Monthly Archives: October 2012

Mini-Rumination: The Folly of “Get Out the Vote” Campaigns

With the election almost upon us and the deadline for registering to vote now passed, we have moved from voter registration drives to get-out-the-vote campaigns.

Egalitarian though he generally is, The Curmudgeon can at times be a bit of an elitist as well, and one of the areas in which his elitism comes to the fore is the subject of get-out-the-vote campaigns.

He doesn’t like them.

Yes, of course, it would be nice if every single eligible voter cast a ballot on election day.

And yes, it would be nice if voter turnout approached the eighty- and ninety-percent levels that are routine in many other democracies.

But personally, The Curmudgeon would rather see a smaller electorate that consists of truly informed people making the decisions rather than sheep who had to be lured to the polls or cajoled or otherwise induced to vote.  What’s the point of driving up voter turnout if the people turning out have no idea for whom they’re voting or why?

It all calls to mind a situation that arose in Philadelphia in 1983 when a massive voter turnout drive was launched to help a man named Wilson Goode in his race against former mayor Frank Rizzo for the Democratic nomination for mayor.  The voter turnout drive was highly effective – so effective in bringing out first-time voters, in fact, that it caused problems.

In the final tally, Goode won a relatively close election over Rizzo.  Hidden beneath that outcome, however, were nearly 20,000 votes cast for Frank Lomento, a street vendor who ran for mayor every four years and generally gathered just a few hundred votes.  It turns out that Lomento received so many votes because so many clueless people were voting for the first time and, not really knowing what they were doing inside the voting booth, pulled the lever closest to the name of the man for whom they wanted to vote:  Wilson Goode.  That level, however, cast a ballot for the pretzel vendor.

Imagine if Rizzo had won that election by fewer than 20,000 votes.  Democracy would have been thwarted by ignorant voters.  (Maybe it would have been just as well:  Wilson Goode went on to become the first American mayor to order his police department to take to the air and bomb his own city.)

So yes, it would be nice if everyone were informed enough and interested enough to vote on election day and yes, The Curmudgeon realizes that the kinds of people who have to be encouraged to vote generally vote for the kinds of candidates he typically supports.  On the whole, however, he’d just as soon leave the voting to people who actually pay attention to the issues and pay attention to the candidates and allow those who don’t know and don’t care to focus on doing what they do best – which is absolutely nothing.

October News Quiz

  1. Richard Mourdock, the Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate in Indiana, recently said that he opposes abortion even in cases of rape because “that life is a gift from God” and “I think even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen.”  Mourdock also believes that:  a) the broken bones, bruises, physical pain, and mental anguish that women suffer when they are raped are a gift from god, too; b) the men who commit rapes are gifts from god; c) people who respond to statements like his with large political contributions are a gift from god; or d) he himself is gift from god?
  2. Earlier this month, writer Philip Roth noticed a mistake in his Wikipedia profile and contacted Wikipedia to seek a correction.  Wikipedia rejected his request because:  a) they’re too busy raising money to worry about accuracy; b) they said that if it’s on Wikipedia, it must be true; c) no one there ever heard of Philip Roth; or d) they said they would need a better source of information to confirm the accuracy of the requested correction?
  3. In Philadelphia, a math teacher harassed a student for wearing a “Romney for President” t-shirt.  The teacher did this because:  a) she supports President Obama’s bid for re-election; b) she teaches math, not civics, and has no idea what the constitution says about freedom of speech; c) she’s liberal but believes that liberalness does not extend to respecting views different from her own; or d) she thought the student’s purple t-shirt clashed with her green pants?
  4. In Italy, seven scientists were convicted of manslaughter because they failed to predict a 2009 earthquake that killed more than 300 people.  In light of this conviction, Italian authorities are now considering prosecuting:  a) the coach of the country’s national soccer team, because of his failure to lead the team to the 2010 World Cup; b) the Pope, for the failure of the Crusades during the middle ages; c) descendants of the architect who designed the Leaning Tower of Pisa; or d) the American company that makes Chef Boyardee products, for its disrespectful representation of Italian food?
  5. Researchers have discovered a steep decline in the percentage of Americans who identify themselves as Protestant.  They attribute this to:  a) the exceptionally high birth rate among Mexican-American Catholics; b) the mad American rush to embrace Islam; c) bar mitzvah envy; or d) Pat Robertson and the 700 Club?
  6. The Nobel Prize for literature was awarded to dissident Chinese writer Mo Yan because:  a) he’s a great writer; b) his writing is so unknown, and so obscure, that it will be hard for people to claim he didn’t deserve it because they’ve never heard of him or read any of his work; c) Danielle Steel withdrew her nomination; or d) President Obama hasn’t written a book in the last few years?
  7. The problem with diagnosing someone with ADD – attention deficit disorder – is:  a) there’s no definitive test and the diagnosis is subjective, which means it could be wrong; b) receiving such a diagnosis is viewed by some as giving young people a ready-made excuse for failure; c) there’s a fear that public school districts intentionally over-diagnose students with ADD to gain additional government funding; or d) what was the question again?
  8. Published reports suggest that the Dalai Lama said “fuck it” during a recent appearance at Brown University.  According to observers, the holy man was dismayed about:  a) flying coach from India to Providence; b) no complimentary breakfast at the Days Inn where he’s staying; c) no cute co-ed to conduct his campus tour; or d) crappy seats on the ten-yard line for the Brown-Dartmouth game?
  9. Researchers at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital have discovered a possible link between heavy consumption of coffee and glaucoma.  As a result of this news:  a) some people are drinking less coffee; b) as a precautionary measure, some people are drinking coffee with their eyes closed; c) Dunkin Donuts insists that its coffee only causes heartburn, not glaucoma; or d) Starbucks has announced a program in which customers receive free glaucoma-fighting eye drops after every ten purchases of a grande or venti?
  10. Next year, residents of Scotland will vote on whether to become independent of the United Kingdom.  The Scots want their freedom because:  a) they want to distance themselves from the naked prince and sunbathing princess; b) the queen and prime minister refuse to serve haggis at state dinners; c) lack of respect in England for Sheena Easton; or d) Prince Philip has been seen giggling at the sight of men wearing kilts?

