I Know I’m Privileged

NaBloPoMo14DayTwentyFiveI read a tweet last night, one of many associated with the #Ferguson verdict that went something like this: “”White Privilege’ is hearing the verdict and being outraged by it, rather than being terrified by it.”* This is, quite possibly, the best definition of white privilege that I’ve ever heard.

It is my prerogative to feel outraged (or not). This verdict (and others like it) does not change my life at all. It does not, for example, alter the way in which I interact with law enforcement officers or members of my community.

I can sit here and be outraged. That is certainly my prerogative. Or, I can do nothing. That, too, is my prerogative. Because I am white.

I am not in possession of all of the facts surrounding this case. I will not be rendering my own “verdict” here. What I do know for sure, though, is that Michael Brown’s death has had an effect on many people and brought to the forefront the role of law enforcement in the Black community.

And I do mean the Black community as a whole, not just the folks living in Ferguson, Missouri. Since the incident in Ferguson I have heard many, many stories from black people about how they have been and/or still are treated by police officers in what amounts to my own backyard.

I am not a naïve person, but I was a bit taken aback when they started to regale me with their stories about their frequent run-ins with the law. Truthfully, I was slightly uncomfortable with these conversations, as well — being a white person and all. Because these people are my co-workers and my friends, though, I listened. I felt I owed them at least that, my own discomfort notwithstanding.

What struck me most after hearing story after story after story — many of them involving being pulled over for what they termed “DWB” (Driving While Black) — was how these people, my friends and co-workers, just accept it as a fact of their existence. That made me sad. And angry. And a little embarrassed about the color of my own skin.

I don’t want to be embarrassed by the color of my skin. I want to be able to enter into a respectful dialogue with people whose skin tone is different than my own. My friends, thankfully, indulged me my questions and shared their experiences with me.

They didn’t roll their eyes at me. They didn’t get angry with me. We had several very enlightening conversations. I learned a great deal.

One of the things I learned is that I’ve had my blinders on for quite some time. I live in a place where I thought relations between white people and black people had moved forward. After speaking openly about it, I still think they have, just not enough.

Possibly the most important lesson that I learned is that this issue is not really about my relationship with a co-worker or a neighbor. It’s about changing the zeitgeist of law enforcement. I’d like to think some of the institutional racism that exists is generational, but given the fact that the police officer in the Ferguson case was a young man, that hypothesis doesn’t hold water. And, even if it did, that’s not an excuse.

I think it’s admirable for people to preach a peaceful coexistence. I do. I just wonder how, exactly, folks are supposed to peacefully coexist when so many of our black communities are treated like war zones. I have to wonder if the citizens living in some of these neighborhoods don’t feel like POWs. I think that’s how I would feel.

I would argue that there are ways to enforce laws without shooting people. I think that would be a pretty good start. What happened to tazers, anyway? And, if one must use a gun to subdue a perpetrator, why shoot to kill? It would seem to me that we are arming soldiers, rather than training peacekeepers.

I don’t know. Perhaps I AM naïve. I just can’t help but think that progress is incremental and that when an incident occurs, like the one in Ferguson, Missouri, we all take two steps back. Regardless of the color of our skin, I would like to think that we would all like to move forward.

I know that I’m privileged, though — privileged enough to be sitting here confident in the knowledge that when I leave my house or when I send my family out into the world I don’t have to worry that a traffic stop might end in tragedy. I know I’m privileged. Oddly enough, this is not a good feeling.


* This was tweeted by @ColleenLindsay: “Truest thing I’ve heard all night:’White privilege is the ability to be outraged by the #Ferguson decision, rather than terrified by it.'” (I’m not certain where she “heard” it.)

The Great Boot Shortage

NaBloPoMo14DayTwentyFourGiven that she will be living out this winter (and, if all goes well, the next several winters) in Vermont, we decided that it might be a good idea to send Fangette back after Thanksgiving break with a pair of snow boots. We try to be good parents, at least where foul weather gear is involved. Plus, we want her to be able to get to class. I don’t want to hear any bullshit about how she couldn’t make it through the snow because she only has “cute” boots. She needed something more utilitarian than cute.

