complaints, rants

Repost: You don’t buy a candy bar for the wrapper…

This post originally appeared on the Google version of this blog on June 12, 2017. I am reposting it as/is, because I think it makes good sense. The featured photo is one of me from around 2017. I look prettier in that photo than I do on a daily basis, in spite of the scowl on my face.

I have never been the type of woman who turns heads with my looks, even when I was young.  Since I’m getting older and fatter, I probably never will turn heads, at least not simply because of what I look like.  Should this make me sad?

Apparently, some women still base their self-worth on whether or not men notice them.  I read an incredibly airheaded article this morning by Eve Pollard, a British woman who evidently used to be quite attractive to men.  She’s enjoyed a successful career in journalism and probably should be very pleased about that.  Sadly, it seems she’s now “invisible” to men.  They don’t notice her or wolf whistle at her anymore.  She’s 71 years old.

In the article, there is a picture of Ms. Pollard.  She is still blessed with good looks.  At age 71, she still has a bright smile and dresses attractively.  I would never guess she’s 71.  Would she turn heads at a construction site?  Probably not.  But who in the hell wants to be whistled at by a bunch of construction workers?

Ms. Pollard has been married for 38 years and she says he’s still “interested”.  If that’s true, why does it matter if other men don’t notice her?  Why are so many women so wedded to their appearances as a source of self-esteem?  Eve Pollard has what a lot of women would envy… a career, children, a loving husband, and at age 71, good health and looks.  Why did she feel the need to write about becoming “invisible” to men?  And why did I waste time reading such nonsense?

It’s pitiful and pathetic.  I would have hoped someone of her advanced age would have matured at some point during those years.  I really enjoy Brits, but I’ve found that they are an awful lot like Americans in many ways.  And in some ways, they’re even worse, especially when it comes to silly subjective bullshit like whether or not a person is considered “beautiful” as they age.

Some time ago, I wrote a blog post about a guy Bill and I met on a cruise.  He was from England and he seemed okay at first.  We chatted with him a bit.  It soon became clear that he’s an asshole.  One night, I was in the piano bar singing to Bill.  We were the only ones in there besides the piano player.  The British chap walked in and his mouth dropped open.  Then he said, I kid you not, “Now I can see why you’d love her.”

Really?  He must have seen the shocked expression on my face, because then he came over and hugged me.  It was very embarrassing.  In the first post I wrote about this subject, I went more into detail about that trip.  I don’t want to do that again in this post, except to say that his comment was a reflection of an attitude a lot of men have…  really, a lot of people have… about women they don’t think are “hot” enough to be out in public.  It’s as if it’s our duty to look good for them.

I can remember at least two occasions when I was in college– and supposedly at my prettiest– when guys who usually treated me like shit, actually complimented me on my looks.  One guy was someone I’d known in high school.  He used to get really drunk and manhandle girls.  I remember one of my hallmates was really tiny and this dude got very drunk and demanded that she go out with him.  He stood in the hall, absolutely plastered, screaming at her to pay attention to him.  He actually picked her up and tried to carry her off somewhere before another male friend intervened. 

One night, I got dressed up, fixed my hair, and put on makeup. Sadly, it was because I was meeting a guy, who ultimately didn’t think I was “hot” enough, either. Anyway, the perpetually drunk guy from my high school and college said to me, “Oh Jenny, you look ‘E’!” “E”, for your edification, was a euphemism some of the guys I knew had come up with for the term “eats”… as in, “That woman is ‘good eats’.” The drunk dude actually meant this as a compliment. And he said this to me after I had witnessed him getting piss drunk and carrying off women as if he was an out of control caveman overcome by lust and the women would actually enjoy this treatment. How gross.

Another time, it was a big black guy who was in our choir.  He didn’t like me.  He thought I was obnoxious and told me straight to my face that he thought I was “rude”.  He didn’t even really know me very well, but clearly thought I was too loud and opinionated and had no issues telling me so.  On a choral trip to New York City, we happened to go to the same Broadway show.  I had put on a really flattering navy blue dress.  I look good in blue.  I fixed my hair, wore jewelry, applied makeup, and wore matching navy heels.  And this guy, who generally had nothing good to say to me most of the time, said “Wow.  You actually look good tonight.”  Really?  So the rest of the time, when I’m wearing shorts and a t-shirt, I look like warmed over shit?  And you feel entitled to say this to me without a shred of shame?  And you think I care about your opinion?

The funny thing is, it wasn’t like this guy was a looker himself.  He was quite obese and bald.  He wore sweats all the time and actually sweated in them.  He had an ungracious personality and probably bad breath, to boot.  And, for some reason, he thought I’d care that he thought I looked good when I dressed up to go see a Broadway show and had the audacity to tell me so. 

I do have a funny memory about this guy.  One time, we both attended a show at our college put on by a hypnotist.  He was called up on stage and apparently was very vulnerable to the powers of suggestion.  The hypnotist had him dancing to an unheard tune with wild abandon.  Later, it was very clear that the guy was embarrassed that we’d seen him being put under by the hypnotist, who had succeeded in making him act like a fool.  Serves him right.   

Listen…  when you’re a college student going to a school where there is no strict dress code, you aren’t necessarily going to want to dress up for class.  I remember when I was in school, I had to save up quarters so I could wash my clothes.  That meant I’d wear things that were easy to wash and dry… not pretty navy blue dresses that required dry cleaning.  Why would I want to wear heels if I have to walk to different buildings around campus to get to class?  I did that one day, fell down some steps, and ended up with torn panty hose, skinned knees, and a sprained ankle.  That was certainly attractive.

