Oh gnat, where is thy sting?

As a rule, I’m not a big observer of the Hallmark holidays, and that includes Mother’s Day. I happily accept the homemade cards and macaroni necklaces, but hold the presents and even the brunch and corsage. In this, I hope I’m in alignment with how we treat Father’s Day already.

Poor dad — his holiday arrives after school is dismissed for the year, so no art project. He doesn’t wear corsages, and does any man need another tie or pair of socks? Nope. So last night we opted to take Alan out. Then we made him pick up the check. Fatherhood in a nutshell.

I regret the restaurant, which I recall as scene of several pleasant lunches last summer, was having a bad night. An approaching thunderstorm was snarling the outdoor seating, and the hostesses didn’t seem to know how to handle it. I had to revert to my Big Bitch mode, which I thought was reasonable under the circumstances, and was certainly rewarded, in the sense that the Big Bitch got us seated, finally. Although things didn’t improve from there.

But I won’t bore you. The day was a cavalcade of small irritations, beginning with the sandwich guy at the shop where I bought lunch for our Sunday sail/picnic. I was wearing one of Zach Klein’s clever T-shirts — this one, in fact. It expresses the opinion that Nascar races are boring. The sandwich guy, not a fan, approved.

“A risky sentiment for the Motor City,” I allowed.

“Well, in some parts of the Motor City, they wouldn’t know what you were talking about,” he said, and switching to a mild African American voice, said, “Um, does that have anything to do with basketball?”

The casual racism I hear in this place simply amazes me. (Along with the stupidity. I mean, here I am — a total stranger and a customer, and this maroon assumes I’m down with his program. No wonder he’s making sandwiches.) To my great relief, his fellow sandwich-makers called him on it. Sorta.

“You can’t say that if you’re not from Detroit,” one said. “If you’re from the suburbs you have to shut up.”

“My family owns property in Detroit,” he said, which is not exactly being from the city, is it. The debate went on in somewhat casual fashion, although you could tell his fellow sandwich-ites didn’t have their hearts in it. He was the guy they had to put up with. Even in a sandwich shop, there are guys you have to put up with. It is the Way of the American Workplace, the way of workplaces worldwide. Go to college, kids! The annoying co-workers only get more well-groomed! They still say the same stupid things, however.

Some years ago, I did a bit of moonlighting at a well-known Fort Wayne radio station. (As opposed to the less well-known one I also worked for.) The office bulletin board was a cavalcade of amusements, including whatever 25th-generation photocopied joke was circulation via fax machine at the moment. Many were about President Clinton; one in particular was about the don’t ask/don’t tell policy regarding gays in the military, then in early discussions. It was a crude cartoon showing the “new uniforms for Clinton’s military” — a limp-wristed pansy in a dress with epaulets. We had a gay editor at the newspaper at the time, but even without him, posting something like that on our newsroom bulletin board — yes, even in Fort Wayne — would have gotten you frog-marched to re-education camp so swiftly your little webbed feet would barely touch the ground.

“Do customers and advertisers ever come up here?” I asked the program director. Sure, he said. “Do you ever think that maybe you don’t want stuff like that in public view?” He was agog. What was the problem? It’s like I was objecting to the “Hang in there, baby” poster with the kitty dangling from a branch.

Progress comes slowly, oh so slowly. But it comes.

The day’s final irritation? We planned to go sailing with Kate and one of her friends, and so the wind blew … at 30 knots. Too windy for young children in a small boat. We had our picnic aboard and then went to the pool to watch the lounge chairs blow over. I had a front-row seat for the day’s brightest spot — a floater alert in the shallow end. Good lord, it was funny. They actually roped the area off with yellow police tape while the head lifeguard retrieved the offending Baby Ruth with a long-handled net and another guard emptied it into what looked like a biohazard bag, but probably wasn’t. Still another sprinkled chlorine pellets around the crime scene and the whole area was left to disinfect for an hour or so while the kids ran around shrieking and saying ewwwwwww.

No word on whether the offender was brought to justice.

So, then. Bloggage:

Ah, the peace, quiet and neighborliness of country life.

Finally saw “Good Night, and Good Luck” over the weekend. I was going to write something about it, but it turns out Lance Mannion already did, and echoes my thoughts pretty much exactly, so why bother?

That should keep you occupied for a while.

Posted at 10:26 am in Same ol' same ol' |

10 responses to “Oh gnat, where is thy sting?”

  1. alex said on June 19, 2006 at 11:08 am

    After twenty years in Chicago, where even the most benign words can be misconstrued as race-baiting by political correctness police, it comes as quite a culture shock to me that here in the Fort there are some who think nothing of expressing far worse sentiments than those blurted by Sandwich Man.

