Tagged: Ed Garsten

Cutting through the bullshit of “busy”

toobusyHow often has your temper boiled while being forced to cool your jets waiting for someone to reply to a simple question, make a deadline or serve you the sandwich you ordered 45 minutes ago? When you ask for the cause of the delay, the reply is usually some variation of “oh, I was busy.”

Busy is a loaded word. It’s loaded mainly with bullshit. Oh, it has actual definitions…which are also bullshit. Dictionary.com contains several meanings for busy:

  1. actively and attentively engaged in work or a pastime.
  2. not at leisure; otherwise engaged
  3. officious; meddlesome; prying
  4. full of or characterized by activity

Let’s examine those definitions. #1 means the person is either working , or not, since you wouldn’t equate a “pastime” with work. A pastime would indicate something you’re doing for pleasure and one wouldn’t be described as “busy” doing something fun…but rather involved in an activity they were able to do because they weren’t so damned busy.

#2 is completely at odds with #1 because now busy is defined as not being at leisure, meaning you’re not involved in a pastime. So what is it? Can you be busy and not busy at the same time doing the same thing?

#3 is incomplete. The complete term is “busy BODY.” Fact is, you can be a meddlesome prick even if you’re not busy. For some, prying into others affairs is a pastime. Uh oh. Does that now make them busy or not if referring to #1 or #2?

#4 simply means you’re doing stuff. Living a life, peeling bananas, catching up on Stormy Daniels films. Does that mean you’re busy, or simply not stationary. Indeed, some folks might argue being stationary is their way of keeping busy.

When someone responds to my second or third inquiry as to why they haven’t responded sooner with “oh I was busy,” I know they’re making it up. Maybe they were, in fact, involved in a pastime…that pastime being too freakin’ lazy to follow through. Maybe they were too busy just blowing you off because they’re immature or arrogant. Perhaps they were engaged in a questionable activity that would get them fired, but use the catchall “busy” to cover up that activity with a word that actually means nothing.

Now don’t get me wrong. I am totally sympathetic to those who at time can be buried under a growing number of tasks and deadlines, but that’s no excuse for being unresponsive. Grow up, prioritize your activities, perhaps send someone further down the list an acknowledgment you received the inquiry and will respond in line with any deadlines that may have been set. If none have been set, ask for a reasonable time frame for completion. But watch out. Often, those pleading they’re busy just want you to come through on your end faster than necessary just so they can get the project off their calendars…and then they can get busy…with their pastimes.

So when you tell me you’re too busy to reply, to respond I know what you’re really busy doing. It’s what a bull does when it squats in the field. I’ll bypass the stink and move on to greener and cleaner pastures.

 

 

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Bed, Bath and Beyond Reason

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Found myself in a Bed, Bath and Beyond today while my wife shopped in the place next door. I like to look around that store because it contains stuff…and people.. that make me laugh..and sigh and glad to be part of a human race that’s constantly looking for silly things to buy to make their lives easier, if only batteries lasted forever.

mypillowNo sooner did I enter and I encountered a couple engaged in a very serious discussion. The husband’s face was intense and his tone of voice similar, I imagine, to how the Secretary of Defense’s might be while explaining to Pres. Trump why we can’t build a wall around Michelle Wolf.  There simply are now POW’s..Prisoners of Wit. Anyway, the wife in the equation seemed defeated as the husband pummeled her with reason after reason why…he just needed to spend 100 bucks… on a My Pillow. I moved along before the eventual surrender.

bbbappliancesMy next stop was in my favorite department. It doesn’t really have a name. It’s just stuff you plug in. Toasters, waffle irons, coffee and espresso/cappuccino makers, toaster ovens, things that whir and spin and mix and mutilate. What gets the most square footage, it seems, are the machines that turn the substances jammed into plastic pods into alleged coffee. Keurigs, Nespressos..whatever. There are rows of these devices and rows and rows and rows and rows of a hundred so-called “flavors” of pods.  podsI

It’s here I encountered my next young couple. They were locked in an earnest discussion about which of these machines to adopt into their family. Having owned a Keurig for several years and sampled scores of different pods of the brown effluent they conjure I felt it might be helpful if I butted in to the couples convo long enough to warn them, “it doesn’t matter what machine you buy or what flavor pod you use, it all tastes like what happens when your sump pump backs up.” Indeed, I tried bold, strong, breakfast, donut shop, hazelnut, mountain top, valley floor, river bed…it all tastes the same…like shit. But I know how it is when you just gotta have something so I let them be, knowing this young couple would soon learn an expensive life lesson.

