L. E. Hewitt

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Posted by lehewitt on February 2, 2015 at 11:50 PM

It is nearly midnight.  My most productive time of the day.  I enjoy the quiet, stillness that settles in.  I mean, my house is quiet all day anymore, with the kids grown.  But, yet, here in the darkness as the time slips by, there is a different feel about things.  It almost feels like I am wrapped inside a protective cocoon.  In a way, I guess I am.  I am inside my warm and comfy house.  it almost doesn't seem fair to the animals and people in this world who do not have such luxury.  Those who must brave the elements.  It's probably twenty degrees outside tonight.  Can you even imagine sleeping out there?   I have personally slept in cold conditions a few times in my life and I didn't like it one bit.  I have never really suffered from hunger, not real hunger.  Just think of the living things for which hunger is a reality.  Then add the cold to the hunger.  Really think about it!  The world can be a very difficult place.  Now add poverty, war, disease.  There are living creatures right here on our world who face these and many more great challenges every single day.  Honestly think about it.

When it comes to humans, there are those who say that a certain segment of the population is simply lazy and looking for a handout.  This is true.  But, I have not seen any wild animals who are lazy.  Some of the domesticated ones can be because they learned this from us!  The problem is that most human suffering and possibly all suffering of other living creatures, is caused by something other than being lazy.  There are systemic problems which keep people in many parts of the world in poverty, disease, and yes even hunger.

Some people say, let the rich folks handle it!  About a year ago, Gallup conducted a survey and found that the median household income for the world was around $9700/year.  Again, that's for the entire household.  That's the median, meaning 50% make more than that, 50% make less.  In the United States, the average household income was in the neighborhood of $43,500/yr.  The highest country was Norway at just a bit over $51,000/yr.  On the other end of the spectrum were Madagascar, Zambia, Togo, Benin, and Rwanda.  Each of these countries had an annual household income below $1600/yr.  No, that is not a typo.  let's see you take care of your whole family on that.  But, it gets even worse.  Liberia has a median household income of $781/yr and Burundi came in at $673/yr.  Now, please remember that all of these figures are median incomes.  So, that means that in each of these countries, a full 50% of the population lives on even less!

I am poor by American standards.  But, compared to the world, I am rich, very rich!  Is that fair?  Hell no!  It was a wakeup call for me and hopefully for you as well.  Don't waste what you are blessed to have.  Don't complain about what you do not have!  And most of all, don't forget that we are one world.  There are billions of other planets, but we are all sharing just this one.  So, be giving.  Do not shut yourself inside your cocoon and leave the others to suffer.  How many people could be fed with just what you waste?  How many people could be treated with needed medicines if we all donated only our spare change?  What could we accomplish if we did even more?  If you are reading this, then it is quite likely that you are rich by world standards.  Do not close your mind and your heart to those that you could help.

Mr. President

Posted by lehewitt on January 23, 2015 at 3:10 PM

I had a fun rideshare experience with two sisters yesterday evening.  They seemed like best buddies.  They even seemed to have a sort of co-parenting relationship in regard to the older one's six year old daughter.   The younger sister, age 23, said that the six year old was her intellactual equal.  The older sister, age 26, is just finishing schooling to be a psychiatric nurse practitioner.  She confessed that nothing about human behavior alarms her anymore, although I kept some of my "issues" hidden during the ride just to be safe.

They also told me about their two brothers, one older, one younger.  The older one is a Harvard graduate who has worked on Wall Street and expects to run for President of the United States someday, although one of his sisters, and I am not naming names, claims that she would not vote for him.  The other brother?  Well, he is getting ready to move to Colorado to grow marijuana for a living.  Dad, well,he is remarried.  The girls seem to like the woman, but they feel sorry for her.  He had a drug problem that started about fifteen years ago.  They can all joke about it.  But, he did serve in the military for four years, so that should help brother in his election bid.  Mom, well, she seems to be the one who just has to accept it all, like it or not.

Amazing what you can learn in a twenty minute car ride!

