Letters to the editor

Keep your nose out of my business

I have never seen a city (Asheville) filled with so much gossip in all of my life. You can’t even go out and have a good time in this town without somebody or some group (mainly losers) who can’t focus on their own miserable lives telling folks what they think they see. I’m no saint, nor will I ever be, and maybe I don’t exactly lead the “perfect” lifestyle, but give me a break. I am so sick and damn tired of people in this town cutting me down and stabbing me in the back.

My philosophy is this: You obviously don’t like me and I’m pretty sure that I don’t like you either, but please … mind your own business. Six years of this tattling has resulted in two broken relationships, one failed business opportunity and one bad reputation. What I do with my free time, who I date (everyone’s big concern) and how many people I choose to date (I’m not married, so why should you care?) is no one’s business but mine. If you have a problem with the way I live my life, please have the common decency to approach me first. This is a request to all who may think that this letter applies to you.

After giving this some thought, I’ve figured out just who each of you are — no doubt the scariest people walking God’s green earth, thinking that what you tell about someone else compares to saving the world. How miserable are your lives, that you feel the need to pull mine down, and what have I ever done to you? I hate to think that I have to grow eyes in the back of my head just to maintain some privacy.

On a serious note, I am well aware that my enemies could seriously have it out for me, so writing this letter may not have been the best thing to do. But if I don’t have my freedom to live my life or have my privacy, what else do I have left? Thanks a lot, Asheville!

— Tony Fair

The horror of puppy mills

It seems so often that a person will get a pet and not really research where they are getting the pet from. A puppy mill is where mass numbers of puppies are produced in unsafe and unhealthy surroundings. If you buy a dog from a puppy mill, the dog, nine times out of 10, will be sickly or will get extremely sick soon after you get it home.

Often, people who show dogs have kennels that seem to turn into puppy mills unknowingly. Me, being a person that shows dogs, I often see many people’s breeding programs go downhill because all they are worried about is producing large numbers of puppies to make money. Dog shows are supposed to be for respectable breeders who control their breeding. This is why people are now getting kicked out of the American Kennel Club (AKC).

Conditions at puppy mills are so unbearable. They smell awful from waste from the puppies, it is extremely dirty and there is no room for the puppies to be able to move around, get exercise and build their muscles. The food that is fed to the puppies is also not nutritional enough for them to grow right, so often there is something wrong with the puppy’s health.

If you do buy a puppy from a puppy mill, it is very hard to house train them. This is mainly because the puppies were trained to go to the bathroom on concrete, which is often what they had to sleep on, too. Since they are used to going to the bathroom on hard floors, they feel that it is OK to go inside the house. Once a dog gets used to one thing, it is hard to break them of that habit. Another reason the puppies often get sick is because they are going from a low-grade food to an often higher-calorie, richer food. No dog, much less a puppy with a lower immune system, can take such an abrupt change in food.

As you can see, puppy mills are just wrong. As of now, thousands have been shut down because they are illegal to run. Because they are so hidden, people need to turn [puppy mill proprietors] into animal control so that they will be shut down, too. I feel very strongly about animal rights and hope that this will open up people’s eyes about puppy mills to see how horrible they really are.

— Jamie Feingold

A double standard?

Let me get this straight: It’s OK for George W. Bush to lie about drinking and driving (during which he could have injured or killed himself and others) to protect his family, but it’s not OK for Bill Clinton to lie about adultery to protect his family? Since when is hypocrisy a family value?

— Jeff Callahan
Summerville, S.C.

Customer manners 101

To celebrate my liberation from the butt pains of retail, I want to relieve my chest of the following annoying problems that customers seem to consistently, but not surprisingly, have:

Season’s Greetings: When a salesman greets a customer, the customer shouldn’t sneer, “I’m just looking!” A salesman greets [in order] to do his job and be nice. No one is asking if the customer is looking (duh). Customers are presumptuous to think he’s just trying to get a sale. A word to customers: Don’t flatter yourselves. I’ve never seen a customer who looks like a walking wad of cash, no matter how good they think they look.

