complaints, stupid people, transportation, travel

I will be BOOSTED tomorrow, but some folks just won’t get with the program, will they?

The featured photo is one I took in Ireland back in 2016.

Bill made me an appointment to get my third COVID-19 shot. As of 1:00pm, I will likely be standing in line, waiting for the needle. I’m not sure which shot will be offered. I had Moderna last summer. I hope I don’t feel crappy afterwards. Bill had a negative reaction to the booster last month, but it only lasted a little while. He had reactions to the first shots, as well. I didn’t have any significant issues with the first two shots. I had a bit of a sore arm with the first one, and almost no reaction at all to the second. So we’ll see how the third shot goes.

I need to wash the sheets, which is a real pain, since I also want to do the duvet covers. It takes forever to do laundry in Germany, thanks to the washing machines. We do have a short cycle setting on our machine, but even that one takes awhile. And then I have to get Arran to get his ass off the bed, which makes him grumpy. He doesn’t mind making a nest in the naked duvets, though, while everything gets clean. I may end up doing the linens tomorrow morning, so it will all be clean and comfortable in the afternoon, just in case I feel like crap on Thursday.

I am slowly planning to take down all the Christmas stuff, too. I have already put away the non-tree affiliated decorations, tree skirts, and stockings. Maybe today, I’ll take the stars off the trees. I got pretty tired decorating the whole living room by myself in November. I think taking Christmas down is easier than putting it up, but it’s still a real pain in the ass. I do like looking at the lights, though, and I like how the trees make the living room look more “homey”. We don’t have a lot of furniture in the living room, so most of the year, it looks about half inhabited.

Yesterday, I happened across a Facebook ad for tourism in Ireland. Some guy in the States was lamenting about the vaccine mandates. He asked how an unvaccinated person can travel to Ireland. Some lady was also whining about the vaccines, and how power grabbing in the US has gone amok. One person even brought up the whole “show me your papers” nonsense. See below…

Tell me how an un-vaccinated American can… 😒

And this was what some woman was whinging about…

exactly, we’re not allowed to go anywhere now. Half of us are now prisoners in our own country. And the same for anyone in other countries. Just have to wait til everyone calms down.

My response was this:

You could just get vaccinated. I live in Germany, and it’s strict here. If you aren’t vaccinated, you can’t have fun. It’s not just America. And the reason is, because the virus is killing people. So, if you’re complaining about federal mandates in the USA, just realize it’s the same or even stricter in most of Europe, and for very good reason.

I totally get not liking government overreach, but there are good reasons for public health mandates. If you really are dead set against getting the shots, you might want to plan for a US trip.

What I wanted to add, but didn’t, was, every time you get on an airplane to go somewhere, you have to “show your papers.” To come to Ireland, he would have to show a passport, right? And if he was going somewhere where a visa needed to be arranged, he’d have to arrange for that, right? I can remember in the late 1970s, before my parents took me on a trip to Tunisia, I had to get vaccinations. Why? Because Africa has some pretty serious fucking diseases and it wouldn’t be cool to bring one home as a souvenir.

Well… COVID-19 is a pretty serious fucking disease for some unlucky people. Yes, a lot of people have survived it, but I know people who got it and are still dealing with flare ups. Some people had COVID-19 and are disabled now. And a lot of people have died! I know one lady who had COVID, recovered, and is now dealing with a nasty, painful looking COVID related rash that randomly flares up. It reminds me of shingles, which I have had, and it sucks– even when it’s a mild case.

I’m so tired of reading comments about how vaccination doesn’t work, either. The goal is to slow the spread and give your body a heads up so that when the virus inevitably invades it, it will have some clue as to how to respond instead of simply going haywire and dying. I don’t get why so many people can’t understand this concept. Yes, you can get COVID-19 and make a full recovery, but not everyone is that lucky.

In any case, what that guy should realize is that this vaccine campaign isn’t just in the United States. It’s in Europe, too. And here in Europe, during this time of year, you CANNOT have any fun if you aren’t fully vaccinated or can prove you have recovered from COVID. And even those measures only last for a few months. I’m afraid that’s just how life is right now.

I haven’t been to the States since 2014, but it’s my understanding that unvaccinated people are still allowed in society in some places. Here in Europe, there are more draconian rules. Cloth masks aren’t allowed in Germany, for instance, and they haven’t been allowed since January 2021. In some places, a surgical mask won’t suffice; one must don a FFP2 or N95. You can’t use public transportation if you haven’t been vaccinated, nor can you do any non-essential in person shopping. In Germany, you can visit the grocery store if you’re not vaccinated, but you can’t go to a gift shop.

