Monday, May 18, 2015

Clearing Out Some Clutter: Scatterthoughts

verbalplusvisual.com
I've got those Beatin' Back A Headache Blues. It's tough to collect my thoughts lately, so why even try? Time for a little clutterbusting post to sweep out some thought nerfuls.

1. 6. The approximate number of times we were asked if we had any guns to sell at our garage sale last weekend. Sigh. Also the number of times I wanted to shoot the people asking. Well aware of the Irony, yes, thanks. (ZERO. ZERO GUNS will always be the answer.)

2. Just Do It! Today I scanned an article about Personal Finance. It said that it was time to think less traditionally about Money, and that since the interest on savings accounts was so terribly low, it was time to make your money work for you instead of save it. It also said that you should look for ways to make money. Write an e-book, it suggested, and get income from that. Holy crap. What in the hell have I been waiting for? Why don't I just sit here and write an e-book and watch my cash come rolling in? Anyone can do it.

3. So You Don't Have To. Currently, I am testing a toothpaste. It is in a plain white tube with only a number and ingredients on it. As part of a polling group, I agreed to use it for two weeks and then answer some questions about it later. While I am using it, I am supposed to think about building healthy gums and strong teeth. Because I am naturally a Directions Follower and Quite Studious about all Task-Oriented things (former teacher, remember), I really and truly do this. The whole time I am brushing, I think, "This product is meant to build healthy gums and strong teeth for me." The last product I tested was kitty litter. Of course, Piper and Marlowe did that testing, but I was supposed to observe whether or not they were averse to it in any way and whether or not it helped eliminate litter box odor. (They weren't and it did.)

4. 1. The number of black watersnakes I have attempted to kill thus far in 2015. One was sunning itself on the shore, and I was seized with an uncharacteristic desire to get rid of it. I grabbed a nearby log, hefted it up over my head, and brought it down with as much force as I could muster right on top of the snake. It writhed and reared back, opening its mouth. I immediately doubled over and retched, nearly fainting, seeing those patches of light and dark as I struggled to remain upright and conscious. When I felt able, I looked to see if I had killed it. I saw it floating in the rocks at the shore, half in and half out. Later, it was gone. My brother-in-law gave me a long-handled ax for future snake killing, should the need arise again. Jared feels this is A Bad Idea.

5. Get Ready. I feel like this is the year that the bugs are beginning their takeover of Earth. I have never, ever in my life seen it so damn buggy. Of course I blame the republicans and their constant watering-down of Environmental Legislation, but this is beyond political. Spiders the size of Kennedy half-dollars are roaming the countryside and everywhere I look there are bugs, bugs, bugs. Crawlies and fliers and hard-shelled thingies that explode into spattery guts when you squash them are leaving marks all over my stuff. I can't go anyplace without there being a bug that has gone there before me. They're staking out their territory; their multiple feet are in The Door. And you can't kill them! They're immune to everything but Brute Force. Heaven help us if they ever, ever join forces with the snakes.

What I really want to test is a good bug spray. One that works on snakes and gun nuts, too. Sign me up.

Tuesday, May 05, 2015

In Which We Have Some Politics, And Beethoven And Beyonce Have A Child For Hillary

zazzle.com
Ladies and Gentlemen, forgive my extended absence. My time away from you has been spent in deep reflection and consultation with my family as I ponder what may very well be one of the most important decisions of my life. Only after this period of profound soul-searching and huddling with trusted advisers have I been able to face this difficult and momentous challenge. But I have always been dedicated to a life of Service. So, with that being said, I am announcing today that I am forming an exploratory committee to consider entering the race for the republican nomination for President of the United States of America.

I mean, what the heck? Why not? Everyone else is Doing It.

Dearest Readers, it's a veritable Cirque de So Lame of republican clowns out there stumping around, making speeches and zinging--not each other, no!--Hillary. Bless their teensy little flinty, tarry hearts. Rather than narrow the field and slap each other around, they're going after The Presumptive Nominee Of The Democratic Party. Now. In the Spring of 2015. Sigh. If I were Hillary, I'd hire a Lookalike to zip around to points hither and yon (in sunglasses).  Then I'd go on one of those cruises where the boat never docks. You know, it just floats along, steaming off to its final port where it is spruced up for its next run. She can study up on policy, platform, and all sorts of stuff (like some truthing) while getting spa treatments and toning up her bod for the really tough campaigning.

