Saturday, February 25, 2017


So I'm making my way back to seat 16A a bit earlier today... obliquely sidestepping as I went..... trying not to bump the disinterested isle sitting "sooners" who were already seated and uncomfortably buckled into their seats, and this whole fairness thing came crashing down on my head like a carry on from an overhead bin that has shifted during in-flight turbulence.

It isn't FAIR that I have to A) Wait until everyone else is on the airplane to board; B) Wade through a sea of humanity, stopping to wait as half of them try to fit bags that they know are oversized into the tiny overhead bins, trying to be careful not to bump the "sooners" who are obviously making a conscious effort not to look me in the eye as I pass (just like high school all over again); and C) Wait until EVERYONE else is off the plane and the forgetful sooner teens have come against the flow of traffic to retrieve their forgotten copies of Tiger Beat.... until I can get off. I'm perfectly willing to pull my share of the load here, but I shouldn't have to suffer ALL of the indignity when there are so many there to go around.

How much more efficient and less stressful would it be to board the seats farthest from the front cabin door first, and then, of course, deplane those seats closest to the door first? The current method is like trying to fill a glass of water from the brim to the bottom.

And where are all the former nun flight attendants who should keep people in their seats until the people in front of them have gathered their things and are on their way up the aisle? Where are all the bossy big sisters? This business of everyone leaping to their feet as soon as the plane stops as if their haste will make the slightest difference in the amount of time it takes for them to get off the plane is simply madness, and must be stopped.

Ultimately the responsibility for this nonsense can be laid directly at the feet of those with money to pay for the more expensive seats in the front and the airlines themselves. After all, there has to be some perk to give worth to the extra cost. And how much perkier can you get than getting to "go first". Good Lord, what is this? Kindergarten? Does it matter that it takes longer and makes EVERYONE more uncomfortable? Apparently not, but it makes us "feel" better when we get to be first. It's a bit like the capital gains tax: It makes us feel good to sock it to the rich even if it means we actually get less money from the tax. It's the fairness that counts........ or raising the minimum wage: It makes us feel good that we're doing something for the poor even though the result will be that fewer poor people will actually have ANY job..... let alone one at the newer, fairer, wage.

But other than that it was a GREAT flight...... except when I realized..... somewhere high over Oklahoma that I should have taken a moment for myself back in Houston. It makes me suspect that sardines are actually packaged live and it's the trip all smooshed up in that tiny can that kills them.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

An Old Soul


THIS JUST IN: A California citizen who identifies as a biological male has petitioned the California State Department of Vital Statistics and has been granted the right to change his date of birth as it appears on his birth certificate.

Jake Donner (not his real name) was physically born on February 2, 1982 relates to the Gnu News that for as long as he can remember his parents, all their friends , all of his extended family, all of his acquaintances, and all of his psychological counselors over the years have always commented that he “has an old soul”.

He poignantly recalled several experiences that he has had over the last few years that draw his situation into sharp focus. He constantly misplaces his keys; he can no longer remember his bank PIN from day to day; he is constantly fatigued; his joints cause him enough paint that he is required to take over the counter analgesics; he rarely sleeps clear through the night; he has difficulty maintain a steady urine stream; his hearing is diminished; he experiences special orientation issues that make it dangerous for him to climb ladders and steps; he is becoming increasingly crabby during discussions of current events; his relatives are starting to avoid him, and he is unable to maintain an erection.

And so ninety days after the application for change is received in Sacramento he will receive in the mail a certified copy of his new birth record, Social Security card, California driver’s license, and voter registration card listing his official date of birth as February 2, 1942. He will then be eligible to apply for Social Security benefits and the Senior Citizen discount at the Golden Corral.

Asked if there was anything he’d like to say to Gnu News readers he hesitated for a moment and then said slowly and with a voice made raspy by a half century of tobacco use: “Don’t judge me until you’ve lived a few decades in my shoes”.

But that's just what an average guy thinks

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

The Ministry Of Health

He woke to the sound of heels striking the floor in lockstep approaching down the corridor. He had been taken into custody……. before. He had no recollection of how long it had been. An hour, a day, he had no idea. He wore the only clue he had on his face. It had been days. Why he had been arrested was a total mystery. What had he done? What had he said? What had he thought of saying? He had no idea. The sound of the approaching men in the corridor stopped directly outside of the heavy door. A long silent moment passed and then door opened suddenly and he reflexively flinched when it noisily slammed against its stops. The two black clad officers entered the room, grabbed him by either arm, jerked him to his feet and drug him into the corridor before he could find his feet and then away.

He was led to a large open room filled with other citizens. Men, women and teenagers, all standing, feet together, on spots painted on the floor, facing what must have been the front. He thought that it looked like it could be a gymnasium and that this could be some sort of exercise class except for the terrified expression on every face. He was lead to an empty spot. He seemed to know instinctively what was expected and he faced forward with his feet together without having to be told.