Mini-Rumination: Walking in the Suburbs

As a city boy, The Curmudgeon is accustomed to using his feet, not just his car, to get from place to place.  In his old neighborhood in Philadelphia, he could leave his car in his garage whenever it snowed and get pretty much anywhere he wanted by foot or by bus.  One of the things he misses most about his old neighborhood, in fact, is the Wawa three blocks away.  He used to enjoy walking there for a newspaper at lunch time.

In the suburbs, though, walking is uncommon – almost to the point of being frowned upon.  The Curmudgeon lives a half-mile from an auto service shop, so when he needs work or routine maintenance done on his car, he drops it off before work, walks home, and then returns either at lunch time or after work to pick it up and return home.  As he makes that walk, he can see the looks of wonder (“the guy’s walking?  really?”), disdain (“probably can’t afford a car”), and concern (“probably going to try to break into a house”) in the eyes of the drivers of the passing cars.

A few years ago a neighbor noticed The Curmudgeon walking home early one morning and asked where he had been.  When he explained, the neighbor said, “You walked?  You should’ve knocked on my door.  I would’ve been happy to give you a ride.”

A year later, The Curmudgeon had a similar conversation with another neighbor.

And then, recently, yet another similar conversation with this brother.

“What do you mean, you walk?”

“Um, I put one foot in front of the other?”

“But it’s pretty far.”

“A half-mile.”

“It seems longer.”

Suburbanites – go figure.

Mini-Rumination: Who Needs Unions?

Who needs unions?

Consider this brief excerpt from the article “If Labor Dies, What’s Next?” in the latest edition of the magazine The American Prospect.

In cities where nearly all the class-A hotels are unionized, as they are in New York and San Francisco, housekeepers make more than $20 an hour.  In cities where roughly half of such hotels are unionized, such as Los Angeles, their hourly wage is about $15.  In cities where all the hotels are nonunion, such as Phoenix, housekeepers make little more than the minimum wage, if that.

For the sake of discussion, let’s give those Phoenix housekeepers a raise and say they make an even $10 an hour instead of the Arizona minimum wage of $7.65 an hour.  That’s $400 for a forty-hour week, $1600 a month, and $20,800 a year.

Before taxes are withheld.

Easily enough to support an individual, right?

And easily enough to support a family of, say, four, right?

That’s not to say that the New York City housekeepers are exactly living on easy street, either:  twice the Phoenix wage, or $41,600, isn’t exactly going to keep the kids in Cheerios and Hot Pockets and enable them to go to college.

Who needs unions?  Working people need unions.

Mr. Allen Never Met Snooki

The Curmudgeon attended a five-year public high school in Philadelphia, and one of the first classes he attended was a state-mandated health class taught by Mr. Allen, a gym teacher.  Among gym teachers, Mr. Allen appeared to take teaching health class a lot more seriously than his colleagues.  Most viewed it as a form of punishment or a professional slight they had to endure in exchange for not really working for a living.

