Friday, June 28, 2013

Well, It's Hot

Depending where you live, you may or may not have noticed that the weather is hot. It's Summer now, after all, so we should have realized that hot was on the way.

Our local Midwestern newspaper runs a column everyday featuring news from 50 and 100 years ago. Lately there have been several items about the oppressive heat of 1913. Now, that must have been uncomfortable.

Women wearing heavy layers of skirts that just touched the ground. Men wearing shirts with detachable celluloid collars and suits nearly everyday. One recent news article about 1913 proclaimed that the local ministers were going to take exception to the heat and allow men to attend church in their shirt sleeves, jackets optional.

Imagine what it would have been like then to be in a public building without air conditioning. No doubt very brutal.

I saw an interview on Turner Classic Movies with actor/author/producer/director Bob Balaban about the early days of cinema. His family owned several movie theatres early in the last century and those theatres were not opened during the summer. It seems that having the doors closed to make the theatres dark was so uncomfortable that patrons couldn't stand the conditions. The Balabans figured out how to "air cool" the theatres. It was an unprecedented luxury and drew huge audiences in to enjoy the air and watch movies.

Apparently the portable electric fan debuted about 1890, so no doubt it took some time before they reached wide use. So folks were left to their own devices to keep cool. Remember those hand-held paper fans with stick handles? You see them in antique stores now.

I recall many hot days during the 1950s without air conditioning in Illinois. We had a large box fan which rolled from room to room. It could be maneuvered toward an open window or screen door to provide some comfort. We got warm but found ways to stay as cool as possible: splashing in our neighbors' wading pool, playing with the hose, staying in our basement or going to the local swimming pool. Much of the time we did little until evening arrived or a cool spell would allow us to be active.

In the summer of 1960, we drove our 1958 Ford from Illinois to Arizona, then back to Illinois and finally back to Arizona (again). It took two round trips to convince our family that it was time to relocate. Our Ford was not air conditioned, of course. In those days, few cars were air conditioned and those were mainly luxury vehicles. The trips were hot. Really hot. But we did the tourist things, seeing the state before heading back. We would stay at motels with swimming pools. The best part was that I got one beautiful, deep tan with little effort. I was 13 and those were the type of things that mattered.

When I was first working in Phoenix, it was some time before I had a car with air conditioning. What a glorious development. Yes, I got hot and would feel baked but  I merely dealt with it.

My ex-mother-in-law and her family arrived in Arizona from the Oklahoma panhandle in the early 1920s. They settled in a small home in the desert west of Phoenix where they had no way to cool off or to keep food cold. Her father came up with a design to help. They had to haul ice to keep anything chilled and he devised a way to blow air across the ice at night so they could sleep. Talk about roughing it. But they were grateful for any comfort from the heat.

When I started college in the Fall of 1965, some of the college dorms still had "sleeping porches" for student housing. Older dorms had long screened-in extensions, usually on the second floor which held rows of beds. These were designed in the late 19th century as a way to make the most of the "cooler" breezes which swept across the desert at night. Students of one sex all slept together in these beds so that they could get relief from the heat. These same students also had dorm rooms similar to most dorms with bathroom facilities, desks and closets. Once the students were out of bed, they would go about the business of studying, getting ready for the day, etc. Even in 1965, these accommodations were considered antiquated and were soon to be replaced. But this, too, was a way to deal with the heat.

Hearing such stories does little to cool us off in the midst of this current heat wave. But we need to remember that not so very long ago, people had it much worse. We should be a bit humbled by what they went experienced.

So raise a chilled glass of ice tea and stay hydrated. This too shall pass.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Golden Oldies

Recently I was watching some vintage movies, a couple of which we remember from the 1970s. I wouldn't necessarily call them classic films but two of them did very well at the box office when they were released. Support the theory or not, box office receipts have been and remain a measurement of a movie's success.

Sometimes it take a while for a film to be declared a classic. Even if a movie does not do well when first released, it may gradually develop a fan following as many devoted viewers returning again and again to see the film.

However the word classic is defined, that category would have to include a few down-right great films which had endured over time. Films like Gone with the Wind, Citizen Kane and Casablanca surely fit into the classic department. These movie have all the elements of exceedingly high quality direction, memorable if flawed characters and rich dialogue.

