Halloween? How About Don’t?

I was diagnosed as Type-1 Diabetic at the age of four, so Halloween has never really held an important place in my life. After all, the eating of chocolate and candy wasn’t exactly permitted, unless I was having a low, and my older brother was always too sick to go walking for long distances from door-to-door. So the concept of spending time, money and effort on a costume, just to go out and gather treats from other people never appealed to me as a child. It appeals to me even less as an adult, but it’s no longer about me. It’s about my children.

This year, Halloween has taken a severe kick in the candy-corn since social distancing requirements are as such that trick-or-treating is basically an unessential and frivolous risk when faced with the possibility of walking up to someone’s door to get a freakin’ Kit-Kat bar. Despite this fact, many parents decided to allow their children to go trick-or-treating, last Saturday. There are two schools of thought on this: some believe the risk isn’t worth it (and they’d be right) while others believe that our children shouldn’t be made to suffer because of what’s currently going on in the world (and they’re also right).

My 1-year old enjoying the spoils of Halloween

The concept of going door-to-door is a relatively recent one, tracing its roots to the early 1900’s when candy companies sought to cash in on the trend of trick-or-treating. According to an article posted by thekitchn.com, candy companies established a sort of “Candy Day,” which was usually observed on the second Saturday of October. This lasted until the 1970’s when the handing out of candy was seen as the most economic means of celebrating and the trick aspect mostly gave way to receiving the treat.

The term “trick or treat” first appeared in print in Canada in the late 1920’s. The idea behind the term was a subtle hint that if the homeowner didn’t provide a treat, a trick would be played through some form of mischief. Halloween, in fact, originally had nothing to do with going door-to-door for candy. This is a shiny aspect that was generously created by the candy companies in order to make money. And make money, they do!

But according to a detailed article posted by History.com, Halloween traces its origins to the Celtic festival of Samhain, when people would light bonfires and wear costumes to ward off ghosts. There’s obviously a bit more involved in it than that, but feel free to click the link to read the article for deeper details. Despite how long-winded my writing becomes, the purpose of this post isn’t actually a history lesson.

This year, my wife and I had a good conversation with our 5-year old and had him understand that due to the COVID-19 virus, that we wouldn’t be going door-to-door to trick-or-treat and rather, we would purchase a couple of boxes of treats and celebrate at home. We gorged ourselves on chips and candy bars (a great challenge for my pump, I might add) and our son was none the less enthused about Halloween as a result. It was a great alternative to exposing ourselves unnecessarily, and our kids still got to enjoy some Halloween candy.

Although this was a pretty simple and common-sense method of adhering to social distancing, we were somewhat surprised to see that some children still came to our door. We could have been grumps and refused to open the door but Nathan, in his generous nature, offered to share from his treat stash so that these kids would be able to partake as well. Many parents would argue that they have a right to allow their children to do as they please, especially on Halloween. I would assume those parents are also anti-vaxxers.

Yes, eventually we need to return to, or establish, some level of normalcy as everyone can’t live behind closed doors for the remainder of human history. But at the same time, there are some things that should be recognized as unnecessary in order to reduce risk of exposure. Getting groceries or picking up prescriptions are a necessity. Sending your kids out into the cold to intentionally interact with multiple households is not. Simply food for thought. Or rather, candy for thought… ☯

Fear Is Not A Diabetic Symptom

Having Type-1 Diabetes involves a lot of preparation and planning ahead. Even simple trips out of the house or a full 8-hour work shift requires good memory on my part, including blood testing equipment, fast-acting carbohydrates and extra equipment in the event my pump’s infusion set fails. It can be arduous, especially if you’re dashing out in a hurry. Light knows, I’ve had many times in my life were I’ve gotten to where I’m going and suddenly remembered, “Damn, I forgot to bring an insulin vial!”

For someone who isn’t QUITE as ancient as I am, and hasn’t had the opportunity to go through the ups and downs of Type-1, the task can seem daunting. What’s worse is that to some, the task can even be overwhelming or frightening, as some Type-1’s may believe that they face serious complications or death if they forget something, leading to self-isolation in the face of that belief. Although this is certainly a possibility, life for a Diabetic becomes much easier once you realize that it’s also the extreme. And a rare one, at that.

Essentially, almost everything you need for proper Diabetes therapy can be purchased over-the-counter. Even insulin. It’s been this way for years, and there’s even been a growing trend of Americans crossing the Canadian border to purchase insulin, as our prices seem to be significantly better than theirs. My point is that depending on one’s financial situation, running out of insulin is pretty much the worst thing that can happen, and even THAT has some solutions.

