Chanticleer #12

Chanticleer
I do not propose to write an ode to dejection, but to brag as lustily as chanticleer in the morning, standing on his roost, if only to wake my neighbors up. 

Henry David Thoreau

February 17, 2000


GRASS ON CAMPUS

Just when I began to doubt the value of a college education, I run across a small bit of Dallas Morning News that renews my faith in higher education.

Fort Worth’s Texas Christian University (TCU) and Dallas’s Southern Methodist University (SMU) have a historical rivalry that reflects – or maybe contributes to – the competition between the two cities. The football fields of friendly strife have been responsible for a good deal of that storied tradition.
Now once again, the scene is the football field, but the story is not the teams – it’s the bands.

Last November 26th, the two teams battled at Amon Carter Stadium on the TCU campus. The SMU band performed during halftime, and, as is their custom, played one piece while standing in the school’s familiar “Diamond M” formation. And apparently, while they played in this formation, each band member also, uh, dropped seed on the field.

Specifically, they dropped winter rye grass seed, because now that the field’s Bermuda grass is completely dormant, the winter rye has sprouted into the unmistakeable green “Diamond M” formation in the middle of TCU’s home field.


CONFESSIONS OF AWARENESS, OR LACK THEREOF

Example #1

Two weeks ago I spent a weekend in Florida at a seminar. I took one of those shuttle vans from the hotel to the Tampa airport, along with four other Sunday morning travelers. I sat next to the left window, just behind a well-groomed older woman from Knoxville, Tennessee. We left the hotel and headed south, with the sun to our left.

The road we were on dead-ended at the bridge which would take us eastward across Tampa Bay, visible from several miles away.

As we neared the intersection to turn onto the bridge, the woman from Knoxville asked the driver if he could turn up the air conditioning, that she was quite warm. The driver replied that each row in the van had its own vent and blower control – she could reach up and adjust her own control. About a minute later, we turned east onto the bridge, and out of the sun.

Now, since I was sitting right behind the woman, I, too, was getting a little warm sitting in the sun. However, I was aware of where the van was in relation to the road, the bay, the bridge and the sun, and I could see that we would be turning out of the direct sunlight soon.

I found it interesting that if the woman had been more aware of her general environment, and the relationships of the sun, van, road, bridge and bay, she would’ve realized that even though she was getting warm sitting in the sun, within a minute or so the van would turn such that she wouldn’t be in the sun. And if she had been more aware of her immediate environment, she would’ve noticed her individual climate control and could’ve maintained her comfort level from the beginning of the ride.

This certainly was not a big deal in either case, but it struck me that we each probably encounter dozens of these little opportunities to exercise greater awareness each day.

Example #2

Last week I participated in a focus group organized by a new online bank. A moderator from a consumer research outfit led us (six men, six women) through two hours of complaints, suggestions, and general feedback regarding the services and execution of the bank from our individual perspectives.

By far and away, the biggest irritant mentioned was the difficulty in making deposits. Since the bank has no ‘physical’ presence – it’s 100% online – there are no local branches for making deposits. Therefore, as everyone complained, the only way to make a deposit was through the mail, which sometimes could take as long as a week to get a deposit posted.

I was amazed that I was the only one of the twelve who knew that you could initiate an ACH (automated clearinghouse) transfer via the telephone, which takes no more than two business days to post. They all looked at me like I was blowing smoke – “How did you find out about that?”

Well, I explained, right on the first screen after you log in there’s a notice to call an 800 number to make a deposit, and the procedure is explained in their Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) under “How do I make a deposit?”.

It seems that everybody else was so locked in to their online routine that they overlooked or didn’t ‘see’ the information they needed because they assumed they could only make deposits by mail.

Example #3

However, yours truly also learned something at the focus group. It seems that everybody else was aware that, included in the monthly statement mailings, the bank included a pre-paid deposit envelope. As a matter of routine, I always throw away all that filler material in the statement envelopes and keep just the statements themselves. Maybe I should take a look at stuff before I throw it away instead of assuming I don’t want it.

Example #4

And the reason this segment is called “CONFESSIONS” …

Over the weekend I contracted a bothersome sore throat and sinus congestion. By Sunday afternoon I thought enough was enough, so I decided to resort to the pharmaceuticals. I went into my bathroom ‘junk drawer,’ found the box of over-the-counter antihistamines and a couple of loose tablets in their near-impossible-to-open individual clear packages, and took one. I took another one Sunday night.

