Starbucks Bathroom Epiphany

Okay.  I know this is gross, but I had a little realization the other day.  I was in Starbucks and had to use the restroom.  I went in and noticed it smelled.  I thought to myself, Man, Starbucks’ bathrooms always stink.  Then I wondered why.  Then I realized why.  Starbucks is a coffee joint.  What does coffee make you do?  We all know.  I can’t even drink the stuff because it turns my insides inside out.  Starbucks bathrooms always stink because all those people are buying coffee then having to go poop.  Yuck.  I just don’t think I want to go the bathroom there anymore.

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Wow

That’s about all I can say.  Wow.  Today I was listening to Talk of the Nation on NPR.  They were talking about the primaries, Edwards dropping out, how it’s all shaking down.  Anyway, this guy called in and identified himself as a “White, male Southern Democrat.”  He voted for Hillary in the primary, even though it won’t count.  He then informed Ira that even though he’s a Democrat (supposedly), he’d vote for McCain over Obama because Obama is black.  He said he has “Lots of friends who feel the same way.”

For Christ’s sake, people, are you fucking serious?  You have to be kidding.  What is it with people?  Their thinking (if you can call it that) makes no sense.  They claim ideologically to believe in the Democratic party, but wouldn’t want a black man for president because of the color of his skin?  How does that affect his ability to do his job?  Is this caller afraid that Obama won’t get respect as president because he is black?  He couldn’t articulate a reason, other than he’s black.  He’d rather have a woman than a black man.

Man, I hope one or the other of them wins, just so it isn’t a damn white man.  I want something other than what has been to challenge these people out there who CARE about this stuff.  The only difference it makes is in their reaction to it!  If there were no reaction, if there were no “other” in the color or the gender, then the job would be what is important.  Instead, in their racism and misogyny they create issues that don’t actually exist.

Gads.  I sometimes wonder if there will ever be change.

Tales of a Grumpy Mailman

My mailman is grumpy.  He’s the grumpiest thing ever.  I have no idea what bug crawled up his butt, but it has set up residence there and makes Mr. Mailman the grumpiest mailman I’ve ever encountered.  I say hi to Grumpy Mailman, he looks at me like he wants to hit me.  Maybe he does.  He is a mailman after all, and mail carriers are notoriously grumpy, what with shooting up post offices and all that. It’s people like him who gave us the expression, Going postal.

He seems to have a particular problem with my mailbox.  It is a new style mailbox.  I got it to replace the old style one I had previously.  You know, the kind that is a piece of metal bent over into a half circle, flat on the bottom, with a door that has a little handle, and a red flag.  My mailman had well, issues, with my mailbox.  He could not seem to close the door.  I am not sure exactly why, but more often than not, I would go to check my mail and there it would be, door hanging open, mail available for anyone to look at.  It was near the street and under a tree.  I live in Oregon.  It is wet in Oregon.  So having my mailbox open under a tree in Oregon meant that even when it stopped raining, the tree continued to drip steadily into my mailbox.  And anyone who is paying even slight attention knows that identity thieves love stealing mail.

I wrote a nice note.  Dear Mail Person, I wrote.  Would you please be sure to close the door of my mailbox?  Otherwise my mail gets all wet.  Thank you.  That’s polite, isn’t it?  I called the carrier a “person” and not a “man” (I wasn’t sure of the gender at this point).  I said please.  I said thank you.  What more could one want?

Something else apparently because Grumpy Mail Person did not stop leaving the door open.   He also kept leaving the flag up, even after taking the mail.  I’d wait and wait for the mail to arrive, assuming it hadn’t because the flag was up.  Then I would realize the door was open so there was no way the carrier had not been there.  My mail would be inside, damp.

So I decided to go and get another mailbox.  I bought a locking mailbox.  It is black and kind of historic-looking to match my bungalow.  It has a bronze top that makes it look like it’s old.  There is a slot that is about 2 inches by 14 inches.  I tested the slot to see if it was big enough for magazines and whatnot to slip through.  Easy!  I was so excited about my new mailbox. I installed it and waited for the mail to come.

