Bed Tax

The other day when I checked out of my hotel in Minneapolis I saw that the bill included a “bed tax.”  I think the tax came to $17.98, or some odd number like that.

Bed taxes are just another way for municipalities to raise revenue — I get that.  Minneapolis isn’t alone; you see bed taxes in lots of places.  Sometimes they are levied for specific projects, like building a sports stadium or supporting local arts, and sometimes they just go into the city’s general fund.  Either way, they’re smart taxes from a political standpoint.  You don’t tax the residents who have voting power, all of whom have their own beds; instead, you fleece the business traveler who’s just in town for the night and needs to rent a bed.  And most business travelers aren’t going to get bent out of shape for paying another $17.98, or $22.37, or whatever the “bed tax” is — especially when it’s combined with a “state occupancy tax” and, in some jurisdictions, a “hospitality tax” or other random taxes that are attached to hotel bills.

It’s all an accepted part of doing business for state and local governments, but as I looked at my bill it got me to thinking.  What if the bed tax were calculated on the size and quality of the bed — say, as determined by certified “bed inspectors”?  If I’m going to be taxed for a bed, shouldn’t some government flunky be assessing whether it’s truly tax-worthy?  Shouldn’t a king-sized bed with a nice firm mattress and crisp, clean sheets pay more of a bed tax than an aging queen with a sagging mattress that you sink into and that causes you to wake up with a backache?  And how should the number and utility of pillows that need to be tossed onto the floor enter into the taxation equation?

For that matter, perhaps the “hospitality tax” should be based on how much hospitality the weary traveler actually receives from locals.  If you had a hospitality inspector making judgments on appropriate tax levels, you might encourage some places to up their game in the welcoming department.  New York City, I’m looking at you!

 

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45 Rattlers

A homeowner who lived near Abilene, Texas was experiencing some trouble with his cable TV feed after the area experienced some high winds, so he crawled into the space under his house to check his connections.  That turned out to be a mistake.  When the homeowner saw “a few” snakes in the crawlspace, he beat a hasty retreat, decided he needed professional help, and called Big Country Snake Removal.

rattlesnakes20in20texas20_op_1_cp__1553128408650.jpg_78428046_ver1.0_640_360When the snake removal crew arrived and went under the house, it found 45 — 45! — rattlesnakes cozily curled up in the crawlspace under the home, which the snakes apparently found to be a safe and agreeable place to live.  A creepy video shows the Snake Removal crew lassoing the snakes with an extendable device, causing the snakes to hiss, shake their rattles, and expose their fangs.  The largest rattler was five and a half feet long — which seems like a pretty big damned snake to me.  The owner of Big Country Snake Removal, though, says the snake infestation wasn’t unusual, and “We do this all the time.”  (Sounds like an interesting place to work, doesn’t it?)

In case you’re interested, in addition to its removal services Big Country Snake Removal also offers snake inspections, “rattlesnake avoidance training” for your dog, and “snake-proof fencing.”

45 snakes under one house?  It sounds like a bad Samuel L. Jackson movie.  How many rattlesnakes are there in rural Texas, anyway?  If you were the homeowner, would you continue to live in the house, knowing that rattlers clearly love to camp out, by the dozens, in the crawlspace?  At the very least, I think I’d be investing in some of that “snake-proof fencing,” just in case.

The Clock Samaritan

It’s been a while since we “sprang forward,” but everywhere you still find clocks that are running on standard time. They aren’t “smart” clocks that are linked to the internet; no, they’re dumb, stand-alone units in wayward places. These poor, ignored clocks, like the clock on the microwave at the coffee station on my floor, are running an hour behind because no one is responsible for adjusting their settings. They’ve been cast onto the grim, littered curb of the information superhighway.

Pity the neglected clocks of America that, through no fault of their own, are doomed to fail in performing their sole and essential purpose — to give accurate time! So this year I’m adopting every orphan clock I see, and doing whatever is necessary to reset their time to return them to total time-telling accuracy. Call me the Clock Samaritan, or the Time Fairy, but it’s time someone makes a stand.

Won’t you help?

The Watchful Chicken

Some days, you find odd things at Schiller Park.  This morning, I found this colorful rubber chicken — a dog’s toy, probably — positioned atop the dog poop bag dispenser, as if she were keeping an eye on the dog owners and their compliance with the admonition to clean up after their dogs.

I couldn’t help but read the stern, red-eyed expression on the chicken’s face as a look of disapproval.  And when I realized that all of the doggie bag dispensers were empty, after the dog I was walking had already required the use of three of my pocket supply of bags on the walk, leaving me sorely in need of replenishment, I couldn’t help but share the chicken’s reproachful countenance.

It Could Have Been Worse

According to the weather app on my phone, it’s 56 degrees outside right now, and the temperature today is supposed to hit 70 degrees.  56 degrees, in itself, is like a tropical heat wave, but . . . 70 degrees!  Sure, it’s supposed to rain during the day, but still . . . 70 degrees!  After the long, dark, dank, cold winter we’ve endured in the Midwest, outdoor temperatures that will actually feel warm seem so wildly improbable they can scarcely be imagined.

