Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Happy 5th of July!!

Yesterday was our Independence Day....a day of celebrating getting rid of those pesky Brits and commemorating it by eating too much, getting sunburned and blowing shit up. American traditions at their finest.

My personal memories of 4th of Juy's of years gone by are pretty much the same. I would get a skin searing sunburn that would leave me moving like a robot, unable to sleep, and vowing to never leave myself open to another one...yet doing it again the following year. Lessons are not always learned the hard way...or any way.

Another memory is of my mother sitting on the ground among a pile of fireworks and basically lighting and throwing them in various directions. Considering she was the first certified female blaster for the coal company she worked for back then...I wonder what they would have thought about her complete disregard for safety precautions...not to mention the precedent she was setting for her children regarding fireworks and safety?

One year my older sis got a very large chunk of her calf removed by daring to light a firecracker and dropping it into a coke bottle with every intention to be far enough away to escape the resulting explosion...unfortunately she did not consider that short fuses generally do not wait for you to place the bottle carefully down before turning and running for your life. The blood was impressive...so were her screams.

I remember the time I was cleaning my bedroom and suddenly smelled a burning odor. I looked around and saw an object on the floor and was reaching down to pick it up (thinking it was trash as I was in my cleaning mode) when it suddenly exploded a mere inch or so from my outstretched fingers. While my heart was debating whether or not it was going to continue beating and sustaining my young life...I heard my father and little sis out in the hallway laughing themselves to death. Apparently father had thrown the firecracker at me to scare me with the resulting boom...I wonder whose fault it would have been if I had actually managed to pick the darn thing up before it exploded?

One 4th my mother's company held a picnic for employees and families. My father declined to come, better for us, and I spent the day watching the effects when alcohol, fireworks, and insanity are mixed. I remember this particular picnic the most because our next door neighbor then, who also worked with my mother, got annoyed by something I did (he was drinking and I was playing horseshoes..I cannot remember what it was I did that irritated him...but being 13 who knows)..at any rate the end result was him giving me a full open handed slap across my face. (my jaw would hurt for 2 weeks after that) I ran to my mother sobbing and she did what she always did...covered up my abuse...only this time she hid it from my father..not for him. She assumed he would go after our neighbor...and she was probably right. While he felt he had every right in the world to abuse us....so help the man who thought the same.

Back to my epic sunburns as one in particular stands out. The last one I suffered through (before the one I got when Bahrain experienced a full scale blackout one summer...another story I may have told at some point on this blog) I was 14 and decided for some ungodly reason to wear a tank top for the very first time to the city picnic....sans sunscreen of any kind. (up to this point in time I was a t-shirt girl...never exposing anything more than my lower arms to the sun) My very white innocent skin on my shoulders, arms, chest, and back...were simply burnt to a crisp. For the next week I could barely move, sleep, eat,....move. I had huge blisters that looked disgusting and during one moment of sweet bliss lost in an exhausted cat nap...sitting up with pillows all around me...my mother took a needle and popped all the blisters. I woke up in a mess of blister fluid and more pain. Sweet.

Yesterday's 4th saw me pottering around my house...I didn't buy a single firework. I didn't go to the show (though I could see it out the window for the most part) and I didn't get a sunburn. Win! Just couldn't get into the whole Independence Day hype this time around...feeling rather jaded I'm thinking when I read how America is going down the toilet due to politicians intent on over zealously flushing the proverbial toilet again and again. I guess I didn't see the point of celebrating and forgetting for a moment that we are slowly (or not so slowly) losing our King of the Mountain (Superpower) status and the right to celebrate our so called freedoms, democracy, and 'don't you wish you were us" mentality.

Yeah...I'm jaded.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

When the lights go out in 3...2...1...

The year is 2011 and the world is, for the most part, quite civilized and runs along predictable patterns of social conscious and awareness. In other words, even though we humans do tend to engage in war and drama with a little too much eagerness at times, for the most part we act civilized and mind our manners. A majority of people can wake up in the morning, go about their daily activities, and lay their heads on their pillows at night without, for a moment, forgetting that they are at the top of the food chain. Superior in intellect and capable of reason and deduction when problems arise that requires thinking, deep or otherwise. For most of us, being faced with a problem, an inconvenience, a situation that needs a step back and a look at the bigger picture in order to work things out and set things straight again, is no more problematic than deciding which shoe to put on first in the morning. At least that is what I thought prior to events that took place yesterday.

