Archive for the ‘Rants’ Category

(9) Thirty Days of Grateful Praise: Mufflers

July 10, 2012

Yes, I know it’s a tailpipe. But it’s attached to a muffler. Besides, mufflers are ugly.

Okay, you’re probably thinking, “Gee whiz, Blue Ridge Blue Collar Girl, this is the weirdest Thing to Be Thankful For yet!  And, if you don’t mind my saying so, girl, you’ve had a few weird ones already this week, heh heh…”

Yeah, I know.  But, as it so often is, you don’t fully appreciate certain things until there is an absence of them in your life.   And there is most definitely an absence of mufflers in my neighborhood.

It’s been that way since we moved here, but this summer has been the worst one yet for atrocious automotive auditory assault.   I’m not sure why—perhaps teenagers out of school—but it would seem that the majority of motorists on the busy road in front of our house are mufflerless.

I’ve heard there’s a law against that in North Carolina, but it would seem that it’s never enforced.  I’ve often wondered what would happen if I called the law and said I’d like to press charges.

“Yes, officer.  I’d like to report an ear assault and battery.”

“Someone assaulted your ears, ma’am?”

“Umm…well, in a manner of speaking, yes.  My ears have been…hurt.”

Yeah, I bet THAT would go over real well.

One of the guys Blue Ridge Blue Collar Man works with drives his Harley to work every day.   He is one of the Intentionally Mufflerless, and the sound of his motorcycle is deafening.  He wears ear plugs while he’s on the road, so he won’t damage his ears.  He seems to not grasp the irony of this.  Blue Ridge Blue Collar Man asked him, “What about the other people on the road having to listen to that?”

He said, “Well, this way, those people will hear me coming and they won’t drive their cars out in front of me.”

Umm…seriously, dude.  Anybody could hear you coming from five miles away.  And I don’t think that’s really necessary for vehicular avoidance.

Sigh.  I feel sometimes like screaming at them, “Please, people…for the love of all things holy—GET A MUFFLER!” But somehow, I think that wouldn’t do much good. My words would almost certainly fall on, well…deaf ears.  I’m kind of resigned to it, really.  About all I can do is wear ear plugs myself.  Either that or I’ll finally go deaf from the constant noise.  Sometimes that seems like the only possibility for relief.

So I’d like to say that I’m thankful for, not only mufflers, but the many mercifully mufflered amongst you.  I thank you with all my heart.  And my poor, battered ears thank you, too.

Adventures in Customer Service

January 27, 2010
(Images from http://www.despair.com/viewall.html .  Thanks, Jayne, for recommending the link!)
 
 
Being one to look for silver linings, I thought to myself when the economy started going south, Well, at least now customer service will improve. After all, with fewer customers, businesses would be falling all over themselves to please the ones they had, right?
 
And, to some extent, I have found that to be true. In fact, just recently, after I found a large red pepper stem in some frozen stir-fry, I called their customer service number in Tennessee and spoke to a lovely lady there who promptly apologized and sent me nice coupons. You can be sure I’ll buy their product again. Earlier this month, I had the hand pump thing in a large bottle of my favorite lotion fail when I was only a third of the way through. Very frustrating since I’d had the same thing happen with an earlier bottle. So I dialed up customer service and the very kind person who answered seemed quite dismayed to hear my dilemma and sent me a $20 gift certificate to buy more lotion. I will now be their customer for life.
 
 But last week, I had an entirely different experience when I went to a large, well-known chain drugstore to use my lotion gift certificate. Now, I wish I could name the store, but I’ve heard so many horror stories about bloggers being sued for complaining about bad customer service that I’m a little intimidated. Lord knows, the last thing I need in my life right now is a lawsuit. 

This store had just recently opened, and they had my lotion on sale (Buy One, Get One 50% Off! said their ad). In fact, I was tickled to realize that with two coupons I had, it would work out exactly so I’d be able to use the entire gift certificate to buy four bottles of lotion, with me only having to pay sales tax.

So, I went to the store, quickly found my lotion (feeling quite pleased with myself) and took the bottles to the counter. The cashier was a nice young man who smiled and said hello. Behind him an older woman was crouched down, stocking the shelves. I asked the cashier if he could please check the price since it hadn’t been listed on the shelf and I wanted to make sure I got the sales price. The minute I said that, the woman who’d been stocking rose up and became very interested in our transaction. I tried to ignore the look of suspicion she was giving me, though I found it puzzling.

She watched closely as the he rang up and bagged my lotion. Then I presented my coupons and gift certificate. That’s when she turned into The Customer Service Gestapo. First of all, she grabbed the gift certificate from the cashier’s hands. Now, I’d certainly understand her wanting to study the document–$20 is a lot of money and naturally, she’d want to make sure it was legitimate. Nothing wrong with that.

