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.
This week marked 54 years since the Ford Mustang was introduced to the world, appropriately, at the 1964 World’s Fair in New York City. I lived about 20 minutes, or two bus rides, from the fair, and went often, whenever I could scrounge up the buck fifty it cost to get in.
One of my favorite attractions was the Ford pavilion which featured a ride in a convertible Galaxie 500 through tubes and tracks that took you through time. You often had to wait a couple of hours to get in, but it was worth it. When you got off the ride, they handed you a green plastic badge embossed with a likeness of the pavilion and a state. You never knew which state you’d get. I got New Jersey. I still have it. If you hold it up to a light for about 30 seconds then go in a dark space, it’ll glow bright green. All these years later mine still glows. What also glowed was the cool new sporty car on a turntable they called the Mustang. The badge on the grille was a horse, but the Mustang name was really derived from the World War II P-51 fighter jet, which Mustang stylist John Najjar admired.
Since I was only 12 at the time, I wasn’t ready to buy a Mustang. Besides, my feet wouldn’t reach the pedals. In fact, I never really thought about owning a Mustang even though I admired it. But things can change quickly in life. After I graduated college in 1973 and got married, I had a very limited budget since the radio station where I worked paid only minimum wage. Except for a used car, the only new ones I could afford were either an AMC Gremlin or Chevy Vega. I went for the Vega..a nice bright red one with sporty fake black leather seats.
Anyone familiar with the ill-fated Vega knows it was a complete failure. I went through 3 transmissions in three years. Many years later as an automotive reporter for The Detroit News, I visited the Lordstown, Ohio Assembly Plant where the Vega was built. One old codger who had worked on the car looked at me sadly and asked, “you owned a Vega? On behalf of the men and women here in Lordstown, I APOLOGIZE!”
Then one day a guy I worked with at radio station WMBO in Auburn, N.Y., outside Syracuse, came up to me and begged me to go down to the parking lot with him, where he showed me a shiny silver new Mustang II. “They’re having a big sale on Mustangs at the Ford dealer in Skaneateles! Dump that Vega!” he said.
It was, indeed a cool car so that night my wife and I drove the five miles east to Skaneateles and instantly fell in love with an emerald green Mustang II with white, fake leather seats. The soft-spoken salesman actually offered us money for our Vega and we picked up the Mustang the next day. It wasn’t a good start. No sooner had we pulled out of the lot it started raining and flipped the switch to turn on the wipers. Nothing happened. Made a quick u-turn back to the dealership where the embarrassed salesman said, “oh, sometimes the wiper arms on the new ones have to be tightened.” Right.
But after that we felt cool as crap riding in the green machine. Took great care of it and it never failed us. We ended up taking it across the country when we moved to Tucson, Arizona and across again when we moved to Atlanta. That’s where it was time to say “goodbye” to it. Oh, I forgot to mention the car had no air conditioning which was a big negative living in the desert in Tucson where we’d often have 10 days or more above 100 degrees. I had to drive to work in shorts and a t-shirt and then change when I arrived. Before figuring this out, I’d drive in my suit then have to ask someone to pry me out of the car because my clothes were stuck to the fake leather seats.
I was working overnights at CNN in 1986 and on my way home on I-85 I felt the car failing. I managed to get it off the freeway, about halfway up the Druid Hills Road exit, where it died. A few minutes later the traffic reporter on WSB warned morning commuters, “a green Mustang is blocking the northbound exit ramp at Druid Hills Road off I-85!” After I had the car towed to a nearby gas station, my wife came and picked me up in our other car….a two-tone blue Chevy Chevette. Yeah..we had strange taste in cars. By the time I got home a guy who worked at the Ford plant in Hapeville, Ga., near the Atlanta airport, called and said he’d give me 150 bucks for the car and pay my towing fee, then fix it up for his 16 year old daughter. Deal!
For a year or so after that I would run into the old car. I knew it was mine because I had a Newscenter 9 bumper sticker on it–the TV station I worked at in Tucson. I was glad to see the old green Mustang got a second life. It certainly served us well during its first one.
Fast-forward to last Tuesday and I had the privilege of covering the Mustang’s 54th birthday at Ford World Headquarters for Automotive News. Here’s my story which was the latest edition of my weekly feature, The Closer. Enjoy.
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.
I have a new perspective at work today. That’s because I moved to my third different cube since starting here about 18 months ago. That’s because we’ve had to shuffle while our company renovates its offices. I’m not really too particular about my workspace as long as it’s fairly clean, has a drawer for my coffee cup, headphones, a couple of pens and some paper. Oh, another requirement is a decent chair. The chair I had at my last two cubes had stains I can only guess came from a previous owner’s losing bout with incontinence. On the upside, the stains did have a remarkable resemblance to the shape of Latvia, which at least provided a conversation starter with those touring the office. “Hi! that’s an interesting stain on your chair!” “For sure! It’s the shape of Latvia!” “Uh, nice. Where do you keep your medical supplies?”
