The Future of Big Box Stores?

I had an interesting experience this morning. It started last night.

I needed a tool. I need it quickly and is no longer doing the two day delivery thing. I decided to see if our local Lowe’s had what I needed. They did, but the web site warned that stock on this item is low and I should purchase quickly. I was going to go to Lowe’s the following morning but was concerned that I’d get there and find that tool had sold out before I got there. This has happened to me before. Whether they actually sold out or the web site lied to me about how many were on hand is hard to say. Computers are not as infallible as some like to say. Not as long as people run them.

I decided to secure my tool by ordering it on-line for store pick-up in the morning. The web site sent me an e-mail saying the tool will be available for pick-up from the pick-up lockers just inside the main entry, and gave me a bar code to use in collecting my purchase. That’s something new! I printed out the page.

Lowe’s claims that this form of store pick-up reduces interpersonal contact, and so is safer for everyone in this age of pandemic.

Yeah, whatever.

Armed with my print-out I drove into town, parked in the Lowe’s lot and went inside. Sure enough, there was a bank of lockers of various sizes and shapes.

The terminal said to scan my bar code and the locker containing my items will pop open. It wasn’t quite that simple. Being a newbie I didn’t know the secret hand gesture that is required to get the terminals attention. But once I was indoctrinated a door popped open and there sat my tool.

Being the weirdo that I am, this got my mind to running as I rode the interstate home. What would be the logical evolution of this technology if pursued?

I saw big box stores replacing almost all of the store employees with picker robots like uses to manage their warehouses.

A company would only need a few Bot Wranglers to oversee things and throw the power switch if the bots go crazy and start busting the place up.

Customers order on-line with their smart glasses (because computers and even phones are a thing of the past by then), bots run around collecting the items and stashing them in a locker, then the system sends the customer the pick-up code. Large orders, like building materials or appliances, would be in a large locker on a robotic sled that will follow you to your truck so you can transfer the load (it might even help), then return to the store.

Of course the pick-up terminal will be peppered with cameras and maybe a taser cannon to prevent vandals or looters from damaging the lockers.

I can see all the big box stores: Wal-Mart, Sam’s Club, Target, Home Depot, Lowe’s, etc going this route. This will be a major bummer for those who enjoy spending hours and hours shopping for stuff they didn’t know they needed. But I guess we’ll always have malls for that.

So, what do you think: possible? Probable? Or totally outlandish?


An acquaintance on Facebook, someone we go to church with: Lorryn, celebrated her 17th birthday yesterday.  She posted it as celebrating (number) days of life and proclaiming it a wonderful adventure.  I thought that was pretty cool and wondered how many days it will have been when I celebrate my birthday in a couple weeks.  A few taps on a calculator gave me a number.  But wait, that doesn’t take into account leap years.  How many leap years have I lived through?

I found an on-line tool that answered that question.  Guess how many leap years have occurred in my life.  17.  Lorryn was celebrating her 17th birthday and I’ve lived through 17 leap years.  I found that interesting.

You may now proceed with your day.  Hopefully you will be able to function normally after that astounding revelation.

When Frustrations Rise

I’m grumpy this morning.  My body hurts all over.  Sinuses are running and the decongestant I took is making me sleepy.  I’m on my 3rd mug of coffee.  If it’s helping, it’s not enough.

NOT Wilton Springs Hdwr, but similar.

I went to fill a propane tank yesterday, so I could keep Scout and Camden warmer at night. It’s supposed to be down in the 20’s at night all week.  I took an empty tank to Wilton Springs Hardware, went inside to let them know what I needed. They made me prepay. That’s new, but understandable. The way things are laid out, it would be easy for someone to just drive off without going back in to pay.

Paul hooked the tank up to their pump and turned it on. The rolly-gauge thing did not roll up. To save time in the telling of this story: he tried a variety of things, including turning the tank upside down and banging it on the concrete, but each time the read-out stayed on zero.

“The valve in your tank is jammed, I can’t get gas to go in.”

This was the first time this winter that I’d tried to fill this particular tank, so it’s possible it corroded. I have several, so I went to get another tank.

I returned with a tank that was not quite empty. Paul was busy helping a customer in the store so a tall, young fellow (Justin, I think they called him) came out to help me, and we got a repeat performance.

I seriously doubted that this tank was bad because I had been using it before I put the last freshly-filled tank on the furnace. Gas flowed through that valve just fine. But … if they can’t get gas to go into it … they can’t.  Another fellow drove up to have a tank filled.

