the mall.

I hate the mall. I used to like Hanes Mall, back before I lived here, when I lived in a town whose mall boasted a dozen stores, half of them furniture outlets. Hanes Mall was a treat, because it was big and shiny and had actual stores. But now the honeymoon is over, and I, like a true Forsyth County resident, avoid going there whenever possible.

They've started this new thing at the mall. There have always been those little booths in the middle of the walkway on the bottom floor. Mall booths always sell the same sorts of things: jewelry and cell phones. Recently, I've noticed that they started having these booths that sell some sort of fingernail or hand care products. The salesmen are pushy. They scan the crowds as the people amble by, and the salesmen pick out the most likely targets. Unfortunately, I seem to fall in that category.

Obviously, they target women. Fine. And they probably target younger women, or at least women who look like they maybe sorta care about their appearance. Apparently, the woman doesn't look like she has to care much, because I'm usually all decked out in thrift store clothes with my hair up in a messy ponytail and no makeup. Maybe if I started going to the mall right after waking up with my hair all natted out and wearing painters' overalls, they'd leave me alone. But no, it's always an eager approach and a request to see my hand. Do not be fooled! These men are not going to propose, nor are they going to tell you how lovely your eyes are, shining in the bright Hanes Mall lights. They just want to sell you crap.

I try to say no before they ask. I try to look the other way. I try to pretend that I did not hear them. I try to walk faster, but those fellows will actually chase you and tackle you (okay, not really).

The cell phone guys are pushy, too, but it's much easier to lie to them. I just tell them that my mother still pays for my wireless phone, and the conversation is pretty much over, because wireless service is very cheap indeed when someone else pays for it. I am an honest girl, but I have no qualms about lying to salespeople. But what do I tell the hand guys? "I'm sorry, I don't have any hands, and I'm very sensitive about it." Maybe I should try that, all the while being sure to make sure my hands are in full view.

Last night, I gave in. I let the guy see my hand. My nails aren't bad, just neglected. I've managed to quit biting them so much and even my cuticles look relatively decent half the time. So the guy didn't shudder or anything, but he dragged me over to his little hand booth, promising that it would not take more than ten seconds, and picked up what looked like a chalkboard eraser. He began to buff my middle nail with the three different sides of the block, all the while describing how each side worked to improve the appearance and health of my nails. He had a lovely accent, European, I think. It kept me from understanding every single thing he said, but he was talking nail science (which sounded pretty dubious when I managed to understand), and I probably wouldn't have understood it anyway. Then he was all done with that one nail, and he allowed me to inspect.


Okay, fine, yes, the nail was a lot prettier. It was smooth, and it glistened in the early evening fluorescent light. That little block was pretty neat, though I suspected I could get something at Wal-Mart that performed a similar service. But I was impressed, so I asked the man how much for the little nail-shiner. He, sensing weakness, ignored my question and then put a tiny drop of some sort of liquid on my nail that was supposed to make my cuticle disappear. I wondered if it was just some sort of acid that was going to eat my flesh, but apparently it was more like an oil that just disguised my cuticle. I also wondered whether "cuticle" was a regular vocabulary word for people trying to learn English.

I asked him how much again, and he showed me the little kit, complete with the block and the cuticle oil and some sort of body lotion in the thick plastic carrying case. He told me that they usually sell it for $59.99, but today, for me, it was only $29.99.

You've got to be kidding me.

I think I might have laughed as I said no way. Sensing he had a tough customer, he suddenly knocked the price down to $19.99 and added a year guarantee. Less than two dollars a month, he said! Not a chance, brother. I hated to let him down, with his pretty accent and his nail-shining device, but there's no way that I'm going to spend twenty bucks on a part of my body that I had been satisfied to neglect for free up until then. I felt bad for him as I walked away with my one very shiny fingernail. Undoubtedly, he works on commission. He came all the way over from Europe to learn English and sell nail products at a booth in the mall to Southern women with too much money. He probably hates the mall, too.


happy thanksgiving to all the strangers.

Yesterday morning, I was in Starbucks (yeah, yeah, patsy for the man, blahblahblah) paying for my grande white mocha and lemon poppyseed muffin and wondering whether you would really fail a drug test from eating a poppyseed muffin, when I saw the sign that said that Starbucks would be open today, Thanksgiving day, from 7 am to 2 pm. I was incredulous. I was feeling personable, so I said to the cashier, "You're open tomorrow?" I rarely invite conversation with strangers, but indeed, I was feeling so personable that I had almost asked the girl behind the counter whether she thought eating poppyseed muffins would cause you to fail a drug test.

