Monday, March 2, 2015

"How Are You Doing Today?"

The lady quickly caught up with me. "I hate flying into Atlanta," she said. "They all like that. Shameful's what it is."

I landed in Atlanta hungry and tired and with only a small window of time to get to my shuttle, set to depart in 25 minutes and having to make an absolutely essential pit stop before being stuck in a van for two hours.

Worse, I took the "plane train" in the wrong direction, which added to my stress.

By the time I get to the top of the domestic baggage claim area, I had 10 minutes to find a restroom and also get to "Parking Space 13 or 14 in Ground Transportation." There were two wings to the baggage claim, and each wing had two exits to "Ground Transportation." My intestines and I knew we didn't have time to trial-and-error our way to the right location, not if we were to take care of other matters.

The first human beings you encounter at the top of the escalator to baggage claim are TSA officers, whose sole job, it seems, is to ensure that no ter'ists attempt to sneak into a terminal and onto an airplane via the baggage claim. Two TSA guards stood to my right, and one to my left. Because it's a fairly tedious job*, people like myself are inclined to think of them as "TSA security and/or Information." In fact, four people were lined around the guards to the right asking them questions. So I went left.

"Excuse me, ma'am, can I ask you for some help finding how to get to my shuttle?" I asked.

Nary a muscle in her body moved. Her eyes remained transfixed on her phone. And she said these words: "And how are you today?"

I paused. Seemed like an odd reply. And then I said, "Um, I'm good? I think?"

"No sir," she said. "That is how you might consider addressing someone if you want their help and they ain't gotta be helping you. A little courtesy."

She didn't stop there. This was the genesis of a sermon she was now preaching at a sinful congregation of one, which is to say me. When it dawned on me, that I was being sermonized to, I held my hand up and interrupted (except she kept talking).

"Okay okay thank you and nevermind. I'll find a decent and happier human being to ask for help. But I sure do hope your day improves, 'cuz it must not be going well." I walked backward away from her, a bit worried that this woman might have the authority to create serious problems for me.

An older black woman apparently witnessed the entire odd event walked up to the agent and said, "Woman, what is wrong with you?" Salt and pepper short hair. Sharply dressed. Confident and clearly in an upper or upper-middle status in life. Her words bounced off stone. She walked quickly to close the distance between us. She was pissed.

"I hate Atlanta," she said. "They all like that."
"I've never had an encounter quite like that one," I said.
"You must not travel this airport much."
"I mean, I get her point about politeness, but I don't see why that's -- "

"No no, honey. You didn't do anything wrong. You were plenty polite. She just a pissed off lady taking out her misery on you. They doing that here all the time. I'm tellin' you, I travel for my job, all over the country, and Atlanta is the worst. The. Worst. They oughtta be ashamed of themselves, but they're not. Shameful is what it is."

A lady from the next booth -- a different shuttle company -- was more than happy to help me out. I asked how she was doing today first.

Life went on. No big whoop.

I know this was about race. I just don't know how much of it was. Or which parts.

I know it was about unhappiness and the impact we can have for good or ill on others we meet only briefly. I just don't know how much of it was about that. Or which of us, or if either or both of us, failed.

I know it was about not knowing what she brought to the table in that moment. Maybe she had just ended a bad conversation or a fight, or there's a break-up pending, or maybe a death or illness in her life, or just some random news item that made her, in that moment, really hate the look of me. Maybe she was up all night drinking, or crying, or dealing with a sick baby or a disrespectful teenager.

I have no idea what she brought to the table. I only know she was either deeply unhappy in the oment or deeply unhappy in a more disturbing way. Regardless, my regret is not finding a way, in that moment, to do something more positive, to show some kind of patience or warmth or compassion. If she rejected it or responded with more anger, so be it. I only know that her anger felt like my failure.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Jim Dandy To The Rescue!

The magic number is 12.  Gotta get to 12 posts a month in order to feel like a living, breathing, viable blog.  A small blog, maybe, but if you ain't got the new posts, if you let up, then people stop checking to see if you have anything new.  If you had a storefront, even if you weren't selling anything, if you were just giving out stuff for free, you would still need to have new stuff.  Even the Jehovah's Witnesses coming to your door and always finding you not home (or, more likely, cowering behind the curtains), they've got to have new tracts to let you know that everything you believe is wrong.

And so this blogpost.

