Tag Archives: behavior

Buy at Sears, But Only If You Want Attitude

The first time I had problems with Sears, I eventually let it go even though I didn’t shop in the store for a year. In this day when there are so many stores, really it’s quality and service that make the difference. And so it is that I am not waiting for the three strikes you’re out. Two is enough.

The first time, I was shopping in Sears (in Vancouver) and picking up a few skirts to try on. This woman comes up to me and snatches the skirts from my hand, saying “You’re dragging them on the floor and they’re getting all dirty.” I looked at her flabbergasted and walked out. I was also looking for a winter coat but didn’t bother at that point.

These skirts may have been touching the floor but surely the store is kept relatively clean. The better thing to do would have been to ask me if she could start a fitting room or hang the clothes up in the fitting room. After all, that is not only service but protecting the merchandise. This woman said nothing about even putting them in a room for me and snatched them out of my hand. And yes, she was a worker there. I didn’t appreciate being treated like a child.

I tried after that to find an address to send a letter of complaint. Do you think I could find a corporate address or even a local address with the name of any manager attached? Not a one. Sears made it pretty much impossible to do anything farther than complain verbally and we know how far that goes. Well, it threw me off shopping there again.

Now I don’t shop a lot at Sears anyways. The fashions are often not that interesting and it’s only a rare occasion where I will. This year I needed to buy a new winter coat and after much searching, found one I liked at, of all places, Sears. It was on sale too, making it just right.

Unfortunately, I was in a parkade three weeks after buying the coat and chlorine or bleach fell on the collar and took out some of the color. The company responsible for the parkade is willing to pay for repairs. However, no one dies polyester (I thought the coat was wool…oops) so the company will have to replace the coat.

I bought it on sale but it may not be on sale anymore. So I call Sears. First on their customer service line the person keeps saying, You want to order a coat. No, no I want a quote on the cost of the coat. You want to place an order? No, I want to know how much it would cost to get the coat replaced. It’s a coat. Yes a coat. So it’s a jacket. Well, no it’s a coat, just above the knees. You want us to pay for the coat? No. You want to order a coat?  No. I’ll pass you on to our customer service, (I HAD dialled customer service) who then of course passed me on to retail customer service.

So I begin a third time to say, I was in a parkade and the coat was damaged. I need a quote on the replacement cost of the coat so the company can replace it. You were in our parkade? No, just a parkade, not Sears. I just need a quote on replacing the coat for what it sells for retail. You bought it damaged? No, Sears isn’t at fault. I bought it and then it was damaged after. But you bought it on sale. Yes but if it’s not on sale, they will have to replace it at the higher cost. It was damaged by chlorine in a parkade. How did you get chlorine on it? (Not that it’s any of their business.) It dripped on the coat. I’m not asking Sears to replace it. The company will do that. Well you have your receipt. But the receipt has the sale price. Is the coat still on sale? I don’t know (of course not, she hasn’t even asked me what the coat it is…we’re still haggling).

You have your receipt. Yes, but if the coat isn’t on sale then I need to give the company the replacement cost to replace this coat. You’ll have to buy a different one at a higher price. No, I want to get this coat so can’t you send the cost of what the coat is retail? No. Why not? Because that’s not what you bought it for. It’s not what you paid. (I’m now getting mad because she’s saying I’m trying to cheat.) It doesn’t matter what I bought it for. I’m not trying to cheat here. I need to give them the replacement cost. But you didn’t buy it for that. No I didn’t. Why can’t you say, I bought it for this amount but the regular retail is this amount? Because that’s not what you paid.

I don’t think you understand how replacement cost works. Yes I do. No. Replacement cost means the cost it would be to replace the coat, not what it was when I bought. If it’s not still on sale then it would need to be replaced at the regular price. But that’s not what you paid. You’re right it’s not. Is the coat going to be on sale three weeks later? I doubt it so how is the company going to replace it if it’s regular price? You’ll have to pay more. (It’s not up to Sears to decide who pays or not but getting them to give the full rate replacement is just not happening.)

I’m afraid after this I said, You know I’ve had problems with Sears before and this just seals it. This isn’t good customer service and I won’t be shopping there again. She said something else and I called her a bitch. I was boiling by now because she decided I was swindling someone. Obviously this woman has never had insurance with replacement cost included. I found it interesting from the moment I called and mentioned damage all she could hear was damage on Sears property or damage by Sears even though I said they weren’t at fault.