But I digress.

So far--and it's Way Early--the republicans are fielding/look to be fielding the following candidates:

1. Rand Paul
2. Ted Cruz
3. Marco Rubio
4. Carly Fiorina
5. Ben Carson
6. Scott Walker
7. Mike Huckabee
8. Lindsey Graham
9. Rick Santorum
10. Chris Christie
11. Jeb Bush
12. Rick Perry
13. Bobby Jindal
14. John Kasich
15. Donald Trump

Kudos to the republicans for such a bigass and diverse list. They have a woman, a black man, two Hispanic men (three if you count Jeb Bush, who self-identified as Hispanic on his 2009 Voter registration form), one Canadian man, an Indian man, and an evangelical minister. It's quite the Clown Car Of Craziness, and I don't miss Michele Bachmann in the least. (She's still getting a limited audience for her cuckootalk. Just the other day, she got her name in the papers for this gem: "Barack Obama is intent. It is his number one goal to ensure that Iran has a nuclear weapon....That is where we are headed right now. That is why the best thing we can do is have churches and pastors explain our times." Sigh.) Each of these candidates has already brought his or her own loopy doofusness into the mix, and I won't bore you with fifteen quotes to prove it (although Huckabee's recent quote to a Hispanic audience that while he doesn't speak Spanish, he does speak Jesus bears mention).

I could not even begin to lay bets on who will still Be There In November. So much Dark Money is involved that it isn't even about the voters anymore. But I think it's safe to get rid of several early on, like: Trump, Jindal, Perry, Christie, Santorum, Graham, Huckabee, Carson, Fiorino, Cruz, and Paul. Some of them are kooks (Trump, Santorum, Cruz); some of them can't get their shit together (Perry, Christie, Graham); some are just not very electable for various reasons (Jindal, Fiorina, Carson, Paul), whether it's experience, recognition, sex, race, likability, or policy, or just the Great Unknown. It's an ugly thing to say, but the republicans are not a Big Tent Party, and that's what they get. Is Ben Carson electable in Wyoming? Is Bobby Jindal going to get a vote in Montana?  Utah? How well will Rand Paul's message play in Wisconsin and Peoria? And there are a ton of Duck Dynasty devotees who would rather not vote than vote for Carly Fiorina. They won't vote for Hillary, either.

When Serious Debate Season starts, we may see Rubio, Walker, Bush, and Kasich up there posturing, the latter being Ohio's governor. He's been doing a lot of stumping lately, and is in the "flirting" stage of campaigning, a great definition of which can be found here. He has also been doing a lot of Evolving on many issues that are making him more of a Compassionate "Bush 41" Conservative. But don't be fooled. Ohio loves its guns and is currently sitting with a heartbeat bill in its Congress. And its school funding is a disaster, its own Supreme Court in contempt of itself on that for almost twenty years, and the governor hasn't seen fit to order that fix. (In all fairness, either did his predecessors.)

Ah, same old, same old. What do you expect? Because, republicans.

Again, though, I'm not about to trust in The Wisdom Of The American People.  It is this Intangible which brought to us the republican majority in the US Congress even after it was that party who shut down the government, caused our national credit rating to be lowered, and brought us the famous Sequester.  The Wisdom Of The American People has brought us so many, many things which are the nadir of Human Existence, including Truck Month commercials, Sarah Palin book deals, dogs in Halloween costumes, and as I must always mention in this list, Kardashians and spray cheese.  And Olive Garden.  (I'm sorry; had to be said.)

Finally, regarding Hillary.  Donna Brazile, Democratic strategist, analyst, and campaign manager for Al Gore in 2000 (among her many achievements), said that Hillary is starting off like Beethoven, but that she has to end up like Beyonce.  I disagree; I think she has to be a blend of both.  That made me wonder:  what would that look like? So I took these pictures of Beethoven and Beyonce and hit "morph" at www.morphthing.com












And the Internet's answer to what Hillary's campaign should look like, according to me, is this:

All I learned from that exercise was that I waste a lot of time on the Internet when it's rainy and cold outside. 

