Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Subversive thoughts and deeds

Local history and genealogy are for the most part on hiatus here --- the notes, the photos, nearly everything else is packed, some here, most there. About the only source of information I've got left for a couple of weeks is the Internet and that's kindy of scary and also leaves way too much time for the mind to wander.


I've never had a telemarketer hang up on me because I'd hurt his feelings before, but it happened Monday.

Here's the deal: I've never changed the phone in Chariton from my dad's name to mine in large part because I've never seen the need. Our names were the same. He used one and I used the other. But I can claim both, and do.

So when a telemarketer calls (and you can always recognize a telemarketer) and asks for Daniel, I sometimes play the "He's dead; Can I help you?" game. That gets some interesting responses. And it's not cold. Dad, notoriously rude to telemarketers, would get a kick out of it.

But Monday night's telemarketer called in the middle of "Antiques Roadshow," the only TV show I watch deliberately, so without thinking when he asked if Daniel was there and instead of remembering to play the he's-dead game, I channeled the old man and growled his usual response, "Whatcha want him for?"

Now this was one of those good old boy telemarketer types, the type you just know wants a donation for the Catalpa County Sheriff's Posse, Operation Christmas Felon or the Bribe a State Patrolman Fund --- one of those quasi law enforcement organizations that law enforcement officers should know better than to associate with. Somewhere down south there's a whole phone mill filled with these types. They always call you "buddy" or "pardner."

So when I growled "Watcha want him for?" this guy climbed on his high horse and replied indignantly, "you can't talk to me like that, pardner" and hung up. Sissy.


Anybody else ever notice that a Super WalMart is like a landfill with aisles and people? I say that in the kindest possible way. Every time I get on my high horse about WalMart it turns out to be the only place in 150 miles that has something I need quick and I end up there. Never fails. Happened to me twice last week.

Both times, the store was packed with people running their carts into each other but only about a 10th of the check-out lanes were staffed. Lots of self-checkout lanes available. No one using them.

The second time around I got in the only operating "express" lane at the east end of the building. I only had one item. There were two women in front of me, each with a number of items well under the 10-20 item limit.

Trouble was, both women were writing checks and the convoluted system WalMart has for dealing with checks (customer writes check, computer processes check very slowly, clerk return check to customer, customer expected to sign as if he or she had used a credit or debit card) wasn't working well.

First women's check processed, she grabbed it and headed out with her cart, following a kid pushing something big and heavy on flatbed cart. She forgot to sign.

Clerk didn't realize this until the second lady in line wrote her first check (she had two small separate orders each paid for with a separate check). Wouldn't process because the first woman hadn't signed off. Clerk grabbed slip and hauled ass to catch her and get a signature. Came back huffing and puffing with the signature. In the mean time, the system had churned out the first woman's receipt. Clerk grabbed receipt and took off again. This was getting interesting. Between 5 and 10 minutes had elapsed in the express lane.

Second lady's first check now proceeded through the system, but as she was writing her second check a supervisor of some sort appeared waving a two-piece swim suit. Some hapless clerk had sold a bottom of one type with a top of another type and all clerks were now being lectured severely on the need to make sure the pieces of all two-piece swim suits matched. Time stretches to between 10 and 15 minutes.

Supervisor finishes lecture, scowls at customers, marches off; clerk processes second woman's check and she is on her way.

Time now has stretched to between 15 and 20 minutes, a personal first for me in an express lane. I pay cash ($13.50) for a package of 10 packing cartons folded flat and head out. No sack. Item too large for a sack. Guardian of the west gate demands to see my receipt. I show her. She smears it and the hand (my left) that was holding it with a yellow magic marker. You've gotta love WalMart.


I don't mean to dwell on this gay marriage business, but there was a protest of the Iowa Supreme Court's recent decision involving about 300 people on the steps of the Capitol Monday and Des Moines TV covered it.

Of the three speakers featured on TV only Chuck Hurley, president of the Iowa Family Policy Center, was making much sense. He pointed out that the fight against gay marriage and for a constitutional amendment to define marriage as a relationship between one man and one woman was just beginning. And that's true.

Then there was a Baptist preacher whose name I missed from Burlington going on and on about tyrants (the Supreme Court) now ruling Iowa. A bit of an overstatement there. No one's ever called the justices, some appointed by Republicans and some by Democrats, liberals before --- let alone tyrants. They're just judges, for heaven's sake, who issued a ruling some agree with and others don't.

Finally, there was Bob Vander Plaats, who would like to be governor, demanding that the current governor, Chet Culver, issue an order to prevent gay marriage until a vote on a constitutional amendment is scheduled --- several years down the road if at all.

