Attu Sees All
Res Ipsa Loquitur
Rachel Lucas (on hiatus)
a small victory
Curmudgeonly & Skeptical
The Laughing Wolf
Not Quite Tea and Crumpets
On The Third Hand
Right We Are (Closed)
The Country Store
Single Southern Guy
The Spoons Experience
Jay Solo's Verbosity
Sketches of Strain (Closed)
In Sheeps Clothing
The Accidental Jedi (on hiatus)
Straignt White Guy
The Cheese Stands Alone
Trying to Grok
~ Friday, May 16, 2003
I will be taking a bit of badly needed R&R. In the meantime, please enjoy the stuff written by the terrific bloggers who appear on the left side of the screen. Also have a go at the archives, if the friggin’ things are working.
I’ll see you on or about the 23rd of May.
The Smoking Ban – The Californication of New York City.
I received this e-mail from a reader in San Jose, California who describes how things went when that state banned smoking in restaurants and saloons a decade or so ago.
We went through that [the smoking ban] out here in California 10 or 15 years ago. And yes, business at restaurants dropped off 20-50% initially. Smokers would come into a restaurant and threaten to beat the manager up. Of course some people came in, ate their meals, lit up, and when admonished, used it as an excuse to leave without paying.
And we went through a period of time when people went through all kinds of expense to set up private smoking rooms, etc. to bypass the laws.
To be honest, I had little sympathy. I smoke a pipe, and I had been non-legislatively banned from smoking it in public smoking areas at least 5-10 years before that.
Business in most restaurants and bars returned to normal within 3 to 9 months. A restaurant or bar which did not have a place outside where their customers could smoke in a somewhat sheltered space remained in trouble. Many of them defied the law for years. Many went out of business, or moved.
But some of them used the law to force their landlords and or their cities to allow them to have a couple of cafe tables and umbrellas on the sidewalk in front. Two small tables, four small chairs and two umbrellas, plus an unwritten law that says 1) smokers have priority, and 2) nobody is allowed to monopolize them. If the sidewalk is wide enough, they can even put a railing up and the smokers can bring their drinks out with them.
After these years have gone by, the most lasting result, other than the ban itself, is that anyone looking to open a restaurant or bar will insist on sheltered patio space, even if it is just an awning, some gas heaters, and space.
This is a very big plus to me. Pre smoking ban, the cost of a patio space compared to enclosed space was such that more and more places didn't bother to serve on patios anymore (San Jose, CA BTW). Patio dining was one of the pluses of California living, and it was going away, because it cost 5-15% more (extra bussers, extra cleanup (to prevent insect swarms around spills), outdoor heaters, canopies, umbrellas, just general extra.
Today, patio dining is back. Hooray! Because of the smoking ban.
Of course, given there is at least one city trying to ban even outdoor smoking, it may go away again.
Patio dining in California can be a twelve-month affair, but it won’t be a big hit in New York City in January, methinks.
Some of the local saloons on the boundaries of New York City are being particularly hard hit by the no-smoking law. They are losing many of their customers to the bars across the street. This is because the street marks the boundary between New York City and Yonkers, a city without a smoking ban.
This all seems nuts to me, and it could not have come at a worse time for New York City, which has had to cut services to the bone and lay off thousands of municipal workers due to crippling deficits. However, I really should not be surprised by New York’s beautiful people backing a dumb idea. After all, they voted overwhelmingly for Hillary.
Christopher Hitchens, a damned fine Brit who enjoys a cocktail and a smoke, has written an interesting article on the New York City smoking ban. via My So-Called Blog.
In Northern Jersey, smoking is generally not allowed in a great many, if not most, of the better restaurants. However, this is not mandated by law, but rather is a choice made by individual restaurant owners, which presumably is dictated by the economics of it all. That’s the way it should be. Restaurant patrons in Jersey have become accustomed to either not smoking or stepping outside for a smoke -- even in January. I think it is fair to say that most smokers do not have a huge problem with no-smoking restaurants. No-smoking bars are another story. I do not know of any no-smoking bars in New Jersey. Again, this has nothing to do with law, but everything to do with the free-market. That's the way it should be.
Got a light?
~ Wednesday, May 14, 2003
Badgers in the News.
Venomous Kate reports on the badger that seriously injured several people in England. I’m really not surprised.
Badgers can be serious ass-kicking animals and really should not be kept as pets. The “terrorist badger” in the story linked to by Kate was “hand-reared and hand-fed.”
Badger fur makes the best shaving brushes. I have had one for more years than I care to think about. It is indestructible.
Read all about badgers here.
Badgers make me think of dachshunds. That is because dachshunds were originally bred to hunt badgers. In German, the word dachshund means “badger dog” (Dachs = badger and Hund = dog). The dachshund’s long, slender body, short powerful legs, strong jaws, and stubborn refusal to let go once it gets a grip on something makes the breed well-suited to go after badgers in their setts (the underground multi-entrance holes where badgers live) and drag them out.
I once played tug-of-war with a dachshund using an old sock. His grip was so tight on the sock that I could lift him off the ground. And, once off the ground, he still did not give up the sock. Rather, he thrashed back and forth and bounced his body up and down in mid-air, trying to get the sock from my hand. Here we say that a stubborn person is “as stubborn as a mule.” In Germany, one is as “stubborn as a Dachshund.”
O.K. I’m done now. There will not be a quiz.
~ Tuesday, May 13, 2003
New York’s Smoking Ban Redux
Even though New York City’s ban on smoking in saloons has kicked in, there is still plenty of fire. Recently, the New York Post published the results of a survey showing that many establishments are reporting losses as a result of the ban, some as much as fifty percent. Acidman has posted in this issue here and here, as has Ravenwood, and Hanlonvision. I stuck my finger in the pie a while back, and this seems like a pretty good time to drag that post from the archives.
The Smoking Lamp is lit in the house by the Parkway. Smoke ‘em if ya got ‘em.
~ Monday, May 12, 2003
Back Scratch, Anyone?
File this one under “Huh?” It is a site devoted to the admiration of men with long fingernails. It has lots of pictures, video clips and even a message board!
Wait!! This just in!! There are five new pictures of “Jay,” and eight new pictures of “Sebastian.” So, get moving, already.
via The Ultimate Insult
Punch a Clown – You’ll Feel Better.
As I have said before, I hate clowns. For those who are like-minded, this site is a must.
via The Presurfer
~ Sunday, May 11, 2003
Well said, Mate.
Please read Tony Parsons’ piece, entitled French Dissing in the U.S.A. (You may have to scroll up from the comments section), as posted on May 8, 2003 in A Little More to the Right. Mr. Parsons is a popular British columnist and author. His British perspective on American attitudes should be required reading for Europeans. Link via Acidman.
~ Saturday, May 10, 2003
Military Wisdom/Common Sense Rules
A colleague sent this to me via e-mail. I have not verified the accuracy of the quotes or their attribution. Whether true or not, they are funny.
