Posts Tagged ‘society’

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.

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There are no stupid questions….or are there?

June 8, 2010

Most, if not all of us have heard the old saying, ‘there is no such thing as a stupid question’. I actually agree with that….for the most part. I believe we ask questions, because the answers to those questions, will  have some measurable impact on our lives, or, at the very least,  influence the action we take; ‘excuse me sir, what time is the next bus?’. Stuff like that. The answer to that question could determine whether you sit and wait for the next one, or, if you live where I live and the bus is the R12, whether you just give up and go home because it will be a long time before you see another one.You get my drift, the answer determines your course of action.

Up comes the Gulf oil spill; a very tragic event by anybody’s standards. It is very difficult not to feel the frustration the people on the Gulf Coast must be experiencing. Of course, everyone is trying to do as much as they can to help and no one is doing it fast enough. People have tons of questions, and as usual there are way more questions than answers. I just think that we could go a long way to bridging that gap by being a little more sensible in the questions we do ask. If there is a real benefit to be gained from the answer, (apart from better ratings or political points) then by all means, ask away, if not, then maybe you should leave it alone. We have seen thus far, an amazing capacity for sensationalism in the questions being asked without any real or apparent regard for the consequences of the actual tragedy.

One of the earliest questions; how much oil really is spewing out of the well?  This was, and still is, a really big sticking point. The argument for wanting to know the answer to that question goes something like, ‘well if we don’t know how much oil is coming out now, how would we know when any of the attempts to stop it have worked? Hmmm…well if we can’t figure out when something stopped leaking without first knowing the rate of the leak, then we are in way more trouble than anybody thought. The thing about this and other questions like it, is that they are being asked, apparently,  on behalf of the public at large and, especially , on behalf of those people in the affected areas. Personally, I am not interested in how much oil is spewing out. Besides, I, along with most other people, already know the answer……too much, way too much. A more pertinent question would be, ‘so when do you think  you’ll have this mess cleaned up by?’, or ‘why exactly did you modify the blowout preventer so that it could no longer, ummmm…prevent blowouts?’ The only people who are getting all rabid over the ‘how much’ question are those people who are peddling devices  to be able to measure, well…..how much. The rest of us just want it to stop, regardless of how much it is.

This past Sunday, Bill Nelson, the democratic senator from Florida was on Face the Nation. In an effort to show his constituents that he was ‘getting out in front of this thing’, he declared that he made a phone call and asked, according to him, ‘one simple question, how many boats you got?’. He apparently got widely varying responses to his ‘one simple question’. My thing is though, he’s pretty lucky he got any response. How about asking, ‘what can I do to help?’. Now there’s a question that has the potential to result in a net benefit for the people of Florida. But he didn’t ask that since they might actually find something for him to do and that would not sit too well with him.  Does he have a boat to contribute to the cause? Or perhaps, there is some magic number of boats that will make everything ok. How many boats you got……indeed.

By far  the best though is, ‘what do you mean by legitimate?’. That depends, what do YOU mean by legitimate? I am no BP lover, but you don’t need to be a rocket scientist, (or in this case, an oil company executive), to see which way the wind is blowing. People will be crawling out of the woodwork, with all sorts of claims. Next thing you know they’re getting claims for birth defects in people born before Deep Water Horizon even existed. Personally, I think, in this litigious society it is bordering on silly to expect the company to say ‘yeah just bring it on, we’ll pay everything’, without some sort of qualifier. All of a sudden that executive’s words will become some sort of legal, binding, promise on the part of BP to pay everything that has the words ‘oil spill’ on it. It just amazes me that the question was asked in the first place and that it still has so much traction.

Each day I continue to look to the  Gulf for some good news. It seems as if the tide may be turning on this tragedy. I sure hope so. I do not, however, anticipate any decrease in, what I perceive to be, useless questions. After all, how else will the news media survive, and the politicians raise money, if not through the use of the tried and true stupid question?

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.

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?

Of polls and poles

April 4, 2010

As a general rule, the United Sates has four seasons……as a general rule. Living near Washington DC, however, I have to conclude that there are really only two seasons; election season and pre-election season (many people believe that there is also a post election season, but that is a myth and there is no reliable evidence that such a phenomenon exists). That being said, it is also a widely accepted fact that the latter is longer than the former and can last several years depending on where in the overall cycle you are. No matter the season though, there is a “fruit” that seems to thrive in any condition; the poll.

I’m not too sure when the first election poll took place, but polling in general has been around since the rock of ages was a pebble, (ever since the first cavemen were fielding ideas about how best to get that woolly mammoth). In recent times though, polling has taken up a greater significance in the nation’s politics.

