Saturday, March 12, 2016

Strange Days, Indeed

Legend has it that when Lord Cornwallis and his British troops surrendered to the Americans at the Siege of Yorktown in 1781, their band played a song called “The World Turned Upside Down.”

It may be time to revive that ditty as we view the downright bizarre events that are taking place on our planet right now. 

Future historians may look back on 2016 and think, “what in the world were they thinking about?”

For example, Donald Trump.

But enough about him.  There are other stories that illuminate the times in which we live.

In France, a workers’ paradise where strikes are the national pastime, labor minister Myriam El Khomri is proposing that the country adopt a provision that would give employees the right to ignore professional emails and other messages when outside the office.

In other words, when you walk out that office door, you are about as accessible as Seal Team 6.

As one expert explained, “Professionals who find the right balance between private and work life perform far better in their job than those who arrive shattered.”

At the same time, French President Francois Hollande recently pledged to redefine France's business model and declared what he called "a state of economic and social emergency," unveiling a 2 billion euro ($2.2 billion) plan to revive hiring and catch up with a fast-moving world economy.

Catching up may be hard to do with your workforce signed off.

The French newspaper Le Monde reported that a recent study found than approximately 3.2 million French workers are at risk of “burning out,” defined as a combination of physical exhaustion and emotional anxiety.

This, in a country with a 35-hour workweek where the average French worker can expect 30 days a year of paid vacation. 

Don’t expect this concept to cross the Atlantic. Here, exhaustion and anxiety are part of our birthright.  It’s the land of the fatigued and home of the stressed.

Maybe that's why we don't have the linguistic equivalent of "joi de vivre."

Speaking of the U.S.A., Whole Foods markets is considering adding tattoo parlors to its new 365 chain, which is targeting millennial shoppers and the budget conscious by offering smaller stores with lower prices.

While it may seem strange to sell tattoos at a supermarket, it is even stranger to see the phrase “budget conscious” in the same sentence as Whole Foods, known to many as Whole Paycheck.

This is the chain that was famously found selling a product called “Asparagus Water” which was a jar of water with three asparagus spears in it for six bucks.

It is the chain that was targeted for overcharging on certain products including covered prepared foods, the olive bar, and even meats and seafood. 

Shoppers were charged for the weight of containers at various stores, and some paid more than they should have because workers put "smaller amounts into packages than the weight stated on the label," while others were charged by the piece for some groceries rather than by the pound.

We can assume that a tattoo at a Whole Foods store will be more expensive than getting one down at the local ink joint.

But if I was going to get a tattoo from Whole Foods, it would show a wallet with money flying out of it.

Besides, if they really want to attract the younger folks, they should also set up marijuana dispensaries, free booze, a fast food outlet, body piercings, weekly raves  and counselors who can cheerfully explain why many consider millennials to be "lazy, entitled narcissists," and "the most high maintenance workforce in the history of the world.”

Meanwhile, in California, the November ballot is beginning to look like a bar exam on steroids.

So far, there are seven propositions have been certified for the ballot. But as of February 23, 2016, more than a hundred initiatives had been proposed and filed with the California Secretary of State, according to the Los Angeles Times. 

It is estimated that, between funding signature gathering efforts and campaigning, more than $452 million will be spent directly on ballot measures in California in 2016.

There are hot-button issues here including marijuana legalization, minimum wage, the justice system, education and others.

But the one initiative that caught my eye is being pushed by a businessman named John Cox. Inspired by a comedy routine by Robin Williams, he is suggesting that politicians should wear the logos of their corporate sponsors like a NASCAR race car driver.

Most would run out of room.

It’s unclear if forcing politicians to dress like money-grubbing dunces would be legal, but it will be fun while it lasts.

I’m not sure if this one will cross the finish line but nobody thought Donald Trump had a chance either.

Robert Rector is a veteran of 50 years in print journalism. He has worked at the San Francisco Examiner, Los Angeles Herald Examiner, Valley News, Los Angeles Times and Pasadena Star-News. His columns can be found at Robert-Rector@Blogspot.Com. Follow him on Twitter at @robertrector1.

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