Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Looking for Orange Juice-- Not Comedy

Every so often at my house, we have breakfast for dinner. Scrambled eggs, toast, hash browns—you get the idea. (And no, on those days we don’t have dinner for breakfast.) A couple of nights ago was one of our breakfast nights and as soon as the yolks hit the frying pan it occurred to us that we had no orange juice.  In order to avert this potential tragedy, I ran screaming from the house into my car and headed to the nearest convenience store. (The screaming wasn’t so much about the orange juice, as it was about the stubbing of a toe on the way out the door.)

The closest place to us that sells orange juice is a CVS located about a quarter of a mile from our home. So that’s where I headed with all due haste, since the eggs were frying and there was no time to waste.* I got a spot right in front of the store and trotted in. I quickly grabbed a bottle of Tropicana and headed to the checkout area, happy to see that there were no other customers around. “Great,” I thought, “I’ll be in and out of the store quickly.”

As I approached the counter, orange juice in hand, the cashier—an older, rumpled looking gentleman—said, “Are you old enough to buy that?”

“Uh, what?” I said, not quite sure I heard him correctly.

“I said, are you old enough to buy that orange juice? You better have some ID on you, son,” he said with a crooked smile.

Suddenly it dawned on me that he was attempting to engage in witty banter. I figured I’d give a quick rejoinder, grab my o.j. and get out of there.

“Oh no, don’t worry, it’s not for me. That stuff gives me the shakes.” Satisfied, sir? I played along with you there.

“Okay, because I don’t want to be responsible for what might happen to you if you drink too much of that.”

At this, I just smiled and nodded, thinking, “Ho, ho! You’re a crackup. Now ring me up, so I can be on my merry freaking way.”

But the man kept on going—making lame jokes about my CVS discount and telling me that he wanted me to come back later to give him one of the mimosas he was certain I would soon be making. So frazzled was I by his incessant attempt at amusing small talk that I ended up entering the wrong pin number into the machine, which only brought on a new barrage of sub-Carrot Top-level one-liners.

Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, but probably only amounted to three minutes, I managed to get out of there with my orange juice—even as the barbs kept on being hurled toward me while I was walking away.

My first thought as I left the store was, “Sheesh! Is it really too much to ask to get in and out of a convenience store quickly? That’s the whole point of calling it a CONVENIENCE store! Having to wait through a Vegas lounge act when I’m just trying to buy a bottle of juice isn’t what I’d call convenient.”

Then, as I pondered the situation some more it occurred to me that the cashier, standing at a register in an empty store on a Saturday night, was probably bored out of his mind. Joking around with me was probably just his way to break up the monotony. And maybe I was the one being the jerk by not engaging with him more.

When I got back home, our breakfast-dinner (a.k.a. “brinner”) was not quite ready yet, so it turned out that in the end, the clerk’s feeble jesting really cost me nothing at all.

“Hmmm. Maybe I should bring the guy a mimosa after all,” I thought. But then I realized I didn’t have any champagne, and the last thing I had any interest in doing was interacting with a liquor store clerk.

*Rhyming unintentional  

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Email Reveals Surprise Dutch Treat

Recently, while emptying my Junk E-mail folder at work, I came across one email that stopped me during my deleting frenzy.  The email subject was simply “Dear Andrew J Schwartzberg” and it was from “Dutch Law Firms.” I opened it and read the following:

Dear Andrew J Schwartzberg,

I am a Citizen of Netherlands and a Personal Attorney to Late Engr. Roxon Schwartzberg; I need your assistance in repatriate the funds left behind by my client. (Late Eng. Roxon Schwartzberg), before he died with his entire family. He deposited One Trunk Box/Diplomatic Personal Treasure, containing the sum of $12,752,000.00 with a security company here in Netherlands,

Every attempt to trace any member of his family has proven unsuccessful and abortive.

I'll give you more information upon your response to this plan with your full name, address and direct telephone.


Advocaat Netherlands
(Attorney at Law)
(Personal Attorney to Late Engr, Roxon Schwartzberg) Friday, January 17, 2014

I was quite intrigued by this electronic missive from Mr. Advocaat Netherlands (an odd name to be sure, but hey, he’s Dutch) and wondered how it was that I never knew I had relatives in that part of the world. And I was deeply saddened that at the same moment that I learned of my Dutch relatives, I also learned that they simultaneously met a cataclysmic end. Indeed, morbid though it may be, I found myself wondering how that entire branch of the family all perished at once. Did it have something to do with Roxon’s job as an engineer?  Was he tinkering in his basement workshop when KABLAM! the whole house went up in smoke?  Or did Roxon go berserk, wipe out his entire family with a wooden shoe and then turn the clog on himself?  Or maybe they went out to dinner one fateful night and all succumbed to tainted sushi.

Of course, whatever caused the untimely deaths of Roxon and his entire family no longer mattered. What’s done is done and I was now left to deal with the financial ramifications. It seemed odd that Roxon would choose to place $12,752,000 into a Trunk Box (presumably half trunk, half box) rather than have it spread across various bank accounts and investments, but Roxon was kin and I trusted him implicitly. The only real question that remained was what to do with that kind of money.

As a grant writer, the first thing that came to mind when I saw the eight-figure sum I had coming to me was to use it all to start a foundation on behalf of the deceased—The Roxon Schwartzberg Foundation.  The tricky part, however, is that I would want to distribute the money to the causes that Roxon held close to his heart, but I have no idea what those were.  Would he want to save the rainforests? Or find a cure to eczema?  Or provide honorariums to starving puppeteers?  Without knowing Roxon’s wishes I could potentially do more harm to his legacy than good.  For example, if I distributed funds to the Jane Goodall Institute, but it turned out that Roxon had a deep-seated fear of chimpanzees, I would never be able to live with myself. No, well-meaning though it might be, starting a foundation with these millions would cause too much of an ethical dilemma.

My next thought was that I could use these funds as seed money to start an engineering firm in Roxon’s honor. But, of course, this idea poses the same type of problem as the previous one. I don’t know what kind of engineer Roxon was. Was he an automotive engineer? A computer engineer? A structural engineer? A biomedical engineer? There are dozens of possibilities and the reality is that I struggle with long division, so no matter what type of engineer he was, I may not be the most qualified to start an engineering firm.

Finally, I thought it might be best for me to spend the money on a Samsung 85-inch Ultra HD TV, a 2014 Porsche 918 Spyder, and 300,000 Kit Kats.  And the more I thought about this, the more I realized that Roxon would have wanted it that way.

Of course, the first step is to get a flight over to Amsterdam to claim what’s rightfully mine.  Once I have the money in hand I’ll not only be able to make all the purchases I mentioned above, but will also be able to pay for a separate trip to Africa to claim the additional monies I have coming to me from a Nigerian prince.

Looks like 2014 is going to be a VERY prosperous year!