It did.  It was mangled and torn and the lid to the mailbox was left wide open.

Huh?

Consternated, I examined the mail in an effort to determine what had gone wrong.  It appeared the mailman had folded all the large mail in half.  This created quite a large wad of mail, not easily inserted into the slot.  This made little sense.  Why fold it?  I laid it out as originally designed and it inserted right through the slot in the mailbox.  No problem.  And why had he not closed the lid?  Hmmmmm…

Over the next several weeks, my mail was destroyed more frequently than not.  Because of the mailbox shape, when the lid was open, it filled with water.  This left the mail in a drenched sopping mess.  Then one day I received a certificate from the bar association for some pro bono work I had done.  Clearly printed in large letters across the envelope were the words DO NOT FOLD.  It was folded in half, the crease permanently embedded in the gold-embossed letters of the certificate.

Consternated, I called my mom.  My mom is a rural postal carrier.  She has worked for the post office for over twenty years.  I told her about my mail troubles.  She said that if mail did not fit then they were to fold it.

“But it fits!” I told her.  “In fact it fits BETTER if it’s not folded in half!”

“Well then you need to call your postmaster,” she told me.  “Your postmaster needs to know what is going on because that isn’t called for.”

Have you ever tried to call the local postmaster at a local post office?  Have you?  Try it.  Go to your phone book and look up your post office.  Right.  See that?  See that 1-800 number listed for EVERY SINGLE post office in your area?  Do you know what that means?  It means that you don’t get a local post office when you call.  It means you get the central 1-800 number.  It means you get to listen to post office advertising about how great it is to send packages via the US Postal Service.  It means you get to listen to some really fantastic music while you wait for a human.  I finally connected with the human.  She took my story.  She gave me some identification number.  She told me my local post office would call me back real soon.  She apologized for the trouble.  Hey, I just want my mail flat and dry.  Is that too much to ask?

A couple of days later, the local post master called.  He was grumpy.  I began to get an inkling that grumpiness and this post office went hand in hand.  First he spent about 20 minutes trying to convince me that my mailbox was not post office approved.  It was.  It had said so right on the box.  He asked where I got it.  I told him.  He said that place sometimes sold not approved mailboxes.  I told him that this one was approved.  He then said that older mailboxes that had been in stores a while ago and were approved then weren’t always approved now.  I told him I had just purchased it the month before.  He told me it still didn’t sound like it was right.  Finally I asked him if he had spoken to my postal carrier and determined the box was not post office approved.  He told me he had not.  Then I asked him to hold on a sec.  I used my mobile phone and called my mom and asked her.  She had seen my new mailbox.  She said it was post office approved.  I got back on with the postmaster and told him that my mom was a carrier and that she had seen it and that it was approved.  He finally let that go.  Then he informed me that the carriers were required to fold mail in half.

“That’s crazy,” I told him, “Especially when the mail says right on it ‘DO NOT FOLD.'”

“Well that’s what I tell them,” he informed me.  “It’s our policy.”

Well then you need another policy because my mail is getting ruined and it fits just fine without being folded in half.  Incidentally, I asked my mom after this conversation if she was supposed to fold all mail in half and her postmaster is just the opposite.  They aren’t allowed to fold anything unless it absolutely will not go in any other way.  However, I was not privy to this information at the time of this phone call.  And I was getting frustrated.

“You know,” I told the postmaster, “I’m getting really frustrated here.  My mail is getting ruined.  I had to buy a new mailbox because my carrier kept leaving the other one open and I was worried about mail theft, not to mention the fact that my mail was sopping wet 90 percent of the time.  Now you just spent ten minutes trying to convince me my mailbox is the problem, and now you’re telling me all my mail has to be folded in half when it makes no sense to do so.  Do you have a boss I can talk to because I seem to be getting no where with you.”  The postmaster’s tone changed after that.  He said he would talk to the carrier and make sure my mailbox was closed and my mail not ruined.  I thanked him and hung up.

