Sunday, August 29, 2010

Come Fly the Not-So-Friendly Skies

I caught this story in USA Today where over 2,000 airline passengers were polled to see if they would prefer a “family section” on flights. Nearly 60% said yes. In addition, 20% said they would prefer child-free flights. The survey came on the heels of a law suit filed by a 67-year-old American that sued an Australian airline after a 3-year-old child screamed on her flight causing pain in her ear.

To be fair, most of the 60% that favored family sections or kidless flights didn’t have children of their own, so there is some disconnect and lack of empathy there. But I don’t care. They are all idiots.

Have these people never been around children? Unless they are People Under the Stairs or haters of innocence and purity, I don’t understand how these tools could want to ban families from flying. Or quarantine them. Can a crying baby be obnoxious? Certainly. But so can you elitist bastards with your noise-cancelling headphones and iPads. I realize that you are a “business professional” and that you work exceptionally hard, but you are not working any harder than the dad that busted ass for three years to afford the magical Disneyland vacation for his young family. Not everyone works to luxuriate in snooty opulence, sipping red wine and stroking lap dogs while listening to Haydn. That child’s trip from point A to point B is every bit as valid as yours. You can deal with a little discomfort for a few hours. And if you are flying Southwest then you are exposing even more of your idiocy. Southwest is a bus in the sky. The only thing missing are livestock and chickens milling about the passengers to have a complete third-world charter.

What a silly survey. It doesn’t even make business sense to do such a thing. The airline industry lives and dies by ticket sales. There is no chance in hell they would risk losing seat sales by blocking off designated areas for families or children.

Designated areas. Doesn’t that just sound terrible? It screams of segregation to me. Hey…I know…let’s designate areas for fat people like Taco Cabana Lady. Do they know how horrible it is to sit next to someone whose lard is spilling 10” over the armrest? Trust me, I know. People glare at me when they see they drew the short straw with a seat adjacent to mine. Let’s stick anyone over 250 lbs. in the back of the plane. In fact, if you are over three bills then you aren’t allowed onboard, period. And Asian people smell funny, so let’s have an Asian section too. And old people annoy the hell out of me. They had their time to fly when they were young and actually WORTH something. But that ship has sailed Get your mothballed turtle asses back home and watch your programs in your wicker furniture-filled, wood-paneled parlors.

Now I believe that people should exercise common sense and human courtesy. I believe that families with small children should move toward the back of the airplane as a courtesy to other travelers. I believe they should try very hard to keep them quiet and calm. I also believe that very young children should not sit in first class. That is one area where business travelers can pay a premium to fly in peace. If you want to offer designated seating for families with discounted pricing or kidless sections at added premiums, then fine. That could be an option. However, I do NOT believe that anyone has the right to demand where people sit. Rosa Parks wasn’t down. Why would I be?

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Fine Taco Cabana?!

I recently took my family to Taco Cabana here in Austin. On a side note, I believe it is physically impossible to NOT sing “Her name was Lola….” when driving past The Cabana. It was our first time through the Cabana doors and I was kind of excited. I figured I knew what I was getting myself into. This was not atmospheric Mexican food with waiters, menus, and glass cups. Nor was this Ghetto Mex, i.e. authentic Mexican grub served big, fast, and cheap. This was full-on fast food Mexican…a direct competitor with Taco Bell. It would be perfect for the kids and a pleasant change from a typical border run…outside the bun.

The d├ęcor was quite cute. The tables were decorated with different beer logos and each had an umbrella overhead. The menu was interesting and inventive and the family fajitas immediately drew my attention. There is a full salsa bar dedicated to different types of sauces, jalapenos, and various condiments. I ordered our food, we found our tables, and started setting up camp. Only two other tables in the entire restaurant were taken. There was an older, fat couple at one table and what appeared to be a father and teenage son at another.

I have a two-year-old daughter. She is equal parts diva, princess, and mermaid. She has attitude oozing from her body and the most emotive little personality you’d ever see in a munchkin so lovely. When she speaks, you hear. You might not listen, but I guaran-ass-tee you that you’ll hear her. It’s impossible not to. She’s got this little high-pitched squeal that will sound angry or happy, depending on the situation. She was excited to be at The Cabana and she wanted the world to know.