You can walk into any pharmacy and buy a vial of insulin without a prescription. That’s one of the nice things. Blood testing strips, lancets and devices for injecting insulin are all available over-the-counter, making for a certain level of safe comfort if you should happen to be travelling and forgot some of your supplies. Obviously, you’ll have to deal with retail cost if you don’t have a prescription or coverage. And pump supplies will usually cost you your first born, as well as a pint of your blood.

One good example would be my trip to New Brunswick in September of 2019. I was only there for a few days for a job interview. I was contacted by a different agency in New Brunswick and a second interview was scheduled for the following week. I now found myself in a situation where my pump supplies would run out, right around the time I’d be trying to board a plane home. I couldn’t chance it, so I walked into a local pharmacy and purchased a vial of Lantus, which I hadn’t used since getting on the pump. I had no issues walking into a pharmacy and simply buying the vial, out of pocket.

Because this is me, and life likes to see how much I can handle, there’s an aspect of over-the-counter purchases that tend to be a rather burly thorn in my posterior. In Canada, insulin is in the Schedule 2 drug class. This means that not only is it meant to be kept behind the counter and can’t be accessed without speaking to a pharmacist, they require your full profile in order to ascertain if you’re getting the “correct” insulin in the “correct” doses. As if the person buying the insulin WOULDN’T know that…

If you’re ever-so-slightly paranoid like I am, you’re not a fan of giving out your name, date of birth and home address to every random pharmacy that you may need to buy insulin from. And to be quite honest, one could argue that it should be their right to purchase an over-the-counter item without having to share a bunch of personal information. Right? Maybe? Or is that only me? It’s caused me some difficulty, in the past.

A few years ago, my wife and I had travelled to visit her parents. I ran out of Humalog towards the end of our trip, and I decided that rather than packing us up and heading home a couple of days early that I’d simply go purchase a bottle. I walked into the local Walmart and asked the pharmacist for a vial of Humalog. She then proceeded to start asking for all my personal info, which had never happened to me on previous attempts to purchase insulin.

I explained to her that I had no desire to provide my personal information as I didn’t live in the area and simply wanted to buy a vial of insulin. She made a big production in saying that she had no way to sell it to me without entering my information. I explained that I’ve managed pharmacies in the past, and since the insulin box has a barcode like every other item, all she needed to do was scan it and charge me the price. She refused service. I was taken aback. Rather that “Karen” out on her, I left and took my business elsewhere

Despite the fact that there can be obstacles, what did you notice from those two examples? The end result is that there were always options. And there always will be. In the first example, I had access to plenty of pharmacies and resources. Even in the second example, we could have simply driven home, which would have ultimately solved the crisis, had I not been able to secure insulin elsewhere. I used insulin as my examples because let’s agree that you can likely get by without testing your blood for a couple of days, if need be. You shouldn’t but it won’t cause the damage that being out of insulin will.

Over almost the past four decades of having Type-1 Diabetes, I’ve known doctors, lawyers, teachers, accountants, police officers, olympic athletes and even professional football players who have Type-1 Diabetes. The take-home lesson is that our condition doesn’t prevent us from enjoying any aspect of life that we may be seeking out. And it SHOULDN’T. Yes, there’s a lot to think about. Yes, there’s a lot you have to drag around. But none of that should prevent you from doing the things you want to do. You can’t let Diabetes force you to live in fear. ☯

A Possible Glimpse Of The Future…

It’s pretty safe to say that no one really knows what the future will bring. Given the increasing issues the world faces, that’s a pretty fair assumption. But as the world keeps turning, new obstacles and issues seem to pop up; sometimes expected, sometimes not. And this is where the book series I’m currently reading comes into play. I don’t usually make a point of reviewing things like books or movies, unless they directly relate to martial arts, Diabetes or Buddhism because, well… that’s the point of this blog. But this book trilogy relates, even if only after a fashion.

The Newsflesh Trilogy Boxset

I purchased this box set on a whim, while walking around my local Chapters book store (now universally known as Indigo). I was looking for something new to read, and the premise of this storyline looked interesting. Like many of the books I purchase, it’s been sitting on a shelf for the past few years as some of my “alpha choices,” (Star Wars, Star Trek, Wheel of Time and Jack Reacher books) have occupied what bit of time I have to flip through pages.

Although the first volume, entitled “Feed,” was released in 2010, I only bought the box set a few years later. I purchased the fourth and fifth follow-up books about two years ago and this has reminded me that I should get back to them. And in starting to read the first volume, I’ve gotten a bit of an eery look into what our future may potentially become…

Book 1, “Feed” is the one I’m currently reading

Set in the year 2040, Feed follows the story of a girl named Georgia Mason in a world where man-made viruses have combined to create a sort of super-virus that infects mammals and reanimates them in a sort of zombie form. Mason and her brother are bloggers, of all things, and are chosen to follow the presidential election during all the chaos. Online blogs have become the prominent form of media distribution, with the more traditional forms of journalism now defunct.

