Category Archives: Wondering

Is Being Old A Liability?

I’m not actually talking about people getting old and the risk that comes with that.  You know there’s plenty of risks for old people, health, financial, mental, and on and on.  Everything is dangerous.  That’s not what I’m talking about.  I am talking about corporations.  Is it now a liability to be old?

Traditionally, it has been a great thing to have a business that’s been running for 50+ years.  Some running for over 100.  Amazing, isn’t it?  To be that ingrained the fabric of America, to have that sort of name recognition, to have seen it all and weathered everything that came along.  That last point: to have seen it all and weathered it.  That is the liability – to have been there.

This train of thought is fairly new for me and is obviously based on current events, but the idea I’m basing it on was actually born quite a while ago.  I was at a Dairy Queen, eating lunch one weekend.  Dairy Queen is one of those long-standing institutions I’m referring to.  I believe them to be generally well-loved, but every business has its detractors for some reason or another.  That’s not important for the moment.  What is important is having a history and being proud of it.

Yes, so Dairy Queen is an old company.  They are quite proud of their early beginnings and how they’ve grown to a massive corporation that is, if not the leader, then the most recognizable company in their field.  So, they want to highlight the humble beginnings of their company to, I don’t know, inspire others?  And I’m sitting there at lunch eating, and on the wall are old black and white photos of early Dairy Queens with the old cars and crowds of people lining up for ice cream.

And as I studied the pictures, my thought was, "That’s a whole lot of white people, there."

Now at the time, things weren’t as crazy as they are now, but race relations were growing tense.  They must have been for me to focus in on that aspect of the pictures.  And further studying showed, yes, no black people present.

Let’s not jump to conclusions here.  There’s lots of reasons why a bunch of photos just all happened to not show a single black person getting ice cream from an old Dairy Queen.  Local demographics is a perfectly valid reason.  BUT.  Racial tensions are not about reason, they are about emotion.  And anything that reinforces a perception… well, it’s not good, regardless of whether the perception can be explained or not.

To cut to the chase, I am wondering if it is worthy of consideration for a company that existed in the less-than-ideal era for black people to simply drop their company, drop their history, and start fresh with a new company.  Radical?  Yes.  Beneficial?  Maybe.  Harmful if not done?  Well, it is leaving an avenue of attack open.

I can foresee the arguments.  Attack?  That’s not fair.  This company did nothing to foster divide or hatred back then and that nonwithstanding, this company is a diverse, fresh, modern company that is committed to blah, blah, blah.  Right.  And you can see how effective a defense that is.  Compare that to:  This company was formed and created in 2020, the year of social change, established right from the beginning with equality, inclusiveness, and equal representation in every level of management and policy.  Blah blah blah.  Both are corporate non-speak, but one has the distinct advantage of no historical baggage.

A company that was around in the 50’s, even if they weren’t actively employing racist policies, was still operating in the norms of the time, which is to say, likely racist.  You would have to be considered extremely progressive, even radical, to have a company back then like companies are today.  If you want a real eye-opener, watch the old movie 9 to 5, from 1980.  At the climax of the movie, the old boss returns to the office and sees handicapped people working there and learns of many employee benefits that have been implemented in his absence.  He’s furious, of course, insisting he will undo everything right away.  Watching the movie now, those major advancements are like the bare minimum today.

So, if you were operating in the 50’s, you were a part of the problem.  Your only excuse is that the social norms at the time didn’t consider it a problem.  And that’s a problem for your company.  You can say how committed you are and how changed and all that happy stuff your company is, but your company has old bones.  And an old brain.  And memories, posted in black and white photos on your walls.  You can’t escape that past, without completely starting over.

The Way The Cookie Crumbles

Ah, youth.  A time of growth and exploration.  And a time to test limits and boundaries.  A time to express yourself in all sorts of unproductive and unhealthy ways.  A chance to act without any fear of consequence or concern of others.