Just cleaning up around here at the end of the month, looking through scraps and half-baked thoughts that never turned into anything.  Maybe 8 lost, forgotten, unrealized ideas make up a whole one.  That's what I've got for you, 8 random observations that have little or nothing to do with each other, and maybe nothing t do with anything at all.  Nevertheless, here they are:

1.  The "I will be out of the office, blah, blah, blah" automatic response email is an outmoded idea, if it ever made any sense at all.  So you are gone to a conference and can't be reached by email?  That's B.S.  I've been to conferences; everybody attending spends every spare, polite second (and many impolite ones) checking their messages, texts and emails.  Same with people on vacation.  You maybe physically away from the office, but you are still checking in.  The real message behind the automatic response is "Don't bother me."  Period.

2.  Siracha is jumping the shark.  Like its forefather, chipotle, its time as the "hot, spicy ingredient du jour" is winding down.  Once the bottom feeders like Subway, McDonald's and other fast food joints get ahold of it, there's not much creative left to be done with it.  Which doesn't mean I won't keep adding it to the white sauce I dip my chicken teryaki in.

3.  There are only two ways worth watching a movie: 1) in the theater on the big screen, even if the theater is kind of crappy or second-run, or 2) on a personal device like this one, maybe in the dark, maybe with headphones on.  Any other way undermines the value of the medium.

4.  I had two daughters go to the same all-girls high school.  Now they are alums.  We were parents.  Now we are parents of alums.  The school sends out its alumni magazine several times a year.  To parents, and alums,cand parents of alums.  To all of us.  At the same address.  Each issue comes in identical triplets.  Every time.  There is a better solution here some where.

5. Never tweet your Oscars food spread before the Oscars.  If you do, you might discover that because your cable isn't working, and because you downloaded ABC Go and because you tested it in the afternoon, and because every pre-Oscar show you watch on your iPad or Apple TV ONLY GIVES YOU A "cam," that ABC Go isn't available in your area to watch the Oscars, even though it never told you this when you set it up in the afternoon.  And so, you will never see the Oscars, and all you will have is your food in a disappointed room.

6. The latest in car rental:  enterprise steals a play out of the Valvoline playbook, in other words, they, too, are pushing the hard sell.  An Enterprise agent gets into the car with you, ostensibly to demonstrate the car's features, but really to insinuate himself into your cocoon in order to try to sell you their insurance.  Just like Valvoline's attempts to sell you all kinds of pricey products to go with your oil change, Enterprise has a 4-tiered insurance policy during your rental time period, a number of different ways that they recommend that you spend extra money.  I didn't go for it. But it was unpleasant.

7.  Do you trust fish?  Not everyone does, and for good reason.  Tilapia, they now say, is more dangerous health wise than bacon.  How can that be?  Well, tilapia, in most every restaurant. Is the farm-raised variety, and what those fish eat, including eating each other, makes them a premium health risk.  On top of that, some restaurants have fallen into the practice of tricking consumers into buying a fish that isn't really the fish that they say it is.  It's kind of like Hollywood, using Mexicans for Indians or Mexicans for Arabs.  They know we can't tell the difference.

8.  Lastly, the title of this piece.  Well, historically, it is a reference to a Black Oak Arkansas song from the 70's, a song I heard, didn't especially like, but, more than anything, had no context for.  I didn't know who Jim Dandy was; I knew little of Southern or Ozark Mountains music.  Also, of course, a reference to 12 posts in a month, to keeping this blog alive, to pushing hard during the last days of the month to meet a self-imposed quota.  I guess I'm Jim Dandy, the hero of my own myth making.  The problem now is that I write so much at the end of a month to keep things going that I'm burned out for the first half of the succeeding month.  It's a vicious cycle.

Payday

In my Lenten mood, the concept of payday probably deserves some examination.  Yesterday was ours.

The morning of payday is a glorious morning.  Even though all of those earnings exist electronically somewhere until accessed with an ATM card, I still can't help but feel like I'm strutting around "with my pockets full of green," as a song once described.  It is like I am a car that was running on empty, suddenly has a full tank, nay, more than full, topped off right up to the cap.

It doesn't last long, of course.  Depending on the financial road ahead in my mind, I then act in one of two ways.  If there is no goal or obligation ahead, I spend the first two or three days of a month buying whatever I want.  The Costco cart gets fuller.  The restaurants see more of us.  Something I've been pondering online gets ordered on a whim.  If I know that there is a major expense or a break on the horizon, then I do what I'd did yesterday.  The money has barely registered in my account, and I immediately pay every single bill, the paragon of fiscal responsibility.  In this model, three days into the month, I know exactly how much I've had to pay and, consequently, exactly how much I have left.

