Is There Really A Difference Between Expensive Vodka And Cheap Vodka?

Walk in to just about any bar in America today and you’ll see a row of fancy vodka bottles all lined up. Some people swear by one brand or another, but there is a federal law that requires all vodkas to be pretty much the same, so the Planet Money team decided to test them.

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

Walk into just about any bar in America today, and you’ll see a row of fancy vodka bottles all lined up, shining like beacons. Some people swear by one brand or another, but there is a federal law that requires all vodkas to be pretty much the same. That got our Planet Money team thinking, is this the greatest marketing coups of all time? So they teamed up with Dan Pashman of the food podcast The Sporkful, to put fancy vodka to the test.

DAN PASHMAN, BYLINE: Let’s start with Title 27, Section 5.22 of the Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms Code.

PASHMAN: I got it right here. It says that vodka must be distilled or treated until it is, quote, “without distinctive character, aroma, taste or color.” Of course it tastes like vodka, but it wouldn’t be vodka if it had distinctive character. Still, a lot of vodka makers insist their flavor’s superior. Grey Goose calls itself the world’s best-tasting vodka. It’s a big claim, which is no surprise if you know anything about the guy who invented it.

MATTHEW LATKIEWICZ: Sidney Frank – he is a classic American businessman and almost a cliche. He came from nothing, poor. He went to Brown. But he only went to Brown for one year because he couldn’t afford it.

PASHMAN: This is Matthew Latkiewicz. He’s a drinks writer and author of “You Suck At Drinking.” He says Sidney Frank was just determined to strike it rich. Frank married into a wealthy family, which got him into the liquor business. Now, back in the early ’90s, the fanciest vodka around was Absolut. But by today’s standards, it wasn’t that expensive. And that’s what Sidney Frank focused on – not the taste of Absolut but the price.

LATKIEWICZ: He essentially out of thin air goes, I want to make a vodka. So Absolut’s charging 15. I’ll charge 30. He didn’t even have a product at this point.

PASHMAN: But he already knew he was going to charge double. And to do that, he needed a product that screamed luxury.

LATKIEWICZ: It’s got to be the best. Everything that is the best comes from France. So he goes to France, and he looks around for distillers. He says, can you make vodka? He finds somebody that says, yes, of course I can make vodka.

PASHMAN: Frank sent his product to bartenders but not in cardboard boxes like vodka is usually shipped.

LATKIEWICZ: He would give them the bottle in these – a wooden box with straw inside and nicely packaged. It would be this large, clear bottle with the frosted glass that when you put it up on the back bar would catch whatever light was there, and it would kind of glow.

PASHMAN: The whole plan worked. Sidney Frank died a very rich man. He sold Grey Goose to Bacardi less than 10 years after he started it for more than $2 billion. At the Planet Money team, we thought that sounded so easy. Can we make our own premium vodka? We learned that a lot of companies actually buy a vodka concentrate in bulk from a handful of suppliers. Then they just add water. So we’ve got a hold of a sample, brought it here into the studio…

(SOUNDBITE OF LIQUID POURING)

PASHMAN: …Added some water…

PASHMAN: …And sent it to a lab along with a sample of Grey Goose and a sample of some of the cheapest stuff we could find. A few days later, we got a call from Neva Parker. She’s the vice president at White Labs in San Diego. She ran our vodkas through what they call a comprehensive spirits test.

Based on that information, Neva, which of these three vodkas would you suspect should be the cheapest, least-desirable vodka?

NEVA PARKER: If I had to choose based on this analysis alone, I would say number one.

PASHMAN: That was the Grey Goose. And the ultra luxury choice…

PARKER: Number three.

PASHMAN: Number three was the cheap stuff. Now, to be fair, Neva did say the differences in all three samples weren’t anything most people were going to taste. She compared the reports.

PARKER: I mean, look at these. They all look very similar as well.

PASHMAN: Very similar – we did talk to Grey Goose. Their global brand ambassador, Joe McCanta, took issue with our test.

JOE MCCANTA: Obviously our product was decanted into another bottle. And when that happens, it kind of compromises, you know, our understanding of any testing that’s done on the product afterwards.

