Sunday, September 26, 2010

Chances Are

A customer came in last night that I haven't seen in quite some time. He always comes in on his motorcycle. He'll buy some kind of drink or snack and then sit with them on the curb. Just diggin' the night.

Now if you read my earlier post; The Problem With Kids Today, you know that people are always stopping here and hanging out in one fashion or another. Last weekend a woman came in for non-drowsy cold medicine and proceeded to sleep in her car for the next five hours. Assorted groups of guys will come in buy snacks and stand around by their cars talking. When I tell some of my co-workers about this hardly a one of them can understand why I just let people hang out. "Doesn't that scare you?" "Why didn't you call the police?" Never a word about how good it is for the store that people like to come here. For what ever reason. The manager doesn't seem to have a problem with it and neither do I. It always surprises though me how uptight people get at the thought of people wanting to relax here for a bit. Get what you need and go! A CVS up the road was robbed just last night. Would you feel safer letting people socialize or being completely alone? Either way doesn't bother me. I do know though that the odds are in my favor of not being robbed if there are people around.

Well, let's get back on track here.

The first few times this guy came in be just sat for a while and left. Eventually we started talking. Don't remember how we first started talking. It's just like that sometimes. We were talking last night about a woman he knows who said she wants to get a motor bike. There is always a concern about safety though. He kinda shrugged at that point and said, "We don't control fate."

THAT'S what got me to thinking.

Some time ago I read The Drunkard's Walk; How Randomness Rules Our Lives by Leonard Mladinow. It's all about famous theorists and mathematicians, statistics, and probability. He talks about such heavy hitters as Bernoulli, Gauss, Pascal and Thomas Bayes. What's that you say? How could I? Well, he's a very good author with a breezey narrative style for such a topic. He discusses for instance the Monty Hall Problem. Ok, you are on Let's Make a Deal. You are trying to win a new car or some other great prize. You choose one of three doors. You are shown a booby prize behind door #2. You now have the option of choosing another door. What's it gonna be? Stick with door #1 or switch to #3? Intuition might sway you either way. Using principles first put down by Gerolamo Cardano in the 16th century you would see that your odds of winning actually increase by switching doors. Or take Joe DiMaggio's 56 game hitting streak. If you compare his statistics with other players there end up being something like 85 different players who could have accomplished the same feat. Or a winning streak. Whether it is a movie producer with a string of hits or a football team trying to win it's 18th game in a row. People are so surprised when the next movie is a flop, or that stock that had done so well for so long suddenly nose dives. None of that should be of any great surprise though. Things like that always regress toward the mean. The more you win, the better your chances of losing. Mr. Mladinow explains things in more depth and much better than I ever could. I found it a good read and it will change the way you look at some things.

So. Fate.

No, we can't control where we are born, what kind of family we are born into, the nature of our passing; you know, all that good stuff. We can have a hand in what goes on in between that first shuddering breath and shuffling off this mortal coil though.

Be mindful people. Help take care of each other. The odds are you'll be better off for it.

As Red Green says, "Keep your stick on the ice."


Sunday, September 19, 2010

One Man's Trash

The rain tears out of the sky hurling itself at the ground as if chased by demons. The large store windows have a spray pattern that any forensic investigator would find child's play. Heavy spatter on the bottom where the rain has hit the sill and bounced up onto the window. It becomes less dense as the eye travels up the window. Some drops have bounced very high in the violence of their escape. Others are mere wind strewn accidents. All are brilliantly illuminated by the ranks of canopy lights over the gas pumps.

The few cars I see on the road spray geysers as they plunge along. The people who do come in for gas stay with their cars. No one wants to get soaked impulsively buying candy or a soda.

It's so easy to feel lazy on slow nights like this. I would rather be busy running between chores and customers than plodding along stocking cups again. Mopping the floor, again. Facing off the shelves, again. Wiping down the counters, again. Throwing out wasted food, again. Cutting the headers off old newspapers, again. Eh, you get it by now.

Hey, hey! Wait, wait, wait! Go back a second! Throw out old food?


Really really?


Evey night by 2a.m. The delivery of fresh pastry arrives. I'm supposed to have it neatly arranged on the shelves by 3. There are muffins and doughnuts, bear claws and apple fritters. All kinds of stuff. Every day I throw out easily half of what we got the night before. Every night more comes. I am often interrupted while tipping trays into bags as the food slides off and officially becomes garbage. So many people are genuinely surprised that it all just gets thrown out. No one can understand why it doesn't go SOMEWHERE. Feed SOMEBODY.

There is a roller grill too of course. The iconic gas station hot dog. Only 2 for $2. The company wants stuff on the grill twenty four hours a day. Just for that impulse buy. I imagine very few people actually long for our various grilled items. We keep a waste log for the grill. We mark down what we put on the grill and what we throw out. Easily, rediculously so, we throw out %75 of everything that goes on the grill. Stuff sits on the grill, goes bad and we replace it. Just in case.

