Monday, June 15, 2009

Flight of the bumble--ing idiots

Alright, so I know I’m not the first person to notice that flying is a less-than-perfect experience these days, but in light of some recent circumstances, I can’t resist sharing my pain with all 7 of my readers. How did we let things get so bad?

I’ll divide my grievances into three well-argued sections.

Section 1: Airport Security
Jerry Seinfeld said it best in his last big comedy act – “look at this cracksquad of savvy motivated personnel” (watch it below). As far as I can tell, the main job of airport security people is crowd control – they want to make the travel experience so unbearable that people will think twice about flying unless it’s truly unavoidable. It’s also important that they make sure we know they are having a much better time throughout the process than we are, which is why they socialize audibly and at length with each other rather than concentrate on x-ray monitors while we stumble through their grueling coordination test, teeth clenching boarding pass, liquids baggie overflowing, juggling electronic devices.

To keep us on our toes, they like to arbitrarily change the rules every few weeks. “Ma’am, the shoes must be in a separate bin this week for no apparent reason.” “Ma’am, bags go in wheels-first even though you’ve probably never heard this rule before because I just made it up on my last break.” Or my current favorite: “Even though you flawlessly followed all instructions, I’m going to move your sweater and carelessly toss it aside to maximize the chance that it will get caught in the conveyer belt and tear (extra points if it holds up the line!)”

Consistent with the American value of individuality, every airport likes to have its own special set of rules so that frequent travelers don’t get bored whilst going through security. I recently discovered this when I somehow lost my drivers license (and only photo ID) in the 100 feet between the escalator and the security line entrance. At San Francisco Intl Airport, not having photo ID is a serious offense punishable by excessive waiting and the issuance of a special ticket that flags you as a potential national security threat. (Because terrorists clearly wouldn’t go to the trouble of procuring a convincing fake ID or using their real one.) Security then thoroughly padded me down in a manner that teenagers would describe as “going to second base,” and took my shoes away for a good ten minutes. I luckily made the flight as it was boarding, but was not a happy camper. On the return flight from Dallas two days later, I arrived extra early in expectation of a similar ordeal with security. However, the woman at the airline counter stared at me blankly as I asked for my special ticket, while the man at security found it humorous that I had lost my license and eagerly accepted a credit card and health insurance card as proof of my identity. No pat-downs, no shoe-stealing. (Maybe Bush-country isn’t all bad).

Break for hilarious comedy bit that I promise will make you chuckle every single time you fly (start at 1:45)

Section 2: The Airlines
Every once in a while I read an article about how flying used to be, and it makes me sad. The flight itself was considered an exciting journey, not a dreaded means to a destination, with passengers given the royal treatment and flight attendants being stewards of comfort and delight. I guess when you reach critical mass and you’re selling a product with a relatively inelastic demand curve, thoughts of innovation, user experience and customer service fly out the window. And when you’re operating in tough economic times in the face of bankruptcy, it’s an acceptable business day if no one dies. Virgin is one of the few airlines thinking about more than staying afloat, but its 8-city itinerary hardly reaches the masses. The small fleet’s TED computer system lets passengers order a variety of food whenever they want it, not when someone comes by with a cart. Even though the food is overpriced, I’m usually happy to pay because it’s easy, convenient, and makes me feel somewhat like I’m ordering in a restaurant rather than a plane.

Last year I had the pleasure of hearing Karim Rashid, a prolific product designer, speak about being commissioned to design an innovative aircraft that was ultimately not built. Why should we drink from wide-rimmed glasses that spill during turbulence, or sit for long hours in uncomfortable chairs that elude sleep? The ideas and technology are there. But no one wants to invest in improvements when they know people will fly anyway. The airline giants are set in their ways and seem to only make changes that make life harder for their passengers.

Section 3: Miscellaneous
Is it just me or is there a Law of Crying Babies and Grossly Obese People that states that if either/both are present on the plane, they will defy the laws of probability and end up in your immediate vicinity more times than not?

Anyway, I’m still two hours away from landing in SF but my laptop battery is about to die, so guess this is goodbye. The baby behind me appears to be sleeping, so I’m at least grateful for that :)

Monday, April 20, 2009

Yet another reason to hate beauty pageants

New Rule: People must stop using their upbringing as an excuse to justify being a closed minded idiot and bigot.

In last night's Miss USA pageant, Miss California (who got 2nd place) was asked a tough question about legalizing same-sex marriage. She answered diplomatically that "no offense to anybody out there", but she was raised to believe that marriage should be between a man and a woman. Don't get me started on the homophobic bigotry of this nice young woman because my mom reads this blog and I don't want her to hear me use profanity. But what I can't stand most of all is people who use the "I was raised this way" defense to justify limiting other people's freedom and quality of life.

Miss California, I am ashamed (though not surprised) that my state picked you to represent us in this retarded superficial contest. I was "raised" in a country that brainwashed its people to believe all sorts of retarded things, like "capitalism is evil" and "communism can actually work". My parents and grandparents grew up in a world where everyone around them was "raised" to hate Jews. But luckily many of these people de-programmed themselves and became kind, intelligent citizens who started using their own brains to deduce right from wrong. If you're going to be a bigot, at least don't credit your parents, who were raised by their parents living in a very different time. And try to notice that many of the freedoms you enjoy today are the direct result of people de-programming the sexist, racist, bigoted misconceptions of their upbringing so that women could vote and join the workplace, a black person could marry a white person, a Jew could marry a Catholic, and so on.

Maybe then you would be worthy of first place.

