Archive for February 2010

Power to the people

February 28, 2010

I became the victim of a vaguely-violent crime today.

(I’ve actually already been a victim of violent crime several times, but not any time recently)

And, before I continue, I’m just fine.

So, I’m standing at a bus stop this evening, at a fairly crowded city corner.  When I see my ride coming down the street, I join the mass of people half-heartedly jockeying for position and take out my wallet to get my transit pass.

The next thing I know, I’m being pulled through the air by my groin, and then I’m on the ground.  By the time I look up a moment later, it’s all over, and a heavy woman in a hideous purple jacket  is waddling across the street shouting “Ima get the  PO-lice!”  You ever trip and been up again before you’ve really registered that you were ever down?  Yeah, that was me.

What happened?  Well, apparently, as I took out my wallet to get my bus pass, some dumb-ass kid decided to make a grab for it and dash off.  Now, my wallet (as a matter more of fashion than security, to be honest) happens to be attached to a chain, which is attached to my belt, which is attached to me.  So, the kid snatches my wallet and takes off, and gets three feet before the chain on my wallet stops him dead.  His feet fly out from under him, and down he goes.  I get jerked after him before I even know what’s happening.

At any rate, three seconds later, I’m standing again while half-a-dozen people from the bus stop are basically sitting on this kid, and the stout purple lady is already off towards a police car around the corner.  Five minutes later, the officers have taken my phone number and are leading Robin Hood off to their car.

Why am I sharing this?  Well, it is kind of a cool story.  Let no one tell you that a wallet chain is purely fashion affectation.  Those things apparently work.

More generally, though, I was impressed by how quickly the random folks at the bus stop were on this kid.  I mean, they were literally on him, using their weight to hold him until the police arrived.  By the time I even knew what had happened, the total strangers near me had captured the criminal, gone to get the police, and asked if I were okay.  There was none of the “You have to yell Fire! because if you yell Help! no one will come” stuff that you hear about sometimes; I didn’t even have time to squeak and it was all over.

What’s the lesson here?  People do care.  We tend to get jaded sometimes and think that by quietly going about our personal business we are somehow isolated from each other.  But, that’s not necessarily true, as my experience today shows.  And, this wasn’t a case of people seeing a crime, and stopping to think, and then deciding to help.  This was reflex; people helped before they even had time to decide.  This wasn’t a big crime — no one was hurt, little was taken, and not much was at stake,

(I’m especially grateful that no one stabbed me)

but a fairly large group of people still helped out a total stranger, without decision or forethought, for no other reason because they were there and they could.  That’s… pretty cool, I think.  What could have been a frustrating and perhaps even traumatic experience was reduced by a wallet chain and a quick-thinking crowd to a footnote in my day.  Frankly, that gives me a little cause for optimism — as much as it seems like it sometimes, we’re not all heartless jerks.

And I’m seeing Smurfette in a new light, too…

February 20, 2010

I finally went to Avatar last night, officially making me the last person on the planet to see the movie.

Now all I can think about is painting a certain tall ex-girlfriend blue.

Yeah, I think I’ve finally found the film that messed me up more than The Crying Game.

The evolution of the drunk-dial

February 15, 2010

When I come home from a night of drinking (or, at least when I come home alone; eh, who am I kidding — even when I don’t come home alone), I tend to head straight for my computer.  I do this partly as a way of winding down before bed, and partly because I’m not capable of walking past my computer if it has been more than an hour since I checked my e-mail, Facebook, and IM.

There was a time when the worst thing I could do while drunk was drunk-dial someone (well, the worst communication-related thing, at any rate).  I didn’t do it often, and it was usually to a non drama-bomb recipient — more “Ha!  I woke you up!” than “I’m so sorry I slept with your girlfriend!”  Still, it’s happened, and the next day I often regretted it.

At some point I started texting instead of calling.  It’s easier to do from a dance floor, and I’m also less likely to actually annoy people by waking them up, which makes me more likely to do it.

I still make texts and the occasional call.  But now, when I get home and drunkenly sit in front of the computer, I’ve started doing something worse.  I go on Facebook.

Why is Facebook dangerous?  Well, there are two, somewhat contradictory reasons.

First, most of the things you do on Facebook will be visible to everyone that you (and the person to whom you do it) know.  And, since the news feed updates constantly, the new content is broadcast immediately.  So, if you write a drunken hate post on the wall of your ex-girlfriend,

I didnt liek u anyway.  why wuld i ever date you.  yu were soooooo lucky to b with me.  oh i miss u so much.  why why hwy why dont u love me WHY WHY WHYYYYYYYYY.

then everyone you (or the other person) know will have seen the following by the next morning:

>>Drunken foolish idiot wrote on the woman who has moved on‘s wall:

I didnt liek u anyway.  why wuld i ever date you.  yu were soooooo lucky to b with me.  oh i miss u so much.  why why hwy why dont u love me WHY WHY WHYYYYYYYYY.

Of course, you can frantically erase the message the next morning (afternoon… evening… whenever you wake up), but what has been seen cannot be unseen.  A phone call is private; at most, you leave an absurd message that someone can play to friends.  A text message is about the same.  But, a wall post on Facebook is out there for the world to see, immediately and without editing, whether you or the other person wants it there.  Even if you wise up and erase the message five minutes later, someone will have seen it.

