Down the Hall on Your Left

This site is a blog about what has been coasting through my consciousness lately. The things I post will be reflections that I see of the world around me. You may not agree with me or like what I say. In either case – you’ll get over it and I can live with it if it makes you unhappy. Please feel free to leave comments if you wish . All postings are: copyright 2014 – 2021

Archive for the category “Shopping”

Old Dog … New Tricks

JUST BECAUSE I’m retired doesn’t mean that my brain is sitting on a shelf in a dusty glass jar labeled “Abnormal.” Far from it! I am always looking to add new skills – new arrows in my quiver if you will.

It has been almost eight months since some pesky virus I’ve been reading about began throwing monkey wrenches into everyone’s daily lives.

This stop at the Malfunction Junction in our lives has given me the opportunity to discover and master a new skill. It may be that a new avenue could be opening up before me because this Old Dog has learned a New Trick.

The reality is that we are all doing less out in the world and are relying on having the world shipped to us. We are getting groceries, clothing, books, cosmetics, medications, and some things that are none of your business, delivered right to our front door. Everything comes securely shipped in sturdy cardboard boxes.

I love unpacking all of our deliveries. It’s almost like Christmas Morning without the electric trains and the pine needles. I take the scissors and neatly cut the sealing tape, open up the flaps, and lift out our goodies. After that I set the empty cardboard boxes to the side, out of the way.

Aha!

It was on a day like that when the handsome young UPS guy stopped by our house so often that we considered adoption that we were faced with a pile of empty boxes. I spent a couple hours struggling with those boxes to get them crammed into our recycling bin. That was not a good solution to the growing population of boxes that were filling up the downstairs bathroom. They were coming in faster than I could get them out. This problem was going to require some thought.

I sat in the kitchen with a large box. There was not enough room for the both of us. One of us had to go. Finally, I saw the solution in front of me. I began to tear the blasted box to pieces. I was stronger

than the box and in less than a minute I had that humungous container reduced to a neat little stack of cardboard pieces no bigger than the crock pot. I was deliriously happy. I knew how Einstein must have felt when he realized the “E” did, in fact, equal “MC².”

It didn’t take me very long to get into a destructive groove and those boxes were disappearing faster than taxis in a thunderstorm. I was disassembling the boxes like a tornado going through a trailer park. That Recycling bin in the back yard was taking all I could give it with room to spare.

I am living proof that “Old Dogs Can Learn New Tricks.”

I can already roll over, heel, stay, and sit up and beg. Now I can add “Knows how to destroy cardboard boxes.”

It may not be much, but it’s better than nothing.

Isn’t it?

My Childhood In The Distant Past

Reluctant as I am to say so I must admit something: I am an old man. My youth was in a Post-World War Two 1940s and 1950s.

I was born in 1946 in Cleveland and raised in a small town in the hills of Western Pennsylvania and, in many ways, I lived a childhood rooted in the 19th century. Whenever I tell someone of my daily life they react as if I was telling them a story about an earlier time. They find it hard to believe when I tell them that my mother bought her fruits and vegetables from a man with a horse drawn wagon, we had bearded hobos knocking on our door for a handout, and quarantine signs on our front door whenever a kid got one of the many childhood diseases.

When I moved from The Valley to go to college in The Big City people were amazed and amused when I told them about The Pony Man.

There were few times more exciting for the neighborhood kids than those days when the old wooden wagon piled high with fruits and vegetables and pulled by a pinto pony came down the street. The Pony Man’s name was Carmine and the pony was Tony. My mother would make her selections and drop her money into the basket that sat on the seat next to Carmine. Business concluded Tony would move on to their next stop. Tony knew the route by heart.

A remnant of the Great Depression were the Hobos who “Rode the rails” from coast to coast looking for work. Many of them had been wandering for decades unable to leave the life on “The Road.” Our house was just two blocks up from the river and the main railroad tracks that carried passengers and

freight up and down the Valley. It was not unusual for a Bearded Hobo to knock on our back door looking for a handout and/or an odd job. My mother was a soft touch and handed out a lot of sandwiches. I once found this symbol scrawled on a tree near the house. It meant that a nice lady lived there.

