Competition.

Twenty years ago, back when I was the Program Director of a small Top 40 radio station, I used to dread “book months”. These book months were the ratings period for radio, the timeframe when select listeners would write down what radio stations they listened to, how often they listened and for how long they listened. It was during these times that we would formulate promotions that would dazzle listeners, for example, nearly impossible to win $100,000 giveaways, free trips to New York to see “The Rosie O’Donnell Show” and chances to win vacuum cleaners for Mom as a gift for Mother’s Day. We knew how to impress.

The ultimate reason for dazzling the listener was to generate more ratings during book months, which would then in turn make our little radio station more appealing to ad buyers. This, in turn, would give us more commercials to play, causing us to drop more songs per hour but would guarantee we would have enough revenue coming in to paint the studio in gaudy blues and golds, fulfill payroll requirements and allow us to do nifty things like put up billboards to remind folks how great the radio station was. 

One of the many things I didn’t like about this process was the sense of competition. We were one of two Top 40 radio stations in the area and I was told to keep the radio station aggressive. Push the limits with music, reach fringe listeners if possible and more importantly tell them how bad the other radio station was. We had to fight, Fight, FIGHT our way to the top for that ad revenue. The trouble was, the other radio station, Kiss 102, had a bunch of great ideas, had a good team for the most part and played the same music we did. Heck, the Program Director of Kiss 102 was a friend of mine. We had worked together at another station. We “grew up” together in radio. But I had to make the Mr. Voice say clever, snarky things about them all in the name of promotion.

Competition. Why?

I can’t help but roll my eyes when people start chanting and screeching and carrying on about the United States of America being the Greatest Nation on Earth. Now, don’t misconstrue what I’m saying here. I believe that as an American citizen that I’ve got it pretty good. The water is clean, the air is breathable, I can get food for myself with the utmost of ease and I feel mostly safe. I can conduct my life as I see fit, for the most part, without interference, censorship or fear of being killed for just being me. And as an American, I believe that the opportunities that I am afforded should be available to anyone in the world that is willing to come here, work hard, be true, be honest and stand shoulder to shoulder with me as an American citizen. Honestly, I don’t care if you’re black, white, brown, yellow, mauve or drink vodka for breakfast.

We just need to humble about it.

A good portion of the American populace gets off on war. We thrive of competition. Video games, movies, television shows, all of it is about strife. Reality shows are about discord. We are adrenaline junkies and we are not happy unless there’s a threat of a zombie attacking us at any moment. Bad guys lurk everywhere, even if we have to remind you that there’s an impossibly small chance that you’re going to have a bad guy come after you at any given moment. We build huge stadiums next to overcrowded high schools that are falling down, just so we can scream and make other noises that our school is the best at (insert sport here). Apps on our little technological wonders of communication (smartphones) match us up against strangers when we do something as simple as take a morning walk. We earn points, likes, stars, hearts, retweets and shares to stoke our ego. You, too, can go viral!

I often wonder what it is like to live somewhere where folks have more security in themselves. Where they don’t need to be told how great they are at every given turn. Where there are no trophies for participation. Where they don’t need to be constantly reminded that they live in the greatest country on the planet. What is that like? Does it still exist?

Last night I watched Donald Trump give his nomination acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention. His speech was filled with many buzzwords, a bunch of catch phrases and a whole lot of sound bites that will be perfect for the news burps that are designed for the average American with the attention span of a gnat. His name was projected in outrageously gold letters, his skin had a strikingly similar hue and his words, while plentiful, struck hollow. Apparently there’s a lot he’s going to do as President, right from Day One, but no one has a clue as to how he’s going to accomplish this, what with the three branches of the United States government and whatnot. There was much praise, USUALLY IN CAPS, about how great his speech was, especially because he uttered the letters, L-G-B-T-Q.  He is going to keep the gay folks safe. However, if the GOP Platform is realized, we can’t get married, our jobs are always in jeopardy and God forbid we buy a cake in Indiana, but Trump is going to do right by us and be wonderful.  WONDERFUL!

Please people, please calm down. And don’t get me started about that damn wall along the southern border.

Can we find our place back to humility? Can we go back to being the greatest country on the planet without constantly beating our chests screeching about it, wearing red, white and blue war paint on our faces and telling the rest of the world they suck? And can we start listening? Has substance given way to sound bites? Is there a chance that common sense will become common again?