Either way, the first half of the month is always better than the second, or so I tell myself.

Whether I was making $17,000 the first year I had a full-time job, or now, the 27th of each month remains a day I live for, wish for, count the days until, try to make it to, budget and strategize and scrimp or "rob Peter to pay Paul," all to get to that day.

It's a grim way to live.  Now, I know this is a petty little first-world problem.  The living-paycheck-to-paycheck mode that some of us find ourselves in as we've gotten older is artificial.  The "cash flow" problem of each month occurs because we are paying things like mortgages, retirement funds, car payments, tech expenses, and expensive educations for our children.  We short ourselves in the name of luxury, convenience, and security, financial or otherwise.

And being paid is better than not.  Being paid more is, arguably, better than being paid less.  Mostly agree.

No, what I'm grappling with is what has happened to my psyche.  I am a slave to a paycheck.  My "biorhythms" have ordered themselves to a particular day of the month that my employer chose for some unknown reason, long before I started working.  That day has taken control of me, really of my entire family.  We all know the 27th.  For you, it may be a different day, maybe a couple of days a month.

A friend and I proposed a twice-a-month pay plan some ten years ago.  We were told, "Sounds like someone doesn't know how to manage his money."  Surely, you hear the class criticism in that response--the less-educated you are, the more manual-labor type work you do, the more frequently you need to be paid, presumably because if you are going to squander your paycheck in a tavern at the expense of your family, then we'd better pay you again a week later while you are chastened and while your wife threatens you with a rolling pin if those pockets aren't still green when you get home.

No, salaried employees must have greater financial savvy than that, mustn't we?

But what weighs on me today is that I am allowing myself to live for money.  Payday has become self-validation day.  I've done it!  My family has been counting on me and I've delivered! Yay, me! Paycheck, you complete me!  Living for money isn't something I want to do.  I'd like it to never be anything more than a means to an end.

But that is what is in my head when I log on to my bank's website and verify that, yes, I am winding up the money clock once again and it will keep ticking for the next 30 days.  Should the Energizer bunny of my bank account not be "still going" for that stretch of time, then I am less than what I should be.  That ain't no way to live.  Which is why I hope my wife is paying for supper.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

True Notebooks

There's twenty-seven men here,
Mostly black, brown and poor,
Most of 'em are guilty,
Who are you to say for sure?  --Steve Earle


Sometimes you just read the right book at the right time.  For me, that book is True Notebooks by Mark Salzman.  I'm not going to push the issue too much, because I got to experience this book as a one-day read on a snow day, a circumstance that I know some of my colleagues would not have been able to enjoy.

But it is a great book in a modern sense.  Salzman, a bestselling author, is "coerced" into teaching creative writing at a juvenile detention facility in California.  Most of the students are murderers.  All are children who have been tried as adults.

The book is a first person rendering of a year with these kids, as Salzman grows into his role as their teacher and mentor.  Much of the book consists of the inmates' writings, their ruminations on their incarcerated circumstances and how that weighs on their psyches.

It is a brilliant, low-key read.  I claim brilliance because how many books out there give a reader the understanding of what it is like to be young and in prison, probably for life?

How many books make such characters human rather than stereotype, so that their stories rise above the simple American understanding of our minorities consigned to prison?

And that's why True Notebooks is the right book at the right time.  At least for me.  In a month and a year when America is  struggling with understanding why so many of its "minority" citizens are in prison, to read this book and to hear the stories behind why these men are in, well, that is essential, I'd say.

Salzman's book doesn't explain away their crimes, doesn't justify them, certainly doesn't apologize for them.  It just humanizes them.

Most of us don't live in a world where wedding receptions end in violence, where gang obligations dictate our behavior and survival, where we must thoughtlessly engage in self-destructive acts on the "outs" that, when prosecuted, land us in prison.  Because we don't, there is a large segment of our own society that doesn't understand;  Salzman's book forces us to acknowledge that this segment exists.

And while it is difficult to call the young men caught up in that world "victims," the fact remains that these young men both rely on their lack of choice and castigate themselves for the choices that they feel they had and have to make.

