3 Reasons Why Back to School Shopping is Not Your Friend

Funny picture of various notebooks

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The start of school is always guaranteed to be one of the worst few weeks of your year. Teen morale is so low during this time that it’s been known to actually hit the ocean floor, creating a number of minor but annoying tsunamis.

We all know why, don’t we? Waking up early. Doing homework. Losing freedom. The list goes on forever. Even worse, though, are the things that sneak up on you, like school pictures, new lockers, or back to school shopping.

Before we examine back to school shopping, it’s probably a good idea to define it first. This is important. 27% of all students think that back to school shopping is shopping that you do with your back facing towards the school. That is not correct, although it is an understandable misinterpretation. I know it’s obscure, but back to school shopping is actually shopping that you do when you are preparing to return to school for the year.

That doesn’t sound so bad, does it? That’s just normal shopping, right? Wrong.

The Deals

First of all, you’ve got the incredibly stressful back to school shopping sales. Every office supply place you know of has a back to school sale. Oftentimes every other store you know of is also having a back to school sale, including butchers, auto parts suppliers, and realtors.

You, as a smart consumer, will try to figure out which sale is the best. Finding the best sale is vital to your self-esteem, because having bragging rights of finding the best sale is better than achieving immortality. Plus, it’s better for your wallet, which means it’s better for your parents’ wallet.

But these sales are confusing. Office Depot might have a 6-pack of Ticonderoga pre-sharpened pencils marked down 60%, but Office Max has an 8-pack of Dixon pencils with extra-soft erasers on a buy-one-get-one-free sale. To complicate matters, your friends recommend Dixon, but Ticonderoga has emphasized its quality. Plus, the Ticonderoga pencils are .12 inch longer than the Dixon pencils. But the Dixon pencils have shiny blue foil while the Ticonderoga erasers are a dull green. But the Ticonderoga pencils are calling your name. But the Dixon pencils are singing your favorite song. But the Ticonderoga pencils are trying to shake your hand.

Pretty soon, you’ve got concerned salesmen swarming around you, asking you why you keep running in and out of their store to glance at their pencils. A nice salesman would offer you a towel to wipe up your sweat. They won’t do that.

If you’re not careful, one of them will point out the 12-pack of store-brand pencils that are 45% off. Then it starts again, and again, and again, for notebooks, folders, pens, scissors, even sticky notes. You will have done so much math calculating price-per-unit that you are guaranteed to fail your next math test.

The Navigation

American retail stores are really quite considerate, if you think about it. They understand that the average consumer wants to be able to quickly find what they need. So, the stores reorganize themselves every night after closing, to keep life interesting.

Usually, a major reorganization happens during back to school shopping. You’ll go to where the school supplies normally are, only to find a shelf of kitchen utensils that look like they are made for sculpting granite. You’ll go to the office chair section and find that it’s been taken over by construction paper.

Now, I’m not suggesting that they make the school supply area hard to find. Not at all. You’ll walk through those automatic doors and immediately break your nose on a makeshift cardboard shelf selling erasers. Then you’ll back up to your left and trip over a hand-sanitizer display. If you’re not careful, you’ll have to crawl your way out.

The People

The worst part of back to school shopping is the other shoppers. Most of the time, they’ll be moms or dads with elementary school kids. These are people to watch out for.

First of all, they speed around the store with a metal shopping cart and their head buried in their school supply list. If you value having intact hips, you’ll avoid these dangerous shopping cart drivers.

Secondly, they’ll grab what you need before you can get it, and it’ll turn out to be the last item of its kind. It doesn’t matter that it’s school supply shopping week; the store won’t be getting in another shipment until October 2016.

Most horribly, though, is that they will block the aisle. They will stand in front of every notebook in the store trying to find the one with the shark on the cover. You will try to go around them. They will move into your path because they need to search the next stack. You will to try to go around them the other way. Their kid will step in front of you. So you try to reach over the kid. The kid will violently sneeze on the notebook you were about to grab. You can’t win.

It doesn’t matter if you normally like to shop; school supply shopping is depressing, stressful, and horrible. There is only one thing that makes it worthwhile: the gum at the end of the checkout line.

