* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where we do occasionally weigh in on weighty matters such as the minimum wage. We freely admit our ignorance of such things, but in our defense, we are no more ignorant than anyone else pronouncing on this issue. Also, we don't get paid very much to do this. And we're tired of wearing a hairnet and saying, "Would you like fries with that?"

Unconsidered Consequences Of Doubling This City’s Minimum Wage

By: Roger Taylor

An overnight grocery stocker can finally afford decent weed thanks to the pay bump, but the higher pay comes with higher expectations from his bosses. As a result, he can no longer find time to smoke while on the clock, which is kind of the whole point of being an overnight grocery stocker.

For the owner of a cupcake shop, the tipping point between whimsy and catastrophe turns out to be somewhere between the old wage and the new. After rethinking his life, he shuts the business down and goes back to school to finish that computer science degree. His career in software development is long and prosperous, but he spends the rest of his life a bit miffed about the cupcake thing.

A few customers at a haunted hayride note that the assorted ghouls and chainsaw-wielding maniacs seem a little complacent this year, and wonder how convincing a werewolf you can be if not motivated by actual hunger. One guy asks for his money back and doesn’t get it. He goes to bed angry, which his marriage counselor keeps warning him not to do.

Starbucks raises the price of its Pumpkin Spice Latte by 20 cents. An enterprising pair of middle managers quit their jobs and try to capitalize on the change by marketing do-it-yourself pumpkin-latte-making kits. These prove less popular than anticipated, perhaps because they’re just cheaply made espresso machines with a complimentary can of gritty powdered pumpkin. The entrepreneurs end up having to explain the failure at job interviews and on first dates. They tend to get pretty defensive about the whole thing, and are pretty sure that it cost them job opportunities as well as sex opportunities.

A two-income household becomes a one-income household as one of a married pair of minimum wage earners is laid off while the other has his income doubled. Now spending all day looking after her child, the former earner is forced to confront the possibility that the job was less about necessary income and more about avoiding interaction with her annoying kid.

As they’d never negotiated pay higher than the new minimum wage, Meat Cutters Local 161 becomes redundant and shuts down. Its chief, unable to siphon funds from a non-existent union, has to find new ways to pay for his ever-expanding collection of Matryoshka dolls. He starts looking for work that doesn’t involve slicing head cheese, which is a shame really, because he’s awfully good at it.

As a cost-cutting move, the Subway restaurant chain replaces its employees with an elaborate system of pneumatic tubes. This is great news for Subway, as it turns out customers love having their sandwiches shot at them out of air pipes. It is, however, bad news for the gormless former employees, who soon find that few other employers will tolerate their distinctive mix of boredom, hostility and sneezing on things.

Now in less dire financial straits, a security guard at Harry Winston backs out of a planned diamond heist. His would-be partner in crime has to find a new jewelry store to rob, wasting weeks of careful planning. When they run into each other at a holiday party months later, they say hi and it’s cordial and all, but it seems like maybe the chance for a lasting friendship kind of went out the window.

A woman parking her car at the paid lot of a community playhouse thinks, “Really now, that’s too much,” after calculating that the lot attendant who took her money — attentive enough, but nose deep in a paperback when she pulled up, and perhaps a bit too cheerful for a man on the clock — could now easily afford a respectable studio apartment. The thought recurs a few times over the next few hours and mildly affects her enjoyment of the play.



* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where we like to celebrate next week's historic Fourth of July with a nostalgic look back at our nation's glorious history. And if none of that holds any water, well, then, try this one from Roger Taylor.

A Brief History Of Home Milk Delivery

By: Roger Taylor

The first home milk deliveries occurred in 1785 in rural Vermont. Most early customers were parents who had no means of giving breast milk to their infants — widowed fathers, mothers who could not lactate for medical or motivational reasons, and packs of wolves nursing abandoned babies. Cows of this time period briefly became known as “nature’s wet nurses,” a nickname whose spread corresponded, much to the distress of ranchers, to a drop in beef sales.

The premise of delivering milk door-to-door seems obvious enough in our enlightened times, but it took several decades to perfect. For instance, it wasn’t until 1810 that Decatur-based businessman Walter T. Shibley realized that more milk could be delivered per trip if some sort of container were used. A period of trial-and-error testing followed, with the glass bottle eventually winning out over the sheep’s stomach, the whittled wooden tube and the very-tightly-woven basket. In 1812, exhausted milkmen convinced Shibley to invest in multiple bottles so that customers could dispense the milk on their own schedule, saving milkmen the need to make a trip every time someone wanted a drink.

Other innovations followed, some adopted and some discarded.

For a period in the 1840s, John O’Sullivan of Utica delighted customers with his “Fresh From The Teat” campaign, wherein milkmen would bring the cow itself to customers’ doors and extract milk on the front lawn. People loved the service, but the cows became prone to performance anxiety, complained about unfair working conditions, unionized, and eventually drove O’Sullivan out of business.

Pre-refrigeration, many attempts were made to keep milk from spoiling on hot days, often by faster delivery or the addition of coolants like ice or, more typically, ammonia. Many ideas were patented, and nearly all were instant failures. The Milk Cannon of Jersey City was simple enough in concept, but the complex ballistic trajectories required the employment of several expensive mathematicians, and rounding errors were often fatal. Dr. Goodfriend’s Rot Buffer — a novel contraption that involved surrounding bottles of fresh milk with even more bottles of rotten milk, under the pretext that the poisonous miasma would be unable to penetrate the rot wall — was discontinued one day after it was put into use when it became clear that it didn’t work even a little. Its inventor was hanged for “flagrant and flamboyant quackery.” Sergeant Stephen’s Sturgeon Stirrer did enjoy some success, as the antimicrobial peptides of the dead fish really did help keep the milk fresher, but flavor concerns and religious objections kept it a niche product.

In the 1880s, a successful marketing campaign by the firm of Howard, Farmer and McGurk briefly convinced most Americans that sophisticated palates preferred spoiled milk, and the problem — at least for the milk producers, who didn’t have to worry about the diarrhea that came from drinking the stuff — was temporarily solved.

Home milk delivery declined throughout the early twentieth century owing to the public’s increasing distaste for convenience. Though meant as a metaphor, the political slogan of Marshall Ward’s Huddled Masses Party in the 1920s neatly captured the spirit of the times: “The milk of toil never spoils.” The rival Teeming Masses Party had less success with “The milk that’s self-fetched is never retched.”

The sector continued to suffer setbacks throughout the 1950s and 60s. First came the widespread availability of refrigerated station wagons, effectively turning every suburban housewife into her own delivery service. Later, a series of lurid sex scandals had the dual consequence of disquieting older customers and attracting to the industry’s recruitment centers all manner of scoundrel, hedonist and reprobate. The death knell, of course, came with a disastrous move in the 1970s to cut costs by centralizing all milk production and distribution to one large facility in Birmingham, Alabama. The move did lead to lower warehousing costs, but the milkmen on the California route found the daily round trip to be tiring, and speeding fines accumulated quickly.

Today, home milk delivery is extinct. However, its spirit lives on in the hearts of thousands of dedicated historical reenactors. At disused parking lots across the nation, they converge fortnightly to don crisp white uniforms, drive refurbished trucks, live out their filthiest sexual fantasies, and, one suspects, drink lots of milk.