starred (from right to left) Kevin James, Leah Remini and Jerry Stiller. It debuted in 1998 and ran for 9 seasons, ending in 2007.

Today is the 16th anniversary of the debut of TV show The King of Queens! It debuted on September 21st, 1998, according to the show’s IMDB entry. As a big fan of the show, I just had to make note of it!

For those of you unfamiliar with the show’s basic premise, it focused on character Doug Heffernan, a driver for a delivery company called IPS, which is understood to be alluding to UPS. Doug lives in Queens, New York with his wife Carrie and her father Arthur.  They’re a working-class family reminiscent of a modern-day Honeymooners — except with a father-in-law always present.

I’ve always loved the show and have thought it didn’t get the kind of recognition and acclaim it deserved — and still deserves, in my opinion. I mean, it was popular enough, running for 9 seasons on network TV. But I don’t think I’ve ever seen it mentioned in best-shows lists and TV retrospectives the way shows like Seinfeld and Friends are. Yet I believe it’s right up there in terms of quality; in fact, I like it better than both of those shows.

The dialogue on the show was very realistic, the acting was very natural (especially after the show hit its stride towards the end of season one) and the premises were odd enough to be funny, yet normal enough so viewers could relate.

Take, for instance, this episode in which Doug and Carrie have finally paid off their credit card debt (image and text below courtesy of the show’s official Twitter account):

To celebrate this accomplishment, Doug and Carrie decide that each of them will indulge in a treat for themselves.

Soon after, Doug buys himself a whimsical item — a cheap harmonica. Carrie, on the other hand, comes home with a pricey leather jacket.

Doug flips out, saying their treats were supposed to be reasonable; purchases like hers will only get them back in the hole.

Carrie goes to return the jacket and then realizes she could have waited until the end of the return period, enjoying the jacket for as long as possible before returning it to get her money back — essentially “borrowing” it for free. This discovery leads her into a downward spiral in which she begins buying lots of designer clothing, wearing it, then returning it. It eventually gets out of hand, with her temporary clothing empire filling up an entire room of the house and necessitating the need for a complicated return schedule based on each store’s policies.

To me, that kind of plotline strikes the right balance between being amusingly unique, yet surprisingly understandable — it’s entertaining without requiring a major suspension of disbelief since it’s not too over-the-top.

Then there was the episode where Carrie’s out of town and Doug can’t sleep without her, which sounds sweet, but it turns out he’s not necessarily missing his wife being by his side in bed — he just needs somebody there to be able to sleep.

So what does he do? He manages to entice Carrie’s father to move upstairs to sleep in bed with him (sounds overly creepy if you haven’t seen the show, but it’s actually really funny in an absurd way — if anything, the underlying creepiness is what makes it amusing!):

What I liked most about that part of the episode, when they’re shown waking up together, is how they start laughing. It works for the scene, since it can come off like the characters are so happy with their odd, new arrangement, but I also think the actors were truly laughing during filming — it seemed like their natural reaction to the scene was coming out and wasn’t scripted. I love when real moments like that happen and aren’t cut out!

Another favorite episode of mine, and one which I think is great example of the show’s natural, relatable humor and plotlines, involves an episode called “The Hungry Man.” In this episode, Doug is getting ready to head out to work when his wife Carrie asks him to join her at a work dinner she’s just gotten a call about; the dinner is at her boss’ apartment that night.

At first Doug says no since he’s working a double shift at his job and won’t be off in time, but then decides to surprise her by skipping lunch and working through it in order to make it to the dinner. However, he hadn’t had a chance to eat breakfast that morning, so by the time he gets to her event, he’s starved — only to find out it’s not a dinner after all. Turns out Carrie had found out that day at work it would just be drinks.

“Why didn’t you tell me?” Doug asks her in frustration — and hunger.

“I didn’t know you were coming!” Carrie says, and rightly so.