But, if you...no.  Never mind.


Thursday, April 23, 2015

Not So Much Road Rage As It Is Road Irk

www.dogonaut.com
For most of my life, I detested driving. It seemed impossibly dangerous and a terrible responsibility. There was so very much to look out for, and all at once! How could one, single person be expected to keep her eyes on the road, be aware of the speedometer, look out for other drivers, be conscious of hazards on the roadway, and remember everything she was supposed to know, including the directions of how to get where she was going, when and how to apply the brake (And what in the hell does it mean to imagine an egg under the pedals anyway? Why on earth would that ever, ever happen?), and holy crap, let's not forget the turn signals and Assured Clear Distance.

But I finally did get my driver's license at eighteen, and I used it only when necessary. I commuted to and from my classes at the local community college and thence to my part-time job at the bank. Happily, everyone else in my life loved to drive. I started to wonder if I somehow chose my friends and even my husband based upon their willingness to drive. Even my teaching job was only two and a half minutes away, from driveway to parking spot.

It was a lifestyle less than ideal, however, and I really felt as if my wings were clipped. But my discomfort with driving coupled with my lousy sense of direction made it Just One Of Those Things. Where would I go, anyway, that I wouldn't want to go without Rick or one of my friends?

My regular readers may recall that when I retired, Rick's present to me was a GPS. Since that day almost four years ago, I have made great use of it, taking solo trips to Virginia, Maryland, and lots of places here in Ohio. My little Prius is on the road almost every day, and driving is No Big Deal to me anymore.

And while I can't claim to be an expert driver, I have driven enough now to have noticed some things. I'm presenting them here, and I'd like to see if you've noticed them, too.

1. Buicks go more slowly than other cars.
2. Men wearing hats drive very, very slowly.
3. Vans are not allowed to go the speed limit.
4. It is a myth that red cars speed.
5. Old, green Ford Tauruses go slowly, and they cannot change lanes.
6. The bigger the pickup truck, the more slowly it goes.
7. The larger the vehicle, the greater the chance that I will get stuck behind it for eleventy hundred miles.

As you can perhaps determine from this list, I am often in a position wherein some cars are, as St. Patsy would say, "puddleducking." I am not often in a hurry, but Patience is still something I work at, and it irks me to no end to have other individuals impede my progress.

Buicks, for example, have no exception to their rule. The other day, I was behind a sporty-looking, black Buick two-door, brand new. Its windows were so tinted that it looked like the Batmobile. It actually revved its engine at the light. "Yes!" I thought. "This is one Buick that will let me get my ice cream home before it becomes a milkshake." Except...no. The car daintily crept away from the green light like a moribund snail. Could I neatly veer into the other lane? Of course not. Everyone else behind me was doing that. Even a red Ford Aerostar.

Sometimes, like the red Aerostar example, you get a terrible combination. This is what I fear when I am on a No Passing Zone two-way highway. Inevitably, I experience a 6/7 Combo or a 3/4 or even the Dreaded 1/2/4/7. Sometimes, The Hat Thing is a Thing All Its Own, and it is a Wildcard that can complicate any of the above. Toss in a few other variables (bumpersticker sentiments, cellphone usage, presence of DVD screens) and I can pretty much determine whether or not I'll be on time/serene/growling/needing to reach into the wine fridge.

It is not simply a question of Me Leaving Earlier, for often, I'm not due anyplace by a certain time. It is just that I want To Get There. Expeditiously and efficiently. I do not want to sightsee. I do not want to feel as if I am appearing in a slow motion sequence about traffic patterns in a Highway Department documentary.

Or, is that wrong?

Today, I laughed and laughed as my Prius and I finally passed the bigass flatbed truck going 43 mph in a 65 mph zone on the state highway. There was no one else on the road, but this hat-wearing guy was in my way and I was tired of looking at his ugly back end. That was a 7/2, for those of you scoring at home. I still had twenty more miles to go, and I wasn't going to stare at him in slo-mo the whole damn way.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Roadside Religion

http://www.conggiao.info/
Now that Spring is finally dawdling along to Ohio, Rick and I are weekending at the lake, which is in Ashland County, about a forty-five minute drive for us through small towns and farmland. And, apparently, judging by the yard signs we see, Proud Christians.

