Ocean Baths, Bag Ladies, and Truckers

On the drive from California to Florida, I had plenty of time to contemplate. Part of why I like to drive. It gives you “think time” where airports just give you hustle and grief.

So I was driving through West Texas and stopped at some roadside “last chance” for gas. Somewhere between El Paso and San Antonio ( in that part where, if you see gas, you’d better buy it… Fort Stockton I think it was) and at about dawn had pulled into gas station at a roadside hotel row / gas station or two. There was a “Bag Lady” with some things in a shopping cart. The morning was a bit cold and crisp.

I’d parked the car off to the side and made a sandwich. (It’s easy to do, faster than fast food, and I can get it at 5 am by the side of the road in West Texas where for hours on end you can not get restaurant food…) So I’m walking around with “2 days of non-stop travel” on me, eating a sandwich. I’ve just woken up from a ‘nap’ about 20 miles back, so my hair is a mess… You can see where this is going…

So the Bag Lady (looked late 40’s or early 50s to me, would be nice looking if she had some time in a salon / hotel shower, and perhaps a bit of time with a dentist) wanders over into the front of the store for a moment, then back. I ask “You hungry?”. ( I’d slipped a $5 bill in my back pocket planning to hand it to her if she said yes…) Her answer? “No, just cold.” Delivered with a bit of a devilish grin. And I realized that after 2 days stuffed in a car and with “pillow hair”, and eating what was clearly two slices of bread I’d stuffed something between; I probably didn’t look all that much better than she did… and she saw me as a bit of a “kindred spirit”. But one with a Very Old Car to live in.

So I said something “bright” like “Well, sun comes up soon”. Then she asked if I had a cigarette ( I don’t smoke ) and I realized I was not going to hand her the Fiver as it would just go immediately to cigarettes.

Further down the road, at a truck stop, I was filling the Benz with gas. In the wash room I fixed the “pillow hair” and took a toothbrush to the sandwich remains in my teeth. Next to me a similarly disheveled trucker was shaving in the sink. Actions that in a ‘typical’ restaurant or gas station would be seen as “bum” like. Normal in a truck stop. I thought of buying a shower (which they have for a modest price) but decided to ‘press on’ instead. Only me in the car, and 2 hours is 2 hours. The shuttle might launch on time…

Choctaw Beach

(This isn’t a picture of Choctaw Beach, but one nearby)

Blue Mountain Beach in Walton County Florida

Blue Mountain Beach in Walton County Florida

Original Image

So the next day, I’m at Choctaw Beach Florida, and decide to take a ‘bath’ in the ocean. All the time pondering: What’s the difference between a ‘bag lady’, a trucker needing a shave, and me?

Looked at from the outside, we were all a bit dirty, unkempt, and had no home. We’d all lived in the same clothes for a couple of days and need a bath and a meal. What makes one honorable and the other not?

The bag lady was unemployed, while the trucker has a job. But I don’t have a job. It’s not just “no visible means of support”. We all needed to brush our teeth at the sink in the gas station.

The difference was that the trucker and I could buy a shower if we wanted one. It was a question of choice.

In Mississippi, I’d walked (barefoot) into a Texaco station looking ‘well worn’ and unshaven for 2 1/2 days and with the hair a mess. I wear “old” clothes when doing a marathon drive session. No need to wear the good stuff if it’s just me, the car seat, and a potential lay on the ground tire change or car repair… Got a bit of the ‘look over’… and it all immediately evaporates when the American Express Gold Card hits the counter. “Fill up on 4” and all is forgiven. Off to the wash room. Pick up an armload of snacks, bottled water, and back to the register. I’m a “bag lady” with an American Express… that’s honorable… somehow.

In Conclusion

So it occurred to me that the difference is nothing particularly physical about us.

It’s nothing particularly in how we choose to live (we were all three a bit crumpled and with some road grime about us).

It’s that fact that some of us COULD choose.

I could choose. In Mississippi I was near my limit and looking longingly at the hotel row signs. Dreaming of a warm bed, hot shower, bit of time in the heated pool. Thinking of that plastic token that made it all just a single decision away… That I decided to go for ‘best time to Florida’ instead meant I had the power of choice. Red Roof Inn or No Roof, my choice.

The trucker could choose. Perhaps not as many choices (depending on how his business was doing, and if his employment schedule allowed – more constraints than on me, but still not too many). He could chose to wash in the sink, or buy a shower. To eat a sandwich on the run, or have a dinner in the diner. Motel 6 or 6 more hours.

