overly helpful people, true crime, YouTube

Creeps like her? My unpopular opinion regarding Debra Hunter.

Yesterday, I read the trending story about Debra Hunter, the mom in Jacksonville, Florida who was caught on video last summer, berating a clerk at a Pier 1 home good store. Heather Sprague, the woman who decided to video Hunter, claims she had listened to her verbally abusing the clerk about an item she had wanted to return, but apparently hadn’t brought with her.

When Hunter noticed Sprague filming, she gave her a “double bird”– that is, both middle fingers in their locked and upright positions, then, obviously very angry, she said, “I think I’ll get real close to you and cough on you, then, how’s that?” Sprague, who was one of the few people wearing a face mask in public at the time, since this incident occurred in June 2020, before face masks were required, says she felt spittle on her face as Hunter then stormed out of the store.

Sprague is a mother of ten and has been treated for a brain tumor at the Mayo Clinic. Because of her delicate health condition, and that of her children, some of whom have special healthcare needs, Sprague claims she had to search frantically for a COVID-19 test. They were not widely available at the time, so she spent some time feeling very anxious. It cost her $150 to be tested. The results were, fortunately, negative.

Ms. Hunter has had her day in court, and Judge James A. Ruth sentenced her to 30 days in jail. Hunter also got six months probation, a $500 fine, must have a mental health evaluation and attend anger management counseling, and she must repay Sprague for the COVID-19 test.

After reading the many outraged comments people had about this case, I decided to watch the entire proceedings on YouTube. It was about a three hour video. One of the reasons it took so long is because there were technical difficulties, as the proceedings went on via Zoom.

Is she really that much of a creep? People should watch Ms. Hunter’s testimony. She doesn’t sound like a narcissistic creep to me.

Once again, I find myself disagreeing with the masses about this case. I read gleeful comment after delighted comment that Debra Hunter is going to go to jail for a month. I read many people condemning her character, based on headlines. I read that Debra Hunter and her family had received many death threats related to this incident, and her children were forbidden from playing with their now former friends. Ms. Hunter and her family are now pariahs, and now she will be going to jail for up to 30 days.

I know a lot of people think this sentence is entirely appropriate, and Debra Hunter and her family deserve being thrown to the Internet lions. It’s become very trendy for people to take it upon themselves to film total strangers and upload the videos to social media. Oftentimes, the videos– just a minute or two of someone’s entire life– lead to fifteen minutes of fame for the uploader and years of public ridicule and condemnation for the person being filmed AND their families. Debra Hunter has children too, and they are suffering because Heather Sprague decided to insert herself in a situation that, frankly, was not her affair.

I watched the incident from the video that Heather Sprague uploaded. While I don’t condone Debra Hunter’s actions at all, and I do think most of the punishment she received is appropriate, I don’t think she should be going to jail. It was a very short interaction she had with Sprague and, frankly, one that really didn’t need to happen. Heather Sprague, who claims to be medically fragile and has many children who are also medically fragile, CHOSE to meddle in a perfect stranger’s personal business. It seems to me that if Ms. Hunter was really that out of control, the store manager or perhaps even law enforcement should have been called– especially if Ms. Sprague is a cancer patient with small children at home. I mean, seriously… it’s Florida. She’s lucky no one pulled out a gun!

Many people were saying that Ms. Hunter’s decision to cough on Ms. Sprague was especially heartless, since Ms. Sprague has had cancer. But– if these two women didn’t even know each other, how could Ms. Hunter possibly know anything about Ms. Sprague’s medical history or condition? Yes, it was absolutely wrong for Hunter to lose her temper and cough on another person, particularly during a pandemic. But in June of last year, COVID-19 hadn’t yet wreaked the havoc that it since has worldwide. It was still very much a “novel” virus, and people in the United States were blissfully unaware of what was about to come. At that point, Ms. Hunter probably didn’t realize how dangerous coughing on someone is. The vast majority of us alive today have never before lived through a pandemic the likes of COVID-19. It was new territory in June 2020, and even as angry as Hunter was on that June day last year, I doubt she would have taken that action months later, when it became clearer how dangerous COVID-19 is.

As it turned out, Hunter didn’t have COVID-19 anyway, so while coughing on Sprague was rude, disgusting, and potentially dangerous, it wasn’t a murderous action. But people are still calling what she did “attempted murder” or “attempted manslaughter”. To that, I say “bullshit”. Yes, it was absolutely wrong for her to cough on Ms. Sprague, but I feel quite certain that Ms. Hunter’s intention was not to kill anyone. She was just really angry and having a very bad day, as we all do from time to time. And if Sprague hadn’t been filming her with the apparent intention of shaming, ridiculing, and destroying her life on social media, she probably would not have been on the receiving end of Ms. Hunter’s cough.

I don’t think Debra Hunter’s actions in June 2020 were appropriate. She was extremely angry that day, and according to Ms. Sprague, Hunter had been going off in the store for about fifteen minutes. Friends and colleagues who testified on her behalf in the above video claim that this behavior was out of character for Debra Hunter. Her husband testified that the two of them had been trying to build a house and had run into significant problems with the contractors who were building it. Then, their rental house caught on fire and they lost a lot of their personal possessions. If what Ms. Hunter’s husband says is true, I can understand why Ms. Hunter was stressed. No, she certainly shouldn’t have been taking out her stress on the Pier 1 clerk, nor should she have lost her temper with Heather Sprague’s busybody proclivities— but I can see that she was under a lot of stress. And, not knowing the story behind why she was trying to return the item to Pier 1, I don’t have a clear idea of why she was projecting her rage on the sales associate, attracting Ms. Sprague’s attention.

If you are a regular reader of my blog, you probably know that I really don’t like this trend of people videoing strangers and making them go viral. I think such an action, while probably very satisfying for the person filming/judging/meddling, as well as the people who watch the videos, can have serious second and third order negative effects that don’t fit the “crime”. Everybody has bad days, and not a single one of us can be defined by the worst thing we’ve ever said or done. Is it really appropriate to destroy someone’s reputation and livelihood, as well as that of her family’s (particularly the children’s) just so someone can get fifteen minutes of fame?

I would have been much more impressed with Heather Sprague if she’d intervened by being kind. Perhaps if she had interjected by asking Debra Hunter if she was okay… or tried to help her calm down a bit. She mentioned Hunter’s child being there, doing the “potty dance”. Maybe Sprague could have redirected Hunter’s attention to the child, rather than whipping out her cellphone. If she really felt the need to meddle in this situation, she could have done so with a spirit of wanting to be helpful, rather than being judgmental. Now, thanks to Heather Sprague’s brand of “help”, Hunter’s children are being ostracized and may suffer psychological effects from this incident. Hunter will be going to jail, where she might be exposed to COVID-19 and, frankly, it’s doubtful that punishment in jail will rehabilitate her in any way.

