Four hundred and seventy dollars later, my car is good as new. The brake pads were worn down completely so the grinding noise I heard was the padless brakes scraping the rotors. It was also the sound of money flying out of my ass. Oh, and the sound of me learning a lesson about the importance of preventative maintenance.

I can afford it, but only if I curb my big-spending ways. Bringing in the big reality show peon money was getting to my head anyway. I started going to the fancy grocery store up the street instead of the more economical, if less pretty, Food4Less. I finally had time for a shopping trip the other night, after feeling like Old Mother Hubbard for the last week or so. Our cupboards were bare of everything except for Thanksgiving leftovers, which is problematic because: A. Thanksgiving was weeks ago, and B. the fact that I mentioned Thanksgiving means that the Google sidebar ads will feature Turducken recipes again. Evil Roommate was home, and I asked if he wanted to come with me to the store. Perhaps he could buy his own cheese so that the next time I want some Monterey Jack, I won't open the fridge and discover an empty Monterey Jack wrapper because someone went and ate it all last night.

Evil Roommate: Oh, I don't really eat very much at home so there's no reason for me to buy anything at the store. Just get some staples like butter and clam chowder and cereal. That's all I really eat here. It's my way of keeping expenses down. I usually just eat out.
Sara: But doesn't eating out actually mean you spend a lot more?
Evil Roommate: Not if you get three-dollar hamburgers.
Sara: But you usually get Thai food or sushi.
Evil Roommate: Well, I don't like hamburgers.
Sara: ...

I don't know how widespread F4L is across the country, but they certainly don't have them back in Connecticut, which is much the worse for that. F4L has the same stuff that the pricey place up the street from me has, except that it's half the price. Sometimes they have "green tag" specials, which I'm pretty sure means that they robbed a truck, because otherwise I don't see how they can charge fifty cents for Yoplaits and make any profit. Evil Roommate and I fondly recall the day when F4L robbed a bacon truck and Oscar Meyer Center Cut bacon was only two dollars a package. This time, they robbed a Reese Peanut Butter Puffs truck, so I got two boxes for only five dollars! It was such a great deal that I didn't even think of how I'm turning into my mother with all the cost-cutting grocery shopping.

As you can imagine, Ramen, the staple food of the poor, is a big deal at F4L. They have an entire AISLE devoted to it. And they have huge aisles. You can get Ramen in single packets, or you can get it in a grocery cart-sized package that won't even fit in your cabinet. I used to love Ramen until I started working at a place where it was readily available in cup-of-soup form. The Maruchan Instant Lunch (Chicken Flavor) smells really good, and initially, after you give the added boiling water five minutes to turn the freeze-dried noodles and peas into plump, moisture-filled noodles and peas, it tastes good too. Then you get about halfway through and you realize that eating this stuff is a chore and you're only doing it for the satisfaction of completion. I felt sick after eating the Maruchan Instant Lunch, which might be because it contains fifty-one percent of the recommended daily allowance of sodium for an average-sized man. I am not an average-sized man. I am a below-average-sized woman. Thus, I ingested something like three-quarters of the sodium I should be eating throughout the entire day in seven minutes. That's nasty.

A few weeks later, I was hungry, and the break room was out of free food. Well, almost out: there were a couple Maruchan Instant Lunches (Chicken Flavor) left. So I had another one. I felt even sicker and I swore that I would never eat another Maruchan Instant Lunch (Chicken Flavor) ever again. Just the smell of them makes me feel sick.

The enemy!

So, of course, one of the night shift workers' car broke down which somehow made him have to work on the day shift. This guy loves the Maruchan Instant Lunch (Chicken Flavor). He loves it so much that he eats like seven cups of it a day. He is eating it when I come into work and he has a bowl of it right before he leaves. If he could figure out a way to mainline it for free, he would. Because a guy who eats seven Maruchan Instant Lunches (Chicken Flavor) a day just because they're free? Is cheap.

Our work room smells like Maruchan all the time. Through the amazing scientific process of osmosis, the Chicken Flavor enters my eye membranes and makes me weep. There is no ventilation in our office because we had to close the door for reasons that I cannot disclose, except to say that they involve us needing to be inconspicuous and a trailer full of rats. So the Maruchan smell is trapped inside the room and there is no escape. A few days ago, I was pleased to discover that I had a window next to my desk, but my happiness was soon replaced with bitter disappointment when I realized that I could not open the window, and that the window doesn't face outdoors, but into another hallway. The most exciting thing that's ever happened there is the time when Gwen taped a picture of Eliza to it.

A cloud of despair hangs over our room. Despair and Maruchan particles. My only hope is that either my workplace stops giving out free Maruchan Instant Lunches or my co-worker dies of hypernatremia. I hope it's the former, because I don't really want anyone to die and also because with my financial situation such as it is, I might be tempted to eat another cup of Maruchan.