No one wants to be assaulted at work

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Photo by Pixabay

Sexual assault comes in many forms.

Of course, we all know what outright rape is, right? But what about all of the other forms and grades and shades of acting out in a sexual manner against another person? Are those assaults?

I was thinking about this when I read an Indianapolis Star story about an Indiana bar co-owner who banned a patron from his pub because the 60-year-old customer kept making sexual remarks to female staff members.

The man said his remarks would have been OK 20 years ago. But were they really? Or did men just think they were?

I’ve waited tables and have experienced many types of sexual behavior from patrons. When I was 16 years old, I was a junior waitress in a small-town restaurant. Being a junior waitress meant I did all of the other things the regular waitresses did, but I couldn’t carry alcohol to and from tables.

I can’t count the number of times men said or did sexual things to me. One man asked if I was “wearing underwear under that cute uniform.” Another grabbed my butt as I took the order of those at his table. Another patted me on the butt every time he came in. And yet another would lean back in his chair every time I squeezed by so his back brushed against my chest. And all of those things happened when I was 16!

I’m not happy with myself that I didn’t report all of those things to my boss. I’m sure he would’ve behaved like the above-mentioned bar co-owner. But I was afraid I would lose a job I desperately needed. My father had been laid off and I was literally helping pay the bills for a short time. (I didn’t mention those incidences to my dad either, so don’t blame him for anything here.)

People who wait tables are supposed to smile and be friendly, no matter what. Your tips depend on how you interact with the customer. And your tips are basically the majority of your pay. Besides, the customer is always right, right?

“… the dark side of this business is we run into some pretty horrible goblin people,” Black Acre Brewing Co. co-owner Jordan Gleason said in a Facebook post he wrote that has gone viral. “Folks who think that just because we’re serving, we don’t deserve any basic decency or respect…Here’s the thing though, women in this field get infinitely more disgustingly treated. The sheer number of times they get groped, or harassed, or treated like objects would blow your mind. The worst of it is how normal their harassers think their behavior is…

“Men, we often don’t see the level of filth that our friends, sisters, and mothers go through every day. We hope to surround ourselves with people who would never treat a woman like that. We live in a safe little bubble. But the reality of this thing? It’s an insidious disease that’s happening every single day…”

I’m so proud of this manager for standing up to this customer and for the female staff at his establishment.

It’s time for all men to stand up for women, stop treating us like objects and stop making unwanted sexual remarks and advances.

Don’t you agree?

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I’m in love with my car

I love my car

I clearly remember the first time I saw her, all sleek and scarlet under the portico of the dealership. She was a bright slash of color upon a dreary winter landscape. It was the day before Christmas and I was immediately in love.

It took three long days to make her mine. That was 20 years ago and we’re still together, my Camaro and me. It’s the best relationship I’ve ever had.

I was down and nearly out. It was the holidays and I had never been so lonely. And then there she was, calling out to me in a way that my soul heard and answered.

Cam, who I lovingly call my “autonomous mobile,” has taken me places I never thought I would go. She has carried me to awesome people and events, and away from bad people and places. She has protected me and been a place of refuge, serenity and joy. She pulled me out of the dark and continues to show me light. She has been more than a car for so long that she’s like a person to me and the other people in my life who love her.

People ask about her wherever I go, and I can’t count the number of times people have linked her with me.

“Oh, that beautiful red car that I’ve seen on Front Street?” I was once asked by a pharmacist who knew where I worked when I told her I had a sweet Camaro.

I’ve been asked about her at the dentist, the doctor, the post office, the grocery store. I’ve had people tell me they have seen her driving places and asked where she was going. How could you not smile at that?

Children especially love my car. Maybe it’s her face, which always looks like she’s smiling. Maybe it’s the Transformers Autobot logos on her front fenders. Maybe she just speaks to them like she spoke to me all those winters ago.