If you’re more worried about your new school locker, you might want to check out “3 Ways to Break in Your New Locker,” published at this time last year. Want a personalized feel? Read on.

Update: “How Long could You Survive without Gum in High School?” Quiz Now Working

Those of you who’ve read this blog for a very long time may remember that we had one or two quizzes. In transitioning from Blogger to WordPress, the functionality was lost. Since then, we’ve updated our quiz about finals. Today, we updated and fixed our quiz that will tell you just how long you could survive in high school without gum. Go here to take that quiz. This isn’t just fun, anymore. This is survival.

The Ultimate Guide to Parking Anything

A funny picture of a bad parking job.I’m sure you remember the last time you saw a poorly parked car that was getting in your way. It probably made you angry. You may have even fantasized about doing something to that car. In fact, you might have even done something to that car. And if you hypothetically may have done something to that car, you probably discovered that the car is harder than your foot.

As you limped away, you vowed one thing to yourself: you would never, ever park that badly.

Then you started driving, and you discovered that parking is exactly like rocket science. This is because both you and the rocket scientist will make mistakes. You know what they say: if at first you don’t succeed, reverse, drive, reverse.

Thankfully, there are lots of ways to improve your parking skills, such as bringing a jar of white paint and re-painting the space around your car.

Regular Parking (Cars)

Most of the time, you’ll need to pull into a space that is perpendicular to the road you’re on. For those of us bad at geometry, perpendicular is the one where they show you two lines that have dramatically speared each other through the gut at a right angle.

This isn’t all that hard. You simply turn, pull forward, and somehow magically finish perfectly straight, even though .1 second ago you were three quarters of the way in and at an angle sharp enough to cut yourself on. The magic part is what seems to really stump people, so that’s what you should practice.

Backing In (Cars)

Maybe your car has a hot-pink trunk. Maybe your car likes to watch the other cars go by. Heck, maybe you’re expecting a tsunami and want to be able to make a quick getaway. Whatever it is, you need to have a good reason for backing in, because it is much harder than regular parking.

Most experts recommend that if you’re going to try and back in, you find a reference point to look at so you know when to start praying for more magic. Oftentimes, the reference point is simply one of the lines of the space you’re aiming for, but if you can’t manage that, you can also try to use the shadow of a butterfly, or, at night, Orion’s belt.

Parallel Parking (Cars)

This is a special type of parking reserved for those select people who spend their time making life harder than it needs to be. Sadly, the global population of pacifists also encourages it, because parallel lines are much less violent then their perpendicular war-hawking cousins. So, you might have to parallel park.

Many people will tell you this is a game of angles. “You’ve gotta think the angles, man,” they’ll say. They are only mostly right, as angles are a natural part of life. Want to eat something off of a fork without stabbing yourself through the roof of your mouth? You’re going to need some angles.

Otherwise, angles are not going to be helpful. If you actually calculated all of the angles, including those where you don’t hit the car in front of you, you don’t hit the car behind you, you don’t hit someone in another lane, you don’t hit the curb, you don’t hit a bicyclist, you don’t hit that stupid crow eating trash in the parking spot, you don’t hit the policeman who showed up and wants to know what’s holding up traffic, and you don’t hit the passenger jet 30,000 feet above you, you’re going to end up with some sort of 8 digit, square root of a negative number angle.

Just like every other parking job, you’re going to need some magic, some luck, or a lot of forward-reverse-forward-reverse-neutral-why aren’t I going anywhere, oh god did I break it?-forward-oh hah I was stuck in neutral I knew that-reverse. It sounds involved, but after you’ve totaled six or seven cars (including three that weren’t yours), you’ll get the hang of it.

Parking at a Rack (Bicycles)

Bikes are much nicer than cars when it comes to parking. This is because you are able to lift a bike up. Therefore, you can threaten it: “If you don’t magically park yourself correctly, you’re going to get thrown off a roof, buddy.” You can’t do that with a car.

Oh, you can also just pick up the bike and set it down where you want it, but that’s a lot more work. Besides, 99 times out of a 100, threats will do the job just fine.

The real trick to parking a bike is making sure that it doesn’t get stolen. If you’re in a big city or bad neighborhood, something, no matter how small, will get stolen. It might be your whole bike. It might be just the frame, leaving you with two wheels. You know those little caps that cover the air valves on the wheels? Sometimes, only those will be gone.