There were also “Tinkerers” who would walk through the neighborhood shouting out “Knives sharpened! Pots Fixed!” Tinkerers were itinerant repairmen, the original “Jack of all trades” workers. They would help the neighborhood Mothers by pounding out dents in their pots and pans and grinding the kitchen knives sharp again. Those were not throw-away items.

Given recent events in our world most people are seeing the word “Quarantine” for the first time. I grew up seeing that word a dozen times a year.

In the 1950s there were a number of highly contagious diseases that were often called “Childhood diseases.” Measles (3 different versions), Mumps, Chicken Pox, and others would sweep through every

year and the local Board of Health would try to control the diseases by posting “Quarantine” signs on our front door. It meant that no one got in or out of that house until the disease had run its course. My father had several bouts of staying in local motels while I and my brother were sick.

In the Summertime the Quarantine was sometimes violated on purpose. When the word got around that a kid had measles or whatever the neighborhood mothers would throw a “Measles Party” to deliberately expose their kids to the disease just to get it over with before school started again in September. It was somewhat perilous, but effective.

A child’s life in those days in my small town was certainly different. It was a much simpler time in many ways than today. However, it also had its own terrors that no longer exist. Every Summer there was the looming fear of another epidemic of Polio, a disease that is rare today thanks to two men names Salk and Sabin.

I could tell you more stories of my childhood in the time-warp Valley where the modern world collided with earlier days when everyone knew everyone else, your child’s milk came to your door in glass bottles and three cents would send a letter across the country.

Perhaps I will. Let me know what you think I should do.

Are You Being Served?

 

HERE WE GO AGAIN. We are now in the throes of the Christmas Shopping Season. The online vendors are doing business at an astounding level and Shopping Malls are hanging on by a slender thread.

The Retail World is changing…Again.

For thousands of years the individual merchant did business one customer at a time, one sale at a time. The customer went to the merchant’s shop to find what they needed. Then in the late 19th Century we saw (Well, not me personally) the rise of the Department Store.

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Searching For High Quality Trash

 

HOW SOON AFTER GETTING UP IS IT ALLOWABLE TO TAKE A NAP? I think I may be pushing it a bit, but I got up at 7:30 this morning. It is now 11:10 AM and I’m seriously considering a little nappy-poo. I know that sounds nasty but…I don’t care.

It is now 3:37 PM.

It was a good little nap. I agree with you. A four and a half nap does border on a coma, but I felt it was also somewhat medicinal. Take a pill or two; lay down for just a minute…BOOM! Its late afternoon. I had plans. So much for them.

It is time to go on to Plan B. Get up, put on pants, and go buy a couple of souvenir T shirts. It’s obligatory in Florida. There is probably a law on the books here, “Don’t buy a cheap T shirt and we feed you to the gators.” People disappear all the time down here. They vanish forever or just show up at the Mayo Clinic. “I was standing in the buffet line when, all of a sudden, I blacked out and woke up in Minnesota.”

I’m going out to hunt for cheap T Shirts. Wish me luck.

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Throwback Thursday from December 2015

Throwback Thursday 2

Keep Yer Wheel. I’ve Got Something Better

dollar store2

SOME SAY THAT THE WHEEL IS THE GREATEST OF ALL INVENTIONS. Others say it is fire, or the printing press. I disagree. I think that the greatest invention in the History of the Human Species is The Dollar Store.

Let me explain…

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I Don’t Need It. The Chickens Don’t Need It

TODAY IS OUR LAST FULL DAY FOOTLOOSE IN IRELAND. Tomorrow we turn in the car and spend the night in a hotel near the Dublin airport. On Sunday morning we climb into the big silver bird and fly back across the ocean. It is also the day when the Christmas shopping madness begins. I don’t think the two are really connected, but you never know. At just the time all of those online bargains appear I am quickly closing in on flat broke, busted, disgusted. My wallet can’t be trusted.

It’s a good thing I had no plans on buying anything more costly than a cheeseburger. No fries.

