Friday, December 27, 2013

The Carolinian

I feel that I am trapped on a runaway train and cannot jump off!
Here I am travelling south of the Mason-Dixon on another trek to see my toddler granddaughters.
I no longer choose to drive, the rails have become my new love.
For about the same price, and a little more time, I can relax in comfort, napping, reading, watching DVD's listening to music and not having to lift a finger. Justified sloth and restroom sharing with 80 other people.
The ride from Philly to Washington was serene, the only stress was a fidgety wife who won't stop moving the 11 suitcases she smuggled on board for a 5 day visit. Pack well, pack often, pack everything is her battle-cry.
I may switch from writing about my dull little life and begin volume 1 on "train-stories".
As I leisurely seek to see life "on the other side of the tracks" I sit in a seat directly in front of a retired woman who for the first 3 hours laid dormant while cell phones rang faintly from passenger's Samsungs. The Asus tablet was my focus while the nice quiet lady in the seat behind me appeared to doze off. An occasional snore was nerve-manageable. The beast awakened after we passed the Washington Monument when she acquired a seat-mate. The unsuspecting young woman, and all within earshot, endured a never-ending life story, complete with marriages, divorces, affairs, medical dramas and baby mamas. I believe her stop was Cary, NC but she bailed at Quantico, VA, preferring US Marine enlistment to seat-mate story drama.
Washington DC has a short recess while we attach to a diesel engine to haul us along the southern trail. I am not certain why this is done but I suspect this was part of a pact at Appomattox signed between Grant & Lee; train travel was included.
Havoc was about to enter my railroad harmony by a hoard of Johnny Rebels, as we were informed that over 200 invaders were coming aboard. I thought I was still safe, paying extra for business class so never having to mingle with commoners (such as myself) attempting to ransack my bliss. Some of the riff-raff must have made a few extra bucks and splurged on comfort.
As usual things continued to go very, very wrong.
The Theremin, named after its inventor Leon Theremin, is a "musical instrument" popularized in recent years when it was used in the theme song of the original Star Trek. I don't know how it operates but I do know you plug the thing in, and wave your hand around what looks like coat hangers attached to a painted piece of 2x2 and sounds are emitted through some weird mystical oscillation. I suspect that early travelling snake oil salesman and medical quacks used this gadget to top off their coffers.
I don't understand it all, but I do covet one. I have a neighbor who refuses to leash and pick up after his dog when allowing "Sir Poo" to use my mailbox as a porta-potty. A Theramin, properly aimed from my front porch, would provide just the right amount of proper training and conditioning.
The instrument has an unmistakable sound, very annoying, and a sound reproduced and hummed for 250 miles through Virginia and into North Carolina by a woman now strategically placed in the seat directly in front of me. Her voice was "Theraministic" and she knew every song copyrighted since 1910. Most of her repertoire usually never ventured past 1950 but I do believe she covered both the Drifters and the Beatles a few times.

Air travel to Greensboro would be much shorter, but it too has its disadvantages, a new one a-comin' already found in train-travel and about to shatter the already touched nerves of plane-favorer's, namely active cellphones.
Samsung has done a wonderful job kicking Apple's heiney and bringing high tech smart phones to the hoi polloi. Now everybody's got one (except me) and the rates are so affordable you could forever babble-on around the globe. Gird your loins for variations of "Hello Edna, my all the people look just like little ants"!
There was much more to tell, the "Jumping Judge", "Oprah and Gale" talk cleaning products, 1st place winner in the "how small is my bladder "contest (the person most likely to hog the one working restroom).


I am here now, enjoying the grandgirls (and of course, their parents), so I may save the stories for another day.


Maybe the return trip will have a life of its own.

The Return Trip

On the train ride home a nice young lady and her little girl are seated directly across from me, separated only by a very small aisle and my luggage-shuffling spouse.
I had studied Spanish for 4 years and retained little to none.
She is cell-phoning very loudly, IN SPANISH.  I get hours of bilingual earfuls through North Carolina and most of Virginia.
Boy did I hit the Jackpot!

I wish I would have maintained an interest in the language, possibly I would have eavesdropped onto similar family drama as the lady told on my 1st trip.

Get ready for cell phones airplane-favorers.