When I woke up Monday morning I felt worse instead of better so I decided to double the dosage. As I fumbled through tearing off two packages from the new ‘sheet’ of pills, I noticed that the packaging was slightly different than I remembered from the day before. I looked at the back of what I was opening …. sure enough, it was a generic over-the-counter antihistamine.

Curious, I dug through the trash to find the packages from Sunday. Although they had contained a similar green-colored pill in similar packaging, I could barely make out the label: “ANTI-DIARRHETIC”.
No WONDER my nose had kept running, but … well, anyway. Another hard lesson in the hazards of not being aware.


CAUSE/EFFECT (?)

The Feb 13th Dallas Morning News reported that in New Iberia, Louisiana, the owner and the manager of a skating rink were arrested after the Iberia Parish Sheriff answered a call to break up a fight during a Saturday night teen dance. Sheriff Sid Hebert arrested the owner and manager because they were playing rap music that contained “racial slurs, strong vulgar language and lyrics with an anti-law message,” according to the Sheriff’s office.

The Sheriff blamed the music for the fight. “The music itself cranked the crowd up in a sense,” said the Sheriff. “I’m not saying it was fully involved, but certainly kicked it off.”

In an (apparently) unrelated incident, the local Irving newspaper displayed a photo of an overturned 18-wheeler under the caption “Pop go the pastries”. The driver of the rig carrying boxes of Pop Tarts says that the 30,000 pound load of Pop Tarts shifted while negotiating a sharp freeway exit ramp.

I assume the Pop Tarts themselves cranked the trailer over, in a sense. I’m not saying they were fully involved, but they certainly kicked it off.


OXYMORON, ANYONE?

I’m familiar with the term “social” to refer to such hot-button issues as abortion, gun control, gay rights, prayer in public school, etc. For example, I’ve heard someone say, “I’m a social liberal, but I’m a fiscal conservative.” Or, “I’m a social conservative.”

Perhaps because I’ve unfortunately had nothing else better to do, I’ve been watching a lot of the TV talk shows discussing the South Carolina Republican primary. Last night I heard a different term that’s used in South Carolina when referring to these “social” issues.

I heard a block of voters referred to as “cultural conservatives.”

Cultural conservatives?


READING LABELS, IGNORING LABELS

Clearly, I screwed up by not reading the labels on my pills in my bathroom junk drawer. In that case, I needed to pay close attention to the label.

However, in the case of politics – as I’ve said in this space before – we need to become wary of labels, probably to the degree of ignoring them. Particularly on the Republican side, there seems to be an intentional attempt to push voters’ buttons by screaming “CONSERVATIVE – GOOD! LIBERAL – BAD!”

One of John McCain’s recent commercials in South Carolina amounts to little more than him solemnly stating, “I AM a conservative.”

Liberal … Conservative … Pro-life … Pro-choice … Insider … Outsider … Reformer … Trustworthy … Big Spender … Compassionate … Responsible … Electable … Family Values … Iron Triangle …

Unfortunately, it appears to me that there are many voters out there who buy the label without respect to what’s in the package.


AND FINALLY – Divine Right of a King’s Name

The heir to the English throne previously, and currently, known as “Prince Charles” gave notice of his desire to – ala that other “formerly-known-as-Prince” dude – change his name. According to the London Sunday Times, the Dude of Windsor (I mean, “Duke”), aka Charles Phillip Arthur George, said he would prefer to ascend to the throne as King George instead of King Charles. According to a courtier, “Charles feels it would be more appropriate to follow in the footsteps of the Georges rather than take on the tarnished name of Charles when he become king.” Seems his grandfather, King George VI, led England through the terrible but triumphant World War II years, while King Charles I was beheaded after the English Civil War, and Charles II “fathered many illegitimate children but no heir.”

Here’s an unsolicited suggestion … the dude – I mean “Duke” – already has four first names, a few more wouldn’t hurt. So why not add “John Paul,” to maybe symbolize reaching out to Catholics, bridging the Anglican/Catholic divide, etc. Then he’d be King John Paul George.

So why not shoot the works and go for the worldwide populist baby-boomer support by adding “Ringo.”

I mean, he’s certainly got the family jewels for it.