The Undotted Infinitesimal “i” and Uncrossed Teensy “t”?

 

It almost seems like just yesterday that I was a high school senior, settling back into the normal classroom routine following the Christmas break. That’s when just prior to my physics instructor beginning his lecture, he took me aside to inform me of my summons to the assistant principal’s office. The incredulity in his voice was both palpable and justifiable since I’d never given anyone any reason to peg me as a troublemaker.

At that point, my only option was to close my books, make my exit and walk “the final mile” through the now deserted hallways. Peering into the countless classrooms I was passing by, my mind flooded with envy. Why? Well, unlike my classmates, I was being denied my education.

My clear conscience notwithstanding, I was also keenly aware that that assistant principal… let’s refer to him by his initials, CC… was a school rulebook hard-liner. Which raised the big question…

Just which of HIS infinitesimal “i’s” had I undotted and which of HIS teensy “t’s” had I uncrossed?

Upon my arrival, I counted myself amongst the approximately one dozen students… all male… all standing in a semicircle before our judge, jury and executioner. That morning, the bug up CC’s ass turned out to be our long hairstyles, which were in direct violation of the school’s oppressive, grooming code. To paraphrase “Da Man’s” gruff, grunted out ultimatum to each of us… Either get a haircut or get the Hell out… and stay out!

From my side of “The Bench”, His Dishonor’s edict flipped off strict Federal and State statutes which, btw, explicitly state that attendance is MANDATORY for all school aged kids.

Well, the next morning, thanks to Mom’s barbering skills, I wound up passing CC’s inspection. He next handed me a re-admittance form. This required signatures from all six of my teachers… their acknowledgement that they were required to “award” me Fs for all incomplete assignments and/or missed tests.

Admittedly, how two of those six handled this signing “ceremony” certainly turned out to be priceless.

My cool physics teacher, Mr. S (who, btw, sported a much longer hairstyle than what I’d been expelled for) just glumly shook his head side to side while delivering his tongue-in-cheek “tsk tsks”. In guarded, hushed, more serious tones, he expressed both his disbelief and outrage that such a good student could’ve ever been treated so shoddily. When I lamented over how the previous school day’s “Fs” would mess up my GPA, with a conspiratorial smirk Mr. S informed me that I hadn’t gotten any Fs from him. He had had my classmates spend the entire hour quietly reading the next chapter in our textbook. He had also set up a chess board in his office where he had matched wits with anyone who had already read ahead.

My not-so-cool English teacher, Ms. D couldn’t wait for her golden opportunity to gleefully and publicly humiliate any of her students… especially longhaired “hippies”. Yep, I hadn’t even made it halfway to my assigned desk, when, with her stern “So-where-do-you-think-you’re-going-mister” glower… she goose-stepped over to block my path. Had I not first waived CC’s form before her very eyes, that gestapo officer-in-training could’ve easily snarled, “Papers Please!”

It wasn’t until the next day that several of my fellow, readmitted exiles told me how, on the very day of our suspension, our town’s barber had “conveniently” kept his clip joint open for biz well past his regular 5 p.m. closing time. Ah yes… corrupt, small town politics had apparently, heavily influenced CC’s ruling. You see, that barber also moonlighted as one of our school board members… and likely also moonlighted as an author whose self-serving, potentially wallet fattening verbiage had mutated much of our school’s grooming code.

The good news here… mere days later, Judge Damon Keith had ruled to strike down our school’s grooming code. You see, a fellow longhaired student (and friend of mine) had also recently faced down a similar expulsion. But, instead of knuckling under to CC’s BS, his parents… with an assist from the American Civil Liberties Union… had successfully argued that our entire school board and administrative staff did not have the legal right to deny an education to their son or anyone else.

On the upside… from that day forward, I regrew my hair until it reached waist length. And even on the occasions where I’ve opted for substantially shorter “dos”, I’ve always made damned sure my style would, in some way, remain in violation of CC’s code. Why? Just because that’s what freedom is all about. It also feels so good to get the last laugh. And, ever since my retirement, I’ve been free to maintain my mane in all of its lengthy splendor.

On the flipside… my long hair has flipped folks out in varying degrees. Must I point out the obvious… namely that the Y chromosome does permit such hair growth? Just who, beyond that local barber from out of my past, felt they had the right to countermand nature and restrict any man’s individuality? Why the hell should my personal grooming choices ever open me up to profiling… e.g…

  • One man, who couldn’t contain his intolerance, called me a “GD hippie!” Had he been packing heat, he’d have likely blown me away!
  • In an era where customer service within brick and mortar establishments is nearly non-existent, I’ve experienced retail managers and salesclerks first swooping down upon me like buzzards and next shadowing me. I’m almost tempted to (truthfully) claim, “Hey, buzz off! I’m not now… nor have I ever been… nor will I ever be a shoplifter”… but such reassurances would only make them more suspicious.
  • I recently dealt with an Urgent Care physician who, while removing three stitches from my thumb, asked me if I was a musician. True, I do play piano. But, mercifully, I choose not to do so before a captive audience.
  • This past summer, while seated on a park bench, a man mistook me for a homeless person and actually offered me money. Since I’m still solvent I rejected his donation, commended him for his attempt to extend a helping hand, encouraged him to remain philanthropic… BUT… in the same breath… offered my friendly reminder, “Don’t be too quick to judge the book by its cover”.

