Thursday, May 22, 2008

Wipers, Pens & Charity

Are you familiar with those windshield wipers that go the WRONG way? I find them so aesthetically irritating. I'm talking about the kind that start in the middle, swipe up and out to the edges before coming back to rest pointed in opposite directions on top of each other. I seem to notice these annoying contraptions on mini-vans (or if you're a tough guy like Nate, it's a Manly-Van) and some sedans made by Pontiac and Oldsmobile in the 1990s, I think. I could be wrong about that, I'm not really a car person. Did manufacturers think they'd be making these boring vehicles more hip by "thinking outside the box" about the wipers? It just draws more attention to their un-hipness. Maybe there is some technical advantage to this style of wiper and I'm just not in the know. Even if that's the case, my position on this issue stands.

Somehow all my favorite, specially purchased pens have vanished at work. I'm stuck slumming through the dregs of freebie hearing aid manufacturer swag pens. Can any of these pens be "normal"? No, they all have some gimmick. Some light up, some are really fat, some are super light weight, made out of "recycled material", some are made out of metal springs, some have crazy green hair growing from the tops. One thing they have in common is their lack of quality. I think of how expensive hearing aids are and wonder if the manufacturers just stopped sending out millions of crappy, made-in-China, branded pens, bags, sticky notes, letter openers, travel mugs, travel loose leaf tea mugs, magnets, calculators, Slinkys, stress-relief squishy things, stuffed animals and kites maybe hearing aids could be less expensive. Not to mention the amount of waste this produces. A kite. Did I really need a kite with a hearing aid logo on it?

Yesterday I stopped at the Brattleboro co-op for a snack after work. I bought a soy chai tea from the deli and on an impulse picked up a loaf of my favorite bread. It's a cinnamon raisin loaf from a bakery in upstate NY. I shell out $5.99 for it. When I left the store a middle-aged man stood in the parking lot with a cardboard sign stating the status of his home, i.e. non-existent. For a second I thought about taking my loaf of bread to him. Then I felt embarrassed at the extravagant cost of the bread. Then I kept going to my car. You know why I don't stop for people like this? Fear is part of it. I don't really want to engage with them because I am unsure of the outcome. It's too intimidating. But really, the main reason is I don't want to get duped. Maybe the guy is looking for money to buy drugs or alcohol. I don't want to offer him something and then walk away with him thinking, "bleeding heart sucker!" I didn't see a single person stop to help this man down at the co-op where people are supposedly "open-minded, liberal, do-gooders". We all just walked right by. Too afraid, too intimidated, too distrustful, too aware that our small offering is not going to get him back into a home or keep him from being hungry. I excuse my non-action, which is most certainly an action, by telling myself he ought to be seeking out real services from the state or the town. I know all sorts of places he could go for assistance. My tax dollars pay for them. Wouldn't he be better served that way than by a loaf of bread or a couple bucks from me? An easy and lazy rationalization.


  1. Will you share some more short stories with your faithful readers? This blog has gotten awfully, um, bloggy in the last month or two. (Not that that's a bad thing - I just like to read your stories!)

    It's tough to be creative under pressure, isn't it?

  2. Pressure? From what?

    I am hesitant to put fiction pieces here. I'm concerned that once I've put a story on this blog it can be considered "published". There is an on-line short story zine that won't take submissions if you've posted it to a blog. I really wanted to submit my They Paid With Plastic story for consideration but I can't. Maybe I'm wrong about this. If so, I'd enjoy posting other fiction pieces. Otherwise, you'll have to hang out with me in person in order to hear my other kind of stories.

    So you're saying that nothing I've written since the last fiction story is "creative"? Ouch, that hurts, dude. Creativity is not just for fiction.

    How are your hiking lists doing these days? Ticking them off at an impressive pace as usual I presume?

  3. I didn't mean that you weren't being creative. I was just commenting from my own experience that once you write a couple stories (or trip reports) that are well-received by the public, it is sometimes difficult to live up to the expectations you have created for yourself. Do you feel this way? Do you put pressure on yourself to make your next story "as good as or better" than the last?

    Too bad you didn't find the jar on Bear Mtn. There is a slightly higher bump about 200 yards off to the west of the obvious-looking summit area. It was red and chewed by bears. You would have liked it.

    I'm still flitting about on the more obscure peaks of New England. Did 10 more in northern VT over the long weekend. 6 left in the Green Mountain state! You will like the Senecas if you ever get up that far. Very pleasant ridges. I saw a momma and baby moose up there - it was so cute!