Friday, February 13, 2009

Hallmark holidays

Tomorrow is Valentine's day. I like to call it the original "Hallmark Holiday". According to wikipedia, "The U.S. Greeting Card Association estimates that approximately one billion valentines are sent each year worldwide, making the day the second largest card-sending holiday of the year behind Christmas. The association estimates that, in the US, men spend in average twice as much money as women.[3]
Since the 19th century, handwritten notes have largely given way to mass-produced greeting cards.[28] The mid-nineteenth century Valentine's Day trade was a harbinger of further commercialized holidays in the United States to follow.[29]"

What started out at some point to celebrate love has turned into a celebration of material wealth. Like almost all Hallmark Holidays, you are expected to give a card (at the very least) or some sort of gift (preferably one that is rather extravagant). If you don't receive anything, you are seen as a loser(usually women) and if you don't give anything, an unfeeling person (usually men). But since when did material gifts or even cards determine one's worth? And since when did you have to have one particular day to celebrate and express your love?

Anniversaries I get. Those are truly special days for those involved. Not everybody has that same special day, it is only good for those two people (generally). Valentine's Day is supposed to be for everyone. Now, if it was limited to couples it might make it a little bit more palatable. But it has digressed all the way to preschool. Hailey had a v-day party at school and she was required to pass out valentine cards (with optional candy which everyone had). What?!?!? She has no idea what a valentine is supposed to be. There was absolutely no meaning behind it. I understand that the teacher didn't want anyone to be left out and so made it a requirement, but what is the world coming to. This just shows the power of the almighty dollar and the pervasive nature of advertising. Even little kids are sucked into the "festivities".

Anyway, I have long since passed on participating in this day. I tried it once when Winnie and I were first dating. We had to wait in line at Old Spaghetti Factory for 1.5 hours before getting a table. After that, I vowed never again to go out on Valentine's day. There have been gifts and cards over the years, but that has gone by the wayside. I refuse to participate in these made up holidays. I love my wife, but I tell her that all through the year. I'll give her presents when I find something that I think she might like, but I won't do it because Hallmark tells me I'm supposed to.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Won't you be my Neighbor?

For those of you old enough to remember, this was the tag line for Mister Rogers' Neighborhood. He was a friendly guy, trying to teach life lessons to kids. Being a neighbor meant following the "golden rule" of "do unto others as you would have them do unto you." He wanted to be your neighbor, to be a friend, a person you could count on. Unfortunately, this type of neighbor seems to be in short supply.

As most of you know, I work for the City of Walnut Creek. I handle complaints on a daily basis about all sorts of things. Recently, there was a complaint about a neighbor building something in their backyard without a permit. As with most calls of this type, the person calling wanted to remain anonymous. They didn't want to be known as the "whistle blower". Of course, they also didn't want to talk to their neighbor. Inevitably these people want the "government" to handle the situation and don't want to be involved. Almost all of the complaints we get are from people who don't talk to one another.

What is up with that? Granted, I don't talk much to my neighbors on either side of me, but I will say hi to them when I see them. If there was an issue, I would go next door and talk to them. My neighbor on one side had an issue with my deck and wrote me a nice note. We ended up talking on the phone a couple of times and once or twice in person to resolve the issue. Neither of us wanted to cause any problems, but we had issues that needed to be worked out and we did it. Why can't the people in Walnut Creek do this? Can't we all just get along?

If these people would just talk to each other, I would have a lot less work to do. Most of these problems could easily be resolved with out the City getting involved. It is very frustrating to have to deal with these people. Ah well, I guess that's why I get paid the big bucks.