LONG LIVE THE TREE…AT LEAST UNTIL DECEMBER 25TH.

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Rosemarie and I had our annual Christmas Tree debate last week:  live tree vs. artificial tree.   If you landed on this space near this time last December you probably read about last year’s debate.  We have it every year.  By now, it’s become a Christmas tradition.

Divorce is never discussed but there is sometimes a few hours of non-talking between us as we each fume for a while and attempt to get our blood pressures back to a reasonable level.  Not to worry, it doesn’t last long and we eventually wind up in a neighborhood lot selecting a live Christmas Tree.  As I loaded it onto the rooftop of the car I sensed an under-breath “wait’ll next year” emanating from Rosemarie sitting in the front seat.

The decision of whether or not to stop buying a live tree and switch to an artificial tree is not an especially dynamic debate.  I take the live position which is highlighted by the principle that you cannot shortchange Christmas and phony is phony and it always looks it.  I also bring up other positives of having a live tree, things like the pleasant aroma in the house and not having to find some humungous space to store an artificial tree.

Rosemarie, meanwhile, argues that we are throwing money down the chimney, that an artificial tree would pay for itself in two or three years and we’d never have to buy another Christmas tree.

My arguments that artificial trees cost too much and they ALWAYS look artificial are starting to wear a little thin lately.  This year many of the man-made trees were on sale BEFORE Christmas and I have to admit the technology has improved significantly.  The appearance of some of the artificial trees is impressive.

There is one other item worth noting, though it doesn’t help my side of the argument much.  This year there’s a shortage of live trees and the result has been higher prices.  I wound up at a fancy garden place we go to at other times of the year and I have never seen–this year or any other–such a consistent inventory of really good-looking trees.  Each one was in it own pan of water and was super fresh.  I actually had a hard time deciding which tree I wanted–they all looked good. That’s never happened before.   It was amazing….and so was the cost for the tree! It was way more than I have ever spent on a Christmas Tree.   Rosemarie, thank goodness, has yet to ask me how much I paid.  It’s one of those Christmas secrets I hope to keep to myself.  Otherwise, next year’s debate will be especially challenging.

Our tree, once decorated, is always a mishmash of holiday memorabilia and a bunch of other stuff collected over the years.  It’s a Christmas tree with too many things on it and probably the most disorganized thing in my life. But hey, it comes but once a year so my nervous system goes on holiday.

Now, in the end, you have to admit, when it comes to debating having an artificial Christmas tree vs. the real thing…a picture is worth a thousand Christmas carols.

2018XmasTreSM

*****

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FAMILY MATTERS…THE BROTHER ISSUE

Just a quick note first… WordPress, like so many Internet services, has to constantly look for ways to implement things that disrupt your work.  In this posting you may notice some words are highlighted and have turned into hyperlinks. I have no control over this that I know of, so please do as you wish–click away or ignore them and read on!

BikerBoysNow, I don’t expect many to stick around for this posting.  It’s one of those long family sagas that I guess I have to get off my chest.  No, there is no guessing–I HAVE TO get this off my chest.  It’s about my brother, Paul, my only sibling.  I need to come to peace or closure as some call it.  It is not a happy story, though one with many happy memories. Somehow, I wish the two of us had more opportunity, or desire, to tackle what it was that held us at a distance once we left childhood.

My brother died over three years ago.  He was two years my elder.  He was the one who inherited the family heart and diabetes issues while I accommodated other, less harmful genes, or perhaps later developing ones.

I think it is true that children adopt certain positions or rankings within the family.  These are sometimes dictated by age, other times by whatever traits have been left on the table for one of the siblings to spoon up and swallow.  My bother was the rebel; I the pleaser.  The roles were well defined and they played out beyond our family years.  More on that in a moment.

PKMKSantaMy mother always told us that she wanted two children so that, unlike her, an only child, we would have someone close with whom to grow old together.  I am sure early on she felt confident that would, indeed, happen—at least based on how well my bother and I got along throughout our childhood.

Two years was a good span between us.  Paul assumed the big brother leadership role and I appropriately followed.  The difference in age, however, wasn’t enough to stop us from being good friends. We rarely went separate ways. We shared the same friends along with all our activities. 

