Maslow’s Hierarchy Of Public Transportation Needs

Behavioral scientists use Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs as a model to explain just about everything in life.  The theory goes something like this: a person’s most basic needs must be met (food and shelter) before they can afford the luxury of contemplating higher matters (does a career in actuarial science really satisfy their soul.)  This theory is handily summarized by a layered triangle image.  The most basic or minimal need is on the bottom tier, ranging to the most complex or optimal at the top.

Let’s apply the model to public transportation.

Riding a bus or train is a crap-shoot.  As anyone who takes public transportation regularly will tell you, the rider’s misery level is dependent on the seating options.

maslow5May all your journeys be at the top of the pyramid.

Posted in General Ramblings, Maslow's Hierarchy | Tagged , , , , , , , | 69 Comments

Are You An Optimist Or A Pessimist?

Know Thyself

 Little Billy wanted a pony for Christmas. It was all he talked about for months. When Christmas morning arrived, he ran outside and saw…a huge pile of poop. Little Billy clapped his hands for joy and started shoveling.

“Why are you so happy?” his mom asked, perplexed.

“Because,” Little Billy laughed “With all that poop, there has to be a pony under here somewhere!”

Little Billy is a dewy-eyed optimist. How about you?

Take this simple test to determine where you fall on the Optopessimistometer.

A) You see a glass that is partially filled with liquid. You think:

1) the glass is half full.
2) the glass is half empty.
3) who left that damn glass there, and why is it always MY job to clean up around here?

B) The direction our country is heading in is troubling. You:

1) are confident that opposing parties can reach across the aisle to solve the nation’s problems.
2) figure that all politicians are for sale.
3) are willing to reach across the aisle to the opposing party to solve the nation’s problems…if the price is right.

C) You come upon a car accident. You:

1) rush to see if you can help, hoping nobody was hurt.
2) think, “Thank goodness I didn’t come through here two minutes earlier; that would have been me.”
3) say, “Get that ambulance out of the road – some of us have places to go!”

D) Your friend needs a transplant. You:

1) immediately get tested to be a donor, praying that you will be a match.
2) share the statistics that even if the operation is successful, there’s a 50-50 chance he’ll die from organ rejection, infection or sponges left in during surgery.
3) start a black-market business to exploit the untapped need for body parts.

E) Spring has sprung. Soon:

1) colorful flowers will burst into bloom after their long winter’s nap.
2) your car will need daily washing because of all the mud.
3) you won’t be able to get into a grocery store on a Saturday without shoving aside Little Leaguers, cheerleaders, and blind kids who are all trying to shake you down with overpriced candy.

Add up each answer’s allotted points and check your score against this handy classification guide:

  • 5- 7 points: Pollyanna: You are a classic optimist. Your “every cloud has a silver lining” attitude makes people want to vomit. Take off those rose-colored glasses before you run into something.
  • 8-11 points: Eeyore: You are a classic pessimist. In other words, a realist. Your “it’ll never work” attitude will save you from a lifetime of disappointment
  • 12-15 point: Grinch: You are a self-absorbed, anti-social, uber-pessimist. Your “what’s in it for me” attitude makes you a natural for public office.
Posted in General Ramblings | Tagged , , , , , , , | 51 Comments

Don’t Thank Me For Voting


As I walked out of the polling place this morning, a man checked my name off a little list and said, “Thank you for voting.”  It was as if I was a veteran who laid her life on the line in service to her country and he, a representative of a grateful nation. Or a child who put her toys away like a good girl, so Daddy said thank you to encourage such behavior.

I was indignant.

I wanted to say, “Who are you to thank me? I am not doing this to satisfy anyone else’s expectations, and it’s none of your business whether I vote or not. I am doing it for myself. This is my chance to make my will known.  You have no right to look benevolently on me, and pat me on the head for participating. We are peers in this process; one man – one vote.”

We should thank our founding fathers that the country was built on that premise. That after a rocky start, it now actually MEANS that each and every citizen, man and woman, is afforded the same right.