I don’t want to give anything of the story away, for anyone who may want to read the books. But as a blogger, I feel a certain sense of satisfaction from the idea that online blogging becomes recognized as the mainstream source for news and entertainment. And there’s no denying that having virus develop as a result of trying to cure something else also hits a little close to home, considering the current pandemic we face. In the books, our own cures are what perpetuated the virus and it’s no secret that many are currently trying to develop a cure for COVID-19.

The last bit of frightening irony is that the events in “Feed” take place in 2040, apparently twenty years after the emergence of said virus, which according to new math means that it all started happening in 2020. Just a little bit creepy, when you consider the book was released in 2010, long before COVID-19 was a thing. It gets one wondering if author Mira Grant (Seanan McGuire) had some strange, clairvoyant insight into what the future would bring. Who knows?

The two most recent additions to the series

Although the series has only been running for the past ten years, it’s already put out quite a number of books, but this is the main reading order:

  1. Feed
  2. Deadline
  3. Blackout
  4. Feedback

The fifth book I purchase, “Rise,” is a collection of eight short stories based on the NewsFlesh Series. If you enjoy post-apocalyptic zombie fiction, this series will definitely provide a fresh take on the concept. You can check out the Goodreads entry for a complete list of novels, novellas and compilations associated with the series. If you’re looking for an easy-to-read series to start, the NewsFlesh Series just may be for you. ☯

Winter Wonderland, My Ass!

I have to be honest, I’m not a big fan of the winter. Although there’s a certain appeal to the freshness of winter cold, being cold in and of itself is a pain in the ass. I unfortunately find myself in the same category as the folks who complain about the heat in the summer and complain about the cold weather in the winter. This is the reason why I was less than enthused when I woke up to find the world outside my window blanketed in white, last Tuesday.

The view from Nathan’s bus stop last Tuesday

Nathan and I usually have a bit of a routine, when it comes to mornings. He wakes up and does his bathroom business, followed by getting dressed. By the time he emerges, I usually have some breakfast waiting for him, which he enjoys while watching some cartoons. This gives me the time to prepare his school lunch and get dressed myself. We end up leaving the house about ten minutes prior to his school bus’ scheduled arrival in the event that it arrives early. We’ve gotten used to this routine. We’re comfortable with it.

So nobody really batted an eye beyond mentioning that there was snow on the ground. My wife was working at her computer and Nathan was enjoying his breakfast and morning cartoons as usual, and I was checking the weather. At minus 10 degrees Celsius, it was a long ways away from being as cold as deep winter gets in Saskatchewan. But minus 10 with snow and wind was enough o convince me to slip on an Under Armour thermal for the journey out to the bus stop.

It wasn’t until I was ready to tell Nathan to shut off his cartoons and come get ready that I realized that I couldn’t send him to school in sneakers and a hooded sweater as he had been wearing in recent weeks. He needed boots, due to the snow and an actual jacket and winter hat to protect him from the cold. Suddenly I found myself in a mad scramble to locate these items as I hadn’t anticipated their need. If I’d been smart, I would have taken them out the night before. But these is me, we’re talking about! I consistently stub my toe on items that have been in the same place for years.

Saskatchewan is a bit of a different creature than my home Province of New Brunswick. Although we get some pretty significant snowfalls in New Brunswick (some years, I’ve seen snow get as deep as ten feet) we generally don’t deal with extreme cold. Winters are reasonably mild, despite the snow. But in Saskatchewan, there may be less snow but the temperatures can easily drop to -50 degrees Celsius or colder, once the wind is factored in.

We still made the bus on time, which is one of the benefits of always arriving early. But neither one of us was enthused about the cold. The last couple of days have seen us walking to the bus stop, as my wife is currently staying with family while our basement repairs take place. But that’s a post for another time. The important thing is I have us all wintered up, clothing-wise. Some of the snow has melted already, but it’s clear that winter may already be here to stay. ☯

The New Way Of The World…

I had to go downtown and stand in line last Wednesday for something work-related that I needed. Due to social distancing requirements and the location’s own internal policies for dealing with the public, a facemask was obviously required and I was asked to wait outside the building until one of the people seeking the same service as I was, exited the building. Luckily, I was the first one at the door but I had no idea how many people may have been inside or how long it would take them to come out.

I had dressed reasonably well, wearing a cotton shirt covered by a thick, cotton hooded sweatshirt. Although I won’t be a little whiner and complain that I was freezing to death, I’ll admit that it was only 7 degrees outside with cold winds. This made the wait all the more painful. People accumulated in line behind me, and the general public’s penchant for complaining shone through like a bright beacon in the storm. People were arguing and complaining to the two poor security guards who were monitoring the building’s entrance. One lady, who was there for the same purpose as I was, had brought someone else with her and got visibly angry when she was informed that she wouldn’t be allowed to bring her friend inside with her. They had arrived together in a cab. She was pissed.

