business, complaints, rants

I’m not loving it at the Golden Arches… another COVID related rant.

I have a bunch of travel writing to do, and I am definitely going to get to it. But before I dive into travel blogging, I have to rant about something that happened yesterday as we were driving home from Austria. I’m sure some people reading this will come to the conclusion that I was being a “Karen” (a term I loathe, by the way). If you want to think of me in that way, it’s your privilege. However, I think my complaint makes some sense… especially if you live in Europe, where COVID rules and regulations change at every border, and at the whims of whomever is in charge.

Alright… so now that I’ve issued a disclaimer of sorts, here’s my story.

Bill and I just took a trip that took us through Germany, Austria, Slovenia, and Croatia. In every place, there were different COVID-19 rules in effect regarding mask wearing, vaccines, and what not. In Austria, if you have been vaccinated, you don’t even need to wear a mask, unless you’re on a bus, in a grocery store, or visiting a medical facility. In Slovenia, masks were supposedly required, but very few people wore them properly, or at all. Same with Croatia, where almost everyone who wore a mask had it under their noses or chins. Croatia and Slovenia are supposedly COVID “hot spots”, although the places we visited were almost completely devoid of people.

In Germany, masks are still required indoors, and some regions have rules that are stricter than others. In Bavaria, for instance, customers are supposed to wear masks. However, a surgical mask is evidently not enough. You’re supposed to wear a FFP2 mask, which is thicker and looks like a coffee filter. Because they’re really thick and close fitting, I can’t stand to wear them. So I don’t. That’s not a problem in Hesse, where I live, because here, a surgical mask works. And people, on the whole, are less anal retentive in Hesse than they are in some of the more southern regions of Germany.

Anyway, I guess Bavaria had loosened up on the masking protocols over the summer, because on our way to Austria on October 26th, we stopped at a roadside McDonald’s for lunch. We had to show the cashier that we were vaccinated, and of course, we wore masks. However, I, and many of the other people in the restaurant, wore surgical masks, and no one said a word about it. No one said anything at the rest stops we used in Bavaria, either, going to or coming back from the more southern countries we visited.

On the way home yesterday, we ended up stopping at the same McDonald’s for lunch. I hadn’t wanted to stop there again, but when we tried to stop at a different roadside restaurant, there was no parking available for cars. The spaces were all taken up by tractor trailers. The next available stop was the same one we visited on the way down to Austria on October 26th. Again, we visited that restaurant not two weeks ago and had no issues, even though I wasn’t wearing the much vaunted FFP2 mask, nor were many of the other people in the restaurant.

I wasn’t smiling with my eyes… that is for sure.

We walked into the McDonald’s, which was pretty empty. To get to the counter, we had to walk past the restrooms and up a flight of stairs. We approached the cashier who, without saying “Hello” or “Welcome” or “Kiss my ass” or anything, pointed to me and said I needed a FFP2 mask. I probably gave her an extremely annoyed look. Then I turned to Bill and said, “Nope. Forget it. Let’s just go.”

FUCK.

So we turned around and left the McDonald’s. Then we went to the neighboring Burger King and got lunch there, although we decided to eat it in the car. I probably will never return to that McDonald’s, because I will always remember the rude way that cashier in an empty restaurant told me it wasn’t enough that I have been fully vaccinated and was wearing a medical mask. I also needed to be wearing the coffee filter for the ten seconds I would be face to face with that woman, who was, herself, along with her fellow crew members, wearing a simple surgical mask.

I actually did have a brand new FFP2 mask in my purse, but I realized that in order to comply with the rules, I’d have to leave the restaurant, take off my surgical mask, put on the FFP2 mask, then go back in, climb the flight of stairs, show my vaccine certs, and then sit down at a table, where I would promptly remove the mask so we could have a rather crappy lunch. It seemed like an unnecessary and pointless exercise, when all I wanted to do was pick up some food and quickly eat before I turned into a hangry Godzilla.