Smoke 'em if ya got 'em

When the Carolinian travels south of Washington, DC, the concern is shared tracks with other trains so there are frequent slowdowns, if not dead stops awaiting the passage by what seems to be a 120 car freighter.  I wondered why our train was having to stop or wait so often and the realization hit, it's not the well known "southern politeness" allowing the other train to pass, it's all about the BACCA (tobacco in the south-to-north dictionary).
Amtrak has a no smoking policy while riding the rails but there remains ample opportunity for smoke breaks, especially south of Mason-Dixon where Bacca is considered deity.  There are short breaks in Virginia and North Carolina where we are all invited to stretch our legs and pay homage to the bacca-god if you so desire.
I suspect the train engineers and staff somehow encourage the freighters to just "go-ahead" so they can step off for a few moments and indulge.  
I have no proof of this.
Having fled the weed almost 20 years' ago I avoid exiting because I fear I may relapse. I can handle it in Pennsylvania but may backslide in the sin-city of nicotine.  It's in the air, it's all over the place.

Truth be told, I still love train travel and the staff at Amtrak are excellent.  I would encourage anyone to try it, just please be a little quieter, especially if you are sitting near me.

How will you know it is me?  
I'll be the one playing the Theremin.


Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Jesus ain’t the reason for the season.

 I really do not spend much time devoted to television viewing.
No, I am not one of those snarky snobs who claim the "tube" damages your mind and you should spend more time doing jumping-jacks in the backyard eliminating your obesity. I could easily settle into a life of channel surfing and mindless Breyers' all natural vanilla ice cream eating.

I am called to duty, writing a blog awaiting a read by 24 Ukrainian's.

Because of this I miss out on so much.  I have to catch small glimpses of the nation's viewing habits as I stand in a supermarket line perusing over copies of this week's issue of the latest Kardashian/Brad-Angelina magazines.

This week, the 3 minutes of daily TV news I usually view had a story about a man who was asked his opinion about something, and some people did not like what they heard so fires were lit to begin the "heating of the tar". News organizations around the globe were alerted, a half-busload of sign toting activists rabble-rousers, and the nail-biting infamous politically correct crowd, were dispatched and strategically placed for maximum news coverage.

After all we all must agree, no one is able to have an opposing point of view especially when it runs counter clockwise to the collective.

I do not know anything about the show "Duck Dynasty". I have never watched the program but I see their image's everywhere.

ZZ Top in camouflage.

It appears that one of their members had been interviewed and gave his honest opinion. How dare he, had he not learned anything from poor Paula Dean?

Listen Duck Guy, we now dictate what you are permitted to think, do or say. Your opinion does not matter if it flies in the face of the Borg.

Play ball, or else!

Duck daddy needs a distraction. Can someone send in Miley Cyrus?

This week the headline blurb in the HuffPost, that great bastion of free thought, mentioned the Pew group surveyed Americans and almost half now say that Christmas is not a religious holiday. Jesus is out, or almost out, soon to be replaced by a new normal to be announced.

Merry Borg Day to you!


P.S. Remember to keep Christ in Christmas…at least for now.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Cyber Monday, can't trust that day!

What Cyber Day am I in now?

I always heard that in Germany Christmas shopping was relegated to two weeks prior to the holiday. This sounds so appealing and there is no sense repeating what we all whine about as we stand in line, with Christmas specials in hand, in September. I am also reminded that Germans still hang real lit candles on their trees (Yikes!) and believe their engineering is actually superior.  I owned two Volkswagens that can dispute that claim.

In recent years I have made it mandatory to complete all my shopping on line.  The era when major department stores ushered in Santa during the Thanksgiving Day Parade, and doors opened to display the wonderment of the season, has long since passed. It ended just a few years after Ralphie received his Red Rider BB rifle.

By the time Cyber Monday arrived my shopping was done, or so I thought. 

I was using my wife’s old laptop to type my blog and email while sitting on my lay-z-boy each evening.  She was much more tech savvy with her windows 8 laptop and her Android tablet and kept insisting that I should invest in a newer model, not the 15 pound hand-me-down prototype I came to love.  She almost convinced me when she explained that on the newer models the screen was in color and you could read the display.

I continued to hold out, my cheapness keeping me in check, until the inevitable happened.  My laptop fell to the ground and shattered into pieces, on Cyber Monday, as if choreographed by my wife using some kind of laptop voodoo doll with special powers.

My choice was to now decide if I would continue on, writing on a desktop, two stories up and sitting on my wooden desk chair, or relax with elevated feet and dozing off between paragraphs.

Napping and comfort won out, but the big bargain day was coming to a close with only minutes away to secure the best deal.

