Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Little Brick Houses

Mojo's night out tonight, so I gave the Peeper the call: where do you want to go for dinner. He took about a nanosecond:

"McDonald's!"

Missy immediately chimed in: "McOnald's!" (she'll want anything her idolized big brother wants).

So after a quick Internet search we were off for Fourth Plain in the 'Couve to get our deep-fried dinner at L'Arc d'Or.

We're eating our meal (Missy and I) or alternatively dashing up the play structure AND eating our dinner (The Peep) when in comes The Large Family. Seven of them (or eight, it was hard to tell exactly); Mom, Dad and kids from diapers to video games.

My first clue was the toddler. I'm not exactly a fashionista but, pal, unless it's August in Brownsville OR you're a gen-u-wine shitkicking redneck, the overalls-and-no-shirt thing? Makes you look simple. Deliverance-level simple.

We returned to eating and playing until I spot Large Dad, redneck toddler in arms, is backing up to the side door of the play area. The door designed as a fire door only? The door wired to prevent kids racing out into the parking lot or stranger-danger abductions? The door plastered with the huge red-and-white signs reading "Not An Exit" "Alarmed Door" "Attempt to Exit Will Cause Alarm To Sound"?

Yep. That door.


You guessed it. The best part was the gobsmacked look on Dad's face as he steps back into the room amit the screaming sirens, looks at the door, looks at his wife, looks at the toddler in his arms and announces to the room at large: "You can't get out that way."

Give us all credit - no one said "No shit, Sherlock" until after he'd ambled out the other door. But after that I laughed so hard I was almost in tears by the time the harassed manager showed up to key off the alarm.

Ain't that America? You and me, baby...

31 comments:

mike said...

Must have been an Ory-gunner seeking a little culture for his brood on the sunny side of the big river.

Brent said...

Is it just me, or does it seem unnecessary to have an emergency exit door at a McDonald's? I mean, doesn't the owner want people to be using the doors to come into the building? The whole thing's probably ringed with sidewalk, so said alarm door could probably be used as an adequate side entrance to bring in the masses. Instead, you're keeping people out of the store... Just seems silly.

Red Sand said...

My favorite part of this is that you had to look up McD locations online.

FDChief said...

mike: For Vancouver's sake one hopes so...

Brent: I think it's a fire-safety-mandated deal. The other exit makes you go through the seating area of the Mickey D's instead of bailing directly outside. And they know that, regardless of what the sign says, that mom and dad will leave their little sprogs alone in the play area, so the alarm lets you know that either your crumb-snatcher has bolted for it or your ex has abducted them...

RS: You can find ANYthing on the electronical Internet. But we have a perfectly good Chez Ronald's right down the street. The search was to find one of these things with the play area indoors so that the Peep would run off the sugar and grease energy of the chicken things

sheerahkahn said...

My wife and I, in our younger, pre-sons days of our marriage, were standing in line waiting to ride the Disney mystical magical mountain hop, also known as Materhorn.
I know, big deal.
So there we are, out in the blazing sun of a SoCal afternoon, when I noticed the family in front of the couple who were in front of us.
They were...I don't know how to describe it...of the same overfed, rotund genetic stock that seems prevalent amongst certain segments of our society, with a certain level of communication that would identify them of certain segement of the country, and so we assumed that they were fraternal twins with their younger siblings...I'm serious, they all looked alike.
The guy was bald, about 5'2", the woman was near bald, very thin hair to the point of being able to identify each and every folicle on her scalp, and so were the younger siblings, as I assumed their relationship.
As it was, the young couple in front of us decided that they would rather go eat lunch than wait the required 45 minutes for said ride.
I was young as well, but hey, my wife and I were yakking up a storm and having a good time of it.
Now, mind you, we're now behind this, what we thought were siblings, when I discovered, omg, they're married, and the little guys running around their feet were their off-spring.
My wife looked at me with wide eyes, and all I said, and for the life of me, I did not think it would be heard, "so, thats how it is in their family" with the full intimation of incest being laid bare on the plate.