On the first day of class, Mr. Allen rather gravely told the thirty-five or so boys in the class that he was going to give them the best definition of “health” that they would ever hear – the only definition they would ever need and a definition they would remember for the rest of their lives.  They then listened, totally stupefied, as Mr. Allen told them that

“Health is that quality of living that causes one to live most and serve best.”

Seriously.

Now The Curmudgeon isn’t sure this is the only definition he’ll ever need, and he’s pretty sure there are better definitions, but clearly, it was memorable:  Mr. Allen gave his students this definition in September of 1970, The Curmudgeon remembers it forty-two years later, and he’s positive that at least one reader of this blog recited the definition in his own mind as soon as he saw the reference to Mr. Allen.

Mr. Allen – later to become Dr. Allen, The Curmudgeon understands – was full of such wisdom.  One of his pearls was “There’s only two things people will stop to watch:  a fight and a fire.”  Aside from his obvious omission of the aftermath of a serious auto accident, The Curmudgeon always thought Mr. Allen was right on the mark with this maxim.

Until The Curmudgeon encountered Snooki.

Before proceeding, we need just a little background.  The Curmudgeon is not one of those people who disdains television or insists that he doesn’t watch it.  He’s also not one of those people who claims only to watch HBO and public television; in fact, he doesn’t even subscribe to HBO and has never been tempted to do so and believes, as he has stated previously in this space, that public television is pretty much a waste of time and money.

But The Curmudgeon digresses (this is a blog; that’s pretty much expected).

The Curmudgeon does watch television, although only a few series, but he’s a pretty active channel-surfer.  As a result, he’s familiar with more programs, more performers, and more premises than he sometimes realizes.  For the most part, though, he steers clear of “reality” television, which he believes brings out the worst in people, is ridiculous, bears little resemblance to reality, and – most important, at least from this viewer’s perspective – is not terribly interesting to watch.

Yet during the course of his channel-surfing, The Curmudgeon finds it absolutely impossible to surf past Jersey Shore.  As a result, even though he has no idea when the program actually airs – it’s a cable series, which means that within just six months of its original airing it will be broadcast more often than I Love Lucy episodes have aired in the more than sixty years since their original broadcast – he has seen more Jersey Shore than he is comfortable admitting.

How can you not watch?  How can you turn away?  How can that trusty clicker finger not freeze in inaction?

Snooki (and friends, although mostly Snooki) is as compelling as anything The Curmudgeon has seen on television since Martin Sheen uttered “Tomorrow” and the credits rolled on the final episode of The West Wing.  See Snooki drink.  See Snooki drink some more.  See Snooki dance drunkenly on the boardwalk.  Or in a club.  Or on the beach.  See Snooki fall down.  See Snooki fall down again.

But there’s more.  See Snooki announce that she intends to have sex that evening, with an as-yet unknown partner, in a way that we’re unaccustomed to seeing women – or really, anyone – making such declarations on television.  See rather spellbinding displays of promiscuity and abysmal judgment.  See the tan, see the hair, see the boobs.  See a lot of the boobs, actually.  Learn that “smushing” is something that you don’t only do to bananas.  See her talk, in a way people are unaccustomed to hearing people of any gender talk about such things, about looking forward to finding someone – anyone – who will “put it in tonight.”  See her give new meaning to the term “cuddle.”

But most of all, see stupidity.  Even though he’s a city boy and likes to think he’s seen a lot, maybe The Curmudgeon has actually led a sheltered life.  He knows there are stupid people in this world but he never realized that people could be as profoundly ignorant and repulsive as Snooki and her roommates.

And yet, so surprisingly, disturbingly, and embarrassingly watchable.

Like Mr. Allen’s fights and fires.

Mini-Rumination: “Responsible Tourism”???

The Curmudgeon’s mind is still reeling from a headline in the September 9 Philadelphia Inquirer that read “Traveling for good” and its subheading, “A Philadelphian practices responsible tourism in Cambodia, spending her money where it will do the most for the people.”

Seriously?  Responsible tourism?

The Curmudgeon remembers the days when responsible tourism meant not peeing in the hotel pool.

Responsible tourism?

What’s the world coming to?  Are we never supposed to have any fun?  Remember fun?

