Saturday, February 17, 2018

Winning the lottery, or always tip your service people.

The United States is an odd country. We like going out, for brunch, lunch, or something to crunch. Here it might seem that home really isn’t the only happy place. Going out is very act that gives us the most pleasure and it is based on an army of service folks who depend on gratuities for their survival. This practice is distant to foreigners, as in many countries it is rude to tip. 

I’ve always tipped well. Maybe too well for my own good, feeling empathy towards the underpaid waitstaff. It irks me when I see someone standing at the doughnut counter and pays with a debit/credit card and doesn’t think to tip, or the person who orders a complicated drink. Yes, I never thought I would put those two words together, but it’s these aesthetes of liquids who usually give the wearied person poor tip. 

So, starts the lottery section of my tale. On a sweltering hot summer’s day a few years ago, I found myself at the grocery store. My mode of transportation at that time was an old New York state police cruiser.
The air conditioning wasn’t working, and I needed a cool drink to make the ride home bearable. Two doors down from the grocery store there is a combination gas station/coffee shop. Peering over on this grossly hot summer’s day, the shop didn’t seem too busy, no cars were in the lot, it appeared it might be a quick visit, so I decided to head over.

Keep in mind there was not ONE car in the parking lot, save for one out-of-state car parked in the fire zone (*&^%%$*). Yes, I’m swearing, that practice drives me crazy. Entering the store’s coolness, there were at least thirty people in the store, all at the donut counter, milling about like bees around a freshly blooming flower. I reluctantly took my place in line. 

With a fast deduction on my part, all these people seemingly were together and ALL of them ordered complicated drinks. The staff of three was frantically trying to fill the orders. At least half of the orders declared “wrong” with a snit. The drinks were then dumped, which resulted in the unfortunate waitperson starting over from scratch. When the orders were complete, a gray-haired guy stepped up and paid for the 66 plus dollar tab settled with a credit card. After twenty minutes of complete chaos, everyone exited, and NO TIP WAS LEFT! 

I felt badly for the staff. It was cool in the store, but all three had beads of perspiration dripping off their brow due to the cacophony that just ended. Without incident, my medium $2.30 black iced coffee was ordered, paid out of a 5-dollar bill and signaled to the girl to keep the change. I also thrust a twenty-dollar bill into the tip jar, feeling a little anger towards the wild crew that just left. 

As I made way out into the heat, I noticed that the gray-haired head honcho of the mayhem was getting into the car parked in the fire zone and all the others were boarding a small bus on the side of the building. As Mr. No-Tip entered his ride, a twenty-dollar bill floated to the ground under his feet. As soon as his door shut, the car zoomed out of the parking lot with the gusto of a newly launched cannon ball, with the bus in hot pursuit.

The top of my car made a very scalding hot place to set my drink on, and fiddled with my keys to unlock the car’s door. I noticed no one was around the dropped money, I looked around and scooted across the hot pavement and picked up the loot. Still scurrying, with intermittent twinges of guilt, I headed towards my quickly warming iced drink. Then I had a flash of stupidity, I trotted back into the store. 

I told the musically distracted young man behind the counter my tale, how I acquired my new wealth. He smiled, offered up an air fist bump and an enthusiastic exclamation of “Dude!” He suggested a 20-dollar scratch off ticket and when the transaction was through, I stole off with my newly found riches.

Still furious at the non-tipping jerk, I parked under a shade tree in one of my favorite nesting/day dreaming/napping places. By this time, my mind played karmatic solutions on ways to get even with the whole crew. Shrugging those off, and carefully scratching the ticket, I discovered I had a $100 winner!!! 

Making my way to yet another gas station, I asked the clerk if she could cash the ticket for me. Unfortunately, she said, she had just made a cash drop and could not cash the ticket. Thinking quickly, I asked if she had forty bucks and offered to exchange the ticket for two thirty-dollar tickets and the cash. She could, so I did, and was off. 

Picking another cool shady spot, in my now blazing hot car, and my now hot coffee, I scratched the first ticket. Nothing won. Sparing the reader excessive suspense, the second ticket was a five-hundred-dollar winner. Five HUNDRED dollars. 

To recap: I left a twenty-dollar tip, found twenty, spent twenty, won one hundred, spent sixty to win five hundred. $540 isn’t bad for a hot afternoon’s banana/hemp milk trip. 

The moral of this story is, yes maybe there is karma. Instant Karma, as John Lennon once sang. The other moral is TIP YOUR SERVICE PEOPLE!!! Maybe in a strange twist of fate, on a hot Saturday afternoon in July, the Universe will reward you.

