Fox Sports, Fox News, and Toxic Masculinity

August 26, 2019
Posted by Jay Livingston

Doug Gottlieb, who talks about sports on Fox, had this to say about Andrew Luck’s decision to retire from the NFL.

(Click for a better view.)

In his announcement, Luck said,

For the last four years or so, I've been in this cycle of injury, pain, rehab, injury, pain, rehab, and it's be unceasing, unrelenting, both in-season and offseason, and I felt stuck in it. The only way I see out is to no longer play football. . . . After 2016, when I played in pain and was unable to regularly practice, I made a vow to myself that I would not go down that path again.

The injuries requiring rehab included
  • Torn cartilage in two ribs
  • A partially torn abdomen
  • A lacerated kidney
  • A torn labrum.
  • A calf injury, which extended to a high ankle sprain.

Gottlieb’s tweet was not about Trump or Democrats or politics, yet it seemed so Fox-like. It too me a moment or two to see the common intertwined threads, but there they were: toxic masculinity and antipathy towards young people.

I rarely use the phrase toxic masculinity rather than machismo because so often the toxicity, the damage, is indirect and intangible. But here Gottlieb’s waving the flag of masculinity is clearly a demand that Luck do even further damage to his body. That’s typical, for in many cases the masculinity being called for is toxic to someone else, not the one waving the flag. In this post  ten years ago, I noted that commentators who wanted the US to continue to torture Afghanis, Iraqis, and other non-Americans framed it in terms of masculinity. To ban torture was to “emasculate” the CIA.

As for the millennials, what nettles Gottlieb and many others on the right is the refusal of young people to get sucked into the masculinity game. What must be especially infuriating to him and other masculinists is the indifference of many young men to the old machismo-based insults — “weak,” “soft,” “pussy,” etc. That response, or lack of response, calls that whole game into question, and often the anger of older people towards kids seems to be an effort to deny that maybe these younger people have a point. Maybe there’s something to be said for a less rigid and brittle masculinity, one where, instead of doing the hard work of rehab so that you can keep injuring yourself, you respond to the messages your body is giving you.

It’s not just Gottlieb. News of Luck’s retirement broke during a Colts exhibition game. Word spread quickly through the stadium, and the fans booed.

Like other elements of the “culture war,” the Gottlieb reaction to millennials (or what he imagines them to be) is nothing new. In 1970, Philip Slater in The Pursuit of Loneliness wrote of

a vague resentment towards youth — a resentment with roots in the parents’ discontent with their own lives. It’s a condition ideally suited to produce anger toward young people who live differently and more pleasurably than did the parental generation.

The old-culture is saying, “I worked hard at an unrewarding job, I gave up pleasure and fulfillment. Now you should do the same.”

In that light, it’s especially noteworthy that Luck was supported in his decision by nearly all NFL players who made public statements. They where highly critical of the booing fans and of Gottlieb. Troy Aikman, a former NFL quarterback who also now works for Fox, called Gottlieb’s tweet “total bullshit.” Here is a more thoughtful response from All-Pro cornerback Richard Sherman, now in his ninth season, who missed most of last season with a torn Achilles tendon.

See also the comments on Gottleib’s tweet (here ) — much criticism, little support, and a couple that stooped so low as to mention Gottlieb’s credit card theft of some years back.

Addendum, Aug. 29: A day after I posted this, the New York Times ran a piece (here )by Michael Serazio, “Why Andrew Luck’s Retirement Was So Shocking.” Serazio refers t the “collective gasp . . . from the sports world” at Luck’s announcement.

My impression was that most people in the sports world, especially players, understood Luck’s decision. Serazio has a different impression, though he cites only one NFL player who criticized Luck — former quarterback Steve Beuerlein, who wrote that Luck “owes it to his team” to keep playing.

Either way, Serazio is pointing out the same basic problem with “hegemonic masculinity” — it’s toxic. “Our shock at a player’s willingness to opt for self-preservation over inevitable bodily immolation shows how deeply rooted that toxic masculinity remains.”

Old Whine, New Bottle — Luxury Beliefs II

August 22, 2019
Posted by Jay Livingston

In the 1930s, wealthy Republicans called FDR “a traitor to his class.” The logic of this label seems to be that if you’re rich, you ought to favor policies that benefit the rich, not the poor and the working class.