I love this episode because you can see both sides of the situation, like how Carrie can’t be blamed for not telling him there was no dinner — last she knew, he had to work! Yet you can’t help feeling bad for Doug who was trying to do the right thing but is clearly suffering for it. Plus it’s a great representation of one of those days when everything goes wrong!

Here’s a photo from the episode which shows Doug rummaging through Carrie’s boss’ apartment looking for something, anything, to eat during the event — and having very little luck:

Ultimately, if you haven’t seen the show (and I’m always surprised by how many people have never watched it despite it having been on TV for so long in its original run and now in reruns), I recommend you see a few episodes in full to see what I mean about the fun dynamic between the actors and the realness of it all. I feel like the writing and acting didn’t try too hard for the laughs in a forced way, unlike so many other sitcoms that do. Instead, they were earned on the merits of the good writing and excellent delivery.

Also, the storylines weren’t based on lowest-common-denominator humor unlike many other recent shows like How I Met Your Mother and Two and a Half Men; I know those shows have been popular, so I apologize if I offend those of you who may have liked them, but they just never worked for me what with their sexist jokes and slimy characters.

Oh, and some random trivia:

The King of Queens featured actress Mary Lynn Rajskub in a minor part from a September 2002 episode in which she plays a woman working at Carrie’s office. Here’s a picture — which, incidentally, shows her perfecting the scowl face she became especially well-known for in her role as Chloe O’Brian on 24.

actress Mary Lynn Rajskub on The King of Queens Sept 2002

Bryan Cranston of Breaking Bad fame also made a few appearances on The King of Queens, too. He played an annoying neighbor who lived next door to Doug and Carrie — here’s a photo from a May 2000 episode in which his character, Tim, attempted to sucker Doug into a ponzi scheme selling water filters and their licenses:

actor Bryan Cranston on The King of Queens May 2000

To find out when The King of Queens airs in syndication in your area, visit the show’s official website at  http://www.thekingofqueens.com. You can also purchase the complete DVD or Blu-ray collection here.

Entertaining History: Nintendo & Hanafuda

So a few years back I’d picked up a cheap copy of Nintendo’s 2006 Clubhouse Games for the Nintendo DS, a couple of years after it had come out.

Clubhouse Games

Now, at first glance, this game just seemed like a somewhat run-of-the-mill multi-game release featuring a wide range of classic games like Solitaire, Checkers, Backgammon, Dominoes and a variety of others — conveniently all in one cartridge. It was the kind of game I liked to have for when I went on trips like work conferences and was bored in transit.

But it turned out to be much more than that, for me at least. Besides the fact that it has been the best multi-game release I’ve played due to its variety, in-depth instructions and excellent gameplay, it also introduced me to a game I’d never played before. One I eventually fell in love with.

I’m talking about Koi-Koi.

Koi-Koi, according to this Nintendo’s game rules, “is a version of the Japanese card game Hanafuda.” The rules go on to state that “Nintendo got its start manufacturing Hanafuda cards in the late 1800s.” As for gameplay, the basic goal in Koi-Koi is to “create pairs of the same suit using the cards in your hand and the shared cards.” Kind of like what you do in Texas Hold ‘Em poker, using a combination of cards dealt to you as well as the community cards.

But I have to admit that I wasn’t too keen on learning Koi-Koi at first, even though I found it interesting that Nintendo had started so long ago as a manufacturer of these cards instead of in the 1980s with video games as I’d assumed.

No, my instinct had been to use this Nintendo release to play games I already knew and liked, even though I did find the Hanafuda cards pretty and unique. Here’s what a few of the cards look like, to give you an idea; this picture comes from an Amazon listing for one of Nintendo’s Hanafuda decks of cards (which they still make):

Nintendo hanafuda cards

Luckily, Clubhouse Games had a “stamp” play mode that required a player to play each game at least 3 times before you could access the next game; so if you wanted to play Backgammon, you had to have cleared previous games like Checkers and Chinese Checkers first. Although I didn’t have to play this mode (I could have stuck with “free play” which lets you choose whatever you want right away), I tend to want to make use of all included features on any game I buy — at the very least, I like to give it a shot. Plus doing so unlocks other benefits, like new designs and music.