1. "Sometimes I think war is God's way of teaching us geography." (Paul Rodriguez)
2. "A slipping gear could let your M203 grenade launcher fire when you least expect it. That would make you quite unpopular in what's left of your unit" – (Army's Magazine of Preventive Maintenance).
3. "Aim towards the Enemy" – (Instruction printed on US Rocket Launcher) [I know that this legend appears on the business-side of a Claymore Mine – J]
4. “When the pin is pulled, Mr. Grenade is not our friend.” (U.S. MarineCorps)
5. “Cluster bombing from B-52s is very, very accurate. The bombs always hit the ground.” (U.S. Air Force)
6. “If the enemy is in range, so are you.” (Infantry Journal)
7. “It is generally inadvisable to eject directly over the area you just bombed.” (U.S. Air Force Manual)
8. “Whoever said the pen is mightier than the sword obviously never encountered automatic weapons.” (Gen. MacArthur)
9. “Try to look unimportant; they may be low on ammo.” (Infantry Journal)
10. “You, you, and you . . . Panic. The rest of you, come with me. (U.S. Marine Corp Gunnery Sgt.)
11. “Tracers work both ways.” (U.S. Army Ordnance Manual)
12. “Five second fuses only last three seconds.” (Infantry Journal.)
13. “Don't ever be the first, don't ever be the last, and don't ever volunteer to do anything.” (U. S Navy Swabbie)
14. “Bravery is being the only one who knows you're afraid." (David Hackworth)
15. “If your attack is going too well, you have walked into an ambush.” (Infantry Journal)
16. “No combat ready unit has ever passed inspection.” (Joe Gay)
17. “Any ship can be a minesweeper ... .. . once.” (Admiral Hornblower)
18. “Never tell the Platoon Sergeant you have nothing to do.” (Unknown Marine Recruit)
19. “Don't draw fire; it irritates the people around you.” (Your Buddies.)
20. “Mines are equal opportunity weapons.” (Saddam Hussein)
21. “If you find yourself in a fair fight, you didn't plan your mission
properly.” (David Hackworth)
~ Friday, May 09, 2003
Tiger Lady UPDATE.
I received an inquiry from a reader who expressed interest in making a contribution to the non-profit Wild Animal Orphanage that will be taking in the big cats. The organization's website is here.
~ Thursday, May 08, 2003
The Tiger Lady.
Joan Byron-Marasek, who refers to herself as “The Tiger Lady,” lost her three-year battle in the New Jersey courts to keep her collection of 24 tigers in Jackson Township, New Jersey (hardly the wide-open spaces here in the most densely populated state in the union). Ms. Byron-Marasek came to the attention of the local police and the New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife in 1999 when they received reports of a 431-pound Bengal tiger wandering loose in a nearby residential neighborhood. The Tiger Lady, presumably managing to keep a straight face, denied that the animal belonged to her. (Sounds reasonable to me. We all keep least a couple of Bengal tigers as pets here in the Garden State.)
The state authorities claimed that The Tiger Lady’s keeping two dozen tigers in her 12-acre Ocean County compound violated applicable state regulations. Ultimately, the matter was thought to be have been settled, when a non-profit wild animal orphanage in Texas agreed to take the big cats. However, the deal fell through, and the Texas animal orphanage declined to take the animals (at considerable cost) when the Tiger Lady insisted on retaining ownership of the animals, with an eye toward possibly reclaiming them at a later date.
The court’s ruling today stripped the Tiger Lady of ownership of the tigers. The court held that her failure over the past three years to make satisfactory arrangements for the animals permitted the state to take control over the tigers. Unfortunately, during that three-year period, the estimated costs to transport the animals and to house them in Texas rose from the original estimate of $140,000 to $250,000. The orphanage will pay one half of the costs, and New Jersey taxpayers will pick up the tab for the balance.
I can only imagine what the three-year battle with this Nutbar has cost New Jersey taxpayers and what a toll it must have taken on the nearby residents who have to go about their daily lives having two dozen tigers for neighbors, and knowing that, on at least one occasion, one of them has gotten loose.
Jersey. Ya gotta love it. Badda-Bing!!!
~ Tuesday, May 06, 2003
Hawaii. We think of a beautiful island paradise, tropical breezes, tropical drinks, wonderful Hawaiian customs, and ukulele music. We don’t think of SPAM, and yet Hawaii is the world’s SPAM capital. Hawaiians eat 6.7 million cans of the stuff per year. They love it. In fact, last month was the Hawaii “SPAM Jam,” with SPAM cook offs by famous Hawaiian chefs. They wrap it in seaweed and they eat it on sandwiches with eggs and mayonnaise. One can even buy a cookbook full of Hawaiian SPAM recipes. Hell, there are so many recipes they needed a second book.
I first learned of this from an old friend who has lived on Maui for more than thirty years. I thought he was joking, until he rattled off about a half dozen of his favorite SPAM recipes. I still don’t get it.
Some speculate that SPAM, which was “invented” in 1937, became popular in Hawaii during World War II as a result of its wide availability to servicemen stationed in the Islands. Who knows?
After listening to my friend talk about it several months ago, I bought a can of the stuff, determined to slice it thin, fry it and eat it with eggs, as he suggested. However, it is still sitting in the kitchen cabinet. Every time I think about trying it, I lose my nerve.
Besides, if you’re from Jersey, there is nothing – repeat – NOTHING like Taylor Ham (a/k/a Taylor Pork Roll), a Garden State staple. People in Jersey like Taylor Ham so much that some enterprising person has set up a website where people from Jersey who move away can buy Taylor Ham online. Great with Eggs, it also makes a terrific sandwich on a hard roll (called a “Kaiser Roll” by dweebs not from here), on rye or on a bagel with cheese.
SPAM? Nah. Make mine Taylor Ham.
~ Monday, May 05, 2003
I don’t have anything particularly interesting or amusing to say right now, although I can tell you that the next installment of Sgt. Steele is taking shape in my cruller. In the meantime, talk amongst yourselves. When you’re finished talking, I think you might enjoy these sites:
Check out how popular your first name is, based on the 1990 US Census (I’m number 1!). Then you can see how your last name ranks among the 55,000 most common surnames in the US (I’m number 458). via The Ultimate Insult.
I also found the site about celebrity tippers to be interesting. Don’t miss the Jesse (spelled “Jessie” in the piece) Jackson horror story. via Attu Sees All.
~ Saturday, May 03, 2003
Weekend Time Waster.
I admit it. I actually enjoyed playing a couple games of Battleships.
via The Presurfer
I Took the Test....
Congratulations! You're a Slutertarian. You believe
in Democracy, Sexy, and Whiskey. And you really
Are You A Slutertarian?
brought to you by Quizilla
via Venomous Kate
I had planned to write something last night, although I’m not sure exactly what. However, it was a long and busy week, so after having survived the customary Friday traffic mess, I decided to treat myself to a drink from one of the bottles of excellent single barrel bourbon my daughter and new son-in-law bought for me. (They also bought me a bottle of this and this. Nicely done!!) The one before dinner was so good, after dinner I enjoyed two more.