In the 1960s, Republicans disparaged wealthy Democrats as “limousine liberals.” It’s the same idea — if you’re rich enough to ride in a limo, you shouldn’t be a liberal —  but adds something special. It questions the motives of liberals and says they are hypocrites.

In 1970, journalist Tom Wolfe gave the same idea yet a new name, “radical chic,” in his long article about a fund-raiser that Leonard Bernstein held for the defense of thirteen Black Panther party members who were in jail awaiting trial. (See this post.)  What interested Wolfe was not guilt or innocence or justice (eventually all the Panthers were acquitted of all charges) but the motives of Bernstein and his guests.

Apparently it bothers the hell out of conservatives when people of privilege say and do things that might help the less privileged. Conservatives are still serving up this same complaint. The new label on the bottle is “luxury beliefs.” The term was coined recently by Rob Henderson and got some attention, especially over on the right, when the New York Post ran his op-ed “‘Luxury beliefs’ are the latest status symbol for rich Americans.”

Here’s the gist of it.

In the past, upper-class Americans used to display their social status with luxury goods. Today, they do it with luxury beliefs.

People care a lot about social status. In fact, research indicates that respect and admiration from our peers are even more important than money for our sense of well-being.

We feel pressure to display our status in new ways. This is why fashionable clothing always changes. But as trendy clothes and other products become more accessible and affordable, there is increasingly less status attached to luxury goods.

The upper classes have found a clever solution to this problem: luxury beliefs. These are ideas and opinions that confer status on the rich at very little cost, while taking a toll on the lower class.

It’s a commonplace observation that people are sensitive to how others respond to their ideas. Like the clothes we wear, the ideas we express are part of our self-presentation (now called “signalling”). That’s true for people of all social groups. But with ideas, it’s more likely that what people are signalling is not social status in the usual sense but membership in a group.

Henderson’s argument in 2019, much like Tom Wolfe’s in 1970, is based on attributing motives that the people he’s attributing them to would deny. He’s saying “upper-class Americans” (a term he does not define) espouse their beliefs not because, as they would claim, the ideas are true or will make for a better society, but in order to signal their own high social status. Of course,  Henderson has no evidence of that motive (or if he does, he’s keeping quiet about it). Impugning the motives of others is easy. Providing evidence is hard.*

What’s new is Henderson’s assertion that these luxury beliefs harm the lower class. Here too, as I said in the previous post, Henderson presents no evidence that the ideas of the privileged about marriage and family have “trickled down” through the class strata or that it’s those ideas that have damaged the lives of the poor. He makes a similar claim about ideas regarding the importance of luck and other factors beyond the control of the individual. Henderson doesn’t mention it, but on this point there is some evidence, which I hope to get to in a later post.**

* Tom Wolfe too  “reported” the thoughts and motives of the people he was writing about even when those people never expressed the ideas he attributed to them. You might think of this as “making stuff up,” but it brought Wolfe much admiration for his “novelistic techniques.”

** That post is now here.

Luxury Beliefs — Blaming the Libs

August 20, 2019
Posted by Jay Livingston

If I could buy stock in words and phrases, I’d invest heavily in “luxury beliefs.” I predict that we’re going to be hearing a lot more of it, especially from the right wing.

The idea is an an update of Charles Murray. Nine years ago in Coming Apart, Murray argued that the economic and moral decline of the White working class (those whose education ended in high school or earlier) had been caused by educated liberals. It wasn’t that elite liberals were promoting harmful policies, and it wasn’t because they were setting a bad example. Just the opposite. They were following the “success sequence” — getting more education, working hard at their jobs, waiting till after marriage to have kids. The trouble was that they were not trying to inculcate these practices in others. They were not preaching what they practiced.

Murray had no data for this claim, and I thought that the idea had disappeared. But over on the right, blaming the libs is just too tempting. Why let it wither away just because there’s no evidence?

So now Rob Henderson goes Murray one better. In a New York Post op-ed , he argues that those successful, educated liberals caused the decline of the White working class by holding “luxury beliefs.” It’s a clever coinage which will no doubt bring Henderson a lot of attention, especially from conservatives.

Normally, I would not pay much attention to the New York Post (see this from 2007), but the article is already bouncing around the conservative Internet, and Caitlin Flanagan, who turns up in mainstream publications like The Atlantic, tweeted it.