I know a lot of people, particularly in the United States, think jail is the end all, be all of punishments. For some reason, a lot of us LOVE to see people rot behind bars, for the most trivial of infractions. Many Americans seem to enjoy it when someone gets the book thrown at them, and a lot of us are slow to forgive, unless the situation involves a pretty celebrity of some sort. But, I wonder how many rank and file Americans would like it if some stranger videoed them in the act of having a bad day, and took it upon themselves to put that moment or two on social media? Would they say to themselves, “I deserve the death threats and the nasty phone calls, letters, and text messages from thousands of people around the world.”? Would they say, “I was a jackass, and my kids totally deserve to be ostracized and harassed by their peers because of what I did.”? Would they be completely fine with losing their job, as well as their spouses losing their job, based on something that occurred outside of work hours? My guess is that the vast majority of people would not. And I haven’t even mentioned the hate mail and vitriol people who have the misfortune of sharing the name “Hunter” have gotten in the wake of this fiasco. Several innocent people have had to make statements that they weren’t involved in this incident.

I will agree that Ms. Hunter didn’t seem overly concerned about Heather Sprague’s welfare. But, I would submit that Heather Sprague wasn’t too concerned about Debra Hunter’s welfare, either, when she took it upon herself to make her Internet infamous. I’m truly sorry that Heather Sprague was so terrified that she might get COVID-19 from being coughed on… but this was a situation that she could have avoided by simply minding her own business or, barring that, asking someone in authority to get involved. And if I were someone who suffered from a brain tumor and had medically fragile children to care for, that is what I think I would have done. Or, I would have alerted someone who could have intervened without as much personal risk. I’ve heard many people say that anyone who is medically fragile in the age of COVID-19 ought to “stay home” and avoid the risk of catching the virus. Seems like that advice could apply to Heather Sprague, too.

Perhaps it’s my time in Germany that has made me find this practice of making people Internet infamous so distasteful. Here, people have the right to be forgotten. Even people who are accused and convicted of crimes have the right to anonymity. Media outlets don’t always print people’s full names, nor do they show their faces, if they have been accused or convicted of a crime. Now, I don’t mean to imply that this is necessarily how it should be everywhere, but I do think there is something to be said for letting people live down their past misdeeds and get on with their lives. I don’t think the trend of making people go viral is fair, nor is it practical. Because, eventually, people who screw up, need to be able to go on with life. They need to be able to find employment so they can support themselves. They should be able to redeem themselves, so the rest of their lives isn’t completely fucked up forever.

Uninvolved people who take it upon themselves to film strangers behaving badly are basically acting as judge, jury, and executioner when they upload that stuff to social media. I think, if a person films something that is criminal, it’s more appropriate to give that footage to authorities, rather than taking it upon themselves to put the footage on YouTube or Facebook. Frankly, I won’t be surprised if people start suing these meddlesome folks… or much worse, someone gets shot for pulling out a cellphone.

One more point I would like to add. Judge Ruth reasoned that he sentenced Debra Hunter to jail because he hadn’t heard her express remorse to Heather Sprague. He seemed to imply that she wasn’t sorry for what happened. Personally, I disagree with his assessment. I listened to Debra Hunter’s testimony. At about the 1:30:00 mark in the video, Hunter’s lawyer invites his client to speak on her own behalf. She tells the judge that she’s already written a letter and won’t put him through listening to her points again. The judge interjects and tells her it’s “her day” in court. She speaks about how her three children have suffered because of what “she did”. She sounded genuinely sorry to me, and even said she could empathize with the parents who stopped letting their kids play with Hunter’s children. The judge even told Ms. Hunter to slow down and relax, because she was clearly very upset. At 1:40:00, she legitimately starts to sob. And yet, so many people, reacting to headlines, are calling her a narcissistic monster who should lose her kids and rot in prison. WTF?

I have had lots of dealings with real narcissists… and they don’t behave like Debra Hunter did in her hearing. I would encourage those who think she’s a monster to actually listen to her testimony. At 1:48:00, Debra Hunter actually says she deserves what she’s getting… in contrast to what the judge said, I did hear her mention Ms. Sprague and how this affected her, again at about 1:48:00. She mentions that there has been a “lot of fallout” for Ms. Sprague and her family. At 1:50:00, she apologizes to Sprague and mentions the letter of apology that she sent to her soon after the incident.

The judge says that due to the length of Ms. Hunter’s tirade and the fact that there was saliva that came from the cough, she deserves jail. Well, as we’ve learned since last year, saliva and spittle is a thing when we talk, breathe, sneeze, and cough. Even if Ms. Hunter hadn’t coughed, there would have been saliva droplets. That is the nature of things pertaining to the oral cavity, and why we’ve all been forced to wear masks for the past year. I’m not saying the cough was appropriate. It wasn’t. I’m saying that there would have been saliva regardless, and this occurred at a time when we didn’t know as many of the facts about COVID-19. Again– if this incident had occurred this year, I doubt Ms. Hunter would have done what she did, and she might have been wearing a face mask, anyway.

I know my opinion is unpopular. I expect some people will feel the need to correct my opinion in the form of strongly worded comments. If you are a regular reader of my blog, you probably already know how I feel about people who feel the need to directly “correct” people’s opinions. I just don’t think, in this case, the punishment is appropriate. Yes, Ms. Hunter should have been in much better control of her emotions. I do think she needs some help from a mental health professional. I do think it’s appropriate that she pay a fine and reimburse Heather Sprague for what she spent on the COVID-19 test. I think community service and probation would also be appropriate. But we have so many people in jail, and the fact that the Hunter family has endured almost a year of “venom” (at 2:50:00) from the court of public opinion is already a heavy punishment.

And that venom hasn’t just affected Debra Hunter. It’s affected her business, her family, her children, and friends, as well as perfect strangers with the last name Hunter who have gotten hate mail and death threats, or had their businesses negatively affected by Sprague’s decision to film. That’s a whole lot of punishment delivered to uninvolved people for something that, prior to Facebook, would never have been international news, and probably would not have affected so many people besides those directly involved in the incident.

My guess is that most of the people– completely uninvolved strangers— who are calling for Hunter’s head on a platter would NOT like it if they got the same treatment for similar behavior. Anyone who thinks this can’t happen to them is fooling themselves. I’m sitting here reading this and listening to the actual court case in GERMANY, for Christ’s sakes. Think about that.