Over the weeks, not much changed except my mailbox was closed more often than not.  It was still left open sometimes, but not as much as it had been.  Then the weather improved and I didn’t notice when it was open because the mail did not get all wet.  I kept trying to be friendly to my carrier when I saw him even though he frowned at me when I said hello.  I gave him a Christmas gift three years in a row.  I figured he needed some happiness with that grumpy postmaster of his.  The two of them were like two peas in a pod.  I would occasionally ask my mother about it, but she kept going on and on about how different city carriers were from rural carriers and how the post office was getting to be such an unpleasant place to work and on and on.  I finally quit bringing it up because I didn’t want to hear about it anymore.

This fall, it started getting bad again.  In an effort to avoid a call to the postmaster or the 1-800 number, I wrote out a nice note on an index card, put it in a ziplock bag, and taped it to the top of my mailbox.  It said:  Please do not fold my mail.  Also please close the mailbox lid because leaving it open makes my mail wet.  This seemed to work.  The mail fit perfectly, it was dry, everything was wonderful.

Then about a week before Christmas, I went out to discover the mailbox lid wide open.  Now, I don’t know if you are aware, but this has been one of the wettest years I can remember in Oregon and this day had been one of those rainy days where the drops are a half an inch across and soak everything.  In the mailbox, my two bills and two Christmas cards were so wet, the letters on the cards were unreadable.  I took them in the house.  They dripped, literally dripped on the rugs!  One of the cards held photos.  They were destroyed.

That did it.  I was mad.  I had maintained some semblance of cool for years while my grumpy mailman went about his shitty day ruining my mail and acting like I was the asshole for bringing it up.  I went online and found the US Postal Service website.  It had a place for comments.  It did not have a place for complaints.  I went to the place for comments.  I said in the subject, I do not have a comment, I have a complaint.  I described what had happened to my mail.  I told them that the lid on the mailbox worked perfectly, that it wasn’t rusty, that it closed easily.  I then stated I had spoken to the local postmaster before and he had not been very helpful and so I was writing this message to whoever got the comments from the website.

Three weeks later I received an email response.  It informed me that my message had been forwarded to the local office and I would be receiving a call within 24 hours.  A week later, I had not received a call.  I replied to the email.  I told them I had received no call in 24 or 48 or even 72 hours, that it had been a week and that I had gotten no call.

The next day I was not home but my brother was here.  He said the post office called and would talk to the carrier about my complaint.  Good.  I was glad.  I had not had to speak to grumpy postmaster, but someone had the message.

Two days later, my mailbox was wide open.  The mail inside was a sopping ball of paper.  Literally, a ball.  I removed the mass and held it, dumbfounded.  I decided I would drive it to the post office and show the postmaster.  And that is what I did.  I went to the post office.  I waited in the very long line.  I approached the counter person (who was VERY nice by the way.  All the counter people were.  Maybe grumpy postmaster doesn’t affect them very much.) and showed them my mail lump.

“This is how my mail was in my box,” I said.  “I have called before, but it doesn’t seem to help.  So I thought maybe the person in charge could SEE what I am talking about.”

The counter person looked appalled.  “This is how the mail was in your mailbox?” he asked incredulously?  “Yes.  Exactly.  I took it out and brought it in just as it was in the mailbox.”

He went into the back.  He was gone several minutes. When he returned, he was carrying a camera.  “Can I take this and photograph it?”  Of course.  So he did.  He told me he would show the postmaster.  He took down my name and address.  I left.

It has been about a month since I did that.  My mail has been flat.  My mailbox has been closed.  My brother went out one day to try and retrieve his mail directly from the mailman because he was here and could do so.  My brother said the mailman snarled at him and would not give him the mail.  So Derek came in and got the key and got the mail.  Seems none of this has made the mailman any less grumpy.