About a month ago I asked her to choose a pair from the L.L. Bean website. We went back and forth about it. God love her, she was trying to save me money. I told her that I didn’t care about saving a few bucks on a pair of boots that carried a Lifetime Guarantee. I just wanted her to be feet to be warm and dry.

She kept dragging her heels. I kept hounding her. Finally, she agreed that we would go to the local L.L. Bean store when she was home from school this week. (Having never owned a pair of L.L. Bean boots, she wanted to try them on in person.) It wasn’t a bad idea. I didn’t think that waiting until the end of November would be a big deal.

Do I even need to tell you that it was a very big deal? Of course it was. Would you like to know why? Because L.L. Bean has almost NO boots left in their inventory — not in the store, not online, not in the catalog. It’s not even officially winter yet! When do these outdoorsy types purchase their snow boots? August?

The gentleman who was doing his level best to put my daughter into a pair of snow boots today informed us that she could have her boot of choice if she was willing to wait until the end of February — February of 2015. He told me that “the great boot shortage” occurs every year. He said this as if it was something that every little schoolboy should know. (Obviously the outdoorsy types DO know this.)

What I wanted to know, not being an outdoorsy type my own self, was how a company as reputable as I’ve always found L.L. Bean to be did not solve their annual limited inventory problem by, oh, I don’t know, manufacturing MORE boots? His answer? All of L.L. Bean’s boots are made in America.

Seriously. This was his answer. I was about to point out to him that he might want to keep that information under his crushable waterproof hiking hat, but he wasn’t finished. He went on to proudly explain to me that all L.L. Bean boots are hand sewn right here in America. In an effort to appeal to my obvious patriotism, he asked me if I wanted L.L. Bean to farm out the hand-sewing of their boots to, say, China?

Without missing a beat I arched my brow and said, “Would that solve the problem?” Flustered, he sputtered something like “Maybe.” I let him know that I understood that this would create other problems for his company, but I wondered aloud if, perhaps, the solution to the annual dearth of available winter boots for a company widely known for such a product, might not lie in shipping the work overseas, but, rather, in hiring enough workers right here in the good old USA to keep up with the demand for said fine product?

He went on to tell me that the company had just recently hired 125 workers. No doubt this is just the type of management decision that will be responsible for the buttload of boots that will enter the marketplace in late February of 2015, but it won’t help anyone now — and by anyone I really mean us “late to the party” decidedly NON-outdoorsy types. I told him that they should have hired 250 workers back in July. This is when he decided to check something in the back room.

I’m no Economist, but this idea seems like it should have occurred to someone at L.L. Bean before I had to come up with it today. Me, the waitress. Me, the consumer. Me, who knows little to nothing about how business works. I’m just a woman who puts on an apron and serves food to idiots all day.

As many of you may know, I’ve been looking to change careers. I’m toying with the idea of writing to the folks at L.L. Bean — offering them my services. Clearly they are in need of someone who will help them to effectively use the American worker and, in turn, make “The Great Boot Shortage of 2014″ the last of its kind.


Let me just mention that my daughter did acquire a pair of boots. They were not the color she wanted. They were not the height she wanted. They were also almost twice the price of the basic boots that were her first choice. We had a coupon, though, so that was good. Also good? I will probably own a pair of slightly used 10″ sheepskin-lined white snow boots next July — because that’s when I will, no doubt, have to buy her the ones she really wanted this year. Unless, of course, L.L. Bean hires me. Fingers crossed, shoppers!

Channeling Grandma

NaBloPoMo14DayTwentyThreeI am often shocked when I use words or phrases that are straight out of the mouths of the long-dead. The older I get the more I find that I am channeling, for example, my paternal Grandmother, as I blurt out such gems as, “Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. The world is going to hell in a hand basket.” She loved that one.

I found myself trotting out this “oldie by goodie” the other day in response NOT to something horrific, but because I was faced with the difficult choice of being the eleventh person in the only “manned” line at the home improvement store or using the immediately available “self-checkout” line. Was the “world” indeed “going to hell in a hand basket” as a result of my having to scan a few items? No. No, it was not. Even as I said it, I knew I was slightly overreacting to the situation.

