Can You Bring Your Dog into Walmart?

Today I was in a rush at lunchtime. I needed to get some camping stuff for this weekend so I ran into Walmart. Lucky for me, this was an advanced Walmart, completed with a Subway inside, so I was able to shop and get food in one swipe. Guided by my stomach, I grabbed a wrap to-go in advance of my upcoming Walmart adventure.

I hadn’t been to a Subway in a long time. I used to go to Subway all of the time, which is evident of me having a whole category on this site. I was excited during the veggie phase of sandwich design and I blurted out the usual – ‘lettuce, tomatoes, and all 3 peppers’. “Whoa whoa whoa! YOU went too fast for me. What did you want on it again? I missed that!” the Sandwich Artist scolded me. I had failed in my subway ordering. Lucky for me, that wouldn’t be the highlight of this trip.

Now, normally I wouldn’t carry hot food with me as I shopped inside of a store, but I was in a hurry. Being in a hurry gives you license to do unreasonable things. I would soon find that nothing that was about to happen was normal.

With Subway wrap in tow, I happened to followed a man and his son around the store to the sports section of Walmart and wondered if they were going camping too.

As we rounded the area with all of the medicines and housewares (you know where I am), a dog suddenly lunged at the little boy! “Gemma! Hold that leash like I showed ya!” The mother yelled from behind the display in the center aisle while she loaded some ceramic candle holders into the cart. Her daughter who was not doing well at controlling her Labrador. The man and the boy were startled, but they laughed nervously as they went the long way around the aisle. They didn’t seem too concerned about a dog being at Walmart.

I was concerned about the attack dog being at Walmart. I steered clear of the snarling white Lab as it continued to erratically jerk the 70 lb girl around. “Give that leash here Gemma!” mom yelled.

I assumed the dog was a service animal and didn’t think anything of it at first, but this dog was not wearing a thunder jacket with “SERVICE ANIMAL DO NOT TOUCH” written on the side. Instead this dog had big teeth with “WHAT THE HELL AM I DOING HERE?” written in his eyes. I watched the mongrel shake the girl like a rag doll while her able-bodied mom continued to yell at her. My last assumption was that this was some sort of court ordered comfort animal that helped shelter the girl and her mom from retail social anxiety. I sure did a good job of keeping people from talking to them at Walmart.

The gears in my mind continued to try to make sense of what was happening. Nothing about that dog was comforting or serviceable. It was out of control. Was it bring your pet to the store day? Or was Walmart starting to allow pets into stores? These are probably mystery answers you would only know if you sign up for the Walmart email list.

I’m a dog person, so I wasn’t that scared of a dog in the store. People say they are a ‘dog person’ when they secretly hate cats. Did you know if you died in your house a cat will waste no time eating your corpse? If you die in your house with a dog, the dog will call 911 and then open the safe with his mouth and pull out your last will and testament and hand it to the probate judge. A cat will have sneak into your safe before authorities arrive and change the will, ensuring they end up with everything.

As I thought about all of these things I had reached the camping section without incident. I reached out to check the citronella candles and left a smear of southwest chipotle sauce all over the candle. I found in my other hand a quarter of a Subway wrap, dripping sauce on the floor, absentmindedly finding its way from the wrapper to my mouth. “Oh well.” I thought in true dog owner fashion, “The dog can lick it up.”

Had things devolved that quickly? One minute you’re a fine, upstanding Walmart Citizen, but the moment you see a dog, you’re flipping steak and cheese all over the floor like it’s Lord of the Flies? When had I started eating my Subway Sodium Wrap?

I didn’t have time to evaluate this thought because came sniffing down the camping aisle dragging Gemma behind him. He was after my food!

I pulled down a hotdog cooking stick and yelled “Get back dog!” But the dog kept coming. Deftly, I climbed one-handed on top of the shelf, sprinkling shredded cheese on the floor, which the dog lapped up immediately. The dog started howling, barking, and scratching at the shelves, knocking down some waterproof lighters.

