Archive for March 15th, 2009

It must have been about 15 years ago that I noticed that dollar stores were popping up like mushrooms. All of a sudden it seemed that every shopping center had a Dollar Mart, a Dollar Place, a Dollar Barn or some such variationof the name. This was in addition to the 99 cent stores. On a trip to Los Angeles, I noticed 98 cent stores and even a 97 cent store. Nothing like a competitive edge. I always liked to shop at these places for little things like notepads, socks , scissors , pens, aluminum trays etc. For items like this, there was no point in paying extra for  “quality”. I guess a lot of people thought the same way because the stores grew in popularity by leaps and bounds.

One of the charms of the dollar store was that you never knew what you were going to find . Most of the items were picked up at distress sales or as remainders and many were made in China, India the Philipinnes or even Indonesia. The stock was different from store to store and sometimes I  found some very interesting items. I usually never bought food items there except that once I picked up a large bottle of French’s Chili-O Mix for a $1.49. A real bargain since it is a very good mix. Some people even would load up shopping carts at such stores.

About 5 or 6 years ago, dollar stores suddenly seemed to go out of fashion. People began to look down their noses at shopping at such stores . There was even a New York Lottery ad featuring a jingle that said that if you won the big prize, you would not have to shop at a dollar story ever again.

Now , with the recession, things have changed back again. Frugality is in and one way to practice thrift  is to buy at the dollar store. Even as big department stores feel the pinch, the dollar stores appear to be thriving. Of course now, not all the stock is priced at a dollar. More and more of the items are priced at a $ 1.20 , @1.49 or even $1.99. Just another sign of how far the dollar has fallen.

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Long car journeys can be a mind numbing experience when one is driving alone. Some time ago,the author William Least Heat Moon was driving across North Dakota and he needed to find a way to keep awake. At such times , one way to keep from dozing off is to think up an interesting question. On this occasion Moon asked himself ” How many people would I meet if I lived to age 90 ? ” He defined a meeting as ” a face-to-face exchange containing a clear , if momentary, recognition ” between himself and another. It could range from something as simple as a wave , a greeting or a smile all the way to a life long friendship. However, each person could only count once towards the total .

In his case, the total that he came up with ( and he was being generous) was 100,000.

At first, I thought that this number was too low but , on reflection, I have to agree with him that it is generous. If you think about it, we meet a lot of new people during our school and college years but afterwards we tend to deal with the same people over and over again.This is true even at the workplace, unless we keep changing jobs or unless we are in customer service. Besides , as we grow older, we meet fewer and fewer people. If you discount the people we meet in the first three or four years of life, the final number becomes even smaller.Ditto if you live in a rural environment or in a small town and never move away.

In my case, since I lived in a populous country ( India) before coming to the States.Since then I have traveled quite extensively , worked in New York City and lived in the suburbs and my number is probably close to 100,000. What’s your’s ?

While I was trying to figure out the number of people I’d probably meet in my lifetime, I also came up with 2 other interesting numbers.The number of days that a 90 year old lives is < 32,000. Less than you thought, right ? And ( are you ready for this ?) ,total number of days since the dawn of  the Christian era is  less than three-quarters of a million.  ( 365 x 2008-1/4 = approximately 733,000.) Surprising , isn’t it ?

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