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How’s that for a teachable moment?

Friday, December 6, 2013

By JEFF RAPSIS

jeffrapsis@gmail.com

Maybe it’s a sign that the holidays are here, but my mind is more scattered than usual. Get a load of these random thoughts.

• Take your garbage elsewhere! I recently went through the humiliating experience of having my trash actually get rejected at the transfer station. Seriously! A load I hauled up there one afternoon included an ancient set of unwanted lawn furniture full of mold and rust. So I heaved it into the big trailer along with everything else.

But wait! To my surprise, the guy running the bucket loader tamping down the load picked each now-partially-crushed piece of lawn furniture out from the trailer and dropped it back near my car. Rejected!

Turns out, because the furniture had metal frames, it should really go in the transfer station’s metal debris bin. So that’s where I put it. But let me tell you, there’s no shame like the shame that comes from having your trash actually picked back out from the big trailers in front of everyone.

• Color uncoordinated: How did “Black Friday” get to be accepted as a way to describe the day after Thanksgiving?

Sure, it refers to the day that allegedly puts retailers into “the black.” But to me, that’s hardly an upbeat way to describe the start of the holiday shopping season.

Something a bit more festive is in order. How about “Plaid Friday?” Or, if we want to go retro, maybe “Paisley Friday?” Who’s with me on this?

• Appreciating our library: A couple of weeks ago, I was radio surfing late one night in the car when I came across a station playing a piece of classical music that I had forgotten about: the Piano Concerto No. 2 of French composer, Camille Saint-Saëns.

I wanted to hear it again, and I still haven’t entered the iPod/iTunes world. So I stopped by the Bedford Public Library to see if they had any Saint-Saëns music on one those old-fashioned compact discs that used to be so popular.

Turns out they did – in fact, that very same piano concerto! So I borrowed it, and have been driving my wife crazy by playing it over and over again when we go anywhere in my car. How amazing that this was available to me in my very own town and at no direct cost to me!

And I got to thinking: What if somehow the idea of a public library never came up until now? Can you imagine the outrage that would pour forth at the idea of taxpayer funds paying for books, media and information of all types to be made freely available to the public?

“My property taxes being used to buy books I don’t agree with? For a subscription to the New York Times? Over my dead body!”

• Reader feedback time: I got some interesting responses to a recent column in which I described stopping at the Exit 12 tollbooth when it’s unmanned and picking up the loose change that ends up around the basket. I’m saving the coins until I get enough for a new pair of shoes.

“THRIFT or THEFT?” was the title of one good-natured response taking me to task. Well, all I can say is that there are no easy answers to this situation. So I follow “Jeff’s Law,” which is: When faced with ambiguity, always choose the course of action most likely to result in new shoes.

I did hear from one reader describing herself as a “long-term admirer” who sympathized with my toll booth approach. She also had this to say: “You continue to get more curmudgeonly and slier as you age. Keep at it and you could top Andy Rooney.”

Andy Rooney? (Say the next sentence in a whiney voice.) Ever wonder what makes people want to compare people to Andy Rooney? Anyway, my hair isn’t that white yet.

In another incident, awhile back I described the moral dilemma of inadvertently getting a senior discount at Harvest Market on Route 101. So I asked readers: Should I return the $2 or so to the store?

Well, the results came in, and were overwhelmingly in favor of me giving it back. Many of the responses were from children whose parents found my situation to be a “teachable moment,” and so had the kiddos write me notes explaining why handing back my ill-gotten gains was the right thing to do.

I didn’t quite know how to respond. So I asked myself: “What would Andy Rooney do?”

Andy Rooney would have said something like this: “What am I doing, taking orders from kids now? I’m keeping the money! How’s that for a teachable moment?”

Jeff Rapsis is a newspaper publisher, educator, silent film accompanist and caretaker of multiple dogs who lives in Bedford.

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