Live in the Service Economy
Elvis reports: “Subject: Life today.
“Elvis was in a mid-sized city in Wisconsin, and his mother’s cellphone battery was dying. He offered to head to the cellphone store and just get a new phone, but Mom likes this one and knows how to use it.
“Elvis looked up local cellphone-repair services, and found only one. Mom said it must have just opened, since she had not noticed it in the small strip mall next to her grocery store.
“Yesterday, Elvis called them up and, instead of getting connected to the local store, discovered it is a franchise or chain, and Elvis was connected to an operator with a foreign accent, who said yes, they could fix the phone, and with parts and labor it would be $30. We could either walk in (and, said the operator, possibly wait up to four hours) or book an appointment that would take about 45 minutes.
“Elvis called Mom back, and she agreed that an appointment the next day would be good. Elvis went online and registered on the site, supplied the contact information, went through drop-down menus and clicked on the problem, and selected the model of the phone. He booked a 10 a.m. appointment for the next morning.
“Today, Elvis had an email reminder about his upcoming appointment and a required step to respond and confirm he was coming in. The reply came right back, along with an estimated repair cost of $63. Mom showed up, and we headed to the store.
“We walked into the store under a big ‘NOW OPEN’ banner. The room was only a large wooden counter, with a computer screen. One wall had rows of phone cases and screen protectors; the other, monitors showing services performed. In the rear was a frosted glass wall, floor to ceiling. Lots of logos and names of the store. No other customers were in the store.
“Soon a person came out from the rear and asked us what we needed. We said we had a 10 a.m. appointment for this battery to be replaced. He walked back behind the wall, out of sight. We could hear him talking to someone else, but not what was being said. He returned and started working on the computer. After a few minutes, he excused himself and walked back behind the wall again.
“When he returned, he said: ‘We don’t have this battery in stock. It will take five to six days to get one here to the store. Would you like to come back?’ We must have looked a bit amazed that we had gotten this far and they didn’t have the battery. The store clerk said that if we needed it to be done immediately, we should go try Batteries Plus.
“Elvis asked him to look up the price, since we had had the quote of $63, wondering if we should wait. The person said it would in fact be $30. Elvis asked if the other store would know how to replace the battery. The person replied that these types were basically ‘plug and play.’ Elvis asked if we could order one online and just install it ourselves. There was a pause, and the person said:’In theory, yes.’
“Elvis looked at his mom and asked what she wanted to do. She said we should try Batteries Plus. Elvis asked both of them where that store was located, and the person said he didn’t know; he didn’t live here. Elvis‘s mom said she thought she knew where it was.
“Back in the car, Elvis tried looking the battery store up and couldn’t locate one, but Mom said it was close. But an auto-parts store had moved into the location when we got to where it had been.
“Elvis powered off Mom’s phone and was able to open the back case with his fingers. There was the battery, and indeed it appears that it would easily be removed and a new one inserted. We drove home, and Elvis got online, and we will have overnight delivery drop the right battery off at Mom’s house for a total of $12.19 plus tax.
“Tomorrow we will see if this all works as planned, and it will probably take about five minutes. Elvis is guessing that the new cellphone store in town probably won’t be in business long — or at the minimum they should figure out free overnight delivery when they don’t have a battery.”
The vision thing
Dennis from Eagan reports: “Subject: A classic Vlasic!
“It was definitely a memorable Memorial Day luncheon this year. My burger was not going away without sporting a game-face that would hopefully change my mind on devouring it.”
Our “micro-trees,” ourselves
All Hail Division
Gregory J. of Dayton’s Bluff: “There are people who run outside after a hailstorm to gather up hailstones, photograph them, post the photos on social media, and then store the hailstones in their freezer. I’m not one of those people, at least not normally.
“However, on May 19th Dayton’s Bluff was the recipient of the largest hail I’ve ever seen in my neighborhood, so I did all the above — except for posting the photos, because too many other people had beaten me to it.
