Nothing like the last minute requirements that have you up at 6:00 on a Sunday morning to head to the office for the day. I don’t think I will ever understand what drivers a manager to suddenly think of something on Friday afternoon that needs to be done on Monday. Chalk that up to one of those things I hope I remember when I’m making the decisions.

I don’t intrinsically have a problem with working on Sunday. Of all the reasons my immortal soul is in danger, that’s probably the least of them… As long as the overtime keeps flowing, I’m there.

Licensed and Registered…

After the two hour ordeal that was my second trip to the local driver’s license issue facility, I’m now all nice and official like and in compliance with all applicable state and local laws. God willing, I should now be able to have the bare minimum contact with these lovely government officials for three years… That should be sufficient to recover from the indignity of it all.

I have a dear friend who is fond of pointing out that in a democracy, the people are sovereign. If what I have seen over the last two days is a true cross section of the people, the Republic is doomed. May God have mercy on our souls.

Newfangled technology…

After extensive deliberation, some would even say argument, with the Tennessee Department of Safety Driver’s License facility, I learned this morning that for purposes of residence verification, electronic bank statements do not meet the official definition of “bank statements.” Just as a point of clarification, it’s not as though I put my statement on a CD and took it to them. I printed the statement to show that I was, in fact, domiciled in the state. Apparently once it is actually printed out, my e-statement became defined as a “photocopy.” Who knew?

The whole idea behind getting electronic statements is so that you only need to print them when and if they are needed. It saves me filing space, it saves the bank postage, and even the environment wins, right? Looking at the fine examples of state employees running the desk at the facility, I didn’t particularly feel like getting into an argument over the finer points of what, by definition, constitutes a bank statement. It wasn’t a crowd that look to be up for a debate of the finer points of… well… anything, really. Sometimes you just need to know when you’ve made a bad investment and cut your losses. Today, the better part of valor was to roll my eyes, sigh heavily, and walk away muttering something about being surrounded by idiots.

This is 2007, folks. We landed a damned man on the moon almost forty years ago. We’ve had home computers for 25 years. Email has been around for about 15. I’ve been getting electronic statements for virtually everything for at least five years. Can someone tell me why I can’t just walk up to some kind of biometric scanner, swipe my USA Identacard, scan my eyball, and have my information validated? It boggles my mind that we still insist on making these transactions on paper. Completely inefficient and bloody inconvenient. We’ll never have to worry about the Brave New World because the bleeding government will never figure out how to use the machines properly in the first place.

Bloody Hell. I really am surrounded by idiots… Present company excepted, of course.

What’s next?

I’ve never been good at simply being satisfied with things. Even on the best of days, there was some improvement that could be made at the margins. Some people would call that being a pessimist. I prefer to think of it as being a realist, but that’s really just a matter of personal preference.

What do you do when it seems most of the things you wanted have started falling into place? Of course I’m good basking in the glow of things accomplished… for a while… Ultimately, thought, I want to know what’s next. Where’s the next challenge? This one isn’t even behind me yet, but my attention has moved elsewhere. I have a sneaking suspicion that things are not going to unfold exactly as I had them planned out. Not necessarily better, not necessarily worse, just different. I’m not usually alright with that, but perhaps in this case I’ll make an exception.

Red means…

Having worked in DC, I was convinced that I had dealt with the worst drivers that could possibly be thrown at me. That was before I started coming to Tennessee on a regular basis. In DC, every driver is in a hurry to get somewhere and drivers tend to be aggressive, but reasonably aware of their surroundings. That is to say, they are able to see a slot opening up in bumper to bumper traffic before it even happens… and they are able to maneuver their car to that spot with a minimum of fuss… usually. At the bare minimum, you can always count on the DC driver to do what seems to be in his or her best interest. I’m not convinced these people actually know what their tactical driving self-interest actually is.

Tennessee drivers, as a group, tend to drive fast (not well, mind you, just fast) and have a complete disregard for electronic traffic control signals. That is to say that red lights are viewed as some kind of suggestion. Of course the typical DC driver also runs a red light from time to time, but usually it is maybe one person who was a little late getting through the yellow. Here, it seems that it’s three or four cars running the red at every turn lane. I’m not saying they’re morons, just that they seem to suck at something that most people learn to do in their mid teens. I could make a comment about ignorant hicks, but that would be rude… and given my own roots, I think it best to refrain.

