A Classic Bait-and-Switch

Caveate Emptor
(Let the Buyer Beware)

I included this bit of wisdom in a post to Judy Dykstra brown and she was so thrilled to learn a new expression she even wrote a post on the topic. 🙂 Click here to read it.

Her reply jogged my memory. I recall an experience I had on this one myself years ago, when we were living in Montréal. And since today’s Word Press prompt word is infuse, I’ll use this example of a time where I was infused with righteous indignation.

One fine summer day…

He was standing at the entry to one of Montréal’s métro stations. Early thirties, I’d guess, rather shabby in appearance — hardly your ‘up-and-coming enterpreneur’ look — with a small bouquet of flowers in his outstretched hand. “Pretty flowers. Two dollars,” he called to the mass of people passing. The crowd, hurrying to catch the trains, ignored him.

I was part of this human tide flowing into the subway entrance, but when I saw him I paused. Yes, the flowers were pretty, neatly wrapped and ready to go. Plus he really looked like he could use the money, so I opened my purse.

When he saw me step closer and start fishing for the money, he held out the flowers so I could get a good look at them. The bouquet, which even included a rose, was colourful and fresh as a daisy. “Just two dollars,” he repeated.

He took the coin I handed him and I reached for the bouquet — but he was quick. Pulling back the flowers in his one hand, with the other he scooped up a similar bouquet from a bucket beside him, wrapped so you could just see the flowers, and held it out to me. The flowers appeared identical so I grabbed it, nodded my thanks and joined the crowd headed for the trains.

After I took my seat on the subway car I took a closer look at my purchase. Oh.

This bouquet’s best-before date passed yesterday — or the day before. The outer rose petals were withered; the mum blooms were fringed with a bit of brown; the greenery appeared a little wilted. NOT just like the one he was holding out for inspection.

As I thought about the switch he’d pulled I was infused with indignation. What a rotten trick! And a sense of injustice. The man’s dishonest — a cheat! Wounded pride. I’ve been had! Okay, it was only $2, but still… And embarrassment. I should have been watching. I should have protested when I saw him make the switch.

By the time I’d arrived back at the house, I’d decided to let it go. If he was a cheat, it would be on his conscience; I wasn’t going to lose sleep over it. I’d cut my losses — along with the flower stems — and move on.

I trimmed the stems right away, stuck the flowers in warm water and revived those I could. The mums and greenery perked up well for a few more days; the rose was too far gone. And after all, I’d only lost $2. Not worth grinding my teeth about.

I chalked it up to a relatively cheap lesson in life. Economics 101: o caveat emptor!

The Lily Bulb Rescue

My story started at the end of February 2010, a few weeks after our local Walmart received a shipment of spring bulbs. The bulbs had been packed in wood shavings and sealed in plastic bags with small air holes so they wouldn’t mould. The bags came in colourful display boxes so customers could admire the potential flowers and hopefully purchase the bulbs.

But it was still winter. Those bulbs should have been stored in a dark, cool place for another two months, but when they arrived at Walmart they were put on display in a warm, light environment. After a week or so they decided it must be spring and started sending out shoots.

Around two weeks later I happened to be in Walmart and wandered over to the display. A mental alarm bell started ringing, warning me to keep away from anything living – like plants. I already had a couple of African Violet “rescues” at home blooming their hearts out. But, drawn by the appealing colours, I yielded to temptation and checked out the lily bulbs.

I picked up several packages and examined them. This is a no-no for me, because I know what shape Walmart seasonal plants are often in: sadly neglected and suffering. And these definitely were.

By this time the shoots were from three to six inches long and reaching for light in whatever direction it could be found, hampered by those tiny bags. Some stems had grown a few inches, hit the end of the bag and turned around in a U. Some snaked like an S. They’d all grown as far as they possibly could and their topmost leaves, crammed up against plastic, would soon start to rot. It amazed me that the store hadn’t discounted them yet.

