Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Intermission #4 - Buying Wine from a Stranger, or How I Spend My Saturday Nights When Left to My Own Devices

Picture this. It's Saturday night. I've got the apartment to myself. Nicole's out of town and visiting her parents. Time for some wild shenanigans, right?

Well, if by "wild shenanigans" you mean heading to Safeway to buy some salad mix, goat cheese, and red wine, then you and I should party some time!

So, yeah, I'm ready for some madness. My friendly, neighborhood Safeway is only a few blocks from the apartment, so before you know it I'm inside and quickly finding my goat cheese and salad mix. I'm going to make one hell of a beet salad! Soon all that's left is a stroll down the wine aisle and the choosing of a tasty bottle of red. To be honest, I can't taste the difference between "good" and "mediocre" wine, so I usually make my purchase based on a price tag under $10 and a nifty label. I'm a sucker for a good label. On this particular Saturday night, I land on this guy here:

Hey Mambo
What can I say? I like the clean label, the word Mambo, and the enthusiastic couple dancing in the top right corner. I'm thinking this wine is going to kick my Saturday-night-beet-salad-party up a notch!

Happy with my items, I head to the checkout. I end up in a long line, but a cashier who's been busy flipping through Glamour at the magazine rack waves me over to another register. After some idle chit chat ("Hey." "Hi, how you doing?" "Good. You?" "Good, good.") and the beeping through of my salad mix and goat cheese, the cashier gets to my bottle of red wine. Immediately, he starts cracking up: "Mambo wine? Really? What the hell is this?"

I don't respond. I'm busy trying to slide my uncooperative Safeway membership card into the little machine. The cashier, however, doesn't really seem to be addressing me. Staring at the bottle in his hand, he's more half-shouting his comments above the general din of the store either to himself or maybe to the Hey Mambo label.

Still working with my scratched up savings card and the debit machine, I almost don't notice what happens next. My cashier actually leaves his register. With my bottle of wine.

"Hey, Billy!" he yells at the much busier cashier at the next register over. "Check out this guy's wine - Mambo wine!" Chuckle, chuckle. Guffaw, guffaw. "Can you believe this shit? Mambo wine!" He then displays the bottle, label out like a sommelier, to the other cashier. "Mambo wine!" At this point, I'm finally realizing that not only is this guy really ragging on my bottle of wine, but he and his other cashier buddy are enjoying Hey Mambo so much that both their lines are starting to back up.

After a few more laughs, some more comments I can't quite hear, and my eventual successful swiping of both my membership and debit cards, my cashier comes back and I think we might finally be able to finish this transaction. But no. He's just come back briefly to look at the screen above his register. "And look at this!" he yells over to his buddy. "It's not even that cheap! Can you believe that Mambo wine ain't even cheap?"

What to do now? I'm unsure of how I should react. My cards are swiped. An unhappy teenager has bagged my salad mix and goat cheese. I'm just waiting on my wine. I feel strangely detached from the whole situation, partially because this guy's talking about me and my wine like I'm not even there and partially because I can't believe he's taken this joke this far. I don't feel offended or upset or mad. Just detached. And maybe a little hungry. I'm also curious, considering Hey Mambo's seven-dollar price tag, what this cashier considers to be a fair price for a bottle of wine.

After some more laughter and the repeated shouting of "Mambo wine!", my cashier returns. Still smiling and staring at the label, he shakes his head in disbelief. "Mambo wine," he says again. "Can you believe it? What is this shit? The Mexican Rambo?"

Seriously. "The Mexican Rambo." That's what he says.

"Here you go, my man," he laughs, at long last addressing me and looking me in the eye. He hands me the bottle. "You have a good night."

I take the bottle and leave the store. I think I even say thanks. And you know what? I did end up having a pretty good night.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Coffee + Stranger #12 - Coffee with Negligence

I've been negligent.

After five months of radio silence, I've decided that
Coffee with a Stranger needs a quick update. Here's what's been happening since August 29th:

1) Despite the lack of writing, I've actually still been meeting with a few strangers. Many apologies to everyone I've met but still haven't written about! I promise I'll crack down and get writing soon, but hopefully the free coffee (and good company?) made the meeting worth your while...

Strangers yet to be written about include a friend of my sister's who proved there's still a whole lotta love for Wayne Gretzky in Canada, an awesome couple from Santa Cruz, and a writer and former professor who just happens to be Stranger #10's partner. You may remember Stranger #10, Bob, for his strong opinions and racy photographs.

2) Denise Sims, image consultant, spotter of northern hands, and Stranger #7, recently popped up in my inbox with the following email:

Hi Mike,

Totally different topic . . .

Are you interested in generating ‘residual’ income?

If so, call me.

There’s something I’ve been doing for 4 months. This month I am making $2500 from it, while having done my own business in the meantime! Wow!!!

I’m impressed.

All the best.


I decided to pass, but if you're interested, I can get you in touch with her. I might also be meeting with a friend of Denise's some time next week. Stay tuned!

3) Keeping with the theme of past strangers, remember Stranger #9? He was the talkative fellow who I dubbed as "A Man with a PhD in Projects." Well, he was in an independent movie called "The Bigtop" and the director of the film, Devon Reed, recently sent me a free DVD of the movie and a CD of the soundtrack. Thanks, Devon! Maybe I'll write a review once I get a chance to watch it....

4) A photo I took from my trip to the Albany Bulb was picked up by a blog that loves all things Wizard of Oz. Check it out here.

5) Jason Simon, friend of
Coffee with a Stranger and the brains behind Caffeinated Conversations, is sending me a free t-shirt! (I get excited by mail. And free stuff.) Jason, a much more prolific blogger than I, is working on a cool project in the Seattle area that involves bringing strangers together over cups of coffee. Check out his site and flickr page to see what he's doing. The t-shirt, which I'll be sure to model for you once it shows up on my doorstep, is another of Jason's ideas to connect people face-to-face instead of from behind their computers. You can learn more about his t-shirts and his project here.

6) Jason also recently sent me a link to a guy in Australia (and another ex-pat Canadian!) with a
Coffee-with-a-Stranger-esque project, but his involves tea! Check out One Hundred Cups here.

7) The biggest news of all, however, is that
Coffee with a Stranger is moving to another country! I'm temporarily heading back to the homeland, Canada, to work at an organic farm on Vancouver Island. I'll miss sunny California, but I'm excited about this opportunity. I'll likely be covered in dirt and wearing overalls from early April to late October. I'm hoping to continue Coffee with a Stranger in British Columbia, but maybe with some changes - I'm thinking along the lines of a roadside stand and free coffee, but I'll keep you posted.

Thanks for reading!