Luxury beliefs are “ideas and opinions that confer status on the rich at very little cost, while taking a toll on the lower class.” For example,

Affluent, educated people raised by two married parents are more likely than others to believe monogamy is outdated, marriage is a sham or that all families are the same.

It’s safe for the affluent educated to hold these beliefs about marriage, says Henderson, because in their own marriages they are conventionally monogamous. But that belief was disastrous for the less educated and less affluent.

This luxury belief contributed to the erosion of the family. Today, the marriage rates of affluent Americans are nearly the same as they were in the 1960s. But working-class people are far less likely to get married. Furthermore, out-of-wedlock birthrates are more than 10 times higher than they were in 1960, mostly among the poor and working class. Affluent people seldom have kids out of wedlock but are more likely than others to express the luxury belief that doing so is of no consequence.

How did that happen? How did the beliefs of the educated become the beliefs of the lower classes? Henderson’s answer: they “trickled down.”

You can see the contradiction here. Henderson is saying that elite ideas trickled down to the working class and poor. But he begins by saying that those people are less likely than are the affluent to believe that “monogamy is outdated.”

Nor does he say how that trickle-down happened. Tracking the diffusion of an idea is not so easy to do, especially when you are trying to document the diffusion across class lines. The double meaning in the title Coming Apart was not just that the White working class was coming apart but that the educated and affluent lived in a bubble separated from the working class and poor, having little interaction with them and sharing almost none of their culture.

But if Henderson is correct, somehow those beliefs just trickled out of the affluent bubble and poisoned the minds of the less educated, causing them to do things that undermined their chances for a better life.

Whose Opinion Counts? (It’s Good to be a Professional)

August 18, 2019
Posted by Jay Livingston

Chefs in ambitious restaurants hate the word “fusion,” says Gillian Gualtieri, who interviewed chefs in Michelin-starred US restaurants. “It’s the other f-word.”

As she was saying this in her talk at the ASA meetings last week, I was dimly remembering that in restaurant reviews in the Times and elsewhere,  fusion was a big compliment. It suggested a chef who was creatively blending and balancing different traditions to come up with something new and wonderful.

After her talk, I asked Gillian, “Don’t restaurant critics still use ‘fusion’ as a term of high praise?” Yep.  “But these elite chefs pay more attention what other chefs say than to what Pete Wells says.”  (I’d forgotten that chefs on their night off might well eat at another restaurant. Pete Wells is the restaurant critic for the New York Times.)

Of course, the opinions of other chefs don’t carry much weight outside of chefworld. But a rave review in the Times will book a restaurant solid for months to come; a bad review can leave tables empty.

        *                    *                    *                    *

At another session, I listened to Rachel Skaggs (Vanderbilt) talk about the dilemma faced by Nashville songwriters. In the old days, songwriters wrote the songs, and  country performers sang them.  But in the last 10-15 years, with decline in the business, songwriters have had to co-operate and collaborate with the singers. And they don’t like it. Maybe that’s one reason Nashville songwriters were so willing to talk to Rachel and give her such great quotes. Or maybe Rachel’s just a great interviewer.

Sometimes songwriters choose the strategy of actually working with the singers — giving the singer what he or she wants. The other strategy is to write the song first and then con the singer into collaborating in the way the songwriter wants — basically convincing the singer that the song was mostly the singer’s idea. It’s what Rachel calls “the manipulation dance.”

        *                    *                    *                    *
These papers were both in panels on culture, but they were also about work. They reminded me of an observation — probably commonplace in the sociology of work — that I first heard long ago when I took a course with Everett Hughes. One of the things that distinguishes a “profession,” he said, is that the work of its practitioners can be judged only by others in the profession. Or more accurately, theirs are the only judgments that matter and that can have real consequences

Over the last fifty years, maybe more, this aspect “professional” has become diluted as more and more white-collar workers styled themselves professionals. The “yuppies” of the 1970s and beyond were spun out of the acronym for Young Urban Professional. But most of them were not doctors or lawyers. Their work in finance, real estate, fashion, advertising, etc. may have left them with a lot of money to spend, especially if they had no kids, but the important judgments of their work came from people outside the occupation — clients, customers, and critics.

Even lower-level professionals who make far less money — teachers, social workers — answer not to the students or clients who are the recipients of their services but only to others in the profession (though some of these may have become administrators). Of course, student evaluations, outcomes assessment, and Yelp reviews may be changing all this, but still to a great extent being a professional means never having to say you’re sorry. It’s something elite chefs and top songwriters can only dream of.