I am continually fascinated by this sort of Roadside Religion, this blaring Bible-thumping. My mother, St. Patsy, and I had a chat about it once when she accompanied me.

Nance: These God signs are ridiculous. Who puts a bigass sign full of religion in their yard?
St. Patsy: I know.
Nance: It's pretty lazy evangelizing, if you ask me. What if other people, like doctors, did their jobs like that? What if a doctor merely put up a sign in front of his office that said, "Take two aspirin and lie down" and that was it? What if I, as an English teacher, had simply put up a sign in my yard that said, "Apostrophes don't make plurals and go read the classics"? Those God Warriors are just taking the easy way out.
St. Patsy: (laughs; shakes head) Oh, Nance. Just ignore it.

My mother's stock answer for most things that annoyed me throughout my life has always been to Ignore It, from my siblings' torments to the sometimes hurtful retorts from my children to runs in my pantyhose to the random pimples on my chin. But I think it's pretty hard to ignore this:


And here's the other side of it, shot from the road parallel, the only place I could grab a decent photo:

As you can see, this is one bigass, preachy sign, the wording of which still escapes me. Exactly how does one Believe ON something/someone, anyway?  (St. Patsy assures me that this is Old Timey, Bible wording that she recalls from her Pre-Catholic Days.)  This sign is along a residential driveway, bordered by evergreens, and when I drove into said driveway to get the shot, it was peaceful and parklike, even eerily so. The other side's sentiment, stating that only Grace/Faith saves you, not Works, is a very Puritan sentiment. It goes all the way back to Predestination, that confusing doctrine that said your Final Destination (Heaven or Hell) was already decided at your birth, so no matter what you did, it didn't really matter. I still don't know why any Puritan bothered to behave at all. I'd have sinned myself ragged. (Of course, many did but the social and real costs were high.)

Lest you think that sign is the only one, let me present Exhibit B:


And its reverse:


This sign is much more subtle, of course, but is again in a rather nice and tranquil setting (the dead Easter plants notwithstanding). Across the street (where I parked to get out and get the shot) is a junky used car lot, and nearby is a railroad track. It is about two miles away from the bigass sign. And yes, that comma is killing me there.

This enormous and rather scary sign appeared over Easter. The bloody red paint presents a rather interesting and ironic contrast to its message:


Unfortunately, you cannot clearly see the small, also hand-lettered sign next to the bigass one. It reads "Do Not Come To The House." (Something the newspaper delivery person clearly took to heart, as you can tell by the newspaper lying in the grass.) This presents a wonderful paradox for me. JESUS LOVES YOU, but DO NOT COME TO THE HOUSE. Hey, they are into Jesus, but not so much what He was into.

The lakehouse is smack-dab in the middle of a large Amish enclave.  Right at the entrance to the lake community is an Amish farmhouse, and across the road is another one.  Several more are down the street.  They are easy to spot; they have no electric lines running to their homes, and their buggies and horses are often in view.  Once a week, their familiar black and deep blue clothing flutters on clotheslines next to white aprons and caps.

But the one thing you never see is overt signs of their devotion to their God.  They are quietly devout, silently living their Christian ideology. Their farmstands are shuttered on Sundays.

I'm a recovering Catholic; I am not religious, so I don't understand evangelical religions.  One thing I do understand, however, is that I don't like being preached to about pretty much anything, especially passive-aggressively.

A long time ago, someone passed this along about religion--I forget who--but I think it's a great analogy, however crude:  Religion is like a penis. It’s fine to have one, it’s fine to be proud of it, but please don’t whip it out in public and start waving it around...and don’t try to shove it down my throat.