Americans should not be encouraged to vote. That implies that the voter is doing a favor for a faceless, nebulous “someone.” Maybe if we had to risk life and limb to be heard, as is still the case in many parts of the world, we would more deeply cherish a right won at a high cost in blood, treasure and tears.

It’s a hokey old saying that still holds true: voting is a privilege. Those who don’t appreciate that fact should stay home.

Posted in General Ramblings | Tagged , , , , , | 53 Comments

Health Insurance Companies Hate Sick People And Liechtensteinians


In fall, a young agent’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of health insurance.

                                                                         Alfred, Lord Tennyson. Sort of.

The guvment, in its infinite wisdom, decided that it would be a good idea to require *90% of Americans to enroll in or make changes to their health insurance plans at the same time. That time is now.

In real life (a place many of us have to visit periodically to earn money to pay for interwebz access,) I am an insurance agent.   My desk is currently awash in brochures from insurance companies who are trying to convince me, and my clients, to pick them for their Medicare Part D drug plans and Obamacare. I’m spending oodles of time online, checking out company websites.

Each company’s plan designs are different (as far as the law allows) and the pricing varies widely. I’m sure that each ad campaign is the result of painstaking research by college-educated marketing and design professionals, working long hours, intent on crafting the perfect message to set their company apart from the competition.

Yet they all look the same.

Apparently only one firm supplies pictures for the entire industry: Stock Health Insurance Brochure & Website Photos R Us. These pictures must conform to a strict list of criteria:

  • No sick people. We can’t have potential clients associating this purchase with any thing bad happening, like the possibility that they might someday need the product.
  • No old people. Really old people are depressing because they don’t look young. All pictures are of 30-year-old catalog models. If the company is selling senior products, the models’ hair is air-brushed gray.
  • Everyone must be attractive. And thin. And have lots of thick, glossy hair. That way potential clients will subconsciously figure that THEY will magically become attractive, thin and have have lots of thick, glossy hair if they buy this insurance policy. Like beer commercials.
  • All have perfect teeth. Models must have mouths full of gleaming, straight, white Chiclets. All have had extensive, cosmetic dental work which, by the way, is not covered by the dental insurance you are trying to sell them.
  • Everybody is happy. They’re smiling so broadly you can see every one of their dazzling teeth. Their plan has 100% coverage for colonoscopies and a mere $5 copay for Prozac, and they’re so thrilled that if these were moving pictures they’d be jumping up and down with insurance glee.
  • Everybody who’s anybody is in the picture. Photos must show a degree of diversity unmatched anywhere outside the United Nations. This is especially true for group health insurance products.   Like a White House advance man lining up the human backdrop for a presidential speech, ad designers Photo-shop ethnicities into the picture until it resembles a 1970s Coca Cola commercial.   Possibly the only group not represented in these photos are Liechtensteinian-Americans, and that’s only because the designer couldn’t squeeze any more bodies in the frame.

Time for me to get back to work. Although I am really swamped right now, I’m never too busy for you, dear readers. If you’re looking for insurance and you’ve got 1.2 employees from each, major ethnic group (all athletic, young, shining-haired and white-toothed), give me a call. I’ve got the perfect insurance policy for you.

*I made up that statistic, but that doesn’t mean it’s not true.

Posted in General Ramblings | Tagged , , , , , , , | 56 Comments

Malaising Grace, How Sweet The Sound

This is my favorite time of year.  The bright colors, the nip in the air – love it.  But it’s also my least favorite time of year.  It’s getting dark earlier every day.   My temper shortens with the days, while discontented feelings multiply.  When the trees lose their leaves, I think of how much of life involves loss.  

Me, myself and I need frequent reminders to count our blessings.

mal·aise: noun mə-lāz, ma-, -lez

1: an indefinite feeling of debility or lack of health often indicative of or accompanying the onset of an illness
2: a vague sense of mental or moral ill-being <a malaise of cynicism and despair — Malcolm Boyd>

*definition courtesy of Merriam-Webster Online

Windmilling on the edge, trying for balance.

