Friday, November 26, 2010

12 Days of Christmas?

Yet another Holiday season is upon us. No matter what we do, it seems that we are constantly bombarded with images, traditions, and songs from a distant time. I suppose this is the "Ghost of Christmas Past" that Scrooge was so afraid of. Of all the songs we are forced to hear, there is one even more annoying than the rest; "The 12 Days of Christmas". This insipid ditty drones on seemingly forever repeating lines over and over again. Any thinking person would question receiving all these "drummers drumming, pipers piping", and all those damn birds. Why by the end of the song I am envisioning a noisy zoo of a household, covered in three inches of bird shit. The song makes "99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall", seem scholarly by comparison!

Sadly, Christmas goes year round now! It starts in late June with the "Christmas in July sales". Apparently it's never too early to start going into debt. Within 48 hours of Halloween, the trees start going up in the stores. Lights, ornaments, and Christmas cards now occupy the spaces where Halloween candy once lurked. The hype has begun!

By mid-November, "Black Friday" previews begin appearing in your E-Mail inbox, in print ads, and radio and TV advertising You can't escape the beast that is Christmas! The Thanksgiving day paper is chock full of ads from merchants vying for your money. Some stores have resorted to opening on Thanksgiving day itself in order to get hold of your cash before anyone else! The crowds appear camped out in front of stores by noon, waiting for the early deals. The "Black Friday" rush is on!

(A brief note here; doesn't it seem that something called Black anything, would be reserved for African-Americans? You know, like "Black Power" or something? Merchants would offer gift ideas for minorities, such as "The Pimps and Ho's Playset", or "Driveby Dion" or something. For adults, "Gangsta" clothing, music, and weapons.)

But enough of that, for "The Big Day" looms ever closer! Shoppers exhaust themselves buying even more for friends and family, to make up for all the big ticket items they bought for themselves on Black Friday.

Before you know it, it's Christmas Eve, and shoppers are back out looking for last minute bargains. Then the big day dawns, presents are opened and millions of little faces convey the disappointment that they didn't get the expensive toys they had wished for (While dad gloats over getting his 60" big screen TV, laptop, and Blue-Ray player on Black Friday).

Boxing Day is next, when people return the gifts they got hoping to get enough cash to pay for the things they bought for others. January rolls around soon after, and the credit card bills begin arriving. Meanwhile, merchants are inventorying left over merchandise, and planning for they new year's "Christmas in July" sales.

Whatever happened to family and friends just getting together to be close during the holidays? No extravagance, no hype, just warm feelings? It's sad to see so many people driven so far in debt by the "Christmas Monster", but I guess that's what folks call progress. As for me, I'm not so sure.

Bah, Humbug!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Forward, Into the Past!

Imagine, if you will, going back into the past, to your high school speech class, and giving a speech on life as we know it today. I've had this dream (or nightmare) a number of times now, and I can't imagine how our classmates would have reacted to life in the 21st century.

For starters, some of my classmates in 1964 didn't live to see their 21st birthday. The Vietnam "War" was raging, and at least a few of my fellow classmates succumbed to injuries received there. Many a good, decent person was caught up in this police action (or war, if you will) and paid the ultimate price.

But enough of these depressing thoughts, what would the class of 1966 think after hearing about the future?

So much has changed in the world since then, and describing these changes would leave our former selves in a tizzy!

From the breakup of the Beatles, and the deaths of John and George, the world of music has changed fast.
First Disco reared it's ugly head, and then music died as we know it thanks to the ghetto rap music. The towns we knew turned into war zones, with people moving away in fear. Our culture and values were under assault since our graduation. We were among the minority now, fleeing the crime usually associated with "those areas". We were ground zero in the changing landscape!

