Wallet Load

The Bus-Riding Conservative has long been a proponent of zerOz wallets — a local business, found just a few doors down from the firm, that makes a very snappy alternative to the regular male wallet.  His persistent advocacy has encouraged many of the members of our lunch bunch to become converts, and now they too tout the many advantages of the zerOz option.  It’s almost to the point that we can’t go to lunch without somebody boasting about the coolness of their particular zerOz.

IMG_0949I’ve resisted, mostly due to inertia, but when Kish became a committed zerOz proselyte and got me one for my birthday I knew further resistance was futile.  Like a new member of the Borg, it was time for me to throw in the towel and be assimilated into the zerOz Nation.  Yesterday I emptied out my old wallet and tried to decide what I really needed in my new zerOz — because the whole idea is to get rid of all of the random crap that you’ve stored in the old wallet and skinny down to what is really needed.

My old wallet wasn’t quite in Costanza territory, but it was pretty bulky, and I got a laugh out of the amazing amount of stuff that came out of its many nooks and crannies.  Two different grocery store “advantage cards,” three hotel rewards cards, and three health care cards.  Long-forgotten cards from shops and restaurants where you get a free lunch or pound of coffee after ten punch-outs.  Countless heavily creased and well-worn handwritten scraps of paper that was supposed to remind me of where I parked in the blue lot at the airport.  Random business cards from people I’ve met over the years and not met or spoken to since.  The band I took off a cigar that I particularly enjoyed.  And a handwritten note from the host of the Belvedere Ice Room in Whistler, Canada with the name of the Polish vodka that tasted like pure water.  (It’s Uluvka, for the record.)

What will I do without all of this unused stuff in my wallet?  Walk a little taller and without listing to the wallet side, I guess.

A Return To Normalcy

Ninety six years ago this month, in Ohio Senator Warren G. Harding’s successful campaign for the presidency, he gave a famous speech about how, in the wake of World War I and the negotiation of the ultimately disastrous Versailles treaty and the invasion of the deadly Spanish flu and countless reform measures enacted by Woodrow Wilson and the progressives, what America really needed was a “return to normalcy.”

1145-004-a9d837e7Harding’s speech drew a lot of criticism from the intelligentsia, who noted that “normalcy” wasn’t even a word until then.  But it was Harding, not the sophisticates, who had accurately assessed the national mood, and the common folks got the point that he was trying to make.  They were tired of disruption and wanted nothing more than a chance to go back to the way things were, and they voted for him in one of the greatest landslides in American politics.  (Three years later, Harding was dead of a massive cerebral hemorrhage, his personal affairs became the talk of Washington, and now his administration is generally regarded as one of the most corrupt and scandal-filled in history, adding to the Buckeye State’s generally crappy record when it comes to Presidents.)

I thought of poor old Warren G. today, when — after long weeks of dust in the air and on everything, of workers stripping out the old, tiling, sanding, installing, and painting, I was finally able to take a steaming hot shower in our freshly remodeled upstairs bathroom.  Sure, I admit that not having an upstairs bathroom doesn’t really compare to the doughboys marching off to fight in the Great War and a global pandemic and the bloody end to countless monarchies, but I felt a desire for a return to normalcy nevertheless.

Warren G. Harding may have been an inept leader and a cad, but at least he could put his finger on an important concept.  I’ll be glad to get back to the way things were.

Counting

We learned some things so long ago that we have no recollection of the process.  The words “Mom” and “Dad” and the names of our siblings.  That you don’t stick your hand into an open flame or onto a glowing red burner.  Simple temporal concepts, like “today” and “yesterday” and “tomorrow” and “later.”

And basic words.  Anybody who has children knows that kids typically learn the words “yes” and “no” some time before the age of two and then stubbornly and infuriatingly speak, shout, or scream the word “no” exclusively for the next 12 months.

countingBut counting comes later, along with learning your ABCs.  Counting is a building block for math, just like learning the alphabet is a building block for reading and spelling.  When you think about it, counting is a fairly sophisticated concept.  First you grasp the difference between none, one, and many — and then you learn that specific words and symbols represent precise numbers of, say, the little meatballs in the Chef Boyardee spaghetti that your Mom served for lunch.

