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Changing my birthday yet again
I turned 70 yesterday and I recognized my actual birthday for the first time in a decade.
It’s not that I’ve been pretending to be young for the last bunch of years, as if anyone would be fooled by my futile imitation of youth. Instead, I opted ten years ago to move my officially sanctioned birthday from May to June, forsaking the day that mom chose to toss me into the world.
Mostly, it’s been a nice shift. I get to pay lots of attention to all the moms on my roster on Mother’s Day and I have my own little moment for celebration that I don’t have to share with anyone else. There have been complications, though, including the fact that I can’t always remember exactly which date I picked for my new birthday observance. So, when people ask me to remind them of my new date, I have to stop and look it up. As I get older, this situation is not likely to improve.
Then there’s the issue of social media, with Facebook inviting people to send me greetings on my actual nativity date and declining my attempts to change their records to acknowledge my new benchmark. I suspect they’d allow me to change my gender at this point, but birthdays are absolutely non-fluid. So, on May 13, I get B-Day wishes from some people and questions about the “real” date from others and I get the feeling people think I am even weirder than they thought before. As if that was possible.
And it has become just a bit uncomfortable when I exchange greetings with people who have the same birthday as me, including one of my cousins. They all know I’ve deserted them and, TBH, I’ve started to feel just a bit guilty about my betrayal.
The final straw, though, is the aging process itself. I’m not quite at the point where George Burns announced, “At my age, I don’t buy green bananas,” but I’m getting closer all the time. The idea of delaying a birthday celebration, even if only for a few weeks, just keeps getting dumber and dumber.
So it’s back to Friday the 13th and conflicts with Mothers’ Day and weather that isn’t nearly as warm as it is in June and restaurants that haven’t opened their patios yet, because this is my day of infamy and I can rely on Facebook to remind me when it arrives.
Of course, my reversal of my reversal is turning a lot of people into really bad friends. If you didn’t wish me a happy birthday yesterday, you are seriously late and there is no excuse for your failure to remember my very special day. Yeah, you’re going to whine that you didn’t know and I just told you today, but the truth is that you were never a good person to begin with and you’ve let me down yet again. Honestly, I don’t know what I ever saw in you.
Of course, you can make it up to me with a belated birthday gift that reflects the level of your remorse at your transgression. Just as a reminder, I wear a size 42 Armani or a 911 Porsche.
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Can't wait for my $15 hot dog
I paid $13 for a hot dog and fries the other day. That’s probably a record, and I was actually happy about it.
There’s no such thing as cheap eats anymore, including the delicacies that the hip folks refer to as “street food” in Chicago. Some of it is due to food costs, which have already leveled off or started to decline, but mostly it’s a shortage of labor. Suddenly, even lower-level workers are getting a living wage for working 40 hours a week, instead relying on food stamps to compensate for their McJobs. We were paying that price before, of course, but now there are fewer bureaucrats in the middle.
This is gonna take some getting used to, especially for people who are still trying to fill today’s job openings at yesterday’s wages and complaining that nobody wants to work anymore. We had a shortage of eggs over the past year and nobody got mad at the chickens, but everyone seems to be angry with the workers who are suddenly in short supply.
I get it. I really do. For small business owners, every extra expense is truly coming out of their pockets. It’s not like a public company, where the shareholders lose some earnings per share when benefits go up for employees. In most small businesses, there’s only one shareholder, and that shareholder needs every dime to pay his own mortgage.
Even if a guy has mortgages on two or three houses and his kids are going to Harvard on his dime, he still resents the clerk who’s demanding an extra buck an hour. You can’t complain to your buddies at the golf club that some chicken is picking your pocket, but you can absolutely complain about the fry cook and everyone will nod in agreement.
And it’s not just the greedy capitalists who are upset at the idea of paying workers a living wage. One of the newer trends in the service economy is tip baiting, a practice of entering a substantial tip online when ordering something and then cutting the tip after the items are delivered. Convenience is worth the extra fees for Uber Eats and Grub Hub and all the other middlemen who add 35% to every food order, but the poor schmuck who delivers the pizza is 100% screwable.
I’m rooting for the pizza guy, though, especially in comparison with the tech bros who developed all the apps that add 25-40% to every bill in a race to make your grocery order cost as much as Taylor Swift tickets. The American Dream has devolved from a house with a two-car garage to the needing only one job to put food on the table.
We’ve seen this play out before, of course. After the Great Depression and World War II, millions of GIs came home and went back to work in one of the few countries that hadn’t seen its factories bombed. Family formations exploded and more than a decade of pent-up demand was suddenly unleashed. Inflation soared as factories shifted from war production to consumer products and workers benefited from higher wages as the economy boomed. It was a once-in-a-millennium event that truly built the Middle Class and made it possible for factory workers to buy homes while working just one, often unionized, job.
Right now, it looks like we’re seeing a small replication of that economy. The pandemic caused major retooling of production, enormous shifts in demand patterns, and all types of shortages, leading to deflation and then inflation and a release of pent-up demand during the recovery period. Inflation rates soared and a labor shortage is driving wage growth for the first time in forever. The federal government added to inflation, absolutely, by throwing $trillions into the economy over the past three years, but it looks like there’s going to be a payoff as U.S. manufacturing starts to recover from more than a half century of neglect.
The politicians will work their hardest to screw it up, of course, and the Fed has already announced its preference for recessions—and unemployment—over inflation, but the invisible hand just might be strong enough to swat away their meddling. One can only hope, because the fundamentals are actually looking better than they have in a long, long, long time. It’s going to be a bumpy ride, no doubt, but it’s actually possible that things are moving in the right direction.