On line madness began, eager to find a great bargain, scanning internet pages faster than an over-caffeinated Kenyan marathon runner. And then it happened. The best deal, within my budget, was sold out on each and every site I searched.
Oh Cyber Monday, you just can't trust that day!  
I was doomed, choices to be made now as to whether or not climb a mountain of steps and continue to produce a blog read by 24 people in the Ukraine or scrap the project for a Yuengling and a little sloth.
To my amazement we no longer have just one “Cyber Monday” but extensions have been made creating a new normal shopping bonanza.  We had a special two-day after Monday event that has extended into Cyber Week and now, 10 days later, became Cyber Month enabling me to snag a great deal at my local Best Buy.

I can now continue to entertain the Ukrainians’ from the comfort of a well-worn sofa cushion, right after this short nap.

Happy Cyber Shopping!

Sunday, December 1, 2013

What Color Is Today?

Well it has been over two weeks since my last post.  I have been so busy with the holidays that time got away.
It is now the Saturday after Thanksgiving and I sit here with a major crisis to distract me. What color is today?
Yesterday was black Friday, the day before was Thanksgiving that’s kinda brown-orange-yellowish. The day before was Gray Wednesday, and the day before that was Light Gray Tuesday.  Monday was Dark-White Monday. Last Sunday was White Sunday; Saturday was Opaque Day, Friday was Clear Friday.
I have finally assigned a color name all the way back to March 17th’s”Kelly Green” St Patrick’s Day.
I have decided to launch a diabolical plan to stimulate the economy by assigning colors and names to each and every day leading up to Christmas beginning on December 26th.
Just think of it, retailers will be so confused they will have buyers camped out at their storefront each day for a 500 inch flat screen or a girls-gone-wild Barbie.
Newspapers will deliver a daily 5-pound paper, loaded with ads providing employment for the Printers union, delivery staff and the Chiropractors who treat them. Advertising sales reps could move out of their parents basements and earn a living.
Lawns will be perpetually adorned with balloon Nativity Peanuts characters and Santa Scooby-Do's.

Inventory of canned pumpkin and cranberry sauce would sell within their expiration dates, no longer found stuck in the “buy at your own risk” aisle of the dollar store.
Malls and Big Box stores would always be crowded; Manheim Steamroller tunes would dominate the airways, “It’s a Wonderful Life” the only movie permitted to watch.
A marvelous plan if only everyone had a job to pay for all of this.
It’s Thanksgiving week, be thankful if you do have a job.
Please remember to help those who don’t.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Be my Facebook friend?

What is your favorite television show? 

What music do you prefer?

Do you have a favorite lunch? Dinner?

Why do I ask?

I avoid a personal Facebook page because I prefer not to share with the planet my “like” for my Marie Ormond doll collection or that my “favorite” television program was “Saturday Night Live with Howard Cosell”. No one on this side of the Atlantic will understand my love for Pan flute Chinese jazz. These revelations would produce a similar effect as when someone asks me to play checkers and I want to turn the board over for backgammon. People just back away very slowly.

I mention this because we all have developed many different interests, and the reasons for such may be unknown but considered very strange by others.  Truthfully haven’t we all viewed anothers' likes on a Facebook page and wondered “I really didn’t know that about you…and it creeps me out”!  In all honesty, should we really care?

One of the benefits of aging is becoming more accepting and less judgmental when it comes to just what tickles the fancy of those around us.  I may not agree with you politically, spiritually or have any interest in what keeps you awake each day but you are always welcome to sit down, open a Yuengling and tell me about it.

Just don’t ask me to be your Facebook friend.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

My life is too slow

My father-in-law spent his entire career working for a major corporation that holds many technology patents and has received numerous defense, government & industrial contracts. He was directly involved in satellite launches and when someone asks, “does it take a rocket scientist to figure this out?” we defer the question to him.   I won’t mention the name of the company but EVERYONE has heard of it.
A few years ago he commented that the wireless technology in my little home router was similar to what was once used for early space & satellite transmissions.
Think of it, we had men and women working in laboratories all across the globe communicating to the far reaches of outer space with something I can now pick up on Ebay for 5 bucks.
Transmissions received from satellites hovering oodles of miles above the nosebleed rung on my aluminum ladder sends photos and videos of weather changes while allowing Google maps to view the location of my little backyard pear tree from orbiting craft. 
Voyager is still out there (God only knows where it resides in the heliosphere) and continues to send back data about unknown origins reminding us there is a whole lot of stuff we don’t know about.

At my little 3-story townhouse I too am equipped with some of the latest gadgets that Best Buy, Amazon, Ebay and Geeks-R-Us has to offer. There are computers, tablets, Internet radios and even a Roku, probably a minimal arsenal by most household standards, but nonetheless we try to stay somewhat current.
All of this amazing science and yet Comcast cannot seem to get me a reasonable Internet connection! Why the heck not? We heard Neil Armstrong give his “one small step” speech from 225,000+ miles away and my Internet buffers while I am trying to watch cats cooking fish sticks on Youtube.
Problems with technology has beset mankind ever since Clyde, the guy who invented the wheel came under fire for his square wheel prototype.  All the other cave dwellers whined incessantly about the bumpy ride until Clyde realized a rounded piece of stone would provide a less painful experience. Wheels, fire and sharp tools were the technological order of the day.