Tuesday, April 07, 2015

Money Isn't Everything, And We're Worth Way More Than Twenty Bucks


Forgive me, Dear Readers, for this is certainly Old News to all of you, but I am only now hearing of the Campaign To Put A Woman On The Twenty-Dollar Bill. (I know; nothing gets past me for long.) Certainly this is something we need to talk about, and I haven't even sorted my own feelings about this yet. It's all terribly Grace Bedell-esque, isn't it?

In case anyone else has been similarly Out Of It, a little girl wrote to President Obama last year after doing a report on Anne Hutchinson, a Puritan woman who audaciously believed that God could speak to individuals, not just ministers, and who was termed a Jezebel by the local clergy for holding prayer services in her home. When this nine-year old student, Sofia, was watching other students give their reports, some of the others used paper money or coins as illustrations of their historical (male) figures. Sofia could not; neither could any of the other students who chose women. (Apparently no one chose Susan B. Anthony or Sacajawea.) She decided to write to the President and see if he could do something about this.

President Obama wrote back, albeit rather belatedly, and the Interwebs are now all aflutter with a campaign. Replacing President Andrew Jackson was the easy choice because of his tarnished reputation with Native Americans. ( The fact that he adopted two American Indian sons is not enough of a neutralizing factor.)  I'd rather we replace Benjamin Franklin because of his reputation as a known plagiarist and terrific bore, but no one asked me. (His reputation as a Big Deal among the French, especially their women, still amazes me, but then the French are quite fond of Jerry Lewis, too, so I have to say that they have historically Bad Taste In Men. Only their cuisine and wine save them. But I digress.)

Anyway.

The Interwebs got up a bigass poll as to which Historically Notable woman we want passed around by consumers in exchange for goods and services instead of President Andrew Jackson, and therein lies my Big Issue.

Obviously, I'm overthinking this. But the Principle Symbolism of passing around Eleanor Roosevelt, Harriet Tubman, Rosa Parks, or Chief Wilma Mankiller in exchange for stuff is ... icky to me. I feel as if it defeats the Purpose of the thing. These women didn't traffic in a currency as low and mean as money. They stood for principles much more meaningful, much more important. They worked for Freedom, Equality, Rights, Dignity. I hate the idea of putting any of them on money.

Yes, I'm aware that my own Personal and Revered Hero, President Abraham Lincoln, is on two kinds of currency, coin and paper money, and for the most part, I've never given that much thought. But I do cringe at the commercials that use his likeness to trump sales for insurance in an undignified way, and caricatures or other likenesses on Presidents' Day. I hate it. It's sad when historical figures have no control over their names or likenesses (Don't get me started on the TV show "Salem." They should be ashamed and in court.) If I had my way, President Lincoln wouldn't be on money either. No one would be. Put the flag, the eagle, the purple mountains majesty on there. It's more dignified all the way around. (Look what happened in Canada with Spocking Fives.)

It's not that I'm against money. I like it, and I hope to see a lot more of it. But money should not be a monument. (To some people and political parties, it already is.) Money doesn't increase awareness of the people whose image it bears. That's easy enough to prove. Grab ten people off the street and ask them if they know whether Hamilton or Franklin was a president of the United States. (For the record, neither one was.)

Sofia, the letter-writer herself, seems to be unaware that we already have two women on currency. How much awareness of Susan B. Anthony and Sacajawea did those coins raise? And while a good argument can be made that the dollar coin is an unfamiliar and rarely used form of American currency, is a twenty-dollar bill really a teaching tool? Ask any nine-year old like Sofia to name who is on the nickel and who is on the quarter and see if she or he knows that they are two different presidents.

President Obama's response to Sofia is lovely and encouraging in just the right way. The response of the Interwebs is, in the words of William Shakespeare (not Benjamin Franklin, although he would steal them outright for his "Almanack"), "full of sound and fury, Signifying nothing."

Speaking for myself, I'd rather not have my life commemorated by appearing on currency. Its value goes up and down; it is passed around to hands of varying repute. It is used for things that I may never have foreseen or sanctioned. I would rather, if a person of note, leave my life in the hands of careful and kind teachers and historians.