I get wanting to be pretty.  I just think if you’re going to be pretty, you should do it for yourself, not for wolf whistles from horny, clueless men who have no idea what’s inside of you.  I read a very wise comment on a different article yesterday.  It was written by a guy who, I’m sure, is a high quality specimen.  He wrote, “My granddaddy always said, ‘You don’t buy a candy bar for the wrapper.  You buy it for what’s inside.”  You know what?  He’s absolutely right… unless, of course, you’re diabetic.  Then you should probably buy celery.

I’m just glad I didn’t settle for one of those guys who only wants a pretty wrapper.  My Bill is the only one whose wolf whistles I would ever care about.  And frankly, he’s too classy to whistle at me, anyway.  This is a guy, who last week, when I tripped over a dog toy and temporarily stunned an ankle and skinned a knee, made a special trip to the store to buy me a compression wrap.  I didn’t ask for it and ultimately didn’t need it, but he valued me enough to think of what I might need and bought one for me anyway.  He would have wrapped my ankle personally, too. 

Life is too short to spend a lot of time worrying about whether random people think you’re “pretty”.  What they think of you is probably none of your business.  I think I’m more attractive at almost 45 than I was at 25.  I don’t look that much different now than I did back then and I’m a lot more together and less neurotic.  Enjoy your life… all stages of it… and fuck worrying about your looks when you’re in your 70s.  The best people– male or female– are the ones who value what’s on the inside and would rather buy a candy bar for the candy, rather than just the wrapper.  😉 

Yeah!
Standard
politics, rants, religion

“Christians” who complain about gas prices have missed the plot…

Last night, my former tenth grade homeroom teacher, now serving as president of a Christian university located in the American South, posted a shoutout to people who live in his community. My former homeroom teacher– a truly awesome guy and inspired leader, by the way– shared the news that a local gas station owner had announced that he still had gas priced at $3.68 a gallon. The gas station owner was encouraging people to fill their tanks while the “cheaper” gas was still available. As soon as the next shipment of gas arrived, the gas prices would have to go up.

Naturally, a lot of people were commenting about that, because Americans aren’t used to having to pay so much for gasoline. One person wrote a bitter complaint about the high gas prices, ending her rant with “Let’s go, Brandon.”

Before I knew it, I had responded “That’s not his fault.”

A minute later, she dashed off a response to me, as did someone else. I’m pretty sure there were a couple of “laughing” reactions, too. I didn’t bother to read the comments the people left, because I had a feeling they would be snarky and argumentative in nature. It was time for bed, and I didn’t want to get charged up over politics before trying to go to sleep. Also, I really respect my former tenth grade homeroom teacher, and I didn’t want to get involved in an argument on his Facebook page. Especially since I know he’s a devout Christian, and I have a tendency to be salty sometimes. Particularly when it’s later in the evening. 😉

I know I should have probably kept scrolling… because these folks have made up their minds about Joe Biden, and they truly believe he’s the cause of everything wrong in the world. There’s nothing I can say or write to change their minds. They think Joe Biden is responsible for the high gas prices, even though they are just plain WRONG.

I don’t think Joe Biden is the most charismatic leader we’ve ever had, but I do think he’s basically a decent person who cares about others. That’s a lot more than I could ever say about Donald Trump. And– before anyone points this out to me– I want to make it clear that I never thought Trump was responsible for everything bad in the world, either. I think Trump is an inherently bad person because of proven bad things he’s said and done, not because of his so-called political party. I don’t believe that all Republicans are evil. I do think quite a lot of them are selfish, ignorant, narcissistic, and completely out of touch with other people. But I know that not all of them are that way, and in fact, many Democrats are just as out of touch. I think today’s Republican Party, on the whole, is a bastardization of what the Republican Party used to be, years ago. A lot of people identify as Republicans and don’t think twice about it. They just keep aligning with the party they’ve always aligned with, even though quite a few Republican leaders are truly reprehensible people. But again, there are some truly crappy Democrats, too.

But anyway, I didn’t want to get into a political argument on my old teacher’s page, so I removed the notifications that the people prompted for me, turned out the light, and went to sleep. However, before I fell asleep, I noticed that an Epinions buddy from Texas, a man who is a doctoral level Christian minister who seems to really practice what he preaches, shared today’s featured photo on his Facebook page.

I thought about it for a minute and shared the same photo on my page, with a reminder for Christians in the United States who are bitching about gas prices. Right now, in Germany, gas is the euro equivalent of about $8 a gallon. Gas has always been significantly higher priced in Europe, which has much better public transportation systems and higher taxes than the United States has. I can remember being shocked when I heard that Germans were paying the equivalent of $5 a gallon. Of course, over here, gas is sold by the liter. Someone pointed that out to me on my page, and I explained that I had put my comment in terms of gallons because I’m addressing Americans, many of whom don’t travel abroad and have no concept of the metric system. My overall point is, gas is expensive in a lot of places, and that’s not Biden’s fault.