I’d write a letter to Sears corporate office but that would mean trying to find an address and the name of someone to send it to. Not likely, so I’ll vote with my bucks and go elsewhere. And it looks like there are enough other people disgruntled with Sears. I’m just glad I didn’t but a large appliance.




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Training the Monkeys: Gym Etiquette

Most gyms are a mixture of people and ages. You will have the guys (and when I use “guys” I use it in the non gender-specific way, referring to a group of people) who are into body building. Yet others are there to give their hearts a good workout and make them strong. Other people will be working on keeping fit or losing weight. And who knows, there may a few whose main purpose is to socialize or get out of the house for a while.

My gym very much encompasses all of this. It’s a community gym and very multi-ethnic, which I quite like. It’s not just for the white folk. There are very few people who seem to have spent their money on getting the latest and trendiest gym attire with matching jackets and shoes. It’s not a bad size gym and there is a small balcony, plus a small room where people tend to do cool-down exercises on mats or balls.

Sometimes we all act like monkeys, and there are a few who feel they have to screech or fling poo, with disregard to all the other denizens. First and foremost, unless it’s your own home or you own the gym, you have to share. Sharing doesn’t just mean doing your own thing and everyone else can move around you. It means considering the space you use and how your use affects others.

The cool-down room can fit four people on mats (maybe five) at most. If I’m the only one in there I won’t set my mat up by the door so that every subsequent person has to step over me. I’ll not set up in the middle so that only two other people will fit in. I’ll set up farthest from the door, near the wall, leaving as much space for those who come in and not presuming I have it all to myself.

I’ll try to work within the space of my mat, with about 8-12 inches on either side. I grab a ball and a medicine ball and keep them close. When I’m done, I return them promptly to where they belong so others can use them. Then I go back to my mat. Otherwise, someone might be looking for the ball that I won’t be using but will have it in my possession for another ten minutes. When I’m done my cool-down, I hang the mat up. If someone is doing a set, I’ll wait until they are done before I move by. People will often will let me by, so I always say thanks.

Most gyms now have papertowels and spray bottles to wipe down equipment and remove sweat. Not only does it keep the smell down but it can help preserve the equipment. So I wipe down the mat. Many people don’t wipe down or return equipmen, which makes it an inconvenience for otehrs. This goes for benches, as well as bikes, treadmills, and elliptical machines.

I return exercise bands and free weights, mats and boards, to where they belong when I’m done. I don’t leave them in the middle of the room. There are stands for the free weights with the smaller hex weights on top. Often I go to put back my weight and someone has set a 50-lb weight on the top that’s clearly marked for the hexes. I can’t lift that weight and the one I’m holding won’t fit on the other racks. So what do I do? Often there is a  gym attendant. Otherwise, I have make do or ask someone if they can move it for me.

I don’t tend to use the bench presses but there are guys who drop weights on the floor or equipment. It’s audibly jarring and of course damaging to the machines and equipment. It also makes me wonder if these people are dangerous to themselves or others. If they’re hurrying so much they could potentially drop a 45-pound weight on someone’s toes.

General politeness to other gym patrons also goes a long way. Someone standing by a machine might be taking a minute’s breather in between sets. A minute is okay but five are not to hog a machine. I’ll ask if they’re using it and on the other end, if I’m taking a five-minute breather I should step away and come back after the other person’s sets. If I’m sitting and reading a magazine I shouldn’t expect someone to leave a weight machine alone because I’m finishing this article. So I ask, and also take a look around to make sure someone hasn’t just gone to get another weight for that bench.

I try to stand or move where I won’t be in the way. But the gym can get crowded and sometimes we all have to move around people on mats, people lifting weights and doing other exercises. Patience is the key. Then there are the grunters. Granted we all must grunt a bit when we’re at the end of our strength, but I’ve seen a few guys who take weights beyond their measure and grunt and groan loudly throughout the full set. Buddy, you don’t sound macho when you do that. You sound like you don’t know what you’re doing and you’re a screeching monkey.

Equally annoying is the nosey helper. One guy tried to tell the grunter how to lift weights properly. That’s a great boon to all of us. But one day while I was in the middle of a set, this guy says, “Excuse me, excuse me.” I ignored him because he was just sitting on the bench next to me. When I stopped at the end of my set he goes, oh if you do this you’ll strengthen your wrists. I said, I’m not working on my wrists but my triceps. Unwanted, unhelpful information. Interrupting someone during a set can be dangerous. Be polite and wait and don’t give out advice unless you know what you’re talking about.

