Sunday, April 23, 2017

Panera Bread

Wouldn't  it be funny if I drink and others take opioids for good reason, and it's not a social or individual illness but is instead a proper response to something very wrong all around us?

It is so jarring to me when I head out of town to see so many cheerful people prosecuting their days. The highly presentable folks who work Verizon, who still can't either explain or probably understand themselves how their various plans work. They go from various pieces of bedrock to point their compass. But banter among themselves establishes some disagreement and none of it conforms to the fine print on the Verizon website.

A young nice-looking fellow with costly hair (I wonder if they get a uniform subsidy in that way?) tried to disarm me right up front by suggesting that like all companies, Verizon is purposefully vague, since they want to get you in the door to upsell. How would I ever establish mis-representation?

There was too much of a waiting line to ask my questions earlier, and so I'd made an appointment, and while I tried my best to be docile and serene, just simply my line of questioning must have left the guy on edge. We left on good terms, but now I was hungry, having spent the morning rounding up still more supplies to calibrate my little a-frame caravan for vagabonding.

I have fond enough feelings for Panera Bread. It doesn't seem to overfill me, and I can split a salad with a sandwich. Mainly their dark roast coffee is killer. I did an academic conference in St. Louis where I discovered  that some little place with a different name was the original Panera Bread. I'd ridden into downtown on a very nice light rail from the airport, where I was pretty much the only white person. I wandered the neighborhood of the hotel, near the River, and while it wasn't exactly pedestrian friendly, the city had a nice overall vibe, at least to Buffalo born me.

Now I guess I know that the home office store has the same special vibe which Sam Walton's five and dime did when I visited that by motorcycle, bizarrely innocent of what Walmart meant since at that time, it hadn't made it to Buffalo yet. Although Big Box churches already had.

Anyhow, Panera is a magnet for the well-coiffed educated set, tending toward the feminine side. A nice black fellow with dreadlocks waited on me and while he toted me up I was reminded of the last time I'd ever visit a Goodyear tire store. The nickels and dimes add up to real money, of the sort you might spend for a night out at a good restaurant. I had to check my cheap genes just to avoid the embarrassment of bolting out the door..

I suppose it's like roadside motels; you pay for the class of people you wish to associate with and if you've got it it's worth it. Next to me while I munched my $.99 cent "bakery item" waiting for my table-specific geolocator to deliver my "pick-two," was an incredibly nice and intelligent young fellow - looking rather better educated, a bit older, and certainly better heeled than the Verizon folks - He was explaining to a somewhat dowdy looking woman of my age how he would advise her to steward her retirement funds. He was earnest, thorough, and seemed to be quite honest. I wanted to butt in and ask for his card since he was so much more thorough than my guy, but I couldn't quite muster the courage to admit to my eavesdropping.

So, you know, I imagine Panera wants to do well by its peeps. After I Apple-paid, the nice clerk said that there would be one more thing for me to do after touch id to pay. I laughed. It was a tip request, and while I somewhat question the propriety of tip jars where there isn't any service of the type I mean when I use the term, I happily complied. Price of all the smiles.

I don't really know, and I'm not sure I really care why being good to your inside peeps has to mean screwing your clients, but I guess the main point is to keep things just shy of that false smile on everyone's face. Even at Verizon where the screwing almost pops out of the pants, they seem quite expert at keeping it happy. Even the appointment part. (Are you kidding me?) We saw what happened to United. Maybe we'll slap Volkswagen-scale punitive damages on them all someday.

So this morning yet another Eagle Scout type from the right wing had had enough with delays to execution and summarily offed a guy who seemed to have a pretty good claim to innocence. There are so very many ways that I can't understand this stuff. I witnessed my own daughter, who is also on the Innocence Project, try to argue parole for this guy who had clearly invented an entire new and decent identity across over 35 years of incarceration. I felt I was watching Greek drama, as he spoke and as the parole board returned a denial. He had witnesses from the community, promises of work, endorsements from his jailers. My daughter tells me that all the parole board wanted was admission of guilt for a murder he was complicit with. He fully admitted guilt, but maintained a story at vague odds with the one the board seemed to want to hear. He was not the one who inflicted the blows, and maintained he was not in the sanctuary - scene of the crime - at the time.

So what I don't get is why it is we make all these fine distinctions. Were I in prison, I'm pretty sure that life under unmonitored and uncensored and unrestricted administrative control would be far worse than to die by choice. The only thing that I can understand is that they are able to keep that edge of decency because virtually all of the people incarcerated have never known anything better. So naturally, they want to live, since life on the inside isn't that much worse than life on the outside. I'm sure there's terror, but overall there's predictability.

I suppose that this might even explain why there is a school to prison railroad for black folks. Not so much a racialist conspiracy as a self-magnifying process of accommodation to life as it's actually experienced. There is never any incentive to comply with authority if it starts off bad from every beginning.

I also don't get why chemical weapons are any more reprehensible than the collateral damage we cause by our not-quite-smart-enough drone weaponry. Of course I agree that chemical weapons should be "outlawed" but at some point the maker of the law is always exempting himself. As though there were a maker of world order, right? In my nightmares, or in any number of High Castle type serialized reels.

So what blows my mind, really, is the happiness bordering on joy of  those on the winning side of life's lotteries. Don't they know the ship is sinking? Aren't they aware that a psychopath is in charge and that those privileged enough to spend quality time in the White House ought to be staying at the Motel 6 like I do? I suppose there's no accounting for taste, but I mean really!!? Kid Rock, Ted Nugent and Sarah Palin get the insider's full attention tour??

It does seem as though the world is splitting between those who can afford to be oblivious since the world doesn't impinge much on them (or is it us?). Laughing children, smiling friends, nice clothes, nice cars, calm enough to wait for pedestrians, although even in a luxury car, the traffic gets annoying.

The rest are on sufferance and know it, held at bay by high-tech surveillance and SWAT which could swoop in at any moment, should the need arise. Do I long for the days when young fellows from the city would dare to swipe my bicycle from my suburban garage? Perhaps. It meant that they could still arrive unnoticed, and depart the same way. Or who knows, it could have been my neighbors, and I was buying a story that I'd been told.

Anyhow, no more Panera Bread for me. The price isn't worth the cost in purchased fantasy. Sad descent from fine origins, overtaken by Wall Street grade aggrandizement. Let us now enjoy our daily Ritz.

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