Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Dr. Grumpy's Guide to Life, Chapter 2

(As a public service I've written the following, for you to print off and use before shopping for school supplies).

Okay, so this is the 2nd edition of my helpful newsletter (If you missed the last edition on surviving your child's birthday party, click here).

Today's issue will focus on what I discovered to be a horribly traumatic life-altering experience: Back-to-School week at OfficeStaplesMaxDepot. There's one right across the street from my office, so I go there regularly for supplies. It's quiet, the employees are generally helpful, and I know my way around it pretty well.

I naively thought this would be easy.

So on to the lesson:

1. Do NOT volunteer for this job (flip a coin, or arm wrestle, or have a duel to decide instead).

Silly me. When Mrs. Grumpy was wondering when she'd have time to get the school supplies, I volunteered. I figured "How hard can it be? Hell, it's just some pencils and a bottle of glue". DUMBASS!!! The list is HUGE, and features items from the mundane (No. 2 pencils), to the specific (Expo dry erase markers, wide tip, in blue, green, yellow, and black) to the odd (1 Pringles can with lid, original flavor, empty). It took me 2 freakin' hours!

2. Be prepared. Normally there are 5-10 other quiet business-type people there. NOT THIS WEEK! Holy Crap! An African street bazaar is an orderly affair compared to this! Deranged parents running on caffeine! Kids running amuck! Store clerks running for their lives! And all the crazed parents are trying to read off a list, push a cart, yell at kids, and scream into a cell phone at the same time. Bring a water bottle, food, a map, a cattle prod, and a flashlight. A card with your blood type, hospital preference, and next of kin is also a good idea.

3. Do not leave your cart unattended. People will steal your shit out of it. I AM NOT MAKING THIS UP! I had my cart 2/3 full with the crap on my list, when I left it at the end of an aisle to go find notebooks (spiral, wide-ruled, 100 pages each, single subject, 1 red, 1 blue, 1 green). When I returned 3 minutes later about half the stuff I'd already put in it was GONE! I watched a few minutes later as it happened to others. Apparently, when you walk away from your cart, people think it means they can raid it for supplies they haven't had a chance to pick up yet. "Hey, this guy has those index cards (2 sizes, lined and unlined, 100 each) that my kid needs. Cool. I'll scratch that off my list".

If another parent asks you what school your kid goes to, or who their teacher is, DO NOT ANSWER. Ignore them. Pretend you're deaf, or that you don't speak English. They are not making conversation. They are casing your cart, and if they find out your kid is in the same class as their kid, they'll wait until you aren't looking to take your stuff (or just switch carts).

Best part was when I went to ask an employee for help finding something (Flair Correction Pens, in 4 colors). When I got back to my cart the box of 12 ultra-fine tip Sharpies I left in it had been opened, and someone had taken one of them. They'd even doodled on the shopping list I left in my cart to make sure they were taking a pen that worked.

Oddly, you can leave valuables in your cart. Your wallet, purse, and gold jewelry will be perfectly safe if left unattended, but the $2.69 box of high-lighters (12 markers, large tip, in 3 colors) will vanish.

My recommendation: bring a child to guard your cart, preferably one with an iron bladder and who's old enough to use a Taser or firearm if needed. If your kids don't meet this requirement, stop by Home Depot and hire one of the day laborers who hangs out in front looking for work.

4. Do not look for certain numbers of things. The people who make these lists have no idea how things are sold, so it lists things as "1 Expo dry erase marker, chisel-tip, red). Great. They don't sell red ones individually, just in boxes of 4. Or the Flair Correction Pens don't come in only 4 colors, but they do come in 8. Just buy it. If you aren't certain what item the teacher wants, just buy everything in sight and return the rejects later.

Alternatively, if the teacher only wants 1 of an item, such as, say, an ultra-fine tip Sharpie (which only come in boxes of 12), you can always look for an unattended cart with a box of them in it, and take one. If paper is handy, try doodling on it to make sure you are stealing one that works.

5. Hold your place in the check-out line AT ALL COSTS. Reserve it as soon as you walk in the store BEFORE shopping. Use a child (preferably your own) if possible. Other options include day laborers from Home Depot, mannequins, dogs, and aggressive Venus Fly Traps.

