A friend at work just got hired at the Post Office. Good for him and I’m glad he’s gotten out of UPS. Sadly, he only found this out Wednesday and he starts next Monday. Wow, so much for the two-week notice. So much for giving the rest of the crew time to actually adjust to this guy leaving soon. Two full work days and he’s gone! It’s kind of shocking really.
He’s a cool dude, and over the past year I’d like to think we’ve become pretty good work buddies. He’s one of the guys that I was going to miss with our dreaded crew shift change this week, and I guess I get to miss him some more because he isn’t even going to be there after tonight. Eh, enough crying from me; I really do wish him luck and am glad that he’s found something bigger and better. I always admire when people live up to their potential. Not that his potential is to be a Postal Worker but I hope you get the idea. He’s moving forward in life.
I like to get people going-away gifts if I care for them enough and can actually think of something to get them. The last time someone left I bought a fifty-pack of Pilot G-2 pens from Amazon; she was leaving to be a hot-shot supervisor and what better gift for a supervisor than a metric fuck-ton of G-2s! (I only use G-2s, preferably the 0.03mm G-2s. The 0.05mm ones are fine while the 0.07 and 0.1mm pens just have too fat of a line when you write. They’re smooth, but they’re sloppy. I’m not joking here either: I only use G-2s and refuse, REFUSE! to use any other pen. You can take your shitty Bics and fuck right off because I have about three G-2s in my pocket at all times.) Despite this, I couldn’t really think of anything to get this guy. Nothing at all.
Then inspiration struck like lighting. Where do thoughts come from? No one knows, they just kinda appear out of nowhere and you have to be aware and lucky enough to grab one out of the ether when it appears. It’s the essence of creativity! My great idea: Skittles and Gardetto’s. Seriously.
The past few months at work we’d sit in the crew van and eat Gardetto’s and Skittles. They’re somehow the dream team of vending machine snacks. You eat the salty Gardetto’s and wash them down with the ever-so-sweet Skittles. I don’t know why this combo is so damn good but it is. We bonded over our love of Gardetto’s and Skittles!
After therapy I drove to Schnuck’s to find two massive bags of these snacks, the bigger the better. And what better place to go than a legit grocery store? Apparently I was wrong. I only found a couple of ‘large bags’ of Gardetto’s; 8.6oz bags containing a measly eight servings per bag. I bought two of these because they were so damn smaller than I wanted. The candy aisle was even more of a letdown; they didn’t have any large bags of Skittles. What the fuck Schnuck’s? What a shitty fucking store. I wasn’t about to buy the smaller vending machine sized bags in the checkout lanes and was also stubborn enough to not give up. I had only two hours until work to find a big fucking bag of Skittles and I was more determined than I’ve ever been. No one was going to fuck up my plan. No one.
Onto Walmart. Luckily Walmart being a total dogshit store has a massive selection of candy and chips. Schnuck’s is too far up their own asses being a proper grocery store to stock total bullshit items like bulk bags of Skittles. Walmart (for the first time in my life) did not disappoint. I found my big bag of Skittles — a whopping 1lb 11oz bag with who knows how many servings and calories — as well as a bigger ‘family sized’ bag of Gardetto’s. Mission Fucking Accomplished.
So this was kinda a silly and stupid post, but please appreciate how even your best and simplest ideas and plans somehow get fucked up. I’m not trying to get into a big spiel about how hard work and persistence is the key to success, but that’s actually what I’m saying. Look at me, today I’m the perfect example of it. I faced untold hardships and struggles and somehow accomplished my dream of getting a giant bag of Skittles and Gardetto’s for my friend’s last day of work. He’s gonna be eating this shit in his mail truck for weeks!
This is the second part to this post. At the end of that post I said something like, “My main racist crime?: I don’t use checkout lines with black people as the cashier. Like subconsciously.”
That’s kinda a lie really. It was a clickbaity end to my last post, honestly, and I feel kinda bad about it in retrospect. I’m not nearly that twisted of a person — claiming to be against racism while not using any checkout lines staffed by African Americans — and my own reality is much more blurry than that. Let me explain a bit.
