I’m Becoming The Lady At Walmart Who Fights People For A Television on Black Friday and Ends Up As An Unintentional Youtube Celebrity

This is now a blood sport. My Fuel Up To Win card now has one piece missing in each of the sections INCLUDING the $100,000 prize. This morning alone I tackled a grizzled old trapper at the gas station to pry six tickets out of his gnarled arthritic hands. Actually that’s not true, for some reason, probably because he lives in a cave with only a beaver for company, the trapper didn’t know about Fuel Up To Win.

Consequently, when the kindly cashier handed him his tickets, he proceeded to rip into them like he was a starved wolverine feasting upon a squirrel.  The cashier intervened and helped him to open the second ticket. After discovering that he didn’t win a car or another moose head for his cave wall, the trapper threw his tickets at her and stomped out. She was balling them up to toss in the trash when I sprinted for the cash- “I’ll take those” I said. She handed the whole ripped mess over to me and I pocketed it quickly. Then I purchased a small box of Glossettes to earn myself a ticket.

In case you’re sitting in the wings, judging me for abusing the contest rules and buying a small box of candy just to play. Yes I’m there, judge away. But what you should also know is that it wasn’t my first visit to a Coop Gas Bar that day. At nine AM, after being kept awake by Mini-Tex’s terrible cough and my own GI bug, I woke up wanting only one thing – a chance to play. Well two things, I also wanted Smarties.

The problem was that I had told someone in town that I wasn’t feeling well last night. That I was so sick in fact, that I had to cancel our plans for that day. This is a very, very small town, that becomes microscopically small when you do something like dash into the grocery store wearing pyjama bottoms and no bra, then suddenly your child’s teacher, your boss and that lady you hate because she always has her hair perfectly coiffed are all waiting at the checkout with you. Man, I hate Samantha; her outfits are always fabulous too.

Having lived in this tiny town for almost a year now, and having already made the mistake of going to the mall on a Saturday, I knew all of this. Meaning, that I knew that I couldn’t take our stroller out for the quick walk to the gas bar because I would see no less than 10 people I knew. All of them would know that both Mini-Tex and I were ill, so I would be forever marked as the negligent parent taking her ailing son out and the bad friend who cancels but isn’t too sick to go for a walk. So walking was out, which was just as well because I was actually too sick to walk.

At 8:37 AM, I drove the 500 meters to the gas bar. I’m ashamed to say it, but it was the only way I could be within a minute of a bathroom and get my Fuel Up To Win ticket. On the way, I debated asking Jesus to stop paying attention to all the lepers and poor people and steer everyone I knew away from the gas bar so I could buy my early morning treat in anonymity. I decided not to, that as awful as it would be to be seen purchasing chocolate before nine AM on a Monday, the people whose noses were falling off needed prayers more.

This morning, I got lucky and was in and out of the convenience store with my tickets in hand before someone could so much as say “How’s that husband of yours?” and I didn’t see anyone that I knew which means that about half of the people recognized me. This is my new gambling low. I always wondered how people could throw punches over electronics, but now, hitting rock bottom, chewing on my second box of candy today, I know that I’m a short hop away from boxing with strangers over a TV.

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The Answer to My Husband’s Question of “Why Do We Have 38 Bananas, 7 Liters of Milk and 12 Pounds of Baloney?”

Hello my name is Sarah and I’m a gambling addict. I wasn’t aware of this quality of mine until recently; my extreme inner cheapskate would never permit me to actually spend money on gambling, even quarter slot machines eat at my frugal soul. Sitting at the slots, I would agonize internally- “That was a quarter you just lost” I’d admonish myself, “That money could have purchased eight whole peanut M&Ms out of a candy machine!” So slots are out, as is poker and any other card game because I’m not one for games. The lottery is too unlikely as a winning venture and even scratch cards tend to get on my money saving nerves after a couple of losing tickets, but contests run by businesses? Count me in.

Once upon a time, before caffeine spelled my imminent demise, I loved coffee, and in the New Year, I LOVED Roll Up The Rim To Win, an annual event at the Canadian institution of Tim Horton’s. As a student, my once daily cuppa joe would become a jittery morning, afternoon and sleepless night, three-times-a-day habit during the contest. All in the name of rolling up the rim to discover a free doughnut or coffee. But then, tragically, I grew up and got myself a drip filter, thus my inner cheapskate killed this once beloved tradition in favor of saving money by brewing coffee at home.

Now enter the Prairie past time of “Fuel Up To Win”. The name is deceiving because if Tex and I were dependent on putting gas in our car to participate- we’d lose. Even if we were to drive all over town every single day- we’d fuel up once every two months, it’s just not a large place. As avid cyclists and staunch environmentalists, we use even less fuel. The contest began at the pump, but extended to the grocery stores, meaning that each time a person buys milk or kielbasa, you’re given a ticket to win. In other words, I’m in cheapskate gambling heaven.

