Archive for the ‘Entitlements’ Category

Service of Because They Can Though Maybe They Shouldn’t

Monday, July 10th, 2017

The world seems to be divided between those who do anything they want because they can and those who factor in others. Since I wrote, last week, about the executives who don’t blink at charging exorbitant prices for life-saving drugs my mind continues in that track.

The driver of a supersized SUV turning into 45th Street from First Avenue didn’t take his foot off the pedal for one second and almost ran me over. Why? Because he could—nobody stopped him and even if he’d hit me, he’d have been off and running for the same reason. The light was fully in my favor [as in the photo above] and I was crossing at just the right place [unusual for some New Yorkers].

The driver felt big, important and on a mission. I was an irritating pedestrian in his way, slowing progress. This scene happens countless times a day to thousands all over the city. Over the weekend we were in a cab that missed being slammed by a zigzagging driver who treated Lexington Avenue as though it was a super highway. Sometimes the threatening vehicles are bicycles driven by thoughtless, entitled individuals.

Photo: pinterest

The SUV incident happened two days after NJ Governor Christie sunned himself on Island Beach State Park in front of the state-owned summer house [photo right]. This beach—and all state parks in the Garden State–were closed to other citizens June 30-July 3 because of the second government shutdown in that state’s history. Christie’s beach time wasn’t illegal—the house has access to the beach—though when he and the family were captured on camera by a news helicopter, it didn’t look good [no pun intended]. As Christie put it at a news conference in which he was criticized: “Run for governor, and you can have a residence there,” according to nj.com.

Island Beach State Park, NJ

He claimed that he’d promised his son that he would celebrate his birthday at the beach. But just because he could didn’t mean he should when his constituents had to cancel their picnic, swimming and sunning plans. “Do as I say, not as I do,” doesn’t set well with most. In fact, his selfishness may have ruined it for future governors. There’s talk about selling the house or renting it to generate income for the state.

For the most part, the people I know and work with are thoughtful, caring, empathetic, courteous and cordial—because they choose to be. The men at the transfer station in Millbrook, NY were so gentle and understanding when I showed up on a recent Saturday with a car filled with garbage, paper and bottles. I was wringing my hands because I didn’t have my ticket [the first time ever]. I felt overwhelmed by their kind, understanding response. “Not to worry,” they said, “We’ll get you next time,” and they grabbed for the bags and bottles and moved them to join like refuse in the three separate sections. Wet garbage costs $5/bag.

In your life, are there more SUV drivers and Christie-like characters or more people like the men at the transfer station?

Service of DNA to Train Pet Owners

Thursday, August 6th, 2015

 

My nephew Barry at the vet.

My nephew Barry at the vet.

My idea of capturing DNA off garbage tossed on otherwise pristine country roads isn’t as farfetched as I once thought [though I haven’t yet figured out the part about matching/connecting it to the perpetrators’ genetic footprint.]

The board of a Brooklyn condo with about 440 apartments, One Brooklyn Bridge Park, did a similar thing. Some owners of 175 dog residents allowed their furry charges to defecate and urinate in public indoor spaces leaving it up to staff to clean up, ignoring countless pleas to stop. As a result tenants now have to register each pet for $35, DNA is taken, checked against traces found and fees meted out.

Dog puppyIn December 2014 building staff recorded the number and types of incidents, according to Ginia Bellafante reporting in her New York Times article “Using DNA to Fight Dog Owners’ Discourtesy in Brooklyn.” That month there was “a mix of diarrhea, feces, urine and vomit: found on virtually every floor including the main lobby and north and south lobbies; found in all five elevators and with the staff cleanup time ranging from 10 to 50 minutes (average time roughly 20 minutes) per incident.”

Bellafante noted that the waste problem at One Brooklyn Bridge Park was especially bad in inclement weather. Can you imagine paying to live with such neighbors? That honor doesn’t come cheap. Bellafante wrote that two bedroom apartments “of modest size” cost $2.5 million. NYC and many other municipalities have poop scoop laws for streets and sidewalks to enhance cohabitation of man and pooch. You’d expect, at the least, that civilized people would exhibit similar respect inside their own homes.

Dog trainingAccording to Bellafante a Tennessee-based biotech company’s subsidiary, Poo Prints, does the trick at this apartment house and in over 1,000 other buildings in NY and around the country. She reported that in Naples, Italy an effective dog genetic testing program comes with $685 fines for violators. Through genetic matches, One Brooklyn Bridge Park has charged seven owners $250 per occurrence since May. The initiative seems to be working.