Just now, before I wrote this, I was sitting here working on my book.  I saw the mailman out my window.  He was walking along carrying the mail.  He had a grumpy look on his face.  He does not seem very happy.  I don’t think he likes his job.  I don’t believe he left my mailbox open out of spite, I just don’t think he pays attention.  For whatever reason he is caught up in his own grumpiness and pain.  It’s too bad.  Today is actually sort of pretty.  The sun wants to come out, though the clouds are winning.  He’s wasting every minute he goes grumbling around.  I hope he finds what will make him happy, whether it’s becoming something other than a carrier or learning to enjoy what he does.  In any case, I just want him to close my mailbox.

Would You Like Fries With Your News?

I do not read or watch the news.  I know there are those out there who would consider this irresponsible, and perhaps for them this is true.  But I know most of it is designed to keep my heart rate elevated and probably also to make me shop, two things I have no desire to experience on a regular basis, so for over a decade I have engaged in a “news fast.”

Ironically enough, this has not kept me from being aware of what is going on in the world around me, although I did not know who Laci Peterson was, the pregnant lady who was murdered, until her husband was on trial (and in fact I had to google Lacy and pregnant to get her name for this, such is my lack of knowledge on the subject).  I like to peruse the Living section in the paper and get the little entertainment blurbs.  I also like the Metro section and when I’m at Starbucks or see it somewhere, I’ll read a lot of it.  This is the section on Portland and surrounding areas, so often the information is useful.  I will occasionally glance at the opinions section, and I like to check out the obituaries to see if anyone young died.  Weird, I know.  All of this is only when I’m at Starbucks or another coffee place that has papers and I’m sitting alone and forgot to bring a book or desire something a little more fluffy than whatever I happen to be reading at the moment.

I never watch television news.  Ever.  I absolutely hate it.  When I last watched news, the stories were less like music videos than they are now.  When I catch a glimpse of the news at someone else’s house or in a store where its blaring, it blows my mind how far it seems from anything desiring to impart information.  It’s constant noise and visual effects and seriously, it looks like music videos.  I hate it.

I am on a few political listserves, MoveOn and People United for Change.  I get emails from them and I read through them.  I unsubscribed from most of them because when I was getting too much, I never read any of it.  At least by limiting the number I can absorb some of the information, but I limit what I take in because there is just so much to get angry about, and I do not want to spend my life pissed off.  I know someone once said that if you aren’t mad, you aren’t paying attention, but I can’t spend every minute of every day being angry.  I can make choices that hopefully contribute to change, but being angry all the time isn’t going to help anything and will likely make me sick, so my choice is to limit the sheer volume of information, especially about the current administration.  Yes, they are power hungry.  Yes, they are liars.  Yes, they’ve created multiple disasters that will take years to sort out.  Okay.  I get it, but I’m not spending my time on this planet pissed off every minute of every day.

There is a point to this.  I have a yahoo email account.  I use it for things like ebay or Craigslist ads, stuff I don’t want in my personal email.  When you login to yahoo, the front page is one liner news.  I have been following the Heath Ledger stuff.  I liked him as an actor.  A lot.  I thought he was brilliant in Brokeback Mountain, but he was a standout even in his early stuff like 10 Things I Hate About You.  And I loved A Knight’s Tale.  Plus lately it seems like I keep hearing about people dying from prescription drugs.  A friend of mine died last spring from the drugs she was taking for eczema.  In December, two friends of mine each had a friend who died in their sleep from taking prescription drugs, and I read it was a possibility Brad Renfro died from prescription drug interactions, possibly with illegal drugs or alcohol.  (See my post from 1-22-2008.  It’s a bit tongue in cheek, but I noticed all these people dying from prescription drugs.) So I have been following the Heath Ledger story out of interest from that angle as well.  I’ll be curious what the autopsy report shows.

