mental health, transportation, travel, true crime

The new harmful “delta variant” could also be an off duty Delta flight attendant…

We’ve been hearing about the dangerous “delta variant” of the coronavirus. On Friday, June 11th, 2021, another dangerous “Delta” variant emerged. In this case, it wasn’t a virus that was causing havoc. It was yet another passenger on a transcontinental Delta flight. And this particular “disruptive” passenger wasn’t just any rank and file person; it was an off duty Delta flight attendant.

A couple of days ago, I heard about the scary Delta flight that was forced to divert to Oklahoma City due to an “unruly” passenger. The flight, which had taken off from Los Angeles and was bound for Atlanta, went awry when the off duty Delta flight attendant apparently lost his shit mid flight. According to news reports, the unidentified passenger got on the intercom and told passengers to take their seats and prepare to use the oxygen masks. He reportedly attacked two flight attendants and threatened to bring down the plane. Naturally, that made people pretty tense. Next thing everyone knew, the captain made a request for “strong males” to help restrain a problem passenger.

In a widely circulated video, the aggressive passenger’s screams can be heard as several large men wearing face masks tackle him to the ground. A flight attendant asks everyone to take their seats so the man– likely now a former colleague– can be properly restrained.

Scary!

No one was injured in this incident. After the plane landed in Oklahoma City, law enforcement removed him and took him to a hospital. He was also questioned by the FBI. It’s being said that the flight attendant has “mental health issues”. Gee… you think?

This dude needs a medic!

Many people are reacting to this crisis by suggesting huge fines, lifetime bans, and jail time for passengers that freak out on planes. They reason that the reason there’s been a huge uptick in violent behavior on airplanes is because people are just “brats” who need to be punished. But I watched that video involving the guy on the Delta flight. To me, it looks like he has a mental illness. I doubt very seriously that the threat of a huge fine, imprisonment, or a ban on future flights would have prevented his outburst. Something is clearly medically wrong with him. He needs help from a competent psychiatrist, not a jail sentence or a fine.

Think about this. This guy was a flight attendant for Delta. He was probably on his way to work. Flight attendants often take “deadhead” flights to commute to their assignments if they don’t happen to live in the city where the flight originates. Maybe the guy lives in Los Angeles and had to work a flight originating in Atlanta. Or maybe he was on his way home after working.

The fact that the guy was a Delta flight attendant means he went through eight weeks of rigorous training. According to a 2018 era CNBC article, each year, over 100,000 apply to become Delta flight attendants, and less than one percent get hired. So that means he must have had something good going for him prior to that terrible flight during which he, hopefully temporarily, lost his marbles.

Double that in 2020 and 2021!

I have read that many flight attendants are on the edge of insanity right now, thanks to the huge increase of “unruly passenger incidents” over the past few months. Let’s face it. The events of the past five years have been unprecedented. I remember in 2016, I shared the above photo on social media. In 2021, I look at that photo about how “awful” 2016 was, and realize that we had no idea of what was coming. Seriously… the past five years have been an unprecedented shit show for a lot of people. Many folks who would ordinarily be perfectly calm, normal, law abiding citizens are losing their shit on a daily basis!

According to the Washington Post article I just posted:

The Federal Aviation Administration told The Washington Post this week that it has received about 2,900 reports of unruly passenger behavior since Jan. 1. Roughly 2,200 of those involved passengers who would not comply with the federal mandate to wear a face covering. The agency identified potential violations in 446 of those cases and has started enforcement action in 42.

Those numbers have grown over the past couple of weeks: When the FAA last released an update on May 24, it had gotten 2,500 reports of bad behavior with about 1,900 involving masks. The agency has not tracked the number of such reports from airlines in past years, but it said it investigated a total of 1,548 unruly passenger cases between 2010 and 2020.

Flight attendants are human too, and they are dealing with unprecedented violence and hostility from stressed out passengers. Is it any wonder that some of them are now dealing with mental health problems?

So… since January 1, 2021, there have been 2900 reports of “unruly passenger behavior”. Prior to that, from 2010-2020, there were 1,548 reports of “unruly passenger behavior”. That means that in just five months, there have been twice as many “unruly passengers” flying than in the ten years before! That is a HUGE increase.

This phenomenon can’t be happening because every single “unruly passenger” is an unlawful asshole who needs to be straightened out with fines, jail time, and a lifetime ban from flights. People are unusually stressed out and some are legitimately mentally ill. Thanks to the pandemic, it’s much more difficult for those people to access the mental healthcare they need.

