I never had much faith in Bitcoins, which is why, as an astute investor, I put my money in what I call Necco-ins. Never heard of them? Good for you because the joke’s on me.
A few months ago I read about a mad rush by people who enjoy the horrible candy called Necco to buy them up because the company that makes them was going out of business. Not wanting to miss a potential windfall I hurried over to Rocky’s in Detroit’s Eastern Market where they sell little rolls of Neccos in bulk.
A quick look up and down the rows and rows of candies did not reveal my quarry. When I inquired about them the woman working behind the counter directed me to the last bin and said, “get ‘em while you can. I think that’s our last batch!” So I filled a bag and scurried off with a Necco-eating grin figuring I had my Necs-egg all but secured.
I jealously locked the rolls in a drawer until the price of the endangered candy peaked and then I’d unload them on some pathetic sweet toothed decay demon for a sweet profit.
Every day I watched the price of Neccos grow on eBay and simply sat back awaiting the right moment to list them and satisfy a sugar sniper.
But then last month my dreams of splurging on a summer home in Dearborn or a box of real black licorice evaporated faster than Jimmy Fallon’s ratings. I was incredulous as I read how an investment firm run by some sick billionaire swept in to save the company that makes Neccos. It’s a horrible candy and there was no reason to save it! I was counting on my pile of extinct nasty-tasting sugary wafers to feed my avarice!
Now my little cache of worthless candy sits in a box, perhaps hoping someone will put one or two of its brittle tasteless wafers their mouths as a poor substitute for dessert. For me, my visit to financial Candyland will forever leave a sour taste…although I’ve discovered Necco wafers are quite useful as shims.
I guess I’m mildly interested in World Cup soccer, although given my past I should be a total fanatic. Indeed, my soccer/football/futbol, your choice, was such a part of my life it affected the college.
Back in the 60’s they didn’t have the soccer leagues they have now. I think that’s because the minivan wasn’t invented until 1984 so moms who would have been tasked with ferrying youthful kickers had no viable means of transportation.
I tried Little League Baseball, but if you’re dad’s not the manager, you basically only get to play the two innings required in the regulations and are relegated to playing right field because no ball ever reaches right field except for when the shortstop throws his relay 12 feet above the first baseman’s head.
I dabbled in soccer in day camp but it was a Jewish day camp and I quickly tired of the counselor whining, “what!?!” every time I made some sort of mistake. That didn’t kill my enthusiasm for a sport that required no use of the hands and encouraged bopping the ball with your head.
In junior high I tried out for the school team and made it! That’s the good news. The bad news was the coach never scheduled any games against other schools. Development slowed after that.
By the time I got to high school, my luck changed. The previous year’s varsity won the championship and then all but a couple of players graduated. The Martin Van Buren High School soccer team was officially in a rebuilding mode. A bunch of us took advantage of this situation and Coach Marvin “Killer” Diller decided that most everyone who tried out made the squad. Before he could figure out my true skill level I quickly bought a team jacket and affixed my “VB” varsity letter.
My junior year I sat on the bench and only got in one game for 12 seconds while a regular threw up.
Aside from myself, at 5’6” and 120 pounds, there was another lightweight named Daryl, about my same size, and we kept the bench more than warmed, awaiting our chance. It was hard to crack the lineup because ahead of us were the Riofrio twins from Ecuador who could do everything with a soccer ball but make it dance the cha cha. Then there was an Armenian named Sirkus who felt no pain. Every. You could kick him in the face with the ball a dozen times and he’d shake it off. After the Riofrios and Sirkus, the depth chart quickly descended to a talent level that could fairly be labeled, “none.”
Indeed, our team was so horrible when a visiting team made the journey from the other side of Queens to play us at home, they were so upset at how easy it was to beat us they jumped on our bench after the game until it broke. Most of the members of that team had immigrated to NYC from Armenia and were therefore excellent players. In their best broken English they chanted, “you horrible, horrible. Bus ride not worth it. Horrible, horrible, suck!”
By my senior year enough of the good players graduated that I finally won a starting spot as a left winger. Swell. But the season didn’t start until Thanksgiving because New York City teachers went on strike. Killer Diller attempted to hold workouts at a public park near the school but once the union steward found out he put a quick end to that. Naturally, with no practices, our team was totally unable to improve from crappy to mediocre.
First game of the season I ran on the field..my first as a starter, and did not distinguish myself. I had a few chances but being such a little guy, it was easy for almost any opponent to steal the ball from me or knock me on my skinny ass. Coach Diller pulled me and in his lispy way whined “Eddie, you were so much better in practice.” No kidding. In practice there were no Bulgarian goons from another school trying to kill me.