The Ten Best Songs You’ve Never Heard

(Not to be confused with the ten best albums you’ve never heard, which you can find here)

Many of us have had the experience of buying an album (or CD) primarily because of one song and finding that after a few listenings, the song you bought the album for isn’t even your favorite anymore.  In fact, your “best” song often was never even released as a single, or even on the flip side of a single (okay, The Curmudgeon is really dating himself with talk of singles and flip sides, isn’t he?).

Buried on flip sides and on albums built around very popular songs are some great tunes, including these:  the ten best songs you’ve never heard.  None of them ever were a hit and few, if any, have ever been heard on the radio – but that doesn’t mean they’re not great songs.

Now, presented in no particular order:

Paul Winter – “Icarus.”  Paul Winter has worked solo and with his own Paul Winter Consort and has recorded “Icarus” a number of times.  Written by Consort member Ralph Towner, “Icarus” may be the most beautiful three minutes of instrumental music ever recorded.  At the very least, it will give you a new appreciation and respect for the cello.

Art Garfunkel – “Wooden Planes.”  This song was written by Jimmy Webb – he of “MacArthur Park,” “Up Up and Away,” “By the Time I Get to Phoenix,” “All I Know,” and many others fame.  For once, Garfunkel doesn’t lean too heavily on the sweetness of his voice, there’s some terrific and haunting piano playing, and perfect use of a synthesizer (high compliment from someone who thinks the best synthesizer is an unplugged synthesizer).  It’s the last song on the album, and that’s only appropriate, because after you hear it there’s no point to listening to anything else.

Stevie Nicks – “Has Anyone Ever Written Anything for You.”  This has only recently become The Curmudgeon’s favorite Stevie Nicks song; it recently slid ahead of “Beauty and the Beast” because the lyrics actually seem to mean something.  A bonus:  you can actually make out those lyrics, which isn’t always true when Stevie sings.  Also, pay attention to the three piano chords played repeatedly throughout much of the song; they create a very haunting effect.

Crosby and Nash – “To the Last Whale/Wind on the Water.”  The Curmudgeon heard this song once in the late 1970s and then not again until last year.  It’s just plain beautiful music sung by two guys who harmonize better than anyone not named Paul or Art.

Carly Simon – “Haunting.”  Great singing, great playing, great arrangements.  Lovely lovely lovely.

Joe Jackson – “Drowning.”  Try this on for size:

I don’t love you
But I’m lost
Thinking of you
And the ghosts
Of so many special moments
That passed so quickly at the time
And now they come and track me down
And echo round and round and round
And time goes quickly
Or disappears completely
And I feel like I fade away
Like drowning

I don’t need you
But it’s so hard
To be without you
Though you’re not far away
I censor my emotions
And tell myself to bide my time
But every time you come around
You batter my defenses down
But so gently
Like some sweet hypnosis
And the world just slips away
I’m drowning

Add to it another verse, stellar piano playing, and that wonderful sense of vitality that Jackson’s voice naturally evokes and you have a great, great song.

Harry Chapin – “The Shortest Story.”  Chapin was a popular singer-songwriter who drove like a maniac and died behind the wheel.  One of his passions was helping to feed the hungry, and in this song, which he sings with a growl as bells toll ominously in the background, he tells of one particular hungry infant:

I am born today, the sun burns its promise in my eyes;
Mama strikes me and I draw a breath and cry.
Above me a cloud softly tumbles through the sky;
I am glad to be alive.

It is my seventh day, I taste the hunger and I cry;
my brother and sister cling to Mama’s side.
She squeezes her breast, but it has nothing to provide;
someone weeps, I fall asleep.

It is twenty days today, Mama does not hold me anymore;
I open my mouth but I am too weak to cry.
Above me a bird slowly crawls across the sky;
why is there nothing now to do but die?

If you listen to this song and the goose flesh doesn’t rise on your arms, you have Chandler Bing disease and are dead on the inside.

Kate Bush – “Moments of Pleasure.”  Bush has always been quirky and peculiar, and this song is no exception.  Consider this:  have you ever heard a song that mentions Douglas Fairbanks?  Bush has always been great on the piano, a string section helps immensely, and when she sings “Just being alive, It can really hurt, And these moments given, Are a gift from time” her voice soars and a chill runs up your spine.  Last year Bush released a CD that consists of reworkings of some of her older songs, and this song was among them.  She knew, though, that she could never top her performance of those lines, so the remake skips them entirely – proving, as we all know, that sometimes, what you don’t say is as important as what you do.

Marti Jones – “Inside These Arms.”  Simply the best hair brush song ever – ever!  (Now if only The Curmudgeon needed a hair brush!)