Leaving

Posted by lehewitt on January 19, 2015 at 2:40 PM

I picked up a rideshare customer in a nice, quiet, middle class neighborhood around noon.  She was carrying luggage, heading to the airport.  I greeted her in the normal way.  How's your day going?  Her response was tepid.  She asked me a bit about myself and then started to open up a bit as I told her about my book project.   It turns out that today was not such a great day for her.  She was leaving her boyfriend's house for quite possibly the last time.  There had been some words exchanged the previous night that led her to believe that this realtionship was simply not going to endure.  This had been a long distance relationship, spanning nearly a thousand miles for the past nine months.

Our conversation bounced around, from the dramatic personalities on reality TV shows, to the special meaning of strawberries and lettuce given out of kindness.  We even talked about how respect can diffuse a potentially negative situation and how too much warm red wine it a bad thing.  I know that none of this really makes any sense to you, but let's just say that the conversation was varied.  She seemed to want to talk about the relationship, yet she wanted to hold it together until she got back home.  These subjects were a diversion.  I think she needed that.  I also wonder if she was later surprised at how much she had shared with me, a total stranger.

I plan to write a story about our encounter.  I plan to explain such things as the value of knowing Portugese behind the iron curtain and how this whole relationship that she was leaving had started.  What is missing, however, is that I will not know the ending.  I should have told her to send me a message and let me know what happens from here on out.  I would be curious to know.

This rider was a great experience for me as well.  I could feel her pain.  I had been in her shoes.  I could sense her strength and resolve even though parts of her probably just wanted to turn the car around and go back.   I will not soon forget this encounter.

Share the Ride

Posted by lehewitt on January 12, 2015 at 4:45 PM

I am always looking for new things to write about.  There is so much fun stuff in the world!  A friend of mine recently started doing ridesharing in another city to earn extra cash.  It gave me an idea!  I decided to go through the qualifying process and become a rideshare driver myself!  I just knew there had to be some good stories out there.  In my investigation, I learned that there were two major players in this industry.  I decided to start with one at first.  I went through the criminal background and driving history checks, insurance checks and car checks and before I knew it, i was an approved driver!.  I tried it out for a couple of weeks and then decided to go ahead and get approved for the other compant as well.  i sent them all of my paperwork and they sent me emails telling me that i was all approved except that I just needed to schedule an introduction session with one of their experienced drivers.  Let's call him Danny.

I contacted Danny and arranged to meet him at a Starbucks.  He was what I would call a metrosexual twnetysomething.  he had his clothes and hair just so.  He took my picture, took a ride with me around the block and took a picture of my car.  That was about it!  Two days later, I received an email thanking me for my interest, but that company #2 was no longer interested in me as a driver.  That little twit must have given a bad report on me!  Either he didn't want the competition or else he was intimidated by my handsome self!   I didn't just let it go!  I have emailed some people up the food chain looking for answers.  It really doesn't matter a hill of beans to me if I work for them, I can get plenty of stories from the other company's passengers, but it's the principle of it!  There was no valid reason for me to be denied other than that pipsqueek was feeling powerful.  Now, I am out to get him!

Anyhow, where was I?  Oh yes, so I have been doing this ridesharing.  My phone beeps, if I choose to accept the request, I simply tap the screen and drive to the given address.  All of the riders are registered with the company with their credit card information on file.  I do not handle the charges or any issues, I just drive.  I had forgotten how different the world can be at 3am.  Where are these people during the daylight hours?  Did you know that 3am is a great time to get on your phone in a rideshare car and call up long lost friends whom you haven't talked to in years?  Have you ever heard of an app that you can use when traveling to rent someone's couch to sleep on overnight?  Did you know that there are people out at that hour who cannot even remember their own name?  This is some amazing stuff I tell ya!  I am gonna have a book full in no time!

Some people even ask me what I do besides drive.  When I tell them, some of them start plotting to figure out what they can do in my car to get in the book.  One offered to pee on my Pittsburgh Steelers floormats....uh, that was a no.  One told me a joke...Did you hear about the pencil with the broken lead?   It's pointless.   Uh, no!  It is typically the ones who do not try who will make the best stories, like the woman who fell down going through an open door and then the door closed on her foot and she was helplessly trapped until the bartender let her out or perhaps the couple who argued for twenty minutes about what a White Castle burger smells like.  I am learning so much and meeting some funny people.  And, if my writing gig ever falls through, at least I will have a backup plan!

