Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Remember loyalty cards?

You remember them, surely?  If you used them at the Acme, you could get 10 cents off of a can of beans.  At the Regal Theater, you got free popcorn.  It was effortless, if not brainless.  You didn't even have to bring the card with you; they could look up your phone number.

Well, those days are over.  Loyalty cards now represent an educational opportunity.  You have to use your brain--never an attractive option for me.  Now you have to go to the website of the loyalty card--let's say it's Plenti--log on, get yourself a username and a password, and then--but I never got that far, so I never got anything out of my Plenti card.

I haven't given up hope.  So today, I used my Plenti card at the gas station, and what do you know, the brain inside the pump asked me if I wanted to use the $12 I had on my Plenti card.  Did I ever?  I pressed yes, and proceeded to pump gas into the car.  However, the receipt said I couldn't use the Plenti points to buy gas.  But I got 8 more Plenti points.

Whole Foods also has a Rewards card.  Yesterday the cashier at my local Whole Foods advised me to just spend an hour familiarizing myself with the card, but that's an hour I will never get back.  Furthermore, I don't want to give Whole Foods my e-mail address and get lots of spam messages from the company offering me free range chickens.  I don't want to sign up.  I don't want an app on my iPhone.  I want 10 cents off a can of beans or free popcorn without making a gigantic mental effort.  Is that too much to ask?

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

To hell in a handbasket

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere   
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst   
Are full of passionate intensity.

These passages  by William Butler  Yeats could be  read at the beginning of every newscast, followed by the words, "Details at eleven," and they would describe the world situation perfectly.  We could then have a speech by Obama, explaining that this was the desired effect of his wise policies, and everything was going as planned.

On the treadmill

Every day when the weather is not good I walk on the treadmill at the gym.  The treadmill has television, I plug in my headset, and I am good for a mind-numbing session of the Food Network.  Or sometimes I watch the news on occasions when Obama is not speaking.

Yesterday, all the television sets were set on one channel, a sports channel, which was having special coverage on a basketball scandal taking place at the University of Louisville.  It featured a woman who procured women for prospective basketball players.  Among the prostitutes she recruited were three of her young daughters.  She had four daughters, but the youngest was left at home, perhaps to watch the cat or maybe do her homework.

Apparently life at the U of Louisville was just one round of orgies, with drugs, alcohol, sex and more sex, all paid for by the coach.  Occasionally the student athletes had to interrupt the party scene for basketball games or practice.  Writing term papers or studying for tests were activities not prominently featured in their schedules.  Student athletes could graduate from the University after a decent interval as ignorant as the day they started their university careers, or maybe more so,  having had their brains fried by alcohol or drugs.

I hate to be the neighborhood scold (or maybe not), but what does this stuff have to do with education?  Why doesn't the university of Louisville just hire themselves a  basketball team, pay them decent salaries, and pocket the profits, if any.  In this way, they could avoid the fiction that they were in the education business.  Nothing wrong with that; the New York Yankees do not award degrees.  They don't have to hire United States Senators and other worthies to give inspirational speeches at commencement.  In other words, they are honestly paid to provide a service which people are willing to pay for. The University of Louisville, on the other hand, is a whore.

Tuesday, October 06, 2015

I'm still here, and pissed!

I spent 20 days in rehab, getting infused every 6 hours with antibiotics.  They stuck a tube up my arm so they wouldn't have to open a new vein every time I got an infusion.  That would have been inconvenient.

Every few hours they pricked my finger to test my blood sugar, which was all over the place because I was sick, for God's sake.  After a while, I told them to knock it off.  My blood sugar was not what I was there for, and I didn't want any more finger sticks.  So they sent a nurse over to inform me that if I developed diabetes Medicare would not pay for insulin.  I managed to bear this news with equanimity.

While I was lying there in my bed of discomfort, I managed to read all the literature the hospital had given me.  It turns out that the hospital treats everybody over a certain age as a fall risk.  This means they put a Whoopie cushion in your bed, under your body, so every time you get up an alarm goes off.  You are supposed to ring for the nurse, who then might come and assist you out of bed.When she gets around to it.  Yes, the Wilmington Hospital treats every older adult admitted for anything like a toddler.  You could be a circus acrobat suffering from a sinus infection and still be humiliated this way.  It's not unpleasant enough to be in the hospital, so they make it worse, for their own convenience.

