Saturday, May 05, 2007

Survival of the Fattest

Spring time is upon the jungle once again. The weather has gone from one extreme to the other in the past month. With the right skills and equipment, a person can survive in the asphalt jungle. Yes, I said survival skills.

Shopping is no longer for fun and games in the asphalt jungle. It is now a survival skill, and in my case, survival of the fattest. Hunting down bargains becomes crucial when trying to pay the bills. No longer am I that little kid screaming mommy I want. Instead, I’m that person you see in the aisle reading the price tag trying to figure out the best bargain. Hunting down bargains is not as easy as it sounds.

The grocery store I grew up going to was great for bargains early on, but prices eventually climbed so high I’ve chosen not to shop there anymore. Instead, I comb through the mark-down bins, and browse dollar stores. Not all dollar stores are like those that I used to see with cramped aisles of baskets full of junk imported from China. Many stock cleaning supplies, canned goods, and in some cases, refrigerated items. Bargains abound, but beware because some items may not be packaged in the United States, and not all stores stay on top of their cold stuffs. Also, some products may be cheaper at another store.

Cooking used to be something I did when my parents didn’t want to go out to eat, or simply didn’t feel like making something to eat. Today that skill is the one thing that keeps me from going out for fast food every night. Cooking skills do not come easily. It can take months, sometimes years to develop them. For the novice, I recommend starting out with something as easy as boiling water, and working up from there.

Boiling water can be useful for cooking Ramen, among other things. I’ve advanced far beyond this, but I know I still have more to learn. Really, the equipment necessary for cooking is basic. All anyone really needs is a 9-inch frying pan, a sauce pan, and a telephone. It’s also probably a wise idea to have a fire extinguisher and the phone number of the closest pizza place on hand in case cooking just doesn’t work out.

For me, learning how to use the bus system in Houston has become key to my survival. If it were not for my vast knowledge of the alphabet soup of bus route numbers, I would probably never leave my house. This has been helpful in hunting down many of the bargains I’ve come across. Using the bus system has become more and more of a science, and I’ve found there are some helpful tools for trekking across the jungle.

First of all, a backpack is not just for carrying books and supplies to class. It becomes a very important survival tool. In order to survive a day of urban trekking, there’s several things that you need to fill this backpack with. Because of the subtropical climate of the asphalt jungle, an umbrella and a poncho or light jacket are good to have handy. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been caught in downpours, and I’ve been glad to have an umbrella to reach for.

I sometimes carry snack foods, water, and sports drinks with me. While eating and drinking are not allowed on city buses, there aren’t any rules against doing so at the bus stop. Sports drinks may be sugary, but they come in handy on long hot days out in the jungle. A good water bottle with an air-tight lid is really handy because it can be refilled at any water fountain, and it cuts down on the cost of buying bottled water.

Recently, I started putting shopping bags in my backpack so I can carry my purchases home. There’s times I’ve come across things in the stores that I wish I could carry home with me, but had no way of doing so. This is where having a cell phone comes in handy. It can be used to call and find out bus routes and schedules when on the go. The phone can also be used to call a cab or close friend who can tote you home in case you find something really good. Luckily I haven’t had to resort to this yet.

Comfortable shoes are also necessary for survival. In the past, I always touted Dr Martens because they were comfortable, and good for long-distance jungle trekking. They’re also hot as hell after a few miles in the heat. I’ve discovered that Converse All Stars are good during the hot summer months because they are cool, lightweight, and comfortable. Any shoe will work, but I’ve found these two brands hold up exceptionally well in all conditions. An added bonus is that they generally tend not to lose their shape with wear, unlike most shoes.

It is my hope that in sharing this information with you, you too can survive in the asphalt jungle. In the years so that I’ve been on my own, I’ve found these skills come in handy time and again. I’ve saved myself a lot of money by applying what I’ve learned from living here in the asphalt jungle. Hopefully, now you can too.

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