Thursday, November 12, 2015

OMG, I Used to Live There

Recently, I read an online news report about a man who threatened his neighbor with a sawed-off shotgun. Shortly thereafter, the man barricaded himself in his studio apartment, with the shotgun, of course. Shortly after that, a law enforcement contingent composed of several state troopers and local police officers converged on the scene. Fortunately, the man surrendered without a shot being fired by either side.

This scary event took place at an apartment complex in Massachusetts. When I saw a picture of the complex, I thought OMG, I used to live there.

Yes, I certainly did. In the mid-seventies.

My very first apartment was on the first floor of that complex. Had I noticed the bullet holes in the window of another first floor apartment before I signed the rental agreement, I might have turned around and looked elsewhere. But then, I never would have met Ken and later had the good fortune to escape from the cold New England winters.

Ken soon convinced me to move—no, not in with him—to an apartment on the second floor. He didn’t think it was safe for a woman to be living on the first floor. I guess he thought I was pretty naïve or something, because, hey, I grew up in rural Berkshire County. But I had heard about the break-ins on the first floor. According to a gossipy tenant, feral teens from the not-so-nice neighborhood to the north made a habit of jumping the complex fence after sunset in search of open windows and easy pickings.

I took Ken’s advice seriously. Really I did. I intended to ask about moving. Sometime. But I wasn’t in a hurry. I figured I would be safe as long as I kept my window closed and locked. However, when I came home from work one afternoon, I found a note from Ken saying I could move up to a second floor apartment. Guess someone in the complex office had ESP. Or something.

The next day, I moved to the second floor, into an apartment two doors down the hall from the local illegal immigrant. Incidentally, she was from England.


Saturday, September 05, 2015

Some Family Reunions Just Aren't Meant to Be

One afternoon, back in the Early Jurassic Period, Mom took my four-year-old brother and went to the next door neighbor’s house for coffee and conversation. She left nine-year-old me and my seven-year-old brother at home. Although leaving us alone today would probably result in a visit from a CPS employee, it wasn’t a big deal then. And Mom was probably gone for only thirty minutes.

Long enough.

I was sitting on the couch in the breezeway, doing nothing, when I spotted a familiar yellow tabby cat slinking across the meadow in search of a snack. A year ago, Taffy and our cat had been litter mates, two cute little fuzz balls cuddling together in a cardboard box under the cellar stairs.

They must really miss each other, I thought. I went to the basement where my brother was playing with the model train set up. “We’re going to reunite Tippy with his brother,” I told him. “Taffy’s out back. Go get him.”

I snatched Tippy from his snooze on top of the washing machine. I managed to haul him up to the breezeway before he clawed my arm, wiggled free, and jumped on the couch. Several minutes later, my brother returned, dangling the equally reluctant Taffy. Brother dumped Taffy on the couch.

I guess I was waiting for the cats to rub noses in a friendly greeting, like I’d seen dogs do. Instead, the cats arched their backs, fluffed their fur, and hissed at each other. Tippy lunged at Taffy. Taffy clawed Tippy’s nose. Tippy leaped off the couch. Taffy made a break for the back door, bounced off the glass, and crash landed on top of Tippy. Uh, oh, maybe this wasn’t such a good idea, I thought as Tippy backed his sibling into a corner.

At nine, I was too young to understand the nature of cats. All I understood was that the cats were siblings. And siblings were supposed to love and be nice to each other. They weren’t supposed to growl and hiss at each other. Or beat up each other.

My brother assessed the situation and disappeared.

I scrambled onto the couch as the snarling ball of fur careened from one end of the breezeway to the other. I knew I had to get those cats out of there before Mom came home. I hopped off the couch, grabbed a broom, and jabbed the nearest cat. Taffy clawed the broom. Tippy jumped onto the window sill. I inched around to the back door, yanked it open, and swept Taffy onto the patio. Before I could slam the door, Tippy raced after him.

I watched the two cats disappear into the tall grass and decided that, unlike people, cats had no family loyalty.

[The original version of this essay was published in the Great Barrington, MA, The Women's Times in December 1996. About 14 years ago, I posted that version on the Themestream site with permission from the publisher of The Women's Times.]

Thursday, August 20, 2015

I Torpedoed My Academic Career

During my senior year in high school, the first publically funded community college in the state was established in Berkshire County, Massachusetts. I was accepted into the first class of 150 students. In hindsight, that was a real achievement (and a real surprise) because I was competing with students from all over the state.