But she didn’t just study it, she pored over it, turning it over and over. For a very long time. This was a small piece of paper we’re talking about with very little print on it that should take thirty seconds, tops, to read. There were several people behind me in line waiting, and I began to feel a little embarrassed. Finally, she looked up with a smug and triumphant smile. “You can’t use this for the lotion—it’s not a Johnson and Johnson product. And this gift certificate says it’s only for Johnson and Johnson products.” She was obviously very pleased with herself.

“Umm…the gift certificate has the name of the lotion right there on it,” I said. “Here, I’ll show you…” I tried to point to the place where it clearly listed the name.

She completely ignored me but barked at the cashier to check the bottle. He looked a little irritated himself by now, but reached into the bag, pulled out the lotion, and looked on the back. “Yep. Johnson and Johnson.”

She grabbed the bottle to see for herself. The growing crowd behind me became more restless. I was just hoping they weren’t blaming me for all this.

“Okay,fine,” she snapped. “You can give her $7.99 off.” This was the price for a single bottle. She reached in and rang up a $7.99 coupon.

“$7.99?” I said. “But the gift certificate was for $20 and I have $24 worth of lotion!”

“Oh?” she said, feigning surprise. “Well, I didn’t realize you had more lotion!”

Liar, liar, pants on fire, I thought. You stood there and watched him put all four bottles in the bag, you spiteful witch. Okay, I’m not proud of myself for thinking such rude thoughts, but I’ve got to tell you, I was starting to feel pretty annoyed. And very embarrassed. I’m a shy person who doesn’t like to attract attention and I could feel that my face was burning.

“You do realize that now we’ll have to void this transaction since I rang up the $7.99?” she said to me with an exasperated sigh as though I was at fault and must surely be doing this only to annoy her . “Where’s the register key?” she asked the cashier. It seemed that someone else had the key. Then she said, “Oh great, we don’t have the key! We can’t void it!” She glared at me, as though I was personally responsible and was probably concealing the key in my purse. I glared back. I was now officially peeved.

The funny thing is, my first reaction was actually bafflement. Why was she doing this? Why was she treating me like a criminal? I mean, it’s not like I went in wearing a large coat with twenty hidden pockets. Or a huge purse that rattled suspiciously. I’m a mild-mannered person and I look it. No shifty eyes here. But it soon became apparent that she was trying to badger me into giving up the whole thing, and mild-mannered or not, I don’t like being badgered.

She finally seemed to grasp that she wasn’t going to wear me down, but then told me how “lucky” I was that she was willing to accept my gift certificate. Funny—I didn’t feel lucky. I was so embarrassed that I felt like I was going to cry.

The cashier looked embarrassed, too, and he smiled apologetically as he handed me the bag. I smiled back. It wasn’t his fault.

And it wasn’t his fault that I’ll never set foot in this store again. Later, I wondered again why she treated me like that. Was it because I looked like the low-income person that I am? Was it because I seem mild-mannered and she thought I’d buckle quickly under her bullying? Was it because she is an angry person looking for someone to unload on?

I don’t know. But what I do know is that they’ve lost my business and the many dollars that I likely would have spent there in the future. And they’ve lost my respect for hiring someone who’d treat customers this way. News flash for businesses: Treating your customers like criminals is bad for business. Last I heard, it wasn’t against the law to use a coupon or a gift certificate.  Some stores even encourage it.

And news flash for the Gestapo Clerk From Hell: I’m probably not the first person you’ve tried your nonsense on and I won’t be the last. But one of these days, you’re going to unload on the wrong person, and they’re going to unload on you, which is probably what it will take to wipe that smirk off your face. And I reckon you felt real powerful when you were browbeating me. But I have more power than that in my pocketbook and the money there that won’t be spent in your store. You probably don’t care that I’m never coming in your store again. But every customer you lose could mean a future loss of hundreds of dollars for your store. Those hundreds multiplied by more disgruntled customers add up and eventually could translate to job losses. So every customer you treat like you treated me gets your fanny one step closer to being booted out the door.

Which, in my opinion, is exactly where it belongs.

Embracing My Inner Curmudgeon (and Some Well-Deserved Applause)

October 19, 2009

curmudgeon

(I apologize that I could not find the proper attribution for this great drawing, but am amazed at the striking resemblance to this writer.  Uncanny, really.)

One of the things that I looked forward to most about getting old was that it would at last be acceptable to give my inner curmudgeon free reign. Yep, I thought maybe I could give real credence to the stereotype of the grumpy old lady.

Well, the truth is, while I might have an inner curmudgeon, I’m actually pretty even-tempered, so I’m not yet shaking my bony fist at cocky young whippersnappers on a regular basis. But I will say that the past few weeks have sorely tested the limits of my patience and brought out my inner grouch.

First of all, our television went out, and it took the built-in VCR with it. Sure, it was 12 years old and maybe 12 years is all you can expect for electronic lifetimes these days, but it really hurt to lose our VCR, too. Then, the next day, the blade flew off our riding mower and took two fan belts with it. We have a big, big yard, so we really need that riding mower.

