Archive for the ‘People’ Category

Driving Miss Crazy?

July 14, 2010

Being a good Samaritan can be rough. A while back. we were at a small graduation celebration for a friend of ours. After the celebrations and cleaning up were over,  I had to drive to Baltimore to pick up our daughter, who spent the day with her aunt.  We then found that there was  a lady there who actually lived there and needed a ride home.Well, the stars seemed to be perfectly aligned here; she needed a ride to Baltimore, I happened to be going to Baltimore and was more than willing to take her along, so I offered; ….that was my first mistake.

Miss Mildred, (the names of the characters have been changed to protect the innocent…….me) however, started to act all cagey about the whole arrangement. She seemed quite disappointed that things seemed not to be going the way she anticipated. The reason for Miss Mildred’s obvious discomfort soon became apparent.  In a ‘sideways, under her breath, jokingly, but not so much ‘  way,  she ‘kinda, sorta, in a manner of speaking, somehow’ let on that she was wary of taking the drive ……..alone with me…….hmmmm.

Now Miss Mildred was probably ‘pushing 60’  (to use a term that my wife regularly employs), and she did not bring to mind the kind of ‘older woman’ that some younger men chase after; I wasn’t Ashton, and she, sure as heck, wasn’t Demi. What I should have done at this point was, rescind the offer, and go on about my business. But ‘good samaritanness’ sometimes chases away all reason and common sense flies out the window. So I shook off the icky feeling and pressed on. …..mistake number two.

 When God opens a window; jump through and stop waiting for double mahogany doors and a red carpet.

 She eventually accepted when my wife agreed to come along. I think I was happier about this than Miss Mildred.

That being settled, I ask Miss Mildred for her address, which I personally thought was a fairly reasonable request; I’m thinking I’ll plug it into my GPS and we’ll be on our way; plain vanilla as they say. Turned out that with Miss Mildred plain vanilla somehow morphed into ‘rocky road’. What I got for my obviously unreasonable request  was another round of ‘kinda, sorta, in a manner of speaking, somehow’ kind of responses. To this day, I do not know Miss Mildred’s address; if knowing this were somehow vital to my existence, I would be up the proverbial creek without the proverbial paddle. 

That icky feeling from before, was now a sinking one.  The kind you get when you know that you should run for the hills at the next opportunity, but, at the same time, you know that when that opportunity comes you’re not going to. So instead of insisting that unless she gives up the address, we were not moving an inch, not even an iota, we chose to rely upon Miss Mildred’s declaration that; ‘ I know the way, I am a driver too’. Mistake number three…..the whole affair was turning into quite the fiasco. 

Anyway, we all pile into the Camry; Miss Mildred in the back seat, in a very festive mood, now that the plans of the ‘sicko with the Caribbean accent’ have been thwarted. My wife and I started to look at the thing in a whole new light. We started looking forward to the adventure that lay ahead of us.  ‘Miss Mildred’ I said, ‘lead the way’. Miss Mildred’s reply; ‘just drive, I will tell you when we’re close’. Hmmmm….here comes that sinking feeling again. The mistakes were piling up now.

So we trundle off to take Miss Mildred home.  Of course, since her address was a state secret, we just took the route we normally took and hoped for the best.  We drove along and chatted with Miss Mildred. She really was a nice lady. About a half hour in, we start to feel like we’re getting close, but we also start to notice relative silence coming from the back seat ; where before there was a happy, comfortable chatter, there was a cold, hesitant silence, which was then broken with a muted, ‘oh you passed on this side, I don’t usually pass on this side’.  I had a Ralph Kramden moment at that point; ‘One of these days…….one of these days…..POW!!!!! Right in the kisser.

I was drawn out of my sweet reverie by Miss Mildred stating in a very matter of fact way; I don’t remember all these green signs, they must be new’.  Lord alone knows how I did not run off the road; green signs Miss Mildred? You mean the exit signs? The ones that have been there (AND GREEN),  ‘ever since’?  The credibility of Miss Mildred’s ‘I am a driver too’ claim took a serious nosedive at that point, and depositing her at the nearest metro just seemed like ‘the right thing to do’….for the sake of my own sanity anyway. I couldn’t do it though, my parents raised me better than that (gee thanks), so, I determined, like the drunk said when he realized the woman he was dancing with was really a man, ‘ah done in it’; I had to see this thing to the end.

By some miracle, my wife was able to coax a street name out of Miss Mildred. It was like a ray of sunshine in an otherwise dreary world. We immediately booted up the GPS, and, for the first time that night, had some sense of where we were headed. We turned right, when it said to turn right and left when it said to turn left. In my anxiety to be done with this ‘adventure’,  I was driving way too fast, but the end was in sight and it could not come quickly enough. We were only vaguely aware of Miss Mildred mumbling things like, ‘ yes I know that gas station’, or “it’s coming back to me now” (where did it go Miss Mildred?). In a few more minutes we were at our destination experiencing sweet relief.