Sofia can learn more from her report on Anne Hutchinson by following the example of Anne Hutchinson than she can from envying the lazy posters of her classmates. Become a keeper of the flame by teaching about notable women and become a Notable Woman herself. She has a lot of examples already to follow.

image

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Getting Over It

Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to a New Feature here at the Dept. of Nance, one we like to think of as a sort of Public Service/Therapy Session called Get Over It. I'm sure you'll figure out how it works as we go along, and we encourage you to offer up your own Subjects for Future Treatment, or you can provide your own rendition in Comments.

Let's get on, shall we?
"The Internet is so bougie."

1. Senator Lindsey "Old Lady Fussypants" Graham (R-South Carolina) proudly declared on Meet the Press to moderator Chuck Todd, "I don't email. You can have every email I've ever sent. I've never sent one." Oh, Senator, aren't you clever? And...sad? This past week, my mother, who will be 85 in June, picked up her new iPad. It is her very first foray into the world of technology. She learned how to use email, text messaging, the Internet, and some apps. She delighted in being able to FaceTime with her family members and add birthdays to the calendar. She can listen to Vic Damone on her personal Pandora station. You, however, revel in the fact that you eschew electronic communication as if you are a Puritan church elder who is denying the devil. Oh, Senator Lindsey Graham, Get Over It. Being a Luddite isn't virtuous, it's dumb. You might not send emails, but your staffers do, and those missives carry the imprimatur of your office. So do your Facebook page and your Twitter account. You even have a Web presence, here, and it includes a link to email you. You even have a YouTube page! So, again, Senator, Get Over It. You're sending emails and involved in the age of technology whether you "are" or not.

2. Can everyone check the date right now? We are rounding the bend and within striking distance of April. Yet, Some People are still displaying Christmas Decorations in their yards, on their homes, and in their windows. Hey, Holiday-Challenged Or Lazy Sods, Get Over It! Christmas is past, done, gone, and other holidays have come and gone as well. Even the snow is gone. There is simply no reason for any of this, all of which I photographed while I drove home from the grocery store and in a two-block radius from my home:
At left, a manger scene; Christmas lights are wound all around; they are illuminated most nights.

Confusingly, this Christmas wreath is in contrast to the bouquet of fake spring flowers at the door.

WTF is going on here?  Jolly snowperson out front; Uncle Sam next to the door with the US Flag Heart alongside.
You are hurting my feelings and annoying your neighbors. You are likely prolonging winter. You are devaluing the surrounding properties. This is, in a word, outrageous. What are you waiting for? If you hate this job so much, don't put this crap up in the first place. Winter in NEO is cold and long. Those decorations won't ever, ever take themselves down or put themselves away, and they end up looking pathetic and depressing. No one wants to see this in February, March, or at the rate you are going, April. Get Over It and yank this junk now.  My next-door neighbors just took down their plastic candy canes and inflatables on Sunday, March 22nd.  I thought I would die.

3. Hey, republicans--at least the eleven of you who are NOT running for president--Barack Obama is going to finish out his second term as the President Of These United States Of America. Get Over It. While I know that many of you still cannot do that, let me add that your continued attempts to repeal the Affordable Care Act have passed Ludicrous and are on their way to Psychotic. Since you took over the majority in the House, you have put a vote on the floor almost sixty times in those four years, accomplishing precisely nothing. Yet, the first thing you use in any argument about Democrats being unable to effect legislation is the fact that "they had a supermajority" and yada yada yada. Looks like you're finding out what it's like to deal with a group of people who don't follow in lockstep with The Party all the time. Hate to say I Told You So, but when you courted the teapartiers, you invited disaster. Now, Get Over It. 
Lovin' those Grizzly Mamas and Evangelicals now, aren't you?

Probably some of my Dear Readers could smugly say, "Nance, you should take your own advice and Get Over It as far as these things go." To you I would say pleasantly, "I tried. For a Very Long Time, I have tried. Now my patience is at an end, and Something had to be said. I said it."

Now it is your turn. Who needs to Get Over It? Or would you like to have Your Turn and snark a little at the three I have admonished? Let fly.

pole vaulter image

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

That's Okay. I'm Used To It; This Happens To Men Around Me Every So Often.