But, most of all, the book is about writing.  The young men that Salzman works with all work towards self-actualization through the words that they put on paper.  Through direct description, anecdote, metaphor, and analogy, they attempt to come to terms with their circumstances.  That is difficult, nearly impossible.  Imagine being young and uneducated and still trying put into words what it is like to spend years in prison, to understand those aspects of life that you may never experience again, to come to terms with the confined, restricted life you may live until the end of your days, or at least beyond your vital years.

The book also humanizes the people who work in prisons, their understanding of the limitations of these young men, while they also get caught up in lives and futures of the charges under their care.  To be a juvenile prison guard is to be a mixture of resignation about what is to come (real prison) and a desire to offer these boys a respite from that future, however brief.

Lastly, the book, without preaching, shows us how the criminal justice system lets these men down, with lengthy months until trial, subpar lawyers, and by-the-book judges who ignore the growth that the young men (at least as Salzman's writers) have achieved behind bars.

Maybe that is as it should be.  The book doesn't push you one way or the other.  While you may tend to sympathize with these boys, Salzman has no qualms about reminding you what they have done.  Their plights are a double tragedy-- for their victims and for them.  And that is worth both reading and future consideration.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

The Best Meal

Have you ever considered that the best idea for a meal might not follow the traditional pattern of entree, salad or side, bread or starch, maybe dessert?

Of course you have, because the idea of tapas have slowly insinuated themselves into our culture--the Spanish notion of serving "snacks" of various types for the early evening eating that takes place before the real evening meal, which occurs much later than when we Americans typically eat.  So now we have tapas restaurants in most of our cities.

And in more expensive restaurants, where there is plenty of money to be made from serving "small plates" that have cheap prices, at least until you realize that a bunch of $11 small plates with not that much food on them add up quickly when you share them, we have other offerings that begin to riff on the traditional tapas menu.

But have you ever thought that you could do this at home?  It's pretty easy, because there are no rules.  For my recent Oscar "meal," for example, I served the following:

Broccoli and cauliflower with Curry Dip
Guacamole with tortilla cigars
A cheese plate with New Zealand Cheddar, a blue cheese, a goat chèvre and fig jam
A crab spread with cream cheese,  sweet chili sauce, cilantro, and rice crackers
Pretzels with homemade honey mustard

Not fancy, not complicated, but a meal. A real meal.  You get your veggies, you get you protein, you get your carbs, you get your fat (which is back in vogue).  And you can eat as much or as little as you want of any or all of it.

You don't think kids would love a meal like this?  A meal that looks like a party spread?

It's a pretty cheap meal, too.  Any kind of a grazing menu is bound to downplay the meat, and even if you buy expensive cheeses, you don't put out that much of them.  They'll be there for another version of this.

But what I really like is the variety.  You aren't stuck in Mexican, or Asian, or American--you can put together a whimsical spread of all three, and more.  Offerings like this also lend themselves to a creative use of leftovers.  The meatloaf you served two nights ago returns as meatloaf sliders.  The leftover crab legs your father passed on to you are reimagined as a dip.  The last fourth of a jar of, really, any fruit jam makes a simple cheese and cracker "pop."  Leftover deli ham or turkey finds its way to a toothpick with a grape tomato and a cube of cheese and, yeah.

The other pleaser at work here is the your ability to offer a little bit of a lot of things tends to make bored eaters more excited.  Instead of a meat-and-two concept, all of a sudden, with very little work, you've got five or seven different things worth trying.  It feels like a party, which isn't a bad thing mid-week or on a Sunday night.

And though I'm not a cheap person. I really like the frugality of it.  Because I like to use up what might be forgotten in a freezer.  And so, some frozen rotisserie chicken becomes a quick chicken salad.  A half a box of egg rolls or pierogies suddenly becomes pretty enticing, when all you need is a good sauce to go with them.  The last stalks of celery, the rest of a bag of carrots dip conveniently into a salad dressing that has been forgotten in your refrigerator for a couple of weeks.

Sometimes the best meal allows you and yours to be culinary dilettantes, dabbling here or there, as part of your own, improvised tasting menu.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

The Treasures Of This Earth

"Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.  (Matthew 6:19)

In an unexceptional string of events, I lost a guitar, got a smashed car, fixed the car, went to Ash Wednesday services, and then, with misplaced faith and pride, probably lost the car for good.  Here's how it happened:

I am lazy.  At least about band practice.  When I lug a guitar over to the practice house and then I have to lug it back, I am not inclined, as soon as I get home, to lug everything into the house ( especially if I am then expected to lug it downstairs to the room where I practice).