Obviously, the glare I got either was "you asshole, shut your pie hole," or, "Can you just keep that observation to yourself!"

I have since learn to keep those observations to myself...and thus, I choke...often.

I commend you on your restraint Chief...you are, without a doubt, a better man than I.

Meghan H said...

Illiteracy bites another fine American in the patoot. It sucks when you don't know what those big red letters spell out.

I have a theory that illiteracy is partly to blame for why people signed up for mortgages with exploding adjustable rates and 0% down payments.

Ael said...

Once, while teaching a basic gun numbers course, I had a young gunner who was very bright, hard working and cheerful. Alas, he tended to be wild on occasion and pull dumb stunts.

After he pulled a particularly bone-headed move, I remember my reaction when I realized that he had done it to avoid the upcoming written fire discipline test.

It was a combination of shock that there really could be people who could not read and write, rage at a system which would let him get so far without catching it, and confusion that a person could be so afraid of reading and writing that jail was a preferred alternative.

Lisa said...

Re. Meghan's comment on illiteracy:

maybe moreso than that, we as a people have just come to ignore the BIG RED warning signs that say, "Stop, do not go there." We can tromp wherever we wish, without consequence. . . save when the buzzer goes off. Then it's a might bit embarrassing, but after all, someone's got the key to stop it.

Chief: as for the "overalls-and-no-shirt thing? Makes you look simple". . . tres declasse. I do not even I could pull it off :)

Lisa said...

Ael,

How could he have made it into the service without this fact being noted?

As for your "confusion that a person could be so afraid of reading and writing that jail was a preferred alternative," he was afraid of being caught in a lie, perhaps. Still, someone was collusive in his having made it to the point he had.

Is there no provision in the military to learn literacy skills on the job, if a person has been admitted because they possess another needed skill?

Fasteddiez said...

Lisa said:

"Is there no provision in the military to learn literacy skills on the job, if a person has been admitted because they possess another needed skill?"

Ehrrr, In a word no! The other needed skill during l'ancien regime would be to be stout-hearted cannon fodder.

During my Recruiting saga, a still youngish Latino man entered our office seeking to serve. He thrusted a dd-214 (discharge form) into my paws. I believe he had an re-3 (disqualifying) reenlistment code. He spoke in his native language, and, not being able to speak Spanish at the time, called on our two native Panamanian (Canal zone) recruiters.

After a hearty debrief, they found out he spoke only rudimentary english, was stationed in the Army, at a large rear area base in Vietnam for the majority of his service, where he performed janitorial duties the whole time.

He was part of McNamara's project 100,000; the lowering of standards to basic mental category IV lower, the lowest quartile. People who, in the immortal words of Hollywood Henderson "Could not spell cat, if you spotted them the "C" and the "A."

So Lisa, I believe that these people needed to be pressed into service rather than drag more of the better heeled American kids into an already increased draft scenario.

FDChief said...

Much as I'd like to assume that Large Dad was illiterate, my guess would be that the odds were pretty even that he was perhaps JUST that stupid, or, as Lisa points out, accustomed to just doing whatever and not getting handed his head when he f'ed up.

Other than having me laugh at him, he skated on this, too. It was the poor harassed manager of the McD's that ended up cleaning up dumbfuck's mess for him.

FDChief said...

Believe it or not, I've seen some pretty marginally literate GIs even in these days of the high-speed, gee-whiz VOLAR.

My father-in-law is probably classifiable as "marginally literate". He was ILiterate until middle age and still managed to make ends meet as a mechanic. People develop some pretty sophisticated skills to circumvent literacy when they have to...

Ael said...

I cannot say how he passed school without being able to functionally read or write. I have dark suspicions that the educational system took a minimal energy path, which left him high and dry at the end.

As far as being caught in a lie, yes you are correct. Of course, it had all become bundled up into a big self defeating mess. I also suspect that there were other debilitating factors at play.