I wax poetic about what I assume is youthful indiscretion at my local convenience store.  Framing the behavior in flowery prose is about the best I can do in the situation.  Certainly can’t catch them in the act; certainly couldn’t smack them in the head if I did.  And in some ways, I even hesitate to address the problem.  Not that my post is going to raise awareness of the problem and cause a rash of copycat actors, but sometimes it seems that just giving thought to problems seems to make them multiply.

So what’s the big, huge problem likely instigated by young hooligans upon my poor, local convenience store?  Well, there’s these cookies, you probably know of them, Fudge Stripes.  Shortbread cookies with chocolate stripes on one side and a chocolate back.  I like them.  I buy them every once in a while for breakfast.  Don’t judge me.  Tell me how cookies for breakfast is any worse than donuts.  It’s the same thing.

Anyway, these cookies.  At my local store, the cookies in the Fudge Stripes packages are always crushed.  Crushed into tiny crumbs, so eating them is an experience more like eating cereal than eating cookies.  And it’s not just a random thing.  It’s also not attributable to shipping problems.  Every pack is crushed.  Once I came in and the box was brand new and full.  I checked the lower layer.  All broken.

As maddening as this is, I do actually get it.  Breaking a shortbread cookie does have a measure of satisfaction.  It has a nice firm, but silent, snap to it.  I can understand why an ignorant child would be attracted, and maybe addicted, to doing something like that.  It still doesn’t make it right, or good.  And as an older person, I feel it’s my duty to express that these miscreants are going to be the future anarchists of the world.  The "Jokers" of their generation.  And I also have to comment on how bad the world has gotten compared to how it was when I was a kid, shoplifting candy from my local drug store.  Wait – scratch that last irrelevant (although true) comment.

Is the world worse?  Hell, yes it is.  But it’s only worse because there’s more of it.  More people, more opportunity, more stores, more products, more cookies.  The suck grows in proportion to the size of our environment.  And it’s this expansion that also feeds the proportional movement to create small, insular communities that attempt to keep out what is perceived as bad.  A poor solution – completely unsustainable.

So again, I reach the conclusion I’ve held for ever so long.  We need less people.  Sorry, fewer people.  We need to conserve everything we have – resources, sanity, cookies.

Banks Still Gonna Bank

I’m personally sitting pretty well when it comes to my financial house.  I’ve mentioned changes I’ve made here and there and for quite some time, I’ve been satisfied with what I’ve got.  In summary, where I’m at right now is: Ally handles all my savings accounts needs.  They pay 1.6% interest (right now.  It’s been slowly dropping again.)  T-Mobile (through Customers Bank) handles my checking.  They pay 4% interest on up to $3k in my account and 1% on the rest.  That’s a pretty nice deal, especially as rates keep dropping elsewhere.  Looking at the interest rate history, we’re back where we were two years ago, after peaking in December, 2018.

So, it’s always good to be vigilant and keep an eye open for what may be better for you in your current situation.  Although this hasn’t affected me, it’s still an irrational issue for me that I don’t have a presence at a physical bank.  To repeat, I haven’t needed the services of a physical bank in many, many, years, but I still feel like I should have an account at one.  So every once in a while, I give it consideration.

An offer came in the mail from TD Bank, which opened a branch nearby me recently.  Recently – in bank years – is like in the last decade.  I’ve always been intrigued by them, and I do have a IRA account with TD Ameritrade (although I’m not sure they’re actually related), so when I saw the offer, I figured I’d investigate.  After all, they’re offering a signing bonus of $150 or $300, and who doesn’t want free money?

Let’s start with their top-tier account and see if I can get in.  No minimum deposit to open an account (I don’t even know what that means – how do you open an account with no funds?).  Monthly maintenance fee: $25.  in the old days,  that actually meant something, but now it just means you need to see if you can meet the criteria to get it waived.  It’s almost a pointless charge.  If you don’t meet the waiver criteria, you don’t get that account.  Duh.