    I call them on it. I\’ve had people look at me incredulously. \”You mean you don\’t agree? Everyone else around here does.\”

    What everyone else does is remain silent. Tolerance of intolerance. Fucking sheeple. I really hate life in this pit of a town sometimes.

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  2. nancy said on June 19, 2006 at 11:16 am

    Calling people on it is a decision I make on a case-by-case basis. In this case, I should have said something. I chose to sidestep. The easy choice, but not the right one.

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  3. colleen said on June 19, 2006 at 11:47 am

    I rely on the open mouthed shocked look a lot. I had one of our volunteers tell me the key to a good neighborhood was “keeping the blacks out”. Um. My reply was “I don’t care what color the neighbors are, I just don’t want sofas on the front lawn” But yeah, the casual racism just amazes me. (along with all the other isms) it’s like a lot of times it’s so ingrained that people don’t even REALIZE they are being insensitive. I confronted a co-worker at a former job about her use of “jew him down”…she had no idea that wasn’t a Nice Thing To Say.

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  4. brian stouder said on June 19, 2006 at 12:02 pm

    “I confronted a co-worker at a former job about her use of “jew him down�?…she had no idea that wasn’t a Nice Thing To Say.”

    I’ve run into that one – and my mouth dropping open was genuine amazement!! Saying someone “welshed” on a bet is a less-obvious one, as is accusing someone of “gyping” you; as is accusing someone of being an “Indian-giver” (and isn’t THAT one a back-asswards epithet?!! It SHOULD be “white-man-giver”!)

    And then there is no end of insidious racism, such as ‘whimsical’ little figurines of black people with watermelon (I believe I saw salt and pepper shakers like that at a Cracker Barrel gift store, but I could be wrong, and it was years ago)

    Aside from all that, our family eats out too much (no doubt) – and a truism is that sooner or later, you will have a rock-ass-bottom experience at even your most dependably marvelous restaurant.

    I’d almost start a one-up contest on that subject, but no doubt Mary will top anything I have experienced….but ,et me say, we’ve had a few doosies

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  5. Dorothy said on June 19, 2006 at 12:43 pm

    You’d think here in the Buckle of the Bible Belt we’d run into quite a few trash talking people, but I’m glad to say our neighbors and co-workers seem to keep their comments to themselves. If any of them are closet racists, I can’t tell.

    The worst one so far? Our Russian exchange student (who blessedly flies back home tomorrow) told us that “All the blacks in school look alike” to him. I think his ears are still burning after the talking to we gave him.

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  6. brian stouder said on June 19, 2006 at 3:38 pm

    Say, a darkly humorous little digression for all you Soprano fans. (Good thing Fort Wayne’s Komets aren’t in the UHL anymore)


    Gotta love a guy named “Matty the Horse” who, for $10,000/month supplies the muscle to keep your business competitors in line….!

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  7. basset said on June 19, 2006 at 10:42 pm

    Stock car racing has pretty much followed the same path as commercial country music – essentially, both of ’em got a lot less interesting once the big money came in. Not much character left in either, it’s been market-researched and image-consulted out of sight.

    Hank Williams wouldn’t have a chance today, and neither would Curtis Turner.

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  8. velvet goldmine said on June 20, 2006 at 8:40 am

    Cultural commentary on the fly can be a tough nut, to say the least. Your sandwich maker may have simply been pointing out his African Americans neighbors don’t seem as interested in NASCAR as his white ones do.

    This is hardly an incendiary or earthshaking observation, as anyone who’s even casually glanced at the stands during a televised race would admit. Of course, he may have been just implying exactly what you thought he was — the inherent ignorance of an entire group of people.

    Kinda like saying about someone, “No wonder he makes sandwiches.” Because we all know we can assume limited intelligence in anyone who holds a job at which we wrinkle out noses. And anyway, it’s a fast, flippant line that differs from the African American imitation because, um….Give me a minute. I’m a blonde, it takes us longer.

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  9. MichaelG said on June 20, 2006 at 8:57 am

    Boy that sure is true about NASCAR. It used to be fun to watch. Now it’s just boring. I even used to go to races at the old Ontario Speedway and Sears Point. I live in Northern California and Ontario was a nice trip the week before Thanksgiving. Nobody on the roads.

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  10. mary said on June 20, 2006 at 4:37 pm

    Mary is partially out of action, working from home, due to an unfortunate sandwich at Quiznos. Two days of …I won’t go into it. The service was fine, though.

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