The bag lady could not choose. She would stay cold and dirty until the sun rose. Then she would get warm. I knew she would love the chance of a warm hotel room and a hot shower. Would love to run her things through a washer. Take off the knit cap and comb her hair. But she could not choose. She didn’t have the magic plastic…

So we vilify the person least able to ‘fix’ their problem. And we let those with the most ability to fix it, but who chose not to do so, have a free pass. Just backwards.

And in the end, I realized that when I’m “pushing it” on a mad dash coast to coast, I’m just a trucker without a load and with no job. A “bag lady” with an Amex Gold…

But folks see the Mercedes at the pump and the card on the counter and smile to greet me when I walk into the store…

And I wonder if there is not some way we could provide a place for a meal, a shower, and a bit of time with the clothes washer, for folks ‘on the road’ but without a truck, or a bit of plastic? Is there not some way to give them “choice” too? And with it respectability? Would that be enough to make us even more “the same”?

Things I think about while driving…


About E.M.Smith

A technical managerial sort interested in things from Stonehenge to computer science. My present "hot buttons' are the mythology of Climate Change and ancient metrology; but things change...
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24 Responses to Ocean Baths, Bag Ladies, and Truckers

  1. PhilJourdan says:

    I have done the California to East Coast trip by car too many times, so I now fly. Yes, airports are a hassle, but so is being cooped up in a car for 3 days.

    Why did I do the car route? As you say, choices. Back in the 70s, the government ran the airlines and discounts were all but a pipe dream. Now you can hop a flight for a few bucks, and it costs less than the gas to drive.

    As for the trucker, the bag lady and you – yep, but that is what it has always been about. And the choices you have are because the choices you made (as well as the other 2). She may or may not have chosen to drop out 20-30 years ago. But the choices she did make lead her to the same place – no choices.

  2. j ferguson says:

    brings back memories of the conspicuous doubt as I walked through the pilot’s lounge to pay for the load of fuel just put in the company C-421. I used to wear ratty jeans because the construction guys in the field on our projects were threatened by “suits.”

    Sometimes there’d be a shift change and on my way out to go flying, someone would stop me and ask where the hell I thought I was going – and this well before homeland security.

    I also found that it was easier to be whoever you needed to be to get a transaction done if there was no threat implicit in your costume.

    There’s no flexibility in being a dude.

  3. Pascvaks says:

    I guess I’ve come to the conclusion that we are here to teach and learn. It seems I’ve learned more than I ever taught, but who can tell what their score is on this side of the great divide? Anyway, when we’ve learned the last we came to learn, and/or taught the last we’re here to teach, the game’s over and we fade away. Each of us has our own perspective, arrived at over the course of our lives; always being reinforced or tweeked; or not; or shocked into another reality. You’ve taught me more than I’m sure I’ve ever taught you (or ever will). And, for what it’s worth, (as a response/feedback/etc)-

    I came to the conclusion some years ago that when I was asked –or felt the urge–to help, if I could, I would. When the USO, Salvation Army, etc. mail a thank you and enclose a ‘new’ request, if I can, I do. If someone down on their luck asks, and I can, I do. If it occures to me, as it did to you, and I can, I do. I gave up trying to determine if it was good or not for them years ago. I now just go by gut feeling, hope I’m helping, and let it go. Everyone we meet in life (actually or via some media means) affects and effects us, and so too do we them. Life’s a beach! Forever changing and always the same.

  4. Larry Geiger says:

    Sorry Chief:

    Discovery’s Next Launch Attempt Moves to No Earlier Than Nov. 30
    NASA managers have decided to postpone the next launch attempt for space shuttle Discovery to no earlier than Nov. 30 at 4:05 a.m. to evaluate and fix a hydrogen gas leak at the Ground Umbilical Carrier Plate (GUCP).

    The GUCP is an attachment point between the external fuel tank and a pipe that carries gaseous hydrogen safely away from Discovery to the flare stack, where it is burned off.

    For continuous updates about the STS-133 mission, go to http://www.nasa.gov/shuttle

  5. Gnomish says:

    Well, let’s see…
    I got deported from Canada and put out at the border in Bellingham with no shoelaces. I did have ten dollars usd, which I wisely spent on cigarettes because a smoke will get you 10 minutes of personal counseling from a street person any day – and that’s how one quickly learns the ropes in a new town.
    So I stayed at the mission and waited until an American internet friend I’d never met sent me a Walmart card, phone card and 100$ postal money order while a Canadian friend expressed me my deeds, p.o.a.s, IDs, checks, etc.
    That got me a go-phone and unlimited minutes for a month.
    Establishing communications is one of the first steps of an insertion.