I think this procedure was invented by lawyers to prevent the hospital from being sued. 

I am angry enough about the lack of cleanliness.  Hand sanitizers and hazmat suits have taken the place of soap and water.  The rooms and bathrooms are never cleaned, nor are the patients washed.  I was in there for 5 days, and I must admit I reeked.  But the hazmat suits protected the staff, and the hell with the patients and visitors.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Florence Nightingale, call your office

I am not dead, contrary to rumor, not even close.

My life, or my health, was saved by doctors and nurses of various local institutions, and I am grateful to them.

However, gratitude is the most short-lived emotion, so I am ready to bitch and moan about cleanliness, or the lack thereof.  I was in the infectious disease ward.  Everyone who came in had to put on a garment like a hazmat suit, even if they only brought a pill or a blanket. But the floor was not cleaned once in four days.  There was something--I won't specify what-- on the floor in the bathroom, which had also not been cleaned.  For a moment I flirted with the possibility of cleaning it up myself, but sanity prevailed, so I told the nurse about it.  She immediately told someone, and a maintenance person was sent up.

The maintenance person said nothing, but every atom of her being bristled with the injustice of the thing.  Her body was eloquent with disapproval.  However, she did clean the floor.

Then I was transferred to a nursing home, where the same standard of cleanliness, or lack thereof, was apparent.  Someone came in with a broom and dustpan to remove whatever had spilled on the floor, if it was the size of a kernel of corn or larger.  The toilet overflowed twice, and someone wiped up the water on the floor, but no soap was applied.

Sanitation is something that interests me, for personal reasons.  My father died because an infected pacemaker was implanted in his body and he could not fight off the infection. So I consider the mop, the broom, and the vacuum cleaner vital to taking care of sick people.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Business as usual

A teacher in New Jersey  is reinstated after being tardy 110 times.  Yawn.  Tell me something new.

As library director,I once fired a young man for being insolent.  He had dropped in at various Board members' homes on Easter Sunday to discuss his grievances.  One of the Board members insisted he be fired.  In any private enterprise in New Jersey, an employee can be fired at any time, for any cause.  I know this because I looked it up.  I knew there would be repercussions, even as I drafted the letter relieving him of his responsibilities.

Our library did not have a union at that time, but we had Civil Service, which is just as good at assuring any public employee that he had a cast-iron right to his job.  And so it turned out.  The employee threatened to sue.  The municipality settled the case in his favor, giving him everything he had been asking for.  They even paid for his lawyer.

There is a procedure for firing an employee who is a civil servant.  It involved keeping a log of the person's misdeeds, oral counseling (in Civil Service lingo, that means talking to him).  After that comes written counselling, (writing the person a letter).  There was plenty more that had to be done before saying sayonara, but I will spare you the details.  Just thinking about it makes me tired.

The amount of work needed  to get rid of an employee was phenomenal and took up most of the supervisor's time for weeks.  I also learned that I needed another employee in the room when I did all this counseling, etc, or it would be a case of he said/she said.

Nevertheless I did get rid of two good-for-nothing lazy employees.  I did this by writing them endless letters and having sessions of criticism with both of them (separately) in my office, with a witness.  I kept track of them like God does when he keeps an eye on a sparrow, only God does not have to issue written reports and memos and have limitless discussions.  Nor does God have to have a witness present.

Meanwhile, the supervisor (me) and the witness (someone else) cannot perform any other of our duties because of the time suck involved in showing an employee the door.

How I envy Donald Trump!

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

20th century memories: playing bridge

Mr Charm and I were pals with another couple; we used to visit each others' houses for dinner and bridge.  After a few inter-couple flare-ups, we settled on a method of keeping the peace while playing: the boys played against the girls.