So, to waive the fee, I need either: $5k in direct deposits a month.  Oh.  Well, that’s quite a number.  What else you got?  Keep a $2,500 daily balance.  Well, you know I had that at my last bank and it is doable, but are you going to pay me 4% interest on it like T-Mobile is?  Not likely.  Finally, I can have $25k in accounts with TD.  They didn’t mention TD Ameritrade, only loans and deposit accounts, so that could be my ticket in, if that’s the case.

I visited their "Contact" section and their immediate response options were limited to social media or calling.  I wasn’t going to call for a 5 second question, so I sucked it up and used Facebook Messenger to ping them for an answer.

While I wait, let’s see what benefits I get for my account.  No ATM fees, free money orders, cashiers checks, blah, blah.  It looks like I could have a free account…  And now "Marie" has messaged me back, with essentially a copy/paste of the text I already read.  So I have to be more specific in my question.  Is a brokerage account with TD Ameritrade considered a "deposit account"?  And the answer is: no.  TD Bank and TD Ameritrade are separate and their accounts don’t count towards each other.  So TD Bank is not for me.  And it didn’t offer anything compelling anyway.

But, let me jump back just a little bit.  When the TD Bank first opened in my area, I remember being impressed with their choice to have banking independent from investment.  I thought it was the proper thing to do, unlike what, say, Wells Fargo does (as if WF does anything properly).  I still do think that.  But, after looking into their service offerings, I’m just not their target audience.  There are better deals from online banks and the benefits of being physical just aren’t there.  And maybe, maybe… I could be convinced that having my banking under the same umbrella as my retirement investment account is a good thing, then maybe things would be different.  But right now, I think keeping things apart is best, especially in the growing swell of deregulation and financial insanity.

Breadcrumbs

On an online forum where I browse, someone had posted a gripe suggesting that everyone that posts should have to provide a minimum amount of information in their post.  The gripe was directed at people who were posting pictures of 2 or 3 CDs with a title like "What I bought today".  To the griper, posts like these were useless and added nothing to the community.  Many of the replies to the gripe were of the mindset, "let people do what they want", which I agree with.

Although I didn’t reply with my comments, I did try to understand and consider the problem without simply thinking, "let them be".  I mean, if they’re being stupid, why are they being stupid?  Is there a valid reason for them to make such a minimal post?  The rationale I came up with is that the post isn’t for everyone, it’s just for them.

The community I am referring to is Reddit, which can certainly be classified as "social media".  As is my standard for anything social media, I don’t participate much.  But this isn’t about me.  Most people have made their primary choice for social media, whether it be Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Reddit, WordPress, or many others.  Their chosen platform is where they document their life, at least the parts they want to share publicly.  Basically, it’s where they leave their breadcrumbs to look back on later to see how their life was in a specific time period.

So these posts that people are making with their recent purchases, they’re nothing more than a status update or a tweet.  And in Reddit, they can use subreddits as categories, to classify and group their different activities.  It’s a different application of the platform, and one that probably differs from those that want Reddit to be a discussion forum.  That difference leads to griping that the majority of posts are uninteresting to some people.  It’s probably not a surprise to observe that these are younger people making these status posts, where it’s older Reddit users complaining about the lack of discussion.

But yeah, look at me.  I could have put all this explanation in a reply on that thread, which would have spurred discussion and conversation.  Instead, I make a post in my little private-public journal, where no one can respond to me and start any conversations.  Am I any better?  Well, I’d never suggest something like that.

Help Us Help Them

I’m fighting a pretty tough bout of cynicism right now.  I got an email from a hotel chain of which I am a rewards member.  The email subject was about supporting the Australian relief efforts.  The big type pleaded for me to donate my rewards points for the cause. 

I have a long-standing issue with companies that ask their customers to help in disasters by giving them money.  Primarily because I am very, very certain that the company will use all the money collected in the drive as their own donation, and then they will take the tax write-off for that donation.  Don’t you think?  They’re not a non-profit.  You don’t get a receipt for your donation to them.  You can’t claim it as a tax deduction yourself.  Are they going to let that go to waste?  Hell, no.  Plus, they are the ones that get to say, "We donated $550,000 to the relief effort!"  And not all of it was their money, for sure.