I love to talk about Cam and answer questions about her. I once met a young boy at a car show and he was drawn to Cam. He told me he was always being picked on by other children. He talked with me about being different, and I told him how I understood that and that you can find someone who is like you if you keep looking.

The following year, I was polishing Cam’s taillights at the annual car show when I heard an excited group of children near her front end. I looked up and there was that boy, with five other children. They were all talking about the Autobot emblems and how cool my car is.

“Yeah, but I know her,” the boy said. “This is Cam. She’s my friend.”

Tears welled up in my eyes as the other children whooped and hollered, clapping him on the back and giving him high fives. He launched into details about her that I had shared with him the year before and then he introduced me to his new friends. Their respect for him was apparent. I was so proud.

That’s my Cam, making friends and mending hearts.

Another time, I came out of work to see two young girls hanging out by my car. Now, I’m a little territorial about Cam, but it was obvious pretty quickly that the preteens weren’t up to no good.

Their eyes widened as I put my key in the lock and opened the door.

“This is your car?” one of them asked me. “We never thought it belonged to a girl!”

The other girl looked down and the one who spoke continued.

“We come and visit your car some days when we’re down,” she said. “It makes us feel better.”

I told them about meeting Cam and how she always makes me feel better, every single time I see her, all these years later. Then, the quiet girl spoke up.

“I’m glad you have her,” she said. “I don’t really have anybody.”

I told her and her friend that they could come and visit Cam anytime they wanted to. The girl who did most of the talking then hugged me. And when the quiet girl looked at me questioningly, I hugged her. Then they skipped down the street.

Cam strikes again.

Do you love your car? Tell me in the comments below. And if this post speaks to you, please share it with others.

You never know who’s watching and learning from you

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I was just at a CVS drug store with my 71-year-old dad, who asked me to come and help him do some shopping. He had a kind of long list and was going to use a credit card for the first time.

Now to those of us who have been using cards forever, that sounds like no big deal. But my dad has always been a cash-only kind of guy. He recently got the card, and he decided to try it out on this list of vitamins and medicine, which can get pricey really quick.

I hunted down the majority of the things he needed while he picked out one or two items. When we got to the register, I showed him how to slide the card through the machine. No luck there; it’s one of those newer chip cards. I could tell from the sigh he let out that he would’ve given up right then, when the message said, “Insert card below.”

But I then showed him how to put it into the reader and wait for it to approve the purchase. I then handed him the electronic “pen” and showed him where and how to sign. He paused after writing his first name and I knew what he was thinking.

“The signature won’t look just like yours,” I said gently, before he then continued to sign.

He put the pen back in the holder and I smiled and said, “See, that’s all there is to it.”

We headed for his car and I put his bags in the trunk. Before we left the lot, he asked me if I gotten an item we had put to the side because he wanted to pay cash for something. I headed back into the store to retrieve and pay for it.

An older woman was coming out of the store and said to me, “That was wonderful. I just told my grandkids to watch you, because I thought your patience was a beautiful thing to see.”

“I just love my dad,” I said, and thanked her for the compliment.

I grinned from ear to ear. I was just helping my dad do something he didn’t understand. But I made this woman’s day and taught her grandchildren a lesson in patience, she said.

That goes to show you never know who’s watching you and what they are learning from you. What are you teaching people today?

I’m definitely back in the Midwest…

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After living in various parts of the country, and recently moving to a new one, I have realized that you can tell where you are by traditions, “customs” and quirks in different areas.