Paul and I were pretty much always together. If one of us got into something, the other soon joined in. We were both big on trains, real ones and the model ones on a basement platform my father built.  Paul taught me how to always get on the first car of the subway or commuter train.  That way, if the spot were available, you could stand at the very front door and peer out the front window.  The subways are especially cool.  You can see all the tunnels and the stations ahead appearing as little bright specks growing in size as the train approaches each one.  

Despite our compatibility as playmates, that’s where it ended.  We had totally different personalities and dispositions.  We didn’t even look alike.  He was obstinate, bucked authority and usually felt his best advice to follow was his own.  He was exceptionally smart, like my father, but he failed to exploit it.  

Report card night was always tough.  He’d come home with the D’s and F’s and a list of excuses about how bad his teachers were.  Meanwhile, I sat quietly displaying my mostly B’s and A’s and a smattering of C’s, the latter always in math and anything technical.  I loved my brother enough that I attempted to keep my performance low-profile and even chimed in how terrible some of his teachers were.  But I could not help think he resented my decent grades, not in a jealous way, but more because they simply made the evening more difficult for him. 

My brother chose not to hone the superior brain my parents built for him.  He could have easily had a successful, professional career, if he wanted it.  I, of course, went down the other path.  Paul left school his senior year and enlisted in the Navy, followed by a variety of clerking jobs and selling cars for the rest of his life.  I went on to Penn State, struggled but made it through and launched a bumpy but lifetime career in radio that took me to retirement.  Ironically, he never seemed to have regrets about choices he made, although he would have never admitted them anyway.    I always have a list of wanna-do-overs.

When he left for the Navy, I became an only child.  I got the room to myself, the perks of learning to drive and having access to the family car and eventually inheriting a gorgeous hand-me-down ‘53 Chevy from my grandfather. School was going well and I hung with two good friends who remain so today.

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Paul at 52 in 1995

As close as we were growing up together, that is all the more distant my brother and I became as adults.  My moving away didn’t help, and phone calls proved tedious.  Neither of us seemed to have anything to say.   We lived in two different worlds now.  I was reluctant to discuss any good news for fear I’d come across as bragging or otherwise putting him down.  He, meanwhile, seemed driven to the opposite end.  Whatever I had done or achieved, he’d had to top with something he did.  It was as though he did not want to give up the big-brother role and needed me to look up to him.  The phone calls were difficult.  They did not occur often.  I would visit him when I went home, but he would never—NEVER—come see me here in Florida.  “Too damn hot,” he’d say.  So the breach broadened as we grew older.                                                           

Eventually my brother became plagued with health issues.  Again, he would follow his own advice and live as he wanted and ignore the consequences.  He was constantly in and out of the hospital during his last few years.  Even his death was contrary to me. The details remain elusive.  He donated his body “to science,” meaning a bunch of med students got to practice on him and eventually he’d be bundled up and put in a piece a donated cemetery ground with others who had done the same, including my father.  There would be no funeral, no memorial service, no family gathering…nothing. Just a lifetime that had passed and, other than leaving behind three remarkable daughters who have successfully countered their father’s otherwise lethargic lifestyle, my brother seemingly left little trace that he had ever been here. 

So what now?  Well, I have compulsively put things in order for myself, as I am prone to do. I have made adjustments to my thinking…made things right, at least for me.  I wish my brother and I had a closer relationship as adults.  But if I have to settle for the portion of Paul I got, I should be grateful.  I miss the boy I grew up with, shared 15 years of my life with, took extraordinarily long bike trips with, built model airplanes with, went swimming with, played Monopoly with, cut grass and shoveled snow with and a bunch of other endless childhood “with’s.”  And intertwined among all these activities is the exclusive family heritage we both share.  These are memories indelible and unforgettable.  And in some ways, Mom, they have made it possible for Paul and I to have lived on together, just as you had hoped for… perhaps not the whole package you envisioned, but for me, enough to cherish for the rest of my life. 