Frankly, that exchange, while likely in compliance with Bavaria’s current COVID-19 rules, was very off-putting. The experience of eating at a McDonald’s is, in and of itself, pretty off-putting, anyway. It seemed absurd to me that just 24 hours earlier, Bill and I visited a beautiful restaurant in Salzburg, where we wore masks inside and were advised we could remove them entirely, once we showed the hostess proof of vaccination.

I realize that the cashier was just doing what she was ordered to do, and I did, after the fact, read that the rules changed again as of yesterday morning. I know that working at McDonald’s, even in a civilized country like Germany, is probably not the most fun job there is, and I know it doesn’t pay very well. I don’t know how much anxiety was involved for her in pointing out to me that my medical mask wasn’t suitable. My guess, given that it was Bavaria, is that she probably enjoyed enforcing the rules. She probably doesn’t care that we left the restaurant disappointed and unsatisfied. However, if enough people end up doing that, I’m not sure how long that restaurant can stay in business.

My complaint isn’t even so much with the cashier who was following the rules, as it is with the fact that the rules in Bavaria differ so much from the rules in other areas. Since that restaurant is at a truck stop, it serves people who are coming from all over Europe, driving from places that have different rules that change by the region or the ever changing hospital rates. A lot of them may not be aware of or prepared for Bavaria’s quirkier rules which, to be honest, are probably not much more than optics that make it look like Bavaria is doing “more” to stop the spread of the virus.

Seriously… stop and think about it for a minute. Bill wore a FFP2 mask, but it’s one he’s used repeatedly for I don’t know how long. Those masks cost significantly more than surgical masks do, so people tend to reuse them for long periods of time, which hinders their effectiveness. Changing out the masks is also something that people don’t necessarily think to do, even if the cost of them isn’t a burden. People tend to put them on for as long as required, take them off, and stuff them somewhere convenient for quick and easy compliance.

For that reason, I am convinced that this rule is just about optics and trying to “look” more aggressive. It’s probably a political move more than anything else. As long as you wear the “right” mask, it doesn’t matter that it’s months old. You just have to look like you’re in compliance. I’m sure my fresher surgical mask was less polluted and probably “safer” than Bill’s nasty, overused FFP2 was. But because his was a FFP2, he was deemed as following the rules in an otherwise empty restaurant, while I didn’t pass muster.

The disposable masks also create pollution. I’ve seen quite a lot of them tossed on the ground. And it also doesn’t look like the FFP2 masks are even that much more effective. Though Bavaria has required the heavier masks since January 2021, they’re obviously still having issues with the spread of the virus. That’s not going to improve until more people get vaccinated or develop antibodies. The stupid mask procedures are just a Band-Aid, especially when they are arbitrarily enforced, and not required of staff members.

I didn’t argue with the McDonald’s cashier. I didn’t flip her off, threaten her, swear at her, or even say anything particularly snarky. I just looked really annoyed and said, “Nope. Forget it. Let’s go.” Then we turned around and left, not having done any business with the huge American monstrosity that is McDonald’s. That pretty much means that McDonald’s doesn’t offer a product worth jumping through hoops for, nor did the cashier’s less than friendly and welcoming attitude make me want to cooperate with her. So we went to their competitor, instead. The food wasn’t any better there, but at least it satisfied my hunger long enough to get us home before I went full on Godzilla.

And now, I’m thinking I won’t be voluntarily doing any business in Bavaria until this COVID bullshit is mitigated. Nothing against the Bavarians, but there are other places I can visit where I don’t have to jump through endless anal retentive hoops to accomplish the most basic activities of life. Sheesh… I know I’m complaining, but give me a break. I come from the United States, where people are actually coming to physical blows over COVID rules. Americans aren’t the only ones, either. Some Germans are starting to get fed up, too. Recently, a German man shot and killed a cashier at a gas station because he felt constrained by the rules and was upset about government overreach Sadly, some Germans who are similarly fed up were laughing and cheering about the murder.

