Tuesday, October 6, 2020

I started writing this in August

If you know me, you know I'm not great with time. Some of you get tired of me bringing up the ADHD thing again and again, but I just don't think people get the time problem. 

Time is: NOW or NOT NOW for me. 
Not even now or before now or later now, just now or not now. 
Smart phones and synced calendars help more than anything else ever has; I'm constantly setting about ten alarms per event, and they help in remembering to calendar things, but I still just don't process time the way most of the world does. I know people who use apps with various visual cues and reminders, like pie charts or countdowns or whatever, and they tell me it's given them a sense of time that they never had before the apps, but I've used them, too, and they don't especially help. I just assume that I'm not gonna get it, that it's like being colorblind. So if the phone or calendar or my boss says it's noon on Wednesday, I'm like, sounds fake but it's obviously important to you so I'll play along with your little time game. 

I thought it had been a few weeks since I wrote my first post here but it turns out IT WAS IN MAY. I hear people at work talk about Covid Time; how they can't keep track of time well, how everything is blended together in a hellish mix of isolation and exhaustion and fear and anger and all the other ways we are be-fuck-ed. A coworker said "I know you how feel about time now," and I just have to say NOPE BUDDY NOPE YOU DO NOT. It's not a feeling, I have no feeling about time except that it feels like not a thing. Time is a specific place, according to many brainy types, and that feels right. Space-time is something I read about a lot, to try to map out the unpaved roads inside of my skull. 

This is a roundabout way of saying: I'm sorry. I didn't realize it had been so long since I check in with all my loved ones. 

So. Work:
The store is horrible. I don't want anyone to feel bad about that, or to feel bad for or about me. I'm lucky to have a job, even a shit one. But it's horrible there, for real. Minimum wage labor jobs like stocking shelves and cashiering in a grocery store are of course going to be Horrible In A Special Way right now. It is super interesting in a very morbid way, to have personal glimpses into peoples lives, to see how the things are affecting them, to have such a front seat at the Pandemic Show. That sounds really sociopathic and unfeeling, but it IS interesting if you're me and you think about emergency preparedness and disaster mitigation stuff all the time. Which I do. I'm convinced that the city climate plan needs to be framed with social equity and sustainability but also through the lens of disaster mitigation. So work is a real boots-on-the-ground experience full of insights that I wish I'd learned another way but still extremely valuable from a certain perspective. 

The masks are another horrible thing. The mask standoff is how certain types are making patriotic stands; they want the confrontation, the fight. They have their phones out and ready to film, they want the upload and the clicks so they can get positive feedback from their online enablers.  After a giant of a man (six foot five, if he was an inch, and musclebound) got loud and in my face and threatened me, I changed my approach. I used to say, as per store policy: you need to put on a mask or leave. But now
I carry a bunch of disposable blue masks (the kind the store provides for the employees) in my apron and when I see someone without a mask, I swarm them with my special blend of intense-mother-henning combined with the cheerful idiot thing I can do so well. I mean, I don't even have to TRY to come across a cotton-headed ninny-muggings a lot of the time, so when I work at it? It's been amazingly effective for derailing any political displays intended by the customer. I do the super-concerned "oh NO you forgot your mask but lucky lucky LUCKY you because I've got one for you right here, bless your heart" and when they start to get fussy I say "lean over so I can help you put it on, those darn ear things are so tricky" and they get startled out whatever Hamilton/Fight Club mashup daydream they're in and they grab the mask out of my hand and put it on fast because at that point I say "here let me help you straighten it, aren't they awful, these masks? I just haaaaate mine, crazy days, la la la" and let me tell you they are now one hundred percent compliant around me. It works on just about everyone, every gender, every age. My boss is like, huh, pretty good, and I'm like, pretty good, my ass, I'm amazing and you should pay me more and they're like, yup, we should, but we won't, because the executives need their seventh bonus of the year so they can buy their third mistress a new Mercedes jeep, like are they supposed to drive last year's model?? 

