The Foot-long Receipt

When I go to the grocery store or my favorite sandwich shop, I’m given a receipt that keeps getting longer and long! How many fuel points did I earn? What are the specials of the day? Care to take a survey; there’s a free cookie in it for you! It’s maddening.

Since I purchase everything with a card (who carries cash anymore), I’m dependent on collecting my receipts to record in my register. (I guess, if I didn’t want to do that anymore, I could go truly Millennial and check my account balance and receipt on my phone after each purchase.) Therefore, I carry around so many wadded receipts that it’s frustrating.

Even if I wasn’t at wit’s end with this phenomena, what is the deal with retailers trying to get more and more information into my hands. Seriously, you already send me a circular in the mail, you send me e-coupons, I can check my fuel points with my app. What more is there to say? Why not allow me, as YOUR consumer, to opt out of the extra-long purchase record? Give me the power to save you some paper! If you’re tracking my shopping behavior so closely, why can’t you see that I NEVER act on the enticements offered on my receipts?

I get that it’s hard to work in all spheres of market and advertising these days. We in America literally have four generations of shoppers using who knows how many levels of data and print media to inform their decisions, but I think that this advertising world has to choose a few well-worn paths and stay with them, eschewing the desire to act on every opportunity. Choose your metric, select your consumer, and direct your efforts toward them (and leave the rest of us alone). Alright, if you’re a grocery store, you’re kind of screwed because everyone still living eats, regardless of age. You’re on your own there. I can’t solve everything for you.

Anyway, rant over. I’ll either change (not likely) or I’ll just keep ripping them in half at the checkout line like I do now.

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Lilacs

When I was growing up, my great-grandmother lived in the same town as my grandparents. Having lost her husband before even my mother was born, she lived alone in a small house three blocks from my grandparents. Picture, if you will, a rotund woman with a perennial smile and horn-rimmed glasses. She wasn’t obese by today’s standard; she was what we politely called “big boned.”

Growing up during the turn of the last century, she was still very prim and proper when I was little. She matched her shoes to her handbag, wore a dress every day, and wore gloves to church on Sunday, being the God-fearing Christian woman she was. The other thing she did was bake. I don’t mean the odd cake or a tin of muffins. This woman baked every day. There was a fresh loaf of bread each day with an accompanying cake in a glass cake plate. If you had dinner (lunch) with her on Sunday after church, there was always baked goods.

After the death of her husband, she moved into town at the insistence of her son, my grandfather. He took care of her from that time on. She continued to work, cooking for the residents of a local private Christian college, today’s modern equivalent to a “dorm Mother.” She did that until she finally retired and stayed at home.

I told you that to tell you this. When I was little, I spent weekends at my grandparents house. And because I was always there, my grandmother would direct me to take something to Great-gradnma’s house. I would walk down the alley, cut across the elementary school lawn and walk the half-block to her house. She would invite me in and I’d have a piece of cake and deliver whatever I was tasked with. On the occasion that my parents were in town to pick me up, we’d eat over there. While the meal was being prepared, the kids were asked to go outside and play.

Great-grandma had a gigantic lilac bush in her front yard. It was gigantic to me, anyway. The kids would crawl on hands-and-knees under the bush where the boughs would create a small clubhouse. We’d take our toy soldiers or Hot Wheels under the bush and play until we were called into the house to eat. It was a great time to be a kid.

Great-grandma died in the late 1970’s. Her house was eventually sold and another person moved in. As I got older, I’d drive by the house when I was visiting my ailing Grandmother and look at that ancient lilac bush in the front yard. Eventually, my Grandmother died and the only reason to go back to her town was to visit the cemetery on Memorial Day. I still drive by the houses I used to occupy as a child. Great-grandma’s house is gone and the corner lot is now part of someone’s yard. The lilac bush survives.

Yesterday, I was riding my bicycle long a rural roadway and happened to pass a farmhouse with a large lilac bush out front and the wind was just right, bringing that telltale scent and sending me back to my childhood for just an instant. That smell reminds me of my Great-grandma and I appreciate it every springtime when the purple blooms are in full maturity.

Photo by DougAlder, Flickr, No Derivs.