I am getting inundated with the ads, online and on TV, for all of those wonderful things I have no intention of buying. Sure, I’d like a big and fancy new computer, but I don’t need one. My computer is working just fine and does what I ask it to do. It has been doing so for close to ten years now and as long as it does my simple chores I will not tinker with my financial status quo.

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ALDI La La La

 

I LEARNED THE IMPORTANT THINGS AT MY MOTHER’S KNEE. Unfortunately, I am currently in Ireland and my Mother’s knee was Lithuanian. That uh-oh of geography has left me in a quandary when it comes to grocery shopping in the Emerald Isle. What works in Terre Haute, Indiana (That’s French for “Don’t put the ice cream on the Hob.”) does not necessarily work in Portshannon, County Clare, Republic of Ireland.

We are staying here in this house for two weeks and since we have become accustomed to eating we must also go grocery shopping, but trying to do that in this wide spot in the road village is futile we have to saddle up the old Kia SUV and go to a wider spot in the road.

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“Let Me Get You A Wee Map”

IF THERE’S ONE THING I CAN SAY ABOUT THE IRISH PEOPLE it’s that they are friendly and very helpful. They all seem to be working as unofficial Ambassadors of Goodwill for their country. If they spot us as being from overseas (The U.S.) they will do two things.

First they will tell you that they have been to “The States” and where. Almost always they have been to New York City, Las Vegas, and Florida. Florida can be translated as Disney World.

Secondly, they will ask if they can help you in any way. And they mean it.

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Pick Up In Aisle Seven

WE GET ON A PLANE AND FLY ACROSS THE OCEAN to another country where we expect things to be different and they are in many ways. Despite this thought there is a mountain of ways where the differences are merely cosmetic at best.

Back home in HoosierLand (AKA Indiana) when I have the need to go grocery shopping I just hop into the Toyota Stretch Limo and zip down the street to the Kroger Supermarket. In Ireland the differences are minimal. Instead of Kroger we go into the Tesco Supermarket where I can find everything I need. It might take a bit of a search, but I can find it all eventually. I go to Kroger and I leave happy. I go to Tesco and I leave happy.

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It Is Not As Easy As It Looks

 

SEND OUT THE SEARCH DOGS I THINK I’M LOST. My surroundings look familiar, but different. Nothing is where I know it should be. I have never been as disoriented as I am on this trip into an unfamiliar supermarket. Help me!

I am so comfortable in my own personal Kroger store. I could find my way through that store blindfolded, but when we are down south in Texas I am sent figuratively naked and afraid into the Terra Incognita of the local H.E.B grocery store.

(For those of you residing outside of Texas – “H.E.B.” are the initials of the founder of the chain of stores strewn across the state. They don’t stand for anything like “Hellaciously Evil Brotherhood.”)

Trying to find my favorite bagels or canned soup in the H.E.B. is beyond my ability. The odds are somewhere on the side favoring me finding the Ark of the Covenant first. It can’t be done. They don’t carry the brand of bagels that I like anyway and in the soup aisle nothing looks like anything I want in my favorite Hopalong Cassidy bowl at lunchtime.

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Don’t Be A Smarty…Unless You’re A Television

ON THE WHOLE I DON’T MIND GOING SHOPPING. I actually like tooling around the supermarket looking at all the things I don’t want. I have a lower level of “like” when it comes to shopping for clothes. Doing that is just a necessary pain in the tookus.

Even farther down on the Krafty Scale of Shopping is going out looking for things about which I am awash in ignorance.

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Throwback Thursday from May 2016 – “Little Things Mean A Lot”

 

Throwback Thursday from May 2016 – “Little Things Mean A Lot”

Spending a week or two in a foreign land is one thing, but going for seven weeks changes the way you see and do things.

Being in Ireland brings to mind an old quote from, I forget whom – Maybe Mark Twain, maybe Winston Churchill, maybe the Spice Girls,- that noted that, “The U.S. and the U.K. (forgive me if I lump Ireland into that mix) are two great nations separated by a common language.” I say this because, just as at home, there is more than one accent in play. It all depends on what part of the country you are in and your social status.

