Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Safety Dance

You can carry anti-bacterial hand wash with you at all times. You can buy insurance on your house, your car, your life, your pets, your vacation, and even your wedding. You can fill your medicine cabinet with antibiotics. You can get radon detectors, smoke detectors, leak detectors - any sort of detector, probe, or alarm your heart desires.

But you know what? It really doesn't matter. Life is dangerous and painful. People get sick. They die. They disappoint. Nothing you buy or do will ever safeguard you against pain, both physical and psychological. Deep down, I think most of us know this to be true.

So why can't more of us accept this? And why do so many feel entitled to be spared these unpleasant things, or, at the very least, be compensated when they happen?

As you know, I'm all sweetness and light. So my theory is that there's big business in both fear and disappointment. If you can combine the two? Payola! It's a forgone conclusion that the government wants us frightened and confused, but I think that it goes a lot further than that. People in discomfort will do nearly anything to rid themselves of the unpleasant situation. So, really, fear is a windfall for security companies, the pharmaceutical industry, personal injury lawyers ... and the list goes on.

Really, though, life is mean, unfair and sometimes downright painful. Nobody promised you a rose garden, indeed.

Monday, May 21, 2007

A Real Pain In The Ass(thma)

Spring is in the air. And, with it, allergies.

I'd thought for years that allergies were something that people made up. Sure, there are countless commercials on television for allergy-relief medications, but, then again, there's big business in pills. I don't get any sort of seasonal allergies, and growing up, it was always a certain type of kid who did. The whiny kid. The one who always seemed to be injured in some way, complete with the requisite dramatics. The neighbor nobody wanted on their kickball team. That kid who, more often than not, had an overbearing mother; the person who, without fail, had asthma (more about that later).

Still, though, everybody seems to have allergies, so I guess they must really exist. I find it terribly interesting that these allergies are more widespread and more severe with every passing year. I can only think that it must be one of two things: either the general public is more bothered by (and vocal about) seasonal cold-like symptoms, or the entire human race is growing weaker, more susceptible to illness, at a shocking rate.

If you believe that Darwin knew the score (and I do), this doesn't bode well.

Physical infirmity is a weakness. I'm not saying that allergies are a moral failing, or anything like that. But, truth be told, they are a sign of weakness, on some level. There's a chink in the allergic person's composition that results in them not being quite up to par. It is what it is. I may not have allergies, but I've got shitty knees. So we've all got an achilles heel, it seems.

What fascinates me is the fact that so many people harp on their allergies. I don't get it. You won't see me discussing my joint problems with random strangers, because, really, it's something about me that isn't as functional as it should be. A bodily failing. I'm not ashamed of it, but it's also no kind of proof that I'm a special kind of person, one who needs to be handled with kid gloves. It's not a stamp of particular sensitivity. It doesn't make me special in any way.

And don't even start me on the bullshit peanut allergies. Nobody will ever convince the that giant proportions of Americans live in fear of the very specter of the fearsome peanut.

Along similar lines, I thought asthma was a hoax. Any asthmatics I've ever known seemed to have attacks at surprisingly opportune times. Asked to do an unpleasant job at work? Imminent attack! Feeling picked on? Or, worse, ignored? Seize that inhaler! I never saw an actual attack with those people, mind you - simply the looming threat. I've recently been informed by someone close to me that people really do have serious asthma attacks; since he's been an ambulance attendant, I'm inclined to believe him. But I still wonder how many people seize the very notion of asthma and run with it. If I were an actual asthmatic, that'd really piss me off.

It's not survival of the "special", folks. It's survival of the fittest.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

The Poor Me! Brigade

It's been estimated that 1 out of 6 Americans are on disability.

Good God. It's like a Wonderland of laziness.

In a nutshell, then, five adults are getting up every day and going to work to support one person who is not willing to do so. Wonderful. I'll think of these delicate flowers when I arise at 5:45 am on Monday to plunge into my 13-hour day.

Here's the thing, though ... I really don't mind giving a few dollars to support the profoundly retarded or the incredibly (legitimately) disabled - it's what a decent human being does. However, I haven't seen that it's the case. In fact, I've spotted all sorts of "impaired" folk at their jobs. There's a man with several handicaps who labors diligently at the place where I buy dog food; he's there, without fail, ringing up my dog food purchases for years. I applaud him - he's pleasant, competent, and helpful to customers. There's also a man missing a leg and an eye at the local grocery store. Not only will he bag my groceries with finesse (honestly, it's a skill to do it well and quickly), he'll do it with a smile and a joke, and he'll offer any assistance I may need in loading the bags into my car. He's got an amazing sense of humor, and he's a main reason that I patronize that particular store .. dammit, who couldn't use a laugh, right? Right.

