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“Oh, it’s terrible! The King has been transformed! Please find the Magic Wand so we can change him back.”

November 27, 2010, 4:31 PM

First of all, I admit – the title doesn’t mean much in relation to this entry, except that it perhaps reflects that I’ve been playing too much Super Mario Bros. 3 on my Super Nintendo lately. Regardless, this Journal entry has been a long time in coming, since this is about a trip I took to Stuarts Draft two weeks ago. All I have to say is, hey, I’ve been busy. But it’s also somewhat fitting that I post this entry this weekend, since this was “Thanksgiving” with the parents a couple of weeks ahead of the holiday. Traffic is a real pain, you see, and this obviates the need to mess with it. Have you ever driven US 29 in Virginia on Thanksgiving weekend? It’s no walk in the park.

On Friday the 12th, after driving perhaps a shade too fast the whole way down, I arrived at Stuarts Draft Middle School. After all, Mom was there, and I hadn’t seen her new classroom yet. Mom was recently switched from sixth to eighth grade, and so she moved rooms as a result, from Room 24 to Room 1. And here it is:

Mom's new classroom, Room 1

All I have to say is, those chairs should have “ultra-hard” written all over them. Seriously, those chairs just look like torture devices, as they just look like they have no give to them whatsoever, and thus would be uncomfortable. And allegedly, those are the Cadillac of student chairs. Sometimes, “nicer” does not mean “better”. Give me your standard-issue stackable plastic chair any day over these.

Otherwise, however, notice the non-standard position of the HVAC unit. Normally, these units are on the same wall as the door, near the rear of the room. Why this particular room has the HVAC unit on the other wall is beyond me, but this room is a little unusual anyway, in that it has a hollow metal door with a fire rating and a closing arm rather than a wood door like most SDMS classrooms. I should check rooms 33 and 34, science classrooms on the same corridor on the opposite side of the school with similar fire-rated doors, to see if their HVAC units are in a non-standard location as well.

Then of course, Mom had this tape dispenser:

Mom's tape dispenser

I don’t care that the dog is holding up the end of the tape. What do dogs do when they lift their leg? They lift their leg to go to the bathroom, that’s what. Mom said that was a bit “inappropriate”, but, well, it’s true. And I illustrated it:

Mom's tape dispenser leaving a "surprise" on the desk

Dog making a mess all over Mom’s desk. Someone should tell that dog that he’s not supposed to do that indoors.

Then otherwise, Mom and I got to talk to a few of Mom’s students. I mentioned that I was breaking two school rules, and for the students to guess what they were. Mom said, “Sitting on the desk,” to which I responded, “Okay, three.” The ones I was thinking about were that I had my cell phone on (a no-no for the kids), and I was wearing my hat (and as we all know, hats are not allowed in school). Yeah, it’s good to be an adult. Plus don’t forget that I’m on a first-name basis with many of the adults there now, except for the ones I had when I was there (i.e. Mrs. Byrd is still Mrs. Byrd).

Then on the way out, I got a shot of the “Magic Triangle”:

The "Magic Triangle"

No one knows exactly what makes this triangle so magic, but that’s what we called it back in 1992-1993. I’m sure a few people will get a kick out of seeing this again…

Then getting home, Mom and I were going through some stuff, and we unearthed the old black-and-white portable television that we got in like 1990 or so. Knowing that the United States had switched over to digital television, I suggested that Mom get rid of the television, since it was quite analog and wouldn’t be able to get any signals anymore. Mom decided to plug it up and see, and wouldn’t you know it:

The television actually picked up a signal!

I was like, “…the hell?” We managed to get a few different stations, actually, though who knew what they were. One of them was showing Oprah. Go figure.

Then later, I got together with Katie, and we went out for a bit. First thing we did was troll our ex-Walmart store. What’s weird is that there are so few people left from our days there, and the store has since undergone a remodel, and so it almost seems like a random Walmart store than “our” ex-Walmart store. But that didn’t mean we could troll it any less. Best moment was in the garden center, which was set up to sell Christmas crap. Along the racks on one side was a display of inflatable lawn ornaments, and there was also a boombox playing Christmas melodies. I got to do something I always wanted to do – kill the annoying music. After all, when one worked there, one couldn’t kill the music for fear of getting a “coaching” (Walmart-speak for getting written up). But Walmart can’t “coach” a customer. So off with the music. In one swift motion, I reached up and undid what I believed was the boombox. And here was the result:

I killed the entire row of inflatables!

The music stopped, and I also managed to inadvertently kill the entire row of inflatable lawn ornaments. SCORE! I was totally not expecting that. The garden employees, who were watching from a distance, actually thanked me for the peace and quiet (me: “at your service!”). Katie, meanwhile, was yelling at me for sabotaging the display. So there you go, I suppose.