And I want to say, of course not, that would be un-American of me to take those keys out of the mouth of a sugary babe, but by now I'm too choked up at the thought of those more deserving of Hero Pay. An image of an Executive Essential Worker rises up in my mind; I can see him flipping his red power tie out of the way as he waits impatiently in his McMansion doorway. He is weak with hunger after snarling through Zoom meetings all day, but he digs deep into his valiant soul and gathers the strength to hold out his arm and shake his wrist, the one with the heavy gold band. He shakes it in the direction of the driver, the universally accepted Presenting Of The Wristwatch, i.e. I'M WAITING AND I'M TOO IMPORTANT FOR THAT KIND OF THING.  He prepares to tip his InstaCart driver an inspiring nine percent as they struggle with his bags of Icelandic bottled water and organic gummy bears. Now tears are sliding down my face, soaking my PPE because I realize that this brave Executive Essential Worker is wearing LAST YEAR'S PATEK PHILIPPE. He isn't going to be able to wrap a Barbie-pink bow on a shiny car for a barely-legal side dish, let alone upgrade his time-telling bracelet, because a grasping grocery clerk, who knows which one, just one of the selfish, unpatriotic ones who talks too much about money, derailed the corporate mission statement and forgot that WE'RE ALL IN THIS TOGETHER. I mean, the company even spent millions reassuring us with their soft focus commercials. What more could an employee want? The image of the suffering Executive is too much, I have to concede my floor manager's very valid points and anyway a customer needs to yell at me for letting other customers buy the thing they wanted for themselves. 

It's a ton of fun I tell you what. 

I worked too many hours in the beginning of the pandemic. I would stay after a cashier shift and stock shelves for extra money. And now, when I don't want the extra hours, when I'm deeply exhausted and worn down, I have to work longer and too often because so many people are sick or quarantined or have flat out quit. Some people go on lunch breaks and don't come back. Who can blame them? 

I was being extra jokey with a customer the other day and she was laughing and then she started to sob. She kept saying "I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I can't believe I'm crying" while I was trying to jokey-comfort her, and she was sort of laughing while crying and while this was happening, while I was, very very obviously not just with a customer but a with a weeping one at that, a man interrupted and insisted that I show him where the thermometers were, and when I said we didn't have any, he said that Walgreens had some, so why didn't we? And I said, why didn't you buy one from them? And he said, I did, but they only let me buy one. And then he stomped away. I gotta say, the Karen thing is real, omg is it real, but the Kens are much worse and ubiquitous. Our society has trained men to be served and served promptly; it has utterly failed to teach them the qualities necessary for group survival and emotional reslience. You can see it in every age group, in every demographic. I'm really disappointed in them. They have been behaving really badly in the store. 

Another woman wanted headache medicine but what she really wanted was to talk about the week's news and how utterly corrupt and incompetent the Democrats were (are; fuck the DNC for real) and how crazy and murderous the GOP were and she just stood and raved in the pain relief isle for a solid fifteen minutes. A manager finally came along and helped move things along, and then said "phew, she was c-a-razy."

But she wasn't. She didn't say one thing that was crazy, and none of her emotional reactions were too much or too little or unhinged; she was the exact right amount of hinge. 

I remember a few years ago when some of my more grown-up, nicer, cultured friends and family were really reeeeeeely put off by me talking politics and climate crisis in polite company. They were repelled by how fringe-y I seemed, by my talk of Russian mafia and compromised politicians and looming disasters. They were put off by my perceived radicalness. But I was right, back then, just like that customer was right, even if it wasn't a great location for venting ones spleen of political despair. 

When is the right moment, the right place? 

It never ends, and now we are in the midst of what climate scientists call 'compounding events'. 

A lot of people think that we just need to give Biden an overwhelming win, that we will all act like calm, reasonable adults and slowly, rationally, move towards national sanity and functionality again, but those people are wrong. We're past that, and the way things were, is the reason things are, now. Career Democrats fight every social movement, every scientific announcement that can't be mined for maximum profit and minimum effort, and then claim the bruised victories of beat-to-hell activists for their own re-election platforms when they're overwhelmed by their constituents preferences. They are shockingly, inexcusably out of touch with their base, and they don't like to get messy. They think protestors are too emotional, too loud, too much. That I'm too much. 