For instance, even if I was blindfolded, I could tell I’m in the Midwest by things such as:

  • Having the choice between unsweetened tea and what is known as sweet tea (sometimes pronounced as one word – sweettea): And if you don’t specify which one you want, you get something as sweet and sometimes as thick and syrupy as pancake topping. Shudder. (This is also prevalent in the South.)
  • Being called hon (short for honey), darlin’ or sweetie (they also do this in the South): It wasn’t until a waitress said that to me in my first week back in the Midwest that I realized I have been doing that to other people for years. It’s a habit of years of Southern and Midwestern living.
  • Every driver in every direction pulling off the road for a funeral procession: In some states, it’s the law that funeral processions get the right of way. But in the Midwest, and even more so in the South, it’s the people’s law that you pull over, now, and wait until the last car has gone by. I like it.
  • Roadside memorials: Yes, I realize people do this all across the country, but nowhere else (except maybe the South) do they go all out, and even put flowers and other objects at them for years after someone died in a traffic accident. I’ve seen memorials that are fresh and clean more than 20 years after they were started.
  • Rural driving: When you are driving rural, stop signs are just suggestions and there are no speed limits. And tractor trailers on interstates in rural areas refuse to move over when you’re getting on. I’ve had to almost come to a complete stop, because a big truck just wouldn’t move. You have to drive defensively in the country far more than anywhere else.
  • Flowers in the cemetery: There is a huge local cemetery that is always heavily decorated, year round. I assumed that the cemetery workers do this or maybe the funeral homes. After all, many graves go unvisited and even neglected in most of the cemeteries I have visited. However, I asked a relative about this the other day and he told me the families and others left behind do the decorating. “Wait until it gets warm out,” he said. “You’ll see people out there having full picnics at many of the stones.” All I can say to that is wow.

And then there have been things that have caught me by surprise here, such as:

People often mispronounce words or use the wrong words. (A few examples: 1. I was helping a woman today with her computer and she told me I needed to launch Godzilla if I wanted to get on the Internet. I had no idea what she meant until she pointed at Mozilla Firefox. 2. I was at my local library’s coffee stand and the woman at the counter told me they only had “two of these lovely blueberry sconces left.” Needless to say, those were not things to hang on the wall to light up the place, but rather delicious scones. 3. A waitress asked me the other day if I wanted naynays on my sandwich. A dining partner had to tell me that was a local pronunciation of mayonnaise.)

A trip to my local Walmart (the most affordable grocery choice for a writer trying to make a living on her own) brought anger from a sales clerk. I had been told the store price-matches other stores; you just have to tell them the price and where else it is and they’re supposed to match it. I’ve been having great luck with that (and have gotten some good deals without having to go from store to store for things I want/need) until a clerk on a recent trip angrily whipped out her phone and spent nearly 10 minutes keeping me and everyone else in line waiting while she tried to find the ad I was talking about. Was the 18 cents off per can coming directly out of her paycheck?

A trip to my local Goodwill store for used books brought an interesting encounter with a judgmental sales clerk. I asked whether they had any books from the “Twilight” series. (I’ve been upgrading my paperbacks to hardbound books when I can find them reasonably priced and in good condition.) The clerk glared at me and said, twice, “We don’t carry THOSE kinds of books.” When I asked her what she meant, she said they don’t stock books with the devil or vampires in them. (However, they did have many religious books, which some of them no doubt mention Satan…)

And here is one of my favorite encounters. A trip to my local library brought even more judgment. I saw on a shelf a book called “The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a F*ck.” As I smiled and jokingly apologized to the older women at the checkout counter about the title, one crossed her arms and said, “Oh, we know what book THAT is.” Another said, “I don’t approve of THAT word.” The great thing was when I said, “Well, I thumbed through the book and it looks like it has some great lessons in it, like not caring what other people think,” the irony sailed right over their heads.

What traditions, “customs” or quirks do people have where you live? Leave a comment below. And if you enjoyed this post, please share it with family and friends, and on social media!

You aren’t what you eat; you’re what you do

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I recommend changing careers if you wake up one day and realize that the thing that has always made you happy is making you deeply unhappy.

Oh, it isn’t like it happened to me overnight. It was more of a wearing-down-over-time kind of thing. First, an unkind boss and then the company becomes less than caring paired with long hours and low pay and there I was wondering, “What am I doing here?”

So now I’m on one of the biggest adventures of my life. I made the best plan I could, fashioned a type of parachute moneywise and jumped out of the corporate plane for freedom. And I’m not looking back.