Daily tech problems were not a serious concern during my youth.  We may have had to share a phone with what was called a “party line”.  My transistor radio required a frequent change of 9-volt batteries but late at night the airways were accessible and I could pick up a broadcast on my tiny AM radio all the way from Wheeling, West Virginia, from my bunk bed in Philly without interference. No buffering needed!
Without a rooftop antenna, television reception sometimes demanded attaching wire hangers, aluminum foil or a family member had to hold the “rabbit ears” on top of the set while the others enjoyed the program. Whenever it was television day, we were all on our best behavior so as not to be the daily troublemaker whose penalty was relegated to antenna duty. 
There were a few blessings; with only three channels we had no Kardashians or afternoon Judge shows. 
The biggest problem we faced was trying to share one bathroom with eight people living in a three-bedroom city row house.

So just why is it so difficult to get faster and more consistent Internet from thirty vertical feet away?  An even more puzzling question is “What is my hurry?”
I can think way back to the origins of the Internet when you could take the family on a vacation to Disney World while waiting to download and print a few photos and we were excited in anticipation.
Has increased net speed and “up-to-the-nanosecond CNN gotta have it first news” changed our behavior in such a way that we can’t even wait for the microwave to boil a cup of water without first causing our own patience to bubble over?
In my neighborhood there is a traffic light that tests the sanity of all who approach. Residents submit letters to the editor about it in our local paper. The borough building has set up a special “hot-line” to take the complaint calls. Police dispatch teams in riot gear to the location to send angry townsfolk with torches and pitchforks home to calm down.
I actually took a stopwatch to check out the great offender.  The light takes a whole 38 seconds to change! The nerve of our municipality to expect us to endure this hardship.
My impatience is certainly not a solo journey as I am in a huge majority; actually I observed that nowadays the “easy-does-it take-your-time crowd” is a minority so small they could demand constitutional rights. The rest of us honk horns, butt in line and run on high-octane caffeine.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Send in the Clowns

I don’t know exactly how many fears exist, I am certain that any book professing a complete listing has yet to meet everyone on the planet.

If you do a search for such a list you will probably chuckle at some, shake your head in disbelief at others and possibly have compassion on people who may be paralyzed by things you and I wouldn’t consider an issue.

I have often read that one of the top fears is public speaking, ahead of spiders, Teflon and even death.

I have my own personal nail biters but being the center of attention is not one of them, especially if fueled by a Yuengling lager.  Bring on the lampshades.

I will reveal my all time greatest fear, entering a roomful of only-women. No I do not fear women, my life overflows with them.  Wife, daughter,daughter-in-law, mother-in-law, sisters, sister-in-laws, granddaughters, nieces, friends, neighbors and coworkers you name it they are all around me and I love them all. 

The gender itself is not the issue it’s when they all get together in a room and a man enters, any man, and you can actually hear something click in their mind and it goes like this: “a man just entered a room, we are all having fun, we need to give him something to do”! 

The equation is this:  Women having fun + man enters room = man works. 

I am certain if George Clooney enters a roomful of women they all say, “Wow, he’s really hot, now give him a tool belt and send him on his way”. 

Eventually they will say that.

In the 1980’s a new term, Courlophobia, was termed to address an issue that many people had, namely the abnormal fear of clowns.  I don’t understand why it took so long to find a name for something that causes uneasiness in many people, after all clowns have been around for a long time.

When I was a kid clowns were everywhere. I do not know why it took a whole generation or two to decide that they were not good for us.  Clowns were to be loved.  They did magic tricks, pratfalls, climbed into tiny cars, had squirty flowers, they juggled, rode unicycles and had faces painted with big red smiles, almost as much color as Aunt Esther’s lipstick.

Clowns had some really bad press in the past few decades.  Serial killers were party clowns, killer clowns were the subjects of horror movies, and even Ronald McDonald was getting a bad rap for promoting happy meals that contributed to obesity in children.

My mother was a fan of the clown.  She often told me that one of her favorite comedians, Red Skelton, painted clowns.  While still in the womb my mother decided a paint-by-number clown picture would be just perfect to adorn my nursery room.

Here it is for you to see.

