Have No Fear, Toilet Paper Is Here!

Are you panicking? According to the media, we are only one step away from being mysteriously infected with Ebola tainted bodily fluids. If not sickened with this hemorrhagic disease, then an ISIS terrorist lurking in our hedges could be the cause of our demise. Yet, if we manage to survive these tragedies, we are still left to grapple with the horrendous U2 album iTunes downloaded on our iPhones.

It’s enough to drive anyone off the deep end. How are you coping? At first, I was a mess. I was losing sleep. I was up all night, pacing the floors (while periodically checking my forehead for a fever and my body for bleeding – the telltale symptoms of Ebola). Every few minutes I would peek out behind my curtains for an ISIS member prowling the neighborhood. Until I had to use the bathroom. Then all my fears and anxieties came to a screeching halt.

The bathroom? You say. Yes. The bathroom. Charmin toilet paper now comes scented. That’s right! This bath tissue smells like chamomile.

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There I was, worrying about coming into contact with the body secretions of an Ebola patient while I’m at the airport when suddenly, I felt so … relaxed! I wasn’t exactly sure what the source of this new found serenity was, until I realized it was coming from my toilet paper! Ebola what? ISIS who? By Charmin simply adding a fragrance to their toilet paper, my life has suddenly become easier. Thank you, Charmin!

The problem is, the scent is so lovely that I don’t want to use it for its intended purpose. Instead, I place the rolls around my home in lieu of potpourri.

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When company arrives, they sniff the air.

“What is that beguiling scent?”

“Oh, that,” I say modestly, “that’s just my chamomile scented toilet paper.”

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“I’m kind of embarrassed,” one friend admitted, “your bath tissue smelled so divine, like … flowers, I just couldn’t bring myself to use it. Do you have anything else?”

“I don’t blame you,” I say, “and you can actually remove that roll and put it right on the shoe rack in my hall closet.”

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Now, my hall closet is infused with the scent of chamomile.

Whenever I feel tense, I now have to whip out a roll of chamomile scented toilet paper and take a nice, long sniff in order to calm myself.

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Ahhhhhh! So what if I’m late for my appointment?

Perfume? Shmerfume! Why would I choose to wear perfume when all I need is one roll of scented toilet paper? I stick a roll in my purse and out the door I go, the aroma of chamomile scented bath tissue trailing behind.

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“Excuse me,” says the woman in the store, “do you know you have toilet paper hanging out of your purse?”

“Oh, yes! And this isn’t just any toilet paper. This is Charmin’s chamomile scented toilet paper.”

“Scented toilet paper? Now they scent toilet paper? When we go and wipe our -“

“But doesn’t it smell lovely?”

“I don’t care what it smells like! Toilet paper isn’t supposed to smell, period. That stuff isn’t for smelling! It’s for wiping!”

And like that, the magic is gone. While driving home, I sniff the roll of Charmin but instead of calm all I hear is the woman’s voice saying, “It’s for wiping!”

That night, I’m back up, pacing the floors, wondering if the CDC will create an Ebola vaccine since two people in our country now have the virus. However, if they do quickly make a vaccine, will the vaccine be safe? Sadly, I am no longer calmed by my toilet paper. I realize Charmin’s chamomile scented toilet tissue is simply toilet paper that smells weird.

**Author’s Note: The toilet paper rolls used in these photographs are not actual Charmin products, nor are they affiliated with Charmin. Any resemblance to Charmin chamomile scented toilet paper is purely coincidental, because why would anyone want to use scented toilet paper??** 

A Guide To Gift Giving

The season of gift giving has arrived! As we elbow our way through crowded malls, ruminating over prices and searching for the proper present, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. What if she already has this? Would he be a large or a medium? Wait. Did she say she was or wasn’t allergic to peanuts?

While I certainly cannot provide assistance with all of these common shopping dilemmas, I can share some gift giving wisdom I have learned throughout the years.

1. If the gift is to be opened in front of a large group of people (say an office party, or a gathering of extended family members), avoid giving underwear. As a teenager, my grandmother gave me a pair of white brief underwear the size of Alaska. As I unfolded the underpants and held them up at arms length, an awkward silence filled the room.

