Peter Cavanaugh

Compression Confession

The ancient Gaelic word is “ríastrad,” loosely translated into English as “warp spasm.” It was a notable characteristic of the mythological Irish warrior hero Cú Chulainn, “The Hound of Ulster,” who was said to have single handedly defeated the armies of Queen Medb of Connacht at the age of 17.

“Riastrad’ is classically defined in Irish literature as a “terrifying battle frenzy,” distorting the possessor into a violent, raging, angel of death - an “unrecognizable monster who knows neither friend nor foe.”

This DNA conveyed “Irish temper” can prove quite handy in warfare and was a greatly sought “killer instinct” in such renowned Irish-American prizefighting champions as Jack Dempsey, Gentleman Jim Corbett and the great John L. Sullivan. But such a complete abandonment of self-control and acceptable behavior in orgasmic-like surrender to the instinctively violent satisfaction of unrestrained emotional release has no place in civilized society. Or even an Oakhurst pharmacy.

Hereafter, certain specifics are omitted to protect the guilty, but general circumstances may be familiar.

Last week I encountered a number of difficulties obtaining a prescription for a chronic viral infection as my first attempt to obtain medication was met with a claim that no order had been received. After verification was established that the request had been conveyed in a timely manner, my authorizing agent was informed that the matter would be immediately handled.

Two hours later, I spent 10 minutes waiting in a pick-up line and was again informed that no prescription was in their system. I was directed to speak with someone in the drop off section to find out if there was any paperwork pending that had yet to be acted upon.

Following another feverish 10 minutes in that line, I spoke with a nice lady, who sorted through a stack of orders and found what we were looking for, located the goodies from their inventory and went over instructions for its usage. When I pulled out my credit card to pay, she told me she couldn’t handle the actual transaction, but would need me to deal with a pharmacy cashier for that.

Calling upon her colleague, she was then firmly, loudly, and repeatedly informed with a strong note of irritation, “Hey! I'm taking my second lunch break starting now.” I was then sheepishly informed I would have to “come back in a half hour.”

What? I lost it - instant “Riastrad.” Although holding back on the “F-Bomb” (I think), I shared my extreme disappointment in colorful terminology with all within, say, a hundred yards, demanding to see a manager. After yet another 10 minutes passed, I asked where the manager might be and was told, “There’s no one available.” I then said,

“Forget it” and left, calling the store as soon as I returned home, requesting that I be contacted by “whoever was in charge.”

I have yet to receive the courtesy of a response.

You can tell when people hate their job. Upon reflection, that “cashier” who demanded an immediate second lunch (damn the customer - full-feed ahead) is quite probably as accommodating and polite an individual as one would ever care to meet. I suspect she hit “riastrad” level” just before I did. You don’t need to be Irish.

I’m seeing it more and more. Major chains seeking maximized profits by restraining labor costs are laying off thousands and dumping enormous workloads on their remaining employees, simultaneously limiting, if not reducing wages and benefits. While not excusing rude conduct when encountered, this does provide probable causality – certainly understandable and deeply concerning.

It’s simply a matter of unrelenting compression. Less money. More debt. Longer hours. Lost hope. Bad government. Worse leadership. America’s traditional nuclear family has become economically unviable. There are no easy solutions within the constraints of this current plutocratic environment.

Let’s come together.

Although we usually include a featured speaker at our monthly meetings of the Oakhurst Democratic Club, we’ll be running with an open agenda this Saturday to collectively plan for the future.

Please join us. You don’t even have to be a Democrat to attend and take part. And if you’re under 35 years of age, you’ll get a special treat. You are the future. Just ask for me when you arrive at Denny’s. Breakfast is 8:30 a.m., and the program starts at 9:30.

What kind of folks will you meet? The kind of folks who brought about the abolition of slavery, the eight-hour workday, an end to child labor, the federal minimum wage, overtime pay, women’s right to vote, unemployment insurance, the interstate highway system, educational grants, our national parks, the Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act, Social Security, Medicare, the Clean Water Act, Universal Public Education and, yes, the American Revolution.

Every substantial improvement in the lives of Americans throughout history has been initiated by liberals and opposed by conservatives -- not that they don’t have their place in proper pacing. Democrats even invented weekends.

Let’s celebrate this Saturday.