I loaded mine up to go get a refund. I was thinking I’d drive out to JCCUD and see if they could fill the tank. That’s way out the other side of Newport, but I need propane to keep the doggos warm in this cold.

While I was working on loading and strapping-in, this other fellows tank was pronounced “bad”. Three tanks in a row, just like that? No way! The other fellow agreed, said there was nothing wrong with his tank.  The owner came out and checked the pump and the hose. The pump was producing pressure and he could send a plume of propane out the end of the nozzle. Not clogged. He stood there scratching his head as I drove back over to get my refund.

While I was inside doing that the young fellow came running over, snatched the 40 pound cylinder (which weighs more than 40 pounds, especially when it still contains some propane) out of my truck and ran off with it. Mitch, the owner, came in and explained that the cogs on the meter wheel were stripped. The wheels don’t roll, but gas is flowing and they can go by weight instead of gallons.

The cashier quickly aborted my refund.

So I drove back over to the filling station and backed in again. The strong young fella hoisted the now full tank up into the back of my truck for me and I strapped it in, then drove back over to the main building. They still owed me money because I paid for a full 40 pounds and there was a little less than 1/4 tank still in this one before the fill-up. So they calculated it out and gave me back the difference.

I left a little frustrated by the wasted time: I had several other errands to run that morning and needed to be back home by 1:00 to connect with Marie. As it turned out, I made it.  But only because the other stops went exceptionally well.  I’d say God was smoothing the path for me.  So I’m glad I didn’t grouse at anyone about the issues. I remained pleasant and cordial, even though I really wanted to choke someone. But it all worked out and Da Boyz were warm last night. And now we all know that when the wheels don’t roll, look at the scale to see if the tank is getting heavier.

Before I started typing this I went to get another mug of coffee. I just picked it up off the mug warmer to take a swig and … it’s EMPTY!

“Alright, which one of you dogs snuck in here while I was typing and drank my coffee?”

Grace and Marcie On Your Tail

There was a woman who had a son named Timmy.  When Timmy was in kindergarten she would walk him to school, a few blocks away.

Halfway through the year Timmy said, “You don’t need to walk me to the door, Mom, I’m a big boy now.  You wait here on the sidewalk and I’ll go up on my own.”  So she’d wait on the sidewalk and watch till her son got inside.

The following year her son said, “Mom, when I start first grade, I want to walk to school on my own.  I’m a big boy now, you don’t need to walk me to school.”  She agreed, but was worried about leaving him on his own so young.

She had a friend who lived two doors down who was going to be walking her daughter to Kindergarten that year and the woman asked her friend if they would time their walks to and from school to allow Timmy to get out front by a half block or so and just sort of keep an eye on him without letting him know they were keeping an eye on him.  Her friend said she would. Continue reading “Grace and Marcie On Your Tail”

Here’s the Thing

The thing is that I don’t know enough about the thing to be able to quantify the thing well enough to discuss it accurately. Not that anyone cares about that; so many people spout off about so much without knowing much of anything about that thing.

Knowing what one was talking about would require the acquisition of facts. Who has time for that? Facts are anachronistic: relics from a bygone era when people cared about truth. No one cares about facts now. No one cares about truth now.  What matters now is how the thing makes you feel. Emotions are what rule our society now that The Enlightened have taken over.

Those who become indignant when The Enlightened burn homes and loot businesses of innocent bystanders because someone said or did something that upset The Enlightened, are knuckle-dragging bigots, bent on hauling society back into the caves of law, order, and morality.

And that’s the thing.

Being Busy vs Being Productive

More and more I encounter people who talk about how much they’re involved in and how many things they do.  Quite often this is delivered in the form of complaint.  I have to wonder, who is it that puts these burdens upon them?  Is it not they themselves who choose to engage in so many activities?

I also note that some of these people are not especially good at some of the things they do.  Some seem to be forever working toward things they never actually achieve: chasing after something that eludes them because they’re weighed down with too much detritus not related to that goal.

too many projectsOur modern world sets this scenario as being the norm and anyone who is not over-burdened is lazy.  I see sayings like, “If you want something done, give it to the busiest person you know.”  At first glance that seems to make sense, but upon deeper examination it falls apart.  Is that person “busy” because as soon as they finish one task they take on another or because they accomplish little: just trying to keep all the plates spinning?  Too often it is the latter. Continue reading “Being Busy vs Being Productive”

Tis a Humbling Thing

supermanIt is a humbling thing to be confronted with the fact that you are not Superman. You can no longer do things you once could … or rather, when you do them anyway you pay a hefty price. Stamina fades faster that it once did. And concepts you were confident you could handle turn out to be deeply distressing.