2. Regifting is tricky. (Personally, I can’t help but feel the person who is receiving the regifted gift has been duped.) If you are a regifter (“not that there’s anything wrong with that”) remember to keep track of who originally gave you the gift. I know someone who received the gift she had given that person. That’s right: The regifter regifted the gift back to the original giver.

3. Gift Cards are safe, safe, safe. Somewhere along the way, gift cards developed the stigma of not having enough thought put into the purchase of them. Huh? Picture being in a store and someone handing you fifty dollars to spend in the store at that moment. How luxurious! However, just be careful and make sure the gift card is appropriate for the recipient. Giving a pacifist an annual membership to the NRA would go over like a lead balloon, as would presenting your vegan boss with a gift card to Omaha Steaks.

4. For those friends/family who have birthdays around Christmas/Chanukah, never, ever do a “this is your birthday AND Christmas (Chanukah) gift! Unless, of course, the gift is extravagant. (I’m talking new car extravagant.) Handing someone a tin of flavored popcorn while singing, “Merry Christmas and Happy Birthday!” makes the receiver feel a bit gypped. Trust me, by combining these two events, you’re not fooling anyone.

5. When buying gifts for children, decide who you want to like you more: the kid or parent. While practical gifts are generally despised by children (my husband still remembers sulking over the bathrobe he received as a Christmas gift when he was eight years old), they are very appreciated by parents. Toys that kids love – drum sets or life-like sounding fire engines –  can drive parents batty. Prior to purchasing a gift for a child, decide beforehand what you want to accomplish.

In conclusion, as much as we may think that we’ve received some bad gifts over the years, if we’re honest with ourselves, chances are we have given just as many bad gifts too. So we need not get indignant and hold grudges. Basically – don’t sweat it. There is always next year.

When Life Gives You …

When a freak autumn blizzard nailed our state two years ago, many made the best of a difficult situation. Once electricity was restored, these pioneers posted statuses on Facebook like, “Didn’t have power for five days, so the kids and I camped around the fireplace and roasted marshmallows!” and “After singing Kumbaya, we all snuggled in our sleeping bags. I just love October blizzards!”

Wow. I’m impressed (and slightly nauseous). As the winds howled, these people turned a challenging situation into a good one, as I pressed my forehead to the window, watching the power lines – begging them to work.

Having the ability to take a difficult situation and make the best of it is a great quality. But having the ability to take a difficult situation and use it to your benefit is even more impressive.

When Life Gives You Lemons (Or A Confused Grandfather), Make Lemonade (Or Buy Beer).

Our neighbor opened her home to her father when his Alzheimer’s became too advanced and he could no longer live alone. This was quite an adjustment for the family – especially for our neighbor’s sons. The oldest (Jason) was forced to give up his bedroom for his grandfather, and had to share a bedroom with his younger brother.

Yet, Jason used this seemingly unfair situation to his benefit. One afternoon during his Senior year in high school, Jason coaxed his confused grandfather into his car. He and his friends then drove Grandpa to a convenience store. (Lucky for Jason, Grandpa loved car rides.) They proceeded to put Grandpa in a wheelchair, plop a six pack of beer on his lap, and wheel the confused, old man up to the cashier. Grandpa was then instructed to hand the cashier the six pack. Grandpa was certainly over the legal age to purchase beer, and the cashier had no choice but to let them purchase it.

Hate Your Job? Find a Refuge (Or Watch The Price Is Right).

Several years ago when I worked in a hospital, there was a cleaning lady (perhaps I should use the politically correct title she was given: Housekeeper) who clearly did not enjoy her job. She went about her work with a permanent scowl on her face, giving the sinks a haphazard wipe; the floors a cursory mop.

One morning, as the Housekeeper was cleaning a patient’s room, she noticed the patient was asleep while the television was on. After propping her mop against the wall, the Housekeeper gingerly eased herself into a chair and quietly tilted the TV in her direction.

Eventually this became routine. Every day, the Housekeeper would poke her head into random hospital rooms, find a patient who was comatose, and proceed to watch her favorite soap operas and game shows. This continued for quite sometime, until a patient who was not in a coma – but merely sleeping – opened his eyes to find his TV on and a strange lady sitting in the chair next to his bed.