In some countries, if you’re not vaccinated, you have to stay home. Austria, which Bill and I noticed was lenient about masking when we were there in October and November, has some pretty tough rules for people who don’t comply with the mandates. At this point, there are steep fines, but I would not be surprised if non-vaxxers soon find themselves detained.

I’ve mentioned before that there are situations in which people can be detained for public health reasons. It HAS happened in the United States, and still does, for people who have diseases like tuberculosis, or some of the more exotic illnesses one can contract in places like Africa or Asia, and refuse to get treatment or stay isolated. Here’s a link to an article about how the United Kingdom proposed handing public health detainees.

I read a story on CNN.com the other day about a woman named Marisa Fotieo who was traveling with her family to Switzerland. She had a layover in Iceland. On the way to Iceland, about three hours into the trip, she started feeling bad. She did a rapid COVID test and it was positive. She spent the rest of her flight in the lavatory. She did so voluntarily, because she’s an unusually empathic person.

Then, when Fotieo landed in Reykjavik, she was immediately taken to a special quarantine hotel, where she spent Christmas alone. Her family went to Switzerland without her and met up with her in Iceland on the way back. I read that, Ragnhildur Eiríksdóttir (Rocky), the super cool Icelandic flight attendant who helped her was kind enough to arrange with other flight attendants to bring her a little Christmas tree and some gifts. Marisa Fotieo was fully vaccinated and boosted, but she still got mildly sick. If she hadn’t been vaccinated, she might have still gotten mildly ill, or she could have wound up in a hospital. There’s no telling.

So… I don’t have a lot of sympathy for people like the guy who was complaining about having to get vaccinated before going to Ireland. That’s life right now. Build a bridge and get over it… or build a bridge from the USA to Europe. That may be the only way he’s getting across the pond without shots.

I sure would like to see COVID become less threatening, and I think the only way that can happen is that people man up and get vaccinated or get the disease and recover. It’s not in the virus’s interest to kill every host, so the sooner people become more resistant, the sooner it can mutate to something less dangerous. I miss having fun. I haven’t left the neighborhood in about a month, although obviously, I will do that tomorrow afternoon.

That being said… I do understand why some people are concerned that the mandates could become permanent. I am concerned about that, too. I do NOT want to go through life being forced to wear a mask. I take comfort, though, in realizing that masks have been used before, and they eventually became obsolete. One hundred years ago, people had to wear masks because of the Spanish Flu. Once that strain of the flu became less dangerous, the masks went away.

I have every reason to believe the same will happen when COVID is inevitably made less dangerous, because in spite of all of the vocal face mask cheerleaders out there, I think many more of us hate wearing them and want them gone. We just don’t say so publicly, because we don’t want a lecture from all of the people who went to the Google School of Public Health. And as a MPH graduate of the Arnold School of Public Health (at the University of South Carolina), I can say that. 😉 Of course, my sister went to the supposedly superior University of North Carolina- Chapel Hill for her Ph.D. in public health, and she’s an anti-vaxxer… so there you go. (I seriously don’t know why she’s against the vaccine– I don’t talk to her very often. I think she’s drinking the Trump Kool-Aid– although even Trump has gotten vaccinated.)

Anyway… I suppose I’ve yammered on long enough this morning. My guitar has been calling out for me to give it some attention. I may do some vocal stuff today, too. Or… maybe I’ll read some dirty stories on the Internet. Already, this morning, I’ve read a story called “You Haven’t Had Your Colonic Yet, Miss…” That was a real eye-opener… or butt opener. I guess my day isn’t THAT bad yet. 😉

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condescending twatbags, housekeeping tips, money, politics, sex, silliness, technology, transportation, travel, YouTube

Lime scale, lobsters, lectures, and lost causes…

Today’s featured photo is of the Boothbay Harbor blue lobster. Bill and I visited there for my birthday in June 2011, and I got a picture.

So yesterday’s “boring” post about water and limescale actually generated a lot of comments– for my blog, anyway. I know there are a lot of mommy bloggers out there who go viral and get hundreds of comments on their posts. But they tend to be sunny people who write things like “totes amazeballs”. I’m not like that. But since everybody poops, everybody needs water, and most normal people like to poop in clean bathrooms, I guess yesterday’s potty post resonated! Good for me! And thanks to everyone who read and commented! I probably ought to take a look/see at the bathroom in the basement. I almost never use it, but it also has some lime build up.

There’s still a little buildup, but it looks a lot better than it did yesterday.

