Saturday, December 10, 2011

Christmas Shopping in Brrrrmidji

Yesterday we had two running around things to accomplish, in opposite directions. We had to go to Fosston to pick up the van, which had spent the night at Carco getting its pre-winter check-up done. And we had to deposit some money in the bank somewhere. After picking up the van, Joe took the little girls home, and I continued on in the car to do the banking. But first, I had to decide where to go. Fosston has no Wells Fargo, so my banking options were to drive 48 miles back north into Thief River Falls to deposit the money there, and then pick up a few things at Wal-Mart; or continue east on US 2 into Bemidji, about another 45 miles, but then be able to catch a variety of stores. It may seem a no-brainer to head into Bemidji with its relative multitude of shops, and it being a few miles closer to Fosston. But if I went into Bemidji, I’d have to drive about 75 miles home after shopping; whereas if I went into TRF, I would be only 25 miles from home at the end of the day.

What to do...what to do...

I don’t generally indulge in unplanned trips to the ”big city” (especially unattended by little ones). But it is Christmas season. And I felt the draw of Bemidji’s Goodwill. So I headed in that direction. It was a nice day for a drive anyway; cold, but crisply clear with a sparkling blue sky.

I wanted to get to the bank by 3:00, so my deposit would go in before the weekend, but I was cutting it kind of close. I pushed it as much as I dared. Since I got a written warning a few weeks ago, compliments of Officer Norland of the Minnesota State Patrol, I’ve been a bit more cautious of late. I pulled into the bank parking lot at 2:55, but there was a hold up in the bank (3:00 on a Friday...I should have known) and I stood in line for almost ten minutes.

When my turn finally arrived, I immediately asked if it was too late for a deposit to go in before the weekend. The teller said that yes, it was. But that I could put it in the ATM until 9:00pm, and it would be credited immediately. Whew. A little luck.

Or maybe not.

I may have mentioned a time or two that I’m a certified techno-phobe. We finally got debit cards just a few months ago; and I felt very cool and accomplished after I learned how to slide it through the little gizmo and sign my name. But the ATM, now that I’ve never done. Really. Never. Well, that’s not quite true. About three months ago, in Grand Forks, they had a promotion for the new envelope free deposit. If I tried out the machine, I’d get a dollar to deposit, just to try it out. The teller there gave me my complimentary dollar and then patiently took me out to the ATM in the entry, and walked me through the process. Oh, OK, easy, cheesy. No sweat. Nothing to fear.

So, there I was, three months later, in the drive through lane, about to do it all on my own. Take a few cleansing breaths, Mary, you can do it...

Oh, no! What’s my PIN number? Shoot, shoot, shoot. Didn’t I write it down somewhere? Ummm, of the kid's birthdays? my childhood pet? favorite hymn? Grrr. I drew a complete and utter blank. Well, there was nobody behind me, so I decided to dig through my purse and try to engage my brain. I remembered writing it down. Another thing I’m very poor with is remembering numbers, so yes, if you ever rob me, you’ll probably find a few PINs or passwords. But you’ll have to figure out which goes to what. They are not labeled. I'm so sure...I'm not THAT dumb!

I took a few minutes to dig through the month's worth of receipts and the miscellaneous detritus of a mother’s purse. I guess it needed cleaned out anyway. Oops, a car pulled in behind me....I pulled into a parking spot until I could figure it out.

Well, it’s too late to make a long story short. I ended up going inside again, and waiting in line again, and ashamedly confessing to the teller what a misfit I am, since I don’t even know how to use the ATM. She kindly and patiently helped me to set a new password,...and suddenly...excellent timing...I remembered the old one. Hmmm. So I simply re-entered the old one, so my new one is my old one. I remembered it long enough to complete the transaction once I was back out in the drive through.  It remains to be seen how long it will stay in my brain without being dislodged by some factoid of more pressing import.

Nice start to my afternoon of shopping.

By then it was 3:30, and I had wasted half an hour. But besides that... drat... I ought to have remembered, the middle school buses come in a swarm at that time of day past the west exit of the parking lot. After waiting for what felt like 40 buses to pass, I was finally once again on my way. But it did leave me wondering...If I only come to Bemidji about four or five times a year, and if it seems like I always get caught waiting for the buses at that particular parking lot exit at that particular time of day, does it imply that I’m always rushing to get to the bank before 3:00, and always arriving late?

At any rate, off to Goodwill and Twice But Nice. I’m not telling what I got there, but let’s just say it was probably too much...

