A little fun with our favorite feudin’ world leaders on their nuclear buttons.
Oh Jeez…another New Year’s Eve. I’ve written previously about my quickie foray to Times Square as 1969 turned to 1970. This time around I’m looking at nursing my recently repaired left knee and reveling in the fact that Kathy Griffin won’t be on my TV screen. My son will be asleep. My wife’s away on family business. So my New Year’s Eve kiss will be the oversized Hershey variety I received for Christmas/Hanukkah/old guy sympathy.
It sounds lonely but it’s not. We long ago gave up getting blitzed at some bar or party to usher in the next solar circumvention. Besides, I personally also celebrate the new year on Rosh Hashanna in the fall. As Mindy Kaling once aptly put it, “Jews, pick a new year. You don’t get two!” I wasn’t alone for the start of the year 57 bajillion, so I’m good.
The more I think about, the more I’d prefer to celebrate the Vernal Equinox as winter transitions to spring. That’s when things really start to warm up, the bulbs start to sprout, baseball season begins, the snow is melted and reveals the small kid stuck in a drift since February but didn’t cry because it’s fun to drink snow and pee in it, and the gardening departments at the home improvement stores really start smelling like soil, fertilizer and lawn equipment. It also seems to be the time workers at one large home improvement chain finally launder their orange vests and dig the dried up glue out of their pockets…and fingernails.
Sure, people won’t gather in drunken mobs to watch a bag of Scott’s Turf Builder drop to mark the change of seasons, and no one would stay up late to watch Dick Clark’s Vernal Equinox Dripping Eaves, but I’d definitely get in line at the stroke of midnight to take advantage of the coupon I receive every year for a free mower blade sharpening.
Now I understand our culture sees the turn of the year as a way to celebrate the new hope of the 365 or 6 days to come, but then at the end of them it seems all we do is look back at all the famous people who died some time during those days. Nice to remember them but it gets a bit depressing. I admit, when I see those lists, there are some who died earlier in the year I forgot about, but then I’m bummed all over again once I’m reminded. I’m sure when they died they received adequate media coverage. Isn’t that enough? In the spirit of hope for the new year, maybe find an actuary who can estimate how many new lives will begin, and better yet, how many newborns won’t grow up to be reality show personalities or cable TV talking heads.
No, looking back isn’t for me at all. I lived it. I dealt with it. I’m done with it. As the great pitcher Satchel Paige astutely advised, “don’t look back. something might be gaining on you.” With my newly repaired knee, I’m moving as fast as I can…and I’m not looking back. Happy New Year to you all..spring’s just around the corner.
One thing, among many, an employee hates to hear is the boss saying, “go ahead, take as much time as you need to recover. We’ll get along just fine.” At face value it seems like the boss is being really considerate, and probably is. But honestly, who wants to be told the company won’t come to a screeching halt without them.
I’ve spent most of my life as a journalist and newsrooms are perpetually short-staffed, which means calling in sick does not win the “take your time, get better,” reaction from the boss. It generally sparks “if you’re not dead, you’re well enough to cover your assignment.” That’s not technically wrong. In fact, three days after undergoing removal of a malignancy in my right shoulder, with a drainage bag and tube sticking out of my flesh, I never mentioned it to the CNN national desk and I covered my story. All I had to do was hide my apparatus, and a few blood spots, under my blazer when recording my standup on a bobbing speed boat and no one was the wiser. At CNN, as at many other companies, the whole idiotic hero thing is part of the culture.
When I made the switch to PR at a large multinational car company, things were markedly different. I was now one of a global workforce of roughly 45,000, showing up each day to the corporate Xanadu, along with 12,000 other contributors to the cause.
As I trundled from the parking deck to the employee entrance of the massive complex, I blended in with the mob swiping their badges in order to make the revolving doors turn, giving them entree’ to their workspaces.
Each day for my 10 years and 29 days at the company I would have the same two thoughts: Would anyone care/notice if I didn’t show up? What the hell do all these other people do and would anyone care/notice if any of them were absent? Sure, it takes a lot of people to run and operate a giant company, but honestly, does it take that many? I wasn’t being arrogant. I was simply wondering how many of us would be considered superfluous and not, sorry, “core.”
It hit home to me early in my run when I noticed a of employees who grabbed coffees from the fancy java stand in the complex and just stood around in the common area, sipped and bullshitted for what seemed like an excessive amount of time. Like two hours. Obviously, they’re not being missed, so why are they being granted paychecks? In newsrooms, you never have time to waste and if you attempt to waste any, a thorough ass-chewing from an editor can be expected. Early in my TV career, my no-nonsense assignment editor would bark at lollygagging reporters, “hey! you gonna turn a story or just sit there and yank your tuna?” I assure you, tuna yanking was at a minimum in that newsroom.