But it wasn’t just that. It was the little things, too, one darn thing after another—from problems with an item we just paid good money for to groceries scanning higher than the listed price to newly purchased carrots being slimy. I hate it when my carrots are slimy.

No need to rehash all our troubles, but allow me to indulge my inner curmudgeon long enough to say this:  The Eyeglasses industry, on the whole, is an out and out rip-off. A greed fest. A shameless screw-job. I have no idea what the mark-up by optical companies is on eyeglasses, but I know it is huge beyond all justification. And I’d like to say to the optometrist that I recently had the displeasure of seeing: You should be ashamed—charging those exorbitant prices, knowing full well that many of the people that come to you (including me) can ill afford to buy even the cheapest frames you provide. And, boyhowdy, that sure is one slick operation you’ve got there—the way you funneled me right out from my exam into your eyeglasses “showroom.” And what a friendly salesman you have in there! Or at least he was until I expressed my utter incredulity at the prices and I was ushered out quicker than you can say “flimflam man.” Of course, what I really wanted to do was to tell him just exactly where he could shove all those hip, trendy pieces of plastic “designer” junk.

Oh. Sorry. I lost it for a minute there. I told you I had an inner curmudgeon.

Anyway. What I really wanted to do here is to recognize my one interaction with a commercial interest in the past few weeks that was positive beyond all expectation. Where I was treated with respect and consideration. Where the response to my concern was cheerful and prompt. Who was this rarity, this paragon, this fine model of good customer service? Why, I’m glad you asked.

It was Oxford American, my favorite magazine ever. Perhaps you’ve never heard of it, but if you’d like to read the finest in writing from the South (not to mention their annual music issue that includes a really swell CD), you should definitely check them out. In fact, one of my dreams as an aspiring writer is to be published someday in Oxford American.

I recently decided to treat myself to a subscription and was mighty excited about the thought of finding it in my mailbox again, but experienced some difficulty in receiving a particular issue. It was their Southern Literature Issue with lots of writing about writing, so I wanted it real bad. But when I filled out their Customer Service form, I’ll have to admit that I expected just the typical form email back. You know, the generic, non-personal kind that leave you feeling angrier than ever?

So imagine my surprise when I was personally emailed back within an hour by Tammy Gillis, their office manager, who told me she was immediately forwarding my email to Matt Baker, Associate Publisher. Within a very short time, I received a very nice email from Matt Baker expressing his sincerest apologies and indicating that he had personally mailed me out a copy that very day!

Okay, here’s where I’ll confess that, at the time, I thought, “Right. Sure you did. I’ll believe that when I see it.” Sorry to say, but some of my recent misadventures in customer service have made me just a mite cynical.

So imagine my surprise (and delight) when I found Issue #66, the Southern Literature issue of the Oxford American in my mailbox within a week, mailed personally by their Associate Publisher. I was thrilled.

So, thanks, Oxford American and Tammy Gillis and Matt Baker. I know you’ll probably never read this, but I wanted to say it anyway. I wanted to sing the praises of a company that is motivated by something besides greed, not to mention the fact that they put out a very fine product that even folks like me can afford. You’ve made me a happy woman and a slightly less cynical one.

It sure is nice to have something good to read. Maybe it will help to take my mind off the smirk on smug Mr. Eyewear Consultant’s face when he told me, “You really should try something stylish and fashionable for a change—it would make you look so much…younger.”

Why, it’s enough to make me shake my bony fist just thinking about it. *Shakes bony fist and mutters*   That impudent young upstart. Cheeky, brazen whippersnapper.

Things Are Seldom What They Seem

April 21, 2009

benjamin-blog1

My favorite thing about the Doublewide Ranch is our front porch. We have a swing, two rockers, and a 15-mile view where we can see the lovely skyline of Asheville, eleven miles away. At night, the lights of the city twinkle and shimmer, and Asheville looks like the Emerald City in the Wizard of Oz.

But on this side of Asheville, there are lights that shine even brighter than the city lights, and for a long time, we speculated about what they might be. They shine luminous and golden and lovely—strung out like diamonds on a necklace. From a distance, it looks like a magical, fairytale sort of place and we spent a fair amount of time driving around in that area until we finally found the source of the radiant glow. What was it? Why, it was…a prison. Which, of course, explains the very bright, shining, golden lights.

The point I want to make here is that, from a distance, things aren’t always what they appear to be. And until we look closer and know more about a situation, we can often draw conclusions that are far from reality. And I make this point because, in recognizing National Autism Awareness Month,  I want to talk, not so much about autism, but about the great harm that words of judgment (so often based on scant knowledge) can do.