At the time, I was about as academically motivated as a chipmunk. I applied for admission only because my dad thought it was a great opportunity for me.

I had been taking business classes during my junior and senior years, so I assumed I would be placed in the two year business education program in college. I was doing well in the high school classes, and I actually enjoyed the one class I took in bookkeeping. However, I wasn’t looking forward to sitting through two more years of typing, shorthand, and business math. I thought those classes were beyond boring.

My acceptance letter came with a string attached. I had to take the SAT that summer. I didn’t think the SAT was required in order to enroll in what was essentially a secretarial training program. I wasn’t happy about having to take the test, but, of course, I took it. And, as I recall, I was a nervous wreck during the test. Way too many of the SAT questions seemed over my head. I took a chance and answered most of them, anyway—unless they involved advanced math.

I really thought I had done badly on the SAT. I never looked at my scores. To this day, I don’t know what they were.

During orientation, I learned that I had not been placed in the business education program. Instead, I had been placed in the liberal arts transfer program. My counselor advised me to take classes that would get me into the University of Massachusetts in two years.


Although I hadn’t been looking forward to two more years of typing and shorthand, I knew darn well that I belonged in the business education program. I couldn’t figure out what had happened to change someone’s mind about that, and my parents didn’t ask questions.

My first semester went well. After a short adjustment period, I settled down and ended the semester with decent grades. And, with the exception of the F in French, my second semester grades weren’t too bad either. Unfortunately, the F was reflected in my cumulative average. However, my other grades were high enough to keep me from being put on academic probation.

By the beginning of the third semester, my mind was on my social life and the new guy I had started dating. I also started slacking off on studying, and sometimes I skipped a class just because I didn’t feel like going to it that day. When grades came out in December, I had squeaked by, but just barely. I don’t remember what my cumulative average was, but I do remember that I was put on academic probation.

If, by some miracle, I eventually completed the liberal arts transfer program, I knew I was not going to get into the state university or any other four year college. My overall cumulative average was too low.

At that point, I figured my academic career was heading south fast. And, to tell the truth, I didn’t particularly care.

But I did care enough to want to quit while I was ahead. I had no idea as to what I would do if I left school. I knew I would have to get a job, but what kind of job? None of my classes in the liberal arts program had prepared me for a job in the real world. During the past eighteen months, my typing skills had regressed, and my shorthand skills had disappeared.

I figured I was going to end up stocking socks and underwear at Woolworth’s or assembling widgets in some factory. But that was okay because the scary prospect of having to find work was better than the scary prospect of flunking out of school.

I tried to convince my parents to let me quit, but they were having none of it. Finally, we compromised. They agreed to let me reduce my course load from five to three classes and then do a fifth semester in order to “catch up” and graduate.

I chose to register for three classes that seemed interesting, yet fairly easy. I decided to take a second literature class because I had gotten a B in the first one. I also registered for an economics class and a sociology class called Marriage and the Family.

By the end of the semester, I had quit going to the economics class unless I felt the need for a nap. I attended the sociology class on a semi-regular basis. I sat in the back of the room and concentrated on doodling and making notes that had nothing to do with the class. I didn’t think I’d need to know much about marriage and the family any time soon. A high school boyfriend, whom I still liked, had dumped me, and my current on-and-off boyfriend wasn't what one would describe as marriage material.

The literature class was the only class I really liked and went to faithfully. On the last day of finals, I torpedoed my B average in World Literature 102 by arriving five minutes late for the exam.

I should have gone to the teacher and begged for mercy. Instead, I went to Friendly’s restaurant—at 8:10 a.m.—and ordered an ice cream sundae with extra hot fudge sauce and whipped cream. I ended up with indigestion, an F in English literature, and a 1.8 (D-plus) cumulative average.

And that’s how I got kicked out of college for academic reasons.

However, a few years later, I resurrected my academic career by taking an evening class at a four year college. After a few semesters of liberal arts classes, I decided I needed to study something that would make me more employable.

I reapplied for admission to the community college. I did really well in my accounting classes and other business classes. With the exception of the French class, I successfully repeated all the previous classes that had ended in bad grades. I graduated with an Associates Degree in Liberal Studies (aka my Associates Degree in Whatever) in the early 1970s.