Less than 10 minutes (and 3 squeals) into our meal I noticed that the fat old lady at the other table had managed to rise to her bulbous feet to make her way over to our table. I just assumed she was going to compliment us on our darling little children that were so full of energy and excitement. Quite the contrary. About five feet from our table, as she approached, she cupped her puffy hands to her ears and hissed “she is too loud.” Sherri was dumbfounded. “I’m sorry, this is a public restaurant” Sherri said. “Yes, but she doesn’t need to scream” replied the wrinkled mass of flesh. Then Sherri and I started in on her at the same time. “She’s a CHILD.” “She’s only TWO. “This is TACO CABANA. Defeated and dejected, The Jelly Thing turned and waddled back to her table. Her husband hung his head and said nothing…probably dreaming of his “happy place” where he was married to a woman that didn’t require him to grease her down and toss a Twinkie through the door to get her in the house.

Are you kidding me? Had this woman actually complained about my daughter’s shrill-but-happy sounds interfering with her joyous snarfing of $9.00 worth of barely mediocre burrito? Memo to Hog Lady: If you are interested in a romantic, quiet dinner with your unfortunate mate, do NOT roll into the Taco FREAKING Cabana. Taco Cabana is not a haunt for the Austin elite. You will find children. You will find teenagers. You will find the occasional transient that scored a few bucks under the viaduct. But you will also find mass quantities of beans, meat, and cheese (for pennies), so I can understand why you would want to squeeze yourself in there. Just adjust your expectations, mkay?

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Caller ID - The Bane of Initiative and Propriety

I believe that Caller ID is to blame for the general laziness of society. In fact, I think you can basically follow the (de)evolution of telephone technology for a brilliant timeline into the world's descent into pitiful lethargy.

"Mr. Watson, come here. I want to see you." Those were the first words uttered electrically by Alexander Graham Bell in 1876. The full history of telephone technology is lengthy and terribly tedious reading, so we'll skip ahead to the 1950s to begin our slippery timeline of laziness. In the 1950s, telephones were heavy. They were bulky. They sat down in a specific, permanent spot and took up obnoxious amounts of space. They were generally located near a desk or a countertop, where messages could easily be written.

When the phone rang, it actually rang. I mean there was a sound emanating from the thing that sounded like an actual bell ringing. When the phone rang you had to answer it to know who was calling on the other line. It was a complete mystery...until you picked up. It could be a bill collector or it could be old Ed McMahon with Publisher's Clearing house informing you that you'd won the million. And yes, Ed was old...even in the 50s.

Further, most telephone lines belonged to multiple families. You could pick up the receiver to make a phone call and your neighbor could be rapping on the phone with a friend. I'm sure it made for lovely eavesdropping.

Dialing a phone number in the 1950s took an eternity to accomplish. There were no magic buttons to push. You had to stick your finger in the hole on the rotary dial that corresponded with the desired number and you had to spin the wheel clockwise....then wait while the wheel "click-click-clickity-clicked" counter-clockwise to its original position. Luckily there were fewer numbers to dial back then. My dad's phone number was simply 2596 when he was a lad.

The 1960s
Toward the end of the 1950s, wall-mounted telephones were invented. They were slimmed down, reworked versions of the same device...just designed to hang on a wall. This did nothing more than clear desk space. You were still forced to rise, walk, pick up, and speak into the receiver.

In 1964 the world was introduced to the "Touch Tone" telephone. No more annoying time-waster of a dial to turn. Now you simply had to push a button for the number you wanted, easily shaving 15 seconds from your dialing! People got a little bit lazier.

While phone units continued to get smaller and lighter, no other real advances were made in telephone technology.

The 1970s
Technology held firm in the 70s. A "Picturephone" was released where video was transmitted (a snapshot every 2 seconds) but it went over like a lead balloon. It was bulky and insanely expensive.

More than anything else, the 1970s were about STYLE. Phones were manufactured in all sorts of groovy shapes and far out colors. Want a translucent phone that glows next to your lava lamp? No problem. One that mounts in the center of your black light poster? No sweat. The sound changed too! You could get a cool robotic, electric sounding ring instead of the actual bell.

In 1973, a company called Motorola invented the first cellular portable telephone to be commercialized. The technology had existed and had been used by the military and such, but this was the first time said technology was released for commercial consumption. It was a true beast of a machine, but it could be carried with you and used anywhere you received cell reception.

The 1980s
This is the decade where things started to really change and the descent into laziness went supersonic.

Right around 1980 the first cordless phone hit the market. All of a sudden, you didn't need to get up from the couch to walk to the wall or the telephone desk to answer the phone. You could fire it up right in the middle of MASH without missing a witty Hawkeye line or Klinger outfit. Granted, the 27MHz frequency and limited range made it sound like you were standing in the eye of a hurricane, but quality was a fair trade-off for the massive amounts of energy saved from having to rise to your feet and walk across the room. The low frequency, however, made it so that people that were talking on cordless phones in the same vicinity could hear each other and even speak to each other. This was more annoying to the phone company than to the consumer. People were able to have free 3-way calling adventures. Free is bad. In 1986, a cordless phone with a 49 MHz frequency was released to combat the 3-way calling issue.

