Tom’s pet peeves

Ya got trouble!

Pop quiz: You’re Professor Harold Hill and you’re making good time with this saucy little librarian named Mrs. Partr- uhhh I mean Marian. She REALLY wants a Zima, but you’re both in a dry town. WHAT DO YOU DO?

“And the next thing you know your son is playin’
For money in a pinchback suit.
And listenin’ to some big out-o’-town jasper
Hearin’ him tell about horserace gamblin'”

Yes, ya got trouble, my friends, but you don’t have to go to River City, Iowa, to find it. Trouble surrounds Lexington’s liquor stores, which draw heathen Georgetonians like moths to the hellfire of Hadestown.

That all could change Tuesday as, for the umpteenth time in Georgetown’s recent history, the city asks its residents whether they want to allow package liquor sales in the city limits. Georgetown already allows liquor sales by the drink at restaurants.

But, as I say, ya got trouble, my friends. And it’s a lot more complex than people realize. It’s trouble with a capital “T” and that rhymes with “C” and that stands for “convenience.”

The “trouble” with Lexington’s liquor stores is not the product they are selling (it’s legal and we’re all adults), but that they are surrounded by these pesky big box stores, gas stations and restaurants. So when I go to Liquor Barn near Hamburg Pavilion, I’m not just spending 20 bucks on a case of light beer. I’m spending money on non-booze items at Liquor Barn as well. I’m putting gas in my car at a nearby convenience store. I’m shelling out $1.27 for a movie from the Redbox machine outside Walgreen’s close to the Liquor Barn.

And I guarantee I’m not the only one who shops like this. Because if all you’re driving to Lexington for is booze, it’s just a wasted trip. And I’m just gullible enough to want the convenience of buying my booze and groceries in approximately the same place.

So, to review thus far, I, and a fair number of my fellow closeted boozehounds in Georgetown, regularly go to Lexington to purchase alcohol, which we cannot buy in Georgetown, and while we’re there, we also buy gas, toilet paper, saltine crackers, condoms and the latest issue of Tiger Beat, all of which are readily available in Georgetown. But we buy them in Lexington. Because, well, we’re there already.

We’re spending money in Lexington that we might otherwise spend in Georgetown. Can ya dig it?

I’d like to reverse that trend.

I’m voting “yes” on Tuesday. If you’re a “no” voter and feel compelled to pray for my soul, thank you, but please don’t bother. I’m an adult. So are the friends I’m asking to go to the polls. We don’t need to be saved from ourselves. We just want to be able to buy a legal product in our own community. By statute, a local Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) agency will be set up within the police department, and a portion of the tax revenue goes toward that agency and the police department. This would free up the city’s general fund to do things like purchase a new fire truck to bolster an aging fleet and start a curbside recycling program, which gained a little momentum back in 2009 and early 2010, but failed to gain traction for a variety of reasons, including funding.

If, by some catastrophe, this measure fails (and the Georgetown News-Graphic poll seems to indicate that failure is not bloody likely), I will continue my weekly sojourns to Lexington for booze and other items, including the $1.27 Redbox movies.

As a concession, though, I’ll at least return the movies in Georgetown. That and a buck will get you a buck’s worth of Pepsi. But it won’t buy a new fire truck, put more cops on the street, or help fund a curbside recycling program.

But, hey, whatever helps you sleep at night.

Valedictorian? Here’s your participation trophy

UPDATE: My friend and Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia Fraternity brother Wes, a college music theory professor, offers his two cents on this topic since it’s more in his wheelhouse. I recommend you head over and subscribe to his blog.

To the 22 Scott County High School valedictorians: congratulations on your high level of achievement. The road to get there was very difficult, and I sincerely hope the hard work pays off as you embark on the next collective chapter of your lives.

Now, please leave the room so the grownups can talk for a little bit. Go on.

Twenty-two valedictorians, SCHS? Really?

Is this an extension from these kids’ respective childhoods, when we didn’t keep score in T-ball or youth basketball and soccer because we were worried about the losers’ feelings getting hurt? As 17- and 18-year-olds, aren’t 21 of those kids able to own up to the idea that they tried hard, but that maybe they just weren’t good enough?

It’s a bitter pill to swallow, but this valedictorian business has gotten out of hand. At one time, a high school class had a single valedictorian. One. That’s it. End of story. “Game over, man. Game over.” There were rare exceptions, but more often than not, it was one person.

“But Tom, all these kids are ranked No. 1.” I don’t doubt that, but surely there must be a way to look at each of them, their coursework, their extracurricular activities and their accomplishments outside of school and make a qualitative judgment based on all those things. Surely someone who balanced their coursework with participation in a club, volunteer work and a part-time job would merit distinction over someone who focused solely on studying for four years. I’m not saying such an evaluation would be easy, but no one can say it is insurmountable. It happens all the time in the private sector. It’s called a job interview.

Yes, in four short years these 22 will presumably exit academia on equal footing with their peers, scrapping for a scant amount of jobs in a workforce that is becoming more competitive as we slowly recover from a recession. They will enter that jungle with the same credentials: a college degree and no experience. And if the economy doesn’t bounce back by then (and, no matter who is elected president, I don’t think it will), there isn’t an employer in the world who is going to look at a list of 22 equally qualified candidates and decide to hire them just because “gee, they all worked so darned hard.”  They’re going to do what Scott County High School should have done with its cadre of valedictorian candidates —pick one.

In case you were wondering, I was not valedictorian of my high school class, nor was I salutatorian, nor was I “sorry about your luck” No. 3. I don’t have a dog in this fight. But in the job market, I have been the No. 2 guy at least twice that I can remember. Second place doesn’t feel so good, and it sucks to lose, even when it’s a job you think you really want, but failure is as important as success. The kids know this. Once upon a time, the adults in their lives knew this too.

Forget for a moment that most of the competitive colleges aren’t even looking at class rank anymore, a fact I confirmed talking last year with a college admissions official fromTransylvaniaUniversity, one ofKentucky’s very competitive private colleges. Forget that. Diluting a distinction that once went to one person among 22 cheapens the honor. It’s like living inChinaand being told you are one in a million. It sounds good, but it really means there are a million other people just like you.

Kudos, though, valedictorians, on fulfilling those difficult requirements and enduring the death march of academic rigor. I’m sorry, though, that the adults in your lives have refused to teach you a real life lesson before you are drop-kicked into the college life.

Director’s commentary: The preceding column appeared in the May 26, 2012, edition of the Georgetown News-Graphic, the paper I used to write for. I actually proposed doing this column last year, but my editor at the time, Pete Mathews, and publisher, Mike Scogin, thought it would make a better news story. At the time, I wasn’t so sure about that, but did it as an objective piece anyway. I’m glad I did, because letting this topic ferment in my brain for a year with the objective data I picked up for the story in 2011 was the best thing I could have done for this opinion column.

For the record, I played youth soccer and T-ball starting at six years old. We kept score. I suffered no ill effects, even without the participation trophies. If you finished first second or third, you got a trophy, in descending size according to the order of finish. Apart from that you got a stinking ribbon. Even if we sucked, I still remember having fun.

To take it a step further, I also have a problem with kindergartners wearing caps and gowns as they “graduate” to first grade. The only other place you see adults putting kids into outfits normally reserved for grownups is on “Toddlers and Tiaras.”