No wonder he would lose it once in while.

mike said...

Lisa is right. It was not illiteracy, more like an obstinacy to bull ahead without paying attention to what is going on around you. An American disease - lately. What the Chief witnessed under the arches was crass stupidity, not illiteracy.

My father had a 10th grade education and did very well for himself and his family. My grandmother had a fifth grade education, and was without a doubt the smartest ever branch on my family tree. Her mother was illiterate and signed with an X yet was a lot wiser than yours truly and a few of my wise-a$$ PhD cousins.

I believe the educational problem today is a lack of common sense or situational awareness and not illiteracy. Forget about the latest Kate Winslett role - that was fiction.

Publius said...

Mike: "I believe the educational problem today is a lack of common sense or situational awareness and not illiteracy."

C'mon, Mike. Although what you cite is clearly important, the fact is that common sense isn't going to get you through an algebra or geometry textbook. Or even the daily newspaper. In today's world, illiteracy dooms one to a life of poorly paid hard labor and a world where McDonald's is haute cuisine.

You don't think illiteracy is a problem? Try teaching the youth of America, as I did for a few years. It's heartbreaking.

Oh, and another thing: illiterate, poorly paid hourly laborers often tend to be more inclined to abuse alcohol and drugs and to take a more belligerent approach to others. Any guesses as to where that leads? Hint: check the prisons.

Illiteracy is a HUGE problem.

mike said...

Publius -

Look at our last illustrious resident of the White House. A graduate of Yale and a Masters degree from Harvard. Certainly not illiterate, but still an idiot as much or more so than the guy that FDChief met at McDonalds.

Rick98c said...

"Illiteracy is a HUGE problem."

I agree. Another huge problem is the unchecked reproduction of dumbasses.

Lo Dumbass begat Dimbulb and Dimbulb begat Nimrod, Mouthbreather, knuckledragger and Numbskull, and they went forth and begat progeny too numerous to recount and we all paid for it in health-care dollars and corrections costs and on and freaking on.

Gotta get a license to drive a car, but .... Gotta prove yourself intelligent enough to go to college, but .... and on and on again.

sheerakahn said...

I believe the term you are looking for is derisively spelled out by my youngest when I described him the situation that Chief speaks of, "oh, that kind of person, yeah, we call them 'ham-fisted-mouth-breathing-keyboard-turners'"
Apparently, that is the label dejour that most of the young, computer savvy generation strives not to be called.

Illiteracy is far different cry from idiocy.
On this, I so know.
I have worked with illiterate men, and one woman who are completely sane, completely competent, and yet have a devil of a time when it comes to reading or writing.
For whatever reason, they just never could grasp it, so their options in life are minimized.
Doesn't mean they're not fuctional adults, it just limits what their job occupations are.
On the flip side, though, are the idiots, and I will say that I've seen Ph.D's prove that there are living, breathing exceptions to Darwins rule about survival of the fittest.
How these people ever survived their teen, much more their adult years is more a testament to the taming of our world than to their common sense, or survival skills.
However, put them in front of a lab bench and they do wonderous things.

So I've come to conclude that common sense is only one leg of a three legged stool for a functionally balanced adult whom we would call "normal."
The other two are education and experiential maturity.

Publius said...

"So I've come to conclude that common sense is only one leg of a three legged stool for a functionally balanced adult whom we would call "normal." The other two are education and experiential maturity."

I like this, Sheer. Very good summation.

One last shot on the illiteracy front: It seems fairly intuitive that a great deal of the dumbass problem—and, oh, boy, is it a problem—can be found in illiteracy or at least in limited reading skills. I think it would be very true in mouth-breather circles. We've talked before about how we get these damned emails from people who just blithely send them along, without thought as to how they'll be received. It's my contention that most of these people have received a very limited education and do not seek more once they are out of high school. Throw the poor quality of most public education into the mix and you've got a recipe for a mouth-breather.

