Saturday, February 5, 2011

My part-time job at the supermarket.

I'm not responsible for training supermarket cashiers, so I don't know exactly what they are required to do. I know that, in the old days when we used to go to supermarkets, cashiers would keep up with the customers and put the items in bags while they ran through the conveyor.
Now, I see that there are plastic bags on the customers' side of the aisle, which to me, is a not-so-subtle hint that the customers are now being encouraged to bag their own groceries. That's an interesting idea, since cashiers now only have to roll an item past a scanner and throw it down the line. If the sensor doesn't make a rude beeping sound or no sound at all, they don't give it a second look. This disturbing trend is exacerbated by chains like The Home Depot and Lowe's who have self-checkout lines. They make us think that it is a convenience to the consumer, when in fact it is a convenience to the retailer, since they don't have to pay cashiers.
While I struggle (comparatively) to place my items in my canvas bags, I must now simultaneously swipe my debit card and enter my PIN and push a few buttons while the items I am paying for pile up on the conveyor belt. All this is happening while the cashier is making small talk with one of her co-workers.
Eventually, I get the processing done and throw the remaining items in my bag. In the meantime, I wonder why it is necessary for a person to be on the other side of the aisle at all. After all, she's just rolling junk over a scanner. The rest of her job is being done by me - free of charge to the supermarket.
It makes me think that perhaps The Home Depot and Lowe's have the right idea.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Does more always mean better?

Monday marked a major event in the history of America. My daily Philadelphia Inquirer cost a dollar for the first time in my life, raising the price a quarter per day. I've had a daily newspaper (or two) delivered to my home every day since I was a kid. It's only now that I have begun to question the wisdom of it.
Many years ago, I thought people would give up smoking when cigarettes began costing a dollar a pack. Now that they are over 7 dollars a pack, I not only question smokers' decisions, but my own perception of how intelligent cigarette smokers are. I am certain that there are cigarette smokers who think I'm a dope for paying a dollar for a newspaper.
They're still a bargain, the newspapers. On a monetary basis, they provide hours of entertainment and we are free to choose to read all of it or none of it. But they have lost some of their clout because the immediacy of the Internet has rendered some (or all) of their content as irrelevant as the evening news broadcast. We sit at work or at home and read the headlines on our computers a day before they are reported in our daily newspapers.
When I think back on my childhood, I marvel at the idea that the news we got was either seen as immediate by being broadcast on the six o'clock news or relatively immediate by appearing in the next day's newspaper. Either way, we were happy to be able to see reports from Vietnam on television or read about yesterday's non-televised baseball game in our Evening Bulletin sports section.
I wonder how much we suffered and what ill-informed boobs we were because we didn't know about something that happened during our lunch hour because our friends didn't post it on their Facebook page.
Maybe what we have now is information overload or the result of what some refer to as the "24/7 News Cycle." Whatever it is, I don't know if we are happier now because we know something immediately than we were then when it took a day or so to find out something. The only time we knew something immediately was when a president was shot or a spacecraft exploded. Now, we know that one of the Kardashians is on a diet five minutes after she puts it on her Twitter page. Is more information necessarily better?
When I was a kid, the evening TV news (and TV in general) was free and the evening newspaper was ten cents. Now, cable TV, Internet service and cell phones are costly bills we pay each month.
Are we getting what we are paying for?

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

The story of Charlie and the eight dollar hooker.

I read somewhere that Charlie Sheen is a workaholic. I now realize that I must have mis-read it. It's not workahol to which he is addicted.
We use those sorts of words ... chocoholic, shopoholic -- as though they are what they say they are. Those are colloquialisms, and they become part of our speech even though they are patently incorrect, usage-wise. Words like irregardless and some others that people say without thinking about. There is no such thing as chocohol or shopohol. Those are just people who like chocolate and shopping.
Anyway, that Charlie guy is in a pickle, ain't he? Unless, of course, you don't consider taking a $1.8 million per episode paycheck, spending $26,000 on a hooker and winding up in rehab being in a pickle. For some perspective, that's like someone who makes $500 a week spending $7.20 on something. Not only wouldn't you notice it, but whatever you spent it on wouldn't land you in rehab.
It's the sort of thing that inspires great sayings like money being the root of all evil. Speaking of colloquialisms, it's wrong too. It's the love of money that is the root of all evil, not the money itself. Money is great, right? Having lots of it to spend on hookers and cocaine is a wonderful thing, and not evil at all.
So now, Charlie is in the hospital (we're supposed to think that rehab is a hospital) and they have put his expensive TV show on hiatus, thereby taking away his $1.8 million per episode stipend. Two and a Half Men is a pretty popular show, even though now, the kid is so old it should be Three Men, which is maybe why they've put it on hiatus.
Funny thing about the $26,000 ... He paid the hooker with a check. When she took it to the bank, they called Charlie to verify that he wrote the check. Apparently, he wasn't sober enough to say "no, I did not," and they paid the chick's check. That alone should have been enough to put him in rehab.
Besides, I don't have any idea where I could find a hooker for less than eight bucks. And if I could, I'm sure it would land me in a hospital, and not a rehab one.
That's all I have to say about that.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Be careful, or you'll wind up on television.

There is almost nothing that somebody won't make into a television show nowadays. There are shows about people picking junk, guys buying stuff on pawn, crazy bastards who collect junk in their homes and people who make money buying the junk that those crazy bastards collect in their homes. I guess it's because there are so many channels on cable that it's necessary to fill 24 hours of programming with stuff that people might like to watch.
I'm not sure where it started. Maybe it was the American Chopper guys who started our fascination with regular people doing odd jobs? Maybe it was that Mike Rowe guy and his "Dirty Jobs," or maybe it was the "Mythbusters?" All of them are running out of bikes, jobs and myths, so perhaps their time has run out also? Pioneers often give way to copycats, just like Phil Donahue gave way to that Oprah person.
The thing that amazes me about the "Pawn Stars" show (starring the 4 fattest people on TV) is that people with significant historical artifacts choose to run them to a Las Vegas pawn shop rather than an auction house or (God forbid) selling it themselves on Ebay or some other online service. I suppose there is some charm to being on TV, but the value they lose by selling it to a reseller is more than lost on that. Just by walking into the store they're losing 40% of the object's value.
My ideal hybrid program would be a "Hoarders" show about a person who collects junk to the point that his friends have an "Intervention." Once he's done, he puts the junk in a storage locker that is later abandoned. The "Storage Wars" guys would bid on the contents and take it to the "Pawn Stars" shop to re-sell it. One crazy bastard could provide 3 hours of television.
I give credit to the producers of these programs who have found appeal in people who are a little outside the mainstream (the polite way of saying it) and leave the rest of us with the feeling that we are somehow better than the guy with a house full of newspapers.
I suppose that was the pitch to get those shows on TV in the first place.