Purchase $25 of groceries, you get one ticket, $50 of eggs and the like will get you two tickets but packing your cart with $100 worth of yogurt and such will earn you three tickets to win. Here’s the frugal catch – it’s $25 and UNDER. Meaning a person could buy $11 dollars of groceries and still get a chance to win- or even two dollars! This is why I’ve found myself visiting the grocery store every single day. Sometimes twice.

Occasionally I’ll get lucky and some distracted shopper will leave hard earned tickets behind at the cash. At which point I’ll ask whether I can have them. And God bless the underpaid youth- they always nod and push the tickets my way while scanning the rest of my order. It creates the kind of feeling that one only gets when they realize that they’ve accidentally placed a “Z” on a triple letter score in Scrabble. It’s brilliant, it’s wonderful, it’s beautiful; it makes you want to fall on your knees in appreciation of the youth’s ambivalence. As it is, I just shove the tickets into my pockets and speed away before the cashier changes their mind.

Then comes my favourite part- the actual ticket. Tim Horton’s coffee cups have nothing on this game. First of all, there are THREE tickets- they’re all placed on a game card. The playing card itself has separate sections so one filled section may earn a barbeque or another will earn $50 in grocery gift certificates. And then there is the piece de resistance- the section that if all the matching tickets are found, gets one person $100,000 dollars cash. All this just for buying chicken wings that I would have purchased anyway!  My inner frugal miser is doing joyful cartwheels in a bouncy house over this.

Yes, often there are duplicate tickets, but amass eight of those and you’ve got a chance to enter yet another contest! Oh my cheapskate self is crowing with pleasure. Then as if all of that wasn’t exciting enough, the three tickets are packaged within a larger ticket that could be a coupon, or another chance at a different contest or perhaps a free KitKat. Free chocolate? I’ll take eight!

So all of this excitement has led to frequent trips to the grocery store. What I’ve discovered is that, after visiting the grocery store every single day, sometimes twice for two weeks, is that one eventually runs out of groceries to buy. It’s gotten to the point where I’m avoiding purchasing such staples as toilet paper or dish soap because I could buy those any day whereas today we definitely need apples. The contest has also led to an overconsumption of kale on my part. It’s the one food item that I can justify eating in mass quantities in order to have something to put on the grocery list the next day. And while I could spend only a couple of dollars purchasing one item, I feel that’s a bit like gaming the system, especially during my second visit of the day after my son has enjoyed his second free cookie from the bakery. (Yes, I stuff my two year old full of baked goods so that he’ll willingly accompany me to the grocery store a couple of times a day. You can judge me after I’ve won a free lawn mower.)

A friend nicely pointed out that I may have a problem. Which is true. But it’s a short lived one- the contest closes in mid-April. In the meantime, I’ll just have to live with myself on days like yesterday, when it was too slippery to drive and too snowy for the stroller so I hauled my thirty pound toddler over two kilometers on a sled in the name of kale, frozen pizza and a “Fuel Up To Win Ticket”. Such is the life of an addict.

The Makings Of A Fan

Michael Card

 Pure white snow reflects 90% of sunlight. Bald white heads reflect 97% of arena light. (Michael Card Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I attended my second Leaf’s game in Toronto last month. I can’t really tell you much about the first Leaf’s game I attended, I spent the evening sitting on the floor of our cushy box playing Mancala with my sister. Eleven and nine respectively we peaked our heads up only once to observe the arena below us. Our contribution to the hockey discussion? “Wow, look at all the bald guys.”

My father was not impressed, it was the first and last hockey game we were taken to. Fast forward seventeen years, I’m sitting next to my husband, way up in the nosebleeds of the Air Canada Centre. I’ve now lost count of the number of hockey games I’ve attended. NHL, OHL, AHL, I’ve been to them all. Upper row, balconies, boxes, I’ve sat everywhere. The last hockey game I saw before the Leafs was an OHL game. Roscoe my husband had bought us seats right next to the boards. I jumped in terror every time the players slammed into the seemingly insubstantial pieces of wood and metal in front of us, certain that I was about to have a brawling six foot two athlete in my lap the next moment.

Having been afflicted with both ants in the pants and itchy feet for most of my life, my husband and I have an agreement at sporting events; I need to sit for the first half and then I may wander away to explore the arena and return in time for the last five minutes of play.