After the requisite Luxuriation Period In My Jammies this morning, it was finally time to face the Grocery Shopping. Luckily, only a few items were on the list, and it was really only a trip to get Cat Supplies at the pet store that was forcing me outside today. I stopped there first, then continued to my grocery store, noting with great satisfaction the number of empty parking spaces. This was going to be a quick trip, thank goodness.

I zipped in, grabbed a cart, and was immediately thwarted. An elderly gentleman was intently browsing the baked goods right next to the carts. He sidled up even closer to them, then began to bend low. I had nowhere to go; his cart was blocking the aisle, and he had one hand resting on it. I waited, trying to be patient, and he bent lower still, aiming toward the bottom shelf. Suddenly, he simply fell, prone and on his face, his legs completely stretched out towards me, cart veering off ahead. He was motionless. I bent down, and as I did, I yelled, "Call 911! An elderly man just collapsed. Hurry!" I tried to feel if he was breathing by holding my hand near his nose and mouth, and I was afraid to move him. I could feel warm breath, steady and definite. "Sir. Sir. Can you hear me? Sir, can you hear me?"

Another person knelt next to me. "We have to get him turned over," she said. I looked at her; she looked somehow familiar. She had black hair piled up on her head and large, dark eyes. She was about my age and height, and she was calm and capable-sounding. "Yes," I said. "Ready when you are." Carefully and gently we turned the man over. He was awake and blinking.

The young man from the Customer Service Desk rushed over and got behind his head. "Run to Closeouts and get him a pillow!" he yelled to a nearby employee. In the meantime, he sat with one leg askew so that his thigh cradled the man's head, slightly propped. "You're gonna be okay, buddy," he said in his heavy West Virginian accent. "The paramedics are on their way."

"Sir, what's your name?" I asked him gently. His blue eyes blinked and he focused on my face. "Silas Bell," he answered. "I'm fine. That cold air just knocked the wind outa me."

We all asked him if there was anyone with him. No, there wasn't. There was no one to call, either, according to Silas Bell. He was shopping alone today, as always. He had a daughter, but she lived far away.

"Sir, do you have a pacemaker?" the black-haired woman asked. He told her no. "Are you a heart patient?" Silas Bell had had a bypass in 2006. He struggled to sit up. "I'm fine. This happens to me all the time at home, and it happens to me here, too. I usually find a place to sit down until it passes. But this time, there was no place to sit."

"Please," I said, "please lie back and try to relax a little. You have a bump on your head and nose from when you fell. Let the medics check you out just to make sure that you don't have a concussion or anything. You fell pretty hard, and right flat on your face."

"Mr. Bell," said the black-haired woman, "does someone have your power of attorney? Are you sure there isn't someone we should call for you?"

"My girlfriend, Ruth Winters, has my power of attorney. No need to call her. I'm fine. I just want to get my groceries and go home."

As we waited for the ambulance to come, we all talked to Mr. Bell to keep him calm and relaxed while shoppers came in and saw him lying there. We found out he was 86 years old and that the black-haired woman was a career nurse. He was alert and aware, and he wanted to get his shopping done.

To my amazement, the paramedics walked in without a single piece of equipment. Neither did they take a single vital sign or attempt to ascertain much information about him with regard to his health history. They heard what happened, asked if he wanted to go to the hospital, and when he said no, they filled out a form and he signed it. That was it. As I pushed my cart away, I felt uneasy and upset.

This man was alone, had just had a fall involving his head, is 86 years old, and then was going to drive a car. None of that scenario merited at least taking vital signs? Asking about medications, diabetes, blood pressure issues, anything? Why did they come into the store with nothing at all? Wouldn't that have cost them precious time if the victim were bleeding, unconscious, having trouble breathing, possibly in other trouble?

As I walked away, I wondered if I should have offered to accompany Mr. Bell as he shopped, just until he was sure he felt better. But I know he would have refused. After all, the paramedics had signed off on him, giving him the reassurance that he was perfectly fine. Perhaps he was. But I still feel unsettled.

Faithful Readers may be experiencing a bit of déjà vu while reading this story. You and me both. While I am always glad to be of help (obviously), I'd rather not have to be The One in such cases. I will say, however, that I suppose I'd better hone my CPR skills. The men are getting older.

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