I was then ready to set about writing, but first, I thought, I would make myself comfortable in the recliner for “a half hour or so” while I thought about what I might write.
Six hours later, I awoke up in the middle of the night. So much for writing.
I needed that.
~ Thursday, May 01, 2003
Shiite Liberals. Who are they? They are the wackadoos who would place a linguistic burqua over textbooks by expunging words like “Founding Fathers” and “snowman” because they are sexist. (Try singing “Frosty the Snowperson.”)
They are the Hollywood dipshits who run their mouths at will, only to plead victimization when those who disagree also speak up or decide not to spend money on their Hollywares. Then they remove any doubt about their stupidity by claiming that all this amounts to a violation of their First Amendment Rights. When Tim Robbins is arrested for the dumb things he says, I will be among the first to take his side. Until then, he can blather on, but he’ll have to be prepared to take his lumps.
They are the hateful bastards who would happily support American troops if they would only shoot their officers.
They are the tiresome, pathetic boobs who prefer to remain in a dream world where Al Gore really won the presidency.
They are the ones who think Maureen Dowd and Hillary are just swell.
They are the ones who make my hair hurt.
Yesterday, I listed some of the nasties that we New Jersey drivers have to contend with, even though we don’t have to pump our own gas. Today, Craig, over at mtpolitics, answers the “Why Montana?” question by pointing to an excellent description of what it is like to be one of the everyday Jersey Road Warriors. Take a read through Susanna’s description of a leisurely drive in the Garden State, but be sure to fasten your seatbelt. Craig may have to pump his own gas, but maybe he’s got it right, and maybe he can teach Susanna and me how to work those damned pumps.
~ Wednesday, April 30, 2003
No Self Serve.
New Jersey drivers have to put up with a rather long list of horribles, among which are: blizzards, hurricanes, ice storms, toll booths, morning traffic jams, evening traffic jams, summer weekend traffic jams that can turn a 60 mile trip into something resembling a five-hour root canal, certain highways obviously designed by homicidal madmen (e.g. Route 280), New York drivers who never learn to stay to the right, Pennsylvania drivers who can’t figure out how to make a left turn, and other New Jersey drivers who are about as courteous as a wounded boar.
However, we do have one small blessing, for which I am eternally grateful. We don’t pump our own gas. In fact, thanks largely to the efforts of the New Jersey Gasoline Retailers Association, the law prevents us from doing so. (New Jersey Administrative Code Section 12:196). Once in a while the folks in Trenton get it right.
As such, we can buy gas in the rain without getting wet, we can fill up in a snow storm without getting cold, and we can stop for gas dressed in our best clothes, knowing that we wont have to get dirty or try to keep our hands from smelling like gasoline. It’s wonderful.
There is, however, a downside. When we travel to other states and have to buy gas, we are generally clueless. Perhaps the estimated 20,000 Jersey people who work at gas stations know how to operate a gas pump, but for the rest of us buying gas outside of New Jersey is, at best, a most unpleasant adventure.
First of all, no one has to look at the license plates on the car to know that we are from Jersey. They can recognize us instantly as those helpless knuckleheads actually reading the instructions on the pump. Once we finally figure out how to get the damned thing to work, we wander around a bit trying to figure out how to pay for the gas. You mean that I actually have to leave the car alone and unlocked, and go inside to pay for gas? Leaving one’s car unattended and unlocked in Jersey (the car-theft capital of the nation) is never a good idea.
Last June, I was in Colorado, and I stopped to buy gas for my rental car. After finally figuring out how to turn the pump on and then fumbling around with the nozzle, someone called to me from the other side of the gas station, “Hey, where in Jersey are you from?” Mind you, the rental car bore Colorado plates. I naively asked how he knew I was from Jersey. He responded, “Are you kidding?” I must have been about as conspicuous as a turd in a punchbowl. It turned out that he was originally from the Garden State, but had spent ten years living in Colorado, which presumably is a sufficient amount of time to learn how to operate a gas pump.
While you folks from the 48 states where you have to pump your own gas (Oregon is the only other state that prohibits self-service gasoline stations) may laugh at us as we wrestle with an uncooperative gas pump, that’s OK. We’ll think of you when we get back to Jersey and buy gas in the pouring rain.
Oh, and if you ever find your self in New Jersey and in need of gas, sit tight. Don’t even think about touching that pump. We fine people for that around here.
~ Tuesday, April 29, 2003
Sorry. After having been away from work for three days, I walked into the proverbial wall of ca-ca today. I got home late. I'm beat. I read everyone else's stuff, all of which is much better than I could possibly come up with right now. That said, I'm heading for the recliner.
~ Monday, April 28, 2003
The Army Stories.
Several people who have been reading this blog before Sgt. Steele came along have suggested that I make a list of the posts I have written about my experiences in the Army as a draftee in 1968. But for these experiences, Sgt. Steele would not exist.
The same people also tell me that the real Army stories are quite amusing. I will happily take them at their word. I can tell you that they passed my chuckle-while-writing test. Having said that, I will also tell you that some of the real events that are amusing when told now were anything but amusing at the time to this scared-shitless “raw-CROOT,” who wanted nothing more than to honorably serve my country as a “Remington Raider.”
Because I do not pack the technical gear to create such a list in the margin of the blog (HTML makes my hair hurt), or to open up a new window to display the list (you might as well ask me to fly an F-16), this primitive format will have to do. So, here they are, should you be so inclined to take a look at them:
"You Must Have Cheated!"
Test Day. The Sergeant, and the Wannabe “Remington Raider.
Night Infiltration and the Pathetic Mondo Kane Turtle.
Vertical Butt Stroke.
K.P., The Great Lie, and the Potato Mountain.
Fort Dix Quickies.
Spit, Polish, Graduation, and Orders.
Fort Holabird or the Twilight Zone?
I would like to thank the folks who sent me their best wishes on the occasion of my daughter’s wedding on Saturday. It was a wonderful day, the drizzly New Jersey weather notwithstanding. The ceremony was just long enough, just short enough, and just religious enough to be just right.
The reception was spectacular, with excellent music, food, service and a first-class, fully stocked bar (I insisted on that). As elegant as it was, it remained an ass-kicking party. It was great to have so many family and friends in the same place at one time.
Everyone had a great time.
Now, I can rest a bit.
~ Saturday, April 26, 2003
Wedding Day Tomorrow.
Daughter (our one and only) is getting married tomorrow. Tonight, in our bedroom, the same room where we put her in a cradle when we brought her home from the hospital, hangs her wedding gown that she will wear tomorrow. I'm so happy for her.