Here’s Your Sign: Stores love to display sale signs. Customers love to misread them. Result: angry, and obviously illiterate, customers. Whose fault? Customers, in two ways. First, they look at just the number-phrase, like “50 percent off,” then get mad that their birdhouse rang up regular price. “But the sign says ’50 percent off!'” spouted a frizzy peroxide-blonde prune. “It also says ‘Garden Candles Only,'” I replied. She storms out. I smile and say, “Here’s your sign.”

Second, they ignore a phrase that says, “Values Up To.” I’m not explaining that one. You don’t need a microscope to read that on most signs; some you do. Still, a shopper needs to check all fine print. Otherwise, he’ll look like a fool arguing that a $20 garden statue is not $10 on sale. I say, “It’s up to 50 percent off.” As he mumbles, I think, “And here’s your sign.”

Think Outside the Box: I hate customers who ask for a box for everything they buy. These guys should look at a store’s front doors. Does it say “Mail Boxes, Etc.”? Not likely. One time, a lady said she was going back to Florida and didn’t want her vase to break. I was glad she was going back; we have too many Yankee-transplanted-Floridians here. But it’s not a store’s responsibility to see that vase through the trip. I wrapped things to get them through the store. After that, it’s up to the customer to take care of it. That’s called good, old-fashioned responsibility. There’s also a little secret to protecting something: Be careful with it.

Customers also want carryouts to their cars. “Okay,” I’d say. “Just pull up to the front doors.” I got one of two responses. One is a frowny face. Sorry: It’s policy. The other is, “Oh, I’m parked right out front,” with a refusal to drive the car up. After a customer threw a hissy fit, I had to carry his 50-pound mirror out, only to discover that his car “parked right out front” is in the middle of the parking lot. I should have asked, “While I’m at it, should I spit-shine his car?” After all, I could have thought of other things I’d like to spit on at the time.

I know an elderly lady might need a carryout, but I’ve seen women from 30 to 50 refuse to lift an 8-pound baker’s rack. My cat weighs more than that. Hell, my grandma can, and would willingly, carry that. Can you say, “Lazy, spoiled bitch?”

Salesperson, Interrupted: Many customers think they’re the only persons on earth. While helping a patron, I’ve been interrupted by others. No “Excuse me,” nothing. Customers have simply forgotten to wait their turn. They’re self-absorbed. Salespeople should make them wait. I wouldn’t rush a customer because another isn’t patient.

Musical Registers: This never ceases to amaze me. When you’re ready to check out, which is more logical: going to a register with a cashier, or waiting at a register with no one there? When I’d ring a customer up, another would approach a register two feet away and wait. These people refuse to get behind someone else. If a customer wasn’t in my line, too bad. News to these guys: You’re not too good to stand in line, nor should cashiers ignore those in line to lean over and ring you up. Accept that you’re ordinary humans like the rest of us.

That’s my two cents. My point: Customers should realize that just because they spend money at a store, it doesn’t mean they can ask for everything, down to the manager’s right arm. Plus, a little common sense and civility help. And don’t forget: There’s no place exempt from manners and courtesy from customers. Salespersons are people, too.

— Maureen Gallagher

Practical solutions exist to indoor-air quality problems in schools

Parents and children are waking up to the fact that poor indoor-air quality in schools is a direct link to their illness(es). … When are our schools going to take responsibility for the productivity, health and well-being of the children they are teaching and taking care of during the day?

What so many school faculties and administrators don’t seem to understand is this direct correlation between toxic indoor-air quality and the health of the [people] occupying the space — teachers, principals and students. We are all spending over 70 percent of our time indoors. So why would schools expose children (or any human being with an organic, sensitive immune system) to the removal of 30-year-old carpet which is full of mold spores, fungi and billions of dust mites (which become airborne now) followed by the installation a new carpet with over 200 chemicals in it? This is absolutely inexcusable. This is equivalent to putting that same person in front of a car or bus exhaust outdoors and making him/her sit there, breathing in noxious fumes. …

As an Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) specialist for over 10 years, I know of the proper tools for remediation of chemical pollutants (such as new carpet, oil-based paint, pesticides, formaldehyde and “institutional” cleaners) or old moldy pollutants (such as HVAC duct systems and old carpet). Many of these solutions are simple to do and inexpensive.