To all of you who brave October snowstorms by doing crafts by candlelight, or teaching your children how to canoe when your driveway is flooded – I am deeply impressed. But to those of you who use confused, elderly men to purchase beer, or manage to watch television and get paid for it, well, more power to you.

Weird Candle Fragrances

For the past few years, candles have been all the rage. Yankee Candle is perhaps the most recognizable brand, while others have gradually emerged – many of them sold from the homes of candle party consultants (click HERE for some thoughts on those gatherings).

Perhaps it’s the competition they face by other aggressive candle companies, or maybe their marketers are bored with developing such commonplace aromas as cinnamon stick and floral bouquet, but some of Yankee Candle latest candle scents are downright … strange.

Take their newest fragrance, Whiskers on Kittens. Yes, you read that right. Yankee Candle is basically selling a candle that smells like cat whiskers. Unless, of course, they are haphazardly assigning names in the candle factory with no regard to what the candle really smells like. Maybe Whiskers on Kittens doesn’t smell anything like its name, and really smells like vanilla. Or, perhaps it does smell like its title … which would be, what? Tuna? Cat dander? Litter box?

Whiskers on Kittens

It took me several moments to realize what Yankee Candle was trying to do when I read the name for another candle (that was listed directly under Whiskers on Kittens). Picture Julie Andrews in her nightgown surrounded by a brood of singing children. The candle names are taken from the Sound of Music song “My Favorite Things.” This one was called Warm Woolen Mittens. Your guess is as good as mine. Musty wool? Dusty yarn? Smoke?

Bright Copper Kettles was next in the Yankee Candle catalog. Hmmm. Other than some antiquated plumbing in my basement, I don’t have any copper in my home, so I can’t attest to what a bright copper kettle smells like. The closest thing I have is my tea kettle, which isn’t copper but it used to be bright and is a kettle. I have to be honest here, the inside of my tea kettle doesn’t smell too impressive. What could the fragrance of this Bright Copper Kettle be? A metallic aroma?

Yankee Candle has also developed a line called Man Candles, which supposedly cater to men (because we all know men are secretly envious of women dominating the candle world). While my husband and I think they should have been called “Mandles”, Man Candle scents are equally perplexing. Take the first fragrance: Movie Night. A buttery popcorn smell? Or maybe the smell of beer and nachos?

Man Candles went downhill fast after Movie Night. The next candle for men was called Mmm, Bacon! The idea of burning a candle that has the aroma of bacon could be equated to Chinese torture. Wouldn’t that scent leave you in a state of perpetual hunger? I can think of nothing worse than smelling bacon and not being able to eat it.

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After Mmm, Bacon! was a candle called Man Town. I’m not really sure what a “man town” is, so I would have to guess this candle smells like sweat. And farts. Wait! The Yankee Candle catalog has a scratch and sniff sticker for this candle. It smells like … that popular cologne from the 1990s: Drakkar Noir. (Ironically, “Man Town” smells just like their scent “Over The River”, which leads me to believe Yankee Candle is recycling fragrances.)

First Down was another Man Candle. The picture on this candle jar is a football and turf. Unfortunately, (or perhaps for my sake – fortunately)  First Down did not have a scratch and sniff sticker like Man Town. Therefore, I assume it smells like rubber, or a locker room. Or maybe spilled beer.

The last Man Candle was called Riding Mower. I’m guessing fresh cut grass with a tinge of gasoline? Though, Riding Mower may not smell anything like a riding mower (because, truly, what does a riding mower smell like?). Yankee Candle may have been liberal in their name for this scent, so Riding Mower could smell like pumpkin spice or fresh pine needles.

I commend Yankee Candle in their attempt to remain competitive and use creativity in their fragrances. However, when their products have names fashioned after lawn equipment or the anatomy of a cat, then perhaps staying with traditional scents is best.

