Daily life

Hello…and Be Right Back!

I have so many boxes around me that my place looks more like this Amazon warehouse than a home, only less orderly…ah, the fun of moving!

I have so many boxes around me that my place looks more like this Amazon warehouse, only less orderly…

I haven’t blogged in a while nor have I kept up with reading the blogs I follow and exploring ones that are new to me, all of which I feel bad about.

BUT! I have a good reason, which I thought I should take a moment to share here so that no one assumes I’ve stopped writing and reading:

I’m in the midst of preparing to move and to start a new job; either one of those would be a lot, but both at once means my time is quite limited. What with getting boxes, tossing old stuff, packing, making calls to arrange logistical details and also preparing for work, I have been swamped!

So, I apologize if:

  • I have stopped reading and/or commenting on your blogs (this delay will only be temporary, as I miss this so much!);
  • I don’t respond right away to any comments you make here (but I will eventually, I promise — I love comments from readers and fellow bloggers!);
  • I don’t post much over the next month or so (but I already have post ideas and drafts ready to work on once I get situated).

I just wanted to explain where I’ve been and that I will be back very soon! Thank you for your understanding, and I hope the new year is off to a great start for you. 🙂

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Staying in the Present

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SoCS Badge by Doobster of MindfulDigressions.com

This week’s thought-provoking Stream of Consciousness Saturday prompt, planned and organized by Helen Espinosa of This Thing Called Life One Word at a Time while LindaGHill is traveling, is “present.”

I love this choice, as the word can be used in so many different ways. I’ve chosen to use it to refer to staying in the present moment.

I was inspired to interpret the prompt this way after recently seeing a quote about this concept online which immediately resonated with me. I couldn’t remember it exactly now, so I quickly looked it up so I could share it with you here:

“Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow. It empties today of its strength.”
— Corrie Ten Boom  

Beautifully said, and so true. Yet how often don’t we all persist in ruminating on the past or obsessing over the future? We know this rarely produces any positive results, but we do it anyway. And all it does is ruin the present day.

I know I do this. I’ve obsessed over decisions I’ve made (could I have done something different, and better?) or concerns about what lies ahead (will there be layoffs at my job?)…the list goes on and on.

But what do these thoughts really accomplish, short of scaring and/or depressing me?

Nothing.

In fact, this all reminds me of something else I recently read, the book Choose Yourself! by James Altucher (which is an interesting read that I recommend, by the way). In it, he stresses that this way of thinking is pointless. I decided to briefly stop my stream-of-consciousness writing one more time to look up his point on my Kindle and share it with you word-for-word in order to do it the justice it deserves. Altucher writes:

“Most people obsess on regrets in their past or anxieties in their future. I call this ‘time traveling.’ The past and future don’t exist. They are memories and speculation, neither of which you have any control over. You don’t need to time travel anymore. You can live right now.”

I had never thought of it this way, in terms of it being worthless time traveling, and immediately found this perspective so brilliantly simple. That’s exactly what this is, and who wants to spend their days focused on “memories and speculation?”

Not me.

Anything not happening now is not the present, and therefore there’s nothing you can do about it. So stop trying! It’s an exercise in futility!

Of course, this isn’t to say you should just give up on planning for the future and working to achieve your life’s goals — that’s all well and good. But once your thinking gets to a point of lying awake at night in fear of events you can’t control, that’s when it has to end.

For example, what if there are layoffs at your job, as I mentioned worrying about before? Can you control that? Not likely — and certainly not by worrying about it.

What you can do is stay up-to-date with your marketable skills and keep performing to the best of your ability on your current job so that if there are layoffs that affect you, you’re in the best position possible to find new employment, prepared with good references and abilities. Or maybe your employer will see how hard you’ve been working and you’ll be spared. Either way is win-win.

Plus, many times our worst fears never end up happening anyway, as I found out firsthand years ago when faced with this worry about layoffs. I’d heard rumors of cutbacks at my job, but as it turned out, no layoffs ever occurred, luckily — so I went through weeks of self-imposed stress and anxiety for no reason at all.

And when it comes to questioning your past, particularly decisions you’ve made and now regret, someone I worked with once shared a good perspective on this. He told us that we’ve made the best possible decision every single time we’ve had to make one.

Every single time.

