Phone Misconduct

Okay, so have you ever been walking down the sidewalk, minding your own business, enjoying a nice hot caramel soy latte? The sidewalk is clearly wide enough for two, three, even four people to pass by each other without bumping shoulders. Yet, it happens. Or almost happens. Someone comes amazingly close to running directly into you and as you dance a side-step to get out of the way, your latte ends up decorating your shirt.

And why? Because the person who caused this coffee disaster (and the reason why you have to keep explaining the stain on your chest for the rest of the day) was looking down at their phone, mindlessly poking at the screen instead of watching where they were going.

This is something I’ve seen happening more and more lately and quite frankly it’s frustrating as hell. Not so much the near collisions that would send my latte flying to the ground, but rather the lack of awareness many people have for those around them. Since when did the person or email or text or game on the phone gain priority over the flesh and blood human right in front of you?

Without noticing the presence of others, without that silent communication that exists when you spot someone else on the street or sidewalk or aisle, there’s only going to be more crashes and basic overall breakdowns in a smooth-running society.

Or how about this… you’re in the check out line at a store. It ought to be going quickly, no-one in front of you is buying anything of substance and the cashier’s on her game. But there’s always that one. That one who can’t put down their phone long enough to deal with the issue at hand, namely, putting their groceries up on the conveyor belt or paying attention to the cashier who’s trying to explain that the coupon they just handed to her expired three years ago.  Oh, okay, yeah, let’s all wait for the ten minutes it takes you to find your bank card because you only have one hand to dig through that cavernous purse of yours because the conversation about your coworker’s drunken fling at last week’s convention being the talk of the office is just that Earth shattering and you wouldn’t dream of setting down the phone for ten seconds. Ugh. Here we go. That’s a chip on your card… insert don’t swipe. No, it’s a chip.  It’s. A. Chip. Putting in that pin and talking can be quite the feat, yeah, I know… chewing gum and walking has the same effect on you, I bet. There you go, you got it. A great deal slower cause you’re distracted, but you got there in the end. Oh, okay. We’re going to do the whole slo-mo thing with placing your bags in the cart are we? Oh sure, offering your phone mate advice on holiday menu plans takes precedence… I mean, of course it does. Silly me. And off they go, with no concern whatsoever for the cashier just trying to do her job or the people they’ve held up in line, because they’re in their own little world still chatting away on the phone.

More interesting than the people utterly engrossed with their phones are the people who have no sense of privacy when they’re speaking on the phone. I’m talking about the people who yell into their phone while on the bus or subway or walking down the grocery aisle so that everyone within 20 feet knows exactly what happened to Rhonda at the foot doctor last week.  And trust me.  We’d rather not know. They open up their personal stories to the public which can become a little embarrassing to the people eavesdropping who don’t really want to be eavesdropping.   I sit there and think, “Wow, I really wish I wasn’t able to hear this right now.” At least that’s the cleaned-up version of what I sit there and think.

Alas, sometimes you’re stuck next to a person who has absolutely no sense of propriety or the concept of low voices. Thus, you’re getting all the details on how Kevin’s dog’s surgery went (the lump was removed successfully I’m happy to say!) and how bad of a kisser Mr. OKCupid was even after four Long Island Ice Teas (how truly awful for you, Judy!).

Inside voices people, inside voices!  And remember — you’re in public. Not only do we not want to be subjected to the gruesome horror story of your facial wart removal, but other people depend on you so they can get where they need to go without incident — so please try to keep those eyes up as you’re strolling along and for god’s sake, when interacting with others, put the damn phone down.

Thank you for listening. I can text this to you as well if you’d like.

The Faults of Facebook

So, here lately, I’ve been thinking about Facebook and social media in general.  While an amazing feat of modern technology that allows news to spread in the blink of an eye, social media also has its pitfalls. There’s the obvious cyber-bullying issue… that’s too great of an issue to discuss in one blog entry. But there is something more insidious at work here. People get lost down the rabbit hole of social media never to return. My ex was – and remains – mired in the faux-emotional muck that is Facebook. The 5,000 close friends, the groups, the pages touting the benefits of the radical survivalist communes you long for (you know, as one does), all of it.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I enjoy my daily foray into Facebookland as much as the next person. It’s just that so many people are on Facebook and other social media, spending their time trying to impress (aka convince) an online audience that their life is perfect… to get the attention, the validation, and the “approval” they think they deserve.  Many of these rabbit hole divers have family or spouses or significant others at home who would love to be a part of that perfect life portrayed online, but are ignored … because, Facebook.

Some people use Facebook as a time-killer (that would be yours truly), but others live on it as a reality-killer. Or rather, a reality enhancer. It just boggles the mind, truth be told.