One important tool … is the Environmental Protection Agency’s Tools for Schools Action Kit. This kit is designed to get the school faculty and administrators to work as a team in learning how to clean things up. You can even get kids involved in the process. In this way, it is a great educational tool for IAQ. It is free and very easy to use. All it takes is one phone call to 1-800-438-4318 (EPA) to obtain your free kit. A couple hours per week of cooperation from your school’s elected “council” is all it requires to take charge and make the changes that are necessary to ensure that all occupants of your school are receiving the highest level of education and employment you can offer. …

Another set of tools — locally available — is a line of sealers, paints and other coatings, which are made to seal the toxic outgassing of chemicals underneath it. …

Speaking of toxins, did you know that Scotchguard is being banned because it is a suspected carcinogen? Did you know that almost every commercial and residential carpet has Scotchguard on it? [One] three-stage program [that’s locally available] removes the Scotchguard, deep cleans the carpet, locks out the toxins and offers a non-toxic dirt repeller — all in one system! To top it off, this system is very inexpensive. For example, a 2,000-square-foot area of carpet will cost about $250 in product and this system is easily applied by the school custodian. You do not have to hire a carpet cleaner. This saves even more money. …

And finally, let’s address the use of toxic pest control in schools. As you may know, Dursban has been banned due to its harmful — even fatal — effects, indoors and out. There is an excellent, licensed pest-control company locally that uses the Integrated Pest Management (IPM) system. IPM is an EPA-supported system, which uses the least toxic product to address a pest problem. The application, Steritech (based in Black Mountain and Charlotte), does only commercial and institutional buildings — including schools. If you have an existing contract with another pest-control applicator and you want to switch over to Steritech, all you have to do is tell your existing applicator that you have students and teachers getting sick from their system and they are required by law to terminate your contract, if you choose.

So, if funds or a lack of education about the alternatives are stopping the schools from cleaning up their act, this is no longer an acceptable excuse. It is time for our schools to wake up and take responsibility for offering the best education possible by making the obvious connection between the health of all the school occupants and the indoor-air quality created by the administrators, architects and contractors. It is up to these three groups to work together to create healthy, newly constructed schools — using the tools above. And, it is up to the administration of each school to create healthy existing schools through the remediation tools listed above, along with common-sense decisions to use low and non-toxic coatings, floorings, pest control and cleaners.

Cindy Meehan-Patton

Political advertisers? Let them rot!

I arrived at work today — on Nov. 3 in the year 2000 — to a phone call from a volunteer, calling about one of the many political candidates this season. I interrupted her spiel after about 30 seconds (the amount of time that it took me to figure out the point of the phone call). “This is a business,” I said. “We do not have time for political communications at this time.”

I returned home, after a full day at work, to an anonymous message left on my answering machine. The machine had begun recording some time after the recording on the other end had begun — rendering the political message merely annoying.

I checked my mail. Out of the stack of some 12 pieces of mail (all advertising) one was addressed to me. The other ten were addressed to individuals no longer living here. One was merely addressed to “resident” (although this can be annoying, advertising of this nature — coupons — is not relevant here).

I suppose that this kind of massive inundation works. Eventually, you find someone who is buying what you are selling. But I find it annoying and odious.

What motivates political candidates to put their names on literature that cannot find any more acceptance than in a trash receptacle? Perhaps it is the desire to catch the unaware or the uninformed with their emotional arguments and attempts to show what moral and upstanding people they are. Maybe the citizenry of the United States are naive enough to fall for that kind of emotional scare tactic. Maybe we (since I am a registered voter who will vote) are swayed by people who will tell you, almost verbatim, what is said in the latest national poll. If we are, then I say let us rot! We deserve the very government that we get.