Sounds a bit simplistic and overly positive, doesn’t it? But it makes sense. See, while you may now see a way that might have been better, you made your choice based on what you knew at the time, so it was in fact the best decision you could make.

For instance, let’s say you were offered two comparable jobs at similar companies and went with job A, which offered a better salary and shorter commute. However, you’re no longer happy there because your company is struggling, resulting in a tense environment and severe budget restrictions. You may wish you had gone with job B, which is at a company that has since experienced lots of rapid expansion and success. Sure, it’s easy to feel some regret, but you have to brush that off and certainly not blame yourself — you need to recognize that you made the best possible decision you could have at the time, given the information available to you at that present moment. There’s no value in thinking, “That was so dumb of me, why did I do that?” There’s likely no way you could have known otherwise back then. In other words, everything only looks so clear in hindsight.

Or, as “they” say, it’s easy to be a Monday morning quarterback!

Plus, who’s to say with 100% certainty that job B would have worked out better for you personally anyway? Perhaps your colleagues wouldn’t be as easy to work with as your current ones, or your direct supervisor wouldn’t be as reasonable as the one you have now. All of these are just simple scenarios, but I’m trying to point out that you never truly know how another route would have worked out, so there’s no point in worrying about it now.

Besides, even when we have made a mistake, that’s part of life — and nothing is a lost cause. You’re in a less-than-fulfilling job? Start looking now for a new one. You moved to a bad apartment? You can always move again. I’m not saying it’s a snap to make these changes, but they’re always possible.

In moments like these, whether I’m questioning past decisions or getting stressed thinking about the future, it helps me to remember that doing so isn’t worth it. I should just stay in the present moment. I hope this is a helpful reminder for you too!

Gratitude for a Few of My Favorite Things

I recently read a book by a man chronicling his experience sending a thank you note to someone every day for a year — it was A Simple Act of Gratitude: How Learning to Say Thank You Changed My Life, written by John Kralik and published by Hyperion in 2011.

John Kralik book

It’s an interesting read; if you want to check it out, click the image above, or here.

This book was still pretty fresh in my mind a few weeks ago when I had to deal with a company’s customer service division to resolve an issue for me.

I started thinking about how they’ll really only hear from people when there’s a problem.

Which is understandable, but having a lot of experience handling clients’ problems myself throughout the years, I know how it feels to not hear enough good feedback. When things are not ideal — you’ll hear it. But when they’re great?

Silence, usually.

At times it can be a little discouraging to only hear the negative side of things, despite everything you’re doing right. So in the spirit of that book, as well as the Thanksgiving season we’re in, lately I’ve been trying to contact companies whose products I love, to let them know they’re appreciated. I also want to help spread the word about them, since I think what they offer is so…well, cool!

I should add that I also do this with individuals, but in this post I’ll just cover a few businesses, primarily because I think they offer products you may enjoy as well or which may give you some gift ideas for the holidays this year!

And no, I am not being paid or compensated in any way for this; I know one or two of you are wondering about that. 🙂

So, here are 3 of my “favorite things” — to quote Oprah and the famous song from Rodgers’ and Hammerstein’s The Sound of Music — which I truly appreciate!

Wellspring

I love this company’s “Flip Note” line; I have so many of them that it could be considered an addiction a collection!

Wellspring argyle Flip Notes

Wellspring’s “Stacy Argyle Flip Note.” I love how cute AND practical these are!

These are so handy; while I know many people jot things down using their phones, you can’t deny the merits of old-fashioned pen and paper in a pinch, like when your phone battery is low for example. And these beat generic notepads, which usually get damaged pretty quickly in a purse or bag; Flip Notes, on the other hand, have metal cases that stay shut. That’s because each one comes with a pen (how convenient is that?) which is stored on the case itself (yet even more convenient); when you slide it into place, it locks the notepad shut. That way, you don’t have to worry about the pages getting ruined or torn.

The Flip Notes come in so many cute designs and options, like the “Stacy Argyle” one I have (pictured above); they also have a few options “for men” (which I found amusing).

