Entitlement

I recently wrote a blog post about the cubic yard test, an antiquated test that the Seattle Department of Transportation uses to see if you’re qualified to work in one of their field positions—a test that I suggest excludes most women. Apparently this post struck a nerve for some people, but not in the way that I expected. It sparked a discussion about people who bend the rules for their own benefit, and then that got us talking about entitlement, in general.

Rich people would love it if you thought of poor people when you heard the word entitlement. As in, “those welfare types sure think they’re entitled.” Don’t fall for it. Entitled to what? Subsistence income that keeps you right at the poverty line, in substandard housing, in dangerous neighborhoods, with inadequate health care, humiliating hoops to jump through every month, and a dependence on the arbitrary whims of insane politicians? Yeah, that’s everyone’s goal in life.

No, it’s rich people who have the appalling sense of entitlement. I once worked with a guy who drove a Mercedes to work, and was only working to keep from being bored. He asked me how I liked my 8-year-old Hyundai hatchback. He wasn’t just making small talk. He said he needed to get a “junk car” to drive around in “neighborhoods like these.” I nearly lost my lunch. Some of us don’t have a spare car to use when we’re “slumming it” at work, dude.

And a friend sent me this article, about a bunch of rich idiots with beachfront property in Florida who took it upon themselves to have sand bulldozed off of public beaches so that they could have dunes protecting their houses from the sea level rise that is occurring because of the climate change that they refuse to acknowledge. Potentially hundreds of thousands of dollars-worth of damage, not to mention the environmental impact, but by all means, help yourself!

That prompted someone else to send me this article about a judge here in Seattle who had his gardener cut down 120 trees in a public park in order to improve his view. He was fined $500,000 for his hubris, but has only managed to cough up 200k of that so far, and it’s been 15 years. He still owns, but no longer resides in, that 2.4 million dollar house, so it’s not like he doesn’t have the money. He’s trying to get his homeowner’s insurance to foot the bill. All I can say is: Solid. Brass. Balls.

That’s almost as brassy and solid as when Ben Carson tried to buy a $31,000 table for his office using taxpayer money, and when he got caught, blamed it on his wife. Seriously, Ben? You’ve proven that you are a stupid, stupid man, but that doesn’t mean that the rest of us are as stupid as you are.

There are so many stories about people with a “let them eat cake” attitude that I could go on forever. I don’t know what disgusts me more: that people like this exist, or that they don’t even bother to hide their shenanigans anymore. When are we going to say that enough is enough?

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Ways to Increase Your Safety

I take the issue of safety very seriously, perhaps more so than the average person. Due to some abuse I experienced in my childhood, I have been diagnosed with PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). It gets triggered when I feel as if people in positions of authority don’t have my best interests at heart, or when I don’t feel safe for whatever reason.

Given my history, I could have chosen to live my life in fear and hide from the world, or I could have become clingy, assumed a victim mentality and placed my security in the hands of others, but I choose not to hide behind some man. First of all, you can’t always count on the fact that one will be there when you need him. Second, if you spend all your time cowering behind someone else, your view ahead is very limited. You could miss a lot of good stuff that way.

So here are some tricks I’ve picked up over the years, either through safety classes put on by the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office, instructional videos, common sense, or learning from the mistakes of others. I hope these tips help others live more independent lives as well.

