Skip to main content


Showing posts with the label consumerCulture

A Moral Quandary at the McDonald's Kiosk

This wasn't the first kiosk at McDonald's that I had ever seen. But the first time, it had been optional to use it. Rest assured that I ordered and paid the old-fashioned way.

But today I wasn't even given the choice. The young punk was loud and aggressive about it. I dutifully walked over to the kiosk. But then something deep-within began to express itself.  I starting digging in my heels. Of course he thought that a stupid old man just couldn't figure the thing out, so, before my moral protest had time to get properly organized, he came over, asked the usual questions, and pushed the appropriate buttons.

So why couldn't he have done all that at the cash register -- the old-fashioned way? His final question was, "Pay with your card here, or with cash?" I actually paused and started to get curt. But he assured me that paying cash was still an option, although we had to walk to a special cash register to do it. Why couldn't we have done that right from t…

When Is It Time to Renounce Folly?

I've had thousands of chances to drive off, after a bicycle ride, and forget something -- like a front wheel. And yet I never did so until recently. Although I knew the spot where I left the front wheel, it wasn't lying there when I returned two days later. Infuriating!

Add this wheel to other casualties over the years, such as the $120 hiking poles I left behind, once.

After this incident I have started to put the front wheel in the van first, since forgetting the rest of bike is less likely. How much thinking was required to make this trivial improvement? And yet, it takes a surprising amount of persistence to form a new habit.

So why didn't I think of this 40 years ago? When my grandfather was in his seventies, he once told me, 'A young man just lets things happen to him. He doesn't think about the consequences of what he does.'


I own several pricey cylindrical flashlights. They were purchased after a great deal of 'd…

The Purple Papoose, Part 2

Bounteous. It is a pretty word that doesn't get used much. It has an interesting etymology. It is the best word I can think of for a recent experience with a seamstress. That isn't where you would expect to have a memorable experience.

Consider how difficult it is for travelers, especially unmarried men, to get any garment repaired. Even if they are married, most gringas these days can barely sew; or they consider it beneath them because it is sexist and traditional, almost to the point of being neolithic.

First of all, you must find the seamstress. They tend not to have webpages or billboards. Sometimes there is a simple, hand-written card on the bulletin board in a laundromat. That is where my luck started. If the seamstress is more of a tailor, she will be busy with wedding dresses, and not have time for old-fashioned, low-cost repairs.

Woe unto you if you bring her an unclean garment for repair. That is the sort of blunder that a male neanderthal is prone to.

I drove up to he…

Retro-Grouch at the Laundromat

I thought it was a bad idea whose time had come...and passed. But there it was, staring at me, once again.

Quarters aren't accepted by an ultra-modern laundromat, like this one. Now you must waste money to buy a plastic card even before putting a balance on the card that lets you do laundry. Yea, like that is really advantageous for the traveler who is only going to be there once.

Of course there were complex instructions for paying for the card itself, then putting a balance on the card, then inserting it into the washing machine (once chance in four of getting it right), and then pulling it out at the right speed so it actually begins working. I have seen a poor attendant have to help every other customer with these damn things!

I actually groaned out-loud when I walked into thisbusiness and saw the bad news. I was traveling with a European friend for a week. Recognizing all the telltale signs of an incipient rant, they started looking for a fire extinguisher to spray me down.

This …