Thursday, February 9, 2017

Snow Day

     I’ve been up for about an hour as I write this – it’s 5:25 AM EST – and about fifteen minutes ago the snow started to come down really hard. We’ve been told to expect anywhere from 10 to 16 inches, which will most assuredly stop Long Island for the day.

     And I’m expecting three deliveries from Amazon, all for my wife’s birthday. Bugger.

     Long Island is “commuting-dependent.” Our business and commerce can’t function without navigable streets. So quite a lot of Long Islanders are faced with an involuntary “day of rest.”

     “Rest.” Hah! Yeah, right. Not only will a great many of us be taxing our cardiovascular systems to clear our driveways; you can bet your bottom dollar that those two time-honored Disturbers of the Private Peace – bosses and wives – will be at us as soon as they grasp the opening Mother Nature has given them.

     Wives, of course, are the perennial threat to husbandly repose. There are always things that “need to get done.” Somehow it’s always his job to do them. Worse, wives interpret the marriage vows to award them the prerogative of decreeing what shall have priority over what. Husbands who don’t develop thick skins and appropriate countermeasures soon learn the true reason why “married men live longer:” We don’t. It just seems longer.

     But in this Age of the Internet, bosses have joined the assault, and they’ve become ever less bashful about their demands on our time. God help you if you turn off your “smart phone,” for the orders from On High nearly always arrive by text message, and “I didn’t get it” is treated as an unacceptable evasion. I resisted the temptation to acquire one of those satanic collars while I was “gainfully employed,” nor will I succumb now that I’ve retired. I’ve repeatedly counseled colleagues to resist the lure...repeatedly but ineffectively. I wonder how many of those still running in the rat race wish they’d listened to me.

     I have a far more demanding boss these days.

     The hell with the political news. There’s always political news. How could it be otherwise, when virtually the whole of life has been politicized, and the smallest of our entirely private actions is now regarded as a fit subject for legislation? Besides, my Gentle Readers are observant enough to know it before they get here. Anyway, there’ll be plenty of political commentary from other Web pundits today.

     Instead, allow me to issue a blanket recommendation of the works of a fabulously inventive new writer, all of whose books I’ve now devoured and enjoyed intensely: E. William Brown. He’s not Joyce or Faulkner; he writes in a straightforward narrative style. What makes his stuff appealing is the breadth of his imagination and the daring with which he uses it. If you enjoy fantasy, try his “Daniel Black” series; if you prefer science fiction, give Perilous Waif a try. I doubt he’ll disappoint you.

     Some of the changes in the Catholic Church have been absolute, unmixed blessings. One of those is the return to appropriate Christian humility on the part of its clerics. I remember a time when the residents of the local rectory or convent thought little of calling a parishioner known to be available and demanding that he put himself at the caller’s service. Usually it would be something that required a car: e.g., to ferry a priest or nun to some appointment. Less often it would involve manual labor. The attitude of those callers often bordered on tyrannical.

     It’s not that way any more. Just yesterday I was asked in the humblest of tones to help a priest drop a car off at a service station for its annual inspection. His tone was more deferential and “if it’s not too much trouble” that I couldn’t imagine not obliging him. He was thankful before and after the event.

     A pithy, memorable epigram about the connection between humility and charity would be appropriate here, but I’m out of platitudes and relevant quotes for the moment.

     Several things have changed about retirement these past few decades. Pensions have become almost extinct. Despite Medicare, and despite the generally better health of contemporary retirees as compared to those of fifty years ago, the desirability of “gap” medical insurance is compelling. And of course we have organizations such as AARP constantly pestering us to join, to do this or that, and to support their preferred causes...which are nearly always well to the left of center.

     But changes in incentives will always bring changes in attitudes and behavior. One such is the tendency of retirees to support Social Security and Medicare regardless of their positions on those socialist excrescences while they were employed and being taxed to pay for them.

     The incentives here should be obvious. Virtually every retired American over the age of 65 will collect Social Security. All of us will become beholden to’s made automatic...and virtually no private insurer is willing to write a policy for someone who’s Medicare-eligible. These are “benefits” of value to the typical retiree, for which reason we may reasonably expect that he’d defend them as “necessities.”

     Given contemporary conditions, the retiree who would openly speak against those “benefits” will be rare. And indeed, it’s hard to deplore a government program that’s currently sending you checks and paying for your medical care, especially if you were taxed a substantial sum for them during your working lifetime. Which is why the steady “graying” of the American population has rendered Social Security and Medicare ever more untouchable as the years pass, and why that never to be adequately damned demagogue Franklin D. Roosevelt was so confident that “no damn politician will ever repeal my Social Security system.”

     I see the trap. I must not succumb. I must remain strong. But it’s hard.

     Light enough to see by: check!
     Recently serviced snowblower: check!
     Electric starter cable: check
     Gasoline: check!
     “Rough work” winter coat: check!
     Timberland winter boots: check!
     Heavy work gloves: check!
     Snow at snowblower depth: not quite yet.

     I think I’ll try to catch a few more Zs. Later, Gentle Reader.


Anonymous said...

"But changes in incentives will always bring changes in attitudes and behavior."
Unless you are a brainless spend and tax liberal who does not believe in the Laffer curve. For an example look at the state of Connecticut 'leadership'.

Anonymous said...

ahh, snow. A rarity here in the great hot 'n sandy. But, late spring will find me moving to the Bitterroot. Apparently, some of the lessons I (thought) I'd learned when growing up in Wisconsin, have faded. I do remember getting up early to shovel the driveway clear, so mom and dad could get to work. Then shoveling it again after school so they could get into the garage. I am old enough to miss those simple things. We'll see how I feel about it, this coming winter... - Grandpa