Archive for October, 2008

Park and Shop

The other day I needed to get something from Office Depot. As I was planning my route, choosing which Office Depot location to visit, I suddenly flashed back to a game I used to play when I was a kid – Park and Shop. The object of the game, as I recall, was to drive your car to the parking lot of your choice and then proceed in the most efficient fashion to purchase the things you needed from different stores, returning to your home before anyone else.

I enjoyed that game. I think that it gave me my first taste of something that is part of my core being – efficiency. You had to plan your route so you didn’t waste any steps going from store to store if you wanted to win. Somehow this struck a natural chord with me. Years later, but still while I was a kid, I would read a book about an efficiency expert that would leave me thinking that, yes, this is the way things should be done. I think that book must have been “Cheaper by the Dozen” because I know that the efficiency expert was Frank Gilbreth, though it may have been some other book about him. By coincidence, or perhaps subconsciously, my career choices have placed me in a job that involves evaluating process times.

Back to the game, I realized that it is a reflection of real life today. The game uses “types” of stores you need to visit, like lumber yard, super market, smoke shop (can you imagine a game today that would include a smoke shop!?!), luggage, haberdasher (my first exposure to that word), oil and coal (yes, it’s an old game). Today, you can easily substitute, at least in my neighborhood, “Home Depot,” “Wal-Mart,” “Target,” “Office Depot,” “McDonalds,” etc. With the cost of gas, even with recent price reductions, we are planning our trips more carefully and trying to accomplish more with each trip. I guess the game was good training for my generation.

As a side thought, when was the last time you played a board game? I don’t think I have since my son was little, though perhaps Trivial Pursuits might count, but even then it’s been many years.

fall

Once upon a time I loved the fall weather. I guess I still do, but that love has become too well-tempered by the knowledge of the winter which is to follow. I hate the hassle of heavy coats, and snow, and cold, and boots, and trying to keep warm in the house. While fall may be my favorite time of year, winter is my least.

Still, fall has its appeal despite being winter’s harbinger. The colors are wonderful and the musty scent of fallen leaves brings expectations of cooler and dryer weather, which is most welcome after a hot and humid summer. The birds visiting the feeders change in variety and the geese can be hear calling as they pick over what is left in the harvested corn fields, or winging their way towards their winter home.

Pumpkins go on sale and Halloween candy is on the shelves. Apples are in season and baking with them is a much more pleasant thought than doing so when the temperatures are high. The scents of cinnamon and cloves fit hand-in-glove with the season. Thanksgiving is around the corner, and a short month after that, Christmas.

In truth, it is all part of the circle and I know that we should all appreciate what each season brings. Still, if fall wants to run a little long, and spring come a little early, I won’t complain.

human folly

Human beings are fascinating creatures. I can’t speak for all the other species on this planet, but it seems to me that humans are rather unique in that they very often choose to do things that they know are not good for them. They have the capacity to override the signals that their bodies give them and go full speed ahead with destructive behavior.

For example, you are eating dinner out. About half way through the meal, you are full and have no need to eat any more. Then you look at all the food you have left on your plate and you think, “I’m going to pay for all this and I don’t want to bring it home with me, so I better eat the rest of it.” Never mind the fact that when you try to eat the rest, your body yells at you to stop, that it has reached its capacity and doesn’t want anymore. By the time you are done you have indigestion, can’t sleep that night, and can no longer buckle your belt.

Drugs and alcohol work a little differently in that after you have taken enough of them you lose your ability to decide what is enough. Also, you can have a very real addiction problem with these substances. But for those who are weekend party drinkers, or drug takers, the excesses of the night before is always followed by a morning after and you swear that you will never do that again, only to find yourself going through the same cycle time and time again.

I wonder how many other animals have this kind of behavior. How many animals eat so much at one time that they puke. How many animals find some substance that lets them “bliss out” and thereby lose all ability to survive. I’m sure there must be examples of this in the animal kingdom, but I think that we humans probably have them all beat.