Rosanne Cash – “Paralyzed.”

I picked up the phone, you were both on the line.

Your words to each other froze me in time.

A lifetime between us just burnt on the wires

Dissolved in a dial tone, consumed in your fires.

 Between the poignant lyrics, the manner in which Cash pounds on the keyboard, and her usual great but underrated singing, you can just feel the pain.  An amazing song ­– and one with which anyone who has ever been cheated on can identify.

The Curmudgeon also would like to nominate two songs for special “honorable mention” status.

Steely Dan – “Charlie Freak.”  “Charlie Freak” isn’t even among The Curmudgeon’s top ten favorite Steely Dan songs, but it’s here because he finds its sound so incredibly original and distinct.  In general, The Curmudgeon believes that only three modern-era performers/bands have truly distinct, original sounds:  the Beatles, Abba (I see that smirk; knock it off), and the Cranberries.  That none of them are from the U.S. is not a coincidence, he believes.  “Charlie Freak” fits in perfectly with those bands as having a distinct sound that you won’t hear anywhere else, and for that reason alone it’s worth a listen or three.

Je dis que rien ne m’épouvante.”  Okay, The Curmudgeon knows what you’re thinking:  “What the hell?”  And it’s even worse than that:  this song is from – are you ready? – an opera.  That’s right:  AN OPERA.  It’s from Carmen, which you would recognize some songs from without necessarily realizing they’re from an opera or from Carmen.  This song, also known as “Micaela’s Aria,” is absolutely, positively thrilling.  Listen for yourself; it’ll be worth the five minutes, but if you think listening to five minutes of an opera song might kill you, fast forward to the thirty-five second mark and listen for one minute.

Happy listening!

Mini-Rumination: Big Brother, er, Google, is Watching

For the third time in two months, YouTube yesterday asked The Curmudgeon for his cell phone number when he tried to sign onto the site.

Why?  Why on earth does YouTube (or, more precisely, Google, YouTube’s owner), need ANY user’s cell phone number?  Even The Curmudgeon’s employer doesn’t have his cell phone number.

Come to think of it, his own father doesn’t have his cell phone number.

For users’ “protection”?  Please – that explanation doesn’t pass the laugh test.

YouTube/Google acts like its users have “accounts.”  We don’t.  We just want to see old clips from Studio 60, the late Donna Summer singing “State of Independence,” and the lovely Marina and her latest “Hot for Words” feature.  YouTube/Google’s proprietary attitude toward its users reminds The Curmudgeon of the old days of America Online, when the now over-the-hill company insisted on referring to its users as “members.”  We weren’t “members;” we were customers – paying customers, too.

YouTube/Google acts all indignant when you decline to give your phone number – like it has a right to it.  It doesn’t.  What’s next – our social security number?  Our ATM PIN?  Or maybe it’s just a case of Facebook envy:  sheer jealousy over the degree to which Facebook has snookered people into spilling their guts about their lives and a desire to match that successful but obnoxious achievement.

The Curmudgeon, for one, wants no part of it.

Hey, Google – leave us kids alone!

Mini-Rumination: Mitt Romney’s Birth Certificate

Has anyone seen Mitt Romney’s birth certificate?

How do we know he was born in the U.S.?

After all, his father was born in Mexico – a fact not in dispute.

Isn’t this all a bit…suspicious?

And where’s Donald Trump when we need him?  (The Curmudgeon takes that back.  We’d all be better off if The Donald just went away, wouldn’t we?)

The No-Service Sector

Sometimes it seems as if there’s not a whole lot of service coming from the so-called service sector.

Take health care.  The people who work in the health care field like to say they’re part of the service sector.

They lie.

Oh, sure, what they offer is a service, but in many respects, the health care industry is about as un-service-oriented as any you’ll find.  Anyone who’s ever tried to get a medical appointment at a time when they don’t have to be at work can attest to this.  Anyone who’s ever tried to get help during what they consider to be a medical emergency of some kind can attest to this as well.  Your idea of a medical emergency, you quickly learn, is not exactly your doctor’s idea of a medical emergency (dentists seem to be a notable exception).  When economists complain about overuse of hospital emergency rooms, they show naïve ignorance of the simple reality that there are times of the day and times of the week when the ER, even if it’s not the ideal place to go, is the only game in town.

Here’s an example.  The Curmudgeon’s baby sister fell at work recently.  She went to the ER, where they took an x-ray, said there were no breaks, put her foot in a combination soft cast and splint, and told her to see her orthopedist as soon as possible.