I’m a video game geek, yes. But then, you might already know that.

Anyway, once I got to the Koi-Koi phase of “stamp” mode, I “played” it by randomly clicking cards just to hurry along the process until I could lose three times (you only have to play, not win) and be able to progress past it. As I did so, I found myself growing to like the cards and their artistic beauty the more I saw them, since each game of Koi-Koi lasts twelve hands. But still not eager to learn an unfamiliar game at the time, I kept clicking away until I was able to move past Koi-Koi and eventually complete all of “stamp” mode.

But next up was “mission” mode, where a player has to reach a few particular milestones in each game to proceed; in Hanafuda, one goal was to earn 150 points. Clearly, randomly clicking wasn’t going to work now since I actually had to win. Since I didn’t want to give up so close to beating all components of Clubhouse Games, that meant actually reading the rules in full and understanding the nuances of the gameplay and the scoring. At least now I was familiar with what the cards looked like.

As I did so, I found myself marveling at pretty much everything about Hanafuda, down to its name — which, by the way, charmingly means “flower cards.” I loved the organization and design of the cards; there are 12 sets of 4 cards each which represent every month of the year. Kind of like how Western cards have suits; well, in Hanafuda, the depictions of each month makes for the equivalent of a suit.

Images for each month vary but all share a common theme that ties in with what happens in nature during that time of year. For instance, since cherry blossoms bloom in March, the March cards all feature images with cherry blossoms. (See why they’re called flower cards?) Here’s an example of one of the March cards, from a physical deck I later purchased:

March cherry blossom scroll card

I don’t know what the scroll says, but you don’t need to in order to play.

I was inspired to find out more about these cards and discovered sites like Hanafuda.com with great info on the variations of gameplay, helpful tips and even a Flash-based version of the game you can play online for free. (Check it out if you’d like to play a practice game or two; although I prefer the gameplay in Nintendo’s Clubhouse Games, this one is decent.)

Incidentally, if you’d like to see what each month’s theme is, check out this link from that Hanafuda.com website. And here on the Hanafuda site you can see a side-by-side comparison between each month’s theme and a picture of its source of inspiration from nature, since at first glance it can be hard to recognize what each scene is representing from the cards alone.

I didn’t stop there. Now I was really curious about how Nintendo had started out making these cards in the 1800s. Since I love reading about how major businesses got started, especially ones I personally like, I decided to read up on Nintendo.

I came across Playing to Wiin: Nintendo and the Video Game Industry’s Greatest Comeback, by Daniel Sloan, published by Wiley in 2011.

Playing to Wiin

This was a very interesting read throughout, and I loved the information I found out about Hanafuda cards through this book, such as this trivia:

“Fusajiro Yamauchi…launched ‘Nintendo Koppai’ in September 1889 as a hanafuda card business. Fusajiro saw Kyoto’s gamblers as well as its landed elite, students, and laborers as yearning for the turn of a friendly, well-made card. The city had been home to Japan’s emperors from the 8th century into the 19th, but like the entire nation it had endured a ban on card gambling for about 250 years. The new Meiji Era government, as a sign of its progressive agenda, decided to allow card games using pictures instead of numbers — one of many changes under a new Constitution that included weightier moves such as national elections and the end of serfdom. With the end of the card-playing prohibition, Fusajiro had a ready market for his ‘flower cards,’ which stunned players with their beauty.”    

As time passed and I was reading the book, my interest in Hanafuda kept growing, and before I knew it, I was officially hooked. I began playing Koi-Koi on Clubhouse Games on a regular basis, now eschewing most of the other games on the cartridge in favor of it. I played as I ate breakfast; I played in bed before falling asleep.

I was addicted.

Soon I decided I wanted my own “real life” deck, and went with this one made by Nintendo and sold on Amazon; this is where the cherry blossom card pictured above came from.

I also read Game Over: How Nintendo Conquered the World, by David Sheff, published by Vintage in 2011.