Apparently, not everyone took the same precaution as I did by checking the location’s website in order to confirm their requirements prior to coming down. But as the weeks go by, I’m noticing this kind of trend more and more, with people fast becoming frustrated with the restrictive requirements brought on by COVID-19 and the limits imposed by businesses and government locations. The wearing of masks, limits on the number of people within buildings and the need to socially distance is starting to grate on everyone’s patience as the world waits on baited breath for everything to go back to “normal.”

Here’s the problem: This IS the new normal. Leading experts, as well as health authorities and the World Health Organization all agree; there will be a resurgence of COVID-19 in the near future, and likely with a vengeance. I could try and cite some sources, but there’s enough out there that a quick Google search will show you what I’m talking about. At the time of writing this post, the Government of Canada’s website reports an estimated 158,758 active cases of COVID-19, with Ontario and Quebec carrying the brunt of that number (Canada.ca). If you click the provided link, I’m sure that number will have changed, likely increased.

One of the bigger problems is the fact that there seems to be a growing number of the population who simply don’t take the pandemic seriously. I’ve seen this first-hand and even have members of my family who think this is the case. Just a few weeks ago, I saw someone standing by Wascana Lake, here in Regina, holding a sign that stated that Corona Virus was a lie told by the government. Right. Because there isn’t enough on the government’s plate without creating a pandemic that’s currently damaging our Nation’s economy.

But plenty of people are ignoring the easy, common sense precautions that have been put into place. Things like social distancing, wearing a face mask when out in public, and avoiding outings unless for work or mandatory requirements like groceries or medical appointments. A good portion of the population seems to have gone back to the “old” normal, including having large gatherings and carrying on as though there ISN’T a pandemic happening. Idiots.

If there’s one thing history has taught us, it’s that viruses can evolve. We’re not done with COVID-19 and if people continue to ignore the easy steps, the results that follow will be much, MUCH worse. So, why take chances? Wash your hands frequently (which you should have been doing all along, anyway), before and after any outings. use hand sanitizer and wear a face mask. Stay socially distanced and don’t wander needlessly for anything you don’t absolutely need. That seems like a pretty reasonable way to avoid a serious respiratory virus that could kill you. ☯

It’s Hard To Sit, With A Microchip In Your Hip…

Imagine for a moment that your country’s government passed a legislation that would make it mandatory for each of its citizens to have a microchip implanted for the purposes of tracking your whereabouts and activities. Further, any newborn children would have them implanted at birth, bypassing the very freedom of choice that so many of us consider paramount to our existence. How would you react to this? Would you object to it, or would you shrug your shoulders and freely take it?

I’m no conspiracy theorist. Not by a long shot. But I’ve often read about a lot of conspiracies, since I’ll read just about anything I get my hands on. One of my favourite conspiracies is microchips. Over the years, there have been all sorts of conspiracy theories about governments implanting microchips into people at birth in order track everyone’s movements and activities. I don’t believe that shit for a minute but for someone who’s a fan of science fiction and dystopian futures, it can be very entertaining.

I can’t speak for folks from other countries, but speaking strictly as a Canadian, we’d lose our maple syrup-flavoured minds! I can easily picture citizens in either the United States or Canada taking to the streets in protest and at least in relation to our neighbours to the south, riots would ensue. So, here’s the joke. For the past twenty years or more, it’s already been happening. Most people have been carrying a device that tracks their movements, activities and whereabouts on a minute-to-minute basis. Don’t believe me? Reach into your back pocket and pull out that shiny brick of plastic you paid a fortune for, and use almost every minute of the day. Voila. We’ve been doing it to ourselves.

If the government decided to “chip” everyone, there would be outrage, anger and loss of trust in our respective governments. People would lose their respective minds. But that hasn’t happened. Instead… we indeed did it to ourselves. Just think about it. We have people who post and take photographs of every bloody thing they do, every freakin’ day. We walk around with small, electronic devices that track our photos, monitor our social media every time we “check in” somewhere and most people don’t know enough to turn off the geo-tagging on their phone’s camera. Cell phones are great, aren’t they?

As time goes by, cell phone users are becoming younger and younger, with many children as young as the age of four or five having their own cell phones for “safety purposes” or smart devices. Don’t get me wrong. I would have a rough go of it, for a few weeks, if I found myself without a smart phone. In fact, I ran out to the grocery to run a quick errand a few days ago and left my cell phone home to charge. I was only gone for about fifteen minutes, but I felt as though I was forgetting something and I kept compulsively checking my back pocket, even if I knew my phone was at home.