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Throwback Thursday from March 2017 – “Three Little Words”

Throwback Thursday from March 2017 – “Three Little Words”

 

Three Little Words

dnraI KNOW A YOUNG BLOGGER, whose work I really enjoy. Recently she mentioned that she had decided to sign a “DNR” form. For the uninitiated “DNR” stands for “Do Not Resuscitate.” It is an alert to medical personnel that the person who signed the form does not want any measures, like CPR, to be taken to keep them alive if their heart stops beating or they stop breathing. Serious business.

dnr2

I’ve known a number of people who have signed “DNR” forms. They all had their reasons, but most of them were terminally ill and a “DNR” is a legal document. I do not have a “DNR” form. I also have my reasons.

There are any number of reasons to not sign such a form. One of them is specific to Indiana. Here in the Hoosier State the Abbreviation “DNR” also stands for the “Department of Natural Resources.” Such a redundancy could cause some really confusing situations.

For example – You might wish to sign a “DNR” so that, when the time comes, you could go quietly into that good night. – And accidentally find yourself being sworn in as an Indiana Park Ranger. Or it could go the other direction which could be even more upsetting, depending on your long range plans.

dnr3My own personal reason for not signing a “DNR” – the hospital one – is that I’m not knowingly ready to shuffle off my mortal coil. There are things I still want to do, places to visit, and books to read and write. It’s not so much a “Bucket List” like in the movie as it is a shopping list of things I want to pick up and carry with me. And I have no desire to become a Park Ranger. So me signing anything with the initials DNR on it is not likely for any time in the foreseeable future.dnr5

I’m not concerned about any sudden reversal of fortune when it comes to my health. Every morning when my eyelids open up like a pair of electric garage doors I say a short prayer. I’m not asking God for anything. It’s just a simple, “Thank You.” That’s all I need to say. He can fill in the unspoken blanks. Just “Thank you.” So I don’t feel the need for anything as final as a “DNR.”

That morning when the young blogger talked about her “DNR” decision we chatted a bit about it all. I told her why I didn’t have one as well. If I had been thinking quicker I would have come up with something witty and ever so clever as a retort. Well, following true to form, I did come up with something. I tried it out on one of The Usual Suspects over coffee.

dnr4I brought up the idea of the “DNR” and he followed my lead. He asked me if I had signed one. I recoiled in mock horror and told him than instead of a “DNR” I had signed a “PFGSRMNYOB” Form.

“A What?” he asked

“A ‘PFGSRMNYOB’ form.”

“What in the world does that mean?”

“Oh, that’s a special form that I designed myself.

“‘PFGSRMNYOB’ – ‘Please, For God’s Sake, Resuscitate Me Now You Overpaid Bastard’.”

Good morning and Thank You again.

dnr6

I Think I Remember…

PASSWORDS – LOVE ‘EM, HATE ‘EM, CAN’T REMEMBER THEM. All I can do is forget them.

The discussion this morning at my Play Group (St. Arbucks morning coffee) was all about computer passwords and all of our problems with them. One of the Usual Suspects who shows up every morning for coffee and pointless conversation was wrapped up in mind numbing problems remembering his computer passwords. The ones he could recall were no longer in use and it was bringing his life to a screeching halt.

I tried to help. He’ll get over it and resume speaking to me eventually.

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Throwback Thursday from January 2016 – “Cereal Killer On The Loose”

Throwback Thursday from January 2016

Cereal Killer On The Loose

TOO MUCH EDUCATION CAN BE A DANGEROUS THING.

I know a person with a graduate degree in finance from an Ivy League school. He can squeeze so much value out of a dime that it makes FDR get up and walk.

Now, I like saving money as much as the next guy – maybe a bit more even. I grew up poor with cardboard in my shoes to cover the holes. Even today, at an overripe old age, I still wince whenever I spend money. But, the fellow of whom I speak has elevated money-saving to an Art.

Coupons 1

Earlier this week he told me of his latest trip to Kroger’s to buy some breakfast cereal. He had some coupons in his hand.