Then I thought about it some more, and it suddenly struck me as totally ridiculous that Christians are complaining about gas prices. Where is the outrage over the high prices of housing, food, and medical care? These are basic necessities for every person on the planet. Whenever a politician wants to tackle the high prices associated with basic needs, they get accused of pushing socialism. Most Republicans don’t like paying for social safety nets for people who are in need. Many Republicans assume that anyone who is poor, or sick, or food insecure is that way due to their own fault. They preach about personal responsibility, and push laws that are designed to punish or humiliate people who are in need. They lament the prospect of socialized medicine in the United States that might make healthcare more affordable for everyone. But God forbid they have to pay more for the gas to fill up those monster sized trucks and land yachts they drive to jobs that enrich other people…

I think Christians who are more concerned about high gas prices, than they are outrageous healthcare, housing, and food prices, have extremely fucked up priorities. Christians are supposed to follow the example of Jesus Christ, aren’t they? So if you’re really a Christian, shouldn’t you actually be concerned about people in need? Didn’t Christ care about hungry, sick, tired, and suffering people? Wasn’t Christ humble and gentle? Would Jesus complain about high gas prices and blame the U.S. president for something that is happening mostly due to world events?

Everybody needs housing, healthcare, and food. Not everybody needs to gas up cars. Granted, in the United States, cars are generally a lot more necessary than they are in Europe. However, even though Americans need cars more than Europeans do, they still aren’t necessary for living. I think in the coming weeks, we may all collectively discover why our dependence on cheap gas makes us weaker in so many ways.

What really amazes me, though, is this sudden understanding and affinity some Republicans have for Russia, and for Putin’s complaints about Ukraine. A lot of these people– Trump supporters– have #Pray for Ukraine posts on their social media pages. But don’t they realize that Donald Trump is Putin’s fan boy? Don’t they know that if Trump were still in office, Trump wouldn’t say much about what Putin is doing to Ukraine? Trump and Putin have a lot in common… although I think Putin is a lot smarter and, unfortunately, even more sociopathic than Trump is.

When I was a kid, the 1984 movie Red Dawn was released. I remember watching that movie and thinking– DAMN!– if the Soviet Union ever invades the United States, I will be signing up to fight! I was brave and naive when I was twelve! That movie was loaded with right-wing, God bless America, anti-Soviet propaganda bullshit. It was a very violent film that made Russians out to be terrible people as a whole. In 1984, a lot of Americans were legitimately worried about nuclear war. In the 80s, many Americans openly disdained communist Soviet Union and its people, even though most of us knew very little about the Soviet Union. It was a closed society, so it wasn’t easy to mingle with people from there. But watch television from the 80s, and you will see MANY references to nukes and how awful Russia is… and a lot of that propaganda was promoted by Republicans.

Then came 1991… and the Soviet Union fell apart. A few years after that, I went to live in the former Soviet Union. It changed my life. I now count some former Soviets as friends. I started seeing things from a different perspective. I no longer saw the Soviet Union as one big country. I now see that it was comprised of fifteen diverse republics full of amazing people who mostly want and need the same things I want and need. For a couple of decades, it looked like maybe we could finally be friends with people from Russia and other former Soviet countries. Maybe our governments could cooperate with each other and act for the benefit of humanity. Then came Putin… and he’s acting like a domestic abuser punishing his mate for refusing to marry him. Ukraine doesn’t want to be in a relationship with Russia anymore. Russia won’t take no for an answer and is forcing itself on the Ukrainian people… like an abusive ex who won’t go away. I must credit Bill for providing me with that imagery. Bill understands the abusive spouse dynamic better than I ever could… but when he presented that example to me, it struck me as how insightful it is.

Someday, maybe this ugly Soviet era building will be rebuilt into something more akin to Ukrainian tastes. But for now, this picture represents profound loss and suffering… and people who have lost everything.

I saw a photo of a burning building in Ukraine this morning. I noticed how ugly and depressing that building was. I remember living in a couple of buildings that looked just like it when I lived in Armenia. As I looked at the above image, it occurred to me that someday, that burning building will probably be rebuilt. It might even be rebuilt into something much better on all levels. That will probably take years, though, and for now, the fact remains that this ugly building on fire was home for some people who have now lost everything. And in America, we have a bunch of so-called Christians blaming Joe Biden for the fact that they have to pay more for gas. It’s ridiculous, short-sighted, and shameful. And now, Republicans seem to be on Putin’s side, even as they “pray for Ukraine”. I guess they pray for Ukraine to hurry up and submit so they can get cheap gas again, and the stock market will rebound. Perhaps they think Ukraine should just “make the best of a bad situation”. Maybe Ukraine should just lie down and “enjoy” the rape, as some anti-woman Republican legislators have suggested to sexual assault victims. I think a lot of Republicans are as naive and uninformed as I was when I was twelve.

A lot of these folks probably think Ukraine should also “make the best of a bad situation”. But if Russia invaded the United States, what would they say?

Nobody likes to pay high gas prices. I hate seeing our stock values plummet on a daily basis. It would be so great if things were peaceful and prosperous and the economy was humming along. But that’s not how it is… and the fact that it’s not how it is isn’t solely Joe Biden’s fault. He’s not invading Ukraine. He didn’t cause COVID-19, which also had an effect on gas prices and the economy. And he doesn’t control gas prices. He doesn’t have that much power. So if you are a “Christian” who is complaining about gas prices and blaming Biden, maybe it’s time to reevaluate your priorities. Do you think Jesus would be concerned about filling his gas tank over the pain and suffering of other human beings? I sure don’t.

Edited to add: A fellow American in Germany shared this…

Americans don’t have it so bad when it comes to gas prices.

Standard
complaints, money, rants

Look what I got!

Yesterday was a somewhat exasperating day. As I wrote in yesterday’s post, I had to call USAA because of their heavy handed fraud alert system. I think it was triggered on Sunday night, when I decided to buy some underwear from Amazon. I use Amazon a lot, but because I had been traveling and had set a travel alert, I guess USAA’s bots figured I shouldn’t be ordering underwear. I’m wondering what would have happened if I’d tried to use my debit card in France.

