BOOMERBROADcast

Enjoy, laugh, disagree or simply empathize with those who lived life in THE sixties and are now rockin' life in THEIR sixties, and beyond.


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TWICE . . . we found a prize inside


If it’s true things happen in threes, then I hope our lottery tickets are the next big win. Twice this week we’ve been the recipients of unexpected prizes, or more accurately surprises inside something we brought home. The first could require some ‘splainin’ by my husband but I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt about how this gift came about.

He took his car in to get some work done. The shop needed a few days so he was sent to Enterprise to pick up a rental. Coming home with a navy blue Hyundai Santa Fe, he was less than impressed compared with how much he loves his Ford Edge, but c’est la vie. It’s only temporary. The disappointment was mitigated however by the little bonus he found in the vehicle. With a giant smile on his face, he came in the front door waving a little green package that you can appreciate has enormous value to a pair of old boomers (a.k.a. seniors) like us. The previous users of the rental Hyundai left behind a pair of bedroom slippers under the front seat and a pregnancy test kit in the glove compartment. At least that’s the story he told me. You can imagine the “mileage” we’re getting out of that one.

It’s been a bountiful week.

Our second big score was hidden in the lunch he picked up (one of the reasons I love him) at Five Guys on his way home from golf. When I finished eating and slurping the last dregs of my fountain Diet Coke, I popped the top off the cup to pour the ice that was still rattling around in the cup down the drain and out fell a plastic nozzle that probably came off the pop dispenser. I’m now debating how to pursue recourse for that one. Am I entitled to a free drink? A free lunch? A year of free lunches? Or will they charge me with shoplifting?

It’s been a bountiful week and we’re obviously on a winning streak. Much as I’m tempted to start making lists of all the lovely goodies I’m going to buy with my lottery winnings I’d better play it safe and wait until the money is in the bank. As the previous occupant of that Hyundai rental sadly now knows, better safe than sorry. In remembrance of our Paradise By The Dashboard Light days, maybe we should just leave some condoms in the glove compartment, call it a day and walk home.


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What do you want to be?


The Beatles even wrote a song about it:  “She’s Leaving Home” and it’s one of my favourites.

When young people graduate, they are officially launched and become full-blown adults. Hopefully these two milestones occur simultaneously. But I keep reading about the stresses faced by young people in choosing their college or university career path. They demand greater support from mental health services to help them cope with the stress. How on earth is a teenager qualified to determine what he or she wants to do with the rest of their lives when they’re still coping with acne, learning the ins and outs of the opposite sex and micro-managing their social media profiles.

Even today, at the age of 70 and with more than 40 years of work experience behind me before I retired, if someone asked me what I would like to do with my life I’d be hard-pressed to come up with a satisfactory answer. Sure, I’d like to edit a leading-edge women’s magazine or write best-sellers that would make me rich. But how realistic are those goals? Expecting a young person to know the answer to that question can be soul-destroying. Pick a course of study that’s too restrictive and you’re denied flexibility. Pick the flexibility of an arts degree and what are you trained for? Not an easy choice.

What complicates this decision, in my opinion, is the misguided direction to “do what you love”. I think that misleads many young people into thinking that’s the key to success. It creates false hope because it’s not always possible to earn a living and support a family when all you really enjoy is playing video games, making music or taking selfies (the Kardashians being the exception to the rule). It’s not always practical or possible to earn a living doing what you love. Aptitude may be lacking. A favourite activity may not lend itself to a sound business case. Loving writing does not mean you’re going to be a successful author. In fact, few authors are able to support themselves with their writing. The same applies to acting, art, music and even technology. Although individuals with strong technological skills have a better chance, particularly if they know how to write code. Sometimes doing what you love must be relegated to a side hustle not the full-time job.

When baby boomers were finishing high school in the late sixties and early seventies, there was not as much emphasis on post-secondary education as there is today. Most of us were never asked “What do you want to be?”. We simply left home, moved to the big city and got a job with the telephone company or an insurance company. If we were career oriented, our options were teacher, nurse or secretary. Boomer guys could work for Ontario Hydro (which in retrospect would have been the best career choice if you consider benefits and pension), become a mechanic or get a job at General Motors. Once that was accomplished, we started assembling the components of what eventually became our lives. There was no great discourse, no years of scholastic preparation, no months of consultation with parents and guidance counselors and no particular stress involved. And since most of us did not go to university, no crushing student debt.