And I just looked, and sure enough, that toilet has pretty terrible limescale build up, too. So I treated it with vinegar, and then tried the sink and the water is barely flowing. I have a feeling the pipes have lime in them. I treated it with baking soda and vinegar, but it may need a professional’s attention. This house has pretty terrible lime issues. When we first moved in, the buildup was so bad that we literally couldn’t turn on one of the faucets in the shower. It was completely stilled by calcium. The basement bathroom rarely sees any action, so I guess this is a reminder that it pays to stop in on occasion. Curiously, the toilet on the main floor doesn’t have much buildup at all.

I have a few things on my mind today, so this post is probably going to be multi-faceted. Now that I’ve written more about lime scale, and the payoff from yesterday’s project, it’s time to move on to the next topic. And the next topic is lobster.

A couple of days ago, Bill and I watched some random videos on YouTube. I ran across one about a guy who rescued a live lobster from the grocery store and kept it as a pet. I don’t know what made me decide to watch that video, but I found it absolutely fascinating. It also kind of made me a little ashamed of how much I enjoy eating lobster. This guy brought the lobster home, cut the rubber bands that rendered him helpless, and dropped him in a saltwater aquarium, where he gave him the name Leon and observed his behavior.

This was an unexpectedly fascinating and somewhat sad video… I might not ever be able to enjoy eating lobster rolls again.

I’m sure on one level, Leon is happy enough not to be someone’s dinner. On the other hand, Leon escaped death, but now lives in an aquarium, where he depends on the kindness of the guy who “adopted” him. He can’t really hunt, and he has no lobster friends to hang out with or have sex with… I guess lobsters have sex, and I’m sure Google would tell me if I cared to research further… It might be too early for me to explore the potential joys of lobster fucking, though.

Okay, I have to admit, my curiosity got the better of me. I Googled, and sure enough, lobsters enjoy a rather “kinky” sex life. Apparently, female lobsters attract mates by repeatedly peeing on their faces. And lobsters have urethras under their eyes that evidently make this possible. The female lobster pees on the male, then runs away. Female lobster pee evidently has the magical essence of an aphrodisiac, and after a few days of golden showers, the male lobster gets romantic and loves the lady lobster enough to cause reproduction. Wow… the things you learn on the Internet! And this was all inspired by a YouTube video about Leon, the lobster, who was rescued from the grocery store and now has a job teaching humans more about crustaceans. Leon should be proud. Not everyone has the chops to make it as a YouTube star.

I highly recommend watching the above video, if you’re interested. I legitimately found it informative and entertaining, and it reminded me that the animals we eat are still sentient beings with personality. Sigh… I really should be a vegetarian. Maybe someday I’ll give up my carnivorous ways… live on wine and beer, instead. Which brings me to the last two topics, lectures and lost causes.

Seriously… I don’t like the idea of promoting drinking, but this COVID-19 lifestyle is a real fucking drag. Last night, I had a mild meltdown after reading an article about how Dr. Fauci thinks we’ll be forced to wear masks on airplanes from now on. I have said it before, and I’ll say it again. I have a feeling that this prediction of his– while entirely possible– probably isn’t going to happen. Why? Because the world is a big place, and there are parts of it that are still pretty undeveloped. I remember being in Armenia in the mid 90s and seeing that most people there still weren’t wearing seatbelts, even though they have been “required” in most modern places for many years. And I simply doubt that people all over the world are going to embrace being forced to wear masks forever. They are uncomfortable, impractical, and annoying, and while they may save lives, a lot of people are inherently selfish.

Moreover, even in so-called “civilized” places, people are still losing their shit over masks. And they are deeply polarizing, with a lot of smug, self-righteous, left leaning all knowers discounting and insulting those who are legitimately terrified of government overreach and tyranny. Look at how many people are freaking out on airplanes. There are a lot more people wigging out in the “friendly skies” these days. Obviously, the masks are causing stress. And don’t tell me they aren’t. In 2019, there weren’t nearly as many people misbehaving on planes. What’s changed? People have to wear masks. THEY ARE AN OBVIOUS PROBLEM for a lot of people, even if some people don’t think so.

The fact is, you may not mind wearing a mask at all, but that doesn’t mean your neighbor agrees, nor should they have to agree if we’re living in a free society. Disagreeing with masks doesn’t give someone the right to be unruly on an airplane, of course. All I’m saying is that telling someone that masks are “no big deal” is disingenuous. To some people, they ARE a big deal. If they weren’t, there wouldn’t be so much bad behavior, violence, and legal morass surrounding their enforced use. And I think that not respectfully listening and trying to understand why some people aren’t embracing face masks is going to help prolong this situation we’re in.