One of the challenges of counting, of course, is that the words that represent the numbers, and their progression, aren’t intuitive.  I thought of counting and its challenges when I stumbled across this article about the words “eleven” and “twelve” and their history.  For many kids, the numbers between 10 and 20 are the big challenge because they’re weird and not consistent with the concepts that come before (between 1 and 10) or after (for 20 and up).  To this day, I think the only reason I know the world “delve” is because of the rhyme I learned about counting as a kid.  (“Eleven, twelve, dig and delve.”)

So where did eleven and twelve come from?  According to etymologists, both come from the root word “lif,” which apparently meant “to leave” — the concept being that 11 would mean one left after 10, and 12 would mean two left after 10.  It’s weird, and something that would forever after cause kids learning to count to stumble and hesitate after then got to 10, but it’s not unique to English — when you learn how to count in French, at least, you encounter the same issue and strange words just after “dix”.

That suggests that, in the early days among the common folk, most people didn’t need to routinely count up to 573, or for that matter much past ten.  That makes sense, because we’ve got ten fingers and kids learning to count often do so using their fingers.  Our ancestors created special words for the numbers just past ten, but at a certain point they probably just shrugged and settled for “many” rather than going for precision.

Lots of kids learning to count would like to have taken the same approach.

Crossroads Of The Country


This morning finds me at the Hilton hotel at the Chicago O’Hare Airport.  And when I say “at the airport,” I mean at the airport — as in, right on the airport grounds, so that you see the Hilton sign dead ahead when your plane pulls into its gate at Concourse G.

How many thousands of people have been to meetings at the venerable O’Hare Hilton and roamed its sprawling, gently curving, utterly generic hallways?  It’s the perfect spot for business meetings of people from diverse locations, at one of our busiest airports, with great connections, smack dab in the middle of the country.  For that same reason, a visit to the O’Hare Hilton is the ultimate in transitory experiences.

Last night I flew into O’Hare, walked to the Hilton, and had dinner in one of its restaurants.  Today I’ll go to a meeting in one of its conference rooms, eat the conference room breakfast and lunch offerings, and fly out tonight — all without ever setting foot outside the airport grounds.

When I get back to Columbus and someone asks how my trip to Chicago was, I’ll say I didn’t go there– I just went to the O’Hare Hilton.

Airport Chic

  
The B concourse at Port Columbus has undergone a bit of a facelift, and the renovation process has addressed two of the new issues raised by modern travel.

First, what should be placed right beyond the TSA checkpoints, to help those sock clad, disassembled travelers who emerge stumbling from the process, holding up their pants, clutching belt and shoes, and trying to navigate their roller boards past the other huddled masses?  Port Columbus has come up with star-shaped benches just after the TSA area that seem to work pretty well as a drop bags, shoe-tying, put yourself back together gathering point.

Second, what about seating areas at the gates?  Before, the airport just had rows of back seats; the new feature is serpentine pods with low tables that look like the interior of the Jetsons’ house.  The black seats are still there, but the serpentine seats at least break up the monotony.  You’re not going to use them if you need to charge your devices, though.

  

Birthday Wishes

  
Today is my birthday.

It’s great to live in modern times because, among other things, it’s easier to wish people happy birthday, and in more communication methods and forms, than ever before.  I’ve received grossly inappropriate, unforgivably ageist cards from family and friends, Facebook congratulations from pals old and new and a post from UJ with a picture of us as toddlers, text message birthday greetings, and nice emails from clients and colleagues.  It’s been great to be the target of so many good wishes.

I’ve even received happy birthday emails from my optometrist, my periodontist, and the America Red Cross.  I suppose there’s a kind of message there, too.