Friday, November 23, 2012

Something black

“Retail giant Wal-Mart Stores Inc. is kicking off its Black Friday deals earlier than ever, as more stores open their doors for holiday deals even before shoppers have polished off their turkey dinners.”

From the same Los Angeles Times article earlier this month regarding Wal-Mart stores opening at 8 p.m on Thanksgiving with the guarantee that items, purchased at sale price, will be shipped to customers if supplies run out: “Last year, a woman in Porter Ranch pepper sprayed fellow customers, and a 2008 stampede in Long Island killed one worker... ‘If they get the word out that if a store runs out, people shouldn’t panic and they can still get the deal, that will help with the crowds,’ said Ron Friedman, a retail expert at accounting and advisory firm Marcum in Los Angeles. ‘That is a smart move to prevent what happened...which really gave Wal-Mart a black eye.’”

Then there was this from a Times story earlier this week about how “picking a smart strategy - and the right Black Friday hours - is crucial” for small, independent stores as “goliath retailers such as Wal-Mart Stores Inc., Toys R Us Inc. and Target Corp. advertise deals that launch as early as 8 p.m on Thanksgiving”: “Anton at Body Basics has dreamed up a ‘flash sale’ plan for Black Friday involving back-to-back 10-minute discounts on select items. Sales associates will walk through the store toting cardboard signs stating, for example, that between 1 and 1:10 a.m, Hello Kitty pajamas are 30% off... Once the 10 minutes are over, clerks will start another quicky sale on, say, cotton T-shirts or slippers. ‘It’s to get people excited about shopping,’ Anton said.“

In the paper yesterday, Thanksgiving Day, there was this in a front-page article about the Los Angeles Police Department preparing for Black Friday crowds, noting that Chief Charlie Beck says, “We are not in the optimism business”: “The LAPD has talked to other retailers about creating ‘time-specific entry passes’ that would stagger the number of shoppers who are inside the store at any given time. In a flier the department is handing out to store managers, officials note that ‘this process has been very successful at many of the major theme parks...’ The LAPD has also suggested that retailers avoid stacking sales items on pallets ‘to mitigate crowd aggression.’”

‘Nuff said, as my friend Chris would say. Except that I’ve also read in the last couple weeks that there’s a protest, as in a strike and boycott, afoot against Black Friday so that both store workers and shoppers can enjoy a holiday on Thanksgiving at least. How about stores being closed on Friday, in addition to Thanksgiving, to prepare for “Black Saturday” (not to mention “Black Sabbath”)?

Friday, November 9, 2012

Conversational equity

Last week, I got the chance to visit with a friend I get to see one or two times a year. It was particularly sweet that we were able to get together two times during the week. Sure, we e-mail a lot - thank God for e-mail! - but there’s nothing like face-to-face conversation.

I have been thinking about how one of the things I enjoyed about these visits is that they were a true interaction. I savored, deeply savored, that my friend and I both shared. I got a lot out of being able to talk about dealing with recent wheelchair problems and about being anxious about the upcoming holidays, and I also got a lot of out hearing my friend talk about needing more time alone and an aging family member’s diminishing abilities causing concern.

I know that this sounds like nothing and even idiotic (after all, converse and share thoughts is what people do), and I can’t say why I noticed it so much this time, but, to me, it’s a big deal. And one that I crave and love.

Too many times, because of my disability and need for assistance, I get the feeling when I talk to people that the focus is on me, that it’s all about me. One reason I say this is that whenever I approach people who don’t know me or who are not easy with my speech, before I can use my speech device, they ask me what is it that I need - if they don’t walk away, not wanting to be asked by me for help.

When I just want to ask how they are doing, if they liked the movie, if they want to talk about their dying aunt.

I know that I stick out, but I don’t want it to be because I need help or always ask for help. I know I am unusual - and I even enjoy being unusual - but, still, I long to be just one of the guys. The visits last weekend, for some happy reason that I don’t know, were a precious reminder that I’m making progress toward this goal.

Monday, November 5, 2012

The theater of politics

Yes, like everyone else, I can’t wait for this election to be over. Even though I am not at all sure I will like the outcome, and even though the election may not be over when the votes are counted.

And I too wish the campaigning had much more substance. I yearn for the debating to focus more on issues and less on personality and ideological pot-shots. Like everyone, I am disheartened by all the billions spent, by all the ugly sound bites, by all the half-truths and words taken out of contest.

But I have a confession to make. As sick as this messy, brutal campaigning makes me, I am fascinated by it! Sure, it’s like not being able to take one’s eyes off an accident, but, as a lover of the theater, I love watching the drama. As I recently told a friend, I like drama up on a stage - not in my life (although, yes, the result of an election may well cause drama in my life). I eat it up.

What’s more, like all good dramatists, like all good theater lovers and artists, not to mention good writers, I am fascinated by human behavior. And isn’t politics all about human behavior? Politics, after all, is people getting power, how they get power.

I often hear people say that they are bored by politics. How can they be bored by the way people use words and facts and, yes, twist words and facts to get power? It may well be ugly and even obscene and sickening, but it is definitely never boring.

I also, as I realized recently, read many articles in the newspaper not for the news content, which I more often than not already know, but to see what people say about it. I am fascinated by what people say and think and all the more so when they don’t say and think what I say and think. I am interested in what makes them tick. I know too many people who aren’t interested in this, who don’t want to even know what “the other side” are saying and thinking - which is exactly why things, including elections, are in such an gridlocked, polarized mess these days.

One more thing: If Romney wins, I’ll move to London or, far more likely, just keep being weird - and weirder.