The first rule in an emergency is to treat it like one. Standard operating procedures failed people before the election and they will continue to fail us unless more people get involved and hold leaders to accountability. One of the sayings that's come out of the pandemic is "none of us are safe until all of us are safe" and I like that a lot. Trickle down economics have never worked and in fact have been proven lethal in a million ways and lives. A rising tide lifts all boats; this has always been true and never more so than now. Some people are going to have to overcome their emotional and physical discomfort with activism and protesting because it's past time for everyone to show up speak truth to power. 

We won't survive as a nation without Medicare for All. This is just basic science and statistics, even though it makes Establishment Democrats and their donors grumpy. We won't survive without some kind of Green New Deal, period. Did you know that people HATED the original New Deal when it was first proposed? Everyone, and I mean everyone, fought it, thought it was crazy, thought it was un-American, thought it was a suspicious, fringey, overly extreme idea. It saved America, literally, but it took some time for people to get behind it, because it was audacious, a new way of thinking about our problems. People hated the idea of social security, then, but just try to take it away, now. There are things outside of our comfort zones that will save us, and we're going to have to fight for that salvation from well-nourished politicians. 

Fifteen dollar minimum wage (do you know it should be around $22 an hour, when adjusted for inflation? fifteen bucks is pitiful, frankly), a green, clean, one hundred percent renewable energy grid, and green, transitional jobs and job trainings for all who want or need them, and Medicare for All, that's the Green New Deal that politicians and corporations are so afraid of. It's not scary, and it's totally, totally do-able. 
And for real, we are damned if we don't adopt some kind of GND. If you want to be scared, not pandemic/politics/the past 4 years/  scared, but bone-crushingly, can't take a full breath, soul-wipingly, existencially terrified... start studying the climate catastrophe. We have to treat an emergency like an emergency, and we have to force leaders to lead. The most important thing you can do is talk about this, the Green New Deal, the Climate Catastrophe. People think we just need Dems in power, that we will wake up from this nightmare when the 'real' adults are in the room. But the terrible fact is that Biden/Harris don't get the width and depth of the climate crisis, because if they did, they'd be having round the clock emergency meetings about it and they would talk about it more than me (hard to imagine, I know, lol). 

I mean, jesustapdancingchrist, we're in a global pandemic and they still can't get behind Medicare for All. 
I'm voting for them, and registering voters, and canvassing, and offering rides to the polls, etc. Of course I am. But when people say, vote blue no matter who, and stop talking about candidate shortcomings and platform flaws because they think it's divisive, they need to understand that is a form of climate denial. This IS the hill I'm going to die on. I probably seem too strident, too political, too angry. 
I probably seemed too extreme a few years ago, too. 

But I was right then, and I'm right now. 

Talk to everyone you can about the climate catastrophe, about Medicare for All, about the Green New Deal. Start following climate scientists on twitter, start cultivating your own fact-based, fact-checked knowledge so that you can help save your loved ones. You're going to have to get comfortable being uncomfortable, out of your zone. Look at it as a chance to express built up frustattion and a chance for personal growth. 

It's now October 6. 

I don't quite understand how it was August and now it's fall. It's like I'm on a fast train and I'm looking out the window once in a while but it's not images of mountains or fields that are flying by, it's calendar pages. 

Work is not great. It's like doing a sociology or psych internship, without any professorial guidance or support. My hands and joints are swollen from hauling and breaking down boxes, my back is borked from constantly bending over or carrying heavy loads... labor jobs really are not kind to any bodies, but especially middle aged ones. There are a lot of middle and older aged women at work and they are all in so much pain and have such damaged bodies, all for a starting wage of eight bucks an hour. They don't do raises based on performance quality. Your hourly rate goes up based on how many hours you've worked, period. There's literally no incentive to be great with customers, or coworkers, or at the job. If you're really wonderful, which I frequently am, because of course I am, I like people and I'm hard working, blah blah blah... anyway, if you go over and above, you get a little Dillons gift card looking thing, but it's not a gift card. It's a card worth five points, and if you save up all your little cards, you can buy... drumroll... a crappy fanny-pack with the Dillons logo on it. Or a frisbee. Or a soft fabric lunch box. With the logo on it. Those are all about twenty five points. 

They can't get enough people to stay at the store, they can't retain employees. People start shifts and walk away during lunches and breaks, or they call in sick and go radio silent forever. The managers are not exactly good at managing the store, let alone taking care of their employees. 