Game Over

According to Sheff:

“In the absence of horse or dog racing or sports pools, the yakuza, Japan’s equivalent of the Mafia, operated high-stakes games of hanafuda in casino-like parlors.”

I got a kick out of the cards’ somewhat less-than-respectable beginnings; quite a contrast with their pretty, innocent look! Which I suppose was the whole point, in a way. Who would ever suspect these cards of being associated with anything illegal?

Sure enough, an especially intriguing account of Hanafuda’s origins comes from the history section of the Hanafuda.com website — here’s a little more background on how the cards came into existence and were used for gambling:

“Hanafuda’s most obvious predecessor is actually the Portuguese Hombre deck, which was the first 48-card deck to appear in Japan. Portuguese traders and missionaries arrived in Japan in the 16th century, and were quick to invite the locals to participate in their card games. Prior to the arrival of the first European traders, the Japanese used playing cards almost exclusively for recreation, but the gambling card games preferred by the Portuguese visitors quickly gained popularity among the natives. The Japanese government saw the danger in this new hobby and quickly banned private gambling. Less than a century later, when Japan instituted its new isolationist policy, all foreign playing cards became illegal. As a result, Japanese card fans abandoned the Westernized designs of the Hombre deck in favor of their own homemade decks depicting Japanese characters and scenes. What they retained was the original 48-card design of the Hombre deck, and a penchant for gambling. Over time, the images became more uniform so a standardized set of rules could be developed, but as the government banned one deck after another for being gambling-oriented, card players had to become more clever in their deck designs. In this way, the original hanafuda deck was designed in the late 18th century. Its use of image association instead of an obvious point system made it more government-friendly.”

Aha! So the cards’ simple nature scenes really were designed to camouflage their true use! Clever indeed.

The book Introduction to Japanese Culture, by Daniel Sosnoski, published by Tuttle Publishing in 2013, also discusses the non-Japanese origin of hanafuda cards:

“A fact that surprises many of its devoted fans, however, is that hanafuda was not a Japanese invention at all…hanafuda was actually a Western import.”

Intro to Japanese Culture

Sosnoski states that “the ‘flower card’ game was first introduced to Japan in the late sixteenth century by Dutch traders at Nagaski,” and “underwent a number of changes and regional variations in the following centuries” — but ultimately, “it has become so much a part of the culture that most Japanese think of it as their own.”

In the book, Sosnoski also touches on the gambling side of Hanafuda cards as well; apparently the use of these cards for gambling continues even to the present day:

“Today hanafuda is like poker in most parts of the United States: recreational games are permitted, although betting, even in penny-ante games, is technically illegal. Of course there are those who cannot resist playing for big stakes. Every year the newspapers report at least half a dozen cases in which police raided a secret hanafuda parlor and arrested the players.”

When I first saw Hanafuda on Clubhouse Games, I never would have guessed that there was a gambling underworld associated with these beautiful cards — both in the past and today!

Yet in Things Japanese: Everyday Objects of Exceptional Beauty and Significance, published by Tuttle Publishing in 2014, author Nicholas Bornoff confirms “that hanafuda has always been prized by serious gamblers.”

Things Japanese

And back on the history link of Hanfuda.com, it’s reported that the word yakuza, the Japanese term associated with crime and gangsters, was first related to the Japanese word for a bad hand in a Hanafuda gambling game. In fact, the site says that “many yakuza tattoos have been inspired by images from the flower cards.”

Wow. I thought I was just playing a cute card game from Japan.

I had no idea I was such a badass.

All jokes aside, I love when seemingly simple forms of entertainment, or anything really, turn out to have an unexpected history behind them, so I figured I’d share this one with you.

