Sunday, November 24, 2013

Shopping on Thanksgiving

Everywhere I turn I see Thanksgiving related posts on social media. they all seem to fall into one of only a handful of categories.

  • People being thankful because it's November
  • People complaining about Christmas stuff showing up before Thanksgiving
  • Stores announcing their Black Friday/Thanksgiving hours
  • People screaming about boycotts for the above
For the record, I am absolutely, positively, 150% not against stores opening on Thanksgiving day. And don't worry... I'm about to tell you why.

First of all, stores will be paying either time and a half or double time (likely double time) to employees. If you'd rather eat canned cranberry sauce than make twice as much money in half the time, your priorities are out of whack. I know it's about family and being thankful and you don't get to do that if you're busy working a register. But in reality, sitting at the table is just one way we show our thankfulness. Making TWICE as much money to help provide for your family is something everyone will be thankful for. And it's not like you have to do twice the work. Are you telling me that turkey is more important hundreds of dollars?

In the event being thankful at the table is absolutely paramount in your life... do that. Tell your boss you can't come in. One of 2 things will happen. 1) you'll be told that someone else is happy to take your shift or 2) someone else will be force to take your shift because you're fired. In 2013, the thing you can be most thankful for is a job.

Before we vilify the businesses for opening, let's remember that, as I always say "the business of business is business." What that means today is that corporations didn't choose to open so they could pay the electric bill and employees and every other expense just to stare at each other in an empty store. They are doing it because people will show up. Customers want to shop. So do we blame the business for creating the supply or do we blame the millions of customers who created the demand. We say that Black Friday isn't enough. There's not enough stuff or stores or time. We need more. Bigger, better, faster, more is the mantra of the United States. So... are the corporations truly 100% to blame?

So boycott. Go for it. You think Walmart is going to change its mind now? "You know what? We should stay closed on Thanksgiving. The group on Facebook and trending topic on Twitter has changed our minds." C'mon now. Get real. It's too late. The ball is in motion and stores will be open. So... you might as well go out there and shop. Save money for yourself, stimulate the economy for the rest of us and at least make it worth the while of the employees that have to be there. Have an impact that way.

Most people bitch and moan that there's not enough money out there and there aren't enough jobs and everyone is broke. Then why are the stores so packed on Black Friday (and Thanksgiving day itself this year)? You feed into this frenzy. Do you need another damn TV?

In reality, who are you mad at? Are you standing on principle for the people forced to work on Thanksgiving? Do those people care? If I worked retail, I'd volunteer to work that day. I love my family, we all know this - I have a ton of posts here about them, but we can eat turkey any day. Bring a sandwich to my job for my break. I'm not turning down a 2x pay rate.

Oh wait... almost every store that's opening on Thanksgiving day, will be doing so at 8pm. So you can eat, watch football, spend quality time AND earn double your hourly wage. So what's the beef?

Thursday, November 07, 2013

On being just a veteran

Monday is my first Veteran's Day where I'm solely a veteran and not also an active duty member. There's a certain... emptiness... I feel. It's a level of "used to be" I think. It's not altogether pleasant I can tell you. Go ahead guys, go off to war. I'll just hang out and be a free American. I guess 99.2% of America can technically feel that, but it's different when it's something you used to do.

Not everyone is cut out for it. Not everyone's life takes a path that leads them into uniformed service. That's ok. It's not meant to be for everyone. That is why 0.8% of the population ever dons the uniform. I wish everyone could feel what we feel though (those that do it for the right reasons, anyway). I'm sure cops and firefighters know what I mean. Maybe even a doctor getting his or her first lab coat. There is something about threads as a symbol for a fight for something greater. The fraternal bond puts others in the same boat.

I see the looks I get in my veteran hat. I can tell when it's another vet. I can tell when it's someone who, although not a vet, "gets it." I can see that people recognize that I wear USAF t-shirts 5 out of 7 days and 1 of 3 veteran hats I have every time I leave the house not because I want them to know I did it, but because I need to keep it alive for me. I'm not looking for pats on the back. I want to feel like I'm still connected to the action that often got the pats on the back. The effect may be the same, but the cause is very different - inward vs outward pride.

I love being home. I love seeing my family so often. I love not having to pick Linda up from the airport. I love my industry. I love being an entrepreneur. I hate feeling so helpless when this world takes its fucked up turns trying to destroy itself.

I hate that I sidelined myself. Here's where the real self-destructive part comes in. I wouldn't go back full time, Active Duty even given the chance. I've broken the hearts of the people I love long enough. However, I can't look back as if I did my part. It's incomplete. I am sentenced to a lifetime of limbo and I don't know how to make my peace with it. I try daily. There's no magic word. There's no advice. Time may be the answer. It may not be.

I just know that on Monday I'll be so proud of everything I've done and the part I played, but at the exact same moment I'll feel for all those who still do. It's my own little version of a survivor's guilt I guess. Why should they have to endure those hardships as I sit at home with my feet up? I wish it was a zero sum game, but it's not. For all the positive pride and negative abandonment feelings the added cost is the emotional struggle to try to strike a balance and I come out a little more weary than I went in, each time.

I know I'm not indispensable to the Air Force. It'll keep on flying without me. I tried to always add value while I was there. I tried to leave it better than I found it in whatever way I could. It's why I was a teacher and not an instructor at my last assignment. But there are lots and lots like me and far better as well. I made my choice and stand by it, but that doesn't mean that it's always easy. Sure it's been months and months, but I was there for years and years. A home, routine, job and other checkboxes don't heal your heart, do they? This transition is going to take a while.

So, my uniformed brothers and sisters... I may not be combat ready anymore. I'm not up to speed on the training. I'm certainly not fit to fight (blame NJ pizza). I'm not ready to pick up and deploy anymore. I'm not mentally prepared for days without showers, in body armor, ducking mortars. But I've got your back. I don't know how. I don't know when. But I'm confident that when the time is right I'll know it... and I'll be there.

Until then, I'm just a vet. Just a guy in a hat. Just a fading memory. I just wish I was more prepared for how that was going to feel.