Anyway, as I logged in to my yahoo account each day, I saw the stories on Heath and I actually clicked on them and read them.  Mostly the yahoo stories seemed to add a new paragraph to the top of the same story while the bottom paragraphs stayed the same.  Then the other morning, I went to Starbucks and decided to hang out for a while.  I went to the used paper bin and started pulling out the sections I like to read.  The front page had a story on Heath, so I grabbed it.  Back at my table, I started reading the story and maybe there are those out there who will not be surprised by this, but the story was one hundred percent, word-for-word identical to the stories on yahoo.

Okay.  I’m not naive.  I know that media is consolidated.  But really, do we get one story every time we read the news?  Does some person out there get to write it, then that is the story that is copied here, there, and everywhere?  For the next several days, whenever I went into a Starbucks, I pulled out the paper and there was the same Heath info straight off yahoo news.  It was the same whether the paper was the Oregonian or the NY Times.  How boring is that?

I KNOW how publicist’s work. I KNOW that if someone wants something to be the official story, get all the news orgs to pick it up and that will be what’s reported.  I KNOW the vagaries of the media conglomorate system.  But does that still mean we have to have one story written by one writer that’s put out into the system of what we get to read?  That is so boring!  And these stories don’t have a byline. They are just bland.

I find this disappointing.  Are we all so used to this now that I shouldn’t be surprised?  No wonder people often don’t believe what is in the news.  You get one story over and over, it’s easy to believe we’re being fed what someone wants us to believe.  Reporters are supposed to report what they observe, the truth as they see it.  And there are those who believe there is one truth, one thing that factually occurred.  But we all know that we each see things differently according to our own conditioning.  If we get five accounts of the same event, we can put those together and perhaps get a more flavorful account of something we were not there to experience.  When we get one sanitized, flavorless, boring version of what supposedly is, it’s hard not to wonder if there is more to the story.  I think we’re all less likely to trust what we’re given when it’s force fed, canned blandness.  Or perhaps we’re less likely to question.  Don’t question it and don’t believe it.  It’s like the television news with its music video visual bombardment, all hype and no substance.  There’s nothing there.  We’re not being told anything.  Here we have the internet and this theoretical access to the entire world, but we’re all being fed the same thing.  We have this opportunity for imagination and creativity to flourish, and instead the entire world gets the same thing. Assembly-line news.  News like Starbucks.  And Target.  And Walmart.  And Sears.  And on and on and on.  Even politicians have turned into mass market products to appeal to everyone and no one.  Yuck.  What a sad state of affairs we’ve gotten ourselves into.

We need a change.  I have been sitting here mulling over the sheer enormity of the bland mass marketing of every single thing.  I guess people will have to want it to change in order for it to happen.  The number of various levels on which change would have to happen to actually succeed is staggering.  As such, it’s easy to see why anyone would look at that magnitude, feel powerless, and so do nothing.  But that doesn’t work.  Each person has to change what they can if they want things to be different.  If each one of us does that, anything is possible.

Fly Me to Anywhere

Put me on a plane and fly me to anywhere.  The Augustana songwriter who penned the words to this song lived winters as I do.  I read some of the forums after the lyrics on a few sites.  Lots of people commented that it was about loving someone who is suicidal, and while this interpretation is valid I heard the song differently.  You don’t have to be buried in actual pills and blood from your slashed wrists to have the feeling that you will die if you stay where you are, and that the death does not have to be literal.  How many people walking around are the living dead, medicating themselves with things, pills, obesity, illness, and on and on and on and on.  This song gets under my skin.  I just want to get on a plane and fly anywhere.  Not away from anywhere.  Not to anywhere.  Just to be in the sky and marvel that humanity has made it possible to lift our physical body miles in the air.

