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Most Moms WANT Their Kids To Build Character

, , , , , , | Related | September 16, 2021

I was deployed to Louisiana as a volunteer disaster responder after Hurricane Katrina. The damage was so great, and the media coverage so thorough, that an unprecedented number of people volunteered for the first time to come down south and help out.

My job at the time was shuttle driver; I ferried volunteers and their luggage back and forth from the headquarters building and the local airport. Quite late one evening, I was called to pick up a young college student whose flight had just arrived.

When I got to the airport, she was standing next to an older woman who, as it turned out, was her mother. This woman got in a car and followed us to the HQ, followed us INTO the HQ, and then tagged after us while I signed in the new volunteer and showed her where she would be sleeping.  

Mom took one look at the sleeping room — three rows of snoring volunteers on rickety cots or on blankets on the floor — and hit the roof.

Mom: *Hissing* “You are not staying here!”

She grabbed her daughter by the arm and frog-marched her back out to the car.

This woman — upon learning that her lovely child had signed up to do relief work — had driven down to Louisiana from Ohio in her car, timing it so that she could meet her daughter’s plane and check us out.

I guess we didn’t pass muster. I felt so sorry for the girl; I wonder if she ever managed to get out from under Mom’s thumb.

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There’s No Freeing Yourself From This Awkwardness

, , , , , | Related | September 7, 2021

My goddaughter’s mother was eager to go to a museum that was just opening up while she happened to be in town visiting me, so I went with her to the opening day ceremony. The museum was well put together, but since we were there on opening day, it took forever just to get in, and it was extremely crowded once we finally got in.

My goddaughter was a toddler at the time, and I’d strapped her into one of those wearable carriers to carry her when it was clear she was falling asleep. After a long nap, she finally woke up and started to get restless in the carrier. She was a very active child who didn’t want to be held when she could be exploring. Because of how crowded the area was, for a while, I tried my best to distract her to keep her in the carrier so she wouldn’t be underfoot, but eventually, she was too restless and had to be let out.  

Me: “Okay, okay, I give up. I’ll set you free.”

I worked her out of the carrier and set her on the ground.

Me: “There you go! You’re finally free!”

I lifted my arms as if celebrating, and my goddaughter did the same back at me before starting to toddle off. We had done this whole routine, including her lifting her arms to celebrate being set loose along with me, a few times before, so I didn’t think much of it until I looked up and noticed someone looking at me funny.

It was only then that I realized that I, a white man, had just made a big deal about setting my black goddaughter free at the opening day of the African American History Museum, in a section explicitly dedicated to the time period leading up to freeing of the slaves.

Let’s just say I have never been accused of having an excess of tact and my people skills are pretty much limited to persons with an age of twelve or lower. I tried to give the person giving me the odd look an apologetic smile and slunk off after my goddaughter.

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Lying About A Tragedy Is A New Low

, , , | Right | July 5, 2021

In 2001, I’m a credit card bill collector for clothing stores. After September 11, we stop calling the areas hit by the terrorist attacks for about two months. 

Eventually, we begin calling affected areas again. Our company has a good code of ethics, so we are sympathetic to those affected by that horrible day.

Around November, I contact a customer who lives in New York City. After introductions:

Call Recipient #1: “I’m sorry, but I can’t talk because I’m worried about my roommate. She’s missing in the terrorist attacks.”

I apologize and we end the call.  

A few weeks later, I call her again.

Call Recipient #2: “I’m her roommate. I’m so worried about her; she’s been missing since the terrorist attacks.”

I apologize and we end the call.

At the time, there was a website with a list of the missing and victims of the terror attacks. Thankfully, the customer’s name was not on this list. Otherwise, who was I speaking with in November?

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A Higher Death Rate Gets You A Lower Interest Rate

, , , | Right | July 1, 2021

It’s 2002 and I’m a bill collector for some clothing store credit cards.

Customer: “Can I have my interest rate lowered?”

Me: “The only way to have it lowered is if you qualify for the Soldiers and Sailors Act.”

Customer: “Awww. Why do they get a lower interest rate?”

Me: “Because there’s a war going on.”

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This Is Why We Need Black History Month, Part 2

, , , , , , | Right | June 18, 2021

It’s 1988 and I have been with the library for not quite a year.

Black History Month is upon us and children of all shapes, sizes, colors, and cute smiles are looking for information on various famous people.

But they clearly do not know what or who they are looking for.

Child #1: “I am doing a report on a famous black singer. Her name is Martha.”

Me: “Oh, good choice. Martha Reeves and the Vandellas were a great singing group!” 

Child #1: “There’s another Martha? My report is on Martha Luther and her Kings.”

Next child:

Child #2: “I need a book on a famous black man who got his leg shot off during the war.”

Me: “Um, I am going to need more information than that. Which war are we talking about?”

Child #2:The war.”

Me: “Honey, there have been lots of wars over the years. Was it the Civil War? The American Revolution? World War II?”

Child #2: “The Revolution! Yes, the revolution! When the people came here from England to fight the Americans to free the slaves.”

We finally figured out we were looking for Crispus Attucks, though I don’t remember him getting his leg “shot off,” only that he was among the first killed at the start of the Revolution.

And then there were the inventors. Not Lattimer or McCoy or Madame C.J. Walker. No, we are talking about the well-known John Doe. Mary Smith. Lotta Peeples. Who “invented” THE comb. The hairbrush. THE washing machine. And of course, the kids needed at least five books on each of these people.

No surprise, there were none. Cue child sobbing because they have to write an eight page paper on this person.  

We had to start writing a form letter to teachers (which soon became known as the Dear Dummy letter) explaining that back in the day, many, many, many people created and patented a new version of the hairbrush or the comb, or created and patented a different version of a wringer for a hand-cranked washing machine. Or new buttons. Or corsets. Shaving creams…

We had to explain that these people were black, white, Hispanic, or Asian background, and that the only reason we know they existed and what their race was is because the forms for the patent office included a little box for this. ALL we know about the inventor is his or her invention, their name, the number assigned their patent… and their race.

Regardless of their race, there are not five paragraphs, let alone five books on each person.

Imagine having to send that out daily with an extra line scrawled at the bottom saying, “Please allow [Student] to choose a new topic so he won’t flunk your class.”

Every year for closing in on ten years, the head of the tech department where patents were kept would contact teachers and explain that we could not supply five books on the life of a citizen who happened to try making something new for an already existing device, so please don’t ask kids to write a ten-page paper on them. Every year, the teachers would say they understood… and then send the kids in to research the same obscure people anyway.

And of course, my favorite kid was the one who came in with his dad. The child darted across the floor to the desk, leaned against it, and crowed, “Hey! Where your dead black people at?” His father — both were African American — did a facepalm and shook his head. He said, “Son, they aren’t keeping the bodies on ice out back. Tell the lady who you want to read about.”

That exchange had the dad and I laughing for most of the exchange. I miss those days, as the demand for writing reports has fallen off. I just hope I never have to explain to another child that the singer she wants to report on is actually a Civil Rights Leader.

Related:
This Is Why We Need Black History Month

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