To me, Casablanca stands out as one of the best films ever. This 1942 epic is set in unoccupied Africa during the early part of World War II. Despite the fact that the film was made over 70 years ago, there is a timelessness to Rick Blaine, his love for Ilsa Lund, with a touch of Nazi intrigue added for good measure. Casablanca is perfect on many levels. I could watch this film as often as it is shown, and often do, simply because it tells a complicated story in a simple and touching manner.

The two films I watched recently were both from the 1970s but are polar opposites.

Network (1976) was directed by Sidney Lumet. Written by the brilliant Paddy Chayefsky, it is set in the world of television news. The tone of the plot rings as true today as when it was filmed. Thanks to Chayefsky's genius and the insanity of the television business, the script was years ahead of its time. Chayefsky must have seen the future because he wrote about television news morphing into something entirely different than originally intended. To think that ratings would force TV executives to do almost anything to improve ratings. Unbelievable! In the film, television news needed to design features to entertain the audience. Stirred into action by Howard Beale's lead, viewers had to admit that they were as mad as hell and weren't going to take it any more.

The second movie, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, was filmed one year later in 1977 yet seems amateurish by comparison. It was written and directed by Steven Spielberg. I loved this movie when it came out and have watched it many times during the intervening years. But watching it this week, I was struck by how it appeared outdated and stale. Perhaps this was due to the never ending development of technology. Not that film-making technology has evolved since 1977, but so much of the movie is based on outer space exploration and communication with aliens, apparently very much on our minds in 1977.

We have become a world of plugged-in, instantly communicating automatons, who can't cross a busy intersection without checking for emails. Watching the film as people struggle to communicate and understand why bright nighttime lights have arrived is almost amusing. In addition, Richard Dreyfuss and his family are just regular folks, working people with dysfunctional family lives. It is their inability to surf the net for answers or to reach each other by cell phone that seem so oddly old-fashioned. Dreyfuss nearly runs off the road while reading maps on his journey to Devil's Tower. Today his GPS would have guided him.

While I do not believe we should walk around in a daze plugged into one device or another, the imprint of technology is with us, perhaps to stay.

No doubt as our society continues to embrace certain technology and discard others, some movies will cease to be watched entirely. Perhaps they will be viewed simply as oddities. I was reminded of the many ridiculous sci-fi movies made during the 1950s, as we were uncertain of the long term effects of nuclear fall-out. Tales of giant insects walking through our cities and across our deserts - ants and spiders and larvae, oh my!

I'm not faulting the filmmakers for these discrepancies. It's simply an observation that some things will endure over time and others will fade.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Service? What Service?

It's time to vent once again about the complete lack of customer service out there. I have had to consider whether I've become too demanding. I don't think so, but it reveals my personal intolerance of stupidity.

It's bad when any situation requires us to seek help by picking up the phone. The result usually involves some automated phone line that leads into a queue of options. Today's dilemma required use of the phone after the appropriate website failed to contain pertinent information. The phone queues seldom have an option to address my particular situation. Trying to find someone to help is not easy.

If I were running a company that required employing actual people to assist via phone and could hire fewer people by using queues, I would be overjoyed. Cost aside, having a computer voice run a queue is insulting to the caller, at the very least. Why would I want to hold and then "talk" to a non-person?

Today's matter was finally resolved, but I had to hang up and then call back. This time I got a computer voice which was friendly, as computers go. I input the necessary numbers and codes to conduct the transaction and the computer voice thanked me. Imagine that. It was friendly and polite!

No offense to anyone, but why would a company employ someone who does not speak the language? Certainly call centers employ a number of non-English speaking folks to help the callers who do not speak English. But having a casual concept of a language which is not our own can lead to problems. That would be like me taking a job answering phones in Germany or Sweden, where I know only two or three words in either language. Having a working vocabulary is not something that a call taker can fake.

Recently I had a question about whether my insurance would cover a certain prescription. The medication was not mentioned online and I resorted to getting an answer from a "representative" via phone. She could hardly pronounce any words properly in English, struggling through "Hello" and "May I help you." So when she was required to repeat the name of the medicine, it was a disaster. I asked her a couple of questions and there was silence on the other end of the phone. She finally responded and I had to say, "I'm sorry. I cannot understand you." She became a bit nasty and said she was only doing the best that she could. This is not exactly my idea of customer service.

A friend of mine was recently lamenting how she and her husband had taken all of their business from one local business to another. I know both businesses well and asked why they had made the change. She replied that when she and/or her husband go into the store, they are ignored and often have to endure a long wait. That has not been my experience in the same businesses, but my friend said it was too rude and they now go out of their way to stand in line at another business.