Moreover, consider what a pain in the ass flying is even when times are normal. Airports are often busy, stressful places with crowds, noise, and standing in line. Now, everybody has to do that with a face mask on, and increased scrutiny and intolerance from others. I know a lot of people don’t think the masks are a big deal, but the evidence shows that not everyone feels that way. Those people, like it or not, are clearly demanding to be heard.

I have mentioned that I have no desire whatsoever to fly right now. Before the pandemic, we had to contend with high ticket prices, tight seats, inconsiderate recliners, seat kickers, bad food, delays, crowds, and uptight security agents. Now, it seems like there are a lot of people who resent the COVID-19 rules, and a lot of people who are extremely neurotic and hyper-vigilant and demanding about enforcing the rules. Some people are calling for “zero tolerance” rules, which means that every rule violator gets treated the same, regardless of why they are violating the rules. That leads to even more stress than there was before.

Could it be that the Delta flight attendant was possibly dealing with the aftereffects of his very stressful job– a job in which many of his colleagues report increased disrespect and abuse from angry and stressed out passengers? If he also has an organic psychiatric problem, especially if it was untreated, that would only add to the stress. Was he on some kind of medication that he missed? Did he have a psychotic break of some kind? Having watched the video, I can’t agree that he was just someone who was acting like an asshole. He looks like he’s seriously mentally ill. If that’s the case, he has a medical problem, and should be treated as such. We should have some compassion for him instead of insults.

After I read one too many comments about how the airlines need to make things even stricter and more unpleasant for everyone, I had to leave one of my own. I wrote that I didn’t think someone with a mental illness was going to stop and think about zero tolerance policies or onerous consequences before acting out. So those measures won’t do any good. People who are mentally healthy are likely to be cooperative anyway. People who are mentally ill might not be able to help themselves when they freak out.

We wouldn’t punish someone for having a heart attack or a seizure on an airplane, would we? So why would we take those actions when someone has a psychiatric emergency? Psychiatric problems are medical problems, too, and they can often be fixed with medication. I know this from personal experience. The Delta flight attendant who went nuts the other day may be right as rain if he gets appropriate treatment. So why would we ban him from flying for life if all he might need is medical treatment?

Now… if it turns out he was drunk or high or was just being an uncooperative jerk… or he was actually expressing premeditated intentions to hurt people by bringing weapons on the plane– okay. Those people should be punished. There are a lot of inconsiderate assholes out there who probably should be sanctioned. But in this case, I think I’d like to know more about what happened before I would call for a lifetime ban on flying, huge fines, or jail time. If this guy has a mental illness, jail will not help him or society, anyway.

Here’s something else that people may not be considering when they suggest lifetime flying bans. This guy– once a trained Delta flight attendant– must have been normal at some point. Consider that by banning him, the airlines are also going to be banning anyone close to him. I don’t know a thing about this guy’s family situation, but do you think that if Delta bans him, his significant others or children will choose to fly Delta? What about supportive friends and extended family members and their immediate families? That’s a lot of potentially missed revenue for the airlines, and if every single unruly passenger is banned from flying, it could have a serious negative effect on business.

Of course, the counter argument is that people won’t fly unless these “unruly” types don’t get banned. But think about this… how many folks who claim they’ll never fly again are actually going to follow what happens to this man, once he’s out of the news? Maybe someone like me– I like to read follow up news about certain cases. But most people are busier with their lives than I am. They’ll forget all about this once it blows over. A lifetime ban is “forever”, though, and that could have a really serious effect on this guy’s life, even after he gets well. He may not deserve a lifetime ban.

After I wrote my comment that this appears to be a mental health issue and the flight attendant probably wouldn’t have considered the consequences before he acted, the poster to whom I had responded wrote that it would be up to the courts to decide. My response was:

“Exactly. It’s not for you or me or anyone else in the comment section to decide what the appropriate action is in this case. This man needs to be evaluated by a qualified mental health provider, not judged by the masses. Jail would not help someone with a mental health problem and appropriate treatment could make all the difference. I’m sure you would want that kind of forbearance and due process for yourself and your loved ones should you have the misfortune of being affected by a mental illness.”

I honestly doubt this man– who was employed by Delta and no doubt has no doubt felt the huge strain of the past fifteen months, particularly for flight attendants– was planning to act out on this flight. He deserves some consideration for his psychiatric medical problem, if he has one. If clear evidence emerges that he deliberately misbehaved on the flight, that’s another story. Zero tolerance rules usually make zero sense, because every situation is different.

As for me… I continue to avoid flying, if I can. I don’t want to pay for this experience. I would rather wait until things are a bit more under control and “normal”. And I hope this won’t be the “new normal”. We shouldn’t expect that it will be.