~ Thursday, April 24, 2003
MASTER SGT. JOHN “JACK” STEELE, ADJUNCT PROFESSOR OF LAW
First Installment – 1/26/03
Second Installment – 2/7/03
Third Installment: -- 3/5/2003
Fourth Installment -- 3/11/2003
Fifth Installment -- 3/30/03
Sixth Installment: The Faculty Meeting
Most of the faculty members were not terribly happy to be there. However, attending Dean Maxwell’s periodic faculty meetings was a job requirement for teaching law at Blackacre Law School. The tenured professors, who tended to teach “advanced” classes, which usually were scheduled so as to permit them to finish their typical workday by 2:00 p.m., regularly squawked about the timing of the meetings at 6:30 at night. The un-tenured faculty members regularly squawked about the tenured faculty members and their enviable schedules. It was a regular love fest.
The meeting was to be held in the usual place – a large open room that permitted folding chairs to be arranged in different configurations, depending on the event. On this evening, the chairs, approximately 50 in number, were arranged in three rows, in something approximating a semi-circle. Off to the side, was a long table on which coffee, tea, soft drinks and muffins were available.
The arriving faculty members gravitated to the refreshment table, where they clustered in small groups and engaged in small talk while awaiting the arrival of the Dean and the start of the meeting.
Professor emeritus Arthur Merriweather, a 79 year old, well-respected legal scholar, was one of the first to arrive to the meeting. Merriweather was the prototype of a law professor. He had a full head of gray hair, and he wore a full, gray moustache, which along with his twinkling blue eyes and his rosy cheeks caused him to look like everyone’s favorite uncle. He was standing by the refreshment table sipping a cup of tea when he was joined by Gerald Saxon who was munching a muffin with his coffee.
Saxon, an Associate Professor who usually taught civil procedure, property and evidence, greeted Professor Merriweather warmly: “Arthur, how nice to see you. You look terrific.”
“Why, thank you, Gerald,” Merriweather responded. It is nice to see you too. And how is the family?”
Saxon, who had three young children, replied, “We’re all doing well, although I must admit, I often have difficulty tearing my oldest, Kenny, away from video games.”
“Ah, yes. Video games. They are quite amazing. I can remember in the early sixties when electronic calculators and Pong were invented. We all thought that technology had reached its pinnacle. Now you have 13 year olds flying computerized flight simulators in their bedrooms. Truly amazing. However, it would be nice if they’d get a bit of air now and then, don’t you think?”
Before Saxon could answer Merriweather, each heard, “Gerald! Arthur! Hi!” The voice belonged to Marie Potter, who had completed her third year of teaching at Blackacre and was hoping to be promoted to Associate Professor this year. Before coming to Blackacre, Potter had spent two years at a large firm, where she was known for being a hard worker. At the school, she remained a hard worker, teaching contracts, criminal law and family law.
Merriweather and Saxon both greeted Potter, and Merriweather asked, “How was your summer, Marie? Did you find some quiet time to work on your article?” Just before the end of the previous spring semester, Potter had sought some advice from Merriweather concerning an article she had been trying to write, with a working title of The U.C.C.’s Battle of the Forms – A Legal Gordian Knot? She knew that having the article published would just about assure her promotion to Associate Professor. At that time, Merriweather, as usual, was gracious and had offered her some excellent suggestions.
“I wish I had, Arthur. The summer was a blur of activities that generally kept me from even thinking about the article.” Potter was not being truthful, as she had spent countless hours struggling with the article, and it was just not coming together. For the past few weeks, she couldn’t even face the word processor. She loved teaching and was good at it, but she feared that her writing ability was not up to par and that her career would suffer because of it.
Merriweather recognized immediately that Potter was not being forthright. He knew writer’s block when he saw it. “That’s a pity,” Merriweather replied, "because I think the article has a good deal of promise. I’d be happy to discuss it with you at your convenience.”
“Thanks, Arthur. I appreciate that, but I think I’ll be getting back to it some time next week.”
Potter continued, “Hey, Gerald. This is a big year for you, isn’t it? The Big “T?” Potter was referring, of course, to the widely known “rumor” that Saxon was being considered for tenure this year.
Saxon replied, “Yes it is. We just bought the new house, and I really don’t want to have to think about looking for a new job next year, if I don’t get tenure.”
Both Merriweather and Potter assured Saxon of their belief that he would do just fine. While Saxon normally would have written this off to pre-meeting small talk, he felt quite happy to hear that from Merriweather, who was one of the more influential members of the tenure committee.
Saxon said, “To tell you both the truth, I didn’t use to worry about it much, but now I find myself worrying about it all the time.”
“Why is that?” asked Merriweather.
“It’s the atmospherics, Arthur. I used to have a pretty good read on this place. Sure it isn’t Harvard, but it always seemed to me to be a solid, well-run law school that regularly produced graduates who, I think it’s fair to say, were 'legal mainstream'.”
“And why you think that is no longer the case, Gerald?”
“It’s a combination of things, some of which I cannot get my arms around. I hate to use the word ‘predictable,’ but maybe that’s it. Things just aren’t, well, as predictable as they used to be.”
Recognizing the somewhat puzzled looks on Merriweather’s and Potter’s faces, Saxon tried to be more specific. “Well, for instance – just for instance - two years ago the school hired a couple west coast law school activist types – the ones we call the ‘Westies’ - and because of their presence and their teaching style, I sense a difference in many of the students. They’re angrier and all too often much too confrontational. Hell, because of the influence of this new, and if I may say so, radical breed, even the curriculum has drifted off into a crazy direction. I notice that several of the newer courses all seem to start out with the presumption that American institutions are all corrupt.”
Merriweather, who had been teaching at Blackacre for more than four decades, and who was no stranger to change, listened thoughtfully, and after a short, reflective pause, replied, “Gerald, I have sensed the same things occurring, but I have been trying to keep an open mind about it all, knowing that change is often difficult to accept. While I absolutely agree that a law school should teach its students to confront the mainstream when it should be confronted, I do not believe in confrontation merely for confrontation’s sake.”
Saxon, feeling now that he had Merriweather on his side, continued, “And, just when I find myself becoming accustomed to the type of change I just mentioned, Dean Maxwell hires this Army guy to teach, and he has done a pretty fair job of turning the school on its ear.”
“An Army guy? What do you mean?”
“Just what I said, Arthur – a damned Army guy!”
Merriweather asked, “Is this fellow a retired Army officer? A former member of the Judge Advocate General Corps. – You know – A JAG.?”
Before Saxon could answer Merriweather’s question, Marie Potter stated, “No, Arthur. He’s not a retired officer. He is still in the Army. At least, I assume he is still in the Army because the students tell me that he shows up to class in a uniform, with combat boots and that strange looking hat.”
Now Merriweather was curious. “Strange looking hat? What does this strange looking hat look like?”
Potter thought a moment and then said, “A Smokey the Bear Hat, Arthur. That’s how my students described it.”
Merriweather thought a moment and observed, “You’re describing a Drill Sergeant’s hat, Marie. Drill Sergeants are just that – sergeants – they are never officers – and I have never heard of a drill sergeant who is also a lawyer. Might your students be mistaken?”