[Postscript: In the late 1990s, when I was finishing the requirements for my B.A. in English at Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, I had a tutee who was on academic probation. She had a 1.8 cumulative average. The same cumulative average that had gotten me dropped from college in the Mid-Jurassic Period allowed her to remain in school in 1996. How times had changed.]

Sunday, August 02, 2015

I Committed a Federal Offense at the Age of Twelve

According to an online article from the MassLive news site, Amtrak has pressed charges against a Massachusetts couple who were “allegedly” caught having sex between several sets of railroad tracks one evening last month. Both members of the amorous duo were charged with trespassing and lewd, wanton, and lascivious behavior.

Well, I guess I could have been charged with one of those offenses when I was twelve. Guess which one?

Too old for dolls, too young for dates, I was bored during summer vacation. There was nothing for tweenagers to do in our small, rural town. I could spend only so much time reading every day. And I wasn’t interested in the insipid soap operas that dominated the afternoon programming on our one and only television channel.

I walked a lot, just to have something to do. Two of my friends lived at the edge of town, which was over a mile away. I sometimes walked to their house. More often, I walked along the railroad tracks that were located in a somewhat isolated area near the river.

Last year, a transit district officer in Vista, California, told me that trespassing on railroad property is a federal offense. Oops. I guess if anything was railroad property then, those tracks were.

I wasn’t the only one committing a federal offense back in the Early Jurassic Period. Fishermen and neighborhood kids trekked the tracks from the first warm day in spring until late autumn. The river, though shallow in most places, was our swimming hole during summer vacation.

Way before I was born, the area where I walked had been dubbed the Jungle. For years I thought that epithet had been inspired by the trees and bushes that bordered one side of the tracks. It wasn’t until I was twenty-something that I learned the Jungle was rumored to have been the site of a hobo camp during the depression.

I can’t recall hearing gossip about any strange goings-on in the Jungle during the depression—or at any other time. As far as I know, no one was ever maimed or murdered in the alleged hobo camp or anywhere else along the tracks. But whenever I reached a certain area in the Jungle, I got a creepy feeling that stopped me from continuing beyond that point.

In 1993, a coworker at SmartMart told me the Jungle was haunted.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Fun Times on the Party Line

Thanks to the invention of the cell phone, almost everyone, from young children to senior citizens, now has a private phone line. It wasn’t always like that. Too bad cell phones weren’t around when I was in high school. Cell phones would have made my friends and me very happy and kept people from getting annoyed with us.

Until the early 1960s, we had to share a line with four other telephone customers. One of them was the elementary school; another was a family who lived near the school. I think the third customer might have been an organization that didn’t have anyone working there on a daily basis. I have no idea as to who the fourth party was. Apparently, those people didn’t use the phone much.

When I was a junior in high school, I would come home from school, drag the phone into the hall closet, and call my best friend who went to a different school. Yeah, I confess that sometimes we tied up the line for well over an hour. Or more.

The grandmother of the family living near the school frequently interrupted our conversations, asking us to get off the line because she had to “make an important phone call.” Grandma was polite about it, and so were we. We always hung up so she could use the line.

Her grandson, whom I’ll call “Jack,” was a different story.

One afternoon, Kate and I must have been discussing some really interesting teen gossip. I never heard the click that indicated someone was checking the line. Then again, maybe Jack liked eavesdropping, just in case we mentioned someone he knew.

After putting up with us for what probably seemed like hours to him (but really wasn’t) he broke into our conversation, yelling, “Get off the phone. You two are on the phone twenty-four hours a day. Why don’t you move in with each other?”
I was stunned by his outburst, so I had no words. Kate started arguing with him. I don’t remember what she told him, but I’m sure it was something I wouldn’t repeat here. Anyway, we did get off the phone. And I think I stayed off the party line for a while—maybe even for the rest of the day.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

I Would Have Been More Scared Than Bored

A few days ago at the neighborhood café, I heard a woman mention the name of a small town in New Mexico. I so wanted to butt in on the conversation, but I didn’t. Doing that would have been rude, and I was brought up to be nice.

Why, yes, I do have a story to tell about that place.

Way back in the Late Jurassic Period, Ken and I lived on a ranch in Arizona. Ken worked there, but the bookkeeping job I was supposed to get fell through. I could tolerate watching the soaps with the foreman’s wife for only so long. I spent most of my days moping about my present circumstances and wondering if I would ever get off the ranch and back to civilization and a job.