“Jiss throw him the sammich!” Gemma yelled up to me. “He does this all the time. You’re acting strange and he doesn’t like that!”

“No way!” I said. “These jalapenos have been soaking in salt water for the last 12 hours! What if your dog has a heart condition?”

Just then Gemma’s mom came over and scolded her over proper leash usage again. Her mom saw me on the shelves next to the paddle boards and started yelling at me for teasing her dog with food. “Give him the sammich and get down!”

Some Walmart employees overheard what was going on scolded me over teasing the dog. “Hey! You can’t eat in here! This is a place of business! Did you even think about the dogs?” He looked at the mom, “Man, people just ain’t like they used to be.”

I was trapped with no place to go. There was only one option. I bent one of the hotdog poker stick to make a loop and then I hooked it over the sprinkler system. I pulled down hard and water started spraying throughout the store.

The Walmart employee said, “Come on man! You gotta know that dogs don’t like baths, dude! What are you a cat person?”

Once the floor was sufficiently wet, I grabbed the top of a paddle board, flipped it down, and slid out of the store through the lawn and garden outdoor section (you know where I am), eating the last bites of my wrap. “See you next time Walmart!”

The Walmart employee yelled back, “Hey you gotta pay for that sammich!”

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How to Talk to a Robot

Every time my Google Voice number rings both of my phones I know fun is about to happen. I reserve that number as my junk phone number for borderline reputable Internet sites and free fishbowl lunches. It is usually preceded by my junk Yahoo email. I know if someone is calling both of my phones that their goals of making a sale and my goals of having fun are going to clash.

When I noticed both of my phones ringing I had both of the kids in the car, parked in the garage and playing. My daughter was busy pretending to drive us to the store and my son was bouncing around in the back seat. Back seats make excellent, cushioned play pens in an unmoving car.

It’s always much more fun when a telemarketer calls when the kids are around. I sometimes ask my daughter to talk on my behalf but she always freezes under the pressure. We are still working on sharpening her sarcasm.

So I answer the phone.

Me: Hello? …. Hello?
Lady: (Long Pause) He-hello?
Me: Hi.
Lady: Oh Hi there. Hehe. I’m looking for the business owner.
Me: OK.
Lady: Are you the business owner?
Me: Sure. (At the time I was running a daycare out of my car)
Lady: Ok great. Well we’re offering great low rate loans to businesses like yours (car daycares) and I just have a few questions if that’s ok?
Me: OK lets go.
Lady: OK great! So how long have you been in business?
Me: (Looking at the kids) Almost 3 years?
Lady: OK. (strange calculated pause) Does your business generate more than $10,000 a month?

In a split second of time, I reran the whole conversation over in my head. The personality, the clipped pauses, the uncertain “he-hello”, and the slightly odd progression of the conversation – it suddenly hit me that I was talking to a chat bot. A very convincing chat bot. I’ve had these conversations before but didn’t realize it was a convincing robot until after the conversation. Realizing this during the conversation was like waking up during a dream and I could fly!

Me: Hey wait! You’re a robot!
Robot Lady: No sir. I assure you I’m a real person.
Me: No way! I know you’re a robot! (Changing my voice as if I’m speaking to a child)
Robot Lady: (giggles girlishly) Oh sir!  I am a real person. Can you hear me OK?
Robot Lady: (Changes her voice back to the serious inquisition) Can we continue?
Me: Yes…

I’m right! Her playful tone quickly switched back to a prerecorded “can we continue?” Also, she made no human reaction to my change in voice – which could have called for her to jump off the script to ask why I thought she was a robot. At this point I think I can reset her, forcing her into an endless feedback loop of fun, and agree to continue with the questions.

Robot Lady: Would you be interested in low interest rate loans for your business.
Me: You’re a robot!
Robot Lady: Uh, I am a real person.
Me: Yes you are. That’s exactly what a robot would say.
Robot Lady: No. (flatly, robotic, angry?)

Meanwhile my daughter was getting frustrated trying to open a water bottle.