This is a big part of why I said “farewell” to my co-workers at the Humane Society of Jefferson County today. This was a bittersweet parting for I do need to rest and heal but I have enjoyed working with the animals, and the people, and I have learned a lot: especially in the realm of medical treatments and testing.

All of the staff members were (are) great to work with: patient while I was learning (for there is a great deal to learn) and helpful when I lagged behind. I found no petty rivalries here: they are a team of big-hearted, hard working people dedicated to providing a clean, safe environment for the animals in their care, and then finding them homes again. There are also some wonderful volunteers who step in to help and will work hard without pay. These volunteers deserve an extra helping of praise.


On the one hand, I love working with the animals. Except maybe the rats: I still can’t say I enjoy the rats. As a youngster I wanted to be a veterinarian, but that was not to be. The medical side of this job has been as close to that as I’ve come. And I liked it. I like every one of the people who I worked with, and will miss them.

On the other hand, I will again have time to spend with the 6 dogs I have at home: some are pets, some are fosters. I’m supposed to be training the fosters, I will again have time to actually do that. These animals will be thrilled to NOT be cooped up and on their own all day, almost every day. I will also have the opportunity to let my abused body heal, and to catch up on the “office” work that has been piling up while I was occupied elsewhere.

So I’m moving on. Or stepping back or … maybe sideways. It’s hard to say yet. But I feel this is the right thing to do, even if it’s not easy.

Best Laid Plans

calendar, planning, routineThe Rescue group I work with (Steele Away Home) was supposed to have a medical day yesterday (Friday) so I requested to be off work that day — since I have two dogs that needed to be spayed or neutered.  But the mobile vet clinic would not start, so the medical day got rescheduled to next Thursday. I work Thursday — I’m off Monday and Wednesday.  Monday I’m supposed to take Marie’s car to the mechanicn place.

Today I asked around work if anyone would swap days with me. Bobby said he needed to be off Monday because his wife has a doctor’s appointment and he needs to stay home to take care of their 3 kids. That would complicate getting Marie’s car to the mechanic, but we could drop it off Sunday, so I agreed to the swap.  That means an extra trip into town and leaving her car in the parking lot overnight, but … it would be there so they could get started on it Monday morning.

When I got home there was a message on the answering machine. It was from Bobby. His wife’s appointment is Wednesday this week, not Monday as usual: the first time that’s ever happened! So he’d rather swap Wednesday for Thursday not Monday for Thursday.

I love it when things just work out!

Tale of the Toolbox

Last week there was a fence/gate repair job that needed doing at work.  A co-worker, Bobby, and I were asked to take a look at it and see what we could do.  The boss had some parts that might help.  They even had a toolbox … of sorts.

Bobby had recently been assigned the task of cleaning out several junk drawers, finding all the tools and putting them into a donated toolbox, sorting through the rest: toss the detritus and sort the usable “stuff” into big plastic bags by category.  So our task now was  simpler.

However, the toolbox consisted of 3 hammers, a half-dozen badly abused screw drivers, and a pair of pliers.  We decided to bring tools from home and do the job the next day.  Bobby wasn’t there the next day, so I accomplished the job with the tools I brought.  All I was missing was a set of deep sockets (which I didn’t have but Bobby did) and a ratchet.  But I did the job with a crescent wrench.  The sockets do the job faster and with fewer bloody smears on the fencing, but a crescent wrench will do in a pinch.

I wanted to double the hinge at the top of the gate (which is at least 8 feet wide, maybe more) to keep it from twisting the hinge again.  I lacked one part and a couple of bolts to do that.  I picked up the hardware on my day off.  I also decided to assemble a usable toolbox.

My Toolbox History

Continue reading “Tale of the Toolbox”

The Future of Motor Vehicles and Travel

self driving cars transportationThis, supposedly humorous, picture has been making the rounds on Facebook. I imagine we’ve all spaced out behind the wheel of our motor vehicles once or twice. What is frightening is that this post has collected dozens of comments from people who say they’ve done it. Many say it’s happened several times. Some say it happens to them frequently. That is worrisome, and the biggest reason I can think of to push for the development of self-driving cars.

My Twin-Brother-By-Another-Mother and I have discussed this a few times, and the following is a melding of our ideas.

Self driving motor vehicles will be a novelty that catches on slowly. People described above will be the primary customers: people who, for whatever reason, cannot manage to pay attention to their driving will see self driving cars as a great convenience. As the vehicles on the road become primarily self-driving, society will be ready for the next step. Continue reading “The Future of Motor Vehicles and Travel”