Hang-ups

•April 16, 2011 • Leave a Comment

I’m sitting in a public library right now while two people chat on their phones and the “security guard” is walking past them, holding her own phone skyward trying to get more bars.
My phone is sitting on the table next to me. The ringer is turned off, and I wouldn’t answer it if anyone called, but . . . here it is.
When did we all get so friggin’ important?
It’s a Saturday. We’re all in a library. Why do we need our phones? Ten years ago, I didn’t even have one. I’ll bet none of these folks did either.
If you wanted to talk to me ten years ago (six, actually), you left me a message on my machine that I would check when I got back home.
What if it’s an emergency? Well, let’s see . . . what kind of emergencies am I equipped to deal with today?
I’m not a surgeon. I don’t own a machine gun. My emergency hovercraft has a flat. And, if someone needs talked down off of a ledge, you’ve obviously dialed the wrong number.
I suppose that there are circumstances – movie-of-the-week type things -where being able to reach me are important.

“Brady! You’re dad’s been trampled by an elephant! He’s got minutes to live! Would you like to say anything to him before he moves on in to the next world?”
“Uh, yeah. Dad, why were you messing around with an elephant?”

But how often does that happen? And even with my phone right here next to me, I could miss the call because of bad signal or something. I’d still end up talking to my brother about it after the fact.

“Hey, man, sorry I missed the call. Did Dad go peacefully?”
“Sort of. He just kept saying, ‘They never forget. They never forget . . .'”

Cheezy punchlines aside, I don’t really have my phone with me because of some potential emergency. Certainly it is beneficial to have it in that case, but, come on. I have it for convenience – and maybe a little bit for how important it makes me feel.
I’ve noticed, though, how it’s made me a little considerate. Not as inconsiderate as these people chatting away in the library about their grocery lists and bar-hopping plans, respectively, and certainly not as inconsiderate as people who talk and text in theaters or while driving, but I will admit to having been out with someone and checking my phone to see if I’ve received any calls or texts.
What am I saying to them?
Hey, you’re an interesting conversation and all, but I’m just going to keep checking to see if there are any more interesting possibilities as well.
That’s not nice. I should know better.
I was raised according to some better guidelines:
Look people in the eye.
Give them your full attention.
Listen to what they’re saying.
Don’t throw popcorn balls at elephants. It annoys them.

Rules to live by.

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An Unkind World?

•April 13, 2011 • Leave a Comment

There has been a lot of outcry lately about the TSA pat-down procedures, most recently employed upon a six-year-old girl. TSA has been defending this using the rationalization that: if they don’t screen children at all, then terrorists will start using children.
Is this who we are now? Are we really this scared now since 9/11? Do we now look at a six-year-old child and imagine how much plastic explosive might be strapped to her?

Do I want to get blown up on a plane? No.
I guess I’m curious to know how much more my chances of getting blown up on a plane if you don’t frisk a first-grader. Or me. Or that guy over there with a long beard and turban.
Do we know how many bombs we’ve caught since TSA procedures have been heightened? I suppose the argument could be made that the scans and pat-downs are a deterrent, and, as long as they are still being employed, terrorists are less likely to try anything. Maybe that’s so, but I think if I were a moustache-twirling super-villain, I’d be just as happy with the fact that I’d forced people into frisking children.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this quote that I know. I thought it was Einstein who said it, but I haven’t been able to confirm that. (If you know, chime in.)
“We must decide whether or not we live in a kind world or an unkind world.”
It looks to me like TSA has decided what kind of a world that we live in, and is acting accordingly.
I’m not sure that I agree with their assessment, but I guess if I knew how many bombs they were finding every day, I’d be more inclined to agree. Or less, depending. (Probably less.)
I will admit that there are some dangerously unhinged people out there, but I’m not convinced that there are as many as they (whoever “they” are) would have us believe.
Some people might argue that, if invading the privacy of the population and frisking children can prevent one terrorist attack, then it’s worth it.
Is it really? Maybe.
I just can’t help but think about what the next step will be. I mean, at first, we were tightening up security on international flights, but now it’s domestic flights, too.
Well a 747 holds, what? About 400 people, right? Well, a concert at the Pepsi Center here in Denver holds around 20,000 people. Should we ask all of Taylor Swift’s fans to walk through body scanners and be patted down just like everyone at the airport?

If you believe that we live in an unkind world, then the answer is that, yes, we must.
The next time you’re in a restaurant or supermarket, look for one of those “maximum building capacity” signs. On a very busy day, that’s roughly how many people terrorists can attack in that building.
Really, in order to protect ourselves from the terrorists, we should really stop thinking about people as customers or sportsfans, or audience members, and start thinking about them as what they truly are: potential corpses. Corpses that could be strapped with bombs. Or nerve gas. Oh, that’s a good one! Nerve gas can wipe out a whole city! Yes, what we should really be afraid of is nerve gas. Nerve gas tanks hidden in the Pull-ups of toddlers! Yeah, now that’s scary!
See, if we can figure out how to be afraid enough, the terrorists will never get us!
Ha, ha! Suckers! Let’s see you spread your terror now!