I know this woman well and she is not one to jump to conclusions or make hasty decisions. So her situation must truly have been unpleasant to require such action. Perhaps if she had a place to vent her frustration it might have convinced her to keep her business at the first store.

I am not timid to vent about things when warranted. However, I am not one to take out my frustration on a clerk or checker who has nothing whatsoever to do with the situation. These folks must hear a constant tirade about one thing or another that upsets shoppers. But they are pinned behind the counter and are unable to see to resolving the situations. Why would people rant at the poor clerk who has nothing to do with the problem?

Many years ago, I remember shopping in the fine apparel section of a very upscale department store. A man and woman ahead of me had asked to speak to the supervisor. When the young woman arrived, she smiled and offered, "What may I do help?" The couple unleashed a barrage of words at the woman. She remained calm and wore a look of sincerity. When it was over, she said quietly, "I understand. I'm afraid there is nothing I can do about it, but I appreciate your feelings." The matter apparently involved a dress which they wanted in a size which was not available. The couple turned in disgust and stormed out of the store. I walked over to the supervisor and said, "I just have to commend you on taking all that yelling without ruffling one bit. It was very hard to listen to and I felt bad for you." The girl shrugged. "That's why I do," she said. "You get used to it."

I always remembered that. The couple in the department store was wrong to be so vindictive about a rather petty issue. To make a scene over such a small matter seemed a bit silly then and still does today.

Such is the decline of customer service. At the least people in the department store scenario were standing face to face. At least they were all speaking or attempting to speak the same language. And at least they were all human beings.








Saturday, June 15, 2013

Just Remembering…

I was just thinking back to the "good ol' days" of a simpler time. It was during the summer of 1954, on a midweek afternoon. My mother walked across the street from our sunny house in the Midwest to where I was playing with my friend Linda in her sandbox. Naturally, it was hot. But Linda and I didn't mind the heat and we could always find a little shade.

My mother was going to run an errand downtown. "Want to go with me?" my mother asked.

"Sure!" I hopped up to head home, waving to Linda.

As I reached my mother, she smiled and added, "But first, of course, you need to put on a dress and some sandals."

Not the details that a little girl welcomed, but having to endure a dress on a hot day was worth the trouble, just to get to go.

It was always fun to visit the downtown section of our little town. The blocks filled with stores always seemed to be bustling and the experience was a special treat. Our town had a Kresge's, a Woolworth's and other dime stores with plenty of fascinating yet affordable things. Going into a store was wonderful.

My family had lived in the little down of about 16,000 for several generations, so the chances were good that on nearly every visit my mother would encounter someone that she knew. Going downtown was so special that most people cared about their appearance just in case they ran into an old friend.

I remember standing quietly in stores while my mother chatted with an acquaintance or two. Conversations usually included a quick update of medical conditions, how life was going in general and discussions about other local happenings. It was a simple time, an uncomplicated life complete with a sense of serenity.

Of course, the 1950s in general had a certain social dignity. Men and women both wore hats, a fashion must that required attention and upkeep. Women also wore gloves. People cared about their appearance and, most importantly, cared about how they were perceived.

I don't mean that everyone dressed in the latest fashions but they made an effort. The two key phrases here are: made an effort and dignity. These two phrases are non-existent today.

I underwent a horrible experience earlier today: I shopped at a large, well-known discount store. I venture into that particular store no more than about four times a year, only if I am seeking a product available nowhere else. Many years ago, I was less hesitant to shop at the same store. In those days, I appreciated its diversification of products and its low cost. I was fairly certain that if I went there to find an item, the store would have it and at a reasonable price.

Well, things have really changed.

The vast majority of shoppers that I saw today were dressed in a style that would be considered inappropriate for taking out the garbage. The crowd contained a number of corpulent shoppers attired in shorts with huge rolls of flesh visible. They apparently made no attempt to find a larger size or select something that covered important portions of their bodies. Sorry to say, most of these people folks were women. They made absolutely no effort to wash, tuck or otherwise disguise their misery. They screamed at their children who ran uncontrolled through the aisles, darting directly in front of folks who had to use diversion to avoid tripping.

Do people today have no dignity? Apparently not. That's confirmed by watching reality TV and news interviews with the so-called regular people on the street. The fact that dignity is gone from TV is a true reflection of the fact that it is gone from our civilization.