And as the mother of an autistic child, I have certainly known judgment. It’s bad enough when it comes from complete strangers—like the people who look askance when your child behaves in an inappropriate way in public. Truth is, I soon learned to tune those people out and shrug off their heedless words. But the judgment that hurts the most and cuts the deepest is judgment from the people you love—in my case, my extended family.

When Benjamin was very young (from about age two to four), he would scream in terror when I tried to cut his hair. It wasn’t a tantrum scream (believe me, I know the difference)—he was genuinely distressed. Having his hair cut was obviously, for whatever reason, very traumatic for him. (I have learned since that that’s fairly common with autistic children). So I made the decision to leave his hair long until we could figure out why it troubled him and how we could make it easier. (I did cut his bangs while he was sleeping).

This resulted in no end of snide comments and even ridicule from most of our extended family. Of course, I explained the reason to them, but it seemed to make no difference. Comments ranged from He looks like a girl to He looks ridiculous to You shouldn’t give in to his tantrums to Don’t you realize this is going to cause real gender identification problems for him?? (I reckon that means that they also didn’t like that I let him play with dolls.)

Around about the same time, Benjamin went through a phase where he liked to recite the complete dialogue (including narration) from videos he had seen. Amazingly, he could do this after seeing it only two or three times, and he did it verbatim, complete with inflections and accents. A real favorite was The Wrong Trousers (with Wallace and his faithful dog Gromit. Benjamin really fancied a British accent.) It was very entertaining, really. But, of course, this just gave more reason for my extended family to issue more unsolicited and ill-informed advice. “You must be letting him watch videos too much. That’s not good for children.” Well, no…actually I limited my children’s TV and video watching when they were young. I explained to my family that Benjamin could do this after seeing a video only two or three times. I could see from their self-righteous expressions that they didn’t believe me.

While most parents probably second-guess themselves and wonder if they’re doing the right thing for their children, I think parents of autistic children live with that feeling more than most. Often, it felt like I was traveling in a foreign country without a map, and sometimes all I could do was to put one foot in front of another, hold fast to hope, and pray I was traveling in the right direction. And it was not helpful to have people who have never been to that foreign country tell you that you’re going wrong.

I could go on and on with examples of how destructive to our spirit all the ill-informed opinions and unkind judgments of others were, but there’s really no point in that. But what I want to say is: If you know someone who is going through hardship—of any kind—first of all, listen. Listen to their fear, listen to their sadness, listen to what they’re NOT saying.

Second…educate yourself. Ask questions, read, seek answers—it shows you care. I really don’t think a single person in our extended families ever bothered to learn much of anything about autism. Yet, remarkably, they fancied themselves experts on how we should raise Benjamin. Imagine that.

Third, encourage. One of our dearest friends (who passed away a few years back) was our friend Ernie who, although blind, had the clearest vision of anyone I ever met. We were talking on the phone one day and she said, out of the blue, “You are the BEST mother!” And I cried. Just five little simple words, but they meant the world to me. We miss Ernie.

Fourth, unless they ask for it, resist the temptation to offer advice based only on your own experience. Remember: your reality is not their reality. As they say, don’t judge unless you’ve walked a mile in their shoes.

The irony here, of course, is that I’m likely preaching to the choir. Because if you’ve read this far, it means you care enough about me and my family to read through this little diatribe and that you’re probably not the sort to make rash judgments. Often, it seems that the very people who most need to hear something never do. As Paul Simon said in The Boxer, “…still a man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest.” (And, in case you’re wondering, no one in my extended family reads my blog. Even if they knew about it, I doubt they’d be interested enough to read it.) But if my words make one person think, then I think…perhaps…they are worthwhile. If nothing else, it’s probably a good thing to get this off my chest—it’s been a source of great pain for us.

So thank you for listening…and for your comments. They make me feel as though perhaps I’m not just crying in the wilderness—that my words are not all falling on deaf ears. For that, I am most grateful.

Excuse Me, Waitress. I Don’t Believe I Ordered a Breast…

February 26, 2009

dennys

Around these parts, breastfeeding has figured prominently in the news of late.  Specifically concerning Crystal Everitt, who on a recent Sunday at Denny’s restaurant, breastfed her child with her entire breast exposed, just as the after-church crowd was sitting down with their families to enjoy a leisurely lunch.   Having been an enthusiastic breastfeeding mama myself, I’ve tried to keep…ahem…abreast of this situation—by reading not only news reports, but local message boards where people are clearly passionate about the subject.