    Not everbody at the mission had a choice because a few were schizophrenics or morons with nothing of value to offer anybody. However, it’s very easy to live on the street because of the many well.off individuals who came by their wealth through no effort of their own and therefore are as clueless about the creation of wealth as the career homeless who also see everything on a have/have.not dimension with no causal link to anything else in the universe. These possessors of causeless wealth have a guilt over it and buy absolution credits from street ppl.
    Some of the street people ‘get’ over a hundred dollars a day by staking out a good corner with lots of traffic and making a sign and performing the appropriately pathetic act that elicits the response they desire. Years of rehearsal have refined their acts. The guilty liberals just slobber over them in the lust for altruistic brownie points – so they can tell each other how good they are (altruism being considered a virtue by all who love human sacrifice).

    Presently I got work running steel and pouring concrete – enough to buy a 60 day bus pass. It turned out easier to go to california to renew my old license than to get a new one in washington – the dmv there is a rival for old soviet bureaucracy – they demand 4 IDs to get a driving license – one of which is a d.l., of course.

    So off to northern california by way of s.f. – bus routes can be vry circuitous. Once there it took 15 minutes to get new license. The local licensed grow.ops were desperately in need of spare hands because of threatening rain, so I worked for about a week filling yard waste bins with large leaves – and setting them out on the street for collection. Prop 19 is not to legalize – it’s already legal – prop 19 is about taxes and restrictions; it takes away from what’s been allowed and nobody wants it.

    Fabulously wealthy, now, I take the bus to florida, stopping off to visit internet friends I’ve never met every chance I can so as to stretch out horizontal and get some sleep – riding a bus is work, now; the novelty is gone – but it’s still an adventure.

    When you get too old to make memories, you’d better have some worth reminiscing over, eh?

    It has become a game to see how little I spend from the bank account and how much I can manage by myself.
    So far, 40 days on the road, I’m not suffering a bit; i’ve more than paid my way (except for mooching at the mission)

    Probably the main reason there are street people – to go from my recent intimate and extensive experience- is that guilty libs give themselves brownie points for altruism and actually make street living a viable career. Feed em & breed em – that’s how it works, from Bellingham to Biafra.
    But it’s an orgy of ‘feel.good’ for the charitable. On the street, we actually pick and choose because there’s so much given away. Wash clothes??? what the heck for? just get new ones any day from a hundred different little groups. Some are straight up charities and some are gigs plumbing for public funding. The street ppl are not the only epiphytes living off liberal guilt by any stretch of the imagination. Altruism breeds an industry of those who cheerfully pat a self sacrificial believer on the head and take what he lets go.

    Now I’m in Pittsburgh. Florida by Monday – I’ll be buying a house for a song in a place with a warm climate. I so wish gov. moonbeam wasn’t the californicans’ answer to self harming agenda… more of what made it sick in the first place won’t help. Anemia? Moar leeches! they cry…lol.

    Like worms that churn the earth, street ppl will consume the detritus. Nothing but human life being wasted.

  6. pyromancer76 says:

    Discovery launch-time change a bummer. Hope you can continue to explore Floriday, then make a more leisurely return trip seeing places you “always wanted to”. Thanks for the unique travelogue.

    I very much appreciate your empathic comment: “I wonder if there is not some way we could provide a place for a meal, a shower, and a bit of time with the clothes washer, for folks ‘on the road’ but without a truck, or a bit of plastic? Is there not some way to give them “choice” too? And with it respectability? Would that be enough to make us even more “the same”?”

    I think this attitude is one of the differences between a classical liberal (none are in the White House or Congress or they would have never voted for Obama-sponsored bills) and a conservative, at least as they are defined in the U.S. today. I think the issue revolves around offering the possibility of, or hope for, Opportunity, without any welfare. The Salvation Army (Pascvaks 8:23 am) is one example — work and organization for a meal, shower, clothes washer and help to get one’s life in order. This is complex and difficult because mental illness is often involved; nevertheless, individual responsibility is always best.