I didn’t realize I had tripped the fraud alert until I went to order some brandy from my favorite Armenian brandy retailer, another vendor I use pretty often. I went to pay for my order, which included a bottle of apricot brandy for a local friend, when I realized the payment didn’t go through. Then I saw an urgent automated email from USAA telling me that they’d “tried to contact me” and I hadn’t answered. I didn’t answer, because I wasn’t wearing my Apple Watch and didn’t have my phone with me. I didn’t realize I’d need those items for buying underwear from a vendor I use all the time.

I got really pissed. Why? Because this happens ALL THE TIME. Several months ago, when I was trying to book hotels for our trip to Croatia, Austria, and Slovenia, I got the same annoying fraud alerts from both USAA and PenFed. And because I live several hours ahead of USAA and PenFed, and it was the weekend, I had to wait hours before I could call them and straighten out the situation. It used to be that USAA would send me an email or text asking me to verify things. And I did notice that they sent texts this time. But again, I didn’t have my phone with me, because it was just underwear.

You can’t send USAA an email, so I complained on their Facebook chat. “Jason” responded with apologies, but I never heard from him again. Thanks for nothing, Jason. I can see that I did the same thing in October, when they blocked my card as I was trying to book lodging. I complained then, too, and even spoke to someone who called me while we were traveling. Fat lot of good that did.

Yesterday morning, as I was composing my blog post, I got an automated call from USAA. I answered it and verified the charges. The automated voice on the other end of the line said that my card was open and I didn’t need to do anything else. Wonderful. So I went back to the Armenian brandy purveyor and successfully completed an order… which tripped the fucking fraud alert system again. But again, I didn’t know I had tripped the fraud system, so I downloaded a couple of albums.

A couple of hours later, I was walking the dogs, and I got another fraud alert on my phone/watch. I tried to answer the watch while juggling my dogs. I had to give up, though, because it was impossible to walk the dogs and answer the phone. I checked my iPad and noticed that Apple had sent me a message that my card was declined. So I called up USAA and spoke to a very pleasant representative. Really, she was very nice… much like the representatives used to be, when USAA was still customer service oriented. I expressed my frustration at having to make international phone calls every time I need to unblock my card(s). I told her that I was strongly considering changing banks because of this issue.

I do have an account with PenFed. I used to have a checking account with them, but closed it because they charged a fee if the minimum balance wasn’t high enough. Last night, I started an application for another checking account with them, just so I have an alternative to USAA. But really, I think it may be time to migrate our business elsewhere. PenFed is also a bit of a pain in the butt about fraud alerts and shutting down access to things. I’ll have to call them later today to verify my identity because of the checking account request I made last night.

USAA really has gone downhill… and not just because of these customer service issues, but also because I suspect it’s a very culty kind of a place. I remember when Bill was looking for a job in 2014. He spoke to people at a USAA job fair and they asked him if he knew anyone who worked at USAA. He said he didn’t, and it became very clear that not knowing someone there was the “kiss of death”. It didn’t matter that he’s a retired veteran with about 30 years of service, or that he’s been a member of USAA since 1984, or that I’ve been a member for 27 years. I remember writing about that incident on my original OH blog, and USAA’s public relations goons stalked that post for months. If it had been up to me alone, I would have ditched them years ago.

Another thing I noticed last night was that, unbeknownst to me, Amazon put my underwear order on my credit card when the debit card was declined. That isn’t a huge deal, since the order was for less than $100, and I have a huge credit line. I’m just very particular about what I charge on my credit cards. I usually only use them for large purchases or travel. I did make a big payment this morning to cover our trip to France, though. I guess I need to remove that card from Amazon so they don’t do that again.

And then, after I straightened out the USAA blocking issue, I got an alert from Corona Warn, which is a German app where one can upload vaccine certificates and monitor the COVID situation in Germany. I also have a German app called CovPass, which is what I used exclusively when we traveled. We had to show our vaccine certifications at our hotel and in restaurants. The Germans and the French have different procedures. In Germany, we had to wear FFP2 masks and show the QR code, as well as our IDs. In France, surgical masks were okay, and after we showed our vaccine certifications, we were allowed to unmask.

So anyway, even though I didn’t use Corona Warn when I showed my vaccine certs, it was monitoring my location. And yesterday afternoon, I got a message from them, letting me know that I was exposed to COVID-19 sometime on March 2, 2022. It was either at a McDonald’s I went to when I needed to pee, or it was at the restaurant in Stuttgart where we had lunch. Either way, the exposure was five days ago, and we have been in France for most of those days.

Now… I don’t have any symptoms of COVID-19 at all, and I pretty much lead an isolated existence as a general rule. I don’t use public transportation, and once we got home from our trip, I have stayed at home, with the exception of a very short walk I took with the dogs yesterday as I was trying to deal with USAA. But when I got the “red tile”, as they call it, I went to the app to find out what I’m supposed to do now. I found information that was posted in December 2021. According to that info, I’m supposed to go home, check for symptoms, call the health department or my “doctor” (which I don’t have), get tested for COVID (supposedly free of charge), and if I have a positive result, isolate and share my test result.

I should mention that Bill doesn’t have Corona Warn on his phone, so he did not get an alert. However, since we were together the whole time, I guess he would get a “red tile”, too, if he had Corona Warn, which was silently monitoring me based on my cell phone’s location and bluetooth technology. While I understand how this works, it’s a little creepy that this app was monitoring me, even though I wasn’t using it when I showed my certifications.