Generally speaking, Facebook posters fall into several broad categories.  We all know at least one from each.

The meme sharer:  Also reposts lost pet photos.  This is the person who has such a mixture of friends on Facebook that posting anything at all personally will offend at least a third of them, so they play it safe and post generic memes.  I would … ahem … likely fall into this category. I save my demented mental-meanderings for you, lovely readers!

The vague status: “I can’t believe it.  I’m so heartbroken.”  This generates a flurry of concerned responses from people far and wide, to which the next status update is “Thanks for all the concern, I’m so touched.  I just don’t want to talk about it.”  The obvious question would be, if you didn’t want to talk about it, why the hell did you post anything at all?

The perpetually sick person:  This is the person who posts every sniffle, papercut, broken fingernail or stomach cramp for the world to see.  And no matter how inane the medical “issue,” the support is overwhelming.  “Unreal. I have a hangnail (picture of offending hangnail covered under eight layers of bandages).  And the comments roll in. “Oh, no! (sad emoji) Feel better soon!” “I’m so sorry! (sad emoji) I hope it clears up soon!”

The knower of a perpetually sick person:  “Prayers, please.  My friend has a hangnail.  It doesn’t look good (sad emoji).”

The offender:  Posts deliberately annoying and offensive comments just to get notifications on his phone.  “Clean air is stupid.” “Drinkable water is overrated.” At some point, this person will be placed in Facebook Jail for a week, unable to post, and then brag about it when he comes back.

The sharer of fake news:  No matter what your political beliefs are, fake news abounds.  The sharer of fake news will defend the most ridiculous and unsearched “news stories” as truth.  “Aliens landed in downtown Hollywood today and while wearing kilts and playing kazoos, they spirited away Grauman’s Chinese Theater! The. Entire. Theater. No, really, it’s true!”  Eventually someone will blow her out of the water with the definitive Snopes judgment, and then the circle begins anew as everyone debates whether Snopes is actually impartial.

Perpetual Optimist:  Just wrecked my car, but I saved my fuzzy dice! Life is GREAT!

Perpetual Pessimist:  Just won the lottery.  Great big gobs of money.  Life stinks.

The new reality for many is that social media has become their fountain of validation. They prefer the adulation of hundreds of friends acquaintances people they barely know to the love of their own family. I mean, really, with untold hours spent connected to the internet perfecting their online persona, who has time for loved ones?

I would say more on this, but I gotta go. My notifications just went off and it looks like my friend’s dog’s mother’s uncle has a sprained pinky toe. Boy, I sure hope he feels better soon.  (Sad emoji)

So Many Questions

Today, I called off work because I’ve hurt my back. That’s not what I want to tell you about though. While at the store to get meds for said hurt back, I saw, or rather, heard, something I do want to tell you about.

A woman was at the customer service desk returning a bag of unopened sunflower seeds. You know, the kind that are found in flavors like ranch or chipotle or just plain salted. Was it the flavor that dissatisfied her? No. Were they stale or perhaps outdated? Again, no. So what could be wrong, you ask?

Well, in a word, sunflower seeds. Oh, wait. That’s two words. Still valid.

A lengthy conversation was had, but what it came down to was: the woman does not like sunflower seeds. I’ll repeat. She was returning them because she does not like sunflower seeds. Yet, and here’s where it gets a little confusing, she bought sunflower seeds.  One could presume the woman knows her own likes and dislikes. You know, as one does. But again, I keep coming back to the fact that she — not a husband or child or stealthy purveyor of disliked legumes, bought the sunflower seeds. To be clear, and she was nothing if not clear, she doesn’t like sunflower seeds.

If that’s not emblematic of society today, I don’t know what is.

Ugly Is As Ugly Does

Don’t let that gleam in my eye fool you… this is not going to be the usual, humorous fare you’ve come to know and love here at Musings. I know that I’ve regaled you with the catchphrase “I hate people” often, and perhaps, for a while, it lost the bite it once had. However, reading the news, as it so often does, brought this feeling to the forefront with decided force.

Do you remember the final episode of Seinfeld where the gang, as so-called “innocent” bystanders, were arrested for watching as a man was robbed and abused on the street? Yeah, everyone remembers that one.

Have you ever thought of what drove that episode, though? I’ll tell you what I think. Incidents like the idiots on the subway who sat by and watched as a poor, defenseless 78-year-old woman was kicked repeatedly in the face by a psychopath!

