The Sledgehammer – Version 2.0

April 13, 2010

More Random Thoughts: Costco and the Single Guy, Bringing a Sleepy Neighborhood Back to Life

Filed under: Random Stuff — Tags: — Brian Lutz @ 1:10 am

For those of you who might be wondering, I am, in fact, still working on my review of the iPad.  It’s just turning out to be a slightly more epic undertaking than I had originally planned on (and the fact that I blew the better part of last Saturday vegging out on video games probably isn’t doing a whole lot to get it done either.)  For those of you who are wondering, the short version is that it’s a really nice little device, but that’s not going to stop me from nitpicking the living daylights out of the whole thing.  Then again, these days it seems to be my job to nitpick about iPhone and iPad stuff, so it all goes with the territory.  In the meantime, here’s a couple more random thoughts from the last few days.

* * *

It is usually around this time of year that my Costco membership comes up for renewal, and every year around this time I find myself wondering if the whole thing is really worth it.  Sure, I do make it a point to go visit Costco every once in a while if for no other reason to wander around, grab a few samples and maybe pick up an item or two in the process, but as a single guy living alone, there’s an awful lot of items at Costco which just aren’t practical.  Take for example, the muffins being offered in the bakery.  Under different circumstances, there is a good chance I would buy these on a regular basis.  They’re rather tasty, and would make for convenient breakfasts, but in reality, there are a couple of problems with these:  First of all, each of the gargantuan muffins is pushing somewhere in the neighborhood of 600-700 calories apiece (and believe me, you don’t want to know what the rest of the nutrition info looks like on the things.)  While I could live with that (not for long, apparently,) the other big problem with these for me is that you have to buy them 12 at a time.  This being in spite of the fact that they have recently made changes so they’re now packed 6 in a box rather than the previous 12.  It would seem like a no-brainer to allow the individual 6-packs to be sold separately, but apparently you  still have to buy them two at a time.  The requirement to buy 12 at a time, combined with the relatively short expiration period in which I would need to consume all of those, make this one a big no-no.  I suppose I could freeze some of them if not for the fact that my freezer is already approaching the point of needing a crowbar to get stuff in and out, but in general, the whole Costco muffin thing starts to sound like a really, really, really bad idea. 

Along with the bulk sizes of Costco products come the bulk prices as well.  For some reason, I find it hard to get out of the place for much less $50 on a good day.  Every once in a while I’ll walk out of the store with some peanuts, canned tomatoes, breakfast cereal, a bag of tortilla chips, a 5-pound block of  cheese and an industrial-strength bottle of antacid, realize that I’ve spent nearly $50 on all that, but would still be hard-pressed to make an actual meal out of those ingredients.  OK, I suppose I could improvise something out of that if I was stranded by a flood or some other unfortunate circumstance, and I’m sure I’ll use all the stuff eventually over the course of my regular cooking, but it just seems like a whole lot of money being spent on a whole lot of nothing in particular.  My shopping trips at the regular grocery store rarely exceed half that amount, and most of the time the resulting quantity of food is enough to get 5 or 6 meals (plus leftovers) out of.  I’m sure that I’d manage to save money on this in the long run, but it’s just a little bit tough to see it that way in the short term.

But if I stopped renewing my Costco membership, would I really even miss it?  It would save me $100 a year in fees, and I’d still have a card that I could use to sneak into the warehouse (they only ever seem to look at the front, and I think my current card is at least five years old anyway) to wander around and grab samples with, but I wouldn’t be nearly as tempted to buy huge quantities of stuff I probably don’t need anyway, and I could still grab the occasional cheap hot dog on the way out (although they recently managed to ruin those by not only replacing the Coke machines with Pepsi, but somehow managing to offer only five choices of soda and two non-caffeinated ones out of sixteen spigots on the fountains, but that’s another rant entirely.) Nonetheless, I’d probably feel guilty if I actually tried that, so ultimately I end up renewing whether I need it or not.  Even so, it’s not as easy as it looks being a single-serve guy living in a bulk-pack world…

* * *

 The southern part of the Pioneer Square neighborhood in which Seattle’s two sports stadiums are located tends to be a surprisingly sleepy place when there isn’t some sporting event going on.  Since parking at the Qwest Field garage is only $5 on days when nobody is playing, I’ll occasionally find myself making the walk from Royal Brougham down Occidental to the office, and most days when I make this walk (which is, at nearly half a mile, a much longer walk than you might think just by looking at the maps) it is rare that I’ll see more than a handful of people along the way.  There might be a person or two on a ladder in front of the exhibition hall doing some non-specific task and maybe another walker or two along the way, but for the most part it’s pretty quiet.  This all changes when the Mariners get back into town.  The normally sleepy street gets quickly turned into a beehive of activity.

As I’ve noted in previous posts, my job these days has me working within easy walking distance of Safeco Field, and as the crowds made their way to the ballpark for today’s afternoon home opener, I decided to get away from my desk for a bit and take a walk down Occidental to check out the scene.  As is normally the case for Mariners home games, there is a surprisingly wide assortment of various street vendors selling ballpark food for (slightly) less than the prices inside the ballpark, souvenir sellers, random product samples, and the obligatory ticket scaplers.  To be honest, I have a hard time watching a ballgame at the ballpark (my somewhat less-than-terrific eyesight and usual nosebleed perspective  makes it hard to pay much attention to what’s on the field,) but there’s a certain ambiance that surrounds a live ballgame that you just don’t seem to find anywhere else.  To be honest, it can be just a little weird to walk down to the ballpark through the crowds, the noise and the scents of the various hotdogs cooking, then to have to turn around and head back in the other direction to finish the day at work.  I did manage to grab a bag of Kettle Korn on the way back though.  Fortunately, it looks like there’s a good chance I’ll have all summer to take it all in.  Now if we just had a decent baseball team to go along with all this…

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