So it’s summertime here in the northern hemisphere. That means the temperatures regularly climb up past 90 degrees, the humidity soars, and the news covers a raft of stories about people who leave their pets or their kids locked inside their vehicle and only discover the error of their ways when they return to find Spot, Mittens, Bobby, or Suzy broiled much later in the day.
According to the inevitable articles on the topic, boohooing and pleading sympathy for the guilty, “Experts say” it can happen to anyone. I suppose it could, in theory. Monkeys could also fly out of everyone’s collective asses. Or we could all get hit in the face by simultaneous meteorites. Anything is possible.
Speaking as a guy who put an automatic starter on his truck because he wasn’t comfortable leaving his dogs in the vehicle long enough to get in and out of various gas station bathrooms along the 800 mile route between Maryland and west Tennessee, any kind of excuse about forgetting the living creature or creatures in your back seat rings just a little bit hollow.
Look, I know everyone is busy. Everyone is tired. Everyone can have a scattered moment, but for fuck’s sake, people, at least try to pull yourselves together. It’s a living thing you’ve at least theoretically decided to take responsibility for, not last night’s leftovers that you inadvertently left on the back seat when you got home from Olive Garden.
As always, I’m left wondering what the hell is wrong with people. Unfortunately I probably know the answer to that. It starts with an S and ends with “tupid.”
1. I left the house a little later than usual. Where the street I live on dumps out into the local county road parents and their SUVs were stacked up like cord wood. There they sat, engines running, more or less blocking the road, and making sure their little princelings had enough heat while they waited for the school bus. It was just below freezing, not exactly polar explorer weather. Basically a decent coat and a good pair of socks would have been enough to make it tolerable for a few minutes. I can’t help but remember my own childhood where if you didn’t walk to school you at least walked to the bus stop – and that’s back at a time and place where temperatures below freezing weren’t cause for any particular alarm, being part and parcel as they are of the winter weather season. These kids have never been allowed to run through the woods throwing rocks at each other and it shows.
2. ISIS brides. The last few weeks have been thick with reports of women and girls who ran off from western civilization for the fun and adventure of becoming ISIS brides. Now, with the dream of an Islamic caliphate collapsing around their ears, they come out of the woodwork claiming to have learned the error of their ways. Here they come crawling “home” after years of providing aid and comfort to the enemy. I’m not a scholar of international law nor does my heart bleed for their reaping the results of traitorous decisions. They wanted the wonder of life in the belly of the beast, the best thing that we can do now is let them have it.
3. Fentanyl. I keep seeing news stories wherein a drug ring has been busted in possession of enough Fentanyl to kill 375,000,000 people. Look, I know we can’t really aerosolize the stuff and indiscriminately launch it from a mortar tube, but maybe we hold back on making these arrests for a hot second. I mean, look, people are basically awful so with enough of this floating around in the underground economy it seems to me the problem with those who habitually associate with a culture of heavy drug use could significantly reduce the demand side of the market by simply dropping dead. If a subset of the population is committed to continuing to inject a substance they know full well may kill them more or less instantly, I don’t feel any moral force compelling me to intervene between them and and their apparent desired end state. I’d rather spend a much reduced budget on saving the small minority whose exposure to fentanyl or other high powered narcotics is accidental or that happens in the line of duty. Don’t tell me I never see the bright side, damnit.
Temperatures are supposed to rise over the next few days. Even if it were going to stay cold, firing up the snowblower for the two inches that fell yesterday would have been overkill. I was happy enough leaving things be and letting sun and warmth do their thing.
Around 10:00 my doorbell rang, which is unusual enough in and of itself to be noteworthy. Standing on the front porch in all of 20 degree weather was a kid of about 12 wanting to know if I wanted the driveway shoveled. His partner, had already started pushing snow around the end of the driveway (which is a pretty shrewd sales tactic by the way).
We always bitch about kids today who want something for nothing. But here, in a neighborhood where I would least expect it, were two kids looking to work for a little pocket money. It didn’t strictly need doing, but playing my part in this little life lesson felt like the right thing to do. My wallet is $20 lighter, but I feel like it means a hell of a lot more to them then it did to me.
I won’t say My faith in humanity has been restored or anything… though I do now have some hope that they’re all not going to turn out to be shitbirds.
I should give almost all of the writing credit for this post to a friend of mine who brought to my attention her belief that raising a toddler is effective practice for dealing with the average kind of management one encounters in the workplace. Now I’m just assuming these ideas are work to toddlers because I have no direct personal experience, but I can attest first hand that they can and probably should be applied to your interaction with management
The abridged list of ways to deal with the bosses that is also applicable to dealing with the tiny dictator of your own creation is:
– Explain that you can’t do multiple things at the same time. If possible, make them prioritize.