By the way, you can play lots of different games with Hanafuda cards besides Koi-Koi. If you’d like to learn more about the cards and the various popular games you can play with them, I recommend the book Hanafuda: The Flower Card Game, which features thorough instructions as well as helpful illustrations for a variety of Hanafuda games. Written and published by Japan Publications, it was first released in the 1970s and has been reprinted over the years; the one I have is the 15th edition from November 2010 (below):

Hanafuda the Flower Card Game

Also, if you’d like to own a set for yourself but prefer cards with point values on them for ease in scoring, you may want to go with a Hawaiian deck. Hanafuda is popular in Hawaii, and cards there typically feature point values on the faces of each card. Here’s an example. On a related note, the game is also popular in Korea (where it’s referred to as Hwa-tu) and a Korean deck features a few extra cards.

I’d say trying Hanafuda for yourself is worth it, if you haven’t yet — and it’s the closest you’ll get to being one of the yakuza gambling in a casino parlor in 1880s Japan.

It’s like playing with a piece of history. And who said history can’t be fun?

Why I Love the Internet — Videogame Walkthrough Edition

In the past I’ve written about specific reasons I love the Internet (here and here, if you’re curious) and tonight another one occurred to me; it involves something that may seem small to some, but I find myself really appreciative of its existence online whenever I’m in need of it. I’m talking about…

VIDEOGAME WALKTHROUGHS!

For those of you who don’t play videogames — you shouldn’t rule them out! There are so many great games, and they’re not all Mario-type games like you may think, or only for kids! No; there are also suspenseful mysteries, interactive novels, language-learning options and so much more!

Sorry, I digress…I meant to say, let me share what a wonderful thing a walkthrough is for those of you who don’t play videogames, or somehow haven’t used this wonderful resource.

A walkthrough is, essentially, a step-by-step outline or video posted online which shows you how to play a specific videogame. So, players who are stuck in a game and don’t know what to do next or how to beat a particularly difficult challenge or puzzle don’t have to do what I did back in the day before the Internet — stay stuck and frustrated until you either give up on the game, or wait to find someone who knows the game you’re playing, if you’re lucky.

To be fair, in those dark days, there were special videogame guidebooks and magazines which often offered tips on unlocking hidden modes or figuring out certain aspects of the game you might be struggling with. But, at least for me, those resources weren’t always that easy to come by — either the newsstands near me didn’t carry them or were out of stock when I needed one, or the issue just didn’t contain the specific information I was looking for. Plus, it could be pricey to buy them on a regular basis, especially since each issue would cover multiple games yet I might only be interested in a particular one. Besides, sometimes I was playing an older game that the magazines were no longer actively covering anyway.

If I owned the game I was playing, I did have a basic manual — but that just included general information on the game’s premise, what the console’s buttons did for that specific game, etc. No inside tips or solutions to hard-to-get-past challenges. And I had no access to a manual at all when I rented a game from the local video store (ah, remember those?!). While many games are easy enough to pick up and start playing, some are not — so some of those rentals that looked good at the store would be really frustrating once I got it home and got stuck, with absolutely no information to help!

Today, that’s no longer a problem for kids (and adult players, ahem), thanks to the ability to share tips and gameplay videos online! Here are a few examples of the kind of resources I’m talking about; as an example, I’m using a game I played some time back called The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks:

And here’s a list of video walkthrough results that pop up for this Zelda game when you search for it in YouTube.

Obviously, there’s a wealth of resources out there compared to the “old” days!

What also stands out to me about these helpful resources are the people behind them. While some may be from commercial ventures which benefit from advertising and other incentives, I often come across others which seem to be posted by players who just want to help other players, with no obvious benefit to themselves besides perhaps being seen as an expert in the industry. I have to say I find this pretty impressive, considering typing up an in-depth guide or playing the game in full just to demonstrate it for others via a video is a very time-consuming process (especially since most of the videos I’ve seen are from people replaying the game, once they’ve figured it all out). And I’d suspect this is a thankless effort a lot of the time — yet there’s still no lack of people posting these tips and videos!

So, this is just another reason I love the Internet!