The instructions on what to do are kind of confusing, depending on a person’s vaccination status. Because I am fully vaccinated, it’s supposedly not compulsory for me to quarantine. But the exposure happened six days ago, anyway. And if I hadn’t had it on my phone, I would never have gotten this alert at all, tardy as it is. I had to make a separate Apple account for the German store to even get these apps, since they weren’t available in the US store last summer, when I downloaded them. That was a bit of a pain, too. I have heard that CovPass, at least, is now in the American Apple store. I’m not sure about Corona Warn.

The tile will turn green again on March 16th. Fortunately, I don’t think we have any big weekend plans… Bill says he’s going to do the taxes. I’ll probably work on my latest jigsaw puzzle… or maybe we’ll clean up the backyard and bring up the furniture for the forthcoming warmer weather. And maybe we’ll enjoy some of the Ukrainian vodka I just ordered. My German friend says she knows a lot of people who get the “red tile” and never get sick with COVID. It’s just a very sensitive app that lights up if you’re even in the vicinity of someone who has tested positive and shared that information with the app. Obviously, not everyone does that, though, so really, I could have been getting red tiles for months.

Standard
complaints, condescending twatbags, News, rants

“If someone is going to be examining your junk, you have the right to exact high standards…”

I didn’t sleep very well last night. I woke up to pee, probably because Bill got up to pee. He was on the potty when I went into the bathroom. After our encounter, I couldn’t get back to sleep. I started reading the news. There was an article about how hospitals in Ukraine are dealing with shortages of oxygen, thanks to the Russian invasion and the high number of COVID patients. I was kind of awestruck by the picture of the hospital interior. I was reminded that Ukraine was part of the Soviet Union, because the photo reminded me of the inside of an Armenian hospital I once visited in 1996. I was surprised that the Ukrainian facility still looked like a 90s era post Soviet hospital.

Then I went to the comment section, where some guy was complaining about the paywall. It always irks me when people bitch about having to pay for newspapers, as if they would be willing to work for free or give away their valuables. The complainer maintained that all coverage about COVID should be free of charge, in the interest of health promotion. For many months, The New York Times provided plenty of free coverage on COVID. Moreover, there are lots of news sources out there. The New York Times isn’t a free publication. It never has been. One doesn’t go into a store and read a print edition, as if one would at a library. Why should it be any different online? And how do people expect journalists to do their jobs if there’s no income stream with which to pay them for their work?

I’ve complained about that phenomenon more than once in this rag of a blog of mine. I’m not wanting to do it again today. I’m just building up to my point, which I’ll get to in due time. Suffice to say that people who whine about having to pay for quality journalism really get on my nerves. I didn’t leave a comment for the whiny bastard. Someone else kindly did it for me, and in good style. However, one thing I did notice, was that the whiny bastard left an entitled response when someone recommended that he block The New York Times from his feed and/or find another, free or cost-effective, news source. This is what he wrote:

1. I will not block them from my feed. Even the headlines are of some value. 2. I certainly didn’t need you to tell me there are other sources of information. I’ve examined dozens just today. 3. If they could publish free articles about COVID, then they certainly could do it in this case, for the same reason – to preserve human life. (Profit took a backseat to doing the right thing then, and so it should now!)

Then, when the person who engaged him advised him to stop complaining, he wrote:

The NYT seems to have a purpose behind this article. To provoke empathy for the suffering people. And, knowing the long reach of their newsfeed, it will get the notice of people who could help. So why put a speed bump in the way, an impediment to humanitarian aid. It doesn’t make sense. (And to remind you, I have a right to express myself – remember America is a land of Freedom of Expression. So I’ll complain all I want, for as long as I want! Many times in my past my complaints have produced real change, sometimes they’ve just changed people’s minds. Either way, Not Going Anywhere !)

I still don’t understand why his points about the shortage of oxygen in Ukrainian hospitals entitle him to read the paper for free. It sounds to me like he’s just cheap. He even admitted that “even the headlines are of some value.” So he admits that the paper is valuable. He just doesn’t want to support it by subscribing. Either way, I guarantee that complaining about paywalls in a comment section on Facebook won’t make a happy damn to the bean counters. They offer a valuable product for which many people, myself included, are willing to pay. I use The New York Times every day. It’s worth the money to me.

I was still somewhat exasperated after reading that exchange. That guy is an example of a person I can do without, although he’s probably a nice enough fellow when he isn’t bitching about paywalls. As Bill and I were enjoying breakfast, I somehow got on a tangent about other people who get on my nerves. I was suddenly reminded of a woman I used to regularly rant about years ago. She was just one of those people who irritated the ever living hell out of me. I think that guy’s comment reminded me of that woman, whom I used to call “Ms. Overly Helpful”.

In the years before social media, I used to hang out on a messageboard for second wives and stepmothers. I ran into some really great ladies. I also ran into a few assholes, although in fairness, I’m sure some of them thought of me as an asshole, too. In any case, Ms. OH was just one of those people with whom I can’t mesh. I know she has many friends, fans, and loved ones. I’m just not among them.

There’s no shame in that, by the way. Even the most likable people in the world have some people in their lives who can’t stand them. Bea Arthur, for example, famously disliked Betty White, of all people! I don’t know why, but it was widely reported that Bea didn’t like Betty at all. Even Betty, herself, admitted it. I read that Bea found Betty’s unflappable optimism annoying. To be honest, I think that would annoy me, too. I remember on The Golden Girls, there was even an episode about how Rose Nylund annoys a work colleague by incessantly trying to be his friend, when he didn’t want to be friends with her. Below is an exchange from that episode.