I wish Debra Hunter well and hope she and her family can move past this incident without too much trouble.

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communication, healthcare, LDS, mental health

“My way or the highway”…

Picture it– a Saturday morning in early July 2006. The doorbell rang. Our mailman, Steve, who knew all of the best gossip on Fort Belvoir, was at the door with a bunch of packages. They were from Bill’s ex wife and sent “restricted delivery”, so Bill had to sign for them personally. In the boxes were a bunch of personal effects that Bill had left behind when he and Ex got divorced in 2000. She had written a letter, explaining that she had expected him to “retrieve” his stuff, but he never had. So she was sending the stuff back to him, along with an itemized list of the contents.

She also included adoption papers for Bill’s daughters, along with an invitation to sign them so her third husband, #3, could officially claim Bill’s daughters as his own. And there were also photocopied letters the girls supposedly wrote, demanding that Bill give permission for them to be adopted by #3. I remember quite distinctly that younger daughter’s letter was especially cold, while older daughter’s was a bit kinder. However, she did include the line, “I’ll never talk to you again” as an ultimatum. As in, “If you don’t let #3 adopt me, I’ll never talk to you again. It’s my way or the highway.”

Bear in mind, Bill had not been allowed a chance to speak to his daughters. Ex refused to let him have any contact with them and had them so mindfucked that they couldn’t think straight. Years later, it turned out that the girls had their names legally changed when they were both 18. Younger daughter said she’d been under a lot of pressure, both to write the letter (which Ex basically dictated to her), and to have her last name changed. But she also realized that she would be changing her name anyway, once she got married. Sure enough, younger daughter did get married and changed her name again. She now freely communicates with Bill– her REAL dad– who is a wonderful person. And it’s been beautiful for both of them. Younger daughter certainly doesn’t consider #3 to be her father and doesn’t really speak to him nowadays.

Older daughter has been as good as her word. She hasn’t spoken to Bill, and remains trapped in her mother’s toxic home. She’ll be 30 years old soon, and younger daughter has said that Ex regularly threatens and demeans her. Meanwhile, life has gone on, and for us, it’s mainly been worth living. Bill would love to have his older daughter in his life again, but she’s made a choice. I hope the “my way or the highway” attitude is worth it to her and brings her much joy… but somehow, I doubt it does. When Bill’s father died in November 2020, older daughter wasn’t welcome at the funeral, even though she had reportedly wanted to attend. Sadly, thanks to COVID-19, Bill wasn’t able to attend, either.

I have shared this story more than a couple of times over the years. I usually share it when I write about parental alienation syndrome or people who have decided to leave Mormonism and get shunned by their families. Since PAS and leaving Mormonism are both factors in our story, it makes sense that I’d share this sad anecdote when I write about those subjects. Today, I’m sharing it for another reason.

This morning, I read an article in The Washington Post about how to have conversations with people about COVID-19 vaccinations. I almost didn’t read the article because, frankly, I’m pretty frustrated by the subject. I live in a place where I can’t yet get a vaccine, even though I’m willing to get one. I see all of my American friends getting their shots, but I’m still sitting here with my thumb up my ass. I’m bored, depressed, and super sick of this lifestyle, especially since I can’t travel, but my husband keeps having to go places for work. It sucks, and I’m so tired of it. I need a new subject to focus on, so my attitude doesn’t completely go down the crapper.

Curiosity got the better of me, so I decided to read what the writer, Allyson Chiu, wrote about talking to people who can’t agree about the vaccines. I thought her advice was very sensible. Like me, she realizes that shaming, threatening, scolding, and lecturing aren’t very effective when it comes to changing hearts and minds about vaccinations. I’ve mentioned this more than a couple of times. When you come at a person with aggression, their instinct will naturally be to defend themselves. When a person is focused on defending themselves, they won’t be listening to what you have to say. You might as well save your breath.

Chiu also recommended positive ways of encouraging people to get the vaccine. Instead of insulting them or making assumptions about the person’s reasoning for not cooperating, she suggests asking people what would make them more willing to consider getting the shot(s). She emphasized being caring and concerned about the person’s welfare, rather than issuing stern ultimatums. Above all, she emphasizes maintaining basic respect with a mind toward preserving the relationship.

I looked at the responses left on the actual article, rather than Facebook. I’ve found that people who take the time to respond on a newspaper article itself, usually tend to be more thoughtful and appropriate in their comments. Also, the people who comment on the actual paper usually have taken the time to read the article rather than just responding to the headline.

As I read the comments about the COVID-19 vaccine controversy, I got a strong sense of deja vu. Only, the comments reminded me of ones heard from frustrated and angry parents when a child makes a decision with which the parent disagrees. For instance, when people raise their children in Mormonism, and the family members actually believe in the church doctrine and live by its principles, they tend to be very intolerant of opposing views. They issue ultimatums to the wayward family members, threatening to cut them out of their lives if they don’t conform. They might tell their supposed loved ones, “If you don’t stop rebelling, I’ll never talk to you again.” Or, “You aren’t welcome in my home until you come back to the fold.” Or, “I don’t want you talking to anyone in the family about your ‘beliefs’ or ‘opinions’. Your thinking is ‘wrong’, and I won’t tolerate you leading them down the ‘wrong’ path.”

I’m sure if you asked these folks if they love their family members whom they are so cavalierly threatening to cast out of their lives, they would say they do love them. Sometimes, this is an issue of control, but probably more often than not, these kinds of threats and ultimatums are based on fear of loss. In my husband’s ex wife’s case, she fears losing control and access to certain commodities. Although she joined the LDS church, she doesn’t actually agree with or care about the church’s teachings, and basically, she just uses it for control purposes. Apparently, she only goes to church now when she needs money. However, back in 2006, she sure did use the church and Bill’s decision to resign from the church as a means of trying to exert control and influence. Mormons, as a whole, are pretty famous about being willing to cast out unbelievers. Yes, there are exceptions– some church members are more liberal about their beliefs than others are– but a lot of church members see apostasy as a reason to disown, disinherit, and discard family members over a disagreement about religious beliefs.

And now, with the COVID-19 plague going on, it seems other people are also adopting that same “my way or the highway” attitude regarding the vaccines. Here are a few comments from the Washington Post article.

My honest reaction to anti vaxxers is astonishment and i express that.  That is self- respecting.  Infectious diseases are a fact.  I have no intentions of allowing ignorance on my watch.  (And how do you know that all of the anti vaxxers are being “ignorant”? Have you asked them?)

