Archive for the ‘society’ Category

The unfriendly skies

Tuesday, November 3rd, 2009

I’ve long hated Southwest Airlines.  To me, their benefits begin & end with “cheap”.  And, IMO, you get what you pay for.  But, I very much value customer service, and Southwest’s has long been questionable at best.  I don’t appreciate their “quirky” flight attendants who think it’s appropriate to make “humorous” comments through safety announcements.  Their employees project an image of non-professionalism.  (I don’t want a flight attendant to be my buddy or to hear him or her try out their tired stand-up routine — I want them to be a competent safety officer at 30,000 feet who also can politely serve drinks when safe).  I get that Southwest is a “self serve” airline, but they’re also callous assholes from time to time.  (The veneer of “buddy” wears off when you actually need someone to answer a nontrivial question or actually help in a competent and efficient manner).

This is especially true with regard to their policies regarding parents and children.  I get that first-come/first-served seating is their policy, but this is problematic when you match it with their “family boarding is after the first group of 60” policy.  Good luck seating a family together after 60 people have already gotten on the plane.  If people were willing to change seats (normally I don’t favor this, but on Southwest with their idiotic family policies, it’s necessary), that wouldn’t actually be a problem.  But, that gets to my point:  people are self-righteous, selfish assholes, especially when it comes to flying, and especially when it comes to parenting.  Mix the two, and it’s like the perfect storm of assholery and hostility.

Recently, Southwest tossed a lady & her 2 year old son off a plane when the child was basically screaming “GO PLANE GO!” during safety announcements.  First of all, this is the first I’ve ever heard of Southwest actually taking these announcements so seriously.  And if the mother really wasn’t even trying to quiet her son during announcements, then this might actually be warranted.  Maybe that happened — it’s not clear from the news.  But having traveled with an infant (and later, when he’s grown into a toddler), I kind of doubt that’s what happened.  More likely, the child was being difficult, and the other passengers got involved.  Here’s a note to all you jackass passengers out there who can’t tolerate an annoying child on your flight:  we see your eye-rolls, we notice when you cut in front of us, we hear your “clever” self-righteous comments to other passengers about how we should stay at home, and we definitely notice when you talk to a flight attendant, and the flight attendant turns to talk to us.  I’ve been there, trying my damndest to calm my son.  I get that flight attendants don’t want to hear a noisy child during a flight, and I’m willing to bet that they basically used the security-announcement issue as a pretense to boot the child & his mother.  After flying cross-country with a child for numerous reasons (mostly to facilitate my wife being able to attend meetings with her Doctoral committee, when our son was still very young), I’ve seen a lot of this.  I’m also an experienced flyer — I had over 32,000 miles flying in 2008.  So, I know the ins & outs involved.  (Thankfully only one flight was on Southwest).  So to all of you jackass people who have 2 cents of commentary for us parents, looking down your noses at us, I have a few responses to the many criticisms I’ve endured from you.

Q) I expect to fly in absolute tranquility and peace.  Can’t you control your child?

A) I’m trying.  Really, I am.  But children are not full-grown adults.  It’s unreasonable to think that they process information (or consequences) the same way that adults do (or should).  But more to the point, I have a question for you:  Who the fuck do you think you are?  Yes, really.  I think this entire situation could be alleviated if you would just mind your own fucking business.  If my son is climbing on your or kicking you, you may have a point.  But noise-wise, kids are noisy.  They just are.  And short of sedating him, which I’m not going to do so that you can enjoy your fucking iPod or newspaper, he might have a bad day.  He might be teething and unconsolable.  But regardless, you should just mind your own fucking business and leave me and my family alone.

Q) If you can’t keep your kids quiet, can’t you just stay at home?

