Stirring the pot, raising hell and rearing children in the Bay Area

Posts Tagged "Rants"

The Mall Police

Posted on Dec 30, 2009 in Family and Friends, Rants |

The Mall Police

My mom was in a wheelchair when I was a kid. She’s all good now, but a few childhood things remain. One, having a mom in a wheelchair gets you to the front of every line at Disneyland. Two, wheelchair races are not for sissies;  and three, the closer you get to the holidays, the harder it is to navigate stores. As you know, wheelchair-bound or not, shopping displays. life-size Santas and hoards of merchandise racks are a bitch to work around.

My Mall Police badge of honor started in 2003 when my twins were born. I’d gone to the mall and realized in horror that I couldn’t get through aisles in stores I normally could navigate with my double-wide Twin Savvy Stroller (or any of the other six strollers I had at the time). I walked into a store in San Jose and literally could not get to the items I wanted to see. As I pulled my stroller backwards to wiggle my way in, I noticed a wheelchair-bound woman trying to shop in the aisle. Eventually she gave up and left the store. In a rage, so did I.

That night I looked up the size of double-wide strollers online. It just happens to be the same width size as the American with Disabilities Act standards. So, in essence, my stroller was exactly the same size as a wheelchair. The wheels were turning. In theory, I thought, I could stalk every store in the mall and report the ones that were not compliant with wheelchair regulations. The more I thought about it, the more ticked-off I got: if it were my mother in a wheelchair and she couldn’t go Christmas shopping because she literally could not get down the aisle… the image outraged me. I decided that I would become the self-proclaimed Mall Police.

The next morning I headed out to Wesfield’s Valley Fair Mall in San Jose. I was armed with a notepad, a digital camera and my stroller (yes, the kids were in the stroller). I went up and down, traipsing myself through the mall, only stopping at Nordstrom (mild violations only) to breastfeed the kidlets. At every store where I could not get my stroller down the aisle, I would ask for a manager. I would tell them that my stroller was the exact width of a wheelchair and that they were in violation of the law (and of potentially buyers). Then I marched myself down to customer service where I reported each store. To Westfield’s credit, the mall management called me the following day. He had spoken to each store and warned them he’d call the County if they did not comply immediately. Got to give the guy credit for listening to a mom-on-the-warpath.

The following year, I noticed the same thing. And again, the Mall Police put on her badge and hit the mall with an agenda. This time I noticed retailers were more sensitive to the problem and more engaged in finding solutions. Leaving one store, I overheard the store manager tell a worker, “Move the rack, she’s right.” I smiled. Eat my stroller dust.

I am right. There are 2.1 million wheelchair users in the US and my mama was one of them. And every single one of them deserves 36 inches to get their chair around a store. In fact, there’s more. Many of our cute stores in San Jose are massive issues for people in a chair. Campbell, cute as can be, has multiple stores that are losing revenue every day from people who can’t get through the front door, muchless shop inside the stores.

Six years later, I’m still the Mall Police during the holidays. My children, long out of strollers, help me each year, pointing out the clearance violations. Indeed, it’s such a random, strange way to give to my community, but for me, it’s a passion. It’s a need. The holiday season is here and I plan to hit the stores tomorrow. Look out.

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My Girl’s Spirit

Posted on Dec 10, 2009 in Holidays, Silly, Thing 1 |

Telling off Santa

Telling off Santa

I never saw it coming — my little 6-year-old, sweet as can be, full of life and laughter — that my daughter would take out Santa Claus. But she did. And how. Approaching Santa, my daughter asked him a question in Spanish, at which point he was unable to answer. And when he did with something like, “HO! LA!” she called him out. Full-stop.

Looking over at the hoopla, I saw my girl, hand on one hip, pointing with the other, giving Santa a talk. “You are a FAKE!,” she told him. “Santa knows every language in the world of every child in the world and you can’t even understand me!” Then, with all the conviction in the world, “You are a faker, faker, baker.”

I tried to stop her, but there was little I could do. A girl on a mission is unstoppable. I feebly asked her to sit on Santa’s lap and tell him what she wanted for Christmas. In response she said, “If you know when I am sleeping and know when I’m awake. If you know when I’ve been bad or good, then how do you not know what I want for Christmas?” Shit. Score one for the first grader.

Eventually I got her to sit on Santa’s lap. She did it under protest, and only after I conceded that she was right, the Macy’s dude was not Santa.

As we left, he called her back and gave her a tiny pin. She snorted and said, “Santa gives candycanes, not pins. And anyway, your beard is too short.”

