5

Trivial Trivia

(I intended to post this yesterday, so the events all happened on April 5, not April 6. Feel free to hold onto it until next year if you think it would be more relevant.)

As you may have guessed, I love trivia. It’s probably related to my mind’s ability to hold onto almost any useless piece of information while forgetting that if I don’t call the school, my kids probably won’t have yearbooks for their senior year. For example, I needed a code to punch into the cash register at my second job (after my senior year in high school). I chose 1063. Why? Because it was three years before the Battle of Hastings. And I still remember it. Scary, huh?

Needless to say, the Internet is full of odd facts and ideas. Too bad I don’t know which ones to believe.

There used to be something in the local paper called “Today in History” and it would show which famous people were born on that day and major events. I really liked looking at it, although the same historical events kept popping up year after year. Oddly enough, the bombing of Pearl Harbor was there every December 7.

So what could be better than the web version of “Today in History”? I found several sites (of course). There was one that was mainly music-oriented. It was really interesting, but not really what I was looking for. Finally I settled on scopesys.com. It has births, deaths, events, holidays, and religious commemorations. And it seems to be pretty exhaustive. It was actually kind of boring, even to me.

For example, the birthdays included 1588 Thomas Hobbes, 1649 Elihu Yale, 1725 Giacomo Casanova, 1827 Joseph Lister, 1856 Booker Taliaferro Washington, 1923 Nguyen Van Thieu, 1937 Colin Powell. If you don’t know who these people are, you should :).

The list actually had 183 names on it. Included were such luminaries as 1818 Lewis Baldwin Parsons Brevet Major General (Union volunteers), 19– Chao Li Chi actor (Falcon Crest), 1946 Jane Asher Paul McCartney’s former girlfriend/actress (Deep End), and seven cricket players born between 1868 and 1953. While I have no problem with cricket, I can’t believe there has ever been a player who belongs on a list with Joseph Lister and Booker T. Washington. And it’s the only sport shown. Seems a little biased, no?

There were 82 deaths worthy of note. Among those cited were 1794 Georges-Jacques Danton, 1964 Douglas MacArthur, 1975 Chiang Kai-shek, 1992 Sam Walton, and 1997 Allen Ginsberg. I am going forward with the blissfully ignorant assumption that everyone knows who these people are too. Don’t burst my bubble.

Some of the others you should keep in mind are 1531 Richard Roose who was boiled to death for trying to poison an archbishop and five cricket players. I am guessing that Mr. Roose was included due to his cause of death rather than trying to poison an archbishop. Lots of people were going around poisoning church leaders at that time. There’s the cricket bias again.

I found it interesting that there were 183 people of note on this date, but only 162 events. Some of the highlights: 1614 Indian princess Pocahontas marries English colonist John Rolfe (#1 item on every site I visited – probably thought everyone would know who she is), 1722 Jacob Roggeveen discovers Easter Island, 1896 1st modern Olympic Games officially open in Athens, and 1951 Julius & Ethel Rosenberg, atomic spies, sentenced to death.

I had not known the name of the person who “discovered” Easter Island (although from all appearances someone had found it before he did). Unfortunately, I will probably not remember the name because I don’t know how to pronounce it. (My idiosyncrasies have idiosyncrasies.) Odd that I successfully finished a Masters’ degree in Russian Studies.

The next few things here are what I consider to be real trivia. They are more interesting than useful: 1792 George Washington casts 1st presidential veto, 1806 Isaac Quintard patents apple cider, 1973 NFL adopts jersey numbering system (ie quarterbacks, 1-19), 1986 Record for a throw-and-return boomerang toss is set (121 meters). I am wondering how a man can patent a drink that occurs naturally.

Of course, I took issue with some of the inclusions. Making the cut were 1585 Clemens Crabbeels becomes bishop of Hertogenbosch, 1961 Barbra Streisand appears on “The Jack Paar Show”, and 1992 Comedian Sam Kinison marries live-in girlfriend Malika Souiri. There were five sports references to four sports (maybe only cricket players were born and died on April 5). The most suspicious of these was 1953 Babe Didrikson-Zaharias wins LPGA Babe Didrikson-Zaharias Golf Open. I’d like to know who kept score.

In 1965 Lava Lamp Day was celebrated. Those have made a comeback. My daughter has one. Maybe we could make it a national holiday. At least in Colorado where smoking pot is legal.

I think that we should add some international holidays to our calendar. And maybe spread some of the local ones. April 5th is the first day of summer in Iceland. I really hope that has something to do with the length of the day as opposed to the temperature. It’s not halfway between the equinox and the solstice either. Perfect excuse for another day off.

It’s Arbor Day in South Korea. That one would work here in Michigan. We were given the official word that it is now safe to plant new trees. Of course, we’ve also been told that it’s better to plant trees at the end of the year. And the ground is still frozen in some spots. Another day off and nothing to do. Excellent!

