Friday, November 28, 2008

Blech Friday

NEW YORKA Wal-Mart worker was killed Friday when "out-of-control" shoppers desperate for bargains broke down the doors at a 5 a.m. sale. Other workers were trampled as they tried to rescue the man, and customers shouted angrily and kept shopping when store officials said they were closing because of the death, police and witnesses said. At least four other people, including a woman who was eight months pregnant, were taken to hospitals for observation or minor injuries, and the store in Valley Stream on Long Island closed for several hours before reopening.
But they re-opened - which is the important part. I'm guessing that the shoppers who were kicked out during the death investigation were really pissed.
In California, two people were killed in a shooting at a Toys 'R' Us in Palm Desert, according to the Riverside County Fire Department. The shooting occurred about 11:36 a.m. (2:36 p.m. ET), authorities said. Police did not release the victims' ages or gender.
From coast to coast, anxious and stupid consumers decided that killing someone in the name of a holiday bargain was worth it. People lack the ability to step back and look at themselves. If they could, they would see the nonsense they create in the name of ... something. I don't know what, exactly. A cheap computer, video game or big-screen television is somehow worth the 4 hours of lost sleep and [no kidding] the lost life and shooting of another person because somebody might get at a discounted product before them. And it isn't just this year. These stories are repeated year after year.
It's part of the Bible, I think. Let no one have any cheaper gifts before thee. Something like that.
So, go ahead and teach your kids all about Christmas and what you think it means. What it really means is something much more gruesome. Even if there is no loss of life, the loss of self-respect over standing on line before sunrise to get a video game is no less resentful than shooting someone or trampling a door-opener.
Either way, you have to look yourself in the mirror and ask yourself a question. The trouble is that retailers know that they can prey on consumers who cannot control themselves.
All in the name of retail sales. Any industry that is so weak that it depends on the next 30 days for a large percentage of its profits is a weak industry.
Almost as weak as the people they prey on.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

You are what you eat.

The newspaper came this morning. Actually, two of them - one regular, one jumbo. The jumbo one was advertising because, well ... tis the season.
"Stores open 4am Friday" [asterisk] except where prohibited by law. What a sensible law. I have no idea where that is, but I suppose it's a local thing rather than a statewide law. Probably a nice peaceful community.
With stores open before sunrise, the big decision for crazy shoppers will be whether to get up early or just stay up. And I'm sure there will be the inevitable drunks out after closing who waddle into line for something they won't remember they bought or who they bought it for.
I'll be curious to hear the whining once the shopping season starts (officially - as if there is a governing body) and the retailers moan about their poor sales because of (here it comes) the economy. I'm not sure we know what the economy is, but we know it's bad. Gasoline prices are down, so you can put some gasoline under your tree. Probably not a good idea.
I'm feasting on spaghetti at mom's later today. When I told some co-workers I was having spaghetti for dinner they looked at me like I had a third eye. You're supposed to eat turkey today, but most of us only eat it because we're supposed to. I think, if you gave people an honest choice we'd have Chinese food, pasta or a nice steak. Anyone who knows me knows that I don't put up with useless traditions. Eat what you want.
Anyway, Happy Thanksgiving dear readers. Thanks for putting up with this nonsense on an almost daily basis. I'm thankful for you because I really don't know what I'd do with this computer if I didn't have a place to write, and I wouldn't bother writing if nobody was reading it. That's where you come in.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Two completely unrelated experiences that separate my life from the lives of my contemporaries.