And so, each time I practice, I either leave my stuff at the house or leave it in the car.  I have done that for months.  I will admit that the first night I left my 192 purple Stratocaster lying in the backseat, I thought, if anyone sees that, it will look pretty appealing.  But by the next day, I had forgotten that.  And by the next night, or, really, the morning after between 4 and 5AM, it was gone.

A window was busted out of my car.  A window was busted out of my daughter's car.  Which came first, I don't know.  But I suspect it was my car with the guitar.

So then, guitar gone, I had to get the window fixed.  Covered by insurance.  They come to your house, remove the old glass, install the car window, clean everything up and leave.  Meantime, my wife and others and eventually me are hitting the local pawn shops to see if the guitar is there. And, in the other meantime, I decide to do some other repairs on my car, to get it back up to good running condition.  

$900+ later, I have the car back, not completely fixed, but getting there.  I still don't have the guitar.  And then the snows come or don't come.  It doesn't really matter, because we get snow days off either way.  And on one of those days, we hit up the pawn shops again.  Again without luck.

Three days later, after a work dinner on a Friday night, I start to drive the car home, but during the meal, a decent blast of snow, ice, and sleet has come down, and the streets are covered, at least where I work.  So, I try to get home one way, and the hill is blocked.  So, I try to get home the other way, which also involves driving down a steep hill.  With speed bumps.  The latter matters because each time you hit one of those bumps, your car leaves the road and then has to re-engage with it.  In untreated snow/ice, this means that you lose valuable traction.  And so, as I head down that hill and then lose traction, I see my only course as trying to turn 90 degrees onto a street, but I don't make the turn.  Instead, I keep sliding, hitting a curb and pushing my right left wheel into the chassis.  

A few days on, here's where I am--guitar gone, money to repair car gone, car itself likely gone.  Because of its age, I expect the insurance to "total" it, handing me a check and taking the car.

There are two simple realities beneath all of this: 1) I expected to play that guitar as long as I live, and 2) I expected to drive that car for a long, long time.

And that brings me to Ash Wednesday.  That piece is easy, in a way.  My wife promised us good pizza, if we would go to Ash Wednesday services.  So I went.

But if you listen carefully to an Ash Wednesday service, at least the Episcopalian version, then you know that one of the essential messages of that service is that we have come from dust and that we will return to dust.  And, in the interim, we are not to focus on storing up the treasures of this earth.

I believe all of that, believe it or not.  One of the most meaningful poems I have ever read is Anne Bradstreet's "Upon The Burning Of My House," which makes a similar argument.  I knew the role that my failures had played in the loss of the car.  I knew that I had come to believe that my Subaru would always conquer the snow.  Does that mean that I was speeding down the hill?  No, but it does mean that I never expected to be sliding into a curb.  Ultimately, an ineffectively-treated road can undermine the best vehicle.

Still, that does not mean that both the guitar and the car had not achieved the status of "friends." Though inanimate, both had personalities and idiosyncrasies.  Both had stories that, if able, they could have told.  Both had lives that seemed to have no immediate ending, at least in connection with me.  And now, both are gone.  Yes, I try my best not to store up these treasures.  But I am also not ready yet to admit to my own dustness.  So that makes it hard.  Someday, I will lose other friends, or they will lose me, but that time has not yet come, and until it does, I am not ready to acknowledge the truth that awaits me.  Sorry.  

I think this is a Lenten post, even a sermon.  But that's just me.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

We Don't Need No Stinking Snow!

Weather forecasting has fallen victim to the same problem that plagues healthcare. Experts cannot afford to undersell risk because our society will not tolerate such errors. Better to predict the sky is falling even if there's only a 10% chance.

They'll mock you for overreacting, but they'll practically crucify you for downplaying it if the fit hits the shan.
Olaf, enjoying a school-canceled snow day in Chattanooga

WEATHER + SCHOOL ADMINS

In the world of education, public schools in the South are canceling school sometimes more than 24 hours in advance, and with nary a flake on the ground or a degree below freezing. The mere legitimate possibility of inclement weather is now a more than legitimate reason to call the whole thing off.

This is due, in part, to a greater faith in the slightly more accurate "science" of predicting the future in regards to weather. (I wrote that to try and make it as absurd a concept as it, in fact, is.)

From an administrative point of view, in 2015 the only unforgivable mistake is to not cancel school. That decision risks both parent and student animosity and the risk of litigation. Why would anyone want to battle that three-headed hydra?