*****

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THE ANNUAL BATTLE OF THE LIGHTS

I think Christmas lights are manufactured by the devil.  They exist only to frustrate methodical people like me.  By methodicalI mean those of us who label the lights as we put them away each year so that we know exactly which bush or tree gets which string of lights when we reopen them the following year. Yes, I know, analmay be a more appropriate word than methodical.  Wait, there’s more. 

Before I put away each string of lights, I plug them in individually to make sure they all work, the theory being if they are working when packed, they will be working when unpacked.  Ah, there’s the wayward theory that the devil mocks every year.  

That’s why I spent over an hour trying to get 4-5 freshly unpacked strings to work the other day. It was very frustrating, especially because there were so many and because they had all worked when they were put away last year.  Finally, I gave up.  My sanity had given out and I was talking to each string as I pleaded for it to work. I put them all in a pile on the garage floor, got in the car and drove over to Home Depot and and bought new ones to replace them.  But these lights were different.  Instead of a bulb every 5-6 inches, there were bulbs at every 3 inches.  This makes it appear as thought there are a ton more lights than before.  Good grief, the front of my house was already lit up like a…well, like a Christmas tree!

I saw a new device advertised on TV.  It’s a gun-shaped tool that is supposed to “heal” disabled strings of Christmas light. I am skeptical. I do not think one can heal the work of the devil.

Anyway, there’s the final result of my work pictured at the top.  I noticed a lot of my neighbors are switching to inflatable Christmas figures and skipping the lights.  They seem to be a lot easier to handle, but they just don’t set my holiday vibes aflutter. So I guess and I will continue on each year, playing around with my many strings of lights in my attempt to offer up an illuminating experience for a few weeks each December. It’s my way of wishing everyone a Merry Christmas…even the devil.

*****

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ABOUT INDIE AUTHORS

Close up view - The end - written on an old typewriter

Ten years ago right around this time, I was busy doing something I’d never done before.  MooseCovBest copyI was writing a book. It was a children’s book of rhymes.  It was titled, Never Goose a Moose…and a bunch of other things you should never do.  I have published a book every year since then.  No, I don’t have an agent or a big New York publisher sending me off across the country for media interviews and book signings.  A book deal has proved as elusive to me as a contract with a big record label is to many wannabe singers.

I became an independent author, self-published is the more common term. There are more of us today than ever before because of the technological advances in the printing industry.  No longer does a writer have to warehouse stacks of books in his garage hoping for a best-seller.  My books are published as what is called P.O.D., or print-on- demand.  Thanks to digital processing, if you were to order a copy of one of my books, a person would feed the file to the printing press and make that one singular copy at the click of a mouse.  It’s the same process many of you use to print a document from your desktop computer.  And, since I have pretty much mastered how to prepare the file for printing out in the form of a book, it doesn’t cost me anything to publish…except the personal time and effort it took me to write the book.

While it may surprise some of you, I sell very few books.  In fact, there are a couple that haven’t sold a single copy, even after receiving award recognition.  I am sure, too, there are some who have read my work who would say they are not surprised at all that it doesn’t sell.  Now, of course I’d like to be right up there with Stephen King or Harry Potter phenom, J.K. Rowling, but that’s not in the cards, or the books either for that matter.

Not selling a book does not necessarily mean it’s a train wreck.  There are other elements that come into play.  One important one that can help determine the success of a book is its marketing.  A publishing house usually has the resources—including money—to publicize, advertise and market an author’s work it chooses to publish.  Independent authors do what they can to promote their work and after that it’s mostly fate that drives book sales.  Friends and relatives usually don’t number enough to have any substantial impact and, quite honestly,  most congratulate you and pay you compliments, but very few of them ever actually purchase or read your work.

So why does an unsold author still continue to write?  I guess it is the same with a starving artist who continues to paint or a musician who continues to puff air into a horn while the dogs in the neighborhood howl.  The art is in you and regardless of how much merit it has, you, as its keeper, are compelled to let it out, release it, expose it to the world.  It is yours to create; not yours to judge.

