Thursday, December 4, 2014

Show a Little Kindness

I recently went to Henry Ford Clinic for a blood draw and flu shot.  A really cute perky medical assistant came in with the syringes.  When I presented my arm for the blood draw, she expressed delight at the condition of my veins, so easy to tap!  I told her my veins are a junkie's dream.  She laughed and we started chatting.  When her kids asked what she did at her job, she told them she collected blood from people.  They said, "Oh, like a vampire!"  She said "Yeah, like that!"  I said we think alike.  I tell people that I'm going to the doctor to do "the vampire thing, they're gonna suck my blood."  She said she likes to tease her eleven year old son about a prominent vein in his neck. She tells him, "Oh, that's a sexy vein, I'm gonna tap that some day!"  Her friends tell her that her kids are going to need therapy.  She responds everybody needs therapy so it may as well be for something hilarious instead of something real.  I pretty much agreed with that.  She then proceeded to tell me what a great kid her son is, very kind and generous.  She told me about a time when they were in a convenience store in a rough area of Ypsilanti.  Her son was about five years old at the time.  A working girl came in, bought a snack and a drink.  When she went to leave, the boy went to the door, held it open for her and said, "Have a nice day!"  The girl started tearing up and told mom that usually parents grab their kids and drag them away from her.  She really appreciated being treated with courtesy and kindness.  More recently, they were in a store again.  Her son had been carrying his own money, allowance, etc. for a while.  There was a homeless guy at the counter cashing in bottles.  He didn't have enough money to get the food he wanted, so her son collected all the stuff the man had not been able to buy, plus a little extra, bought it and gave it to the man.  Then they went outside and collected more bottles for the guy.  She said she had tried to set that kind of example for her kids.  A patient came in one day, again, probably homeless.  She noticed him using some paper towels trying to wipe some dirt from his face and arms.  She brought him so wipes and said she'd be back in a little bit, gave him time to clean himself up a little more.  When he was done with his appointment, she put some more wipes and tissues in a bag, along with some crackers, and gave the stuff to him.  I said her son was going to be a great human being, then changed it to say, no, he already is a great human being.  Best medical appointment ever.  I felt really good when I left.  

Monday, December 1, 2014

Value your work

I did my first two hour Salvation Army bell ringing shift of the year on Saturday.  My Kiwanis club does it at the Kroger store here in town.  We do two hour shifts because we are geezers and can't handle eight hours.  I reported for duty at 11 A.M., only to learn that my scheduled time was 1 P.M. to 3 P.M.  Fortunately, this misstep did not set the tone for  the shift.  Of course, the kids are always adorable, begging their parents for money to put in the bucket.  ( Right on, kids!  Keep it up! )  We always give them a candy cane or Hershey's kiss.  Then a young couple came out of the store with party type groceries.  The guy had a twelve pack of  Rolling Rock beer.  He put it down on the chair provided for us to rest when necessary.  I said, "Oh, you brought me some beer!  Thank you!"  Beer always makes a shift go so fast!
Then a man came in wearing Michigan Department of Corrections jacket and knit hat.  I recognized him from Huron Valley Correctional Facility so I said hello, asked how things were going.  I told him things were great for me, because I am retired now.  CO Dolan said he could go any time, figured he would put in another year, which would make a 31 year career.  He said he was discouraged because he feels society devalues what he does for a living, even though he is proud of his career and the work he does.  I agreed with him.  People have no idea what his job is like. We chatted for awhile longer, lamenting the current state of affairs at the Department.  Then a guy came out of the store and said to him, "Oh, you work as a guard.  You're a babysitter."   Ironic, in view of what CO Dolan and I had just been talking about.  His comments irritated me, so I said, "Yeah, for big babies, big MEAN babies".  CO Dolan was angry.  He told the guy, "I take some offense at that.  I go to work every day.   Been called every name in the book.  I've had food and shit thrown at me.  Prisoners have urinated on me.  I work out three times a week so I can deal with these guys and not get hurt."  It turned out the guy had a kid in prison who fed him a line of garbage about what officers do.  Meanwhile my bell ringing shift ended.  I interrupted and asked the guy if  he had ever been threatened with having a nickname tattooed on his asshole.  He said no.  I told him, "Well, I have been."  Then I said good-bye to CO Dolan and went into the store.

Saturday, May 3, 2014


One of my friends used the word "sclerotic" in a Facebook post today.  The use of the word got a lot of reaction in the comments.
When prisoners started getting snotty with me at hearings, I sought revenge by using big words.  If I thought they were lying, I would say things like, "you're obfuscating".  If they were insulting the reporting officer or me, I would say, "There's no need to be so vitriolic".  Or "cantankerous".   I already wrote about the guy who got in a fight, lost, then claimed he was assaulted.  I told he he was not assaulted, he just lost the fight because he "lacked pugilistic skills".  If their statements were stupid, I would tell them "You are impervious to common sense".   Usually they would just look puzzled.  If they know what I meant, I probably would have gotten thumped a few times.  I think they had an inkling that I was not flattering them but they couldn't be sure, so they didn't react.  I got petty satisfaction from the fact that I had a bigger vocabulary than they did.