After a few months, Ken became discouraged with the rather chaotic management of the ranch. He thought we probably should move on. I wanted to move to Tucson, but Ken vetoed that idea. He wanted to move to a small town in New Mexico. He told me there were a lot of ranches in that area. He was sure he could get a job at one of them.

I had never heard of that town before, or if I had, I didn’t remember. Most of the small towns we previously traveled through in New Mexico were in shabby shape, with little to offer someone like me who bored easily and thus preferred city life. I thought we would be trading one ho-hum place for another.

I did not want to move to Roswell, New Mexico. And, as it turned out, we didn’t.

Thursday, June 04, 2015

Yikes! Two Guys Thought I Was a What?

A recent Facebook comment about a questionable area in a Certain City reminded me of the times I was mistaken for a hooker.

Yes, it happened twice, and in different cities, the first time in 1983, and the second in 1992.

One Saturday, after breakfast at Ken’s favorite greasy spoon, I asked him to drop me off at the Tucson Mall. He said he would do that after he got a haircut. I didn’t want to wait for him, so I decided to take the bus.

I had dressed appropriately for a cold February morning on the desert. I was wearing a pair of old, comfy jeans and a turtle neck top worn under a bulky sweater. The heavy wool car coat I wore over everything else made me look like I weighed about 300 pounds.

Unfortunately, I made the mistake of NOT standing next to the bus stop sign. I was standing about ten or twelve feet away when a man in a late model white car pulled up to the curb and parked in front of me.

At first, I thought he might be someone I knew from work or school, but when I made eye contact with him (which I probably shouldn’t have), I realized he wasn’t. I wondered what the heck the guy was waiting for. About two minutes later, it dawned on me.

Yikes! I was standing on the Miracle Mile, a road that people often referred to as Hooker Highway.

I forgot about going to the mall and fled to the barber shop. Ken walked out the door just as I got there. “Ken,” I shrieked, pointing back in the direction of the bus stop, “Some guy thinks I’m a hooker.”

Ken was not amused. I didn’t get to the mall that day, but I did get a lot of mileage out of that story. I often joked that I was going to have a T-shirt custom printed with the words: I am not a hooker.

I probably should have followed through on the T-Shirt idea. I could have worn it in January 1992, on the Sunday morning I walked Pacific Avenue in Tacoma. Hey, I was just doing a little amateur detective work.

I was minding my own business—well, more or less—when a man driving a beat-up blue car came along, slowed down, and stopped a couple of yards past me.

After my Tucson experience, I guess I should have expected that. I was a woman walking alone on Pacific Avenue, which, at that time, was Tacoma’s version of Tucson’s Miracle Mile.

But it was Sunday.

Oh, for gosh sakes, give it a rest.

This time, I didn’t hang around wondering what the man had in mind. I fled across the street to Denny’s restaurant, squeezed into the last available seat at the counter, and pulled a bus schedule out of my backpack. I sat there sipping really bad coffee for almost an hour until I could catch a bus that took me far away from that area.

In hindsight, perhaps I should consider staying out of cities with names that begin with the letter T.


Thursday, May 14, 2015

Getting the Kahlua (aka Yet Another Weird Title)

My recent weekend in Mexico made me think of something that happened when late Other Half and I lived in Tucson. Sometime in the 1980s, I forgot exactly when, my non-drinker aunt went on a Caribbean cruise and discovered Kahlua.

Ken and I traveled to New England every year, in late August or early September. My aunt asked me to bring her a bottle of Kahlua. The liqueur is made in Mexico, so she thought we could get it cheaper in Arizona.

I knew we could get it even cheaper In Mexico, and I knew who could help us do that. We had a friend who lived in the city, but her family lived in a small town in the U.S., across from the international border. So one Saturday, Ken and I and our friend, whom I’ll call “Maria,” made a trip to Agua Prieta, Sonora, to buy a bottle of Kahlua.

First, we stopped at a shop on the U.S. side of the border and changed about twelve dollars into pesos. Then we borrowed a car belonging to Maria’s family, crossed the border, and went to a shop where Maria was acquainted with the owner.

Maria did her best to persuade the owner to give us a lower price, but he was having none of it. I really wanted the Kahlua, so I reluctantly paid full price. I don’t remember what that was, but I do know that it was less than I would have paid in the States.

When we crossed back into Arizona, Maria took a shortcut down a dirt road. A pack of four or five stray dogs appeared out of nowhere and ran in front of the car. Sadly, one of them didn’t make it to the other side of the road. I freaked, but there was nothing we could do.