We had a visit from the VP of the company, and after he did his walkthrough, he did some routine Hiya Howareya rounds with some of the employees on the floor, and he tried to do a casual How Are Things, with me, and I know he still regrets walking down my isle, because I cornered him and did my activist thing. I talked about how low morale was, and how inefficient it is to pay people so badly, because low employee retention rate during economic collapse is bad PR for the company, how it takes six months just to figure out where things are and how things work, but only about twenty percent of new hires last that long. I talked about how hard it is to deal with emotionally unstable customers is, how they're getting worse by the week, how we're in a mental health crisis as well as a pandemic. About how many of the employees work second shifts at burger or taco joints or cleaning jobs, and how a fifteen dollar minimum wage would ease that pain a bit while saving money for the store, because the endless rounds of hiring and training and exhausted workers making mistakes costs much more money than increased wages. 

So of course he went back to the Important People Meetings and instituted the Kroger version of a Green New Deal! 

Just kidding. He gave all hourly employees a hundred dollars, to be spent only at Dillons. And some fuel points. 

And lots of people were so excited and happy. That's how low the bar is. Which is some real Roman emperor throwing bread to the starving masses shit. 

On the other hand, all kinds of people at the store now know that they could make 23 dollars an hour slinging burgers in Norway. I've successfully activated and educated a lot of people that I normally wouldn't have been able to reach. They know basic stuff about the climate catastrophe, and livable minimum wages, they know it's ok to expect more from employers and managers, that they can push a little bit. I'm not trying to unionize them, it's not worth it and not workable with this situation. I don't even mention unions, like ever. But I tell them to keep asking why the company model only works for the people at the top, why livable wages aren't part of the structure. 

Also a lot of the kids at the store call me Mom now. I don't know how I feel about that. It's sweet, yes. But it also highlights how bad the managers are at any kind of emotional resielence building. The kind of person who rises in the ranks to become a manager at Dillons is just Not Good at people, not good at emotions, not good at anything but a certain specific kind of crossing off checklists. There's a lot of employee crying in bathrooms and stockrooms. 

I don't know what to say about the customers, other than: for real, we are in a mental health epidemic. And the goddamm MAGA people come in with confederate flag masks or Punisher shirts and the like, and they are all vibrating like angry hornets nests, they can hardly ask where shampoo or soda is without being confrontational and weird and aggressive. And then there are the anti-maskers. They come in with their cameras turned on, because they record us asking them to wear a mask or leave, and they upload the interactions online to their feckless patriot groups. They're looking for confrontations, they cultivate them. They're getting more and more dangerous. I have all kinds of approaches for all kinds of different people, but this last week has been just kind of ugly and bleak and hard. 

I'm really good at putting my head down and getting to work and pushing through hard shit, but I think I've hit some kind of emotional wall this week. I know it's the six month mark, and there's that famous six month burnout, but this feels different. 

I'm really angry and really empty. I'm wrung out from climate work and store work and family problems. I've been having health problems that I think are post-Covid issues. I found out that some people in the local climate movement took some of my work and claimed credit. The sustainability board is falling apart after not getting much done for a solid year because a member of the board, an architect who did the Lawrence library, derailed almost every proposal we discussed. She's an old-school environmentalist, the kind who thinks NPR is cutting edge news, who drives a Prius and carries a metal straw in their bag and thinks we can build and shop and recycle our way out of this nightmare. 

There are a lot of them in the movement, and frankly, they're a big problem. They're like establishment Dems; they have put the burden of change on disempowered individuals instead of the criminals at the top. It's sooo much easier to punch down, especially when they're insulated from the consequences. They find work and prestigious appointments wherever they go; they're the definition of failing upwards. 