“After a couple of days, the novelty had worn off and I was about to toss the plastic cup full of hail that was taking up space in the freezer. But then I noticed something. When the frozen mass of hail was removed from the cup and inverted, it resembled, you guessed it, a small tree.
“With only a few modifications and the addition of an ice-cube star on the top, I hereby present my first, and I’m sure last, hail tree. For scale, the largest piece of hail is approximately 1-1/2 inches in diameter. For reference, a golf ball is 1.68 inches in diameter.
“And in case anyone is wondering, yes, the photo was taken in the freezer — but that is a rather long and boring story.”
Our birds, ourselves (responsorial)
In reply to Gregory of the North‘s story of a screen-bashing bird, here’s LeftCoaster: “Subject: I, too, have a bird that keeps trying to get into my house.
“Actually, in my situation, it’s a window that he continually pecks. I have a little hexagonal window near my front door, with camellia trees just outside for his convenience.
“What a racket he made the first time I heard him. It took me a few minutes to locate the noise and witness the excitement. He flies up to the window, pecks aggressively at it, drops down and then reappears to peck some more. If I stand by the window, he disappears into the camellia and then always flies off to the neighbor’s roof, perhaps to compose or congratulate himself. This has been happening for at least six weeks.
“My conclusion? He’s competing fiercely with that handsome male reflected in my window. Thank goodness it’s a sturdy little window.
“He’s either a California Scrub-Jay or a Steller’s Jay. Perhaps that says it all.”
LeftCoaster again, shortly thereafter: “Right after I sent that note to you, I heard the loud, staccato pecking on my window. I ran to try to figure out which kind of jay he was. I think it’s a Scrub, but that bugger comes up from below the window, smacks his beak a couple of times, then sinks down below the window again. He repeats it about three times, and then I can see him rustling the camellia leaves and, lickety split, he’s off to my neighbor’s house with a loud squawk of victory and vanquishment.”
hear well with competing noise.
“We were visiting our son in Upstate New York this past week. On a drive to one of the Finger Lakes for a vineyard visit, the direction lady on the phone said: ‘In 800 feet, turn left on Stupid Street.’ This is what I heard, but we had the AC cranked.
“I asked my wife in the back seat what she had heard. ‘Turn left on Stupid Street,’ she said.
“I then asked our much younger son, and he said: ‘Turn left on Steuben Street.'”
Life as we know it
Rivermouse: “Subject: In the wilderness.
“My hubby and I left the Cities at the beginning of 2020 — yes! PRE-COVID! —to experience semi-rural life before we were too frail to manage its rigors. I, Rivermouse, finally made it to the riverfront full-time!
“One of the joys of our new lifestyle is that we succeeded in establishing a 3,000-square-foot plot of a cultivar of ancient intermediate wheatgrass, trademarked Kernza. I had discovered Kernza’s marvelous 10-foot-deep bushy roots at the Minnesota State Fair.
“The University of Minnesota has since produced a version with larger seeds, trademarked MN-Clearwater. MN‐Clearwater, the ‘First Food‐Grade Intermediate Wheatgrass (Kernza Perennial Grain) Cultivar’ (The Land Institute). Farmers — mostly Minnesotans — are growing these cultivars with the goal of replacing the soil-disturbing, carbon-releasing tillage of annual wheat with no-till perennial wheat. I am growing Kernza to control erosion of our steeply sloped, sandy soil without blocking our beautiful view of the river.
“Because we planted in November, we suffered the agony of what seemed to be the complete failure of our crop in our first growing season.
“Kernza emerged in our second season (Oh! The joy!), but in thickets of non-Kernza vegetation — all of which we hand-pulled (Oh! The pain!). Since then, our Kernza has been covering our plot densely, with no chemicals or irrigation needed. Bonus: Unidentified wildlife seemed to enjoy it this past winter as much as we do.
“A second joy is that I began monitoring a wildlife camera last year for the Wisconsin DNR — but that is a story for another day.”