WEATHER + PARENTS

Parents, even at independent schools, even those with high tuition, are vastly more likely to be happy about school being canceled than upset. Why? Because school getting canceled means happy, cheering children.

Because modern parents are far more obsessed with their children being happy than they are with them being educated.

If this blanket statement seems harsh, look around. Hop on Facebook or read parenting blogs. If you ask parents whether they value their child's happiness over their child's education, you might get close to a 50/50 split. But it's in their actions where we see the priorities come to life. Parents might philosophically know that happiness is a by-product, but they treat it like a manufacturable commodity.

"And really," they say, "what's one day of school? What does it matter if you miss a day or two?" Or even better, they say, "You don't need school to learn things." Which is absolutely, undeniably true, of course. Except that when your kids fail out of college, few parents seem interested in accepting the blame and are conveniently quick to point to their school as the problem. We only need school to learn things so we can blame school when we don't or won't.

WEATHER + TEACHERS

Here's a minor annoyance: educators who over-celebrate getting a day off even when they know they shouldn't really have a day off but get one because of the weird place we are in with weather in the 21st Century.

In pictures, I wish teachers celebrated more like this:



... and less like this:


First, these teachers and educators are feeding into the very stereotype they complain about being given: that they chose a profession for the vacation days and not for the joy and duty of educating The Next Generation of American Citizens. They celebrate their chance to be snowed in (even when there's no snow) while 80% of the rest of the adult world drives dutifully into their places of work, from Starbucks to downtown law offices, from hospitals to stores in the mall.

A barista can make it into work, because by God the world needs them. But a teacher? Mmmm not so much, not in a crunch. We don't need education right this minute like we need that cup of Starbucks.

Second, and this goes specifically to this moment in time, in Chattanooga: the way teachers react to these comical days off risks revealing what they might actually feel about their job. When you are celebrating a Get Out of Jail Free card with excess gusto, it suggests you are Getting Out of Jail. And if that's what you think of your profession, of the livelihood you have (in theory) chosen, isn't it fair for those of us who believe in education as a calling and a commitment to be a bit annoyed, a bit angry?

Unfortunately, when teachers barely get paid more than baristas, and when society treats them with less respect than baristas, then why the heck shouldn't teachers be in it for the vacations? It's gotta be hard to cling to a sense of duty that no one else seems to respect you for having in the first place.

No one, and I mean no one on this planet, would accuse me of being a workaholic. I don't put in 70 hours a week (unless being a parent counts, but I'm not going there right now). I don't spend night after night at home answering work emails or wrapping up work projects. I come in. I do my work, diligently, with intensity and focus when possible. I clock out and become a father and a friend.

But I have trouble celebrating vacation days that are neither deserved nor merited. If I can't get out of my driveway from snow (or a fallen tree), so be it. I'm stuck, and that's that. Let's go sledding and drink hot cocoa 'til it comes out of our nostrils. Yay.

But not working one day, for most of the modern employed world, merely means falling behind on all the crap that needs doing. It's only a fleeting joy, a trade-off whose payback is often hell, like leaving a clogged toilet unplunged.

Maybe this is where my marketing background gets the best of me, knowing it's just unsightly to be so brazenly happy to not have to work when others must trudge through the snow (or non-snow), uphill both ways, to work.

I believe it goes deeper than that, however. I worry that it speaks to our modern notions of duty and responsibility, that it speaks to how many of us are bitter about what our employer doesn't do for us while overvaluing what we do for our employer, that we deserve more days off than we get, and Mother Nature is the dispenser of this correcting justice.

And, to be fair, sometimes teachers seem so maligned and under-valued that I can't blame them for cheering their unnecessary days off.

WEATHER + STUDENTS

As is has been, so it always shall be. Nothing has changed here. Kids love snow days. Teens love snow days. They love them when it really snows, and they love them when it doesn't. They only stop loving them when it risks eating into their summers through extended days.

Well, there's one difference lately. In the '70s and '80s, no kid expected to know anything about Tomorrow until either (a) the 11:00 news, or (b) the morning news or radio. We weren't itching for an answer before we ate dinner. And we didn't get angry about having to wake up that morning to find out, because being out of school was always an awesome surprise, no matter when we found out.

So maybe kids today are more impatient about it, but that's totally understandable given the nature of our technology. And I don't recall feeling quite so entitled to snow days. But that might just be the kids I'm around. Like my own.