PASHMAN: He also argued that the odorless, tasteless law is more about distinguishing true vodka from vodkas that have stuff like fruit and sugar added. Pure vodka is its own category.

MCCANTA: Every vodka within the category will have its own characteristics, which would be largely attributed to the raw materials used to make the spirit or even the process used while distilling the spirit. So yeah, that’s definitely our take on it. And that’s why – you know, that’s why we feel very proud of our process and our ingredients.

PASHMAN: So our one lab didn’t detect any taste-able differences even with our homemade vodka. And the law seems pretty clear to us. But Grey Goose insists there is a difference. They also invited us to come have a drink with them. We are willing to continue our research. For NPR News, I’m Dan Pashman, host of The Sporkful food podcast.

 

 

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Meet The Tinder Prostitutes

Guess what these women on Tinder really mean when they say ‘80 roses an hour’? Hint: it’s got nothing to do with flowers

Sarah went on Tinder for the same reason lots of women our age do – to find out how many single guys there were in her local area and to have an easy, safe way to get in contact with them. But, unlike lots of girls, Sarah doesn’t want to find single men because she looking for a boyfriend. She doesn’t even want a no-strings hookup – at least not in the way you’d think. Unlike you’re average user, when Sarah sleeps with a guy she meets on Tinder she leaves with much more than new number in her a phone and a funny sex story to tell her mates – she leaves with a pocketful of cash. Because unlike most 24-year-old girls using Tinder, Sarah’s a prostitute and she’s using the hookup app to lure in clients.

 

‘It made so much sense – where else do you basically have a database of all the down to fuck men in your area?’

‘Tinder has at least doubled my business,’ Sarah, who had a job in a strip bar before becoming a prostitute four years ago, explains to The Debrief. ‘In the last week alone, I’ve seen 12 clients all from Tinder and have earned over £1,000. I got the idea from a friend of mine who’s also on the game. I think she actually joined Tinder to find a boyfriend or whatever, but was sent dozens of messages from guys asking for no-strings sex, threesomes or naked pictures – there was basically no romance there at all. She just thought to herself “I’m not getting anywhere using Tinder to find a bloke, why don’t I just use it to boost business?” It made so much sense – where else do you basically have a database of all the down to fuck men in your area? – and she found it so easy I thought I might as well give it a go. I just made a profile, wrote caption that made it kind of obvious what I do for a living, matched everyone who I was OK sleeping with and then waited for matches to get in contact with me. I know more and more prostitutes are cottoning on as well – it’s made my job insanely easy.’

There have been reports for some time that Tinder has been being used this way over the globe. New Mexico State Senator Jacob Candelaria specifically blasted the app in his attempt to ‘clean up’ dating websites which allow the soliciting of sex. He told KOB Eyewitness News 4, ‘Our laws can’t and don’t keep pace with technological advancement and there will always be people looking to exploit those loopholes. We’re weak. Our courts have said our pimping laws are not applicable to the internet.’

And it looks like the same thing’s happening here, but should we be surprised? The dating app’s anonymity and pure reach make it a natural fit for sex workers. If you’ve ever borrowed your male mate’s phone to ‘play’ Tinder from the other side of the fence, you’ve no doubt come across a few of the profiles yourself. In between the ordinary profiles, you’ll find one or two pictures of lingerie-clad women provactively posing for selfies. That in itself isn’t exactly unusual, but what sets these profiles apart is what the women are offering in their ‘about’ section.

I was blown away by how quick, easy and transparent it could be to buy sex over Tinder

The ‘kind of obvious’ messages that prostitutes use to distinguish themselves from other girls’ profiles are easy to spot once you know the (admittedly, not hugely subtle) code. In London, at least, they’re easily identifiable by a proclivity for using rose emojis. Descriptions I have come across when I was researching this feature include ‘[rose emoji] 80 roses for the best night of your life’, ‘90 [rose emoji] for BBBJ’ [meaning bare back blowjob – blowjobs without a condom – according to Sarah] and ‘80 roses for an hour, GFE [Sarah says this is for a girlfriend experience] [rose emoji].’ In case you still haven’t figured it out – ‘roses’ mean ‘pounds sterling’.