Websites of the Day (responsorial)
The Daughter of the Gram With a Thousand Rules: “I enjoyed reading Kathy S.‘s BB entry on May 21. One of the videos she shared was about why dandelions are good for your lawn.
“I wish my mother and father had heard of this amazing theory back in my childhood. I ain’t pollen your leg, and I ain’t dande-lyin’, be-leaf me; this entry sprouted a lot of punny memories from my budding youth.
“My dad and my mom, The Gram With a Thousand Rules, would make me and my five siblings dig out the emerging dandelions from our large suburban lawn every spring. This task had to be accomplished when the first of the tiny yellow buds would appear. It would not do to have the dandelions go to seed and propagate any further. Heaven forbid you would dare to blow on a white puffball anywhere in the vicinity of our entire block. Down at the park, way down the street, fine, send the seeds flying. But there must never be any chance of seeds scattering and growing into a white puffball on OUR lush, green lawn.
“The yearly ritual would begin with my mom handing each of us an old, reused ice-cream bucket. There were always multiple, tall stacks of these plastic buckets in our basement laundry room. Those golden gems were used in oh so many ways, and for totally diverse tasks: washing cars, holding bulbs buried in dirt to winter-over in the cool damp basement, filling with strawberries in summer, mixing papier-mâché or cement for projects, picking rocks (that’s a whole other lawn-related story) and, of course, the worst task a plastic pail can be relegated to: the dreaded sick-bed bucket”. I always wished that those barf-bucket pails wouldn’t end up back in the rotation and get reused. But when your parents grew up in the Depression era, well, ‘it’s too good of a pail to throw out.’
“So, when D-Day arrived (Dandelion Destruction Day) and you were handed the cold, thin, metal, finger-circulation-cutting pail handle (these were the days before wide plastic comfort handles), you always knew better than to sniff the inside of that bucket. Because there was no way it was going to still smell good like vanilla or strawberry ice cream. Next, you would either get handed a small hand trowel, or, if you were very lucky, one of the highly coveted fork-type digging tools that looked like it had a hammer claw on the end of it. Now, the number one eradication rule was that you had to dig out the dandelion deep into the root for it to count to your total. No snapped-off heads or partial leaf material would be considered. The best result was to get out ALL of the root. Any true Minnesotan can attest to the fact that dandelion roots are very stubborn and go very far down, many, many inches down, down, into the soil. The quest for the longest root often ended in a fast and abrupt fall backwards onto one’s bum, when the dandelion would finally release and pop out completely from your efforts. I often looked around at these moments wondering how many of the neighborhood noseys were laughing at us, watching in amusement as one after the other of our tribe of half a dozen kids would fall onto our butts again and again while digging away. My brother Benj, being very bright, would just work from the sitting-down position, but I never could get the leverage right and didn’t want to risk the dreaded snap off of the dandelion at the base of the grass.
“When you finally filled your bucket to the very top with weeds, you could go show it to mom and get ‘paid.’ I use the term ‘paid’ only in the broadest sense, because as we soon discovered, the payment was actually two or three wildlife stamps that mom may have received inside a magazine or mailer. While stickers were a novelty in our house and the animals depicted on the stamps were pretty, they were still of no monetary value at all (even in our sibling barter system of trade-ups). So the older siblings caught on faster than us younger kids, and soon made themselves scarce and unavailable on the dreaded Dandelion Day.
“One spring before the first weedy yellow buds even appeared, and some stubborn snow was still piled in shadowy corners of the yard, my mom gave me a copy of one of her favorite books, ‘Dandelion Cottage.’ I have enclosed a picture of the cover here.