For antivacciners and antimaskers, it’s good to be compassionate and ask if they need a ride to a vaccination site or if they would like you to buy them some protection.  Ask if they are afraid of getting a shot and offer to accompany them to one.  Ask if they need making an appointment.  Give them a box of gloves.  Ask if they have a smart phone or a device to help them make appointments and to video chat.  (This response, while seemingly well-intentioned, seems rather manipulative and possibly insulting.)

I have mentioned that I am happy to be vaccinated. Usually others are too or are eagerly waiting. If they aren’t going to, I say, ” Really? Hmmm”. Walk away and check them off. I will easily drop any business, service provider or acquaintance and substitute them with a reasonable person. I have no time for this nonsense. (I’m sure the people you’re shunning don’t think of their opinions as “nonsense”.)

I read with interest your article regarding vaccinated parents and unvaccinated kids.  Speaking as a Warrior Mom, it absolutely exhausting dealing with this.  A calm parent with common sense says” My Teen will get vaccinated and my teen will spend time with his peer group.  The Nosy moms need to mind their own business. It is unacceptable and rude to ask your pod of moms ” When is your kid getting vaccinated.”  So let’s be polite and start focusing on summer plans and going to the beach. (What is a Warrior Mom? I’m pretty sure I didn’t have one of those!)

I have no problem telling someone who does not want to get the vaccine that it’s fine but they can’t come inside my home and they need to keep their distance on my porch. This includes my oldest kid who for some reason does not want it. I will be fully protected and my husband and our parents. Honestly that’s all that matters to me. The kid is an adult and can make his own misguided decisions.  (This is the comment that prompted me to write today’s post. It sounds a lot like Mormon parents kicking their kids out or telling them “I will never talk to you again.” I suppose this mom has the right to kick her son out of her life, but I suspect she could eventually end up regretting that decision.)

What a load of touchy-feely crap. FFS why after over a year are we still catering to those who simply won’t be persuaded? HERE’s how to talk about the shots: “I and everyone in my immediate family have been vaccinated. If you want our company, show us your vaccination certificates. If you don’t, or if you aren’t vaccinated yourself, you can count on never seeing us until you are.” Full stop.  Not only does this have the advantage of real world honesty and consequences, it will eventually show what kind of people one is surrounded with, particularly extended family. Their choice with the vaccine will eventually reveal which they value more: family, or clinging to myth, ego, suspicion, and ignorance. (I think this person overvalues his or her own company.)

Like I said… personally, I’m more than willing to get the shot. I’d like to get it over and done with. I have no issues with vaccinations. The science behind them has existed for hundreds of years, and the science behind the COVID-19 vaccine has been in the works since before COVID was a thing. I’m grateful scientists were able to develop them so quickly and I am definitely ready to cooperate, because this lifestyle, truly, is having a terrible effect on my mood and will to live.

But… even though I have my thoughts and opinions about the COVID-19 vaccine, and personally, I do think people should get them, I can also understand why some people are reluctant. I think it’s better to be compassionate toward them, rather than insulting and threatening. And I also think it’s crazy to throw away friendships and family relationships simply because of a disagreement about an illness that wasn’t even on the radar 18 months ago. Seriously? Are you really willing to cast out your loved ones over an argument about COVID-19? Isn’t it bad enough that so many people have actually DIED from this disease and will not ever be coming back? Are you really assuming that your “my way or the highway” attitude is the best way to get compliance, and that the person you are shunning won’t decide your company is that important to them, anyway?

I know some people would say, “But the fact that people are dying is the reason I’m taking such a strong stand about the vaccines. I know I’m right, and they’re wrong!” I get that. And I realize that to many people, it seems like the “my way or the highway” approach is the best, because– they tell themselves– this is the way to “save them”. However, most competent adults don’t take kindly to the negative approach and will resist it. And when it comes down to it, people must be free to make their own choices.

You can resolutely choose not to associate with people who refuse the shot– that’s your choice. And they can refuse to get vaccinated and wind up excluded from things like concerts, cruises, and flights. That’s their choice. But to say something along the lines of, “You aren’t welcome in my house.” or “I don’t want to see you again.” or “I’ll never talk to you again.” or “It’s my way or the highway” may cause a great deal of regret in the long run. Now is not the time to be extremely adversarial. As Joe Biden said some weeks ago, “We are at war with the virus, not each other.”

Everyone is struggling right now, and many people are legitimately frightened. Some people are frightened of catching COVID-19 and dying or living with “long hauler” syndrome. Other people are legitimately frightened of having the vaccine and suffering ill effects or even dying from it. Even if you and I think they’re being “silly” or even “stupid”, that fear is legitimate to them, and it can be difficult to overcome legitimate fear. Whether or not their fear has merit, they will probably remember your reaction to their fear, how it made them feel, and respond accordingly.

Interestingly enough, as I’m writing this post, I’m reminded of a quote that is often attributed to Maya Angelou. If you read my blog regularly, you know that I’m a big fan of verifying quotes to make sure the right person gets credit. Well, it appears that Maya Angelou is probably not, in fact, the originator of this quote:

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

It turns out, the originator of that quote was highly likely to be Carl W. Buehner, who was– surprise— a high level official in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints! The earliest evidence located by Quote Investigator was in a 1971 book of quotes by Richard L. Evans, also a high ranking Mormon, who was the program narrator for the weekly radio and television broadcast of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir called “Music and the Spoken Word”. The Mormons, for all of their dysfunction and propensity for misguided interventions regarding the religious beliefs of their loved ones, sure do put out a lot of quotable quotes for the masses.

It was also a Mormon woman named Laurel Thatcher Ulrich who said, “Well behaved women rarely make history.” Ironic, given the fact that LDS women are very much second bananas in the church’s hierarchy and the demands to “conform” to the rules and mores of the church are well established and known. Ulrich went on to win a Pulitzer Prize and later became a professor at Harvard University.

Clearly both of these quotable Mormons are highly intelligent and talented folks, even if I think their beliefs in Mormonism are ridiculous and certainly not worth shunning loved ones over. I don’t know if Ulrich or Buehner ever did have family members who decided the church wasn’t for them, but I do know that the LDS church is famous for people taking a “my way or the highway approach” regarding obeying the principles of Mormonism. Those who step out of line will be dealt with and, if the infraction is serious enough, potentially cast out of their families or even the church itself. That action kind of flies in the face of those “feel good” quotes, doesn’t it?

Isn’t it possible that people who aren’t ready to get the shot are similarly valuable? Do you really want the COVID-19 vaccine to be the hill your relationship dies upon? Again, isn’t it bad enough that people are literally dying of COVID-19?