Christmas Eve

Posted by lehewitt on December 24, 2014 at 6:45 PM

It is December 24th at 6:45pm.  I just finished off a dinner of steak and potatoes. The house is all quiet.  The kids are gone to their other holiday events tonight.  We have planned all of our festivities for tomorrow.  Last year I spent this night at Wendy's parents holiday gathering.  It was certainly memorable.  Each person brought a gift and put it in a pile.  Next, each person drew a number.  Number one got to choose the first gift to open.  Next went number two and so on.  The catch was, say if you were number nine, you could pick an unopened gift from the pile or you could stael the gift already opened by any of the numbers one though eight and make them draw a new one.  There were probably close to twenty of us involved in this event.  It was certainly fun.  Those women can get awfully catty over a fancy candleholder or designer earmuffs.

The most memorable event of the night was that Wendy's father, who had been suffering with flulike symptoms, decided he needed to go to the hospital early in the evening.  They ended up admitting him and keeping him.  He later recovered, but it was not the sort of thing you wish to deal with at Christmas, for sure.

This year it's just me and the animals.  Fuzzbutt is pacing nervously wondering if he is on the naughty list.  I don't want to spoil what little hope he is clinging to.  I did give him the bone from my steak.  he has been working at it for a bit.  

As for me, I will settle on for a long Winter's nap and await all of the festivities tomorrow.  I hope your Christmas is a nice, enjoyable day spent with loved ones as well.

New Holidays

Posted by lehewitt on December 18, 2014 at 1:05 PM

Okay folks! It is one week until Christmas! It is now time to get into the holiday swing of things! I kinda feel sorry for those of you who missed Thanksgiving because you were in such a rush to get to Christmas! You may now be growing tired of it and be ready to get it over with already. Me? I am just getting started. I am full of steam and ready to roll!

I like to take the holidays as they come.  Enjoy each one on its own merits.  I don't like to get them all balled together.  I do feel that maybe there needs to be some spreading out of the holidays.  After New Years, things get kinda barren.  We have MLK Day and Valentine's Day, then President's Day.  That's about it.  The dead of Winter would be a fabulous time for a big celebration!  There should be a Snowman day, where everybody builds a snowman.  There could even be a booming business trucking in snow to the southern states for the event.  Do that one in January.   Then maybe in February add a go to the beach day.  For those of us in the beachless , cold midwest, we could have an indoor beach holiday even at places like Lucas Oil Stadium.  The place is just sitting there empty after football season anyhow.  Bring in sand and a wave pool and a band!  

I am just so full of it!  Great ideas that is....isn't that what you thought I meant?

Lickety Split

Posted by lehewitt on December 12, 2014 at 9:55 PM

It is no wonder there are so many looney people in this world.  I may have just joined them today.  I have a simple problem.  Elizabeth dropped her iPhone and the screen is covered in cracks.  I thought, no big deal, I will give her mine and I have a spare older version iPhone that works great that is good enough for me.  It was here from when one of the kids just had to have the latest, greatest upgrade a few years ago.  It has actually been handy having a spare.  I let a coworker use it for a when they needed one and Wendy actually even used it for a few months when her own phone died.  It has always worked great.  

Elizabeth's boyfriend, Donald, attempted to reset this spare phone.  When he went to restart it, it asked for an iTunes user name and password.   We tried every one we knew, no luck.  The last person to actively use the phone was Wendy, my ex-girlfriend.  It is so lovely to need to contact an ex about these types of things.  She shared her user ID and password, we tried that, no luck.  We were at a loss.  