You can try to prevent major theft by using a bike lock. Thanks to the internet, though, just about any bike lock can be cracked, picked, sawed to pieces, melted, dissolved, atomized, sub-atomized, or chewed.

So, if you actually care about your bike, you’ll just park it and then stand next to it, treating anyone near you as a potential thief (including the lady with two screaming children. The best criminals use the best cover). Once you’re bored with that, you can un-park your bike and ride back.

Parking in a Bush (Scooter)

It used to be mandatory for every child to own a razor scooter, and you’ll still see various scooter-gangs around town (with their intimidating juice boxes and size 2 sneakers).

Sometimes, though, riding your scooter is the best way to get somewhere. For example, if you have no car/license, have no bike, have a pulled hamstring and can’t walk, have sensitive knees and can’t crawl, and have nothing against publicly humiliating yourself, you should scooter.

Parking is easy. Fold up the scooter, watching all of your fingers very carefully. Actually, that doesn’t make much of a difference; you’re going to get pinched no matter what, so you might as well accept that.

Once it’s folded up, you can carry it around with you. However, if you’ve ridden your scooter to the federal court building, they probably won’t let you take it in. They might not even let you in, if you let them see you riding a scooter. Dismount early, fold it up, and place it somewhere out of sight, like a shrub with branches close to the ground.

Parking is an art. And just like art, it may drive you to insanity, which is often signaled by an urge to slice off your ear. Surely, a good parking job is worth it, however. Just think of how many stubbed toes you’ll be saving. Plus, you’re also potentially saving people from getting chipped keys, wasting peanut butter, using up their last roll of cling wrap, wasting eggs, or dulling their best knife.

The Best Advice for Incoming High School Freshmen

A banner welcoming freshmen with a funny note. Can't see this picture? Contact us and we can troubleshoot.

(As always, click the image to enlarge it).

Now, before you all start thinking that I’m some cocky, conceited writer who slaps ‘best’ into random titles, I looked around to make sure that this was truly the best information.

The first website I got when googling “advice for high school freshmen” was a wikiHow page. On this wikiHow page were such precious nuggets of advice like “eat breakfast and lunch everyday,” “accept change,” and “be yourself.”

If you need to be told to eat your morning meals as you enter high school, then I want to know: what have you been doing for the first fourteen years of your life? And who doesn’t want to accept free change if someone’s handing it out? Use it to buy yourself breakfast.

As for the “be yourself,” well, who else are you going to be? You can’t just show up on the first day and expect that if you call yourself “Abraham Lincoln” people will compliment you on winning the Civil War and tell you to watch out for people named John. It doesn’t work that way, unless you’re some sort of alien-thing. Therefore, while that wikiHow page might be the best advice for incoming high school freshmen who are not human, my advice is best for humans.

Now that we’re all sure this advice is the best, it’s probably time for me (now an upperclassmen) to actually give you the advice. Whether you are an incoming freshman or not, I’m sure you’ll get something helpful out of this. Unless you are illiterate, of course, in which case, I’d like to congratulate you on making it this far.

The Fashion

One of the biggest concerns for people like girls and appearance-conscious guys* is the new set of fashion guidelines. No longer a dorky junior high student, you are probably worried that your suspenders, cufflinks, double-breasted vests, Spartan warrior costume (complete with fake spear), fedoras, shoulder-high socks, and brilliant cowlick comb over combinations won’t fit in.

*which, probability-wise, have a lesser chance of existing than aliens who know how to navigate wikiHow.

Well, here’s some advice: if you were made fun of wearing it in Junior High, you will probably get the same treatment in high school. Only it’ll be even worse, because you’ll be in high school for four years (instead of the 2-3 of middle school), where you will be stuck with a nickname like “suspenders dude,” “tall socks,” or “Frank.”

For girls, I have no idea (past the made-fun-of standard) what the fashion is. It is usually changing faster than you can look up the word “couture” in a dictionary, so if you’ve got clothes that won’t work right now, save them for a few minutes until they become hip.

