ooops Dad


On Tuesday I received this text from DJ, my oldest daughter, who is away at college:

So I brought this dress for our next two sorority events and I accidentally put it on your credit card

I’m wondering how that happened…

Did the card fall out of her wallet and accidentally get lodged in the chip reader???

You accidentally spill your lemonade.  You accidentally break a vase, like when Greg and Peter Brady tossed the basketball inside the house and then didn’t tell their mom because Peter was afraid she wouldn’t let him go on his first camping trip with the guys.  That’s an accident!

DJ emphasized in a follow-up conversation that she could wear the dress TWICE!  I don’t understand how that is connected to the inadvertent charge.

And besides, is wearing a garment two times supposed to make me feel better?  I buy a suit and wear it weekly for decades.  My $500 purchase averages out to about 48 cents per wear.  Her $150 dress?  $75 each time she puts in on.  What’s up with that?

She told me not to worry about the charge, that we could discuss it when she is home for fall break.  That’s called a stall tactic.  She knows I’ll be so glad to see her in two weeks that I’ll forgive her “mistake” and pay for the frickin’ frock.

I’m such a pushover.

A Costco Virgin

costco man shopping

For years my brother-in-law has touted the wonderfulness of Costco. To hear him describe it, this zenith of shopping makes Walmart look like a bodega.

He calls me on Saturdays like Monty Hall from Let’s Make a Deal. His voice starts low and quickly raises to an enthusiastic taunt: “Iiiiii’mmmmm at Costco, do you need anything?”

“I don’t know…” I get flustered, it’s so overwhelming. “Maybe chicken… and a dress shirt.”

From what he tells me, they have everything. However, I struggle with the concept of purchasing my poultry from the same place I purchase my polyester. And furthermore, what’s up with paying a fee to shop? Why would I fork out money simply to go spend more money? What if I get in there and can’t find anything I want or need? I guess that’s impossible since they have “EVERYTHING.”

Although I’d been assured I would fall in love with this merchandise mecca, I just couldn’t get over the idea of paying to go shop. I don’t even like to shop!

Well, Uncle Matt and Aunt Sallie took care of all that this Christmas. Yes, they splurged. And now, I am a card carrying member of THE warehouse store.

I didn’t want to squander my first visit, so I worked hard to prepare. I made a list of items that I needed for the next two weeks. I put on comfortable shoes and made sure I had my debit card (I’d been warned that my VISA would be frowned upon at the Cost Saving Empire).

I’ll have to admit, I was proud as I approached the double doored entrance, the membership card checker clad in her red apron. This place has standards, I thought to myself. Not just anyone can come in here. This might be nice. I wouldn’t be slumming around with every Tom, Dick and Harry in Raleigh. Nah, this was exclusive. My membership dues were paid – and now it was my right to go inside and spend as much money as I wanted! No one, NO ONE, could stop me.

On the first aisle, I purchased enough snacks to last the kids to graduation: thirty six containers of pudding and enough fruit cups to fill a bathtub. Which, incidentally, is where I’m probably going to have to store them.

costco baconI needed lunch meat but all I could find was a triple package of sliced ham. There was so much, I could have made sandwiches for the entire family for two weeks and still had enough left over to wallpaper the dining room. The same was true for the bacon. I think it sold in four pound bundles. If you put the strips end to end you could wrap yourself in it and spend Halloween as a pork mummy.

They had a box with 33,000 Kleenex inside. Imagine the snot that you’d need to produce to use all of that.

costco samplerAnd samples! On almost every aisle, there were Costcoians cooking up finger foods for us to enjoy: Chinese dumplings, various types of pizza, cheese, bread, hummus with garlic and hummus without.

My next trip will be on a lonely Saturday night. I’m going to dress up and pretend I’m at a cocktail party, maybe sneak in a flask to complete the fantasy.

“Hey Danny, what you doing on Saturday night?”

“I got plans…fancy cocktail party. They’re serving brie and salmon patties.”

One of the servers had to be in her late eighties. She was dishing out meatballs. I walked up to her station. As she scooped the beef into the little paper cup, she just kept repeating: “These balls would be great for your holiday party. Try one today.” Over and over – and yet I was the only one standing there.

She appeared to be human and yet, perhaps she was some sort of bizarre windup toy, like a little old lady music box. I looked behind her for a crank – nothing. I’m guessing she’s still standing there encouraging folks to serve her savory balls at their New Year’s Eve bash.

I didn’t leave empty handed. I purchased some of the hummus (with garlic – really, really good), a Chinese dinner entree, three of those thin crust pizzas and some chicken; and $200 worth of pudding and fruit cups.

But – I didn’t get the dress shirt.