Using my male housemate’s Tinder account, I was able to chat to three prostitues in one day and was blown away by how quick, easy and transparent it could be to buy sex over Tinder. On all three occasions, the process was the same – match with the girl, chat to them over Tinder about what I wanted and how much they would charge and then they’d send me a mobile number to ring and an address to go to. The price ranged from £70 for an hour with, extras such as blowjobs or anal increasing the price to over £100, to £300 for the entire evening and a full ‘girlfriend experience’. I was able to negotiate these prices without leaving my sofa or even speaking to the girl and that seems to be the point – it’s remarkable how easy Tinder makes it for users to skip the chit-chat and just pay a stranger for sex – all without deviating away from their iPhone.

For Sarah, the appeal seems to be that Tinder allows her to sell sex for cash while remaining anonymous and slipping past any interference from the police. ‘I had always worked at brothels or kerb-crawled before I started using Tinder, which was a nightmare, because you’d have to deal with hassle from the police. I’ve been in a brothel once when it was raided and it’s not an experience I’d like to repeat. And being shooed away by police on street corners is fucking boring. I’ve tried Gumtree and other websites, but they’re now really hot on closing down profiles that are soliciting sex. Tinder lets me get on with it completely privately – they message me, we chat, they come round, I shag them – or sometimes even just chat because it’s not always about the sex – and then they leave. It’s not traceable.’

When anyone reports Sarah’s profile and Tinder shuts it down, all she does is make another Facebook profile and get right back on.

The laws around prostitution in England and Wales are far from simple. The act of prostitution is not in itself illegal – but there are certain laws that criminalise activities around it. Under the Sexual Offences Act 2003, it is an offence to cause or incite prostitution or control it for personal gain, and the 1956 Sexual Offences Act prohibits running a brothel and it’s against the law to loiter or solicit sex on the street. So selling sex on Tinder is not only completely within the parameters of the law, it allows these women to bypass any legal issues they might have selling sex through ‘traditional means’. No wonder Sarah finds it so appealing. For their part, Tinder is clear that such activities are against the app’s terms of service, which forbids commercial solicitation of any kind including ‘advertising or soliciting any user to buy or sell any products or services not offered by the Company’. Not that that’s had any affect on Sarah – when anyone reports her profile and Tinder shuts it down, all she does is make another Facebook profile and get right back on. It’s difficult to see how Tinder can keep on top of policing it.

So it certainly seems to be functional for Sarah, but what affect is it having on her emotionally? Using Tinder to solicit clients strips away what little face-to-face communication Sarah had with the people she’s about to have sex with so it becomes completely transactional – almost like doing a supermarket shop. Is she worried about what emotional damage she might be doing to herself? ‘Sometimes I think they forget that there’s an actual human behind the profile and there are times when it hasn’t been ideal,’ she admits. ‘People troll you a bit, but it comes with the territory and I just block them, because it’s a waste of my time. But even in person, people aren’t always very nice. When you meet with clients in the brothel or on the street, they obviously know what you look like in “real life”, but I admit that the pictures I used on my Tinder profile show me looking at my absolute best and, sometimes, the guys are disappointed with what they see when they arrive. Mainly all that people do is make a unkind joke about my appearance – which I can handle – but on one occasion someone actually left, which was obviously a bit shitty. And I do worry about my safety, but if I’m concerned, my male neighbor – who is a good mate – has a key to my house and I just text him if I feel intimidated and he gets rid of them.’

Interestingly, Sarah says that the sex she has through Tinder tends to be more ‘vanilla’ than some of the requests she had when she was working in a brothel. ‘I used to get people asking for weird stuff – one guy wanted me to wank him off into his own mouth– when I was in a brothel, but because the users on Tinder tend to be predominantly men in their twenties and thirties, they usually don’t want anything that niche. The most bizarre request I’ve had from Tinder was from a banker in his late twenties who wanted a classic sub-dom scenario and for me to urinate on him, but that’s not really a big deal to me. I got into this because I love sex and I have a really high sex drive. I get to have sex for a living and I absolutely love my job. Anyway, most of my friends on Tinder have sex with guys who then disappear off the face of the planet. The only difference between me and them is that I’m charging.’

 

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Tales of Rock – The Offspring Lead Singer Dexter Holland is a Pretty Awesome Dude!

I loved researching this story! One of my favorites!