I also read a fascinating story yesterday about how some American McDonald’s employees in Bradford, Pennsylvania are fed up with the crappy working conditions and low pay there. Almost the entire day shift walked off the job. I can’t blame them at all for that. I don’t know if it’s better to work at a German McDonald’s… it probably is. The food is only marginally better, anyway. I do think it’s kind of funny to be so concerned about FFP2 masks when McDonald’s is unhealthy on so many levels. Properly worn, the FFP2 masks supposedly protect the wearer from viruses, but then they get exposed to the food at McDonald’s.

To be clear, I certainly don’t think it’s appropriate to resort to physical violence or kill people over face masks… but I’m not going to voluntarily accept being forced to wear a FFP2 as a condition of doing business, unless that becomes the norm everywhere, is required of everyone, and is consistently enforced. Bavaria and its hyper-controlling powers-that-be can just stick that shit where the sun doesn’t shine… and that sure does describe my disposition yesterday, as we left the Golden Arches for the more welcoming Burger King next door.

Come to think of it… it’s healthier all the way around not to visit the Golden Arches. Maybe I should thank the Bavarians for that. 😉

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dogs, lessons learned

All better… getting back to business, doing my business…

I think I can now declare myself fully recovered from the stomach bug. In fact, this morning, I was back in business, doing my business. And that is a good thing, because this morning, there are two plumbers in the bathroom, fixing the shower and the fixtures on the bathtub.

Mood music. This is a great rendition, but the crowd isn’t into the singalong.

When we moved into this house in late 2018, the main bathroom still had the original fixtures on the shower and tub. At first, we couldn’t even use the shower, because we couldn’t turn on the cold water spigot. It was completely immobilized by lime, caused by the hard water in Germany– land of no water softeners. The taps hadn’t been descaled in a very long time before we moved in, so we literally couldn’t turn on the faucet. The plumber fixed that by completely replacing the fixtures, but not before a couple of weeks had passed. We had to use the bathtub, which also had a problem. Water leaked copiously from under the faucet whenever we ran the water.

I kept bugging Bill to speak to the landlord about it, but he was still a bit traumatized by our last renting experience. Even though our current landlord is a very kind and reasonable person, Bill dreaded having to talk to him about something not right in the house. I can totally understand that, but it was a real pain for me when it came time to clean. Because the tub’s fixtures were so leaky, we didn’t use the tub at all, once the shower was fixed. And, although I don’t mind taking showers, it didn’t sit well with me that there’s so much rent being paid and we couldn’t really use the tub without water leaking all over the place.

Before anyone points this out, allow me to pre-emptively state that I know I could have spoken up… but because I didn’t sign the lease, and because I got blamed for everything in our last house, we decided it would be better if Bill deals with the landlord. I was the one who spoke up about the awning, and I got a ration of shit for it. This time, we’re doing things differently. I’m staying as uninvolved with the business side as possible. Maybe it’s not the best way to handle things, but that’s how it’s worked out. Fortunately, we don’t have a lot of issues in this house.

Bill mentioned the tub a couple of times, and finally had a serious conversation with the landlord about it. The landlord brought the plumber over in late July to check out what needed to be done. Now, after a couple of months of waiting for appointment availability and new parts, the plumbers are here fixing the tub and shower. They don’t know it yet, but our next project is probably going to be the bathroom sink downstairs. I think the fixture on the sink is original to the house– they have an early 90s/late 80s look to them. It’s due to be replaced for the same reason the tub’s fixtures needed replacing. But the faucet on the sink doesn’t leak nearly as badly as the tub’s fixtures did.

I just took a look at the shower and I’m very pleased. We got a nice upgraded double shower head that is in the corner of the stall, rather than the middle. Maybe that will mean less water on the floor after our showers, too. And now I can offer an addendum about the sink. I just mentioned it to the landlord, since he came over to find the tiles for the bathtub. I was not expecting anything to happen today with that, but to my delight and relief, he was totally cool with it. The plumber just checked out the sink and it looks like that is going to be fixed, too. I thanked all of them profusely and told the landlord how happy I am! He really is a nice man.