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Are those Huskie jeans you’re wearing?

DJ came home from shopping with her Nana last week.  She’d mentioned to me several times that she could use a new pair of rain boots.  I’d found several pair at Target and had offered to make that purchase.  She was unappreciative of my effort. Apparently her feet had more expensive taste than my tight fist was willing to plunk out.  She “needed” Hunter boots – a mere $120, plus tax.
“Are you planning to move to a Rainforest?” I questioned.  “We don’t exactly have monsoon season here in Raleigh.”
“Dad – our campus is huge!  When it rains I get soaked!”
Had she transferred to The University of Portland and not informed me?  “The campus is 20 acres and you walk on two of them.  Besides, I offered to buy you boots.”
“Those Target boots would fall apart after I wore them five times!”
It’s interesting how concerned my eldest daugther has become with the quality of merchandise over the past couple of years. 
“So, assuming it rains 15 times this year, I could buy you three pair of Target boots and still save $75.  I’m willing to take my chances on the Bullseye brand.”
Luckily for DJ, her Nana has a taste for the finer things in life and a looser grip on her checkbook.  Although to hear Jesse tell it, that was not always the case.
Apparently my sister-in-law, Sallie, once wanted a Lilly Pulitzer jumper, very stylish in the 80’s.  Nana didn’t buy one; instead she made it!  I’m sure you could hardly tell the difference.
I went on-line to see if I could figure out how to make shoes for the kids.  I got to step 27 and decided it was just too complicated:

Step #27: Preparing to sew your upper to your sole.

When I was growing up, my dad was no better than I am now.  Perhaps that’s where I learned it.  The only alligator seen in my house was when Peter Pan was on the Wonderful World of Disney.  None were on my clothing. 

 When all of my friends were sporting Polo shirts in high school, my gift boxes were packed with a cart pulling mule on the front pocket.  My dad couldn’t tell the difference, although every girl I might ever consider taking on a date could. 
I remember working and finally saving up enough money to buy one of those fancy shirts with the pocket pony.  My mother and I walked into Nowell‘s at Cross Creek Mall.  There was a stack of Polo’s higher than the Princess and the Pea’s mattresses.  I was nervous, my palms sweaty.  I had to make the right decision.  This might be the only one I ever owned.
The sales clerk pulled down a huge bundle folded ever so neatly.  He looked down his nose through his bifocaled glasses as if he were Ralph Lauren himself.  As I unfolded the one I thought I might want, navy with thin forrest green stripes and a red horse, a piece of tissue paper gently floated to the floor.   
This is class, I thought to myself.  This is how the other half live, and I like it.
I do understand how she feels.  My parents sent me to school in JC Penney Huskie blue jeans as a kid.  I guess Nowell’s didn’t sell plus sizes. If you want your child to get beat up, toss him on a school  bus to Walker Spivey Elementary wearing chubby clothes from Penney’s.  It’ll work every time. 
If I recall, there was a hippopotomus embroidered on the back pocket. 
Lisa would have bought her the boots.  When she died, she wrote five rules for the girls to follow.  One was:  “Gang up on dad when needed.” When I asked her what she meant by that, she said, “There are times when the girls are going to want to do something, and you’re going to be too cheap or too protective to let them.  When that happens, I want them all to gang up on you and make you do what I would have done.  If there is a great pair of $300 shoes that will make DJ’s prom dress the coolest at the dance, buy them for her!” Easy to say when you’re not looking private school tuition and twelve years of college in the face. 
I probably made the wrong decision on the boots.  Thank goodness for Nana. 

Procrastination Payback


Posted by Danny

It pains me to go to the mall in December – today, I am in agony.

It had to be done.  I have children who will not get presents this year because of my procrastination.  So I mustered up what little patience I had and I forged toward shopping hell. 

It started in the parking deck.  A weekend day the week before Christmas and not one parking place was open.  The Ford Expeditions crammed into the compact car spaces like clowns in a circus car; Chevrolets circling like vultures.

I spotted my prey.  Two older ladies, bags in hand, headed toward their car.  I turned my blinker on and positioned the Acura as to block anyone who might remotely consider jumping ahead of me.  The traffic behind me backing up – the horn blowing began.

And the two ladies, who clearly saw me waiting, what did they do?  I believe they styled each others hair and wrote a thesis paper.  HOW LONG CAN IT TAKE TO THROW THREE BAGS IN A CAR AND BACK OUT OF A PARKING PLACE?  It is a simple task.  I do it often.  I do it with three children.  I’ve done it with kids in three car seats and faster than the snail girls.

I had to pop a Xanax before I entered the food court.