There should be some kind of test people have to pass before they are allowed to drive… oh… yeah. Shit.

Middle Class in Crisis…

While I was sitting in what passes for a traffic back up here in suburban Memphis, I was flipping through the news channels on XM and landed briefly on CNN (in case you’re wondering, FoxNews had just gone to commercial so CNN was the best I could do on short notice). A teaser they were running at the moment was decrying the difficulty “middle class” families have making ends meet in America “these days.”

Looking around me, I noticed what I could only assume were predominately middle class folks sitting in traffic along side me. The vast majority were sitting in $35-45,000 SUVs, $25-30,000 mini-vans, and a few in relatively “inexpensive” sedans. Many had pulled out of their relatively new suburban homes, with three or four bedrooms and two car garages. Although I couldn’t tell from my vantage point, I suspect most of the kids in those vehicles were wearing what passes as the latest fashion in clothing.

You’re probably wondering, by this point, what I’m trying to say, so I’ll be blunt: The middle class in this country has such a hard time making ends meet because they spend too damned much money. But wait, you say, people have a right to drive the car they want, to wear the clothes they want, and to do any damned thing that suits them. You know what? No one said you had to have any of these things to be “middle class.”

Stop taking all your guidance from the damned television, from musicians, and from sports stars. These people make more for one appearance on television, by singing one song, or by taking one at bat than we do in a year. Guess what? No matter how much you spend, they’re always going to have and be able to do more. That’s life.

Sometimes you just have to say that you can’t afford it. I’ve never been accused a being tight fisted when it comes to money, but just because I want a Corvette doesn’t mean that I can afford one. I do have a little red sports car. I do have a house in my “first choice” neighborhood. But I don’t have kids to support. That’s my choice and the trade off I’m willing to make. If I had a family to support my choices would necessarily be different.

As long as Mr. and Mrs. Middle Class are walking around in hock up to their necks, with three cars in the driveway, and kids wearing $200 sneakers, I don’t have much sympathy. When they get their priorities squared away and their financial house in order and still can’t make ends meet, then I’m willing to concede that we’re at a crisis point. Until then, get a damned grip.

Blogging towards 6000…

I opened this blog on the 19th of March 2006 and sometime just after I post this, I’ll clear the 6000-hit mark. Yes, I know there are blogs out there that are getting that many hits a day, but, quite frankly, they are probably better writers or at least partially subsidized for what they are doing. My only intent was to use this little slice of internet heaven to rant, rave, vent, fume, and, occasionally, pass on some of my deeper ideas to you friends. It has turned out to be an incredibly cathartic exercise for me… particularly when I make myself sit here and do it on a regular basis.

Thanks for sticking with me for the last 6000 hits. I’m looking forwards to seeing you all when we get past the 12,000 mark!

Must… Sleep…

OK, the last few weeks have found me getting less than my usual five hours of sleep a night and I realize tonight that I am paying the price for that. I’m snappy, frustrated at things I normally wouldn’t let get to me, and generally in a piss-poor mood as far as the eye can see. At some point, if only for the sake of the poor bastards that are around me all day, I’ve got to get it through my head that I don’t have to do everything that needs done down here in the first three weeks I’m in the place.

Easy to say… Harder to do, I suspect. Hopefully tonight will be the night I crash at 9:00 and actually have a good sleep.

Getting there…

I’m please to report that everything here seems to be coming together. Most of the boxes are unpacked now and rooms are starting to take on something approaching the way I’d like them to look. Of course there are still the details to handle; the pictures to hang, the boxes of trinkets to place, figuring out how the hell to cover the ridiculously oversized window in the dining room.

What I’ve noticed is that trips to Home Depot take on a new significance now. Around every corner is something to drool over. While I have always delighted in the utilitarian excess of places like Home Depot, I never got a special tingle going there when I was living in the apartment.

I’m going to try uploading some new pictures in the near future so I can prove that I’m actually making progress down here. I don’t think Memphis will ever be “home,” but it definitely feels better now that there’s more here than me and an air mattress.