Good-Bye Mr. Evans

August 16, 2019
Posted by Jay Livingston

I posted a Bill Evans video a year ago on this same date. I know. Repetitious and not at all sociological. It’s what Chris Uggen, back when he blogged, would have filed under “self-indulgery.”

Bill Evans would have been ninety today had he lived, though there was never much hope for that. He shot a lot of heroin. He was only 40 when he died.

“Two Lonely People” is probably his greatest composition. The lyric added later by Carol Hall is much better than most of the lyrics people have tried to tack on to Evans’s compositions. You can hear it on the album Evans recorded with Tony Bennett (here). I prefer the trio version.

I went to the memorial service for Evans in St. Peter’s church a few days after his death in 1980 even though, as I wrote in my journal at the time, “I didn’t like going to people’s grief as entertainment.” Several musicians played. Many others there did not, Marian McPartland being the best known. Had they not asked her? Or had she been asked but declined?

Barry Harris played a beautiful composition. I asked him later what it was called, and he said he still didn’t have a title for it. I still haven’t tracked it down, though surely he must have named and recorded it.

Phil Woods, who did play at the memorial, soon after wrote “Good-bye Mr. Evans,” which has become a jazz standard. But when the song was new and largely unrecorded, I heard Lou Levy play it one night at Bradley’s. (Lou had also been at the memorial service, though he did not play.) He let me borrow his lead sheet to copy down the changes. I still have that scrap of paper in my folder.

High Hopes

August 15, 2019
Posted by Jay Livingston

History repeats itself, first as Sinatra, then as Panic! at the Disco.

Surely others must have noted the identical titles. But read the lyrics. The idea too is the same, based on the good old American values of ambition, hard work, and success. It’s the belief that single-minded striving (the 10,000 hours) will lead to success, wealth, and fame.

UPDATE, August 16: A bit of Googling (“Sinatra Panic”) has revealed to me my own ignorance. Turns out Brendon Urie is a Sinatra fan. The Panic! “High Hopes” is not so much a cover as an homage. A cover of the original Cahn-VanHeusen “High Hopes” would have seemed like Urie was making fun of the original. But Urie writes Sinatras, not parodies.

The ASA Meeings — Random Reflections

August 14, 2019
Posted by Jay Livingston
The American Sociological Association meetings* ended yesterday. Here are just a few quick and random impressions that have nothing to do with any research anyone presented in any of the sessions.

1. What are we doing here?

I would imagine that if you asked people what they did at the ASA meeting, they’d list the sessions they went to and which good presentations they’d heard. After all, that’s what fills the 200-page program. Well, yes, they did go to those session, but . . .

Long ago when I was an undergrad, one of my professors (Bob Weiss, I think) said that if you ask people at the county fair what they did, they’d list the goat judging, the tractor pull, the barbecue, etc. But if you watch what they actually do, they spend the largest amount of time looking at the other people at the fair.

At the ASA meetings, a lot of what people do is to see and talk with other people — those they see only at these meetings, but also the people in their department who they see all the time anyway.

Or maybe I’m projecting my own idiosyncratic view based on the Soc Annex meet-up Monday night at a bar nearly a mile from the conference. I got a chance to talk with people who I knew only by reputation or from Twitter or podcasts.

2.  It’s the Way That You Do It.

Of the actual sessions I went to, the one I liked best was the one that should have been called “Six smart, funny people talking really fast.” (The actual title was something about getting people in the media and in government — non-sociologists — to use sociological data and ideas, especially your data and ideas.)

3.  Working.

“I’ve been working on . . . .” say the people at the ASA. They are working on minority suburbs, working on gender in selective high schools, working on Asian converts to Christianity, working on measures of economic exclusion, and so on. They don’t say they’ve been studying it, looking at it, or doing research on it. They’re working on it.

It sounds odd to me. Working on something implies that you’re doing something to it, changing it. I remember a time when researchers were supposed to try to minimize their effect on the things they were studying lest they become another causal but unacknowledged variable. So to my ears, “working” sounds strange.

4.  Show-and-tell, yes; reading, no.

I can’t listen to someone read a paper. That inability is a real drawback for an academic, but I may as well admit it. It’s not about the pace or density of the information. I heard panelists who talked rapidly, much faster than in a normal conversation, and I had no trouble following. But if someone reads their paper, I can’t stay tuned in. I want to shout, “Sit down and just send me the pdf.”

