Friday, August 26, 2005


A term that perfectly describes some of the people who run Metro. Which is, unfortunately, not surprising, as most of the Metro board members abstain from riding either the subway or the bus. Thus, just when you thought transit conditions couldn't get worse, you're proved wrong. Recently, I used Dupont Circle station's Q Street exit to reach the FarmFresh Market to get one of my favorite items, good and cheap, as well as some flowers (the accidental purchase).

As I had to leave the subway to enter the market, this is where the odyssey begins. Ordinarily, I might take an escalator upstairs, but I felt unsure about being able to keep my balance on one of them, as many of the escalators on the Red Line stations are extraordinarily steep, and I'm still recovering from surgery, so I decided to take the elevator, the general direction of which was politely pointed out by a station manager.

What the --- ? First of all, the entire walkway leading to the elevator was sopping wet. Oh yeah, someone had put a big fan in that corridor (yes, an entire corridor) to attempt to dry the floor, to no apparent avail. In this long, curved walkway, there was a long handrail on each side, thankfully, as I gingerly made my way to the elevator. (I don't know if there are any surveillance cameras in that corridor, as I was preoccupied with trying to keep from slipping to look up!) Did someone really fall if no one can see or hear her?

Finally, the elevator. What a mess. I immediately noticed that some of the space surrounding the bottom of the frame of the elevator was plugged (hastily) with synthetic material. This is presumably the source of the wet floor. Whatever happened to maintenance? Perhaps now that Metro's GM, Richard White, has finally begun riding the subway on a regular basis (after eight years as Metro's chief), more attention might be paid to these matters, which concern us mere mortals. (I'm not holding my breath, though.) Now is a good time, however, to discuss the transit issues bothering other users at

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On a slightly different vein, if you spot an immediate problem on Metro, such as someone woh appears "suspicious" but you don't see an employee nearby or in your part of the train, give the transit police a ring at (202) 962-2121. Here's to a better system.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Funny Money

Momma always told me to watch those scanners at the grocery store (or to check my receipt afterwards). I recently caught a whopper of a mistake (the store's "mistake") by doing this. I had happily caught some sale items, including Corinth grapes, commonly known as 'champagne grapes'. They, and all the other grape varieties, were .99/lb. earlier in the week, so I grabbed a couple of one-pound clamshells of grapes, and made it to the checkout line.

Now, even when you use one of the store "discount" cards, it's impossible to know if the item's price is properly entered in the store's system, as it shows up as the "regular" price on the screen as the item is being rung up. You only know by looking at the receipt afterwards if the appropriate amount was taken off to provide the "discount." Thus, only after I peered down at the receipt afterwards did I realize that I was charged $1.49 each for the .99 grapes. I wuz robbed! I was also too tired to go back that same evening, so I decided to return the next day.

I'm glad I decided to wait. I don't think I would have had the energy to deal with the clerks' obfuscation and condescension the previous day. First, they tried to tell me that the sale price was only for a pound of grapes, which I knew. I told them that the grapes only came in one-pound packages. For some reason they chose to think that I didn't know what a pound was, and one of them went to the grape display to weigh some grapes. Sure enough, the grapes were all in one pound packages. Puh-leeze!

The (apparent) head customer service clerk then decided that the champagne grapes weren't included as one of the grape types on sale. I said not only that they were, but that they were printed on the in-store signs displayed nearby, and went with her to point them out. I then asked (for the third time) if I could have another package of grapes to make up for being overcharged for two, to which she finally agreed.

The grapes scanned at the wrong (regular) price multiple times, even when the customer service clerk scanned them, which makes me wonder if this was a pricing strategy on the part of the store, to overcharge while claiming a sale price, and not a mere mistake.

Is this kind of behavior what typically happens when a respected regional grocery chain is bought by an international corporation, one whose name, unfortunately, rhymes (in part) with a common unmentionable word?

Friday, August 05, 2005

To Market, to Market....

Made my weekly foraging trip to the farmers market during my break out, er, lunch break. The threatened rain has not yet materialized, thankfully, so it was another typically muggy summer Washington afternoon. Of course, the farmers took it in stride, and so did I, after I was fortified with my provisions of cherries, apricots, and nectarines from Terrapin Station Herb Farm (its delectable tiny plums are gone for the season, and this was the final week for the cherries), and red onion and basil from Wheatland Vegetable Farms. Wheatland's high-quality basil lasts a bit longer than many others I've tried, and is extremely fragrant and healthy. I'll probably employ the basil in a vaguely Thai style dish sometime this weekend. Cooking with that stuff is better aromatherapy than lighting a candle any day!

I'm glad I frequent a real farmers market, on which is producer only (meaning, no vendors selling products that they did not grow nor make), because, unfortunately, not all outdoor markets which call themselves 'farmers markets' are producer only. (Horrors!)

To see if a farmers market passes the sniff test--is a true, producer-only market--look for the following clues as you meander about the stalls:

* There should be signs and/or banners around the stand, with the name of the farm clearly stated.

* Literature about the farm (just a flyer will do), with its name and location, in addition to other information.

* A seller should be able to answer general questions about how the food was produced, as well as inquiries as to which foods to anticipate in the upcoming weeks. After all, shouldn't a producer know her own product?

* As a true farmers market's fresh products are seasonal, you should not see, say, grapes in the middle of the summer, if you shop at a farmers market in one of the mid-Atlantic states.

Well, I've made myself hungry, so I'd better rip into a few cherries, or else...

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

All Together Now...

Last night, my community was one of many that participated in National Night Out, which is held annually, on the first Tuesday in August. It was a success, as the turnout was good, particularly as it was a humid, sticky evening. The coordinator was pleasantly surprised, as folks hadn't e-mailed him to notify him whether they were coming. (Oops!) The important thing was to get together to have a good time and demonstrate community solidarity en masse, which we did. All's well that ends well.

Across town, the city of Langley Park also had a successful National Night Out event. Perhaps too successful, as it's been reported that members of the MS 13 gang said that they were keeping an eye on that event. Hmm...

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For the first time, I saw one of the Guardian Angels on the subway. She almost appeared to have come from another car in the train; maybe there's some special cooperation agreement with Metro, as passengers are not allowed to walk between train cars, for safety reasons. She seemed quiet, and not overbearing. I hope this experiment works out.

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Speaking of community development, some state legislatures are fighting back against the recent Supreme Court decision (Kelo vs. New London) that allows state and local governments to seize homes for private development. [Finally, some politicians have developed a spinal column.] Alabama and Delaware are the first sates to limit the use of eminent domain, and other states have such plans in the works (Pennsylvania, Texas, New Jersey, California, Illinois, Michigan, New York, and Oregon).

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A fun way of preserving and improving communities includes the easy suggestion in today's Washington Post: Buy Fruit, Save A Farm. The article explains how the growth in farmers' markets has enabled farmers to keep their land as farmland, make improvements to their property, put children through college, etc. What the article didn't mention, explicitly, was how the markets also benefit the urban and suburban communities where they are held on a regular basis--humanizing the landscape, easing the city-country divide, etc.

Like the farmers, I do have to get out in the sun today (but unlike them, for only an hour or so). Keep cool.