Can we just do what we do, as best as we can, without screaming “oh my god look at me I’m awesome!” all the time?

Four Dozen Complete.

I’ve used this picture before on a birthday post.

10birthday

Taken on my 10th birthday, I’m sitting in front of an airplane hangar holding a cake that appears to have a spiderweb on it. It was taken in 1978.

Today I officially completed four dozen years. The fifth dozen begins today. I’m not even halfway to the finish line yet. 

My birthday was wonderful, lovely and low key. Earl bought me some pilot goodies as a present. We also had a delicious steak dinner, complete with salt potatoes, corn on the cob and strawberry shortcake prepared properly with biscuits because angel food cups are a city thing. And I’m a country boy. Thank god I’m a country boy. 

Now I’m singing.

1 Comment

More Words.

I was in the local Subway picking up a sandwich for lunch because I’m a lazy person, especially on Friday. There was a woman with a two-ish year old toddler either running around smashing bags of chips or attached to her hip because he didn’t want to smash potato chips anymore. He wanted a bag of Doritos with his lunch but the mother told him he was going to have a cookie, because it was obvious to everyone that the child definitely needed more sugar, especially in the dose of a huge cookie from Subway.

The woman paid and started getting settled at her table when she bleated out, from one side of the restaurant to the other, “Where do I find the milk?” She yelled this on a couple of occasions because the cashier, working behind the counter and getting customers through the line in an expedient fashion, didn’t realize that the question was posed for him. Eventually her question was heard and she was directed to the cooler in another corner of the restaurant where it was easy to see a wide selection of milk, bottled soft drinks and the like. She didn’t say thank you.

She ordered a large cup and was making her way to the self-service fountain when I was up there putting ice in my cup for a refreshing glass of iced tea.  I backed away because the chip smasher followed her up there and I didn’t want to spill or drop my meal before getting the heck out of that restaurant.  She stopped in front of the napkins and straws and took two pills while her child pulled at her pants.

“Mommy is taking two Ibuprophen”, she said to the toddler. Apparently he knows what Iburprophen is, or at the very least there’s a lot of pain relievers used in his household.

“You’re driving me insane and a pain in the ass, but I love you.”

This kind of rubbed me the wrong way. I get that even the best behaved kids can be holy terrors at times, and while this toddler was irritating me, I didn’t find his behavior to be too far out of bounds for a young lad his age. Yes, he needed some discipline but that comes with the territory of being a parent. And while I have never. been a parent, I can say that I’m pretty sure I would never call a young child “a pain in the ass” to his face. Maybe at the end of the day when I’m hiding in my bedroom after bedtime or something, but not directly to the kid in a crowded restaurant. Especially with a bullhorn voice like she had.

When my sister and I were kids, around this time of year we would occasionally be bratty to my Mom and she’d say, “I don’t like you right now but I’ll always love you.”

It’s no wonder that passive-aggressive behavior is a particular pet peeve of mine. Or maybe I’m just the sensitive sort that needs to rail it in a notch.

My point of this musing is that no one knows what a youngster or toddler is going to remember as they make their way through life. At nearly 48 years old I can easily remember events from before I was two years old. Some things stick. Words help mold the individual.

We should choose our words wisely. Even in the most stressful of times.

3 Comments

Stolen.

I spent Tuesday until tonight working in the Upstate New York city of Rochester. This was the opportunity to meet my new boss and work with some of the teammates I hadn’t seen in a while. It was a productive time and I’m excited about the new challenges that lie ahead for me on my career track. In that respect my life is good.

I checked into the hotel after work on Tuesday and had a pleasant night’s sleep in the Radisson. The hotel in downtown Rochester looked quite tired but folks seemed pleasant enough and the room had a Sleep Number bed so I figured it couldn’t be all bad. I was feeling rested when I left for work Wednesday morning.  When I returned after a team dinner Wednesday night, I discovered the key card no longer opened my door. A security guard was walking by at the time and offered to let me in. I found it odd that he didn’t ask me for any sort of identification, he just unlocked the door and in I went.

The room had not been touched by housekeeping. Several of my drawers were ajar. I went down to the lobby to get new keys since the old ones no longer worked. When I came back I entered the room and called Earl to catch him up on the day. It was then that I discovered that a couple of items were missing from my room.