Saxon replied, “My students tell me he is a Master Sergeant, who managed to get a law degree from Georgetown while doing a tour of duty in Washington. He told the students that he had been contacted by Dean Maxwell and asked to take an Adjunct Professor position to take over Professor Carey’s torts class.”
“Fascinating,” Merriweather observed, obviously intrigued by the idea. “And I gather that there is a problem with this new Adjunct Professor.”
“A problem? I would say so, if some of things my students are complaining about are true.”
Marie Potter added, “I can back up what Gerald is saying. A few of my students described how he teaches his classes. At first, I thought they had to be joking, but I have now heard the same stories from four or five separate students.”
Merriweather asked, “What is it they are telling you both?”
Marie Potter said, “You go first, Gerald.”
“OK, my students tell me that he makes them stand at attention when he enters the room, and they have to stand at attention again before they can ask or answer a question. He absolutely insists that they attend all the classes, and that they remain absolutely quiet during class.”
Marie Potter interrupted, “He even has strict rules about what can be on the students’ desks during class, for Chrissakes. He hollered at one student for looking at him, and he berated another for the way his shirt was tucked in. Worse yet, he got in some young woman’s face and ultimately reduced her to tears. And, oh yeah, he has the entire class yelling things in unison.”
“Yelling things in unison?” Merriweather asked. “What kind of things?”
Saxon now took the lead and said, “I know that this may seem hard to believe, but the other day I was walking past his classroom, and I could have sworn that I heard the students all yelling, ‘WE LOVE THIS SHIT’.”
At that point, Merriweather broke out with laughter. “Gerald, are you telling me we have law students in a classroom all yelling at once, “WE LOVE THIS SHIT?”
“That’s exactly what I’m telling you, Arthur. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.”
At that moment David Pyle and Ronald Moon entered the room. Everyone took notice because Pyle was angrily waving his arms through the air and saying, at a volume that was louder than the sum of the collective conversations taking place. “We shouldn’t have to put up with that shit Ronnie. Let’s tell those corporate pigs that we’ll put together a class, get it certified and sue their asses.”
Saxon observed to Merriweather and Potter, “Terrific. The Westies have arrived. This promises to be long night.”
In stark contrast to the faculty members who came to the meeting dressed in business casual attire, the Westies showed up in torn jeans, and tee shirts. On the front of Pyle’s tee shirt was a picture of Che Guevera. Moon’s shirt was a sixties tie-dyed number similar to one that Wavy Gravy might have worn at Woodstock. Both wore their hair in a ponytail and sported what appeared to be three or four days’ growth.
Pyle and Moon always seemed to be together, although Pyle was clearly the dominant figure. In that regard, one faculty member had once wryly remarked, “If Pyle ever stops short, we’ll have to call the fire department to come here and use the jaws-of-life to pull Moon’s head out of Pyle’s ass.”
As Merriweather watched Pyle and Moon continue to carry on with their animated conversation at a volume calculated to attract attention, he said to Saxon, “That Pyle fellow certainly seems angry about something.”
Saxon answered, “He is always angry about something. I believe that the source of this week’s outrage and the target of this week’s invective is, as he would describe it, ‘The fascist, corporate swine who oppress working people, pollute the environment, and poison the minds of American children’.”
The general conversational volume rose as faculty members tried to compensate for the noise coming from the Westies. In fact, the room had become as noisy as a sports bar during a Monday night football game. Suddenly, those nearest the door became quiet, which created a slow moving wave of silence that worked its way across the room toward the refreshment table until all conversation had ceased. Everyone's head turned toward the door, where Master Sergeant “Jack” Steele had entered the room.
The majority of the faculty members had heard about Steele having been given an Adjunct’s position, but being busy with their own classes, they never gave it much thought. Very few faculty members had actually seen Steele.
Steele had heard the sound of the crowdspeak as he approached the meeting place. He was, therefore, aware that his entry into the room caused the silence, which was accompanied by stares. Two steps into the room, he stood erect and cast his eyes over those present, his gaze stopping for an extra second or two on David Pyle and Ron Moon. However, Steele’s gaze was such that every faculty member felt the heat of eye contact with Steele. He then took a few steps to his right to a coat rack and slowly and carefully removed his drill sergeant’s hat, placing it on the shelf of the coat rack. He was wearing his Class “A,” uniform, with his trousers bloused over his spit shined jump boots, a practice permitted only to paratroopers.
Surprisingly, most of the faculty members had never seen an Army uniform up close, and they were taken by the splashes of color on clothing they wrongly assumed would be a patchwork of dull, Army green. The gleaming brass, the bright yellow of his Master Sergeant stripes and his hash marks were impossible to miss, as were the multicolored rows of ribbons on his chest and the unit patches on his sleeves. No one was able to resist staring.
Merriweather smiled and quietly said to Saxon and Potter, “I think I can safely assume that the gentleman who just entered the room is the Army fellow you spoke of.”
Saxon said, “Yes, Arthur, that’s him. He certainly just pissed on this parade.”
Potter added, “He looks to me like he is really full of himself - the way he walked in here like some kind of general.”
Merriweather, with a distinct gleam in his eye, said, “To tell you the truth, all I saw was a soldier enter the room. Nothing more. Everyone’s silence and their gawking was not his doing, but rather everyone’s reaction to seeing a drill sergeant in the flesh – a reaction I find both fascinating and amusing.”
No one approached or greeted Steele, but rather the faculty resumed talking in their respective groups. Doubtless, the topic of all the conversations had turned to Steele.
Steele did not mingle or help himself to any refreshments. Rather, he looked at his watch and took a seat in the third row. Shortly after Steele was seated, Dean Maxwell entered the room in the rear, and briefly stopped to exchange pleasantries with a few faculty members. As he was moving to the front of the room to the desk and lectern, he saw Steele already seated. He walked up to Steele, smiled warmly and extended his hand.
“Hi Jack. I’m glad to see you. I was hoping you would accept my invitation to attend.”
Steele rose from his chair and shook hands with Dean Maxwell. “Hi Sam. It’s nice to see you. I was honored to receive your invitation, and I’m happy to be here.”
“I see that you already found yourself a seat. Did you have a chance to meet any of the other faculty members?”
Steele responded, “Well, I arrived at 1825 hours, and I knew that the meeting was scheduled for 1830 hours, and I also knew that you would be on time Sam, so I decided to just find a seat and make myself comfortable.” Steele did not mention that the “welcome” he had received was anything but warm. Besides, he really didn’t give much of a damn.
Other faculty members could hardly miss the friendly exchange between Steele and the Dean. It was obvious that the two really were friends. That sent shivers down the spines of several of those in the room. David Pyle certainly didn’t miss it. “Hey Ronnie, get a load of that shit! Maxwell is falling all over that Army asshole.”
Ronnie Moon, Pyle’s loyal minion, replied, “Yeah, that is weird, man. What the hell is that about?”