Roger doesn’t want to be friends with Rose. I can relate.

Ms. OH was a little like that sometimes. She fancied herself an “Earth Mother” type, and would offer me unsolicited advice and opinions. Every time I made a comment, she would contradict me in the most patronizing and infuriating ways. And I would try to hold back on the urge to be rude to her, because her comments would almost always rub me the wrong way. Like, for instance, she would question things like whether or not I should buy a new car (used is sooo much cheaper), or a new computer (have I done everything I can to make the old one last)… or whether or not I should be concerned about a strange man loitering by my mailbox (maybe he’s perfectly harmless– stop being so suspicious!). See what I mean?

I remember one time, we had a row that got quite contentious. I commented to her, quite frankly, but as politely as I could, that whether or not it was her intention to be offensive, I found her contrary responses to be disrespectful and condescending. I really tried hard not to be as nasty as I felt like being, while still making it clear that she was pissing me off, and asking her to cease and desist. I didn’t tell her to “fuck off”, though. I just clearly informed her that her comments were offending me. Ms. OH’s response was to send me a private message angrily berating me for “insulting her”. All I really wanted was for her to just leave me the fuck alone! I couldn’t block her on the message board, because we were both “admins”.

So anyway, once we all migrated to Facebook, one day I quietly dropped her from my friends list. For awhile, it was fine. I didn’t have so many encounters with her, and that made my life better. But then I got added to a Facebook group for second wives and stepmothers. It was 2012, so I had just turned 40. I got a message from the local Army clinic that it was time to schedule my first mammogram (which I still haven’t done, and I’m now 49). The clinic had also assigned a primary care manager to me; someone I hadn’t chosen and had never met before. I knew that if I went in to see the physician’s assistant assigned to me, she’d probably want to do other stuff, and quite frankly, that was very scary to me. I have a real “phobia” of medical providers, particularly the ones who want to examine my junk. It’s because I had a traumatic first experience with an OB-GYN.

I looked up the P.A. online, and found some public photos of her that made me think she wouldn’t be mature enough to deal with my issues. She was quite young and inexperienced. So I casually mentioned to my friends in the group that I thought I would be changing my primary healthcare provider, because the one the Army had assigned to me was a poor fit. Ms. OH, and a few others, were offended by my decision. In Ms. OH’s case, it was because her daughter is/was a young healthcare provider who likes to party. She was sure to tell me that her daughter would give me “excellent” care if I went to her, even though she has a “personal life” and likes to party sometimes.

Of course, I had to sigh at that response… because my situation with the Army P.A. I’d never met didn’t have a fucking thing to do with Ms. OH’s daughter. However, I also knew that I would never voluntarily choose to see Ms. OH’s daughter for healthcare, simply because she is Ms. OH’s daughter. I would rather see someone who doesn’t have such an intimate connection to someone who gets on my last nerve. And that choice should be okay, since there are plenty of people in the world who would happily see her daughter for healthcare, just as the P.A. who was assigned to me had a whole shitload of people on her list who would have no issues whatsoever seeing her.

I was just a name on a piece of paper to the P.A., so it’s not like my choice not to see her was even a personal affront. She wouldn’t be losing any money or prestige by my decision. In fact, she wouldn’t even be the wiser about it. I just wanted someone older and more experienced. What the hell is wrong with that? Like I said… if you’re going to examine my junk, I have the right to exact high standards. I honestly couldn’t see why this was such a big deal, and I never expected the controversy to arise the way it did in that group.

Well, the whole controversy was finally blowing over, until Ms. OH chimed in again, and then the issue blew up anew, with new people berating me for having my standards. They were more concerned about my not offending the healthcare provider by being “prejudicial” due to her public social media posts, than my own comfort and sense of trust. I was pretty flabbergasted, since I didn’t realize my choices regarding healthcare providers was up for debate. I mean, wouldn’t “friends” want me to be comfortable with and confident regarding my healthcare providers? But it soon got very ugly… so I quietly removed myself from the group. Ms. OH noticed, and sent me an email, which was, for once, not totally offensive. She wrote that she was glad I was “okay”. Fine.

Incidentally, Bill did end up seeing that P.A. and it turned out my instincts about her were correct. Bill has hypertension, but his case is unusual because he also has congenital hyponatremia (chronically low blood sodium). The P.A. gave him the usual spiel about avoiding stress, exercising, eating right, and not salting his food. However, because of Bill’s unusual and unique blood chemistry, actually he has been told by physicians that he should use salt. In his case, not salting his food is bad advice, in spite of his having high blood pressure. I’m sure the P.A. has plenty of textbook knowledge, and by now, she’s probably very experienced. But my instincts to avoid her were good, because in 2012, she was still pretty “green”.

A couple of years later, I ran into Ms. OH again on social media, and she made another passive aggressive dig to me regarding alcoholism, which is a sensitive topic for me. Having interacted with me for years, I think she was very aware that it was a delicate topic for me. I didn’t think her snarky comment, along with winkie smilies, was innocent, nor did I appreciate it at all. She also had a laugh at my expense, which angered me.

This time, I decided enough was enough, and I blocked her. Then I told Bill, “You wait. As soon as she sees that I blocked her, Ms. OH will send me an email.” Sure enough, I was right. Within a couple of hours, she’d sent an irate email DEMANDING to know why I blocked her. It was as if she felt I had no right to disassociate with her. My decision to block her was a personal affront, kind of like Rose Nylund trying to force her co-worker to be friends with her, when he didn’t want to be friends.