Monday, April 6, 2009

This title sucks because I'm overthinking it

As this college basketball season comes to a close tonight, I can't help but notice that The Boys are getting their butts kicked. By "the boys" I actually don't mean Michigan State, but all the guys who spent hours meticulously contemplating their bracket picks after Selection Sunday, only to get beaten by girls whose knowledge and interest in college basketball consists wholly of noting how tall/good looking certain players are. I speak not only from anecdotal (but completely scientific) observation, but also from firsthand experience, as for the last two years, I have made my picks quickly and arbitrarily, with only the seed numbers to guide me. My ignorant picks have afforded me a respectable second place both times in decently sized, mostly male bracket pools. First place usually seems to go to a lucky girl with a similar level of athletic acumen and agnosticism.

So I can't help but wonder, is it really luck, or is it the absence of overthinking stemming from a healthy degree of ignorance? People often weigh the merits of going with your heart/gut vs listening to your head when making decisions, but is one really better or wiser than the other, when you don't have all the information anyway nor a magic crystal ball? Choosing a crappy team to go to the final four because it's your alma mater--that's heart. Choosing a team after studying the season's stats and determining who has a higher probability of making all their free throws--that's head. But both body parts have potential to cloud your judgment and leave you inevitably blind to lots of uncontrollable forces. And both leave you with a similar level of regret if you're wrong, albeit for different reasons.

So I guess the moral of the story is, when faced with decisions big or small, save yourself hours of unnecessary stress/deliberation and make the decision based on something arbitrary (e.g. team with brightest uniforms, job that would give you the shortest email address, etc). That way, if you're wrong, at least you can blame it on me rather than beating yourself up over it.

Over and out,

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Beary funny

There are very few videos I'll watch more than once, so I'd like to thank this bizarre ambiguously Slavic man for entertaining me for a whole 6 minutes, and also for making me realize that the melody to Rihanna's "Umbrella" bears (pun intended) striking resemblance to Woody Guthrie's "This Land is Your Land".

In the scintillating world of digital advertising, we often wonder what makes a video go viral and how we can create funny online video sensations for our clients. Without ostensibly trying too hard, this man has seemingly unlocked the formula for success: accordian + bear suit + cat + recent hit song of recently hit pop star (sorry, Rihanna--I love you!). Though the video is 1.5 years old, it's still timely because of the pop star's prominence in headlines and music charts, and combined with the timelessness of grown men dressed in furry animal costumes, you have a music video that is sure to please and bewilder.

With that in mind, I'm off to make my own viral YouTube hit. Don't want to ruin the surprise, but let's just say it may or may not involve a giraffe suit, Katy Perry and a fake Russian accent.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Bad Mom Award

What is up with people in this country being so uptight and completely over-reacting to everything? (I mean in comparison to other Western nations, not to countries where women have no rights). Specifically I refer to the backlash and outrage from moms over the new "grown up" Dora the Explorer for tweens. Some parents are claiming the new character looks too sexed up, with her short dress and shiny come-hither pink lips. I feel really sorry for these people's kids, who are probably gonna turn to drugs and casual sex as payback for their parents not letting them play with sexy Dora. Seriously though, if your daughter is gonna do naughty things before she's old enough, giving her a nun doll to play with isn't going to derail those desires and shenanigans. My parents let me watch all sorts of R-rated movies when I was 9 to 16, and I led a perfectly innocent and over-achieving childhood and even teenhood. I wish some parents today would take a chill pill. Especially when their concerns are completely moronic and unfounded, as in the case of poor older Dora, who I'm sure hasn't even kissed a Jonas brother doll yet.

Monday, March 23, 2009

A visual treat for you slow readers

Some of you have been asking for pictures to break up the monotony of my lengthy posts, so hopefully your prayers have been answered with this Jesus-riding-a-dinosaur monstrosity.

I love pictures that are worth a thousand words and yet kind of leave you speechless at the same time. Anyway, am I the only one who didn't have a "flesh of Christ" colored crayon in my crayola box? (might be a Jew thing)

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Sweet-talking sandwiches

There's a deli near my office where I go when I'm having a bad day and need to hear a little sweet-talking. For months I kept hearing about some "Honey Sweetie Deli" with its allegedly delicious tri-tip sandwich. I thought that was a stupid name for a deli until I went there myself and finally realized that was merely a nickname bestowed by its lunch-goers, along with variations like "honey baby deli."

No one actually knows or cares what the real name is. What we do know is that when we're in the sandwich line, there's a 94% chance that someone behind the counter will call us "honey" and/or "sweetie" repeatedly throughout the brief ordering encounter. Example: "What can I get for you, honey? Great choice, sweetie--do you want that toasted? By the way, I love your shirt."

Needless to say, you walk out of there glowing and feeling like a million bucks. Now, I've gone back for the turkey cranberry sandwich enough times to know that they're not very selective with the sweet-talking. As long as you have a pulse, you'll probably be buttered up. But even though you know they're cheating on you with everyone else in line, when it's your turn, it still feels glorious. I'm tempted to approach the deli owner with a social psychology study to see what incremental impact the name calling has on purchase behavior.

Anyway, this all makes me wonder why we don't employ more random acts of sweet-talking in our daily lives, particularly when dealing with ornery clients. "Sure thing, sweetie--I'll have those TPS reports to you asap. Thanks for your email, honey muffin." Too often at work we're the victims of rudeness and impatience, and I'm sure sometimes we are the instigators (by "we" I mean everyone except me). We already know pet names work splendidly in relationships, so why not spread the love to platonic friends and strangers?

I challenge myself and you all to try it and report back on the intrinsic and extrinsic rewards (or consequences). If you're feeling particularly confident/adventurous and want to deviate from the more generic honey/sweetie/baby options, here are a few of my favorites:

baby cakes
apple of my eye
cheeky monkey

Good luck and thanks for reading, buttercups!