On the way home, we ran into a thunderstorm near St David. I wanted to pull over to the side of the road and wait it out, but Ken vetoed that suggestion. As we approached Benson, the storm worsened. Sheets of rain and high winds pummeled the truck, making it difficult to see any vehicles in front of us.

That’s when Ken decided to get off the road. He pulled into a truck stop on the outskirts of Benson. We sat at the counter because a lot of people apparently had the same idea Ken did. And there was a private party going on in the dining room.

Shortly after we arrived, the power failed. The lights blinked twice and went out. About a minute later, a woman in the dining room screamed. Her scream was followed by a very loud crash. I figured someone had dropped a tray loaded with glasses and dinnerware.

I turned to Maria and said, “I think somebody goosed the waitress.”

Friday, April 24, 2015

Not Funny, But I Laughed Anyway

Last week, when I went to the transit center to catch a bus to the mall, I saw a man who supposedly was in charge of his small daughter. Daughter looked about two years old, but she might have been younger. She wasn’t that steady on her feet. At first, she careened around, straying away from Dad and getting in the way of people who were rushing to catch other buses.

Our bus wasn’t scheduled to leave for 15 minutes. The bus door was open, and the bus driver was sitting in the driver’s seat, taking a break. Daughter soon discovered the open door.

Dad stood around grinning, presumably with pride, as the toddler awkwardly and repeatedly climbed into the bus, struggled to her feet, turned around, and jumped onto the sidewalk. She thought that was just great. What the bus driver thought is not known. I thought it was an accident waiting to happen.

Later, about halfway through their trip, Dad took an over-the-counter medicine bottle from a tote bag, opened the bottle, and knocked back a pill or two. Then he grabbed Daughter’s sippy cup and washed down the pill(s).

While he was busy doing that, Daughter retrieved the medicine bottle from the tote bag and proceeded to whack Dad in the head. And she wasn’t doing it gently. She hit him five or six times, but he didn’t try to stop her. I so wanted to say, “Well, we know who rules the roost in your house.”

But I didn’t. Instead, I started laughing. And then Dad started laughing while Daughter continued to whack him in the head. About a minute later Daughter stopped hitting Dad and noticed the open window. She drew back her little arm, aimed the bottle at the window, and made an attempt to pitch the bottle into the street.

Dad grabbed the bottle just in time.

Friday, April 03, 2015

Don't Try This at Home---or Anywhere Else

Teenagers do crazy things today, but then, they always did. A few days ago, I was telling an acquaintance whom I’ll call “Sue” about one of my high school friends. After celebrating St. Patrick’s Day just a bit too much, he ended up unsuccessfully trying to outrun a police car.

Sue thought that story was really wild, but I knew I could top it. So I told her about the night, or rather the early morning, that we changed drivers in a moving car.

“Why would someone do that?” She asked.

“There was a state trooper coming after us.”

I had been to a party with four friends, whom I’ll call “Kate,” “Ben,” “Don,” and “Duke.” (Honest, those were not their real names.)

We were heading home around 1:30 on a Wednesday morning. Duke was driving; I sat in the middle, and Ben was next to the window. Kate and Don were in the back seat.

Duke was flying down the road when a car raced by in the opposite direction. He glanced in the mirror and said, “That’s a statey, and he just hit the brakes. He’s turning around. They’ll hang me. Don you’ve got to change places with me.”

Oops! News flash. Duke had no license. Neither did Ben (yes, I knew that). But poor Don sitting in the back seat did. So, with Ben leaning in front of me to steer the car, Duke and Don changed seats. I was lucky I didn’t get kicked in the face.

The trooper initially was so far behind us that he didn’t catch on to the switch. Don wisely pulled over when the cop hit the lights and siren. Unfortunately, after an appearance in court the next day, Don also was without a driver’s license for about six months.

I told Sue that I learned a few lessons from that escapade: 1) Driving without a license is a dumb thing to do; 2) Switching drivers in a moving car is even dumber; and 3) Taking the blame for someone else’s wrong choice is beyond dumb.

“Wow, people don’t do things like that anymore,” Sue said.

Yeah, they do. Check the Internet.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

ACK! Annoying Telemarketers and Mystery Callers

A politician from a state in the Northeast recently announced her intention to refile a bill aimed at reducing telephone solicitations. Apparently there wasn’t enough interest in the bill when she first proposed it during the last session. Good luck to her in getting it passed this time. I wish a politician would propose something like that here. Unfortunately, in the long run, it probably wouldn’t discourage scammers and other annoying callers.