This email plea irked me in another way.  They are asking you to give back something they gave to you to give to someone else.  That statement says what I mean it to say, but it doesn’t seem to capture the full audacity of the premise.  On the surface, it sounds legit.  The company has a liability on their books with all those outstanding rewards.  That’s value.  You’re donating something that has value.  But really, it’s nothing.  It’s all fake, virtual value.  You paid them for those points.  You redeem those rewards for empty rooms.  The empty rooms are there for offer regardless of any points balance.  What I’m saying is the hotel can just as easily make those rooms available for disaster relief regardless of any points donations.  All the donation does is reduce their future liability to their customers.

And here’s the final nagging thought.  Yes, charity is good.  Corporate charity should be good as well.  If no email had come in today, I wouldn’t have had anything to bitch about, so the fact they’re doing anything is better than nothing – I acknowledge that.  Regardless, if an offer evokes cynicism, it just doesn’t have the level of altruism that makes you proud of a company.

So when the offer from the company says they "will match up to $25,000" of donations, that’s really saying they are willing to donate $0.  As long as no one donates anything, that’s all they’re on the hook for.  And it’s also saying that if their customers are super-generous, they’ll personally stop at $25k.

I feel bad for criticizing a relief drive effort, but this offer just has a bad vibe to it.  I think they should have done it right or not done it at all.

Losing For Winning

There are some people who are professional sweepstakes players, believe it or not.  They spend an unnatural amount of time researching and entering sweepstakes.  And they can actually make money at this, too.  Or at least get a lot of stuff.  You might wonder how you can actually “win” at this.  It would just seem to be a numbers game where you enter as many sweepstakes as you can and eventually you’re bound to win something.  But there’s actually a somewhat unknown rule that the pros use to get an advantage. (one weird trick!)

Most sweepstakes have some sort of condition for getting an entry.  Buy a bottle of this, visit such and such place, every order you place on this website, etc.  But, in all sweepstakes, there is a way to get an entry without making a purchase or performing some action – it’s legally required.  If you read the rules, they will tell you how to get a free entry.  Always read the rules.  In most cases, you have to send a 3×5 card with your name and address printed on it and they will return you an “entry”.  Some sweepstakes limit the number of entries an individual may make, most don’t.

I’ve attempted this technique once a few years ago.  A local charity was selling tickets for your choice of two cars.  The tickets were expensive, like $150, and the total number of entries was limited – a rare situation and very valuable because you knew your maximum odds of winning.  And like all sweepstakes, you could get free entries if you read and followed the rules.

I bought two tickets, to keep up appearances, but I then deluged them with something like 100 requests for entry tickets.  They did fulfill my requests, sending thick bundles of tickets in the mail with their drawing receipts torn off.  In the end, I estimated I had a 20-25% chance of winning.  Does that sound bad?  Does it sound better than a 1:2000 chance? (these numbers are all estimated, BTW, don’t try to math them out)

Well, I didn’t win, even with my extraordinary chances.  Whatever, it was kind of a fun exercise.  The local charity has never tried a car sweepstakes since, so I think I really pissed them off.

So anyway, I got a flyer for another car raffle.  $20 tickets, and the rules do say no purchase necessary (as they must), however, they don’t specify how to get those entries.  You have to mail the administrator for information.  This sounds pretty good, too, because that extra step might turn off casual players.  But when I look at the effort vs reward, I’m going to pass on it.  Would you pass on a elevated chance to win a $60k truck?

So, first of all, it’s a truck.  It’s a stupid, jacked-up, fully customized pickup truck.  Not my style, at all.  So what!  Sell it!  Ok, let’s consider that.  First, winning the prize is a taxable event.  The IRS is going to want their share of your $60k windfall.  Let’s generalize at a 30% bracket.  So that’s $18k out of pocket right away.  You need to have that to claim the truck.  Then there’s tax and title.  That’s about another $5k.  Probably you need to insure it for at least a month until you can sell it.  Maybe that’s $100 at most.  So in order to get the $60k truck, you need to spend $23k. 