If everyone tries to be considerate to other patrons, the equipment lasts longer and it just might be more fun than a barrel of monkeys.

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Memories: Firebugs

Everyone makes mistakes in their lives or does things innocently without considering the consequences. We learn sometimes in a trial by fire. What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger, or smarter or at least thinking, I sure won’t do that again.

My first true experience with fire was when I was about eight and my brother six.  We weren’t in the habit of burning candles around the house. Still, there were matches to be found because my father smoked. My little brother and I would come home from school at lunch hours and light paper straws and smoke them, or pretended to. I guess no one was home at the time because we surely wouldn’t have got away with this if my mother was around.

This was all well in our enactment of adult activities, but then we proceeded to candles (there were a few around the house). On Saturday mornings when all the older folk were asleep my brother and I would get up to play in our unfinished (cement floor and that fake wood paneling on the walls) “rumpus room.” Since we couldn’t make too loud a rumpus at that time, we’d play with my dolls or his cars. There was an old bed in there, an ideal place to play. At one point I dropped a piece of doll’s clothing under the bed, so my brother went to look for it, where it was dark, with a candle.

Yep, before we knew it the bed was starting to smolder. We ran back and forth from the bathroom downstairs filling glasses of water and tossing it on the bed. But the fire was underneath and happily consuming the dry interior. After some minutes of our futile attempts and the house slowly filling with smoke, we made the hard decision and trucked upstairs to my mother’s bedroom to wake her. And of course we said, “We were just playing and all of a sudden this fire started.”

My mother got my older brother up who took the mattress out to the yard to hose it down. No real harm done, thankfully. Surprisingly, we didn’t get the living daylights beat out of us but instead were chastised soundly, me especially, because I was older and should have known better. The chastisement worked. I was so ashamed that I didn’t tell my firebug tale until I was in my late twenties.

My second run-in was at a comedy dinner show. I believe it was a Fawlty Towers theme which worked well through the dinner. After we ate, half the table had to turn to see the stage. The tables had tealights all over and I had hair nearly to my waist at the time. I heard this shout behind me and someone batted at my head. Apparently my hair was flaming from the tealight and I hadn’t heard anything…yet. Someone else was about to pour a pitcher of water on my hair but they got it out before I knew what was happening. The whole restaurant smelled of burned hair, which the actors used to say their next show would be “Hair.”

And my hair? The burned part was mostly indiscernible. It had only burned a surface layer. There was that one purely stupid move one time, where I lit a pillar candle on my mantle. But then I wanted to see if it was scented and what scent it was so I picked up the candle and looked underneath, with the flame burning. And I burned my bangs.  Duh, that was a smart one.

What have I learned from all this? Don’t play with fire. Be cautious and know your surroundings when fire is present. Don’t do stupid things near fire. Pretty simple really. There is one last fire tale, which is long but I’ll try to shorten it.

At one point I was in Pennsylvania camping with a very large group of  people (very very large group) enough that we wandered from campsite to campsite partying. On the last night, it was raining hard enough that we were pretty wet, but it was a warm rain. There was mud everywhere so we left our shoes in the campground because they were getting destroyed, and we wandered, with alcohol.

I was actually not drunk yet when I decided to bellydance around one fire. I was ankle deep in mud and I ended up slipping on the slimy surface and going down on my right knee and both hands into the fire. Luckily two guys pulled me out immediately. My hands weren’t burned and I decided it was a sign from the gods to quit.

As we wandered away in the dark, I pulled up my still wet (from the rain) pant leg, touched my leg below the knee and said, yeah, I burned myself. Then I proceeded to drink the night away and ignored the burn for another 12 hours. When I eventually, the next day, looked at my leg, it was black and crusty. The medics on site tried to clean, which put me into shock.

When I flew home I had to go to the hospital for burn treatment, which put me in shock again. I also needed antibiotics for a bacteria that can set in after 24 hours and be very serious. And I needed burn treatment (cleaning, burn cream and rewrapping every day) for two weeks. Luckily the burn was below the knee as opposed to be on the joint, and I was in Calgary where their walk-in clinics were equipped for such things.