This doesn’t mean, of course, that I don’t believe you should protect yourself. If someone refuses to follow protocol and you don’t feel safe around them, you are well within your rights to protect yourself. What I propose is approaching the naysayers with basic respect, compassion, and kindness, rather than hostility, sternness, derision, and ultimatums. Don’t use a “my way or the highway” approach in your attempts to persuade. Because there is a real chance that they’ll choose the highway. That might ultimately be alright with you, but I would encourage you to think about it carefully before you go there. Make sure you can live with the results of your “my way or the highway” attitude, because taking that approach may actually put you on the Highway to Hell.

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disasters, expressions

Choosing the harder right over the easier wrong…

As a new week begins here in the land of perpetual lockdowns, my mind is on a heartbreaking opinion piece I just read in The Washington Post. A public health nurse practitioner, writer, and former Army Captain named Jackie Munn wrote about how her parents both contracted COVID-19 a few months ago. Munn’s father, a 28 year Army veteran, had tried to care for his ailing wife, Julie Anne Oeser, while he was himself ill. Unfortunately, Ms. Oeser’s condition deteriorated and she had to go to the hospital. She had initially resisted going, fearing that she wouldn’t come home. Sadly, she was right. On January 26, 2021, as many people were getting their first COVID-19 vaccinations, Julie Anne Oeser died. Her family stood around her bedside. She had spent 11 days in the intensive care unit, battling the novel coronavirus.

Jackie Munn is understandably very angry that she’s lost her mother, who was 62 years old and had “few preexisting conditions.” She writes that her family had “done its part” to fight COVID-19. Munn’s sisters, Jess and Jenn, are also in healthcare. Jenn works as an emergency room nurse in a hospital east of Los Angeles, California. Jess is a medical laboratory scientist at a Kansas City area hospital. Their parents had taken the pandemic seriously and followed all precautions, to include social distancing, hand hygiene, and wearing face masks. Both planned to be vaccinated, although Ms. Oeser died before she was able to take that step.

Jackie Munn writes, “…as a West Point graduate and combat veteran, I was taught that good leaders chose the harder right over the easier wrong.” She acknowledges that her father and older sister, both veterans like her, and been trained to do things that might be unpleasant or uncomfortable, but serve the common good. And she’s understandably pissed off that so many Americans, many of whom were egged on by our former leader, Trump, have decided not to “do their part” to stop the spread of COVID-19.

Dr. Birx speaks about the vaccines now available.

Munn blames Trump, of course, as well as Dr. Deborah Birx, who was herself an Army colonel and had been part of the COVID-19 task force in the Trump administration. She served as the COVID-19 Response Coordinator for Trump’s White House. Birx was recently in the news admitting that many COVID-19 deaths could have been prevented if people had taken the virus more seriously and Trump had been a more responsible leader. I remember watching Deborah Birx on video, looking visibly uncomfortable as Trump spoke about COVID-19. She knew the truth, but unlike her colleague, Dr. Anthony Fauci, she did not feel that she could say it out loud. She’s said that she had many “uncomfortable” discussions with Trump. My guess is that he threatened her.

She didn’t feel empowered to speak out during Trump’s reign. She says she should have been more outspoken.
These folks felt “muzzled” by Trump. Dr. Birx says that after the first 100,000 deaths, the subsequent carnage wrought by the virus could have been prevented.

Although I haven’t yet been personally affected by COVID-19, my heart goes out to Jackie Munn and the rest of her family. And yet, I also have some empathy for Dr. Birx. It’s easy for people to say she should have done more. They aren’t in the position she was in, and they weren’t directly dealing with a man like Trump, threatening, bullying, and browbeating them into doing his bidding. I can’t help but realize that Trump is a malignant narcissist, and if you’ve never had to deal with such a person, you have no idea how difficult it is not to bend to their will. They can be extremely convincing, even if they aren’t the U.S. POTUS… and when they are someone as powerful as Trump was, with many minions ready to carry out his wishes, it seems like an impossible situation to be in.

I don’t blame Dr. Birx for deciding to retire. I think it’s a shame that all of the legitimately good work she’s done over the course of her career, to include work in mitigating the spread of HIV/AIDS, is going to be tarnished by her unfortunate connection with Trump. I think she was in a no win situation. I can see why it was so hard for her to “choose the harder right over the easier wrong,” even if doing so might have saved lives.

Naturally, I had to read the comments on Jackie Munn’s piece. It was a lot of the same polarized crap we’ve been reading for over a year now. Many people– I’d say maybe 85%– had nothing but condolences and commiseration to add to Munn’s piece. It really is a sad read, and it resonates with a lot of people. A few other people were obviously ignorant pro-Trump trolls, who are clearly belligerent and selfish. But I also noticed a few people whom I thought made sense being called “trolls” or angrily shouted down by the masses. Here are a couple of examples:

Those of you who “know” me, know that I’m not a fan of group think or echo chamber comments. So many people seem to want to pat themselves on the backs for doing the “right” thing, for the good of everyone else. I’ve seen so many self-congratulatory and outright pious comments from people who claim they have done everything correctly and figuratively spit on everyone they assume isn’t toeing the line created by the likes of Dr. Fauci. Don’t get me wrong. I admire Dr. Fauci’s work, and I think he’s a very smart man who knows what he’s talking about. He definitely knows a hell of a lot more than the average Internet user. I also agree that people should do their parts to control the spread of the virus. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for more rational discussion, rather than chastising and insulting perfect strangers online.

I had to quit reading the comments when I realized I’d started rooting for the people who were gamely taking on all of the arrogant lecturing and blaming done by those who are all about everyone being forced to do the “right” things. I am not a fan of forcing people to do right, especially when people take a black and white, zero tolerance view. There are always situations that require exceptions to the rules, and the people who require exceptions should have a chance to be heard without being screamed down by others. I don’t like to be the devil’s advocate myself, because I find dealing with the deluge of irritating comments from graduates of the Google School of Public Health too tiresome and ultimately pointless. But I do secretly cheer on those who take on these folks. Most of us can Google. Not all of us are going to come to the same conclusions. That should be okay. People should be allowed to share their thoughts and opinions if they want to, and the ones who make some sense should have their thoughts respectfully considered, even if their conclusions are eventually rejected.

I’m getting especially “prickly” when I see some all knower write something like “You do know that…” or “Pretty sure that…” or “And your medical/public health degree is from…” or “What about seatbelts and helmets…” I don’t think the COVID-19 situation is akin to the other safety measures enforced by law. Ms. Munn is obviously gutted that her mother has died. I can’t blame her for that. I don’t blame her for trying to place responsibility on other people, either. It’s only natural. But even if everyone was wearing a mask and social distancing, there’s a chance her mother still would have gotten sick. There may have been far less of chance, but the chance still existed.