Here are the facts, as I understand them:  She was breastfeeding at Denny’s with an entire breast exposed.  A few nearby diners (with families) spoke to the manager, the manager quietly and politely requested that Ms.Everitt cover herself, she refused, and an ugly scene ensued with police finally being called.  She left the restaurant and soon called the press who, like Pavlov’s dogs, promptly began to salivate.  She was interviewed by the local TV station in one of those trendy hipster cafés feeding her child (again with her breast exposed, no doubt shocking some of those who had turned on the noon news to watch while they ate lunch).  Later, she led a protest at Denny’s with other breastfeeding moms (again on a Sunday) where a manager from Denny’s apologized—-and she refused to accept his apology.  The story was all over the local print media, as well.  Local columnist Edgy Mama wrote in the Mountain Xpress: “People, listen to me for a moment, kay (sic)? Breasts, like udders, are food-conveyance devices…no need to…warm the fricking milk.  Boobs are natural bottle warmers.  How cool is that?”  Well, Edgy Mama, I’ll grant that it’s pretty cool but I was amazed at how many of the women supporting Everitt asserted that breasts were ONLY for feeding babies and not to be associated with things like pleasure.  And I couldn’t help but think, “Dang, ladies…y’all have missed out on some FUN!”

And, yes, as someone who breastfed frequently in public, I do have an opinion on the situation and although that’s not really what I want to talk about here, let’s go ahead and get it out of the way.  In fact, I’ll just cut and paste from the short comment I made on a well-known local blog:

“…And as someone who also grew up around a lot of older and more conservative folks, I know that many of them have more modest proclivities than I do. And I don’t see that as either good or bad—it just is. So, when I was out in public, I threw a light cover over exposed areas when I nursed. It was no big deal and caused no harm to my baby and no one ever, in all the times I nursed in public, had anything negative to say. It seems to me that those who take the defiant stance of refusing to cover themselves are making a judgment about those who have more modest tendencies and that they are trying to impose THEIR values on others. And I wonder, if their objective is to promote breastfeeding, if they’re not antagonizing people more than winning them to their very worthy cause.”

I also wanted to add that I find it interesting that Ms.Everitt just happened to be there right at the time that local church-goers would likely be sitting down there with their families.  I find it curious, as well, that she asserts that all she wanted to do was to breastfeed her child because if that were truly her objective, I think she would have simply gone ahead and slipped a light cover over her breast,  her child (and the other diners) would have eaten in peace, and no one (except those nearby) would have been the wiser.  Instead, an unpleasant scene was created, the police showed up, and I’m quite certain her baby was distressed by the whole encounter.   But, of course, had she covered herself, she wouldn’t have gotten to be the Noble Breastfeeding Martyr, would she?

But, as I said, that’s not really what I want to discuss.  What I really want to talk about here is respect.  And tolerance.  And understanding.  All attributes that most political progressives and liberals would like to smugly think of themselves as having.  I know, because I am a liberal.  A blue-collar liberal.  And I was appalled at the tone that so many of those who would call themselves “liberals” took in the debates that played out on the local message boards and blogs.  Particularly here and here in the Mountain Xpress forums.  It was pretty ugly with “entopticon” asserting that another commenter had a “mental disorder that makes them freak out when they see a breast” and that they were “deranged” and “warped” and had a “diseased mind” because they dared to speak of having courtesy for others who might be uncomfortable with an exposed breast in public.  Then “entopticon” (who took every opportunity to demonstrate his vastly  superior intellect *insert eyeroll here*) insulted the intelligence of another commenter, and later resorted to calling those who disagreed with him “right-wing extremists.”  And, yes, one commenter did call Ms. Everitt “an attention whore,” but he later apologized.

Good Lord. 

As a blue-collar liberal who voted for Gore, Kerry, and Obama, I’ve often torn my hair out over some of my blue-collar friends who vote consistently against their best interests and I’ve wondered why they did so.  And I’ve often seen liberal commentators lamenting the same thing and wondering why they can’t win over the blue-collar constituency, baffled as to why liberals are seen as “elitist.” 

Well, it’s complicated and I don’t fully understand it myself, but what I do know is that liberals are often seen as elitist because they…so often are.  The one thing that came across to me in reading the message boards and comments concerning the breastfeeding brouhaha was that many of the people (whom I’m sure would call themselves liberals) came across as just plain contemptuous of those who were offended by an exposed breast.  They weren’t content just to state their own viewpoints—they resorted to name-calling and general attacks on conservative people and so-called “right-wing extremists.”  And, yes, I know that personal attacks are also a favorite tactic of those like Rush Limbaugh and his ilk.  But when we, as liberals, resort to the same thing, we are not only exposing our own prejudice and intolerance, we are playing into the hands of those like Rush Limbaugh, who will twist our words into something even uglier.

“Extremists” and “fundamentalists” come in all shapes and sizes…and political and religious persuasions.  It would behoove us all to acknowledge and contemplate the meaning of liberal which includes (in my American Heritage dictionary) “open-minded and tolerant” as well as “tending to give freely; generous.”  Contempt often breeds contempt, just as respect and courtesy often breed respect and courtesy. 

To quote “Think of Others” who also commented on the Mountain X-press forum:

Me Vs.You is ultimately what is going to end this planet.  Let’s try to reach a middle ground on the easy stuff!  Peace out.”