Meanwhile, going back to Katie’s house later, I was quite surprised to see her new exercise bike:

Hmmm, where have we seen that before?

Hmmm, where have we seen that before? Oh, yes… here. I have one exactly like it at my house. And we ended up with identical exercise bikes independently of each other. Weeeeeird…

Then the next day, Mom and I headed over to Staunton Mall. We went to JCPenney, and I got shirts:

Trying on a shirt

And we got a Foursquare discount, too, getting an additional $10 off of our purchase for checking in. This is also where we find out that Stuarts Draft, etc. is way less hip on things than DC is. See, Katie and I went to the mall when we were out on Friday. Then Mom and I went on Saturday. I “checked in” on Foursquare wherever we went. I left Staunton Mall on Saturday as the mayor of all three anchor stores – JCPenney, Peebles, and Belk. Either it means that no one bothers to go to Staunton Mall anymore (a distinct possibility, mind you), or no one is cool enough to be on Foursquare down that way. That or all the people who are cool enough to be on Foursquare don’t patronize Staunton Mall (also a very distinct possibility).

And Staunton Mall still has a number of gaping holes in it, most notably this:

This is the former Books-A-Million space, and two years after BAM moved to Waynesboro, it's still vacant, and it's not likely to get filled any time soon.

This is the former Books-A-Million space, and two years after BAM moved to Waynesboro, it’s still vacant, and it’s not likely to get filled any time soon. So let’s quickly account for vacancies. The old KB Toys space is still vacant after that chain died in early 2009. The old Piece Goods Store space (next to JCPenney) has been vacant for more than a decade. The old Montgomery Ward space is empty again after Steve and Barry’s vacated it in 2008. The old Goody’s space is now a Gold’s Gym, which does not utilize its mall entrance except as a fire exit. Then there are a lot of other vacancies in the smaller spaces. And then none of the stores that are left have even bothered to remodel in more than a decade. Seriously, Belk, for one, has never remodeled since we first came to the area in 1992. Then Peebles has never remodeled since it came to the mall in 1998 (and that was only a signage and merchandise change from the previous tenant – they did no remodeling of their own), and JCPenney hasn’t remodeled since around 1997. Even little Bath and Body Works hasn’t updated its store since it opened in 1999 or so. All of these stores look pretty rough after more than a decade without any updates. I guess they’re all just waiting for the other shoe to drop and for someone to finally decide to redevelop the mall.

Then Mom and I went to Costco on Sunday. A trip to Costco is always fun, especially when finding a spelling error on a package to make fun of:

I’m sorry, but if you won’t even make the effort to do a spelling and grammar check on your product’s packaging before you send it out, I’m not buying. Likewise, in the real world, if you mess up your spelling and punctuation, not only will you look like an idiot, but the Internet will make fun of you. After all, we are legion.

And then in leaving Costco, this bit of corporate dishonesty:

About why they check receipts

Come on folks, who are you trying to fool? We all know why you check everyone’s purchases against their receipts at the door. We know that you know why you check everyone’s purchases against their receipts at the door. Admit it – it is for loss prevention. You don’t want people walking out the door with stuff that they didn’t pay for. Let’s be honest here, people. That’s like how every voice-equipped door alarm on stores that goes off for no reason is always, “I’m sorry, apparently we forgot to deactivate your merchandise.” No one buys that excuse. Forget it. They should just say, “We have reason to believe you may have stolen something. Please step back and assume the position.” After all, they would probably gladly pat you down if they could get away with it. Just once, I would love to see someone hack one of those things, and replace the recorded message with the soundbite that Randi Rhodes uses about Homeland Security: “Oh, Randi, my queen, I’m here for the body cavity search!” That would at least be more honest than pretending that they think it’s at all their fault. After all, if they’re so bad at removing inventory tags that they have to make a canned message for it, why not just skip the added effort and do away with the tags, since it’s obviously pointless busywork that the employees are bad at anyway, no? I never thought I’d say it, but Walmart’s is probably the closest to what they really mean with their “We’re sorry, you have activated Walmart’s inventory control system,” message. Again, I would love to see someone hack that with the supplied Randi Rhodes soundbite.

And then the trip back was uneventful. All in all, not a bad trip, and this sure beats the hell out of Thanksgiving weekend traffic. Plus we went for Japanese on Saturday night, and that was fun.

Web site: New Belk logo, and I guarantee you it will be at least 2014 before Staunton gets updated.

Song: Someone is playing remarkably bad music somewhere in my apartment building, and it's loud enough that I can hear it in here...

Quote: Of course, let's admit that the whole idea of those expensive inventory control systems is security theater to begin with. To actually nab someone, they have to watch the person from start to finish and they have to leave the store. That bell that goes off is irrelevant when dealing with real shoplifters. When I worked at Walmart, loss prevention straight up told us that they would occasionally tell the greeters to let people go when the bell goes off. So why have it?