Today, I decided it was time to get this issue resolved!  Donald had tried Wendy's ID before, but I figured that he surely isn't as smart as me, so today I tried, no luck!  So, I got on the phone and called Apple to explain my dilemna and seek results.  I spent one hour and fifteen minutes on the phone with a very nice rep just so that they could transfer me to their boss.  This boss got the phone unhitched from Wendy's account, but said I need to prove that I was the original purchaser of the phone.  What?  Like, I would have the receipt from 2009 or 2010, are you kidding me?  He said I would need that to send to them so that they would feel comfortable about unlocking MY phone that has zero information on it.  He also told me that if I call Sprint, my phone carrier, that they could whip me over a receipt by email lickety split.  I got his contact info just in case.

I called Sprint.  The first lady asked me what the problem was so that she could connect me to somebody that could help me.  I want her job.  "Oh, I don't solve anything, but you still need to tell me your whole story and then tell it again to the next person too."  She transferred me to a man.

The man quickly said, "I can resolve your problem.  I just sent you an email with the info."

I told him to hold on.  I checked my email.  He had sent me the receipt for the most recent phone we had purchased, not the one from four years ago!  I re-explained to him what I needed.  He searched for another thirty minutes before telling me I need to go to the same location that I purchased the phone, because he doesn't show it in his records, but they can give it to me lickety split.

Lickety split my butt!  That location no longer even exists!  So tomorrow, I get to do this all over again!  My question is this, "Why can't Apple and Sprint just talk to each other, rather than use me as the UNPAID middle man?"  To me, that would be true customer service!


Shopping with Mom

Posted by lehewitt on December 8, 2014 at 4:25 PM

I spent a few days visiting my eighty-nine year old mom in Pennsylvania last week. Her walking isn’t very good these days, but she still likes to be on the go. We spend last Wednesday running errands. First stop was a place called Shorty’s Lunch. They are famous for their hot dogs. Awesome hot dogs with chili, mustard and onion in a little old fashioned bar/diner sort of place. I took note of a few things this trip. Typically, if you go for lunch you have to wait for a place to sit. We didn’t arrive until about 1:30 so the rush had slowed a bit and we were able to immediately find an open table. The server arrived twenty-two seconds after my butt hit the chair. She took our food and drink orders (no menu required). She was back with the drinks in thirty-seven seconds, four chili dogs (two for me and two for Mom) twenty-three seconds after that. Finally, another seventeen second passed before she plopped two orders of French fries with brown gravy on our table. I’d like to see these fast food giants do that!

 

Our bellies filled, we headed out to the newspaper office. Mom wanted to put in display memoriam ads for my father and my grandparents in the paper for Christmas. She sent me to scout out the premises for wheelchair access. I went inside to ask. They had no wheelchair access. I thought that all businesses were required to do that anymore. Their only access was through a revolving door and then up some stairs. Oh well, this left me to be the messenger boy between Mom and the guy inside at the counter. She drew out a little map of how each ad was to be designed, where the pictures were to go, the exact wording, the column inch size. I fear there may be hell to pay if the newspaper guy and I screw this up!

 

Having completed the work at the paper, our next stop was the mall for Christmas shopping. She knew exactly what she was looking for. She had spotted it in a catalog, but they wanted to charge her for shipping, how dare they! I threw her in the wheelchair and we made our way past the various stores until we finally located the one she was hunting. It was a different company from the ones who sent her the catalog and she was not happy that they didn’t offer the exact same stuff! So, we had to start from scratch and look at every single item they sold so that she could feel satisfied that she had made the best selection for her gifts. Is this a woman thing or what? A man can look for two minutes and say “That’ll do” and be out the door. A woman has to see them ALL, and then she usually chooses the first one she saw.

 

Okay Mom, my belly is full. I have gotten my exercise. It’s past my nap time….what? WalMart! In December? Oh please God help me!

 

Yes, that’s right, next stop, WalMart to pick up a “few things” she needed. When we arrived in the parking lot, she pulled her blue and white handicap placard that she bought from some guy who was selling them out of his trunk for cheap. She had me to pull down front into the handicapped zone. I was then ordered to go inside and get one of those powered mart carts. Uh, all of them appeared to be occupied. However, the thought of returning to the car without one placed great fear in my body. Now, I don’t know exactly how that one old lady happened to fall out of her mart cart over behind those clothing racks, but she seemed like she could crawl pretty fast, and oh what foul language came out of her mouth! The important thing is that I “found” Mom a mart cart.