Miss Mildred thanked us profusely…..then tried to pay us. As I write this, I am chuckling as I remember the scene with her trying to throw the money at us and make a quick getaway. Quick getaways, however, were not in her sphere of expertise, and we were easily able to keep her and her money together. As we drove off, with that warm feeling you get when you  know that  ‘you done good’, a question flickered across my mind…….was Miss Mildred knocking on that door?……..naaaahhh.

Who moved my yogurt?

June 21, 2010

In this time of economic uncertainty, we find that many more people are taking food to work, rather than spend money eating out. The tanked value in the real estate market for residential and commercial properties, has caused a scarcity, and a subsequent rise in value for another category of space….the office refrigerator. For the more economics-minded among us, we say that there is an inverse relationship between prices in the real world real estate market and demand for goods and services that are highly impacted by recessionary events, such as, you guessed it, refrigerator space.

This post all came about because one day I attempted to put my lunch in the company-supplied refrigerator. I usually get in pretty early so the thought that there would be no room for my lunch, did not even flutter through my mind.  Boy was I wrong!!!! When I opened the refrigerator door, I had to shake my head vigorously and look around to make sure I was not in the supermarket. In fact, I knew I was not in the supermarket, because they don’t have that much yogurt there. From the looks of things, people were bringing in yogurt for the month and just stacking them in there. Yogurt must be the ‘on salest’ item on the planet.

Things got so bad that emails started being sent out, asking people to not use the refrigerators  ‘as if yuh in yuh house’ (or something to that effect). A riot almost broke out when someone left a ‘whole heap’ of venison sausage (deer meat for the unitiated) in the fridge.

To make matters worse, people started eating yogurt that they did not ‘deposit’ into the ‘yogurt bank’. Another economic concept soon began to take hold; the concept of the complementary good. This is something that is typically used in conjunction with another product, so if demand for one increases, so does demand for the other. Who knew that permanent markers were a complementary product to yogurt, frozen dinners and Rubbermaid containers. As it turns out though, they are, because when people start eating your food (apparently by mistake), you need to start writing your name on stuff, so the more yogurt you buy, the more permanent markers you wear out. Makes sense huh?

The whole ‘write your name on your food so that no one will eat it’ thing, does have its shortcomings though. One time an email came in entitled “yogurt in fridge”.  Not personally having and “yogurt in fridge’, pure curiosity drove me to open the email. Turns out one of the very people who write their names on their food containers, apparently reached blindly into the refrigerator and pulled out, what she thought was her yogurt. It was only after she was half way through that she realized that her name was not on the container; Oops!!! So, being the kind soul that she is, she graciously offered her own personally autographed yogurt as a replacement…….mmmm I don’t think so. I know the yogurt’s in a sealed container and all, but…well…..you…… well……you touched it. I know I know, that’s a little bit weird, but that’s just the way I am. If I had been the ‘victim’ in this case. I would have just thrown it away. Hey, I’m just sayin….

People even started buying gallon jugs of milk and putting them in the refrigerator because, ‘I bring cereal from home’. Maybe you should also eat your cereal at home, because that’s a pretty big jug and it’s a pretty small fridge. Do you have any idea how much yogurt could fit in the space you’re taking up?

Then you have the whole ‘leftovers’ story; people leaving their half-eaten meals in the refrigerator, because ‘you shouldn’t throw food away’ so instead they leave all sorts of stuff in there, until it becomes completely unidentifiable under all the ‘wildlife’ growing on it.  At this point, you would think that they would have the decency to take their offensive property out. Nope, instead they mount a campaign, complaining about the absolutely disgusting state of the refrigerator and wondering why the cleaning people don’t do a better job.

Last I heard about the whole ‘fridge fiasco’, they instituted the ‘if it’s there. on Friday evening. it won’t be there on Monday morning’ rule, so basically you either stop treating the refrigerator as the overflow for yours at home, or you would find that your food has a diminished shelf life (yeah, use it or lose it, has so many different applications). I’m not sure how that’s working out but I did overhear talk of a brewing confrontation over some missing Rubbermaid containers. As for me, I’ll just bring sandwiches until the economy turns back around.

Is that seat taken?

June 1, 2010

So I was sitting in church one Sunday being all attentive to the pastor as he was preaching and stuff, when at the back of my mind, I keep hearing an insistent ‘is that seat taken?’. There was no need for me to look around, or even waste an entire thought wondering what the muted commotion was about.I already knew what was going on; one of the ‘special people’ had arrived at church.

The special ones are those people who insist on showing up for church at least an hour late every Sunday. Now I’m not talking about people who are visiting and may have gotten the time wrong; no, I’m talking about those who have been members ‘ever since’. They know exactly when church starts, in fact, they have the entire program memorized so they know what happens and when they happen. Basically this means that they made a conscious decision  to show up late and disrupt the service. But maybe I’m being a bit harsh. Maybe every Sunday, the same people get caught in the same traffic jam on their way to the same service…..it could happen; some people are slow learners.