“I’ll be damned if I know, but I don’t like it. The last thing this school needs is some damned fool GI Joe up the Dean’s ass, and I don’t intend to be quiet about it.”
The Dean took his place in the front of the room, which was the cue for everyone to find a seat. After everyone had settled in, the Dean opened the meeting.
“Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. Thank you for attending the first faculty meeting of the year. I trust that you all had a pleasant summer. For those of you who were not involved in this year’s summer session, I would like to report that it was very successful.
“OK let’s get right down to it. We have a good deal of business to discuss, and I suspect that, as in the past, we will also spend some time discussing issues that are of particular interest to you. However, before we start, I would like to introduce you to someone who has graciously accepted one of the Adjunct Professor positions this semester. I decided that the best way to do that was to invite him as a guest to our first faculty meeting.
“I would like to introduce you to Master Sergeant John “Jack” Steele, currently serving in the United States Army. Sgt. Steele is a bit of an oddity in the Army in that he is a career enlisted man, who also happens to be a graduate of Georgetown Law School. We owe our thanks to the U.S. Army for permitting Jack to take the time to teach at our school. Jack would you please stand up so the faculty can see who you are.”
Steele rose from his chair, stood erect, and nodded in the direction of the Dean.
Pyle said in a voice that he knew would be heard by others, “Yeah, like he had to be pointed out.” Steele with the hearing of an antelope, heard Pyle, but did not react. Instead, he just sat down.
The first subject on the agenda was the academic calendar. With the predictability of the sunrise, Associate Professor Stuart Ross made his pitch for a shorter school year. Ross, whose name was Rosczewski before he changed it, was the school’s “media lawyer.” His good looks (which were the result of expert hair coloring and a face lift or two), his “winning smile” (which was the result of some very expensive cosmetic dental work), and his engaging personality (which was the result of being a natural-born, first-class bullshit artist) had landed him several spots on network television shows as the resident “legal expert.” As usual, he was trying to start the school year later and finish earlier in order to permit him additional time to cash in on more television work.
After a brain-numbing ten minutes of discussion, which was joined in by other faculty members who were not media sweethearts, but who were just lazy, the matter ended with the Dean promising to take the matter of a more abbreviated academic calendar “under advisement.”
Steele’s impression of Ross, which had been formed instantly when he entered the room a few moments earlier, was confirmed. Ross was a jerk.
The subject then turned to tenure, with Saxon trying to get Dean Maxwell to share more than Maxwell wanted to reveal about the school’s current plans for granting tenure. Saxon, and a few others nearing the time when a tenure decision might be made, urged the importance of giving people approaching tenure a lighter class load in order to permit them more time to research and write.
Steele took this all in and was quietly amazed that these people, who certainly did not do much heavy lifting, were seeking to do even less work. He began to feel somewhat uncomfortable amidst this bunch.
The minutes turned into an hour, and the subjects of discussion included requests for more office space, which resulted in a bit of unseemly bickering between two faculty members, each claiming rights to Professor Carey’s old office (the Professor whom Steele replaced). The Dean stated that he would meet with the two combatants privately to try to work the matter out.
Next there was a small group of faculty members who acted as if the earth would spin off its axis if they could not have flat-screen computer monitors. The Dean, who was by beginning to looking a bit weary from it all, stated that there was no money in the budget at this time for upgrading computer equipment, but that he would revisit the issue in the spring semester.
Steele thought, Flat screen monitors? These people are beginning to sound like a bunch of gott-damned high school kids.
After a downright painful discussion of a few more weighty subjects such as replacing the coffee maker in the faculty lounge, preferred faculty parking spaces based on seniority, and a “faculty only” seating area in the lunch room, the subject of course offerings was raised. As usual, David Pyle and Ronnie Moon took the lead. It would be more accurate to say that Pyle did all the talking, while Ronnie Moon, as usual, stood next to him about as useful as a hat rack.
“The course offerings in this place are horribly outdated. There are at least a half dozen courses offered here that deal with corporations, corporate tax, and corporate securities. All these courses place the corporate form on pedestal at the altar of capitalism. I strongly urge that we add courses that challenge the prevailing philosophical paradigm in society – courses that alter the dominant dialectic such that currently entrenched social structures are challenged by empowering those who are traditionally excluded from such institutional and structural power relationships.”
Dean Maxwell, now three hours into the meeting, was having a difficult time understanding what the hell Pyle was talking about (not that Pyle was ever very clear about anything), nor did he much care at that point. Nevertheless, in order to appear receptive to Pyle’s urgings, he responded, “What kind of courses did you have in mind, David?”
“I would like to see courses that expose the soft underbelly of the capitalist system and challenge the moral and legal right to private property ownership.” Ronnie Moon just stood there and nodded on cue.
The Dean, who by now had just about run out of patience, deflected Pyle’s statement by suggesting that he would form a curriculum sub-committee and he would see that David Pyle was a member.
After listening to Pyle, Steele felt himself approaching critical mass. He couldn’t wait to get out of that room.
Dean Maxwell could not have been more relieved when he asked, “Does anyone have anything else he or she wishes to discuss?” and no one spoke up.
“Very well. Now before we adjourn, I want to do something a little different. I am interested in these meetings being as productive and useful as they can possibly be. However, we have all become accustomed to this forum and, as such, we may not see it as critically as we should. Sergeant Steele’s presence here tonight provides us with a wonderful opportunity to get a more objective view of things. Sergeant Steele has never attended one of our meetings, and as an adjunct, he does not have an official role in formulating school policy. Therefore, I think we can all benefit by asking Sergeant Steele to share his impressions of these proceedings with us.”
“I don’t believe this shit,” Pyle said to Ronnie Moon is a stage whisper.
“Jack, might I impose on you share your thoughts with the faculty based on your experience so far at Blackacre, including tonight’s meeting?”
Steele rose from his chair, stood at attention, and replied, “Yes Dean Maxwell, I will do that, provided I have your permission to speak freely.”
“Of course Jack, I was counting on your being completely frank.”
“Thank you, Dean Maxwell.” Most of the faculty had turned around or sideways in order to listen to Steele speak from his place in the audience. They were caught off guard when Steele walked poker-straight to the front of the room and placed himself between the Dean and the audience.
Steele again passed his gaze over the assembled faculty members before saying a word.
Finally, he began:
“I have been sitting in this gott-damned room for more than three hours, and I have heard nothing but boatloads of bullshit!”
The statement took the faculty by such surprise that their collective gasp literally sucked the air out of the room.
“That’s right. Let me tell you what I heard tonight. What I heard was three and a half hours of bitching and moaning from a bunch of people who probably would not last one gott-damned week in a real job or five gott-damned minutes in the military.
“Now, let me tell you people what I did NOT hear all gott-damned night. Not once – I repeat – Not once did I hear one word from any of you pansy asses about how the faculty might do a better job of teaching the students in this gott-damned place.