This architect spent SIX MONTHS fighting the term 'climate change.' For real, she was unhappy about the wording, she thought it was too agfressive. When I said we could save money by getting rid of city plastics recycling, she (and others) acted like I'd taken a shit on the table. That was a year ago and guess who just covered the plastics recycling scam? https://www.npr.org/2020/09/11/897692090/how-big-oil-misled-the-public-into-believing-plastic-would-be-recycled 
She fought my proposal to form a climate crisis subcommittee, and then joined it and assumed she was in charge, after telling me she wanted to be in it because it obviously was where the action was happening. She stood me up for months of scheduled meetings, and refused to return emails or calls or texts. She made fun of me for asking if the KCMO climate conference had reduced price tickets for anyone. She's gotten rich from the environmental biz, essentially stopped progress on the board for a year and... just formed her own climate crisis group with the league of women voters. The think tank/fundraisers who don't really accomplish anything but fundraising for their own salaries tried to get one their people to join the board, and when I said no, that's the wrong direction for us, joined up with the horrible architect and the horrible league of women voters. 

I love how people like this made fun of Bernie, or said he was too grumpy or too extreme, made fun of his people but those same people aren't willing to do the hard HARD trenchwork, they aren't willing to do mass canvasing or calling or community outreach. I don't understand how people don't get that establishment Dems are farther RIGHT than British Tories on policy. It's not like it's a secret. Their donors and lobbyists and policies and votes are all public records. I love how I've been goddamm right about every prediction, every warning, every concern, even every policy idea I've written... and everyone else fought it or made fun of it.. and are now taking credit for it. I'm so tired of being a white trash Cassandra. Fuck that noise. But for real, what I've been saying is still true: if people understood the climate crisis, we would be having round the clock meetings and citizens assemblies. 

I actually had a Republican guy who's in politics tell me that he wished I was on their side, because I'm such a lethal weapon. This makes me furious for many reasons, not the least of which is that it made me LIKE him for ten minutes. The one person offering me a job is the goddamm opposition. 

Dems are as bad as Dillons at cultivating and managing resources. They fight every social movement and then take credit when they can't fight reality any more. 

I have to get ready for work. I'm not gonna keep adding to this, I'm gonna send it out without more days and months passing. 

No one needs to worry about me, because I know how to get through. Yes I'm angry and exhausted and fed the fuck up, but I'm not suicidal or whatever. We're all exhausted and headfucked. I'm just my usual honest self. I'm having a bad bad week but hey, it's October. It's about to get much worse, I'm sure I'll look back on this week with nostalgia. Everyone should vote early, in person. If you vote by mail, make sure you understand how to track it and ensure that it's logged correctly. 

Here are some movies and podcasts and things I've read : 

(the above link is a very short piece from Elizabeth Kolbert, who wrote books that changed my life as a climate activist)

The newest season of Great Bristish Bake Off is great, as usual. The newest season of Fargo is really good. Not as nice or cheerful or unviolent as GBB, but good. The clips of Ted Lasso, the soccer comedy show with the SNL devil guy are great; does anyone know where to watch it? I can't find it on Prime or Netflix. I watched a really good horror movie called Ready or Not, very funny and well done. Final Girls was violent and gross and mean and funny; I don't know who to recommend it to though. It's about sociopathic murderous teen girls driving up their social media profiles by being serial killers, and they end up working with a big scary serial killer guy. I know it doesn't sound funny or good but it really was. I mostly watch The Great British Garden Revival and that BBC gardening show. 

alright, gotta run, love you guys, miss you xoxoxoxoxo

Friday, May 15, 2020


Everything is awful, obviously. Also, being separated from friends isn't fun at the best of times, but this current Weirdness has been educational for me in highlighting just how much I rely on my friends for emotional stability and refueling, how unbalanced and un-myself I am when I'm cut off from my people. I hadn't realized how long I've had my head down, focused on just getting through the hour, the day, the week, until I saw a friend at work (she was there on work-related business). I'm really good at getting through active emergencies, good at the grit-your-teeth-and-deal-with-it stuff, but not as good at maintaining relationships in a crisis. 