Laundry Day

So a short time back I wrote a rant on people who don’t “believe” in global warming. A man responded to my post. His blog can be found here.  I went to his site and started to read. He made me laugh and think. I went back today to read his latest post and he had this great gripefest about laundry. Funny, today was my laundry day too. I still have piles of the shit to fold, but at least I have clothes and at least laundry is the worst thing going on, and comparatively, it’s not that bad.

I decided today that I was going to finally FINISH the fucking laundry. I do a load here, a load there, fold it sometimes, don’t fold it others. It was getting out of hand. So today I washed. It took all day. I have been avoiding this task. I poured it all on my bed so I could not go to sleep without folding it and putting it away. I did not count on a visit from my dad. I expected a visit from a friend this evening, but the dad visit threw a wrench into the entire system. So when daughter wanted me to read to her and she was on the couch because our bed was covered in laundry and it was ten o’clock, I realized I was going to have to let go of the illusion that the laundry would be completed in one day or even one twenty-four hour period. I did manage to separate it out into piles though, socks and underwear in the basket, clothes in a pile, towels and sheets in a pile. What a fucking pain in the ass. But I know, I know. I should be grateful I have clothes to fold and that this is the worst I have to bitch about in this moment. All in all, it really isn’t that bad.

An Exhortation to Umbrella Manufacturers–COLOR!!

I don’t have an umbrella.  I used to have one, a really nice one.  But over time it must have worn out because one day, the button to open it stopped working.  Then on another it turned inside out in the wind and came detached from the metal skeleton giving it its shape.  I have not been able to find another one that I like.  I do not want to get a long umbrella, even though those kind provide a great deal of coverage.  But lugging one around…Ugh!  I want a pocket umbrella, the kind that folds up nicely.  Only I could not find one that wasn’t just boring black or navy blue.  I have kept looking; not actively looking, but noticing whenever I’ve seen umbrellas for sale.  I haven’t found one I like and don’t have one.  Here it is January in one of the wettest years I can remember, and I’ve slugged it out in a hat, keeping my collar up and often wearing a scarf and a hoodie.

Then yesterday, I was reading Willamette Week, a weekly paper here in Portland, and saw an article about Portlanders who refuse to use umbrellas.  The author postulates that us non-umbrella Portlanders carry no umbrella out of some anti-umbrella solidarity and animosity towards this wet protection device.  We are from Oregon!  We do not need an umbrella!  We will wear our hoodies as a testament to our city!  He then encourages us to give up this foolish non-umbrella obsession and go get one, for Christ’s sake.  We are even provided with a list of local retailers selling umbrellas for reasonable prices.  How convenient and thoughtful!

I am here to tell the author of that article that he misses the point on the lack of umbrellas in Oregon.  It isn’t that we take some bizarre pride in going it wet.  Not at all!  We just live in a grey, dismal, rainy place.  It is grey here like 10 months out of the year.  We don’t want to go hiking through the grey carrying a boring black or navy umbrella.  We want color!  But we don’t want to have to carry around some three and a half foot long sword to get it.  I mean, I know fencing is popular here, but we don’t go around screeching “En Garde!” and poking our neighbors.  Instead of exhorting Portlanders to stop their maniacal unwillingness to use umbrellas, he should be urging umbrella manufacturers to make prettier umbrellas!  And of course, they have to be affordable.  I saw this fantastic colorful orange and yellow pocket umbrella in NW Portland.  Sixty dollars.  Sixty dollars!  Are they f-ing kidding me?  I may as well carry around sixty dollars and toss it on the ground because umbrellas get lost.  It’s a fact.  I’m not paying sixty dollars for an umbrella, no matter how cute it is.

So since the author missed his chance in his article to tell the umbrella manufacturers to make affordable color umbrellas, let me take this opportunity.  Please.  I promise Portlanders will use umbrellas if you follow these three simple guidelines:  Affordable, folds to go in a purse or pocket, and COLORFUL!!  This last is the most important.

Thank you.