People We Know (but really don’t)

Every day for the past five or six years, I have visited the blog of Mr. Steve Tilford. He was born into a regular family in Topeka, Kansas in the 1960’s. Through good genetics and  a willful spirit, he began spending his time and childhood energy enjoying the outdoors and riding his bicycle. It was because of this that he found his way into bicycle racing and soon became a young professional athlete.

He traveled the nation, the continent, and the world racing bicycles for various teams, and when he retired from the professional world with a list of palmarés in road biking, mountain biking (including an induction into the mountain bike hall of fame), and cyclocross (Masters World Champion), he continually repeated it all for fun. There are many people who have stories to share about their experiences meeting and racing with Steve.

The word “stories” is a good segue into Steve’s blog, http://www.stevetilford.com. Not only did he invite you into his daily life, which was filled with traveling, riding, skiing, and racing, he also shared how something that day reminded him of the days when he was in this race or that, a ride here or there, or something he’d learned from one of the vast array of American professional riders in many disciplines. His head was filled with remarkable stories for those of us who read it daily and only wished to be on the fringes of competitive racing that so many of us either enjoy or aspire to. Many times, folks would ask him to write down this vast array of stories and publish a book; they wished he would capture both the narrative of a first-hand account of some historic race, or to impart the lessons learned, knowledge gained, and wisdom accrued from living such a life.

When I opened my browser this morning, I found a post from Steve telling us that he and his good friend Vincent, were driving from Utah where they’d been mountain biking the past week, back to Vincent’s house where they would plan their next adventure. Sadly, and that is the word that sparked this entry, when I opened my browser this evening I saw a post from Vincent: Steve and Vincent and Steve’s dog Tucker, were involved in a late-night auto accident and Steve lost his life in western Colorado.

When I read that my jaw hung open and I genuinely felt sad. Yes, I have personally met, talked with, and raced against Steve Tilford. But like so many other that can say the same thing, I didn’t know him. Today, I am sad that a person I never really knew, but kept track of daily for the past half decade, lost his life. I have lost a daily honorific ritual. The cycling community has lost a wealth of knowledge. For all close to Steve, I send my most heartfelt condolences. For me…I think I’ll go ride.

R.I.P. Steve Tilford

Reinvention

There’s a lot to unpack in that word. It can mean a thousand things in a thousand different contexts, but for me, it’s life. During the economic depression of the 2008 housing crisis in America, thousands of people were laid off from their jobs and forced to find work elsewhere. Many tried to stay in their fields and some were able to do that. Many, however, were forced to try their hands at something new. Something they were capable of, and perhaps even trained for, but hadn’t explored until then.

Skills are important in any life. We gather them through schooling, work, and life experiences. Some are innate in our personalities and we need only recognize and cultivate them to add them to our list of useful tools. What makes skills particularly useful in life is the part they play in reinvention. What happens to a person who decides to reinvent?

I have read and heard stories of people who move through life being unsettled. They seek more and different opportunities that are both within and outside their spheres of influence and understanding. Many go back to school to learn new skills and trades; some opt to move into another employment opportunity and explore it manually. But the underlying question I struggle with, and it’s the same one that some teenagers face when graduating from high school, is what do I want to do? Perhaps the difference between me and high school grads, is my accumulation of knowledge and experience. Those things help me differentiate between what I think I can do and what I know I can or can’t do.

But maybe that’s the hitch! Grads often see the world wide open without borders or constraints. They see their opportunities as vast and endless and only seek to explore what catches their eyes and interests, not what fits neatly into their toolbox of skills and abilities. Perhaps the difference is rhyme versus reason. What do my dreams say and what does my mind accept? Isn’t this the age-old question? Do we not all struggle with this very question at least once in our lives? Sometimes the question is as simple as deciding whether we want that Snickers and whether it’s better for our diet if we don’t. Other times it’s pausing to consider how fun the Corvette would be to own, on our way to purchasing that used pickup that fits our budget and our needs. Heart versus logic.

But how does this question get answered at the life-level? Differently for everyone, is the obvious answer. I love questions like this and the only thing that makes them more enjoyable is when there’s more at stake than a Snickers. I don’t mean that I crave the unknown and the risky. Not at all. What I mean is that, when decisions have magnitude and one has time to ponder the eventualities, it’s a real treat to entertain.

So, what life-changing decisions are you thinking about?

Photo by Flickr user Morgan. No modifications made.