The other business that needs attending today involves Arran. He has a few itchy bumps that are going to be removed. His surgery isn’t until noon, so he’s a bit grumpy, since he’s not allowed to eat. I fear the bumps are probably new mast cell tumors. Maybe I’m wrong, though I doubt it. Hopefully, they won’t be too high grade, and Arran will heal quickly and uneventfully. It’s hard watching him get older. He’s a very special dog.

We also thought Arran’s predecessor, MacGregor was a special dog, and he really was. MacGregor and Bill had a very unique bond. But Arran has turned out to have an even more devoted bond than MacGregor did. I’ve often thought that MacGregor sent Arran to us, to help heal Bill’s broken heart when we lost him to a spinal tumor in December 2012. When we brought Arran home in January 2013, Arran immediately took to Bill, and he’s been by his side ever since. They absolutely adore each other.

MacGregor in North Carolina, not long before we lost him to cancer. He did this all the time. MacGregor also had a special weekend ritual. He would wait for Bill to open his eyes after sleeping, then crawl on his chest and kiss him on the nose. MacGregor didn’t like most men and was afraid of all strangers, but he LOVED Bill.
This photo was taken on the day we brought Arran home, back in North Carolina. He loved Bill from the moment he became part of the family. As you can see, he and MacGregor have something in common. Arran is sweet and friendly, and isn’t afraid of people, but Bill is definitely his favorite human.

Meanwhile, Noyzi is firmly established as my dog. He doesn’t listen to Bill, although he has become less afraid of him. At night, when it’s time for the last pee break of the day, I have to be the one to get him to go outside. Luckily, he listens to my voice and basically does what I tell him to do. I think Noyzi is the type of dog who needs an assertive leader. It probably makes him feel secure and reassured. I told Bill it was time for him to use that Army trained command voice he used to tell me about when we were dating. I know he can do it, but he’s such a gentle person that he’d rather not.

In some ways, Noyzi reminds me of Zane. He has a very sunny personality. Every time he sees me, he smiles and wags his stumpy little tail. He likes to play, and he’s very friendly. But Zane was a much more confident, well-adjusted dog, and he was all about having a good time and being friends with everybody. Noyzi probably would have been more like that had he not been traumatized. However, every day, we see him getting to be a more confident dog. He’s even starting to misbehave a bit.

I actually bought that rug for Zane, so he’d have traction when jumping on the bed. Noyzi doesn’t get on the furniture, but he’s becoming a lot more attached to me. He hangs out behind my chair or next to the bed most days.

I’ll end today’s post with an anecdote about yesterday… I shared this status on Facebook yesterday.

Who wants to know why I am completely repulsed right now?

A couple of people liked the post, so this is my tale of woe…

Alright… so I have had a stomach virus for the past few days. I’m mostly better now, but still haven’t really managed to brave a real meal yet. I noticed a jar of applesauce in the fridge, which is recommended for gut health. I had slim hopes for it, since I didn’t remember when it was purchased. Bill doesn’t like applesauce. I opened it up, and there was about a half inch of gray sludge on the surface. So I threw it out.

Then I went outside, still kind of grossed out by the applesauce, took a look at the yard, and decided to turn on the robotic mower. To turn it on, I have to lift a panel. I had trouble getting it to go up the whole way. Then I noticed a HUGE slug stuck in the hinge. Lifting the panel only wedged the slug in tighter. There I was, with quaking guts, using a stick to try to pull the slug out, and it just kept getting fatter and more repulsive looking. Half its body was stuck. Finally, I managed to get it out, but then I had to get it off the mower, so I got my pruning shears and used them as tongs to pull the fat little bastard off my mower. It fell in the grass, where I hope it will be mowed. 

I am hoping to be less grossed out by the time Bill gets home so we can eat a real meal.

I’m happy to report that last night, I finally did have a real meal. It was glorious… as was this morning’s real dump, which was somewhat normal. Hallelujah!

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book reviews, business

Repost: Fascinating look at the Thalhimer family of Virginia…

Here’s another reposted book review, which appears as/is, and was originally written on October 6, 2015. It comes up because last night, I was remembering The Sword and the Kilt, and trying to describe popovers to Bill.