Seeing things like this always irks me. In most of these huge marts plants have a certain time to sell – a time when some effort is put forth to keep them alive – but after that initial period if it lives it lives; if it dies it dies. (Which is why I came to carry home some bedraggled looking African violets another day.) I know it’s business as usual, but these are living things. They need some care. And if things start to go south, put the plants on sale and move them out as soon as possible. Rotting leaves don’t make for an attractive display.

Okay. I have a soft heart and/or a weak mind. I searched through the plastic bags and found the bulbs with the longest, kinkiest, shoots, the ones most in danger of being hopelessly deformed. I did limit myself to three bags, though – three dozen bulbs – and carried them to the cashier, wondering all the while if I should get into therapy. When I got them home I immediately opened the packages to give the poor leaves a reprieve from the threat of mould.

Now what? It would be at least another month until I would even see the garden (now under four feet of snow.) I couldn’t leave the bulbs sit until then. Fortunately I had a bag of peat moss on hand and half a bag of potting soil, so I got a basin and mixed up a batch of soil, hunted up some old plastic pots and planted the things. When I ran out of pots, I found a stack of disposable plastic tumblers in the cupboard, and employed them in my rescue operation.

It wasn’t very easy to plant the bulbs, as kinky as their shoots were. I had to weigh down some of the pots so the heavy shoots hanging upside down over the edge wouldn’t pull the whole pot over. But I planted all thirty-six and set them in our wide, cool windowsill where they’d get the morning sun.

A couple of weeks went by and the shoots slowly reoriented themselves toward the light. Some remained a bit kinky at the base, but most of them straightened up nicely. About eight weeks later I planted them in the garden, wondering how they’d take the chilly spring nights. They held up well; every last one survived and grew into a nice, upright plant.

In July they bloomed – and they were gorgeous! I took a bouquet to the seniors’ home and the folks marvelled at their beauty, their colour and scent. One lady who was visiting there the next day called me to ask what variety they were. She thought I must have purchased some really special collection.

I told her, “Yes, in fact I did.” And she laughed when I told her about their “upbringing.”

Word Press daily prompt word: Reprieve

The Fire That Changed Her Name

One evening in Hull, England, Maud and her mum decided to go to the “flicks” (silent movies) — and see Norma Talmadge in Camille. Maud says that wonderful actress “could really turn on their waterworks.” While they were sobbing trough tear-jerking scenes at the theatre, another “scene” was rolling at their home, one that would change their lives forever.

The house had been shut up and some washing, set in front of the fireplace to dry, caught on fire. At least this was the conclusion they came to. The fire smouldered until Maud’s  father had come home from his club and opened the front door. Fresh oxygen fed the blaze and hot flames flashed out at him. It was too late to save anything; the interior of the house was an inferno.

After the movie, as Maud and her mother got closer to their street, they saw “a huge orange cloud lighting up the sky.” They began to run and soon realized the awful truth: their house was the one burning! Several red fire engines raced by them and stopped in front of their house. Firemen piled out and dragged hoses along, pumping water from a tank on one of the trucks.

Panicked, Maud and her mom ran toward their home. A crowd had already gathered. Maud was determined to rush in and save some of their belongings but one of the firemen caught her as she reached the door and put paid to that idea. So she stood outside with the others and watched the house burn, feeling herself the heroine of a great drama. She hated to lose their piano but wasn’t sad about all the old trinkets and whatnot her mum had collected over the years.

After the fire her mother decided to stay with her maternal grandparents, the Waites, who lived nearby, until the house could be restored. Maud could have joined them but some of her school friends were offering her a place to stay and that had a lot more appeal. Maud found being an only child rather boring, and had no qualms about accepting when best friend Phyllis Holmes invited her to come live with them awhile.

Here was a family where there would always be some action going on! Phyllis’ older sister, Cathy, was engaged to be married. She also had three brothers: Ted, the oldest, was an organ builder in Scotland; Harry was a cowboy on a ranch in somewhere out in the wilds of western Canada; Noel, still living at home, was an office worker. Phyllis, three years older than Maud, was an incurable romantic and a tease. She’d often say, “Just wait till Harry sees you. I’m sure he’ll fall for you!”