A couple of times when I found myself in an unofficial meeting without my planner or laptop on me, I was able to use a Flip Notes pad and not worry that it looked unprofessional or that my notes would get lost or messed up, the way I’d feel with a loose sheet of paper or a notepad like this with no protective cover. Plus then I’d have had to look for a pen — but with Flip Notes? They’re small enough that I always have one in my bag, which means I always have pen and paper on me, and in good condition! (I feel like I’m reciting copy for a commercial. Oh well, I love these notepads and am not afraid to say it!)

You can easily find Wellspring Flip Notes, as well as additional pens and paper for them, on the Wellspring website or on Amazon; I use the latter option myself, since I do a lot of my shopping that way. (Amazon is another addiction habit of mine, but we won’t get into that right now.)

So, take a look at what they offer if you think these could be useful to you or anyone you know. I’ve given many as gifts and stocking-stuffers, and everyone seemed to truly like them. In fact, a couple of people I know carry theirs on a daily basis, like I do.

I should also point out that Wellspring offers many other unique products besides Flip Notes, like Auto Notes (which attach to your car’s visor), wall art and more. Although I’ve never personally used these, they look like good gift-giving options as well.

Peter Pauper Press

I am also obsessed with Peter Pauper Press’ line of journals. You can find these in many stores, and of course on their website above as well as on Amazon.

I still remember the first time I came across one of their journals. It was years ago, and I was browsing a bookstore — ah, the good old days, when bookstores were popular! — when I saw it.

It was a beautiful book that looked more like an ancient text one might see on display in a museum than something I could use to record my daily ramblings in.

I bought it instantly, without any of the usual “Hmm, should I?” debates in my head.

Here’s a picture of it from Amazon:

Peter Pauper Press Persian Splendor journal

But bear in mind that online photos of it do not do it justice at all; in person, the book looks so much more beautiful, down to the embossed detailing that isn’t easy to see in a photo. I found it so lovely and well-made, in fact, that — and this is somewhat embarrassing to admit — I didn’t feel I could sully it with my writing!

Yes, I’m aware I have a problem.

Some time later, I thought to look the journal up online and was thrilled to find it. I bought a second one, just so I wouldn’t feel so bad messing one of them up. That’s when I discovered all their other beautiful designs and products.

Today, I have quite a collection of them, and at least now I’m more willing to write in them since I know I can easily find them online again, in addition to a wide range of new designs they release on an ongoing basis. I really appreciate how varied their designs are, ranging from being inspired by 17th-century French book binding to 19th-century Japanese art. (And yes, I have purchased both of those; the first for a friend, the second for me — in case you were curious!)

Another benefit, I find, is that writing in such an aesthetically-pleasing book inspires me to be more creative and thoughtful about what I write in it. I’m much less likely to scrawl nonsense; it’s like the book’s quality helps me think quality thoughts, if that makes any sense.

Anyway, if you’re also into beautiful books and novelty items, or if you’re looking for some gift ideas for the holidays, I urge you to check out Peter Pauper Press’ products. They sell much more than journals, including planners, cute little books, unique bookmarks and more.

Sparkling ICE

OK, I swear I don’t only buy and consume notebooks of various types — although the writer in me does love writing supplies. 🙂

No, I am also a fan of Sparkling ICE, a line of zero-calorie, “naturally flavored sparkling mountain spring water” beverages that have added vitamins and antioxidants:

Sparkling ICE

These are great! I especially recommend these if ever you’re in the mood for a less-than-healthy soda; I have that tendency now and then but want to avoid soda. Luckily, I’m more than satisfied drinking these instead.

I must be honest about the fact that I haven’t tried all the various flavors they offer, so I can’t vouch for every single option; at first, I’d only tried their apple one, which was pretty good. One day, though, my store was out of apple, so I tried their pomegranate blueberry drink — and I was hooked. I’ve felt no need to explore further ever since. I love this flavor combination, representing a mix I won’t usually find and enjoy too often otherwise.

On a side note, while I do eat blueberries often, I rarely bother with pomegranates even though I know I should; the seeds are so good for you! Luckily, this drink contains real pomegranate juice, as opposed to artificial pomegranate flavoring like so many other products would do. A prime example that always bugs me are the pumpkin drinks out there, most of which have no real pumpkin in them. Why?!

If you’d like to try Sparkling ICE, you should be able to find it in your local supermarket or drugstore; if you need help, check out this link on the Sparkling ICE website for where to find it by you. Once you know which stores carry it, look for it in the bottled water aisle; at least that’s where I typically find it.