Having grown up mostly in Virginia in the 70s and 80s, I often shopped at the Thalhimers department store at Coliseum Mall in Hampton, Virginia.  Since I was a kid back then, I didn’t know anything about Thalhimers or any of the other venerable department stores that were around back in the day.  I just know my mom would shop there with me when I managed to convince her to take me to the mall, instead of AAFES, for my school clothes.  When I got older, I used to go shopping with my former best friend and her mother and we’d have lunch at Thalhimers very cool medieval themed restaurant, The Sword and the Kilt.  It was the first place I ever had a popover.

Sadly, back in the early 1990s, Thalhimers was lost in a hostile takeover.  The May Company, which bought a number of historic department store brands in those days, pretty much ruined Thalhimers to the point at which it was no longer recognizable.  It finally died a pitiful death after 150 years of business, mostly in Virginia and North Carolina.

An interview with Elizabeth Thalhimer Smartt, author of Finding Thalhimers.

I don’t know what prompted me to research Thalhimers, but I somehow ended up finding out about Elizabeth Thalhimer Smartt’s 2010 book, Finding Thalhimers.  I downloaded the book and just finished it today.  I feel like I’ve learned a lot about the history of a local retail giant with a fascinating history.  Reading Smartt’s descriptions of the years when the business was booming made me wish I were older so I could have seen more of it for myself.

As you might guess by her name, Smartt is herself a member of the Thalhimer family, and she grew up watching her dad go to work at “The Store”.  Smartt fantasized about one day being president of her family’s business, but unfortunately, it was not to be.  Discount chains like Wal-Mart, Target, and even K-Mart spelled death for many department stores. 

Finding Thalhimers is about more than just a retail department store chain.  It’s also about the fascinating history of the Thalhimer family, which originated in Tairnbach, a tiny town not too far from Heidelberg, Germany.  Since I am currently living near Stuttgart and have visited Heidelberg, this part of the story was especially interesting.  I learned things I never knew.  For instance, Smartt writes that her family is Jewish and back in the 1800s, Jews were not allowed to have last names.  When the law changed, the parents of the man who would found Thalhimers in Richmond, Virginia, decided to give themselves a name that reflected their origin in Germany.

Smartt then takes readers on a journey across the Atlantic Ocean.  Her ancestors landed in New Orleans and made their way to Richmond, where they would have a profound effect on the local economy and the city’s development.  I enjoyed reading about how Thalhimers had a friendly rivalry with Miller & Rhodes, another venerable Virginia department store institution.  I remember shopping there as a kid, too.  Unfortunately, they also perished just a couple of years before Thalhimers did.

I enjoyed reading about how the name Thalhimer was originally spelled Thalheimer.  Thanks to a sign painter’s sloppy spelling, the brand’s name changed forever.  Smartt’s book touches on so many notable times in history, too.  She writes about an ancestor who spent three months with a friend driving around Europe in his father’s Chevrolet, making sure to avoid the political unrest in Germany that was going on during the 1930s.  The young man visited stores, collected ideas for the business and products to be offered, and had a good time being young. 

Smartt writes about the civil rights era of the early 1960s, when Thalhimers and Miller & Rhodes were targeted for sit ins.  I was impressed by how Thalhimers handled the racial tensions of the times.  And she reminds readers that her family once owned the Golden Skillet fried chicken restaurants that once dotted the land.  I used to love Golden Skillet chicken, though it never ended up being the next KFC as some in the family had predicted.

Smartt also writes about some of the business deals her ancestors made, some of which were very shrewd and kind of fascinating.  As someone who grew up visiting Richmond and the surrounding areas, I was very intrigued by her descriptions of what it was like there as the Thalhimer family built their business.  They made some amazing deals that netted huge profits.  I almost got the sense that things might have been different for the Thalhimer family had they focused on what the Walton family was doing.  But that would have certainly upset many of their loyal fans.

An ad for Thalhimers… I remember when furs were okay to wear.