So then, your new $60k truck rolls off the dealer lot and immediately becomes a used truck.  And it’s worthwhile to note that this is a 2019 model and the drawing is in 2020, making it last year’s model.  Everyone knows a vehicle loses an immediate percentage of its value when it leaves the dealer lot.  Considering this is also last year’s model, shall we say 25%?  Now your truck is worth $45k and you’ve spent $23k to acquire it.

Your truck is worth $45k, but that is not exactly what it would sell for.  You’re in a hurry to sell this so you don’t have to keep paying for insurance on it.  Will it sell for $40k?  Let’s say yes, so we can wrap this up.  So you’ve now made a $17k profit on a $60k vehicle.  That’s quite a discrepancy.

“You suck.  I’d be more than happy with an extra $17k!”  Maybe you would.  But you also need to consider that you added $60k to your gross income this year with that win.  That might push you into a higher tax bracket.  That means the money you earn this year is going to be taxed at a higher rate, more than it would have been had you not won.  17k worth of higher taxes?  Probably not, but your withholding from your paycheck is probably not going to compensate for that extra, so you better save some of that $17k to cover your tax bill next year.

There’s something to be said for thinking things fully through.  In the case of the first drawing for the car, I would have kept and driven that car (not a $60k car, either) and could have absorbed the taxes easily.  This $60k truck has a lot of BS accessories on it that are inflating the value that would never make back their cost if it were to be sold.  It’s a bad deal all around.

Judged By The Company You Keep

In my state, you just cannot live without having tinted windows on your car.  Unless you actually want sunburn or cancer, that is.  When I got my MX5 nine years ago, I was dying during the few days between when I bought the car and I had my appointment for window tinting.  I had to keep a towel in the car to cover my forearm from the sun blasting through the glass.

Almost a decade later, I have a new car, a much bigger car, and this one also needs the tinting treatment for my own comfort and safety.  Maybe a bit surprisingly to me, the same shop that did the windows on my other car is still there.  Well, maybe it is.  It has a new name, but the logo is mostly the same, and the original name is now used by another shop elsewhere in the city.  Partnership gone sour, maybe?  Diversification?  Whatever.  They did a great job the first time, so I’ll go back there and generally hope for the best.

With services like window tinting, isn’t hoping for the best all you can do?  It’s not like it’s a service you utilize on a regular basis, so you build a level of trust in a company.  It’s highly likely you’ll use the service once before they go out of business (or change their name).  And it’s not even really about the business, it’s the quality and skill of their installers.  I doubt the same installers are there that did my first car.  So, it’s always going to be a crapshoot as to what you get.

Tint shops are sort of paradoxical. It’s kind of hard to find one that isn’t ghetto in some way.  I mean, window tint shouldn’t be anything illicit, but you know, it can be.  And those shops usually augment their business with stereo installs, which again, are not illicit, but stereotypically…  And that’s terrible that such a perception exists and that they seem to actively exploit it in their marketing and image.

But the paradox is that this is just the place you want to go.  Quality work comes from practice, so you want a shop that has done a lot of jobs, even if they are on ‘76 Malibus and Cadillacs.  Sigh, more stereotypes.  It’s kind of like certain dive restaurants that have incredible food for really cheap not only because they are more focused on the food than their image, but because they’re so busy with their cheap regulars that they are masters at cooking that food.

Back to my statement about not using window tint services often enough to build a relationship.  That statement was a little short-sighted.  Maybe you do utilize that service frequently if you’re in the cycle of buying $1000 cars and burning them out every 6 months.  I mean, that sounds horrible, but it’s the same as having a $200/mo car payment, right?  Seems almost legit.  Except you would have to get your new car retinted twice a year.  And those customers keep the installers well experienced.

So when I go in with my 2019 model car, the quality I receive could be built off the backs of people who don’t have the credit or ability to buy a car less than 10 years old and are in a constant cycle of upgrades.  Maybe not, but maybe.  What’s the alternative?  Find a high-end shop where they, for whatever reason, would not service those repeat customers?  Which is the greater evil?  Why did this post get so heavy?  I just want to not roast in my car.

