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Back to Work

I am back to my regular work schedule. Some things are exactly the same and others have radically changed.

What’s the same? Items still need to be pulled. They still appreciate how hard I work and how I have the big picture in mind.

What has changed? Lots of things. Social distancing is enforced. If a customer keeps violating the six-foot rule, we can call the cops. Also, we are taking appointments, ten per hour. No more than 12 customers in the store at a time. Lots and lots of cleaning. Employees all have to wear masks, but customers don’t, which I think is a huge mistake. We don’t want to be “confrontational” and require customers to wear masks, but lives are at stake. Our clientele tends to be elderly and scraping the bottom of the socio-economic barrel. These customers are vulnerable.

I take the coronavirus seriously. My parents don’t. They live near Mason. They have been home from Florida for about a month. They have gone to Meijer to buy groceries repeatedly. They have not gotten sick. Now the new Mason Goodwill is open,  by appointment. If my mom gets the virus, brings it home to my dad, and he gets sick (he already has COPD), I am going to be so pissed. I really hope the employees there are adhering to corporate cleanliness guidelines. This is personal.  Also, if there is an outbreak in Ingham and Eaton counties and some of the cases get tracked to our store, they will shut it down so fast, it will make your head spin. I would like to keep my job.

I look at every customer as someone’s mom, dad, aunt, uncle, brother, or sister. Nobody wants to get the call at three in the morning saying, “Dad’s in the hospital. We can’t visit. The hospital is out of ventilators. Pray for Dad.” Not all customers are understanding the point of all the new rules. We tell them the rules are for their protection, not so much ours. Some customers think the rules are BS and hate them. We can only hope it is a long and healthy hate.

How to Turn a Blue State Red

I’ve been watching the riots on TV. Notice that i didn’t say “protests.” Once people start torching the city they live in, they are not MLK-style peaceful protesters acting against injustice. They are thugs. Period.

I am from Michigan. I have read this book. I know how it ends. The title is “Detroit: From Great American City to Bankrupt Embarrassment.” It starts out with racism and injustice, foundations in the American experiment. It ends with white flight and a strongly conservative government. Yesterday, blacks torched the police department in Minneapolis. Not a good move. Now someone will call 911 and no cop will be stupid enough to respond. Why should they?

Whites like to think of themselves as “progressive,” liberal even. But watch how fast Bernie-Sanders-style liberals turn into Jerry-Falwell-type conservatives. Whites are all about safety. Sensible whites are not going to put their children in harm’s way. They will leave the Twin Cities, taking their wealth (the tax base) with them. Today’s young people have no memory of Detroit having almost 2 million people. The infrastructure was built to accommodate that. Then the whites left and there was no money to maintain the gigantic infrastructure. Detroit became known for its corruption and murder rate. The whites moved to the suburbs, when they stayed in Michigan at all. No business in its right mind invested in the Motor City for decades. The riots in Detroit put an end to Detroit’s prestige and importance in American life. I am not sure it even has 600,000 people anymore.

Will it happen that way for Minneapolis? I don’t know. Could it? Darn right it could.

The problem with rioting is that the rioters just lost their argument. The names of the victims will be forgotten in the mayhem. The sparking injustice has just been drowned out. When two people argue, it is not the person with facts and justice on their side that prevails. It is the person with the most self-control. The point of the argument is drowned out by the rioter’s behavior.

People forget that Richard Nixon was a “law and order” president. Kennedys were dead. King was dead. The civil rights movement was seen as the beginning of the unmasking of the real side of blacks that liberals pretended wasn’t there. Suddenly, whites didn’t talk about civil rights anymore. It was all about “forced busing.” And whites, like my parents,  made sure they burned “Brown v. The Board of Education” to the ground. Whites will not risk the safety of their children to ghetto nonsense, ever.  It really is just that simple.

You have to understand. I am very liberal politically, Bernie Sanders type. But I won’t put my own safety in jeopardy. I understand the real-life dynamics of cities burning.