I’ve been walking around under a little black cloud lately.
I’m toting around a sack of malaise that sometimes has me teetering on the brink of despair.

Why? Various reasons. The health concerns of beloved family members, setbacks at work, missing my children, angst over the direction our country is taking, etc, etc, etc.

If I’m being honest, a lot of it is self-directed.  I’m concerned with shuffling off of this mortal coil: the wrinkling, sagging, bagging, decay of the body, gaining back much of the weight I  lost, the where-do-I-go-from-here that comes with being how-the-hell-did-I-get-to-be-55-years old.

In short, it’s a mid-life crisis.

How distressingly cliché.

I left my office after work the other day and took my crabby self to a local park hoping a walk would clear the mental cobwebs that were clouding my vision of the world.

I plugged the ear buds into my iPod and started out around the small lake in the park.  After ¼ lap it penetrated my gloom that it was a perfect, early fall day; not cold, not hot. The trees had turned color suddenly, overnight it seemed. We woke up one morning and fall color was here with its intense, fleeting display. I started walking faster.

My favorite song, “Roundabout” , came through my ear buds, filling my head and lifting my spirits.

The sky was still bright at early evening, clear and blue, but the sun had started its descent. It painted the undersides of the clouds pink and made my shadow a stilt-walker, almost touching the lake.

I built up steam, both legs moving faster. My chubby, cellulite-riddled thighs did the bidding of my agile brain without conscious thought, smoothly and easily. My wrinkled, age-freckled hands clenched as I walked, limber and whole. My jiggling, applause arms pumped free and easy. The breath sounded loud in my ears, the way it echoes when you’re wearing headphones.  Not harsh or strained, but forceful; evidence that I was walking strong. My lungs filled and pushed out clear and clean. My heart pumped: ba-da-dum, ba-da-dum, rhythmic, faster. I demanded more and it delivered – no problem.

I have all my Factory Original Equipment, except for two tonsils traded for ice cream in 3rd grade, and one gall bladder traded for pain relief at 40.

All those parts were operating together, if not in perfect harmony, then at least in some semblance of cooperation. This magical, human machine was all systems go and I was in control of it.

55!  A couple hundred years ago, I would have been at the feeble end of life, the oldest crone in the tribe. People would marvel at my great age while setting me adrift on an iceberg with a one-way ticket to Valhalla.  Nowadays, though, I am just in the middle (ish) of life with a long way to go, God willing.

I walked around the lake a second time as fast as I could without running. I strained to use all of my senses to experience my self and the spaces around me and I was filled with contentment. At the same time, I was ashamed.

I did nothing to deserve any of these blessings.  I’m not an especially lousy human being, but neither am I an especially saintly one. There is no rhyme or reason for all the gifts I have. I can’t understand, and I can’t explain. It seems all I can do, the very least I can do, is try to appreciate.

Which brings me to this last part. It’s kind of a prayer.

Dear God,

Thank you for another ordinary, extraordinary day on your Earth. Please help me to appreciate every one of them.



Fall stilt walker

Posted in General Ramblings | Tagged , , , , , , | 70 Comments

Take A Bite Out Of Words

Come on along.

Come on along.

I love words; written, spoken, any way they can be served up.  Life offers a veritable smorgasbord of words and I want to sample them all.

I’ve mentioned before that I talk to myself. These are not always full-fledged conversations.  Sometimes I merely blurt out random words. It’s not Tourette’s – I’m trying them on for size.  Lots of words are boring, but some beg to be rolled around on the tongue and savored like fine wine.

Signs are especially tempting. I sampled these interesting specimens on a recent road trip:

Sprinkle Road
Benton Harbor


As much fun to say as to play

The bee-buzz in the middle of Favazolah, the squeaky-crisp delivery of Sprinkle: playing with accents and intonations is music to my ears.

A few years ago, my teeny-tiny niece was really into teeny-tiny toys called Squinkies. As much as she loved playing with them, she also loved saying it. “Squinkies, SQUINKies,” she would sing-song in her teeny-tiny voice as she played.  It made me smile just to listen.

