Wait, what was that noise?

This morning my wife is diligently grading papers, and I decided to put on some light music in the background (Patty Smyth, Darden Smith, Toad the Wet Sprocket….really light stuff), and she made the comment that it is helping her to learn to focus on task and ignore the background as she does her work. It did not used to be like this. Any noise distracted her, so I would have to shut down life until she was done. Slowly, she has adapted and overcome, and now she can sit in a room full of noise and grade papers.

I told her she is half way to “Army listening”. What is Army listening? It is the ability to work and sleep with chaos and war (not a euphemism) going on around you, and staying so focused the task suffers no degradation, but then, you have the ability to hear the one noise that does not belong. The one screech, dog bark, door creak, or, in extreme cases, gun/artillery fire (yes, each artillery fire and gun fire makes a distinct noise). You think this is an easy skill set? It is not. If you read Lee Child and the Jack Reacher series, he does this a lot in the book. Jack can be dead asleep with 1000 birds chirping, but if one branch makes a snapping noise, he is awake and aware.

The army teaches this skill, and frankly, it might be the most important skill they can teach. It will save your life. Or in this case, allow you to complete your grading in minimal time.

Out of stock

I, like many of you, still try to do most of my shopping at brick and mortar stores. Yes, I use Amazon, but only as a last resort. Problem is, last resort is coming more and more often.

I am replacing the floor in our three bedrooms, and have fallen in love with vinyl plank. I am doing my due diligence and shopping for the best product at the best price. Rather than waste gas, I am scouring the local stores using the internet. I found one I liked at a floor warehouse. Right color, right price, right thickness. The website told me my local store had several cases in stock, and since I wanted to “touch and feel” the product first, I got in my car and drove the 12 miles through traffic to the store.

This folks, is a warehouse store that could swallow the Gobi desert. Space was not a limitation to their stock. So I went in and found a sales rep and told him what I wanted using the stock and SKU number. He went over to his trusty computer and punched in that information. I figured this would tell him which part of the cavernous store the item was. Know what he said? “Oh, we have not carried that product in two years”.  What? That is not what their website said, and if it has been two years, they have had plenty of time to remove it from “inventory”. So I stood their trying to not to explode on this poor guy. This was not his doing. However, the next thing he said was.  “We can order it for you”.

No, asshole, if I wanted to order it, I could have done that without having to leave the comfort of my home. “Ordering” it does not allow me to put my fingers on the product before I shell out a few Benjamins. If I wanted to order it, I could have shopped for a better deal at Amazon.  Now you want me to order it, you get the commission for doing shit in a hand basket, and I have to make another trip down here to pick it up and HOPE I like it.

This is why Amazon is kicking your ass.

I found one at Home Depot I like, and I get my Vet discount. So I avoid Amazon again, but for how long? Here is a thought to brick and mortar stores –  “Carry your product. Makes sure it is in stock. Make sure your inventory is correct on your website. Stop wasting my time”.

Mum’s the Word

My wife asked me an interesting question today – “Why do you not talk as much as you used to?”. Normally I just treat it like a rhetorical question, but for some reason, today I chose to answer it.

I am a pragmatic man, and know that my best productive years are behind me. I also know that my best learning years are behind me as well. Technology is passing by me faster than Haley’s comet, and new fangled toys hit the shelves at what seems like an hourly rate (rendering the “toy” you just bought obsolete), and my mind now has to cover 6 decades of memories,  not just two or three. Our kids are grown and doing fine, and even the grandkids are hitting high school graduation age, so passing on “grandfatherly” knowledge is a limited effort. I am retired, so there is no work load to stimulate my brain pan, and no work associates to pass on my tales of heroism and failures. My wife, who has been my best friend (and patient as hell) has heard all the same gibberish a thousand times.

Today’s youth no longer care about wisdom passed down. Why should they? They can just say “Hey, Alexa…” and get all their questions answered without all the in-between fluff. Fireside chats have been replaced with a 10 minute text from an unknown entity followed by a rousing game of “fortnight” with 3 other people in other parts of the world.

My musical tastes are still somewhere int the 70’s and 80’s, I like watching reruns of “Cheers” and “MASH”, and would rather read “Grapes of Wrath” than “Harry Potter gets Potty Trained”. I can answer 50+% on Jeopardy, but 0% on this years “Teen Choice Awards”.  I still wear Levi jeans and a t shirt with plain white sneakers, and do not define myself by what car I drive, so long as when I turn the key it goes “vrooom”.

What does all this mean? Does it mean I am feeling sorry for myself? Hardly. What it means is this:

I have nothing more to say. I am not in a bad mood when I am silent. I am not depressed. I am not thinking evil, diabolical thoughts. I just limit what I have to say to stuff that matters, and if that means talking less, than I guess it means talking less.

They Never Look

Today was garbage day, and like most of America, we have those 100 gallon over sized behemoth garbage cans that pretty much hold anything you can stuff in it shy of an M-1 Tank. Those cans are then picked up by a Garbage Truck Transformer that has big crane arms that reach out, pick up the can, and then casually dumps it into an opening in the top of the truck that could, in fact, fit that very tank. Anyway, the reason I brought this up (other than the fact I go t nothing better to think about), is because the garbage guy never gets out of the truck to LOOK at what is in the can.