This is killing me. I think the rioters just gave Trump the victory. Trump is looking downright sane compared to those who burn down their own cities. When you make President Trump look good, you are done. You just lost the argument and the war. Your fight against injustice has just been drowned out by your own bad behavior. No one cares about the opinions of people who have no self-control. You just made all of us that truly do understand the destructiveness of racism look like morons. Your positions can’t be defended by white people that want to even so much as look intelligent. You are making Faux News look cerebral. You are making the most racist, misogynistic, paranoid, infantile President we have ever had look well-balanced and understanding. Congratulations. You just lost it for all of us.

Something’s Up at Work

Today, work called me. I assumed it was to say it would be a while before we went back, seeing as Governor Whitmer extended the stay-at-home order to the middle of June. So I assumed I knew what the call would be about. I was wrong.

The store manager told me to show up at work on the 26th at 3. I said, “This 26th? What day of the week would that be?” She said Tuesday. I said, “Three days from now Tuesday?” She said yes. I said okey-dokey.

So I went online to check out anything GICMH put online.  “We are hoping to open more locations soon while still keeping everyone’s safety a priority.” That was one of the lines. For all those folks wondering if Goodwill is going to survive, I can tell you that, in mid-Michigan at least, they plan on expanding. Expanding into where? What will we be told? Perhaps some of our hours will be cut or increased. Except for Lansing and East Lansing, this area is quite rural. MSU is a little island of diversity in a sea of cows and corn. Perhaps this is what happens when they continue to get endless donations while the stores are closed. All those donations are probably filling warehouses by now..

I am greatly intrigued.

Atheists, Rejoice!

Things get more bizarre by the day.

Today, Trump was saying that he could “override” state governors if they did not immediately open up churches. First, that claim is simply false. The President cannot override the governors. It is not Constitutional. His claim to authority is delusional.

Second, opening up churches can only kill off his own base. No joke. As an ex-Christian, I look at Christian websites sometimes and the news from the evangelical front is frightening. Christian Post has an increasing number of articles about churches that are opening up and then having many members die. There are articles about pastors dying of coronavirus. And just recently, I saw on TV how the most efficient way to spread the virus was by forceful speaking (spewing out droplets). Nobody speaks more forcefully than preachers. Talk about defending their religious free-DUMB. Go ahead. I dare you. Have church. Preach without a mask. Make your members sick. Then you can whine about how Christians are a shrinking percentage of the population–as you kill them off yourself!

Don’t get me wrong. I am impatient to get back to work my own self. And Governor Whitmer just extended the stay-at-home order to June 12th. Are you fricking kidding me?

Here’s the problem: It will never be safe to re-open. Period. If we are waiting for every company/retailer to have sufficient PPE for their employees and customers before re-opening anything, nothing can ever re-open. The virus is mutating this very minute. I read an LA Times article recently that said that, in March, a new strain of the virus was found. And let’s not forget the new outbreak in China, which I assume is a new strain. So now we are talking about three strains (the old one, the left coast one, and the Asian one). People keep talking about a vaccine, but, honestly, we may need three vaccines.

My fear: people are losing it. You can’t just endlessly prolong the quarantine. Someone will assassinate Whitmer. I am not joking. People are on their last nerve. I go to Meijer to buy groceries and a lot of people have stopped wearing masks. People are done with science and common sense. Forty million Americans are out of work. I am scared to go out. Facts and reason are gone. People are pissed off. Bigly. There are no good answers sometimes.

My only reassurance is that Democrats are well on their way to taking over everything because Trump seems absolutely determined to kill off his own base. I am positive that every atheistic Democrat in America is more than happy to support the religious free-DUMB of evangelicals. I just shake my head.

Mixed Feelings

I’m in pain. I think it’s grief. It feels like someone is sitting on my chest.

I got a letter from work. We are keeping our jobs. After all, there will always be a place for second-hand stores like Goodwill. They got their PPP funding. Towards the end, it said to not travel anywhere because we will need to be instantly available when called back. And we are getting paid in the meantime. Part of me is thrilled.

But another part was unexpectedly sad. I had been thinking lately that, if I am going to be unemployed, there is no imaginable reason to be unemployed in Lake Effect Hell (aka Michigan). I have gotten back into the habit of looking for things to get rid of. I am so lucky to have a job, so I was truly surprised to have any hint of an “Oh, crap” feeling.