Neurotic note: My initial instinct here was to write “videogames” as one word. But as I was writing, I started wondering if it should be two words; I checked online (more love for the Internet) and learned that there’s actually a debate about this, but the industry itself seems to lean towards “videogame.” Bet you didn’t know that was such an issue, huh? I know I didn’t! If you like debates on words and grammar as much as I geekily do, you can read a bit more on this here.

Funny Quirks, or Smart Moves? (Stream of Consciousness Saturday)

socs-badge

I have some funny little ways; idiosyncratic things I do that people often find odd. I’ve written about some of them before, and a few more have come to me that I thought I’d share.  I’d love to hear what you think of them, either way! Here goes…

When I’m shopping at the supermarket, I wish I could just casually toss the products I want to buy into my cart and be done with it, like I see so many other shoppers around me do.

But I can’t.

No, instead I am compelled to closely inspect all jars, cans, containers and bottles. And I mean, closely.

Now I know many people do a form of this with certain things, like checking that eggs aren’t broken or that fruit isn’t damaged or too ripe before buying them.

But I’ve been told that what I do goes beyond that. Some examples:

  • I look under the lid of products like peanut butter and cottage cheese to make sure the inner seal is secure.
  • I unscrew the cap from a carton of milk or juice to confirm the inner plastic pull-tab is still in place.
  • If I buy a product that comes in a spray bottle, like hairspray, I do one test spritz to make sure the atomizer nozzle works.
  • I squeeze cans to make sure they don’t feel swollen and full of air.
  • I check paper products that are wrapped in plastic, like paper towels, to make sure there are no holes in the wrap that have exposed the product to dirt.
  • I look over and gently tug the foil seals on yogurt containers, to be sure there are no holes or gaps in them.

Now it occurred to me as I was writing this that I must sound like Mr. Bean when shopping. You’ll see what I mean in the video clip below, which I then had to look up on the official Mr. Bean YouTube channel:

And maybe, just maybe, I am kind of like that. But I must share why I have these funny quirks when shopping. Quite simply, in the past, I’ve come home with spray bottles that won’t spray, food products with a missing or loose safety seal, and so on — items I can’t or won’t use, all of which have been an annoyance, especially when I really needed the item in question. Plus it’s also a hassle to have to return to the store; sometimes I haven’t wanted to bother with that, so I end up throwing out the product and losing the money.

Basically, once I’m inconvenienced by something, I tend to remember it to the point where I will go to great lengths to avoid it again. And that is why I neurotically check everything before I buy it.

For the record, though, doing this doesn’t take as long as it might sound — I’m not quite as crazily in-depth about it as Mr. Bean there!

And on somewhat of a side note: I usually try to do my quick checks in plain sight of a supermarket employee and/or other customers, even though at one time my instinct was to try to hide my paranoia. But I never want it to appear that I’m actually secretly tampering with products; I want to make it clear I’m checking and buying each item. And when I have found an issue (it really does happen more than some might think), I tell an employee so that no one else ends up taking the defective item home.

The benefits of what I do at the store also extend to anyone who eats from the food I buy once I get it home — not only are the items as secure as possible, but I take some additional protective measures at home, too. For instance, once I open said jars and bottles, I quickly wash the insides of the lids and caps with soap and water. This is especially true with products like peanut butter, since items like that are not consumed in full once opened and some of it will often touch the lid; I want that lid clean before that happens! Otherwise, I picture germs just sitting in the jar day after day, spreading throughout. So, washing it with soap and water first gives me some peace of mind! Now no one has to worry about the germs of anyone else who may have opened the jar in the store, then closed it again without buying it for whatever reason — although I admit that likely doesn’t happen a lot. But still…

So, while some say what I do is funny, in a weird way, I say I’m just being a smart shopper. And in a sense, I’m performing a public service, also helping those who shop where I shop and eat from the food I buy!

But what do you say? I’d love to know your honest opinion!

Note: This post was created as part of LindaGHill’s Stream of Consciousness Saturday. This week’s prompt was: “funny/haha or funny/peculiar.” I clearly went with funny/peculiar, as per the opinions of people who have shopped with me and found my ways strange…!