We live in the digital age, and that isn’t going to change. Technology is becoming more and more advanced, and we’re all on the bandwagon. Whether we want it or not. Hell, even my mother, who has never used an actual computer in her life, decided to step into the new frontier and got herself a cell phone a few years ago. And as we get more advanced, we become dependant on our technology to the point where it becomes difficult to live without it. Eventually, those who don’t go with flow will ultimately get left behind.

One good example is banking. Have you tried to do any banking recently? The tellers have become very skilled at encouraging the use of ATM or online banking. It blows my mind and usually gets me frustrated, as they go out of their way to shoo me towards the ATM’s or use online banking at home. “I’ll come with you and walk you through it…” Or maybe you could use that same amount of time and simply help me out here, as I requested. But as time goes on, that’s the direction the world is taking.

Technology isn’t inherently bad. Hell, I wouldn’t still be alive if it weren’t for technology. At the end of the day, it’s all in how we use it. But even those who prefer NOT to use technology will begin to feel the squeeze in a world where everything is done electronically. ☯

The Customer Is Always Right…

I feel like today is as good a day as any to stagger up onto my soapbox and talk about some of the trends I’ve noticed when out in public. The way we do business and how consumers behave have long been influenced by everyone’s needs and expectations. These days, the internet has become the top choice for the newer generation, where online shopping, communication and even ordering food has become the new “normal.” This has become even truer in the past six to eight months since the onset of COVID-19.

But there’s been a strange shift in the balance between competent employees and consumers who understand that they’re at any given location to exchange money in return for a product or service and not to be catered to like royalty. Although most “normal” people simply go in, get what they need, pay and get out, there’s a percentage of the population that just isn’t happy until they’ve complained about something, gotten someone fired or received free products or services (Looking at you, Karen!). This is where one of the biggest running jokes of the retail world comes in: The customer is always right…

The expression “The Customer Is Always Right,” comes from all the way back in the early 1900’s and is thought to have first been used by a British department store owner named Harry Gordon Selfridge. You can Google/Wikipedia this guy for his background, as he isn’t necessarily the focus of today’s post, despite the title. But the expression was originally intended to convince staff to provide top-notch service to their customers AND provide patrons with the belief that they’d receive nothing but that good service.

Oh, how times have changed! Over the past century, this expression has become less about the business and more of a weapon that consumers use to get more than what they pay for. I’m not saying that the customer is always wrong, per se. I’m simply saying that it’s irresponsible and naive to think that the customer is always right, because they very rarely are.

There are, of course, exceptions to the rule (I SAID NO PICKLES ON MY BURGER KYLE!!! SERIOUSLY, HOW HARD IS IT NOT TO PUT PICKLES ON MY BURGER…) Some facets of industry tend to employ people who fall under the influence of becoming automatons, who are not stimulated or challenged by their work and who feel that being paid for their efforts is not enough. A lot of the time, this leads to sloppy work, laziness and will actually cause the problems that lead to the misnomer that the customer is always right.

It wouldn’t be one of my rants if I didn’t tell a story, so here we go! About a decade and a half ago, I was a front store manager for a well-known pharmacy chain in Canada. Part of my duties included the ordering of stock for our shelves with the products that were required and to reduce shrinkage. Like most businesses, we had a return policy that was limited in the sense that unless it was our own store brand, we only accepted returns if it could be proven that the item was purchased at our location (receipt) and that the fault lied with us (expired items, etc).

I feel that I need to explain that retail locations in Canada are under absolutely NO obligation to issue refunds or accept returns. Once money has been exchanged in return for a product or service, you’re basically on your own. Whether or not you can return an item totally falls on the specific location’s policies and you’re basically at THEIR mercy, not the other way around. Any business can refuse service, even if that service involves a refund or a return and even if most businesses do genuinely try to keep the customer happy by complying. But back to my story…

In walks a Karen… And this was back in the day before the term “Karen” was coined for the running joke the internet has made of it. Just to keep from constantly picking on people named Karen, I’ll simply refer to this person as “the customer.” Anyway, Karen… I mean the customer came into my retail location with the intention of making a return. A usual and typical part of every cashier’s daily duties, this normally wouldn’t have been a big issue.

The customer waited her turn in line and when she finally reached the cashier, explained that she had purchase a package of name-brand batteries and wanted to return them. Although I wasn’t there for this part, I was told that even the customer’s explanation was abrasive. The cashier did her job well and inquired as to what the problem was. Were we past the expiration date on the package? No. Was the package open before you got it home? No (which wouldn’t have made sense anyway, since we weren’t in the habit of selling open products).

