I grew up in a blue collar, suburban environment. Both of my parents grew up in homes struggling with the Great Depression. As a result, although we were decidedly middle class, we watched our money closely, and we were all expected to pitch in to help in the family. I think I mowed my first lawn when I was 9 or 10. We did have a gas-powered mower, though in those days it involved mixing oil and gas for the two-cycle motor, then wrapping the start cord around the fly wheel to power up the mower. My Dad, who traveled frequently with his work, gave me a quick safety lesson. “Wear long pants, no sandals, keep your hands away from the ground & don’t run over anything other than grass.” My Mother reinforced the lessons with gory stories of children who had been decapitated after carelessly approaching the family lawn mower.
In time my siblings and I learned how to operate hedge trimmers, edgers, power drills and other tools, all before we got our drivers’ licenses. This week we saw the federal government try to usurp parental decision making, by telling us what children should and should not do on the family farm and/or ranch. Although I did not grow up in the country, I did get to spend a couple of summers at my uncle’s farm in Mississippi. I picked cotton, slopped hogs, learned to hunt and took care of a variety of animals, including a very impressive Brahma bull calf. After reading the proposed regulations, I began to wonder how this could possibly affect dog fanciers. The regs could prevent children from handling our larger breeds. Just about any grooming tool with a motor or electrical power could be prohibited. Electric clippers and nail dremels might be deemed hazardous.
Many of my friends have asked why we chose to return to Tennessee after years of living in New York and California. Well, Tennessee has a very low cost of living (there’s no state income tax); Memphis, where I grew up, has some of the best medical facilities in the U.S.; and there is a tradition of keeping government out of our lives. I tend to react very negatively to entities that try to make decisions for me. I like to think I am an individual and have earned the right to live as I please. If that includes five dogs, a parrot and an occasional snake or two (I did sell the reticulated python), I feel like that’s my right unless I am infringing on my neighbors.
This nanny state mentality pops up in the oddest places. Earlier this month, I returned to California to attend my new granddaughter’s baptism. When I arrived at San Francisco International Airport, my wife, daughter & I hopped the train over to the rental car building to retrieve our rental car. Much to my chagrin, my credit card was denied. Now I found this odd, as I had used the card on four previous trips this year, and I knew the card was paid up and in good standing. Happily, my wife had another card (don’t they always have another card?), and we were able to rent our car and be on our way.
When we reached my son’s home, I called Sears Citibank and asked why my card had been denied. The first young man nervously told me that I would have to talk to someone in the Fraud Unit. So after a couple of minutes I got a young woman on the phone and asked her the same question. “You were trying to rent a car in San Francisco, and you live in Memphis. We were just trying to protect you from fraud. If you want to use the card outside of Memphis, you need to let us know where you will be traveling.” I decided not to point out that since I had purchased my airline tickets to San Francisco with the card that might constitute notice. “That’s our policy, and it can’t be changed.”
Now I am irritated. First, which card I use is a matter of convenience. I’m not about to put informing my credit card company about my travel plans on my to-do list. Secondly, if they can’t change their policy, who can change it? It’s not mandated by regulation. Citibank is the only one of my credit card companies that requires that I notify them of my comings and goings. Lastly, considering banks are borrowing money at all-time lows, but interest rates on bank cards are at an all-time high. I expect credit card companies to grovel to get my business.
There will come a day when I need a nanny again, but for now, I want the government and banks to let me take care of myself…and my dogs. And that’s today’s Back Story.