    I think the triumpant ones in this election — especially Tea Partyers (I would count myself triumphant except I live in California) — need to think very carefully about urban areas and places with lots of people out of work. This is a very serious matter. Even though conservatives passionately dislike the New Deal, something along the lines of the CCC and/or the WPA, properly run, might go a long way toward putting thoughtfulness and generosity into limited government, responsible taxation and spending, free enterprise, excellent health care not-government-run, appropriate voting procedure, secure borders, etc. This is a crisis.

    Have a good return trip.

  7. After your trips you’ll have time to explain us why is it so that someone up there has thought that the best way of fixing up things is to print money, like a south American banana country back in the 1980’s: Work is what produces goods and goods bring good living, but money printing?
    In Greek cataclysm means flood, and this will be a universal flood. Perhaps it will clean some dirt out anyway…

  8. E.M.Smith says:


    Not too hard. People think of currency as “money” when it isn’t. They then get power in government and think that since they can print currency, that means that they can create “stored value” (a property of money absent from currency) and then distribute that “stored value” as wealth creation. They think they can create wealth with the printing press.

    They are simply ignorant of the fact that printing currency does NOT create wealth and all it can do is re-distribute and DILUTE what value there is in the currency. It works for a very brief time, then the drug wears off and you need twice as much just to feel normal.

    If they would focus on creation of wealth (by ANYONE, not just rich people… even a person picking up cans for the recycle money is improving the countryside and producing a supply of valuable metals…) and forget about printing currency, things would be much better. But outside a few economists, it’s hard to find folks who understand the true difference between currency and money. Almost everyone things the pretty pictures of dead presidents on paper or junk metal are “money”, when they are not. (“Store of Value” is missing as long as the printing presses run…)

    So it’s easy to say why. Harder to understand the how of it. And impossible to educate those in power as to why it’s a Bad Idea. Until after they “bugger the currency” and learn the hard way.

    @Pyromancer76: A works program has to be careful that they produce something with real value / wealth in it. Paying folks to take teaspoons and dig holes on odd days, filling them on even days, is just welfare with the destruction of a lot of spoons and consumption of bodies thrown in. I’ve not seen governments be good at such things very often. It can help, but it would help more to just take the tax and regulation boot of the neck of private enterprise.

    FWIW, my “system” of validation is simple: If they say they want food, I offer to buy them a meal at the nearest fast food place (one is usually in sight at interesections…) The truly needed will take me up on the offer, the “posers” with a gimmick will not. They will ask for the money instead, or just say “no”. Not willing to leave a lucrative corner for a low priced meal.

    In the last decade or so I’ve had exactly 2 folks take me up on the food offer. Both were filled to capacity and with one meal “to go”. Some of the best money (and time) I’ve ever spent.

    In one case, the “Bag Lady” was 1/2 way through a KFC chicken dinner and had slowed to near a halt. I asked “Are you saving some for tomorrow?”. With a guilty look, she said, quietly, yes. I told her she was to eat until she could hold no more and we’d buy another meal “to-go” for tomorrow…

    It’s a pretty good ‘separator’. And for those not already saying they are hungry, I ask if they are, as in the story above.


    There was an investigative story by a SF newspaper once. The life of a few professional panhandlers in The City. They both made well over $50k / year (tax free…) and had apartments…

    Thus my “separator” method.


    Yeah. Now I’ve got to figure out just how much it is worth to me to have Thanksgiving at home… $400 round trip or?…

    We’ve got the NASA channel on the dish, so we get a front row seat on the decisions… But the link will be nice for the iPhone / Pod thing my host has.


    I do a mix. Part of the dash out here was to pre-position a car for a few trips by air to follow. I can also pre-position some things they won’t let me take on the plane ;-)

    The car will be here for my return for the launch, and for a likely family visit in February. After that, who knows. One more? Two? We’ll see. Some time or other I’ll drive it home or my friend will… though on the return there will be a few more hotel nights (plus a visit with the Texas Uncle and family… that usually includes more food than you can eat…)


    I “check them out” a bit prior to handing over cash. There are, especially in major cities, many scam artists.

