I Can’t Believe I Got Up Early For This

Since I left professional/career level work, I’ve been low-key looking/not looking for an opportunity to get back in. For the most part, Lyft and the occasional Payroll/HR temp position keeps me engaged and feeds my need to feel productive.

Then I had to go and start thinking about buying a new place.

I had a plan: take the earnings off my savings in the 1st quarter of next year – which would equate to about 10% of the price I’m shopping in – and then save another 10% by adding 5-10 hours to my weekly drive schedule.

Then I talked to a mortgage guy who told me a self-employed worker really should put down 30% to get the best terms. I briefly considered lowering my target price, but really didn’t want to walk away from the properties I was seeing and trade down on amenities – which was a big factor in my moving considerations after a year and a half of being more of a homebody than I like.

I prodded myself to just keep to my plan and if I didn’t buy, I just ended up with that much more savings. Who knows, maybe I’d start a business with it.

Then October hit. And it didn’t pull its punches. I know part of this was the cumulative effect of spending ~$500 a month on therapy. While I felt it was helping me know myself and manage my triggers better, it was an extra hurdle each month.

Anywho, I took money out of savings to pay my monthly bills before vacation. Overused my credit card and generally felt the time I put in behind the wheel mid-month didn’t give much of an ROI.

I was a little underwhelmed.

Knowing that month end was coming up and assessing the demand for rides resulted in bleakness, I sold some more stock and prepared to cut into my savings a little deeper to prep for November. I also didn’t renew my therapy program for the month. If you’ve read my last couple posts, you know that the month went out like a lion and November started like it’s been the rest of the pride.

So I’m feeling a little optimistic, like I could feel whole and back-ish on track by month end. Hurrah.

Then I get a call about a job I applied for at the CVS around the corner from my place. In applying, I’d been my usual princess self: I wanted to walk to work and I wanted to be paid. I honestly figured there wasn’t a chance in hell I’d hear from them.

Oh, and they use assessments as part of their screening/hiring process. I loathe them and generally don’t do well on them because they ask the same questions over again later in the assessment to check for consistency. As a perceiver personality, that’s hard for me. I’ll read something and think , “Yeah, that’s what I’d do” and mark it down as an “Always”, but when it comes up again, slightly reworded, I start to find the gray area and lean into an “Almost Always” response.

Variables, amirite.

I’m not making any pendulum swings in my response, but there’s definitely room to give context for my thought process but nowhere to do so. Hence, I don’t like them.

But I got the interview!

The manager said she had time the following afternoon if I was free. I told her I was and she suggests 11 AM.

“Well, that’s morning, but I can make it.” Like I said, princess. She laughed and it was a date.

I walk into the store and she’s the only person on the sales floor. She cruises by me with a hobo whose bottle returns she’d just counted, tosses a “This’ll be a floor interview” over her shoulder as she passes and gives the bum his cash.

Then she leaves the register with a customer standing at it, comes over to introduce herself and declines a handshake or elbow bump. She literally said, “We don’t need to do that”!

I ask if she needs to help the customer and tell her I can wait. She says it’s fine, he can use the self-checkout.

The store is a shit hole. An absolute shit hole. Four foot high fixtures at the front of the store were empty, save abandoned purchases that customers just dumped and walked.

She’s wearing a beaded mask. I can see her teeth and know that it’s a mask in name only, versus anything offering protection.

“You don’t have any retail experience, what made you apply for this role?” She started out guns blazing.

Which is the only way to do it when you’re also starting out wrong.

“This is my third corporate retail job, and let me tell you, this place will chew you up and spit you out. So I’m curious what made you apply.”

Babe, if that’s the way you feel, why am I here? You clearly don’t have time to waste. “Well, I wouldn’t call 30 years of retail management nothing.”

She tells me I should have put that on my resume and I resist the impulse to counter that she should have read it. See? My therapy is working!

This is how the interview goes, her preening about this being her third corporate retail position, how she’s fought to get security and the store’s operating hours reduced. But not really talking much about me.

I offer a few times to let her tend to her customers and she accepts once and waves the offer off the rest of the time. We are within earshot of the customers she’s blowing off. That’s got to make them feel appreciated.

I wave to the empty shelves and ask about staffing: specifically what her plan was.

She poo-poos that by saying this store is just like this. Then follows it up with some crap about how if you can get promoted out of this store, everything else is a cakewalk. Basically, it sounds like she’s putting her time in until they get desperate enough to pull her out.

I’m thinking anyone that doesn’t fire her should also be fired.

Then I tell her that I worked in this very building for the former tenant…and it wasn’t like this. I go into my HR experience and how I could help with hiring, training and retention. She tells me she prefers to do the hiring personally.

“Well, I have a track record of retention, and have never had a store as critically poorly staffed as this, so if I’m her candidate she should rethink that. I offer the opportunity to meet applicants I like for her gut check approval and she offers a maybe. Sister, your interviewing skills are less than special, and your staffing crisis proves it.

The thing is, she only hires by gut. She didn’t ask any follow up questions or probe for details on my answers. I could have replied “Because” to a question and I don’t think she would have followed up. She was just thinking of her next question while I answered her.

No wonder her store was in crisis. If this was a first date, there wouldn’t be a second.