If only it were that easy.

Over the next forty-eight hours she called her orthopedist four times and never received a return call.  The fifth call finally was the charm, and it landed her an appointment – in two weeks.  Considering that both feet still really hurt and she could barely walk, even with the aid of crutches or a walker – one foot was still in the soft cast/splint and the other had turned almost entirely black and blue – she didn’t think waiting two weeks was such a good idea, so she called her family doctor for a suggestion.  The family doctor recommended an affiliated orthopedic practice and gave her its phone number.

Which The Curmudgeon’s sister used to make an appointment – the very next day.  Not two weeks away.  Not one week away.  The next day.

Guess who now has a new orthopedist?  (And yes, her urgency was justified.  The new doctor took fresh x-rays and discovered two breaks that the hospital missed ­– and how that happened, and how The Curmudgeon’s sister managed to visit a hospital emergency room and never be seen by a doctor, is a story for another time.)  And guess how many eyebrows were raised in the old orthopedist’s office when sister handed them a form seeking the release of her records to her new orthopedist – a form on which she had written that she had an emergency, you guys didn’t return my calls, and you weren’t there when I needed you, so I’m going to go to someone who was there when I needed him?  And guess who lost a real cash cow, because sister has a few chronic orthopedic problems that necessitate fairly regular office visits and is almost certainly going to need a (highly lucrative) knee replacement in the next few years?  And guess who will be bringing other family members along with her to that new orthopedist?

Or consider The Curmudgeon’s attempt this summer to purchase and arrange for installation of a ceiling fan in his home.  He made his purchase at Home Depot because the company advertises installation services.  He bought the fan, took it home, and left information with the store staff about how an installation subcontractor could contact him; he was told he would hear from the installer within forty-eight hours.  Forty-eight hours after the forty-eight hours by which time the installer was supposed to call, The Curmudgeon called the store, and later, after finding the store unable to help, contacted the company headquarters by email as well.  He still received no call from the installer, whom The Curmudgeon also had twice called directly himself.  The Curmudgeon called again, and finally the installer returned his call – but said he was on the road and didn’t have his schedule with him and would call as soon as he got home.  That was five months ago, and The Curmudgeon still hasn’t heard from the guy.  The Curmudgeon returned the fan to Home Depot, purchased another fan at Lowe’s, and could not have been more pleased with the service he received there.

Just recently, The Curmudgeon ate a late breakfast and was out running errands and decided on a late lunch, so he repaired to a Wawa convenience store.  For readers who don’t know Wawa, it’s generally a terrific convenience store:  clean, good service, professionally managed, good selection, quality products, reasonable prices.  The Curmudgeon’s often thought that if a 7-Eleven owner or executive ever walked into a Wawa, he surely would hang his head in shame.

At the time of The Curmudgeon’s arrival the store was completely empty – not a single customer in sight.  Two cashiers stood behind their registers, talking quietly, and one person behind the sandwich counter was taking advantage of the lull in business to do some cleaning.  The Curmudgeon approached and asked for a chicken salad sandwich.  The guy pointed to a computer terminal.

“You have to enter your order in the terminal,” he said.

“But there’s no line,” The Curmudgeon replied.  “There’s no one here.”

“You have to enter your order in the terminal,” the man repeated.

The Curmudgeon left the store and found lunch elsewhere.

Whether it’s a doctor or a home supplies store or a restaurant or a retail establishment or an auto service center or anywhere else, like the barbecue establishment near The Curmudgeon’s home that has been out of his two favorite dishes on about half his visits over the past year (“You should call ahead to see if we have it,” the woman behind the counter suggested.  “Call ahead to see if you have what’s on your menu?” The Curmudgeon asked), a lot of people want our business but not that many are interested in earning it.

In The Curmudgeon’s neighborhood, to cite one final example, there are numerous family-owned convenience stores and takeout restaurants (as he noted in a previous post, fifteen Chinese restaurants alone within a ten-minute drive, and certainly at least as many pizza places) that routinely fail to extend a simple “thank you” when The Curmudgeon hands over his money when he makes a purchase.  The first time that happens, The Curmudgeon is annoyed but remains silent.  When it happens a second time, The Curmudgeon is annoyed and says “You’re welcome” in a firm voice before leaving the establishment.  And when it happens a third time, The Curmudgeon asks to see the owner or manager and quietly – or, if met with indifference, sometimes not-so-quietly – explains why he’s never patronizing the establishment again.

After all, he is a curmudgeon.