My thing is though, slow learner or not, why do these people harbor the belief that church has assigned seating? Furthermore, why do they not dispense with this belief, when Sunday after Sunday they show up and ‘their’ pew is so crowded,that there is barely room to breathe? Even further, why is it that even after seeing that the pew is crowded, do they not find someplace else to sit? Nope, that would be way too easy. Instead, they literally squeeze themselves into the tiniest of spaces and then do the ‘Holy Ghost wiggle’; a neat little trick which consists of pretending  to get all involved in the preaching with lots of amens, hallelujahs, and hand waving,  all while wiggling your way into position so that you end up being the most comfortable person in the pew. Everyone else, by the way, is on the edge of their seats……..and not with anticipation.

These are the more brazen of the special ones. There is another group that shows up just before offering is taken up and hang around at the door. Then, when people are filing up, in complete obedience to the word and following the guidance of the ushers, these low down sinners, sneak in and steal their seats.  Have you ever come back to your seat after giving your offering and found that somehow, there doesn’t seem to be as much room as when you left? It’s like digging a hole in the ground and trying to fill it back up with the same dirt you just dug out….you just can’t seem to get it all in there. It’s pretty easy to identify the culprit though, just look down the pew for the person who is so intent on ‘their worship’ that they’re completely oblivious to anything or anyone around them.

As if showing up late and ‘discommoding’ (this is not a word, but my mother used it all the time to convey her angst at inconsiderate behavior) other people on your own is not enough, many of the special ones bring friends along with them. Now instead of one person stepping on your toes, you end up with an entire family trampling all over your ‘good shoes’, without so much as an excuse me. And why is it that there is always one in the group who has a weak bladder that starts to act up the second they sit down?

Some of them even send ‘scouts’ ahead of the pack. This person is particularly sneaky, because they arrive all smiling and polite and ask if they can sit there. You get all polite back and make room for them and stuff; then when they’re all comfy, they stand up and start waving at the back of the church. Suddenly, out of nowhere, you find yourself ‘invaded’ by the ‘country cousins’. You know what they say……no good deed goes unpunished, not even in church. Actually especially not in church; look at what happened to Christ, and all he wanted to do was to make things better for everybody.

Then you have the ones who think the usher is just like a Wal-Mart greeter; there to say good morning and hand you a program. These are the ones who blow right by the ushers and insist on finding their own seats. Of course this whole finding your own seat is a drama all on its own, since it usually involves standing conspicuously in the aisle, and spinning around while trying to make eye contact with someone to inquire (in your loudest whisper), as to the availability of the seat next to them. This usually ends up in a major communication breakdown, since, oftentimes, the ‘contactee’ may nod, yes, thinking the question was ‘is anyone sitting there?’ when the question was ‘is that seat empty?’. One can easily see how such an interaction could get all ‘involved’.

Of course this will never change. After all, as my mother used to say ‘monkey know which tree to climb’, so these people can be relatively certain that no one is going call them out on their behavior. It is church after all and ‘church people’ are nothing, if not polite. You can get away with all sorts of stuff at church; they have the whole ‘come as you are, turn the other cheek’ thing going on,  so you’re pretty safe acting like you have no training. People will make room for you and smile benevolently when you step on them, as you squeeze your way through.

This is where some people can learn a thing or two from the monkeys; not only do they know which tree to climb, but they are also keenly aware of WHEN to climb said trees, and this is where many of the special ones fall short. They don’t understand that ‘church behavior’ is an animal all its own, not to be mistaken for ‘regular behavior’, which tends to be a tad more reactionary. Have you ever met someone whose attitude was ‘not me an dem people in dat church nah, dey too hypocrite’?  That, my friend, may have been the lament of one who stepped on some church toes………on a week day.

Some people

May 27, 2010

It’s hard being ‘some people’. I’m not referring to anyone in particular. Rather I’m referring to the ‘some people’ we all talk about; the some people who  always seem to have stuff going on in their lives; things are always happening to them, or to people they know. They go through a lot. They deal with situations that we say (as we sit around in the comfort of our own uneventful lives) ‘no one should have to deal with’. When we say this, more often than not, we mean, ‘thank God, that’s never happened to me’.  At the backs of our minds, we think, ‘they must have done something wrong to have to deal with this’. Hardly do we ever consider that Providence is no respecter  of persons. If it happened to them, it could easily happen to you. Well, last week , ‘it’ happened to my family.

We found ourselves in a situation, that did not creep up on us, but rather it just jumped out at us  from behind a wall as we strolled along in the comfortableness of being us; same effect, just different method of delivery. One moment we were happily dreaming dreams and planning plans, and the next moment we were in a completely alien situation. By the end of the week, we had become ‘some people’. We were in the ever so popular ‘situation’, one that we never imagined we would ever be in. But here we were; some people.