Mr Charm was an outrageous bridge player; he bid high, wide and handsome, just because he felt like it.  The cards he had been dealt had little to do with it.  His partner was cautious; eons passed, or seemed to pass, before he placed a bid or made a move.  But the worst part of this whole thing was that the men seemed to have all the luck, and wiped the floor with us women almost every time.

Despite flouting all the rules accepted  by right-thinking bridge experts and bidding because he just had a feeling he could make six spades, he won most of the time.  His playing was erratic; they should not have won, but they did.  Then the men, not being good sports, would gloat and taunt us women.

Fortunately for the two marriages, we were drinking hard liquor--it was the 20th century, remember? and we were all pretty well oiled at the time., so no grudges were held and we remained friends.

The curse of great possessions

Great possessions were never a worry to me, because I never had any.  I drove an old beater, and you could give it a going over with a baseball bat and I wouldn't mind, or even notice maybe.  Now I have a new car and live in fear that someone will put a dent in my little darling.  It's a year old now, and I am starting to calm down.

So now I have this dishwasher.  It's a Bosch, and so complicated that the repairman had to come twice to counsel me on how to use it.  It's undoubtedly the best dishwasher I've ever had in my life, but hard to work with.  For instance, if you press really hard on the "Start" button, it will shut itself off.  It has other tricks, but I won't go into them, except to speculate that the Germans might still harbor a grudge for us because we won World War II.

But it has a dent in the front panel which displeases me mightily because I bought it at retail, not as a "scratch or dent" model or without a box or the last one in the store.  So I called the store, and talked to someone who understood I had a problem but wasn't the person to deal with it.  The person to talk to was the salesman, Al, but he was on vacation.

I called back a few days later and spoke to Al, who said he had to order the part, but the person who took care of such orders was on vacation.  I called back, and the manager, all fresh and rested from his vacation. said he would order the part and would call me when it came in.  Great!  We are making progress here!

Later still, I called again, and was told the part was in but the guy who did the installation was on vacation.

I was getting steamed.  Not only did the new dishwasher require constant consultation with the very cryptic and arcane manual, but I had to look at the dented panel every time I went in the kitchen.  How to get their attention?  So I called Visa and told them not to pay for the dishwasher.  They sent me a form, which I filled out, and then there was a hiatus during which the entire staff of Visa was busy with other things or maybe taking a vacation or possibly had been rubbed out by someone pumping  Sarin gas into the HVAC of their establishment.

If they had been disabled by Sarin gas, apparently they were over the effects, as they called me back and said they were looking into the matter.  The young man on the phone told me he had tried to call the appliance store but the person who handled such matters was, you guessed it, on vacation.

Today I received my Visa bill, and they had credited me with the cost of the dishwasher.  So now I have a free dishwasher with a dent in it that washes the dishes just great if you handle it with the proper respect.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Too proud to go on welfare

It's hard to believe, but there was once a time when people refused to take charity, public or private. Despite Mitt Romney's belief that 47 percent of Americans are on the public tit, there once were people like that, too proud to go on welfare.

My mother-in-law was one of them.  She was a proofreader, working in the printing trade, but she was not allowed to join the union, which at the time did not accept women.  So when the Depression hit, she lost her job, and was unable to get another.  She was a single mother of three children at the time and the sole support of her widowed mother.  She scrubbed floors.  She took in laundry.  But she would not go on welfare, then known in New York City as "home relief."

Don't think the family did not suffer.  My husband, who was born in 1931, was the baby.  Too young to understand what was going on,  he cried because he was hungry.  His older brother stole bread in the early morning hours, when bakeries delivered bread and pastries to retail stores.  When he could get any.

Eventually, she married a man who had several children of his own.  Her family was fed, but the marriage was a disaster.  I don't know the details of either the marriage or the split-up; but eventually the marriage ended.  She was supporting  herself, her mother, and her youngest child by freelance proofreading.  The older two grew up and married and moved away.  She died of a heart attack at 54.

I by no means support her views; if my kids had ever missed  a meal I would have been first in line at  welfare headquarters at the opening of business.  But I admire her integrity and the steadfastness with which she lived her beliefs.