“I still treasure it and have it on my bookshelf all the way out here in Hawaii. The story is delightful, chronicling the adventures of four young girls tasked with digging all the dandelions out from the lawn of an abandoned cottage on their block, in exchange for getting to use the house as a playhouse for the summer. The story is set in a northern Michigan neighborhood on Lake Superior, but it could have been our suburban Twin Cities setting in my mind. I’m sure Mom wanted to share this fun book with me knowing how I loved to read and knowing that I needed to branch out from rereading ‘Little House on the Prairie’ or ‘The Boxcar Children’ for the hundredth time. But I also have a sneaking suspicion that it was supposed to get me excited to dig out the dandelions once again. Since it was now down to just Benj and me digging, she might have hoped the book would inspire good results. Alas, after finishing the book, instead of motivating me to work on our own lawn, I actually spent weeks out in the neighborhood on scouting missions, scouring the blocks around our home for abandoned cottages ready for a young girl such as myself to rehab and play house in. Sadly, there was not one empty run-down place to be found and claimed — only lots of occupied ramblers with lawns now full of white puff balls tempting us to blow on them and make wishes . . . but of course, that activity did not occur anywhere near OUR yard.
“Aloha, and thank you for the delight BB brings to my parents, my ohana and so many others who get to enjoy it!”
Last-Tuesday email from Kathy S. of St. Paul: “Subject: Trying to help the world, one child at a time.
“The news is pretty scary lately, with huge issues that we can’t fix on our own. But as relatives with multiple kids had to evacuate their home for some days due to a wildfire in the Southwest, I sprang into action. Once they were back home, I shipped some small toys to the kids, from pre-K on up. I’m told they played with them all evening. Yay!
“Never underestimate the power of totally unexpected toys.”
Later that day, again from Kathy S.: “Subject: A wish for the children.
“On the day of another school shooting, a wish:
“May all children and their world be safe from hate, war and people with broken souls.”
Ramblin’ Rose, “sadly”: “Subject: The Picture.
“I was going to reflect on the loss of over one million Americans to COVID, but then the horror happened in Uvalde, and I just didn’t know what to say.
“My thoughts went back to a submission you printed after the terror at the Pulse nightclub.
“This same photo says it better than I ever could.
“How many more?”
Our theater of seasons
Mounds View Swede writes again: “Subject: Five spring blossoms.
“I have not forgotten the Bulletin Board reader friends, though I have not contributed anything for a while. I was busy dealing with a younger brother
who was sick and dying. He lived in a house we owned in southwestern Minnesota, so we had a lot of driving to do — not only to see him, but to deal with the house and his belongings. That pretty much took up March and April. April wasn’t very pretty for photos, anyway, though I did take a set to record the light snowfalls we had here.
“When May arrived with weather that was decent for plants, things started to grow. I stopped by a neighbor’s garden to see their tulips and enjoyed the variety of blossoms there. They were much different from the more standard ones I grew up with.
“I’m not sure this is a tulip [Bulletin Board says: Our Official Master Gardener informs us that it’s an iris], but the rest of the photos are.
“It was such a relief for me to see buds and leaves on the trees, too. I would look out our back window and just smile as I saw the greening trees and the variety of green colors they had.”
Joy of Juxtaposition
Bill of the river lake reports: “On local TV this morning, I watched consecutive commercials that somehow caught my attention. The first was a Menards ad for roof shingles. This was followed by a medical ad touting a treatment for a painful skin ailment: shingles.
“One gives safety and house protection, and the other protects your hide.
“Guess this just about covers it . . . .”
Joy of Juxtaposition
Comics Page Division
The Retired Pedagogue of Arden Hills: “These appeared in the Comics section of the Pioneer Press on May 20.
Fun facts to know and tell (responsorial)
Semi-Legend: “John in Highland‘s disquisition on ‘The Ballad of Easy Rider’ reminded me of ‘Uneasy Rider,’ Charlie Daniels’s hit from 1973.”
Mounds View Swede
Our birds, ourselves
Our birds, ourselves
Doris G of Randolph, Minnesota: “Female oriole finding nesting supplies.”
The Permanent Fraternal Record
KH of White Bear Lake writes: “Subject: The Ultimate Search Engine.
“My brothers mow a lot of grass. One mows an 18-hole golf course. The other mows his own lot, and those of others, in an area where 5-acre lots are standard. The orchards and vineyard I mow with my walk-behind mower amount to only about 100 acres a year, so I’m not taken seriously when it comes to discussions about mowing.