I love the supermarket. Really. So many things and so many people. Our supermarket sells LCD televisions. Really. I'd love to be there when someone buys one. It must be like seeing a total solar eclipse. I bet the manager comes running out peeing himself, screaming "We sold a TV!" That would be like Best Buy selling cereal.
What I get mostly are the ass-end of banal conversations while waiting on line. Tonight was a highlight. The guy in front of me with four totally unrelated items was curiously looking around the crowded store while fumbling for his debit card.
HIM: [to the cashier] Why are you so busy tonight?
CASHIER: Um ... it's Thanksgiving.
HIM: Oh. [obviously he was recently dropped to Earth and just now needed groceries]
CASHIER: Gobble gobble!
The customer walked away, seemingly enlightened as to the ritual purchasing of food in advance of a holiday. These instances invariably make me shake my head and mutter, "men."
ME: [to cashier] Even I knew that. He probably goes to Florida over the Easter holiday and wonders 'what's with all the kids?'
Now, I find myself wondering if I'm a nice person or a dumbass. This afternoon, I treated myself to a nice lunch outing at the local Applebee's. I like to sit and look at odd crap hanging from the walls while I'm eating.
Among the various difficulties I have on my frequent dining-alone excursions (outside of a total lack of conversation) is that I have trouble getting served. I think there's a common misconception among wait staff that single diners are lousy tippers.
Today, I waited nearly ten minutes for a waitress before I finally got up and approached the hostess and said, "I still haven't seen a waitress," which was a bit of an exaggeration, because I had seen plenty of them - just none at my table. The place was crawling with them.
She apologized, because they're trained to apologize, and sought out my waitress. A few minutes later, one appeared.
Eventually, I was served a fine meal and a check, which came in a much more timely fashion than either the waitress or the ensuing food. They're trained to do that, too.
The dumbass or nice guy debate came in the form of the tip I left. I left $18 on a $14.21 check, which was well in excess of the 15% we are trained to leave and even more than the 20% that borders dumbass.
That either makes me nice for leaving a tip after receiving questionable service or a total dumbass for leaving anything at all.
I reminded myself that tip is an acronym for To Insure Promptness and left wondering about my place in the world ... alongside the dumbasses.

Monday, November 24, 2008

The rich get richer.

LOS ANGELES – Chris Brown was the big winner, but it was Kanye West's night at the American Music Awards. Instead of his typical tantrum — a trend West started four years ago when he lost the favorite new artist prize — the rapper claimed two trophies Sunday and called on his colleagues to up their game.
Sunday night we were treated to another awards show and another excuse for a TV show. They’re called the American Music Awards, but I see that Annie Lennox (from Scotland) won something and Enrique Iglesias (from Spain) won, and Coldplay and Rhianna (from Great Britain) were nominated, so I guess I don’t know what the “American” part is all about.
We like to give out awards, and we especially like to give them out to people who have already been amply rewarded with shit-tons of money, which doesn’t explain all the angst over them. After all, why should we care who wins a made-up award? We’ve already awarded them our money.
Magazines and web sites are putting out their year-end lists, including Sexiest Man and Woman Alive and Most Eligible Bachelor and Bachelorette. By the way, bachelorette is a made-up word because we don’t have an appropriate word to describe a single female. The more proper neologism would be bacheloress. Bachelorette implies that women are somehow lesser than their male counterparts – but I digress.
is a word I’ve heard a lot but never really knew its meaning. It means “fit to be chosen” or “suitable or desirable for marriage.” What the magazines think it means is “wealthy enough to be regarded as a catch,” because the only people you ever see on these lists are socialites or people who have earned enough money to befriend magazine editors. The dollar sign makes them more attractive, I suppose.
Sexiest or most eligible – by whose standards? It’s a tad bit ethnocentric to think that English-speaking celebrities are the only people qualified to be the sexiest or most eligible.
Those awards are for celebrities, because I think most of us could come up with a list of sexy people who aren’t celebrities, and chances are there are a half-dozen people you know personally who are just as attractive as some of the people on these lists. Mostly, they’re awards for people who have already been amply rewarded.
I have grown weary of awards shows and beauty contests.
“Congratulations, you’re beautiful. Here’s a trophy.” It seems to me to be ostentatious and pretentious to give awards to people who already are satisfied and tells the rest of us, “If you don’t think they’re the best, you don’t know what’s good.”
What’s the point? They’re already winners.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Almost everything is on sale.

This coupon was attached to my Sunday paper today. 10% off my adult beverage purchase at one of the local stores.
"Not valid on sale items, club wines, closeouts, items ending in $.98 ..."
What kind of condition is that and why does it matter?
How about items ending in $.99?
My cynical side says that most of the items in the store end in .98.
I also enjoy the extra exclamation points (It's worth the trip!!!). I don't see it mentioned in my Style Manual, so I'll assume it means that they are extremely excited.