    With that said, I once had to panhandle for “spare change” to call home for help. (No phone, no cash, etc.) Took a few folks to get someone to help (as I didn’t have a good ‘persona’ for pan handling, being reasonably well dressed and clearly not a ‘needy person’ in demeanor). After 1/2 dozen folks, got a buck (had been asking for 50 cents for the phone). Made a world of difference. So I listen to the story. Need food? I’ll buy a meal. Need a phone call? Let’s go to the phone. (I do NOT hand over the cell phone… unless the person is next to a broken car… If no pay phone is near, then I use the cell. I DO tell the person at the other end what the problem is and if they seem legit, then I’ll let the needy person hold the phone…)

    Filters out a load of scam. Helps a modest number of folks. Works for me, but also means I have to be willing to put some time into the ‘relationship’…

    @J Ferguson:

    My standard “uniform” for years was simple. Grey slacks. Mediuml blue shirt. Black belt. Black socks and shoes. Carry also tweed grey jacket with a tie in the pocket.

    It’s ‘casual enough’ to not be a suit (especially if the jacket is left in the car as needed) but can be formal enough (with the tie and jacket on) for ‘business meetings’. On construction sites, I’d wear the worn and rattier pants and shirts… (as they would often get torn, cement spattered, etc. and the audience was more ‘casual’) with the obligatory orange vest and white hard hat. Easier to pass as “not a clueless suit” with blue sleeves and nondescript pants / shoes poking out of that orange vest…

    And yeah, it’s a lot easier to put the coat and tie ON (sometimes from a backpack…) than to gain acceptance by taking it off…

  9. j ferguson says:

    I needed an additional back and hands for yard work in Miami. drove by a “will work for food” sign. Drove around the block and asked about work for money? Nothing doing. He didn’t even ask what I needed help with or what the pay would have been.


  10. Verity Jones says:

    Well there is certainly poignancy in your observations. You reminded me of a time in my life where I could so easily have made bad choices leading to a downward spiral. I made it through…

    On the other hand Gnomish’s actions and attitudes also strike a chord. Charity that only feeds someone, or clothes people, will only prolong the problem, but we need to focus on fixing the situations – so says this guy too:

  11. j ferguson says:

    Oh, and the ratty jeans and the airplane. I’m sure that part of the appeal was pimping the guys at the airport, although the south ends of most of my trips were in Texas where it was not impossible for very well-off guys in the oil patch to dress like that although they tended to have wildly expensive boots.

    Stealth Wealth. I always liked the concept. sounds like Gnomish does too.

  12. Larry Geiger says:

    Tomorrow we are riding up to Barberville for the Pioneer Days Festival. Four stages of local music. Lunch on the lawn. Lots of craft booths and some blacksmiths, portable sawmills, wood carvers, and other assorted reenacters. SR40 and US17 just north of Deland.

    Drive up to Deland, turn left on SR44 and go out to Grand Ave. Turn north and see some of what Florida used to look like. Having dinner at the Blackwater Inn on the St. Johns. It’s going to be a beautiful Florida fall day.

  13. Jeff Alberts says:

    I got deported from Canada and put out at the border in Bellingham

    Bellingham is a few miles south of the border. Perhaps you meant Blaine? That’s on I-5 south of the Peace Arch crossing.

  14. Jeff Alberts says:

    I’ve driven cross country with and without my RV (5th wheel) a few times.

    I was amazed at the mostly asshole truckers out there as far as their attitudes towards RVs. I ALWAYS flashed my lights for them letting them know it was safe to come over, and ALWAYS flashed my rear lights when I came over in front of the very few who signaled me.

    Many apparently made an assumption that RVers are just specks on the road to be loathed.

  15. Gnomish says:

    Yes, twas Blaine. I got a ride to Denny’s from a cop and the waitress closed off a section and let me sleep in a booth for about 6 hours tiil I dried and a bus came for ordering a 2$ pancake brekky.
    She said she’d been sleeping in her car for the last 3 months.
    Very nice folks in that sector of the galaxy, generally.

  16. E.M.Smith says:

    @gnomish: After a bit of googling, can’t find what POAS is. (Other than a pony type and a hispanic volcano ;-)

    Yes, I’ve generally found folks who don’t have a lot are the nicest to those with needs.

    @Jeff Alberts: I’v run into a fair number of Rent-A-RV folks who didn’t know how to drive them (and some that do) so I can see truckers getting tired of them. On the other hand, polite is polite in any case. They do seem to pick up on my being a ‘good guy’ pretty quick. I suspect the word “Diesel” on the tail of the car doesn’t hurt ;-)

    @Larry: I’ll run it past my host. He’s looking for things to do (since the shuttle is a no-go)… Made home made French Toast for them for breakfast today. My Ideal French Toast:

    One egg per slice of bread.
    Milk to make the “wash” blend well (about an ounce for 3 eggs).
    A few drops of vanilla (the real stuff).
    Roman Meal Bread. (Nothing else is quite right. Really.)
    Soak bread in ‘wash’ until all of the egg is absorbed (or enough that what’s left can be drizzled on top of the slice in the pan).