Not everyone is going to get onboard with the new rules. Some people never will, no matter what we do. There’s a good chance those people won’t spread COVID-19, despite breaking the rules. On the other hand there’s a good chance they will. We don’t know who passed the virus to Jackie Munn’s mom, but we do know that it’s an extremely contagious bug, and even if someone does everything right, as Ms. Munn’s mom presumably did, people are still going to get sick, and some people are still going to die. Hopefully, with the advent of the new vaccines, those numbers will drop significantly.

I think it’s useless to point the finger at random people who aren’t doing what they’re told. Those people have their reasons for not cooperating. Maybe you and I think their reasons are stupid, but they obviously think they’re right. And unless we stop and talk to them and actually listen respectfully to what they have to say, they probably won’t cooperate, even if they’re dead wrong. How many random strangers are going to change their habits just because someone insulted them and left an angry comment? On the other hand, if we engage with them from a place of respect and decency, maybe we can come to a meeting of the minds. Maybe then, more people will “choose the harder right over the easier wrong.”

A few days ago, I got into a minor scuffle with some woman from Australia. Well, actually, she tried to start a scuffle with me. I ignored her, which probably pissed her off. Anyway, what happened was, I had read an article about a type of dermatitis that is being caused by mask wearing. Many people are getting perioral dermatitis and mistaking it for acne. The condition doesn’t clear up when they use acne remedies, and they have painful reactions, as their sensitive skin is abraded by constantly wearing the masks.

A woman posted that she was dealing with this condition herself. That’s when Tiffany from Australia responded that she’s owned a medical practice for twenty years, has to wear masks, and just sucks it up and drives on. The original poster came back and reiterated that the dermatitis was actually very painful. Tiffany still had no empathy for her. She wrote that she has the dermatitis too, but she still does her part and masks up. Here’s a cookie, Tiffany.

Enjoy.

I was a bit disgusted by Tiffany’s lack of regard for this woman and her valid complaint. So I wrote, “You made a choice to go into healthcare, where masks are required. Most of the rest of us didn’t. It’s not nice to discount other people’s legitimate problems.” Several people agreed with me, and I got quite a few likes for that comment… not that I needed the likes. They just told me that I wasn’t the only one who found Tiffany’s “suck it up and drive on” attitude annoying.

Next thing I knew, I got a message that Tiffany wanted to “connect” with me. I discovered her message maybe an hour or so after that exchange. I had a feeling she was going to blast me privately. I didn’t read her whole message, but saw enough of it to know that she felt I had no right to call her out for her virtue signaling and she was telling me off in my PMs. The end of her message was, “Cat got your tongue?”

If had responded, I might have said, “I didn’t even realize you had messaged me until I saw my phone. I don’t get those notifications on an iPad. Moreover, your decision to PM me doesn’t require me to answer you. If you want to address me, you can do it publicly and respectfully. Otherwise, I have nothing more to say to you.” What I really would have liked to have said to her, and anyone else who PMs me uninvited and is abusive is, “We don’t know each other, so piss off!” In the end, I chose to ignore her completely, which probably left her feeling like the wind was let out of her sails.

I wonder how many people would like to get in on the discussion and have valid perspectives to add, but choose not to because of bullies like Tiffany who want to call them “babies” or tell them to get over themselves. Likewise, while I completely understand Jackie Munn’s anger, frustration, and outrage that she lost her mother at age 62, I don’t think issuing a blanket blame toward anyone who isn’t doing what she thinks they should be doing is productive. Would she be just as angry if her mom had gotten the flu and died? How about if her mom had had an accident? Would she have felt better if many more people were wearing masks and her mom still died of COVID-19? It’s possible that could have happened, too. The bottom line is, the situation Jackie Munn is in is terrible, and it seems unfair. But we’re in a pandemic, and people are going to die, just as they die in wars and other catastrophes. It doesn’t mean the situation isn’t horrible and tragic– but unfortunately, blaming the world for her mom’s death isn’t going to bring her back from the dead.

Now… to wrap this up and get on with my day…

A few days ago, I wrote a protected post about a situation we’re in right now. It’s going to require some tough choices that may make things temporarily worse before they’re better. Or, they could make things permanently worse. And yet, Bill and I both know that it’s the right thing to do, and it’s something we should have done a long time ago. I was thinking of that situation when I read Jackie Munn’s words– the lesson she learned at West Point– “choosing the harder right over the easier wrong.” It’s so easy to turn a blind eye and let people get away with doing bad things. But in the long run, it can cost dearly.

I’m truly sorry about Jackie Munn’s loss. I absolutely appreciate all she and her sisters have done to fight COVID-19. I’m going to continue doing whatever I can to stop the spread. I stay home about 90% of the time and, on the very rare occasions when I do go places, I follow the rules. But unfortunately, I also know that the virus is very contagious, and some people can and will do everything right and still get COVID-19. It’s not necessarily anyone else’s fault when this happens, and I don’t think it’s helpful to blame others. It’s just a sad fact that until more people are fully vaccinated, people are going to get very sick, and some will die.

Yes, we should do all we can to reduce the numbers and cooperate for the common good. But there will be casualties regardless, and there will be heartbroken people who will suffer tremendous losses, no matter what they do. I also realize that I may very well be among those who will lose, as Bill and I anxiously await the vaccine ourselves. May God help us all.

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healthcare

The laundry hamper… don’t neglect it!

Proper hygiene is very important. It may be even more important today, thanks to COVID-19. The following anecdote was originally posted on my old blog, but I’m sharing it again as a lead into today’s topic.

My dad, who died in July 2014, had a habit of wearing clothes that probably should have been tossed in the laundry basket. He was a typical guy. Bill is better about putting his stuff in the hamper, but there have been a couple of times when I’ve had to tell him that his t-shirt is a bit rank. I definitely have a stronger sense of smell than Bill does.

I have three older sisters. One sister mostly upsets me when I’m around her, but she does have a knack for clever quips. One Christmas, we were all staying at my eldest sister’s house to celebrate the holiday. For his birthday the previous February, I had given my dad a sweater that he really liked. He wore it all the time, even when he should have tossed it in the laundry hamper.

My sister noticed and said, “Dad, you’ve been wearing that sweater for days now.  Don’t you think you should change?”

My dad responded, “I really like this sweater and it’s just easier to wear it since it’s already out of my suitcase.  If I have a high fashion affair to attend, I’ll change.”

And my sister snarked, “How about a hygienic affair?”