For guys, as long as your fashion falls under all of the other advice in this guide, you can pull anything off with enough indifference and quiet confidence. You could wear spaghetti in your hair and marinara on your shirt, and as long as you walked around looking like you didn’t care (but knew) that you had an Italian meal splattered on yourself, you’ll be fine. If someone does approach you, and asks, “Dude, you know you’ve got some carbohydrates in your hair?” simply reply, “Yeah, so?”

Navigating the School

This will be your first year at school, so you probably won’t have any idea how to get anywhere.

As far as finding your classes goes, know that each school was designed so like subject classes are close together (such as all the math classrooms being in the same hall). However, there is always one exception because the school ran out of classrooms. Your class will be that exception, so if you have an English class next, look in the English hall last. It’s a brilliant system that never fails.

Room numbers tell you only what floor your classroom will be on; otherwise, they are useless. There are no signs pointing down halls with things like “201-215 →” printed on them, and it’s not unusual to pass room 217 only to see that the next room is 247.35a.

Finding the bathrooms will be most important, but it shouldn’t be too hard. Simply follow the sounds of running water. There’s a low chance that you’ll end up at a nearby river and get swept to your death, but that doesn’t happen too often, especially if you’re wearing spaghetti.

Dealing with Upperclassmen

There are many important things you need to remember about upperclassmen.

Boys are pretty easy to handle. First, they are stronger than you. Second, they want you to know that they are stronger than you. Thirdly, they are stronger than you. Basically, unless it is unavoidable, do not annoy nor bump into any upper-class boys.

Girls don’t necessarily have the strength advantage, but they are terrific at gossiping. Who hears that gossip? The boys. And remember, the upperclassmen are stronger than you.

Seriously, though, if you are really lost, or are directly approached, and cannot avoid talking to an upperclassmen, take precautions. Remain a safe distance away, and start every sentence you say with “I’d like to remind you that I’m mostly just bones and not very tasty sopleasedon’teatmepleaseplease.” They probably won’t hurt you.

(If you’ve done something to offend an upperclassman but they haven’t returned the favor yet, it might be a wise idea to keep that model spear you made when you were ‘supes chill’ in junior high school somewhere nearby, like in your pencil case).

Dealing with the Work Load

Don’t complain to your teachers, nor the upperclassmen, how much work you have. The teachers will give you more work. The upperclassmen? They’ll just tell you things like, “You have a 20-page paper due at the end of the week? Dude, I’ve got a 4,556 page paper due next class and it was assigned by email at 3:00AM this morning,” and scare you about the next 4 years of your life.

You can complain to other freshmen, especially as a conversation starter, if it gets tiring to keep talking about how awesome the upperclassmen are (but, as an upperclassman, I can say that it probably won’t).

Basically, you’ll be facing four years of the most work you’ve ever had to do in your life. But don’t even think about that. No, what you need to do is procrastinate like there’s no tomorrow. Literally, if there is no tomorrow, then if you don’t do the work today, you’ll never have to do it!

Sadly, the global calendar hasn’t bought in to this, but teens everywhere are working on it. Or at least, it’s at the top of their to-do list for when they stop procrastinating.


Lockers are the one thing that will still intimidate you, even when you are a 400lb, 6′ 5″, senior with a voice deeper than a subwoofer. As such, they have been already covered on this blog: here’s how to break in your new locker, and here’s why lockers are not your friend (this one’s also illustrated, with 4 more pictures than normal).

As you finish this guide, and actually prepare to show up at high school, I want to leave you with one more piece of advice: read this blog. Or, at least, pretend to. It won’t make you rich, and it will keep you from getting your work done, but it should fulfill that gaping hole in your soul that your hormones create. Plus, we’ve covered and continue to cover just about everything you ever wanted to know about high school life (that’s PG-rated, of course. Yes, I know that means we only cover about 15% of high school life*).

Oh, you don’t have a gaping hole in your soul? Let me see that Roman spear real quick.

*Just joking, gullible freshmen. You don’t need to be that scared. The number’s closer to 35%.

Last year at this time, we took a break from the back-to-school craze and covered something equally as unpleasant (although it lasts for a much shorter amount of time): The Torturous Dental Examination. Want to know what really happens at the dentist? Well, you should, for the preservation of your mental health the next time you go.