17 September 2008

A matter of decency

We had a horrific train wreck here last week and today the 911 calls were released. For some reason, 911 calls are considered a public record and are thus not kept private.

Every news outlet immediately played them.

To me, this falls into the category of "Just because you can, doesn't mean you have to." It makes me feel nauseous that I live in a time where this is acceptable.

Weeping and screaming are something to share with the public, wedged between the traffic report and sports, the newscasters using their serious tone and shaking their heads sadly at the end so we know they care and aren't just waxen robots with the power of speech.

Why, why do we need to hear them? Are we so uncaring and callous that other people's most awful moments are fodder for our consumption? Why don't we just bring back the Christians and the lions, if we are going to go down that road?

I don't watch TV news and I turned off the radio when our local NPR station began to play the calls. It's not that I can't handle it. It is that I don't want to be the kind of person who thinks it is ok to listen to, because it isn't. It just isn't.


Sometimes there are words you don't even know you need until you hear them, but then once you do, you can't imagine life without something so perfect.

For instance, my sister Laura coined the term gullnado for the ever-circling flock of seagulls around a garbage dump.

You're welcome.

16 September 2008

Planning for retirement: my life so far

Employer: Come and work for us! If you work hard and stick around, we will take care of you in retirement. We have money set aside!
Sb: Great! A deal just like my dad had. Sweet!

Um, we lost the money by investing in a jojoba bean farm.
(I am not making this up).

Employer: We finally decided that, since we don't have a retirement plan, we're going to let you invest your OWN money. How does that sound?
Sb: I really don't know anything about investing.
Employer: No problem, we have an investment advisor!

It doesn't seem like I am making much money off these investments
Investment Advisor: You need to invest in the internet! Everyone is doing it!
Sb: Are you sure?
Investment Advisor: You would be stupid not to!

OMG I am getting rich! This is great!

What do you mean, my Pets.com stock is worthless! Impossible!
(There was sobbing! Then 9/11 happened! Life was horrible and scary! I fell in love! I quit my job! I moved! I went back to school!)

New Employer:
We offer excellent benefits including a 6% 401k match
Sb: Sign me up! And I'm so happy that the stock market has stabilized somewhat. Everything is good now, right?
Investment Advisor: You have to invest for the long term.
Sb: And I had better put in every spare penny because I have to make up for lost time!

Government: Oh, hai, we let the banks and investment houses get all tangled up and it's kinda complicated, but the economy is screwed and we're going to use your tax dollars to fix everything, m'kay?
Sb: My retirement plans include a van parked down by the river and a simple, starchy diet.

How about you?

14 September 2008

Adventures in Grocery Shopping

So then there's my dad. 90 years old and tough as a boot. He still walks a couple miles a day, but he doesn't hear very well and on some days his memory operates at about 80 percent and on others it might be 30 percent.

He doesn't see well, either, but what he can see is a matter of mystery. Some times I can walk right by without him noticing me, yet he watches baseball and calls every ball and strike in tandem with the MLB umpires.

Each Sunday morning before I go to church, Dad and I go grocery shopping. (I am hoping that the previous sentence will somehow absolve me for swearing like a drill sergeant and flipping off people while driving.)

Mom doesn't get out much any more, so it falls to Dad and I, The B Team, to take her list and try to translate her wishes into reality.

There's a flaw in this system - there are things that do not go on the list. They are the things that "he knows to get" like frozen meals, beer, cereal and jam. Do not ask why some items go on the list and others do not. This is not a matter for discussion. That is just the way it is.

The other complicating factor is that our Vons market has been conducting a major remodel since we started this gig about 3 months ago. Every single week, almost every aisle is completely relocated. Often they just switch food from one side of the aisle to the other. I have a feeling this may be solely to mess with us. I will bet the staff is watching on hidden camera, laughing their asses off.

So we rampage through the store. Dad can't see labels well, so he picks up items and peers at them and sets them down in the wrong place. He can't remember what he wants, so we go through a routine.

Dad: We need English muffins.
Sb: The raisin cinnamon ones?
Dad: No!
Sb: The others are extra-crispy...
Dad: Hell no!
Sb:...you don't want sourdough, do you? Or whole-wheat?
Dad: No I don't want any goddam sourdough.
Sb: The only other kind is cinnamon-raisin.
Dad: Oh, I guess that will do.

We go through that exact conversation every week without fail.

I head off to get the milk.

Dad yells "Check the expiration dates!" Apparently, at one point in the dim past, a carton of milk went bad before it got used. Now we have to stand on our tiptoes and knock all of the milk over, looking for a carton in the back that might have three extra days before it expires.

There are some things he insists we always buy even if I tell him over and over we have plenty at home. Canned fruit is one of those. Cookies are another. If a nuclear disaster should ever happen, Mom and Dad could survive on the canned fruit and cookies they have stockpiled.

But I figure that I'm not going to fight him on every little purchase. Good gosh, before he retired, the man had dozens of employees. He ran an area bigger than most states. He was used to making decisions all day long. These days, he doesn't have much to decide about. So if the man wants to fill up his shopping cart with mandarin oranges in heavy syrup and he can afford them, more power to him.

Mom doesn't see it that way. 60-some years of being the Household CEO, of guarding every penny, doesn't give her much tolerance for our foolishness. We hear about it when we get home and unload the groceries.

"I wish he would just stick to the list!" she moans every week.

"But the list doesn't have everything on it..." I weakly offer. Every single week.

It's annoying. It's a pain in the ass. I hope we do it 500 more times.
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