The cashier asked the customer what the company had said when she called their customer service line marked on the packaging, and that’s where shit slipped off the rails! The customer explained that it isn’t her job to make calls and try and get her product replaced and she wanted her money refunded. My cashier explained that our store’s return policy didn’t allow her to accept a return for an item that was sold in good faith in a sealed package and that the responsibility for replacement now fell to the battery’s company and/or manufacturer. This led to one of the most self-entitled demands in retail history: “I want to speak to your manager!”

Now, I wouldn’t necessarily describe myself as a stoic. But I do have a significantly higher ability than most to maintain a control over my reactions; a result of a lifetime of training and control. But despite this fact, I don’t suffer fools easily and I tend not to take crap from self-entitled people, whether it comes on the job or not. So when I got to the front and was instantly confronted with an angry customer who is ranting about how my cashier provides terrible customer service and should be fired, I was already working towards trying to find my inner Zen.

Once the customer explained what had happened, I calmly explained our store’s return policy (which my cashier had already done) and how we wouldn’t be able to refund her money. The only thing such a customer hates more than not getting what they want, is having the manager they requested tell them the EXACT same thing that the employee did. It’s like their kryptonite. She got flustered and red-faced and started screaming at me in front of the line of customers, all of whom she was holding up because of her bullshit.

At this point, I felt that it was no longer a worthy battle and simply a matter of removing her from the store. Since one needs to know and accept WHEN to pick their battles, I didn’t feel that a pack of batteries priced at a few dollars was worth upsetting and disrupting the flow of waiting customers who WERE actually just there to conduct normal purchases. I go the customer hustled out the door, eventually on the threat of contacting police. I joined her outside, where I had a frank conversation with her.

Folks, I’m not a total asshole! (Most of the time) If this customer had calmly asked for the manager and had maturely explained her situation as opposed to kicking and screaming like a petulant child with a loaded diaper, I likely would have done something for her. Anything. Replaced the package. Provided store credit on a gift card. Something. There was a god chance that even though I wasn’t supposed to, my vendor would have reimbursed me for the faulty batteries and I could have helped this lady out.

But once she turned into Bitch-zilla, all bets were off. And the reality is that this type of behaviour from consumers is becoming more and more prominent. It’s almost as though consumers fail to understand that they’re there for the exchange of money for a product and nothing else. Do we want your business? Oh yes. Do we want your repeat business in order to maintain our profits? Most definitely. Let’s not kid ourselves, businesses are there to make money. But that doesn’t mean that businesses should allow their staff to be abused by the likes of people like that.

“The customer is always right” has become harmful to modern-day businesses, because employees, and most managers if they’re worth their salt are having none of it. You can go on Google and YouTube and find all sorts of videos of employees reaching their breaking point and basically sending rude and entitled customers straight to hell on the next thing burning. But there are a lot of reasons WHY this slogan is not only false, but has become harmful to businesses everywhere.

I found a pretty good article on Huffpost.com entitled, “Top 5 Reasons Why ‘The Customer Is Always Right’ Is Wrong.” It’s a pretty good article, and covers certain aspects including but not limited to the fact that working on the basis of the customer always being right makes the employees feel less valued and unhappy, which results in worse customer service. It also provides an unfair advantage to rude customers who just wanna watch the world burn.

It’s important to be decent and reasonable when dealing with the businesses you frequent. No one owes you anything, and even though most businesses will do what they can to keep your business, I think we’re all mature enough to understand that most overall companies (especially franchise chains) won’t miss the small amount of money your shopping provides. Especially if it means the comfort and protection of their staff. For toxic customers who are genuinely bad for a business, there’s the door. Be sure to let it smack your ass on the way out, the way your momma should have!

In closing, one last little detail about my story that just adds the icing on the cake… The package of batteries the customer purchased were on special and she demanded having them refunded at the original, full retail price. So not only did she expect a refund, she expected more money back than she had paid! Snowflakes… I think we owe it to ourselves to be better to each other than that. We all have times when we get frustrated because of something retail-related. Maybe you bought the wrong size. Maybe it wasn’t the product you expected. Shit happens. You simply need to understand that it’s not the employees fault, and businesses won’t roll out a red carpet and massage your feet as a result. There’s enough suffering in the world without intentionally adding to it. Shop safely, my friends! ☯

The Answer is Only Important If You Ask The Right Question

Something that occasionally crosses my mind is how there will be a significant employment exodus in the fact that a number of industries have unfortunately discovered that some of the employees they’ve sent home are no longer essential. Months and months of having certain positions sent home without the benefit of a “work at home” plan have rendered some jobs obsolete. The flip side to this, is that all the people who are no longer able to work in their chosen industry will turn to many of the employment positions that were intentionally abandoned by folks who didn’t want to go out into the world during the pandemic.