FrontCovSMSo that is why I just launched my 11th effort title Again.  It is a bit of a different kind of novel for me.  It is more of a romance story, but one with lots of questions about how true is true love. And, oh yeah, no one gets murdered in this book.  I have billed it as my last book.  I think I have released more than enough of the inner me into the atmosphere and it’s time I do other things I also feel compelled to do–things that may be easier than writing 11 books…like learning how to play a guitar, discover a permanent pain-killer for arthritis, or really really understand what the cat is saying to me when we’re nose-to-nose staring at each other.

*****

Purchase Again at amazon.com (search “again, kuhn” and both digital and paperback versions should show up).  The book’s website is at:  againkuhn.com and info/links to my other books can be found at marckuhn.com

*****

 

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My Final Book is Finally Here!

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My 11th, and more than likely my final book, is hot off the mouse click at amazon this morning.  It is available in Kindle or Paperback.  It is, basically, a love story and truly has been a year-long labor of love…or maybe tolerance is a more accurate word.  No one gets murdered in this book, but you may find it just as puzzling a mystery. It’s at amazon (just search “again, marc kuhn” and you’ll get there.  I wanted to charge much less but I have no control over the minimum.  Its website is:  http://againkuhn.com.  Okay, here’s the vague hint as to what the beast is all about…

This is a story about identity and true love. It spans three generations over 60 years from the early 1900s to 1970. It involves two couples…and you! Why you?  Because you will feel every joy they feel.  Every sizzle and giddiness their love brings to them will come to you. Their smiles will become your smiles. Their triumphs will be your victories. Then too, you will not escape their outcry when  their love is threatened. You will share their anger, sense their despair and suffer their pain.

So here are the stories of Isaac and Anna, and then, three generations later, Richard and Patricia.  As you become embedded within their relationships, you will struggle with the blending, leading you unavoidably to these final questions about both identity and true love: can either transcend time and place and, more curiously…people?

So, in sum, the book is in two parts, it’s about two subjects, it involves two couples who live in two different times and it will have you thinking twice.  You may even find yourself reading it a second time…or AGAIN!

Thank you for your interest.  If you read AGAIN please note that feedback is always welcomed.

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A LECTURE

Silhouettes of the trees and man

My wife is always accusing me of lecturing when I am trying to make a point.  She also tells me not to point with my finger as I make the point. Well, tonight as I point to the bottom line of my real estate tax bill that came in the mail, I cannot help but slip into my imaginary plaid jacket with the elbow patches, grab a piece of chalk and begin scribbling on the likewise imaginary blackboard that stands in my living room lecture hall.

And the subject of today’s lecture?  Well class, it’s about the money cycle and how it rotates through your life if you are an average joe like me.

When Rosemarie and I were married in 1967, my first job out of college paid me $90 a week. Rosemarie, as a nurse, brought home $11 more.  I used to go to the A&P supermarket every weekend with a grocery budget of $14. Can you imagine that today?

It took us ten years before we accumulated enough money to put down on a house and actually have our very own mortgage….still do.  We  had young kids and job commutes and two car payments and all the usual stuff.  It took us, oh I’d say another 15 or so before I felt “comfortable” with our income serving our needs and even having some left over for an IRA contribution.  We were not living in the lap of luxury by any means, but we were “okay” as long as we didn’t go nuts with the credit cards and some huge impacting disaster didn’t come along.

Then, once we became empty-nesters we were able to devote a lot more attention to the retirement fund. By then, we realized we better start stoking away as much as we could because the Social Security checks we’d be getting wouldn’t be enough to survive on.

Next, comes the retirement cycle. The greatest joy retirement has to offer is a sound one…literally.  It’s not having that damn alarm clock buzzing away every morning.  And, correspondingly, the worst element of retirement is not having a paycheck.

So it seems, based on my personal worldly experience with economics, there exists a  money cycle for families like mine…and it goes like this:

As a young adult you struggle with bills and live paycheck-to-paycheck.  Unexpected bills present a formidable challenge and thing like dental appointments don’t exist unless there’s pain.