6. When in doubt, ask the bleary-eyed, terrified employees for help. If nothing else, it is fun to watch them try to convince you that they don't speak English as they run outside for a cigarette.

Good luck!

62 comments:

Lipstick said...

LMAO Dr. Grumpy!!!!! This is an instant Dr. Grumpy classic! I am still laughing...

CrownedwithVictory said...

This was the funniest thing I have read all day! It is good to know that crazy school supply lists are being handed out nation-wide, and not just in NC.

Try shopping these lists on June (for Track 1 year-round start date) im-freaking-possible to find any of this stuff. I had this seemingly school like item to get: a plastic, 3 hole-punched, pocket folder in green, red, blue or yellow. It took me 3 stores to find those gems.

Courtney said...

And I thought it started in kindergarden, but my daughter is starting preschool and they are required to have a bag that is 8"x16" exactly with a 2 foot strap to wear it around their necks and their name in BLACK ONLY written on the front and back. Sheesh... I had to pretend to be domesticated and SEW.

Becky the Techie said...

Screw the office stores. Hit your "we'll discount your fuel" grocery store first. Half that stuff you listed? On the shelves next to my pharmacy. Even if you only get some of the list, you still get the gas discount, and there are fewer rabid office supply shoppers snagging things out of your cart.

And you can pick up some tomatoes while you're there. :D

Maha said...

LMAO! Dr Grumpy I have tears coming out of my eyes at your vivid description of the zoo that is Office Depot at back to school! Now I know why my mom always felt 'sick' during back to school time and dumped the shopping onto my dad. My poor poor dad! Having said that, I'm kind of missing back to school shopping :P

Anonymous said...

Back to school shopping is more
hazardous than a $1 sale at Macy's!
There is more organization than that
found as Rome burned!

I always found that the kids actually only use 1/4 of the list for the entire school year. I would buy Just enough of the basics for the first week of class.
Then shop for the rest later after the troops have thinned out. Plus they always were on sale! The fancy stuff...just got plainy jane.
Also, at the end of the year always had 4 un-opened and un-used composition books (not even cracked open!). Thank God I pass the torch onto you folks!

Sabra said...

Well, I have to shop for this stuff at Wal-Mart and it will be worse there. Especially since they're including school supplies in the tax free weekend for the first time EVER. In fact, I think I will pay my 8.25% and bypass the 5-cent spiral notebooks just to avoid that. (Where do you think those Home Depot day laborers buy their kids' school supplies?)

Honestly, I flat-out refuse to buy a lot of the stuff on the list. I somehow doubt my kindergartener will be using five folders with pockets and brads (no colors specified, thank God). Nor will I be buying a box of red pens for my 2nd grader.

Ashley said...

my first job was at OfficeMax...I remember the first Back to School I worked. I had never seen such pandemonium, it was terrifying and a blast all at the same time. I worked there for 8 years and by the 8th, I found it to be a total drag, lol.

But, I got a laugh every year watching the poor parents' stressed faces as they searched for the insane request of the year. I swear, every year the teachers would get together and demand a single item that wouldn't exist, or was is such little demand prior to BTS that no one had it.

Chris@Maugeritaville said...

Thank you for being a conscientious school parent. We appreciate you.

Anonymous said...

This is an international thing- same madness in Germany.

Arps said...

*laughing so hard!!* sheesh..was drinking milk while reading this, and not its gone up my nose!! eww..

Sue C said...

This is so funny! People are crazy at this time of the year -it's insane. What a wonderful way to start my morning. This post will be a classic!

CK Lunchbox said...

Oh I hear on the one. #3 especially. After being jacked back-to-school insurgents a couple times at WalMart, the irritation in my voice was evident as I informed some old guy that he'd walked off with my cart. Then I felt like an ass when the guy apologized for getting confused - our carts were right next to one another.

This is funny stuff

Carrie said...

I'm in gradschool and have to do some limited back-to-school shopping. I must say that I've found it more useful to order stuff from the office supply stores online. Often, you CAN order just one and the total amount of stuff that you'd end up buying for a family of kids would probably get free shipping. Why interact with people when you have the internet? (kidding...okay, not really)

Hit 40 said...