Bryan “Dexter” Holland is the kind of dude who, if he can’t get into a rock show, grabs a buddy and starts The Offspring. Half a decade later, he was signed with Epitaph Records to join NOFX and Rancid, with whom his band is partly credited for bringing punk rock back into the angst-dripping hearts of suburban kids who really don’t have much to complain about except the emptiness of their idle middle-class lives. To go down that road, however, he had to give up a pretty straight-arrow career path of over-achieving drudgery that probably would have given him some of his best moody material–and a sick minivan to go with it.

Dexter, as it turns out, grew up in the high-rent suburbs West Garden Grove, California.

He went to Pacifica High School and, instead of setting fires and declaring anarchy, went ahead and graduated as valedictorian instead. He went on to the University of Southern California, became a pre-med student and eventually got his Master’s Degree in molecular biology. (WOW!) He was actually on the way to a Ph.D. before dropping out to follow his dream of throwing glistening globs of his own biological molecules all over screaming audiences night after night.

In his spare time he decided to also become a licensed airline pilot and flew himself around the world. Hey, why not?

Dexter Holland is one awesome dude!

 

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How Using Marijuana Could Benefit Your Relationship

So much for the lazy, snacking stoner stereotype.

New research reveals that cannabis use between couples increases might benefit their relationship, in the bedroom and beyond.

“We found robust support for these positive effects within two hours of when couples use marijuana together or in the presence of their partner,” says Maria Testa, a social psychologist at the University of Buffalo and the study’s lead author. “The findings were the same for both the male and female partners.”

What they call “intimacy events” include demonstrations of love, caring and support.

For the study, Testa and her colleagues found 183 married or cohabitating heterosexual couples that had been living together more than six months, with at least one partner who uses cannabis a minimum of twice a week. Participants were between 18 and 30-years-old, and had no history of mental illness or addiction.

During a month-long period, each partner independently reported instances of cannabis use and intimacy events in real time via their smartphones. Researchers limited events attributable to the drugs to a two hour window after the fact, according to previous studies showing that cannabis’ effects diminish after about two or three hours.

A separate paper by Testa using the same sample group also showed a slight increase in conflict following cannabis use, but those effects were marginal compared to the positive events. She hopes results of both reports will help inform medical practitioners with patients who use the drug habitually.

“If you’re a treatment provider it’s going to be difficult to get people to reduce or stop their use entirely because these couples see marijuana as something positive in their relationship,” says Testa. “To ignore that is to make it more difficult for people to change their behavior.”

Testa has extensively studied how alcohol effects romantic relationships, and later expanded her research into cannabis, which has not yet been investigated through this lens. The current study is funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, and appears in the journal Cannabis.

“I’ve studied alcohol as a predictor of intimate partner aggression for years,” she says. “Because alcohol is related to aggression in general, it’s not surprising to find that aggressive effect in the domain of relationships.”

She thinks there are too many presumptions made about how pot affects relationships.

“We need to know about the effects of marijuana use, instead of merely assuming what those effects may be,” says Testa, also adding, “There is very little research on the immediate consequences of marijuana use and intimacy, so this study fills an important gap in the literature.”

“On a personal note, I have found that when I am under the influence of marijuana I experience more intense orgasmic sensations… not in my genitals but in my mind. The sudden explosion of positive chemicals in my brain can only be described as… absolutely incredible.

Try it!

 

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Tales of Rock – Alice Cooper Reveals How Jesus Saved His Life

Alice Cooper is a complicated individual. A world-famous musician, certainly, known for his shocking performances and focus on rock and metal.

But that’s not how he started out. And as he prepares for his role as King Harod on NBC’s live version of “Jesus Christ Superstar,” he’s telling more of his backstory.

When he started seriously focusing on music in the late 60s, Cooper quickly fell to the pull of alcohol. Not unusual for celebrities and musicians, but dangerous no matter what your career.

“Everything that could go wrong was shutting down inside of me,” Cooper told Confidential. “I was drinking with Jim Morrison and Jimi Hendrix and trying to keep up with Keith Moon and they all died at 27.”

Alice Cooper Reveals How Jesus Saved His Life on Night He Was Throwing up Blood 40 Years Ago

Almost 40 years ago — 37 to be exact — the performer had a major turning point. A come-to-Jesus moment, if you will.