Our Town’s Landmark: A Strip Club

The name of the strip club is Smiles. This is not an establishment where the likes of Elliot Spitzer or Charlie Sheen would visit.  No. Customers of Smiles include men who have names like Billy Bob and Jimmy Lee. Battered, old pickup trucks litter Smiles’ parking lot. The female entertainers (I use this term loosely) are rumored to be missing teeth. In the realm of strip clubs, Smiles could be considered third world; the Calcutta of strip clubs.

Yet, Smiles is a landmark in our town.

“Where exactly is that used bookstore?”

“Know where Smiles is?”

“Well, sure.”

“Okay, the used bookstore is right across the street.”

“Ohhhh. Great. Thanks.”

Several years ago, the plaza where Smiles abides changed ownership. The new landlord renovated the buildings, and several new businesses rented space. While not evicted, Smiles was made less obvious. It is now nestled between a barber shop and nail salon. While the other businesses have their names displayed on stylish signs, Smiles’ rooftop, however, remains bare. A dingy, yellow smiley face plastered on Smile’s storefront window notifies people of its presence. Smiles is akin to the elephant in the room: everyone walks by it and tries to pretend it’s not there.

One afternoon I was driving with my daughter and her friend. We passed the plaza where my husband gets his hair cut, which is the same plaza where Smiles is located.

“See that?” my daughter said, pressing her finger to the window.

“Yeah,” her friend answered.

“My dad goes there a lot.”

I panicked. What if the little girl went home and told her parents that my husband went to Smiles a lot? What would they think of us?

  “The barber shop!” I yelled, “He goes to the barber shop a lot. Every four weeks for a haircut!”

My daughter and her friend exchanged glances before looking at me.

“Well of course he does, Mommy,” my daughter said, clearly puzzled by my outburst. “Why else would he go there?”

I looked in the rearview mirror at the two little girls, their heart shaped faces framed by blonde hair, their little bodies buckled into booster seats. I was overreacting. Of course they wouldn’t know about Smiles. How could they? They were children for heaven’s sake.

But give them a few years and they would know – just like everyone else. I flashed forward 10 years and pictured my daughter on the phone, giving out directions.

“Like, you know where Smiles is? I know! Totally gross, right? My mom says its been around for like for-ever. Yeah, well, like, you drive past that and the used bookstore is on your right …”

A Salutation To Strangers

To all the strangers I observed throughout the day.

Dear …

Person Driving The Car With The Columbia University Window Decal: Thank you for letting me know you were smart enough to get into an Ivy League school … and I was not. That felt great.

Creepy Guy Checking Out Girls From The Corner Of His Eye: You look like a deranged Ron Howard. You may think you’re discreet but you’re not. Us gals all know you’re watching us and it’s freaking us out.

Middle-Aged Man Zipping Around In The Audi Convertible: Driving an expensive German car does not change the fact that you’re middle aged and bald. Please drive responsibly.

Woman in Grocery Store: Thank you for offering to help me with my awkward grocery bags. It’s wonderful to know sweet people like you still exist.

Person Who Left The Plastic Shopping Basket In The Parking Lot: I know people tend to leave shopping carts in the parking lot, but baskets? You have taken laziness to a whole new level.

Person In Corvette: Your car may be fast and cost an impressive $60,000, but whenever I see Corvettes I will forever think “Barbie Car.” Blame Mattel.

3 People Standing Under Their Beach Umbrella: Is there a standing contest I am unaware of? In all my years of going to the beach I have never seen people stand under their umbrella and not sit. So far it’s been almost an hour. I wish you would sit, because now I can’t stop watching you. I should be enjoying the beautiful view of the ocean, but instead I keep waiting for you to sit down.

Woman In Bikini With Twin Baby Girls: You had a tummy tuck, didn’t you? C’mon. Admit it.  

Man Talking Loudly on Cellphone: Your white blood cell count is low? And the specialist you need to see has no appointments for three weeks?  You’re also planning a surprise party for your wife? Yet your boss won’t let you leave early that day? You bet he’s a jerk!  But listen, could you please lower your voice so I don’t hear about your bowel issues, or whatever you’re going to talk about next?

Man Hitchhiking Outside of The Department Of Mental Health Building: Dude, if you have any hope of getting a ride, you might want to scooch down a few feet so you’re standing in front of a different building .