I figured out what had happened that night was that my cotton clothing was wet from the rain. My hands didn’t burn because I wasn’t in the fire long enough. My pants weren’t burned because they were wet, but there had been a bar (for roasting meat) in the fire and I had been steam burned that night, receiving a third degree burn and a permanent scar. The only good thing about a third degree burn is that it doesn’t hurt much because the nerves have been killed.

To this day, I have no feeling in that one spot on my leg. The scar is relatively small and I have a stupidity award. I don’t drink tequila anymore. Even if I wasn’t drunk when I slipped up, I figure why tempt fate with more. What did I learn that last time? Don’t play with fire, don’t dance in the mud, don’t fall into fires. I really do hope that’s my last life’s lesson with fire.

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Alcoholism and Life

I grew up with an alcoholic father. Some might debate this but he drank a fair amount, did terrible things to us and grew violent. It was not pretty and it marred us with scars we bear to this day. My mother went back to school at one point and worked as an alcohol and drug abuse counsellor so she knew the signs well. It’s interesting, before she moved into that line of work, the men she dated were all alcoholics.

I also had a friend who became my best friend and lived across the alley from me. We got into various types of trouble together, went to parties, and drank underage, as most of our friends did. I cannot tell her tale as to what pushed her too far. It could be an easy statement of physiology though easy is not the way it was. By sixteen she was an alcoholic with a host of embarrassing events under her belt, making difficult for her friends to be around her. I asked my mother what to do (and I have to say my mother was very good about not berating us for drinking underage) so she gave me some pamphlets to pass on to my friend. One was a checklist of behaviors that could indicate you’re an alcoholic. Some of the statements were: do you not remember what you’ve done while drinking, do you pass out after drinking, do you feel the need to drink every day–things like that.

Of course, giving a teenager such pamphlets didn’t go over that well and as high school grew towards its end and my friend also became pregnant (facilitating a quick marriage), we also started to grow apart. I couldn’t help her and she was going to need to help herself. I don’t know if she was embarrassed by her alcoholism or felt that I judged her (and I confess that I did at that time) but we eventually lost contact. It was only many many years later that she made the effort to contact me, having been dry for a long time, with grown and growing children. I then had to get past the wall that I had left behind from that time.

In high school I had also started dating a guy who I went with for a year and a half. He was two years older than me so he was finished while I was in grade 11. And he worked at a pub. I looked old for my age and could get into the bars without being ID’d. (Oddly enough, after I turned legal age, I was ID’d often.) He too became an alcoholic, drinking too much and too often. I don’t remember if that’s what broke up the relationship but it was a contributing factor.

I’d seen enough alcoholism by my mid-twenties, including an Irish couple in Vancouver who were on a self-destructive path through their drinking.  We also stopped being friends. And there are others, those with the red splotchy faces, the abusive tongues, the rude behavior that had driven friend and family away. I would often talk to these people, if they were friends, expressing concern but when they continued along their way I felt I didn’t need to be in the path of their abuse either.

I was arrogant enough to think I’d never be an alcoholic because I didn’t like alcohol that much and I was aware of it. That may have been the case but I wasn’t aware of the abyss in my soul and where it was sucking me to. I was unhappy and single, while all my friends were in couples. I hated myself, my eating disorder was out of control. On top of it, I’d fallen in love with a man who didn’t love me and inadvertently probably rubbed the fact in my face with his patronizing way.

Before I knew it I was drinking to drown the pain and perceived loneliness. I stood in the back of a poetry performance night one evening, crying (from my broken heart), then going out to my car to drink a cider, then coming in and crying, and repeating in progressively drunken way. I went to a camping event and proceeded to get so drunk that I didn’t know what I did. In essence, I had a blackout. Then on New Year’s eve I went to Blaine to some friends’ party. Bored and feeling the loneliness around all the couples there, I decided to drive back to Vancouver to another party.

Lucky for me, some friends braved my wrath and took my keys away. I later passed out and left the next day. Shortly after that night I was thinking of my life and realized I teetered on the edge of becoming a full fledged alcoholic. The brink was close and I was sliding over it. Also lucky for me, with that realization, I started to reassert control over my life.

And two friends at that time, drew straws to see who would approach me and say I had a drinking problem. The loser got to come up to me, probably expecting me to tear into her. But when she said, we think you have a drinking problem, I said, Thank you for being such good friends to tell me. You have the right, if you see me out of control at any time, please tell me.