A linguist will have to explain my reaction to me. There must be something about audio perception, maybe the different rhythms of speaking and reading. But I suspect that it’s also social. When the person at the lectern is talking, you feel a connection to them — they’re talking to you — even though you’re one of 50 or more people in a room. But reading breaks that relationship. The speaker is now relating to a piece of paper.

When I am king of all conferences, reading will be banned.  Everyone will have to talk their paper. Sociology meets The Moth.

* Thanks to my poor proofreading, the original version of this post omitted the word meetings. Imagine the sentence minus meetings when you Read Aaron Silverman’s funny and appropriate comment below. 

Open Carry and Unintended Consequences

August 9, 2019
Posted by Jay Livingston

Sometimes laws have unintended consequences. I’m not sure what the intended consequences of Missouri’s open-carry law are, but they surely weren’t this:

A young man wearing body armor and carrying a tactical rifle, a handgun, and more than 100 rounds of ammunition walks into a Wal-Mart in Springfield, MO. This is cause for alarm. So the manager pulls the fire alarm, and shoppers flee the store. So does the gunman. Outside the store, an off-duty firefighter holds the man at gunpoint till the police arrive. 

The right-wing media portrays this as a good guy with a gun (the firefighter) preventing a mass shooting.

That’s one version. But the incident can also be framed as a commentary on gun laws. Missouri is an “open carry” state.  With the help of the NRA, legislators in Missouri (and thirty other states) have passed laws which say that as long as you don’t threaten anyone, you can carry your guns openly.
The young man in the Wal-Mart did not threaten anyone. He made a selfie video while pushing his cart through the aisles. When the alarm was sounded, he left through an emergency exit just like many other shoppers. Looks to me like he did nothing to warrant his arrest by the police. Also, since he never did anything to even indicate he was going to shoot the guns, the idea that the firefighter “stopped an attack” is at best an open question.

If anyone broke the law, it was the firefighter that Fox and the others are lionizing. The firefighter used his gun in a threatening manner, pointing it at a man who was merely exercising his rights under the Second Amendment and Missouri open-carry law.     

The incident points out something that gun-loving legislators usually prefer not to know: guns are dangerous; guns are scary. It wasn’t the man who was scary. He was doing what any other Wal-Mart shopper might have been doing. It was the legal weaponry he was peacefully carrying.

A Springfield police lieutenant said, “His intent obviously was to cause chaos here.” But the officer cannot know what the man’s intent was. Maybe the man’s intent was to show that if people panic when someone exercises their legal rights, it’s the people’s ideas and reactions that need to be changed. After all, in some places, an African American man diving into a traditionally all-White swimming pool might also cause chaos. Maybe a White patron would threaten the man, and the man would be “lucky to be alive,” as the police lieutenant said of the Wal-Mart warrior. (As we know, some African Americans who asserted their Constitutional rights were not so lucky.)

What’s the NRA to do? They love open carry, but they also love “good guy with a gun.” Their website still has nothing to say. Maybe it’s a classic case of cross-pressure keeping them from taking a stand.

UPDATE August 11: The Wal-Mart shopper, Dmitriy Andreychenko, has now said what his intent was, and it was not to cause chaos. “I wanted to know if that Walmart honored the Second Amendment.” As for the NRA, I entered Andreychenko in the search box. His name there is still unkonwn.

Alarm in the Power 5

August 6, 2019
Posted by Jay Livingston

What’s alarming in big-time college football? You may have thought that it was the high rate of concussions and later-life chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) among the scholar-athletes in the Power 5 conferences. Or you may have thought that it was the amount of drinking on campus — high enough as it is but especially elevated on football weekends. (Ten years ago, Sarah Koenig did an episode for This American Life about football and drinking at Penn State. It’s still worth listening to — here).

The trouble is that you don’t get Axios Sports e-mailed to you every day as I do. Here is a screenshot from my inbox this morning showing how Axios Sportsman-in-chief Kendall Baker sees the problem. [The emphasis – those red boxes – are of course my own.]

(Click for a larger and clearer view.)

  • Alarming Problem: Students are losing interest in the college concussion factory.
  • Solution:  Let them get wasted on site. No more need for pre-gaming.