    Put a Tbs of butter in a frying pan, when it melts and starts to slightly sizzle, that’s the right temp. Add the soaked bread.

    Cook on low heat for a couple of minutes. Turn ONCE (you must have enough heat distribution to cook evenly…) and cook until it puffs up all the way across the piece of bread ( do NOT have the heat so high that the surface starts getting deep brown before this puffing is completed. Turn the heat down to low if need be.) You want the surface turning a light golden brown as the ‘puffing’ has finished and then ‘cruised’ for a minute or two.

    Put the toast on a plate. Smear with room temperature REAL BUTTER. Then drench in slightly warmed REAL MAPLE SYRUP.

    Do not, under any circumstance, use maple flavored corn syrup. It is sticky and thick and makes you thirsty, but makes for a lousy bit of French Toast…

    Some folks like a cinnamon sprinkle. If so, do it lightly. Others like a whipped cream dollop, but I’ve never developed the taste. Resist the urge to add powdered sugar… it just detracts from the Real Maple Syrup…

    The key to this is NOT the technique (though that helps) but the ingredients. Roman Meal Bread works better than any other I’ve found (it’s a ‘sort of a whole wheat’ but with some added flax and other stuff, but without an overbearing flavor or the ‘gritty’ texture of some whole wheat breads). Soaking until it is very much softened and soggy and holds a whole egg is important. An Real Maple Syrup with Real Butter is critical. Cooking through without overcooking the surface is a delicate art, best learned by repeated practice ;-)

  17. j ferguson says:

    @Jeff Alberts

    It’s interesting that the amateurs get a reception from some truckers similar to what “pleasure” boaters get from the tugs and other commercial craft – none.

    In tight waters, it’s often a good idea to negotiate meetings and passings on the radio so as not to cause uncertainty and avoid collision.

    If a pleasure boater calls a tug toward that end and it isn’t absolutely necessary that an agreement be reached, the call is almost always ignored, even though the ColRegs require an answer from a commercial operator.

    I asked one why this had become the norm and was told it was the insurance people in some cases and self protection in others.

    I understand that the coast guard records channel 16, and in the event of a mishap, the recording may not be helpful to the commercial operator in later proceedings so nothing said may be safer than a misunderstanding, particularly where a lot of the tyros out on the water can’t tell their left hand from right, one whistle from two, port from starboard, red side from green side.

    Light flashing and turn signal responses out on the road between truckers and civilians must have gone away relatively recently, though. Odd.

  18. Anthony Watts says:

    Good read. I look like Mike’s description every morning.

    Sorry ’bout the shuttle launch. I saw one in the 80’s and it was the most awesome thing ever.

  19. Jeff Alberts says:

    I’v run into a fair number of Rent-A-RV folks who didn’t know how to drive them (and some that do) so I can see truckers getting tired of them. On the other hand, polite is polite in any case. They do seem to pick up on my being a ‘good guy’ pretty quick. I suspect the word “Diesel” on the tail of the car doesn’t hurt ;-)

    No doubt. And I’ve run into a lot of truckers who think the road belongs to them. Tailgaiting (and that’s not tailgaiting after someone pulled in front of them), speeding, staying in the left lane. Certainly there are a-holes on both sides (commercial and personal), but truckers, being in the large, unwieldy vehicles, have a greater responsibility.

    But what amazed me is the lack of reciprocative courtesy once I showed courtesy and respect.

  20. Tim Clark says:

    I dress intentionally shabby when traveling to avert attention from ~crooks. The pillowcase hair (what’s left) in my case is hereditary. My scheming doesn’t work if the wife gets out all duded up. At least I’ve convinced her to remove jewelry. I’m guessing the Benz would be a big draw.

    Regarding the digging holes with spoons, you need to consider that the current programs we have give money to people for nothing, period. While the spoon method is unproductive economically, it does get them out of the house. If we impose a “must work-select a job from the following list” restriction on welfare allocations perhaps some of those on the dole would be emboldened to actually find a job, knowing they can no longer sit and procreate all day long with the government providing the money.

    For example cleaning up parks, roadside ditches, working on depressed domiciles or on yards in poor areas, work in recycling centers, rebuilding trails in state and national parks, and other similar functions that often times are performed by volunteers.