Nothing is done unless politicians consult the polls, while at the same time declaring that they don’t care about polls. “We were put here to do a job, not listen to polls”. Yeah right!!! Some of them act as if their job IS listening to polls. You only get to make that statement though, depending on if the thing you’re trying to do is popular or not, determined, of course, by looking at the polls.

The thing about polls though is that I can’t figure out why people put so much stock in them. People who, in many cases, hold completely different positions on an issue, hold those positions based on what “our polls tell us”.

There seems to be a slight shift in DC at the moment though. The party in power is hard pressed to find a poll to support their position so they are forced to do things the old-fashioned way, go straight to the people you represent and try to convince them that they have their best interest at heart. The party not in power, however, can still find polls in abundance. There is a shift here also, in that the polls they are finding are telling them to just sit back, do absolutely nothing, and get paid…talk about a dream job.

Come to think about, these are probably the same polls another political party in another country used to look at some years ago. In that case though, the polls didn’t tell them to sit back, they said walk out, do absolutely nothing, and get paid. (You En See dey mad?). To be fair though, (because I am nothing if not fair)the weather in DC is only just getting nice enough for walking so maybe we’ll see a slight change in the response to polls.

I suppose it’s not unreasonable to rely on polls though. After all, the people who design them have gone to great lengths to make sure that we, (the polled) believe that it makes sense to talk to 6 people and determine from that, what 500 people think. It has been accepted for some time now that “representative sampling” is the way to go and obviously nobody is willing to stand up and say differently, maybe the polls have not been swinging in that direction as yet.

Speaking of polls and swinging…..the party not in power seems to be taking a different approach to the whole polling thing. Just recently we started hearing news about how they’ve been spending the money that “the polled” have been sending to them. Apparently, they’ve been using (I need to change the tense here, since we do not know that this is an ongoing thing) so, let’s do this again. Apparently they’ve used some of the money for “meals” at a “risque” establishment in West Hollywood. Well if these are the “poles” they’ve been consulting, the whole “just sit back” thing is beginning to make sense now. Hmmm…….I wonder what Drill baby drill really means.

The real parking wars

March 31, 2010

So I recently discovered the show Parking Wars on A&E. It’s all about the Philadelphia Parking Authority, and their interaction with the pubic everyday, from booting cars to impounding vehicles, to simply writing parking tickets. It’s fun to watch and some of the interactions are absolutely hilarious. But I want to divert your attention to the real unscripted parking wars that take place in parking lots and parking garages everyday.

Like the time I drove into a department store parking lot. It was pretty early in the morning, so there were tons of spaces available. I spy a space and I’m about to drive into it, when I detect eyes boring into me. I looked up and there was this lady seated in a car looking daggers at me. That spot was hers and if I took it, there would obviously be consequences. So, not being too interested in consequences, I waved her into the spot, and found myself another spot……right….next….to….her.

Parking lots can be a study in human behaviour as they highlight some of life’s little ironies. Like how some people would troll the parking lot, driving around and around, because they want to get a spot right next to the business place they’re going into. If I were some of these people, I’d stop doing business there though, because if you don’t have enough energy to walk a few feet to get to the GYM……nuff said.

Then there are the stalkers, these are the ones who follow people around asking them where they’re parked and if they’re leaving (like I’m going to tell you that). Depending on where you are, this could be just a little bit creepy. There are some places where stuff like that could end up in a gunfight.

If you’re into wanton violence, a parking lot could be just the place where you could get your fill, and you don’t even need pay per view. Just look out for the dude with the GINORMOUS suv, trying to fit into a not so ginormous space between two parked cars…….and he hits one…….or both. If he’s a really good driver, he could probably make it out before the second rock hits his windscreen, then again if he was a really good driver he wouldn’t be trying to fit himself into that space in the first place.

Then there are the parking lot security people, in their fancy parking lot security people cars. Why some of them need cars in the first place is beyond me. The parking lot is like “yay” big and they either take up valuable parking spaces or get in the way of the traffic……get a bike or something.

Yeah, parking lots are where the real action is, from the VIPs who think they can park wherever they come to a stop (I’m waiting for my wife, she’s inside….dude there are dozens of people inside, go park somewhere where you’re not aggravating people)to the people with shopping carts who harbor an innate hatred for drivers (until they get into their own cars, then they harbor an innate hatred for people with shopping carts).

The parking wars on tv is pretty entertaining, but if you want some real 3D action, head for the nearest mall, pick a spot some distance from the entrance (there are always lots of spaces there), sit back, and enjoy. If you want a more “interactive” experience….well you know what to do.

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!!!

Clean up on aisle 5!!!!!!

