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Saturday, July 31, 2010

You Can Fool Some of the People

Why do you give your business to some establishments while ignoring others? What is it that attracts us to one supermarket over another? One gas station. One restaurant. Somethings are easy to pinpoint of course. Competitive prices, fine cuisine, word of mouth. Marketing plays a huge part also. Signs, slogans, logos, ads. Seen from space I'm suprised our planet doesn't glow with a neon haze. Can anyone old enough tell me the ingredients of a Big Mac without thinking of the song? Didn't think so. Nike. What do you see in your head? Swoosh? All of these things to try and make us feel part of something. Like we are cared for. Like we matter. Like everything a company does is for us. Of course I'll give my money to someone that makes me feel so loved. Why would they go to such lengths if they didn't really care?

Fool me once.

I had to take part in a training session the other day all about the store's stance on the Employee Free Choice Act. According to the video I had to watch this proposed law is a tool of the Unions to be able to more or less trick people into letting your workplace become unionized. The video stated over and over how the company is not anti-union; it would rather see everyone work as a team with open communications between management and employees. They care more about their employees than any old union ever could; why be tricked into paying union dues when a union can't really promise you anything. Don't trust anyone associated with a union; they'll trick you, take your money, make your job worse, AND eventually force your company to close its doors.

Fool me twice?

Do you know why you get paid vacations at work? Have a forty hour work week? Just about anything you take for granted at your workplace is due to some kind of union activity somewhere in time.

Now I'm not taking sides here. Some companies are great to work for. Some unions have done a lot of work for the average Joe. What I am getting to though is to be mindful of who you do business with. 'Cause it's all about the money. All the marketing strategies. All the warm fuzzies some faceless corporation wants you to feel. Everything. All of it. Even down to what the weekend night guy wears. Anything on the surface to ensure you will come back and spend more money is no coincidence.

But how much of that surface stuff really matters? Why do you walk away from some transactions satisfied and not so much from others? Isn't it all down to human interaction? Isn't the rapport you have with the waitress, the salesman, the meat cutter, the weekend night guy? I know I always like to think that some of the people I see all the time come back because they know their human contact won't be horrible at least. So consider that next time someone serves you in a store. Is it the public face of the company you are buying or is the human contact you appreciate?

Sunday, July 25, 2010

The Problem With Kids Today

Thursday night. A woman is paying for a fountain drink. I have seen her a half dozen times or so before. Usually in the morning as my shift is ending. She is a known grumpus and trouble maker. She has called Corporate numerous times over some perceived injustice or other. She grumps to me almost immediately. "Do you know there are kids out front smoking?" They weren't there when I came in. I'm not sure who it is, but I'm fairly certain the world is safe. All I can muster for her is a slight shrug of my shoulders and a distinctly uncaring "So." Though not the ultimate in customer service; it fits the occasion. She turns and leaves, not exactly in a huff though I am suddenly sure I am next on her hit list to Corporate.

I don't really care.

For the next three and a half hours I have four young adults sitting on the sidewalk next to the store doing nothing more than enjoying a pretty nice Summer night. Smokin' cigarettes. (For the record I have seen all of them quite often over my time here and they are old enough to purchase cigarettes.) Talking about life. Keeping me company.

Almost every person who came in the store had something to say about these young adults hanging out. My answers always ran along the same lines; at least they're not out -insert unspeakable act here -. Or, at least they're safe here. Once reassured in this way the big brave adults knew everything would be ok.

So now we come to the crux of the problem. What IS the problem with kids today? As far as I can tell, nothing really. Are some of them spoiled? You bet. Do some of them express their rebellion in really pretty harmless ways? Uh-huh. And they are pretty harmless ways even if the over 40 gang can't quite grasp it. Hasn't it always been thus?

If there IS some problem with young people today, whose fault is it? Who was responsible for raising them? Did they raise themselves? Did they have a meeting one day after gym class to vote on a change in the young adult by-laws? That seems a bit far fetched.

When I think back on my childhood and how I felt my parents were so uninvolved in so many parts of my life; it really seems so many more parents try to be more to their kids. Trying to be more involved and more than just authority figures.

Why do so many adults distrust younger generations? There are many many level headed adults that know being young is just part of getting old. There are just as many who don't quite get it. So I guess the question I'll be pondering for a while is what's the problem with adults today?