I decided that rather than write and edit for someone else to make them money, I would write and edit for myself to make me money. It’s exciting and fun and scary as hell.

They say you never know what you’re made of until you risk it all and find out. Well, I’m finding out, day by day. It’s been nearly five months since I left my job of 10 1/2 years. It was a job I loved, until it wasn’t.

The pay was never great; the hours were terrible. Sure, I could take a long lunch often when I wanted to, go to the office later in the day if I needed to and make up hours sometimes when I wanted to. Sometimes, I was even allowed to work from home.

But there were times when I called in sick and I would get asked, “Are you sure you can’t make it in anyway? What’s wrong with you? We need you here.” I once worked a 15-hour day, and workdays that lasted 10 hours or more were not the exception, but rather the rule. Some weeks, my dog walker saw my dog more than I did.

For years, I wasn’t allowed to take vacation when I wanted to, and sometimes not at all. There were years when I was told, “You can take one of these weeks here, or don’t go.” Honestly. I have the emails to prove it.

I missed events I had bought tickets to, family events, things I wanted to do with friends and even funerals of family members. I missed too many holidays to count because I HAD to be at the office.

More than one man broke up with me because I always had to put my job first. I never met a relationship that stood up to that test, at least not for very long.

But that is all behind me now and I’m working for myself. I can spend the day in my pajamas if I want to, watching episode after episode of “Star Trek” (The Original Series) and I have. I can also write all day, but do it in my pajamas if I want to, like I did today. I can play hooky when I want to, and I am spending a lot of time with my dad, my last family member. See, two years ago, I lost other family members, unexpectedly, in the space of a few months. That can really change how you think about your life and what it means to really live it.

After I grieved until I could grieve no more (although that never really ends), I took a look around and thought about the time I have left in life. After all, maybe I won’t live to be as old as I want to be. My mom didn’t. She had dreams and goals and things she was going to do. And then she was no more, and the dreams and goals and things were gone. Because of that, I thought about what I really want, and want I really don’t want. Lo and behold, that job was the first thing that I no longer wanted.

I’m freelancing now, and working on a few books. I spend time with my German shepherd and we go for a lot of walks. She loves chasing her tennis ball in a field near where we live in the little town into which I have disappeared. She’s snoring away at my feet as I write this. But it has been hard to find a groove, to set and/or stick to any kind of schedule, to get things figured out.

Turns out that when all you are is what you do, you don’t quite know who you are when you don’t do that anymore. That’s OK. I’m happy now. And that’s what really matters.

If there is something in this post that speaks to you, please share it with family and friends.

Why do people have to suffer from cancer?

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For months, people have been talking about Joey Feek, the country singer who battled cervical cancer for a year and a half.

This includes people like me, who had never listened to the music of country duo Joey + Rory until recently. According to Rory Feek’s blog, This Life I Live, his 40-year-old wife lost her battle at 2:30 this afternoon. She had been in a deep sleep for days, her morphine dosage upped to help ease her pain.

I’ve been following the couple’s story for a couple of months. I can’t tell you why. Nor do I know why others have been so captured by it. Some people say it’s because of the strength and dignity with which the star has been handling her death. It isn’t wrong that the young mother of a just-turned-2-year-old is getting the attention, but haven’t many thousands, or even millions, of people all around the globe been doing the same thing for untold years?

Is that the key – that Joey’s story is touching the rest of our lives because we have experienced something similar on some level?

Because every time I read something about Joey, I think about my mom’s last days, spent in a hospice bed, surrounded by people who loved her, dying of more than one form of cancer. She faced it with dignity, too. I remember the last conversation we had, while she was in that bed, four days before she died. We remembered many things from the past, we said things we needed to say, but most of all we laughed laughs that needed to be laughed. We also tried to say goodbye, but it is impossible for me to judge how well we did that.

Those days were gut-wrenching, and so have been these days, watching and waiting for Joey to win or lose her battle. These days also have me asking questions.