Do people no longer make an effort about their appearance? Absolutely not. In the Midwest, people joke that in a nearby community, well-dressed means having your teeth in. A sad but true comment. Deodorant is rather inexpensive. Here's an idea: buy some and use it. That doesn't mean you have to SHOWER, although that would be nice and might make you feel better. But at least control the stench of your unwashed body.

The morning newspaper comes with a rubber band around it. Even if you don't get the newspaper and even if you can't read, there are likely rubber bands on the ground or elsewhere to be found. Take a rubber band, comb your long, greasy hair with your fingers and apply the rubber band. I'm not asking for fashion mavens here. Just a little effort and a smudge of dignity.

Does it seem like my expectations are too high?

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Summertime and the Livin' is Easy

There are numerous things that make summer so special. Some of these contributing factors date back to childhood memories and some we have come to appreciate more as adults. But summer is unlike any other season.

It's a tranquil time of year. That does not mean that nothing occurs or that it is in any way boring. Simply there are so many possibilities to enjoy without a lot of effort. Remember those old ads for Country Time Lemonade? Summer brings alive a world of walking barefoot through meadows of tall grass to an awaiting glass of lemonade. Every Country Time commercial was like taking a trip through some idyllic wonderland. For all I know, those commercials are still running, but I haven't seen them in years. Still the images remain clear and accurately depict a summer experience that we would all enjoy.

Life is easier -- at least, in many parts of the country -- because we seldom need to fuss with wearing or bringing additional outdoor clothing. Personally, I enjoy wearing jackets and coats and coordinating my apparel. Snuggling into a nice warm jacket is sensational. But having to pick a jacket, wear a jacket, remove a jacket and find a place to hang/lay it on arrival gets a bit old after a few months. Summer is simple. Arrive. Leave. Not complicated.

Most people are at least somewhat able to "take it down a notch" in the summer. Postal carriers and UPS drivers have moved into short uniforms, a sure signal that we can all relax our fashion sense for now. Wearing something that is comfortable is key. However, a tip to all readers: that does not mean that "jammy" pants and flip flops are suitable for public wear, although I see these items daily. Unfortunately, some people have either no taste in clothing or sense of propriety, so I have given up fighting this issue. That does not mean that I will "join them" and will continue making at least some effort to look crisp despite humidity.

It's a chance to try different foods. Rather than heat up the kitchen and the entire house to cook, it's nice to grill outside. It's the one time of the year that men seem to enjoy taking charge of meat preparation and sharpening their skills. Women should welcome this opportunity, too. It's fun to indulge in such summertime favorites as baked beans, deviled eggs and fresh fruit. Such goodies are to be enjoyed during summer's warmth because they seem a bit out of place when there is snow on the ground.

Life shows down in the summer. School is out so the daily schedule is entirely altered. We can sleep a little later, linger over our lunch and enjoy an afternoon popsicle on the patio. Adults still work but thoughts of vacation time and family outings are mental exercise that we all enjoy. Trips are planned and squeezed into long weekends whenever possible. In most cases, these are easier, too since it's the one time of the year when the weather is likely to be good. Storms do occur, of course, but are not likely to involve plowing the driveway. Be sure to tuck an umbrella into your suitcase, just in case.

There are chores inherent with summer that don't occur the rest of the year. Lawn mowing is a necessity and has such a long history of obligation that entire groups of men and boys earn extra income from performing this task for the rest of us. We all become so concerned with our yards that we spiff up the trees and bushes, plant flowers and even adorn our front yards and porches with comfortable furniture. In the summer I see people that rarely seen during the rest of the year as they walk, bike or stroll by in the early morning and evening. Summer weather brings out the socially inclined folks everywhere.

Some activities are part of summer and only summer. The local swimming pool opens each year after Memorial Day. It is open only during the summer and is a destination that many enjoy. Parks are welcoming all year around, but especially in the summer. Even on the warmest days, picnickers can find shade and enjoy a quick bite with a cool drink. It's easy and wonderful. Bikes get brought out from storage to have their chains oiled and their tires inflated. Bring out the inline skates and other toys for enjoyment. Make use of the sunshine.

I know people who dread summer, who begin in March saying things like, "I love this weather, but I know what's coming." Like many things in life, weather and summer are pretty much what we make of them.

We should make the most of summer and enjoy each day.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Food for Thought

Recently a friend and I were discussing the taste of various food items. This was prompted after watching a TV commercial advertising a childhood favorite cookie.

"I always loved those," my friend said, nodding toward the commercial.

"Me, too. Nothing better with cold milk." I paused. "But have you eaten them recently?"