Everything else being equal, I’ve noticed I choose white cashiers over blacks, with the key phrase here being everything being equal. Obviously if a black person has no one in their line and some white person has three people in their line, I’d choose the black person. It makes sense. I’m pragmatic as hell and I think this is how everyone should be; if all races are equal (as I believe) you shouldn’t even use race as a deciding factor to which goddamn checkout line you use. White or black doesn’t matter because I just want to get the fuck out of Walmart as quickly as possible. Simply choose who has the shortest line and get the hell out of there! I’ve taken solace in my coldness in choosing checkout lanes but I’ve noticed something strange when these two hypothetical lines are equal in length. Whose line do I choose: the African-American cashier or the White cashier? Surprisingly, this is when my latent racisms really popped into view. I’d pick the white cashier over the black cashier for reasons that didn’t seem really clear to me. And I never even really thought about it; it was just something that happened. Something about the white cashier seemed more ‘familiar’ to me or something. But once I realized this the question then turned into “Why am I this way?”
When I realized this I was kinda shocked. Like I said, I try to be pragmatic as possible — which line has the shortest wait because I really don’t give a shit who checks me out — but I found it strange that race would somehow be taken into account in absence of anything else. And it’s a quiet, subtle thing that’s hard to really notice or process because you’re not aware that it’s happening, especially when you view yourself as not racist or anything, but yet, here was this tendency to pick a cashier with a skin color closer to myself. It’s kinda scary when you realize your brain works this way.
The way my brain works goes something along the lines of “familiarity”: white people seem more “like me” culturally and socially than others with a different skin color which is totally bullshit but how it feels in the moment. That’s my natural tendency, like it’s harder to ‘understand’ the cashier if they’re a different race then you are. Once again, total bullshit, but this is what my mind does. It’s strange to realize this almost naturally naturally occurs. It’s something deeply ingrained and something you naturally do without questioning it, with zero ill-will against anyone involved. It’s just how your brain seems to work.
And racism in this form is a natural thing I think: it’s a holdover from our caveman days like everything else we suffer from. Here in 2020 with all of the fancy technological achievements we have, we are still hopelessly biological cavemen hindered by all the shitty evolutionary holdovers we have from the good ole days. You know, shit like social approval, success, being accepted by the group, etc. and this is one of them. I have zero references here but we are a hopelessly tribal species where our brains inherently group people into those that are with us and against us. I think this doesn’t need much evidence really because whenever I see someone with a Trump flag in their yard I instantly count them as “one of Them” while someone with a Bernie sticker on their car is “one of Us.” Us vs. Them always. It doesn’t stop there either. Football teams, the Bears/Packers rivalry, Republicans/Democrats, Liberals/Conservatives, and so on. We cut up teams based upon silly shit all the time and it’s no surprise that separate teams — subconsciously and unknowingly — in terms of race as well. White/Blacks. White/Mexicans. Americans/Immigrants. White/Arabic. White/Asian. Those similar to us and those dissimilar to use; those of the opposing tribe. Those not totally against us but those who aren’t exactly like us. A different team and a different tribe. An old evolutionary holdover that doesn’t make much sense currently but something that we’re all susceptible to because we’re all hopelessly prehistoric cavemen in a hopelessly complex world.
After realizing this tendency, it’s natural to wonder how you can even solve the problem. There is no easy way forward because you’re so hopelessly biased. But it’s freeing in a way to realize how you are, and this simple realization gives you a way forward despite any clear answers to your questions. After I realized this strange trait about myself — even with no answer to why I was this way — I could move forward. Just knowing my tendencies allowed me to counteract them consciously. Now, all things being equal at shitty Walmart, I make a conscious effort to change my ways and pick an African cashier over a White cashier. I don’t have any great success stories about this because with such a subtle problem it’s hard to see any clear benefits to changing your ways, but there are a few side notes. Black people don’t seem to judge the fuck out of my alcohol purchases the way old White women do, and they seem to be much more open and honest about how shitty their lives are. Everyone working at Walmart seems to hate their lives, and it’s only the White people that seem to try to put a cover of dignity over how they feel. I seem to have found some honesty that doesn’t exist with the White cashiers always acting and lying about how they really feel, and even if the African cashier is rude as fuck it seems to come from a genuine place of frustration that the White’s don’t seem to have. You can’t help but appreciate this honestly. This almost seems like stereotyping in the reverse, or still grouping individuals into groups, but still. I think I’m growing as a person in this way.