I started one other game after which fate stepped in and saved me. I landed a part time after school job as the stock boy in the linens and domestics department at the S. Klein department store at the nearby Lake Success Shopping Center. When I informed Coach Diller I was quitting the team in favor of folding towels and table cloths he squeeked, “but you finally just became a starter after sitting on the bench for a year!” I could swear that was just for show and that he secretly turned to no one in particular and mouthed “Yes!”
For some reason I still thought I had a future in soccer and when it came time to choose a college I picked SUNY Oswego because it had a strong soccer program. But again, it was not to be. I went to the first meeting of the soccer team where Coach Peterson made the profound announcement that “remember, academics means absolutely nothing. Soccer means everything!” I turned around and walked out the room never to return. A couple of weeks before that meeting I landed a job as a DJ at the campus radio station and made the instant decision that if I couldn’t play soccer, I would pursue a position that required no use of my feet or head…just my brain and mouth! And that’s what I’ve done every day since that fateful day in 1969. Indeed, over a wonderful 45 year career I believe I reached my GOAAAAAAAAAAAAAAALLLLLLLLLLLL!
Being semi-retired, my attendance in the office is only semi-regular. That means I can only stand..or sit..guard over my workspace semi-regularly. So I was only mildly surprised, but thoroughly disappointed when I showed up the other day after a few days away to find my chair in two pieces, on the floor with two screws sitting on my desk. No explanation until my boss happened by and I pointed to the wreckage while giving him a questioning look. He kinda laughed as he explained the person who sits across the aisle from me had a “chair emergency” while I was gone and grabbed my chair. That meant the carnage on the floor was actually her chair and not mine. My chair was under her butt.
After an embarrassed apology my chair was returned and the victim of the “chair emergency” got a spare chair from some other office.
It all got me thinking not only about how important our office furniture is to us but how it can also be used as just another form of bullshit one-upsmanship.
Cases in point.
At a former employer..a large corporation…office furniture was doled out according to your “band” or pay level. A vice president or above got a big office with a defined furniture formula of a walnut partner desk, meeting table with four chairs and a credenza for displaying photos, awards and free shit from media events.
The formula cascaded down quickly to a counter with 6 drawers and a meeting table all the way down to a cube with two file cabinets, a counter and a trash can. Actually, that’s about as much space as most anyone needs to do most jobs. When I was promoted to a glass office with 6 overhead bins and nine drawers I just dumped crap in them that I didn’t want to take home. I did use two drawers for files and another for my lunch.
One day things suddenly changed. A co-worker decided she needed to stand while she worked and got the office manager to order one of those Varidesks. Maybe you’ve seen them. You plop it on your real desk then raise or lower it to a comfortable level. Pretty cool. The cheapest one is about 400 bucks. After a few weeks it looked like Varidesks were growing wild. They started popping up all over the office. Short people, tall people, busy people, people who didn’t do 3 minutes of work a day all decided they would be more productive if they could just have the option to stand while they surfed Zappos for shoes, played Solitaire or screwed off on the boss’s dime in any number of ways. At one point I could hear at least one standee emulate Mr. Ed because she was sleeping standing up and snoring like an old nag.
I couldn’t help inquiring of the office manager while the company was spending all this money on stand-up desks when budgets were otherwise tight. She didn’t want to tell me at first but finally admitted that once the first person asked for one others became jealous that a co-worker got something new and they wanted one too…even if there was no physical reason for working standing up. In fact….it wasn’t long before some of the me-too standees realized they couldn’t stand standing and ordered high stools so they could sit at their standups. I don’t have to tell you once the first stool arrived, more were demanded because why shouldn’t they have what someone else has..even if it’s malaria.
As time went on, I noticed many of those who had stamped their feet for a standup desk caught wind of the “vari” part of the Varidesk and began using its various settings to gradually lower the desk until, after a week or so, the standup desk was simply sitting on top of the sit-at desk and the high stools were shunted into a corner and used as coat racks or just another surface to stack crap. This left the original Varidesk requestor feeling mighty lonely because she really needed to stand to help ameliorate a painful back condition. I had to ask her how she felt about the jealous copycats demanding, then abandoning their Varidesks. Well…she said. It was satisfying that as the one person who actually needed it.. she was the last one standing.
Now I work mainly from home. My wife and I each have our offices..and our own chairs. Invoking the crazy guy in the movie Stripes, we always joke with each other, “you touch my chair…I kill ya.”
How 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:
- actively and attentively engaged in work or a pastime.
- not at leisure; otherwise engaged
- officious; meddlesome; prying
- 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.
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.
No 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.
My 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. I
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.”
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.
It 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.
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.
Growing 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.
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.
“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.”
“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.”
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.
Oh 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.
Today 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. Today, 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.
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.
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.