"No. Why?"

"Because they taste nasty now."

There are certain foods that we all remember from childhood. These items may have been popular as after-school snacks or comfort food meals. Maybe these foods were special because of the era during which we enjoyed them. Most moms didn't work but stayed home and prepared actual meals. It might be that we associate the foods with a nice, contented period. During the post war years a significant number of processed foods were introduced and we liked trying something novel and unusual. But many of those foods were simply tasty and we enjoyed them.

In those days, going to a restaurant was a special treat. There was not a fast food franchise on every corner in every town. Today we can rarely find any town in the country where there isn't at least a McDonalds or Subway. Even the smallest community tends to have at least one eatery for those needing a quick fix. Our family went out to eat on special occasions, especially for Mother's Day or Easter. But these trips were to nice, sit-down restaurants where we practice niceties of the time, like ordering from a menu and using table manners.

So as my friend and I talked about the favorite edibles from the 1940s and 50s, fast food was omitted. (Besides, the topic was actual food, not fake food.)

I have to wonder about those foods which are now much less tasty than their former version. Why are they so different now? It seems logical that the ingredients simply were revised. Perhaps this revision was to save money on production or to extend shelf life. Maybe a few ingredients were replaced because a newer alternative had been created. But the end result is that the products listed here are simply not as good as they once were. Too bad.

No doubt you have your own entries to add to the list.

Foods That are Not as Good as They Once Were
Fig Newtons (now called simply Newtons)
Hershey's Chocolate (except for Chocolate Syrup, which remains fabulous)
Three Musketeers candy bars
Most soft drinks (it must be the sweeteners)
Canned food items like ravioli, stew and corned beef (it must be the high sodium)

Foods Which Remain Tasty Despite the Passage of Time
Kool-Aid (unsweetened varieties which require sugar)
Peanut butter
Cheerios, corn flakes (and many cereals)
M&Ms (plain and peanut only)
Orange juice
Spam luncheon meat (how do they make it so yummy?)
Mounds candy bars
Pay Day candy bars
Jell-O products (including pudding)
Campbell's soups (especially tomato and chicken noodle but not the low sodium stuff)
Dairy Queen treats
Potato chips (but why so many strange flavors?)

Sometimes when I see an item at the grocery that I haven't eaten in decades, I decide to give it another try. On several occasions I have found the result extremely disappointing. This might be because the product has changed. Perhaps this is because my tastes have matured. The end result is the same: Can't stand it, won't buy it.

Consumers usually vote with their wallet. So if sales for a particular food product drop off, manufacturers might want to examine the reason why.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013


Today I received a card from an old friend. Our relationship has deteriorated over time until now we hear from each other rarely, merely exchanging birthday cards and Christmas greetings.

These exchanges are oddly impersonal. Each card will enclose a short note about his children or my current activities. But there is little interest in what is actually going on in our lives. He has had health concerns in the past but makes no reference to them or how he is doing. There is no invitation to interact or even reply to questions such as, "So, how do you like your new house" or other chit-chat.

Over time we have all made friends whose company we enjoyed. These were people with whom we had much in common, whose sense of humor we appreciated or perhaps they were just people we found interesting. We tend to enjoy being with people who are easy to be around, and when we part, we feel somehow rejuvenated as the result of having been together.

That's not to say that friends shouldn't occasionally listen to each other's woes and worries. But allowing one person to constantly vent his/her problems is more akin to presumption that it is friendship. Such relationships are rarely mutually beneficial.

In today's ever-changing society, chances are that at some point friends from one phase of life will leave our proximity and move to another stage, perhaps a different geographical location. Jobs, school, marriages take their toll on relationships.

In college, I had several close friends. Ours was an aggregate of couples. We were forged by being in school or having a spouse in school. We realized that we would remain together at least until graduation. The group continued to grow, adding folks with like interests and tastes. We hadn't counted on outside influences such as the draft or the Vietnam War to ricochet through our group and damage its cohesiveness. But most of us kept in touch until time and options caused disruption.

We drifted apart and I have no idea where these folks are or what happened to them. That shift is a natural progression, I suppose, but sometimes I think of them and how close we were and feel a sense of loss.

Working years provided another set of co-workers/friends. In most office environments, we are again in a closed society. Interaction allows us a glimpse into someone's personality while at work, which may not show them at their best. Work relationships often end with job termination. Along the road to retirement it is inevitable that we discard friends of the past.