It was only then that he noticed. All of the people were swaying in unison, left to right and at the limit of their motion saying tick…… tock….. tick, tock…. tick tock. He thought to himself that this was rather odd and quite outside of his experience but that it really shouldn’t be too hard to do if that was what was required. And so he bent to the right and silently muttered “tick”. But when he returned to the upright position and tried to bend to his left he found that he could not. He thought it must have been some stiffness from his time lying on the floor that would pass and so when it was time, he again bent to the right and said, with more confidence this time, “tick”. But again he was unable to bend to the left. He wanted to bend to the left. He wanted to be like the others and was terrified at the prospect of drawing attention to himself. He wanted for the room to be uniform. But whenever it came to bending to the left he just physically couldn’t force his body to do it. It was like the dream he had often had as a child where there were unseen monsters chasing him but he couldn’t force his legs to move. The most he could do was to bend to the right and say “tick”.

And then what he had feared became real. It started with some unseen commotion in the back of the room, but soon enough there were three men standing in front of him. Two burly officers dressed in black, just as the men that had brought him here and a third, smaller man. He wore a black leather top coat over his black uniform and spectacles with wire frames. From his demeanor and his clothing it was clear that he was in a position of some authority and accustomed to having his way.

After an awkward time the smaller man spoke. “So” he said with more menace than you might imagine would fit into one syllable, “what seems to be the problem here?”. He could think of nothing but an apology. “I’m sorry” he said, "I just can't make myself do it". “I’m not sure what you mean”, the small man said very earnestly. “You must bend to the left”. He replied “I’m sorry. I’ve tried. I’m trying still…. I just can’t”. “It’s not that I don’t want to. I do. I just can’t make myself do it”. “I don’t mean to be a problem. I just can’t do it”.

It was at this point that the little man said something that sent chills down his spine. Pushing his glasses up on his nose and leaning close to the point where their faces were only inches apart and his foul breath caused him to take his own in short bits, he said ……. “Don’t concern yourself” “Vee haf vays of makink you tock”.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Evil and Greedy

So I found myself in a discussion the other day about how companies don’t have any loyalty to their employees any longer and how they would simply toss them out if they found it necessary. I, of course, countered. What I mentioned was that as far in the mist shrouded past as thirty years ago I sat in on a college course where students were coached to prepare an “immediate plan”, a “five year plan”, a “ten year plan”, and an ultimate goal for their careers. In those five and ten year plan, there was a lot of job hopping from company to company built in. Almost as if employees had no loyalty for their employers the way they used to. This met with the “chicken and the egg” defense, which I think is at least somewhat valid, and an admission that market conditions were much more stable in the past, and of course this is undeniable, but the kettle of “greedy, non-caring bastards” broth still simmers.

Mentioned as well, as it often is, was the fact that people can no longer get out of school and go to work for a company for forty years at the same location and then retire. Of course this isn’t universally true, but widely. It occurred to me that people say they would like that, but they really wouldn’t. They don’t want to live in the same tiny house that they could barely afford the down payment to buy for forty years. The one with no off street parking and no basement. They don’t want to go to work and have to wait for the people that were already there to die or retire so that they can get a promotion, more responsibility, more authority, and more pay. We don’t want to wait any more. We want it NOW. It’s why we have credit cards and mountains of consumer debt.

Also mentioned, tangentially, in our discussion was the “global” economy and of course that’s had some effect. The American steel and auto industries were overtaken and sometimes absorbed by foreign competition, but why was that. Was it only the Snidely Whiplash of the American middle class worker “Cheap Labor”? Or did high corporate taxes, union work rules, and environmental and corporate regulation have roles to play as well? Of course you need to be a Wall Street banker or a well-connected Congressman to know the ins and outs of the whole story but allow me to think that poor old Snidely carries the burden for a LOT of unseen and unsuspected economic villains.

But the discussion got me to thinking about how unfair it is to tar CEOs with the “Evil, Greedy” moniker. Take a mass layoff as an example. Say company XYZ Inc. is to lay off some of its twenty thousand employees, and two thousand people will lose their jobs… on Christmas Eve….. in the worst snow storm in recorded history. It would be ordered by the CEO. Now why would he or she do a thing like that? Well, it was because they looked at the profit and loss sheets and understood what they said. Market share had dropped, productivity was down, raw material costs were up, energy, physical plant, regulations, taxes, the new union collective bargaining agreement or a combination of all of those things plus they didn’t get any sex last night on their birthday and they’re understandably cranky. And so they lay off two thousand people.

This is a tragic thing. I’ve had two different startups fall out, and the rug yanked out from under me a couple of times and it’s no fun. It can, quite literally, turn your life upside down. But what was the alternative? What was the other choice the CEO could have made that would have been better? The company’s numbers aren’t secret. Everybody knows when a company starts to lose market share and they need to make a correction. If they fail to make that correction then the stock price will start to drop. People will start to look for other places to invest their savings or 401k contributions. This means less capital for new machines and raises. This means lower production and a further erosion of the stock price. There’s no stopping the spiral. It’s like the inevitable collapse of a breached damn or levee. One thing will lead to another until the CEO is replaced by the “Evil Greedy” board of directors that hired them. And of course they were elected by the major stock holders. So the “Evil Greedy” chain stretches all the way back to middle class man on the street who happens to own some XYZ Inc. stock. And finally if someone doesn’t become sufficiently ruthless to fire those two thousand workers, eventually, the enterprise will be driven out of business and all twenty thousand people who work for XYZ Inc. will be laid off and the facilities will close their doors.

How much more compassionate is that than laying off the original two thousand?

But that’s just what an average guy thinks.