I never thought it was harmful, he appeared so benign and friendly but a family priest refused to enter my room without 1st sprinkling with holy water and Sandy, the family mutt, my best friend and protector, would cower and whimper next to my crib each night.

My wife convinced me to get rid of it after she swore she saw his lips moving.  I tried everything but nothing seems to destroy it. 

It is buried; face down, in a trunk in the backyard. It does keep stray cats from digging in our garden.

I am not convinced that I suffer from Courlophobia, but recently I was about to enter a local convenience store and was stopped short of entering because of this sign:

Unicycles-Yikes!  There may be clowns in here.

I didn’t bring any holy water so I left.

BTW-Here is probably the 1st McDonald's commercial featuring future weatherman Willard Scott as Ronald.

Gotta love the hat!

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Nerf Recess


This is the current, up to the second world population when I began the blog you are reading.  The count is live and actively updating as I write.

My humor is usually self-effacing.  I often find this type of humor preferable over lampooning the foibles of others. 
The following is a code of humor that I strive to strictly follow:

·        I am a moron and deserve to expose my idiocy to the world.

·        There are 7,185,258,719 others on the planet who are just as dumb.

·        If anyone does not realize they are equally as goofy, especially those in authority, or members of the Royal class, it will become my duty to inform them.

I normally do not like to comment on political correctness gone amok, especially while the latest blurb is the hot news item of the moment, but the nanny state police at the Weber Middle School in Port Washington, Long Island New York truly deserve an award for the most dumb*** decision of the year, possibly beating out any made by the King of Nonsensical, the nanny of New York City, the almost ex-mayor Bloomberg. That is a feat very hard to topple but they may have accomplished the task.

For those among us who do not follow the CNN news of the nano-second, the aforementioned school administration has decided to ban all but Nerf balls from the campus recess.

The web was all goosebumpy about the news. Political pundits could not lampoon the school administration enough.  Parents of little children panicked wondering if this ban may cause a tsunami of new rules causing their little ones to become less active and more obese.

Lets face it; having a catch with a Nerf ball necessitates standing 4 inches apart.  For crying out loud you can just hand the thing to one another.  How fun is that?

People were calling the radio stations, Tweeting, Blogging, and E-mailing Congress.

Well gang, it appears the ban is only temporary.  There is construction underway at the campus and there are safety and damage concerns.  The ban will be lifted when construction is completed.
But what about the children, what will they do?

We are talking middle school age kids here, 12 to 14 year olds, the “age of know-it-all brilliance” for youth and Purgatory for teachers until they can get a better assignment or win a lottery and escape the torture.

I was once a middle school kid at St. Attica’s, and so were my friends.  I still recall those glory days and our own bad behavior.

Sorry Weber Middle School in Port Washington, Long Island New York. You did not qualify to overtake the mayor of New York for the most dumb*** decision of the year. 
Old Bloomy reigns supreme.

And your building is secure, for now.

While I blogged 11,437 new morons joined the planet.

Welcome aboard!

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Hamburgers for Cyborgs

Batman, the Caped Crusader, the Dark Knight, yes I am a fan!

The fascination began in early childhood.  Friends read Superman, Daredevil, Spider-man but not me, I was always loyal to the Bat.

It was not just that Bruce Wayne was a disturbed wealthy vigilante fighting crime without any real superpowers; it was all those gadgets and machines he owned. These really reach deep into the psyche of all guys.  We love toys and never grow out of it.  Women don’t always understand this, but it is really true. Sorry ladies, you will need to love us in spite of this flaw. We will always be just older versions of our younger selves.

Our adult playthings may develop into tools, cars, airplanes and various collections or hobbies.

When I was a kid I recall going bowling with my father and as we were leaving he gave me money to make my own dinosaur in a machine called a Mold-A-Rama. For a small fee I could select and produce a chosen creature and watch as it was being created in an injection molding vending machine. (See link)

A few years’ ago I watched a video about an upcoming technology, the 3D Printer. I am hooked but it is out of my financial reach.  Just today, while awaiting an eye appointment, I was interested in a Readers Digest article about the possible future applications of 3D printing. Yes making plastic parts and toys made sense, clothing and medical limbs were a little unusual, but creating food seemed too futuristic.  Printed edibles may make sense on the day we become cyborgs.

In the early days of the cell phone, I had a sister who made a call from my driveway announcing her arrival.  The technology was the size of a human thighbone with a battery pack as big as a steamer trunk.  The 15-second phone call probably cost about 11 bucks but it was new and attention getting.

I can only imagine that the current price of a 3D burger would run around $400.

I’ll wait till I am a cyborg.