The Fear Curriculum

August 5, 2019
Posted by Jay Livingston

My son and daughter have been institutionally readied to be shot dead as surely as I, at their age, was readied by my school to receive my first communion. They practice their movements. They are taught how to hold themselves; who to defer to; what to say to their parents; how to hold their hands. The only real difference is that there is a lottery for participation. Most will only prepare. But each week, a chosen few will fully consummate the process, and be killed.

That’s from Kieran Healy’s blog post  yesterday after two mass shootings in a 24-hour period had left more than thirty people dead. Though neither of these were school shootings, it is schools that have institutionalized the Active Shooter Drill. It has become a ritual.

As I discovered to my shock when my own children started school in North Carolina some years ago, preparation for a shooting is a part of our children’s lives as soon as they enter kindergarten. The ritual of a Killing Day is known to all adults. It is taught to children first in outline only, and then gradually in more detail as they get older. The lockdown drill is its Mass. The language of “Active shooters”, “Safe corners”, and “Shelter in place” is its liturgy. “Run, Hide, Fight” is its creed. Security consultants and credential-dispensing experts are its clergy.

It wasn’t until I saw “Eighth Grade” that I finally realized that the Active Shooter Drill had become a regular part of the school curriculum. And it wasn’t until I read Kieran’s post, that I began to think about it as a ritual.

Rituals reinforce social solidarity. That’s why we have them. Even when a ritual is supposed to have a practical effect — to help the football team win, to make the rains come, to ensure that the deceased goes to heaven — we don’t judge it on whether that ulterior goal was reached. If everyone got caught up in the spirit of the pep rally, it was great regardless of the score the next day. The purpose of baptism is to cleanse the child of original sin, but nobody ever asks, “Does it work?” That’s not the point. The point is to have everyone get involved and to do the ritual correctly.

The Active Shooter Drill has a rational purpose — to save lives — but most schools, thankfully, will never know whether it accomplished that goal. The drill, like any other ritual, is judged on how well it is performed. But in most rituals, doing it correctly is not enough. If the people involved are not sharing a common emotion and a sense solidarity — to one another and to the group or institution as a whole — we dismiss their behavior as “merely going through the motions.” As Kieran (channeling Durkheim) says, in a ritual, the members of a group “enact their collective life in view of one another, demonstrating its reality, expressing its meaning, and feeling its pulse in their veins.”

But what is the reality that the Shooter Drill demonstrates, and what is the common emotion pulsing in the veins of the participants? The answer seems to be fear —  fear of an unpredictable and fatal attack. School is the place where children are taught to be afraid.

I guess this is nothing new. In the 1950s, duck-and-cover ritruals — crouching under a school desk as protection against a Hiroshima-like atom bomb — carried the message: fear the Russians. Kids were cynical about it all, of course, but underneath the cynicism, bravado, and joking lurked at least some ambivalence. I would guess that something similar is true of those kids in “Eighth Grade” and in real schools.

At the beginning of his post, Kieran alludes briefly to his own schooldays and first communion in Ireland. “My brother tells me that the preparation nowadays is a little more humane than the version we enjoyed.” I couldn’t help thinking of Father Arnall’s sermons in Joyce’s Portrait of the Artist, brilliantly constructed sermons designed to instill in the boys a deep and everlasting fear.

Maybe things are different now. At least some students, like those from Parkland who started “Enough is Enough,” are demanding that adults with the power to change things liberate then from the fear. That reaction may be spreading. When the Ohio governor spoke at a vigil yesterday following the mass shooting in Dayton, the crowd spontaneously chanted, “Do something.”

One can hope.

Convenient Language

August 2, 2019
Posted by Jay Livingston

Sometimes words change because of the way they sound when linked to other words. A “napron” (from the French naperon) was a protective cloth. It still is, but we call it “an apron.” The same process of “rebracketing” gives us a nickname, from the Old English an eke name (an additional name). More recently, I’ve seen “bake potato” on the diner menu and  “whip butter” at the supermarket — the “d” sound of the past participle dropped or blended into the next word.

Currently, I’m out of the city. Yesterday, I needed something (calamine lotion if you must know) and did not want to drive a half hour to the nearest supermarket and CVS. I was told that the gas station / convenience store in our small town, two minutes away, might have it.

I couldn’t help noticing the sign on the row of parking spaces.

It makes perfect sense. It is, after all, a convenient store. Very convenient since it did have calamine lotion.