  • Make sure you have efficient locks on all your windows and doors, and adequate lighting. Put a chain on your door that isn’t too long.
  • Never open your door to a stranger. Talk through the door if necessary. If you know you’re going to have to open the door, for example, if you’re expecting a pizza delivery, shout loudly over your shoulder, “I’ll get it!” You never want someone to think you’re alone.
  • Never sit in your car in a parking lot with the doors unlocked.
  • If someone walks up to you and you’re getting a bad vibe, before they’re too close, say, “Don’t I know your mother?” Criminals do not like to be known.
  • If you aren’t feeling comfortable, and you can have a friend watch out for you when you’re walking to your car, for example, don’t be hesitant to ask. You would do the same for them, wouldn’t you? Don’t let your pride override your instincts. But also don’t live your life counting on that person to be there. Accept your limitations, but also try to reduce them whenever possible. Your safety is your own responsibility.
  • Avoid “sliders”. This is a new phenomenon. When pumping gas, many women leave their purse on the seat in the unlocked car. Sliders will drive up beside your passenger side, hop out, quietly open your passenger door and steal your purse. So when pumping gas, keep your purse with you or lock your doors.
  • Never open your door to leave the house before first looking out the window or peep hole. You never know who might be standing there.
  • Carry keys in your hand. Don’t fumble for keys at your door. Keys can also make an effective weapon when interwoven between your fingers.
  • If you can avoid carrying a purse, do so. Pockets are better than fanny packs, which are better than purses. If you have to carry a purse, keep the zipper closed, the flap turned inward toward your body, in front of you and away from the street, and rest your hand on it as you walk. Never leave a purse hanging behind you on a chair in a restaurant.
  • If you have to carry a large amount of money, divide it up and carry it in several compartments.
  • Never enter an elevator with a stranger who makes you feel uncomfortable. When you do ride in an elevator, locate the alarm button in case you need it. Stand next to the control panel. If you suspect trouble, push that alarm button and as many other buttons as possible. Trust your instincts. Allow the other passengers to push the button for their floors, THEN push yours. If you’re feeling at risk, get off at an earlier floor if necessary.
  • When you leave a store, pause at the door and scan the parking lot before heading toward your car. Parking lots are high crime areas.
  • If you’re approached when you’re in your car, lay on the horn, long and loud. Flash your lights. Rev your engine. Step on your brakes. Put on your flashers. Set off the alarm. Do anything to draw attention.
  • Carry a flashlight at night.
  • If someone taps your shoulder, turn, yes, but keep walking, backward, away from him. Talk with your hands up at shoulder level so you can take action if necessary.
  • Always carry a well charged cell phone.
  • Never assume that clean cut young man is a good guy. Bad guys come in all shapes and sizes. The vast majority of criminals, however, are males between the ages of 15 and 25, so pay particular attention to them.
  • If someone pulls a weapon on you and says, “Give me your wallet,” by all means, give it to them. But don’t just hand it over. Throw it and run in the opposite direction.
  • Take self-defense classes if you can. There are all sorts of nifty wrist releases that you can learn that are beyond the scope of this blog entry. There are also a ton of wrist release and self-defense videos on Youtube. Check them out and practice with a friend.
  • Don’t be afraid to use your voice. Scream. Sadly, you’ll be more likely to get attention if you scream “Fire!” as opposed to “Help!” or “Rape!”.
  • People assume women will be quiet and polite. More than once I’ve turned to a potential bad guy and shouted, “BACK OFF!!!” They all practically soiled themselves while running away.
  • People also don’t expect a “normal” looking person to act crazy. So don’t be afraid to babble, foam at the mouth, twitch, even rub dirt in your hair and eat grass if you have to. It will freak them out, which will give you the psychological upper hand.
  • If someone grabs you, don’t struggle with the grabbed hand. While it’s holding you, you are also holding it. Worry about the other hand.
  • If someone pushes you, they will expect you to resist the push. So don’t. Pull. It will throw them off balance. Similarly, if someone pulls you, don’t resist the pull. Push.
  • Strike straight ahead if possible. It will block their vision. And go for the chin and nose.
  • Anything can be a weapon. A rolled up magazine to the Adam’s apple or a credit card or some folded glasses to the eyeball can do a lot of damage.
  • If your car breaks down and a stranger approaches, tell him or her that someone has already called the police and they’re on their way. Keep your cell phone to your ear and pretend to be talking on it. Or, if you let a good Samaritan change a tire for you, they shouldn’t be offended if you stay in the locked car while they do so.
  • Whenever possible, vary your routine. Try not to be predictable. But at the same time, if you’ll be doing something unusual, let someone you trust know where you’re going and how long you’ll be gone.
  • If your state has a sex offender database, look up the locations of the sex offenders in your neighborhood. If you live in an urban area, you’ll most likely be horrified. I have 15 living in a two mile radius of me. Mostly these people like to prey on small children. But lawbreakers are lawbreakers, and some sex offenders like to steal identities so they can hide. Get to know their faces.
  • If you have a chance, chat with the beat cop who works in your neighborhood. He can tell you about hot spots, gang activity, crime trends, things to look out for. It never hurts to be on a first name basis with your beat cop.
  • If you ever have to give your car key to someone, like a parking attendant or an oil change clerk, ALWAYS remove the key from your key chain. Never hand your house keys to anyone. They can be copied.
  • Create the illusion of multiple occupants in your home. People are less apt to break into a home if there’s a chance that someone is there.
  • Put a sign by your doorbell that says, “One person in this house works nights and sleeps during the day. Please do not disturb.”
  • Leave some old muddy work boots on your front porch. (Although I have to say that the last time I did this, the boots were, ironically, stolen.)
  • If you go out at night, leave some lights on in the house. You can even get timers so they will go off and on at preset times.
  • Get a dog. It doesn’t even have to be a big one. Just a noisy one. Bad guys hate noise. If you can’t have a dog, create the illusion of one. Put up beware of dog signs. Leave a BIG water bowl and a heavy duty chain in a visible place. Buy some toys, have a friend’s dog chew on them so they look used, and then leave those toys scattered in the yard.
  • If you can’t afford a security system, you can buy a motion detector alarm from Radio Shack, and place it high enough up in a room that it won’t be triggered by children or pets, but it will alert you if anyone enters the front part of your house while you sleep.
  • Keep your shades down at night.
  • If you have a remote entry to your car, you can always trigger your car alarm from inside the house if you need to draw attention.
  • If you have keyless entry to you car, make sure you block the keypad with your body so no one nearby can see your entry code. And of course do the same thing at the ATM machine.
  • Be aware of your surroundings. Scope out potential hiding places: shrubs, parked cars, blind alleys, dark corners. Give them a wide berth. Be alert. Don’t get distracted by your cell phone. Look around and also use your peripheral vision. Listen for movement behind you, too. If you can’t avoid dangerous places, have your tear gas in your hand and ready to be used.
  • Talk to your friends and family about safety. Share ideas. Share this blog entry. And if you have any other safety tips, please include them in the comments section below. Knowledge is power.