Daughter: I can’t do it!
Robot Lady: Sir these are questions we have answer. (100% confirmation!)
Me: Can you help us open the water bottle?
Robot Lady: I can’t help with that. (Clipped pause) Can we continue?

She continued with a few more of her robot questions. Eventually and I got transferred to a gruff old man who sounded real. My son was trying to climb into the front seat to join in the conversation.

Gruff: Hey it looks like we’ve emailed you the information already and Matthew is working on your file.
Me: Yeah but your robot called and I told her I wanted to talk to a real person.
Gruff: Oh Matthew will be in touch soon. We won’t bother you with the robot anymore. Sorry.
Me: Can the robot lady come over and watch the kids?
Daughter: NO! He try bite me! Whaaaaa!

-Dial Tone-

I had read this article awhile ago and I have been causally on the lookout for robot callers since. The calls from the Time article are below. It sounds like this same “Samantha West” is back and is now selling business loans.

At least in the 80’s, all the robot girls sounded like robots…

Update: Upon further research, apparently (as of 2013) this Samantha West is guided by a real person who is just punching a soundboard. I imagine this could be true, but if you’re going to call someone with a soundboard it should always include the question, “Who is your daddy and what does he do?”

Corn Starch Ants

I recently read that cornmeal can kill ants.  Ants think cornmeal is extremely tasty and finding it is a rare treat.  They bring it back to the nest by the truckload where it is enjoyed by all.  Unfortunately they can’t digest it and it makes them really bloated so they can’t escape the ant hole anymore to get real food.  Then they all die. It would be like you finding a large bag of Taco Bell on the sidewalk and bringing it in to the office for all of your coworkers to enjoy.  Sure you’re a temporary hero for bringing in food for the whole office, but productivity quickly drops from the digestion issues and food poisoning from the meat that was sitting in the sun.

Shortly after reading that article I found a colony of ants, precariously close to the house.  I went inside to see if I had cornmeal to try this trick, but I only had corn starch. “Corn is corn!” I said and brought the container of potential poison out to the ants.

I poured a thin line of corn starch in the obvious path of the ants between my house and their home.  Instantly I saw a traffic jam as the ants’ pheromone path was interrupted.  Also, the ants refused to cross over the mound to reach the other side, and began trying to find the long path around the white wall.  They wouldn’t eat the starch, but it certainly screwed up their routine.  When I saw they had connected the two sides I increased the length of the wall, forming the Great Wall of Corn Starch, indefinitely separating haploids from diploids and soldiers from their Queen.

Mildly satisfied with disrupting the colony’s production line, I went to go back inside to look for real poison when the curious neighbor kid came over to see what I was doing.  I explained to him how the pheromone trail worked because the ants can smell which way the food is (in my house).  “Neat!  I wanna smell it!”  He got down on his hands and knees to smell the trail.

“I wanna smell it too!” his brother jumped off of his big wheel and tried to smell the trail.

They both came up coughing, with white corn starch all over their faces.  “I don’t like ant smells!” said the older.  “It smells like burning!” said the younger.

Their mom came out of her garage and noticed her kids bothering me again.  “What are you guys doing over there?” she yelled.

“We’re smelling the ant lines that Dan showed us!” said the older kid, wiping his nose off and getting corn starch on his hands and shirt.

“It makes me feel funny!” the younger said, getting back on his big wheel, which he drove out into the street.

She looked horrified when she got a good look at their faces.  She started yelling at her kids to get away from my house.  That was good old fashioned parenting.  Her son screamed and ran wildly towards the house.  The younger kid was doing donuts in the street.  She walked closer to me and saw the Great Wall of Corn Starch.  I smiled proudly.

Then she started using cuss words at me, which was not very neighborly.  When she was done cussing, I told her that I was just experimenting when her kids came over and started asking questions.  I also told her how disappointed I was that her kids didn’t know about pheromone trails because I learned that when I was 6-year-old from Reading Rainbow.  She stared at me as if she had no idea what I was talking about, so I started to sing “Butterfly in the sky.”  I gestured for her to jump in when she recalled the words, “I can fly twice as high…”  Suddenly she punched me in the face.

