Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Mrs. Parker and the Cost of Living

Miss Sallie Parker points out that a blog already exists called "Death and Taxes," operated by one Leigh, who drives a 1991 Sentra. (Beyond that, I know little about him, not having the time to sift years of blogging to figure out whether he's a student, a credit card cop, or what; and whether he lives in the Pacific Northwest or otherwhere. But that 1991 Sentra speaks volumes. With my 1993 Protégé, the two of us could assemble an encyclopedia on the subject of broken suitcases.)

Well, Sallie, your great aunt Dorothy got the drop on both of us, with a slim volume of verse by the same title. So memorable was that volume, that the phrase has been used goods ever since. So it might be as well if I changed the name of my blog to something original. Say, "Enough Rope." Has a nice ring to it, if you'll excuse the pun.

This morning, I was in the greasy spoon near my office and noticed for the umpteenth time that taped near the cash register was a note headed "they raise the prices," followed by a rough-and-ready tariff of new rates. The sign's use of "they" seemed sinister at first, and the use of present instead of present perfect tense had a feeling of the universal about it, as in "When it rains, it pours." But I've decided that the sign simply signifies worker alienation. The owners are absentees; I haven't seen a single authority figure behind the counter in years. There isn't even a supervisor, that I can see. Older workers pathetically advise and direct newer ones, as older children of alcoholics guide their siblings in the way of the world, but nobody's actually in charge.

I imagine the owners in some remote aerie, issuing orders by telephone—not chatty calls, like those of John Forsythe in "Charlie's Angels," but terse commands, followed by a dial tone. The workers never see or take part in the legislative process, nor can they appeal from it; in short, they're no better than customers. The effect of this method of business operation is to create a bond between staff and clientele; a feeling of "we're all in this together" and "whatcha gonna do?" Which is why I never tip 'em; I wouldn't want to insult a comrade with a bourgeois gratuity.


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