So as my Facebook friend suggested, and as I took it in a way totally unintended, I’ve been self-reflecting on racism and have stumbled upon the fact that I am an unknowing racist, albeit in a totally undramatic way. And tying this back with my prior post about “subtle racism” I think this is a fitting conclusion to the post. The problem with racism is that it doesn’t fly directly into your face as racism — it’s quiet comments from family members/friends and in the tendencies we all hold even if we aren’t aware of them — and this makes racism hard to combat. While we’re all willing to shout down Nazis on the corner of the street, it’s much more difficult to shout down your racist neighbor who talks about “those people.” It hides in the shadows. It isn’t obvious. And if there’s one thing I’ve realized, it’s so quiet that it might reside within yourself as a tiny and unnoticeable form that you might not even notice that you harbor the demon. Search within yourself. We’re all equal, and ask yourself if you really might be the problem you’ve been fighting all along.
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Rockford is one of those cities that’s hard to explain to other people. It’s not an important city like Chicago, Indianapolis, Detroit, or any other “big name” cities you’ve heard of. You can’t mention Rockford, Illinois to someone and have them understand what you’re actually talking about. Is Rockford a classy, small town in Illinois? A larger college town with a fancy economy supported by the mass of college kids in the fall and spring? An old, rundown, ex-industrial town like Pittsburgh? What exactly is Rockford? Hell, even people understand something upon mentioning “Omaha, Nebraska” as bland of a place as that actually is; Rockford is somehow even blander. Rockford doesn’t mean anything and it’s hard to explain something when it really isn’t anything at all. I can tell you what Rockford isn’t and that would be easier than describing what it is. Rockford is a lack of character. A shell in a way.
Rockford is close enough to Chicago to be described by it (“Rockford is close to Chicago…”) but far enough away for it to not really mean anything. Rockford is about 30 minutes away from the outer suburbs of Chicago like Elgin and Schaumburg and the miles of farmland in between excludes it from being a Chicago suburb. Sadly, Rockford would be more notable in this way. Rockford isn’t like Peoria, Moline, or Champaign where it’s its own shitty, solitary city, but isn’t close enough to Chicago to be a suburb. This leaves it in it’s own unique category of being “sorta near Chicago” but not actually part of the Chicago ecosystem.
Hell, we even renamed our airport years ago “The Chicago/Rockford International Airport” because being sixty miles away from Chicago still requires our airport to be named something-Chicago-something to be “notable.” Our airport, despite the name, has nothing to do with Chicago at all, except serving as a convenient location for diversions given heavy storms around the Chicago O’Hare Airport. That’s it.
Rockford is one of those derelict midwestern cities that has its days of glory well past it. The neighborhood I grew up in was surrounded by large and abandoned factories and buildings, and as a kid I always wondered what exactly was in them. I’m talking buildings that take up numerous city blocks that are five or six stories tall: what was left in their remnants? They weren’t being used anymore, but surely someone owned them? What was left in their carcasses? Most of the lower windows had long been shattered and boarded up after bored and mischievous teenagers busted them all out with rocks; you couldn’t even look in and see what the interior was like. The unbusted and boarded windows on the third story and above were obviously impossible to look through. These buildings always mystified me, long-dead symbols of something that Rockford used to be decades ago. Something that it wasn’t any longer.
Apparently the city used to be a heavily industrialized city, and I was told (I’m not sure about the factual basis here) that during the Cold War the Soviets even had our quaint and shitty city targeted by their ICBMs; decades ago Rockford used to be important enough that someone on the other side of the planet felt it needed to be destroyed in a nuclear first-strike against the USA. That’s something right? Sadly (not sadly?), this isn’t the case anymore. I was never concerned for a 9/11-style terrorist attack because of Rockford’s total lack of notability. If anyone wanted to make news, they’d hit a high-profile target. Not Rockford. Communism is long gone and no one feels the need to hurl nukes at Rockford anymore.
Rockford does have a few notable things about it though, if you could call them that. You might’ve heard of the Rockford Peaches, the female baseball team depicted in the Tom Hanks’ film A League of Their Own. You can even see the nearly-forgotten ticket booth that still stands near the river in a fairly run-down and shady looking neighborhood. The actual baseball diamond has long since been demolished and turned into a school. But the ticket booth still stands next to a bunch of shitty houses and small businesses in a neighborhood you probably wouldn’t want to linger in for too long.