Dining Out and Out

I’ve lamented the decline of Pizza Hut’s “red roof” – dine-in – locations for many years.  Even when I worked there decades ago, there was always an emphasis on carry-out and delivery.  And even back then, they had the concept of “delcos” – delivery/carryout-exclusive locations.  My delivery manager was always campaigning to open one in our town, probably so he could be a general manager.  But if that had happened, what would happen to the dine-in location?  Would it be able to cover its own costs?

I’m sure having a dine-in location is much more costly than a delco.  Insurance, furniture upkeep, utilities, cleaning costs, there’s a lot more.  And it’s funny, because wait staff get paid so little, so it’s not even really a concern of labor costs.  But my introductory point is that Pizza Hut pushed take-out food over the dine-in experience for a very long time, and it seems that it has come to pass that dine-in is the great exception now.

Now, doesn’t it seem that everyone is in on this little racket?  Every restaurant now offers take out or delivery.  If not on their own, through some partner like GrubHub, Uber Eats, DoorDash, or whatever.  I just got an email from Chili’s bragging about delivery.  I get that people don’t want to cook, so they turn to restaurants.  But now it seems that people don’t even want to leave their houses in addition to not wanting to cook.  What the hell is going on here?

I read articles about this.  Let me tell you something, I often mention that I read articles on this or that in my posts, but I know that means absolutely nothing because you can find an article or two to support any position on any topic out there.  But still, that the article exists means someone is observing and thinking about this.  Yeah, so, these articles say that the casual dining experience is coming to an end (articles always promote the extreme) because of generational differences.  Boomers and millennials (ugh, this again) have different priorities for dining.  Ok, sure, but why should the concept of dining out be ending?

Let me cut to the chase here.  I hate restaurant take-out, and I would hate restaurant delivery just as much.  And my reason is simple and logical.  When you go to a restaurant and eat there, you are served your food in courses.  You get your drink and some bread, you get your soup or salad, you get your entrée , you get your dessert (if you’re really that hungry).  The meal is paced and you have an opportunity to engage in conversation over a period of time.  Or, if you’re solo like I am most all the time now, you have a chance to digest and relax between courses.

When you get takeout or delivery, all courses are available at once.  Now you have to decide what’s going to suck.  Do you want your salad to get warm (if it isn’t already from being packed with your entrée ), do you want your soup to get cool, do you want your entrée to get cool?  Which course is going to suck the worst?  Or do you want to reheat your entrée after getting through the early courses?  But that’s why you ordered out in the first place, right?  No cooking.

The few times I did order Outback for takeout was a miserable experience.  I live 15 mins from any restaurants, so there’s that chilling time.  Then, when I unpack it, I have to eat everything as fast as possible.  I bounced between the salad and the steak and the bread, trying to stuff it all in before it got even colder, and I was left with a shitty experience.

Even things like sandwiches don’t really stack up after delivery.  They settle, they soak, they cool (or warm).  It’s not the same as in-house eating.  Even fast food, as low-grade as it is initially, can get worse.

So, my fear now is that the concept of dining out is going to diminish and eventually fade away.  I guess it’s not really a fear, because I’ll certainly be dead by then, but I am worried that my options will become more limited in the future, as Pizza Hut is now.  Everything would become an “Express”.  Olive Garden Express; Longhorn Express; Red Lobster ToGo.  And these are all places that young people hate – chain restaurants – so maybe it’s inevitable for demographic reasons.

The future is so bleak.  So, so bleak.

The Mission

What are your thoughts when you read a company’s mission statement?  On first blush, it usually reads like bullshit.  It’s usually a bunch of feel-good words with a touch of fake humility and naïve optimism.  Mission statements are an easy target for people who want to attack a company for not fulfilling any promise they may or may not have explicitly made.

Who is the mission statement made for?  Cynics would say it’s for the owners and executives to make them feel like they’re changing the world.  Less cynical people would say it’s for the employees of the company to be inspired and motivated to do their best for the company – working for a higher good.  And then some people think it’s part of the company’s marketing strategy.