As you establish a family you work harder and with growing skills and some luck your income grows.  As you earn more during this cycle you are finally able to keep up with the bills—just barely—and you may even get to take the family on a summer vacation to the beach.  You will probably devote a little more time at the dentist, since the teeth  you neglected the past decade are now falling out of your mouth.  Meanwhile, you are constantly on the prowl for greater opportunities because now represents your prime time for upward mobility. Then, eventually you reach retirement.  Don’t expect a gold watch or a big a party.  Most big companies don’t do that anymore…nor do they have a pension waiting for you.  They may provide a box in which you can pack up your personal things as someone representing the company stands in the corner and observes to make sure you don’t steal the stapler.

Then you go drive the commute home for the final time and guess what?  The money cycle now reverts back to exactly the same role it played when your earning years first started.  Once again, you struggle with bills as you live Social Security check to Social Security Check.  You hope those funds you stashed away in your IRA and 401Ks are enough to handle the overflow, especially if you wind up with catastrophic health issues.  Don’t look to be standing on the edge of that big rock from the closing scene of the Lion King, holding up the new generation lion cub and singing Hakuna Matata.

For many people, their lives went in all the right directions because they were talented and worked hard…or not, and still managed to compile a comfortable stash to see them through their so-called golden-years.  But for those, who like me, worked hard, had some great opportunities and accumulated some wonder friendships along the way…the piggy bank was never stuffed enough. So if  you are among this latter group, here comes the main point of my lecture.  Even if it’s only a buck a week in a jar, start as young as you can to accumulate money for your retirement. It’ll be here a lot sooner than you think.

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IT’S A WHOLE NEW OLD ATTITUDE!

OLDMANI have become aware of a unique “reactionary” behavior that people have started exhibiting toward me. It is the kind of behavior that indicates I have become either very wealthy…or elderly.   It is not difficult to guess which.

In fact, with the proverbial joke line in mind—the one that says, “You know you’re old when…” well, this behavior I’m seeing could provide endless new material.

This new form of treatment has been extended to me mostly by total strangers.  This makes it all the more obvious that it is definitely happening and is, indeed, taking on a trend.  It means, I assume, my elderly status has gone public even though I’ve tried to keep it to myself.  I am, after all, sans walker and cane (despite the picture).

So what’s happening?  Some examples:

  • Clerks in stores are noticeably more prone to assist me before others.
  • People are offering to carry whatever it is I happen to be carrying.
  • A service counter employee at Home Depot insisted in coming out from behind the counter and going outside to get my wife and me a shopping cart when she noticed our looking for one.
  • People are beginning to get up and offering their seat when none are left.
  • The phrase, “can I help you with that” is ringing in my ear.
  • More doors are being held open for me.
  • All those pill commercials on the  news at night have become…relatable!
  • Any day now, I am expecting a boy scout to assist in crossing the street.

Now, I suppose I could take all this either way.  I could give in to it and let people wait on me hand and foot or otherwise relieve me of some of my burdens, especially the physical ones.  Or, I could fight it off for a while more, insisting I’m not THAT old…yet.

I know my physical appearance is getting a bit pathetic.  I have a three-year-old arthritis issue in my lower spine that has supplemented a three-year old back ache which rarely takes a day off.  All this evilness has caused my body to take on at tilt to starboard.  I do no think shims are going to help me straighten out.  So I have to assume my appearance is taking on that of a bent-over old man.  As such, others are prone to want to help me do everyday tasks that are more easily accommodated by straight-bodied people. Don’t get me wrong, I can do them…it just hurts a little to do  so and it usually takes me longer.

But what is really unnerving is that I came to realize our car has turned into a an old person’s vehicle. I discovered that this week when I took it in for service.  I was told the last time I had it in for service was January–10 months ago!  And as if that’s unheard of for all the miles we used to put on the car, I was further told it had been driven only 5000 miles since then.  This is because Rosemarie retired last year and now both of us are out of the daily routine of commuting back and forth to work.  Nowadays the car stays in the garage and is pulled out for short trips only, like to the supermarket or for a doctor visit.  I suppose it will become one of those cars the neighbors keep eyeing in hopes we’ll give it up and they can buy for a rip-off price and give it to their kid who’s going off to college.