Saturday, July 17, 2010

You Can't Help Who You Love

This is the story that convinced someone to convince me to start this adventure. I would relate my astonishment surrounding events or people to this voracious reader kind enough to indulge my mutterings. On the fly, off the cuff, live reporting. The idea of a blog was eventually mentioned. A gentle nudge became a gentle push. I'm happy to say shoving never came into play. When I eventually win a Tony Award for Best Play, and then an Oscar for Best Movie, Director, Screenplay, and Actor I hope I don't forget to mention THAT name.

I endeavor every week to keep that live, spur of moment exercise going. Writing only when something happens that demands attention. Though I do have some ideas rolling round and round; I will never post pre-written material. Though this story has been told, the original form no longer exists in the physical grasp of this writer.

It's Friday night. I am watching people come and go. Observing. A van pulls in the lot. Ever with the short distance between the road and the pump it pulls up to, I can see it swerving quite a bit. This guy gets out of the van, comes in the store, and starts to use the ATM. Though the lot is pretty full he is the lone customer actually in the store. Most of my attention is drawn to the sudden battle at the ATM. Swaying back and forth to his own internal drunken beat, his confusion rises as the ATM is evidently out of order. Muttering or swearing under his breath he can't figure out why there is no money for him tonight. As his struggles continue a white Explorer comes to an abrupt stop outside the front door. A woman gets out. She sticks her head through the door. "What're ya doin' here Ray? You're drunk. I have to go to work. Go home." He says something to her I can't hear. As she comes in and heads to the drink case at the back she says, "What do you need money for Ray? Where're ya going? Huh? You going to go smoke crack with Jimmy, or you going to the strip club?" He turns and with arms spread wide and in his most innocent voice says to her "Never the strip club honey." She is making her way to the counter by now with a gallon of milk and sundry other items. I can see the extremely skeptical look on her face over Ray's denial. He occupies himself looking for snacks as I start to ring her up. She leans into me and disgustedly says, "He always does this. He gets drunk and drives around. He never gets caught! Never gotten a DUI. I get three speeding tickets a month, but he can't get caught."

She rocks back, shrugs her shoulders and almost looks embarrassed.

"You can't help who you love." She says. Shrugging her shoulders again she picks up her stuff and heads out the door.

No, but, we can change our situations, our lives, our hell. We can choose not to enable. We can choose to face the fear and change our lives. We can. We can choose to grow. I promise.

Ray buys some cigarettes and pays for some gas with the hard earned money from the ATM as I ask if he's ok to drive. "That's what I do." he says, and leaves to pump his gas.

I spend most of the rest of the night thinking about men and women. Relationships. How I see so many women who feel they don't have a choice. How powerless most women feel. And when they do see a choice or do feel powerful they are punished. They are stalked. They are beaten. They are killed.

So many times when I think about us on this earth and how far we have come - and we have - I am reminded all over again how far we have to go.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Parallax

No funny stories, No rallying cries. It's a pretty dark night For the Weekend Night Guy. Maybe the solace of writing Will make the world seem less biting.

Pretty slow night for me to try and entertain with rhyming poetry.

Parallax. I won't make you look this one up if you don't know. Very VERY basically it's the idea that something appears different when viewed from different angles. There is mathematical and astronomical jargon to go along with that, but I know none ot it; so I must keep it simple. Reading a scale for instance. Standing on a scale and cocking your head from side to side one could weigh 179lbs or 181lbs. Look at it straight on and it's 180. I could go on and on, but you dear reader are smart enough to cite your own examples.

How many ways are there to see something?

How many sides to a coin? How many shades of grey, colors on a pallet?

Last week while I was writing about trust a woman came in saying she'd just about run out of gas. She didn't have any money on her. Could I let her have a dollar or two worth of gas so she could get home? She'd be right back with the money, she only lived down the road. (In the poor section of town.) "I can't, I just can't let you have gas." I told her. She asked if I could buy her some gas out of my own pocket. I had a couple of dollar bills doing nothing in my pocket. I said ok. "A dollar?" she asked. "Nah, two." I told her. She asked what time I got off and promised to be back before then. Her husband, or whatever, cheerily waved thanks to me as he pumped their two dollars worth of gas. Did she indeed come back? No. Did I expect the money back? No. Was it a matter of trust? Only in the aspect that I hoped they weren't begging gas from everybody in town.