My 2013 15-inch MacBook Pro (personal one) had been removed from my Army Ruck Sack.

My USB multi-device charger was no longer plugged into the nightstand lamp and all four cables were missing.

The Apple Watch case that contained my black leather watch strap was gone.

I dialed up “Find My iPhone” on my iPhone, which can also find my Mac and iPads, and the MacBook Pro was powered down. I sent a command to lock and erase as soon as it was powered up.

I reported the missing items to the front desk. I was told that when I checked in on Tuesday the clerk hadn’t done it properly and they thought the room was empty. They had charged me a “no show fee”. I told them that I spent a wonderful night on the Sleep Number bed and that the clerk had made a big deal about that bed Tuesday at check-in. Because the room showed empty, they gave the room to someone else while I was at work. Apparently that person entered the room, saw that it was occupied and went back down to the lobby to request another room.

Apparently they took a long, hard look at the stuff in my room and decided to let their fingers do the walking.

I reported the incident to security, who asked me a bunch of questions and began an investigation. I advised that we should call the police and he didn’t really seem super motivated to do so, so I did myself.  Three hours later the Rochester Police came in and I filed a report. They gave me a case number and left the lobby to go talk to security.

As of this moment my laptop has not been powered on or had already been erased. I’m not too worried about my data because I’m a bit fanatical about passwords and encryption and the like. Everything is backed up at home so I’m not worried that I lost anything.

I’m just pissed.

I received a call today from the head of security at the hotel that the laptop had still not been recovered but they had turned a claim into their insurance company. I hope to hear from them within the next day or so. I will hound them in unbelievable ways if I don’t hear from them by Monday.

When I was speaking with the police officer he indicated that they have been called to the hotel “too often” over the past several months. This did not feel encouraging, though I have to admit that the police officer was very nice, very thorough and very professional. I still have a lot of respect for the police.

So I’m without a laptop for a little while. It’s time to really get to know this iPad Pro I’ve been carrying about for the past couple of month.

I’m still pissed, though.

Casual.

I’m working in an office today. Recent organizational changes at work have found me a new boss. He’s relatively close to my home office this week so I traveled to western New York to meet with him and a couple of my team mates. I still have a great gig and I am still quite content. 

When I travel to Greenville, S.C. for work I sometimes have a hard time working in a cubicle with typical office chatter in progress around me. The office here in Rochester is fairly quiet; I can hear only occasional conversation and other ambient noises that reveal the fact that I am not working my home office. However, there are is one noise that I’m finding distracting and that’s the clop-clop-clopping of flip flops. Someone in the office has been walking around with very loose fitting sandals of some sort.

When it comes to your typical corporate settings, I tend to be on the conservative type. When I worked at the radio station in the mid 1990s, I would wear shorts because it was a Fun! Radio Station Atmosphere! with plenty of Frivolity! But as I moved to a more corporate environment, I found myself sticking to the tried and true khakis and a collared shirt; usually button down but sometimes a polo shirt. Dressing this way just put me into the mood to work.

Now, when Earl and I go out to a restaurant or something in the summertime, I’ve been known to wear my sandals with my khaki pants and rest of my business casual attire. But I can’t bring myself to wear sandals or flip flops to the office, especially when they’re loud and clopping sounding.

The company does have a Friday casual attire policy that includes shorts during the summertime, but I can’t bring myself to go to an office in shorts and sandals or the like. I just wouldn’t feel like working or be in the mindset to make the sorts of decisions and the like that I do on a daily basis. Casual attire at work feels scruffy to me.

One other trend I’ve noticed a little bit is businessmen (think lawyers or stock brokers or something) in three piece suits but with an unshaven face. They don’t have a beard, they don’t have trimmed up stubble, they just didn’t shave. As an apparently conservative thinking gay man, I don’t think I would be as comfortable giving my millions to a stock broker that can’t find time to shave. If said handler of my millions wants to grow a beard, I’m sure he can do it on vacation.  If you can’t get out of my bed in time to shave before work then how do I know you’re not going to be lax about selling or buying stock on my behalf?

As I plow my way through my late 40s it’s becoming quite apparent that I’m turning to one of the older, conservative types. Now get off my lawn.