Archive for the ‘Entitlements’ Category

Service of Entitlement

Monday, February 20th, 2023

Have you noticed that the world seems to revolve around some, at least they think so. They are right even if wrong. I’ve observed such behavior by mothers especially of young children. They are exempt from rules or empathy.

Here’s what inspired me to write about this dynamic, one that I’ve noticed over many years: I saw a mother settle her three-year-old in the seat behind the bus driver on a local Third Avenue Manhattan bus last week. She parked her stroller in the aisle near the door [Photo above]. There was little room for oncoming passengers to slip by. I was amazed at her audacity when she did nothing to move it as the bus moved to the next stop. There was plenty of time to find my phone and snap the photo well before the fireworks.

When he realized she was obstructing the entrance, the driver told her she couldn’t stay where she was with the stroller and an argument ensued. Another passenger—her back is to the camera; you see a part of her plaid wool jacket in the photo —took her side, saying the driver was terrible and “you work for us!” [Actually, he works for the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA).] The driver said: “It’s not my rule, it’s the MTA’s.” Verbal attacks continued. The supporting passenger took a photo of the bus’s number–5927–as she exited.

The mother claimed that he was a bad driver as an excuse for staying up front. Hard for her to know this as he hadn’t yet moved an inch when she’d helped her child into the front seat and staked her position.

For one thing, this couldn’t have been the woman’s first time on a bus with a 36-month-old toddler. She had to know the layout.

Finally, she folded the stroller [photo right]. But she didn’t need to. None of this was necessary!

The bus has an area–the circular section with metal floor–designed for such gear. [See the photo, left.] I park my rolling shopping bag filled with groceries there and others their suitcases and large parcels. Women who entered the bus with strollers after the entitled mother got off headed to that spot. [See the photo below.]

I waited for the mother and the supporter-passenger to exit and told the driver how I interpreted the scene and explained that I didn’t enter the fray on his side for fear of starting WWIII. He agreed and said I was right to stay out of it and when I mentioned that I’d taken photos—and planned to write about the instance on my blog—he gave me his name: Jonathan Green. He was grateful for my support and thanked me many times. It happened on Thursday, February 16 around 8:45 am.

I’ve felt picked on in meetings and nobody took my side during or after. That’s why I spoke with the driver so he could forget about the incident and not let the unfairness of the verbal attack gnaw on his spirit the rest of the trip.

Adding flame to the fire with strangers in these incendiary times would have been risky for me. However, I’m sent a monthly survey by the MTA and in response to February’s I wrote about what happened last Thursday. While I doubt the MTA would connect the dots between my writeup and the woman in the plaid jacket who may have lodged a complaint about Mr. Green, you never know. Maybe we’ll balance each other out.

Do you think that there are categories of people—such as mothers or children’s caretakers—who should be given a pass to do as they please when out in public without regard for others’ safety or convenience? What about those who care for disabled people? The elderly?

Service of Gratitude II

Thursday, March 8th, 2018

I’m gratified when an article in a legitimate source such as The Wall Street Journal confirms one of my observations. In this case, it’s about gratitude and how it has been lost among a large swath of people, young and old alike.

For years I’ve been part of a committed group of association members who vet applications for college and grad school scholarships—as much as $10,000 plus generous fringe benefits. I’ve often written here about the scholarships or the winners. They pass three reviews: Every application is read by two members. Those recommended for the second level are interviewed on the phone and if that conversation goes well, the student meets a committee in person where final decisions are made. The competition is stiff. Some of the high school senior through grad school students are remarkable.

This year I interviewed college seniors attending grad school and only one sent me a thank you. Last year none of the students I spoke with thanked. “So what?” say you? “Nobody thanks these days. Where have you been?” you may think. So this: If two students receive equally high recommendations to move to the third and last review and one has written a thank you as short as “tx,” and the other has not, the grateful one gets the opportunity to be interviewed in person; the other loses her chance.

But the ramifications of not expressing gratitude are far greater than missing out on a scholarship.

In “An Attitude of Gratitude,” in the Journal Jennifer Breheny Wallace wrote: “As Dr. [Richard] Weissbourd sees it, parents were fed a myth that if children feel better about themselves—if parents praise them, cater to their every need and make them feel happy—it will help them to develop character. ‘But what we’re seeing in many cases is the opposite: When parents organize their lives around their kids, those kids expect everyone else to as well, and that leads to entitlement,’ he says. And when children are raised to feel entitled to everything, they are left feeling grateful for nothing.” Weissbourd, a psychologist, is faculty director of the Making Caring Common initiative at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education.

“Researchers find that people with a grateful disposition are more thankful for a wider variety of things in their lives, such as their friends, their health, nature, their jobs or a higher power—and that they experience feelings of gratitude more intensely. For them, gratitude isn’t a one-off ‘thank you.’ It’s a mind-set, a way of seeing the world.”

John Wyeth

This approach reminds me of the award for niceness instituted at the Harlem Link Charter School named to honor the memory of John Wyeth who had worked there for a decade and who was the epitome of the award. I wrote about it a year ago.

Wallace also included observations of David Rosmarin, director of the Spirituality and Mental Health Program at McLean Hospital in Belmont, Mass., and an assistant professor at Harvard Medical School. He mentioned how gratitude takes a place in most world religions.

I attended a memorable Bar Mitzvah service many years ago in which our friend’s son Julian told the congregation about his good deed that was part of his Bar Mitzvah preparation. He described making sandwiches to offer homeless men and women in Newark, N.J. and how hard it was to get out of his father’s car when they arrived in the city and what it was like to approach and speak with the destitute people he met.

Helping less fortunate people became a turning point for one family in the article. The floors in a house that one of the children helped to restore as a volunteer were in such bad shape you could stand in the home and see through to the ground. When this child returned home “she got down and hugged the floor and said, ‘I’ve never been grateful for a floor, but now I am.’”

Wrote Wallace: “The researchers found, in keeping with past studies, that general gratitude was associated with less anxiety, less depression and greater well-being. They also found that religious gratitude—toward God—was associated with additional reductions in anxiety and depression and increases in well-being.”

It’s never too late to teach gratitude to a child and Wallace noted the obvious: The most effective way is for parents to practice what they want a child to do such as thanking when junior takes out the garbage or holds open a door.

Wallace wrote that parents can “spur their children to appreciate and reflect on the time and thought behind the gifts and kindness they receive, as in: ‘Jack really knows how much you love football. How thoughtful that he gave you a jersey of your favorite team’ or ‘Wow, Grandma just took a five-hour train ride to come and see you perform in that play.’”

Do you think expressing gratitude eventually leads to feeling it and that it really has positive effects? Does a person—parent, boss or client–appear to be weak if they thank which is why they don’t do it? Do you know anyone who never thanked and then suddenly began to? Do you have examples of someone who expressed gratitude to you that bowled you over?

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.

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

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.

In 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.

According 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, rain, 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?

Service of Perspective II

Thursday, June 14th, 2012

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.

His 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.

He 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?

Service of Being Unconscious

Monday, January 30th, 2012

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.

This 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 thought, 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?

Service of Home Office Vendors

Monday, May 24th, 2010

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:

I 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.

I 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?

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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