Was I a sucker, a fool? No. I cocked my head and looked at it differently. Do you think she was proud to be doing this? Looking at her, the car, her husband, they were definitely in need. Is this something I a proud of or am bragging about? No. But I'd do it again.

Cock your head to the side some time. Just a little.

Tell me what you see.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

It's a Matter of Trust

Social contracts. Those unwritten, unspoken contracts that weave the fabric of our society. Over 300 years ago the idea of cotractarianism started as a philosophical idea. It explained why a people would be better off to give up their rights provided in nature for the rule of governed law. Government and governed working on behalf of everyone's good. I'll bet that was a pretty big step philosophically.

I know, I know, pretty heady stuff for the guy behind the register.

It's become so much more than that though. Every day there are dozens of times we expect neighbors and strangers alike to act in everyone's best interest. You know, keep society on an even keel. We count on the policeman to remember his duty and not ignore us if we're in trouble. Our neighbor to not drive drunk while our children drive on the same roads. Our weekend night guy to greet us with a smile and give us the right change. In turn of course others expect the same from us.

But why?

Well, because we want to feel safe. At a very basic level we all want to feel safe - the lock on the door will protect us, the mechanic is fixing our car properly. For some, walking a hiking trail without a cell phone clutched in their hand. There has to be a certain comfort level in our daily lives. That is part of it I think. I would say there is a more basic component to all of this.

Yup.

It's a matter of trust.

Why do our children feel safe with us? Trust. Isn't love based in great measure on trust? We look for people we can trust all the time. Lawyers, doctors, carpenters, car salesmen(!) all those are people who must earn our trust. What about more mundane things? Why is trust given freely in some instances? We want to believe we are safe. We want to believe we are all looking out for each other. That you will be treated as you are expected to treat others.

I cannot speak for anyone else, but I can tell you that if you happen to wander into my store in the middle of the dark lonely night, you will be safe.

Friday, July 9, 2010

The Times, They Are a Changin'

How on earth is it possible that the weekend night guy has his finger on the pulse of the economic barometer for a whole country? A simple enough question you might think. Being able to observe spending trends in a diverse clientele? Gauging people's reactions to see-sawing gas prices? Any number of statistical analyses or socio-economic studies might come in handy for the lonely night guy. It's so much simpler than all that hoo ha.

It's all in the change.

Huh? Good question. What do you suppose things are like for the average person when people pay for gas or a pack of cigarettes with handfuls of change? When a single dad brings his daughter in for a "treat" consisting of two hot dogs for $2 from the roller grill. For dinner. When teenagers can't find their traditional jobs because all the out of work adults scooped them up.

Blame it on Omama, blame it on Bush, blame it on Warren G. Harding for all I care. See, the thing is, it doesn't REALLY matter. We created what ever mess we're in together. All of us. As much as the Heelots (I give you permission to Google it. I implore you to take the time to find the movie and watch it.) would love to inherit the earth, they need the small guy to survive in order to have what ever luxuries they deem necessary. Bank bailouts, bonuses, all that stuff you've read about, floating around with no thought as to where the money really comes from. It's from the guy buying cigarettes with his last bit of change til pay day. The woman apologetically asking for $2.79 worth of gas.

As Red Green (More Google if you must) is wont to say, "I'm pullin' for ya. We're all in this together."

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Weekend Nights

People are always asking me if gas is going to go up or down. Or of course WHY it went up or down. I always explain that I am just the weekend night guy. Do people really expect a person standing behind the cash register at two o'clock in the morning to know how much gas is going to cost this summer? Like the guy who literally throws his money at me every time he comes in and gripes about the price. Every time. If I could predict the price of gas I'd be making much much more money playing the stock market or gaming at a casino or something.

I don't even know why the whole world isn't rioting over BP and the gulf. Why? Don't people realise how serious this is? How many things are going to disappear because of this. Plants, animals, jobs, ways of life. So much is at stake. Images of The Lorax keep flashing through my mind. Must everything die before we take action?

But, hey, what do I know? I'm just the weekend night guy.