When the bad times came in 2008-2009 and GM and Chrysler went bankrupt, suddenly thousands of workers were given cardboard boxes and told to get lost. You never knew when your time was up until you got a box and brusque brush off. Over and over again I told my team, “Make yourself indispensable. Make the company understand what it would be losing if you were gone.” We constantly marketed our accomplishments and abilities to the higher ups so they fully comprehended our value and the strategy worked. We presented hard documentation and third-party endorsements. I did have to lay off one of my nine team members, but a couple of years later, when things settled down I was able to hire him back. Other teams were not as lucky. In fact, some were simply eliminated.
I’ve always found that abiding by my job description is a pretty fast track to obsolescence. Finding ways to take the basic premise of your position then using a recipe combining one-part skills and large dollops of guile, salesmanship and imagination not only makes the work day more fun and rewarding, but generally surprises and delights your employer and results in as much job security as can be hoped for.
No, I don’t want to be that person I see walking through the revolving door, wondering if their absence would make any difference at all in my company’s success. Sure, no one’s irreplaceable, but there are kickass employees who are, indispensable. And if you’re not indispensable, you’ll likely be dispensed with.
We arrived 20 minutes early and the smiling greeter handed my wife a pager with blue flashing lights and the promise that pager would go even more bonkers by flashing more urgently and vibrating once our turn came up.
We found comfortable seats in the waiting area and the aromas wafted over from the kitchen….of the cafeteria below…at what I’ll call the Behemoth Big Box Medical Fortress, where we would spend the next 7 hours, for a 30-minute repair job on my left knee..wrecked by years of playing ice hockey at an age when most men experience the game from Lazy Boys in front of a big screen TV, lubricated by potent legal elixirs.
The day started with an urgent call asking if I could arrive two hours earlier than planned due to a late cancellation. Sure. Let’s get it over with. The deal is you must arrive two hours before the surgery is scheduled so they can verify your insurance is inadequate to cover the costs of the procedure, strip you down, have you wrap yourself in a paper-thin gown, stab you with an IV, ask you the same questions a half-dozen times then let you rot in a prep room until they’re ready to do the deed.
Let’s start the clock. Arrival: 11:10am. Surgery scheduled for 1:30 p.m. Pager goes crazy and I’m taken into prep room at 11:30am. Told to strip naked, stuff everything in a too-small plastic satchel and put on the little gown that opens in the back. Two friendly nurses come in and inform me their husbands play hockey too and have wrecked their knees. I feel better already. The nurse on my right is the designated IV inserter and lets me know over and over that I will feel a “bee sting” when she pokes the needle into my vein. I’ve never been stung by a bee but I now know it would piss me off. But one bee sting wasn’t good. She didn’t like how things were flowing so she popped out the needle and gave me another bee sting in another vein. I now hope for the extinction of all bees.
My wife was then brought in to wait with me and was informed she would have full custody of the satchel with my stuff. Said satchel was not only bulky since it was jammed with my winter coat, clothes and sneakers, but it weighed slightly more than her. Bottom line: the bulky bag would go wherever she went. If she got tired of schlepping it, chances are I’d leave the hospital with my bare ass sticking out of the gown..my feet shod in only the mint green socks they provided, helpfully emblazoned with the hospital’s logo.
In the intervening hours various scrub-clad people popped into my room asking me what I ate, drank, snorted, sniffed or injected into my body, along with repeatedly quizzing me on what procedure I was there for. By the seventh time I was tempted to say I was there for treatment of two really bad bee stings.
My doctor finally deigned to drop in and used a Sharpie to put his initials on the knee that would be fixed. I had already done the same. This way they would be reasonably sure they didn’t fix the knee that didn’t need to be fixed.
All this time saline solution is being sent through my veins via the IV, causing the urge to pee like a pack mule. This meant me gathering my IV lines, grabbing the pole that contained the bag of saline and wheeling it and myself to the can. My free hand was dedicated to grabbing the back of my gown to try to hold it closed so all the nice hospital employees weren’t subjected to my 65-year old ass. It didn’t work. But it’s a hospital and I was pretty sure they’d all seen worse. They could have better disguised their smirks.
At one point the anesthesiologist came into my room during hour 3 and casually tossed off “there are still a couple ahead of you,” giving no indication as to how much longer it would be until my bed would be cleared for takeoff. Turned out it was another hour. We could hear some of the staff talking about me saying, “that guy in 26 is still here!” Heh..corpses probably spend less time in a room.
