Last week a young lady of my acquaintance posted a humble plea on Facebook that set off a totally mundane chain of events that, while being the very definition of the term “first-world problem,” nonetheless raise a number of ultimately unimportant questions I feel compelled to examine.
Her plea (paraphrased): “Help me win a free vacation! Go to [beach resort’s Facebook page] and Like or Comment on my post on their Wall! The person with the most Likes and Comments wins 2 nights at the resort, all expenses paid!”
Being the charitable sort — by which I mean willing to click something if it will help someone I know — I clicked through and found the photo in question: it was of this young lady of my acquaintance, looking beautiful in a bikini, sitting on the beach. I saw that only one person had Liked this photo before me, I brought the tally up to two, and went on about my important business at work: writing “Manimal” fan fiction, bidding on commemorative coins from the Bicentennial, and trolling the “Smallville” message boards.
Maybe five minutes later, the IM window pops up on my screen:
Jennifer: why are you liking photos of hot young girls on facebook
I first realized maybe things would not go so smoothly when I went to the Delta website and poked around until I found out the extra baggage fee to bring my snowboard on the plane: $150. Each way. Almost as much as another ticket.
So I began my flight experience with Delta Airlines on the wrong foot. It’s not like my snowboard is amazing or irreplaceable or anything — but as this was a ski trip, it would have been nice to have it, and having to rent gear, although far cheaper than the baggage fee, adds an unwelcome layer of hassle to the proceedings.
I pack my boots and helmet and other gear into a regular suitcase, put my computer, iPod, and a book in a backpack and grumble about this bullshit baggage fee. I check the website again to make sure everything’s on time, and see that it’s recommended I arrive 75 minutes before my flight.
My arrival at the check-in beats that target by 15 or 20 minutes, but I’m disheartened to see that both the check-in line and the line for security are really long and show no sign of moving.
I get into the check-in line but it is soon shouted at me that I can’t get in the line without a boarding pass, and I (and several of the people in line in front of me) are directed to a bank of self-serve kiosks.I swipe my credit card a few times but it doesn’t work, and then I notice the barcode reader on the machine, and remember the confirmation email I printed is in my backpack. I hold the barcode under the reader every way I can think of, but it won’t scan. There is a blank and an onscreen keyboard so I can enter my confirmation number, but I can’t find it on the document.Just then a lady in a Delta jacket steps up and asks me where I’m going. Denver, I say, and she glances at my sheet, types in the confirmation number, and I get in the check-in line, which has not moved at all in the eight minutes I’ve been wrestling with this machine.
A few minutes go by and just when I start to think about the possibility of not making it to my plane in the next 75 minutes, a new desk worker appears and asks if there are any 6pm departures in line. My plane’s leaving at 6:05 so I raise my hand, and I and seven or eight other people are waved forward to the front of the line.“Things are going my way,” I allow myself to think, somehow forgetting the awful psychic scars of all my air travel of the past ten years or so, the way abused children block out their abuse and mothers forget the pain of childbirth. I go to the front of the line and yet another new clerk appears, and she checks my bag.I feel a small sense of victory at having completely jumped the line, but it evaporates when I turn my attention to the line for security. Whereas the line for check-in was long, it was single-file and somewhat orderly; this one looks more like a mob, like the line for U2 tickets or the new iPad or whatever other kind of long long line that’s not moving you can think of. I let out a deep sigh and feel an odd sense of deja vu as I take in the scene, but can’t quite put my finger on it. Read More
For the last week my Facebook feed has been full of outrage and petitions (and, like every week, photos of people’s dinner). The outrage and petitions, if not necessarily the dinners, have been directed at Rush Limbaugh, the radio talk show host who despite various moral failings, intellectual shortcomings, and a glaring honesty deficit over a 20-year career has suddenly come perilously close to hitting bottom (if he actually has one).
Rush managed to wriggle his way into a slow news week by saying a number of unchivalrous things about a young law student called to testify before a Democratic subcommittee on health insurance and birth control. These hearings were purely symbolic, called to draw attention to the fact that the Republicans’ own hearings on the matter forgot to invite any women, and to get at least a couple of female opinions on the matter on record.
Limbaugh’s rantings on the matter were coarse, and insulting, and illustrated a disturbing, deep-seated hostility to women, and I don’t intend to quote or repeat them. Suffice to say, they were ungallant enough to prompt an online campaign to boycott his advertisers and get him pulled from the airwaves.
I certainly understand the impulse, and I wouldn’t miss Rush if he were gone. I never listen to his show, except on long drives when I lose NPR and can’t get a good classic rock station, and even then I never last longer than one 7-minute segment. Even though I’ve never agreed with anything I’ve heard him say and I find his know-it-all tone insulting and obnoxious, I do find him compelling in a weird way. Even so, the 7-minute bile eruptions he calls segments are punctuated by 19-minute blocks of ads even more annoying and unlistenable than Rush himself, and it is they that usually drive me to change the channel.
But of course those ads are Rush’s bread and butter, so pressure is being put on the advertisers to bail from Rush’s “Accounts Receivable” ledger in protest of his comments. While I don’t disagree with the sentiment, I’m not sure I see the point.
I like to think that I try harder than most people I know to understand Republicans. (Emphasis on “try.”) Whereas most of the people I know in my two adopted hometowns (New York and San Francisco) are content to believe that the folks on the right are the Earthly manifestation of pure evil sent to hold dominion over the weak, I always try to look a little deeper and to understand how and why they vote the way they vote.
The reason for that of course is that both of my parents and some of my extended family vote Republican, and I happen to know that they are all very intelligent, very compassionate, very pleasant people. They are not social conservatives, or fundamentalists, or strident pro-lifers. So there is a disconnect that I struggle to understand, because these are the issues that increasingly seem to define right-wing pundits and politicians.
It’s been my observation that in politics, people seem to be much more passionate about what they’re against than what they’re for. When I vote for Democratic candidates, am I affirmatively voting for a cradle-to-grave safety net and unlimited power to labor unions, or am I voting against the party that is historically most hostile to minorities, seems to relish sending people to war, clings desperately to economic policies that in the last 30 years have twice failed catastrophically, and appears to be in the grip of religious crazies?
I have no great love of Democrats or the Democratic Party, but as it is, they are the less unappealing option. I’m not particularly thrilled by the idea of paying higher taxes, or people abusing welfare, or corrupt unions killing our kids, or any of the other things that come with the Democrats, but I am definitely, strongly, actively opposed to outlawing contraception, or starting more wars in Asia, or letting the Old Testament guide foreign policy. I vote Democratic more as a vote against Republicans than a vote for Democrats. Read More