After years of heavy drinking and trashing his body, Cooper woke himself up by vomiting blood. While that would be concerning for anyone, Cooper knew why it was happening.

Cooper also knew what it meant he would have to do. After being authoritatively denounced as an alcoholic, he stopped drinking.

Stopping on its own is challenging, especially if you’re a habitual drinker, but Cooper said he also never had the desire to drink again.

Why? He said it was because of God.

“My wife and I are both Christian. My father was a pastor, my grandfather was an evangelist. I grew up in the church, went as far away as I could from it — almost died — and then came back to the church.”

That trend could describe many individuals. There are plenty of parents, friends, and relatives grieving the falling-away of loved ones. But perhaps it was Cooper’s foundation in Christianity that gave him stability when nothing else could.

He clearly has a lot of respect for his dad, and no doubt his father’s words rang in his ears during his darkest times.

“He could preach all day, keep you interested, tell jokes,” he said about his father in a 2011 interview. “I got that from him. He also loved music: Sinatra and Elvis.”

“When the Beatles came along, I was surprised when he went, ‘Yeah, they’re pretty good,’ because other parents were going, ‘Oh, no’. And my mom only worried about the lifestyle: ‘You’re gonna get caught up in drugs, you’re gonna get 20 girls pregnant.’”

Some people have had a hard time lining up Cooper’s appearance and life with standard Christian values, but he has words for them.

“There’s nothing in Christianity that says I can’t be a rock star. People have a very warped view of Christianity. They think it’s all very precise and we never do wrong and we’re praying all day and we’re right-wing. It has nothing to do with that. It has to do with a one-on-one relationship with Jesus Christ.”

Alice Cooper Reveals How Jesus Saved His Life on Night He Was Throwing up Blood 40 Years Ago

 

He’s also been faithful to his Christian wife, and the two still love each other after all these years.

“My wife is a ballet teacher so she is very organized,” he said in 2011. “I’m the spontaneous one – she never knows what’s coming, except that I’m gonna be home and I’m gonna be sober. After that, there might be a ticket to Jamaica in there.”

 

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Polyamorous relationships may be more fullfilling than monogamous ones (for a time at least)

While there is a rich body of literature in the social sciences focusing on romantic relationships, most research falls within a monogamous structure. In a new study, researchers at York University in Toronto provide new insights into polyamorous relationships — meaning, being able to have open sexual or consensual romantic relationships with more than one person at a time — and why some people prefer them. According to the findings, having more than one romantic partner may help individuals better meet their needs for eroticism and nurturing.

A different romantic partner for different needs

Rhonda Balzarini, a post-doc in psychology at York University, says it is common for couples early in their relationship to experience high desire and passion, leading to frequent sex — this is often referred to as the ‘honeymoon phase’. Later in the relationship, sexual intensity tends to fade away, while comfort and intimacy tend to increase. But does this dynamic also apply to other types of romantic relationships?

In their new study, Balzarini and colleagues investigated how polyamorous and monogamous relationships differ in their ability to fulfill partner’s needs for eroticism (sexual intensity, pleasure, and passion) and nurturance (comfort and security).

The researchers recruited 2,183 monogamous and 1,168 polyamorous individuals who were surveyed about their experiences of eroticism and nurturance, as well as their sexual satisfaction and closeness with their partners. Those in polyamorous relationships had to rate these aspects twice: once for their primary partner with whom they had more commitments, and once for their secondary partner, with whom they had less ongoing commitments.

The results published in the journal Social Psychology, suggest that those in polyamorous relationships experienced greater nurturance with primary partners compared to secondary and monogamous partners. At the same time, they also experienced greater eroticism with secondary partners compared to primary and monogamous partners.

“One key takeaway is that people in polyamorous relationships do seem to diversify their need fulfillment across their relationships and this may allow them to experience the best of both worlds (high eroticism and nurturance simultaneously),” Balzarini wrote in an article for PsyPost.

“This does not mean that everyone should engage in polyamory but suggests that there might be benefits to diversifying need fulfillment and relying on different people to meet different needs. Although people in monogamous relationships are not permitted to have their sexual needs met outside of the relationship, they may be able to diversify their need fulfillment in other ways — for example, by seeking out friends and family to meet needs for support, adventure, or intellectual stimulation,” she added.