A couple of my friends posted a thing of Facebook saying that a good person might be covered by tattoos, and a bad person could go to church every week.  You can't judge a book by its cover.
It reminded me of an experience I had in Hillsdale, a small city in western Michigan.  I conducted hearings on prisoners on home confinement in that area.  The hearings took place in the parole office, located on the second floor a a building which housed district court on the lower floor.  One day I approached the building where a young guy was standing, along with two older people who seemed to be his parents.  He had long hair and wore a concert t-shirt for a heavy metal band, Metallica or some group like that. The dad had long graying hair he wore in a braid or a pony tail, and a black leather jacket, sort of biker types.  I confess I harbored negative thoughts like, "this kids a thug and his parents are anti-social".  So imagine my surprise when I got to the door and the young man pulled the door open for me, and his mom reached out to help hold the door.  I thanked them and they responded,"You're welcome".  I realized I had stereotyped  them based on their wardrobe and hair.  I thought about it all morning, and finally went back and talked to my friend Inspector D. about it.  She's the one who pointed out that I had been profiling.  Lesson learned, don't judge just by what is on the outside.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Mr. Honesty

On one of our stops on our trip up the coast, my sister and I stayed in a hotel near the Eel River.  In the morning we crossed the street to check out the walking path next to the river.  It was dirt.  I couldn't really walk it with my leg weakness and balance issues.  My walker would get bogged down on the rocks and little dips in the ground.  So she went walking on the path, and I walked around the conference center and paved areas.  There were some nice views, and benches where you could sit.  They also had a cat sanctuary with a little gazebo.  It started to rain,so I decided to sit in the gazebo and see if one of the cats were approach me.  I think they were feral, since the two I saw were pretty skittish.
As I looked around for more cats, a guy wandered into the gazebo.  Although he did not see all the way odd, his affect did seem to be a little blunted.   But he commented on the rain, and the cool temperature.  I thought, OK, that's pretty normal.  His next comment was, "I just broke up with my girlfriend yesterday."   Uh oh.  Once again, I had attracted a "special person"  who could not wait to tell me his life story.  Why does this keep happening to me?  My friend Chery says it's because of the "aura of serenity" I give off.  Hmmm.  Since I detected no hint of aggression, I decided to just go with it.  I asked, "Did you break up with her, or did she break up with you?"  He said he broke up with her, because he knew she was getting ready to break up with him.  He went on to say, he was a very honest person, so he told her why he was dumping her.  He explained that he had done a lot of reading, and he had learned to notice patterns of behavior, which in this case clued him in to what his girlfriend was thinking.  At this point, he pulled out his pipe and toked up a little, releasing some smoke to dissipate into the air.  I continued the conversation just prompting him, you know, "Oh, that sounds like the right thing to do", or "uh-huh".  He continued talking until my sister showed up, at which point, I immediately said with more enthusiasm than necessary, "Ready to go?".  She worked for Human Services her whole career, so she immediately recognized what was going on and said, "Yep, let's go".  As I was getting into the car, I waved goodbye to Mr. Honesty.  He waved back.
As we continued on our journey up the coast, I kept seeing more "special people"  walking along the side of the highway, or standing on street corners with signs asking for money, etc.  A lot of them had dogs for companions.   My sister explained that California and Oregon have pretty good support services for homeless, mentally ill, addicted folks.
I noticed quite a few run-down shacks and trailers in the trees several yards off the road, or in the small towns we went through.  Probably shelter for a lot of these folks.   I wondered how many meth labs were hidden away back in those forests.  Probably quite a few pot patches too.  Evidence of this desperate poverty saddened me.  Quite a clash with the California stereotype of glitz, decadence and excess portrayed in the media.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                