Thank you for making my day a little more interesting.

Sincerely,

The Underground Writer

An Urgent Plea

Dear At – Home – Party – Consultants,

In all honesty, I do not need a potato peeler, onion dicer or pizza stone. Nor do I need an overpriced whisk and cheese grater. Buying a $60.00 nine inch bread knife would not make me feel pampered. It would make me feel swindled. Let’s also remember, I hate to cook (click HERE for proof). In other words, please stop inviting me to your Pampered Chef parties. Besides, all of that talk of kitchen gadgets would make me feel guilty – like I should be whipping up something gourmet for my family.

Soy candles are wonderful. I burn one a year. Therefore, I have no need for two or more. I also fear fire, and candles remind me of flames. (I would have made a horrible cave woman.) I also can’t help but feel a bit disgruntled by the inevitable jolly woman who would sit next to me and announce how she must have the $75 wall sconce and $25 votive holder.  While I am grateful you were thoughtful enough to include me on your PartyLite or Scentsy party invitation list, I ask that you no longer add my name.

Tupperware parties tend to get a bit too rowdy for my taste. All of that screaming over 8 oz containers and three piece plastic mixing bowl sets. The demonstration on the Zest and Press gadget always makes a few ladies faint. Forgive my weakness, but I simply do not have the fortitude to purchase a $33 plastic water pitcher to only have it break several days later (true story). Perhaps the decline in Tupperware quality is because Tupperware items are no longer manufactured in the United States. In any event, if you are thinking of inviting me to your next Tupperware gathering, please don’t.

Scrapbooking is downright intimidating. I do not have the patience or gumption to sort through my drawer full of photographs. This is why I never attend Creative Memories parties. Creative Memories consultants, please do not take this personally. Should I wake up one morning with the burning desire to crop pictures and write captions for them, I will contact you. I promise. Besides, I have heard rumors of brawls breaking out at scrapbooking parties – usually when high school photographs are unveiled. (“Wait! I thought you looked familiar! You were the one who I sat next to in Mr. Gibson’s math class. You used to make fun of my perm!”)

Homemade cards are wonderful. I admire the talent and creativity whenever I receive one. Yet, I  do not stamp and would rather spend time reading Hallmark cards in the store than making my own. If I am to stamp anything, it is a Bingo sheet with a dauber. Bingo is interactive and fun. Sometimes you win things. In fact, the next time I receive a Stampin’ Up party invitation, I may visit my nearest Catholic church hall for a competitive game of Bingo instead.  My sincerest apologies Stampin’ Up ladies.

Your cooperation in ceasing to invite me to these types of parties is much appreciated. I wish you well in your at-home party endeavors!

Warmest Regards,

The Underground Writer

Special thanks to Adam J. Holland of the Unorthodox Epicure (click HERE to check out his humorous and often touching essays) for assisting with this piece. And always – my beloved husband (Mr. Underground Writer) for his editing suggestions.

A Random Request

Who has noticed the words: “Fact. Fiction and Random Requests” next to the turquoise typewriter in my heading? (Raise your eyes a bit. See it? Okay.) I have received my very first “random request.” A reader asked that I write some musings on an article she recently read… 

When my children were younger and still in diapers, I periodically checked to see if their diapers were wet. While this task certainly seemed easy enough, apparently Huggies Diapers disagrees. According to this site, Kimberly-Clark, the makers of Huggies Disposable Diapers, is developing the TweetPee. Yes, that’s right, the TweetPee is an app that will notify you when your kid has peed.

Curiosity got the best of me and I watched the commercial. Since the video is in Portuguese I couldn’t understand a word they were saying, however, I don’t think that really mattered. It went something like this: Baby is in a crib. Parent attaches a plastic owl figurine (who has a rather startled expression on its face) on baby’s diaper. Kid pees. Parents receive a text that their baby’s diaper is getting wet. The end.

While the TweetPee encourages lackadaisical parenting and borders on insanity, Huggies may be onto something. Notification of certain situations could be very helpful.