I could tell this project was a labor of love for Elizabeth Thalhimer Smartt, who is just three years younger than I am.  Her writing style is very loving and warm– almost reverent– and she clearly enjoyed talking to many of her relatives and people who were involved in Thalhimers’ success.  I got the sense that she enjoys a close bond with her family, especially her dad.  I was impressed by how she pieced together her family’s history and was able to trace it all the way to their origins in Germany, which she visited with her parents, husband, and sister.

Overall, I really enjoyed Smartt’s book, though I get the sense that she writes the story while wearing rose colored glasses.  I can’t really blame her, since she’s writing about her family.  But naturally, it’s not the most objective look at the Thalhimer family.  I’m sure there are people out there who might have a different take on some of the stories Smartt shares.  I have no horse in that race, though, so I’ll just say I really enjoyed reading this book and am happy to recommend it, especially to Virginia and North Carolina natives who remember Thalhimers.  It’s also a good read for aspiring businesspeople. 

Edited to add: Elizabeth Thalhimer Smart used to have a Facebook page for this book. I wrote a comment and she was kind enough to respond. It turns out that I currently live not too far from where the Thalhimer family originated.

As an Amazon Associate, I get a small commission from Amazon on sales made through my site.

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book reviews, business

Repost: Mary Kay Ash’s story…

Here’s a repost of a review I wrote for Epinions.com in 2007, when I was living on a military installation. I also reposted it on the original OH blog in 2015. It appears here as/is.

Comments from 2015

I am inspired to repost this book review because someone on the Recovery from Mormonism Web site compared the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to being a “Red Jacket” for Mary Kay cosmetics…  If the thought of that intrigues you, I encourage clicking the link and having a look at the thread.  It’s very interesting. 

Incidentally, Bill’s TBM ex wife used to sell Mary Kay.  She bought a shitload of products and started off like gangbusters, but then lost interest at a time when they were seriously low on cash.  They ended up taking a loss, which probably contributed heavily to the sorry financial state Bill was in when we first met.  Not surprisingly, Mary Kay cosmetics, while often decent products, is sort of a cult-like organization.  I have often found multi-level marketing schemes interesting.  Perhaps I will repost a few more book reviews on the subject. 

I wasn’t all that fond of Mary Kay’s writing, but figured I might as well repost the review anyway…

Original review from 2007

Mary Kay cosmetics are everywhere when you live on a military installation. As I drive around Fort Belvoir, I frequently see cars with bumper stickers advertising Mary Kay. Sometimes, I see a home with a sign that indicates that the resident sells the stuff. I’ve never used Mary Kay cosmetics myself, but I have heard about the company from former colleagues and my husband, whose ex wife used to sell Mary Kay. I had heard interesting things about the way the company is run and, I have to admit, I’m fascinated by businesses that use the multi-level marketing model. I also like biographies. All of those factors, plus the fact that Mary Kay Ash’s autobiography, Mary Kay, was priced at a dollar at the thrift shop, led me to read about the lady who started Mary Kay cosmetics and put countless women to work for themselves.

On my copy of Mary Kay, there’s a picture of Mary Kay on the cover. She looks disturbingly like Dolly Parton with perfectly coiffed, big hair, a flawlessly painted face, a beaded gown and rhinestone earrings, and a serene countenance. This book was originally published in 1981, but I have a copy from the third printing in 1994. The picture must be from that time. Mary Kay Ash is no spring chicken, but she looks very pretty and confident in the picture. That makes perfect sense, given the book’s subject matter. Mary Kay Ash has made a big name for herself by promoting a good self-image, high self-esteem, an enthusiastic attitude, and dogged persistence. That’s why the picture on the cover should matter to those who will read this book. In this case, you can judge this book, at least in part, by its cover. 

I suspect that Ash’s audience mostly consists of Mary Kay consultants. Ash’s writing pretty much boils over with bubbly enthusiasm for her company and the products it offers. She starts at the beginning, explaining how she went from being a housewife to an extremely successful businessperson. She explains some of her business practices and how some of her more popular products were developed. All the while, she keeps her message overwhelmingly positive and inspirational. Her message to her readers seems to be that they can accomplish anything. Judging by Mary Kay’s success, lots of beauty consultants have gotten that message loud and clear.