Regardless what your position or chosen career may be, we’ve all found ourselves in a very specific position at one time or another. The position I’m referring to, is subjecting ourselves to a job interview. No matter how confident in your material you may be, no matter if you’ve worked in the industry you’re interviewing with before, the stress and anxiety that comes with sitting through a job interview can do a number on you.

Throughout my life, I’ve found myself on both sides of the table. I’ve been the interviewer and the interviewee. And especially in the past year, I must have sat through about a dozen interviews while I’ve been busy trying to “find” myself and I’ve learned a thing or two. So despite the fact it has nothing to do with Buddhism, martial arts or Diabetes, I thought I would share some of the gems I’ve discovered about interviewing.

These are a combination of things that have worked for me, as well as things that I’ve noted when interviewing others. So some of it might seem pretty obvious, but not necessarily to everyone. Here we go…

  1. Show up early: You would think this one is obvious, but you’d be surprised at how many people are fine with walking in at the last minute. I’m not saying you need to show up an hour before your scheduled appointment and sit in the waiting area like some sort of psycho. But arriving fifteen minutes ahead of your appointment makes a good impression and can even be important in helping you deal with unexpected obstacles, like construction zones, finding an unknown address and being available in the event the appointment prior to yours ends early;
  2. Dress professionally, not for the job you want: I don’t care if you’re applying to work for waste management or if you’re applying to be CEO of a fortune-500 company… Dress properly. Dress pants, shirt and tie at a minimum. People always say “dress for the job you want,” but that’s total bullshit! Dress to the nines, no matter what the position you’re applying for. It shows your commitment to getting the job and your level of professionalism;
  3. Make eye contact and smile: You want to give your interviewer your utmost attention. There’s nothing worse than an interviewee who drifts off and has you repeat a question. Pay attention and listen. Actively listen;
  4. Don’t be afraid to admit you don’t know: If you’re asked a question and you don’t know the answer, then you should admit that you don’t know. Potential employers don’t like it when you make up some random shit. And you’re almost guaranteed to get called out on it. Employers much prefer someone that can admit they don’t know and are willing to look it up or learn, than someone who will phone it in by trying to lie or make stuff up;
  5. Use the power of “WE”: You want to be a part of that specific company? You want that job? Then include yourself! When asking questions or answering theirs, use “we” to start creating the idea that you consider yourself a part of that organization. What benefits do “we” have included? What schedule do “we” use? It creates the impression that you’re part of the company. You’ll be surprised at the effect it has;
  6. Study up: You can’t know everything, but if you apply for a specific job you should have some rudimentary knowledge about the industry you’re interviewing with. Applying to be an insurance broker? Maybe you want to study up on your Province’s insurance laws and regulations. Applying to be a government employee? Try learning some of the legislation that regulates the specific branch of government you’re interviewing with. This ensures that you can show some minimal knowledge in the job you’re trying to get;
  7. End the interview with a “thank you” and a handshake: No matter how you think the interview went, good or bad, be certain to thank your interviewer(s) for their time and provide a firm farewell handshake. This not only shows your commitment to professionalism, it shows your gratitude for the time that was taken to interview you.

It feels a little strange writing about something that isn’t my usual forte, in terms of this blog. But given the state of the world and how the employment industry is going, knowledge can be an incredible advantage. being qualified for a position is only half the battle. Being able to PROVE you’re a fit for the job and being confident is the other half. ☯

As If Life Weren’t Hard Enough…

It’s my opinion that life has more than its fair share of difficulties. It’s no secret that the world has its fair share of suffering and occasionally loves to spread it around. This is why it’s always shocked and surprised me when individual persons seem to make and effort to increase another person’s difficulties and struggles or cause suffering in others. Isn’t life hard enough? It would seem to me that there are enough battles to be fought without people intentionally causing issues for one another.

If I take my own personal situation as an example, one person’s failure coupled with lies that they likely hoped would exonerate them, got me caught up in a whirlwind of unnecessary disciplinary action that’s turned my work and personal life upside down for the past two years. It’s been one of the hardest periods of my life and has made it difficult to live normally, including emotional roller coasters, occasional estrangement and closing myself off and even missing the birth of my second child.

I just recently heard of a similar situation happening to one of my best friends, and it sets a fire under my posterior. I know that the internet as well as the world in general, absolutely loves making jokes, memes and poking fun at the likes of “Karens,” “Kyles” and “Chads.” And it’s no secret that I often comment on “snowflakes” and the over-sensitive nature of recent generations. It seems that with the passing of recent decades, people have become more and more sensitive to menial actions and things.

I remember a job I held, about twenty years ago. Yes, I’m THAT old! Let’s move on, shall we? I worked in a call centre for a Canadian courier company and I absolutely hated it. Part of my assigned duties included taking incoming calls from people who were trying to track their parcels. On top of the fact that people are ridiculously impatient and were usually pissed when they phoned in, I dealt with one of the few times where my bilingualism was a hindrance; because I took shit from people in both official languages.