No sooner had I found my way to the back of the store eyeing the display of electronic door bells, then a nice B,B and B employee put her face three inches from mine, introduced herself and asked what I was looking for. She was very polite and obviously trying hard to do her job so I decided not to reply, “edible Oxy-Clean.” Instead, I thanked her for the offer but I didn’t actually have any money so I was looking for cheap entertainment a chance to smell the vanilla candles.

My last stop was the bathroom supply department. Hanging on the all was a contraption that came in a box with a bunch of attachments and it promised to take the work out of scrubbing my bathroom. All you had to do was keep the batteries charged and use the correct attachment. When the clerk came by I flagged him down and asked if the gizmo worked with Voom. Obviously not a “Cat in the Hat” fan the kid stood slack jawed, thoroughly baffled. I helpfully offered that maybe I’d find Voom-friendly implements in the “Beyond” part of the store.  Without a word he backed away and, I imagine, considered the wording of his resignation letter.”  voom

At that point, it was time to leave the store and meet my wife. She asked if I found anything good. I did. Another story to tell all of you.

My four-step Starbucks sensitivity training

starbucksIt shouldn’t take four hours of training to knock some sense into employees of Starbucks or any company about how to treat people fairly.

I can name that tune in 4 quick steps.

1-Be agnostic about a person’s appearance. We’re all pretty much the same except for the shade of wrapping.

2-You are not better than anyone. In the case of a Starbucks employee, you fill cups with hot or cold drinks and serve them to people. In exchange, they give you money, a credit or debit card.  You may be serving a Nobel Prize winner, a talented artist, someone who is disabled or a single parent trying like hell to raise a kid and pay the bills alone and all they’re hoping for is a place to grab a brief respite in peace with a caffeinated drink that will help them keep from falling over from fatigue and stress. 

3-If a person isn’t making a fuss, a mess or a racket, leave them alone. They may just need a moment to catch their breath, get out of the rain or an easily found place to meet someone. If they don’t buy something this time around, your goodwill may translate into a future transaction.

4- Whatever your title or classification, be proud of your position, do a good job, earn your money and be a good representative of your place of employment. You don’t? It’s simple. You’re fired.

When Mom “Subbed” for me On Air

mom

On this Mother’s Day, 2018, I have a true story of a true heroism on the part of one mother..my mom, whom I sadly lost in 2007. This is not a sob story. It’s kind of hilarious.

Marvin, Sandy & Clive clippingGrowing up in New York City in the ’60’s I was a devoted follower of Sandy Becker. He hosted a kid’s morning show for years on then WNEW, Channel 5. Live, from 8 a.m. to 9 a.m. Two of his most popular characters were puppets Marvin the Mouse and Sir Clyve Clyde, which were voiced and operated by Becker. A daily feature was for Sir Clyve to  place a phone call to a lucky kid whom he interview on the air.  The kid’s reward was a Marvin the Mouse puppet.

My mother, who once had aspirations of a singing and acting career, was a typical stage mother. I..at the tender age of 6, was so shy, I hid in my room when we had visitors. Nevertheless, she sent in my name and I was chosen as the next day’s lucky kid. The producer said we’d get a call about 5 minutes to air and that we should just stand by until we hear Sir Clyve/Sandy’s voice begin the short interview.

Sure enough, the next day our phone rang and the producer gave us the five minute warning. I hung onto the phone until I heard Sir Clyve say in his British accent, “Well good morning 6 year old Edward Garsten from Bellerose, Queens. How are you?” I froze. Thrusted the phone into my horrified mother’s hands. For that split second there was dead air until my mother gamely got on the phone and put on her most childish voice. She was in her mid-30’s at the time.  “HI!” she replied emphatically.” “I’m good!”  Sensing something was up, Sandy/Sir Clyve reacted with, “My, my Edward. You have a strong voice for 6!”  “Thank you,” my mother replied. “What grade are you in, Edward,” Sir Clyve asked.  Shit. My mother momentarily forgot, but the trouper she was, came up with the correct answer. “Well….,” she stalled. “I guess, first grade.”   Sure,  now Edward was a fraud and employing an understudy, Sandy/Sir Clyve wrapped up the interview. “I say! It’s been a pleasure speaking with you Edward. Thanks for watching our show!”