She asked what my salary expectations are and I tell her that I’d like to be on the low end of the range I indicated on the online application.

Nothing.

She regroups and asks what I’m looking for as an hourly rate. I tell her that a minimum of $30 would be the low end I mentioned. This is me converting the annual salary option I was given online to an hourly rate in me head. She tells me this role has a cap of $21/hr, so she’d have to get approval.

“You’re not going to get that. Paying me 30% more than others in this role would get you into trouble with Lilly Ledbetter. As a matter of fact, to avoid the appearance of unfair wage practices, many corporations – and remember, this is her third – have stopped asking what an applicant’s salary expectations are and switched to telling them what the job pays.

Not this mess of a manager.

I kind of left the interview angry. This is exactly the culture of incompetence that I’d left behind at my last professional – in name only – job. If The Peter Principle wasn’t slightly sexist, I’d tell you that it’s still thriving in retail.

But, Bob’s your uncle I can tell you that incompetency is still rewarded in retail. In case you were worried…the people serving us in stores are apparently hired on their ability to fog up a mirror. This woman could do it without taking off her mask, too, so she probably got extra credit on that test.

I came home determined that I didn’t want the job and wondering why I didn’t tell her so at the end of the interview. I’m still torn on whether it was uncertainty in my ability to do so without going full Julia Sugarbaker on her or if was the potential for better mortgage rates.

Nonetheless, when I got home, I decided to withdraw my application. I went to their hiring site and was surprised to find this.

There is no option to withdraw your application from consideration.

Ain’t that America?

You can’t reject us. We can put you through the ringer applying and put our worst foot forward during the interview process, but our ego will not allow for the possibility that you wouldn’t be lucky to be offered a job with us.

Stupid Americans.

GlassDoor, here I come!

I Can’t Believe I Got Up Early For This

Shitcuts

…and I’ve probably just created one by riffing on the word shortcuts.

You know what they are, where you can program your text app’s spellcheck to send a message with a few keystrokes. For me, the big win was typing “omw” into a text field to yield a message of “On my way!”

Apparently, it works as a shortcut across all apps…

So I’ve got that going for me.

The flip side, though, I’d rather more annoying.

Somehow, my spellcheck has “learned” new words based on frequent fat-finger occurrences. I’m forever sending messages with “I’m” in place of the intended word “in”, yet oddly not vice-versa.

Most annoyingly?

My autocorrect randomly changes my name to “Chrus” after a decade of fat-fingering the “u” instead of the “i” when typing my own damn name. Actually, that was the second most annoying thing. The apex of irritation in this scenario is actually hitting the “u” when typing my name and spellcheck prioritizing the misspelling of my name over my actual name.

Awkward.

AI < actual intelligence. It’s just that actual intelligence is so rarely seen in the wild anymore.

At least I got a new portmanteau Chrisism out of the deal: shitcut. That should have broad application throughout my day-to-day life. 🥸🥸🥸

Shitcuts

My Brush With Royalty

Rock royalty.

Portland rock royalty.

There I was last night, driving around and minding my own business in Milwaukie, a close-in Portland suburb. Mostly, this manifested as trying to figure out whether I should shut my app off so I can stop incoming rides briefly to set it to “home” mode. It was around 5 PM on a rainy Friday afternoon, so the ride bonuses in Portland were crazy.

For instance, I made almost $50 on my first three rides in the first hour on the road. You can see how those ride bonuses dropped on that last pick up outside the city core.

Yes, get me back to town, please.

Plus, that $2.50 bonus was a round trip ride to the liquor store for a guy who met me at the end of his driveway – which I love – only to mime “Do you have an extra mask?” from where he stood as I pulled up. Then, once he’s gotten one, climbs in grumbling about how “It’s not like these do anything, anyway” before careening into “The old man was killing him”, referring to Biden – neither of which I love right out of the gate in a ride. I managed to steer him into a conversational area he was better qualified to have an opinion on: sports.

Stupid American.

I’m sure that explains why I was debating getting back toward the city. That’s when this ride came in.

Now, Zia is not a common name. I’ve known one in my entire life, a former employee here in town. I pulled the picture up to see if it was her, and, well…wrong race.

However, I thought this rider skewed age and race wise toward being the only other Zia I could think of, who I certainly didn’t know, but whose early musical career I was well aware of, the Dandy Warhols.

The Dandys are a local band with one song most people will know – Bohemian Like You – and who I’ve been lucky enough to come across a couple times back when I stumbled into music venues around town in the 90s. Zia stood out among the band because she usually could be counted on to pull her shirt up at some point during a show.

That leaves an impression, even on a late-20s gay boy.

I mentally start discarding conversational riffs based off that song – “I’ve got a great car”, “Do you like vegan food”, “Did I see some guy sleeping on the couch? Is he always there? Why’s he looking kind of ‘meh’?”

Stupid stuff. – that I’d never actually say!

More likely, I’d try to get a heads up on her current band’s upcoming gigs. She’s got several projects going on these days and one of them – Brush Prairies, I think – has been doing shows at small venues, like the Dandys used to.