– Limit the choices you give them to just 2 or 3 things. Otherwise, it will take too long and they’ll come up with something crazy.
– There is great power in routine
– Lay the groundwork well in advance for any changes to the routine
– Catchphrases and jingles are your friends
– Celebrate the little things, like pooping in the potty. Sure, you figured it out a long time ago, but it’s important to validate their pride in doing something grown-up.
Set expectations, create a routine, and make sure you celebrate the little successes your local manager has. I’m quite sure these few steps will have you managing up your chain of command in no time at all.
1. Kars for Kids. I hear their two octaves too high jingle every morning at 5:45 AM. I know this because almost without fail it comes on the satellite radio station I’m listening to almost precisely when I’m starting to shave. Mercifully the throat it makes me want to slit is not my own. I have no idea what organization Kars fronts for nor do I know what portion of funds raised go to support their good cause of the day. It doesn’t really matter because with their deeply agitating icepick-in-the-ear method of early morning advertising if they were providing free food for life to every kid in America.
2. Getting wet. Spending two hours milling around a parking lot is bad enough by itself. Add a heavy does or rain and you to spend the rest of the day squishing around in sodden shoes. Here’s a pro tip for you – having a pair of dry socks is important, but dry socks don’t mean a damn think when you’re sticking them back into waterlogged boots. Lesson most definitely learned.
3. Thursday. Why on earth isn’t Thursday the day before the weekend starts. Instead, it’s mostly just Monday #4 and I hate it for that.
I noted with passing interest last week that apparently now Barbie will come in many shapes, colors, and flavors. That’s well and good, I suppose. What Mattel does with their flagship product is really of very little interest to me personally aside from the fact that the “news” report of this “dramatic change to a beloved toy” triggered a bit of a wander down memory lane.
Growing up as a boy in the early 1980s, I didn’t play with dolls, but I did play with an inordinate number of what some marketing executive cleverly labeled “action figures.” For their diminutive size, my GI Joes were all basically caricatures of Charles Atlas. Sure their plastic molded hair and facial features were all a bit different, but there they were, these 4-inch tall super men with their outsized biceps and chiseled good looks. I had a shoebox full of the things and yet somehow even as a child it didn’t occur to me that in order to be a successful adult that I’d need to look like a damned GI Joe.
Maybe it was a function of the time in which we lived, but I don’t remember spending any part of my childhood enamored with the cult of body image. It simply didn’t matter that my toys didn’t look much like me – or much like anyone else for that matter – because, well, they were toys. We played with them without benefit of (or need for) deep psychological consultation and analysis. The fact that it’s even a discussion today leads me to wonder if it’s the kids who are troubled by their toys or if they’re just reflecting back the fear and loathing of their parents own insecurities.
To listen to the media, we live in an age that’s apparently driven by body image. The modern man, right along with his female counterpart, is even beset by eating disorders and longing to cut just that one more pound to be “perfect.” I seem to have missed the boat on that. As a kid it just wasn’t something I thought about. As an adult I’d frankly rather be fat and happy than thin and miserable.
We were a generation of kids who were allowed/encouraged to play with pointy sticks and rocks and we all (mostly) turned out to be reasonably self-assured and productive members of society. I’m not a fancy big city psychiatrist and I’m certainly not a brilliant advertising executive, but it feels a bit like maybe we’re overthinking this whole childhood thing just a little. Fortunately I get to leave that fight for others and focus on the important things bulldog skin conditions and the endless pursuit of a better dog food.
While I’ve been fiddling around on the internet this week I’ve gotten a steady stream of reminders that friends from high school are becoming parents of high school graduates themselves. I’ll just sit here for a minute and let that sink in. Their kids are finishing something I feel like we just finished ourselves a few years ago… Except of course we didn’t. As I was reminded when I saw someone mention the impending arrival of our 20th high school reunion next summer. How exactly that happened, I have no idea. It’s like I turned around to get something on the other side of the room and 19 years snuck away while I wasn’t paying attention.
I won’t get into the realization that these days 50 is way closer than 15. Aside from the occasional ache and pain (and other assorted indignities), I don’t feel like that could possibly be true. It is, though. Don’t bother to consult a calendar. Trust me. It’ll be unnerving if you do the math.
So if you’ll excuse me I’ll shuffle off to the kitchen now to enjoy a refreshing glass of prune juice and see if my dentures need scrubbed.
Sure, I’ve been a curmudgeon for as long as I can remember, but the flood of pictures this weekend of many, many of my friend’s kids heading off to homecoming left me feeling a bit like I’d stepped through the looking glass. I mean weren’t we the ones going to those dances just a year or two ago? It’s inconceivable that anyone I grew up with could be old enough to comment about their offspring’s high school milestones.