The difficulty here is that the governor has no authority to do such a thing even if he'd like to, no more than the president can override the U.S. Supreme Court with an executive order. You'd think a gubernatorial hopeful would know that --- unless he was just playing politics and figured most Iowans were too dumb to figure it out.

The only way to halt gay marriage is to amend the constitution. It's possible that will happen. But the difficulty is, it's hard to predict what Iowans will do. We're not conservative as a whole, although some would like to think we are, nor are we liberal as a whole, something others would like to believe. We're just us. We don't scare easy and we may be cantankerous sometimes but we're not stupid.

One sure way for opponents of gay marriage to lose again down the road a ways is to keep yelling "the sky is falling" rather than working hard to make their case in a calm and sensible manner. Not that I want them to win; it just seems useful to point it out since the same thing goes for proponents of gay marriage if they want to keep winning.


Ed Abbey said...

It seems winter has passed me by and I didn't dig into my box of genealogy stuff. I really have missed doing so but I've got, I hope, a lot of years left to do so and my ancestors really don't move around much.

I've never had a telemarketer hang up on me. I wish it happened more often.

I hate China-Mart, a.k.a. Wal-Mart and would rather pull a tooth than go in there but like you, I've had to go in there twice in the last month. Both times for something only they had here in this town. I've actually left a cart in the checkout full of stuff before there because I grew tired of people taking forever to pay with checks and make multiple transactions.

I just read an interesting article that pointed out that the Supreme Court only issues opinions and not laws. Therefore the law identifying a marriage as between a man and a woman is still on the books. However, from what the news sounds like, this isn't the way everyone is preceding because they are talking about updating forms, birth certificates and such. I think the reason the opponents keep screaming about the sky falling is that they want to make sure it stays on everyone's mind until November 2010. But I've been around too long to know that by then, this will all be just a distant memory. I will post some more on this Friday if you care to read it.

Frank D. Myers said...

For better or worse, I'm headed to WalMart again this morning (having tried Staples and Target with no success yesterday). What can you do?

As I understand it, while the Supreme Court's ruling is an opinion, it is a binding opinion when applied to the Iowa constitutionality of an Iowa law. No court appeal is possible and while the opinion is not law it functions as law because it voids the law to which it refers, which is why the marriage wagon once hitched to the ruling is now rolling.

The ruling is so sweeping it also fairly well closed the option of rewriting the law and trying again --- unless the makeup of the court changed dramatically. And its wording fairly well precluded a civil union compromise, too.

Interesting times ...

Wanda Horn said...

I don't want to get into the topic of gay marriage, Frank, but I do endorse your criticisms of people who make spectacles and laughingstocks of themselves while doing what they consider to be "the Lord's work"! They claim to represent conservative, evangelical Christianity; and sometimes they're all the representation the public sees. I'm really tired of that! I am, unashamedly, one of those CECs, and I think you know that there are lots of us who don't foam at the mouth or rant about things about which we have no real knowledge. My late husband (an ordained Baptist minister) used to lament that the problem with fundamentalism is that there's not nearly enough "mental" involved.

God's in control! Issues happen. However, the sky isn't going to fall until God is finished with it. In the meantime, I pray to be able to forgive people who bring ridicule to His name!

Wanda Horn

Oh yes -- I disagree with you and Ed about Walmart, too. I buy all kinds of stuff there and feel I'm doing a good thing by "one-stop" shopping. If only they would quit moving things around!

Ed Abbey said...

Thanks for the response. I think I understand now what is happening and I agree that it would make it very hard to add something limiting it without a change of court. Like I mentioned before, I think it will be a war of attrition of people and their beliefs and those of us who believe it shouldn't be allowed are already in the minority. Good stuff.

Wanda - I think supporting Wal-Mart is supporting China's economy, China's labor practices, supporting the undercutting and running out of small towns the mom and pop shops that made our country so great and gave us the American dream, supporting the giving of poverty level wages and benefits to those who work there and most important supporting the destruction of American institutions such as Vlassic, Huffy, Levi's, Masterlock, Rubbermaid, Nabisco, Dial and almost Snapper to name just a FEW! I challenge you to read some of these articles and then come back and defend Wal-Mart.

Frank D. Myers said...

Most of the lessons that have served me best were taught by conservative evangelical Christians --- for the most part with their lives and only sometimes with their voices.

But for some reason the more ways we come up with to communicate with each other the more trouble we have. In too much of a hurry to listen and try to understand we give too much credence to those who cause the most commotion --- and that's true on both sides of this and other issues.

And, yes, the true depth of my hypocrisy regarding WalMart is gradually emergeing. I generally shop HyVee, since it is the base of Chariton's economy. But I tend to buy items on sale and when the HyVee price goes up head for WalMart, almost always cheaper, to resupply. I'm so ashamed.