Also, I could pin her down on which member owned a wine bar here in my neighborhood and where it was actually located. Rumor vaguely has it that it’s over on/around Pettygrove & 14th but the place over there I’ve seen isn’t that impressive. But it’s open hours certainly suggest it operates on a rock and roll vibe, aka: it’s open or not on a whim. More specific rumor has it that it’s a place called Le Happy.

Cute, right? It’s at Lovejoy & 16th, so about half as much closer than the other place, but…

Permanently closed?!?

Even if this wasn’t that bar, it’s sad. Such a cute lil joint. I hope the building doesn’t get torn down in Portland’s growth/building boom.

Anyway, in real time, I was pulling up her name on Google to get a current pic.

Holy shit, holy shit, holy shit!

It was her!

OMGOMGOMG.

Be cool.

I pull into this driveway that’s on the backstreet of a side street behind a school in Milwaukie. The remoteness says “privacy” while the overgrown disrepair of a once well-tended yard says “recluse”.

“Damn, Zia, I know having four band projects going has to be a lot…but get it together!”

Then a college-aged kid walks out.

“Well, that’s not Zia…”

He’s got a cute mix of nerd and emo looks going, so I also tell myself to keep my eyes on the road. 🤦🏽

We’ve got a long ride ahead of us into Portland – thank you, Lyft app! – so I start off with some small talk about what’s up.

Turns out, he took a bus into town to hang out with his friend – a female friend, not a girlfriend 😈 – but he went to the wrong house. I comment that this girl has the right kind of problems…too many houses, and he clarifies that he went to her dad’s house (ok, so it’s a “depression vibe” in the yard, not “recluse”, got it) instead of her mom’s so mom was getting him a ride to the right place.

Cool mom.

AND IT WAS ZIA MCCABE!!!

Anyway, that was as close as my brush with rock royalty came. Well, that and maybe she was shuffling things around on the porch when I pulled up. And that I low-key know where she lives, but I’m not creepy, so that knowledge is just a little “I know stuff other people don’t” thrill.

But I still need to catch a random show of hers one of these days. Oh, and she’s a realtor, too, so that’s bad news for my realtor neighbor who lives in the building I want to eventually buy in…because I am Le Happy to be that kind of creepy.

Hey, it’s not like she wouldn’t get something out of that transaction, and The Gays are nothing if not transactional.

My Brush With Royalty

The Most Officious Of Pricks

No, this is not about my impending eligibility for a COVID booster – but you best believe I’m getting that sucker as soon as I am able!

This prick is a person. Not a bad person, I’m sure.

Just a guy doing his job.

Poorly.

And since it involves a badge of sorts, well, let’s just say that Americans no longer need power to be absolute for it to be too great a temptation for them to abuse.

Pricks.

This one was an airport cop. Not even TSA or the Port Police, either. He was a contract employee – is…I didn’t have him fired – working traffic detail in the Arrivals pick up area at PDX.

A little context, PDX has a two tiered front. The upper deck is the Departure level, where you walk in to the ticketing counters. The lower level is Arrivals, where you exit from baggage claim.

Outside of either, you have “islands”. The inner island, closest to the doors is for private vehicles to pick up or drop off. The outer island – called…get this, Island 2 – is for commercial vehicles, which is where I spend most of my airport time these days.

I’d say about 40% of the time when I have a ride to drop someone off at the airport, I’ll get paired with a ride back automatically. If I don’t, I just leave. It’s not worthwhile to chill in the holding area and wait, because usually there’s 20-60 other drivers in there.

Idiots.

And even smaller portion of those return rides I get paired with occur on my approach to the airport versus as pull away from the Departures drop off.

Why does it matter, all of this esoteric knowledge about airport ops at PDX?

Context.

You see, the round trip to get from the Departures level to the Arrivals level is about 4 miles and takes about six minute. Passing through and back into three different speed zones, no less:

25

35

45

35

25

Ironically, the route is rather parabolic in shape, so there’s a strangely soothing rhythm to the round trip.

Still, it’s wasteful. Plus, it throws unnecessary pollution into the air.

Sooooo…when I get that very rare return ride on my approach to the airport and happen to have that even rarer passenger that travels light – like, backpack light – I’ll ask if they mind me just dropping them on the Arrivals level. I mean, if they can work the Lyft app, I feel fairly certain they possess the competencies required to navigate an escalator.

I had one of these unicorn situations the other day. Since the passenger was also a Portland native, they easily agreed to my request tp drop them off downstairs. Hell, being a Portland native, they’d have fallen all over themselves to leave an arm behind if I’d asked.

We’re nice folks.

Passive-aggressive like there’s no tomorrow, but nice. We’re like the British of the US.

Anyway, I ask if she’d mind the whole “Departures drop off on the Arrivals level” and she’s game.

I pull up to the first of two crosswalks (from the parking garage to the terminal) and she hops out. As I’m waiting for pedestrian traffic to clear, this Officious Prick person walks over, points at my dashboard Lyft lamp and says, “You know Departures are upstairs, right?”

I tell him “Yes, but I had a pick up, so…”

“Well, next time you need to do it right!” Like there’s a wrong way to drop someone off at the airport that doesn’t involve the words “Tuck and roll!”