By the time my turn came up it was only 20 minutes before my original time, which means we got to the hospital almost 4 hours early. The “team” surrounded me, squirted some potent juice in my IV and my descent to dreamland came within a minute. When I awoke about 90 minutes later my poor wife could finally ditch the sack with my crap and I could get dressed and leave. But wait…one more indignity. My wife was instructed to get the car and pick me up. The key here is the word, “where.” “Where” would she pick me up. This hospital has more points of access than a hooker. But my wife is smart, has a Masters and doesn’t put up with a lot of shit. She figured it out despite zero instructions and poor signage, and as I sat in a wheelchair in the cold outside the pickup point, she swooped in and rescued me. Time: 6:30 pm, more than 7 hours after we arrived for the 30 minute procedure.
My knee is healing, my “bee stings” are gone and most of all, I’ve covered my ass.
I won’t waste time with wordy exposition. It’s time to shut down the various Halls of Fame and replace them with a concept that eliminates subjective voting and often results in unjustified snubs of worthy honorees. I’ll explain my simple and logical substitution in a moment.
The rationale is simple. All too often a player misses a shot at enshrinement for reasons totally unrelated to their performance:
*Not “flashy” enough
*Despite worthy career achievements they’re left off the ballot because the class of candidates is stacked the particular years they are eligible
*Voters/sports writers who have a particular bias against them for one reason or another.
*Despite worthy achievements the player was stuck on otherwise weak teams that didn’t win championships.
*Player spent career, or most of career in small media markets leading to less coverage and attention.
Just this year, beloved former Detroit Tigers second baseman Alan Trammell was finally granted entry into the Baseball Hall of Fame, but not his long-time double-play partner, second baseman Lou Whitaker who also had a stellar career. In fact, considering the popular stat Wins Above Replacement, Sweet Lou comes out ahead of Tram, 74.9 versus 70.4. Oh sure, you can twist numbers to prove your point and this is just one stat merely to show that two fairly comparable players can be treated very differently.
To go beyond sports, think about the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Why in the world are the mega-selling innovators, the Moody Blues, only just being admitted to the shrine in Cleveland?
Look, everyone has their examples of egregious snubs and can make arguments one way or another for their favorites to be recognized with a plaque screwed to the wall of a hallowed hall, but its painfully, and obviously apparent the path to admission is seriously flawed.
So I toss up this jump ball for discussion. First, eliminate voting. The venues would contain constantly updated displays of arrays of, say, top 100 achievers all-time in various statistical categories and winners of honors like the MVP, Cy Young award and Rookie of the Year. Bowing to how the games have changed over the years, similar displays would be broken out into various eras in order to place certain accomplishments in a viable context. There’s no voting. The displays are simply updated. Given we’‘re in a technically advanced age, images, videos and career highlights could accompany a player’s listing.
Given the totally objective method of recognizing player’s accomplishments, it’s time to trash the “fame” part of the name. Let’s face it, many of those not admitted to halls of fame are as famous as those who are.
Instead, call these venues Halls of Recognition? Stay with me. You do something great, it’s instantly picked up by the computerized display system and added to the appropriate display. I would think visitors would be somewhat enthralled watching the displays update as the season progresses, and secure knowing the displays would not be the same upon repeat visits.
Look, I love visiting Cooperstown, Canton and Toronto. Haven’t yet been to Springfield. The museum, exhibits, videos and memorabilia are thrilling to see and only add to my enthusiasm for the sport. Who doesn’t get a kick out of seeing Babe Ruth’s giant bowling shoes or taking a photo next to the Stanley Cup? It’s all very cool. But once I walk into the Hall of Fame area of the buildings for me, the joy of the game is tempered, knowing someone who accomplished so much…giving everything to their sport, was unfairly denied the small gesture of recognition.
Went food shopping this morning and things became tense at the french fry freezer case. There’s only one brand of fries we like..not your store brand or Ore-Ida or microwave fries, but those awesome fries they serve at Checkers and Rallys fast food joints. You can buy ’em by the bag, stick ’em in the oven and fall into a french fry rapture.
Well…it seemed some dude decided he needed to camp out in front of the exact spot where the Checkers/Rallys fries were sitting, all plumped up and waiting for an adoring family to take them home. The guy wasn’t doing anything. He wasn’t looking at the various brands and types of fries and he certainly didn’t seem worthy of a bag of Checkers fries. He just stood there, hanging onto his cart in a trance, looking like he was coming down from his last shot of heroin. The normal protocol of just saying “excuse me” didn’t seem like it would be effective because the guy appeared separated from reality. So I circled around and around until I used the only other tool in my box that had a chance of not inciting violence…I just sidled my cart next to his, gave him a steely look that said, “I wanna get into the fuckin’ Checkers fries.” That’s really all it took. He quietly moved away, gave me a sorrowful look, while muttering, “oh, excuse me.”