Rockford is also known for Sock Monkeys. No one ever explained to me why this was a thing. And I don’t want to read up on why it’s a thing either.
Cheap Trick, a fairly famous rock band popular in the 70s and 80s also came from Rockford. Strangely I’ve never really listened to them. In fact I feel less inclined to listen to them because they came from Rockford, like I feel pressured to be a fan because of the city I live in or some shit. Their most famous work is At Bufokado (really At Budokan but my attempt at spelling it as “Bufokado” was hilarious enough to leave in place) which actually is a pretty decent album. As for the rest of their discography? I have no idea. At Bufokado was good at least. All I do know is Rockford — the city, the actual government apparatus that is Rockford — felt that Cheap Trick was notable enough to plop signs up of them randomly around the city. I’m especially aware of the one on Spring Creek Road. It shows a bunch of old musicians with Rick Nielsen, their guitarist, looking like a fucking immature kid. Like that’s his look or something. With the stupid guitar with the five necks to it for some reason. He always has this goofy smirk on his face and something about him is immensely punchable (maybe he isn’t that bad). Cheap Trick. Rockford. Yay.
Note: Rick Nielsen looks even worse when he was sporting a beard/goatee thing. Everything about that look oozes child molester. I don’t know how he ever thought that was a good look for him. Go Google it.
OOoo and before I forget, Fred VanVleet, a big basketball player dude, also grew up in Rockford. He won the 2019 NBA Championship playing with the Toronto Raptors. Yay? I mean cool for him, great job!, but who gives a shit that he grew up in Rockford? It doesn’t make Rockford any cooler; it’s not Rockford that made him win the NBA Championship.
The biggest thing Rockford has going for it (if you could call it that) is the aforementioned and terribly-titled Chicago/Rockford International Airport. UPS set up a fancy air hub back in the 90s — supposedly UPS’s second-largest sort facility — which drove literal tons of cargo volume to the airport. In the past few years Amazon has also begun setting up shop at the field and appears to rival UPS in the package delivery business. While air cargo companies don’t make the biggest news, the airport is rather lively, employing thousands of people to sort, ship, and load packages onto airplanes. In a city of 150,000 (as the sign on West State Street claims it to be at least) package and cargo companies might employee perhaps 1 or 2% of the entire city’s population. While no one really knows about it, the Rockford Airport Chicago/Rockford International Airport is a large cargo airport, one of the largest in the US (according to the link, the 19th largest. Well…). This is probably helped by the total lack of passenger and airline traffic allowing cargo companies to have the airport all to themselves. As the meme goes, it’s ain’t much but it’s honest work. It’s also where I work. (Surprise)
It is the popular and chic thing to talk total shit about Rockford. Everyone who lives here rips on the place nonstop. You can’t help but understand them to some degree. Rockford, as I’ve described, is kinda a black hole of nothingness. There is nothing notable about this place at all besides a few kinda random bullshit things. Old, derelict buildings. An old baseball team they made a movie about. The goddamn infernal sock monkeys. Fred VanVleet. AND CHEAP FUCKIN’ TRICK! It is your typical, bland, and unremarkable midwestern city seemingly well past its prime with nothing for its citizens to be proud of. You can’t make a career here outside of retail and customer service. Even if you find a cushy upper-management job in Rockford you’d almost certainly be working in customer service. Even shipping packages is another form of customer service. To really make something of your life you need to escape, at least to attend a college or a university, only returning with a degree to do something semi-notable.
But outside of all of this, what else does someone want from a city? I really think while some other cities are nicer, have more “going on,” have some semblance of a “scene,” especially in their downtowns, they’re all more or less the same. Sure, while Madison might be nicer, it isn’t some Eden-tier paradise to escape to. I don’t think any city is perfect, and while some are much better than Rockford by whatever metrics you want to measure, who actually gives a shit? While I hate Rockford just as much as the next Rockfordian, I guess I realize that it is home to me. These bombed-out, potholed roads are my bombed-out potholed roads. And the shitty Walmarts that constantly smell like marijuana? Well, they’re my pot-filled Walmarts. The forgotten husks of factories gave my childhood some mystery to think about. The bike path along the river, the lighted Morgan Street Bridge, the uneventful and dead downtown, the bums on the corners begging for money, and the drunkards stumbling around on the roads at 11 p.m., well, it’s all home to me.