"Yeah," she replied, looking none too thrilled. There are many ways in which I could have responded to the idea that Starbucks was open on Thanksgiving, all of which I am sure the cashier had already heard. I could have been excited, as if a foamy cappuccino was the only thing the Pilgrims had missed. Or I could have said that it was a really good business opportunity and a great service that Starbucks was providing to those who would be out this morning. But no. My reaction?

"Man, that sucks."


"I had to work Thanksgiving day once. Swore that I would never do it again." This is true. I worked Thanksgiving once at Vintner's, after having left my parents' house at about 2 to come work. I made a whole lot of money, but was miserable serving my favorite holiday to a bunch of stupid tourists who don't know when to stay home. The next year, I put my foot down and said that I would not work Thanksgiving, and as I had been working at the restaurant longer than anyone else at that point, I didn't have to work until 10:30 Friday morning. Working on Black Friday sucks, too, but not nearly as bad. But anyway, I sympathized with the poor service industry slave now handing me my twenty-eight cents in change.

The girl looked really concerned at my vehemence. "Why? Is it that bad?"

Crap, now I'd gone and scared her, when she was already dreading it. "Oh, well, I just had to leave my family's dinner early to go to work all night, and it, uh, just really sucked." Man, I am lame.

"Oh. Well. I'll be here tomorrow."

"Good luck with that."

She gave me a forced smile in return, as if she just wanted me to get out of her store and have bad things start happening to me. She probably wanted me to go out and fail a drug test. It's good that I didn't mention that through the glory of a college degree, I now had Thanksgiving and Black Friday off, and I was getting paid for both of them. She hated me enough already without that. This is why I don't talk to strangers.

Happy Thanksgiving.


pineapple dilemma.

Wednesday nights are wine class, and therefore they're also dinner night out in Dobson for me. My class doesn't start until 7, which gives me about an hour to have a little sit-down dinner. I find that it's a good idea to go to wine class with a full stomach. Most of the restaurants in Dobson kinda suck, but I like The Lantern because it has a good salad bar. I don't generally order salad bars for dinner, but I happened to notice one night that The Lantern salad bar had everything on my ideal salad except for sunflower seeds. When the waitress told me that the ranch dressing was homemade, I was sold.

Last week, I was craving a good salad, so I went to The Lantern. My waitress was about high school aged, a friendly Southern girl who kept calling me "sweetie." Now, I'm sure I milked that Southern charm thing when I waited tables, but I felt pretty ridiculous being called that by a girl who was five years younger than I am. Whatever, she was just being nice. In a town like Dobson, most everybody knows everybody, so she probably has the right to call most of her customers pet names.

In any case, I ordered a one-trip salad bar entree and loaded up my plate with vegetables and ranch dressing. I topped the whole thing with a very generous serving of juicy pineapple chunks, and even made an effort to get extra pineapple juice, a difficult task with salad tongs. I sat back down and prepared to enjoy my ideal salad experience, spearing some lettuce and ham and pineapple on my fork.

The pineapple was sour, obviously way past its prime. Crap, crap, crap. For an anal-retentive gal like me, this was a dilemma. I had a salad full of bad pineapple. While the juice didn't seem to be enough to sour any other of the salad elements, the pineapple is what makes the salad here, folks. Even if I told the waitress about the situation and she corrected it for future salad bar patrons, I still wouldn't have any pineapple, because I had ordered only one trip. I would have to eat my salad sans pineapple.

What does not kill us makes us stronger.

I told the waitress. I waited tables for too long not to complain about something like that; salad bar items should be fresh and tasty. She thanked me and promised to fix it, then asked, "Would you like me to get you a plate of fresh pineapple for your salad, sweetie?" Oh, you lovely girl, call me "sweetie" anytime! She came back with a small plate full of pineapple, juicy and not at all sour. These are the kinds of acts that impress me about servers, because they were the kinds of things that I used to try to do for my customers. I sometimes forgot orders, I spilled water a few times, and I told a lot of jokes that nobody got, but I did try to take care of my customers. If something was wrong, I really did my darnedest to correct it. I was happy again with my salad, though I sighed when I realized that I was going to have to give this girl a really good tip, and I'm already a solid twenty percenter.