The researchers also found that when polyamorous participants experienced greater eroticism with a primary partner, they tended to have less closeness with the secondary partner.

In the future, the researchers would like to investigate whether experiencing eroticism and nurturance from non-romantic partners (i.e. friends and family for nurturing and pornography for eroticism) can compensate for unsatisfactory levels in one’s romantic relationship. It would also be interesting to see a study of how polyamorous relationships evolve over time and whether they deteriorate faster and more often than monogamous relationships. Can you really have the best of both worlds? Maybe, but perhaps not for long. In other words, each partner may be happy with their polyamorous arrangement — until they’re not anymore.

This sort of research might reveal hidden nuances regarding the evolution of romantic relationships. Most societies in the world today are comprised of monogamous couples, both for heterosexual and homosexual individuals. So there may be many reasons why monogamy is culturally superior to consented polygamy — and science might one-day have an elaborate answer to share.

 

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The Chauffeur

One of the worst dates I’ve ever gone on was all my fault.

I met a girl on tinder who I had been talking to for a while. She always flaked on me last minute or would randomly start ignoring me. We tried a few times, but she always bailed so I just gave up.

Finally she reached out again to meet up and said she wasn’t over an ex or something but now she was so I agreed.

Anyway, a little back story, I had been out of the country for over a year traveling so when I got back to the USA I moved in with my parents and basically didn’t have any clothes except the few I bought when I got back as the rest were in a storage unit.

I throw all my clothes in the wash after work to be ready for my date. About 1.5 hours later I went to take them out of the wash and throw them in the dryer, and noticed the washing machine was still filled with water. I didn’t know what to do so I just picked out the outfit I wanted and threw it in the dryer. . . they were soaked.

She took and Uber to the bar where we were meeting and literally texted me that she was there and I hadn’t even left them house yet. I was only like 7 minutes away and just blamed not being able to find my keys or something, and that I would just be a few minutes late. I didn’t want to cancel the whole time because I finally got a date with her but literally my clothes were still sooooo soggy and damp.

Whatever, I threw them on. Now the situation gets worse.

Can’t find my wallet ANYWHERE. I panic and leave without it. Thankfully my friend is manager of the bar so I give him a call to make sure I can pay another time. He says no problem and will let the bartender know.

I drive to the bar holding my shirt out the window in my wet jeans and boxers. I see her and she gets up to give me a hug and I have to explain why I’m wet, she laughs, thinks its funny, whatever.

Finally we are ready to leave, and the bartender gives me the check. WTF that wasn’t supposed to happen. I stall for a bit and then see my friend is finished her shift. . . yes she works there too lol, I didn’t tell my date any of this though. I tell my date I knew those people over by (where my friend was having an after shift drink with her other server friends) and I was going to say hi before we left. I discreetly toss my friend the check and say I’ll explain later. Perfect, crisis averted.

Now we leave the bar and I ask her if I can give her a ride home instead of Ubering, she agrees. I get in the car and notice I have little fuel. . . but no worries I read even when it hits 0 you can still go for a while. Of course she lives in like the furthest point of the town from where we are. It’s like up these winding hills in the middle of the woods. Of course, my car comes to a halt. That was a difficult one to explain, and finally I just had to admit I couldn’t find my wallet but I didn’t want to cancel the date and now my car is out of gas.

No worries, I go to call a Lyft, as that’s the only ride share app I have. Of course, we’re in such a remote area there aren’t any, not to mention its late. Can’t download Uber because I don’t have a credit card on me so she has to call one. We have to awkwardly wait for soooo long. Even worse, the first 2 gas stations we go to are closed. Finally we get to a Wawa that’s open. We go in and by a gas canister and I had to turn to her for payment. She gets us that and fills it with gas. We go to get in the Uber and he won’t let me in with a gas can.

We finally get back to my car still sitting in the middle of the road because I don’t know how to put it in neutral to move it when the car is not on. I drive her to her house and before I leave she hands be $10 for gas to get myself home.

My wallet was swimming in the washing machine. What a night…

I got a second date.

 

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