Let's not forget the Deli case ok? Pre-made sandwiches, grinders, (Hoagies, subs, heroes, torpedoes. I don't know any other names. Do you?) fruit cups, hard boiled eggs, all patiently waiting for your approval. Waiting for the expiration date more like it.

Now this is a large chain of convenience stores. I forget the exact number. It's upwards of 600 stores though. Something close to that. Though not all the stores have grills or pastry for that matter; I cringe at the thought of the food that is thrown out every day. If I throw out ten pounds of pastry and hot dogs alone and there are 600 other stores throwing out that much in sandwiches and such, the mind boggles. That is THREE TONS of food. Every day.

Maybe, just maybe we could change corporate's mind about it's food waste. Think of the benefit for the shelters if some of that food could be donated. Maybe if enough people comment on this post I could come up with a phone number to call or an email address to write to to suggest other options.

I imagine I must sound preachy sometimes. You know, think of others, better yourself, blah blah blah. I never think that. I always think we are all like minded. That what I write down everybody must've thought or felt at some point. As the saying goes; the one thing I know for sure is that I don't know anything. There's got to be a better way though. There just has to be.

So as Red Green always says, "I'm pullin' for ya. We're all in this together."


Monday, September 13, 2010

A Hard Day's Night

Have you ever worked third shift? Did you like it? Think you would like it? Some people love it. Some say that they can make appointments easily during the day. They have all day after all. They have time for family and friends. They can get so much done before they have to get to work. It's another club to belong to also. There is a special place in the heart for fellow third shifters.

I have always hated it. I find that I always end up tired and grumpy. It seems I always end up having to choose between sleep or spending time with my family. Instead of sleeping right away I would stay up too late, or of course get up too early. Then there's the whole losing a day of sleep thing. It's Saturday morning. You have the next two days off. Your family is headed for the beach. Do you skip the beach and sleep or do you suck it up get your trunks on and go? How many times can one do that and make up the lost sleep some other time? Then suddenly it's Monday. You've kinda readjusted, you've slept at night for the past few nights. Oops you have to stay up all night now.

It's not like people can sit around while you are sleeping either. How quiet can one expect your family to be while you sleep? Your neighborhood? Heck, might as well include the rest of the world! How long before you alienate the people around you because you are just too tired all the time? Not trying to be a cry baby. I'm just sayin' is all.

There are two or three reasons to take a night job; during a stagnant economy it is sometimes the easiest way to get a job, there is usually a shift differential for wages, and I love driving home in the mornings in the fall when the leaves are aflame and the angle of the sun is low in the sky positively squeezing every last drop of color out of those leaves. That's when I feel truly lucky to work at night. I think one sees sunrise all together differently when you are up for it and not groggily shuffling off to work.

One weird thing is day light savings on the night shift. In the spring when just about everyone is losing an hour of sleep I actually gain an hour. I don't work a full eight hours and lose an hour of pay. I end up getting it back in the fall when some of you gain an hour of sleep and I lose it.

At an exit interview for a job I was leaving I actually suggested to the general manager that he should do something special for the third shift some time. You know, buy 'em pizza some night just for the heck of it. Show them some how that sacrifice those people make. The extra dollar an hour just doesn't cut it some times.

So be mindful some times. When you're buying that fresh fruit, or your package arrives on time, or you feel safe in your house in the middle of the night; some one has been up all night to make sure it all happens.

All right, enough of my yappin' about nothing.

Until next time, peace.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Wouldn't It Be Nice

Have any idea what the #1 rated overnight radio talk show in the country is? It's a show called Coast to Coast AM. (I listen on WTIC 1080 from 1am to 5am. You of course would have to find your own station if you're not close by. Or of course What do you suppose makes this show so popular? What could it possibly be about that would spawn chat groups, podcasts, a newsletter, an iPhone app, and even a video game based on some of it's segments? Jeez, what is it do you suppose? Politics? No. Zealous evangelism? No. Ah, sports? Nope. Any other guesses? Here's a short list of some of the topics discussed on the show; life after death, near death experience, cryptozoology, aliens in all their forms from abduction to crop circles, crystal skulls, 2012, Hitler and the occult, the face on Mars, ghosts and shadow people.

It's about possibilities. It's about the mysteries that surround us every day in this life of ours. The unexplained and seemingly unexplainable. It sheds light on people who spend sometimes their whole lives searching for answers. Most times answers to things outside the mainstream.

I can hear some of you scoffing, laughing behind your hand, from here. What's makes aligning the chakras, let's say, any more valid than hunting for ghosts or looking to the stars for our origins?