One of the cool benefits of my particular health plan in retirement is something called “Silver Sneakers.” One of the things I hate about that cool benefit is the name “Silver Sneakers.” Silver Sneakers gives you free entree’ into a number of health club chains around the country with the intent of enticing you to exercise more and lowering health care costs. What really gives me grey hair is the association of the color silver with those of us who have taken a certain number of trips around the sun.
First of all, I have never worn sneakers that are silver nor do I intend to. I may have a couple of silver-y grey hairs, but not enough to notice…especially after I pull them out.
Second, it may be time to call in a metallurgist to suss out exactly which precious metal is in play. How can people in their so-called “golden” years simultaneously come under the classification of “silver.” Perhaps Charles Darwin missed the evolutionary process whereby at at 65 or so you become an alloy.
Third, “silver” denotes second place. Who won gold?
Further, when you think of how many retirees pursue carcinomas under the Florida sun it’s possible to carry a Silver Sneakers card during one’s golden years while being bronzed.
Personally, I would prefer to be identified with a much stronger metal such as steel or titanium, not a malleable milquetoast such as tin or aluminum. How cool would it be to see an AARP ad hawking benefits of membership during your “Kickass Steel Years,” Those are the years when you say exactly how you feel, tell poolside mah jong yentas to put a cork in it and berate Izzy the deli guy about how fatty the pastrami was, in front of all his customers…all without a hint of regret or self-consciousness. Yeah…time for us codgers to kick a little brass.
I guess what I’m saying is we may be getting older but we’re still in the game playing hard. We’re less silver or gold than Iron men and women..who haven’t nearly lost our mettle.
Whether we like it or not, self-driving, or autonomous, vehicles are in the cards. While they may be useful for any number of reasons, I don’t see them sparking any great tunes.
Let’s think about it for a moment. Some of the greatest songs refer directly to someone whose hands are on the wheel or flooring the accelerator or refusing to drive 55 .
A great example is Golden Earrings’s classic “Radar Love” with the awesome opening lines:
“I’ve been drivin’ all night, my hand’s wet on the wheel
There’s a voice in my head that drives my heel
It’s my baby callin’, says I need you here
And it’s a half past four and I’m shiftin’ gear.”
The Doors wouldn’t be caught dead in a self-driving car as they headed for a night of debauchery at the roadhouse:
“Yeah, keep your eyes on the road, your hands upon the wheel
Keep your eyes on the road, your hands upon the wheel
Yeah, we’re goin’ to the Roadhouse
We’re gonna have a real
And before Bruce Springsteen would allow a bucket of semi-conductors to take the wheel, he would rather be hopped up on caffeine and who knows what in order to maintain control of his ride in really crappy weather to see his lady once again in “Drive All Night.” Just another reason he’s “The Boss.”
“Baby I’ll drive all night
I swear I drive all night
Through the wind, through the rain, through the snow”
While I can understand that autonomous vehicles will be extremely useful..especially for those who can’t drive themselves, I intend to hold out just as long as I can before I cede control of my mobility to a machine that’s smarter than I.
And so I offer this ode to autonomy..that you can sing to whatever melody strikes you…as long as you sing it… yourself.
I been riding all night, my butt’s stuck on the seat
Car’s doing all the work, don’t need my feet
I got a place in mind that I wanna go..
Don’t have to steer… this machine just knows
So I sit and watch the world through the windshield
Eyes on everything but what’s in front of me..
No concern about my speed, or any urgency…
No mental traffic when you’re riding in autonomy.
Got a left foot out of work with no clutch to depress
and my right one just stepped in my Taco Bell mess
My idle hands they have no wheel to steer or lever to shift
And I wonder what damn killjoys came up with this
When I’m in real hurry or just wanna go real fast
Don’t wanna watch it happen, I wanna mash the gas
Want my hands real busy, don’t want it done for me
Won’t cede the thrill of driving to a car’s technology
I suppose I could be open to a car that drives itself
operated by a host of smart electronic elves..
I could just sit back, relax and think about my day
Let autonomy just do its stuff
and whisk me in my way
But to whom do I direct my anger and my bile
When a driverless self-driving buggy tailgates us for a mile.
No GPS or LIDAR gives a flying hoot
When you flip them off or swear or give your horn an angry toot.