So goes the process…the process of aging.  It’s not a pretty process and one that will no doubt become more challenging as time goes by.  But then, I expect more and more folks will be offering to help out in some way.  I wonder if I could persuade one of them to wax the car?

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Halloween’s a Howl

Halloween2

I don’t know exactly why, but every year I spend a day putting up Halloween decorations.  It’s not a big holiday to me like it is to some others. In fact, I hate having to go to a Halloween party and having to wear a costume.  Fortunately, it has not happened more than one or two times in my life.

Now, as a kid, it was different. I liked candy as much as any other kid and Halloween in my neighborhood was the…well, it was the mother load of Halloween.  I lived in a row-home neighborhood.  There were 44 houses on each block, counting both sides of the street. There were about 8 blocks within my normal “territory” and that represented just ONE street.  Streets?  They went on forever on both sides of mine.  So, if you were fast enough and didn’t get too bogged down with conversation at any of the houses you visited, you could cover a gazillion homes in the time usually allotted for the annual heist.

I’d end up with at least two supermarket bags full of all kinds of stuff from wrapped candy to homemade cupcakes, candied apples, cookies etc.  Back then, there weren’t any weirdoes among your neighbors so you trusted the homemade stuff.  And, oh, the bags I mentioned, they weren’t today’s typical plastic bag.  Uh-ah.  These were thick brown bags a good 25” tall…or so they seemed.

My parents probably hated the annual sugar hype they had to live with as I devoured the sweets of my labor. My brother and I would pour it all into whatever large bowls we could reach from the kitchen cabinets.  He’s have his and I’d have mine…and it was a race to the finish over the next week or so.

So here I am, tons of Halloween’s later and for some unexplained compulsion I decorate the house. On Halloween night Rosemarie and I hand out the goodies…and we have a reputation to uphold.  We hand out full-sizedcandy bars—none of the mini-bite-sized stuff. You want a Hershey bar with almonds or not, we have both.  Want a Reeses twin pack, we have it.  How about a Twix?  Whatever. It’s full-size!  It’s always fun to watch the reaction of some of the children when we present the bowl and tell them to take one of whatever they want.

There aren’t many people in my neighborhood who decorate.  There is one guy down the street who’s more anal than I am.  He has a fog machine, video projections on the wall, even a hologram projected in his trees.  Each year he gets more stuff.  Each year I stay the same.  I mean, I’m already overboard so enough is enough.  I figure the only thing that might motivate me to become more active—maybe even wear a mask and go knock’n on doors—is if folks started giving away ice cream sted of candy!

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GOODBYE SEARS!

 

BUNTLOGO

Goodbye Sears.  Thanks for all the good things you sold me. It’s almost un-American to even think you may not be around much longer after some 130 years.  I know, it’s been a slow death.  Sears has been trying to pull itself out of its tailspin for years, but the inevitable is just that.

It’s worse than when I said goodbye to Toys R Us and Woolworths and Plymouth and Eastern Airlines and a bunch of others.  Such is business in America, especially since the Internet has arrived.  But I suppose my generation is the last to realize the historical impact of America saying so long Sears.

Sears has filed for Chapter 11 and will attempt to reorganize and stay alive in some shape or form…but the mighty retailer that once ruled the flow of goods from manufacturers to customers across the entire nation and beyond is long gone.  The company will be closing over 140 stores in addition to the 100-plus it has already padlocked this year.  Sears is probably the mightiest store to fall in American retail history.  It was the amazon.com of its day.  To swipe another company’s slogan, there was a time when America ran on Sears.

searslogI am old enough to remember getting the Sears Catalog every year. No, not the little catalogs they produced in their dying catalogs days that featured only specific product groups. I’m talking the original Sears Catalog, the one that was bigger than the phone book.  Wait, there are tons of folks who don’t even know that phone books were once very big–like 3 to 5 inches thick.  The Sears Catalog was just as big.

By the early 1900s rural and small-town America depended on the Sears Catalog.  There were no large box stores…hell, there weren’t many small bag stores either.  But Sears had it all, from clothes to appliances to hundreds of household goods to an entire house you could order, build and then fill up with Sears stuff.