Phyllis did Maud a great favour while she was living at their home. Maud had always hated her name, especially when pronounced with a broad Yorkshire “u” — and even more when folks called her Maudie. Yuck! One evening she and Phyllis went to the theatre to see Peg O’ My Heart. Afterward Phyllis said, “She’s just like you! From now on you’re not Maud, you’re Peggy, and I’m never going to call you anything else.”

Maud — now Peggy — was delighted. She had some qualms about telling her parents, though, and her name change did indeed bring on a major row when she informed them, but they finally gave in and she was Peggy ever after. Some years later when she moved to Alberta with her husband, she was so thankful Phyllis had dubbed her Peggy, since it seemed every mule in Canada was called Maud. 🙂

You see, when Phyllis’ brother Harry came home from western Canada on a visit, he changed Peggy’s last name to Holmes and took her off to the bush country north of Edmonton, Alberta, to live on his homestead. 🙂

That proved to be a very useful fire indeed.

Word Press daily prompt: qualms

A United Defense

Blackbirds sound the alarm
warn the neighbors of a robbing
raven who dares drift over, checking
menu offerings in the nests.

Two, three, four parents rally
to the defense, dive-bomb the foe.
No slackers here; from every field
they rise to the cry, on guard
for home and fledglings dear.

The fighter jet swallows soar
into attack mode; even a passing seagull
joins the effort. All together, resistant,
insistent, they chase the marauding foe.

I watched, amazed. What teamwork!
We should be so smart.

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Word Press daily prompt: Collaboration

The Poet in the Park

I posted this story when the Daily Post writing challenge was to write about any topic, but your post must include a cat, a bowl of soup, and a beach towel. And today’s prompt word is pursue, so here’s the tale of a poet pursuing the perfect verse.

I wander through the park on this beautiful morning, making my way to one of my favorite places in the whole world. Oh, good! My favorite bench is free. I like this one where I’m sheltered by the maples overhead. After all, the sun’s rays aren’t good for a person, so we’re told, and at my age I have to be careful.

I set my sunhat on the bench beside me and rummage through my handbag for my pen and notebook. I’m a poet, so I always carry a notebook. I relax and breathe in the inspiration around me. This agreeable spot, surrounded by the plush lawn, is so conducive to the task at hand. I need to write a poem for my blog — so why not do one about this beautiful day.

At the top of the first blank page I write, Ode to a Summer’s Day.

Scratch that. Sounds too cliché. Maybe I should rather start with something like, “I wandered lonely through the park…” I’m not really lonely, though. In fact I’m quite happy to be alone, pursuing my muse.

I hear a rustle, glance down and see a mouse poke its nose out from under a bush. “Wee tim’rous beastie,” I quote. “Your best-laid plans will go sadly awry if you don’t beat it.” The mouse trembles a bit and retreats back into the shrubbery. I return to pursuing a line of thought suitable for this perfect day.

“What is so rare as a day in July?” Hmm… Rings a bell. Has it already been done — or something like it? Anyway, what rhymes with “July”? (I insist my poems rhyme; I find free verse so undisciplined.) Birds fly; awry; my eye. “A day in July gone awry…a bird just dropped in my eye….”  Nope. Scratch that.

I gaze at the treetops above me. Oh, to be a tree top, caressing the sky, I write, then ponder the phrase. Now that has potential! And I may be able to work July in here after all.

I look down and see a cat nosing around by the bush. See there, mouse. Aren’t you glad I saved your bacon? If I hadn’t scared you, you’d have ventured out and been toast.

“SCAT!” I say to the cat, stamping my foot. It appears well enough fed already and besides, I detest the sights and sounds of slaughter. Unaesthetic—not conducive to producing pleasant poems.

I hear a “throb, throb, throb” coming down the path toward me and look up. Ah, some ‘band in a box’ escorted by two teenage girls. I frown, hoping they are only passing by and will do so promptly.

No such luck! They leave the path and stroll out on the lawn not far from me. One of them shouts at the other, “Here’s a neat spot. Let’s stretch out here.”

