I’m lying here on the couch – with the pugs asleep next to me – getting my “new” laptop just the way I like it. A customer was supposed to show up and drop off their laptop today at 3, but that never happened. Shoulda guessed that, but I had to be here in guess they did show up. Anyway, this “new” laptop is much older than the new Acer netbook I bought in October (for just $290), but the keyboard is much bigger which makes it SO much easier to type. I told Tara (my wife) she can have the netbook if this other laptop (a Dell Inspiron 1150, by the way) works out for me. I spent $50 on 1 gigabyte of memory to speed it up, and so far so good. Did I mention it was free? Yeah. A long-time customer who was moving out of town and trying to lighten her load just gave it to me, free. She thought it was dead and I never tested it until I got it home. Turned out, it was just the battery that was dead. Once I recharged that, it was fine! To give it a fresh start, I wiped the hard drive and installed XP Pro on it even though it came with XP Home. After installing service pack 3 and Office 2003 on it, however, the thing was DOG SLOW! Unbearable. That’s when I bought the new memory. With the new memory in it, I tried installing Windows 7. That went fine except that the video display was limited to 800×600 because of driver issues, and that resolution is just not acceptable these days. So, now it has XP Home on it again (but not Office), which I’ll stick with ‘cuz I’m sick of reinstalling everything.

Something else I’ve gotten free recently are the antibiotics I need to take prior to my biopsy I’ll be having in a couple weeks. Three pills and they wanted $48 for them! And that was AFTER the insurance cut the price in half. For antibiotics? Anyway, on the pharmacist’s (Kroger at Nolensville and Old Hickory) suggestion, I called the doctor’s office back to see if they had a generic equivalent that might be cheaper. They didn’t, but they did have some samples they could give me free of charge if I wanted to stop by and pick them up, which I did.

Apparently on a roll, I then went to Lowe’s to see about a hand tiller. Basically, a four-pronged four-foot pipe with a vertical handlebar on top and a place for your foot at the bottom that helps loosen up dirt in your garden or wherever. The weeds have gotten out of control again. I’d seen one that morning at Ace Hardware for $30, which I thought was a little too much for such a simple tool. I thought I might check online for something cheaper, but never got around to that. Then after work I stopped by Lowe’s and found an even better tiller for $29.88. I brought it up to the self-checkout register (apparently that 12 cents versus Ace’s price made all the difference), but it didn’t have a barcode on it, so I had to take it to an actual cashier. She asked me what it was called so she could look it up on her register. One of her co-workers insisted it was called an “aerator,” which she had to ask me how to spell. The word “tiller” had escaped me for some reason, but I said I thought the sign called it a “cultivator.” She wasn’t finding anything under either name. Finally, her co-worker went to where I’d found the item and came back to tell the cashier which number to enter into the register.

He then marched off in a hurry somewhere.

When she typed in the number, it came up as a flower. Peonies, actually, and the price with tax was $5.44. “Does that work for you?” she asked. “I said, ‘Yeah, that works for me, but it’s not the right item.'” She said, “No, I entered in the number he gave me. That’s what came up. Does that price work for you?” I realized then what she was saying. “Yes, that works for me!” And so, I got the hand tiller for $5, which is probably what Lowe’s paid for it, anyway. Then I called my bargain-hunting, coupon-queen wife and told her about this great deal. She was proud of me … I think.

Maybe these freebies and cheap deals are the universe’s way of making up for the financial hardship I’ve gone through since losing my job last September.

It was only two weeks ago, by the way, that I basically got my old job back, only as a part-time consultant… without benefits, of course.

Too bad it ends in January.

My wife is convinced, and it’s hard to argue, that they’re going to close the Nashville (actually Brentwood) office.

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