Yeah, I’m with him.  Let’s try to reach a middle ground or at least begin to try to understand each other’s feelings.  And so-called liberals need to examine their own prejudice and intolerance, seek to overcome their contempt for those who think differently from them, and remember that not all “extremists” are right-wing.   

Peace out.

Warning: Political Post Ahead

September 1, 2008

(You may be surprised at my writing a political post–I’ve never done it before.  Mainly because so many people do it…and they do it so much better than I.  Plus, I get so emotional about the state of things sometimes that I’m unable to write coherently about them. But I’ve been feeling a little peevish lately and worried about political affairs.  And yesterday, one of my favorite bloggers [and a person I respect] wrote a post that got my dander up a bit.  In fact, I surprised MYSELF at my reaction. Hence, my first political post–I hope you’ll forgive and indulge me.)

Back in 2006, before news broke of his affair and $400 haircuts, I was a John Edwards supporter.  But that same year, he gave a speech during his Walmart-bashing campaign that made me shake my head and groan at his cluelessness. Edwards recounted the story of how his six-year-old son Jack had chided a classmate for wearing sneakers from Walmart, telling his little friend that Walmart treats its employees badly.  Edwards was bursting with pride as he said, “If a six-year-old can figure it out, America can figure it out!”  Why did I groan?  Well, for one thing, I found it appalling that he would encourage his son to make another child feel bad because he bought his shoes at Walmart (very likely because he couldn’t afford otherwise).  If my child had said that, it would occasion a good long talk about being kind to those less fortunate.  In addition, this was a prime example of why so many of my fellow blue-collar friends feel alienated from the Democratic Party. 

It is a source of consternation and amazement to me that so many blue-collar people consistently vote for people that don’t have their best interests at heart.  I voted for Gore in 2000, Kerry in 2004 and will vote for Obama in 2008.  But so many lower-income people I know voted for Bush, not just one but two times!  There are many reasons for this, among them the fact that Republicans in general have become so skilled at manipulating the minds of the less sophisticated, with emotional appeals designed to exploit that lack of sophistication.  But some of the problem stems from the fact that the Democratic Party has failed to convey to us blue-collar voters that they really care about the things that keep us awake at night—how to pay for health care, how to keep a roof over our heads, how to pay for gas (if we’re lucky enough to have a running car), and how to feed and clothe our children.  Instead, to show their commitment to poor people, they go around bashing Walmart, where most of us shop on a regular basis.

Now I’m no defender of Walmart.  I do think they have some appalling corporate practices…but so do many, many other mega corporations.  But here’s the thing:  they sell things at a price that people like me can afford.  A much better price, in many cases.  Sure, I’d like to be able to buy that fancy organic, free-range chicken at the fancy organic food store.  But I just can’t swing it.  After health insurance and taxes, etc. are taken out, we bring home about $250 a week.  We’re lucky if we even have chicken.

So, my fellow Democrats—don’t lecture me on how my buying choices are a “moral” decision.  The truth is:  I don’t have a lot of choice. Don’t bash the very people you claim to champion for shopping at the one place they can afford. I wish I could always afford to weigh the human costs against the cost to my wallet, but when you make $12.00 an hour, the cost to your wallet is a real and practical consideration.   Get off your high horse in your “noble” campaign against Walmart, and walk the dusty roads with those of us that don’t have a horse.  :-)

And try to get a clue about the realities of being poor.  As the son of a millworker, John Edwards did grow up poor, but I think he forgot what it was like.  Back in 2006, I honestly considered offering myself as his blue-collar advisor because, Lord knows, he needed one.  I have to roll my eyes when the Democratic Party wonders why blue-collar folks think they’re elitist.  Wake up, Democrats.  Stop bashing just Walmart (thereby pandering to the unions) and the people who shop there.  Campaign for ALL corporations to pay a living wage.  Campaign for health care for everyone.   Do something about the huge and growing gap between the rich and the poor.

And do you know what I’d really like to see?  Every lawmaker in Washington being forced to live for a year with their family of four on $12.00 an hour.  Without the fancy homes and cars they already have.  Maybe then we’d see a change we could believe in.

A Passel of Personal Peeves

April 5, 2008

I’m feeling a little cranky these days, so I hope you don’t mind if I get a few things off my chest.  Sure, a riled-up rant doesn’t right wrongs, but when you’re rankled, raving can be a righteous remedy for relief.  Really.

You?  Oh, no, it’s nothing you did.  In fact, I’m addressing my rant directly to the guilty party, the proper rantee, or in this case, rantees. 

Rant #1

Dear people from whom we purchased this doublewide:

You must be feeling pretty smug these days to have found fools desperate enough to pay such an outrageous sum for your doublewide.  Not that I blame you for that—we made the choice to do so, and sometimes I think the sunrise alone is worth the price.  But anyway, that’s not what I’m writing about here.  I could write about the toxic waste you left in the garage or inquire as to how you managed to make so many large holes in the walls. And just how did that coffee end up on the ceiling anyway?  But that’s not what I need to discuss here either. 