Self-checkout kiosks annoy me, though. They really, really do. For a variety of what I consider to be very valid reasons.

Primarily, I feel that by using them I bear some responsibility for the loss of human jobs. Who needs that sort of guilt when they’re trying to purchase something as simple as a gallon of paint or a tube of caulk? Not me, that’s for sure. Too much pressure.

Speaking of feeling pressured, another reason I eschew the whole self-checkout process is because I often encounter an embarrassing problem when I do so, that of operator error — the operator in question being me. I’m the person that always requires a manager to complete my transaction. I put my paint in the bag too quickly or I don’t bag my tube of caulk quickly enough. I don’t know. I’m never sure where I went wrong. They always tell me, but it’s hard to concentrate when all the bells and whistles are going off at my register — alerting store officials to the fact that I am either an idiot or that I am attempting to get up to some funny business with their merchandise. This is the one area of my life where I don’t mind admitting to being an idiot. (It’s certainly better than being called a thief!)

Finally, it irks me to pay top dollar for my home improvement needs and then be asked to do someone else’s job, you know, for my convenience. It’s not convenient for me. I wonder how folks would feel if, where I work, we required our customers to fish their own food out of the kitchen window while continuing to charge them the same price for their meal. I doubt we could sell that as a convenience. And yet, all the signs at the self-checkout kiosks tout that they are there to make the consumer’s life easier. Not this consumer.

I’m not a cashier. I don’t work at the home improvement store. If I wanted to, I’d go ahead and fill out an application. I’m sure they would be delighted to add someone with my attitude to their staff. On the up side, they’d probably teach me how to use the damn machines.

While THE world may not be going to hell in a hand basket, it often feels as if MY world is. Luckily I learned dramatic delivery and a few choice phrases at my Grandmother’s knee.

Renting a Person

NaBloPoMo14DayTwentyTwoI am always intrigued by the question “If you could have anything, what would it be?” I never quite know how to answer it. My first reaction is to blurt out something crazy like “Three more wishes!” and then, of course, I remember that I’m not in a situation where I’m standing in front of a genie while holding a tarnished old lamp in my hand.

The obvious answer is health or world peace, but I’m not certain that these answers get to the heart of the question. Also, they’re boring answers. I mean, everyone wants those things, right? Therefore, they don’t say much about the respondent. And, really, why bother with such an exercise if it doesn’t SAY something about you?

I could always put forth the “Mother of the Year” answer and declare that I desire for my child to become wildly successful (and, of course, happy). I would argue, though, that this, too, feels like a “cop-out” of an answer. Most, if not all, parents have these hopes for their children. Admittedly, my reasons for having this hope isn’t purely altruistic. Part and parcel of having a wildly successful child means that they will have the ability to support himself or herself. That’s a “win-win” for everyone involved, no?

I like to think of this question as being more about a material object. Is there one thing that you’ve always wanted, one thing that you would absolutely buy yourself if there wasn’t a stumbling block in the way of your having it?

My answer always comes back to household goods and/or services. Go ahead and covet that Maserati, if that’s your thing. Me? I would like to have a dishwasher. (HOW NICE WOULD THAT BE?) Or a washer/dryer right in my kitchen. (NO MORE SCHLEPPING UP AND DOWN THE STAIRS! NO MORE HOARDING QUARTERS!) Or a Dyson vacuum. (THEY ACTUALLY WORK!).

The current constraints of my kitchen make my wish for a dishwasher and/or the washer/dryer unrealistic. (You cannot completely eliminate the “stumbling block” that is a space constraint.) The Dyson is a possibility, though. I’d have to make room in the closet for it, but that wouldn’t be impossible. (My current vacuum, I’m embarrassed to say lives behind the door in my daughter’s room — not an ideal storage spot.) I would just have to wrap my mind around the price tag. Upwards of $400 for something that sucks up debris? It just seems crazy to spend that. People love them though. And, by all reports, they do an excellent job.

On the other hand, I could just hire a cleaning person. They might even bring their own Dyson, which would eliminate the need for purchasing (and storing) one myself. Plus, they would do things like dishes and, one would think, perform a basic bed-stripping.