I decided not to call my mom this past Sunday. I realized that I was more concerned about my parents’ well-being than even they are. How caretaking is that? That’s too dysfunctional even for me to contemplate. But there you go. As a kid, I remember seeing my mom cry because my brothers were creating such drama. So I always tried to be the good kid.

Fast forward to today. And I’m realizing that my parents don’t take the virus seriously. My mom called me and started quoting Faux News bs at me. She acts like Whitmer and Obama are responsible for all things bad in the world. Number one, Whitmer is trying to save lives  in a situation where there are zero good solutions. And here’s a newsflash: Obama hasn’t been in office for four years! Next thing you know, Hillary Clinton will be at fault for something (who knows what?).  Ma’s perspective is detached from reality.

The problem is that this is nothing new. I have been realizing lately that if I saw today a kid that acted like I remember acting, I would whip out my I-phone instantly and call Child Protective Services. No hesitation. I remember chasing my brother Mike with a knife. He died last summer, so I’m not worried about his privacy. And I pulled off my fingernails and toenails. I had major problems with ingrown toenails because of that. To this day, my big toes don’t have real toenails. And I only recently stopped picking my nails, I am still unsure if this is a permanent thing. Self-mutilation is a sign of trauma. And chasing a sibling with a knife is a sign of something. Us kids were really expected to solve our own problems. To say that we did not know how would be a massive understatement. Ma just did not take responsibility for anything. Ever. Whatever occurred, she assumed (wrongly) that we would grow out of it. Never happened. We grew out of nothing ever because no issues were addressed at any time. It reminds me of an old 12-step saying: if nothing changes, nothing changes. Now it’s 2020 and the chickens have come home to roost. Consequences are rearing their ugly heads and no learning has happened. I’ve been watching one train wreck after another and I am very tired of it.

The virus will probably kill off my parents and remaining brothers. Part of me doesn’t even want to talk to my folks anymore, but another part says to try to keep a small amount of relationship with them because they won’t likely be around much longer. I have to stick around for a few more train wrecks.

I have realized in the past few weeks that my suicidal thoughts were really an indication that I wanted out of my family, not life itself. When I didn’t call Ma yesterday, I felt really good about it, like I was taking my life back. So she called me today. Ugh.

Now you can see why I want to sneak out of Michigan and leave no forwarding address. So many levels of grief.

Here is a hilarious postscript. Someone a few weeks ago signed for (stole) a package from me. It was a 2-pack of half-slips from Woman Within. Yesterday I got an email from WW saying they had accepted my return. I didn’t return anything, but my account had been credited. In other words, the thief clearly assumed something far more interesting was in the package. When they realized what was inside, they returned the contents. I appreciate that, but it also indicates that the stuff I buy isn’t sufficiently interesting to steal.  Too funny. I laugh every time I think about it.

PhD Baristas

I owe 50k in student loan debt. Paying any of it back is put on hold due to the virus. Now multiply my position by 20 or 30 million people. Do you kind of get the feeling of what I am talking about?

I have a Master’s degree and make minimum wage. I believe I should be highly employable. I have skills up the ying yang. I have worked for Goodwill for almost two years and have missed no time at all. When they re-open, I can start working again, but maybe not as many hours.

Here’s the societal issue. Millions of jobs are simply gone now. People may never really go back to eating out. As the virus mutates, restaurants and some retailers may never recover. Many of the jobs out there require technical skills or, at the very least, some education beyond high school. Even before the virus, universities were hurting.

Why were universities hurting? PhD baristas, such as myself. We are the minimum wage workers with advanced degrees. I and my ilk are anti-role-models. The younger generation looks at people such as myself and say, “Why would I be so stupid as to go to school and get up to my eyeballs in student loan debt, just to make minimum wage?” And these young people are correct. They have it figured out. They are not morons.

We are the only nation in the industrialized nation that seriously expects the student to foot the bill for their own education. And it has led to declining enrollments because there is, literally, no financial benefit to getting an education anymore. And this was pre-coronavirus.