And after that, I did try to control it, and not drink to cover my problems. Alcoholism, though, can strike for a number of reasons. Some people are physiologically more susceptible. Others make it part of their lifestyle. Others use to flood the hollow spots. It is the duty of anyone who is friend or family to say to the drinker, You have a problem and you need help. But as always, it is up to the person to change and hopefully have the support of friends when they take that path. I learned some valuable lessons about drinking and about me. I wouldn’t want to go that road again.

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Fashion and Discipline

Back in the bloom of my youth I went to a typical high school and dressed like a typical teenager. That involved a lot of jeans and T-shirts. Alberta had a junior high school system as well, which covered grades 7-9. It was fairly conservative and run by a principal reviled by most, Archie Wilcox. He was known for being draconian and supposedly had influence in getting his job through a brother on the school board. He was so nasty that at one time his tires were slashed and this was in a day before people were carrying guns or even knives at school. And when he started having an affair with one of the teachers and all of the students knew about it, we laughed at him. He was not loved at all. One day he was addressing the class in his lover’s classroom and his fly was undone so we all snickered at him. He nearly blew a gasket, not knowing what we laughed at.

In this stalag (Simon Fraser Junior High) we were not allowed to wear jeans and one day my homeroom science teacher said, “I need to talk to you about your jeans.” I heard, “I need to talk to you about your genes,” and looked at him confused until he elaborated. I was wearing a pair of light blue not quite jeany material but the cut was too jean like. So I was told I needed to change.

Our homeroom in grade 9 had a rep for being bad and unruly. I’m not sure why but we were definitely feisty (maybe it was one of our boys who slashed Wilcox’s tires). One day I was going down the hall, looking back over my shoulder, and ran into the doughy bosom of Mrs. Acton. She, like Wilcox, was old school, and was his right hand man from what I recall. She wore her hair in a bun, seemed always old and was built  like a battle tank matron.

She looked me over from the sharp edge of her glasses and told me to go see the principal about my top. It was what we called a pop top, sleeveless, and short. It showed about an inch of my midriff. So I went to the principal’s office where he told me I was not conforming to the dress code (or something…I don’t quite remember). I do remember saying back to him, “But this doesn’t affect our learning any,” and I repeated it, unrepentant. Wilcox bubbled a bit and I remained adamant. So I was sent home to change.

I wasn’t as knowledgeable or set in my opinions as perhaps I am now (though I like to think I’m always listening to the other side). Home was a 20-minute walk each way. I arrived home and told my mother what had happened. She agreed with me that my dress didn’t affect my learning but she made me change anyways. So grumpily I complied. (The part of this that may have also influenced her was that my sister had had problems with Wilcox–due to illnesses, I think, and my younger brother transferred to another school because of this principal. He was definitely not someone my family cared to associate with.)

In later years, I thought maybe the instructors were worried about the boys not learning if they were staring at girls in midriff tops. The truth is, that as teenagers everyone is trying on and forming their personalities and sexuality. Girls will show off their bodies if they can. People will wear what they consider sexy, especially if they’re trying to attract the opposite sex.

Now I’ve heard that some schools have banned T-shirts that portray slogans. To make it fair, they ban all slogans to be sure the racist or bigoted ones are gone too. Some ban certain tops, or jeans so low they show the butt crack or underwear, or skirts so high they show the butt. Will it affect learning in general? No. I’m all for banning racist, prejudiced and bigoted comments from a learning environment. Teenagers also like to push boundaries, theirs and others. But what about the clothing  now that I’m no longer constricted to wear, or not wear by teenagerhood, school and all that entails?

Well, I work and I’ve almost always worked where the dress code was lax (or been self-employed). When I worked in a department store we weren’t allowed to wear jeans or dresses that showed our arms (I don’t think that part lasted long). Most places, unless they’re dealing a lot with the public, don’t care if you were jeans, shorts, skirts or T-shirts as long as they’re clean, not so old they’re scruffy and torn, and decent. Decent usually means no short shorts and no bellies showing. Some places may required little to no cleavage showing. It varies depending on the profession.

But as to schools and teenagers…well, they’ve never been the epitomes of fashion. Not that some people ever grow up to have a fashion sense. Teenagers are great experimenters in all aspects of their lives. With their individualism comes trying on everything from attitude to clothing. Too many, I think fall to peer pressure but some go their own way. And should some aspects of their clothing be banned? Well, they should probably remain decent but decency in dress has to be defined. Is a skirt two inches below the butt indecent or okay? Is a top showing some cleavage or a navel fine? Fashion and styles have changed (and come around again) from when I was a teenager, but not that much.