You can also order it online via Amazon; I recently ordered it from there myself when my local stores were out of the pomegranate flavor I must have to live prefer!

I feel good having told these companies how I feel about their products, as well as sharing these recommendations with you. I hope this post helps you find a nice treat for yourself or someone  else, and that it also helps these businesses; I get so disappointed when a product I love disappears, so here’s hoping these remain successful enough to stick around for a long time!

Don’t Hurt Yourself Trying to Keep a Clean House

poison sign

I think most of us know by now that we should avoid using antibacterial hand sanitizers and soaps, since they can be toxic to you and kill not only external germs, but your body’s own “good” germs and natural defense system. Use of these products has also been shown to cause drunken-like behavior among children, due to their high alcohol content that is easily absorbed into the skin; although this has been rare, it has been confirmed as possible.

But what about at home? Many people I know still use harsh cleansers when they clean there, like products containing ammonia, bleach, and so on — think mold/mildew removers, all-purpose cleaning solutions, disinfectants, etc.

I won’t name products here, but look at the ingredients list of many household cleansers and you’ll see these listed, as well as other unnatural additives like dyes and scents.

None of which is good for you.

If you’re the type who needs proof, just take a look online at sites like this one, or this one. These are just starting points; if you do own your search you’ll find many, many more.

“Yeah, but I like how clean my house looks and smells after,” you may be thinking.

Don’t do it, I say.

“But I take precautions, like wearing gloves, ventilating the area, or wearing a face mask,” you may protest.

But it’s not good enough!

Really, the kind of disposable masks you might wear for heavy-duty cleaning will not adequately protect you from toxic fumes while cleaning.

Plus anyone else nearby can still be affected, particularly any pets you have, who I’d assume do not have gloves and masks on as they walk in or near the areas being cleaned with these products. If they do, then kudos to you for finding these items and for having a pet who lets you use them on him or her. 🙂

But in all seriousness, products like these can harm your lungs, your skin, and so much more. And it may not be right away, but happen over time with repeated use. Trust me, you do not want to breathe in any vapors from products like these — but short of using a respirator as you spray it around, you will inhale some of it.

Think of it this way: if you’re careful to avoid wearing clothes that can be stained by them when you’re cleaning, what about your lungs? Or any other part of you exposed to them, like your skin, which we should remember is the largest organ of our bodies?

Look, I’ve seen towels hanging nearby get discolored when a product like this was sprayed in the bathroom, yet nowhere near them — so imagine the exposure to us, the ones doing the spraying?

I don’t know about you, but I won’t do that anymore.

OK, so what to use instead? After doing some reading on this subject and testing different alternatives out myself, I swear you can clean as effectively — and in many cases even more so — with the following natural cleansers:

  • Tea tree oil – this is an essential oil that has a multitude of uses, including being an anti-fungal, anti-microbial agent. It’s sold in health stores but is also widely available online — I got my most recent bottle of it from Amazon. If you can find it in a spray bottle, that’s ideal, but if not, you can purchase a spray bottle yourself and put 10 drops of it in it for every cup of water, then spray it onto whatever area you want to clean. My only word of caution is, it can smell a bit like bug spray, so you may want to avoid it if you or anyone at home is sensitive to odors like that. However, I find the smell does fade quickly enough.
  • Grapefruit seed extract – This is another natural item with anti-fungal, anti-bacterial properties that can be used to clean your home, plus it has the added benefit of having no pungent odor, unlike tea tree oil. It too can be found in health shops and online. Use the same ratio of 10 drops per cup of water.
  • Hydrogen peroxide – This does a great job at cleaning more than just cuts on your skin, yet many people don’t realize they can use it for everything from wiping down surfaces to mopping floors. And let’s not forget the fun it is to see it bubble up first — I feel like we’re actually witnessing germs being killed! Plus now many stores sell it in convenient spray bottles, which helps a lot, especially since hydrogen peroxide is a fairly delicate substance and has to be kept well-protected from light. (That’s why it’s always sold in thick, dark/opaque bottles.) So you can’t easily transfer it into a spray bottle yourself, since most empty spray bottles I see for sale are usually see-through or light-colored. But buy hydrogen peroxide in a ready-to-spray bottle like this one or this one, both of which I’ve personally bought, and you’re all set! (You can also buy hydrogen peroxide wipes, although I’ve found these will break with vigorous scrubbing and are better suited for simple cleanups.) Cleaning with hydrogen peroxide is also extremely affordable.
  • Baking soda – I never knew how well basic baking soda could clean mold and mildew in the shower until I read about it and tried it — it worked great! All you do is mix it with water in a 50/50 ratio and then apply it as a paste to the area you need to clean. I also read you can spray it onto the area, but I didn’t get to try that since you have to use less baking soda with this method (about a tablespoon per 2 cups of water); I wanted more baking soda in the mix to clean the mildew quickly and I think that would have clogged my spray bottle dispenser. But who knows, it may be worth a try, especially for preventative, maintenance cleaning. This is easy to find in any supermarket.
  • Vinegar – I also read about using white, distilled vinegar (undiluted) in a spray bottle, and it also worked on mildew stains. The area does smell a bit odd, like someone just ate a salad there, but the smell dissipates quickly enough. This is another very affordable option that can be found in any grocery store.