I’d just as soon stay in control,
On what’s in front of me..
Make all my decisions and mistakes..
Now that’s autonomy!
The first hint of something not exactly right was when the stream of water coming out of my shower head was roughly as weak as a pee from a man with a faulty prostate. Hint number two was the sound of a loud cough coming from my bathroom sink faucet once I turned the tap. Sounded about the same as an Englishman with his mad dog out in the midday sun. I gave these hydro-aberrations little thought until early this morning when I attempted to fill the coffee pot and all that dripped from the tap was enough H20 to fill a thimble. After scratching my head and thinking of doing the same to my ass I checked my phone for any overnight emails or messages. That’s where the mystery was solved. A water main had cracked a few miles from my house the evening before and ruined tea time for more than 600-thousand people in the area.
The headline was dire and direct: “Mandatory boil water in effect for the following cities and towns! Don’t drink, wash, bathe, slosh or spit until you have allowed the water to boil for a minute or more.” Then, I suppose, you had complete permission to scald yourself to your heart’s delight.
So I had no choice but to hop in my car and head downtown to my part–time job 26 miles away in Detroit, allowing me the opportunity to hear non-stop on the all-news radio station that everyone affected by the water crisis was essentially screwed until at least Friday night. The reason for the delay? The water people don’t keep a spare 48-inch diameter pipe handy for such disasters, so a section of the four-foot wide main would need to be trucked in from Illinois and installed. Then water pressure would be slowly built back up and the water tested to make sure it did not contain the type of bacteria causing President Trump to emulate the man who inspired a famous Edvard Munch painting.
I attempted to buy bottled water but all I could find was a single six-pack of grape-flavored agua. I did see a couple of bottles of Pellegrino water in one shopper’s cart, but I did not deem such a disaster was the time for pretentiousness. I must admit, however, it would be pretty sparkling bathing in a tub of lightly bubbled spritz.
As a provider for my little family, I used all of my survival instincts to come through with one logical course of action. Find a water source that was easily transportable, and totally potable. I need look only at the top shelf of my fridge where a thoroughly chilled 12-pack of Sam Adams seasonal brews were foaming over the chance to be of public service. My family was not nearly as enthused over my solution as they prefer a nice dry, red. I was only too happy to return to the market, pass the empty water shelves and snicker as I bought a case of Cabernet, feeling a little drunk with smugness, and Sam Adams, that my dear neighbors hadn’t had that same Eureka moment.
So now we’re all set. Ready to ride out this temporary situation for the next couple of days. We won’t need to boil water at all. We’re all cooked.
It’s been about a year since I quit Facebook cold turkey as a means of reclaiming my time and a bit of my sanity. I had developed a bit of a following for some mildly funny posts to the extent that when I attended a business or social event, my followers would give me warm greetings, engage in conversations, call out specific posts.
But then yesterday, while covering an auto industry event, I found out how fleeting Facebook “friendship” really is. One of my more ardent former followers…a fellow journalist..greeted me with a big “hi! and a smile. Then came the hammer. “You don’t seem to post much anymore,” she said. “Oh no,” I replied. “I quit a year ago.” Her face fell, then hardened, and then she curtly cut off our conversation and turned to speak with someone else.
Are people really that idiotic and shallow to the point of de-valuing your acquaintance simply because you choose to discontinue posting quips on a social media site?
I asked my daughter, who, in her late 20’s, is a social media savant ,if this was common behavior or simply a display of immaturity by a middle aged knownothing.
She gave me a very serious look while explaining to me in no uncertain terms, “you must maintain your online presence to build your personal brand.”
Now I ran social media communications at Fiat Chrysler for 11 years so I’m not exactly a novice at online branding and the working of social media, but for some reason this hit me like a shot. It just seems so horribly pathetic that human beings can be judged by such an ephemeral criteria. Luckily, I’m at an age where my reputation has long been made. I have no one else to impress except my family. In my semi-retirement I have no occupational aspirations other than to dabble here and there with freelance projects and my very nice part-time position at Automotive News. I do not wish to be some sort of social media personality and the only thing about me that goes viral might be a bacteria I catch in the locker room where I play hockey.
What this has all done is harden my resolve not to reverse course and resume my Facebook presence. Oh..I’m still online..through this blog and a very occasional tweet and posting links to some of my current work on Linkedin, but that’s it.
It was fun making people laugh and triggering some smiles during my time on Facebook, but it’s always best to leave the stage with the audience wanting more. That doesn’t make me worth any less. I still tell jokes…to my real friends…not on Facebook..but face to face.