See, we have restrictions, as you do, I am sure. A list of things you CANNOT put in the trash. Batteries, flammables, Hazardous materials, dead bodies, paint, live ammo…..you get the drift. I understand, this stuff needs special disposing care. I get it. Now, if you call the sanitation department, they will tell you where to take it, but in many cases, there is a charge for doing so. A charge? As in money? Really? You want to charge me for something that I can easily put into my big blue container, and then watch as your never-get-out-of-the-truck garbage person lifts it up and puts into a truck that will have 5000 other peoples garbage mashed in with it by the days end? And you think people have not figured this out? Yeah. Good luck.

Just another stupid thought. Thanks for listening.

Paycheck Justification

Many of you know that my wife is an instructor at a major University, teaching primarily English Composition to kids that have yet to escape the trappings of high school immaturity. She has learned much about dealing with a generational attitude that is, to say the least, different from what we grew up with. That, however, is not what this blog is about. Nope. It is about Universities and their incessant need to hire positions that should do not need full time attention.  Positions with fancy titles, but job descriptions that have been performed by other positions in the school that are already drawing a paycheck.

An example? Sure! How about Program Course Coordinator. This is a job that has been done by the Deans office, the registrar and the purser for years, so why now does it all the sudden need another person drawing a $60,000 salary? Never mind the extra expense, how about the constant need to justify the position by “tweaking” a system that does not need to be tweaked? Every September my wife has to go to a three day seminar to learn “what has changed”. What? What changes? Oh- that is right, the way the grades are entered, the way that students are addressed, the way that a D- is now a borderline A, the way students are to be given (or not given) homework, and this year, a student not being in class is not really an absentee day if they are still in the same zip code at the time class is conducted.

Stop already. Let the teachers teach, because in the end they are going to ignore all your stupid little tweaks, give tests and homework the way they have for the last 20 years, not being in class is absent, and a D- is a D-.  Leave the teacher to their syllabus, stop micromanaging to justify your paycheck, and hey, maybe go take a course in management your damn self since this is a skill set you obviously lack.

Student loan crunch

Been reading a lot about student loans and how they are placing extremely large burdens on new (and a little older) college graduates.  I too was saddled with student loans, and my wife has hers down to a reasonable amount. but getting an undergraduate/graduate degree can easily set you back an amount that will keep you from having any disposable income for decades. Although I am a guy that thinks responsibility lies in the user, I also have a heart for such crippling debts on those that need to be creating an economy (and cannot).

I do not agree with a clear cleaning of the slate. I am a conservative, and think that would teach young adults that eventually they can just walk away from debt, and that thinking breeds contempt with those paying the tab for that indiscretion. So, maybe a compromise? Maybe a reduction…say, paying 20 cents on the dollar? A $100,000 debt is now $20,000…a $20,000 debt is $4,000. The taxpayers see some return, and these young graduates have some discretionary income to buy a house…a car….hell, for that matter, something other than Ramen noodles. This money goes back into the economy and creates jobs. It can be a win-win all around, and still teach today’s generation to make good on a debt.

What do my readers think? Is this stretching it?

Clean Clothes, Dirty Eyes

I was always under the impression that the best place to “people watch” was Walmart. There are whole websites devoted to the variety of human kind that graces aisle 3.  Turns out, however, that I was wrong.

Not to long ago, our washer decided after 15 years to throw a few bearings, squeak, and then clunk one last time before calling it a wrap. Not being in any hurry to replace it, we have opted to go to the dreaded “laundr-a-mat”. Yes, that place that is open 24/7 and provides shelter to the masses that are short one key appliance. If you have never had the thrill of dragging a mountain of stink into your car, driving it down the road, then dragging it into a place that welcomes things far worse than your dirty laundry, then you have not experienced the “dark side” of Walmart.

When I first arrived at this spiffy clean and fairly new establishment  ( it must be fairly new as all the machines still worked), it was empty. Of course, it was also early in the morning, before 8:30, so the crowd that frequents these places were not yet awake. As I watched our clothes turn upside down in the glass window, the crowd shuffled in. First one…then two…then 57.  Machines started to fill up quickly, so I was glad I had already staked my claim to two of the better ones. So I just stood there being entertained by flopping suds.

Anyway, I started to actually look around at the other people. Guess what I noticed? First, I was the only son of a bitch in the place that did not tip the scales at 325 plus. Holy crap. Maybe the place doubled as a Weight Watchers meeting site. Nah. Based on what I was looking at, nobody here had watched weight in about 20 years. I then also noticed I was over dressed for the occasion. I actually was wearing jeans and a clean T-shirt. This particular facility must have preferred we all show up in our pajamas. The dirtier the better, and bonus points if they were of the “footie” variety. Brushing hair and teeth were also optional, and breakfast seemed to materialize out of beach bags that doubled as purses.

There was very little chatter as everyone was just into watching their own laundry tumble in soap, but one particular customer figured she would fill the silence with a rather personal phone call. Not of the blue tooth variety, and certainly not of the quiet variety. Of course, we could only hear the one half of the conversation, and that is just as well, because based on the audible part we could hear, the part we could not hear must have involved a whole lot of birds-and-bees discussion. Did not bother her. We were all entertained, and my laundry continued to fluff unaffected by the current XXX rating the silence had become.

By the time I left, the place was packed. The blend of bleach, powder detergent, stains,  and human sweat was, to say the least, overpowering. But hey, I was done. In a couple of days I will return, but maybe this time I will start at 6AM so I am gone before the wave of destruction drags in countless garbage bags of 2 week old smell.