I headed straight for the Kids’ Gap and quickly collected my booty.  I know what I want – don’t need to browse.

I then got in the line to check out.  I was customer number eight.  There were two registers open.  Because everything in the store was 40% off, each customer had 27 or more items. 

Unfortunately, each Gap employee had foregone their flu shot and instead received a vaccination that combats efficiency.  As the 27 items were placed on the counter, they slowly removed them for each hanger and began to fold them, individually and with care.  They then scanned the items with the vigor of Rumpelstiltskin and struck up nice conversations with each person they encountered. 

“Oh, I love this dress.  I bought it for my daughter too.”  Areyou going to start discussing Water for Elephants?  This is not a book club!  Stop talking and move! 

Near the end of her transaction, customer 4 remembered to ask the clerk if they had any more black boots.  There was a walkie-talkie conversation, followed by a three-day waiting period.  Finally a young gentleman, who should have been working at the auto parts store, emerged to share the sad news that they were out of size 2 1/2.  “She could probably wear a 3.” 

If you don’t get your butt out of my way I’m going to choke you with a ruffled cardigan.

The clerk at the other registered encouraged customer 6 to open a charge account.  She said she would get 10% off today, special online offers, early admittance to sales and a partridge in a pair tree.  The staff must get a $6,000 bonus if they open a charge card – she was selling it hard.  I think she would have done a pole dance in the dressing room if I’d have opened one.

I’ll pay the 10% if you will NOT open the account.  I am going to have an aneurism.

I finally got through the gauntlet and was headed out of the store when my bag set of an alarm that could evacuate a seven mile radius around the Sharon Harris Nuclear Plant.  And customer 4 was looking at me like “I’m not surprised Mr. Speedy.  You just slipped some extra stuff in there didn’t cha?”

I went back to the register where they called my auto parts buddy.  He dug through my bags, frisked me and the kids and did a quick cavity search.  I probably forgot to remove one of those beepers they put in one of my kids’ pants, the sewn in kind – happens all the time with us.  We walk through the mall, and it’s like an alarm handbell choir.

Good lord I’m tired.  At least Michelle just wants a box for Christmas.  I think I can handle that.

Shopping Tips from Dad

purple, the new black??

Posted by Danny

I love school uniforms.  I’m not as concerned about the value of leveling the playing field for all students as I am for the simplicity of getting dressed each morning, although I’m sure both reasons have merit.

This is the first year ever that one of my kids did not have to wear a polyester outfit five days a week throughout the school year.  DJ, at a new high school, has the freedom to wear pretty much anything she wants to wear.  And you know what that means…according to her, she is grossly lacking fashion options.

So, we hit the Streets at Southpoint mall a week ago.

I used to go into a store and look for a nice bench to rest my feet.  But I noticed that most girls who are shopping have someone else with them to help pick things out and to give opinions.  I see lots of moms and daughters laughing or arguing at the mall.  I love to laugh, and I’m learning to spar.  I thought to myself, “I can do this!  I can shop with a 14-year-old.”

I’m sort of a clothes horse myself, although I specialize in dress shirts and bow ties.  I wondered if I could apply my Nowell’s experience to the Urban Outfitters.

To my surprise, I found that I really got into helping DJ lug stuff around the store, and I was not short on opinions.  I found myself saying things like:

“You can’t wear linen after Labor Day.  That’s a BIG no-no.  That would have to be for next year.”


“I like the scoop neckline on that dress.  The V neck isn’t flattering to your complexion.”  I’m not sure that made sense but I liked the round one better and complexion sounded very shoppy.

Or ,

“That’s cute but you don’t have any shoes to go with that outfit.  We’re gonna have to hit Nordstrom.”

I even caught myself pointing out that “Purple is the new black,” although I made that up because I couldn’t find DJ’s size except in purple (if any of you hear me asking if my pants make my butt look big, you have permission to smack me).

It makes me sad to realize that Lisa can’t be there to go into the dressing room with my girls to help them zip things up and argue with them about the appropriateness of their dress length.  Instead, they have a dorky father waiting by the door ready to give an opinion that can’t possible hold any level of credibility. 

“Dad, what do you think?”

“I think it is defective – your butt is hanging out.  It has a negative inseam.  Take it off and I’ll report it to the sales clerk.” 

I realize that the primary reasons DJ is still  willing to shop with me are because I represent both transportation and VISA.  But regardless of the reasons, I just like to spend time with her – even if it is in the overly perfumed, semi-naked postered Abercrombie and Fitch.

And the one benefit my shopping philosophy has over Lisa’s for the girls?  After two hours I’ll buy anything regardless of the look or price.  120 minutes and I’m done – there becomes no price too high for my freedom.

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