At Christmas there was a supplemental toy catalog, the Wish Book!  Kids then spent as much time going through that one and making their list for Santa as today’s kids spend time on their cellphones.

And then there’s Kenmore.  My hunch would be just about every household in the 50s-60-s had at least one Kenmore appliance.  Nor were there many fathers who didn’t have a Craftsman tool or a car rolling around on Sears tires and a DieHard battery under the hood.

Some of these brands may survive, but the Sears dynasty itself, as previous generations have known it, is all but gone. It’s true, the bigger they are, the harder they fall.  For consumers my age, this one’s an earthquake.

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A FRIDAY NIGHTmk4567CLUSTER F***

sign at the hospital points towards the emergency room entrance.

Back back back in the late 1950s there was an early television sitcom known as the Phil Silvers Show.  It gets a lengthy report on Wikipedia, including mention of a memorable episode that my memory refocused on Friday night when I was involved in one of the craziest Cluster F*** I’ve ever walked into.  I have to use that term because there is none better to describe what happened to me. BTW, Merriam Webster actually offers a definition for it: “a complex and utterly disordered and mismanaged situation.”philsilvers

Well, getting back to Phil Silvers…on the show, he played Sgt. Ernest G. Bilko who headed of a group of haphazard soldiers in charge of an army base motor pool.  I don’t ever remember seeing an actual automobile or jeep in any of the shows in the four years it ran.  Instead, Bilko and his troop spent most of their time scheming up money-making scams, many of which were based on gambling.  If you remember McHale’s Navy, this show was the army’s version, only years earlier.

The noteworthy episode took on the story in which Bilko and his men were assigned to overseeing army physicals for a bunch of recruits.  One of Bilko’s men had a pet chimpanzee (nothing unusual there) and somehow the chimp wound up in line with the recruits.  You guessed it…the chimp begins going through the army physical with all the human recruits and since all of Bilko’s men have their noses buried in their clipboards, no one ever looks up and spots the chimpanzee.

Early on in the assembly line procedure, each recruit has to give his name.  When the chimp is asked his name, of course he does not answer. The examiner says to him, “Hurry, Speak Up.”  The examiner’s assistant says “Got it” and proceeds to write down “Harry Speakup” and the chimp now has a name.  And so the process continues–one hilarious moment after the other–until the chimp makes it all the way through and passes the physical and is issued a uniform.  It is a classic example of a Cluster Fu**!  This past Friday evening I became the chimpanzee and the only difference is that, eventually, I realized what was happening.  Here’ my story…

I had to get a medical test as an outpatient at a nearby hospital.  It was a simple test just to rule out a possible blood clot in my leg…very similar to a sonogram given to pregnant ladies whereby they rub a probe over the outside of the body and it gurgles out sound waves that show up as images of what’s happening inside.

For my test, they had only one appointment left before the weekend.  I took it.  It was scheduled for Friday evening at 5:30.  The lady on the phone told me the usual out-patient admissions office closes at 5pm so I would have to register at the reception desk in the Emergency Room and then I’d be taken to wherever it was that I would be given my test.  So that’s what I did and that’s when things began to take a wrong turn.  I’ve been to this hospital’s emergency room several times for me or for others so I am familiar with its routine.

When I first arrived and was told to have a seat while they checked out my I.D. and insurance credentials, a blood pressure cuff was wrapped around my arm, my temp was taken and they pinched my finger with one of those finger-pinching thingies.  Then I was pointed to a chair, told to sit down and wait for the nurse who would come fetch me.  I should have had my alert system fired up by now.  None of these things, except for the I.D. and insurance checks, happens when you register through the normal out-patent admissions desk.

chimp1So a nurse comes and ushers me back to one of those curtained rooms in the ER.  I explain to her I am an out-patient who had to check in via the ER since the normal admissions office was closed and by the way, why do I have an extra wristband on.  It’s red and says “allergy alert.” I don’t have any allergies.  She doesn’t know either as she glanced at my admissions papers.  Now she pulls out a hospital gown and tells me I just need to remove my pants since the test I am having begins in my groin and works it way down the leg. Okay, that makes sense.  She leaves, I make the transfer from pants to gown and sat on the bed.  And there I sat…and sat…and sat for an hour and a half. That’s normal for being in the ER….that’s not normal for being an out-patient in  the other part of the building.  It’s now that I realize something is amiss.