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No GirlScouts for Us

Posted on Nov 30, 2009 in Rants, Thing 2 |

No GirlScouts for Us

The Girl Scouts mission statement is: “Girl Scouting builds girls of courage, confidence and character who make the world a better place.” I love the idea of the organization. I remember wanting to be a Girl Scout when I was growing up. I made it to Brownies before ditching it for soccer in sixth grade. So when my girl hit Kindergarten, I excitedly signed her up to be a Daisy Scout with high hopes of a bright green sash full of fun badges. I didn’t even mind the idea of selling Thin Mints.

Last week I got a notice about our troops (Scouts, Brownies, Daisys) having an overnight. I was ready to go. Grab the sleeping bags! Learn to pitch a tent! Make S’Mores!

Although I’m not the camping type, I was excited about the Girl Scouts adventure. I opened the email, readying for a fun mom/kid trip.  There are not words to describe my great disappointment when I opened the Northern California Girl Scouts’  email. The overnight, as it turned out, was a night at the mall. That’s right, a sleepover at Westfield Shopping Center.

Reading on, my jaw dropped further as the email touted middle-of-the-night dance parties, runway fashion shows, Girl Scout models, “lots of glam” and a Bling! photo contest. What was I missing? Where was the character building and courage they’d promised? Courage to what? Catwalk?

The sleepover was held this past weekend. We spend the day hiking on our local trails and telling stories about where we’ve traveled and where we’d like to travel. We had a block party that day too, a pumpkin pie eating contest, kids doing sidewalk chalk in the street and racing their Razors up and down the block. It was a family day to remember. So maybe my expectations of Girl Scouts needs to change. Maybe the Scouts are just posing as a character-building organization while secretly making bank off of underage cookie pushers. Maybe they just forgot the Scout in the Girl.

I didn’t pluck this fantasy ideal of Girl Scouts out of thin air. I have friends who are in Indian Princesses that just returned from an overnight filled with midnight flashlight tag and team rock climbing. Other friends participate in theYMCA’s Adventure Guides where outdoor activities focus on parent child relationships where you are encouraged to “get to know your kid while your kid is still a kid.” I had an expectation that the Girl Scouts would be a wholesome growing experience for my kid. Instead they want to teach her to shop-’til’-you-drop.

I brought up my concerns to a long-standing Girl Scout mom, who laughed and told me to  “Get modern!” She told me the girls that attend the mall overnight have a lot of fun. Now, maybe it is fun (a grownup version with wine instead of juice boxes?), but it’s not the point of Girl Scouts to me. This isn’t the message I want to give to my daughter. If you want to have a slumber party at the mall, I’m all for it. Just don’t call it character-building. Don’t tell me you are helping my child make the world a better place. In fact, don’t tell my child anything. We’re done with you.

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Tree is Bare, Branches are Full

Posted on Nov 17, 2009 in Giving, Holidays, School |

The tree lighting ceremony drama –lighting up my frustration from here to Thomas Edison’s grave and back — continues. There are a million technicalities,  hurdles, economic downturn-rejections and red tape landmines everywhere I turn. All of this, of course, in two languages.  It’s sort of borderlining on panic.

But, there is also a fullness I’ve never really experienced before.

In my plea to local businesses to help us put lights on our holiday tree for our local community event, I found gems everywhere. There’s the lady from Discount Lift Rentals who calls me at 9 p.m. to tell me she’s going to call everyone she knows to give us help in finding a boom lift. Then she kindly explains to me the difference between the booms and the cherry pickers and the arms on the things. I’m pretty impressed the chick knows power equipment. That’s hot, in a Rosie ‘Yes We Can!” sort of way. There’s the friend who volunteers her husband and her vacation time to put up the lights — if only we had a way of getting in the tree. Then there’s the tough real estate agent who’s got a kinder than kind heart who offered to make calls on our behalf. And there’s the friend who’s gonna ask the neighbor if he can help. I’ve got a friend who runs a media site that’s willing to bullhorn our needs. And tonight, I’ve got several friends who know a friend who knows a friend…..  Everywhere there is help.

And in the strangest way, I feel the tree lighting up.

Don’t get me wrong. There ain’t enough kumbaya in the world to substitute for the dang tree being lit. But sometimes inspiration comes from the people who cannot say Yes, but not for a lack of trying. I love people who try, no matter the outcome.