I also worry that extensive post-secondary education may lead some to naively believe that high-paying employment automatically follows. There are many people with several degrees and tens of thousands of dollars in student loans who are unemployable. Women’s Studies and Psychology are wonderful subjects to study but a tough fit in the world of business. While all this pressure on young people to pursue multiple degrees continues, there’s a serious shortage of electricians, plumbers and tradespeople. Not everyone is well-served by attending university and there should be greater encouragement for those who opt for alternative careers. We must remember that educational institutions are still businesses that need customers so further education accompanied by its attendant debt is encouraged.

When I was still in the corporate world and in a position to hire young people, I never looked at marks applicants got in school. Other qualities such as interpersonal skills, creativity, motivation, energy and resourcefulness were more valuable in the world of business. Most of what we needed to function in the working world (with the exception of doctors, nurses, teachers and other trained professionals) we learned on the job or developed through supplementary training throughout our working lives.

In a way baby boomers were lucky. We escaped the “What do you want to be” pressure. We were happy to just have a job and personified the Bloom where you’re planted” ideology. Most often, we were happy to break free of the restrictions of living at home and get out on our own. We worked as receptionists, bank tellers, manual labourers, secretaries or salespeople when we finished school. From there, we ran with whatever we were dealt and many of us did very well in spite of our lack of education and degrees. I’m glad I’m not young anymore. I don’t think I could take the stress of deciding what I want to be. I’m so glad I’m old.

 

 


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In the search for my perfect computer match, it’s a man’s world.


One size does not fit all. What fits him does not fit me.

Like most people I probably spend far too much time in front of my laptop checking Facebook, reading emails, e-shopping, blogging and otherwise managing my life. And most of the time, my neck, shoulders and back hurt. Did you know that all office furniture is designed for the average male, 5 ft. 11″ tall? Just another example of a male-dominated take on how the world goes round. Despite all the high-tech considerations that go into designing computer desks I have not yet been able to achieve ergonomic nirvana. Let’s back up a little and I’ll explain how this situation came about.

My old typing teacher knew what she was talking about.

When I learned to type in high school in the early sixties, we used manual typewriters. Part of our training required we sit with our forearms parallel to the floor with our feet side by side and flat on the floor. As a result of that being drilled into my head more than fifty years ago, I still cannot veer from my training. Whenever I sit and type with my legs crossed at the ankles or (worse) the knees, the circuits linking my fingers and eyes to my brain become hopelessly scrambled. Unless my feet are flat on the floor and parallel, to this day I cannot type without making errors. When I assume the proper posture, the words fly by error-free. Therefore, like famous speed-typist Mavis Beacon who set records in the fifties for her error-free typing speed (176 wpm on a manual typewriter), I must have ideal conditions to perform at my optimum level. For this, I need optimum ergonomics, which I do not currently have.

There was a reason the typewriter surface was lower but modern office technology seems to have bypassed that consideration.

In the olden days, office desks had slide-out typewriter shelves that were positioned exactly 27 inches from the floor, a full five inches lower than the surface of the desk at 30-32 inches, which as stated above was designed for a 5 ft. 11 inch man. At 27 inches a ‘typist’ (i.e. female) could keep both feet flat on the floor, forearms parallel to the floor and type with minimal discomfort to shoulders, neck and arms.

In a step backwards for feminism, the advent of computers, both desktop and laptop, the typewriter shelf was eliminated from desks and everyone regardless of size or gender is now forced to work on a surface 30-32 inches from the floor. Are you following all this? I’m a right-brainer with zero aptitude in math and even I get it—standard desk surfaces are up to five inches too high for the average female to type comfortably. No amount of adjusting chair heights corrects this anomaly.

Ouch!

  • Raise chair five inches. Feet no longer sit flat on floor and are left to dangle around base prongs. Thighs are crushed against bottom of desk surface or drawer.
  • Leave chair at height that allows feet to sit on floor. We are forced to raise arms and shoulders to reach keyboard. Result: strain and pain.

Is there a solution?

One solution is adjusting the work surface to 27 inches which can be done with some adjustable tables or custom furniture. That accommodates the requirement for feet flat on the floor and forearms parallel to floor which is great for typing/keyboarding. But if you’re working on a laptop, the screen is now too low and has to be tilted to a 45 degree angle to read it square on. More head and neck pain. I’ve never understood how people can actually work on their laptops on their laps. I need a solid surface that doesn’t wobble around while I’m typing. And a sturdy chair that supports my back. Perhaps that’s just because I’m old and conditioned by a sixties typing drill instructor.