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Leaning in to the boycott market, the new biggest lies in business, and the Olympic sport where I’d win gold…among other ramblings this week.
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I think I’ve gotten over this whole tipping thing. I used to think it was a great idea, rewarding someone for a job well done and not quite rewarding them when they forgot your seventh martini. (Yeah, she said I only ordered six, but who ya gonna believe here????)
It all seemed very free-enterprise-ish, with scrappy young workers scrambling to earn their pay and beneficent patrons rewarding them with ample largesse. (Fun fact: Ample Largesse is from the Latin for big butt and it referred to British lords who sat at the club and complained about the work ethic among the servants who fetched their cigars.)
Anyway, I thought of tipping as a much better approach to compensation than simply including everything in the overall cost of my purchase, but I’m beginning to come around to the idea that tipping is really, really stupid.
First, this is a dumb way for people to earn a living. So much of any worker’s compensation is in limbo until it’s too late to change anything, and many cheap bastards don’t tip at all. Meanwhile, the rest of us are assessed according to the final price, rather than the actual work involved in providing the service. But why tie it to prices at all? It takes no more effort to bring me a $25 glass of wine than a $5 beer, but the wine calls for five times the tip.
And it gets very awkward when the service is so bad that I’m only leaving a symbolic $1.00, because the waiter might show up with a point-of-purchase device to ring me up in person. It was easier when I could just write down the tip on the receipt and run out the door, but now I have to enter the amount while the really bad server is watching me.
Second, nobody can explain which people should get tipped and which ones should just work for wages. I understand tipping the waiter who brings me my meal in a restaurant, but now I’m supposed to tip the cashier who took my order at the takeout counter, as well. Does that mean I’m supposed to tip the cashier at the drug store? Why am I tipping the woman who brings me a slab of ribs, but not the butcher who does the same? Neither cooks it, but one gets paid.
If things keep going the way they are, I’ll need to tip the bus driver for letting me off at my stop and the screener who pats me down at the airport. If I need surgery, I’ll be tipping the anesthesiologist, in advance, in hopes she’ll remember the antidote. (Fun fact: TIP is actually an acronym for To Inhale Post-surgery.)
It will only get worse as AI takes over more of the jobs now handled by people, because AI is both very smart and very, very amoral. The robot arm that delivers my coffee will spill it if my tip isn’t generous enough and I’ll need to swipe my credit card if I don’t want the elevator to stop between floors. My self-driving ride-share will keep the doors locked until I cough up my ransom and the slot machine at the casino will demand its vig if I ever want to see another cherry. Worst of all, the robots will eventually decide how much they need and simply transfer it from my account to theirs.
The only way to stop this disaster is to tip everyone with cash. It won’t fix the mess we've already created, but it might convince the robots that there’s no money to be made by demanding tips. If there are no extra payments showing in the databases, we can trick our future masters into phasing out tipping forever.
We can only hope.
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At some point in my life, more than a few people suggested that I was an introvert. I don’t remember exactly when it was, but it was around the time that everyone started getting caught up in psychology, Rorschach tests, and the color of their parachutes. None of the people who diagnosed me was licensed to practice psychology, or even yoga, but that’s what they said and I believed them.
To be fair, I wasn’t exactly the life of the party. I’d been sick as a kid, missing out on those socialization skills you pick up in adolescence, and I was more interested in schoolwork than extra-curriculars. When people told me I was hard-wired that way, it seemed to fit. Even better, it gave me a reason to conclude I couldn’t change and didn’t need to try.
So I lived my life as an introvert, with solitary hobbies like bike riding, photography, and coin collecting. Later, when I was around 45, I took a Meyers-Briggs test and the results were pretty shocking. According to the test, I wasn’t actually an introvert. In fact, the test concluded that I was comfortable across a broad range from Intro- to Extro- on the -Vert Continuum.
As a result, my filter began to change and I saw the world, including myself, just a bit differently. Slowly, over many years, I became more outgoing, more sociable, more comfortable with strangers. I’m okay with traveling or dining alone and I still enjoy biking and photography, but I would rather be paired up with somebody, or somebodies, to share the experience.
The teenage me would be surprised to see how much I enjoy being with people, engaging with them, entertaining them, and learning from them. Or, maybe, the teenage me would remember the sadness of being alone far too much.
Because, in fact, I was sad to be alone as a teen and I was mistaken in my belief that sadness was the inevitable companion of introverts. Instead, it was the inevitable result of a faulty diagnosis. I simply accepted what other people said about me and followed their prescription to guide much of my life.
I didn’t realize it at the time, but it’s pretty common for people to shove you into a box and put a label on it, even though they aren’t going to move into that box with you or help you to work your way out of it. And if they make the wrong diagnosis, they’ll give you an ailment you didn’t have already, without offering a cure.
I can’t go back, of course, and my regret is softened by the knowledge that painful experiences teach us how to cope later in life. The people who put me in the wrong box when I was younger did me no favor, but they did give me an insight I can pass on to another generation. I’m not exactly gleeful for the lesson, but perhaps someone can benefit from my education.
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Who writes this stuff?
Dadwrites oozes from the warped mind of Michael Rosenbaum, an award-winning author who spends most of his time these days as a start-up business mentor, book coach, photographer and, mostly, a grandfather. All views are his alone, largely due to the fact that he can’t find anyone who agrees with him.