I’ve owned dogs in NYC and their companionship made it well worth daily walks through snow, Dog phys.orgrain, heat or gloom of night. It wouldn’t occur to me to use the public areas of any place in which I live or visit as a pet WC and inflict my pet’s mess on others much less expect staff to clean it up. Accidents happen. My five month old puppy freshly adopted from Bide-a-Wee peed in the elevator of a Brooklyn co-op I lived in years ago. I was immediately on the job with paper towel, disinfectant and Nature’s Miracle to make amends. Later, because the elevator carpet was still wet when a neighbor asked the doorman about the stain, the doorman, a dog person, [and a very nice man who sensed my distress] told him: “One of the children spilled his soda.”

I thought animal lovers were a breed apart, especially those who invite pets to join their families. This story proves me wrong. Have you ever before heard of such an epidemic of slothful, disrespectful, inhuman behavior?

Dachshund

Service of Perspective II

Thursday, June 14th, 2012

crossingstreetmakid

You might see a child and a grownup walk down the street ahead of you and hear the adult exclaim, “Good job!” The child is licking an ice cream cone or holding the adult’s hand or crossing the street, nothing more.

I thought of this when Jim Roper, a friend and writer/editor, told me to listen to David McCullough’s commencement speech at Wellesley High School where McCullough teaches English. Dubbed the “You’re not special” speech by the media, it’s worth some 13 minutes of your time.

wellsleyhsHis message to the graduates was to “make for yourself extraordinary lives” and “selflessness is the best thing you can do for yourself” and “do whatever you do because you love it and believe it is important” and “get busy, have at it, get up and get out, explore.”

To wake up the students he told them throughout the speech “Don’t get the idea that you are anything special.” He noted they were among 3.2 million seniors graduating from 37 thousand high schools this year which meant that there were 37 thousand valedictorians etc.

blue-ribbonHe also said:

** “If everyone is special than no one is

**If everyone gets a trophy then it has no value.

**A ‘B’ is the new ‘C’

**By definition there is only one ‘best’

**I hope you recognize how little you know”

The son of the author/historian of the same name, I get the feeling he shares this point of view with his four children, three of whom are teenagers.

I was surprised to hear John Gambling, father of three boys, former school trustee and a NYC morning radio personality who has consistently shared McCullough’s point of view, say that the media unanimously cheered the message. I’m not so sure that was the first reaction by them all.

Some considered his message a downer and questioned whether it was appropriate to the occasion. On “CBS This Morning,” Gayle King interviewed McCullough. She sounded tentative as she began: “When I first heard the speech, I rewound it a couple times and said to myself, ‘Did he really just say that?’ What was your intention, and were you surprised by the reaction?”

I’m glad his message went viral and feel that one reason service suffers is an overdose of people focusing more on how special they are than on their customers or the quality of their work.

Do you think McCullough’s “you’re not special” reality check/admonition was shocking for a high school graduation speech? Is there too much collective breath-sucking-in and finger-wagging when someone punctures a hole in the school of thought that we should praise people all the time and for no special reason?

 reality-check2

Service of Being Unconscious

Monday, January 30th, 2012

crowded-sidewalk

Friend, adman Hank Goldman, asked if I’d noticed that it’s becoming harder to walk down New York City streets lately. That’s because clumps of people gather and stand there talking or waiting, crowding out other pedestrians and bringing them to a halt. This is a problem for a walking city.

He has a point! I was born in the city and prided myself about how I negotiated sidewalks regardless of how tangled the pedestrian layout was-but no longer! In fact, cruising through human traffic separated New Yorkers born or by adoption from tourists or imposters.

Sometimes two people cause a clot in a narrow street with construction or other impediments making it impossible to pass. Usually a few steps beyond is plenty of sidewalk on which to stand.

supermarket-cartThis obliviousness isn’t just a city thing. It happens at out of town grocery stores as well. Last weekend two middle aged women were chatting, their marketing baskets clogging the yogurt and juice displays, unmindful that I was trying to reach past them. They didn’t move or miss a beat in their conversation when I said, “Excuse me,” as I squeezed by them.