“I see”, I reply. “The environment doesn’t thank you”, I tell him pointedly. What a bunch of nonsense. Please, this is my job – as it were – trust me to apply some critical thinking to the situation, appropriately.

Of course, as I’m thinking this, he replies, “I work for PDX, not the environment.”

Surrealiously, pal?

Yeah…I’m not sure why I thought critical thinking would enter any equation involving Stupid Americans, but here I am.

Fuck the planet.

Quick! Someone kill Greta Thunberg so she can roll over in her grave!

<facepalm emoji>

The Most Officious Of Pricks

A Texas Taliban Twist

What is it, you ask?

A new dance craze sweeping the globe on Tik Tok?

Or something far more rewarding?

Yes, yes…it’s that one.

And it’s a reeeaaaaalllly sweet reward. The perfect embodiment of poetic justice, or to extend the analogy, just desserts.

First, a recap:

In an effort to reverse the 50 year old law of the land on abortion and a woman’s right to choose, a pro-life law was passed in Texas banning abortion past the sixth week of pregnancy. Forget that many women don’t even know they are pregnant at the sixth week for a variety of reasons like the timing or regularity of their cycle or even just plain, old denial and hope. Feel free to set aside as well that many pregnancies self-terminate in the first trimester and the six week ban doesn’t even cover half that benchmark, do the pro-lifers were defending a life that may be doomed before it has a brainwave anyway. And on that note, just ignore that the nickname for this law is the Heartbeat Bill, as six weeks is generally when a heartbeat is detected during pregnancy and the Religious Wrong has decided – overriding the scientific community on this – that life begins at the heartbeat…a tactical retreat from their usual “conception” standpoint. Don’t worry, I’m sure they will vacillate between the two standpoints as is convenient for them.

Meanwhile, smash cut to confessionals across the country with lines of pro-lifers lined up outside of them and around the block waiting to confess their “sin” after having spontaneous orgasms at the passing of this law.

For all the twisted machinations behind this five-plus decades long fight by the religious community and the individual rights restrictive results of a woman no longer having agency over her own body, the people behind this Heartbeat Bill were nicknamed the Texas Taliban.

Liberals can be pithy, too.

And, boooooyyyy did the Religious Wrong hate that nickname. Sadly, it’s completely apt, given how the basis of this law reflect the way women are treated more as property in a religious culture far more ridiculous restrictive than anything previously experienced in American religious culture. Aside from the prevalence of religion amongst the slaves in early America, that is…but is that really the closest comparisons reasonable organization would strive for?

Never-mind, I realized I just used the adjective “reasonable” in relation to the group of nutsacks I call the Religious Wrong. I withdraw the question.

How did this – could this – have even happened?

Clever pro-life rabbits, that’s how.

Let me copy/paste something from The Guardian to save time:

“When a conservative state passes an abortion ban – as they do with some regularity – state employees are usually tasked with enforcing the law, those employees are named as defendants in lawsuits brought by pro-choice groups, and the law is blocked from going into effect by courts that declare it unconstitutional before any real patients are denied abortion care.”

The psychotic brilliance of the Texas Taliban’s plan is that it shortcuts the normal channel of enforcing the validity of a law: opponents suing “The State” over enforcement of said law. No, this law removes that step and takes it into some sort of Orwellian Bigger Brother scenario: citizen enforcement.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m all for people calling out unacceptable behaviors when they arise to prevent our culture from being sucked even further into the quagmire of this A-me-rica we’re all living in now.

This law, though, incentivizes it. It doesn’t openly solicit frivolous lawsuits, except it does. The law allows any average Jane or Joe to sue not only the mother, but any people perceived to be involved in the effort of terminate s pregnancy past the six week mark.

Insanity.

Brilliance.

Psychotic…

The enforcement of the law is up to the citizens, not the government. It offers a $10,000 bounty on people “assisting” in an abortion effort.

Parents.

Doctors.

Nurses.

Front desk clerks.

Bus or ride-share drivers.

(Yes, I legitimately got an email from Lyft telling me they had the backs of their drivers, as we’re not expected – by any reasonable person – to know where our passengers are going or what they intend to do once they arrive. Or, I suppose, what a six-plus-weeks-pregnant woman looks like.

Fucking nut jobs. But, like I said…brilliant. Diabolically so.

The fix?

At least so far…

You’ve heard the expression “Fighting fire with fire”?

Well, in this case, to get the legal ball rolling, the pro-choicers are fighting crazy with crazy.

Like, really crazy.

The law was expected to be more of a deterrent to providers, versus a tool of enforcement. As expected, a doctor who took his Hippocratic Oath seriously, performed a now illegal abortion.

As not expected, he then wrote an op-ed about it, effectively declaring open season on himself for the bounty hunters.

As also expected, this prompted two lawsuits against him.

Less expected, was that the lawsuits were filed by pro-choicers and not pro-lifers.

Twist!

Take that, Texas Taliban.

The most delicious part of this isn’t the Texas Taliban reeling over this development – although that is a delightful sight to behold. No, it’s that neither of the people bringing these suits is a Texas resident!

And, as I hinted at, they both seem equally equipped to battle fight crazy with crazier. They are both defrocked lawyers, tee-hee. And one is even under house arrest – I know not what for. That one openly states in his suit that if there’s bounty money to be made off of this law, he’s going to make it.