To be totally honest, though, I found this book a bit irritating. Maybe it’s because I’m a pessimist. I just found the high energy, overly effervescent, extremely positive tone in this book hard to take after awhile. I appreciate the fact that Mary Kay Ash made her dream a reality and I agree that a good attitude can carry a person far in life. However, while I think dreams are a wonderful thing, I also think they should be grounded in reality. The truth is, not everyone can cut it in sales. Not everyone has the appropriate personality to deal with people and deliver good customer service all the time. Despite Mary Kay’s overwhelmingly positive message, not everyone who tries to sell her products will be a great success… in fact, not everyone has it in them to be a great success in life. If everyone in life were a great success, people like Mary Kay Ash would be just average folks. 

I don’t know how available this book is nowadays. I would guess that the most likely place to find it is from a Mary Kay consultant or a used book outlet. Mary Kay Ash’s story is inspirational and reasonably well written, but the tone was a bit too chirpy for my taste. I recommend it to people who like very positive stories… otherwise, skip it. 

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business, condescending twatbags, healthcare, Trump

The businessman’s COVID-19 lament…

I could write about a couple of topics this morning. I might even do just that, since it’s a rainy Sunday and I can’t think of anything I’d like to do today outside of the house. I spent a good portion of yesterday working on my latest jigsaw puzzle, which will probably be finished faster than the last two I’ve done. For some reason, it’s not as hard as the others have been, even though it’s 1000 pieces.

Anyway… I know people are probably tired of COVID-19 and politics, but I’m going to go there again today, mainly because I read a sad story in the Washington Post this morning. It was a businessman’s lament. The article, entitled ‘It’s like Trump said: The cure has been worse than the disease.’ kind of gave me more of an insight as to why so many people think Trump is “good” for them, despite all of his obvious shortcomings as a human being.

Mike Fratantuono is the manager of Sunset Restaurant in Glen Burnie, Maryland. He says that before COVID-19 struck, the restaurant was going to celebrate 60 years in business. Sixty years in business is a big deal, and that business has sustained four generations. But come September 30, 2020, it will cease to operate, mainly because it couldn’t survive COVID-19.

I know what a lot of people are thinking about the businessman’s lament. They’ve clearly expressed it in self-righteous and snarky tones in the comment section on Facebook. Lots of people have dismissed Mike’s sadness about losing the business, reminding him that people are dying and a restaurant is not worth more than a single human life.

I guess I see this situation differently, though, because my parents were small business owners. My dad ran a custom picture framing shop and an art gallery out of our home. My mom sold knitting and needlework supplies and she taught countless people how to do needle crafts (although she never taught me). They were valued contributors to the community. I grew up with so many people coming into our house to buy yarn or look at the latest print by local artists John Barber or P. Buckley Moss.

My parents worked very hard to run that business for over 25 years. Along with my dad’s Air Force retirement pay and my mom’s organist money, that business sustained them and me, when I was still a minor. In fact, I am a rare individual in that I grew up with total access to BOTH of my parents. They worked out of our home every day, so I was never a latchkey kid. I didn’t always appreciate having so much access to my parents, especially since they weren’t really all that into being parents. But it was a unique way to grow up. They were always there, and unlike a lot of my peers, I didn’t have any stepparents , step-siblings, or half-siblings. My parents were married for 56 years. My mom sold the business to a woman who went to work for my dad in 1989, and now she’s continuing the legacy, albeit without Mom’s needlework and knitting shop.

It’s true that businesses can be rebuilt, but if you’ve never built one and watched it flourish, you might not have any idea of how much it hurts to helplessly watch it fail, especially when it’s due to something completely beyond your control. Maybe some readers think Mike Fratantuono is “callous” for being so upset about losing the family business. But I think people should listen to him, because his words illustrate why so many folks are still voting for Donald Trump, despite the fact that Trump is an obvious sleaze. Trump gives businesspeople hope that their dreams, along with the hard work and money it takes to make them come to fruition, won’t be dashed. Trump’s words soothe their fears about the future. Maybe most of what Trump says is factually wrong or outright lies, but his words give business owners hope.