In Taiwan, they are celebrating Death of Chiang Kai-shek/Tomb Sweeping Day. I’m not exactly sure how to spin this one for the U.S. Obviously we don’t want to support a dictator (particularly a dead one). Maybe we can make it into some sort of civilian memorial day. Then we can plan major sales, get a day off, and forget the people it is supposed to honor (just like the real Memorial Day).

I’d love to celebrate Switzerland’s Glarius Festival. If I knew what it was celebrating. Or could find any reference to it anywhere. It started in 1388. If anyone knows enough Swiss history to help, please chime in. I guess we could just pretend we know what it is and ask for the day off.

Last, but not least, it is Student Government Day in Massachusetts. It was celebrated on Friday since no one wanted to go to school on the weekend to study the government. I think this would be an excellent opportunity to send our paid politicians back to school to learn what government is actually supposed to do. That would probably take more than a day though…..

You can drive your HR department crazy suggesting new holidays. It won’t be long before they are encouraging you to shop and look at cat videos on company time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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0

Not Your Father’s Union

I belong to a union for retail workers. I had never heard of it before going to work at the store. That should have been a clue right off the bat. I have been around unions my entire life and thought I pretty much had them down. Silly me.

I grew up just outside Detroit (as in one mile from the border). Detroit was the ultimate union town. Every company associated with making a car (manufacturers, suppliers, transport) was closed shop. If you didn’t belong to a union and were blue-collar, you probably didn’t have a very good job. The United Auto Workers (UAW) was king, but there were teamsters, electricians, plumbers, metallurgy workers, and an alphabet soup of others. Every fall would see one or more school district closed by teachers’ strikes. Unfortunately our district always signed.

Every three years, the automakers (GM, Ford, and Chrysler) would “pattern-bargain”, so workers at all three companies would get the same pay and benefits. The unions were extremely successful and the workers enjoyed high wages and some of the best healthcare benefits in the country. Unfortunately, it also meant that other companies couldn’t afford to move here. (cue ominous music)

But car sales slumped with oil crises and foreign competition. Did you know that UAW membership is slightly more than one third of what it was in the heyday of the 1970’s? And as Charles Wilson, President of GM said (more or less) in 1953, “As goes GM, so goes the nation.” (the music gets louder)

When I was hired, the company was semi-open. I guess that’s what you call it. It was a stupid system. Even if you didn’t sign up, you had to pay the dues. Since you were paying the dues, the union had to represent you.

Representation is kind of a strong word for what we get from our union. The wages start at minimum wage in each state. They increase by 25 cents for every 700 hours we work to a maximum hourly rate somewhere in the neighborhood of $10. There are a few specialized jobs in the company that earn $1/hour more.

The pay scale has been the same since the union “negotiated” a second tier for new employees several contracts ago. The new tier pays approximately half of what the more senior employees make. I don’t think the company would have been allowed to pay people less than the minimum wage even if we didn’t have the union. Note: our starting pay is less than the big-box store across the street.

Because of the Affordable Care Act, the company was allowed to put in more stringent requirements for part-time employees to be eligible for health-care. Guess the union was too busy to even comment on that.

We are not allowed to strike. I have no idea how the union got the store to agree to that.

The store is closed on Christmas Day. Every other holiday is treated like a regular workday. I work every Thanksgiving because Thursday is part of my schedule. Full-time or part-time is irrelevant. I bet the union had a hard time getting that through too.

The union was nowhere around when the company changed its discipline system to allow all absences and tardies to stay on our record for a year instead of dropping off after 30 days. Discipline issues and absence issues can now be combined to determine whether an employee can be terminated.

Usually a union will get some kind of concession for that type of change. Here’s ours: if we go four months with no absences, our manager stops by and congratulates us (if they remember).

Last year, Michigan became a right-to-work state. Which means we can all opt out of the union if we choose to. In what can only be described as interesting timing, the union raised our dues this week. They are now 2 hours pay + $16 per month with a minimum of $30.08.

Since the dues are taken out weekly, it was almost impossible for some of the people to figure out how much the raise was actually going to be. The calculation [(2 hours +16) x12/52] is a bit complex, particularly since the store is good about hiring mentally challenged employees for many of the rote tasks.

Of course, we can’t get out of the union until the next contract is negotiated in May 2015. The union may not be doing much for us, but it seems to be taking care of itself just fine.

4

Everyone’s Confused; It Must be the Holidays

Something strange happens every year about this time. It’s the migration of the once-a-year shopper. Either that or the beginning of cold weather affects our brains more than scientists have admitted to us. All of a sudden I start getting a lot more questions about where to find things in the store. Way more than could be accounted for by the increased number of shoppers.

For example, a woman is looking at a display of cheese, “Where are the spices to use in a crock pot?” I explain to her that she needs to be looking in the spice aisle. She looks a little relieved and says thank you. I’m not sure why she thought she would find spices at the end of an aisle that says cheese.

“Where are the frozen vegetables?” I assume they want to know which aisle. I start out with, “They’re with the frozen foods, in…” As I fumble for the aisle number, she says, “Oh, that makes sense! Thank you.” I’m left to wonder whether she really didn’t understand that frozen vegetables would be with frozen food.