Being some people gives one a whole new perspective though. You go from being the “called upon” to the ones calling and relying on others. You move from that place where you (sometimes with a ‘can’t you call someone else’ sigh) find yourself lending a helping hand wherever you can, to a place where you are reaching for that helping hand. Being some people is a humbling experience. If you ever start feeling a little bit full of yourself and start thinking that you don’t need anybody else, try being some people for a minute.

I know this all sounds like being some people is the worse thing that can happen to you, but it’s not all bad. I will admit that, oftentimes the thing that catapults you into ‘somepeopleville’, is not exactly the most thrilling experience and certainly not something you would want to repeat, nevertheless, it opens up a whole new world.

In this new world, despite how we got there, we made some very interesting discoveries. Our ‘arrival’ inadvertently allowed us to ‘test’ some of our relationships. Test is probably not the right word, because it suggests some level of uncertainty to begin with, which is definitely not the case.  The reality of relationships though, is that you never really know what kind of relationship you have with someone until something not so good happens; until the rubber hits the road; until walks must be walked instead of talk being talked.

There are lots of stories about the moral erosion of our society. I want to believe though that there are exponentially more examples of people helping people. We are, however so preoccupied with sensationalism today, that we prefer to dwell on the not so nice aspects of human behavior. Being some people though allowed us to experience the much more noble aspects of humanity.

This post, therefore, is a thank you of sorts, to those who have helped when we needed it most. To the much-loved “aunty” who stepped in and took care of the munchkin, so that we could be fully focused on  the situation at hand. To special friends, who just said yes even before questions were asked. People who dropped everything and came running; who just asked, ‘what do you need?’ To those who shifted plans and worked through the night so that they could be there for us. To the co-worker who offered to drive miles if we needed her to. To the friend back home who made international calls just to encourage us and to make sue that we were ok. To the anonymous ones who did not need specifics to petition on our behalf in prayer. Thanks is often difficult to say, moreso because although it is the ‘right thing to do’  often it falls way short of conveying the depth of our gratitude. How does one articulate what it feels like, when you truly do not have to worry because you know someone’s ‘got your back’.

Yeah, it’s hard being some people. You don’t want to be a bother to anyone, or interrupt their lives, but one thing I’ve learnt about some people is that their situations, more often than not, cannot be helped. They don’t choose to have stuff happen to them. I told a friend that we were probably being tested; her response,” just sounds like life to me”. Maybe it IS just life. After all, we are not the first ones this thing has happened to, and I’m sure we won’t be the last. There are many things happening to many people every second of every day. The way these are resolved depends to a great extent on the quality of the network. If it is a network of the proverbial fair weather friends, then things may not turn out so well. If the network is “genuine” then the outcome is likely to be brighter, and even if it isn’t, you at least know that you’re not alone.  Truth is, everybody needs somebody, so in some sense ………we are all some people.

Birthers, colonels & harvard law students

May 13, 2010

When I started this blog, my intention was never to spend my time writing about race issues. I figured that while race is still an issue, I should be able to avoid spending too much energy on it. The reality is that, unless you can read minds, you never really know what drives any particular behavior. There are always arguments that cast some doubt over the situation and leave you thinking that maybe, just maybe, this really isn’t about race after all. So I figured I’d just stay away from the whole race thing, and leave that kinda stuff to those people looking for work as civil rights activists. I just want it to go on record that I tried. Its just that some people make it really difficult.

Enter stage left, army doctor, Lt. Col. Terry Lakin, who is refusing to go on his second tour of duty because he has it in his head that the President was not born in the United States. This is not new. Ever since it became apparent that then Senator Obama could “win this thing” the nutcases started coming out of the woodwork (where apparently lots of nutcases reside). One such group of nutcases is the “birther” movement who hold the belief (or at least that’s what they say they believe) that President Obama was not born in the U.S. and so is not legally entitled to hold the office of President of the United States. This would be a huge deal if such claims were not debunked at every turn. His Hawaiian birth certificate was presented and verified, and media investigators along with Hawaiian officials have gone on record defending the validity of the document. The birthers, however, refuse to accept this and insist that the President provide additional proof. Maybe what they’re really trying to say is that Hawaii isn’t really part of the United States.

They have succeeded in infiltrating the ranks of the nation’s military and are apparently intent on undermining the very security of the country they claim to love. They have enlisted the good Lt. Col. Lakin, who, thus far has succeeded only in sullying his own reputation (sounds better than ‘looking like an idiot’ which he does really well by the way). I’m guessing that he thinks he looks all principled and stuff, but to me, when he shows up on national television, with his birther financed lawyer,words like petulant and racist, come more easily to mind. Racist is not an adjective I use lightly,and I sincerely hope that is not his motivation, but I am unable to see any other force behind this movement and behind people like, soon to be ‘Mr.’ Lakin.

He claims (or rather he mouths claims made by the birthers) that there is “mounting and significant evidence” against the validity of the President’s birth certificate. If he were really genuine in his intentions, then he would come forward with this ‘evidence’ and not leave us all in suspense. As for his lawyer, he brings to mind (to my mind anyway) that character in O Brother, Where Art Thou, who takes part in ‘venerated obzoivances’. Not the best choice Colonel.