And why do I say some of these options may be more effective than the harsh commercial cleansers most of us are used to? Well, according to sites like this one for example, products containing bleach may only appear to be better at getting rid of mold and mildew by lightening its appearance, but not killing it — leaving you still exposed to the harmful effects of mold and mildew, plus with the added dangers of being exposed to bleach fumes as you cleaned. All of these effects are even worse among the elderly, those with compromised immune systems, health conditions like asthma, and so on. On top of that, you have to keep repeating the vicious cycle since the mold is never fully killed in the first place.

My recommendation to kill mold/mildew and get rid of its appearance? What I found worked is a combination of the items above followed by using baking soda last, since it whitened the dark areas up. Now I knew the mildew/mold was killed and the area looked clean — win-win.

Ultimately, my goal with these tips is to spare you from exposing yourself and your loved ones to harsh chemicals that are not good for you and may not even be cleaning as well as you think. I encourage you to do your own research on this subject and then see what works for you — I am no expert and just sharing my own experience, but if even just one of these tips helps you out, I’ll be happy!

Memory is Faulty: Stream of Consciousness Saturday

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It’s been a while since I’ve taken part in Stream of Consciousness Saturday, organized by blogger LindaGHill, and I’ve missed it! So here I am in time for this week’s prompt, which is “memory.” My first thought on this?

That memory is faulty — yet how often don’t we overlook this fact, often to our detriment?

I can’t tell you how many times I, or people around me, have wasted time and/or gotten upset with someone else based on something “remembered” which turns out to have been incorrect. This effect is compounded when it’s based on someone else’s memory.

Instead of first asking the person about what was said or done, and considering all possibilities, many of us get stuck on the one way we’re sure something happened.

Why do we do this to ourselves and those around us? If we need any proof of how bad our memories can be, just take a look at the countless stories of eyewitness accounts which have turned out to be proven wrong — if people can misremember important details in such serious situations, who are we to think our recollections of more minor events would be any better?

Take, for instance, the following sources confirming the unreliability of eyewitness accounts and our memories:

(Incidentally, although I’m writing this off-the-cuff as per the SOCS guidelines, I had to look up and link to some sources here so I don’t sound like my stance is baseless!)

There are countless other results that pop up when you search for this topic, but they all boil down to the same conclusion:

Don’t over-rely on your memories.

Just don’t assume that what you remember is 100% accurate — and certainly don’t let it affect how you interact with others. Give them the benefit of the doubt.

Oh, and by the way, as I write this, I’m also telling this to myself; in no way am I above jumping to conclusions based on inaccurate recollections! Just ask any of the relatives or co-workers who I’ve been convinced have an item of mine that I need — I’ll swear they borrowed it last or that I saw them put it someplace…

only to discover that I had it somewhere else all along.

You know you do it, too. Hopefully you can remember that at least? 🙂

Local Resident Insists on Commenting on Neighbors’ Comings and Goings

By SOME KERNELS OF TRUTH Oct. 7, 2014

BROOKLYN, NY — Park Slope residents in one rental complex have filed a complaint with their landlord about neighbor Mary Farnsworth. According to the complaint, Farnsworth “repeatedly engages in nosy behavior with everyone in the building, invading our privacy at every turn.”