At the moment, the person with the little rolling computer cart stopped by to check my credentials—again.  She had me sign the usual forms that nobody ever reads despite giving permission to some judge to put me in jail ten years to life if things go haywire with my insurance coverage.

Next, a doctor came in and asked me questions about my problem and said he had blood work ordered.  I told him that would not be necessary, I was there just for the one test and I was having my blood work done elsewhere on Tuesday.  He said it should be done now and I said it could wait until Tuesday and cost me a lot less since it wasn’t being done in the ER.  He leaves a little testy that I was testy.  I wonder for a moment why a doctor has stopped by to see me.  That doesn’t happen when I’m waiting for a test as out-patient.

The ThinkerI wait some more and then it begins to hit me. Now I know what is happening. Everyone thinks I am there as an ER patient and I have some kind of emergency for which I have come to the hospital’s ER.   I am being treated accordingly, including being visited by a doctor and other multiple people asking questions to being made to wait for long periods of time—all normal procedures in the ER.  I’m the chimpanzee who came in the wrong door and got processed like everyone else who comes through that particular door.

I check the rear of my gown for modesty’s sake and wander outside.  There are patients sitting in wheelchairs and on gurneys lining the corridor.  Just a few feet away is the “hub” of the ER where mission control resides.  It is staffed by a large number of people, all in scrubs.  Some are busy doing paperwork or looking into computer monitors.  Others are holding clipboards while others are on the phone. It is a beehive with things and people buzzing all about.  I stand at the counter for a few minutes attempting to determine which bee I should approach.  But from behind comes a “Can I help you?”  I turn around.  It’s a young male nurse and he has come to rescue me…or so I think.

I explain to him that I think I have been mistaken as an ER patient and I have been waiting almost two hours for a simple out-patience test. I further explained that I was told to enter the hospital via the ER and simply explain why I was there, but no one listened to what I said; they assumed I was just another ER patient. The young nurse said,  “hmmmm” and instructed me to wait in my room and he would investigate.  I get the distinct feeling that he thinks I am an elderly, disoriented patient who really doesn’t know who the President is or what year is.  As I pessimistically return to my assigned sanctuary, a lady walks in (dressed in civilian clothes) and tells me she’s ready to give me the test I came for. We leave the ER and she takes me into the “other” part of the hospital where she administers the test.  I explain my predicament.  She agrees, I have been mishandled.  The test lasts about five minutes, tops.

As she returns me to my ER cell, in comes the doctor telling me he called my doctor and confirmed I should have my blood work done. I told him not a chance.  I explained that I have an appointment to have my blood work done on Tuesday at the lab where I always go and that there was no need to call my doctor on a Friday night and make him wonder why the hell I am in the ER for a routine out-patient test he ordered.  The intentionally-good doctor still doesn’t get it. He asks me if I am indeed refusing the blood tests.  I tell him yes, it will cost more if it is done in the hospital, not to mention I know it take another two hours, at least. I tell him I had the test I came for as an out-patient, not an ER patient, and now I was leaving. He says to wait because I have to sign a paper refusing the blood tests.  I told him I’d wait just a few more minutes to do that.  He looks at me as if I don’t know who the President is or what year it is.  Ten minutes later I’m still sitting on the edge of the bed and staring at the exit door which, ironically, is about twenty feet from where I sit.  I’ve been staring at to for hours.  I transition back into my shorts and I decide time’s up.  I leave.

I am sure this is only Part One of my story.  I figure since I just spent several hours being treated as an ER patient, the hospital and the doctor will both be billing me…as an ER patient.  I shall call the billing office and alert them to the situation and that both my insurance company and I should not be charged for an ER visit.  I am sure it will run in the thousands.  Somehow, I doubt my message will actually get through.  This is gonna go on for months….just you wait and see. Part Two will probably be an even bigger…Cluster F***!

chimp

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