Then he refers to himself in the third person.

Delicious.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m livid at this intrusion of church interests into our collective state. I went rounds for days with some of the giddy pro-lifers who celebrated this <ahem> abortion of justice. But stupid Americans who are only interested in validating furthering their narrow minded interests by inflicting them on the rest of us and calling that freedom being out maneuvered by individuals the left would never hold up as our standard bearers?

That’s a justice whose irony I can appreciate.

A Texas Taliban Twist

Dis-Grace

I don’t want to step on The Rolling Stones’ toes here, but…you can’t always get what you want. And, true, sometimes you only get what you need. Others, maybe you get skunked…call those times character building.

Still other times, maybe you do get what you want.

Can you – at a minimum – just shut up then? Preferably, I’d like to see us comport ourselves with a little more character in those moments than just nothing. However, given the option between “nothing” and “beating a dead horse” – I’ll graciously accept silence.

What’s all this got to do with…anything?

Here’s a case in point for ya.

This bar in SE Portland recently came under fire for cultural appropriation.

Esoteric cultural appropriation, if I can say without being branded a racist or someone hissing about my cis-male whiteness. If not, I guess I’ll have to check into the Whiteness Protection Program, but I doubt I’d make any friends there, so I’m hoping there’s room for my opinion.

Do you know why it’s esoteric? If so, then I would imagine you’re among a very few…or maybe I’m just not that hip hop savvy. Anyway, back in the early days of hip hop, there was a group called NWA.

As the aforementioned cis-male, I can only elucidate you on that acronym by saying it stands for A Particularly Hateful Racial Epithet…With Attitudes.

Got it? Ok. Enough on that.

Since they stopped recording/touring after their 4 years of being a functional group, it seems that group members have gone on to post-NWA projects like starting in long-running police procedural dramas or reviving headphones as a viable personal music delivery platform.

So, they’re doing ok. And the post-NWA careers have been longer and much likely more lucrative for these two members in particular.

Which is why I was so surprised to read about the brouhaha around a tap house called NWIPA – short for NW IPA. The critics took issue with riffing on the group’s name equating to cultural appropriation.

Ok…this seems like a great place for the Brady Bunch “Sure, Jan” gif, but I don’t want to be argumentative. I’m trying to keep things low-key passive-aggressive these days versus overtly confrontational.

The owner of the bar responded to the initial social media complaint…by apologizing and changing the name of his damn bar!

Immediately.

Let’s not even mention that when it comes to Portland beer culture being potentially guilty of cultural appropriation there’s this lil bandit

…that riffs on the movie Straight Outta Compton about the same damn group that the bar was accused of appropriating culture from. What blow back do they get?

The best part is that even after his online apology, connectors were still hounding him on social media about his offense.

People, he apologized and corrected the issue…shut. the. fuck. up.

As far as the whole Straight Outta Compton non-issue goes? All I can offer is that we’re Portlanders, and I can’t say we’re known for any consistency in our collective outrage. Meanwhile, I’m sitting over here being all grumpy that a bar in the SE quadrant of town had the gall to call itself NWIPA.

While all this is unfolding, of course, now-former governor of New York Andrew Cuomo was being investigated by the NY State District Attorney. She finds the allegations levied against him to be credible and both sides of the political spectrum go wild, calling for his resignation. Including our Democrat president, mind you.

So, he does.

Then in an exercise I like to call “Why the hell am I still on the Facebook?”, one of my former work colleagues posts this

Ok, I freely admit that it’s funny and clever. However, I think it’s wildly inappropriate for anyone who voted for Trump twice and/or supports the GOP to post. So, y’know…I said so.

As far as politicians being responsive to their constituency and held accountable for their actions and how they reflect on the office they hold? This guy stood up and took the accountability hit. Just like his fellow Democrat Senator Al Franken before him. Looking at the GOP side of the equation

…let’s just say most of them voted for a guy accused of sexually assaulting dozens of women, paying hush money to an adult film star during his first campaign and saying he’d date his own daughter…twice.

I think we can do without the opportunistic outrage of a Trump supporter on this issue.

He resigned…shut.the.hell.up.

Look, when you get what you want, just…show some class. Have a little grace. That’s hardly the time to take a victory lap.

I daresay we might have a little larger population in the center of the American political spectrum if we could just stop beating the horse once it dies.

That’s all.

Dis-Grace

Chicken Little Called…

I feel like the sky is falling.

Literally.

Which, of course, means figuratively as well as literally in the English language these days, but actually perfectly describes how I’m feeling.

Figuratively

With the chasm between common sense and willful ignorance widening daily, it seems like America – if not all of humanity – is doomed.

People are eagerly and proudly choosing to embrace behaviors and ideologies that are not simply personally risky to them (mask and vaccine deniers) but also threaten the future of living on our planet for very near, if not already present generations.

I truly cannot understand those people. Say it with me, “Stupid Americans”.

Literally

Two things here. The first is that the smoke from our fires in central and southern Oregon has finally rolled back in to Portland. The rest of the country has been getting our smoke – as far away as Minnesota from what people have shared with me personally, but I’ve heard NYC has even seen some.