    For those who refuse to work, why must we support them. It may be our obligation to fellow man to insure they have some basic necessities, but there should be strings attached. Everything you and I do have strings attached. Want a house-pay the mortgage. We are not teaching folks anything with a handout. The smartest among the recipients simply devises a better method to bilk the working class. I would agree to give the basic necessities to non-workers but not under the present system where they get money, aka food stamps, because these can be sold or traded for cash in the black market and the money is used to buy the cigs and booze anyway. Provide a mechanism where the welfare recipients must provide an id and can purchase only basic needs. I know folks on welfare wearing $200 tennis shoes and have cell phones.

    And we have lots of jobs that “Americans won’t do” that are being filled by imported workers (you know what I mean). If those jobs were performed by welfare recipients as a requirement for their needs to be met, perhaps the level of importation would drop.

  21. E.M.Smith says:

    @Anthony: There are still 2 shuttle launches left, same as before I came out. Nothing lost. Got to see an old friend I’ve not visited in a year or three. Got a car out here (that he can use, having had two cease to function…while deciding what to buy). So next trip will be ‘by air’ in one day instead of 3. As long as they don’t put the next launch in a ‘holiday air travel window’, I’ll get to see it… I hope.

    @Tim Clark: My wife has the nice looking Benz’s, I drive the shabby ones. So take a very old car, let it get a week or more of grime on it THEN start the road trip… It looks a bit “poor” from anywhere near close up. (But from the snack shack observer window still looks like a Benz ;-)

    So when we travel as a family I’m on higher alert than when I travel alone.

    Oh, and I’m about 100 kilos and had a few years of Karate training. Not as fast as I was before, but my friends cat tried to jump past me to escape through an open panel in his “Florida Room” and I caught him in mid escape and mid air (much to his surprise…). I also periodically see if I can still catch a fly in flight. While it used to be 100%, I’m now down to about 50 to 70% (depending on temperature and variety of fly…) BUT I’m still snagging them from the air in mid flight. That takes speed.

    So it may be silly on my part, but I think I’m “cammo” enough to avoid most issues (want it or not … damn pillow hair ;-) and if an issue decides to get in my face, well, I’ve got pretty large and very fast hands, that know what to do.

    IIRC, as Governor, Ronald Reagan made it “workfare” and you had to sign up or be shown to have no capacity (i.e. invalid). Welfare rolls dropped a large percent, something like 1/3 ?

    Per the “jobs Americans just won’t do”, that’s just another way of saying the wage is set too low to clear the market.

    If you believe in a market system, then you believe that the pay rate must adjust to match the labor supply. (This works both ways…)

    At the bottom end, a “Minimum Wage” just says more people will be unemployed. If I must pay everyone the same wage, I’m going to hire the fastest most fit employee. The young kid looking for their first job and the old guy who’s slowed way down can go home. I’ll take that 20 something with some experience and speed.

    At the other end, if I’ve got a crap job and most folks can find work they want, I’ve got to raise the wage to get someone to do it. ( I’ve done some of those crap jobs, so no one can tell me “Americans just won’t do them”…) At $100,000 / year, they would be done (as an absurd example), so we’re just haggling over the price now…

    In both cases, it is non-market actions that create the problem. “Minimum wage” assures an unemployed class. “Below clearing wages” used as an excuse to bring in folks who will work for much cheaper just means SOME of the Americans are out of work and that nobody spends money to automate the crap jobs.

    FWIW, I’ve been interviewed at companies that then filled the position with folks on an H1-B visa (even though in theory it isn’t supposed to happen). One of the ‘tricks’ is to set the wage offered so low that only someone from India would take it, then claim no one wanted the job. (I’ve been on the hiring side, too, so know the tricks…) The H1-B visa program is just a way to cheapen the labor cost by raising unemployment and competition in a pool of scare supply.

    But it has a hideous failure mode.

    Not only have I stopped working in I.T. Support but I dissuaded my son from it. Directly as a result of the H1-B Indians making it un-interesting economically. So what it does is to kill your natural corrective mechanism of increased supply from folks choosing to enter the field. You take away the money signal that gets folks to put in the time in school. (And I know this as the demand for classes in I.T. evaporated and I wasn’t needed to teach at the local Community College either…)

    I really do wish politicians would realize that a law degree means they are entirely ignorant of economics. All evidence points in that direction. If they would just stop screwing things up, the system would naturally heal itself.