The Phantom Tollbooth was one of my favorite books when I was about 10.  Our hero, Milo, traveled to a magical land and found himself at the Word Market. Vendors sold words, phrases or individual letters à la carte. Milo sampled tangy Qs, crispy, crunchy Ks, and a dry and dusty F.  I used to dream of hopping into Milo’s little car and going with him to the Word Market.

In a way, I guess that’s what I’m doing.

It is possible, however, to get carried away with word-tasting and veer off the path from eccentric into annoying territory. If I think I might be heading in that direction, I remember this scene from “Forget Paris” and scale back.

Posted in General Ramblings | Tagged , , , , , , , | 69 Comments

Gimme A Steaming Mug of Sodium Caseinate


The interwebz is where people go to engage in thought-provoking, passionate debate on important topics of the day.

But not the people I know.

At this time of year, our minds are consumed by the issue of pumpkin flavored coffee. Which reminds me of this post from a couple of years ago….

For the coffee lover, fall is the best of times. That’s when we get the yummiest flavored coffees. Rich pumpkin, deep chocolate notes, earthy wafts of cinnamon spice all beckon from grocery store and specialty shop shelves. “Drink Me,” they say. “Drink and be warmed and soothed by my rich, roasted goodness.”

I was pretty stoked to select a bottle of Pumpkin Spice coffee creamer to begin this season of caffeinated revelry.

As I stirred the creamer into my cup of joe, I admired the packaging. A silhouette of cows, tractor and barn on the front hinted at the production facilities used by the manufacturer, Friendly Farms.

Then I turned the bottle around to the ingredients. Apparently, what with the bad economy and all, Farmer Friendly has had to take a job at the local chemical plant.

Here’s the rundown of ingredients in the “cream”:

Water, sugar, partially hydrogenated soybean oil, less than 2% sodium caseinate (A milk derivative*) dipotassium phosphate, disodium phosphate, mono and diglycerides, natural and artificial flavors, cellulose gel, cellulose gum, color added, carrageenan. Not a source of lactose.

And in tiny print at the end: “Contains: Milk.” Really? Where? Oh, you mean the less than 2% milk derivative. I should have known. How many times have my kids come running into the kitchen as I’m removing a batch of warm cookies from the oven and pleaded, “Mom, can we have some cookies and sodium caseinate, a milk derivative?” “OK kids,” I’d laughingly say, “but don’t spoil your appetite!”

Rereading the bottle, I see that nowhere does it actually claim to be cream. All it says is “Pumpkin Spice”. The clever packagers know that my brain will infer the cream part, based on the picture on the cover, the shape of the bottle and its placement in the dairy section near other cream-ish products.

*Interesting side note: have you noticed that dairy products now come in bottles that look like Mae West? I read an article that manufacturers have switched to this package because research shows that bottles with a thinner waist are more attractive to buyers. Apparently, we are so stupid that we equate a shapely bottle with a shapelier us.

The front of the bottle advises “Shake well” in little letters. They should print a hazmat warning, instead. If you get an unadulterated swallow of dipotassium phosphate, your head might explode.

I wouldn’t mind putting all these questionable chemicals in my body if it tasted good. After all, we all know we’re taking our lives in our hands when we eat a Twinkie, but we’re willing to take the risk for the sake of the sugary, creamy goodness therein. But this stuff doesn’t even taste like pumpkin. It doesn’t taste like anything, really. It just turns the coffee tan if you put enough in.

I guess if I want real, natural pumpkin flavor in my coffee, I would need to cut open a jack-o-lantern, throw in a pot of java and swish it around. Somehow, that doesn’t appeal.

I threw out the pumpkin spice creamer, a sadder but wiser gal. I’ll be going back to plain, old, real cream. It’s not very exotic, but at least I have a good chance of coming out of that encounter alive.


Posted in General Ramblings | Tagged , , , , , , , | 54 Comments