It’s nowhere near the literal worst air quality on the planet we had last year, but it’s still a climate crisis in progress. But when you can see literal ash debris on your car after it’s been parked on the street a few hours, I’d say that qualifies as “falling skies”, no?

The second is even more heartbreaking to me as a native Portlander. I love our greenery here. Both the actual forests and our urban green spaces. I live on a street named Park that borders five city blocks of park space called the North Park Blocks. Many of the trees on these blocks are as old as our state, if not older in some cases. And they are called “North” because they are in the northwest quadrant of town and there is an even longer string of blocks on the same street running through the southwest quadrant of town. I’ll let you figure out what we call those blocks on your own.

Go ahead, now…intuit.

Anyway, over the summer, I know of four instances in my string of blocks where trees have just dropped branches.

Massive branches.

…and some not too massive. The above pic is not as big around as a small car, but it was a good 25 feet length of branch. There was one that fell right in front of me early in the summer late one night as I turned onto Park after driving all night. It blocked a two lane road from the base of its trunk to almost the opposite curb.

There’s no wind storm happening. And I expect branches to fall during our increasingly common winter ice events.

But in still skies?!?

My thought on this is that the trees are just so dry from our lack of rain – and it’s a drought condition that has been going on since our February snow storm. April ‘21 was the driest on record by one-third with only a half inch of rain for the month – that these trees have become too dry and brittle to even resist gravity.

How sad. Tragic.

But, Portland being weird and still trying to be green, puts a decidedly Portland spin on the situation by creating…a seating nook!

Here’s the branch that fell, about one-third of the tree’s canopy.

And here’s what Portland does…makes it cozy. Not that I know these will be left here long term. Although I wouldn’t blame Portland Parks & Rec if they did decide to leave them. Branches like this become breeding grounds for all sorts of other flora, so it would essentially be a public science exhibit.

But on a less pithy and optimistic note, check out the tree that had to be completely removed after losing part of itself to nothing more than the pull of gravity.

It was taller than the historic five story brick building across from it. Probably older, too.

Now it’s nothing more than a stump that’s basically the size of a BMW.

So sad.

Of course, maybe I have this all wrong. Just because I’ve never seen anything like this in my lifetime doesn’t mean it isn’t perfectly natural. Maybe trees randomly fall apart every 50 years or so.

Or…maybe it’s due to climate change.

Ooooor…maybe there’s a giant cat roaming around town at night that no one has seen yet. I certainly have something similar – albeit on a much smaller scale – happening in my home.

Mistress Myrtle is not taking questions.

Chicken Little Called…

Upcoming Mask Mandate

One of the three counties Portland sits in announced it was implementing an indoor mask mandate, effective Friday, 8/13. The next day, the Governor made the same announcement for the state.

A while ago, I’d have made the joke that I’d prefer a masc man date over a mask mandate, but I don’t think it’s true at this point in my life. I’ve not fully given up the practice of masking up when I leave the house. I definitely put my mask on when entering a business. Well, before entering it – and I think that’s an important distinction.

The Silver Fox is in town for a while, so naturally I’ve been demanding he belly up with me as nightly as possible. Lost time and all.

Last night was no exception. We were sitting at the bar next door and I was low key astonished at how many patrons were walking in without masks and even moving about the restaurant maskless. I had my mask off while seated, which I get is nearly as arbitrary as the “smoking section” of bars back in the day.

Almost.

It’s as if these Stupid Americans have collectively decided to not see the rationale for announcing a start date. Namely, yo allow businesses to ramp to have policies and signage in place by the mandate’s start.

It’s certainly not a new restriction for patrons or businesses, just a return to a prior restriction. Anyone leaving their house should have a pile of these masks ready to go. As a citizen, our ramp should be immediate – although, I have heard stories of people therapeutically trashing their masks after the restrictions were originally lifted. That’s more of an exception, not a rule. Yet, here we are, customers largely running around businesses bare-faced and empty-headed until they are required to do the right thing.

So selfish.

Meanwhile, most businesses I frequent have had their staff back in masks for weeks – despite the latitude they had to behave otherwise. The grace period that I believe is for their benefit is largely unneeded.

At least I’m the businesses I regularly frequent.

This is why we’re all gonna die. Well, maybe. But it’s definitely the reason we’re all gonna be stuck in traffic forever if we do live.

Selfish animals, we are.

Upcoming Mask Mandate

Compassionate Yoga

Maybe it’s not even a thing…BUT I’M STILL QUITTING.

I’ll recreationally bend over backward to avoid ending a sentence with a preposition – witness, “There is only so much shit up with which I will put” – but I’m not aiming to be flexible enough to shove my own head up my ass. Maybe give it a light smooch, but no more than that.

I have had occasion to be reminded that I neither want to be emotionally flexible enough to reward willfully ignorant people with my silence. I’ll save my empathy for those it can potentially help.

There is, after all, only so much shit up with which I will put.

I know I wasn’t silent by any means during the Trump years, but in regards to COVID, I’ve decided to take a more assertive approach.

Here’s just three examples from this past weekend’s driving as to why:

Case 1:

Nothing new here, this is something I’ve been running up against since Oregon lifted its COVID restrictions in late June. People will approach my car and then either motion for me to roll down my window or actually get into Angela (my car) asking if they need a mask.