“You sorry asses ought to be ashamed of yourselves. Right about now, this room is waist-deep in self-serving horseshit. All some of you want to talk about is tenure, and on that subject let’s cut through the bullshit, shall we? While you may have convinced yourselves that having tenure will give you the opportunity to better serve the school and to make a contribution to the body of legal scholarship, you can’t bullshit me. From what I’ve seen tonight, you want tenure because, once you get it, you can work less and, at the same time, have a secure gott-damned job. You all want the lighter teaching load that comes with tenure, and that includes not having to teach as many first year classes. Hell, some of you are so eager to work less you actually have the stones to request a lighter teaching load so that you can have time to research and write in order to get tenure!
“Hell, the capper was when I heard Mr. Television over there wanting days lopped off each end of the academic calendar so that he can hobnob with network news bunnies and pretend to be a legal expert on every gott-damned legal topic under the sun. One day, he’s a criminal law expert; the next day he is an expert on civil procedure and trial tactics. Hell, one day I even saw his sorry ass on television going on and on about the law of admiralty, when the closest thing to a ship he has ever been on is a gott-damned surf board. And, we all know that this purveyor of pig shit has his two – count ‘em – two student assistants up half the gott-damned night doing research and writing his scripts so that he can come off like a television “expert.”
At that point, Stuart Ross objected, “Hey wait a minute. Who are you to talk about me like that?”
Steele shot back, “I’ll tell you who I am. I’m the son of a bitch who can see that if you have one more face lift, your nuts will be chest high, and I’m also the guy who can smell bullshit a mile away, and mister, you are full of shit up to your blue-tinted contact lenses.”
Steele paused a moment to ensure that Ross had nothing further to say. Ross just sat there, wide-eyed and speechless.
Turning his attention again to the entire group, Steele continued, “Based on all the chicken shit I heard tonight I don’t think any of you gives a rat’s ass whether the students in this place learn any gott-damned law. You’re all too busy fighting over who gets what gott-damned office and who gets to park closer to the entrance than the next sorry ass. You want the school to shit money so you can have flat screen monitors? Why? So you can squirrel yourselves away in your offices to surf the gott-damned internet? And, yeah, I almost forgot. You want a separate place to eat your gott-damned lunch so that you wont have to be near any students, who many of you seem to view as a little more than a gott-damned nuisance rather than the reason your pitiful asses are in theses cushy jobs in the first place.”
Pyle, who was sprawled out in the first row with his legs extended and crossed at the ankles, had heard enough, and said as he scratched his unshaven face, “I don’t think any of us needs a lesson from some Army jerkoff about teaching law, especially one with no teaching experience.”
The faculty, already flabbergasted by what they had been hearing, looked with horror at Pyle, who remained seated with a smirk on his face.
Steele walked up to Pyle, stood directly in front of him and said in a voice that was ratcheted up in intensity, “You snot-nosed, wise-ass punk, you get on your gott-damned feet when you talk to me.”
Pyle looked up from his seat and said, “Screw you. Who do you think you’re talking to? One of your basic trainees?”
Steele snarled, “I know exactly who I’m talking to; I’m talking to an unwashed piece of dog shit, who is not worth the sweat off a basic trainees’ ass. Now you get on your gott-damned feet before I drag you out of that chair by your ratty hair! You read me, asshole?”
The faculty members in the room, all accustomed to the genteel and relatively cloistered life of the law school, were shocked beyond belief at what was happening in the room. Still, some of them secretly were enjoying watching one of the annoying Westies getting the business from Steele.
Pyle looked around for support but only saw the fixed stares of the others in the room. He slowly rose from the chair, ran both hands through his hair and said, “So, now are you going to tell me to stand at attention?”
Steele put his face inches away from Pyle’s and roared, “No, you pathetic sack of shit. I’m not going to tell you to stand at attention, because I know that standing at attention requires a gott-damned spine, and I know sure as shit you haven’t got one.
“I listened to all you third-rate, ill-thought, immature, neo-Stalinist horseshit, and I don’t know how everyone puts up with you. And I damned sure don’t know how or why the Dean tolerates you around this place. It seems to me that, other than your pathetic, ass-kissing flunky and about a dozen students who you have conned into believing that you’re some kind of smart guy, everyone in this place recognizes you for what you are – and that’s an empty-headed, loudmouthed, unwashed, unshaven, chicken shit, asswipe who has no business teaching in a law school.”
Pyle, his voice having lost its edge, replied, “You -- someone with no teaching experience -- have no right to talk to me like that.”
“No teaching experience? Let me tell you something, Pyle. I have more than twenty gott-damned years of teaching experience. I probably have taught fifteen or twenty thousand students over the years -- only we don’t call them students; we call them trainees. And unlike the students here, they don’t come equipped with college degrees and high LSAT scores. Hell, in some cases, they don’t even have a high school diploma. And, although I didn’t have the pleasure of teaching them the niceties of contracts and civil procedure, I taught them the skills they need to effectively destroy the enemy and to stay alive in the process. I taught kids who never were in the same gott-damned room with a rifle to shoot like experts in eight weeks. I taught them how to strip down and clear a jammed rifle with their eyes closed because they might have only a few seconds in the pitch dark to do that in order to keep from being killed. I taught them how to treat everything from heat exhaustion to sucking chest wounds and how to carry a wounded buddy out of the battlefield.
“I taught them the importance of showing respect and earning respect. I taught them teamwork so that when the shit breaks loose in the bush, they know that the two most important people in the entire gott-damned world are the guys to the right and left of you and that if anyone screws up, someone gets killed. Your teaching mistakes fail the bar exam. My teaching mistakes come home in body bags. So, you little shit, don’t you tell me I have no teaching experience.”
Pyle tried to speak, but got no farther than “Well…”
Steele cut him off. “I know you teach one of the first year courses in Property, right Pyle?”
Pyle nodded his head. Steele barked, “Answer me, gott-dammit.”
“Yes,” Pyle replied, beginning to wither under Steele’s relentless pressure.
“How many students are enrolled in that class, Pyle?”
Pyle thought a moment and then replied, “I think there are 85 students in the class.”
“Well then, Pyle, why is it that when I walked past your class just two weeks into the gott-damned semester, I saw TEN students sitting in the room?”
Pyle answered, now visibly shaken, “Maybe it’s because I don’t take attendance.”
“BULLSHIT!! The reason they don’t come to your class is because it is a waste of their gott-damned time. And the reason it’s a waste of their time is because you don’t teach property law. You rattle on with your own half-assed pet theories of law that don’t have a friggin’ thing to do with what they have to know when they graduate from this place. What they all end up doing is stripping the bookstore clean of Gilbert's on Property and teaching themselves what they are paying a large chunk of change to have you teach them. Sure, your captive audience of ten groupies might think you’re a regular Cardozo, but, in truth, if you paraded your stupid bullshit in front of real lawyers, they’d laugh you out of the room. You’re a piss poor teacher, and one sorry excuse of a person.”
Pyle was beginning to feel faint.