In 1984, a market trial for a new device was held by Bell Atlantic in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. For the past 15 years, technology was being developed to allow identification information from the call originator to be transmitted and displayed to the recipient. This was the effective birth of "Caller ID." And the death of American initiative. Based on this market trial and others in the late 1980s, Caller ID became a mainstream hit and massive revenue stream for all major telecommunications companies by the mid-1990s. Suddenly it was possible to pick and choose which calls you wanted to answer based on who was calling. People, again, got a little bit lazier.

Constant advancements were also made to cellular technology. Networks were expanded and devices were improved, getting smaller and more powerful.

The 1990s
Cordless phones owned the 90s. In 1990 a 900 MHz phone was released, allowing you to go further from the base unit than ever before while speaking with a newfound clarity. Further advancements were made in 1994, 1996, and finally in 1998 with the release of a 2.4 GHz phone. Now you could walk around the freaking block on a non-cellular telephone with corded-phone clarity.

In 1995, Type II Caller ID was released and spread to the masses. This new technology allowed you to actually see caller information while you were already on the telephone. Caller ID displays were now being built onto actual cordless handsets, eliminating the need for older Caller ID boxes. Now you can screen and ignore calls without walking to look at the box. Another foot into the lazy river of laziness.

Cellular technology continued to improve. Now we have devices that are not just functional telephones, but also planners, calendars, and small computers.

The 2000s - Today
Having a telephone device entirely independent of wires or "bases" apparently wasn't enough. In 2001, the first "bluetooth" headset was released, allowing the user to actually speak on a cellular telephone without holding the damned thing to his ear.

Cellular technology is no longer its own's simply a small piece in a larger unit that we now call iPhones, Androids, and Blackberries.

Many American families have absolutely no need for "land line" telephones due to the cost-effectiveness and pervasiveness of mobile phones, but advancements are still made to said land lines.

Commonly, people consider advancements in technology to be improvements to life. Things get smaller, cheaper, smarter, faster, and more available. Technology allows professionals to be more "plugged in." But there is always a side effect.

In the 1950s people were compelled to answer their phone to know who was calling. People were forced to deal with salespeople or talk to that pesky mother in law that has nothing but evil to speak. They had to confront those annoyances head on, and I guarantee that lessons were learned in the process. Today I don't need to move a muscle to know who is calling. I don't even need to move my eyeballs. I barely have to pause my DVR to read the name and number of the person calling which is now displayed on the freaking television screen that I can't peel myself away from, courtesy of AT&T U-Verse. If my eyeballs are too tired then I need but listen to the ridiculous "Microsoft Sam"ish voice emanating from my 5-handset 6 GHz landline unit that tells me who is calling. I can literally and completely ignore you without expending a single joul of energy.

Is that healthy? No. Is there any bleed-through effect in life? I think so. Just like ignoring your annoying-ass phone call, I find it too easy to ignore those other annoyances in life. We're a lazy people and I'm your chief. Prime offender. I know people that won't answer or return phone calls. "If you want to talk to me, text me." How 'tarded is that?

Cell phones and mobile devices have thrown propriety completely out the door. I see people texting and even talking on cell phones during movies. I see Lobots wearing bluetooth headsets in church. I see idiots texting behind the wheel. I see women speeding through school zones talking on their phones. I even have kids that play around with iPhone apps during Sunday School lessons, oblivious to the fact that an adult is trying to teach them about baby Jesus. I can't imagine how hard it is to be a teacher in this day and age. These devices have made lazy, disrespectful lamers of kids and adults alike.

Technology has made it all-too-easy to avoid building real relationships. We are becoming robotic. In my last job I was able to manage accounts as a salesperson without ever having to meet or speak to someone. From initial contact to RFP to completed sale to daily management, I could handle everything from a Blackberry without even using it is a phone. Is that a good way to build a relationship?

So, in a personal effort to DO more and CRY less, I'm going to take the following action:

- I will answer the phone when it rings, regardless of who is calling.
- I will make an effort to not look at Caller ID or listen to Sam.
- I will leave the phone in the kitchen and go to it when it rings.