“Yes” – you nitwit – “you do”. That’s my retired polite response. I use Lyft as a passenger, so I know how it works. When you first open the app, you’re greeted by this reminder

Then, once you confirm your ride, you get this

Seems pretty hard to miss. Maybe I could see overlooking one reminder, but not two. Because they are magnanimous – or looking out for the safety of their passengers and drivers – they usually even send a text when your driver arrives that contains…a third reminder!

Frankly, I’m amazed my early onset grumpiness patience lasted this long with these Stupid Americans people. My favorite part of these exchanges is when they say they’re double vaxxed. Ok, first of all, you’re vaccinated. It’s potentially a two-shot protocol, saying you’re double vaccinated implies you got two of the available three (in the US) vaccines. But second, you’re expecting me to believe something as unbelievable as you “didn’t see” three reminders about masks…why would I believe you when you swear you’re vaccinated?

You know how many women became mothers believing men when they swore they’d pull out? Get the hell away from me with your feeble nonsense.

So I make them go get masks before I let them in. But last Saturday, I’d just had it. A guy walks out of a bar – you know this is serious, jokes always start with a guy walking into a bar – and pulls the whole innocent act. It’s 1:45 in the morning, I’m tired and working my way home. It’s also a 13 minute ride in the wrong direction, so I just tell him nope.

Compassionate Xtopher would have said, “There’s a 7-Eleven right next door, go buy one and we’re good to go”, but I’ve also noticed these folks don’t usually tip because I’m “mean”. Except the friend of the guy I kicked out of Angela because he called me a pussy for insisting they wear masks…she tipped me $20 up front to reconsider. And that was just an hour-ish earlier Saturday night, so I was already crunchy about the whole mask thing.

Case 2:

I gave an early 20s couple a ride to work on Friday. They work a security job at Nabisco – which is actually named something else now because they got bought by the company that owns Toblerone, but I’m not even gonna try to spell it – and were talking to me about their brutal schedules. I was in awe, and 60 hour weeks for me were nothing when I was working professionally. These youngsters were working six day weeks, 12 hour minimums with frequent extra hours. They estimated their average week to be 95-110 hours.

Then they asked me to tell anyone I know who’s looking to apply to their company, “They only have to be 18 and pass a background check”. We actually spent a good deal of our 42 minute rush hour ride discussing this, given my 30 years of people management. I think they felt good to be heard, and even validated by what I brought to the conversation.

Naturally, I got cocky.

I asked near the end of the ride if I could ask them what they thought about vaccine resistance in their age group. At first, the young woman declined because she said that those conversations always led to her friends yelling at her.

Foolishly, I assumed that they were yelling at her because she thought it was important…but I was wrong.

As we eased into the conversation, she said things that gave away her position. “This is nature’s way of culling the population” and “COVID doesn’t kill any more people than the flu does”.

I’d been gently pushing back against those statements with my own, like “I’m not sure where you heard that, but it doesn’t ring true with what I’ve heard”. As gentle as that response was, I could still see her pouting in the mirror. Young people want to be treated as peers and equals until you disagree with them, then they revert to absolute children. Some – not all, by any means.

Figuring if she were going to pout, I might as well make it worth her while, I loaded up a couple realities for her to think on.

“Look, your assertion that nature is trying to cull our population is certainly not the craziest thing I’ve heard, it’s even pithy, but if that were the case, wouldn’t a smart move be to try to not get culled?”

Her boyfriend laughed at this and she kind of lightened up at my question. Then I hit her with a hard fact. “The flu probably hasn’t killed 600,000 people in the US in the last twenty years. 60,000 would be a tragic year for flu deaths. A closer average would probably be 30,000 and in 2019 the number of US deaths from flu was closer to 20,000. Equating one with the other is just factually wrong. Whoever let you believe that did you an absolute disservice.”

The curious thing to me is that people lack the intellectual curiosity to even check the shit they hear. Of course, that’s a perfect lead in to…

Case 3:

This was a rider I’d had before. A member of my 1% Club, which I call them because my nerdy ass took the time to quantify the frequency with which I see repeats. In case you’re curious, three-peats are about 1/1000 rides and I’ve had one four-time rider in my 5300 rides.

But I digress.

I didn’t immediately peg him as a dupe until he started talking about his work – since I’d picked him up there. I asked what it was that had him working a Sunday afternoon and he told me he worked in radio.

That was when it hit me. I asked if I hadn’t taken him to work once, and remembered it being in the same building my favorite radio station was in. He said that was his other job, he worked for FISH radio out where I’d picked him up – which is a conservative Christian station.

He, in turn, asked me how I was feeling about my own personal safety since he obviously knew I’d been driving during the pandemic. I shared that I felt pretty safe throughout but also wouldn’t be surprised if I’d had a mild case of COVID at some point and couldn’t even presume to think I hadn’t had at least an exposure. The odds just aren’t there.

He told me of his own exposure through his live-in girlfriend – oh, those Christians and their tendency of cherry picking values…really, premarital sex? <gasp> – but that he hadn’t gotten it and was now vaccinated.