I need to do a post on the damn supply list ASAP. Trust me you did not need to buy all that shit!!! Honest!!!!! Parents kinda demand a list of the teachers. They put down everything and the kitchen sink! I do not buy my kids much more than one notebook and some pencils until they tell me that they really need a certain item. Have you ever noticed all the unused stuff at the end of the school year? I still have their bookbag from the last day of school packed with their pencils, markers...etc. They do not really need anything new. (and I am a teacher!! I have taught for 18 years at middle and high school. Trust me - I am not screwing with you)

Anonymous said...

Order everything online and have it mailed to your house... Duh.

Anonymous said...

even crazier in my state. The state kindly(?) has a no-sales-tax weekend for school supplies, and the schools helpfully set up tables staffed by teachers in the shopping malls. You can't get the supplies list without going to the school tables, which are mobbed.

there's a low-life bar a few blocks away that offers back-to-school beer for $1 off, to parents only.

Anonymous said...

even crazier in my state. The state kindly(?) has a no-sales-tax weekend for school supplies, and the schools helpfully set up tables staffed by teachers in the shopping malls. You can't get the supplies list without going to the school tables, which are mobbed.

there's a low-life bar a few blocks away that offers back-to-school beer for $1 off, to parents only.

Unrefined Sentiments said...

You are so funny! I think your blog is officially my fav!

KD

Fiz said...

I have to get my daughter things for uni - oh God, I am so not looking forward to it!

peedee said...

Good Stuff Doc! And a few have said it already....but I didnt buy half of the stuff on the list after the first couple of years. They never use it.

Although one year the kid had a teacher that gave them a "grade" for having everything on the list. Dontcha know I bitched about that one.

mommanator said...

funny but so true. I am a granny. I had to entertain the kiddos 4 of them to be exact while momma looked into the shelves/tombs of stuff! give me a break they have to have a specific scissor! Hate to say it, BUT when I was a kid mom didn't spend more on school supplies than she did for my clothes! We did that shopping early, now we are woking on the uniforms-granny gets to hem!

HugeMD said...

Thanks for the laughs. Yet another reason I'm happy only to have cats! There's no such trouble shopping for kitty litter, cat food, and little fur mice...

Tia the Transcriptionist said...

My girl's kindergarten suply list has all that on the list *plus* a "$15 supply fee."

I told the teacher as I handed over the backpack full of loot that if she really needed the $15 she could return some of the stuff in the backpack.

Shoebee said...

I have 4 kiddos to shop for (ages 10, 9, 9, 6), and luckily I had my mom around to help watch the kids while I shopped. I agree, school supply lists are out of control, and the things they ask for are insane...specific type of pencils and scissors (always the most expensive brand)

ModernMom said...

OH my goodness. Every word of this is true..so true! I was actually followed through a Staples store with a women and child casing my cart. It took me a bit to catch on that they were duplicating my every purchase.
Won't they be surprised to find out they don't need a paper shredder, 100 pack of thumbtacks and 20 sharpies!

Tachyon said...

LOL! I remember shopping for school supplies as a kid and really getting excited. My spawn in starting kindergarten soon, and I was foolishly excited to make that first excursion as a parent.

Then I saw the list:
1 bottle liquid hand soap, 1 box ziplock bags (gallon sized), 1 pack antibacterial wipes, 1 box Kleenex, 1 towel, a backpack, and a change of clothes.

WTH is that about? At least I didn't wind up fighting rabid mothers in Staples, though. Funny post, as always!

Stephanie Faris said...

Seriously? People steal office supplies right out of the cart? What kind of craziness is that? What vultures!

Amanda said...

It was the "aggressive Venus Fly Traps" that made it art. And thank you... I think I just wet myself from laughing so hard, and I'm at the office. This is going to be difficult to explain.

Kim Kasch said...

He-larry-us.

I've been there - trying to forget those days. It's sooooo true - all of it. Teachers ask for the bizarre to the unbelievable and in precise amounts and listing only the most expensive brands.

Martha said...

I keep a low profile w/back to school shopping, 3 notebooks for a buck and a couple dozen pencils and pens. Thanks for the pointers. Nice to meet you, Greetings from LA, thanks for your visit to my blog.