Why can’t we solve the puzzle and cure cancer? Especially in the United States, where we have people who have millions of dollars, why can’t we get this mission accomplished? Companies spend millions, maybe even billions, of dollars, on testing makeup on animals (which is so wrong), but we could be using that money to find the cure for a disease that is killing in ever-more-increasing numbers.

And why do people have to spend their last days in waste and pain? We allow our animals to go with dignity, but we mostly won’t allow it for our people. Judging by how many people treat animals, I wouldn’t say the majority of people love them more than people, would you?

But we do allow our animals to go when it’s time. And it appears to be peaceful. I have had three German Shepherds who needed to be put to sleep when their illnesses (cancer for each of them, how ironic is that?) became unbearable. And I held each of them while they appeared to fall asleep and then their hearts stopped beating.

I was also holding my mom when she left this world, but those last four days were filled with constant worrying about and monitoring of her pain, and her crying out here and there when the medicine wasn’t working so well. Why, when there is absolutely no hope, can we not do the same thing for people, end their suffering?

I certainly think it could be a slippery slope from OKing death to sanctioning killing. But when we have the capability to do for people what we can do for animals, why the double standard?

If this topic means something to you, please share it with others and/or comment. I’d love to hear from you.

Have gun, will see movie

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I’ve been in love with Ancient Egypt since I was a little kid, so of course I was going to see “Gods of Egypt” this week.

However, what happened in the lobby after the film put a damper on my outright joy about the astonishing special effects and gorgeousness of the movie. My happiness turned to fear the minute I saw the gun.

There I was with a friend one minute, laughing and joking, excitedly talking about the film. The next minute, she got quiet and asked me, “Do you see that guy with the gun?”

I froze. I felt cold all over. And then I began looking to see what she was talking about. About 15 feet away was a man at the concessions counter with a semi-automatic in a holster on his hip. He didn’t look like a cop; he was dressed in a sweatshirt and jeans, was older and balding.

My friend and I talked about what we should do. The man seemed to just be getting popcorn. But what if he was dangerous? What if he had come to the theater to kill people? In a week where there have been two mass shootings in our country, and a two-month period where there have been a reported 34 mass shootings in the U.S., that didn’t seem like a stretch to me. And that very thing had happened in Aurora, Colorado, in July 2012; a man opened fire in a movie theater and killed 12 people.

“Do you think he’s law enforcement?” my friend asked me in a hushed tone. “That’s a pretty serious-looking gun.”

Indeed it was. I’ll admit it – I was really scared.

“What if he’s crazy?” I answered.

“Think I should ask him why he has it?” I almost asked, and then immediately pictured him pulling it out and shooting me in the chest as soon as I asked why he had the gun.

“Well, if I report him to someone from the theater,” I said out loud, “I would hate for him to be crazy and then I would be responsible for that person getting shot.”

We discussed the man for only a few minutes, but it seemed like forever. My eyes never left the gun at his side.

Finally, my friend’s friend had arrived for the movie they were going to see. We headed for the ticket counter and my good sense finally kicked in, or maybe my curiosity got the best of me. I asked the girl at the counter, “Did you know that man has a firearm?”

She was the one who looked panicked now, and she quickly said, “No,” and radioed for a manager.

I pointed him out and the manager approached him. A minute later, she laughed and headed back toward us. Turns out she knew a man the man with the gun was with, and he was involved with law enforcement.

A family member told me later that it’s the law in this state that you’re allowed to carry a gun in the open as long as it is clearly visible. OK, I guess, but I have some questions.

If that man was law enforcement, why did he need a gun in a movie theater on a Saturday when he was clearly not on duty? Did anyone else see that gun and get scared witless like me? Sure, maybe it would be good to have a person trained in shooting if someone else went off the rails and opened fire, but how are the rest of us supposed to know who is who anymore?

If this topic means something to you, please share it with others and/or comment. I’d love to hear from you.