Imagine telling classmates that there were no more Plymouths, Pontiacs, Studebakers, or Oldsmobiles in the new car showrooms. Or telling our peers that there would be mandates as to what had to be included in a new car. From 5mph bumpers, to the ignition switch being moved from the dashboard to the steering column, to the plethora of airbags we have to deal with today. Think about trying to convince our friends that someday, cars won't have carburetors, hardtops won't exist, and that the average new car will cost double the price of a brand new home!
Fun will be frowned upon, and we will all drive bland but efficient cars, that in no way make us cool.

Imagine trying to explain air travel in the 21st century! The scans, searches, and pat-downs make it look like we're living in a police state!

But yet, there was an upside to the future....the computer! As circuits and components got smaller and smaller, computer aided devices multiplied. Imagine the looks on those 1964 faces when we whipped out a cell phone to show them that it not only made telephone calls, but took photos and movies as well! What must the young people of 1964 think upon seeing this marvel, and upon hearing that cars, homes, and even toasters now contain computers? It still boggles my mind even to this day!

Yes, we live in some amazing times, where marvels that were unimaginable 40 years ago, are commonplace now. We live longer, better (supposedly) and more productive lives thanks to modern science. To someone from 1964, this must look like Utopia!

On the other hand, in 1964, Sarah Palin hadn't been born yet................

Thursday, November 11, 2010

My hat's in the Ring....Again!

I've just learned that the Postmaster General of the United States, John Potter is retiring. Since 1967, I have offered my services as a replacement PMG, and have never been chosen. Perhaps now is the time! The Postal Service (formerly the United States Post Office Department) has been adrift for some time now in a sea of debt, slowing revenue, and poor planning.

I would offer a number of changes if given the chance, and if I couldn't save the USPS, I would at least let it die in a dignified manner.

First off, the "Quasi-governmental" period must end. Quasi anything is just plain stupid, unless you are a bell ringing hunchback. The Post Office was brought to life over 200 years ago as a department of the United States Government, and it should be returned to that status. What used to be a proud job, garnering envy from friends and neighbors, has turned into a joke. The mailman (or woman) appeared every day like clockwork, bringing not only the day's mail, but neighborhood news and gossip as well. They knew every member of the family since they stayed on the same route for years. They were dependable as well as honest and were the true ambassadors of the U S Government.

Carriers now are forced to rush through the overburdened routes, no longer allowed to walk on sidewalks, instead, forced to wear a path on your lawn. Due to the constant cutbacks of employees, they are forced to take parts of other routes when there is a sick call or vacation. No one knows anymore when the mail will arrive, nor who will bring it, or worse yet whose mail you will receive!

When I'm PMG, I will ensure that we are fully embraced (and funded) by the federal government and that we are equals with all other branches. No more quasi anything for us! I would remove the many layers of managers, micro-managers, and other unnecessary positions that don't have a hand in moving the mail. The people eliminated would be excessed to offices needing substitute carriers, or clerks. Their pay would be the same as their fellow workers, and they would be held to the same standards.

I would insist all carriers use the sidewalk and respect the property of their patrons. I would order that they be given enough time to not only complete the route, but to polish the reputation that we lost years ago. It's time we regained the trust the public used to have in us!

Distribution Clerks would revert to being clerk-carriers once again. There isn't enough work for an 8 hour day, so they could fill in as substitutes as well.

Supervisors, especially delivery supervisors would be freed from the continuous data entry into DOIS. DSIS, and all the other time wasting programs they do now. They will instead walk the floor and observe how both crafts are completing their assignments, offering encouragement, and help if necessary. Threats, scoldings, and humiliation would be prohibited, and lead to suspension.

The Window supervisor would ensure there was always enough staff on hand to provide service in a timely manner. There should never be only one clerk at the window at any given time, nor should any of the window personnel take a break while customers are still in the building. New products must be developed to generate revenue, and no limit should be put on earnings.

So there you have it, my manifesto for fixing the current mess.
I'm available to start right away, and my first change would be to move Headquarters to here in Mountain Home Arkansas. We will hold meetings on a rented houseboat whenever possible, and business attire would be prohibited!
Please, bring your own fishing poles and beer!