I was still really pissed off, and frankly, very surprised by her nerve. Usually, when people block you on social media, it means they DON’T want to talk to you. If you’re a basically decent person, you understand that the person doesn’t want to talk to you and respect that. And yet, here was Ms. OH, feeling quite entitled to bother me with an angry and demanding email. Part of me felt like ripping her a new one. But I thought better of it, and simply ignored her. Several years later, I unblocked her on Facebook. She took the first available opportunity to apologize to me, which was nice enough, although still kind of controlling– kind of like Hoovering. It was her way of getting the last word, I guess. I was gracious about it, and thankfully, that was that.

Anyway, I guess that commenter on The New York Times reminded me of Ms. OH, with his complaints about paywalls. How dare The New York Times expect payment for services rendered? And how dare a fellow reader take him to task for his whining, which he mistakenly believes will amount to anything more than laughing reactions and irritated comments from other Facebook users? And how dare I have standards for people who have intimate contact with my medical history and my body? How dare I make decisions about with whom I will communicate? People like the guy on The New York Times thread and Ms. OH are entitled twits. I don’t know the commenter at all, but I have to say that expecting to read newspaper content for free makes him appear to be pretty narcissistic, if not a bit deluded. But, since I don’t know the guy, and I feel that people should get the benefit of the doubt whenever possible, I’ll just assume he simply hasn’t thought very much about how journalists make a living.

Well, the dogs are demanding a walk, so I better wrap this up. Have a nice Monday, y’all.

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communication, complaints, Military, rants, social media

“Educate yourself!” Most of us would be wise to follow our own advice…

The featured photo is a meme that was posted by a popular veteran’s page on Facebook.

Happy President’s Day, everybody. We had a boring weekend at home, as is par for the course in these pandemic times. In ordinary times, we would have gone away for the weekend, but I’m actually glad we didn’t do that. The weather has been downright crappy. This weekend was cold, windy, and rainy. There was some sun on Saturday, but the temperatures weren’t very pleasant. And since Germany still has COVID measures going on, that makes me not want to go out. I don’t enjoy being indoors with a FFP2 mask strapped to my face and people watching my every move to make sure I follow the rules.

Does that sound paranoid? It probably does… but this is an attitude I’ve noticed over the past couple of years. People are watching. I generally do follow the rules, but I don’t like the feeling of being surveilled by strangers. My desire to go out and see the world isn’t strong enough to deal with that kind of scrutiny, so I just stay home.

I spent several hours yesterday creating a new “AM Gold” playlist for my music library. I downloaded quite a number of albums and spent some money I probably shouldn’t have. But, as I mentioned in the first paragraph of this post, ordinarily we would have gone out of town and spent the money anyway. We will be taking a trip next week to see our dentist in Stuttgart, then we’ll go spend the weekend in France. Hopefully, the weather will be somewhat better for that. I hope the COVID rules will be less onerous in France, too, but I’m not holding my breath.

We’ve come to a turning point in the pandemic, as was inevitable when this shitshow started in March 2020. Even cautious Germans are discussing dropping some of the rules. As of March 20, which would mark the second anniversary of the plague, most COVID restrictions are set to be rescinded. Masks are still going to be required, which I know makes a lot of people happy because they feel safer when people wear masks. If you’ve been reading my blog, you know I hate the masks with a passion and will be delighted to see them go. But I generally follow the rules, so all I do is complain and avoid being in situations where masks are needed. Other people are much bolder about their rebellion, which sometimes leads to trouble.

Yesterday, I noticed a thread on Wil Wheaton’s Facebook page. He wrote a very kind and caring post about how he hopes those who haven’t been vaccinated will get the shot(s), because pretty soon, it will be every person for themselves. I appreciated Wil’s thoughts on this. I think he’s reasonable and well-informed.

I wish all famous people were this decent.

Not surprisingly, Wil got a few rude comments about how this is all a conspiracy to make money for politicians and “Big Pharma”. I was impressed by Wil’s reasonable and calm responses to the people who pushed back against his rational thoughts on the vaccines. And there were also comments from the other side of the spectrum. Several people lamented about how no one cares about them or their lives because they are immunocompromised. They are legitimately scared that when the rules are rescinded, their lives will be in danger.

On one level, I can sympathize with people who are immunocompromised. It is scary to think that soon there could be a “free for all”. However, on another level, I want to tell them that this is the way it’s always been. It’s really every person for themselves. For two years, people have lived with rules that have upended lives and caused significant problems. Some people have died during the pandemic, not because they got the virus, but because they suffered from mental health issues or delayed necessary healthcare. Or they’ve been in accidents or been victims of crimes. The sad reality is, life is about risks. COVID presents another one of many risks that we all face every day.

I don’t think it’s reasonable to expect people to go on living with these rules and restrictions indefinitely. I also don’t think it’s realistic to assume that the whole world is going to get on the same page when it comes to their behaviors regarding the pandemic. Politics and religions, as well as cultural mores and personal needs, play into how a person behaves. I know that some people will choose to wear face masks for the rest of their lives. I don’t think there should be any issue with that. It doesn’t hurt you or me if someone chooses to wear a mask. On the other hand, other people will not want to do that. I think that should be okay, too.

I noticed one sanctimonious comment by a guy on Wil’s post who wrote he has a “needle phobia”, but still managed to get vaccinated. Someone else added, “I would tell anyone with a needle phobia to consider how many needles they’ll be subjected to if they are hospitalized because of COVID.” To those two people, I would say that neither of them understand phobias. The first person probably doesn’t have a legitimate “needle phobia”. The second person clearly doesn’t understand what it really means to have a phobia. People who have a phobia have an irrational fear, and even downright terror, of something that doesn’t ordinarily cause people to be scared.