However, I know a few people who are on disability. "Depression" seems to be the common cause of it. This annoys me, since I, myself, have been diagnosed with a pretty severe depressive disorder. Guess what, though? I get up every morning and I go to work. Even when it's unpleasant. Even when I'm in physical pain. Even when it's damn near unbearable to function, I go. It's what you've gotta do to survive. It's what you do as a grown-up. It's not fun. It's hard as hell some days. But, then again, that's why they pay you.

It's odd to think that I know people who are missing limbs, I've worked with wonderful people who happen to mentally retarded, I've had dear co-workers who are deaf, blind, missing fingers, missing limbs ... hell, I had a job helping recovering heroin addicts who happened to be felons get back into the work force. They showed up for their jobs every day, and we'd joke that a job is like taking a shit ... you may not like the timing or the process, but you're guaran-goddam-teed to have to do it every day.

And not one of these people were on disability. I guess they weren't depressed enough. *sigh*

Friday, May 18, 2007

Your Mutha'

Remember the heady era of the "welfare mother"? You know, that entitled bitch who continued to spawn with the express purpose getting a bigger payoff? Just think! Some people were getting money for doing nothing but sitting on their asses and increasing their brood!

Do you recall the anger, the resentment, the gnashing of teeth?

Well, if you think about it, we've got a hell of a Welfare Mother on our hands these days. I like to call her the United States government. Feel free to call her whatever you'd like.

We've got bureaus of this and departments of that. Commissions to oversee the administration of associations. And don't forget the Department of Homeland Security! None of it comes cheap. Still, like the much-maligned welfare mother of the '90s, it just keeps replicating. And needing ever-increasing amounts of money for sustenance, maintenance, and circumstance. It's a real sponge-o-rama, by any definition.

Your tax dollars at work, people.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Lemmings. In Escalades. Splendid.

Well, thank God the age of the SUV is grinding to a halt. I hate the damn things. And, to be honest, I think less of people who drive them. I assume that they're assholish blowhards, and more often than not, I'm right.

"But I like to have an SUV to go off-road."

Bullshit. There's no way in hell you bought (or, more likely, leased) that thing for a staggering amount of money with plans to drag it through forests or over rough terrain. I mean, really. Come on. You're the same person who panics at the very notion of a gentle nudge from a grocery cart. A door ding? Perish the thought and alert the media! If it's simple 4-wheel-drive capability you're after, buy a Subaru. But you know (and I know) that the wildest challenge that SUV will ever encounter is the unpaved landscape of a suburban soccer field parking lot.

"My SUV seats 437 full-size adults. I need that kind of roominess."

No, you don't. You might pack in a crowd once a year. Twice, at most. I'll bet good money that 99.9% of the SUV's on the road never have more than five people in them, maximum. And of those five, some of them are most likely children. Sorry to break it to you, but that staggering mass of humanity could fit into a Chevy Cavalier quite nicely. Just sayin'.

"I bought my SUV as an investment in the American Auto industry."

Good for you, cowboy. I'll do my best to ignore the many import SUVs on the road. I'll even suspend my knowledge that many of the domestic parts are made overseas. I'll just applaud you as you fill that sucker with boatloads of American gas and drive around on American roads to the American MegaSuperStore and in other pointless American circles to amuse your American self.

"I wanted an SUV for safety reasons."

Well, sweet cheeks, the main thing it has going for it, safety-wise, is its sheer size. But eventually you'll run into an even bigger SUV, because there will always be a bigger SUV. Believe me - it's the American way. Besides, how safe can it be if you can't see out of the damn thing without a super-special camera to navigate as you reverse.

Be honest. You bought that thing because you wanted to appear bad-ass, affluent, or (*gag*) extreme. Or because everybody else has one. Or because, dammit, you felt you deserved to be King of the Road. Just cut the hot-air excuses. Your behemoth already puts enough smog out there, and it doesn't need your help.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

The Fixed Income Blues. Sing It, Baby.

As the price of gas spirals to dizzying heights and the utilites line up like so many slobbering dogs to apply for rate increases, there's a cry heard across the land. It's a complaint. A justification. The Rebel Yell of the over-65 set.

"I'm on a fixed income."

And I ask this: who the hell isn't?

Now, I suppose that there might be successful entepreneurs reading this and shaking their heads in pity. Maybe even an Amway salesperson or two. I don't know. But the rest of us? Well, we generally earn a set amount of money a month, and we need to work within pretty consistent parameters.

"I'm on a fixed income."

Tell that to the fella who serves you your coffee at McDonalds. Bring it up to the next secretary you have contact with. Try it on for size the when you roll the old chariot into Jiffy Lube. Sure, you might get a sympathetic response or even a sad-faced nod or two. Just bear in mind that these people are paid to be pleasant to you. In fact, that salary is their own fixed income. Fancy that.

"I'm on a fixed income."

Most of us are, Assclown. Take a number.