This would also be a good time to offer up yet another friendly reminder. It’s just as easy for folks to misjudge a well groomed person to be electable. Throughout human history, this has resulted in grotesquely, corrupt regimes headed by the well coiffed, fashionista fascists… such as Bashar al-Assad, Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump.

Of course some might point out how Donny’s “do” does appear a bit unkempt. Hmm… maybe we could coax CC out of retirement to expel him?

 

99 Word Blog (#024) Banned Burkinis

Following a succession of deadly jihadist attacks in France, 15 municipalities overreacted by banning the burkini (Muslim swimwear). Lately, profiling cops have been knocking themselves out… strictly enforcing this discriminatory beach dress code.

It’s truly astounding that in a society where beachgoers publicly parade around in the buff, we’d find Siam, a harmless Muslim woman, getting harassed for being fully clothed.

The lack of nudity is the real distraction, here. Instead of investigating the truly life-threatening terrorist threats and trying to prevent attacks… here we witness four cops… FOUR ARMED COPS… squandering their time… ordering this woman to strip.

Let’s Do The Math

 

Add in paranoid rightwing, xenophobic, false piety,

Subtract civility, amity, tolerance, levelheaded sobriety,

Multiply the fear factor, caused by media instilled anxiety,

Divide further the already too fractured, factional society.

 

On May 5, 2016, a clueless, unworldly passenger aboard an American Airlines jet unjustifiably profiled her seatmate… suspected him of being a terrorist… this all escalating to the point where the accused, Guido Menzio, a renowned, University of Pennsylvania, economics professor was detained and questioned… and the flight was delayed by more than two hours. So why did this all happen?

Just because she didn’t understand the mathematical symbols… the differential equation… Menzio was jotting down on a pad of paper. Just because he was so absorbed in his work that he ignored her small talk. To get down to the actual reason… just because he wasn’t Caucasian enough for her liking.

True, a sensible level of caution in our post 9/11 world is not a bad idea… the key word being sensible. But, think about it for a moment.

If any airline passenger ever has evil intent, would not this person…

ADD in a bit more friendliness… you know… disarm suspicion by “killing” everyone with kindness?

SUBTRACT the aura of suspicion by doing the math at home instead of on the plane?

I think it’s a safe bet to say…

It is those, who no one ever suspects, in the least, who perpetrate terrorist acts that go down as planned.

Considering how Menzio was the injured party in this incident, it’s only fair that I yield the podium to the good professor… let him get in the final word… and… btw… being the consummate mathematician he is… he SUMMED up everything perfectly… Said he…

“Trump’s America is already here.”

 

Ageism/Racism: The Unattractive Reality

Our appearance. It’s how others judge us. More to the point… oft summarily prejudge us. To say the least… exhibiting THAT type of behavior is NOT attractive. To say more… real life experiments have exposed this oft-ugly side of human nature.

In late 1959… author John Howard Griffin, managed to successfully pass himself off as a black man after first taking massive, oral doses of the anti-vitiligo drug, methoxsalen, and spending 15 hours per day under an ultraviolet lamp.

Then, for six weeks, he proceeded to travel throughout America’s, racially segregated Deep South by Greyhound Bus and by hitchhiking. To summarize the story, which he related in his book Black Like Me, he had faced down the typical, brutal bigotry, which the region of that era had been known for.

More recently… actress Roxanne Pallett had successfully passed herself off as a ninety-year-old woman, courtesy of a four-hour process where she was fitted with Hollywood type prosthetics and had applications of special makeup.

She then faced the public… and long story short… had experienced the ill-mannered indifference and ill-tempered impatience of those younger than she.

Folks, I’ve seen this ageism, first hand, too, in the grocery store checkout lane. I watched a woman, ahead of me in line, slowly writing out a check… her noticeably arthritic fingers having a tough time holding onto her pen. Then, after she had left, as the younger cashier rang up my purchase, she rolled her eyes, shook her head and said, with unforgiving, under her breath scorn, “Some people…” She never finished her sentence… not that I had ever really wanted her to do so.

I, too, have undergone my own transformation. True, mine merely involves my normal, day-to-day physiology / aging process doing its thing. But… I can certainly attest to much of what Pallett had related re her own experiences.

Shopping while gray ~ I’ve oft experienced store clerks’ “special treatment” / their “looking right through me” stares. I’ve practically heard their internal voices, bouncing about within their cranial abyss, saying…”Eh… who needs him?” OR “He’s just an old geezer who’s gonna kick off any day now!” OR “He probably doesn’t have a lot of money, anyway, so who needs him?” OR “Ignore it and maybe it’ll go away!”