(No books, though, Char, or small appliances; you’d have been proud of me. They did have a Braun immersion blender I picked up, and hemmed and hawed over. It’s nice to have an extra one around if a previously purchased second-hand one goes on the fritz. But I put it back, since I was Christmas shopping; strangely none of my kids has an immersion blender on their wish list.)

After cleaning out the second hand stores, I scurried across the street to Ben Franklin, simply because I love looking at fabric and yarn. But I didn’t buy any. Really. I was a good girl. There was lots of very cool yarn that I would have loved to buy. There was even one of those free promotional patterns for a very pretty plush afghan. But it took 11 skeins of yard, and the yarn around which the pattern was designed was $6.00 a skein. A $66 afghan? Really? Do regular people really have that much money to spend on yarn? I was stunned. I seriously can’t even imagine. I’m so penny pinching that it almost kills me to buy the multi colored yarns that switch from one color to another throughout the skein, because they are smaller skeins for the same price as the larger solid-colored skeins.

After doing that quick and very deflating calculation, I returned to the car empty handed, and moved on to Target and Wal-mart. I didn’t get much at Target, but I like that dollar section at the front of the store. I can always find some sort of doodads with which to fill the “box of tricks” I keep in my basement.

OK, now here’s a confession, it's embarrassing.  But this made me really mad, so I have to tell you about it. After that whole frustrating altercation with the teller machine earlier, wasting half an hour of my limited time in town, my debit card wasn’t even accepted at Wal-Mart. I didn’t spend that much!!! I know the money was in there! Why would they tell me that if I used the stupid ATM, the money would be immediately available, if it isn’t going to be?!? I’m going to have to call the TRF bank this morning and figure it out. It was very frustrating. I wrote a check, so it was not really a big deal. But still...Embarrassing!

By the time I wended my way through the milling crowds of holiday, Friday-evening Target and Wal-Mart shoppers it was, predictably, much later than I had wanted to stay in town. I still needed to put gas on the car and get a cup of coffee for the drive home. (Did any of you notice the strange preposition in that last sentence? Now tell me, who puts gas on a car? It would just run off, wouldn’t it? You put the gas in the car. Except if you live in Minnesota, you put gas on the car. Don’t ask me. I can’t explain it. I’ve lived in Minnesota for a total of eighteen years now, and it still sounds strange enough to me that I have to interject this little explanation into my post, so that any non-Minnesotans reading this don’t think it’s a typo.)

Now where was I? Oh, yes, gas and coffee. I pulled into the Murphy USA adjacent to Wal-Mart, and filled up. I got back in the car while I let it fill, which I’ve learned the hard way is a bit risky when the temps are low. When I first moved to Northern Minnesota, I once let about 8 gallons of gas overflow onto the pavement, because it was too cold to trigger the turn-the-pump-off thing. Strange but true. That little sign that warns you not to leave the pump unattended while filling, it’s for a purpose, and now I know. I still get in the car if it’s cold, but I keep my eyes on the pump. And when the number of gallons going in approaches the number I expect the car to need, I keep a close eye on the nozzle.

Last night my luck held and no gas was spilled. But when I went in to pay for the gas, I remembered that this particular gas station doesn’t have hot coffee. I make this mistake at least once a winter. I should know better. I ought to have filled up at that place several miles out of town. But once I hit the road, I don’t like to stop.

So I still needed coffee. I gave into all the pent-up frustrations of the day, and indulged in a Caribou Coffee. It was really handy, and I felt like I needed a little treat.

Finally, 7:00, and I was just heading home. I had hoped to be home in time for a late supper. I didn’t leave any instructions for Joe, so I felt a little negligent. And for some reason both our cell phones were missing when I left home earlier; so I had no way to call and check on how everyone was doing on the home front. (Not going to mentioned any names, but after the kids got home from the basketball game last night, I asked about the phones. A certain one of them happened to have them both. You know who you are...)

The drive home went quickly. It started out with John Denver’s Thank God I'm a Country Boy, which you may find hoaky, but it’s one of my favorite songs. Between the happy song and the warm fancy coffee, I was feeling a bit revved up. Glad to be heading home, happy with my purchases, always ready for a little road trip. That lasted about half way home until I heard a song that made me cry. Hey, it’s OK. It's been all of about two weeks since I’ve had a good car cry. I was due.

It was Clay Walker's The Chain of Love. Again, perhaps hoaky. Maybe I'm waxing maudlin in my old age.  I saw on Wikipedia that when it was originally released, one reviewer called it sickly sweet.

But I loved this song. Really loved it.

Really, really love it.

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