Being a Democrat, I have to admit that I’m not fully comfortable admitting that I would like to procure a human being to do my dirty work, but it’s the truth. I would, if I could have anything I wanted, enjoy renting an actual person.

Instead of looking at this admission and judging me for the lazy creature that I am, perhaps you can all look at it in another way — I would be creating a job for someone. That is certainly a nicer way of looking at it. It also appeals to my left-wing sensibilities.

FIVE TRUTHS, ONE LIE: THE ANSWER

NaBloPoMo14DayTwentyOne

 

Which of the six “facts” that I posted yesterday is, in fact, a fiction?

FIVE TRUTHS, ONE LIE

1. I have never had a massage.
2. I purchase my underwear (and socks!) in the supermarket.
3. I have read “War and Peace”.
4. I am almost never late.
5. My dream job? Music historian.
6. I do not have a tattoo.

 

 

I HAVE NEVER HAD A MASSAGE

This is TRUE! Or, semi-true. Sure, my husband has given me the occasional back rub and this guy Anthony that I work with gives THE BEST neck rub, EVER! But a “real” massage? Never. Why? Partly this is because it feels like too much of an indulgence — of time and, yes, money. Mostly, though, it’s because the idea of it just kind of rubs me the wrong way. (Get it? Get it?)

I am the type of person who chafes at having my pulse taken. I find being touched by strangers slightly off-putting. Massages are supposed to be relaxing, right? Whenever I think about getting one all I can think about is being in a towel in front of a stranger — a stranger who is going to touch me. Not relaxing at all.

My daughter loves to get massages and has suggested that we go together over Christmas break. I told her I’d think about it. There will probably be a fire drill or something while I’m wearing nothing but a towel. Barring that, I’m sure something will strike me as strange or funny about the whole experience. If I do wind up joining Fangette in the massage room, I’ll be sure to write about it.

I PURCHASE MY UNDERWEAR (AND SOCKS!) IN THE SUPERMARKET

Sad, but TRUE! I’ve amped it up recently, broadened my horizons to include a couple of specialty stores, but when the chips are down (or the drawers have seen better days), I will resort to my old ways and pick up a package (or two!) while I’m food shopping. And, really, socks are socks for crying out loud! I’m not making a special trip to a department store or, God forbid, the mall to buy socks. Not when they sell the very same ones at the grocery store!

I HAVE READ “WAR AND PEACE”

This is FALSE! A couple of you guessed this one — Congratulations! To those of you who think I am well read enough to have gotten through this one, I say, “Thank you”.

To be honest — and we’re being honest now, right? — I’ve always meant to read it. My reason for not having read it has long been that I couldn’t possibly tote that enormous book around with me. Given that I do most of my reading on my iPad now, I don’t have much of an excuse anymore, do I? Well, actually, I do. As I’ve never read The Russians, I recently decided to read “Anna Karenina”, as a warm-up of sorts to tackling “War and Peace”. I found it incredibly soap operish — overly dramatic. I thought that, perhaps, I had chosen the wrong book and so I tried “Crime and Punishment”. It was no better, even given its weightier subject matter.

I suppose I could download “War and Peace”. I could give it a shot. If the other Russians are any indication, though, I fear that I may be mightily disappointed. And, really, who needs that? For what? Just so that I can say I’ve read “War and Peace”? Who cares?

I AM ALMOST NEVER LATE

This is TRUE! I abhor lateness. I judge the habitually late very harshly. I don’t buy the excuse that they are bad managers of time. Constant tardiness is not a sign of weakness, it’s a sign of egotism. It’s a “red flag” — a red flag that may as well be emblazoned with the words “I’m the most important person in the universe”. Guess what? You’re not the most important person in my universe. What you are, in reality, is a self-centered boob who, if there is a higher power at work, will die alone wondering where the hell everyone is. That they are stuck in traffic will be of little consolation to you, a person with only minutes left to live. Karma’s a real bitch, isn’t she?

MY DREAM JOB? MUSIC HISTORIAN

This is TRUE! I love history. I love music. Combine the two and BAM!, my dream job!