Regina Milton said...

Too funny for words. This story could be true almost anywhere in America, I'm sure. I really enjoy your voice as a writer. I may have missed it (as I often do) but do you have a book in the works?

Grumpy, M.D. said...

No book. Between Doctor and Family stuff never time for that. I write here, on the fly.

Amanda in AK said...

We've got fairly high unemployment in our area, and most work available is seasonal - if tourists come. So the Principal of my school ordered every teacher to have the same list (one for primary and one for upper grades) and pare it down to the bare minimum and use school funds to supplement for special projects. As a parent and teacher it's refreshing.

Barb said...

I always remember that commercial from one of the office supply stores. The music in the background is the Christmas song "It's the most wonderful time of the year!" The parent in the background is smiling while pushing the cart in a joyous manner. I may not love back-to-school shopping, but I love back-to-school!

Grumpy, M.D. said...

I love that ad, Barb! I posted it on here a few days ago!

Chris said...

One of the other posters mentioned this ziploc bags, rolls of paper towels, boxes of kleenex, etc. My daughter's list had those items too - sheesh, I'm not that old, but I can remember when schools actually HAD paper towels. And what's up with the ziploc bags? I bought the box like I was supposed to last year - I asked my daughter at the end of kindergarten what they did with the bags - she had no idea. Never saw them.

Elle said...

My kids are grown, but I hated shopping for school supplies. Stealing from someone's cart should be a punishable by law. That is just wrong.

Danielle said...

Dr. Grumpy! I saw the Christmas/Back to School Staples commercial last night and thought of you. You are just hysterical, one of my favorite reads.

Captain Dumbass said...

You've made me very frightened.

otin said...

Back to school has become like Christmas shopping!

Tachyon said...

Chris,

What absolutely stupefied me was that I posted my spawn's ENTIRE supply list. No crayons, no your-kid-will-still-get-hurt safety scissors, nothing. Just freezer bags, handsoap, chlorox wipes, and kleenex. The other items were things that any parent would have on hand without having a naked, filthy kid.

It is as if my state decided to forego any semblance of education and spend the year focusing on infection control. It left me wondering if the lists were generated during the "swine flu" scare.

Zoe said...

I think the purpose is to test your parenting skills, and those kids who show up with only the actual necessary items (pencil, paper, one folder, backpack, crayons) clearly have losers for parents. My kid number one (always had everything on the list, still requiring P.T. for the subsequent back injury) is my teacher's pet. My kid number two (the single pencil and one folder, no medical bills) is generally ignored by teachers but happy and relaxed, without the OCD of the rest of the family.

Tachyon said...

Reading all the comments has left me with a question for all the parents (including Dr. Grumpy, if he is willing to answer.)

Do these asinine supply lists come from public or private schools? Both?

I always went to private schools until my last few years which were spent at a math/science magnet school. My supply lists were always extensive.

Just wondering if there was a pattern to the insanity.

Grumpy, M.D. said...

My kids are in public school.

Tachyon said...

Another of Tachyon's theories bites the dust.

Thanks for the reply Dr. Grumpy.

Only other thing I can think of for the short supply list is that the lotto provided a year's supply of crayons two 20 5 year olds, or else there is a ninja list that will spring upon us on orientation night.

*chews nails*

The Mother said...

My solution--get a gift card for the office supply store and drop the kid off with the list.

Go to Starbucks. Sip coffee and surf the net until your kid calls to say he's done.

BUT: make sure you get the card early. They run out during the week before school. YES, they run out of their OWN gift cards. Go figure.

Anonymous said...

Tach,

It's possible the things on your list are what the teachers want but end up having to buy out of their own pocket.

A dear friend of mine was a school secretary and had to sort supplies that were paid for by the school system every year (not her favorite job). Some things like crayons were supplied to the kindergarten classrooms.

I can see how the supplies you were asked to supply might be very handy in a kindergarten classroom but not supplied by the school itself, hence the list.

Just a guess.

>:)

D

peedee said...

My kid did public school up to 8th grade then private thru part of high school. Both had list, but the private school list, ahem, EVEN in high school was far more weighty....those calculators are $100.00's of dollars. 0_o

winrob said...