I have been dealing with this in Michigan for more than a decade. For years, employers have been whining about a “skills gap” and that they cannot find qualified applicants. They are full of crap. There is no “skills gap.” It does not exist. However, there is a massive “compensation gap.” Many job postings are absolutely hysterically funny in their demands for upper-level technical skills and barely-above-minimum-wage compensation. This is what has led to Michigan’s plummeting educational standing. Our employers have been demanding Master’s level skills for peanuts wages for many years and the skilled people have left. Now employers really, truly can’t find qualified applicants anymore because anyone serious about paying off their student loans has been forced to move to states with higher wages. We have some of the best universities in the world and no decent jobs for their graduates.

Now add the coronavirus. People that can’t make their rent are not going to go into student loan debt for jobs that do not even exist yet. And here’s another news flash: student loan debt is going to be devastating to the economy as it opens up. People’s savings are gone. People that are already in debt cannot go out and purchase a house or car. This hurts manufacturing, construction, and real estate. Whitmer has allowed the automakers to go back to work. Big whoop. With no market, cars will stockpile and eventually manufacturing will have to be reduced.

To get the economy up and running, President Biden and congress will have to forgive student loan debt. It can’t happen with the greedy GOP in power. This needs to happen for everyone’s survival. Nobody is going to go back to school to gain the necessary skills if they will be in debt till the day they die. The skills are necessary; they are non-negotiable. But few young people are stupid enough to end up like me.

I am the anti-role-model.

Different Types of Denial

I talked to my mom today because it is Mothers’ Day. Perhaps it was a mistake. I don’t know. But it was surreal.

She blames Michigan’s economy on Governor Whitmer, who is trying to save lives in the state that still has the nation’s third highest number of coronavirus deaths (not cases, deaths). I bet she said, “I never thought of that before,” at least three or four times while we talked. I kept emphasizing that safety is my primary concern and, in particular, my parents’ safety means the most to me. I really don’t care how great the economy is if I have to watch my whole family die. This is a gruesome time. I said, “I really don’t want to kill you guys or the clientele of Goodwill off, if I can help it.”

But it all brought back memories or my young adulthood, with my brothers doing drugs and getting into trouble. Here’s the conversation:

“Did you know fact A?” “Yes, of course.”

“Did you know fact B?” “Everyone knows that.”

“Did you know fact C?” “Well, duh. How could anyone not?”

“So do you believe D (the obvious conclusion connecting the dots of facts A, B, and C)?” “Well, gee. I never thought of that.”

When I was in my late teens and early twenties, my mom’s brother, who did cocaine, lived in Brighton, about halfway to Detroit. My brother who lived in Illinois would come to Potterville, about 15 miles southwest of Lansing, and “stop by” the uncle’s house when coming to Michigan. Everyone but Ma knew he was buying coke from Ma’s brother. It never occurred to her. A little common sense geography says, “Uh, no. He wasn’t just visiting his uncle. Brighton is not ‘on the way’ to Potterville by any stretch of the imagination. He had money and was there specifically to purchase drugs.” When she found out years later why he was going there, she got pissed at her brother for selling her son drugs. For the rest of us, it was, emotionally speaking, too little, too late. It was like, “Seriously? Now you’re upset? Where was the outrage when you might have had some impact or influence on the situation? Sad.”

Clearly, there are at least two types of denial. Type 1 is the one we normally think of, where someone does not admit that fact A is true at all. When that doesn’t work, I guess the alternative is Type 2, where you have all the dots and the brain is simply incapable of connecting them. It’s like a whole new level of stupid. Your eyes can see what is going on while comprehending nothing.

The basic problem with denial remains: everyone else has figured out what is going on. The protection of denial is temporary. Reality still comes and bites you in the ass and now you are all alone because people have moved on without you. They think you are so slow intellectually that everyone has concluded that you just don’t get it or perhaps you’re not as smart as they thought you were. Talking to Ma today just drills in the idea that I have been giving her waaaaaay too much credit in terms of having common sense. The little kid in me really needs her to be so much smarter than I am and it just ain’t happening. I feel like her very life is at stake and she and my dad are just not taking the whole social distancing thing seriously. A train is coming, they are standing on the tracks, and I am refusing to be the train that runs them over. It’s just painful to watch them defend their “right” to stand on the tracks. Good luck with that…

So, do I just stop talking to her? I love her and she does mean well. I just thought she was so much smarter…