Now… before anybody comes at me, let me state that I realize that masks are necessary for now. I’m not saying that people shouldn’t wear them. What I am saying is that this talk of forcing people to “mask up” (ugh, hate that expression) forevermore, and dismissing their concerns about the depressing prospect of that, as you tell them it’s “no big deal”, is part of what is driving all of this stubborn rebellion. Nobody likes to be condescended to or lectured– at least not when they haven’t paid tuition and specifically asked for a lesson. Telling someone to “get over it” is rude and disrespectful, and it’s not likely to inspire cooperation. And while you may think they’re rude for non-compliance, there are always other perspectives in any situation. I just think the wise person will take a minute to try to understand the other perspectives, even if they seem ridiculous. At this point in time, even ridiculous people can still vote, right?

When I venture into comment sections and someone raises a concern about masking– even when it’s done in a respectful way– there’s almost always a slew of comments from people who lecture, insult, condescend, or outright dismiss those concerns. Those who are anti-mask, or simply have concerns, then get pissed off and more stubborn, and some of them get pissed off enough to vote in politicians who don’t support mask mandates or vaccines. Unfortunately, a lot of those politicians also don’t support other policies that are community oriented or family friendly. So maybe you don’t have a vaccine mandate or mask requirement, but you also have some white, Southern, conservative yahoo who wants to make guns easier to buy and abortions harder to get.

As for Fauci’s predictions about masks on planes… I will state that I think money will be the deciding factor on this. I think there are people who are already looking for innovations that make it harder to contract illnesses in buildings. There’s a lot of money to be made with a solution like that. You can bet someone out there is looking for a way to filter air so that people stay healthy and productive. It’s not necessarily a trend that arises for the public good, either. It’s because there’s money to be made, and money drives a lot of people into action. Healthy people can work longer and generate more money.

Some people don’t want to travel if they have to wear a mask. Just yesterday, I mentioned a dream I had about moving to New Zealand– probably been watching too many Mama Doctor Jones videos. She is moving to New Zealand. Someone on Facebook mentioned that that sounded nice. I said I don’t want to sit on a plane that long in a mask. Flying sucked enough before the masks. The seats are uncomfortable, the fares are high, the food is inedible, and there are a lot of rules to follow. Now, many people have this dystopian “hall monitor” mentality, where everybody is watching and judging everybody else. Personally, I think I’d rather stay home or drive somewhere, than sit on an already uncomfortable flight for hours with a mask on my face. At least in a car, I don’t have someone watching my every move.

Same goes for cruising. Some people don’t mind wearing masks on ships, but others won’t like it. I think of the ships Bill and I tend to frequent, where booze flows freely. A person could sit and drink all day, if they wanted to. I have also personally witnessed people on ships getting drunk and belligerent. I remember hearing about v-loggers who were on SeaDream last year, documenting the trip, which was supposed to be “maskless”. People got COVID on that trip, and the v-loggers mentioned it, causing SeaDream to force passengers into masks again. The v-loggers were on the receiving end of a lot of anger, mainly because SeaDream cruises are very expensive and people were wanting to escape the COVID rules for a bit. No such luck. I know I don’t want to drop ten thousand bucks on cruise fare for an experience like that. There ain’t enough free flowing Prosecco in the world.

I think about how Royal Caribbean just built several HUGE ships in the last ten years or so, and now they’re in the news because 48 people tested positive for COVID on a recent cruise. Having such huge ships is bound to become a liability, especially if people are turned off of traveling due to draconian rules. Cruising will be probably less popular if people have to wear masks as a general rule. One of the things that makes cruising fun is socializing, and a big part of socializing is seeing people’s faces and non-verbal communication. Masks make it hard to forget the troubles of the world. They are a visual reminder of how fucked up things are. One of the reasons cruises are appealing are that they allow people to forget things that are stressful. So I think forced masking from now on will probably not fly in the long run.

It may not be a bad thing, though, if people travel less. It will be better for the environment. But it will also force some people to find new ways to make their livings. Again, I think money will be what drives this trend. If enough people decide to stay home, the policies will be amended… and/or someone will come up with a way to make traveling maskless safer.

Either way, I think people should try to be more understanding, patient, and willing to listen to other viewpoints without turning shitty. We’re in an unprecedented era for most people who are living, but don’t forget, this is NOT the first deadly pandemic of humankind. One hundred years ago, Spanish Flu killed lots of people. Masks were a thing back then, and I’m sure the thinking was eerily similar that things weren’t ever going to be normal again. But they eventually did go back to “normal”, although we came away with more knowledge.

To take it a step further, think of all of the crazy stuff that’s happened in the last hundred years. I wonder how people felt during World War II. Did they think the war would go on forever? Did they think the world was going to end? Some people probably did… but as you can see, they were wrong. There will be life beyond COVID-19 for those who don’t die from the disease. And I think it will more like it used to be, which may or may not be a good thing. Some of the COVID changes haven’t been bad, after all.