Working in a convenience store allows me to watch people behaving at their best, and sometimes at their worst, as they go about their day trying to get from point A to point B with as little hassle as possible. The mere fact that it is a convenience store means that customers are intent on getting in and out again with as little delay as possible; anything that delays a customer with this goal in mind can result in flared tempers and curt words. Most of the time this is accomplished without anything major upsetting the dynamics of a convenience store clerk/customer relationship, but now and then something happens which appears to reduce a once civilized thinking people into little more than the cave dwelling Neanderthals we sprung from. I realized yesterday that no matter how far we have come in progress, how high our skyscrapers, how far our space shuttles travel, or how complex our brain surgery gets, when the electricity goes out so does our critical thinking skills apparently.

When the electricity goes off completely we are faced with the sudden and shocking reality of just how dependent we are on it. It is then we realize that nearly everything we do is accomplished by the flick of a switch, the swipe of a card; the automatic responses that should be automatic without us even having to think of them. Electric doors opening or traffic signals operating properly and keeping traffic running smoothly happen “magically” and require no thought or action on our part. We expect these things to do what they were designed to do in order to make our lives easier, smoother, and convenient; and for the most part they do and we go about our day with nary a hiccup; it is when those SNAFU’s happen and the electricity goes out that we are pulled up sharp and thrust back into a century when the word “electricity” hadn’t even been thought up yet much less put into action.

On Saturday at least 1200 homes and businesses were affected when electricity was suddenly no longer under our control. A large scale blackout that not only affected every single thing that uses electricity to operate but also appeared to have adverse effects on people’s ability to think and workout complex problems for themselves; like how to open a door that has a CLOSED sign on it. I was forced to close the store because it simply cannot operate without electricity to run the gas pumps, registers, and security cameras. I placed two very large CLOSED signs on the doors and then spent over 2 hours watching people try and figure out why the doors would not open no matter how hard they pulled on them. Some would go from one door to the other, try that one, when that failed to open on command precede back to the first door and give that another try.

I watched as they placed hands up onto the glass and peered into the dark interior of the store trying to understand why the doors would not open and upon spotting me would play a game of charades indicating I should open the doors for them. No amount of explanation on my part that, due to the electricity being off, I could not accommodate them just now would convince them. I got pleas to just let them pay for gas, get some cigarettes, buy a pint etc. and despite me explaining again and again that there was NO electricity so the pumps would not work, the registers were little more than paperweights, and I could not let them in anyhow, seemed to not make the slightest impression on their once thinking brains. I was talking, explaining coherently and with simple words and yet the looks of confusion on each and every face clearly led me to believe I must be speaking in a tongue not previously known to man.

This confusion and inability to comprehend that, for the moment anyhow, their desires were not going to be met, led some to wander aimlessly back to their cars, obviously still trying to work things out while others decided anger was the best approach and belligerent demands and threats were what was needed at this point. Thankfully the door muffled much of what I’m positive I would not have wanted to hear clearly anyhow, but enough got through that made me glad the doors were locked and, unless body language indicated otherwise, I was safe inside the store as one after the other customers went into melt down mode.

I can only surmise, after yesterday’s adventure into the Twilight Zone, that our education system is failing our children in ways we cannot even begin to comprehend. After all, why would fully grown cognizant adults still expect doors to open that have CLOSED signs on them or electrical gas pumps to work when there is no electricity? Have they not been taught that electrical things require actual electricity to operate efficiently? These same teachers must be teaching gullible children that, despite all known laws of physics and nature, convenience store clerks have the power to make electrical things work even when there is no electricity and our refusal to do so is merely due to our selfish natures and desire to see your day interrupted and if we can get that vein pulsing on your forehead to eventually burst then all the better. In other words, you the customer, should take it very personal when we, the store clerk, are unable to give you gas on command or open a locked and CLOSED store merely because you ask us too.

Yes, it is a well-known fact that store clerks do have the power to do magic, but our menial salaries and the belief that we can be treated like mere beasts of burden by the local population; cause us to withhold said powers from the underserving population. Plus, purposely ticking off otherwise civil mannerly customers is just one perk that comes with the job. It is what keeps us clocking in day after day despite the long hours, sore feet, and thankless attitude of many of our customers. We know you wish you were us and dream of having this job but it is only open to the few with the patience and fortitude to withstand the unrelenting stream of impatient demanding customers who, for whatever reason, seem to believe they are the ONLY customer in the store or that their needs take priority over anything else anywhere at any time. We have seemingly raised our children with a Me First Me Only mindset that, while it might raise its ugly head from time to time among the best of us, seems to come clawing to the surface in most of us at the mere flip of a switch, or lack thereof.

Just try and remember one thing the next time the electricity goes off on such a wide scale, if you are inconvenienced by the fact that electrical things are no longer doing what you want them to do, then chances are everyone else is having that same problem. After all, if merely shaking your fist, raising your voice, and showing your inner beast was enough to get things working properly, parents everywhere that have ever tried to put a toy together the night before Christmas would have figured out its power decade ago.