No, Dear Sellers, what I want to say is this:  For the love of Pete, people, why did you leave us not one sheet of toilet paper when you left?  Not one dadgum sheet!  What kind of people actually take the partially-used rolls off the toilet paper holders when they leave?!!!  I’ll tell you who—cheap, cheeky chumps—that’s who.   It takes a merciless soul to intentionally leave another human being toilet paperless.  I’m no paragon of virtue, but every single time I’ve moved from a house, I’ve left not only toilet paper (with extra rolls!), but paper towels and soap, as well.  It’s the decent, humane thing to do. 
 
Didn’t your Mama teach you that?

Rant #2

Dear Cashiers from two different stores that shall remain nameless:

Perhaps you meant well when you asked me if I wanted the Senior Citizen’s discount.  But to be asked that twice in one week was a little hard on my fragile, 50-year-old ego.  Trust me, when I turn 55, I’ll be the first to let you know.  But until then, it might be better, unless you are absolutely certain of a person’s…ahem…mature status, to wait for them to ask for the discount.  Especially since you have a large sign with large print announcing it right at the register.

Or maybe you thought I couldn’t read it…because of my advanced, ripe old age.

Rant #3

Dear Cashier at the grocery store that rhymes with Jingles:
 
I was pretty excited to have that coupon for the Russell Stover’s Chocolate Rabbit.  Even though my kids are in college now, I still enjoy putting together a little Easter basket for them.  We’re on a budget, and the candy they usually get is more Hershey’s than Russell Stover’s, so I was particularly pleased to be able to get such a “fancy” treat.  Chocolate connoisseurs may smirk, but Russell Stover’s is lavish stuff for us.

You scanned the rabbit, and I smiled and handed you the coupon.  You studied it for a moment, picked the rabbit up and looked at it, then handed the coupon back with a curiously smug look on your face. 

“I can’t take that,” you said.

I was baffled.  “Why not?”

You announced, in a self-righteous tone, “This coupon is for the HOLLOW Russell Stover rabbit.”  Then you smirked.  “Your rabbit is solid.”

I looked at you, open-mouthed with disbelief.  No, not disbelief that the coupon actually said that.  In fact, when I looked at it again, I realized it indeed said “Hollow Rabbit.”  But I was incredulous that you would take such obvious pride in denying a simple, cents-off coupon to someone because they had the solid rabbit instead of the hollow one.  And the look you gave me—strangely triumphant and accusatory at the same time.  I mean, you would have thought you’d caught me trying to slip the rabbit out in my purse.  Oh yeah, you’re a noble one, you are, valiantly fighting those desperados like me who would actually try to sneak those hollow rabbit coupons past your eagle eyes.  You must be so proud.  I’m surprised you didn’t shout, “Security!  Coupon outlaw!” and ask them to pat me down for more illicit coupons. 

I pointed out to you that the solid rabbit was actually more expensive than the hollow one, but you were adamant, secure in your position of moral superiority.   So I put away my money and handed you back the rabbit.  “I guess I won’t get it then.”

So, congratulations.  You won, but your store lost a sale and the good will of a new customer.  And it wasn’t so much that you refused me the coupon—maybe they train you to be completely inflexible about coupons, and you were just following policy.  It was the fact that you seemed so self-satisfied about it and the way you looked at me like I was committing a criminal act instead of just trying to buy a chocolate rabbit.  Pardon the pun, but I would have to say that was a “hollow” victory for both you and the store you represent.

So there you have it—my picayune, paltry, perhaps petty personal peeves. 

Whew.  Thanks.  I feel better already.

A Note to the Glib, Gauche Guy in Guccis

October 7, 2007

Pssst…hey you…yeah, you Mr. GoldChainAroundYourFleshyNeck, with your J.Crew khakis, shiny Italian leather loafers, and pink polo shirt that matches your soft-as-a-baby’s-bottom face that clearly just came back from a facial at the spa.  Yeah, you who reek of too much cologne and look at me with such cold disdain and a greasy smirk that says I am so out of your league, lady.  I’m Mr. BigCheeseFormerJockAboutCampus. You look like a nobody. 

And this because I merely smiled at you, as I often do at people that happen to be standing beside me in line.  For one thing, I grew up in the country in eastern North Carolina.  That’s the way we were down there—no one knew a stranger.  Smiling and saying Hey is just a way to make a human connection.  That’s all.  Your carefully moussed hair and Rolex watch mean nothing to me. I do not wish to ravish you—I find you less than ravishing.   