Remember, only you can assume complete mental and physical responsibility for your well-being. I can’t guarantee that any of the above ideas will work, but I certainly hope they’ll reduce your risk. It would be nice if there were always some big strong guy to come to your rescue, but relying on that creates a false sense of security. If you put your welfare solely in someone else’s hands, you’re living in a fool’s paradise. Be alert. Be safe.

Female self defense

[Image credit: rawfitnesssaratoga.com]

Why I Hate Alcohol

I haven’t had a drink in 30 years. Not even a beer. Suddenly one day I realized that I had never left a bar feeling better about myself. And then there was the time when I was 17 and woke up in the trunk of my car. No idea how I got there. Fortunately the lid wasn’t closed.

Over the years, with the benefit of sober clarity, I’ve come to hate alcohol and everything it stands for.

Because of my father’s love of alcohol, I never knew him. I never knew what it was like to feel safe, protected and loved by a father. Because of his alcohol I grew up on welfare, and wound up living in a tent. Because of alcohol I was thrust into a nightmare of sexual abuse. Because of alcohol I never felt confident or self-assured, and was never taught that I deserved good things, or how to choose a decent man to share my life with.

Alcohol not only devastates the drinker, but everyone who is sucked into his or her destructive orbit.

Drunk drivers kill people every single day, and often walk away from those accidents unscathed themselves. They leave children without parents, and parents to mourn their children for the rest of their lives.