And finally… I think it’s inevitable that most everyone will end up with COVID at some point. But it will eventually be less deadly, because it’s not in the virus’s best interest to kill everyone. I still think getting vaccinated and staying away from other people is the best way to go. And if you have to be in a crowd, masks make sense. But I don’t think they should be something we strive to normalize forever, and I don’t think they’re the end all be all of fixing this problem. They’re just one facet of the solution. This is a problem that needs to be solved, not “lived with”. Fortunately, history shows that some human beings are very good at finding solutions. So that’s what keeps me going, for now…

But, I will admit, sometimes I envy those who have already peaced out of this life. As extraordinarily fortunate as Bill and I are, I find today’s world frightening and depressing, and I wonder what the point of it all is…

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nostalgia, politics, travel

Repost: Remembering Samantha Smith… pen pal to world leaders

Here’s another repost from June 2018, a post inspired by my childhood in the 1980s. This one is about the late Samantha Smith, who made history by writing to Yuri Andropov and getting invited to visit the Soviet Union at the height of the Cold War. Samantha was nine days younger than me, but sadly, she died in a plane crash in 1985. Little did I know, when Samantha was alive, that I, too, would one day go to what was once the Soviet Union. The 80s were an interesting time to be a kid.

I was born on June 20, 1972.  Nine days later, Samantha Smith was born.  Samantha Smith would change the world during her 13 years of life.  I’m about to turn 46 (and now I’m 49) and I’m still wondering what my purpose is. 

A few weeks ago, I suddenly remembered Samantha Smith, who was ten years old when she wrote a moving letter to former Soviet leader Yuri Andropov.  She was concerned about the threat of nuclear war.  In the early 1980s, everyone was talking about nukes and the so-called “red button”.  Like so many of her peers, Samantha was scared.  But she had guts and initiative.  So, in November 1982, she wrote:

Dear Mr. Andropov,

My name is Samantha Smith. I am ten years old. Congratulations on your new job. I have been worrying about Russia and the United States getting into a nuclear war. Are you going to vote to have a war or not? If you aren’t please tell me how you are going to help to not have a war. This question you do not have to answer, but I would like to know why you want to conquer the world or at least our country. God made the world for us to live together in peace and not to fight.

Sincerely,

Samantha Smith  

This was not Samantha’s first letter to a world leader.  In fact, she’d even written to another leader when she was five– Queen Elizabeth II– to express her admiration.  Samantha’s letter was printed in the Soviet paper, Pravda, but she did not receive a reply from Andropov right away.  Undaunted, Samantha wrote another letter, this time to the Soviet Union’s Ambassador to the United States. 

Mr. Andropov was very moved by Samantha’s letter.  He wrote back to her in April 1983, affirmed that the Soviet Union did not want to wage a nuclear war, and invited her to visit the Soviet Union at a time when Americans were not often allowed to go there. 

Dear Samantha,

I received your letter, which is like many others that have reached me recently from your country and from other countries around the world.

It seems to me – I can tell by your letter – that you are a courageous and honest girl, resembling Becky, the friend of Tom Sawyer in the famous book of your compatriot Mark Twain. This book is well known and loved in our country by all boys and girls.

You write that you are anxious about whether there will be a nuclear war between our two countries. And you ask are we doing anything so that war will not break out.

Your question is the most important of those that every thinking man can pose. I will reply to you seriously and honestly.

Yes, Samantha, we in the Soviet Union are trying to do everything so that there will not be war on Earth. This is what every Soviet man wants. This is what the great founder of our state, Vladimir Lenin, taught us.

Soviet people well know what a terrible thing war is. Forty-two years ago, Nazi Germany, which strove for supremacy over the whole world, attacked our country, burned and destroyed many thousands of our towns and villages, killed millions of Soviet men, women and children.

In that war, which ended with our victory, we were in alliance with the United States: together we fought for the liberation of many people from the Nazi invaders. I hope that you know about this from your history lessons in school. And today we want very much to live in peace, to trade and cooperate with all our neighbors on this earth — with those far away and those near by. And certainly with such a great country as the United States of America.

In America and in our country there are nuclear weapons — terrible weapons that can kill millions of people in an instant. But we do not want them to be ever used. That’s precisely why the Soviet Union solemnly declared throughout the entire world that never — never — will it use nuclear weapons first against any country. In general we propose to discontinue further production of them and to proceed to the abolition of all the stockpiles on Earth.