“Oh yeah, one more thing. What is your first name, Pyle?”
In a voice that was completely devoid of defiance, Pyle answered, “My first name is David.”
Steele looked contemptuously at Pyle and said, “David is it? Not for me. From now on, your gott-damned name is GOMER.”
The room erupted in laughter, and Pyle was crushed. He knew the name would stick.
“That is all I have to say to you, GOMER. Now sit your sorry ass down.”
With that, Steele turned toward Dean Maxwell and said, “Thank you for the invitation,” and he walked to the back of the room and slowly placed his drill sergeant’s hat on his head. Once he had positioned his hat exactly right, he walked out of the room, leaving the faculty speechless and Gomer wondering if anyone would be able to see that he had wet his pants.
As Steele was walking down the hall toward the exit, he heard someone yell, “Hey Jumpmaster! Wait!”
Steele was startled to hear someone in the school refer to him as “Jumpmaster.” He turned around to see Arthur Merriweather walking in his direction. Merriweather extended his hand and said, “Jumpmaster, I’m pleased to meet you. My name is Arthur Merriweather.”
Steele shook Merriweather’s hand and asked, “How did you know that I was a jumpmaster?”
Merriweather smiled and said, “I recognized the master parachutist badge, which means that you were a jumpmaster and that you have made combat jumps.” That’s most impressive.”
Steele asked, “I sure as hell didn’t expect anyone around here to know anything about a parachutist badge. How is it that you know that?”
Merriweather smiled even broader and said, “It’s because I have a badge just like yours at home. I also served with the 101st Airborne Division, but that was many years ago.”
“No kidding. When did you serve?”
Merriweather answered, “I was one of the guys who was dropped into France behind Normandy Beach the night before D-Day. Sadly, most of the fellows I jumped with are buried over there. I don’t believe I have ever told anyone around here about that. Some of it is difficult to talk about, particularly to people who I know won’t get it.”
Steele shook Merriweather’s hand again, this time placing his left hand over the old paratrooper’s hand, and said, “It is an honor to meet you sir, and please call me Jack.”
Merriweather replied, “It is an honor to meet you, Jack. Please call me Arthur.”
Merriweather continued, “I have to tell you, Jack. You’re one helluva breath of fresh air around here. I like your style.”
Steele laughed and said, “Well, I’m glad that at least one person does. I’ve never been known to sugar coat my feelings.”
“I’ve never known a drill sergeant to behave otherwise.”
“That may be true Arthur, but I figure that there’s a good chance that I’ll get a pink slip handed to me tomorrow.”
“Not a chance. The truth is, you were absolutely on the money in there. These people have lost sight of the mission here, and that is to teach these kids what they need to know once they’re out of here and inflicting themselves on the clients of the world. From what I saw in there and from what I’ve heard about your class, you have your eye on the ball. I understand that you even give your class a periodic attitude check.”
Steele laughed loudly, “How the hell did you know that?”
“I knew it as soon as I heard two of the professors complain about hearing your students shout ‘WE LOVE THIS SHIT.”
“Hey Arthur, waddya say we go some place for a beer? I’m buying.”
“OK, but only if you promise tell me if some of my favorite saloons around Fort Bragg are still in business.”
Steele replied, “It’s a deal,” and, with that, the two jumpmasters headed out the door.
(to be continued)
~ Wednesday, April 23, 2003
The Vanishing Drug Store
A few weeks ago, we received a letter from the drug store that has been filling our prescriptions for the last 28 years. The letter said that the family-owned business had been acquired by one of the gargantuan “drug store” chains. We have three such gargantuan drug stores, each representing a different gargantuan drug store chain, all within one mile of one another in the town.
I recall first going into Nestor’s (not the real name) drug store in 1975 and meeting Mr. Nestor, the owner and pharmacist. It was a small store that derived most of its income from filling prescriptions. The store had limited shelf space on which one could find the kinds of things that one used to go to a pharmacy to buy. There were a few over the counter cough medicines, aspirins, and allergy tablets, but even then, people would tend to buy those things across the street in the supermarket. So, Nestor’s stocked the types of things that one could not find in the supermarket, such as post surgical supplies, Ace bandages and the like.
Mr. Nestor insisted on keeping accurate patient profiles and prescription histories, always on the lookout for potential dangerous drug interactions or allergies. He also made sure that he spoke with every customer about his or her prescription. He cared about his customers. I recall one night when my daughter was an infant, and she was having a very difficult time breathing, as her nose was terribly clogged. The doctor recommended that I buy a nasal aspirator. It was eleven o’clock at night, and I called Nestor’s. A recording provided an “after hours” number. I labored over whether to use the after hours number, because this was not a life threatening condition, but my daughter’s continued distress made the decision for me.
I called Mr. Nestor, apologized for bothering him and explained that I needed a nasal aspirator. He instructed me to meet him at the store in ten minutes. I remember that he showed up with an overcoat over his pajamas. He unlocked the door to the store and handed me the aspirator. I took out money to pay him, and he said, “Don’t worry about that now. Go home and take care of the baby. Pay me next time you come in.”
I never forgot that.
His pharmacy enabled him to raise a family, which included a daughter who eventually became a pharmacist herself. After graduation from pharmacy school, she worked with Mr. Nestor at the store. For the last five years or so, his daughter took over the drug store, and Mr. Nestor would come in from time to time to help out.
Within that five-year period, the manner in which drugs are provided changed drastically, with the bulk of the prescription business being covered by employer-provided prescription plans, which do not allow much of a margin for pharmacies. In addition, internet and mail order prescriptions took their toll on Nestor’s business. The final nail in the coffin came with the appearance of the three giant drug stores in town. Nestor’s daughter tried scaling back hours; she tried guaranteeing filling of prescriptions in ten minutes or less. Nothing worked.
So, as the letter stated, one of the giant stores acquired Nestor’s business. I have no doubt that what the giant wanted most and what it paid for was Nestor’s goodwill i.e. the customer list. I’m sure that it paid a pittance for Nestor’s inventory, because the giant store’s inventory of hair care products alone is probably worth more than the entire inventory of Nestor’s. Part of the deal also included a pharmacist job for Mr. Nestor’s daughter.
Last week, I had to have a prescription filled, so I drove to the giant store. Why the place is called a “drug store” escapes me, for the “drug store” part is tucked away in the back of a huge retail space where one can buy everything from every deodorant and toothpaste known to man to motor oil and Franco American Spaghetti.
Nestor’s daughter was one of the three pharmacists behind the counter. She looked miserable, decked out in her lab coat emblazoned with the Giant Store logo, as she struggled with the store’s computer. She greeted me warmly and did her best to retain her game face, as she filled the prescription. I managed to retain my game face as well, as I wished her luck. It was sad.
This morning, I walked past the old store. It is empty, and there are glitzy signs on the window, which were printed by Giant Store, saying “We’ve Moved!” and providing the address of Giant Store.
The signs lie. Nestor’s didn’t move. It vanished.