So we wrote blind letters, cold called and begged every person in the book tonight to help us find a way to light our community tree. And someone, somehow will come through. I know it will happen. And when it does, it won’t just be the person who said Yes that gave the gift. It will be all those I was lucky enough to hear No from that would have if they could have.

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Not Quite the Blue I Was Hoping For

Posted on Sep 22, 2008 in Family, Friends, Rants and Raves, Politics and Rants, Rants |

I don’t know why it is that I assume that every.single.person I know and respect must be an Obama voter. I didn’t say Obama fan, freak or bumper-sticker-holder, but simply an Obama Voter.

But my view of the world, quite obviously isn’t shared by all, and certainly not all that I know. Four examples this week kicked me flat on my face in disbelief. What can I learn from it? I’m not sure. Do I care enough to invest in trying to change just one vote? Nah, not in California since CA is going to go to Obama. But you have a look-see and tell me what you think:

Two hot girls walk into a bar and start chatting with the bartender…

Description: Tatooed dude, overweight but jolly, kind eyes.
Lifestyle: Broke and happy. Loves his life as a single dad, loves his kid, great smile.
On Obama: He’s the worse of two evils.
On Palin: She’s so fucking hot. Don’t you think she’s hot?
On McCain: …
On voting Red: I am not that into the idea of scaling down the military since I’m a military guy; my dad was in the military and I was in the Navy. I didn’t like it when Clinton did that. It pissed me off.

On being Anti-choice: I got a girl pregnant. I’d never let her have an abortion. She wasn’t my girlfriend. I just was a man about it. You gotta step up. I stepped up, so that’s not an excuse.

The Boy Next Door…

Description: White guy, medium build, football and sports fan/coach/ref.
Lifestyle: Family guy, divorced and remarried, young kids, straight laced, Catholic.
On Obama: He doesn’t have hardly any experience. He’d better pick a good running mate, but that won’t make a difference for me.
On Romney: He should be President. He knows how to run a business and America is just one big troubled business.
On McCain: …
On voting Red: I’m voting for the most experienced candidate. And I don’t want any more taxes.

Playground Whispers…

Description: Two white women with young children under age 12.
Lifestyle: Relatively upper middle class, married, church going, community involved, SAHMs.
On Obama: I wish they would have had him run for office in eight years. It’s just too early. I am older than him!
On Palin: She’s got it all together. It’s great to see a woman who has it all: work and family. …They are going to call her a bitch, but if it was a man, they’d call her tough.
On McCain: He’s gonna die in office and Palin will be President.
On voting Red: She represents ‘us’.

I’m a Libertarian, Right Dad?
Description: White first-time voter male
Lifestyle: Middle class, great family, junior college
On Obama: He doesn’t know jack shit. He’s trying to be too popular.
On Palin: She’s cool. She’s not going to be President anyway.
On McCain: He’s obviously the most experienced one.
On voting Red: Since Ralph Nader isn’t in the election, I’m going with McCain.
On Abortion: I only had one girlfriend have to have an abortion. Mexico is like a six-hour drive if abortion was ever illegal anyway.

I’ve had my ears open for a couple of weeks, trying to understand outside perspectives. I’m not going to knock on doors, make calls or invade people’s privacy; it’s just not me. Not to mention, in some cases, La Gringa and I could swing a vote in the wrong direction, so I’m trying to be mindful there too.

I am constantly amazed at how, like CNN reported today: “We keep telling them the facts, but people want to vote the way they want to vote, despite facts.” (in reference to Palin lying about the Bridge to Nowhere fiasco). I wonder, is it just smart, sophisticated people that vote Blue in this election? Maybe that’s why I counted 14 Obama lawn signs within 1/2 mile radius of my house, but not a single one for McCain. Are there lawn signs for McCain in Pennsylvania? I’d like to know…

And it’s just not in my neighborhood that I’m seeing such strong, unexpected divisions: On Twitter, I’ve had to unfollow several people whose daily lives I’ve followed for more than six months because of the aggressive stance in favor of Sarah Palin and John McCain. One woman I correspond with sent me a “Which Candidate Kills Babies” document. In many cases, on Twitter, in particular, people are drawing lines bases on political affiliation in a zone I’ve thought to be agnostic and accepting.

Facebook seems to be much more in-line with my own philosophies, but a bit trendy in the Obama frenzy. It’s cool to be an Obama fan. My ex-boss is a state senator in a swing state, and he even has backed off from being vocal. Facebook appears to be a popularity contest where Obama is king.

There is hope, though: I’ve yet to see a “McCain is my Homeboy” t-shirt.


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