That’s the last thing I remembered before waking up to a number of police cars and ambulances.  There was a lot of explaining to do.

Children of the Corn

I went to an Amish farm and had to find something out in their field for work.  Work says that we are supposed to turn off our trucks and lock the doors when we get out, but Amish people don’t know how to drive or steal cars (because it says in their Bible) so I left it running with the AC cranked to help prevent global warming inside of the truck.

I normally don’t have to walk through horse farms for work, but today was different.  I followed a little map over 3 fences and down a narrow lane.  The lane was fenced off on both sides with gates that allowed you to access other farm parts. On my way down, I got to pass about 7 horses.  Some of them looked at me and others came over to smell me.  The ones that smelled me, I pet on the nose and I felt closer to nature.

I found what I was looking for beyond a gate, which I closed behind me, while a mom and child horse watched me.

TerrorWhen I returned, the mom and child were still there, waiting and hoping that I had brought them some good food or something!  When I didn’t produce  a carrot or a bag of oats, the mom horse blocked me from getting through the gate by hitting it with her butt.

Well I’m human lady, so I tried to jump over the fence.  I grabbed on to the top of the fence to leap over but was surprised by a jolt of Amish electricity, from God, shooting through my two arms.  It hurt, but not terribly and knocked me on my rump.  Luckily the mom horse was still touching the metal fence with her butt and when I grabbed on to the wire, it touched the fence, so she enjoyed the same jolt as I did.  The mom horse whined and cleared the way for my escape.

I got through the gate but the mom horse was now pissed.  She and the child began to walk slowly towards me as I backed down the horse lane.  I was surrounded by fences on both sides, and this lane was my only escape.  I walked past more horses.  When the mom horse saw her horse friends, she said something to them in horse and told them to start following me.

Slowly and deliberately, being careful not to arouse an all out trampling, I continued to back down the lane as more horses began to follow in a slow, frightening cadence that suggested I leave as soon as possible.

There were 8 horses on my tail and only one more to pass before I could escape.  The last horse was the grand dad horse.  He had shaggy gray fur and a great white face topped off with a whiter star on his forehead.  I had gained some distance on the other horses, but they continued to close.  I attempted to pass grand dad on the right, but he placed his body in the way.  I tried to pass on the left steering clear of his razor sharp hooves, but he ran in my way on that side too.  I looked back.  The other horses, moving at a zombie pace, were still closing.  I turned around to give grand dad another try when I was met with his horse face, clobbering me in the human face.

I fell on my back yet again.  Grand dad reared up on his hind legs over my limp body.  Grand dad moved to smash me with his hooves when I noticed that one of the rails on the bottom of the fence was bent up.  I rolled underneath just as the great hooves met the ground in a cake of dust.

Realizing that I was free from their hoovy clutches, all of the horses cantered to the location of my escape.  Mom horse put one hoof on the top of the fence and shook the other at me as if to say, “I’ll get you next time!”

Huffing and puffing and dirty as hell, I took my time crossing over the other fences (horse free) as I made my way back to the truck.

Crossing the last gate, I saw a bunch of Amish kids, bonnets and suspenders, crawling all over my truck!  Outside one of them was talking on my cell phone.  A girl was texting someone.  (I later found out it was a video message of my horse adventure.)  There was a boy and girl inside of my truck on my computer using my broadband card.  I found them on facebook changing my status to “…is a stupid city boy who can’t escape from the horses!!!”  I also saw twitter open on another tab that they were using to send up-to-date photos of my horse folly.

“GET OUT OF HERE!” I screamed at the Amish kids, “You aren’t allow to use this stuff!” They explained to me, as long as they don’t own it, they are allowed to use anything they find.  So I took some stuff out of the back of the truck for them to find.  As I drove off they were playing with a can of paint, a pair of pliers, and a solar powered Casio calculator which I taught them how to make it spell HELLO and BOOBS.

As I drove off, I stole their souls.