Since one trip to the salad bar is not really enough to fill me up, I generally get dessert when I eat at The Lantern. I ordered an ice cream pie that the waitress recommended. The slice was huge and rich and yummy, even though it was obviously a dessert of the pre-packaged variety. I was halfway through the pie when my waitress brought my bill and leaned in close to whisper conspiratorially, "I didn't charge you for your tea, since that dessert is so expensive." I was completely taken aback, but I somehow managed to thank her through my confusion. She must have noticed my reaction, because she came back again a couple of minutes later and said, "I didn't mean to say that you couldn't afford it, just that it's too high. It's good, but I wouldn't pay $2.95 for it." I had collected myself enough to thank her properly the second time, but the whole thing was sort of ridiculous. The dessert serving had been delicious and very generous. Plus, it was obviously a specialty item, so $2.95 seemed perfectly reasonable. I wanted to tell the girl that I used to work at places that charged upwards of six dollars for a dessert half that size.

It seemed obvious to me that the girl was trying to raise her tip. It's not an uncommon trick - it doesn't hurt the server any to give you free stuff, and you end up thanking them with cash. There are some places where you can get away with that more easily than others, depending on how tight a ship the manager of the restaurant runs and how the kitchen receives orders. But it's a crappy thing to do to your employer, and I don't like it. There were a couple of times when I accidentally gave away free desserts by forgetting to ring them up or something like that. And there were other times when I didn't keep close track of my refills for charging purposes. But I never gave away free stuff and drew attention to it to increase my tip. You want a bigger tip? Then be a better server and stop screwing over your employer. Yes, sometimes things are overpriced, and there are going to be times when you are screwed over because of it. But the people who skimp on a tip when they had to pay more than they wanted for dinner weren't going to give you much of a tip anyway.

I was torn. The girl had given very good service, maybe hovering a little more than I would have liked, but that pineapple incident was a big plus for her. But I hated to encourage that kind of behavior. I gave her $3 on my $7 check. I likely would have done that much anyway because of the pineapple. And to be fair, I don't know that she was trying to increase her tip by giving me free tea - maybe she just strongly felt that the pie was overpriced. In any case, it was my second moral dilemma in one night of eating out in Dobson. And it did not kill me, so I can only assume that I am now a stronger person for it, though I do not feel it. Right now, I'm just craving a big salad with pineapple and homemade ranch dressing.


steve's panties.

It's been recently, but sometime in the past few years, I figured out that I was a girl. I got my ears pierced at seventeen, I started carrying a pocketbook in college, I began making attempts at keeping my nails looking neat, I started accessorizing with a vengeance, I got my ears pierced a second time a few weeks back. Of course, my pocketbooks tend to be big enough to fit a whole mess of stuff, I never spend any money on keeping my nails neat, and I buy my accessories second-hand. I am a girl, but I am a sensible girl.

At some point, I decided that I was a grown-up girl, and that I made enough money to buy panties that did not come in three or six packs at Wal-Mart. I made so much money that I could afford to buy panties at outlet stores. Naturally, they would still be cotton and comfortable, and they would get nice and soft and faded in the wash, but they wouldn't be Equate or Sam's Choice or whatever.

Just in case there was any doubt at this point, yes, this story is pretty much all about female undergarments. I am not only mentioning the unmentionables, I'm talking about them at length.
I was at one of those stores that sells things name-brand and highly reduced because they're irregular or one season out of fashion or three seasons ahead of their time. TJ Maxx, Marshall's, Ross, they're all the same. I was looking through the panty selection, picking out things I liked. I noticed that several pair that I selected were the same brand, that brand being called "Steve." I thought that was pretty awesome and imaginative, calling a female undergarment company by a man's name. I giggled, because I was going to be wearing Steve's panties. I giggled again just now when I typed that. I told ya that I was a girl.

I bought a couple of pair of Steve's panties and took them home. I decided to try on my new panties, originally Steve's. I was cutting off the tag of one the pairs when I happened to look a little closer at the brand name. It had a period in it. These were not Steve's panties at all, they were St. Eve's. I don't even know who that is. Granted, I didn't know who Steve was either, but I knew a couple of Steves and a Stephen or two.