A) Who the fuck do you think you are?  In short, no, I usually can’t.  If you think this whole traveling-with-an-infant/toddler thing is something I enjoy, you’re batshit insane.  Yes, I’d avoid it whenever I could.  But the truth is, you wouldn’t propose that if you actually thought any of this through or had basic non-sociopathic capabilities to understand other humans’ experiences and points of view.  Instead, you are completely consumed with yourself, to the point that you actually have the balls to make demands on my parenting method to suit your superficial bullshit needs.  I get that you might be going to be an important sales meeting, and you need to concentrate.  Guess what?  I might be going to something important, too!  You also might be going to bang your mistress, but that doesn’t give me the right to question your motives or demand that you make concessions to me because I think your flight is “less important”.  And if flying when there are fewer kids onboard is so important, I strongly suggest you buy a ticket during business-hours routes.  These are on weekdays during business hours.  Kids fly with their parents on weekends, typically.  I know.  I fly a lot.  But really, you should be able to fly whenever you want — just like my family and I can..

Q) Don’t you think you’re harming/abusing/hurting your child by forcing them on a flight?  Obviously they’re unhappy!

A) Fuck you.  This is obviously a passive-aggressive way of projecting your unhappiness with the presence of inconvenient, annoyed children on “your” flight (also known as my flight, also known as our flight).  If I thought this was actually harmful, I wouldn’t be doing it myself.  It’s not harmful — it’s inconvenient.  And inconvenience is not “abuse”, to you, or to my child, despite your eye-rolls and frantic pleas to the flight attendant.  Yet again, let me offer this helpful advice:  mind your own fucking business.

Q) Why won’t you just discipline your child?  That will make him stop!

A) Clearly you are not a parent of a toddler.  I can distract/feed/soothe/scold my son, and it’ll usually work.  But very young (less-than-2) year old kids simply cannot process personal consequences.  They don’t even understand their OWN personhood until they’re 2, and even then, they only understand THEMSELVES (which does offer some limited opportunities for disciplining).  Even if you were a parent, though, I reserve the right to ignore any and all “advice” offered by total strangers who are attempting to manipulate me so that they can get maximum enjoyment out of a flight that my family and I are equally entitled to.  I suggest you ignore me, as well, and we’ll all get along better.  If, by the way, you’re suggesting that I spank my son, I’ll agree to this as soon as I also get the right to punch the various fucking assholes who make my flight less enjoyable, including the jerks who board out-of-turn, who violate carryon rules with impunity, or who rise to the level of the mild annoyance of my son (including talking on the phone).  No?  I’m not allowed to do that?  Then what the fuck makes you feel justified in suggesting that I should do that to my child?

Q) Parents like you who worship your children are what’s wrong with America today!  Don’t you see how you’re spoiling your child?

A) I don’t worship my kid.  I love him and treat him in the manner I think is best.  That’s a personal family decision for me and my family, and despite the fact that we’re crammed into a metal tube at 30,000 feet, you need to butt the fuck out.  I don’t give a shit about your various shortcomings as person, including your compulsive need to interject yourself into my personal affairs.  I’m doing my best to ignore them and you.  That’s all I’m asking for from you.

What’s up with crazy old guys on the subway?

Thursday, August 6th, 2009

This post definitely undercuts my distinctly pro-rail post from yesterday, but I’ll go with it anyway:  what the hell is going on with crazy/creepy old guys on the subway?  (In this case, I’m referring to the “T” Red Line in Boston between South Station and Kendall, but I’ve experienced this in San Francisco as well).  I occasionally come across an unbalanced lady or younger person, but 9 times out of 10, it’s an old guy.

Today, it was a pushy dude who was exiting the Red Line at South Station just as I was entering.  The MBTA “turnstiles” are not really turnstiles — they’re half-duplex gates that allow either one person to enter (after inserting their fare ticket or activating their proximity card) or one person to exit (after activating a sensor).  Also, there’s a massive freaking row of them at larger stations — South Station definitely counts as one of those.  So, I put my card in right as this guy is heading toward the turnstile from the other side.  Card is in.  He walks up.  He seriously waves me aside, with the ol, “move aside”.  Now, I’m no expert, but I was there first (witness card already inserted), and there was an open exit RIGHT NEXT DOOR.  I told him I was there first – he just insists, no I wasn’t, and walks on through.  Whatever.  Point is:  crazy dudes apparently get their way.