Sunday, April 13, 2014


I recently returned from a trip to visit family on the West Coast.  I flew into San Francisco where my brother Chuck, and my sister, Carol, picked me up.  I arrived about 10 P.M. so it was dark and traffic was light on the drive to my brother's house in Novato in Marin County.  In the next several days, we went to Point Reyes National Park and did a lot of driving around Marin County, which has a varied and beautiful landscape, from ocean beach, to mountains, to rural farms and cattle ranches.  My brother had shoulder surgery shortly before my arrival, and he concluded a round of treatment for another medical condition while I was there.  He did so well, his doctor released him to travel, so he went to Savannah, Georgia, to visit a friend.  My sister and I drove to Sacramento to see my nephew, then drove up the coast to her home in Eugene, Oregon, where my younger brother and his family also live.
As we drove around, I noticed an annoying humming, buzzing sound all around me.  After some investigation, I learned that the West Coast, especially, California, is experiencing an aggressive species invasion of an insect known as the Toyota.  There are millions of them flitting around the landscape.  The invasion centers on freeways.  The insects congregate in shopping mall parking lots, and places called "dealerships".  The insects also demonstrate much higher intellect than the normal insect in that they are highly organized and have managed to masquerade as automobiles.  Even my brilliant sister and her husband were fooled enough to purchase one of the larger subspecies several years ago, a Highlander.  It has gotten to the point where not only can you hardly buy a real car like a Ford, you cannot even rent one.  We found this out when we tried to rent a car to drive north, and the only thing we could get was, you guessed it, a Toyota.  A tiny Toyota Corolla.  It buzzed all the way up the coast.  I expressed my concern for my safety to my sister.  The insect knew I was onto it, and knew that their ultimate plan is to continue building up their numbers until they can turn on us, and decimate us, take over the country.  Carol expressed pessimism and called me paranoid.  I was on my guard, however, and never gave the insect a chance to devour me and expel any waste product left from my body out its tail pipe.
The only actual vehicles that seem to be holding their own against the invasion are SUVs and trucks, as in "big ass American trucks".
On the drive north, my sister pulled out into all the rest stops and scenic view pullouts.  At one place, she wanted to walk the trail.  I decided to walk a little way with her.  No way was I going to remain in the insect in a strange place.  I saw the insect eyeing me for lunch.  I told my sister if I fell on the trail to just wrap me up in her rain poncho ( also known as "the shower curtain" to her fellow volunteers at the Eugene rose gardens ) and go for help.  But I didn't fall, and when I got tired Carol found a place for me to sit.  The only harm was a dirty butt.  
After we got to Eugene, Carol and her husband drove their Fusion hybrid almost exclusively.  They prefer this superior form of transportation, much as it disgusts their Highlander insect.  As I wondered around their yard, near the back of their garage and car port one evening, I heard the insect and the Fusion arguing. The insect laughed maniacally, and tried to insult the Fusion by saying, "You hybrid!  You are nothing but a sub-automotive mongrel!"  The Fusion calmly responded, "Well, as for the hybrid thing, you guys started it with that goofy Prius.  Anywayl, my people prefer me.  And by the way, they are thinking of replacing you with a Ford Escape.  Cynthia has been telling them how much she likes hers."
The very next day, the Fusion was hit by a Nissan at an intersection.  I absolutely know in my heart that the insect hired or formed some kind of alliance with the Nissan community to carry out this hit.  After all, the Nissan is another invasive.  The Fusion had to go into the shop.
The next day, my sister had to drive the insect around.  We stopped at a grocery store to get things for dinner.  We did some walking around that day so I chose to stay in the insect for the brief time while my sister was in the store.  While there, I saw my sister-in-law Linda park.  She saw me sitting in the fake vehicle and approached.  I tried to roll down the window and open the door but they were both locked!  I was trapped!  I panicked, knowing that the insect had me at its mercy.  Then I manually unlocked the door lock, and the alarm went off!  OMG!  If I was going to escape, the insect at least insisted on embarrassing me as much as possible.  Linda texted my sister that I tripped the alarm, and she used her key fob button to turn it off.  Thank goodness, Carol and Henry rented a Chevy to drive me to the airport in Portland for the flight home.
Although I hated leaving my siblings, I felt great relief upon arriving home.  Parking lots full of Fords, Chevys, Chryslers!  Safety!  But we cannot be complacent.  We must prepare for the expanding aggressive invasion of the insect Toyotas, and their allies, the Nissans and Hondas.  I have already secured the services of a mad scientist/weapon manufacturer to alter a grenade launcher to deliver RAID bombs.  Next, I am hoping to find someone to develop a RAID-delivering fully automatic AK-47.  Thank goodness for the Second Amendment!  We shall prevail!

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Last week one of my Facebook Friends, Lightnin' Rod Wilson, a great blues musician, posted a picture of a squirrel with a beautiful guitar.  It was really cute.  In spite of another snow storm yesterday, I have seen signs of spring, including a lot of squirrels out running around.
I used to do hearings at a boot camp type facility which is located in a really beautiful rural area.  Wild life commonly populated the woods and sometimes wandered out onto the road.  As I drove away one day I saw two squirrels in the middle of the road quite a distance in front of me.  They ran out of the road and I thought to myself, "Smart squirrels."  Wrong.  I got up to about fifty yards from the spot where I first saw them.  Suddenly, two squirrels come darting out of the woods, one chasing the other.  Then they stop right in front of me and start wrestling, WWF style!  I hit the brakes and slowed as much as I could without skidding or fish tailing, but they just kept pummeling each other, oblivious to the danger of the car.  Finally, a third squirrel came running up to them, looking like she was screaming at them and waving her cute little front paws.  After a few seconds of this, they broke it up and all three ran off the road.
I thought to myself, "What the hell just happened?"  I figured the two squirrels who chose to duke it out in the middle of the road must have been drunk.  No other explanation seems adequate.  There must have been some red-neck squirrel bar back in those woods, with red-neck hillbilly squirrel music on the juke box.  The third squirrel was a girlfriend to one of the wrestlers, and the other wrestler must have hit on her or something.  So the two macho boy squirrels got in an argument.  The red-neck squirrel bartender told them to take it outside.  As soon as the girl squirrel realized they got themselves out in the road, she had to go break them up.  If they both got hit by a car, she would lose a boyfriend, and a replacement boyfriend, all in one splat.  I always wanted to go back to that place, go back into the woods and find that little squirrel bar.  Never got it together to do it, though.