Like a GrumpGauge, for example. This would – as stated – measure a person’s grumpiness. When a particular person we added to our GrumpGauge app was getting high on the grumpiness scale, we would receive notice on our phone. We could then avoid that person if possible. If avoiding the person was not an option, we could at least prepare ourselves for their orneriness. How the GrumpGauge device that would notify us of the grumpiness level would be attached to the person has yet to be determined.

PristinePotty would also be an excellent app. While out in public, the PristinePotty would notify us of the cleanest bathroom in the vicinity. We have all had the unfortunate experience of walking into a public restroom’s stall only to reverse right back out because of what we found. Because young children have an insatiable curiosity with public restrooms (ever notice how your kid simply has to use the bathroom as soon as you step foot in a store or restaurant?), the PristinePotty would be especially helpful for parents.

Lastly, a TalksTooMuch app would be lovely. With notifications from our TalksTooMuch app, we would know what row to sit in at the movies and the row to avoid because someone chatty was nearby. The TalksTooMuch app would also be handy for choosing what checkout lane to not use. (Ever get a chatty cashier? I once learned the cashier I was using had recently broken up with his girlfriend and was getting new contacts. By the time he was done, the ice cream in my cart was practically melted.) The best advantage of the TalksTooMuch app is that it would also notify you if you were talking too much. This would save many first dates.

While these ideas may seem a bit far fetched – the fact that Huggies Diapers is developing the TweetPee – well, maybe GrumpGauge, PristinePotty, and TalksTooMuch apps aren’t so far fetched after all.

Crazed Woman in Cereal Aisle

Selling a house. The death of someone you love. Separation from a spouse. Mental health professionals consider these among the most stressful life events. While I’m not a mental health professional, they all sound about right to me. However, I think one more trigger should be included: grocery shopping.

Sadly, I’m not joking. I find my weekly trip to the grocery store mentally exhausting, physically demanding and financially grievous. I envy those of you who do not share in these grocery store afflictions. And for those of you who actually enjoy grocery shopping? Well, I applaud you.

My food shopping journey sours quickly; usually before I have even placed an item in my cart. I always (and I mean always) manage to pick a shopping cart that has a noisy, vibrating wheel that makes it sound as though I’m clicking castanets as I push the cart down the aisle. These wobbly-wheeled carts also tend to veer to the side, so I have been known to crash into another shopper on more than one occasion.

As my cart shimmies its way down the aisle, I begin to feel overwhelmed. Does anyone else find the immense selection of items mind boggling? Take canned tomatoes, for example. There are whole, crushed, stewed, diced, paste and sauce. These tomatoes are available with seasoning or without. Low sodium, organic, and not organic. There are literally dozens of brand names, and the inevitable store brand that is competing against those fancier name brands. (Are the brand names really that much better than the store brands?) As if these weren’t enough choices, then there are canned tomatoes from San Marzano, which implies the location these tomatoes were grown should be considered. To make matters worse, some of the canned tomatoes are on sale but (wait!) their amount is slightly less than the other brands. I finally close my eyes and randomly grab a can and proceed on.

The tuna fish selection is next. For the love of God, why are there so many choices of tuna fish? Chunk light, solid white, chunk white, and Albacore. Fish in pouches, fish in cans. There is gourmet, premium and organic. Then come the brands: Bumble Bee (what marketing weirdo thought of that name?), Chicken of the Sea (another marketing weirdo), StarKist, Natures Promise, Genova, Wild Planet. Just as I think I’ve finally narrowed down my choices, I realize some have that dolphin safe emblem while others do not. I can’t forget about the dolphins! And please don’t get me started on mercury levels. As I spend ten minutes deliberating over tuna fish cans, inevitably someone driving one of those motorized scooters will approach. I move my cart out of their way and proceed to wait as the person driving the motorized scooter also ponders their tuna fish choices.

It is usually around this point that my three year old son spills the snack I have given him to keep him occupied. Goldfish crackers cover the floor, making the other shoppers jump out of the way. Some smile patiently while others give me the evil eye as they walk over the goldfish, their shoes making a crunching sound. I try and pick up as many goldfish as I can – shoving them in my pockets. (Later on I forget to empty the crackers from my pockets and the pants go in the wash. I then open my washer door to find a goldfish paste is coating the barrel of my washing machine.)