Some of the issues are still the same. The conservative people and administrators will still see certain fashion items as wrong, slovenly or indecent. My mother always equated jeans to working on farms because it was only farmers who wore them when she was growing up.

Granted times have changed and these days there are more and more cases of guns in schools (remember I’m talking mostly Canada here–gun mileage in your area may vary) so the range of what is acceptable may have changed with more “worldly” attitudes, but I think as long as the essentials are covered, in all positions (such as bending over or walking up the stairs in a short short skirt), then teenagers should be allowed the freedom to find themselves and experiment.

Of course, I don’t have kids. I could be singing a different tune if I did.


Filed under Culture, fashion, life, people, sex, shopping

Sidewalk and Stairway Etiquette

This will probably not be read because it doesn’t deal with sex or violence (unless I get really really aggravated), and really, you’d think that it wouldn’t need to be said, but some people are rude, some self-centered and some just stupid. And hey, it’s my blog; I can whine if I want to.

I am really getting tired of the me-me-me attitude that permeates not just the roadways, where drivers without passengers feel entitled to use the HOV (high occupancy vehicle) lanes, drive slow in the fast lane with no intention of pulling over, and tailgate everyone who doesn’t want to go 120 km in a 80 km zone. I have complained about this before and how, even in supermarkets, people push and park their buggies the same way that they drive.

It all comes down to a massive lack of consideration, where the only person that matters is that one person and maybe the family members they have with them. Too many people out there think that only they are important or have places to be. Guess what, folks, you don’t own the world, the mall or the highway, so share it with everyone and share nicely. Didn’t your mothers teach you how to share? If not, now is the time to learn.

So sidewalks: remember, as you’re walking along that you don’t have eyes or mirrors in the back of your head. You don’t know who is behind you or what they’re doing. Try not to meander left and right like a demented drunk. Stay to one side of the walk and be aware, if you’re walking down the middle, that someone else may be walking at another pace and would like to pass you. (I mailed a letter yesterday at the street postal box. I turned to move into the flow of the busy sidewalk. I was still not moving and this woman was coming right at me. I had a car beside me and the post box behind me, and people to the right. She almost ran into me. I could only laugh since maybe she thought I was going to levitate.)

If you happen to be walking with several people, then more than two abreast tends to take up the width of most sidewalks. It means that one or more of you will need to walk behind or move over since people use both directions on sidewalks. You’d think it was common sense and courtesy. But many people must believe they own the sidewalk. The more in a pack they are the more likely that they’ll walk at a real slooooooow pace and no one can get by. This goes for people with dogs or strollers as well. You can’t take up the whole sidewalk even in one direction. Be aware, be polite and move over if someone wants past unless you want them to walk on your heels.

And stopping suddenly when you’ve been going at a good pace is a very bad idea, equivalent to braking suddenly on the freeway. Even moreso, people don’t have to worry about giving a car’s length on the sidewalk. If you’ve seen something  or realized you forgot something and have to turn back, slow down gradually, moving to one side of the sidewalk and then turn. That way, anyone behind you will be aware that you’re changing your pace or direction and will be less likely to run into you. This goes for malls too.

Stairwells and escalators work somewhat differently. On an escalator, which goes only in one direction, in North America, it is common to stand on the right and walk on the left. If you’re in a hurry, you walk up the escalator and no one is blocking you. If you’re at a leisure pace, you stay to the right, just like car lanes but people are actually better on escalators than they are on the road. It used to be you would see signs on store escalators explaining this system but I haven’t seen signs for a while now.

For stairs, a person coming down them is more likely to need the hand railing or could possibly trip and fall than if they are going up them. So what does that mean? If you’re walking up the stairs, move away from the railing and let people use it to descend. If you’re old or incapacitated, then yes you might need to pull yourself up the stairs. And if there is a wall that people must walk around, really really try not to hug that corner  in either direction because you’re likely to meet someone nose to nose.

Addendum: I’ve changed my mind about this as I was walking up the middle of the stairs to give room for the people coming down. There were so many and again they were in a cattle like state that I was nearly knocked backwards down the stairs. Now I walk up on the right.