As if this wasn’t enough, enter Ms. Stephanie Grace, Harvard Law Student, who catapults herself into the national limelight…..via email. In an email she, in her infinite wisdom, and with “grace” overflowing, declares, ‘ I absolutely do not rule out the possibility that African-Americans are, on average, genetically predisposed to be less intelligent’. I’m thinking I should not feel personally insulted, because obviously Ms. Grace, from within the bowels (yeah, bowels because you know what comes out of bowels) of her lily-white intelligence is fully aware that African-American is a cultural construct, and is not a synonym for Black. As such I have to assume that this genetic defect is peculiar to Black people who are born in the United States.

Let us suppose for a moment that she did mean all Black people. Since ‘racists don’t discriminate’ I believe this is much closer to the truth. Ms. Grace feels that the accident of nature that made her white, also made her more intelligent than Black people. I say Black people, because her email singles us out. It does not give any insight into how she feels about people of other races, so for now, we can’t quite call her a white supremacist…….not quite.

Ms. Grace later apologized and is apparently ‘heartbroken and devastated’ because she did not mean to cause any harm. Are you kidding me? At this point, if I am to follow her own logic, I have no choice but to believe that she herself must be African-American, because only someone ‘less intelligent’ could possibly believe that they could get caught saying something that stupidly insensitive and not expect any fallout. Perhaps she feels a change in the wind and thinks it has suddenly become ok to resurrect ghosts of a racist past. Well at least we know where she stands, which is more than we can say for the others out there.

The scary part here is that Ms. Grace is on her way to becoming a lawyer. Now I have no idea what kind of law she is intending to practice, but I am convinced that, no matter what, it spells trouble for any Black people who come within her sphere of influence, be they colleagues or clients. Black colleagues will know that she is merely tolerating them as one suffers fools, and Black clients cannot expect any fairness or objectivity in her dealings with them. Ms. Grace has unwittingly put a face on the systemic racism that exists today. Heaven help us if she becomes a judge.

Mr. Lakin is portraying himself as principled. I must assume then that based on principle, he has either refused his army salary for the past year and change, or is at least making arrangements to return any funds and benefits received over the past year and a half while the President has been in office. I mean, it’s the principle of the thing…….right? As for Ms. Grace, she is tryig her best to affect the role of the disconnected scientific observer, with all her calls for scientific data and such. Again, based on her own logic, it seems to me that her scientific objectivity is being called into question, since nowhere does she call for ‘scientfic data’ to prove that white people are ‘more intelligent’.  Come on Gracie, if you’re going to be objective about a thing, you need to do it right.

How dare she!!!

May 9, 2010

So Sandra Bullock, the popular White actress had the AUDACITY to adopt a Black baby. This has apparently raised the ire of some racial purists within the Black community, who, by the way, are not stepping in to adopt ANY of the children in the system, be they Black, White, or Green. Somehow though, they feel it is their duty to create a furor over this adoption. Apparently the timing is “suspicious”, and it is some sort of PR stunt because her husband cheated on her, not to mention the fact that this will cause the demise of African American culture as we know it…….uuuummmm….what????

This move on her part has started (or rejuvenated) a conversation on race and race relations that seems to have no end in the foreseeable future. You have people who make the argument that, (read slowly here, because you really have to follow this one) at one time White parents were not allowed to adopt Black children, and that such adoptions were eventually authorized, not for reasons of altruism, but because there were just too many Black kids in the system who were not being adopted. Okay, so maybe it’s not an actual argument, but rather one of those things people say to show that they read some historical literature………once. To use this as some kind of ammunition against interracial adoption boggles the mind. I’m guessing that these people also believe that slavery should never have been ended for purely economic reasons. Yeah, they should have kept my ancestors in bondage until they decided to end it for the ‘right’ reasons. It’s the principle of the thing dammit!!!

Then you have the whole ‘learn about his culture’ argument. Seems like unless ‘baby Louie’ grows up in a Black home, he will exist in some black hole (no pun intended) characterized by complete ignorance of his roots, and what it means to be Black. I don’t know Sandra Bullock personally and I have no idea whether this will be the case or not. I do, however, find it hard to believe that in the era of a Black American president, high profile Black business leaders, award winning Black actors, not to mention everyday Black heros, that this child will somehow grow up thinking that he’s White. This is not like that old Steve Martin movie where he is adopted into a Black family and only finds out he’s White when he becomes an adult. It is simply inconceivable that in the times we live in, that people can be so unaware of the diversity that surrounds them.

The unfortunate thing here is that, more often than not, when people make the whole “know your roots” argument, they are referring to the less flattering aspects of those roots. They are not talking about the great accomplishments of Black people throughout history. They are not talking about the many stories of success in Black communities today, rather they want their kids to submerge themselves in stories of slavery, jim crow, and Rodney King. They prefer that these children turn into Black men and women who are unable to interact with the broader community, and who act like people of different races are from a different planet and that they should all be feared and mistrusted.