But really, who is the psychopath here? No one called 911. No one intervened. Instead of calling for help or better yet, putting down the cell phones and getting up off your asses to help this poor woman, a bunch of you continued to record the incident, some even went so far as to provide commentary. What is wrong with all of you?? How can this be okay? How can you live with yourselves after watching, while a woman feared for her life and lay there bleeding right in front of you? Didn’t any of your parents teach you better?  Your callous inaction was disgusting, and the fact that you could stand there and watch, while doing absolutely nothing, makes you disgusting.

Oh sure, you could argue that you were gathering “evidence.” Bullshit. I don’t buy it. When everyone is recording, and no one is helping (I’ll repeat an important point that was reported: not a single 911 call was made) … that right there is a sign of a bigger, much uglier, issue in our society.

What if she were your sister or your mother or your grandmother? What would you do then? Would you record someone in your family going through the same experience or would you help? I really want you to consider this, and then explain to me why there is a difference.

Is this what we’ve become as a society? An eager audience to someone else’s suffering? Or has it always been this way? I know the human race – as a general rule – is horrible but come on people! God damn it, get your shit together. We’re all in this world together and we can’t keep doing this to each other.

Get up, rise up, and speak up! Offer assistance when needed, give up your seat to stand up for others, be kind. Put down the camera and forego the viral footage in favor of nabbing the bad guy, not on tape but in real life… even if that just means calling 911. For God’s sake think of someone else sometimes, especially in pivotal moments when your action, your voice, can make a difference. Do the right fucking thing.

Okay, rant over. I need a drink.

The Art of Gaming

I’ve talked about video games before. My kids played when they were younger, then in their teens, and still to this day. Their grandmother before them was a die-hard gamer. In addition to the strictly for fun or ‘feeding the rage-monster side of your personality’ class of games, there are science-y games, math games, even reading games, all of which help nurture a love for learning. My kids had them all … today, however, the educational games have decidedly progressed to the point that STEM camps and classrooms use them as a tool in an ever-growing instructional arsenal.  This is a good thing.  For the most part, though, parents – and adults in general, see video games as a waste of money, a waste of space, and a waste of time.

Before you tell your son or daughter to get off the computer, stop playing those useless games, and get a life, stop and consider: some people make a full-time living playing video games.  Between live streaming themselves on You Tube, testing out apps and games for the market, and competing in real-time challenges for pay, someone can make some pretty good scratch playing computer games.

It’s a shame, really, that you can’t add video gaming skills to a job resume.  Other than “annihilating your enemies,” and “driving the get-away car really fast,” video games teach kids valuable life lessons.  Don’t believe me?

Computer skills:  This is a no-brainer, but you need decent computer skills to excel in video gaming.  Many games have “mods,” for instance, which are modifications that the user can design and use in-game.   Games develop hand and eye coordination, and many kids can thank the gaming world for their ability to trouble shoot computer issues, type without looking at the keys, and think quickly on their feet.  Today’s kids are much more advanced in computer skills than their parents ever will be; ask any kid who has tried to walk their parent through using Skype, the latest iteration of Excel, or God help us all, PowerPoint.

Team Building and Leadership:   Parents may not be aware of this, but to excel in many video games the players need to join alliances and become team players to beat the challenges.  These kids are also learning the art of commitment and follow-through, even in a virtual world. A player’s online reputation is important to them; reliability and loyalty are valuable traits in a player.   Kids will develop pretty tight online friendships with teammates, and to them, meeting up to kill a troll in a game is as much a firm Friday night plan as going to the mall used to be for us parents but with a little more sorcery, swordplay, and bombing.

Problem Solving:  So how exactly does a fifteen-year-old raid an enemy camp, steal supplies, kill the leader and escape undetected?  This skill may not equate to real world experience; I’m pretty sure no boss will instruct an employee to break into a rival’s office, steal pens and staplers, and poison the air filtration system.  Still, these game quests teach kids to use logic and reasoning to solve complex issues – skills that can translate to any activity in the real world. Frankly, grocery shopping would be a lot more fun if we could add an element of video gaming to it.  Sneak up on fellow shoppers and take stuff out of their carts, joust in the aisle of the store, and barter for coins?  Yes, please!

Time Management:  In the video game world, many challenges revolve around time.  You may only have a set number of minutes to finish a quest, or you lose a life.  Imagine this in the real world; if you don’t get all of the items on your grocery list in a preset amount of time, your cart disappears, and you have to start all over again.  Personally, I’d love that.  It would take care of those lollygaggers in the produce aisle once and for all. I know, I know, I keep mentioning grocery stores … I’m hungry.  But seriously, in a dog-eat-dog business setting? Time is everything. Time management is a much-needed skill.