On Thursday night Dr. Melvin Morse was a guest on the show. He is a physician who was trained to believe that dead was dead and that was the end. After a few specific cases he became very interested in the near death experiences in children. He had found too many kids who remembered things from emergency situations that they just couldn't possibly remember. One girl told him some time after an event that she was still mad at him for putting a tube in her throat. She was unconscious and needed to breath. Others were dead as doornails yet survived and remember similar events.

He has been able to do a 20 or 30yr study of a number of childhood near death survivors. The survivors tend to be more satisfied in their lives. More charitable. More at peace. One person runs a construction company that employs a handful of people. He says he knows he is fulfilling his life's purpose. He knows the people he hires would be in much, much worse shape without what ever income he provides.

One boy said he knew why we were all here. When pressed for an answer as to why, he simply said to be nice to each other. Wow. Wouldn't it be nice if that's really what it's all about? If there are aliens and ghostly visitations and guardian angels, you know the whole spectrum of unexplained, all they are doing is reminding us to be nice to each other. That to wend our way safely and gracefully through this maze of a life is to be nice?

But that's so hard some may say with their best pout and stomping their foot. Really? THAT is hard. Come on! If some one told you that to be truly happy all you had to do was treat others nicely you wouldn't at least try it? How about we put it differently. How about treat others how you wish to be treated? Want the King James version? You know, do unto others. Does that make it any better? Ok, never mind just you. What if you could make your neighbor's life better? No? Still too hard? Alright, fine, you give me no choice but to pull out the big guns. What if you could make the world a better place? Huh? Like THAT one?

We never really know how our actions will effect others. I can tell you this though; if we were nicer to each other, became mindful of it, we couldn't help but eventually change the world.

Good luck on your new found mission.

Until next we meet, peace.

Friday, September 3, 2010

For Entertainment Purposes Only

Did you know Princess Diana's body is missing? Do you know Jen's revenge on Brad? How about who's gay in Hollywood? Who wore a particular dress better than someone else? Johnny Carson's grandson cut out of the will? Kendra's shame? How much weight has Snookie put on? (I truly hope you just asked yourself who's Snookie.) Did you know Elvis was murdered, Oprah has moved on, Stedman is gay, Brad is drinking too much? I could go on and on and on.

The store is tiny. I counted the ceiling tiles one night to get a measure of the place. Being me, I have of course forgotten. The size is of no matter to the company that now owns it. I mean they knew the deal when they bought the place. See I was hired by one company whose headquarters are in Louisville and is a pretty big chain out in the mid-west. They had been operating five stores around here for about thirty years. I guess they felt it no longer made geographic sense to them to keep the stores. They sold out to a very large chain around here. I still get people in who tell me they grew up with the other place and miss it a lot.

Oops! Kinda digressing there.

My original point was going to be about the magazine rack in the store. Being such a small store we have a fairly small magazine rack. Still though it is crammed full of tabloids and gossip magazines. So much in fact that the plastic fronts that keep everything in place positively groan under the weight. It seems the plastic could snap at any second under all the weight. There is the odd Time or Yankee Magazine, but mostly it's gossip we peddle. Not Scientific American, Popular Machanics, Games Magazine or any of that ilk. In Touch, Us Weekly, The National Inquirer, that's what we proudly display. I think some publications actually print the same stories under two or three magazine titles.

Do we really care about all these things? Really?

I absolutely love movies. I think the art of making a film is a beautiful thing. I love the word celluloid. The stupidest things in some movies can make me cry. I have acted in and directed a goodly number of plays. I have even had the experience of acting in a movie. Do I follow these people's lives like they matter more than any of my friends or loved ones? I think not! You know why?

It's all pretend. It's for entertainment purposes only. Isn't it all just an extension of the entertainment industry? I mean no one prints a magazine devoted to how much weight you've gained or lost, who you dissed in your latest tweet.

So here are all of these people who have thrust themselves in our faces for fame and fortune. So many of us follow their every move like we have some real personal stake in some star's success. We forgive their foibles and transgressions with the greatest of ease. Because they're not real to us. We don't have to deal with the bail money, lawyers, court appearances, real heartbreak or let down. It easy to watch some one we don't know have a rougher time than we are.

How does that all translate into our real lives? How much empathy can we show the gambler, the womanizer, the drunkard or even the yo-yo dieter in our personal space? When is it time to draw boundaries for ourselves? Remember, we're at the real part here. How long do we let our own feelings help enable some one else? The first time some one abuses you? The second time the rent money has gone to gambling?

Look, we all learn our life lessons at our own pace. Do me a favor though? Take care of yourself some times. Don't make yourself sick by constantly swallowing your fear or your anger. Or yourself. Don't turn yourself inside out to please somebody else be it friend, lover or spouse. Not only will you end up losing your self respect, you'll lose the other person's respect also. You'll probably end up losing that person too.

OK, OK, enough of me for one sitting I guess.

Until next we meet, peace.