Limited education and little interest in furthering one's education is invariably coupled with a lack of reading skills. That's how we get educated: by reading. I believe that when you find someone who's obviously not interested in expanding his/her horizons, you're going to find a poor reader. It's just too much work for these folks.

Societal costs? Well, we need people at the low end of skills spectrum to do a lot of the work we don't want to do. If they're happy, I suppose we're happy. But now we have massive immigration to contend with, as well as the demise of the domestic car industry. All of a sudden, a lot of those poorly educated, non-readers aren't happy. Check the crime statistics.

Politically, a poorly educated, non-reading person is going to be easy prey for a slick-talking "tell it like is" dude like Rush Limbaugh. Joe the Plumber is raw meat for the Limbaughs and the Hannitys. And the problem all of us have is that the targets don't read, are intellectually incurious (kind of go together, I think) and are content with receiving "news" that reinforces their own prejudices. Prejudices formed, I'd add, by a childhood and adult life spent solely in the company of like individuals and essentially without access to differing points of view.

Common sense. Oh, boy, good old common sense. The common man. Come to South Carolina and you'll see a lot of common men with common sense in common jails. What you're going to get with a guy who really does have common sense—and their numbers are dwindling—is that old favorite plumber, carpenter, whatever, the salt of the earth guy who does an honest day's work for an honest day's pay. But you might rather he refrain from sharing his world view with you. Might scare you a whole lot when you realize that his vote means as much as yours.

Lisa said...

Fasteddiez: McNamera's 100,000 sounds like a failed project, sadly.

Chief: "Yes" on people finding ways of maneuvering within the system.

Mike: I am so with you on the absurdity of the Kate Winslet (The Reader) role. What a total metaphorical exoneration of a people who just "didn't know" what was going on.

I really am outraged on the utter transparency and apology of that movie, but moreover, re. the fact that otherwise smart moviegoers didn't reject as the bit of pap it was. I guess 30 mins. of skin flick makes up for a lot.

The educational system does not want you to have common sense or to be situationally aware. If one were, then one would pose a threat to absurd and untenable situations.

Publius,

It is not either-or. We have both spent time in a classroom. Students are woefully under-endowed with either common sense or literacy.

You say the marks don't read, "are intellectually incurious. . .and are content with receiving "news" that reinforces their own prejudices." This gullibility applies to all bigots and biased people, even those from homes with books and money. Hatred, exclusion and xenophobia is the root.

Perhaps if everyone had a study year abroad they would not be so petty, but who knows. Perhaps we are all tribal in outlook to one degree or another.

Sheerahkhan: I like your stool analogy.

FDChief said...

"The educational system does not want you to have common sense or to be situationally aware. If one were, then one would pose a threat to absurd and untenable situations."

I think you're attributing to malice what is explicable by simple incompetence, Lisa.

The bottom line is that our present industrial educational system (which I've explored both as student and teacher) is designed, like any factory line, to produce the highest quality product possible consistent with the largest volume possible. So we're not talking Socrates' Grove here. We're talking about twenty to forty misassembled, often polyglot, frequently bored or distracted, generally immature humans stuffed into a room where someone tries to jam complex thoughts into their heads in an hour or so.

NOT a situation conducive to real thought, or analysis. So, not surprisingly, much of the "product" is pretty mediocre crap.

I've railed about this for a long time. The human race spend millions of years teaching and learning in tiny groups; pairs, three or four, half a dozen. And largely by showing and doing. Why do we assume that in 200 years we can change that? Or, rather, why are we surprised that what comes out at the end is not a hundred million Mozarts, Dickenses and Hegels but about 99,999,999,999 Joe the Plumbers and the random genius or three?

mike said...

Publius - You are right that illiteracy is a huge problem - but the problem is in the third world. Pakistan (birthplace of the Taliban) and Bangladesh have less than a 50% literacy rate. Mali and Burkina Faso in Africa have less than 25%. Central America is hurting also, as well as much of Africa. And although this country is rated fairly low compared to Cuba and Europe (both Eastern and Western Europe), I do not believe it is our number one educational priority.