Here is a video on 3D technology.  Go max out a credit card.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

The Fisherman's Tale

The Fisherman’s Tale. (Author Unknown)
There was a businessman who stood at the pier of a small coastal village in Mexico. A fisherman docked his small boat, where he had several yellow fin tuna. The businessman complimented him on the quality of his catch. “How long did it take you to catch them?” he asked. “Only a little while,” the fisherman replied.
“Why don’t you stay out longer and catch more fish?” the businessman asked. The fisherman said, “Well, I’ve caught enough to support my family’s needs for today.”
“So what do you do with the rest of your time?” asked the businessman, slightly incredulous. The fisherman said, “Hmm… I sleep in, fish a little, play with my children, take a siesta with my wife, and then in the evening, we stroll into the village to sip wine, play guitar, and spend time with our amigos.”
The savvy businessman scoffed. “I have an MBA, so let me help you. If you spent more time fishing, you could buy a bigger boat. With the proceeds from the bigger boat, you could buy several boats, and eventually you’d have a fleet. And then, instead of selling to a middleman, you could sell directly to a processor and eventually open your own cannery and brand. You’d then control the product, so you’d need to leave this little village and move to Mexico City, then on to Los Angeles, then eventually New York City, where you’d run your enterprise.”
The fisherman quietly listened for a bit, paused, and then asked, “How long will all this take?” “Fifteen to twenty years,” replied the businessman. “Starting and growing a business takes time and dedication.”
“Then what?” the fisherman asked. “Then you’d retire,” answered the businessman. “You could sleep in, fish a little, play with your grandchildren, take siestas with your wife, and in the evenings stroll into the village to sip wine, play guitar, and spend time with your amigos.”
“But aren’t I doing that already?” replied the fisherman.

Three Sales Stories

A farmer walks into a car dealership.  He is wearing dirty coveralls, his hands and face could use a washcloth and soap, his appearance shouts that he just recently hopped off his tractor and strolled on in just before closing time.

“It’s your turn Les” said the older, more seasoned salesmen sitting around the desk and taunting the young rookie, snickering as he approached the old man. .  After all, their experience and wisdom gave them the skills to size up and qualify any walk-in, and Les being the new guy had to experience his own disappointments if he were to one day become a top salesman.  They could read a walk-in by appearance alone, and knew the poor old farmer had no money.

I make it a point to always buy from the same salesman/saleswoman if they have been helpful and courteous.  After all, I have worked as a salesman and know firsthand the importance of establishing a bond with the customer.   I had developed a relationship with a salesman at Radio Shack, a store where I frequented often.  My first visit was usually to browse and then I followed up a few days later with a purchase, usually from Tim, the top salesman.  Tim knew my history, and I was always certain to make my purchase on the days he worked so he could benefit from the commission.

Over the years I have purchased at least 5 computers from Best Buy as well as Audio equipment, Tablets and numerous other items.  The sales staff changes frequently so I usually give my business to any staff member who approaches me for assistance. I never see the same face.

Twenty years passed and I began a one-year journey as a car salesman.  Les, now the seasoned professional took me under his wing and imparted his experience onto me.  He taught me a very valuable lesson on prejudging a potential customer.  It appears that the old farmer who strolled into the showroom long ago was not only ready to purchase a new vehicle; he was buying two, for cash!  Later that week the farmer was so pleased with his purchase, and the help he received from the young salesman, he referred a few other members of his family and some friends.  By the time I met Les, decades later, he was perpetually busy, customers constantly calling, visiting, purchasing and referring their friends and neighbors.  Les was now actually selling cars and trucks to the grandchildren of his original customers. He learned very early never to prejudge, show kindness and consideration to all, and be mindful that those who came by to “just look” would often return later to buy. He was also friendly to the customers of the other salesman. Les outlasted all the others; eventually their customers becoming his.  He was quite successful and a pleasure to know.

I had cash in my pocket and returned to Radio Shack ready to purchase the expensive organizer I had my eye on earlier in the week.  I waited patiently while Tim assisted other customers, not in any real hurry as I had time and wanted Tim to be able to make as much commission as he could that evening.  While gazing at my future purchase beneath the glass counter I overheard one of Tim’s customers offer to wait while he could assist me because they were still uncertain of their readiness to buy.  Tim told the couple he would continue on with them because I was “just a looker, never a buyer”.

At that point I left the store, angry and humiliated as I drove miles away and plopped down my payment for the exact item giving another salesman a nice commission.  I never purchased from Tim again.  He eventually left the business.