The way I see it, I have more than enough stuff going on in my own life to have the time to be concerned about people who are still making interracial relationships an issue. I grew up surrounded by ‘mixed’ people so for me it was just the way things were. In my own case, it would take an army of genealogists to decipher my DNA. I see those stories of people who were able to trace their roots back to one one single place. My own genealogical makeup, however, leaves a much bigger footprint than that.

I’m thinking it’s about time that those with racial hangups ‘get with the program’. Harmonious racial relations is right up there alongside global warming and clean energy when it comes to the survival of the planet and the species. People need to get over themselves.

I am in no way minimizing what Black people went through (and still are going through). I am not, however willing to sit back and just let my history be my future. I have a daughter, and there is no way that I am going to teach her that there is anything she cannot do, just because she’s Black. Everyday I make sure that she knows that the world is her oyster. Everyday I let her know she is beautiful. Everyday I let her know that she is strong. Everyday I let her know that she is wise. I will not allow her to think that she is somehow less than anybody else just because of the color of her skin. So to the racial purists I say, ‘hold on, it’s gonna get bumpy’, and to Sandra Bullock I say, happy mother’s day.

The collectors

April 25, 2010

Years ago when the Pokemon madness hit planet earth, there was a minor uproar about the values that were being taught through the plot in the children’s show. Some people were very concerned that the show, cards and other paraphernalia were advocating materialism in young children (as if children needed any more encouragement). I’m thinking that collecting as many Pokemon cards as you can, was much safer, and had a lot less psychological impact than the type of collecting that goes on today. I’m talking about the global culture of …..people collecting.

Within the last decade, people collecting has become one of the fastest growing phenomena on the planet. We are hard pressed to find people who do not have collections of their own. In fact, we have reached a stage where, if you do not have your own collection, you are seen as out of touch, out of the loop, old fashioned, and any other description that could communicate your absolute lack of relevance. “You don’t have one!!!!!”….people ask with a look of complete incredulity, as as if to suggest that just because you don’t engage in the popular practice, you are somehow not suited to exist in civilized society. Seriously, they act like you’re missing a leg or something.

Unlike other types of collecting, where one collects rare or even limited edition items, people collecting, however, is like the retail industry. It’s a volume business. If you have less than a hundred people in your collection, you would be well advised to not talk too much about it. The “real” aficionados will laugh you to scorn. One hundred is the point at which you can begin to position yourself on the peripherals of conversations, where you will have the “privilege” of hearing “real” collectors, where you can learn how to go about developing an honest to goodness people collection. You’re not in the five or seven hundred brackets, but with a little work you’ll get there. Collections boasting thousands are not unheard of, but if you struggled to hit your first “century” you should probably set more moderate goals. Not to say it’s impossible, but you should always leave room to excel……….under promise, over deliver, works wonders for your self esteem.

Coin collectors, for example would spend hours learning about their rare pieces. They can tell you the history of each coin they own, where it was first minted, how many were minted, how old it is, how many are in existence still. People collectors, on the other hand, don’t have time for that sentimental claptrap, many of them have no clue of who the majority of people in their collections are. After all, people collections are purely for display purposes, and only two criteria count; how many and who they are, with who they are coming in a distant second (unless you specialize in a collection of “who’s who”, but that’s “a whole nother story”). Some people have people in their collections because they think it somehow adds to their own status. They don’t know these people from Adam as the saying goes. But it sure makes their collections bigger……….size DOES matter after all.

A particularly unique trait about people collecting though, is the willingness on the part of the collected to be just that; part of a collection. Nowhere else, but in the realm of the people collectors do people derive such pleasure from being a number. While busily growing their own massive collections, they are just as enthusiastic about being collected themselves. Apparently it has to do with wanting to be validated, and the best measure (to their minds) of one’s worth is how badly people want you to be a part of their collection. It has become so that we no longer want to build actual relationships with people, rather, we derive satisfaction from simply being associated with them. In most cases, we are even satisfied with being thought to be associated with some people; no real interaction necessary, being on the same planet is more than enough. They make fantastic conversation pieces; “wow, you know HER!!!!!!!…..Yeah, we’re like this, I was at a concert one time and my neighbor told me that a friend told her that she was at a house on the other street. Ummm….ok.

You must admit though that, to many, people collecting is a win win situation. You get the benefits of association (whatever those are) without the hassle of having to put any actual work into maintaining a relationship. Relationships can be pretty draining sometimes, with those “issues ridden” people expecting you to be there for them all the time, wanting to call you, talk to you, find out how you’re doing…….yeah it could be a real hassle. Better to have these superficial type deals where you can simply not concern yourself with the goings on in the lives of the people in your collection. Its like this huge open relationship where each party only takes whatever benefits them and leaves what doesn’t on the table. Makes life kinda messy for those people interested in “real” relationships if only the stressful stuff is left.