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Conspiracy Theories, or Don't Give a Seashell the Time of Day.

Here we are. January 2018. If you wander around even the sanest parts of the Internet, you might bump into a few conspiracy theories. Weird ones abound. Some are even taking shots at our trusted institutions. 

In the mid-1970s, when I was a senior in high school, I worked full time in a gasoline service station. I went to classes in the morning, and was on a work/study program so I could get out of school at noon. My work hours were from 1:30 PM until closing at 9 PM. I liked the hours, after the boss went home and I cleaned the tools, mopped the floors, swept the garage, it gave me more than two hours of quiet time. During the week gas business was slow, so I always brought a library book to read. 

One “regular” customer named Ed would either stop for gas, or just come in and buy cigarettes from the machine in the office. He would come in at least twice, maybe three times a week, depending on his gasoline or smoking needs. One night I saw his car drive in and as he wandered in with his usual friendly greeting, he noticed the book I was reading. Whatever the library book I had checked out, it greatly excited Ed. 

Ed extended his usually brief visit by quite a bit that evening and the next time he stopped, enthusiastically brought with him several mimeographed pages of what I only can describe as conspiracy theories. He left them with my weak promise to read every single paragraph. Being young and impressionable, but smart enough to realize Ed’s ideas were “out there.” I carefully read each page with a teenager’s vigor and quest for knowledge of any type. On Ed’s next visit he asked me if I wanted to join him and also his wife to discuss his ideas further. Politely, I declined because, frankly, they both creeped me out. Valiantly, he inquired if he could leave some more “reading material’ in my car from time to time. I feebly pointed to my orange Volkswagen Beetle and told him it’d be okay. 

Weirdness soon became the norm. Not only did I find reams of propaganda on my car’s seat weekly, but I started getting random gasoline customers shoving carefully crafted pamphlets into my hands. One day, I recall vividly, another regular customer, Dave, was chatting with me as I filled his pickup truck’s gas tank when a person handed me a pamphlet. Dave asked for one too. Before his truck’s tank was full he had read the material and tossed in in the trash, looking at me and rolling his eyes. Dave asked if this was normal, and I told him to check my VW if he wanted to practice rolling his eyes, because I knew there were several pages of conspiracy ideas on my seat. 

From what I recall, years later, these theories varied greatly. Some were warnings of the “deep state,” a kind of compartment deep inside the government whose sole purpose was disrupting political norms. These “deep state” theories live on in some form or another to this day. Some theories exposed Bohemian Grove, with the thinking that about twenty people rule the whole world. The alien-underworld-undead people material was always the most interesting, especially the material packed with information on Transylvania and the Hoia-Baciu forest in Romania. In the spirit of complete transparency, my maternal great-grandfather was born smack dab in the middle of the Hoia-Baciu forest. So, if you believe in conspiracy theories, I might be part alien. All humor aside, conspiracy theories have always been around. They are not inclusive to weird talk of aliens, spaceships hiding behind the moon, lizard people, weird owl people, rogue FBI agents, and the list goes on and on. 

In my youth, I learned quickly of the description of “tin foil hat” when self-proclaimed rational people read Ed’s mimeographed pamphlets and schooled me in the weird “fringe” people. Moving on, the Internet has brought these like-minded people together, making communication instant, whereas back when I was a kid the only means to get their ideas out were print media and “meetings.” Today’s inter-connected world help make these gain more readers and ultimately, more believers.

Some of the people who spread these theories are well educated. Ed, as I later found out, had a PhD in philosophy. Some of the people who shoved papers in my hand seemed as dumb as oatmeal and perhaps were. People with weird ideas come from all facets of society, income, and education levels.  It doesn’t matter, though, what their education level is, the ideas that erupt from them suggest that they might belong to alternate species. Perhaps they haven’t read enough books, or read the wrong ones. 

In my youth, and as an adult, I still am more interested in the PEOPLE who spread these theories, rather than the theories themselves. I think that in 2018 a lot of people who spread these theories are sound-byte/ headline reading only people. In the current news climate, my opinion is a lot of people are either too busy or intellectually lazy to read/digest more information to prove their conspiracies wrong. It’s also easier to dismiss informational logic with the rallying cry of “Fake News” uttered by certain news outlets and even the president of The United States. 

We are living in a odd time in history, where conspiracy theories sometimes gain more news traction than real news. My brain gets tired from sorting out the truth from the weirdness, but my heart pushes on for a better tomorrow.