Complex residents state that Farnsworth began prying into their personal lives soon after she moved in three years ago.

“The first time I met her, I got on the elevator with her on my way home from the supermarket. Right away I saw this lady eyeing my bags and looking at me, like she was eager to talk. I was tired, though, so I avoided eye contact,” said Gloria Perry. “But it didn’t work. She asked me, ‘Oh, you were getting groceries?’ in this nosy way. I felt like saying back, ‘No, I just enjoy carrying food around in bags,’ but thought better of it and just said yes. She’s always been like that, and it’s annoying,” Perry recalled.

Other tenants agree, saying they’ve faced similar inquiries. “It’s weird she has to comment on the most mundane things and point out the obvious. Like the other day, she saw me heading to the laundry room with my laundry basket full of clothing, yet she actually asked me if I was going to do my wash. I mean, really, what’s the point of an inane question like that?” said neighbor Lucy Chu, adding that she often tries to avoid Farnsworth whenever possible. “I avoid going anywhere I hear her or see her, if I can,” said Chu.

One neighbor, Steve Ferrer, said Farnsworth has even gone so far as to give him unsolicited advice. “The other day in the lobby she saw me coming in with a pizza from the place down the block. She said I should go to the one three blocks over instead; she said she likes the pizza there better. I told her I’d had their food and didn’t like it as much, but she just kept saying, ‘Go there, you’ll love it.’ It was like she wasn’t even hearing me,” said Ferrer.

There was no response from building management as to what can be done about the complaint against Farnsworth.

Fellow resident Thomas Jeffries said he is worried nothing will change. “I mean, I agree with the complaint, but really, what can they do? She’s not breaking any policies or laws. So when you have an annoying neighbor like that, you’re pretty much on your own,” he said with a sigh.

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Note: This is not a real news story; it’s another fake news story I came up with, although it was inspired by real events…if you like fake (and hopefully funny) news stories like this one, you can read a few others I’ve written, here and here. 🙂

Commuters Complain about Curious Cabdriver

By SOME KERNELS OF TRUTH Sept. 27, 2014

BRONX, NY — Multiple Bronx residents are banding together to protest the intrusiveness of an overly curious cabdriver who works for 123 Livery Service on Burnside Avenue.

“I called them for a taxi a couple of weeks ago and as soon as I got in, the driver wouldn’t stop asking me questions,” said Morris Heights resident Susie Atkinson. “I could tell he was harmless and just trying to make conversation, but it was still annoying. He asked if the address I was going to was where I worked, what I did for a living, stuff like that. It was non-stop,” Atkinson said.

Another local resident, Gordon Martin, said he has gotten the same cabdriver using 123 Livery Service and was subjected to a similar barrage of personal questions. “I called for a ride home from a friend’s place one night and he didn’t stop talking the whole way,” Martin recalled. “I didn’t think much of it until he started asking if I lived in the area and was heading home and if so, how much was my rent there? I found that way weird. He was polite and just seemed genuinely interested but I didn’t feel like telling him that, so I lied. I told him I was staying with a friend and had no idea,” said Martin.

Other 123 Livery Service customers report that the driver, known so far only as “George,” also enjoys asking riders about their musical tastes, ethnicity, and opinions on the Cross Bronx Expressway’s traffic problems. In addition, he has been known to ask passengers who ride in pairs or groups if they are related to one another.

“What he’ll ask is really random, but he always throws in some personal questions. It’s like he doesn’t know where the line is or when to stop talking,” said one passenger who refused to be identified for fear of retaliation. “It’s not that I think he’s dangerous or anything, but I do need to use the car service a lot and don’t want to be told no cars are available when I call, or be kept waiting. They do that if you piss them off, you know,” explained the passenger.

A petition is currently circulating within the neighborhood asking that Driver George refrain from asking his passengers so many questions. Customers plan to turn the petition over to 123 Livery Service once they’ve collected 100 signatures.

Management for 123 Livery Service could not be reached for comment.

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NoteThis article is another fake news article I decided to write after I enjoyed writing this piece. I was inspired to write this one after taking yet another cab with an overly inquisitive driver — so I guess you could say it’s based on a true story since this has happened to me, and many other people I know, quite a lot over the years. 🙂