“So this morning, when we awoke to these three guests in our backyard bed-and-breakfast (they help themselves to the raspberry foliage when they roll out of bed), I knew I needed help from the experts.
“I texted my brothers this photo and asked: ‘How am I supposed to mow my lawn?’
“One brother responded with something about venison. I was a little disappointed with his response. It’s not that I don’t like venison, but that it seemed more like a hunter’s reply than a mower’s reply. The other brother said: ‘I just mow around them, they don’t sleep in the same spot twice.’
“Over 40 years, they have never failed to provide answers to my questions. Notice I didn’t say good answers. I don’t recall either of them ever attending college, but they’ve both attained a B.S. degree in, well, B.S. If they both die before I do, I’ll have to relent and install Google on my phone. But for the time being, that seems superfluous.”
The Doryman of Prescott, Wisconsin: “The latest cartoon in my head:
“The drawing shows two longhorn steers at the head of the herd on a cattle drive. One says to the other: ‘These cowboys take such great care of us. I wonder what’s in it for them.'”
Everyone’s a copy editor!
Red’s Offspring, north of St. Paul: “Subject: Interesting headline; accuracy — not so much.
“Page 4B of the Sports section in the 5-24 edition of the Pioneer Press features a photo of David Ortiz celebrating his election into the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
“These are the headline and subhead for the accompanying article:
“‘Ortiz says life has changed since hall-of-fame vote’
“‘Former Twins star proud to be Cooperstown-bound’
“The subhead was what caught my eye, because:
“(1) The Twins are never mentioned in the article.
“(2) If Big Papi had been a ‘star’ for the Twins, they would never have traded him to the Red Sox.”
Everyone’s a copy editor
Semi-Legend: “Subject: Twins manager writes STrib headline.
“The Minneapolis paper quoted Twins manager Rocco Baldelli: ‘”I’m hopeful that we’ll be able to just keep 14 pitchers for the rest of the year. I’m hopeful,” he said. “I don’t ask for many headlines, but ‘Manager hopeful to keep 14 pitchers’ would be not one I would be opposed to seeing. Please put that out there somewhere.”‘
“Sure enough, the headline above the story in the print edition read: ‘Manager hopeful to keep 14 pitchers.'”
“The skipper wrote that headline himself, with an MLB limit to keep rosters to 13 pitchers approaching next week.”
Ask Bulletin Board
The Retired Pedagogue of Arden Hills: “I come to you, great seer, sage, soothsayer, all-knowing, all-seeing, all-omniscient — wait, that’s Carnac . . .
“My question is prompted by an article headlined ‘Baldelli thrilled to keep using 14 pitchers,’ on Page C3 in Friday’s STrib.
“An excerpt: ‘MLB’s new rule limiting teams to 13 pitchers on their 26-man roster, set aside for two months out of injury concerns because of a shortened spring training, was supposed to go into effect on Monday. But MLB and the players union agreed Thursday to begin enforcing the rule on June 20 instead.’
“This is my question: Why is there a rule limiting the number of pitchers on a major-league roster?
“The NFL has no limit on the number of quarterbacks.
“The NHL has no limit on the number of defensemen.
“The NBA has no limit on the number of point guards. [Bulletin Board smart-alecks: We’ve always assumed that there was a two-point-guard limit — which would explain why the Minnesota Timberwolves, having chosen two point guards (Ricky Rubio and Jonny Flynn) with overall picks 5 and 6 in the 2009 NBA draft, were unable to draft Steph Curry, who went to the Golden State Warriors with pick number 7.]
“If a major-league team wants to load up on pitchers while sacrificing position players, shouldn’t that be their decision?
“Are the decision makers worried that one team will have so many pitchers that the others will suffer?
“I await your enlightenment.”
BULLETIN BOARD SAYS: We have no Earthly idea.
Band Name of the Day: Stupid Street — or: The Neighborhood Noseys
Website of the Day: Kernza