When he got to the Cereal Aisle he saw that the object of his hunt was also being discounted. He smiled I’m sure, bordering on a leer.

Many of the “discounts” on the store shelves are as phony as a politician’s promise – The item sells regularly for $1.49, they change it to $1.79 and slap on another tag reading, “Marked Down to $1.49!” Instant Non-Discount.

Sometimes the discounts are real – usually because a buyer screwed up and they are stuck with ten truckloads of the stuff. Of course, some discounts arise after a news report says that the product can make your kids grow extra thumbs or decide to go to college and major in “Organic Bongs of Medieval Japan.”

Back to my tale of Nuclear Couponing in the Cereal Aisle.

In addition to your garden variety discount was another tag offering even bigger markdowns if you bought the cereal boxes 10 at a time. The buyer must have really screwed up. My Friend The Shopper felt like he had just found the Lost Dutchman Mine. He made a trip to chat with the store manager to verify that everything, as he saw it, was kosher. The Manager said that he was entitled to all of the posted discounts – plus – another “Instant Coupon” that would be given to him upon checkout. The coupons he walked in with were those super-duper double coupons and all of this back and forth with the store manager meant that he was getting into some serious high finance negotiations with Kroger’s. For a guy with a degree from Columbia University and a resume that includes a lengthy stint on Wall Street, this was heaven.

Cutting to the chase!

This man, who just wanted to buy some breakfast cereal for himself and his daughter, ended up walking back to his

triple

car with 48 boxes of Post and Kellogg cereals – and a bottle of cranberry juice.

He hadn’t really wanted the cranberry juice, but after the dust settled at the checkout cash register, the store owed him $1.79.

The Manager was concerned that the Home Office in Cincinnati might pop an aneurism if the transaction showed up as a negative cash flow. To circumvent this he grabbed a bottle of cranberry juice off the shelf that cost $1.79 and they called the whole deal a push.

When I heard him tell this story my first thought was, “I hope you and your daughter really like cereal, because you’re going to be eating it every day for a year.

As he told this story I could see a fire in his eyes. This experience has spawned a monster. He said that he has found a cable TV show all about serious “couponing” and “It’s really interesting.”

I told him that I thought it all seemed like something that ended up with a very cult-like fanaticism.

If he keeps up with this “couponing”, I half expect him to shave his head, move to Battle Creek, and start banging a tambourine at the airport.

“Om, mane pay me coupon om.”

Gift Wrap This

 

HAVE YOU FINISHED YOUR CHRISTMAS SHOPPING YET? If you have I raise a glass in your honor. Please understand that “Finished Shopping” doesn’t mean getting a bunch of Starbucks Gift Cards on Christmas Eve. Serious shopping means getting down into the trenches at The Mall or the big Wally World type stores. “Shopping” isn’t shopping unless you’ve had your feet stepped on at least twice and had a possible gift ripped from your hands by a wild-eyed, liquor-fueled, grandmother. Shopping in The Mall isn’t complete until you’ve seen some little rugrat puking all over the Temp Agency Santa Claus.

Ahhh, the Holiday Season.

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Throwback Thursday From November 2015 – “There Is Music In The Air”

Throwback Thursday From November 2015 –

 

There Is Music In The Air

SOMETIMES I THINK THAT HEARSAY IS BETTER than actually being a witness to something. A couple of nights ago was one of those times.

Now, I want to put a Caveat, with a capital C, in play here. The following anecdote was told to me by one of the notorious Usual Suspects. For that reason alone I take it all with a fifty pound salt lick. A grain of salt is just not enough.

Let me begin.

Yesterday morning, when I went down to St. Arbucks for a gallon or two of coffee, I was met by a collection of the Usual Suspects who were allowed out unsupervised. And I made the mistake of asking, “What’s new?”

Suspect #1 spoke up, saying that he had been shopping at the Kroger’s Supermarket the evening before at about 8 P.M. so he could find some bargains and/or rain checks. He is a financial wizard.