I’ve written before about the lousy winter weather, and those of us in the Midwest have been feeling pretty sorry for ourselves about it.  And, in fairness, it has been an exceptionally crappy, frigid, snowy winter, so there has been cause for the muttering.  But I do want to note that, as bad as it has been, it could have been worse.  Much worse.

d2e991b7-2bbf-4062-a886-47c3386c060d-02172019_giant_springs_weather_art-bConsider Great Falls, Montana.

Our friends in Big Sky country have been through one of the coldest, most brutal continuous stretches of weather in recorded American history.  As a slack-jawed article in the Washington Post recently recounted, in many parts of Montana temperatures for the entire month of February averaged — averaged — 27 to 28 degrees below normal .  That’s hard to even conceive, and it is the most extreme, extended variance from normal temperatures seen in the lower 48 states in 50 years.  And March began with temperatures going even lower.

Great Falls, Montana, was in the heart of the bone-chilling zone.  The Post article notes that, in that city:  “The mercury didn’t rise above zero on 11 days and dropped to zero or below on 24 nights. Only the first day of the month topped freezing. Its average February temperature finished 27.5 degrees below normal.”

“The punishing and unrelenting cold continued into March. On March 3, the low temperature tanked to a bone-chilling minus-32 in Great Falls. Combined with a high of minus-8, the day finished a whopping 50 degrees below normal. The city concluded its longest stretch on record below freezing on March 7.”

So sure, our weather sucked this winter — but the frozen souls in Great Falls had it much, much worse.  Imagine a March day where temperatures were 50 degrees below normal, or a nearly two-week stretch where the temperature didn’t rise above zero, even once.

It will make hitting 70 today all the sweeter.

Waiting For GoMueller

Every week, it seems, there’s an article about the timing of when Robert Mueller will finally complete his investigation and present his report on President Trump.  Some articles report that “insiders” who are supposedly privy to the workings of the investigation team confidently predict that the report will be out next week; other pieces are written by savvy pundits who have read the tea leaves and concluded that Mueller is timing his report for this or that reason and next week the report will be out.

1551885010588But the report never comes.  The stories speculating about the timing of the Mueller Report remind me of the plot of Waiting for Godot, where Vladimir and Estragon wait, and wait, and wait for Monsieur Godot’s arrival — but he never shows up.  And then the articles that predicted that this would be the week for the Mueller Report get flushed down the memory hole, and new articles that predict that next week will be the week that we get the report, for sure, take their place.

The constant anticipation of the Mueller Report has gotten to be so bad that Newsweek — which I didn’t think still existed, frankly — is reporting that some aged and sick Americans are desperately trying to hold on to their thread of existence just so they can finally read Mueller’s findings.  It’s a pretty thin story — based on the comments of one person who regretted dying before he could read the Report, a reaction to those comments from another senior citizen, and a quote from a third person who thinks her mother would have said the same kind of thing before she joined the Choir Invisible — but it sure seems weird that being unable to read the Mueller Report is the one regret voiced by people who are dying.

The constant fixation on the Mueller investigation and the breathless anticipation of its ultimate report seems pointless to me.  Investigations take time — the Mueller investigation has been going for about two years, already — and good investigators play their cards pretty close to the vest.  At this point, why worry about when, or credit anyone who claims to have special insight into the timing of the report?

One of these days, Godot is going to finally get get here.  Mueller and his team will finish their work, publish their report, and everyone will have the chance to review it.  Until then, Vladimir and Estragon need to stop waiting and get on with their lives.

Map Folding

The world can be pretty easily divided into two different categories of people who are  distinguished by meaningful criteria.  For example, there is the category of Ohio State football fans, and the category of the Great Unwashed.  There is the category of people who actually care about “reality TV” “stars” and will read clickbait articles about them, and the category of people who don’t know who those “stars” are and don’t give a flying fig about them.  There is the category of crass people who talk loudly on cellphones wherever they happen to be, even if it is an airport restroom, and people who think their conversations are private and are properly mindful of inflicting them on anybody who happens to be nearby.

map1And then there is the category of people who believe that paper maps should be properly folded, carefully returned to their condition when they were first acquired by the map user, and stored somewhere so the maps can be found and used for however long the maps may be needed.  The other category includes people who disregard, and in fact blissfully and willfully violate, all recognized conventions of map folding and will just fold and crease and crumple a map however they damn well please and leave it a complete mess, and perhaps even torn or with a wad of gum stuck to one corner.  The people in the second category then happily wait for someone in the first category to take the messed-up map they have left behind and carefully mend and return to its intended, well-folded, logical map state, thereby restoring order to the universe and allowing the cosmic tumblers to regain their balance.

I’m in the first category.

Proper map folding should not be a hard call, but apparently it is.  Do a Google search of “map folding” and you’ll actually find diagrams and directions and instructions on map folding, as if folding a highway map is as hard as putting together pieces of Ikea furniture without an Allen wrench.  This is ridiculous, because map folding is not all that complicated.  You start by finding the front cover of the map, and work backward from there, understanding that the ultimate goal is to fold the map so the front cover is, in fact, the front cover.

But at least people who run such searches are trying.   It’s the people who don’t even give map folding the Old College Try who need guidance and, probably, some form of psychological help.  Intentionally doing things the wrong way is undoubtedly a sign of a deeper, more pathological issue that perhaps has not yet been fully manifested.

Maps should be treated with the respect they deserve.