Achieving ergonomic heaven

Here’s what this 5 ft. 3 inch old boomer needs to be ergonomically comfortable when working on my computer, starting from the ground up:

  • Chair seat 18 inches from floor
  • Keyboard on surface 27 inches from floor
  • Screen centered 41 inches from floor and 16 inches directly in front of my eyes

In order to achieve my ideal configuration, I need a new work surface, keyboard and telescoping monitor. At least I have the right chair.

If I could achieve this combination I would be a much happier and more comfortable blogger. The only way I can see accomplishing this is with custom millwork. If I had a work surface built at 27  inches, I would need the computer screen/monitor mounted on the wall on a sliding or folding bracket that could be pulled out to the correct distance when I’m working or pushed back when I’m not.

In the meantime, I’m condemned to reach my arms up to a height of 30+ inches to use my keyboard. My shoulders are hunched and my back hurts. Thanks to the geniuses who design office furniture, I don’t see a solution on the market that gives the average woman (fifty percent of the population) the ergonomically correct configuration for using a laptop. Just another example of gender discrimination that men don’t even have to think about. It’s still a man’s world. If you’ve managed to stay awake while reading this, let me know if I’m the only one with this problem or are you uncomfortable too?


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Fighting our own personal trade war


Used car lots in Florida are a car lover’s wet dream.

A favourite pastime of old retired fellers like my husband and his buddies is to spend a day visiting car lots. These ‘research’ excursions are enormous fun for them especially in Florida where car dealers have thousands of pre-owned, like-new luxury cars with low mileage. These vehicles have never seen winter and are being sold for unbelievably low prices. Florida is full of geriatrics whose adult kids don’t want the big ol’ Cadillac when their folks can no longer drive (or worse) so they end up jockeying for attention on used car lots. The guys’ excursion usually includes a normally forbidden feast of chocolate-chip pancakes, bacon and sausages at IHOP which makes for an idyllic outing for a bunch of car junkies. Much as they would love to slide into a shiny new Lincoln, BMW or Jaguar SUV, it’s more likely we’ll stick with our several-years-old Ford Edge or Escape.

There are amazing deals in the United States but bringing that car back to Canada is a nightmare. People with Canadian passports cannot drive a car with American plates into Canada. We know that from experience because we once unknowingly tried it and had to leave the car in New York State until we got the paperwork sorted out. It was prohibitively expensive and I would never recommend it. Among the expenses was making physical modifications to the car for such things as bumpers to meet Canadian safety standards, which was more trouble than it was worth. And, now that we’re engaged in a trade war with the United States, there are obvious advantages to buying Canadian-made vehicles.

Florida is a strong Republican state where millions of Canadians winter and vacation every year. We speak the language. We can drink the water without requiring hospitalization (another issue for another time). We understand the currency. We love the weather. Many visiting Canadians often buy lovely pre-owned American automobiles to leave in Florida garages while they return north for the summer. Hell, sometimes we even buy the shoes if they’re a deal and not available in Canadaland, but don’t tell Donald Trump. We love to escape our crappy winters and our dollars keep the Florida economy afloat. All in all it’s a pretty agreeable situation for both sides.

Buy Canadian and save yourself a lot of trouble, not to mention saving Canadian jobs.

As a result of those tire-kicking excursions with his buddies, my honey has been getting regular followup emails from a car salesman at a Lincoln dealership he chatted up last winter in Florida. He thought he had a live one and was relishing making a sale. When another email landed in his in-box this week, we were able to make a political statement that is bound to resonate across all fifty states. My guy politely informed the salesman that the impending 25% tariff puts Lincoln MLKs in Florida financially out of reach. No sale. Ouch! That is bound to be a major blow to the U.S. economy. We’ll show them what their crazy tariffs really mean. Hit ’em where it hurts—in the pocketbook. I expect that Lincoln car salesman is emailing his Congressman at this very moment, demanding they repeal the punitive tariffs against Canadian imports.

Taking this a step further, many Canadians may find it difficult to visit the United States at all. With Donald Trump treating us as trade enemies and citizens of questionable character, does the United States even deserve to benefit from our tourist dollars. Imagine Florida if the 3.5 million Canadians who spend billions each year in the sunshine state decided to stay home and spend our billions here. The Republication state of Florida would collapse. Our parents were right. Ignore the bully and play nice. This too shall pass—we hope.