As we get older, it becomes increasingly hard to make new friends. Our journey through life has caused us to accumulate a lot of baggage. We are more skeptical of other people and quicker to judge. Perhaps we are more suspicious that other people might have an agenda. As we have grown more sophisticated, no doubt we are more reluctant to show our inner personality.

The best decision seems to stick with a few close friends. I realize that the advent of so-called "social media" encourages us to "like" each other. But personally I found that entire social media adventure far too shallow and meaningless for my tastes. When I had an account, I was bombarded with photos of people I have never met or even wanted to see. These are usually smiling faces of strangers doing such things as drinking alcoholic beverages, perhaps at a party or on a boat. They appear to care less about who sees the photos but nevertheless, the photos are posted for all to see.

Perhaps this pseudo-social experiences convinces both the poster and the viewer that they are somehow "friends" now. In this helter-skelter world, that might be enough for some folks. However, I closed my social account and decided it was all too silly. All I ever got were notes from people I don't know about their latest surgery or their adorable grandchildren.

Friendships are where you find them. It also appears that there is no guarantee they will last, despite emails and instant communication. The big question becomes: What am I going to talk to them about? They live on the other side of the country and it has been years since I saw them.

As a result, communication has been reduced to "Have a nice [insert name of event here]. Just a note to say I'm thinking of you and hope you and [insert name of spouse here] are doing well. Drop me a note when you have a chance."

After all, some things are just better left unsaid.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Working for a Living…

This week I had lunch with a friend and former coworker, who I will call Sally. We hadn't seen each other for several years, besides running into each other while shopping. At one point while Sally and I worked in different sections at the same organization, we would commiserate frequently.

As soon as we discovered how miserable we both were at work, we began to meet for lunch or a post-5:00 beer to exchange words of support. We joked that getting together was cheaper than seeing a therapist. In the truly dreadful situation in which we worked, it was important to vent our frustration in order to remain at the job.

The situation at our jobs was stressful, to say the least. The place of employment gave many individuals long-term jobs with nice, steady income. In truth, work there could not be considered a career since little actual skill was required, continuing education was frowned upon and there was little chance of advancement. But the job was as secure as most jobs. Few people got wealthy as a result of their work experience but money was not the driving force at this job. What was important was security and regular pay in exchange for expending no more than minimum effort.

People merely wanted to skate by without being noticed.

Of various jobs I held during my working years, the situation where Sally and I worked was by far the most unpleasant. As the economy slowed, panic swept through the office. Those workers who were aware that they were inept began to see that the party might be ending. Jobs might be cut. It was time to save their own jobs. But what to do? How to deflect attention away from fact that plenty of people were easily expendable?

The answer was simple. Lay a smoke screen. Start rumors. Drop hints about the bad attitude of other workers. Suggest casually -- perhaps accompanied by a smile -- that Worker X has been openly talking about finding another job.

The wisdom of such a plan soon became obvious to other workers. If there was some way to turn attention off of their own mediocrity, it sounded like a good tactic.

And so it was that a mass hysteria began to creep through the work place. Innuendo and downright untruth ruled the day. Each day workers would spend a large amount of [company] time and effort furthering their cause. As a result, even less work was accomplished on a daily basis. Fear of being singled out led to more clandestine activities. Closed door conversations and quick emails were commonplace. The situation had become so intolerable that I was relieved when I could announce that I had found another job.

The minute that I saw Sally earlier this week, I knew that nothing had changed. More personnel changes have occurred with many new faces hired to replace those of us who left in an attempt to improve the situation. Sally was extremely stressed out. The continuing misery had actually taken a toll on her appearance and, as I later learned, her physical health. At the end of our lunch, I departed feeling as though I had resumed working in that wretchedness myself.

Sally reported that most people are just "waiting it out" until retirement, taking even less initiative and trying not to anger anyone. She referred to coworkers we both knew as "three years out," "one more year" and otherwise designating how long before they can take their pensions and leave.

A sad story indeed.

Sadder yet is the fact that this particular situation cannot be an isolated incident. There must be countless work environments similar to this. No doubt the fragile employment market has fostered a vast number of terrified workers who fear being unemployed. Never mind that they are miserable, even disrespected. They see that nothing could be worse that being unemployed. So they resort to backstabbing and doing anything to survive. I would guess that most of us know of such a situation where little productive work occurs.

Life is too short to tolerate such a situation. Why is everyone so fearful of what lies ahead? Sometimes the best action is take a chance.