I notice the people who walk through the front office door I’m holding for them without even a nod or grunt of thanks. They are either deep in text-walking1thought, think it’s my job or just rude.

Have you been bombarded on the street by a texting adult with an earphone bud blasting music or had to negotiate a group of people holding up progress and oblivious of the impatient citizens trying to get past them? Are they unconscious or is it something else?

glazed-expression

Service of Home Office Vendors

Monday, May 24th, 2010

home-office

Catherine C., who wrote “Service at the High End” on this blog, today shared her frustrations as a thriving business writer who works from a home office.

Even though you travel to an office, you still may work at home to sit a sick child; get away from office interruptions to finish a project or let in painters, plumbers or appliance repair people. I’ve been on morning conference calls where unexpected background shrieks interrupt–and Catherine wasn’t on the phone! She’s not alone.

She wrote:

windowwasherI just had my windows cleaned by a company I inherited with the house 26 years ago.  It’s been a good relationship. When I made the appointment, I told them I’d be on a teleconference when they came and didn’t want to be disturbed.

They told me what doors to leave open. So guess what:  I found a guy under one office window screaming into his cell phone and another on a ladder in the other window screaming into his. 

yelling-instructionsI cannot tell you how many times I’ve had to call a company and complain that the painters at my next door neighbors’ had their music up too loud and were shouting at each other.

Then there were the roofers who insisted on parking around my office to eat lunch while blasting their radios and stomping their boots.

I once had a tile guy who wouldn’t work unless he could blast his radio inside my house.

We live in a world where a home is also a place of business, for a large and growing number of people.  I can’t believe that window washers, plant caretakers, cleaning staff or maintenance people would enter a place of business during business hours and yell into their cell phones or to each other, or blast their radios. 

It’s bad enough that service people feel they can use your yard as their phone booth or dance studio, but when it’s your business as well as your home?  I’m not nice about it anymore.  I’ll call the company, go and get the foreman, or just yell myself.  Mi casa non su casa.

Has this happened to you? How do you handle it? Are you so relieved that a repair or maintenance person has come that you tolerate what you might not normally?

dancewithboombox

Service of Humane Conventions

Monday, March 1st, 2010

There was a car accident outside the door of a rug store we were visiting in Teheran years ago so we rushed outside and found a pedestrian sitting on the curb bleeding.  We gave him all the Kleenex we had to hold against the wounds and ran in to ask the merchant to call for help.

Nobody budged.  We were told not to concern ourselves and that his family knew about the accident and would come to help him. This was decades before cell phones. Unless the family had ESP, their arrival was unlikely, so we persevered in urging someone to call for help. Turned out that in Iran, the person who brings you to the hospital must pay the bill; nobody was in any rush to be a Good Samaritan. 

I remembered this incident when I read Thomas L Friedman’s editorial, “The Fat Lady Has Sung,” in The New York Times on February 21, 2010. He wrote about a revenue-generating scheme in Tracey, Calif. where callers have to pay $300 to dial 911 for help or for a yearly $48 retainer, as many times as they wish.

Whether or not you believe that anybody is entitled to anything, you may agree that cutbacks and fund-generating schemes are necessary in most communities these days. I’ve used 911 in two emergencies in the last three years and have been grateful for it. I would be happy to pay something for the calls-but $300 each time? Imagine a family with no money to spare whose five year old calls for help when her Dad falls into a diabetic coma and she saves him. In future, will such a child in this California town even be told about the 911 option?

I bet there are plenty of entitlements that could be cut before this one relating to emergencies. No doubt, it was chosen because it was so shocking and will get attention so as to soften up the populace to accept other cutbacks or charges-for-service without a blink. The scare technique is in the spirit of the old saw about the college girl who tells her mother she is marrying an ex convict 25 years older than she is because she is pregnant. Once the mother has caught her breath, her daughter announces that she actually got a D in physics, isn’t pregnant, doesn’t know a convict and simply wanted to put the D in perspective. It’s like that.

The NYC Fire Department rushes to our office building several times a year because someone has inadvertently hit the fire alarm lever or because a tenant forgot their popcorn in the microwave and the smoke from the burning kernels sets it off.  I’m so glad that they are this responsive. Perhaps the landlord should pay for these false alarms?

What do you think of as an essential service that you seemingly get for free—taxes cover the cost–for which you would be willing to pay a reasonable but not exorbitant amount?

What should our taxes be sufficient to cover?

 

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