What is it about some men and their egos? I love where I live now, but I’m afraid there really do seem to be more men like that around these parts.  If I had to sum it up in a few words, I’d say, “More macho, less manly.  Bigger ego, less to show for it.”   They are also overall less courteous, in ways like holding doors for people who happen to be behind them.  That is, unless that person is a nubile young chick with big breasts.  I’ve had it happen countless times here:  a simpering, middle-aged man falls all over himself to open the door for CuteBlondCoedYoungEnoughToBeHisDaughter whom I am right behind, only to let it slam in my face.  It’s interesting to note that I moved here from the Big City (Raleigh) and almost never had that happen.  In fact, folks regularly held doors for me there.

It’s not just me either.  My daughter experienced the same thing with the so-called “popular” guys when she was in high school here.  If she so much as glanced at them, they would give her the same contemptuous, dismissive look.  By her senior year, she had perfected a look in return that said, “Frankly, prep boy, I find you slightly less attractive than a baboon’s rear end.”

Now, please don’t send me comments saying Go back to Raleigh then, Pruneface.   I don’t want to go back to Raleigh.  I miss a lot of things about it, but I’m a mountain girl now. I feel at home in the hills here, and I’ve met some nice folks, too.  And, no, I’m not bitter because I’m past my prime.  I’ve pretty much come to terms with the fact that men don’t generally give me a second glance these days. I don’t want those men to simper at me—I’m just looking for a bit of kindness and courtesy.  But I’m curious—why are some men like that?  Why can’t I just be friendly without their bloated egos convincing them that I’m flirting with them?  Because, the truth is, I’m kind of like my daughter.  I find them, in general, slightly less attractive than a baboon’s bottom.  

A qualification is in order:  Not all men are like that here.  My husband works with some very mannerly, manly men.  Also I should say that I don’t hate men (but I might be a little misanthropic).  Some of my best friends are men.  Really.  And a note to my fellow liberated women:  Yeah, I know. I can open my own damn door.  But I value the courtesy and kindness behind such actions.  You are free to feel differently.

So, Mr. GoldChain, go on thinking you’re God’s gift to women.  My husband’s ten times better looking anyway, and he’s toned and muscular from swinging a hammer and hefting wood all day. I like men with calloused hands, not calloused hearts. I like men who open doors for anyone, be they fat or thin, young or old, rich or poor.  And, hey, you might want pull in that gut—it’s bigger than your ego.  Coeds don’t like men who are soft and flaccid.  Oh, and about that facial you got at the spa?  Did they tell you it would make you look younger and firm up those sagging jowls?  Well, you better go get your money back.  You were robbed.

A Shameless Plug

September 12, 2007

 ariel-and-teddy-blog.jpg

 Ariel, age 4

Yeah, this is a shameless plug.  I think it’s called nepotism.  But my daughter Ariel has so eloquently expressed my thoughts and feelings about elitist eggheads in this rant on her most excellent blog LuckyPennies that I’m letting her speak for me today.  Except for the fact that she says it better than I ever could.  And she’s only nineteen years old! 

And yeah, I know some people think you should affect a false modesty about your children—to look down demurely when folks compliment them.  Not me, buddy.  I’m so proud of both my kids that I could bust. Unabashedly proud.

I had an inkling that Ariel might be a writer someday when shortly after her fourth birthday, she tugged on my shirt and said, “I wrote a poem.”  Except she couldn’t write.  So she asked me to write it down for her.  I ceremoniously took out pencil and paper and wrote, while she dictated, with a serious look on her face:

In wintertime
The snow will fall
Like bright soft jewels
On hard ground.

Ariel-Age 4
 
She told me that was all and ran off to play.  Several days later, I asked her if she had written any more poems.  She said, rather primly, “Not at the moment.” 
 
So, Ariel, (aka LuckyPennies) I’m so glad you’re writing poetry again.  Please—keep it up.   In the words of Daddy: “You go, girl!”

The Bleats and Howls of Party Animals

September 9, 2007

So, my husband says to me, “You can’t write another rant—they’ll think you’re…cranky. You should write one of the happy nature pieces.”

Well, maybe he’s right, but the truth is…I am cranky.   I mean, who wouldn’t be after about two hours of sleep. 

Our neighbor had a party last night.  One of those all-nighters.
 
So, it gave me a whole new concept of just what hell might be like:    Karaoke Top-40 hits from the 70’s and 80’s, sung by drunken middle-aged party animals, over and over and over again, accompanied by a drummer who played like a six-year old who just got a drum set for Christmas.  Yeah, I can imagine hell being like this—a sort of Satan’s Singalong.  Had it not been for the fact that we had plans to go out very early this morning, it probably would have been funny.  I gave up trying to sleep and pulled out a book, so I got to hear drummer boy’s progress as the night progressed and he became more inebriated.  He eventually abandoned all pretense of playing with the karaoke and just started randomly banging, so that it sounded like someone was using a jackhammer outside our window.

I never did do more than doze, but I guess it’s just as well.  Had I slept well enough to dream, I can imagine the nightmares…of Beelzebub in a hardhat, smirking as he jackhammers the streets of Hell.


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