It was a terrible disappointment. And while I've since found that I really like St. Eve's panties for all the reasons that a sensible girl likes a pastel blue pair of cotton hipsters, I really kinda wish that they were Steve's panties.


three conversations.

Thing 1: Dead people.
I was sitting in church this past Sunday, and it came to the time of the big prayer in the middle of the service. The pastor was asking for requests, and various churchgoers were calling out to pray for their aunts, cousins, coworkers, etc. There was a pair of little kids sitting behind me, and I overheard this whispered conversation:

"Ooh, ooh, I know one. My friend's pappy just died."
"No! If they're already dead, you don't pray for 'em."
"No, you don't!"

And the argument continued on. By that time, the preacher had started praying, and I was sitting there giggling. You're not supposed to giggle either in prayer or when someone's pappy dies, but I think the Lord and the pappy, rest his soul, will forgive me on this one.

Thing 2: Idiots are harmful, not important, to my well-being.
There's an idiot in my wine classes. There are actually multiple idiots, but we'll just talk about one for now. We were working on a worksheet as a group, and we came across a question that used the word "detrimental." He and I then had a discussion about the word (just assume that I'm not the one saying stupid crap).

"Detrimental. Now, that means-"
"What? No, it means that it's-"
"Bad. Harmful."
"No, it means important."
"What? No, it doesn't."
"It means important."
"Detrimental does not mean important. It means harmful."
"Well, it may not mean important, but I think that's what he means here in this question."

(Sandra pauses here in the story to let the idiocy of that statement sink in.)

"I don't think we can assume that the word has another meaning when the actual meaning makes sense in the question."
"He's always messing things up. His presentations have lots of typos."

At this point, I gave up and wrote my own answer to the question while he wrote his. I then vowed never to listen to that guy again.

Thing 3: Sandra 2.0
Josh and I have this joke, one he made up to appeal to the computer dork in me, based on the way one of his friends goes through many different girlfriends that all seem to be the same girl, but with different names. The first one was named Jessica, and all subsequent girls, be they Katies or Ashleys or Lauras, are all called J2.0, J3.0, J4.0 and so on. We decided not to be bothered with their actual names, since they were really all just Jessica all over again.

Last week, this girl walked into the bar where Josh's band was playing. It was towards the end of the show. I noticed her immediately because of her superficial resemblance to me. Dark hair, check. Dorky glasses, check. Pale skin, check. Her low-slung denim skirt even revealed that she had a mole on her lower back exactly where I have one (which is eerie in itself, but probably even more eerie that I noticed it). Most importantly was her whole t-shirt and jeans kind of I-don't-care-what-you-think-because-I-know-I-am-cool attitude. Her t-shirt, bright green, read "DON'T HATE ME BECAUSE I'M AWESOME." Way too obvious for my tastes, but as far as mass-produced t-shirts go, it wasn't bad. Later, Josh and I were sitting down, having a post-show beer, watching (and judging) this girl. I instinctively didn't like her, for all the bad reasons that one girl instantly dislikes another. I leaned into Josh and asked, "Hey, is that Sandra two-point-oh?" He gave her a critical once-over and shook his head, "Baby, that's more like Sandra oh-point-two."

He can be such a sweet boy.


school bus yellow dress.

I woke up on your couch alone to that movie that I've seen already but didn't like with my school bus yellow dress revealing more of my thighs than made me comfortable, the bottom hem having shifted in my sleep, and I remembered going to sleep wrapped comfortably in the heat of your body, except now I was alone, and then I also vaguely recalled you getting up and promising me that you would be right back before I drifted back away from wakefulness, but I didn't remember when that was, and the clock on the far wall said that it was nearly 2 AM now, but the music and the light were on in the other room, so I got up from the couch, pulling my school bus yellow dress down to keep from flashing nobody, since nobody was there, and I tread softly to the doorway that made the entrance to the room that was the source of the light and the music, and I saw you there, your back to me, facing your laptop on the card table and writing, and I hated to disturb you when you were working, but I did want you and your attention, so I knocked only lightly on the door and leaned sleepily against the doorframe, hoping that my drowsiness would endear you to me and make you forgive me for interrupting, and you turned, looking guilty for having abandoned me on the couch, claiming insomnia and making a joke in reference to a tiny detail that I told you once about my childhood, showing me that you do listen to me, but then you took me gently in your arms and told me about the song you were writing about my school bus yellow dress, and I was happy.