I am not the most tech savvy person, but I am eons ahead of most people my age.   No I am not a 20-40 something but I can talk shop with most of the Best Buy staff, and if I don’t quite understand something I quickly catch-on.  I am like  that old farmer, a much younger store staff sizing me up on entrance, usually preferring to deal with customers their own age, and possibly thinking they would have to explain too many things to me.  The lucky sales person who will eventually approach me makes a commission that very day. I am always ready to buy.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

I tip for service

Pizza is a health food. If you disagree you are wrong.  Issue settled.

I have 2 favorite pizzerias, one at each end of our town.  I know great pizza when I eat it, my bathroom scale will confirm this, but I have curtailed my consumption limiting myself to infrequent celebrations, such as full moons, a new Geiko commercial, getting out of bed etc.

Recently I had to visit both locations and was shocked to see something missing, a “tip jar”.  I know these exist in pizzerias, I watched Seinfeld, and I was shocked and quite frankly pleased to see the missing non-humanoid handout.  If I sat down and ordered a meal I would surely have shown my appreciation.

I am aware of the need to tip for good service.  The newspaper delivery guy and the mailman both receive a Christmas tip.  The AAA mechanic who changes my tire or tows my car is appreciated and so are delivery and service people. 

I am always more than generous with wait staff and others who bring food to my table and I never complain or send food back.  I like my meal without “additives”.

I do, however, consider it offensive to ask for a tip when all you do is grab a doughnut off the rack and expect additional consideration for just handing me something very quickly in between your Tweeting and Instagrams.

How much should I tip the Dunkin Donut Clerks for 5 ½ seconds of donut wrangling?

At least if you want a tip, hold your hand out proudly. Do you really expect a monetary reward for handing me a frozen Buster Bar?  Just by taping your cheesy plastic cup beneath the drive thru window does not warrant notice. I would expect you to do some kind of fast food Trick-or-Treat”; sing something or recite a poem.

I have considered making my own tip jar to hang around my neck and to expect a little “sweetener” for just doing my job.

 I could just sit in my little cubicle and wait for Joe Carter, my boss, to bellow out “Gerard, where’s the Johnson Report”.  I could just shake the coffee can and point with an attitude that says “you’ll get the report when I see some loose change”.

Of course it takes a lot of chutzpah to request funds for services not rendered, or at best using minimal effort.

What will happen when the Cyborgs finally take over the future?  Will they too require some palm greasing?

Maybe we should begin today to practice tipping inanimate objects in order to embrace future events.

Let's begin by hanging cups from the refrigerator ice-maker, self-service gas pumps, maybe even the bank's ATM machine. 

Look out for the future tip line on the Amazon order review page.


Wednesday, September 11, 2013

911 Remember

                     Rebuild Underway


Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Grandgirl starts school today

My eldest granddaughter just started 1st grade today.  Unlike her Poppy (my pet name) she has been ready for full time school for the last 6 years.  My belief is that most children today have far surpassed our generation in general intelligence and reading ability by the time they begin school.

Maybe I should just speak for myself. 

In my granddaughters case her parents (especially her mother) worked closely to teach her skills that I know I never had at this age.  We saw photos of her widely smiling and enthusiastically waiting for the bus to arrive.  We spoke with her this evening and she was so excited about her class, her teacher and school in general.

On my first day of school I ran away. 

I went to a Catholic elementary school (St. Attica’s) and there were 8 grades.  My mother hired a neighbor girl, Suzanne, who was in the 8th grade, to walk with me.  I was instructed to hold her hand. I was no baby and this was never part of my agenda so I broke away, ran fast and somehow found myself following other kids who I assumed were going to the same school.

At day’s end we were all assigned to a line that would have us walking in formation to our individual neighborhoods.  I knew Suzanne would be waiting so I jumped into the wrong group and ended up in very unfamiliar territory.

Suzanne, in tears, sat at my house with my mother until I somehow returned safely.  I had not seen her so upset since the time she was babysitting and my brother (Johnny Fangs) chased her around the house trying to bite her.

That first day had other traumas especially the dungeon-like classroom, the cold and dampness of an English castle and my first grade teacher Sister Chewbacca.
I am truly pleased that my grandgirls are being made ready for their journey through education.  Hopefully they won’t follow in the footsteps of their Poppy who, when invited anywhere, always checks between sofa cushions, car seats and glove boxes for loose change.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

The Granny Parakeet

It finally happened this past Sunday. We were about to embark on a shopping trip and there it surfaced on our television just as we were about to leave.

Many years' ago we lived in an apartment and the landlord was adamant about just what pets were permitted.  Dogs were verboten, indoor cats with extreme reservation and smaller creatures were OK as long as they were not poisonous and could not slink out of their enclosure.