Before we could hang up the producer came back on the line sounding a little confused, saying, “uh, pretty good interview. Thanks a lot. We’ll send you the Marvin the Mouse puppet. Just need your address.”

After we hung  up, my mother looked at me with that, “what the hell just happened?” face. But she knew her youngest son. So shy. Such a loser. Well, she tried.  It was OK. Mom got some free air time, playing a 6-year old.

A few days later the envelope arrived. In it was the Marvin the Mouse puppet. I tore it open and stuck my hand up Marvin’s back and showed my mother. She smiled as she said, “I think that’s mine.” Then we both had a pretty good laugh.  Miss her.

Draft Day on Wall Street

nfl-draft-2017-042717-getty-ftrjpg_1erpre7c3321j1ilnqq6rs44tb phone’s been driving me crazy all weekend. Every few minutes the damn thing’s been binging with updates from the NFL draft. They scream stuff like, “Detroit picks Louie Schmeckingford of Dreck Tech as Left Nipple!” I’m happy for Mr. Schmeckingford for landing a job but truly, I don’t care. Then…bing, bing bing, bing!  “The 49ers choose Dick Wad in the fourth round as backup waterboy!” Swell. I open the story to learn that Sir Wad distinguished himself in the Big Billion Conference by breaking all sorts of speed records for water procurement for sweaty slabs of two-legged beef.

I get it. Among fans and Fantasy Football geeks, the draft is almost as important as the the day they had their overbite corrected.

Then I got to thinking that maybe I’m the one who has it all wrong. What’s the draft anyway, but companies flush with money, choosing young people to join their ranks in hopes of furthering their success.

How ingenious! Why is this process limited to sports teams? It seems like a draft is a perfect way to bolster any team.

I see it now. CNBC pre-empts regular programming for the First Corporate Talent Pool Draft.

joe-kernen-2“Hi, this is Joe Kernan with Becky Quick.  Business services firm KPMG has the first pick, earned via a trade with Pricewatershouse Cooper for two insider trading secrets.”

“Joe, KPMG has their eye on Barlow Biteme, who graduated first in his accounting class   and won acclaim for his thesis, “Don’t Jump Off the Ledger.”   quick

“Right Becky. But to land him, they’ll have to cough up a huge signing bonus, a corner office and free tanning sessions just ahead of the ‘season’ in the Hamptons.”

“Who wouldn’t pay that, Joe, for a guy who not only crunches numbers, but absolutely chews them up and spits them out just the way the CEO imagined them.”

“So true, Becky! One story going around has Biteme cooking the books so well at his college fraternity, his brothers nicknamed him ‘The Chef!’ No doubt, KPMG can’t wait to serve the SEC what Biteme whips up.”

“Right, Joe! Let’s move on to the second pick. That’s comes from Deloitte.Touche.”

“Well, Becky, those pencil pushers are counting on landing Flo Nase from Wharton.”

“For sure, Joe. She’s was known there as “The Eraser.” In fact, Nase is so adept at making poor performance metrics go away, her Theory of Imaginary Computation won the top prize at this year’s Conference of Complicits.”

“Ha! That’s amazing Becky! One source tells me one of Nase’s favorite funnies is the way she plays dumb when someone challenges one of her audits by exclaiming, ‘audit? Oh..dat!”

“No wonder she’s a top pick, Joe!”

“Indeed, Becky! Don’t you just love this? Folks, we’ll be back with second round picks in a moment, after this word from upstart Wall Street brokers Questionable Quotes.”

A Columbine Miracle Remembered

I didn’t cover the shootings at Columbine High School, but I covered an upshot.

On the day of the terrible events of in 1999 I was actually in Pell Lake, Wisconsin for CNN, covering the news that an Illinois couple had won a big Powerball lottery jackpot. As I stood in front of the camera awaiting my cue to go live, the cue never came. Some other news was breaking.