I was following a box truck for a company that had that particular viewpoint.  On the back of the truck, covering the entirety of the door, it read.

Our mission is to fulfill the specific needs of each customer by offering quality product, exceptional customer service and exemplifying Jesus Christ in every facet of business and life.

I have many issues with this.  First, I don’t believe a mission statement is a marketing statement.  Can you tell what business they are in?  No?  So, there’s your marketing success.  Then, the statement is so generic, it wouldn’t even inspire an employee or even an owner.  Every company wants to offer the best product and service, right?  Then, there’s the obvious.  You are putting your religious beliefs in your company’s mission statement.  Since there is nothing else differentiating your mission statement from any other company, and you are choosing to use your mission statement as marketing, your business proposition boils down to, “Do business with us because we are Christian.”  That’s about as compelling as saying, “Do business with us because we’re white.”  Oh wait a minute, that doesn’t make my point at all.

My primary point is that this is a dumb use of advertising space on your company vehicle, unless you feel the need to remind your employees of what they are working for every time they close the truck door.  What is their goal?  Be like Jesus.  No pressure, guys, just try to be the son of God while you’re on the clock.  And off the clock, too.  You did notice that little bit in our mission statement, didn’t you?

The Next Generation Of Tortured Musician

The other day I went to Guitar Center to buy some cables for my stereo.  Maybe it’s just me, but the store was just depressing.  It wasn’t all that busy, which may be a sign of the times.  Do people play music anymore?  One of the things that really irked me was seeing that their on-display studio monitors had the speaker cones pushed in.  Who the fuck does that?  No, seriously?

You are in a store with only music stuff.  So probably, you are a musician.  This is gear you might want to own.  And if you owned it, you would probably take care of it.  But these are not your speakers, so you feel you can damage them?  I just can’t understand it.  It’s like, “Wow, that is a beautiful car.  We should let the air out of the tires.”

I might have had the answer to my question right there with me.  As I was looking at all the different equipment in the department, I could hear someone playing a keyboard – badly.  It was the same melody of maybe 4 notes over and over, with some attempted backing chords that were either mangled or in the wrong key.  But as bad as it was, it was intentional.  It wasn’t just trying out a keyboard’s sounds or action or whatever.  It sounded like someone… practicing.

Now this wouldn’t be the person damaging the display products.  This is a musician (to apply the term loosely).  However, this person brought along a couple of friends, and they were not of the same type.  The one kid was shouting, “My boy’s droppin’ an album this week!” and “We’re gonna Instagram Live this!”  Why he’s shouting, I have no idea.  I steal a glance at this group and they’re a pretty pathetic bunch.  The keyboard player was an awkward, chubby, doofus.  His two “friends” were stoner/grunge types.  These two, I have no doubt, would have zero issue with damaging merchandise.

I bought my cables and as the 4 note melody repeated over and over behind me, I said quietly, “I couldn’t survive here for a single day.”  The cashier replied, “I can’t say I’m surviving, but I’m still here.”  I nodded in acknowledgement and quickly left the store.

Once outside, I thought a bit more about that situation.  This doofus kid, he clearly has an interest in music.  He convinced his non-musician friends to go to Guitar Center with him.  He’s playing something original, albeit badly.  God knows, I’ve been there.  What’s his story?  Does he not have a decent enough instrument at home to practice on?  Does he not have one at all?  And his friends, they don’t really seem to be really supportive of him, except in a mocking fashion.  I was surrounded by other musicians as a teen, so my environment was more enriching and inspirational.

There was a part of me that wanted to talk to the kid and ask about his situation.  You know, I have an extra keyboard I’m not using, maybe it would give him something to work with at home?  Or maybe if I knew of some non-profit arts group that worked to encourage music exploration and ability, I could make a referral.

In the end, I did none of that, because I have a very hard time executing on ideas.  But hopefully the kid manages to break out of his unsupportive circle of jerks and keep up his practice.