However, as you mentioned, the limited reading ability and close mindedness of many of our countrymen is a national shame.

Lisa said...

Chief,

Not often a conspiracy theorist, I hope it is merely incompetence, bureaucratic and otherwise, and not malice.

One personal experience stands out for me: when in grade school we moved, I went from a pilot program to, well, The Deep South. My salvation was a few hours of gifted class each week.

However, when the powers that be got whiff of the fact that we were studying "values clarification," they decided it was the devil's work (actually, the work of a transplanted Californian; same thing.) It went to our local school board, which agreed that asking students to form their own ideas was unproven methodology, and certainly not the domain of a p.s. classroom.

Case closed.

Lisa said...

Chief,

Not often a conspiracy theorist, I hope it is merely incompetence, bureaucratic and otherwise, and not malice.

One personal experience stands out for me: when in grade school we moved, I went from a pilot program to, well, The Deep South. My salvation was a few hours of gifted class each week.

However, when the powers that be got whiff of the fact that we were studying "values clarification," they decided it was the devil's work (actually, the work of a transplanted Californian; same thing.) It went to our local school board, which agreed that asking students to form their own ideas was unproven methodology, and certainly not the domain of a p.s. classroom.

Case closed.

FDChief said...

mike: Not to elide the problems of the underdeveloped world, I would opine that our vaunted literacy rate is a trifle deceptive.

Many Americans ca read, inasmuch of you hand them a piece of paper that says "I want you to go downstairs and turn on the light in the hallway." they can read, understand and apply what they've read.

But give them a newspaper op-ed piece, or a political speech, or a verse from the Torah...and I think you'd be disagreeably surprised at the extremely low level of critical reading they'd display.

So in the technical sense, the US is 92% literate or whatever our numbers say. But in terms of actually extracting, analyzing, criticising and interpreting what they read?

Mmmm...maybe not so much.

FDChief said...

Lisa: Sadly, the counterpart of the assembly-line educational system is the conviction that schools are for the inculcation of "values" rather than the examination of them.

I'm sorry to hear that you collided head-on with that...

mike said...

99% - but you are right that those are suspect.

Lisa said...

Chief,

Public schools are there to stamp out tax-paying citizens who can read machinery manuals at the 6th grade level (so they do not lop off their hands.) At least that, but not, at most, to create an analytical society. Definitely not that.

And if you look at the majority of p.s. teachers, you know that you have no fear of that ever happening. How does one teach curiosity, the ability to marvel and appreciate subtlety? How do you teach people to see? One has to awaken, first.

I like the differentiation between idiocy and illiteracy that has emerged here. One can be a very educated idiot, and like a high-functioning autistic, produce something of value. But it is for someone else to tease out the implications.

Also, unchecked population growth was touched upon. But neither politicians nor prelates will say anything on this account, as they would risk fewer constituents and less money in the plate.

Publius said...

Mike: "You are right that illiteracy is a huge problem - but the problem is in the third world."

OK, my last word here. This is way too complex a topic to be adequately addressed here. But I'd like to explain where I was coming from in the area of "illiteracy." I'm very well aware of the statistics regarding literacy, so well aware of them that I'm prepared to say "hogwash" when I see them. We have to delve a little deeper by getting into "functional illiteracy," which is really what I was driving at. Here are some interesting data:

"The United States Department of Education estimates that functional illiteracy, incompetence in such basic functions as reading, writing, and mathematics, plagues 24 million Americans. Thirteen percent of American seventeen-year-olds are illiterate, according to a recent issue of Time; the estimate for minority youth is an astonishing forty percent.[1] Every year, at least a million of these functional illiterates graduate from America's high schools, the proud owners of meaningless diplomas.