A couple weeks ago, it was this older fellow who got on at Park Street as I was heading to South Station.  It was about 5:30.  The train was completely full of people.  I always stand, because I don’t like having to try to find a seat, I don’t like sitting in questionable cleanliness, and I don’t like the social awkwardness of continually wondering if I need to offer up my seat to someone who appears may need/want it.  The older guy gets on, and immediately starts rambling about how nobody will offer up their seat.  Keep in mind that if a person were to get up, there would be no place to actually stand — I was already completely squished next to someone as I stood.  So even if a person wanted to offer their seat, it wasn’t completely obvious as to how that was logistically possible.  Also, this guy wasn’t ancient.  At most, he’s in his late 60s.  Also, he seemed to be in good enough health to shove me aside as I was standing there (again, there was little room for him to maneuver, but somehow he found a way), as he sought out a seat.  As he muttered on and on about how there was a “thousand dollar fine” for not offering up your seat (not true — though there are reserved seats for seniors and disabled persons that may fit his description, those were already full with seniors and a couple pregnant ladies), his bitching finally guilt-tripped a lady into awkwardly giving up her seat for this guy.  Real classy, taking a seat away from a lady.  Now, I don’t know this guy’s medical condition, but he sure seemed fit enough to force his way through a crowded train.  Also, his would-be protocol that all the people on a full train should get up and offer their seats up for re-prioritization at every stop is completely inefficient.  The Red Line breaks down and stops enough without those kinds of problems.

Another example that stands out in my mind is this older guy who frequently gets on at Kendall and off at either Charles/MGH or Park Street.  I see him all the time.  He wears full-on ear-covering headphones, and he reeks of urine.  Granted, he most likely is homeless, but the crazy part is the talking-to-himself aspect.  I’ve been on the train w/ plenty of seemingly homeless people.  They might hit you up for money, but they don’t all just start having a conversation with themselves.  But again, if it’s a crazy person talking to themselves on the train, it’s likely an old dude.  He’s not the only one, by far — he’s just the one I see most regularly.

More in the “creepy”, but not annoying, category would be the mid-50s guy who got on at Park Street going to South Station 3 weeks ago or so.  Unlike the annoying/unhinged fellows who usually are rather unkempt, this guy was fairly well groomed.  Recent haircut, clean clothes, just another commuter on the T, right?  Wrong.  Dude has on an older, yet clean and free-of-holes, “Hanson” fan shirt.  (Not just the word “Hanson”, but one with the faces of the members of the band — not to be confused with the hockey-playing Hanson Brothers, who rule — shouldn’t they face off in celebrity deathmatch?)  I didn’t even know they made those shirts in adult sizes.  And this wasn’t some sort of modern-hipster-douchebag type ironic thing (“check out my Pabst shirt!  I’m so clever!”) — or if it was, nothing else about this serious, slightly-past-middle-aged guy gave that away.  This shirt didn’t look like something he bought recently, but had had for years & lovingly cared for.  All with the long-locked, slightly-female-looking mugs of the Hanson boy-band on the front of his shirt.  Utterly, utterly creepy.  And no, it’s not about it being guys — if he had a “Hannah Montana” shirt on, it would be equally creepy.  Who knows, maybe there’s a Hannah Montana shirt-guy on the Green Line.  What am I saying — of course there’s a Hannah Montana shirt-guy riding the Green Line.  He’s probably wearing it on the way to the concert, at the Garden.

Anyway, I love the public transit system here in Boston, and if I have to put up with the crazy-ass old guys, so be it.  But once in a while, I do wish they could tone down the crazy.