I have to admit, that was a pretty funny comment.  My dad good-naturedly smacked her on the head with a rolled up newspaper, which I also thought was funny and well-deserved. I think not long after that exchange, we had a fight. That’s what almost always happens at our immediate family gatherings. That’s why I live in Germany and don’t attend them anymore. 😉 But I do enjoy a clever witticism, and that was a good one.

The topic of hygiene comes up again today as I want to impart a PSA to my readers about face masks. I have a casual Facebook friend whose husband had to go to the emergency room the other day. The side of his face was all swollen and painful, and he and his wife didn’t know why. He ended up being admitted and, as of yesterday, was on two IV drips delivering potent antibiotics. Why? Because he has facial cellulitis.

At first, no one knew how he got the infection. But then a student doctor said that they had recently seen an uptick in facial cellulitis cases due to unhygienic face mask usage. People are wearing them repeatedly, but not washing or replacing them. The dirty surface comes into contact with the face, and bacteria enter the skin via a break– say a nick caused by shaving. Presto! You have a serious skin infection that lands you in the hospital!

If you are a regular reader of this blog, you may already know that I despise face masks. I know they are required– FOR NOW– and I know that they are necessary until we can get a handle on the COVID-19 pandemic. But I also know that they are problematic for a number of people, and I hope and expect that their use, at least among people who aren’t in the healthcare delivery profession, will soon be obsolete. Even if the masks are helpful in preventing the spread of the virus or preventing allergy symptoms, they do no good if they’re unclean. I would like to see us come up with something better than masks for slowing the spread, but for now I feel the need to remind people to use clean masks as much as possible.

The fact that this guy wound up hospitalized because he kept wearing a dirty mask is just one reason why the masks are a potential threat. Lots of people recycle their masks rather than washing them (if they are reusable) or replacing them. I don’t think it has anything to do with money, either. I think people are just busy or lazy or whatever, and they forget.

Folks… I have had facial cellulitis myself. It is not a fun experience. Cellulitis is painful and disgusting, and if you’re not careful, it can recur. Below is a somewhat graphic account, so brace yourself.

In my case, I was getting recurrent skin infections for awhile before I finally saw a doctor about them. I’m not totally sure, but I think I picked up some kind of wandering germ when I lived in Armenia. From June of 1996, I kept getting these nasty, extremely painful infections that caused my skin to occasionally abscess. It was painful and messy, but since I didn’t have health insurance and wasn’t systemically ill, I just kind of lived with it… even when a couple of the infections were in embarrassing areas that made sitting down extremely difficult and painful.

During one particularly excruciating period, I had a large abscess over my butt crack. One day, I noticed I was feeling better. I went into the bathroom, and found that it had burst all over my underwear. A week later, it recurred in the same spot. I didn’t know that was cellulitis and it hadn’t made me sick with a fever. It just hurt like the dickens. Unfortunately, I was temping at the College of William & Mary, broke, and couldn’t afford to see a doctor, even if I had relished the idea of showing my ass crack to one. So I put up with it, and soon got a job working at a popular restaurant in Williamsburg, Virginia. I planned to finally make some money so I could escape my parents’ house and get out on my own. But then, I got a case of cellulitis I couldn’t ignore.

The first time I was formally diagnosed with cellulitis, it was April 1998. I was living in Gloucester, Virginia and I had it on my stomach. It was a bright red, extremely painful, swollen rash that kept getting bigger. I eventually developed a high fever (102 degrees) and was really sick and in severe pain, so I went to the emergency room in hysterical tears, where I was put on an IV drip and given high powered antibiotics. That fixed the problem quickly, and I was able to leave the hospital that night. I spent a few days recovering at home, then I was back to work. My savings was completely wiped out, and I was soon buying health insurance!

The second time I was diagnosed with cellulitis was in January 1999, when I had it on my face. The infection started on my left cheek and the whole side of my face, as well as around my eye, was all swollen. That time, I went straight to the doctor. He wanted to put me in the hospital, since the infection was near my brain. He sent me to the emergency room, but the doctor there was less concerned, and sent me home. The next day, the original doctor called me at home and urged me to see another doctor in Newport News, Virginia. That doctor, who was the best of the lot, wanted to admit me to the hospital. I was insured by then, but trying desperately to save my money so I could escape my parents’ house. I told the doctor I didn’t want to be admitted. Since I didn’t have a fever and had never developed one in that case, he reluctantly agreed.

Fortunately, that doctor was very amenable to helping me avoid hospitalization. I got several shots of Rocephin in my hip and took powerful oral antibiotics. A couple of days later, my face deflated, and I looked and felt much better. But then I got shingles, thanks to being run down. The third and final time I got cellulitis, it was a few months later, and I got it on my waist. But that time, I went directly to the doctor and got it taken care of immediately, before it got too large or made me physically ill. I guess that last bombing of my system must have finally killed off the germ, because that was the last time I had cellulitis. Of course, every time I had to take the antibiotic bombs that kill cellulitis bacteria, I also got yeast infections. That was fun to deal with… NOT.

Anyway… after having had cellulitis three times officially, but more times unofficially, I know how uncomfortable, unpleasant, and dangerous it can be, especially when you get it on your face. I don’t have any pictures of myself when I had it, but I can assure you that I looked really scary. Click this link to see some photos of people who have had cellulitis on their faces– I looked a bit like them when I had it. I went in to the restaurant where I was working at the time, showed them my face, and they told me to take off as much time as I needed. I looked hideous. And that infection really can make a person very sick. Not only can it lead to sepsis, but when you have it on your face, there’s nowhere for the pus to go, so it can threaten your eyesight, among other things.

The pus, by the way, is super disgusting. Every time I’ve had it, it’s been thick, sticky, oily, smelly, and tan colored, tinged with blood. Granted, it’s kind of satisfying to see it drain, especially when you look and feel a lot better in the aftermath. But the process of draining it is really stomach turning. It’s just gross.

So… the moral of the story is, practice good hygiene. Don’t poke your face with anything dirty; wash your hands before you touch your face. Be very careful with your face masks. Make sure you wear a clean one as much as possible, and don’t wear the same one for weeks on end, not having washed or replaced it. Trust me. You do not want cellulitis on your face. It’s an unsightly, expensive, and potentially very dangerous problem. And now, more than ever, you want to avoid hospitals, if you can. I mostly survived that experience with no ill effect, except if I look closely, I can see a tiny reddened/scarred area on my face where all of the revolting pus drained out. Yeccch!

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disasters, modern problems, technology, transportation, travel

Get back on the bus, Russ?