Friday, October 27, 2017

Brown Sugar The game is over- Memories.

rediscovered this song while scanning Billboard's old chart, and through the
mean spirit of time had forgotten what a brilliant record this is. It is
amazing how a piece of music dislodges great memories from our brains. The
first time I heard this I was waiting for my then girlfriend staring at the sky
in the middle of a field. This record even sounded great coming from the single
speaker of a 1971 VW Beetle's AM radio.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

I'm writing a book- or- I'm trying to stay sane, but failing miserably

“It is often in the still of the night when your thoughts are the most profound. Eagerly write them down and change the world.”

I’m writing a book. But first a story:

I was a truck driver.  My most recent job was delivering milk for a large New England dairy. On a fateful day in 2011, September 12, to be exact, my life changed forever.
The day seemed normal, a Monday. Small load, but picking up lots of empty milk crates from the weekend sales. At my LAST STOP, I was hiking myself up into the trailer to secure the load, when my right foot slipped on all the “goo” - scrap milk/cream/what have you that gathers on the floor of the trailer during a work day. I heard my knee pop and it HURT! By the time I got home, my knee was purplish-black. 

I’ll truncate the story a bit. My bosses wouldn’t let me see a doctor for two weeks. Finally, due to the pain, medical attention from my own doctor was sought out, and after many, MANY tests, she determined that I tore the meniscus in my right knee fairly badly. I fought with my employer and the insurance company over coverage, even though the proper forms were filled out at the time of the “Incident.” Orthoscopic surgery was finally performed in February of 2012. While I was out for the required recovery, all the while working towards making a full recovery, my employer fired me, using the excuse I couldn’t perform my job function anymore. 

I retained a lawyer, and after many hearings the court ordered my employer to pay me. By this time due to the lack of physical therapy, I needed a SECOND operation which was finally ordered for August of 2014! During that operation, my surgeon determined that the meniscus tear was beyond repair, that I needed a knee replacement, most likely due to the insurer’s procrastination. A full knee replacement was “installed” in March 2016, a full four and a half years after the accident. 

By this time, my CDL, Commercial Driver’s License, had expired, and due to a change in injury language from the Independent Medical examiner, I had to downgrade to a car license. I thus had to give up the only profession I trained for and executed for 30 years. 

I finally settled with my ex-employer, but it was a fraction of the money I had lost while waiting, and a smidgen of what my potential earnings would have been the rest of my working career.
Wait! This isn’t about an injury! It’s about a book! Accustomed to working seven days a week at the time of my injury, short drives and walks in nature to were what kept boredom from setting in. While walking around and being quieted enough to listen, the voices of nature talked to me, short profound verses popped into my head at random times. Such as: 

Ignorance speaks factually with little regard for actual facts.”

The grass is still as green in the night as it is in the daylight.”

Touch 7 trees today. Hold on tight. Let them tell you their secrets.”

 Some are silly:

Somewhere near your home there is a tree with a pink window. When you find it, give a dollar to the small man who lives there. He will reward your diligence and generosity.”

“Put sunshine in your pockets. Save it until it rains. Let the sunshine out to make a rainbow.”

“The world cannot get by without you. Your voice is the only one like it in the world. Besides, who would wear your clothes?”

Some just beg you to think:

“Ask the night why it is dark. Ask the day why it's light. Listen closely while they tell you.”

Hate dies a slow death, but once we stab it in the chest, we must endure what emerges from the wound. “

“While driving, set your trip odometer to zero and drive 6.7 miles. See where you are. Look for something orange.”

Some just ask that you be a good neighbor:

“Smile into a mason jar and use the light to write a letter to change someone's life”

Wave to every gray car you see like they are your friend. In that small shared moment, you are their friend.”

Smile and say thank you to the next person you see.”

I still haven’t a clue where these come from, but I wrote them all down. I’ve complied enough for a book, titled: “Bring Your Own Bagel, or Profoundities and Other Snippets of Mindfulness. Life for me now is to appreciate the smaller and more mundane things I used to take for granted, the power of a tree, or the silliness of clouds. Hopefully the book would inspire thoughts of those types. A book that has really inspired me on the creative process is Elizabeth Gilbert’s “Big Magic.” Read it if you have the time.

 My vision would be a book of these, along with a monthly calendar. Are people still into those? Along with a daily app sent to your phone with a saying and a meaningful picture.

Since I’m looking for a whole new career at this age, I’ll be 60 in a few months, I figure this might be the way to bide some time.

 So I will leave you with the two that have the most meaning to me:

 “The universe has been around a long time and it may be getting tired. Always meet it halfway and it will greatly reward you for understanding.”

“It is often in the still of the night when your thoughts are the most profound. Eagerly write them down and change the world.”