Thursday, January 27, 2011

Day By Day

One of the hardest things to do in my life has been to live every day without thinking about how I'm supposed to be living it. I envy people who get the most out of each day by getting up in the morning and tackling whatever comes their way without a lot of forethought or planning. They seem to have complete faith that the direction they're headed is the right one and never look back, or go back, to yesterday. Is this kind of approach something that can be learned? If so I'd like to find that school, because it seems no matter how determined I am to be carefree at the start of the day, that feeling just doesn't last long and I find myself worrying about something apart from the daily ventures, or daydreaming about other things I could be doing. All the worrying and wanting can do is take time away from actually getting something accomplished, and I can see the truth of this, but it's hard for me to redirect myself and focus on things at hand. I guess that's why I don't seem to be a happy person much of the time because I do a lot of worrying. My best moods come when I don't think about things other than those that lie in my daily path, and the future and past are pushed out of my thoughts completely. I wish I could live that way every day.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

I Predict With Almost Absolute Certainty That There Will Be Weather Tomorrow

So I guess it's winter here in Ohio, because all the potholes have been packed with snow and ice for a couple of weeks making it nice to drive on a fairly smooth surface for a change. We've gotten about five inches of snow tonight in the last four hours. I kept hoping they'd cancel classes for tonight, but no such luck. It was slow going because nothing had been done to clear the roads, then coming home they were just as bad, so much so that I almost had to put down my fajita and milkshake and drive with my hands just to keep from sliding into the ditch as I was talking to my wife on the cell phone telling her to be careful because of all the nuts on the road. Great White North, eh? Beauty.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Before Wal-Mart

About thirty years ago there were "big box" department stores close to almost everywhere in the country. Although the names were different, they were essentially all the same and relied on slight differences in the way they did their business to attract and keep customers. In my immediate area there were about six such stores within a ten mile radius. At any one of them you could outfit your kids for school, get your car fixed, redo your kitchen, or get a new landscape for your lawn. Sounds a lot like Wal-Mart of today, right? Yes, but not quite. Each of these stores had their own personality, and you could sense it as you walked through the aisles. Hart's, for example, had a warm and homey feel to it, with its aging walls and fixtures and friendly personnel, while Rink's was the place for better bargains but seemed more disorganized as you squeezed your way through crowded aisles with screaming kids.

I consider myself lucky to have worked in one of these places for seven years of my life. The company I was employed by had the largest store - square footage wise- of all of the others in the area. I learned a lot about life there. Responsibility for your job and respect for your bosses were things that you were expected to give automatically. Dress pants, white shirt and a tie were the required attire. Every manager or assistant manager had to be addressed as "Mr." or "sir", and their's was the only opinion needed on any matter and you either accepted that or left. There was never a shortage of work, and the hours were preset and unwavering, with the day shift- who were all full timers- and the night shift, who were part time but always worked Sunday which was time and a half back then. Some of the departments within the store were as large as corresponding stores of today. For example, the Home Center Department, which sold hardware, electrical, paint, etc. was larger than the three stores that are in my town now, combined.

I was hired to work in the Patio Shop, which was a seasonal department and part of the Garden Shop. I soon learned that my job wasn't going to be just selling mowers and lawn furniture, as I was often sent outside to move pallets of mulch and dirt or called to find and load a layaway for a customer. I also found out that most of the store was divided into two sections; Hardlines and Softlines. Softlines was the clothing and household supplies mainly, and Hardlines was most everything else. I worked under the Hardlines Manager, and when the Patio Shop closed for the season I was moved where ever I was needed. I spend two years in the Automotive Department and learned a lot about car parts and how they work. I also learned that people get very irrate when their cars break down and they have to spend money they hadn't planned on spending to get their vehicle fixed. I learned about gardening during the one season I was the Garden Shop manager. The meaning of "heat stroke" was discovered that summer too. Three or four days each year were set aside for the store inventory, which was done by hand, writing counts on cards then collecting and counting them. It was a painstaking ordeal which is handled in stores these days by companies who come in with hand-held computers and have the job done in a few hours, rather than days. The last four years I was there I had become the "go to" guy in the Home Improvement Center. That was the one department where I gained the most knowledge of things in and around the home that would help me down through the years, and it was the last department I would work in before the store closed their doors forever, pushed out by the same forces that would eventually lay waste to every other "big box" store in the area in favor of the more aggressive K-Marts and Wal-Marts.

I miss those stores. The smell of new tvs in the Appliance department, the aisles of board games during the holiday season, the floors that had seen decades of use without being replaced, and the long lines at the pre-UPC cash registers are all things that bring back fond memories of a time when "going shopping" seemed to have a different, more exciting meaning.