Lessons from ‘the little grey-haired lady’ (5 x 8 – 10/25/13)

1) THE CHECKOUT LADY

I feel a little guilty when I hit the self-serve checkout at the grocery and hardware stores. I know I’m contributing to the eventual decline of the humanity of shopping — soon there’ll be more machines than people. But I’m in a hurry and don’t like standing in line. Besides, who needs humanity?

Funny you should ask. A lot of people, judging by a neat story in today’s Pioneer Press about the “the little gray haired lady” who ran a checkout at the Rainbow store in West Saint Paul.

It says here that people would deliberately wait in Patsy Krech’s line.

“I wanted a cashier who would know me, who would chat with me,” an 80-year-old woman told the paper. “I didn’t want someone who just rang up my stuff and sent me on my way. I tried her out and she was perfect. She is absolutely one in a million.”

One less, now. She had a stroke in August and had to retire. At age 89. They threw a party for her yesterday afternoon.

“Being nice to people is not hard,” she said. “I loved the people, because I believe that what you give, you get back tenfold.”

2) THE FAILURE OF ADRIAN PETERSON

The Rochester Post Bulletin’s editorial board gives Vikings running back Adrian Peterson what for today after he refused to tell ESPN how many kids he’s fathered. One of the running back’s children was killed earlier this month, apparently beaten to death, allegedly by the boyfriend of the mother.

Regardless of how many kids he has, Peterson should and could use this opportunity to point an unflinching finger at a society that heaps money and fame on young athletes, then looks the other way as many of them lead frat-boy lifestyles. He could use his fame and fortune as a platform from which to declare, “Professional athletes should act like men, not perpetual 19-year-olds.”

He could go to college campuses and tell athletes that sports are temporary, that there is life after football or basketball — but that the decisions they make in their 20s can and will have a profound impact on their own life and the lives of others. He could tell tomorrow’s future stars, “You’ve been given a great gift, but don’t abuse it. Don’t make headlines for the wrong reasons. Treat women with respect.” He should vow to be a better man, to be a better father to his children.

The editorial said if Peterson wants something good to come from his son’s death, he’ll have to “change his own behavior — and keep alive the story of the son he never knew.”

3) MAKING IT OK

“This winter, I’ll see more patients with seasonal-affective disorder than the flu, and the tissues in my exam room will dry tears more often than they muffle sneezes,” Dr. Suzanne Koven wrote this week on her New Yorker blog. “The problem is, I lack the time or training to diagnose and manage many psychiatric disorders. And some studies, such as this one about low rates of detection of anxiety and depression by primary-care doctors, show that I’m probably not all that great at doing so. Still, over a third of all mental-health care in the U.S. is now provided by primary-care doctors, nurse practitioners, pediatricians, and family practitioners.”

It’s an ongoing complaint about a situation that hasn’t changed in years. There aren’t enough mental health professionals, people don’t have the insurance coverage to get proper mental health care, and even if they do, it’s difficult getting an appointment.

Like the illnesses themselves, few people want to talk about it, and so changes comes slowly. Often, tragically slowly.

After her radio work today, and after her Almanac work tonight on TPT, MPR’s Cathy Wurzer is hosting a live discussion at 8 p.m. tonight as part of the “Make it OK” series, intended to get people to talk more openly about their struggles with mental illness. Maybe that will lead to change. Maybe not. It’s worth a try.

The guests include Ken Barlow, Jearlyn Steele, and a performance by Adam Levy, who lost his son to suicide.

4) MARINATING IN THE MUCK

WBUR’s Cognoscenti blog is the latest to wade into the future of online comment sections and whether there’s any system — banning anonymity, for example — that’s going to fix the mess therein.

Whatever the rationale, there seems to be a trend toward expunging the venom by making it more difficult (although not impossible) to conceal your identity, a strategy that comes with collateral damage. After all, not everyone who speaks behind the veil of anonymity uses privacy to intimidate, demean, or marginalize.

Many turn to the Internet when they cannot turn to those in their midst for information and support on topics they experience as too embarrassing or too risky to discuss freely. As the spaces for these anonymous exchanges begin to erode, we lose one of the great gifts of web 2.0, the opportunity to find commonality and community — the chance to participate.