I don’t actually know if such a job description exists or, if it does, where a person who was qualified could be employed. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, perhaps? How cool would that be. Okay, I’d have to move to Cleveland, but for that job I would suck up living in Ohio. At least they have baseball. Following the Indians wouldn’t be that bad for a NY Mets’ fan, am I right? Plus, I understand that “Cleveland Rocks!”.

I DO NOT HAVE A TATTOO

While many of you guessed that this was the lie, it is TRUE! I’m not opposed to tattoos. I have even toyed with the idea of getting one over the years, but I never have. I think that I have remained untatted because I have never been able to decided on what tattoo I would like to have permanently emblazoned upon my skin. Forever is a long time. And I change my mind about stuff all the time. I’m never ready to order when the server arrives. If I like a sweater (and it’s a bargain) I am the person that buys it in two or three colors and this is only partly because I am lazy, mostly it is because I can’t decide which color I like best. Of the two I always wind up only wearing one of them. Do I even need to tell you that it is always the one I was not initially going to purchase. Yeah.

Not only am I a slow decision maker, I’m a poor decision maker.  Having something indelibly inked onto your body really should be reserved for folks who are 100% certain that they will be as happy thirty years down the line as they were the day they opted for an image of Kermit the Frog smoking a blunt. I am sure those people exist. I am not one of those people. It does my heart good that many of you think that I am, though. Yeah.

 

 

 

 

 

 

FIVE TRUTHS, ONE LIE: A GAME

NaBloPoMo14DayTwentyBecause November is a long month when one has committed to creating a post a day, I was excited when it was suggested in my “NaBloPoMo support group” (yes, there’s a support group for everything nowadays!) that we play a game today called FIVE TRUTHS, ONE LIE, the premise of which is to list six “facts” about ourselves — one of which is a lie.

It sounded fun. It sounded easy enough; I’ve been known now and again to play fast and loose with the truth. (Who hasn’t?) It was, in fact, more difficult than I had expected it to be. (Isn’t that always the way?). But, yeah, it was fun.

If you want to join in the game, leave your “facts” in the comments section or direct me to your blog. While it wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be, there weren’t any difficult equations involved or anything like that. And, yeah, it was kind of fun. Play along, why don’t you? (My fib will be revealed tomorrow!)


FIVE TRUTHS, ONE LIE

1. I have never had a massage.
2. I purchase my underwear (and socks!) in the supermarket.
3. I have read “War and Peace”.
4. I am almost never late.
5. My dream job? Music historian.
6. I do not have a tattoo.

What’s your guess? Which one is the lie?

It’s the “Little” Things

NaBloPoMo14DayNineteenSome days, okay, most days, I forget to be grateful for the little things. Because, you know, I want the big things to go right. Yeah, yeah, yeah, like the rest of you I, too, know that old saw “take care of the little things and the big things will take care of themselves”, blah, blah, blah. Not always true.

We can do everything right and, still, something can go “KERBLOOWIE!”. It happens.

I’m not suggesting that you head out today with the intention of screwing up things large and small, I’m just saying that not everything is in our control. I would argue that most things aren’t, but we operate under the assumption that they are. Because we want them to be. Sometimes we need them to be. Mostly, though, they are not. When things do go as planned, we should be grateful, that’s all I’m saying.

And so I am grateful this morning. Why? Because I made not just one, but two, perfect cups of coffee. They were just right. Most mornings I’m happy with acceptable. Perfection often eludes me in all things. Once in a while, though, the stars align and “BANG!” I get to start off on the right foot.

I am aware, of course, that days that begin this way more often than not can and usually do have a tendency to tank somewhere down the line. Still, the perfect cup of coffee is a nice, and dare I say?, hopeful beginning.

I’m off to “The Annoying Bar and Grill” in a few minutes to work my second open-to-close in a row. Twelve hours there can suck the joy out of just about anything. Literally. I will try, though, to remind myself, no matter how horribly wrong this brutal shift may go, that I at least started out on the right foot today.

That’s something. And something is always better than nothing — especially in my line of work.


What “little” thing might you be grateful for today?