Move ahead to December and again I found myself covering a disgusting story about a guy in Pontiac, Michigan selling photos from World War II concentration camps on eBay. My pager, yes, it was 1999, went off. The CNN National Desk in Atlanta said they need us to go the next day out to Colorado. The Columbine High School football team was going to play for the state championship again prohibitive favorite Cherry Creek.

Our plane to Denver was running late and we, in turn, were late for a news conference with the school principal the day before the big game. Instead of castigating us for being late, he was warm and understanding, and above all, sympathetic that our tardiness was beyond our control. We were sure he had honed these skills through necessity over the last six terrible months.

When we arrived at the game the next day, our goal was to shoot some student interviews before  it started, then settle in for the game and whatever the results might be. We were not greeted warmly by the students. We didn’t blame them. That’s all they needed was another camera in their faces. Another reporter sticking a mic in front of them looking for answers from traumatized teenagers. We respected their pleas for privacy and retreated. Then the game.

Columbine wasn’t supposed to have a prayer of beating Cherry Creek, but their prayers were answered. A semblance of joy and accomplishment in a year of utter sadness and anger. We had little time to put together our piece and in the end, I decided the bulk of it should just be the natural sound of the expressions of happiness and gratitude….for this one bright light during  the darkest year. Here’s my story.

Today’s Five & Dime is A Buck or Five

woolworthsOh how inflation has changed our perception of cool, cheap stuff. When we were kids, it was Woolworth’s..the five and dime store. Of course, that was a cruel come-on since there wasn’t much that actually cost a nickel or a dime, except a candy bar or a pack of gum. If I was a good boy while my mother spent hours shopping for clothes at the neighborhood department store, we could walk a few doors down to Woolworths and I was allowed to choose anything less than a dollar. Inevitably, I’d find a toy that cost 98 cents, but my mother always rounded up and that was too close to a buck to make the cut.

dollar-tree-officeToday a dollar is the magic minimum. People swarm into the dollar stores and spend money like it grows on trees. Maybe that’s why the number two dollar store is the Dollar Tree. It’s only outranked, sales-wise, by Dollar General. dollargeneral5_600x400Today, my son and I visited the Dollar Star.  Not sure it’s part of a chain, but a nice old guy runs the place and he carries everything from picture hangers to oddball brands of candy to birthday and playing  cards to rather large images of Jesus. For those of faith, you can’t beat a buck to pay homage. I found a package of two little bottles of hand sanitizer. The label says the scent is “original.” I took a whiff. Yes..the scent is, indeed, original. In fact I’ve never smelled anything like it, although it reminded me a bit of my last visit to a slaughterhouse. At least I know my hands will not only be clean, but will smell like either raw sirloin or a butcher’s severed thumb.handsanitizer

The dollar store is also a good place to pick up the local newspaper. The Detroit Free Press costs $1.50 but only a buck at the dollar store. The paper sometimes feel a little thin, so maybe for 50 cents less we’re not getting all the obits.

Over the years I’ve bypassed the well-known big box discount stores for the dollar store when I’ve needed a water bottle, book of crossword puzzles, a bag of Fiddle Faddle or mechanic’s rags.

When I’m feeling flush, I visit a Five Below store where everything is FIVE dollars or below. That’s 500 percent more but the stuff they carry is usually many percent less expensive than other stores. For instance, when I got a new cell phone I looked for a case at a discount store. Some discount. The cases ranged from $25-$45. At Five Below I had a fairly decent choice of cases all priced at five bucks.  Same for Bluetooth ear buds, USB cables and Pickleball paddles.  I’m not sure I’d buy clothes there, though since I’d be afraid to wear them in the rain. fivebelowtech

What this whole cheapo store phenomenon tells me is you can find a lot of life’s little needs for next to nothing. I mean, why pay 4 dollars for picture hangers when you can pay one little George Washington for the same thing? So what if you don’t recognize the brand–they all probably come from the same factory in Shanghai anyway.

I often wonder what my childhood would have been like if they had dollar stores back in the 60’s. Probably not that much different…since a dollar is still more than 98 cents.