Monday, November 30, 2009

A matter of priorities

According to a recent study by the American Friends Service Committee, the United States spends $720 million dollars per day on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. That’s $30,000,000 per hour - 24/7.

These wars have cost us more than a trillion dollars to date.

The Federal government today announced it will cost one million dollars per year per soldier to send troops to Afghanistan, and President Obama is sending an additional 30,000 soldiers to that country.

Don’t these numbers tell us something?

Our healthcare system is failing. Our childrens’ education is suffering. The polar ice caps are melting. And we’re spending $30,000,000 per hour to do what?

Round up a few thousand insurgents? Stabilize a country that has been unstable for centuries? Prove that our military doesn’t lose wars?

The President is fiddling while Rome burns.

It’s time to rethink our priorities. We need get out of Afghanistan. We must reduce our spending on war and instead focus on functioning schools, healthy communities, good jobs and stopping global warming. Instead of robbing from our grandchildren’s economic well-being, we must invest in it.

Let's spend that $300,000,000 per hour on things that will solve problems instead of creating them.

Even a small shift in our priorities would have a huge impact on our children's future.

Shop and Drop

In December of 1966, I was a recent college graduate with a good job in an industrial publishing department. I had a pretty young wife, an eighteen month-old son and a two month–old daughter. This was the first Christmas that our son, Brian would be old enough to really appreciate the holidays; and since it was the first Christmas following several years of college-induced poverty, it was the first year we had any money to spend on gifts.

We went shopping at the brand new Natick Mall in nearby Natick, Massachusetts. It was the first enclosed shopping mall in the area and situated near the very first New England shopping mall, Shoppers’ World.

I was feeling proud as we walked along the crowded mall toward the exit. After four years of going without, I was dressed nicely and my arms were full of gifts. No more worn out clothes and tennis shoes. No more apologies for paltry gifts.

The style in men’s clothing at the time was slim and trim. I wore a fitted button-front shirt with a narrow necktie, black tapered-leg chinos with no belt and black pointed-toe shoes. The look was made for a skinny guy like me.

Chris walked beside me carrying Kelly Anne while Brian toddled ahead, exploring the indoor plants and benches.

When we reached the doorway, I switched the packages to my left arm and squatted down to scoop up Brian in my right arm and carry him out to the car. As I stood up, I heard a ripping sound. The seam down the back of my pants had split open, and they began to slide down my hips.

I stepped out into the frigid winter weather walking bowlegged to keep the pants from falling to my knees. The throng of shoppers entering the mall stared as I struggled toward the parking lot. I turned to my wife for help, but she was enjoying my predicament.

The pants slid down to my knees after ten or twelve steps, prompting peals of laughter from Chris. I switched from walking bowlegged to walking with my feet apart, hoping to keep the pants from falling any further. It was no use. After a few more steps the pants dropped to my ankles. With both arms full, I hobbled the rest of the way to the car.

When I reached our Volvo Duett wagon, I opened the back doors and set Brian and the packages inside. Chris caught up with us, laughing hysterically. I pulled up my pants and lifted Brian into the rear seat.

We didn’t talk much on the ride home. I was nursing my wounded pride, and Chris was giggling the whole way.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Your wallet can talk

I decided to break down and buy a new mattress and box spring today. After looking around on-line to learn what to buy and where, I decided to buy a memory-foam mattress from an outfit in Poughkeepsie, New York. Their product compared favorably with the more expensive Swedish mattress, and they were offering free shipping for the next two days.

I called twice to place an order—once this morning, once this evening. Both times I was forced to navigate a voice prompt after which I was treated to several replays of a pre-recorded announcement telling me all their mattress specialists were busy helping other customers but the company valued my business. I was then sent to voice mail where I was promised a call back if I left a message. I never got a call back.

If I couldn't reach a sales person to order their product, what would happen if there was a problem with my order? I decided that I'm just not comfortable dealing with a company that can't or chooses not to hire enough sales people. I went elsewhere.

If you ever hope to get businesses to give you good service, take matters into your own hands.

The next time a business keeps you waiting on hold, sticks you with a rude or incompetent salesperson or treats you poorly, go somewhere else. I know. It’s easier to stay or wait or say nothing. You’ve got enough things on your plate without another hassle.

But by putting up with it, you’re saying it’s acceptable behavior. You’re giving them your permission to continue. Don’t do it.