Do I need to even mention how gross and disgusting, uncouth, uncivilized and downright unsexy gobbing and spitting on sidewalks and stairs is? You are not cool and not attractive and not tough. You’re just a pig. Try having some tissue on hand or seeing a doctor if it’s congenital.

Yes, in my perfect world, people would be polite and considerate. They would say sorry if they bumped into you, allow you to pass them on the sidewalk, not hog the whole thing and yes, they would drive politely. The last time I saw multitudes of polite drivers it was in Saskatchewan; not Alberta, not BC, not Washington nor Oregon. Just think, we could have contests to see if people excel in politeness and courtesy. I can dream, can’t I?

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Conform or Die

I would say we live in a society of conformity but it may go deeper than that. Perhaps, we as human beings have always been this way. After all, we are social animals. We work and gather in groups, for safety, for economy, for interactions.

As humans formed these groups that became villages and cities, they had to get people to work together, to agree to the same rules and beliefs.We can see in the world today probably moreso even than the world of five thousand years ago, or maybe not, what happens when someone doesn’t agree with the status quo.

It can be as mild as “I don’t agree with you,” to as severe as being put to death or incarcerated for going against the norm. The Taleban kills people for not following their way. The Canadian government sways from Conservative to Liberal if people don’t think their leaders are representing their views. It’s a broad spectrum.

On a purely social level you have the cool kids, those with natural charisma (before they learn to bribe their way to the top) who attract others to them. It is often ephemeral what gives a person this elusive charisma. Sometimes it is physical looks. Who can deny the power of stars and their amazing good looks that give them millions of bucks, not always correlating with their acting ability?

Often charisma rests on personality, which can be a greater tour de force than beauty. Coupled, they can be unstoppable.  The third area that attracts cronies is that of beliefs. Political parties and religions work on this but they often team up with personality. In essence, those are the three bases of charisma: physical beauty, personality, beliefs. You can gain popularity through riches but charisma is slightly different and really the realm of beliefs fall more to popularity but can gain heights with a charismatic leader.

It’s a well-known fact that good looking people get farther and get away with more in the world. As a child I was pudgy and shy, not good combos for charisma. You don’t get shy, charismatic people. I was never one of the cool kids. No one ever flocked to me because of my beliefs, nor my riches. The cruelty of children is untempered by the later skills that we learn of double speak, backstabbing and passive aggressive tolerance. Luckily children are also more resilient to the taunts and ostracization, sort of. Sometimes we bear the scars for life.

I was picked on some, because I was easy pickings. I didn’t fight back. I was vulnerable and like sharks in bloodied waters, everyone knew. So I changed. I grew a tough shell, I made myself more outward going. It wasn’t easy, still isn’t easy. Being one of the cool kids matters less as an adult unless you’re trying to win in politics or take over the world.

We all have our social groups, and probably have some charisma. We are blends or normal people. But we can still suffer the fear of being nonconformist. I never mastered conformity and it’s caused me much grief. Try and act normal, think like everyone else, dress like them. Fit into the crowd and you won’t be singled out. Stand out too much, in the wrong, unpopular way and people won’t talk to you or associate with you. We may not be shot in our social groups for not fitting in but we may die nonetheless.

Today I don’t feel that humans are so great at being civilized. We suck at communication, yet use a variety of forms. Unfortunately, one person’s body language means something different to someone else. The same words can mean many things and silence can mean many more. If you conform, you’ll have less to worry about, until someone decides you offended them or that they dislike you for some other reason. Then you may not even know you should apologize or that you have to watch your back.

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Suicide and Depression

Someone I had known for a long time, but did not know well (we were acquaintances, sometimes a the same parties and events) killed himself a week ago. I was surprised as he just didn’t seem the type. Someone said, how selfish of him. Someone else said, that was the choice he made. I’ve written once already about my bouts with depression but this is more general, on how to recognize some factors.

Although he had been a man who could anger many people, who could be abrasive at times, I felt a bit bothered by these comments. Those who knew him better said he had tried to kill himself before but those had been more a cry for help. He had struggled for a long time. It seems he had been on meds but had gone off of them several months before because he couldn’t afford them. I’ve also recently heard he may have suffered a head injury. Probably all of these things contributed to his suicide.