That led to a chat about why his girlfriend wasn’t yet. Apparently, she was relying on the natural immunity from having the virus. That perked me up, and I asked if she’d only recently had COVID. Her illness was back in January and I wondered if maybe that was far enough back that she could get vaccinated if she wanted to. He went on about how natural immunity lasts about 9 months, maybe longer. I listened to him, but when he finished I nudged him with “The last I’d heard – and I’m not paying that much attention currently, since we have a vaccine now – was that natural immunity started to fade at 2-3 months”.

He didn’t disagree with me, but veered off into mortality rates to dismiss the importance of vaccines in the first place. That was rather a needle-skip of a moment, but I let it play out. He was rattling off mortality rates of 3-5% for the flu and .004-.006% for COVID. I told him that I didn’t know those numbers offhand, but it seemed backward, causing him to interrupt me with an objection that made me almost drive off a bridge.

“No one knows the actual mortality rate because the numbers are all inflated!”

Me: <blink, blink>

“You shouldn’t count people who have diabetes or cancer or whatever and die of COVID because they were gonna die anyway.”

That old chestnut. I was in the middle of disagreeing when he interrupted me again. This was to be our pattern for most of the rest of the ride. I try to participate in the dialogue and he cuts me off.

“I’m not trying to be argumentative”, he eventually said, seeming to pick up on the rhythm of our conversation…and then I cut him off.

“Really? Because you keep talking over me and interrupting me. That seems like textbook argumentative behavior to me.”

That actually got him to back down a bit and we actually talked for the short duration of the ride. I told him that if I had COVID and died getting hit by a bus, that should absolutely not be a COVID death, which got a chuckle out of him. But I pressed on by suggesting that his own phrasing belies the point he’s making.

“How can you say someone with cancer died of COVID and not see the inherent fallacy? It’s right there in your own words!” He was thinking on that, but whether he was changing his mind or rewriting his talking points is not clear. I pushed on with the reality that, yes, these people could have probably died of their co-morbidities, but they hadn’t gotten the chance because COVID did the heavy lifting in their death. At the very least, COVID shortened their already potentially shortened lives.

“Besides”, I asked, “you surely know the Christians’ favorite argument against assisted suicide, right?”

He did not. So I told him that it wasn’t even that it was considered a mortal sin. Then I shared the argument that a cancer patient might have years of life with treatment, and the argument is that in those years a cure could be discovered.

Silence. I looked in the mirror and he was sitting there with his mouth open, but he wasn’t even trying to make words.

Check and mate.

Personally, these Stupid Americans presently dying from COVID should likely have “Dumb” listed as their Cause of Death, but maybe that’s just their comorbidity.

When I got to this guy’s destination, we were still chatting. I told him that his was the liveliest debate I’d had all weekend and thanked him. Not conversation…debate. But I still appreciated it because I felt like he actually started listening after I called him on his interruptions.

Yeah, he didn’t tip.

I’m wondering if tomorrow I’ll find out that I got my first ever non-5-star rating…

All that being said, even though I’m giving in to my grumpy old man-ness on this issue, I should still probably do some actual yoga. What could possibly go wrong?

Compassionate Yoga

I Pledge Allegiance

…to the trauma caused by the symbol of America’s freedom.

Is it just me or do other people have a little situational PTSD after the abuse our nation’s flag has endured in the last year? Usually, when I see the flag, I feel a swell of pride or nostalgia.

Nostalgia from the years of reciting the Pledge of Allegiance to our flag at the start of each school day. Or – also quite timely – from watching opening or closing ceremonies of the Olympics.

Pride from knowing our country’s history and what we’ve grown into in such a relatively short time as a nation.

But after last year…a twinge of shame and a flash of trauma have replaced those more positive associations.

Not that the shame isn’t somewhat warranted as I’ve witnessed the racial equity protests in my hometown over the past 16 months. Or watched as the GOP politicizes teaching truthful history that would reduce the cancer of white nationalism in America from growing as rampantly in future generations.

Knowledge is power.

Whiteness is not.

But the PTSD…after being caught in so many Trump Truck Parades last year, it’s haunting. People still fly various incarnations of the American flag, the Back the Blue flag or the Trump 2020 flag on their trucks as they drive through town. It’s more prevalent in the suburbs than the city proper, but I still see them on the highways close in and feel a sense of insecurity when they pass by. Also in the subs, you’ll find people flying American flags from their homes or fences in dubious proximity to their neighbor’s Black Lives Matter yard signs.

I truly and fearfully believe that it’s the leading ripples of the divisive wave that our Uncivil War will surf in on…

Our diseased national mental health crisis.

Not even the tiny flags that fire trucks – and I saw an inordinate amount of fire trucks while driving this weekend – gave me a swell of pride. I felt a little hope, but nothing that stuck around longer than it took for the fire trucks to pass by.

Honestly, the greatest hope – and I’m loathe to call it hope – I have for our country is for Darwin to throw an epic and devastating win on the board with vaccine deniers over the coming months. And I feel repulsed by the notion that a massive, locally concentrated death toll is what my “hope” is for these Stupid Americans snapping out of the gaslit hold the Svengali-like GOP and church have on their minds.

Help me, Common Sense…you’re my only hope.

I Pledge Allegiance