It seems to me that this is a sufficient answer to your second question: ‘Why do you want to wage war against the whole world or at least the United States?’ We want nothing of the kind. No one in our country–neither workers, peasants, writers nor doctors, neither grown-ups nor children, nor members of the government–want either a big or ‘little’ war.

We want peace — there is something that we are occupied with: growing wheat, building and inventing, writing books and flying into space. We want peace for ourselves and for all peoples of the planet. For our children and for you, Samantha.

I invite you, if your parents will let you, to come to our country, the best time being this summer. You will find out about our country, meet with your contemporaries, visit an international children’s camp – Artek – on the sea. And see for yourself: in the Soviet Union, everyone is for peace and friendship among peoples.

Thank you for your letter. I wish you all the best in your young life.

Y. Andropov

In the summer of 1983, Samantha visited Russia, where she caused quite a sensation.  She spent two weeks in Moscow as Mr. Andropov’s guest and had the opportunity to visit Artek, which was a big Soviet pioneer camp.  During the Soviet era, young children were involved in the Young Pioneers, which was a massive youth organization.  She also went to Leningrad (St. Petersburg), where she was presented with many gifts.  Smith and her parents were amazed by how friendly the people were.

So many years later, I was watching Samantha Smith on old YouTube videos.  There are many comments from Russians who remembered and admired her.  She truly was a heroine to many Russians and Americans alike, although there were some skeptics out there who felt she was being used as a Soviet propaganda pawn.

When Samantha and her parents came home to Maine, they were treated to a warm welcome involving a red carpet and limousine.  Samantha was interviewed by many famous people, including Ted Koppel and Johnny Carson.  In 1985, she even tried her hand at acting when she was cast as a regular in a TV show called Lime Street

Samantha Smith interviewed by Johnny Carson.
Samantha Smith being interviewed on The Today Show, after she had become a media sensation.

Tragically, on August 25, 1985, Samantha Smith and her father, Arthur, died in a plane crash.  They were returning home on Bar Harbor Airlines Flight 1808 after having filmed a segment for Lime Street.  The pilot was attempting to land the plane when it hit some trees 4007 feet shy of the runway. The airplane crashed, killing the six passengers and two crew members aboard.  Although some in the Soviet Union thought she might have been a victim of foul play, an investigation revealed that the pilots were inexperienced and the rainy weather conditions contributed to the difficulty in landing the plane.

News story about Samantha Smith’s death.

Samantha Smith’s visit inspired goodwill all over the world, especially in the United States and Russia.  In fact, in 1986, a Soviet child named Katya Lycheva even spent time in the United States.  A 1987 storyline on The Golden Girls was even inspired by Samantha’s story, although it was ditzy Rose Nylund who wrote the letter, not a ten year old girl.

Rose’s “Letter to Gorbachev”… 

I wonder what would have become of Samantha Smith had she been able to grow up.  I wonder what she would think of our current political situation.  I think of what it was like for me, 23 years ago, moving to what was once a Soviet country and finding out that the people over there are much like we are.  She could have had a wonderful career, spreading world peace and goodwill.  Some people are never meant to grow old, yet still manage to change the world.  

When I was watching videos on YouTube last night, I also thought of Ryan White, who was another one of my contemporaries.  He contracted AIDS after having been given a tainted blood infusion to treat his hemophilia.  Ryan White was kicked out of school and harassed by his peers for having AIDS.  In those days, a lot of small minded people thought of it as a disease God sent to punish gay people.  It didn’t help that Ryan was from a small town in Indiana, where there were many ignorant people who thought he was gay simply because he had what was then considered a “gay” disease.

White went on to influence the world, even making friends with Elton John and Michael Jackson, both of whom were at his funeral when he died in April 1990.  I vividly remember watching Lukas Haas play White in a TV movie about his life.  White was himself in the film with a minor role.  So was Sarah Jessica Parker.

While we’ve come a long way in the fight against AIDS since Ryan White’s day, we’re still really struggling with world peace.  I just started reading another book about the Holocaust.  It’s a story about a Jewish Dutch woman who watched as her country was overtaken by Nazis.  I have to confess, reading her comments about what happened before Hitler completely took over gave me chills.  So much of it is familiar today.  Maybe it’s not quite as extreme now as it was in the 40s… or maybe it just doesn’t seem as extreme to me as it might to someone with brown skin, living in America’s Heartland.  The one thing that gives me hope is that the world eventually came to its senses somewhat, after World War II.  I hope it doesn’t come to war to make the powers that be in the United States regain their senses…  

Well, those are my deep thoughts for today.  The 1980s were fascinating.  I’m glad I was around to see them. 