Thinking Ahead:  Video games today are far more complex than Space Invaders.  Older video games that we grew up on didn’t rely as heavily on fast thinking and planning; most of our games were luck and plain old good timing.  Today’s video games require luck, good timing, planning, logic, and thinking ahead.  Players need to consider their plans carefully, and they learn from prior defeats in similar quests.  They are constantly thinking, plotting, and planning.  These abilities are valuable in the job market as well as all-you-can-eat buffets.  Sorry, I’m still hungry.

Parents need to chill a little if they have a kid obsessed with online gaming.  Limit their onscreen times (duh), but don’t dampen their enthusiasm entirely.  After all, today’s kids didn’t invent obsessive hobbies.  Remember Saturday morning cartoons? Comic books? Rubik’s Cubes? Pac-Man? In fact, if you really want to look at it, our obsessions didn’t teach us a damn thing except that if you gulped cherries you became super charged, if you peel the stickers off the cube and stick them back on you could tell people you solved the cube, and the coyote will never catch that road runner no matter how many Acme products he buys.

Our kids may be obsessed and afraid of daylight, but they can take out a zombie with a slingshot and damn it, that’s a handy skill to have.

Circling back to that “driving the get-away car really fast” observation, check out this news story (click pic for the article) … See? Video games do pay off!

Geriatric Fight Club

Spoilers!  I am about to break the first rule of Fight Club.  I would apologize, but I just can’t help myself.

Costco is an oasis of peace (okay, okay, just give me a minute, it will make sense) with affordable groceries, and samples around every corner.  It is the store of choice for many value-minded customers, including those with huge families, restaurant owners, and senior citizens who like to hoard canned goods and toilet paper like there’s no tomorrow.

When our beloved seniors aren’t shopping for pants with waistlines that reach their chins or a detergent bucket the size of a cement truck, they are checking out the free samples.  I mean, Costco is known for their samples. You can have a free lunch just on samples if you time it right. And a damn fine lunch too!

Well, what happens in this world of huge quantity packaged food and delicious free samples when seniors attack?

Here, we see the fallout when one senior felt he was more entitled to a free cheeseburger sample than the other seniors in the line.  He had already cut in front of his opponent earlier in a line awaiting a free cheese sample.  The love of cheese and cheesy products makes people do crazy things, of that there is no doubt … and as to be expected, there was a smack down of antique proportions involving slow motion, arthritis-riddled violence.  The authorities were asking to see the surveillance video, and I confess that I’d eat a free popcorn sample and watch it, too.

How in the world did the responding police department keep a straight face writing this report?

It could be that the gentleman who started the assault felt, at age 72, that he earned his rightful place at the front of the cheeseburger sample line in front of the young 70-year-old upstart already waiting there.  Words were exchanged, hats flew, and glasses were shattered as the overly aggressive 72-year-old delivered the final slap to his opponent.  Safe to say, no cheeseburger samples were had by either party this day.

I’ve always known one simple fact in life:  do NOT mess with the elderly.  They have raised kids and grandkids, they have lived through a time when the US added two states to the Union, many have witnessed The Depression and several wars, lived through an era of dial telephones, had to change TV channels by hand, and they possibly smoked pot at Woodstock.  Rest assured, a fight over a cheeseburger sample is a walk in the park for these folks.

The worst part of the Great Cheese Fight of 2018 is knowing that both of the participants probably had to leave their homes hours before to make it to the Costco, given the guess that the Costco is 10 miles from home and an assumed driving rate of 2 to 3 miles per hour.  To make it worse, once inside the Costco there were hours of meandering aimlessly with their cart up and down the aisles.  They probably had worked up quite an appetite.

One good thing to come of it: this fight can be the basis for new advertising campaigns.

  • Klondike Bar: What would you do for a Klondike bar?  Hit my elderly neighbor in the face.
  • Cheetos: Dangerously cheesy.
  • Wheaties: The breakfast of elderly fight club champions.
  • Pringles: Once you pop, you can’t stop.
  • Centrum Silver: Always complete from “K” to “O.”

Now don’t misunderstand me, I love and respect the older members of society.  Hell, I’m on track to becoming one myself.  I can only hope that when I’m 72, I have the strength and spunk to butt in front of people in line and deliver a smackdown to anyone who opposes me.  There are many perks of being older, but to me, the best one is a complete lack of f**ks to give anymore.

If you have a hard time believing that anyone would go this far to get a free sample you have never had Costco samples, and if you don’t think anyone who is elderly would smack down someone over a sample, you never met my Grandma Mooney.

For me, I will live in the dreams of slapping people for silly reasons as I age.  I am making the list now and if you have ever wronged me, rest assured, I will find you when I am 70, even if I have to search every Costco in the United States.