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Does anyone else in Toronto wonder where Lake Ontario went?


Chicago citizens can enjoy views and access to Lake Michigan.

A recent visit to Chicago dramatically reminded me of what is missing in Toronto—our Lake Ontario shoreline. When the great Chicago fire leveled their downtown in 1871 the city displayed great foresight and generosity when they decreed it illegal for private builders to monopolize the Lake Michigan shoreline. Consequently, Chicago now enjoys an incredible twenty-seven-mile long park that ensures the lake is forever accessible to its citizens.

While I don’t advocate setting fire to downtown Toronto to get rid of unsightly buildings and planning blunders, I do think our city planners need to rethink what’s happening to our waterfront. We’re literally losing sight of it. Ugly high-rise condos are obliterating our view of Lake Ontario and the problem is only going to get worse. It’s difficult to stop a moving train but short of land-filling a new shoreline even further into the lake, what are our options?

Toronto. No green. No vistas of public spaces.

I used to love glimpsing the sparkling lake from Lakeshore Boulevard as I passed along the south side of the Canadian National Exhibition grounds. Even the grotesqueness of Ontario Place obliterating our view of Lake Ontario was alleviated by the whimsical faux farm silos which always made me smile. They’re gone now to be replaced by another poorly planned urban eyesore.

In the sixties, boomers used to catch the ferry to the Toronto Islands at the foot of Yonge Street. Back then, the waterfront in the harbour was still visible as we lined up at sunny outside turnstiles and paid our 25 cent fare to hop aboard the Sam McBride. The Toronto skyline was defined by the Royal York Hotel and the old 32-storey old Bank of Commerce Building on King Street West. I could see Lake Ontario from my room on the south side of Willard Hall on Gerrard Street.

Where’s Lake Ontario? Hidden from view.

Driving east or west on the Gardiner Expressway through downtown Toronto these days is like negotiating a slow train through a concrete jungle. We go nowhere, see nothing but faceless buildings and otherwise have no clue we’re a stone’s throw from one of Ontario’s beautiful Great Lakes. The view may be spectacular from offshore, but from land side, sadly, there’s nothing to see. I know progress is inevitable and we can’t undo the damage that has already been done to our waterfront views. It’s a shame our city managers have allowed this to happen. I just wish they’d had as much foresight and courage as Chicago did in 1871.


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Are you guilty of smuggling shoes into Canada?


Slowly step out of the car and show me your shoes.

The comments made this week by Donald Trump about scuffy contraband shoes being smuggled into Canada is just too delicious for this Canadian serial shoe wearer to ignore. In one of his latest unhinged rants Trump attempted to horrify patriotic Americans into vilifying Canada and mistakenly defend protectionism. By informing them that Canadians were so desperate for shoes and to avoid Canadian duties (or tariffs as he called them, which are not the same thing) he announced that we make covert trips to the United States to purchase and smuggle their prized and precious footwear back into Canada. Then, in order to deceive those pesky Canadian border security agents, we toss our old straw clogs at the border in Buffalo, scuff up our new made-in-America Reeboks and trip across the border undetected, fooling those filthy Canadian revenuers. What more proof do Americans need that Canada is a terrible place?

I have a confession. In fact, any Canadian who has ever visited the United States would probably admit to being guilty of the same thing. I have purchased shoes in the United States and brought them back to Canada. But I’m confused. I didn’t realize what I was doing was wrong, immoral or unpatriotic. And I certainly didn’t break any laws so there was no need to scuff up my shiny new shoes to fool border security because I’m legally allowed to bring back up to $900.00 in merchandise duty-free after an absence of a particular number of days from Canada. If I exceed the legal spending limits, then I’m prepared to pay duty to Revenue Canada for the chance to pick up something different from what I might find at home. And what sane woman in her right mind would ever scuff up her new shoes anyway?

“Her” shoe closet.

So how is this hurting anyone? I supported American business. I kept border security agents employed by checking my passport and sitting in their little booth to ask me a few simple questions to ensure I’m not packing heat. And the banks rejoiced at the service charges and exchange costs they levied when I converted my Canadian dollars to American. If I hurt anyone, it’s probably China, the mother lode of cheap shoes. And, of course, this whole exercise is moot if you’re a man; everyone knows that men only own two pairs of shoes, one brown and one black—unless they’re under 30 in which case they may also own a pair of runners. Cross-border shopping is a non-issue for men.

