Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Atlas Shrugged...

and went to the head of the line

I filed this tidbit in my "Why does this come as a surprise?" file: Disney World is noticing a problem with rich people hiring the handicapped to gain access to the front of lines for popular rides and attractions.

This report, from the New York Post, documents "upper-crust Manhattan moms" paying $130 an hour to a scooter-bound handicapped woman to use her disability to gain special access for her and her "family." The article goes on to describe a package offered by tour company that, if one knows to ask, will provide a "tour concierge" and quotes one mother as saying, "This is how the one percent does Disney."

The Disney organization* is investigating the practice and is "taking the appropriate steps to  deter this activity" blah, blah, blah..."

What I'm wondering is why everyone is so outraged at the practice. Isn't this a perfect example of using resources available to you to solve a problem? Just because everyone can't afford it, why should the practice be discontinued?

Okay, so the handicapped lady isn't really "family;" she's at least a friend...for so long as you're willing to pay $130. That's called entrepreneurship.

And what a wonderful way to teach children early on that wealth has its privileges and wah-wah-wah get over it.

Here's your Ayn Rand thinking, people! And you whiners on the budget plan waiting in line three hours? Well, maybe if you'd worked as hard as the one percent at...waiting for your inheritance check...or marrying into'd be zipping to the front too.

And can someone tell my why we can see the unfairness of this practice, but we still withhold basic necessities to the poorest in our society based on the same argument?

*I think I deserve a pat on the back for not launching into my usual anti-Disney tirade. Usually in any Disney-related story this in inevitable, but this time I really couldn't fault them, since I can say I've heard firsthand that they treat honestly handicapped guests very well. That doesn't change the fact that they've hijacked our culture, warped our history and took over Broadway, not to mention the marketing machine they've become...



Monday, May 13, 2013

It's all in the marketing

Just like every business owner, I am constantly trying to think up the service or product that will launch the cafe to a whole other level; that one thing that will result in lines around the block and my bank account to slide into the black.

I'm not even picky -- it doesn't have to be cafe-related.

The thing is, it's those kind of ideas that make news: the guy who made a mint off of Post-Its; Famous Amos and his meh chocolate chip cookies. For most of us, though, it's a crap shoot whether the idea will take off or not...and usually not.

I'm beginning to think that I'm using the wrong sort of logic in anticipating what the public wants.

This was my thought as I smeared my cheap drugstore-bought moisturizer on my face this morning. I've read article after article revealing that this stuff works just as good, if not better, than the concoctions sold for hundreds of dollars at cosmetic counters in high end department stores. It's not like this is a big secret.

What I want to know is who are these women who are buying the expensive stuff and how do you market to them...with a straight face. You would think that someone who has over $500 to purchase a face cream that doesn't especially work has a lot of money, right? And you would think that someone who has that much money has a certain amount of smarts, wouldn't you? Just to be able to hold on to that kind of wealth, you would have to at least be smart enough to know that paying for nothing is...well...stupid.

Okay, what I really want to know is how do I come up with a useless product to sell to people with more money than brains. Which is my problem. Common sense always takes over and I know I could never sell  people on the idea that smearing gold or orchid dust on your face makes you prettier than what we poor slobs smear on our faces. At some point I'd just look at them incredulously and say, "You idiot. Are you really going to fall for this?"

In order to put this over, I imagine you would have to buy into it just a little to be able to deliver your spiel with a modicum of sincerity. It would require something organic happening to your brain cells making you believe enough in bee excrement to not to allow a snort of laughter to escape as you're convincing someone to slap it on their face.

On the other hand, you're selling to people who never have to choose between going on vacation and replacing their 20-year-old car and probably never give a second thought about how many day's float you can get if you mail the electric bill payment instead of paying on line. Meanwhile I'm living in van down by the river. So who, exactly, is the idiot?

Deep down I think that if I can figure out this particular conundrum, I will have discovered all the secrets of the universe and, perhaps, even cured cancer. Maybe that's when your brain undergoes the physical transformation that causes you to be convinced that a diamond studded USB drive is a worthwhile reason to dispose of $6,000.

I believe the clinical term for such a "transformation" is lobotomy.

Friday, May 10, 2013

In which I take a sick day

It seems I've broken a lucky three-year streak and have gotten a cold.

Were I in any other field, this would be a non-event. I'd pop pack tissues and cough drops and carry on (observing all the prescribed rituals of hand-washing and not sneezing into people's faces, of course).

However, no one wants their food prepared or served by someone snorting, sniffing and hacking like Gollum. So Dirtman and the Divine Mrs. D will be running the cafe today (you might want to drop by to watch -- I predict it will go three rounds before Mrs. D KOs Dirtman to retain her title).