It was only after I grew my hair to shoulder length that, all the sudden, I started finding the store clerks rushing up to me to cautiously, nervously “offer” me their “help.” Truth is, they’re wrongfully suspecting that I’m going to rip them off (read more here).

Imagine how demoralizing and frustrating it is to be perceived to be someone you know you are not. Perhaps, you don’t need to imagine?

Racism and ageism wrongfully punish us for our physical appearance… for traits that (unless one is part of some sociological experiment), one has no control over. Melanin content is in our DNA. So is how soon and how fast the wrinkles and other signs of aging manifest themselves.

Superficial characteristics have absolutely nothing to do with who we actually are… who we oft are wrongfully being judged to be.

Those who think small have yet to realize that we all begin aging on the day we are born… that, someday, they, too, will feel the heartbreak of being unjustly perceived as “not-valid” human beings.

Profiling the Profilers

I know how it feels to be singled out for no good reason. Lately, profilers have been flagging me because they erroneously believe my presence presents what? Some sort of threat? Most assuredly… I am NOT who they’re making me out to be. And that does tend to happen when prejudice rears its ugly head. So… who are they?

The (wo)men, who big box chain stores hire to thwart shoplifters. Normally, I’d say more power to them… if not for the fact that I am NOT a shoplifter and have never, ever, stolen one damned thing from any store… period!

Now, since they are basing their suspicions solely on my physical appearance…

Permit me to present the profile of the real me ~ If such a thing as a pictorial Thesaurus existed… whenever anyone flipped the pages open to the “H” section… oh… say… to look up the word “honest”… they’d find a snapshot of me. Of course, they’d also find my photo… again in the “H” section… if they were looking up the word, “hippie”.

“Yeah, Yeah Yeah”… not too long ago, this Sixties era “flowerchild” got back to his longhair roots. How long is long? Well… the Beatles’ Abbey Road album cover will answer that Q. In that Fab Four, crosswalk procession, my hair style/color is a pretty close match to John Lennon’s. And as long as we’re on the subject of hair follicles, I also sport a neatly trimmed beard.

The clothes that make this man ~ In spite of my nostalgia for the Sixties, it’s been a long time since rainbow color / tie-dyed tees, bellbottom jeans with embroidered peace symbols and sandals were en vogue. Come to think of it… I’ve never ever actually owned anything tie-dyed.

These days, when I go shopping, I wear drab hued cargo pants, khakis or faded, stylishly threadbare jeans topped off with a tee, polo or sweatshirt. My shoes are athletic and outerwear is whatever the seasonal weather patterns dictate. Also relevant to this discussion, my sunglasses come off as soon as I enter a store… i.e., no shades to make me look like a shady character.

So… what happens after I “lose” the shades? Well… I start innocently / casually browsing through the merchandise… my eyes focused solely on the merchandise. I can assure you I’m not looking about suspiciously to see if anyone is watching me.

In spite of that… folks… you would not believe how fast store security salesclerks have been rushing up to me… to ask me if I need any “help” (I can hear the suspicion and near panic in their hesitant, vocal inflection). With my being fully cognizant of the real reason for this sudden burst of “customer service”… and how ludicrously inept they are at concealing it… well… I’m almost tempted to say in a hushed tone, “Oh… btw… I am not a shoplifter” AND then burst out laughing.

But this is no laughing matter ~ What makes my receiving this “special treatment” even more inexplicable is that these businesses also employ burly dudes to patrol their portals. If I were to profile them, I’d say they look like steroid bulked up NFL retirees, who could easily tackle any and all suspected shoplifters… long before any of them reached the end zone / parking lot.

I’m also virtually 100% certain that these merchants have invested heavily in security cams. So, clearly, everyone can see that I’ve not stolen one damned thing. So why am I being singled out?

Here’s the real kicker ~ In bygone days, while sporting a much shorter “conservative’ hairstyle and, in some cases, even outfitted with the exact same garments, I have shopped these same chain stores and locations. Yep, as you may’ve already guessed, those were the days when I had gotten absolutely no service at all. True, maybe at that time, they weren’t being ripped off as much? I dunno…

And… btw… I do know how store security functions (or in this case malfunctions). Once upon a time I worked in retail sales and management… to the tune of thirty years. During my OJT, I learned how to properly prevent shrinkage. Translating that from Retail-Speak to English… that means we learned how to make damned sure that outgoing merchandise did not bypass the cash register.

My past training sessions had neatly drawn out the typical shoplifter profile… the #1 tip off being that any “customer” who eyes the store personnel more than the merchandise is usually up to no good.

Is there anything positive… re my being profiled? Well… if I ever DID need help, I wouldn’t have to wander around ISO a clerk. But all one-liners aside… let’s get serious.

My experiences have given me a far better understanding of the emotionally devastating feelings minorities experience when they’ve been racially profiled.

True, I won’t likely ever be beaten up or beaten to death for merely being a “hippie”. But the same cannot be said for those who have been assaulted and murdered because they are non-Caucasian.

Equally true, I could rapidly put an end to being profiled by simply getting a haircut. But, what about folks who can do nothing to change the melanin content of their skin?