  22. Malaga View says:

    If they would just stop screwing things up

    And pigs might fly… we can but dream…

    the system would naturally heal itself

    That is not so easy when death has been inflicted by a thousand cuts… each and every one of those cuts has to heal before full health is restored to the system…

  23. gnomish says:

    Hi E.M.
    When I sign a check I add (poa) at the end of the illegible signature. It stands for ‘power of attorney’. That’s because the accounts are not in my name. I’m sure you can see the advantages.
    So I’m looking at houses in Florida this past couple of days. I share an apt with a taxi driver who was parked at the Greyhound terminal and was not making his rent. He’s a pudgy black [gay man]. I’m a skinny straight white dude. I can handle most anything for a while, but this is wearing fast…lol – still, it was a really quick insertion and I had a place to stay and car and was driving around (getting lost all over is a good way to learn a town) in just 2 days.
    Some of the places I’ve seen are abs. gorgeous – just the drive is thrilling beneath a canopy of old growth oaks dripping huge long streamers of spanish moss.
    There is a ‘wrong side of the tracks’ here. The realtors are super cautious about making any racial comment, but they won’t show those places after 11 am – when ppl start waking up. They avoid saying anything quotable but manage to convey the message.
    Let’s see how long it takes me to score a home, eh? I’m skeered of screwing up and wish I had a friend (my wife would be great) here with me.
    Adventure is one thing – and I can handle stress ok, but drama I don’t need.
    I caught a couple of anoles on the deck – if they like it here, I like it too. Having to find shady places to park is a big step up in quality of complaint. Improving one’s complaints is half the battle for quality of life, eh?
    I got a netbook at the pawn shop – but wow do I hate windows 7. It’s linux time. MS, all by itself, neutralizes Moore’s Law. Yuck.
    Anyway – you’re still writing good stuff – like some mutant Garrison Keillor – always interesting and not always heavy.
    ‘Interesting’ is a great agenda! You scrawl with the best of ’em.

  24. E.M.Smith says:

    @Gnomish: Sorry for the delay on your comment. You had a flagged word and ended in the queue… I’ve fixed it…

    Yeah, I understand the “hide the assets” thing. Just don’t see the need for it myself (at least for now).

    And yeah, “warm is good”. I decided that the best guide is to decide what plant you are and look it up in the Sunset Garden Book. I used to think I was a Palm, as the “northern limit of palms” pretty much defined what I thought was OK. Lately I’ve decided I’m more of a Citrus or maybe even an Avocado… Semi-tropical…

    I like the imagery of a mutant Garrison… especially since he looks a bit mutated already ;-) but yes, I’m “just me” and I’m interested in what is, er, interesting. And that leads to so odd mind wanderings. So welcome along on the trek…

    One of my more interesting of life’s moments was when I was awakened by the sound of the beach cleaning machine on a Florida Beach some several decades ago. These things are like street sweepers, but they clean the beach sand instead. It was a warm spring? season and a friend and I had been touring the country in a VW Fastback ’67 vintage. Ran into a spring break? party at Fort (Somewhere) on the beach. I remember a lot of nice folks, and various ‘libations’ being about. And a wonderful time. And getting drowsy and snuggling into the warm beach sand and… then it was morning….

    Odd how a night that cost nearly nothing, and had little other than a nice place and fun people in it, is one of the most cherished of memories…

    I’ve had a great fondness of warm beaches ever since…

    (Odd sidebar: In Santa Cruz, the Liberal Socialist Nazis who run the place can not tolerate such ‘live and let live’ behaviours. There is a strictly enforced 10 pm cutoff on beach access. Now, what make it particularly pernicious, is that while you are supposed to be off the beach at 10 PM, they begin writing parking tickets AT 10 PM SHARP. I once engaged a ticket writer in about 5 minutes of slightly confused directions clarification from my car window with engine running – so I was ticket proof – while a stream of folks dashed to their cars and got away between 10:00 and 10:05 pm … it’s about a 20 minute trek from the beach to the parking area. A regular money maker for them. Oh, and nothing fun on the beach either. The list of prohibited stuff is too long to possibly remember, but things like beer and a fire are clearly good fun, so banned in many parts. So is sleeping on the beach and a load of other things. You are, however, encouraged to look at the beach, then go to town to buy your fun… I no longer go to Santa Cruz. Florida is much more pleasant…)

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