 

I drove it outside where she was impatiently waiting. I helped her out of her seat and into the cart chair. I turned to lock the doors. I turned back around and BAM, she was gone like a flash! She was reaching underneath the cart making some mechanical adjustments. I never knew those carts had a turbocharged mode! Away she went, hair pinned back by the wind, people diving for cover!

 

She had informed me in the car that I was to go on the hunt of two items, potting soil and shelf brackets. She would be in the grocery area. Being a good son, I did as I was told and went foraging for potting soil, in December, in WalMart. Um, Mom, people do not use potting soil in December. Of course I couldn’t dare tell her that. Instead, I snuck back into the back areas of the warehouse and found a small bag hidden under the racking. The shelf brackets were easier. She was gonna be so proud! I scurried along over to the grocery end of the store. Up and down the aisles I went, back and forth, all around. Mom was nowhere to be found. I looked and looked. She had disappeared. I expanded my search area, growing tired from all of the miles under my feet. Then I started to notice a path of destruction. Merchandise strewn, shoppers with a look of horror on their faces, a trail of general pandemonium. I followed it and it led me straight to Mom. Where did I finally find her? Way down at the far end of the store in Christmas decorations! “Oh, I needed a couple little fake pine trees for some baskets I am putting on that shelf you are hanging for me.”

 

From there we finally made it out of the store. Nobody had any serious physical injuries although a few may require treatment for PTSD. Away we went, headed for home with all of our goodies in tow. I was in need of a nerve pill and a nap.

 

Mom? Well, all she had to say was “ I am glad we got to go today. That was fun.”

 

Why

Posted by lehewitt on December 7, 2014 at 8:15 PM

Why do you care what I think?  Well, honestly, you shouldn't.  You are very capable of your own thoughts and ideas.  When I give my perspective or opinions, it should not diminish yours.  My job is just to get you thinking.  When I reminisce about my childhood or a situation I have encountered, I want it to spark a memory of your own and hopefully put a smile on your face.  I am lucky to have that job.  I am lucky to be the bearer of good news.

In life, we have many resources to learn about the bad stuff in the world.  I think we need more to connect us to the laughter and the humanity and decency that exists in every corner of our planet.  It is by giving the best of who we are that we can accomplish more than we could ever imagine.

The Monday After

Posted by lehewitt on December 2, 2014 at 12:50 AM

It's Deer Day in Pennsylvania.  Deer Day is always the Monday after Thanksgiving.  It is a holiday there, of sorts.  Many schools are closed.  Many restaurants open at three or four in the morning.  Country roads at around 6am resemble rush hour in the city.  Beginning around 7am, it can sound like World War III just began.  Deer day is the first day of rifle deer season in Pennsylvania.  It lasts approximately two weeks.  There are approximately 1.3 million licensed deer hunters in Pennsylvania and they will kill approximately 432,000 deer this year.

This is a complex equasion.  The deer face a horrific, fearful couple of weeks.  The harvested deer are consumed.  Many people love a good venison steak.  Most deer are killed quickly.  Some are wounded/injured and suffer greatly.  There are so, so many deer in Pennsylvania.  Overpopulation in some areas is a major problem.  Deer do destroy some farm crops.  Deer are basically not agressive creatures and rarely harm anyone.

Each person faces a different path in life, but here is mine on the subject.  When I was younger, I looked forward to the thrill of the hunt and hoping to bag that trophy buck.  As I have grown older, I have lost that urge to kill.  Now I am more apt to think that those deer have as much right to be here as I do.  Would we go out and shoot humans in overpopulated areas or would we find better solutions?  But, then again, we kill cows and pigs and chickens by the millions every day for food.  I always come back to the injured and suffering animals.  That's the hard one for me.  I don't have any answers.  I just have my thoughts.  Good luck to the hunters today, be safe.  And good luck to the deer too.



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