"Writing in the monthly Commentary, Chester E. Finn, Jr., a professor at Vanderbilt University, cites the dismal findings of the National Assessment of Educational Progress. "Just five percent of seventeen-year-old high school students can read well enough to understand and use information found in technical materials, literary essays, and historical documents."[2] Imagine then how hopeless it is to get the other 95 percent to read Plato or Dante -- or the Bible. "Barely six percent of them," Finn continues, "can solve multi-step math problems and use basic algebra."[3] We're not talking difficult math here but rather something as elementary as calculating simple interest on a loan.

"Illiteracy this extensive is virtually unprecedented in America's history. Eighty years ago, in 1910, only 2.2 percent of American children between the ages of ten and fourteen could neither read nor write. It is important to remember that the illiteracy of 1910 reflected for the most part children who never had the advantage of schooling. The illiterates of today, however, are not people who never went to school; they are, for the most part, individuals who have spent eight to twelve years in public schools."

This is what I'm talking about folks. Do you realize that today, for the first time since we started universal education, a parent is more likely to have graduated from high school than his/her children? Do you know what that says about the future of this nation?

My old fart friends and I often agree that we grew up in the best of all times in America. We've been slip, slip, sliding away for a couple of generations now. You kow all of those subprime loans that we're all paying for now? You know, it wasn't all greed on the part of the buyers. Many, if not most of them were literally incapable of grasping the enormity of the legal contracts into which they were entering and the consequences of failure.

Which, of course, made them easy prey for the fast buck artists, which it unfortunately seems includes almost anybody dealing with finances or the law these days. Just as they're easy prey for the political class. You see a lot of these folks in McDonald's. No, they may not be illiterate in the broadest technical terms, but they're functionally illiterate when it comes to making their way intelligently in our advanced society. These are people who never developed bullshit detectors and we all pay a dear price for that failure.

See why I'm so hard over on education?

Lisa said...

Publius,

I agree that functional illiteracy is a huge problem. When Mike speaks of his father's 10th grade education, that was a far better thing than its equivalent today.

I will disagree that, "These are people who never developed bullshit detectors and we all pay a dear price for that failure." Rather than naive, I would say they share the unbridled greed of their slightly savvier bankers, but are not clever enough to get out of the game a step ahead.

An education is different from a "b.s. detector." The latter involves a measure of self-knowledge and morality. In the old days, primers taught lessons which were moral-laden. While I am not for state-imposed morality, I also shiver before the products of our p.s. school system.

mike said...

FDChief and Publius are right to question the published literacy rate. It is determined by the Census. And my understanding is that the censustakers ask if everyone in the household over a certain age can read and write. They accept the answer verbatim. Who among us would admit to illiteracy or the illiteracy of a family member. And if the Census wants to give anyone a test that they suspected was illiterate, then they would be thrown out on their ear. Plus who knows how many households go uncounted, especially in the poorer or immigrant neighbourhoods. So I feel sure that the 99.0% rate in America is bogus - but that is probably true in every country including the supposed 99.8% rate in Cuba.

The BS Detector or the lack thereof that Publius alludes to is what my brother-in-law refers to as a G.Q. (Gullibility IQ - not the oldtime men's fashion mag). And it is present in tens of millions of us.

Those with a GQ problem or broken BS Detector are not just the functionally illiterate. Most of Bernie Madoff's Ponzi victims were doctors, lawyers, businessmen and other professionals. Those victims also included a few Wall Street fund managers.

Look at Chalabi: he scammed not only Perle, Wolfowitz, Cheney, and Bush, but also Colin Powell, Newsweek Magazine, the LA Times, Knight Ridder, and a twice Pulitzer winning journalist on the Washington Post. You might be right if you say that Perle, Cheney, Wolfowitz, and Bush were not innocent scammees, but instead were the scammers in cahoots with Chalabi. And perhaps some of the media were part of the cabal, but not all. And I personally believe that Powell was not knowingly a part of the flimflam. Ergo, their BS detectors were kaput and they got bamboozled. No functional illiterates in that group.

Lack of a BS detector is not a sign of a poor education.