“His” shoe closet.

The ironic thing about this whole fiasco is that if Donald Trump actually cross-border shopped like real people, he’d realize that we have far better quality shoes in Canada than they have in the United States. Many of our shoes are Italian imports thanks to our large Italian immigrant population who have created businesses here. See, Donald—immigration is a good thing. The quality and styles of what we can get here are far superior to what most American stores offer and our prices are competitive. No one in the world manufactures better winter boots and coats than Canadians and thanks to our global business practices we have access to imported as well as locally-manufactured merchandise that is far better than south of the border. Just ask Meghan Markle, Duchess of Sussex who regularly sports Canadian-made brands.

Pssst! Mr. Trump. Wanna buy some protection?

Sorry Mr. Trump. You got some fake news there. You’ve somehow taken the issue of non-existent Canadian protectionism and twisted it into something you hope will justify American protectionism, but you’ve shot yourself in the foot. And unless you were wearing genuine Canadian-made steel-toed Kodiaks, Timberlands, Royer, Canada West, Caterpillar or other superior brands made in Canada, you could be missing a few lower digits. You’re certainly missing something, and that’s not fake news.

Here’s Greg Perry’s (The Toronto Star) take on the situation:

 


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A retailer who actually listens to customers. Glory hallelujah!


Monday morning’s Globe and Mail featured an article by Marina Strauss on the front page of Report on Business entitled Holt Renfrew resizes strategy to focus on core markets, brands  that immediately had me high-five’ing the air above my newspaper. Holt Renfrew (for my non-Canadian readers, it’s our answer to Neiman-Marcus) wanted to improve business so they finally did something I’ve been suggesting to The Hudson’s Bay Company in letters, emails and blog posts for years, which they’ve categorically ignored. Holt Renfrew (are you sitting down?) actually asked their customers what they could do better. Remember us? The often ignored customer is retail’s entire raison d’être but few retailers recognize that obvious fact.

Holt Renfrew: new and improved.

I won’t bore you again with all the links to previous blog postings I’ve written about The Hudson’s Bay Company’s missteps that could be totally alleviated if they just listened to me, the customer. Holt Renfrew President Mario Grauso is either a regular follower of boomerbroadcast.net (yeah! right!) or he’s as smart as I am!! He actually invited real, live customers of Holt Renfrew to a meeting and listened to their suggestions on how to improve business. And, to his horror and enlightenment, they told him. Here are just some of the things Holt’s customers wanted but weren’t getting:

  • more sizes that address a wider range of real-life bodies, including half sizes in shoes.
  • greater personal assistance in interpreting trends and styling.
  • better editing of merchandise so the shopping experience is not so overwhelming.
  • improved on-line shopping

To the curb.

Well. Blow me down. Aren’t these exactly the same things I’ve been ranting about for years? Grauso fired about half of Holt’s top executives and corporate staff, and eliminated many brands including Clinique and Michael Kors as well as their HR2 off-price locations that weren’t producing. Grauso is reinventing and repositioning Holt Renfrew to better serve (hold your breath) —yes, it’s true—their customers. Who knows better than we do what we want to lay out our heard-earned cash or credit card to buy? It would seem obvious to most consumers of retail goods but not to The Hudson’s Bay Company and countless other retailers.

The transition for Holt Renfrew will not happen overnight and probably will not be without some pain involved, but I think we’ll all be the ultimate beneficiaries—not to mention the owners of the privately-held business, the already-wealthy Weston family. Ironically, I’m not a prime Holt Renfrew customer (now that I’m retired) as their price points are somewhat beyond my budget, but I admire and heartily endorse their initiative. And I love to browse their store, holding up lovely items to admire myself in the mirror in futile attempts at my quest for a new and improved me.

P.S. OK. I lied about not including links to former postings. Forgive me, but here’s the most recent one, which should tell you all you need to know about my campaign to get retailers to listen to customer needs and wants. It’s all in a day’s work, or should be, for any retailer. (I probably don’t need to c.c. Mario Grauso as he obviously already follows boomerbroadcast.net.)

https://boomerbroadcast.net/2018/02/18/the-hudsons-bay-company-welcomes-new-ceo-and-this-shopper-couldnt-be-happier/

You’re beautiful mes très chères.