I'm gonna start writing on my old, unused blog in an attempt to stay more connected with the ones I love. I think about all of you all the time. The first few weeks of the quarantine were so hard, so scary and exhausting and when I'd have a particularly bad customer or situation, I'd picture your faces in my mind to help me feel less alone, and you guys are so wonderful, and I love you all so much that it actually helped me deal with things. Even now, if someone is yelling at me about flour or thermometers or meat shortages, I'll take a couple seconds to picture a friend's face and it helps me stay calm. Is this a weird thing to confess? Whatever. I helped a middle aged man in a long, blue plaid bathrobe and blue fuzzy slippers find some bagels yesterday, and his outfit barely BARELY seemed unusual. It mostly just didn't seem strange at all. This new job has been really, really challenging. I'm used to various crises and emergencies and used to thinking about worst case scenarios because of my climate work, but the emotional minefields in a grocery store in the midst of a pandemic, during the political... what?? Unrest? Insanity? What do we call current events? Some people have written at length about 'the end of the American experiment.' Others say we Americans are following a Weimar Republic timeline (I agree with them, unfortunately). There's talk of looming Civil War, analysis with which I partially concur.  

Sara Kendizor  https://twitter.com/sarahkendzior says "This is a transnational crime syndicate masquerading as a government." (She's been horrifyingly prescient in her books. I recommend her Twitter feed as well. Las Vegas bookies could make serious bank by betting on her insights and predictions. Plus she's from Missouri and a metal-head mom, so she's dope as heck just generally).

I'm mostly stocking shelves lately which can be physically intense, but it's not as fraught as cashiering. I think it's probably safer right now, too. Cashiers are the most vulnerable to public transmission of the virus (not to mention the emotional burdens that come with every-day type public facing work that involve money and food). I worked all day and night during the 'rona version of Black Friday and had customers lined up to the back of the store, had the credit card machines go down SEVEN TIMES. Seven. Times. Many of the customers were terrific, many were competent humans behaving brilliantly under the pressure in spite of a lack of leadership from anyfreakingwhere, but I'm sorry to report that a few people did not bear the weight of bad news well. I'm actually kind of surprised by how dang fast people fell into cliches. I thought it would take longer, but the good people have risen to great heights of humanity, and others.... haven't. Grocery-store-broad (so so so broad)-cliches-in-a-pandemic/political meltdown would make the least sensitive undergrad psyche student swoon with joy. You'll be shocked to discover that my worst customers are middle-aged white men. Old white men are the next worst, followed by youngish white men. There are many Karen's, and they deserve more than a little scorn for their bad behavior in stores and restaurants, but the real stand outs have been mostly A Certain Kind Of Guy. I have actually told a few of them to not come through my line again, actually said to them: if you see me at a register and there are other lanes open, you need to pick a different one because you have appalling manners and you're un-invited from the lane I'm working. Some of these people, I mean, jeeeeebus. 

The good people have been wonderful. I complimented a woman on her homemade mask fabric (I think this was on week two of the quarantine) and she went home and made one for me and brought it in that night. This woman went home, unloaded her many groceries, then sat right down and sewed a mask for a cashier that she'd never met and then went back out into the tired night, into an overcrowded, under-managed, dangerous public space to find me. She was worried that I'd finish my shift before she could get the mask in my hands. It's got lovely fabric, black with green leaves, very pretty and botanical. 

Another woman bought a bunch of fancy cheeses and I said I was a cheese fiend, just chattering, the way you do when keeping a customer occupied and calm for the ten minutes it takes to ring up a quarantine-sized order of groceries. She took her groceries out to her car, then voluntarily went BACK into the store, got back into my line (she probably added at least an hour to her errands) and bought more fancy cheese, which she then handed to me and said, this is for you, I'm grateful for you. I'd never had really expensive cheese, let alone cheese that was dry rubbed with pepper and spices, and lemme tell you, it was so dang good. I sat in my bed, in my dark room, much later that night, skin burning from the strong soap I used (three times) in the shower after work, and ate almost all of it. Woke up in the middle of the night and ate the rest. 

I have an extra handmade mask that a dear friend made for me, it's in the right pocket of my store apron. I brought it as a backup mask, but it turned into a good luck charm, always with me now, only recently realized that I've been taking it out and holding it, the way you would with rosary beads, when things heat up at work. 

I'm lonely. I'm sad, so so sad. I'm burning up with righteous rage. And I'm tired, really, really, really tired. But I feel all of you around me, keeping me sane and safe, keeping me going. 

Anyway. This is me checking in. I'll write more later, gotta get ready for work. 

PS: links for vids I liked this week (I'd recommend books but I haven't read a book for two months)