The trolls’ last laugh may not be that they have begun to force large sites to circle the wagons, but rather that they are so perennially gifted at distracting us from substantive conversations.

While we spin our wheels talking about whether these new policies and practices will work, we risk missing questions of far greater importance: What does it mean that the comments are so incredibly ugly to begin with? Why does the abuse so regularly take the form of identity-based insults against marginalized groups? What can we learn by mapping the landscape of rage and ridicule? Sanitizing comments makes them difficult to examine, as sociologists Matthew Hughey and Jessie Daniels recently explained.

A study recently found, however, that anonymous comments tend to be more civil than the ones with a name attached, an assertion I have not found to be anywhere near reality.

5) ‘EVERYBODY WANTS TO GET MARRIED IN A DAMN BARN’

It’s a tough time to be in the dairy business. People aren’t drinking as much milk anymore and the cost is getting pretty steep for the average farmer.

A California farmer has come up with a solution. Change “dairyland” to “weddingland,” according to the Los Angeles Times.

“Lately, it’s a trend,” said Tony Azevedo, the owner of the Central California dairy, which has been hosting nuptials for more than 20 years. “It’s just that they don’t call them dairy weddings, because people tend to think about flies and manure. It’s ‘barn weddings’ or ‘farm setting.'”

In the latest Kelly Clarkson music video, newlyweds share a kiss in front of Azevedo’s cows. The dairy wedding photos of another couple are in a video for country singer Jason Aldean. Antique milk cans and bales of hay are objects of lust on Pinterest, a social media bulletin board particularly favored by brides-to-be.

“This Pinterest thing is my new business partner,” said Azevedo, 61, with a shake of his cowboy hat. “Everybody wants to get married in a damn barn and have their picture taken with a cow.”

Bonus I: I’ve mentioned the heartwarming story about Teddy Kremer and the Cincinnati Reds a number of times on 5×8 over the last year or so. The man with Down Syndrome has been taken in by the Reds, who occasionally make him their bat boy.

This week, Topps, the baseball card company, issued its 2013 card set. Look who got a card.

Teddytopps

On Friday afternoon, a Kremer card sold on eBay for $149.99, according to the Cincinnati Enquirer.

(h/t: Brian Hanf)

Bonus II: Why Libraries Smell (Smith Journal).

Bonus III: Wellstone’s Revenge: How Minnesota Democrats Took Their State Back (Mother Jones).

Bonus IV: America’s Mood Map: Find Which State Matches Your Personality (Time). Apparently, I belong in South Carolina. I don’t exactly know what to make of that.

TODAY’S QUESTION
What limits should be applied to mind reading technology?

WHAT WE’RE DOING

Daily Circuit (9-12 p.m.) – First hour: Friday roundtable discussion on storytelling, race, and gender in film and on television.

Second hour: The scandals of the archdiocese.

Third hour: Lots of people are very excited about the TSA’s new Precheck prescreening program. In exchange for giving their name, date of birth and gender before ever getting to the airport, passengers can skip the disrobing that happens in airport security lines. But there’s a catch. To apply for Precheck travelers can enter their “Known Traveler Number” which is an identification number used by passengers on international flights. This number unlocks other homeland security databases with more information- potentially including passengers’ employment status, property ownership, past travel itineraries, etc. Will these new more invasive pre-screenings actually increase security? And what will be the fallout for the oft-profiled passengers with Muslim sounding names?

MPR News Presents (12-1 pm): Gary Eichten interviews 1960’s civil rights giant the Rev. Dr. Bernard Lafayette at St John’s University’s annual Peace Studies Conference.

Science Friday (1-2 p.m.) – What if you were a scientist studying psychopaths, and discovered you fit the profile? A conversation with a neuroscientist who did.

All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) - One of California’s poorest school districts will be handing out iPads to thousands of students. The technological tool is expected to give them a much-needed educational boost. But for now, the iPad plan faces doubts from teachers and students alike. NPR will have the story.