For the uninitiated, people collecting can be a huge let down, if they’re looking for sincere connections with others. They get into it thinking that they have an opportunity to build, or in some cases rebuild, relationships with old friends. They get all excited when some long lost friend agrees to be a part of their collection, even better when that long lost friend invites them to be part of theirs. The excitement is pretty short lived though, when they find that friend to be pretty uncommunicative. Talking to them is like talking to a “wall”.

I used to watch Star Trek when I was younger and I was always fascinated by “the Borg”, this alien race whose goal was pure assimilation. They were not interested in your individuality, your personal goals and ambitions were not their concern, they just wanted you to be a part of “the collective”, they took whatever you brought with you and assimilated it until it could no longer be identified as yours. You still, for the most part, looked like you, but that was about it. Your every action and word, was geared toward expanding the collective. They just wanted to get bigger. (I know this is a simplification, just in case some random “Trekkie” reads this and tries to taser me or something).

But hey, who am I to judge? People collecting works for a whole heap of people. They get profound fulfillment from not knowing too much about their “friends”. Forget getting to know people and other such rubbish, those massive collections sure come in handy when you decide to start a farm in Farmville, or a restaurant in Cafe World, or if you decide to wreak havoc on the Big Apple in Mafia Wars.

As for me, I’m starting to extricate myself from the Borg. My collection has gotten way out of hand. I am getting way too old for cyber pillow fights and “fertilizing other people’s plants” (something just doesn’t sound quite right there). This new collecting culture CAN work for me but it needs some tweaking. It starts with reducing my expectations (along with my friends list). I’m not looking for 500 “BFFs”, but would it kill you to say “oy” every now and then? It takes a lot less time than posting “something” on my wall.

I’m right dammit!!!!!

April 16, 2010

Being right is like a steroid. There is nothing like it to motivate a body. Being right energizes you, it gives you a sense of power like no other.It makes you bold. It increases your sense of civic responsibility.It makes you want to go out and spread the “gospel of rightness”. You especially feel like you need to teach that person who is not as fortunate as you, a lesson. You need him to see the error of his ways and become a better person. Being right is such a big deal sometimes, it’s like a weapon of mass destruction. And just like a WMD, in the wrong hands it could lead to “all kinda ting” (according to my daughter who recently realized that her parents do not speak like she does).

I saw “rightness” in action when I dropped my daughter off this morning. The school tries to manage the flow of traffic during pick-up and drop-off times, so that they could minimize any potential “problems”, and, more importantly, ensure the safety of their charges. To this end, they have placed a large, rather conspicuous sign at one end of the pick-up and drop-off area…”PLESAE DO NOT LEAVE VEHICLES UNATTENDED”. Well this morning a parent… left… her… vehicle… unattended. She was obviously wrong to do this. She exhibited a complete lack of concern for other parents and for the safety of the students. It was a completely selfish gesture. That was pretty clear for all to see. It was especially clear to the parent who pulled up directly behind her. Without so much as a “by your leave” she was like “IS THAT YOUR CAR? YOU NEED TO MOVE!!! I NEED TO GET TO WORK!!!” …….then she stamped her foot, I’m serious, she stamped her foot (are you like six lady?). All this was done while her kids were still in the car seeing “mommy” act like an infant. But, of course, she was right. She had what people like to call, the moral high ground, and, to her mind, the moral high ground could never be lost. There was nothing that she could do that would diminish her “rightness”.

Another time, another parking lot (I told you parking lots were interesting places). Guy Number One pulls into a strip mall with his girlfriend. He stops behind two parked cars, effectively preventing them from moving if they wanted to, so that his girlfriend could go inside and purchase something. Never mind there were other parking spaces nearby where he could easily slip into and so not hinder the flow of traffic in the already congested parking lot. Of course, that would be way too easy, and easy is for punks. Better to take the more challenging route and make a complete nuisance of yourself. Raise your banner of selfishness for the world to see. Of course by now you see where this is heading. Up drives “Mr. Right”. Mr. Right looks like Walter Matthau (Grumpy Old Men) and obviously has the personality of a hammer. Mr. Right is very principled, and while he could simply drive around Guy Number One and go on about his business, he feels that it is his duty to take a stand for those of us who follow the rules and show some small amount of consideration for others. From his position of “rightness”, he take the course of action he feels is best………he leans on his horn…….and starts to cuss……and cuss, and cuss, and cuss. He was very poetic about, there were words used that I am sure had never been heard before. But, of course, he was right. He also had what people like to call, the moral high ground, and, to HIS mind, the moral high ground could never be lost. There was nothing that he could do that would diminish his “rightness”.

The thing about this moral high ground business though, is that, contrary to popular opinion, it is very easy to lose. When you get to the moral high ground, it’s not like you get lifetime membership. You have to be even more careful when you get there that you don’t let being right go to your head. Don’t trample on others (or at least try to) just because you think you’re right. Being right does not give you unfettered permission to “act the fool”. In fact, if you let yourself get carried away, you’re no longer acting, and if the target of your “rightness indignation” gets all “ignant”, you just might find yourself in traction……..but hey, at least you’ll be right, and that counts for SOMETHING……..right?