While prowling through the store he witnessed a disturbance near the front of the store. On the pathway toward the checkout area is where one can find bins filled with CDs and DVDs at bargain prices. This time of year it is mainly Christmas music and warmed over Hallmark Channel movies mixed in with a few oldies that are in the Public Domain.

Our Suspect #1 was nearby and saw a youngish man going through the CDs and DVDs, opening the boxes, taking out the shiny discs, and then snapping them in half and flinging the pieces into the air with great glee – all the while yelling incoherently.

It sounds like the Holiday Season has arrived in Terre Haute (That’s French for, “I don’t want a colorized version of ‘It’s a Wonderful Life,’ dammit”).  

Behavior such as this young man was exhibiting in Kroger’s would indicate to me that one or more of several things were going on in his mind.

His meds were either wearing off or just kicking in.

His meds were accidentally left behind on his home planet.

He had convinced his Meth dealer to take a check.

He was the new film critic for the local newspaper.

(Personally, I doubt that this last one was it because the only film reviews they do are of the occasional student film that was created by the offspring of somebody who buys a lot of ad space, and you won’t find any DVDs of those in the Kroger’s Bargain Bin.)

When I used to live on The Left Coast events like this one were not at all unusual in the Supermarkets – especially after dark. I think the moon may have some effect on those who are pharmaceutically enhanced.

I once visited a now defunct market late one Saturday night. I ended up in the checkout line behind a guy who was deep in the throes of the Midnight Munchies. As his desperately needed supply of Ruffles, Little Debbie Cakes, and Pickle Loaf moved down the conveyor belt something either very good or very bad happened and he passed out and hit the moving belt with his face. The clerk didn’t miss a beat as she rang up his purchases. When she got to his head she stopped, bent over and asked him, “Paper or Plastic?” That was enough to rouse him.

“Plastic, man.”

Usual Suspect #1’s story about his visit to Kroger’s brought back that old memory to me from long ago, in a galaxy far, far away.

Suspect #1 finished his story telling us that it ended as it had to end – the Terre Haute Police came and escorted the disgruntled shopper from the store. I’m sure that, when the officers wrote up their report it carried the Code “5150” – Involuntary Psychiatric Hold.

Some things you just know are going to happen.

It is episodes such as this that have me doing our shopping no later than 6 P.M. unless it is an emergency pizza and soda run. I’ve seen too much, stepped over too many people slumped in the checkout line, and ducked too often to avoid flying pieces of the Johnny Mathis Christmas Album.

I can handle another, “Do You Hear What I Hear?” but I dread hearing someone again saying, “Are you seeing what I’m seeing?”

It’s A Calling

 

I SPENT A HEALTHY PORTION OF YESTERDAY AFTERNOON being dragged, kicking and screaming, into the world of the Best Buy Electronics store.

I bought a new phone and now I am completely out of touch with the rest of the world and poorer by a few million dollars.

It really wasn’t in my plans for the day to be going phone shopping, but my old phone had other ideas. When I say my “Old Phone” I’m not just casually tossing around words. My phone that I had comfortably tucked in my little belt holster was a Samsung 4. That was a “New Phone” back sometime in the Carter Administration or thereabouts. I had that phone a loooong time and it was starting to show its age.

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Clean – Up In Aisle Seven!

IT USED TO BE THAT EVERY TOWN HAD A “FIVE AND DIME” STORE. Well, inflation took care of that. Now we have “Dollar Stores” which vainly attempt to be what Woolworth’s and the others used to be. Until the Dollar General puts in a lunch counter I will not accept them as the worthy heirs.

While there may be a number of Dollar Stores in every town, village and wide spot in the road in the country they are little more than Garage Sales with a neon sign. Much of their merchandise carries labels that I do not recognize – and that does not induce confidence in me. Sorry, but I don’t like “gummi bears” anyway.

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I Can Do This By Myself

I HAVE A BEARD. I have had a beard for most of my adult life. I grew it first for a show while I was in college and, except for short periods, I have kept it.

Over the years I have had it longer, then shorter, then just a goatee, then full tilt boogie again. When I first grew it my beard was dark, now it is white. It gives me that “I have to go feed the reindeer look.”

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