I HATE it when alcoholism is described as a disease. Granted, some people are more predisposed to be alcoholics than others, but in my opinion it should be described as a mental health issue or an addiction at most. It’s a disorder in which the individual makes poor choices, and is selfish, selfish, selfish to the point of not caring about the havoc that those choices wreak on family, friends, and the wider community.

I also resent it when people try to pressure me into drinking. They are uncomfortable in indulging in this habit if everyone around them isn’t doing the same, so I get to be bullied, as if I have to apologize for doing what is right for me.

Sure, there are those out there who can drink socially and in moderation. But if that’s the case, why bother? Alcohol, even in moderation, takes away money and time that could be better spent elsewhere. Alcohol is a waste. And those responsible drinkers in question help make drinking seem socially acceptable, and that only encourages alcoholics to remain in denial for that much longer. A certain percentage of society will survive Russian roulette, but does that mean that they should show others who might not be so lucky how to play the game?

Alcohol gives people the liquid courage to be cruel, to be bullies, to be violent and to humiliate the people they claim to love. Alcohol makes you look like a fool. Alcohol destroys families, weddings, reunions, holidays, birthdays, funerals, graduations, concerts, parties, and untold numbers of public events. Alcohol encourages criminality and causes suicides. Alcohol destroys businesses, ruins livelihoods, causes homelessness, devastates relationships and undermines trust.

Alcohol is a fluid wall that you thrust up between yourself and the people who want to spend time with you. It’s a sword that you use to strike out at others. It makes you feel that screaming and shouting and hitting and hurting are acceptable. And in the end, alcohol will leave you all alone in the world, with nothing but your own regrets to keep you warm as you survey the chilling destruction that you have caused.

When my father died his cold, lonely alcoholic death, they found in his wallet a picture of my mother on their honeymoon—a woman he hadn’t had any contact with in 25 years. What a sad and pathetic reminder of what could have been. What should have been.

[See also my blog entry, Another Rant About Alcoholism.]

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Bob Cratchit is my Hero

When I walked in the door today, two of my coworkers were engaged in a bit of a shouting match. It was about the temperature. One felt it was too hot, the other felt it was just right, and what ensued was a battle royal, despite the fact that one of them would be leaving in less than 20 minutes. “Merry Christmas”, I thought.

When you work three people to a shift, trapped for 8 hours in a little room as we do on this drawbridge, a certain amount of drama is bound to ensue. For the love of all that’s holy, do NOT discuss politics or religion up in here. Not if you want to escape with your life. Well, okay, I’m exaggerating, but you get what I’m saying. When someone turns on the news, I’ve learned to put on my head phones and lose myself in my music.

In honor of the season, I brought in one of the many versions of the Christmas Carol and watched it on my laptop. It occurred to me that of all the characters in that classic story, the one who appeals to me the most is Bob Cratchit. In many ways I can relate to him, and in many others I aspire to be him. I relate to his circumstances. He’s underpaid, and his boss (in my case, the greater corporation, because I actually like my immediate supervisor) is cheap, and is much more concerned with getting a day’s work out of his employees than he is about their general welfare. My employers could so easily pay me more and change my life, and could provide decent health insurance and proper and up-to-date working equipment, but they don’t care about me or anyone else. As with Scrooge, it’s all about the money. We wear the chains we forge in life. No doubt about it.

But here’s what impresses me about Bob Cratchit: In spite of his dismal working conditions and stress at home (a sick child, a lot of mouths to feed, and what appears to be a cranky, albeit loving spouse), he’s basically very happy, and seems to have his priorities straight. Work is something you do for survival. But what you live for is friends and family. There’s nothing else that matters, really–certainly not the room temperature.

In the interests of full disclosure, in spite of the lousy pay and benefits, I actually do like my job. I’d just like to be able to do more than merely survive. But maybe I should take a page from Bob Cratchit’s book and stop feeling hopeless about my lot in life. Maybe I should shift my focus away from the things I want and will most likely never have, and instead realize that I already have quite a bit—a roof over my head (for now, anyway), enough food on my table, and people whom I love very much. When all is said and done, that’s really all any of us need. Everything else is just stuff.