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communication, law, Police, travel

Damned if you do… damned if you don’t…

I still have a ton of travel blogging to do, and I’ll be getting to that in a little while. First, I want to write about a situation I read about this morning.

Last month, white mom, Mary MacCarthy, was traveling with her ten year old biracial daughter, Moira. They were on their way to a funeral in Denver, Colorado. Ms. MacCarthy’s brother died suddenly in October, so MacCarthy had to take a last minute flight from her home in California. MacCarthy is a single mom, and her brother was like a father to Moira. The girl was crying when she was boarding the flight, and the two were initially not able to sit together. MacCarthy asked other passengers if someone would be willing to move so that she and her daughter could be next to each other.

Another passenger was kind enough to oblige, and the pair arrived safely in Denver, where they were met on the jet bridge by a couple of Denver police officers. MacCarthy was shocked to be confronted by the cops. She worried that they were there to deliver more bad news. But, it turned out that they wanted to talk to her because someone had called them, suspicious about their behavior. Moira had been crying because her uncle died. Then, afterwards, she was confronted by the police, and terrified because of all of the news coverage about people of color being abused or even killed by the police.

After talking to MacCarthy and her daughter, Denver police cleared them of any wrongdoing, and they were free to go. MacCarthy recorded the incident on her phone. The initial police report indicated that a Southwest flight attendant had reported the duo for “suspicious behavior”.

Two weeks later, MacCarthy got a phone call from the Denver Police Human Trafficking unit. The caller said the unit was following up on MacCarthy’s case. It was only then that MacCarthy realized she had been suspected of human trafficking.

MacCarthy sent an email to Southwest Airlines about this incident and, she says, so far they have not apologized. Instead, she claims she has only received two brief automated responses. MacCarthy has retained an attorney and is accusing Southwest Airlines of “racial profiling”. She now wants “a written apology from the airline, immediate reimbursement of the full price of their tickets, and “additional compensation to account for the trauma imposed on an innocent family, and especially on a grieving ten year-old Black girl.”

Southwest Airlines has said it’s “disheartened” by MacCarthy’s story of the events and has “plans to reach out to her.” In a statement to CNN, Southwest Airlines spokesperson Dan Landson said:

“We are conducting a review of the situation internally, and we will be reaching out to the Customer to address her concerns and offer our apologies for her experience traveling with us. Our Employees undergo robust training on Human Trafficking. Above all, Southwest Airlines prides itself on providing a welcoming and inclusive environment for the millions of Customers who travel with us each year,”

I can’t blame Mary MacCarthy and her daughter for being very upset and traumatized by what happened to them last month. On the other hand, I also have some empathy for the flight attendant who called the police. It sounds like the flight attendant was following protocol based on training. And while it’s certainly possible that the call was based on the flight attendant’s racial biases, I can’t conclude for certain that it was, based on the information I’ve read about this case so far.

Just yesterday, I read another story about a sixteen year old girl who was abducted by a 61 year old man. The girl had seen a hand gesture on Tik Tok called the Signal for Help. She used it while riding in the car with her kidnapper, hoping someone in another car would notice her signal of distress. Fortunately, someone did notice, and called 911. The motorist who made the emergency call also stayed behind the car and updated the police to the kidnapper’s location. That’s how the Laurel County sheriff’s department in Kentucky managed to arrest James Herbert Brick and bring the teenager he’d abducted to safety.

Brick has been charged with two felonies: unlawful imprisonment and possession of matter portraying a sexual performance by a minor. He was locked up in the Laurel County Correctional Center in London, Ky., on a $10,000 bond.

In both of these scenarios, people saw something and said something, which is the advice often given to those who are concerned about something that is amiss. I’ve heard that advice given in situations involving potential crimes, as well as in situations that involve potential medical issues. Yes, it’s possible that a person is making much ado about nothing, but, as they say, “better safe than sorry”, especially when children are involved.

My heart goes out to Mary MacCarthy and Moira. They were already upset and anxious on that flight to Denver, given the terrible and sudden loss of MacCarthy’s brother, who was only 46 years old. Ms. MacCarthy also says that Moira is only ten, but she looks much older than ten. And it’s almost always scary to be confronted by the police, particularly in this era during which Black people have been injured or killed by American cops.

But… unfortunately, there are people out there who traffic children. Not all traffickers are scary looking men. Sometimes women are involved with trafficking children, and they get away with it, because they don’t fit the stereotypical profile of a trafficker. And flight attendants are trained to look for the signs of people who might be harming children. The flight attendant who called the police reported that Ms. MacCarthy and Moira were among the last to board the flight and the last to buy tickets. And they didn’t speak during the flight. Of course, the flight attendant had no way of knowing the circumstances of why the duo were behaving as they were, and she had many other passengers to look after on the flight. It might not have been possible for her to find out more about the situation before she made her judgment call.