My primary attraction and love of attending sporting events stems from one thing: peanuts. Where else in the world can you shell then consume an entire bag of peanuts without looking like a glutton or a really poor houseguest? Outside of sleazy bars I mean, but seeing as I am married and fall asleep no later than 8:30 PM most nights, those aren’t places that I frequent.

Before every game Roscoe buys me a bag of peanuts, we find our seats and then I sit happily shelling my snack for a good forty minutes. Longer in the states, I swear their bags are larger. In return I am supposed to stay in my seat for the first half of the game, cheer when I am supposed to cheer meaning when other people around us are, pretend that I know or at the very least recognize the Hockey Night In Canada song rather than asking “What is everyone singing?” and finally not get upset and feel badly for the other team when they’re losing and then cheer for them. Up until last weekend this was what I thought of and looked forward to every time Roscoe gleefully announced that we had tickets: peanuts.

However this night was different, although I still loved eating the peanuts I didn’t get up out of my seat at intermission, I actually sat and tried to understand the game. After three years of marriage, and thus sitting through countless games I’ve picked up on a number of vital rules in hockey.

  1. There are five players on the ice per team at any time, plus a goalie.
  2. People get very excited when there is a fight, it is important that your team gets the most punches in.
  3. The buzzer only sounds when the home team scores a goal.

Please note that last rule is SUPER confusing for someone who had no idea where the puck was and now can’t figure out why the crowd is upset.

 

Last month I discovered that if I focused, I was able to follow the puck. I still might lose it occasionally but I was no longer scanning the entire rink trying to figure out what was going on or what I had missed.

English: View from the back row (standing room...

Our fabulous view from the nosebleeds. We paid a couple hundred dollars  and signed in blood that we would hand over our first born child for these seats. This sounds unreasonable but the people two rows below us promised two decades of indentured servitude for their seats. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Leaf’s scored three goals that night, and I saw every single one of them. Not only that but I saw the numerous close saves Reimer made. For those of you who are new to hockey Reimer is the Leaf’s goalie. Also, in sports players are referred to by their last names. Suddenly I was no longer relying on the loud guy in our section to know when to take a sharp intake of breath (Will they score?)  or a small cheer (Great save!) or a really loud cheer (Goal!). I actually understood the whole thing.

Roscoe of course was mystified, all he saw was his normally full of beans wife suddenly sitting stock still next to him. “Are you ok?” he poked me in the shoulder. “Yes” I replied curtly, his question made me completely lose track of the puck. Then later on a nervously posed “Are you getting tired?”  “No, I’m fine.” Once again I was equally curt, but only because I’d just realized that players pass the puck to one another. Before that night the movement of the puck had seemed completely random to me, just a small black dot traveling in a series of bizarre zig zags across an expanse of white.

All at once when Roscoe made an annoyed comment of “The Leaf’s are playing poorly.” I could understand why. The Leafs are a team, teams have to work together in order to accomplish things, when the Leafs play well, they pass the puck to one another and don’t give it up to the opposing team.

Now to a seasoned hockey fan all of this sounds very basic, but to a person who has never once played a team sport with any sort of regularity and skill it was a breakthrough. I found myself enjoying being in the seats and not just because the nine year old in front of us wearing a Bruins hat decided to yell “Leafs suck!” in response to the chorus of “Bruins suck” and was promptly flicked in the ear by her Dad. My enjoyment was from realizing that I could actually see who the Bruins could pass to and when there was an opportunity to shoot on the net.

As the third period drew to a close and the Leafs lost their two point lead, I was absorbed by the excitement and tension in the crowd. When the Bruins scored their second point although I didn’t boo because in my mind that is always rude and the least Canadian and sportsman like thing to do, I did feel a drop in my stomach from disappointment. The whole arena was awash in blue and white. In my own blue “Gilmour” jersey, I became one of them.

Pulling on jerseys had almost been an afterthought as we left the house that day. Roscoe was wearing his white jersey signed by Eric Lindross. He had held up another white jersey to match his but the men’s size medium had swamped my tiny frame. Sitting at the bottom of the drawer was a blue child’s jersey Roscoe had received for his eighth birthday. This of course fit almost perfectly when I wore it over a sweater and another shirt. Now standing in the sea of blue and white jerseys which I was a part of, I suddenly wanted desperately for this group of fans to experience the elation of a win. Silently I willed Reimer to be vigilant, for the defense to pass pucks away from the net. As the clock buzzed signaling the end of the game, cheering and shouts of joy swept across the Air Canada Centre. My husband stood next to me “Yes! Yes!” He pumped his fists into the air. Dejected Bruins fans filed out as Leaf’s fans high fived one another, reliving the last minute saves of the game. Although I couldn’t actually comment on the number of bald men in attendance, I enjoyed this Leaf’s game possibly even more than my first.