Ethics sold here

March 19, 2010

So my friend’s friend with the tea business, somehow hit the jackpot and her business shot off. Now she is this big time importer of exotic organic teas, which she boasts are full of flavor and not that watered down stuff you get from those other guys. Her slogan is “real teas don’t tease”…..corny, but it seems to be working out for her. How did she do that so quickly you say? To that I say what my daughter says..”lets pretend”.

So, like I said, she’s big now,her company even has its own corporate culture (CC). That’s when you know you’re in the big leagues, you have your own corporate culture. She’s expanding pretty quickly so she decides to buy out her biggest foeign supplier. All in all the process went pretty smoothly. She is now officially a MULTINATIONAL CORPORATION (remember, we’re pretending here), or an MC if you will.

She sends some of her managers to checkout the new operations, but they return with some ticklish issues…. the MC could have some problems with the CC. Seems like they don’t do things quite the same way they’re done at HQ. Terms like “standardization”, “positive relationships with external providers”, “compliance with best practices”,and “operating within legal and regulatory” parameters started to be used. The new guys don’t quite interpret these ideas in the same manner as their foreign counterparts. Hmmm…tricky.

This is not a new issue, neither is it uncommon. Thing is, there is no one right answer to how we should approach these situations and we generally end up with more questions than answers. One school of thought is that we just turn a blind eye, after all they’re pretty much doing what they were doing all along anyway and we were fine with it. Yeah you were fine with it because although you may have suspected things were not as “transparent” as you would like you were not sure. In cases like that, there is nothing as comforting as the security of uncertainty.

Another position is that we insist on strict enforcement of our company’s ethical position. After all, we have awards and stuff. We’re super ethical, we know how to do this. While this is laudable, all it serves to do is aggravate the “new people” and removes cultural considerations from the ethical argument. Ethics and ethical behavior are as much a function of the cultural environment as they are a function of company policy.

Then you have ex-CIA types who want to mount some sort of clandestine operation. Strategically select some of the new managers. Bring them back to HQ. Wine then and dine them. Let them see how it could be worth their while if they could adopt the “new ways” and take them back to their own country and spread the new gospel. In other words lets bribe a few and get them to go back and deceive the others into thinking that this is the way to go. Hmmmm…now that’s ethical.

The way I see it, there really is no easy way around the whole mess. If we are truthful and try to be objective, we’ll admit that there are some thinks we can’t paint with the broad brush of globalisation. Like politics, there are some aspects that are really all local. Ethics and ethical behaviour are ideals that we may never achieve for the simple fact that in order to get greater “buy in” we have to compromise, and when it comes to being truly ethical, there is no room for that. Looks like we’ll just have to settle for being ethical……….ish.

Sense & Sensibilities

March 16, 2010

Caribbean people have a reputation for being friendly and very personable, especially to foreigners. We are very welcoming and would generally go all out to make strangers comfortable. There are, however, a few things that rub us the wrong way. We get “vex too bad”.

One is when people ignore the diversity that is the diaspora resident in the Caribbean Islands…”oh I just love your accent, I went to school with a girl from St. Lucia, and she sounded EXACTLY LIKE YOU”, says the foreigner to the Barbadian. Ummmmm………..no she didn’t.Or when they exhibit their own ignorance by asking silly questions…..”So how do you all get around? Do you have cars?”…..naah, we typically swing on vines. Much cheaper that way, and you don’t have to worry about finding parking under the trees.Or the ever so popular “Do you speak english where you come from?”……well to be quite frank, after talking with you for the past half hour, I’m beginning to wonder the same thing.

But one of the things that really really irk us is when they “discover” things that we’ve known about in the Caribbean since, “rock of ages was a pebble” and turn around and wonder if we would be able “appreciate” these “new advances”. Friend of mine in Canada, for example met this lady who was doing some research for an import and export business…organic teas she said. Knowing my friend was from “the islands” (wherever that is), she was wondering if there were any pockets of people there who would appreciate organic tea……….can someone say bush tea!!! To add insult to injury she goes on to say that the more affluent the individuals the more attuned they are to general health and well being. So not only are we ignorant as to the “newly discovered” benefits of bush tea, we are too poor to even know that we don’t know. Never mind that, for the most part, in the early days (when bush tea was invented), it was the selfsame less affluent ones who used the stuff because they could not afford to pay to be killed by all the fancy medicine.

Its not her fault though. Her attitude is representative of the inward looking nature of many people who have become so used to their current environment, that they forget it wasn’t always that way. They forget that the thing which is now so much a part of their present is also part of someone else’s past. They forget that they are reaping the benefits of the experiences of others.

It takes all kinds to make this world the place that it is though and sometimes it is best to not let incidents like this get under your skin. Just say what my father said when he encountered a particularly silly state of affairs…………STEEUUUPPPPSSS!!!


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