This brings back many (painful and stressful memories).
You are a good egg to do the BTS shopping.
Maybe the Staples and Office Depots should have a Prozac dispensers isle!

Amandasaurus said...

Yet another reason that I am NOT ready for motherhood, nor will be for a long time yet. Thanks for visiting my blog and good luck nursing any battle wounds you may have acquired at the office superstore (should've tried the dollar store instead...)

Nurse K said...

My son's school list includes Formula 409, paper towels, and wet wipes. How about mops and buckets too while you're at it?

Katies*Momma said...

My daughters kindergarten list had hand sanitizer on it last year along with the gallon ziplock bags, half gallon, kleenex etc. I refused to purchase the hand sanitizer and wrote a note with this article attached: http://www.snopes.com/medical/toxins/sanitizer.asp and included it with the other back to school supplies I had purchased. I actually buy 5 of all of the necessary things like pencils, crayons, glue, scissors etc. so that the children that can not afford the supplies will not be without. I also tell the teacher on the first day that when field trips roll around, if any kid can not afford to pay for their trip send me a note telling me how many can not afford it and I will pay their way. I only have one child unfortunately, and can not have anymore. Since I am financially able, I figure I will just support my daughters less fortunate classmates.

Just thought some of you parents of younger kids may find the snopes.com article interesting. Needless to say, that stuff is banned from my home

Tachyon said...

LOL Nurse K. They would also use an autoclave, ya know. And whatever you non-student (read: REAL) nurses call the carts with all the isolation garb. Including the saran-wrap plastic gowns that would make you sweat in the Arctic.z

And WTF didn't they just ask for a tub of Germ-X???

(still dunno who is buying the crayons, and that makes me nervous!)

Chris said...

Pffft, they use so little of that crap. I remember as my back to school list grew shorter and shorter each year. By sophomore year of high school, BTS shopping wasn't fun any more, so I just dug around in my closet for all the stuff I planned on using. I usually only had to buy a few new pens and a couple notebooks.

College was a whole new animal with those $150 textbooks, but then med school settled down even more. I've trimmed all the fat off my studying operation now (it only took until the 20th grade), so I go studying with a small messenger bag, a book or two, an iPod with Etymotics, a black uniball pen, and a yellow highlighter. DONE.

EAST said...

"If another parent asks you what school your kid goes to, or who their teacher is, DO NOT ANSWER. Ignore them. Pretend you're deaf, or that you don't speak English."

This is precisely why I cannot go shopping without an iPod.

Salesperson vs. iPod? iPod wins every time.

Word verification: realli

Joanie M said...

Wait util it's time to buy for college! Sheets, blankets, fridge, microwave, coffee maker, storage containers, hangers, , hampers.... the list goes on and on!

When my daughter left for college, it took 2 cars 2 trips to get all her crap to school. Fortunately we were only 40 minutes from home.

When I took my son to school, we got everything into my Pontiac Vibe, plus my 13 year old daughter. It took us 20 minutes to get all his stuff into his dorm.

Anonymous said...

HA HA HA! Love it. Do they really ask for cleaning stuff? Is this because the schools are underfunded? I can't imagine what they use ziplock bags or hand sanitiser for?

Private schools in Australia do it all for you. In primary school you just fork over the cash and a big box is in the classroom with all your supplies. In high school they have aisles school by school, so you never had to search.

Joanie M... YOU BUY WHAT! Can I be your kid?

Square Peg Guy said...

"(1 Pringles can with lid, original flavor, empty). It took me 2 freakin' hours!" Oh heck, I can eat a whole can of Pringles in 25 minutes. :)

We do the back to school shopping next week. Sigh.

Grumpy, M.D. said...

Good luck, sir. Wear something made of Kevlar.

Fiz said...

I have finished my daughter's main uni shop - now it's just a couple of boxes of food to tide her over for a bit!

remclave said...

By my fourth child, I had enough supplies to open my own store. Even so, each year my daughter was in high school, I would faithfully take the list and her to the local office supply store to acquire the listed items. By her junior year, my daughter mutinied and said, "If I really need something we don't already have, we can go shopping for it WHEN I need it!" Smart kid.

Anyone need any highlighters?

 
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