It seems to me that Ms. MacCarthy is legitimately upset because she’s offended. I don’t blame her for being offended. But I would also hate to see people being discouraged from calling for help when they see something that doesn’t look right. I understand that calling the police on matters involving people of color can lead to tragic consequences. It shouldn’t be that way, though. People should feel free to call for help if they think help is needed. And I think in this case, the flight attendant was obviously concerned and felt that the situation merited calling the police. It turned out that she was wrong, but what if she hadn’t been wrong?

Over the past couple of days, I’ve noticed several people hitting a post I wrote earlier this year about how the “Karen” stigma can actually be deadly. That post was about a column I read in The Atlantic magazine, about a woman who was concerned that her pharmacy wasn’t requiring people to wear face masks at the drive in pickup station. But she didn’t want to be a “Karen”, so she didn’t say anything about it.

That post was written in late January of this year, before a lot of people had been vaccinated against COVID-19. The incident the article it was based on occurred even earlier than that. The point I made in that post is that being overly concerned about being labeled a “Karen” or a “BBQ Becky” or “Permit Patty” could actually cause harm to people. If there is a situation that is potentially dangerous, a person should feel okay about asking for help from people who have the ability to investigate. In a perfect world, making such a call would be perfectly safe, and would not result in someone being hurt, killed, or even humiliated.

Ms. MacCarthy assumes that she and her daughter were questioned because they don’t look alike. And it’s possible that racism played a part in the reason the flight attendant noticed them and called the cops. On the other hand, it’s also possible that the flight attendant was legitimately concerned and believed the duo were throwing up major red flags. The end result was that Mary MacCarthy and her daughter were cleared and allowed to go on their way. Yes, it was traumatic, embarrassing, and scary, but in the end, no one was hurt or killed, and no one actually was being trafficked. Those are good things, even if Southwest Airlines hasn’t apologized for the mistake.

For the record, yes, I do think the airline owes Ms. MacCarthy and her daughter a sincere apology. I’m sure that Southwest Airlines will eventually settle with Ms. MacCarthy. Hopefully, the settlement will be appropriate and make the situation less horrifying for MacCarthy and her daughter. According to NBC news:

“At this point they can speak with my attorneys,” MacCarthy said.

She says it’s about more than an apology.

“I travel with my daughter’s birth certificate because I’m ready to answer any questions if necessary,” she said. “The fact that we’re mother and daughter, the fact that I’m a single parent traveling with my daughter. It’s the right of TSA to ask those questions, I’m open to that. But the way this was handled was so unprofessional.

“I will do whatever it takes to speak out against the type of ignorant behavior and policies that lead to families being treated this way.”

I think people involved with serving and protecting the public have a tough and often thankless job. But I also think that these kinds of situations, where an offended person pursues legal remedies against those who act out of caution– especially when it involves children— could have a chilling effect that might lead to more children being harmed or killed. If someone sees something that raises a red flag, but they decide not to act because of the danger of being sued or even just being called a “Karen”, there could be even more tragedies. I’m sure the young lady who gave the Signal for Help while being driven through multiple states with her 61 year old captor is happy that someone acted and called the police.

But… in Mary MacCarthy’s defense, I also think that once the Denver Police cleared her and her daughter, that should have been the end of it. The human trafficking department should not have called her to “follow up”. I think if that hadn’t have happened, this story would have a different trajectory. And I do believe her when she says that Moira is traumatized by what happened.

I hope someday, the police situation in the United States will be overhauled, so that officers can actually be thought of as good people to call for help, rather than just threatening and potentially deadly. It probably won’t happen in my lifetime. And… on another note, flying has gotten to be pretty terrible these days. Stories like these make me want to avoid flying even more than ever.

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travel

This morning’s hike…

We visitied Slap Savica (Savica Waterfal). It’s supposed to be a 20 minute hike up to the big falls, but it took us a lot longer. It was very much worth the trip, especially since we had some sunshine this morning. I think we’re going to go get some lunch at one of the few restaurants open here, and then I might be back to do some ranting. But for now, I hope you will enjoy some of these photos…

I really felt accomplished after doing this hike… it wasn’t very long, but it was a lot of steps up a very tall, wet, and leafy mountain. But we were rewarded at the top. No one is here, so not only were the trail and platform not crowded, but the experience of being there was also very peaceful and beautiful. November is a great time to visit Lake Bohinj, even if a lot of places are closed. I think if I were an artist, I might be going crazy by how beautiful the scenery is… and how many colors there are.

Not bad for a fatass housewife.

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