Oh, wait . . .

Hasty, Puddin’

•April 11, 2011 • Leave a Comment

I’ve seen a couple of nasty crashes in the last four days, and, in both cases, they could have been prevented by people just slowing down. One was in a parking lot, for crying out loud.
Don’t get me wrong, I do get the thrill of driving fast, and, out on the open highway, I will confess that I’ve “opened ‘er up” on occasion. What I don’t get is this fascination with driving fast in town. There are so many stop lights, slower-moving cars, etc. that there really doesn’t seem to be any point.
Yet many’s the time that I’ve seen some rocket scientist careening through traffic, changing lanes haphazardly, jockeying for position, only to end up at the next stop light surrounded by all of the cars he (dangerously) passed. Here’s a little secret: during the day, the traffic signals are usually programmed to the posted speed limit. This means that if you speed, you’re going to usually hit more red lights than if you drive normally. (I’ve tested this out.) Sometimes there is a longer red light which allows time for the other drivers to mock the Vin Diesel wannabe. (I prefer the “sarcastic golf-clap” myself.)
There just doesn’t seem to be any purpose to it, and, again, it’s dangerous. (And hard on your brakes, engine, wastes gas, etc. etc. etc.)
However, some people still believe that they’re actually saving time by driving this way, so I wanted to examine this a bit.
Okay, let’s set up a perfect scenario for your morning commute, speedy. All of the other cars are going away. All of them. Stoplights, too. Gone. Stop signs. Garbage. Pedestrians. All home sick. Bicyclists. Pulled their hamstrings. Every one of them. We’re also going to straighten out your road. No curves or turns or any other pesky little things that might necessitate you lifting your foot off the gas at all between where you live and where you work.
Now, what’s an average in-town commute? Let’s high-ball it and say ten miles. If your commute is more than ten miles, you’re probably using one of the highways, anyway.
Okay, ten-mile commute with no stops or obstacles, got it? Let’s say that the speed limit is 30 miles per hour. That’s a pretty good average for busy streets (and it makes our math easy.)
Now, we know that, traveling at 30 miles an hour, it takes us an hour to drive 30 miles. (It does. Trust me. I’m a geek.)
Ten miles is one-third of that distance so it should take one-third of an hour to cover that distance. That’s twenty minutes.
Now, Bandit, let’s put the hammer down and go ten miles over the speed limit to 40 mph. You can manage that idealized ten-mile commute now in just 15 minutes. You save a whole 5 minutes! You can start writing that novel you’ve always wanted to write! Yay! (Of course, when we put all of the traffic and pedestrians and stoplights back, it will probably be a lot less.)
What? You say you want to go faster? Well, okay, Penelope Pitstop, let’s burn a little rubber. 50 miles per hour, here we go. It’s sure a good thing we’ve cleared the roads, because at 50 miles per hour you’re going to need at least 120 feet to stop if something is in your way. (That’s only a tennis court.)
Well, guess what, Andretti? You are a full three minutes faster than all those other so-called speed demons going 40, and a whole eight minutes faster than those poor shlubs who are actually bothering to obey the legal and safe standards. Woo-hoo! Eight minutes!
You can listen to that Rebecca Black song twice! (And you probably would, you friggin’ psychopath!)
So you know what, I totally get it now. It’s worth it to endanger your life, the lives of your passengers, the lives of pedestrians or pets, risk property damage, higher insurance rates and all of that to get where you’re going a few minutes (seconds) faster.
I apologize for all of the name calling earlier, and I feel that I should give you a round of applause.

Alarmingly Stupid

•April 5, 2011 • Leave a Comment

One of the residents of my apartment complex is completely unable to get into his car without setting off the car alarm. Every day for over two years, I hear the familiar, loud “HONK.HONK.HONK.HONK. HON-” (He usually catches it somewhere between the third and fifth beeps).

I wonder if he thinks that’s just how his alarm works. I wonder if he thinks that the manufacturer of the alarm system built that into the device to let the owner (and everyone within five blocks) know that the vehicle’s alarm is still functioning normally.

Surely, if he realized he was doing it accidentally, he would have made some effort in the last two years to learn how to de-activate his alarm properly. Is the Colorado Driver’s exam truly so easy that reading a manual on a car alarm is actually more difficult than obtaining a license to drive?

I’m only assuming that the driver is a man. I’ve never seen him. Or the car. The few times I’ve actually tried to ascertain either, I was too late see.

I wonder if it’s a fancy car. Probably not in my neighborhood. It’s also kind of a low-rent car alarm. I try to imagine what would be so important about (or inside) a car in my neighborhood, owned by someone with minimal technical savvy, who won’t pay the extra $20 per month to park in the garage, that it requires an alarm system. – just not a very good one.

Did I mention that this happens every day?