Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Idiots Parade

Sometimes I find idiots annoying and/or amusing. Other times they are more than annoying. I've been collecting samples of both for the blog this week.

On the level of annoying, let's start with the check printers. My dad ran out of checks a couple weeks ago, and I called the bank to reorder. I'd been postponing, since at 96, one doesn't suppose one needs to get another 2 year supply until it's actually necessary. It finally was, and we went through all the details for the order in a quick phone call. They were to arrive in 7-10 days.

There was a holiday in there, and she didn't actually specify whether those were calendar or business days, so I exercised patience until 2 weeks had gone by. Then it was time to check what had actually happened to them. We didn't need to deal with somebody else using them, after all. After counting that it had been the actual two weeks that the check company requires one to wait before they will track missing orders, my bank contact got ahold of the check company and found out that they had been delivered.

To the old address.

Now he moved out of there 15 months ago. All the bank correspondence had the new address. The checks had the new address. I verified at the time of of the order that they were to be sent to the new address.

But still.

The rush re-order arrived yesterday. I haven't heard yet if the old ones were returned.

* * * * *

Next on the annoying list is my brush with turning into the grammar police. It's not my favorite idea of how to spend time, but I'm quite good at it. It might be a family thing, because my daughter is too, even better than I am. I've learned some things from her. But this tale starts with what is one of my favorite things to do: read all of a favorite author that's available.

This time it was Dean Hovey. He has three books out, all mysteries set in Pine County, Minnesota. They're quite good, except for one thing. Whoever proofread them, or copy-edited them, or whatever, didn't. They pass the spell-check test, but that doesn't catch "that" when it should have been "than." They were full of those kind of errors. But even more glaring was the misuse of pronouns. Somebody can't tell the difference between nominative and objective case, particular when two persons are referred to. Now if the big names confuse you, it's just the difference between when to use "he" and "him", "I" and "me." One, the nominative, is the person doing the action: I and he. The objective is the person that the action is being done to: me and him. Those kind of errors were all through the books, and few things interrupt the suspense faster than stopping to rail at the stupidity of someone using the wrong words.

I thought to contact the publisher, but their name is not mentioned anywhere in the book. (How does that happen?) So, I went back to the library website where I reserved them, and found it there: J Press. The internet gave me an email-form to contact them, so I let them have my opinion on the topic. It was acknowledged with a form that thanked me and let me know that I'd get a return message within 48 hours.

Uh huh. Sure. That was Sunday. This is Wednesday.

Mr. Hovey, if you Google yourself and read this, you deserve a better publisher. One that knows grammar.

* * * * *

If one is looking for a high silliness quotient in idiocy, one can hardly do better than Christine O'Donnell, the Republican senate candidate for Delaware. You've surely heard of her by now. She's the one who "dabbled" in witchcraft by having a "date" on a bloody Satanic altar (which has nothing whatsoever to do with Wicca), and chose Christianity because she liked meatballs too much to become vegetarian for Hare Krishna, her previous top choice. Her campaign ad insists that she's not a witch, whatever we've heard. "I'm you."


She claims to be a constitutional expert and promises to govern according strictly to the constitution. Unfortunately, she's just a bit weak on what it says. In a debate yesterday, she challenged her Democratic opponent to tell her just where in the constitution it talked about the separation of church and state. When the audience of lawyers started to howl in laughter, she smiled and joined in, her expression clearly showing she thought they agreed with her that she'd just won the game of Gotcha.

Gotta wonder if she's figured it out yet.

* * * * *

For personal irritation, a fellow I met at work today wins the prize. I might have been amused, but his idiocy kept me standing an extra 10 minutes while I was trying to make a pick-up. I lose my sense of humor quickly under such circumstances.

It was bad enough that I'd had to cross an unnecessarily large and showy lobby just to reach the elevators that brought me up to the 6th floor. My mood was further compromised by the fact that it was a secured floor, and I had to walk to the other end of the elevator lobby and stand around while sorting through all the information next to the telephone just to find the number for the mailroom, and by the fact that nobody answered the first set of rings. After trying again, I finally got through and explained what I was there to pick up.

It took two more minutes for the mailroom guy to come out to the lobby. Empty handed. He couldn't find the package. Did I have a contact name? Did I know what it was? I showed him the sum total of the information I was given on the screen of my phone, even handing the phone to him so he could see for himself.

Only he couldn't see for himself. The hand with the phone just got further and further from his face, until he finally turned to me and admitted he couldn't read it. I read it for him, joking that he needed longer arms. Yeah, he'd been putting off getting glasses. He disappeared another five minutes.

It gave me plenty of time to condemn him for a vain idiot - silently of course - who didn't want to spoil his pretty face with glasses that might let him actually function in his job! And let me get on with mine, instead of standing around and standing around.

The box he finally handed me was plainly marked as I'd originally told him it would be, in letters plenty big enough that even I didn't need glasses to read them.

Apparently I'm a hidden sexist: I thought only women were that stupidly vain!

* * * * *

The final piece of idiocy comes under the heading of public policy. This time it comes with serious consequences. It would be worse than annoying if it spread to here. Much worse.

Three nearby metropolitan counties, Ramsey, Washington, and Dakota, are discontinuing Meals on Wheels. Instead, frozen meals will be delivered once a week by a Presbyterian group. Now, I'm sure they are well-meaning folks, and this change in service won't seriously disturb independent seniors. But Meals on Wheels doesn't simply provide bulk food.

It provides a hot meal once a day. Already cooked, already assembled, so vulnerable adults do not have to struggle with working a stove, sorting out a balanced meal from a large quantity of items, remembering that it's lunchtime. In time, I might add, to start thawing the desired items. There comes a time in life, should we be so lucky to live that long, when these simple things are the kinds of things that make the difference between independence and dependence. If preparing your own food were that simple, many seniors wouldn't be using Meals on Wheels now. It's not done from laziness; it's from mobility, vision, breathing and cognitive issues that accompany aging.

Food quality must suffer from such a move. My dad's meals now include a variety of fresh salads, jellos, puddings, fresh bread, and other things that either could not be provided at all, or would suffer greatly from freezing/thawing or long term refrigeration.

As important as all that is, Meals on Wheels provides one more vital service, and "vital" is not an exaggeration. Somebody stops in the home to check on the senior once a day during the week. We recognized its importance the day my dad fell in the bathroom and struggled for over an hour to get up before his meal arrived. He would have been there for seven more, thoroughly demoralized and perhaps more badly injured, had that visit not happened!

This is supposed to be a money-saving idea. Unfortunately, it's going to drive a segment of seniors out of their homes and into nursing homes or other kinds of assisted living facilities, a much more expensive option. And those who can't afford or manage such an option will slowly - or possible not so slowly - fail to thrive.

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