Here I am, feeling a little uncomfortable from a sore throat and clogged ears; slightly heady (because I take thyroid meds, I can't take the usual cold remedies) from sinus pressure; and, frankly, not horrible.

So what I feel the most is guilt. I feel just fine to watch old movies or read or knit. I'm having a good time, and I'm quite sure there is something wrong about that.

Meanwhile, the earth spins without me, a healthy antidote to my hubris.

While the earth is spinning, I'm left to daytime TV, which seeps in between movies like pond ooze. What a dismal swamp of insipid and inane products of human creativity -- or lack thereof (oh, come's been so long since I wrote a TV rant.)

Ultimately, though, I track down an audio book on Project Gutenberg (Wodehouse. Love Wodehouse) and knit. And sneeze.

And then there is Zsa Zsa, who is delighted I'm home all day, but diligent about her role as my caretaker. She nudges me behind the knees as I putter around the kitchen making a cup of tea. She lies beside the bed and sits up at attention during sneezing fits.

She is quite sure I'm too much of a moron to be left to my own devices so, when I let her outside, she walks five feet from the house to relieve herself, all the time keeping her eye on me at the door. She doesn't run around the lawn and chase the cats as she usually does. Instead she's back inside, walking me to bed and back on the job. With Zsa Zsa there is no such thing as a mild cold; there is health or death's door and she doubts I'm capable of handling either.

So there it is: I've got my books, I've got my knitting, I've got my dog and, frankly, I've got my health.

Dirtman will be home soon with soup and sympathy. I'll enjoy the former. I honestly don't deserve the latter.

Sunday, May 05, 2013

Wherein Heir 2 wears funny clothes

...and leaves his mother in tears

To my credit, I didn't cry until we were on our way home.

I have easily managed to remain dry-eyed through most of Heir 2's milestones. Heading out to drive a car on his own, his first fender-bender, high school graduation, heading off to college on his own -- nary a tear. I'm tough, you see, and I've always felt those maternal tears to be a sort of manipulation; as if I were saying, "This next step toward adulthood is taking you further from me and you're making your mother cry."

So I was blindsided by the strange emotions that crept up on me as we went through the obligatory rituals involved in a college graduation. It started the evening before the actual ceremony -- a reception held by the Computer Science Department of Roanoke College for the graduates and their families.

Dirtman and I haven't spent a lot of time with Joe at college. We always had to work Family Weekends. So seeing Joe interacting with these people he's been with daily for the past four years -- more than with us certainly -- was unique (Joe's summer job for the past three years has been in the computer science dept. at Roanoke, so he never spent summers at home).

This was the first time we were seeing him in his element, introducing us to friends and faculty, casually joking with his professors, exchanging puzzling shoptalk with his friends and laughing over phrases that may as well have been uttered in Klingon for all we could understand. This was the first time our relationship as child/parent was shaken to its core.

I don't think we were the only ones. I watched the other parents being ushered around by their children -- all of us with this slightly unbalanced expression. This was a shift we couldn't quite comprehend. We knew we should feel nothing but pride in the independent spirit of our offspring. But we were treading on new ground and didn't know quite what to do or say and not sound like superfluous old farts. If it's one thing we Baby Boomers avoid, it's sounding like superfluous old farts.
My chosen footwear

At the actual graduation ceremony I realized we (the parents) were all dealing with our new roles in different ways. Some of us were not going down without a fight -- mothers tottering on way-too-high heels with way-too-much makeup posing with their vibrant, youthful, lovely daughters; fathers organizing photo sessions like Patton commanding the troops while their bemused sons stole knowing smiles with each other. Some fit comfortably in their role, perhaps because the shift had already happened for them long ago.

Most of us, though, were still a little bewildered about the strange, unexpected sadness that was lurking just behind the joy and pride that were the order of the day. The world was no longer ours to command. It was theirs. We were being subtly, gently, politely asked to bow out as gracefully as possible. We love you...we appreciate all you've done...but could you step aside and make room for us?

Joe and Caisee
On a personal level, though, that's not was brought me to tears as Dirtman and I crossed over from Virginia into West Virginia and home. My Joe...was no longer preparing for his future; he was in his future...creating his future. He has a wonderful, supportive, caring soulmate who is all a mother could want to partner with her child. I could be no help to him now. I might provide a brief respite from the creative process, but there is nothing at all tying him to me except a love unadulterated by need or pity. And I am just egotistical enough for that to scare me.

And so the tears; the totally selfish, nonsensical, but necessary tears. And, when I'd had a good cry, it was over.

Well...had a good cry and thought of this: Four years ago I delivered to Roanoke College an employed, debt-free human being with an A+ average; four years later they gave me back an
unemployed human being with a B+ average and a school loan.

...And so it goes...