Oh, brother! It would be neat if you’d shut off that radio. I feel my bench vibrate from the deep bass throbs and I write in my book, “Thunder rolls across the sky; the earth trembles. The powers that be are shaken.”

They unroll two beach towels and, baring as much as legally can be, they stretch out. Exposing their bodies to the harmful effects of the sun’s rays, not to mention the leers and comments of males passing by. And loving every minute of it.

Well, since I can no longer meditate on the stillness of this beautiful day, perhaps I could go get some lunch while they and their boom-box occupy this spot. There’s a neat little Bistro on LaMontagne Avenue that serves an excellent bowl of Vichyssoise, my favorite soup, together with herbed croutons. Perfect for a hot day, together with thé glacé. Which is iced tea, but I prefer the French ambience.

Perhaps I’ll stop by the Library after to brush up on Emily Dickinson. She might have something inspiring to say about a summer day. Hopefully when I get back the girls will have fried and gone.

As I walk away a picture flashes in my mind. I smile as I think back to the sunny summer days of my teens, when my friends and I spent hours browning ourselves in the warm sun. Neither we nor our mothers had ever heard of dangerous ultraviolet rays back then.

Forget the ode to a summer day. Over lunch I’m going to compose a poem about the joys of youth.

My thoughts go back to those two teenage girls and I wonder what their names are and where they live? Do they have a concerned mother like I had? Has anyone told them about ultraviolet rays and skin cancer? Has someone explained to them that there are sharks in the pool of Life, that you need to protect yourself in more ways than one? Do they know where they’re going in life and how to get there?

Really, I’m sure they didn’t mean to disturb my musings. Will they just think me a nosy old busy-body if I try visiting with them?

I turn around and make my way back to my favorite bench, pausing to nod and say “Hello” to them as I pass. Lunch can wait; the Vichyssoise won’t get any colder

Christine G — Reposted from July 2014

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The Way of a Wife

by Edgar Guest

She wasn’t hungry, so she said.
A salad and a cup of tea
was all she felt that she could eat,
but it was different with me.
“I’m rather hungry,” I replied.
“If you don’t mind, I think I’ll take
some oysters to begin with
and a good old-fashioned sirloin steak.”

Now wives are curious in this—
to make the statement blunt and straight—
there’s nothing tempts their appetites
like food upon another’s plate.
And when those oysters six appeared
she looked at them and said to me,
“Just let me try one, will you, dear?”
And right away she swallowed three.

On came the steak and promptly she
exclaimed, “Oh my that looks so good!
I think I’d like a bit of it.”
(The game is one I understood.)
I cut her off a healthy piece
and never whimpered when she said,
“Now just a few potatoes, dear,”
and also, “Let me share your bread.”

She wasn’t hungry! She’d refused
the food I had been glad to buy,
but on the meal which came for me
I know she turned a hungry eye.
She never cares for much to eat,
she’s dainty in her choice, I’ll state,
but she gets ravenous enough
to eat whatever’s on my plate.

From his book Collected Verse of Edgar A Guest
© 1934 by the Reilly & Lee Company

Word Press daily prompt: Better

The Old, Old Story

by Edgar Guest

I have no wish to rail at fate,
and vow that I’m unfairly treated;
I do not give vent to my hate
because at times I am defeated.
Life has its ups and downs, I know,
But tell me why should people say
whenever after fish I go:
“You should have been here yesterday”?

It is my luck always to strike
a day when there is nothing doing,
when neither perch nor bass nor pike
my bated hooks will come a-wooing.
Must I a day late always be?
When not a nibble comes my way
must someone always say to me,
“We caught a bunch here yesterday”?

I am not prone to discontent,
nor over-zealous now to climb;
if victory is not yet meant
for me I’ll calmly bide my time.
but I should like just once to go
out fishing on some lake or bay
and not have someone mutter: “Oh,
you should have been here yesterday!”

From his book, Collected Verse of Edgar A Guest
c. 1934 by The Reilly & Lee Company

Word Press daily prompt: none