Despite my 9PM bed time, constant state of near exhaustion, and the nagging aches and pains that seem to accompany me everywhere now, I don’t feel like all that much time has passed. I don’t feel that far separated from our younger selves. Maybe I’m better informed, a little more cynical, and a lot more medicated, but I still feel a strong connection to that dopy, awkward version of me.
Seeing so many of the next generation on the cusp of adulthood themselves is absolutely inconceivable. So if anyone needs me, I’ll be busy rejecting reality… and possibly checking to see if we can get a group discount if we all order our Life Alert systems at the same time.
1. History. Throw the date June 6th out there and ask the average man in the street what the significance is, I’m willing to bet the dollar in my pocket that maybe one in ten could tell you that it’s the anniversary of the day America and Great Britain launched the liberation of continental Europe. I won’t even give you odds on them knowing that much of Italy had already been liberated by the time the Normandy landings took place. I’m a history guy, so the nitnoid facts and trivia have always been important to me, but I weep that for so many the pinnacle of American achievement is Keeping Up with the Kardashians and the vastness of our shopping malls.
2. Vaccinations. I’m not a parent. Baring some kind of catastrophic misfire on the range, I never will be. I intellectually understand that when it comes to issues of the health and welfare of their child, a parent is very nearly sovereign. However, in a world where polio, measles, and a host of other diseases that we collectively obliterated in the last century start popping up again, I’m forced to draw at least a tentative connection between those illnesses reemerging and the small but vocal group of parents who have decided that vaccines are bad. It just strikes me that as bad as the adverse reaction to a vaccine can be, getting the actual disease it prevents is quite probably worse. We take our lives in our hands every morning when we get out of bed… I just wish more people would realize that a risk assessment needs to account for both the probably of something happening as well as the severity of the negative impact if that thing does happen. Then again that assumes people operate from a place of reason. Fat chance of that happening any time soon.
3. Bergdahl. What he did or did not do while in captivity is a matter of open dispute. That’s fine. However, I tend to agree with General McChrystal, who stated it most clearly: “We don’t leave Americans behind. That’s unequivocal.” SGT Bergdahl is an American soldier. He was held by a foreign power and now he’s not. If there is legitimate evidence he violated his oath or otherwise broke the law, then by all means, drag him before a court martial and try the case. We don’t leave Americans behind. Period. That should be a sacred trust between the government and the people both in and out of uniform. There’s plenty of room for honest and frank discussion, but I have a hard time arguing that getting an American citizen back is ever the wrong thing to do. If he’s guilty, lock him away and lose the key, but if he’s innocent, thank the young man for his service and let him get on with his life.
1. Banker’s Hours. Let me start off by saying I general like my credit union, except for one little thing. When they upgraded their website a few weeks ago they required everyone to create about a dozen “challenge” question/answer combinations for security purposes. Fine. Good. Whatever. The problem, of course, is that I apparently don’t have a clue what the answer to at least one of those questions is. And that’s the one I got on Sunday morning when I logged in to pay the week’s bills. Instead of asking me an alternate question from the list, the site promptly locks me out and tells me to call customer support. Which is also fine. Except there is no customer support at 7AM Sunday morning (or any other time on Sunday for that matter). I appreciate network security, but it would be nice if it weren’t so secure that I can’t get into my own account. Like the universe, it’s my fondest hope that they will find a way to seek balance.
2. Scheduling. I get that schedules are hectic. The higher you get on the food chain, the more hectic they are. If I can offer any bit of unsolicited advice, it’s that out of respect for the host of people gathered together awaiting your presence rescheduling a meeting thrice before settling in a final-ish time is just bad form. If your schedule is so jam packed with very important things to do, maybe you could go ahead and delegate to an underling or just put it in a concisely worded memo. When you make it impossible for anyone else to schedule something because of inevitable changes, where you could have looked knowing and decisive, you look like a tool. Don’t look like a tool.
3. Going overboard. I set a lot of posts about car seats, the armada of safety gear that today’s kids are expected to wear out in public, and generally how fragile small humans apparently have become in the second decade of the new millennium. In that spirit, I’d urge all of us to remember that we grew up in a simpler time. For me, riding in the open bed of a pickup truck was a rite of summer. I clocked more time behind the wheel on the back roads at age 13 than most kids do today by the time they’re eligible for the draft. None of us wore bike helmets, knee pads, or “safety gear” thicker than denim. It wasn’t uncommon for us to run unsupervised through the woods using pointy sticks as guns and rocks as grenades. I broke my arm three times and still have the scrapes and scars of childhood to mark the memories. I survived. So did we all… and in a world that surrounded it’s children in far less bubble wrap.