For instance, I have a phobia of mushrooms. No amount of telling me how delicious they are, or how their flesh feels like a rubber ball, or how they are beautiful or cute, will make me want to see them, touch them, smell them, or eat them. I freeze up when I’m confronted by mushrooms. I know it’s ridiculous and irrational. That’s what makes it a phobia. Trying to scare people who have needle phobias, with mean spirited comments about what they will face if they are hospitalized, isn’t helpful. All it does is scare them even more, and it shows a stunning lack of compassion, as well as great ignorance. People have laughed at me for my whole life for having a phobia. I wish I could help it, but I can’t. Fortunately, avoiding mushrooms due to a phobia is not a life or death issue, as avoiding the vaccines might be.

One attitude that I’ve gotten really tired of is the constant need to shame people and discount their opinions. I’m not saying it’s wrong to express disagreement with someone. I’m saying that I’ve gotten tired of the derisive and downright rude responses people have toward each other– people they don’t even know– simply because they disagree. It’s on both sides of the pandemic issue. I don’t think it’s helpful, for instance, when someone writes a negative opinion about, say, vaccines, and a stranger posts a GIF of a crying toddler. Someone did that to me at the beginning of the pandemic. My response was to tell her to knock it off. That shit doesn’t help, and it’s rude and disrespectful. I won’t be having a dialogue with someone who does stuff like that. It doesn’t change hearts or minds, either. All it does is cause people to double down on their opinions.

This image is a false equivalency that really isn’t helpful.

Above is a photo that appeared on VoteVets, which is a left leaning Facebook page for people in the US military community. I know what the intent of sharing this was, but I don’t think these kinds of snarky, shaming posts are helpful. I also don’t think there’s any comparison between the two situations. One photo involves an adult person who presumably chose to join the military for whatever reason. Another involves a person who needs to go shopping for essentials. Everybody has to shop, and some people legitimately have good reasons why they have difficulties wearing face masks. Not everyone is suitable for military service or would willingly make the choice to serve. Moreover, I think it’s tasteless to use servicemembers to guilt monger others.

Sure enough, there were plenty of shitty comments posted about this image, with very few people changing their minds. It was just an echo chamber of negativity, wasted time arguing with people with diametrically opposed opinions, and plenty of virtue signaling thrown in for good measure. Actually, I’ve come to expect that in a lot of groups or pages devoted to the military community. Disrespect toward others seems to be a guiding principle, as long as there isn’t rank involved. It’s like they take out having to salute their leaders online, directing their rudeness toward perfect strangers. I’m so glad Bill isn’t like that.

Just a few days ago, there was an excellent editorial in The Local Germany written by someone who thinks Germany should be more tolerant toward people who can’t wear masks. The author cited his friend, an artist with autism and severe sensory issues that cause debilitating physical symptoms when she wears a mask. The artist lives in Britain, where people can get medical exemptions to wearing masks. Here in Germany, her experience was mostly very negative and unnecessarily nasty. Zero tolerance policies often lead to innocent people being punished, or people getting punished when they shouldn’t be, due to unforeseen circumstances. Since the article is behind a paywall, here are a few snippets:

What I think is especially sad is that whenever someone expresses an opinion, he or she is liable to be personally attacked by someone they don’t know. This is someone who doesn’t know a thing about the person they are insulting. They don’t know or care why someone has the opinion they have, nor do they care about the person they are insulting. They just spew aggression and insults. I know this is borne out of frustration and fear, not to mention the very real fatigue that comes with daily bad news about the rogue virus that keeps mutating and making people sick and/or killing them.

But… I’ve got news for those who think this COVID-19 lifestyle should go on forever. People die every day for a huge variety of reasons. Since March 20, 2020, I have lost three family members and a dear friend. Three of the four of them were pretty young to be dying, but not a single one of them died of COVID-19. COVID is just one of many risks that we face every day. A person who wants to go back to a more normal lifestyle isn’t a bad person for wanting that after two years of lockdowns, face masks, and limited travel. Yes, it would be great if every single person on the planet had 100 percent regard and consideration for other people, but unfortunately, that isn’t the way of the world. I wish it was, but it’s not. So instead of fretting about what’s going to happen when mask and vaccine mandates go away, I think it might be more prudent to take the steps that will mitigate risks and hope for the best.

There are always going to be people who think it’s too early to relax the rules. There will always be at least one person who will say the pandemic isn’t over yet. They probably won’t even be wrong. I commend those who are committed to being disciplined, as long as it makes them happy to be that way. I don’t think it’s right to condemn other people who choose a different path. This simply can’t go on forever, and there’s never going to be a situation in which everyone will be satisfied. That’s because we all have opinions, and those opinions are shaped by our own perspectives. If you want people to respect your views, you should probably try to respect theirs, even if you think they are dead wrong. I strongly doubt that we’ll ever have a situation in which everyone agrees. Part of living in a free society is having the ability to disagree.

I know it’s a pipe dream that people will be nicer about disagreements. I sure wish it weren’t so, though. For all of those who are screaming “educate yourself”, I would like to say that they should follow their own advice. Stop and think about it for a moment. Maybe that person does have a valid point. Either way, you probably don’t have to be an asshole to them… at least not at first. I know it’s easier said that done. So often, I’ve been tempted to leave a snarky or rude comment for someone. Then I’ll approach with more respect. Finally, I usually just delete my comment, because unfortunately, I’ve found that commenting on social media is just a waste of time. That’s mainly why I blog.

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