Will this instantly make me a die-hard go-getter in life? Probably not. Will it make me less of a lazy sofa-dweller? I sure as hell hope so. Those stairs are murder.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Back in the Saddle Again

I bought an Aerosmith CD when I was 15 years old at the behest of a youth leader I had named Doug Havens. I had and have always admired Doug and he was the first person I ever knew whose passion poured out of him like liquid hot magma when he talked about music. It was an early compilation of "greatest hits" with standards like "Walk This Way", "Dream On", and "Sweet Emotion." The real gem on that album was a track called "Kings and Queens." And there was one track that was utter rubbish called "Back in the Saddle Again." Unfortunate as it may be, that's the song that is permalooping in my head right now as I write this post. It's been a long time since I've written, but I'm determined to be back in the saddle again. I'm committing to write at least one post per week. And in my 30-something wisdom I've discovered that I really dislike Aerosmith. Sorry Doug.

To catch up, here are 10 things I've thought about the past few months....blitzkrieg style:

1) Prop 8 was overturned in California. I'm a conservative former Utahn who belongs to a strict Christian faith whose stance is clear and firm on the matter. But I have friends that I love very much and it is very important to me that they are afforded the same rights, freedoms, and understanding as a committed gay couple that Sherri and I likely take for granted as married folk. The rest is semantics. Openness, tolerance, and education never hurt anyone and I don't understand why we fear it.

2) The most effective tool for educating against (or curing) intolerance is watching and re-watching West Side Story. We learn that hatred and misunderstanding can easily be defeated with Sondheim lyrics and Jerome Robbins choreography.

3) Brett Favre finally retired. Buuuahahahaha! I'll believe that when I see, nay FEEL, his stone cold corpse in his coffin. Even then I'd say there's a 70% chance that he'll rise from the dead to demand his starting position back because death, much like life, just isn't the same without football. But hey...he's not MY freaking problem anymore. When he wore green he was a hero of mine, and I'm sure he will be again someday. But as long as he wears purple he is the enemy and I wish him nothing but pain and sorrow.

4) I'm not designed to live alone. Sherri and the kids flew the coop to Utah for a 4-week vacation with friends and family and I joined them for the final 10 days, but there were 18 days when I was home alone. At first I was stoked. I just knew that the first few days would be bachelor heaven where I could consume all the wife-disapproved food, beverages, and movies I ever wanted. In reality it was a nightmare. The first night I started talking to myself while preparing my nachos. I realized I was in trouble when I actually answered myself. I did nothing productive and blew through 4 bags of tortilla chips, 20 avocados, 5 rotisserie chickens, and an entire block of cheese in the blink of an eye. I missed my fam.

5) Texas is home. While I enjoyed my time in Utah and loved seeing my friends and family, I was not devastated to leave.

6) "Bachelor Pad" is great television. Finally we have an honest portrayal of Bachelorette and Bachelor rejects. It exposes the stupidity, deceit, vanity, insecurity, and general ridiculousness that The Bachelor sweeps under the rug in an effort to make us believe in the "legitimate" prospect of finding love on the show. And as far as I'm concerned, Weatherman should have his own show.

7) Reality TV talent competitions learned a lesson with Sanjaya from his season on American Idol. If you believe the producers of billion dollar shows like AI, SYTYCD, and AGT truly allow America to choose its favorite contestants to advance then I'm sending Tommy to hit you in the head with a tack hammer because YOU ARE A RETARD. These shows are big business. Viewership is king. Lineups are carefully selected and protected to secure key demographics. Winners are chosen by producers, not voted for by you and me in our living rooms.

8) Dr. Laura is throwing in the towel after who-knows-how-many centuries of verbally abusing people on the radio. Now I think the good doctor has some fine ideas and some wonderful advice, especially for relationships, but her no-nonsense delivery of said advice is a poorly-constructed shill for her true sadistic need to flog people over public radio. Memo to Laura: you can NOT drop an N-Bomb on the radio. You certainly can't do it multiple times in the same segment. You will get crucified every time. And please don't say that by leaving you are exercising your first amendment rights to free speech. How about an innate commitment to common freaking sense. If you drop that bomb on the air there will be outcries of hate, there will be offense, and there will be consequences. There are some terms that even the constitution can't protect against, and "ni**er" is one of them. Just don't say it. Good riddance.

9) Firefly was a brilliant TV series. It is a crime that it was cancelled after a single season. At least we got Nathan Fillion from it. "Dr. Horrible's Sing-a-long Blog" alone is worth the Firefly sacrifice I guess.

10) Did you know that the little sprite from iCarly makes $180k per episode? She's like 10, and she rakes in more dough in 30 minutes than I can sweat for in years. It's appropriate though. That show is brilliant. It's like Glee for kids.

That does it for now. I've already got an idea for my next post, so stay tuned. I'm back in the saddle again. Sans leopard print jumpsuit.