Sunday, November 24, 2013

Pickets and Picnics and Pigs, Oh My! (Also Bears, My Bane.)

I enjoyed playing legos with my boys today, but people are accusing me of sneaking in a homeschool lesson on a Sunday. You be the judge.

Daniel assigned me to set up a "store" and stock it with merchandise in legoland.

Bear added that he refused to be sold as meat. I suggested that I could sell him as a bear skin rug, instead. He protested. What about bear claws? He still objected. Then I suggested selling bear fat. He began to protest, but I pulled him aside and whispered a business deal: I would help him lose weight, and he would submit to liposuction. He countered that he got to keep 33% of all my proceeds, not my profits. I sighed that he struck a hard bargain, but we shook on it.

Our jars of bear fat were pretty successful. I began marketing them as a cooking ingredient, or a way to waterproof one's boots, or a healing salve for chapped winter skin, or even a method for slicking back one's hair, if desired. I emphasized that this was an animal-friendly, fair trade process, and that no animals were being exploited or harmed.

Soon, however, Bear began demanding a bigger take of the proceeds. I declined, and began hunting for Checkov (Eric's Russian bear) as an alternate supplier. Bear thwarted this idea by organizing a union, though they did sign at the 33% figure.

When the contract was expiring, Bear attempted to use his collective bargaining power to push greedily for a 40% take. I refused.

Next thing I knew, there was a line bears picketing outside my factory. I brought in some pigs as scabs and started mixing bear and pig fat together, changing the labels from "Mommy's 100% Bear Fat" to "Mommy's Bear Fat: 100% Organic!"

The bears shouted some insulting things (and oinks) at the scabs. The pigs retorted "We may be working for only 25%, but at least this way she'll have an incentive to keep us alive; otherwise we'd be murdered this winter.") Bear claimed this demonstrated my unfair leverage over them and made the exploitation worse.

Then Ursa Major crossed the picket line. ("But I have a baby to support!") Bear was furious.

Bear launched a PR campaign to uncover my duplicitous labeling. It turned out my new jars were only about 10% bear fat. (But my labels weren't LYING, darn it!) Still, sales fell off.

After some unhappy financial consequences for both sides, we sat down at the negotiating table again. I agreed to 35%, plus free food to help the bears fatten up again. (They had already been low on fat storage, and the long strike hadn't helped.)

Things have now calmed down considerably, although Ursa Major is still not  being invited to the union picnics. ("No picket, no picnic!")

Later, Eric finished his emporium and announced it was "a bricks and mortar store." I couldn't help laughing. They asked for clarification, and I gave a brief--brief!--explanation of the dot-com bubble in the late 90s.

The whole thing was unplanned and unscripted. Really, it felt more like an impromptu bedtime story than a sneaky homeschool lesson. After surviving the dispute with the bears, the last thing I need now is a dispute with my own children.

So, what do my loyal readers think? I'll admit things got out of hand, but Bear totally started it.

I'm still not sure what happened to the pigs...

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