This morning, I read an article in The New York Times indicating that many people have quit using trains and buses in cities around the world. Ridership has gone so low that there’s concern that public transportation systems will fail and there will be many related disasters. One of the biggest worries is that there will be a severe effect on the environment, since more people will be driving their own cars. I expect that with more people opting for private transport, there will also be bigger traffic jams and less available parking. However– I don’t think that consequence will happen unless life gets totally back to normal, if and when the pandemic ever ends.

As I read the article about how cities around the world are grappling with the low numbers of fare paying travelers and governments are having to bail out bus and train systems, I couldn’t help but shake my head in wonder. It seems like it would only be natural that people aren’t wanting to use public transportation right now. Here’s a list of reasons:

  1. Most of us have been instructed NOT to travel unless we must.
  2. Many people are working from home, which eliminates the need to commute (and is probably better for the environment, too). Where I live, most businesses are closed, so why would I go anywhere?
  3. Who wants to ride in close quarters with a bunch of strangers, some of whom aren’t practicing social distancing or wearing proper masks?
  4. Who wants to ride on a bus having a bunch of people watching your every move and giving you the stinkeye if you aren’t wearing a mask the way they think you should?
  5. Isn’t it nicer not having to smell other people’s farts or halitosis? How about vomit, urine, poop, smoke, or booze? Or not being smushed standing up on a bus while some yucky guy cops a feel? That happened to me more than once in Armenia, where the buses would be filled until people were literally almost hanging off of them.

To me, it makes perfect sense that fewer people are taking public transportation. I think there are a lot of reasons why they aren’t using it. Some people, who were once bus or train riders, have opted to buy a car. According to the article, used car sales are up, and so are their prices. But some people are walking or riding bikes instead of using public transportation. Isn’t that a good thing, both for their health and the environment? Riding a bike is pretty low impact in terms of causing air pollution. So is walking.

The article makes it sound like the world will end if people don’t get back on the bus. And, I guess, if everyone suddenly starts driving a car instead of getting back on the bus, there could be serious problems. Mass transit systems are valuable sources of employment; they cost money to maintain, and they provide an efficient way of moving people that eliminates the need for parking spaces or sitting in traffic jams. However, more people than ever are working from home. Quite a few folks find that they like working from home and their employers are discovering that working from home is a viable option. They have lower overhead, the employee can handle minor personal business, and there’s no need for a commute. That means the employee can potentially sleep a little longer in the morning and maybe doesn’t have to spend as much money on work clothes or gas.

I read some of the comments about this article. So many people were writing that they don’t want to ride public transportation because they are concerned about anti-maskers spreading diseases. But there are probably just as many people who find riding on public transportation with militant mask enforcers just as unpleasant. I would rather ride privately in a car to avoid both types of people– the ones who don’t comply with the rules and engage in racist tirades, and the ones who act like mask cops and pay their kids to publicly call out rule breakers.

I have repeatedly stated that I won’t be willingly flying or cruising anywhere until the pandemic is under control, and I don’t have to be forced to wear a mask for hours while sitting in a cramped seat, being surveilled by flight attendants and other passengers after I’ve also been groped by airport security and had my bags searched. That just doesn’t sound pleasant to me, even as I understand why masks are important. I simply don’t want to spend money on that experience. For that reason, we’ll drive if and when we can travel. Mrs. Merkel did decide not to do the “hard” lockdown for Easter, but as it stands right now, most places I would want to go to aren’t taking visitors anyway.

I think, ultimately, the answer to this problem is mass vaccination and changing the way we do things. It sucks, although I do think that some of the changes could turn out to be positive. The article in The New York Times predicts disaster if the public transportation systems fail. But if people stop traveling so much for work and leisure, it seems to me that there could be a positive effect on the climate. If more people are able to work from home instead of clogging up the roads every day at rush hour, that could mean less air and noise pollution and less wear and tear on the road systems. And if people refuse to get with the program and get back on the bus as it is now, then perhaps the systems will evolve so that they are more appealing for riders. Hell… maybe more car manufacturers and municipalities will embrace electric cars instead of gas fed ones. That would be good for the environment and reduce noise pollution somewhat.

One thing I have noticed since we moved to Wiesbaden and live close to two Autobahns is that I can really hear the traffic here– both from the massive roads and the flights coming in to Frankfurt. One thing our homes in BW had over our home here is that it was a lot quieter (at least when the landlady wasn’t yelling at me about something).

I did think this article in The New York Times was interesting reading. If you have access to the NYT, I do recommend reading it for a look at how public transit systems around the world are coping, as people have stopped moving around as much. I think the people working in that industry are going to have to come up with creative and cost effective ways to make the system more attractive to riders. And that will mean they might have to consider why people are opting not to ride the bus or the train and adapt as necessary.

I can state that when I lived in Yerevan, public transportation was not comfortable. Riders were expected to cram in as much as possible, and it was not pleasant or safe. Today, I would imagine those buses that used to be stuffed to the gills with passengers are not so much, thanks to COVID-19. But in the 90s, when there wasn’t a pandemic, I remember having my crotch and my breasts explored by someone’s hands as I was mashed up against a stranger who hadn’t bathed in awhile (due to a lack of running or hot water in those days).

Public transport in Germany, pre-pandemic, was generally not that extreme, but I do remember some really crowded rides on the U-Bahn or city trains in Stuttgart. I remember there not being enough seats and almost falling on my face as the trains moved, because I had to stand in the aisle. Believe me, I have had my fill of public transportation. It’s a necessity for cities to have it available, but honestly, if you can arrange your own transport, why wouldn’t you? At least you have a say in how you will ride without having to deal with other people’s bullshit or bad behavior.

Even flying is less attractive these days. I remember how, about five years ago, a young pilot on Germanwings (now Eurowings) decided to kill himself and everyone else on the plane because he was so depressed. He deliberately crashed the plane and killed 150 people. Given how deadly COVID-19 is as it’s begun to mutate, perhaps the odds are becoming riskier for public transport users. Maybe 150 people on a bus won’t die because of COVID-19 spread, but for those who get the illness, it could mean long term disability and a permanent change of lifestyle.

Incidentally, my comments on not wanting to spend money to ride planes, trains, buses, or cruises don’t mean that I’m an “anti-masker”, either. I do follow the rules. A person can agree with the necessity for wearing masks, yet still hate the goddamned things and do what they can to avoid having to wear them. My need to travel is not so great that I have to get with the program, but I understand that I write from a place of extreme privilege. I know most people don’t have the choices I have. My point is, nowadays, since there is a pandemic, one really does take his or her life in their hands when one uses public transportation. City transportation experts should probably consider that, and act and change accordingly.

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