Our kids were curious about critters and they too wanted something to "boss-around" so we had made every effort to bring nature out of it's environment and into our living fun house. 

We had cats that survived many years, as well as fish, turtles, mice, lizards etc. all "apartment size" and needing care.   

We did purchase one creature that never made the grade, Tonto, our beloved parakeet.  The kid at the pet store, Lenny the bird expert, was introduced to us by the store owner.  In retrospect, that owner knew just what he was doing as Lenny had all the up-sell skills and sales pitches as good as they get at any appliance store or car dealership.  By the time we left Bird World of Pennsylvania we lugged around enough bags making us appear as if we were on a safari.

Tonto had to have not only bird food, he needed a large cage, water feeders, mirrors, toys, some scratchy thing to sharpen his beak (I learned the hard way that I should have left THAT piece in the store), perches and a plastic female "parakeet-love interest" to perch alongside him. 

We believed it was so Disney-like. Here we were and all these critters could live in harmony, lions laying down with the lambs, all was right with the world everything peaceful and loving.

It turns out it was certainly cartoon like but not Disney, more in the order of Warner Brothers-Looney Toons.  It was Sylvester and Tweety Bird playing out right before our eyes. Cat chasing bird, bird striking cat with a frying pan, cat putting bird in mouth, bird lighting candle causing cat to spit out bird, feathers and fur flying all over the place.

Something went very-very bad, and needed correction.  Last in-first out so Tonto went packing and found a good home.

Our nest is empty and we are free to roam without having to care for neither youth nor pet.  Grandgirls visit along with their stuffed animals, but all that remains at the end of the day are the two of us and some dead plants.

So what happened this past Sunday?  My wife saw and ad on TV that turned her into my grandmother.

I take after my grandmother and buy anything I know my grand-girls will like.  There is no need to spend hundreds of dollars when the girls will get a kick out of the singing wall fish, bubbles, a perpetual drinking bird, dominoes or some other cheap cheesy little dollar store toy.  

I recall my grandmother buying a cheap-o toy from a magazine ad.  It offered 100 dolls for $1.00.  Since she had about a zillion grandchildren, and usually a few were always hanging around, she knew that some of the girls would surely like the dolls.  I don't think she expected what she was going to get but her granddaughters happily played with them.

My wife, on the other hand, is very careful in her toy choices.  Each selection must meet strict standards for playability, design, color, engineering and the soccer mom seal of approval.  Her purchase usually involves "easy payment terms" and much assembly required.

Well there it was on the television and she just knew my cheesy antenna was now focused on the latest gotta get for the grand girls. To my shock and amazement she agreed with my selection and was racing me to dial the 800 number.

"Perfect Polly", the parakeet, is touted as the World's Perfect Pet" (that's a mouthful).  Polly is life size and very realistic, sits either on a perch or your finger and moves both her head and tail while chirping.  Just 2 AAA batteries, no food, cage or anvils to drop on the head of a stalking putty tat.

I cannot believed we finally agreed on a purchase.  I just hope the girls like it.  If not, I'll seek out Tonto and see if he could use another "love interest".

I dare you to view this commercial without laughing. Yes, it is unbelievable, really stupid and I bought a green one.

Continues below

Polly and the Pirate

(Now it is Thursday August 15, 2013)

A two-legged Pirate walks into a bar and he’s got a one-legged mechanical Parakeet on his shoulder.
The bird has a golf tee replacing the missing appendage.

The bartender says to the Pirate “Hey Buddy, what’s the deal with the one-legged Parakeet”?

The Pirate replies “ARRRRRRRRR I bought her at a cheap “As-Seen-On-TV” display at a major department store.”

He continued “I took her out of the box, installed her batteries, put her on her perch.  The perch is defective and she fell and her right plastic talon came off where it was glued”.

The bartender said, “ What kind of a funny punch line was that”?

The Pirate replied, “ARRRRRRRRR it’s not funny, I am out 15 bucks!

The Epilogue

Polly, The Pirate and the Store Clerk

A Pirate walks into the return department of a major department store. 
He has a boxed one-legged mechanical Parakeet sporting a golf tee for the missing appendage.

Billy, the Return Department clerk, inspects the package and looks perplexed because something appears different but he cannot seem to put his finger on it.

Suddenly he has a "Eureka" moment and turns to the Pirate and asks "do you know the bird still has the batteries inside her chest"?

The Pirate replies "leave 'em there.  Just give me my 15 bucks and I'll be gone".

Billy refunds the purchase and wishes the Pirate a nice day.

The Pirate says "ARRRRRRRRRRR" and shoves off.