If, however, we are reasonable people who are sick and tired of the phone calls, the wasted mail (don’t even get me started on the paper!) and the petty bickering that passes for reasonable and fair political debate then, I say, let them rot! Let the politicians and the mail and the automatic phones and the whole damn system rot in the lowest, most depraved circle of Dante’s hell that they can find!

I am angry and I think that I am not alone. I think that many people are tired of the mindless muckraking and the endless blather about issues that are increasingly distant from the “man (or woman) on the street.” So what am I going to do about it.

First, I am going to vote. I am going to vote my conscience and I am not going to tell anyone for whom I voted. I am going to try to make the most informed and reasoned decision that I can (since I am not a political analyst).

Second, I will think of myself as a citizen who is responsible for my actions and who is active in my community. Does this mean that I am going to go out and join a political party or some other group that is bent on the conversion of opposing political views? No.

I admire those people for their passion and commitment, but I believe that responsibility and community service is more basic than that. I believe that community service is being willing to pick up trash on the sidewalk. Being willing to report crimes. Being willing to help when it is needed. Being willing to speak reasonably about emotional issues (at this moment, I find that difficult) and come to the most reasonable decision about those issues. Being able to understand that there must be compromise and agreement. Being willing to understand that, sometimes, we will fail. Being willing, in short, to be a human being — with noble ideals and mortal frailties.

So yes, I am angry. So yes, I am terribly annoyed. And yes, I am a human being who will fail in living up to noble ideals because of mortal frailties as often as I will succeed. But I cannot keep quiet any longer and I hope that I am not alone.

–Jason Vincent Piekarski

Keep church and state separate

We are a nation founded on Judeo-Christian values. The first leaders of this country constructed our government and laws around the ethics prescribed in the Bible. Many of those who voluntarily immigrated to the States left their countries to avoid persecution of their religious convictions. As a result of this European emigration, the majority of Americans were and are Christian.

These “Founding Fathers” understood the sometimes overreaching influence of government and chose to officially separate the State from the Church. They based this decision, in part, on the assumption that Americans were Christian and would follow the laws based on religious conviction and not on the mere power of government reprisals. The relationship between government and religious conviction on the changing culture of this nation has enjoyed a dynamic conversation as history has woven the social fabric of our community.

We are currently engaged in this discourse this election year. Religion has emerged in much of the political rhetoric. In Buncombe County, there appears to be a relationship between those who advocate for a return to prayer in schools and the posting of the Ten Commandments in public buildings, and those who vehemently oppose zoning. There are very good arguments for and against zoning. However, the blatant injection of religion into this political debate, by the same groups that advocate public (Christian) prayer, concerns me deeply. I have been to No Zoning meetings where the invocation of Christianity takes on the tone of a religious crusade. I am not convinced that these advocates truly want less government than they want Christian government. Perhaps we would need less government if everyone operated from the same ethical base. However, history will remind all that this type of leadership becomes a vehicle to enforce a particular religious conviction — the same type of government Europeans sought to escape 200 years ago.

These groups seem to advocate a position that we are a nation founded on Christian principals and should be a nation governed by Christianity. We remain a Christian nation, but we are no longer colonial and we are no longer all Christian. We still pray as much as we did in 1776. We are still a deeply religious country. We are still a nation of communities that never stopped praying. We may all pray to the same God, but not all call that God by the same name. Those who decry the “moral breakdown” of this nation blame this cultural shift on the increasing diversity of the social fabric. Some leaders speak of a religious war being waged. This is a war fought against its own loving and contributing citizens. Those who advocate for a Christian government, a theocracy at worst, deny Americans of the freedoms this nation was founded upon.

I advocate prayer, but not all prayer is Christian. I pray for a government that values all citizens. And I will continue to vote for leaders who believe in a government that acts as a neutral mediator between the conflicted values inherent in a great and diverse society.

— Tom Sherry

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