March 6, 2010

So my wife sends me to the supermarket the other day (one of the things wives do very well by the way). I don’t usually mind though because then I get to use that great timesaver, the epitome of efficiency….. self checkout. Now who could find anything bad to say about a system whose sole purpose is to get you out of a busy supermarket as quickly as possible (ok, so maybe that’s not the sole purpose….you do have the whole if we can get shoppers to pack their own stuff, while ringing up their own purchases, then maybe we could save some money by hiring less cashiers thing). Basically self checkout is the supermarket’s way of hiring literally thousands of employees without having to pay a red cent, no insurance no nothing, but that’s another story.

I will confess that I am a self checkout junkie. As long as there is self checkout, I will use it. Not for me the talkative cashier behind the counter, or even worse the not so talkative one who hates her job. I am drawn to the sense of power you feel from scanning your own tomatoes. (Sure, go ahead and snicker, you know you like hearing that beep that lets you know your item has been properly scanned.)

But I digress, what I really want to talk about, is not the self checkout counter itself, but rather the people who decide to avail themselves of the benefits of that facility. Now I am one of those people who starts planning their exit the moment they set foot inside the door of the supermarket. It’s not because I’m super smart, or that I have the legendary Type A personality. Nothing so exciting. I just hate hanging around in grocery lines, which is why I head for self checkout, credit card and supermarket club card in hand, looking to make a quick exit. Thing is though, hanging around in grocery lines isn’t very popular so a lot more people decide to take control rather than subject themselves to the mood swings of one of the cashiers mentioned above. Which is where the problem lies.

While patiently standing in line, waiting my turn, I begin to notice some of the people in line with me and I come to a sudden, stark realization……. SELF CHECKOUT IS NOT FOR EVERYONE!!!!!

Dude, if it takes you 3 minutes to find the barcode on a bottle of ketchup, then maybe you should leave the scanning up to the experts. GO join a line with a cashier. Oh and while you’re heading over there,take your buddy with you who insists on paying cash (credit cards are the devil), which is not in itself a problem, but do you really need to have your bills crumpled up to such a state that they cannot fit into the slot? Aaahhh, there he goes, wiping the bills on his shirt trying to flatten them out. That will certainly work.

Then there’s Ms. Assembly Line. This is the lady who scans her items at this end, then after each item, she walks (note I said walks)to the other end to immediately pack the item she just scanned. Seriously, this somehow makes sense to her.

Ms. Assembly Line is followed by the social butterfly of the group (I swear,there’s one in every crowd). She is the one who feels moved to talk to anyone who would listen. Not a big deal really,it helps pass the time,but my thing is, is it only me or does it seem like there is some requirement that for you to be a sucessful social butterfly, you must meet two criteria; 1)have a medical condition that requires multiple invasive surgeries, 2) have a willingness, no a burning desire to share the intimate details of those surgeries, along with your recuperation with any unsuspecting soul who happens to make eye contact (for those who don’t make eye contact, you just speak very loudly to make sure they don’t feel left out. You know all those people you see who keep looking down, and we hear all the psycho babble about self esteem issues and what not, uh uh….they made eye contact.)

The social butterfly more often than not usually makes room for Mr. I’m Feeling Lucky. This is the guy, who eases into the space left by the social butterfly because she’s not minding her business, while pretending he did not see everyone else in line. Come on dude, all the other lines are stretching all the way to the back of the store. Why would you think this line only has three people? He, of course, is not peculiar to self checkout, he typically tries this stunt anywhere. It’s a pretty dangerous maneuver though since, depending on certain variables, crowd reaction could range from the polite; “Excuse me sir, but the line is back here”, to the downright nasty which could end in violence.

Then of course we have the techie,or rather the guy who claims to know a guy who’s a techie. This is the one who, when he gets to the console, pulls out a card,which does not belong to the supermarket he’s currently standing in, proceeds to scan this card, and is absolutely incredulous because it doesn’t work. After he tries a few more times, with the same result, he tries to explain to the others in line….”buddy o’mine…really good with computers…he says ya don’t really need a different card for e’rry grocery store….says it’s all about the money, so he fixed mine, so I only need the one card. Dunno why it ain’t workin though….sum’n must be wrong with the store’s computer system. Y’all see any managers around?”

And of course, no event is complete if iPhone guy isn’t there. Naturally, he downloaded an app that tells you the prices of stuff at OTHER supermarkets, which are signifcantly cheaper. iPhone guy, however, does not go to those other places (that would be way too easy, and he likes a challenge), so he comes here. Of course in addition to apps that tell him the weather in the Congo (you need to know this because?), he has this little gem that allows him to “store” all his cards in his phone. I’m sure you see where this is going.

Well I finally made it through self checkout. I was tempted to hang around though because as I walked through the door Ms. Count the Number of Items in Everyone Else’s cart was about to raise a stink over in express checkout……..10 items or less. Oh well there’s always tomorrow……..


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