Now… personally, I am much more concerned about human rights and decency than I am the economy, and that is why I would never vote for Donald Trump. But I’m not blind to the concerns of people who are worried about business and the economy. Unfortunately, people still have to make ends meet, even if there is a pandemic going on. Bills have to be paid, even if a business isn’t allowed to operate because of a pandemic.

When a business like the Sunset Restaurant fails, it’s not just a tragedy for the people who built it. It also affects the many people who work there or supply goods and services to the restaurant. It affects the community, because without that business, there will be fewer taxes paid. And there will be people who need help to survive. Every time a business dies, more people will need help. They become food insecure, unable to purchase medicines, seek medical care, or pay their mortgages. They can’t afford things like the Internet, so their kids can attend school at home… if they still manage to keep their homes.

It’s easy to tell these folks to “buck up” and rebuild. It’s hard for them to do it. They deserve empathy, too.

Trump has done precious little to help people weather the storm of the pandemic. There was a $1200 stimulus check and some temporary aid. Other than that, zilch. I wish Trump supporters would see that they should be getting more help from the government, especially since the pandemic is no one’s fault. Sometimes people do need help, and our government should be providing it, to some extent. It’s not just to help individuals; it’s to help the country survive. Many times, people end up in bad situations through no fault of their own. The pandemic is one such situation that was not caused by anyone in particular, but it affects everyone.

I do think it’s too bad that people who are commenting on Mike’s plight apparently have no regard for what he and his family have lost. I think people on both sides of the political spectrum are seriously lacking in empathy. Of course it’s terrible to lose friends and family members to COVID-19. But it’s also terrible to lose them for other reasons, like untreated diseases for want of the money to pay for doctors and medications, or suicide due to the despair of losing one’s livelihood. Moreover, COVID-19 has had a terrible effect on the quality of life for a lot of people, and those who are indignantly calling out Mike for his businessman’s lament should stop and think about that. Not everyone can weather COVID-19 with friends and family, living in a comfortable home. Some people can barely stand to be at home, even if it’s a comfortable place to be. We all have different ways of coping with the pandemic and some of us are more successful at coping than others are.

It’s not lost on me that Bill and I have been very lucky. His work hasn’t yet been threatened, and we live in a country where there are safety nets for people who need assistance. Medical care is not extremely expensive here, as it is in the United States, and people have maintained a reasonable and respectful attitude about containing COVID-19. In the United States, I’m seeing a lot of polarization, and not too many people in the happy medium. Or, if they do exist, they aren’t speaking up.

We have people who think it’s reasonable for a woman to be tased for not wearing a face mask while she was sitting outside, distanced from other people at her son’s football game. And we have people who insist that COVID-19 is a hoax brought about entirely for political reasons, to topple Trump’s re-election. We have people saying that we should all quit practicing any precautions against the virus because it’s ruining businesses and spoiling everyone’s fun. And we have people who think those who are legitimately depressed because they’ve lost their jobs or watched their businesses crumble should just get over themselves and stop complaining because at least no one died (yet).

I think it’s completely reasonable for businesspeople to lament right now. It’s as reasonable for them to be upset as it is for family and friends of someone to mourn death caused by COVID-19. It affects everyone, doesn’t discriminate, and has changed everything in less than a year. That’s a lot for anyone to handle. We should all have more compassion and empathy for each other, and we should then work together and be understanding as we all try to navigate dealing with the virus… and Trump’s “leadership”.

Anyway… I hope Mike and his co-workers and family members can recover after this great setback. Sixty years in business is an amazing achievement. I have empathy for them, because losing a business is a difficult thing. For some people, it’s every bit as traumatic as losing a loved one is. Hell, I felt a great loss last year when I moved my blog and basically started over… however, I will admit that I think the new blog is better for a lot of reasons. At least now, most of the people who read and comment are here because they’re genuinely interested.

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