I rush through the frozen food aisle that is as warm as a tundra. As I pick out frozen waffles for my children’s breakfast I feel a pang of guilt that I’m not making them waffles from scratch. At that moment an Extreme Couponer passes with her binder bulging with coupons. I haven’t brought any coupons, let alone an amount that would require an actual binder to house them. I can’t decide if I hate or admire the Extreme Couponer, so I push my gyrating cart past her and avoid eye contact when she looks up from her binder to see what is making that horrific clacking noise.

By the time I reach the checkout, my cart is so full I have to lean into it in order to move the cart forward. I resemble an orderly in the hospital who is pushing an obese patient through the hall. Occasionally I grunt as I brace my feet to keep the cart from veering to the side. As I stand in line, my son frantically tries to grab every packet of gum from the display next to us. After I unload the food from my cart onto the belt, I realize I forgot several important items. I also realize I have left my reusable grocery bags in my car, which means I will have to use those flimsy plastic bags the store provides. The environmentalist within me cringes.

The shopping journey is nearing its end and I want to rejoice – except the bagger has thrown my canned items into the same bag as my tomatoes and apples, bruising them before they have even made it home. The cashier announces my total and I let out a sigh. Despite my best efforts, I have managed to spend more money than I had budgeted. I also wonder if, perhaps, I would have saved more money had I gone to one of the other five grocery stores that are within a 1 mile radius from this one.

Upon returning home, my arms ache from keeping the food laden grocery cart straight and not veering to the side. It  also seems as though a literal hole has been burnt in my wallet from how much these groceries cost. At that moment my phone rings. It is a friend calling. She is weeping and proceeds to tell me she and her husband are separating. “I feel your pain,” I commiserate, “I just came home from grocery shopping.”

If I Could Change The World: Thongs, Bacon and Checkout Lines

If we were each given a magic wand that could end social problems, we would all probably wish for the same things. Poof! No more war, hunger, suffering and abuse. Poof! Good-bye global warming. Poof! Hasta la vista loneliness. Suddenly, every child would have a best friend and live in a loving home. Terrorism would be equated to Small Pox – a scary, deadly thing that had thankfully been eradicated. All at once, the world would be a friendlier, happier, more peaceful place.

Once those larger issues were taken care of, perhaps we could use those wands to fix smaller problems. The wand would still have to help society at large, mind you. You couldn’t swish your wand and expect to win millions of dollars and for your kids to suddenly sleep through the night.

After some thought, I decided the first thing I would wish for would be that bakers suddenly realize no one eats the end of the bread that sticks out of the paper sleeve. All loaves of bread would come completely wrapped so people would be able to enjoy every inch of bread without worrying about what the exposed piece had touched.

Second, thong underwear would be recognized as the torture devices they are and would be banned. After the massive thong recall and subsequent burning, I would wave my wand around and every shopper who uses the self-check out line would receive a significant percentage off their order (since they’re doing all the work).

Next, bacon would be considered heart healthy. Then, phone trees would be obliterated. The next time you call your bank or health insurance company, an actual living person would answer the phone. While we’re on the topic of phones, I may as well get rid of all telemarketer calls. Let’s make the National Do Not Call List actually work. Poof! (You’re welcome.)

While not an everyday occurrence, door-to-door solicitations can be really intrusive. Now, instead of selling new windows, vacuums, or cookies, the people who ring your doorbell with the intention of selling something would suddenly be brandishing a bouquet of flowers. That’s right. All door-to-door solicitors would all at once turn into flower delivery people.

Before my wand runs out of wishes (all good things must come to an end – including magic), the very last small thing I would change would be that milk would never expire. No more sniffing the carton and wondering if milk always smelled that way. Pouring sour milk into a cereal bowl and realizing it had gone bad after that horrifying first taste would never happen again. Last minute runs to the grocery store for a fresh carton of milk would be a thing of the past.

Perhaps other people would use their wands to wish away high gas prices or obnoxious drivers. Maybe someone would wish mosquitoes to become extinct, and teenagers to offer to babysit for free. After all, the little things in life are often the big things.