The second reason Facebook is dangerous is, oddly, just the opposite.  If you send a friend request, there may never be a trace of it at all.  Why is that dangerous?  Because, depending on your state of mind, you may not know that it happened either.  To confirm that you’ve attempted to friend someone, you have to go to their profile to see that a request is pending.  But, if you don’t know you did it, or who you did it to, then you may never notice that you tried.  Worse, if you (like me) dislike sending unexplained friend requests and always attach a little note, then it is entirely possible that this message,

Lol rofl wheeee! Let’s be friends whhoooo fhjifldaig!jkls; HI!

went to your boss, or to your fourth-grade teacher, or to the cute girl you’ve been following around campus because you figured out her schedule and you’ve never spoken to her but you’re totally sure there’s a connection and some day you’ll ask her to marry you.  For example.  And, worse, you may have no idea that you even wrote it.  It’s out there, and you’ll have to deal with the consequences, but you won’t even know why.

Social network websites are great for the level of connection they offer.  But, yes, a result of this multiplied convenience is that the consequences of stupid behaviour are also multiplied.  It’s one thing to expose your stupidity to a few close friends; it’s quite another to reveal to everyone you’ve ever met that you had too much to drink last night.

The lesson?  A car in the hands of a drunk driver is a weapon.  Well, Facebook in the hands of a drunk user is a car.  Which is a weapon.  You shouldn’t drive after drinking even if you feel like you’re fine, and you shouldn’t Facebook either.  Because, maybe you are fine; but, maybe you’re not.

Is it really worth the risk of an erotic message to your fourth-grade teacher?

(Mrs. Warburton, if you’re reading this, I’m sorry!  I don’t like you that way, I swear!)

No, ma’am, that is not a weapon. That is my belly button.

February 14, 2010

Sometimes, when I see a plane overhead, or go with a friend to or from the airport, I’ll think to myself, “Look at all these lucky people flying to exciting places and doing exciting things.”  Air travel is glamorous, modern, dramatic.

Of course, once you’re actually taking the plane, the reality is a wee bit less exciting.

My recent travelling went quite well, as travels go.  My flights were on time and smooth.  The only child near me was cute and well-behaved.  I spent hours waiting at airports, but free wi-fi and a hard drive full of illegally-downloaded movies made the time go reasonably quickly.  I was able to get extra packets of salty snacks on one flight just by asking nicely.  Really, not bad at all.

But, also not glamorous.  Taking off my shoes, belt, and jacket and standing in a body-scan machine that lets a bored middle-aged woman see me naked?  Not glamorous.  Trying to find a comfortable way to rest my head against the curved airplane wall?  Not glamorous.  Sitting on the airport floor next to a custodial cart because the only wall-sockets aren’t anywhere near a chair?  Not glamorous.  Being groped by security personnel so they can be sure that my piercings aren’t concealed weapons?  Definitely not glamorous.

And, my experiences going through customs probably deserve a blog post of their own, except I’m not at all confident I could keep it from degenerating into a frothing rant.  I’m actually a pretty big advocate of a country’s sovereign right to police its borders as it sees fit, but I refuse to believe that it is either secure or effective to spend 90 minutes asking me three minutes of questions in ten-minute intervals, about topics that are clearly of no interest to anyone but provide a format for assessing my state of mind.  I am a competent adult with a university degree; I am clever enough to remember the answer I gave to the same question ten minutes earlier.

What’s your reason for entering the country?
Tourism and travel.
Okay, have a seat.

And, why are you visiting, again?
Tourism and travel.
All right.  Make yourself comfortable and we’ll call you again in a few minutes.

So, what did you say brings you here?
I’m hoping to sell the 20 kilos of Colombian blow that I’ve stitched into the lining of my luggage.
Ha! I knew it!

Of course, my reasons for travelling in the first place were rather stressful and unhappy, and that naturally took some of the luster off the whole experience.  Still, even when I’m on vacation or excited to be going somewhere, the airports and plane travel between them are never much fun.  And, I know this; so, when I look at people carrying luggage on the subway heading for the airport, I sigh wistfully not because I’m simply naïve.  I guess it must be… willful ignorance?

The grass is always greener, right?  Even when you know better, the grass is somehow still greener.  I can’t decide if that’s a sign of some sort of perpetual, shining hope (“I have faith that there is something better for me out there”) or sheer selfish ingratitude (“Why do they get things that I don’t have?  Why why why?”).  It’s probably a mix of the two.

My point, I think (inasmuch as I have one; I mostly wrote this for a chance to whinge about the customs and immigration office at the airport) is that after a stressful few days, I definitely have some stuff to be grateful for.  I am where I want to be, around the people I want to be around, and doing better than many (probably, better than most) at a time when a lot of people are struggling.  My life isn’t perfect (yeah, it is so not perfect), but it’s hardly terrible, and I am very happy about the things that have gone my way.

This post is heading in an uncharacteristically uplifting direction considering it contains references to a bored security guard at the airport poking my belly button.  I guess the lesson is… don’t be jealous of everything, and try to appreciate what you have?  That sounds reasonable, to me.  I don’t expect to be able to think that way all the time, but it wouldn’t kill me to try to keep it in mind.  On such a positive note, I think now is a good time to wind this down, before my rage about the airport returns.

And, oh my god, I had to turn my laptop on in front of them like four times.  Did it turn into a bomb in the two minutes since the last person looked at it??

Mental note for next time…

February 6, 2010

It turns out that you need a permit to have a live band play in your living room.  Who knew?