It’s also important to me to have what they call good ergonomics. That means your knees don’t hit the counter when you pull your chair up to the work surface. In the L-shaped space, one generally places their computer monitor and keyboard at the intersections of the two legs. Unfortunately, the counter is too low and the arms on my chair are too high, so my fingers can barely scrape the edge of my keyboard, making my job as a writer somewhat more challenging, but not impossible. I’ve figured out how to blow enough air through a straw to depress the keys. It’s takes a little while longer than touch typing but if I add a little sound, I can pretty much hum any song I like. My co-workers are not amused but I did bring a full box of straws and have invited them to form a blow-typers band. Not have yet accepted and I fear I’m being blown off.
Before I retired I was senior manager at a car company and had an office enclosed in glass. It was more room than I needed and way too isolated from my teammates but our HR department said it would “send a bad message” if I worked from a more modest, and sensible space. I actually think it sends a great message when you take up only as much space as you actually need. In fact, I can fit all of my personal items in a small Trader Joes shopping bag and be out the door in 12 seconds when it’s time for me to move on.
One thing I noticed by moving three times is the difference in background sound. At my first spot our team was fairly isolated and I mainly heard conversations that pertained to our piece of the puzzle. Then we moved into the main newsroom and I liked being there because there was a nice view of Ford Field and Comerica Park, but that was offset by the woman across the divider from me who sneezed no fewer than 75 times every hour. When I was new in that space I attempted a “Bless you” and a “gesundheit” but after the first dozen sneezes I no longer wished this person good health, praying instead for death by Kleenex.
My new, and I’m told, permanent cube, is in what can only be called a mixed neighborhood. I’ve been placed between two people who aren’t on my team and they’ve yet to acknowledge me. I suppose I could take the initiative but as someone who mainly works from home, only coming in to the office every few weeks, it seems like an unnecessary burden. They’ll forget my name, I’ll forget theirs and I don’t want to become so familiar that one of them hits me up to borrow a pen I’ll never see again, or asks about my weekend because then I’d have to ask about their weekend and the small talk quotient would simply be far beyond my level of toleration. I do enjoy that sort of chatting with my teammates because I already know their names so half the work is already done.
Meanwhile, my knees are getting sore bumping into the counter so I’m moving things around a bit. I have five drawers and only three possessions so it may be entertaining to switch their locations from time to time then play a game with myself to see if I remember where I put everything, since I have no idea when I’m scheduled to return to the office. Plus, it will take me only 12 seconds to pack up….when it’s time to move…again.
Too busy to read? Link to podcast at the end of this post
It’s like this. I’ve got a stack of matzo, wine glasses, six colored eggs and a bunny on my dining room table. Add a Hagaddah and a hymnal and the picture of our ecclesiastical schizophrenia is complete. It’s a condition my daughter aptly named EastOver–that confluence of Easter and Passover where it’s OK to eat Peeps but not bread. That’s our family. As Marisa Tomei memorably squawked in “My Cousin Vinny,” “like you blend!” We do.
Most years each holiday gets its own due. Typically Passover starts before Easter and we do the traditional seder. My Episcopalian wife makes her sublime matzoball soup..a fact that royally ticked off my late, Jewish, mother who demanded her secret. “Just follow the directions on the box,” my wife deadpanned. I always feared that once Protestants figured this out, beyond my kitchen, they would co-opt the dish, the holiday and take credit for conjuring up the potent agent of constipation.
I always enjoyed the seder, even when I was very young and Passover tradition was held at my maternal grandparent’s apartment in Flatbush. My grandmother Perlberg was calm and gracious and made these killer french fries in the oven that were joyously greasy and crunchy. My grandfather insisted on reading the Passover story in Hebrew even though he spoke not a word. Indeed, every passage came out as “zummmmmzummmzummmcha!”” Sometimes he would nod off in the middle of the story which didn’t please us because it only delayed getting to the big meal, which was generally roast turkey and those rock-hard fries. We often were told the Last Supper, noted by Christians was probably what we were served because we were convinced Jesus actually died choking on a hard, greasy fry. The cross thing was just to cover up for the cook.
Which brings us to Easter. My wife has a deft touch when decorating the house for every holiday. For the Resurrection she exhumes a host of colorful, sparkling eggs and they rise to hover over us from various light fixtures. This not only adds the bright hues of Spring and hope to the house, it provides a reminder that between Easter and Passover ….eggs suffer from a high mortality rate.
We always enjoyed creating fun Easter baskets for the kids, stuffing them with toys and candy, which invariably led to the question, “hey mommy and daddy, what’s this stuff have to do with a guy going down then coming back up and what does the word ‘Easter’ mean?” Our explanation centered on the joy of the season and happiness that a very important person got a second chance… and our awesome dental insurance. No, I do not know what the word “Easter” means although I suspect it’s a Welsh interpretation of the word “Cadbury.”
The way we handle the confluence of Easter and Passover pretty much mirrors our even-handed approach to the intersection of Christmas and Chanukah, as I explained in the 2016 post “Holiday Turf War.”
It’s nice to see how our now, adult kids respect the different celebrations and beliefs, while hedging their spiritual bets. After all, you don’t want to put all your eggs.. matzoh or Easter, in one basket.