Last month, I got a phone call from a telemarketer who claimed he was calling on behalf of a legitimate charity. I politely told him I couldn’t take the time to talk right now. He ignored me and went into his spiel. I decided not to be nice and hung up on him. For the past couple of months, I’ve gotten what I suspect are scammer-type phone calls. So although the charity the man mentioned is a legitimate one, the caller might not have been a legitimate representative of that charity.

The telephone was a great invention. However, from what I’ve experienced, telephone sales pitches from strangers generally are beyond annoying. And then there were those phone calls that made me wonder what the heck was going on. When we lived in Arizona, we would pick up calls when we were at home. In 2000, over a period of three or four months, we got an unusual number of hang-up calls that I know weren’t from telemarketers. Maybe several people simply punched in the wrong number, but I really don’t think so.

During that time, we also found mystery messages on our answering machine (I’ve blogged about this previously).We never did find out what those were all about. Maybe we offended a couple of people in 2000, and they decided to annoy the heck out of us. Why do I think that? I guess it’s probably because at least two people left messages asking to speak to Other Half, and one of them asked to speak to me. Oddly enough, no one ever called when we were available to answer the phone.

These days, I usually let the digital answering system screen calls. If no one leaves a message, I know the call wasn’t important. I picked up on the telemarketing call last month because I was expecting a call from someone I wanted to talk to. Unfortunately for me, after telling the telemarketer I was busy, he hung onto the conversation like a piranha fish hangs onto its prospective meal.

I’m convinced that telemarketers are so focused on selling something that they never listen to their "targets." They just hope to wear people down by yakking away faster than an announcer relating the possible side effects of a medical product hawked on TV.

In, I think, 2001, I wrote an essay about telemarketers and published it on the late, but not lamented, Themestream site. Sometime, but not soon, I might revise that essay and publish an updated version on the nonfiction page of my other website.

Friday, March 06, 2015

Show a Little Respect, Customers

Employees who toil at jobs in retail stores and restaurants often leave comments and complaints on a certain online forum. Sadly, sometimes tactless customers point to cashiers, sales associates, or servers and warn their kids, “If you don’t study hard, you’re going to end up like her [or him].”

That’s so rude and disrespectful. It’s nobody’s business if someone chooses to work at a store or restaurant. Some people actually prefer to work at those places. Customers are too quick to assume that the cashier, sales associate, or server isn’t capable of finding a better job.

Yes, it’s true that some individuals might not have the skills to get better jobs. However, many retail and restaurant employees are working their way through college, and that type of employment suits their schedules. And individuals who have retired from successful careers often work at retail jobs because they want to keep active or to supplement their retirement incomes. One woman, who was formerly a hair stylist, recently retired from her job at the cosmetics department of a neighborhood store—at the age of 84.

When I was a cashier/sales associate at Smart Mart, no parent ever pointed to me and told their child, “If you don’t study hard, you’ll end up like her.” Maybe people were just a tad more respectful in that area. Then again, that city was located in a somewhat economically depressed part of the state. Well-paying, full-time jobs were hard to find there.

However, if any parents had pointed me out to their children as an obviously bad example, I would have told them, “I am studying hard, and guess what? I’m on the dean’s list. Furthermore, I’m going to move out of this area and get a better job just as soon as I finish the requirements for my degree.

And I did.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Bus Lines: Ditching the Morning Bus Ride Drama

The bus route that goes by my apartment complex is probably the best one in the entire transit system. I used to ride that bus to Other City around 9:30 a.m. at least once a week. I liked taking the bus, instead of the train, because I had less of a walk to the library.

But I won’t ride that bus in the morning anymore.

Some very needy people board the bus when it reaches a certain stop a few miles from my destination. I’ve learned that those passengers probably have just left a neighborhood homeless shelter or a nearby soup kitchen.

Unfortunately, several of them seem to have mental health or anger management issues. According to a deputy sheriff, many of them are on probation or parole. During almost every trip, at least one of them will become disruptive. Their loud rants and ramblings about politics, the transit system, and whatever else upsets them frequently offend other passengers who can’t pass up the chance to verbally spar with them.

Sometimes these sad individuals verbally attack other passengers whose only offense is asking them to please quiet down. I was brought up to be nice, but there are times when I have to fight the urge to tell them to shut up.