“Do you sell red hots? They come in a jar.” I look puzzled. The only red hots I know are hot dogs at the ball park and cinnamon candy. He says, “They come in a jar. They sell them at other stores.” I ask him whether they are meat, vaguely remembering something rather odd looking in a jar in the meat department. “Yes, that’s them.” So I send him to the meat department. Hopefully I hadn’t been looking at pickled eel or something.

“Where are the drain covers? For a kitchen sink.” I’m holding a box of cheese. I go across the aisle to look at kitchen implements, pretty sure it’s not the right spot. I said that I thought he would need to go to plumbing (the other side of the store). He asked if I could call someone who knew. So I called the manager who said they were in the plumbing aisle. And I took him to the same place we had been headed five minutes earlier.

“Where are the large slices of cheese? They used to hang on this wall.” She’s on one side of me while I kneel, stocking. I point to my other side. “Oh that’s right! I knew they were here somewhere.”

“Where are the large packages of processed cheddar cheese?” I tell her that we only sell the one size. “No you don’t. They go right here.” She points at a spot at the bottom of the cooler. I tell her that we don’t have cheddar cheese in those spots, just American cheese. “Then you just got rid of it. You always had it there.” I don’t know what to say. It hasn’t been there for the past two years I’ve been in the department.

“Where’s the gravy?” I tell her which aisle it’s in; two aisles past where we’re talking. “I’ve looked everywhere. It’s in a jar.” (What’s with the jars – do people think we keep them all together?) So I get up, and see a manager at the end of the that aisle. I walk toward him, and she follows. About halfway down the aisle. “Oh, here it is! Thank you!”

“Where’s the canned pumpkin? I’ve looked in fresh vegetables and fresh fruit and can’t find it. Do you have it on an end-cap?” I take her to the pie fillings and she gets what she wants. If she had told me that she had searched canned vegetables and couldn’t find it, I probably would have been a little less surprised by the question.

It’s not just the customers. A cashier wanted to know if she could give a rain check to a woman who wanted cheese slices that were out-of-stock. Her manager explained that since the item was not on sale, there was no need for a rain check. The woman could come back at any time and get it for that price. At least it was a new cashier.

I got the Thanksgiving shipment of cream cheese today. Two pallets of it. Due to space considerations, I put it on two (very heavy) carts which an extremely strong person from the grocery section helped me get into the cooler. These carts are intended to be used as storage so we can take out cases as we need them (not move the entire cart). I placed signs on each one saying that they should not be moved unless there were two people doing it. A while later, a guy from the deli comes up and asks if I can help him clean up the cream cheese in the cooler. “I needed to move it to get the chickens out. I barely moved it and it all fell over.” There was no way for one person to move it without jerking the cart to get it to move.

I asked him whether he had read the sign.

2

For Hire: Two (Semi) Trained Cats

The holidays are coming and I need some extra money. After much thought, I have decided that the best way to do that is to return to my former occupation as a manager. I can hire out my family and make sure they do the work correctly. Please understand it would be a temporary situation and that payment is expected before services are rendered. Rates are based on work expected. If you commit, you will sign an agreement stating the steps to be taken if you are not happy with the results. Please do not plan on using this same money for your own gift purchases. Tips to the worker are always appropriate.

In light of current economic conditions, I have also listed a number of things I would be willing to barter for these services. That way I can use the money I would have spent on them for gifts. So here are the workers:

Husband – electrical work, mechanical work, industrial cleaning, varmint removal. Note: you will want to schedule your jobs around certain college football games (list provided at time of inquiry)

Daughter – manicures, pedicures, typing, mainstream social media. Note: you will want to schedule your jobs around school, choir, and sleeping requirements. Also some football games. Available times will be provided if you are interested.

Son – academic writing,  satire, cutting edge social media. Note: he is nocturnal as well as attending school. Available times will be provided if you are interested.

Cat A (Super Snoops) – varmint control, light typing, prime cuddling. Note: cuddling generally occurs when you are typing. Note: semi-trained indicates she will use a litter box, not that she will obey any human command.

Cat B (Kommando Kitty) – varmint stalking (she plays, you kill), warming, cuddling. Note: cuddling generally occurs when you are sleeping or trying to do crossword puzzles. Note: semi-trained indicates she will use a litter box, not that she will obey any human command.

In addition we have a variety of wilder animals. Moles and groundhogs for underground tunneling needs. Rabbits and deer for garden control. Bats and snakes for child control. We also have possums, skunks, raccoons, and coyotes for various types of jobs. Note: these animals become your responsibility.

Items Taken for Barter – ruminant to replace our broken lawn mower, hoarder to help clean out my mother’s house, chocolate.

If you think it’s only fair that I offer services as well – baking, cooking (except red meat – my husband says I ruin it), cliched uplifting sayings. Note: Times will be negotiated. Reserve now for holiday baking. How you keep the cookies fresh will be your responsibility. (Some family members feel I should add sarcasm to my list of talents.)

If you would like to talk about any of these rare services, you may respond to this place. Please remember that the situations are temporary; I want my family back. Unless you offer a really, really good deal.