Having suffered deep and enervating depression in the past, I found I have an added perspective; sadness, compassion and fear. I was sad that he felt so alone that he couldn’t ask for help. But this is the way we are in our society. We are expected to do our grieving at a funeral and then act normal from that point on. People don’t grieve in a single day; they grieve over a year or years. Likewise, we are expected, or feel it is expected of us, to not share our bad or sad or woeful emotions. People will say we’re wallowing, that we’re no fun to be around, that we’re self-centered. All of these things may be true but friendships should never be about only the bright sunshiny moments. If they are, they’re not true friendships. As I know from experience, if you try to talk to a person about your feelings, that you think they don’t care, that maybe there is something wrong with your personality, then you are as likely to be greeted in anger, or dismissed, or in silence or not talked to again. People will often invalidate the feelings of their friends without intending to. So a depressed person is not likely to ask for help because they don’t think they’ll get it or no one cares. It’s seen a weak, as needy, as less than what a person should be in this society.

I felt compassion because I have an idea of what this man went through. I felt for the pain he must have suffered. In my deepest darkest year of depression I suffered many things and not all were just thoughts. Depression can cause a person to lose their coping mechanisms. Answering the phone or a simple question can be too much, throwing one into a state of anxiety or anger because they can’t remember. Memory can be affected in different ways. Physical ailments can appear or persist mysteriously. My elbow began to hurt and no amount of physio was curing it. People can get bronchial colds that remain for weeks or months.

When a person is depressed the world becomes black. I have felt trapped, unable to see an end to the situation I was in. If there are stresses in a person’s life (and who doesnt’ have them) such as financial, career, family, love, health, etc. these can all be exacerbated. If something is not going well, it will seem there is no way out, no change in sight, no way to get help. It seems hopeless. Because, as I mentioned above, you’re afraid to ask for help or to lose what friends you have, you see your world as shrinking. There is less light, less joy, fewer friends, and then boredom, despair and futility set in.

People on the outside might just think a person is being difficult, or cranky, or wallowing, or self-pitying or elusive or snobbish. They dismiss or ignore and get angry. This is why I also felt fear, because I have been there and I know how isolated one can feel. We cannot always be vigilant of our friends and family but we can try to be more aware, to recognize the signs when they don’t. There are other signs and not all people exhibit all the same ones. But when one person said, this is the choice he made, remember it wasn’t a choice made with all the options. Depression hides many options and a choice made in such a state is one made when you’re not in your right mind. His selfish choice of suicide might have been seen as his only choice, that he would put his family through less pain if he was out of the picture. He was not seeing clearly.

Because the only thing I wasn’t when clinically depressed was suicidal, it bothered me when more recently I felt I was so lonely I should just die. That was a telltale sign, even to me. I write this to hopefully help others save their friends and family from a health problem that is still greatly misunderstood. Don’t be so quick to judge against a person’s behaviors but look to see if there is a pattern or persistence of such attitudes. Depressed people won’t always get help even if you suggest it. Sometimes it takes constant attention and if you haven’t heard from someone in a while, call them. Don’t wait. Some people are depressed for years but the black abyss of clinical depression is a dangerous place where fear and hopelessness rule.

And if a depressed person comes to you with their concerns, no matter how lopsided, with feelings that you ignored them or don’t care, don’t dismiss them. Don’t say, oh you’ve done this before and walk away. Sometimes the fears are valid and sometimes not. But if you dismiss a depressed person who is still trying to reach out and understand, then you validate their fears and lead them closer to the edge of no return.

Mental health disorders are hard for many people to grasp because the person doesn’t look physically ill in any way. We find it scary or hard to understand how something could change a person’s attitude or personality. But everything in the human body can be affected by an illness and depression is an insidious one. I wasn’t close enough to help this man and it could be that everyone was aware. A person serious about suicide is a lot harder to stop. But in many cases, getting a person to open up and talk about their feelings could be the first step of bringing light back to their lives.

Here is a list of some of the symptoms of depression:
* Persistently sad, anxious, angry, irritable, or “empty” mood
* Feelings of hopelessness, pessimism
* Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, helplessness
* Loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies and activities that were once enjoyed, including sex
* Insomnia, early-morning awakening, or oversleeping
* Decreased appetite and/or weight loss, or overeating and/or weight gain
* Fatigue, decreased energy, being “slowed down”
* Crying spells
* Thoughts of death or suicide, suicide attempts
* Restlessness, irritability
* Difficulty concentrating, remembering, making decisions
* Persistent physical symptoms that do not respond to treatment, such as headaches, digestive disorders, and/or chronic pain

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