Saturday, October 24, 2009

Warehousing in New Orleans

Po Boy Views
Phil LaMancusa
Human Waste
Butchers, Dragons, Gods, Skeletons
Today let’s talk about warehousing. Yes, ware-house-ing. And we’re gonna jump right in by starting with the definition of the word. Warehouse.
As a noun it, of course, means a physical structure; a large store or storage building. BUT as a verb transit it is first described as the storage of materials and then the dictionary goes on to further define the word as the action “to leave somebody in an institution that does not provide adequate care or treatment”.
We have become a country of warehouses; we warehouse shops and call them malls and outlets, we warehouse goods in facilities that we call depots (home, office, building) and we warehouse people in retirement, convalescent and correctional facilities.
Life, liberty, love, freedom and beauty are given up in a warehouse society.
Individualism is sacrificed for efficiency and the personality of the one is suppressed or eliminated for the good of the whole of the warehouse identity. Control, organization, and safety are paramount in maintaining the warehouse mentality. And so is censorship, totalitarianism and, for better or worse, the utopian ideal. Witness George Orwell’s book “1984”.
The easiest way to warehouse something is to dehumanize it. Visit a nursing or convalescent facility. The persons languishing in that natural erosion of age are of a singular bent: they are there to, and until they, die. And they’re treated accordingly. Essentially they have been written out of society and are cared for by an under-trained, disinterested and overworked staff; benign at best. I guess that after you’ve changed hundreds fecal soiled nappies from hundreds of aged and saggy butts it must seem like a circle of hell for any caring person, especially at minimum wage. Visits by families are infrequent and care approaches uncaring. I will say that maintaining 24/7 attention to a group of insipid geezers would sure work my nerves and patience. The food is not as bad as jail and almost as good as a hospital; which is to say that it is nothing that any normal healthy person would want to eat--warehouse food—with little taste, freshness and dubious nutritional content. In the ‘convalescent facility’ that we visited, over a six month period, there was nary any fresh vegetables or fruit served. They had a fully equipped kitchen but a staff of people that cared less about cooking then about thawing, heating and serving and forgetting that there were real people out there eating ugly, tasteless and nutrition-less matter (as for being food…food it was not… it was just some form of matter).
Animals are sent to shelters, uncared for children are sent to orphanages, old cars go to junk yards, poor people are rounded up into ‘Public Housing Projects’ and worse of all, the homeless are left to wander in the warehouse of society at large. The diets are pretty much the same at all places: just enough to keep the body together and nothing for the soul.
We were tooling through the lower nine and were in need of gasoline when I noticed the smallest of stations with a premium-brand petrol (with my old car I have to put in the quality stuff…or else). The place is on a tiny corner and I’ll give you a buck if you know of it. It is small enough to be called obscure and it’s just over the parish line.
Well, we pull in anyway and what do you think? Somebody comes out to pump our gas! Then another guy comes out and offers to check fluids (that’s called ‘checking under the hood’). We had stumbled upon one of the last Mom and Pop filling stations left in New Orleans! The business had been there long before the storm and they came back and salvaged their business after taking nine feet of water. Think of it, a business the size of a postage stamp and they came back!
And here’s the kicker: that big name gasoline company that they had on tap was pulling their gas out and having Mom and Pop find another gas to carry and dispense. Why? Pop explained that: “they told us that we didn’t fit their corporate image”.
What I predict next is for that big name company to open a station across the street (in their image) and put Mom and Pop out of business. What do I know; except that that seems to be the way of Corporate America? The big guys will probably put in a mega-station with twenty-four pumps and a Mini Mart, as opposed to Pop’s two pumps and a soda machine, then cut prices to fully demoralize that family operation before ruining them. Do you fill up at a gasoline warehouse? There goes Mom and Pop; don’t worry, they’ll probably find work at the Sprawl-Mart warehouse.
You see, for a sensitive person, warehousing is all about demoralization. I get the creeps going into a SuperStore; they’re so frigging big, I think that that’s to make you feel small and insignificant. Overwhelmed.
What’s the difference, besides size, between a Mom and Pop store and a Mega Super-duper Slay Mart Depot? First of all, bigger outfits get tax benefits that no smaller shop could ever hope for in the form of breaks, subsidies or just the funds to hire professional accountants to enable them to pay as little to the government as possible. They can buy in such bulk that it allows them to increase variety, undercut prices and eliminate competition and they can afford an advertising budget that makes a joke out of the little sign in the window saying “Special Today! Local Tomatoes!”
One last thing in the defense of the little guy. The small merchant, the corner store, your neighborhood grocery, shoe repair shop, mechanic, book shop, clothier, bakery or stationer, even your local family run pub or eatery: they depend on you for a living. Whatever profits they do make stays in your city if not in the neighborhood itself. The small merchant not only supports the local labor force but also local schools, churches and other local businesses. And best of all, the small business is your neighbor and also shudders to think of a world rife with the proliferation of warehouses.

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