Yes, I do know better. Some of these people are scary.

Other passengers have told me that the transit company is reluctant to ban passengers with a covered disability out of fear of violating ADA regulations. One very rude and disruptive passenger said that she could say or do whatever she wanted to and get away with it. She boasted that the transit company would never ban her from riding the bus because she is disabled and would complain to the ADA.

Apparently the only way disruptive disabled passengers can be banned from riding public transportation is if they physically attack the driver or another passenger.

I feel very sorry for these people whose lives are in shambles. And I realize that they have the right to ride public transportation. But I’ve decided that I just can’t put up with their outbursts any longer. I don’t think that what they seem to believe is their right to freak out during a bus ride supersedes my right to have a safe, reasonably drama-free trip to the library. 

Friday, January 16, 2015

Another Mom and Pop Store Out of Business

[Note: This is sort of a rerun. I previously posted about this store, but this post is, obviously, the final one.]

The other day, I decided I needed a few more small plastic containers to house my endless supply of beads. So I took a walk to a nearby discount store. The store was closed. Permanently.

I’m not sure when that happened as I hadn’t been there for a couple of months. Maybe the owners decided not to renew their lease on general principles. Then again, maybe the national discount chain that is currently remodeling a nearby store had something to do with the decision to close the Mom and Pop store.

Although I previously had bought beaucoup small plastic containers and a few other things there, I wasn’t impressed with the place. It was a dark, dusty, disorganized store filled with mostly low quality merchandise. Like the store that will supplant it soon, it wasn’t actually a dollar store. Most of the items sold for more than one dollar. The most expensive item I noticed, a personal cart, was priced around seven dollars.

As I mentioned before, I will always wonder if the store owners thought their customers didn’t deserve a clean, well-organized store.

And as I mentioned before, the store was owned by members of one ethnic group, but the majority of customers were mostly low-income members of another group. During the past two years, I  went there maybe once a month. I usually noticed one or two customers and/or their children trashing the displays, but most customers were respectful of the inventory and the owners. 

Just my opinion, but I think the owners should have made more of an effort to keep the place picked up out of respect for the people who kept them in business for years.

Sorry if I’m perceived by some readers as being insensitive or politically incorrect, but, honestly, I’m not really sad to see that one go.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Next Time, I'll Remember When the Store Opens

One Friday morning not too long ago, I think I inadvertently surprised and, most likely, upset a shop employee. Honestly, I didn’t mean to do it.

I needed one or two inexpensive plastic containers for my beads. I wasn’t sure if the store had opened yet, but I decided to walk down there and find out. What I found were two ladies standing on the sidewalk in front of the store. “Is the store open?” I asked. They frowned, and one of them mumbled something. Uh, oh, they didn’t speak English. Or maybe they just weren’t speaking it to me.

I peeked through the door. The interior looked dark, so I figured the store wasn’t open yet. However, the lighting there is dismal, anyway, so I tugged at the door. Not locked. I pulled it open and saw a shop employee (SE) stacking up toys near the register. She frowned and told me the store didn’t open until 10 a.m. I was ten minutes early. I thought, Hey, if you’re not open, keep the door locked. I started to close the door, but she told me come in.

I walked in, followed by the women who probably just assumed they were included in the invitation. I don’t think SE noticed them standing behind me. She didn’t look happy to see them. I suspect that SE is probably well acquainted with them.

Supposedly, the store is one of those dollar-type places; however, items generally sell for between one and five dollars. Although I’ve found a few good things there (like inexpensive plastic containers), most of the merchandise isn’t the best quality. The displays are drab, dingy, and disorganized. And the place could use a good scrubbing.

The immediate neighborhood is composed of members of one ethnic group who, I would guess, are mostly low income folks. The store owners are members of another ethnic group. I would bet that the owners are not neighborhood residents.

The majority of the store’s customers are neighborhood residents. Every time I shop there, I notice one or two customers and/or their offspring tossing merchandise around or dropping it where it doesn’t belong. Their behavior always reminds me of the several times I worked at retail jobs and seemed to be constantly picking up discarded merchandise and putting it back where it belonged. That was a never-ending job.

I suspect that maybe, just maybe, the owners of the neighborhood store intentionally keep the store drab, dingy, and disorganized. Maybe they think the neighborhood residents wouldn't “appreciate” a clean store. No matter how many times the store was cleaned up,  shoppers would just trash it again, and again, and again.