It got to the point where my gut would kill me with every shift I went on. At one point, I chose to discuss my concerns with my supervisor, who promptly explained that I wasn’t in any physical danger and that of course people would be pissed about being unable to locate their package. I was told I needed to stop being so sensitive and to quit worrying about the words others were using. Then I was told to get the hell back to work. Oh, how the world has changed…

Can you imagine if someone spoke to an employee that way now? The blowback would be significant. In fact, this is also a slippery slope amongst the employees themselves. With everyone having become so sensitive and getting offended about everything, it seems to take very little to get someone in serious trouble, even when the subject of that trouble is ridiculously menial. Now, I know what you’re thinking: if an action or comment sincerely bothers someone, then it isn’t menial.

And although you may be right about that aspect, it doesn’t mean the other person deserves to have their job jeopardized or their lives affected because you can’t handle a comment or action. And that’s the problem. It seems that these days, all it takes is an uttered complaint for a person’s life to be completely turned upside down. People need to realize how their comments and actions can be destructive to others. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, people need to quit being snowflakes and complaining about everything. There’s enough suffering in the world to deal with, without people doing it to each other. ☯

I Don’t Know, And That’s Okay…

As people, we have a propensity to think we know everything. Especially in any specific area, where we think we happen to be experts. Sometimes it’s a point of pride, sometimes it’s vanity. But uttering the words “I don’t know” usually evades us. Or we avoid them. Whatever. But there’s nothing wrong with lacking some knowledge. Vulnerability and not knowing is okay.

After graduation, I moved on to college and chose to study computer programming. I spent my entire life around computers as it was my father’s addiction, so it felt like a reasonable step to pursue it further. One thing that didn’t help was that I was convinced to attend a french college. Even if I’m fully bilingual and can speak French, it didn’t change the fact that computer terms that were three inches long in English were found to be ten inches long in French. I’m exaggerating, of course. But it doesn’t change the fact that taking the course in French, despite it being a primary language for me, caused untold difficulties. My college years were some of the most difficult I’ve ever faced, for this reason.

I learned the hard way that computer programming wasn’t for me. I may have enjoyed playing the games and watching my father code, but trying to delve into the complicated world of computer programming proved to be the wrong direction for me. It didn’t help that I had a karate belt test pending during my first year of college, and my priorities were fixed on karate as opposed to college. I did, however, learn to play a network game of Duke Nukem 3D in college. But I digress…

I had a slew of college professors; some good, some bad. Some of my professors walked in, delivered their lesson plan and walked out without making any real connection with the class. Some professors considered every student to be a “buddy” and focused on being a friend more than teaching the curriculum, which was almost worse. Picture a college professor showing up at lounge nights to have drinks with students. Not great, right? But out of the shadows emerged a professor who was the happy medium; part teacher, part friend, all learning.

Because I was having so many difficulties, I asked a lot of questions. I mean, a LOT of questions… If you’ve never experienced being around a French guy who won’t shut up, consider yourself lucky. Picture that boring staff meeting where you’re hoping everyone will keep their trap shut so that the meeting will end sooner, just to have that ONE guy constantly bring up another point. That was pretty much me, in college. But I couldn’t help myself. I hate failing. And I hate quitting.

Most of my professors would either make something up (that I would learn was false later) so as to not look as though they didn’t know their own material. Some would ignore the question and tell me that my answer was in the learning material. But this one professor would make it a point to admit it when he didn’t know something. He had no problem saying, “You know what? I don’t know the answer to that, but let me look it up and I’ll get back to you in tomorrow’s class.”

That’s class. That’s professionalism. Admitting one’s lack of an answer shows a specific vulnerability and humanity beyond what most people are capable of. He was one of my most trusted professors, and my only regret is that I don’t remember his name. Hey, come on! Give me a break! We’re talking almost twenty-five years ago! I’m getting a bit on the older side, I’m expected to forget a few things…

Realistically, I remember this professor BECAUSE of the humanity behind the teacher. Even if you’re teaching something, it doesn’t mean you’re expected to know EVERYTHING. I started studying karate in 1989 and am still learning new things, even now. And if the day ever came where there was nothing new to learn, I’d be greatly surprised. Honestly, I don’t believe it’s possible. But the point is, I learned from that professor, and have found myself often telling my students, “Give me time to try it out” or “Let me look into it.”

And being able to do that is important, because it engenders trust. Your students will trust you and believe what you tell them way more if they understand that you’ll be honest and admit when you don’t know. I’ve applied this concept in almost every area of my life. If I don’t know, I say so. Not only does it engender trust in others, it prevents making me look like a damn fool because I tried to make something up. Important food for thought. ☯