Standard
condescending twatbags, healthcare, overly helpful people

Asshole detectors…

Yesterday, I read an article on The Atlantic entitled “Are Outdoor Mask Mandates Still Necessary?” Written by Derek Thompson, this piece was exactly what it sounds like… an article about whether or not people should be forced to wear face masks when they are outside. Here in Germany, we aren’t obligated to wear a mask outdoors if we can “socially distance”. I have noticed that despite the rather anal retentive and uptight rule following stereotype that seems to dog the German people, folks here are not too jazzed about wearing masks 24/7. I never see people wearing them when I’m walking my dogs through the neighborhood, although people do wear them at bus stops because it’s required.

Thompson included statements from respected public health experts from around the world, explaining why the zero tolerance/100% enforcement attitude could backfire in getting people to comply with the rules. Thompson wrote:

Requiring that people always wear masks when they leave home, and especially in places with low levels of viral transmission, is overkill. As mentioned, the coronavirus disperses outside, posing little risk to people who are walking alone or even swiftly passing by strangers. In fact, almost all of the documented cases of outdoor transmission have involved long conversations, or face-to-face yelling. The risk calculation changes if you’re standing in a crowd: Some uneven evidence suggests that the Black Lives Matter protests last summer increased local infections. But that’s an easy carve-out. States can end blanket mandates and still recommend outdoor masking by anyone experiencing symptoms, or in crowds. (Extended conversations pose their own risk, but when people are vaccinated, the odds of viral transmission are probably somewhere between microscopic and nonexistent.)

Outdoor mask mandates might also turn people off from obeying better rules. “Given the very low risk of transmission outdoors, I think outdoor mask use, from a public-health perspective, seems arbitrary,” Muge Cevik, an infectious-disease and virology expert at the University of St. Andrews, in Scotland, told The Washington Post. “I think it affects the public’s trust and willingness to engage in much higher-yield interventions. We want people to be much more vigilant in indoor spaces.”

Makes sense to me. If I’m alone in the woods or swiftly passing someone on my walking route, I don’t think wearing a mask is as important as it would be if I was in a huge crowd of people who are shouting. Also, there are quite a lot of people who just plain resent being “nannied” and “nagged” by others. If we let people exercise their free will in less risky areas, they may be more willing to cooperate when they’re indoors. And yes, to me, it makes more sense to wear a mask when indoors with strangers than it does out on the street, when you can be far enough away from people not to risk sharing germs.

Thompson continues:

Julia Marcus, an epidemiologist at Harvard Medical School, spoke with several male mask skeptics last year for a piece in The Atlantic. When she explained that masking wasn’t as important outdoors, the men became more amenable to wearing them indoors. By connecting rules to reasons, she got them to see the value of covering their nose and mouth when it actually mattered. Last week, Marcus told me that she’s baffled by the notion that the best way to get people to wear masks inside is to mandate that everybody wear one when they’re alone outside. “We don’t recommend condom use when people are enjoying themselves alone to get them to wear condoms with their sexual partners,” she said.

The argument that outdoor mask mandates create a warm and fuzzy feeling of social solidarity confuses a personal definition of etiquette (“I think my mask makes everybody feel safe”) with a public defense of population-wide laws (“everybody should wear a mask everywhere, because it’s the only way to make everybody feel safe). Masks send all sorts of messages to all sorts of different people. To some, they’re beacons of safety; to others, they’re signs of imperious government overreach. As Marcus argued, mandating a public-health tool that’s not needed can drive away people who might otherwise be on board with more important interventions. “I think there’s a proportion of the population that believes restrictions will last indefinitely,” Marcus said, “and they are probably one of the hardest groups to keep engaged in public-health efforts.”

And I also liked that Thompson considered that not everyone has the same reality. A lot of people– myself included– are lucky enough to have backyards or balconies. But many more people are not so fortunate. In our previous house, we lived next to a large naturepark. But we didn’t have balconies or a yard with a functional fence, where we could let the dogs out free. The fence at our last house was more of a decoration, and would not have allowed us to safely sit outside with the dogs untethered. I know a lot of other people in Germany simply live in flats with no private spaces at all. As Thompson says:

Finally, mandating outdoor masks and closing public areas makes a show of “taking the virus seriously” while doing nothing to reduce indoor spread, in a way that often hurts the less fortunate. To deal with its COVID-19 spike, for example, the Canadian province of Ontario instituted a stay-at-home order and closed many parks and playgrounds. “These policies are made by people who have yards,” Marcus said. “If you live in an apartment building and have no yard, and are required to wear masks at all times outdoors, you never get to be maskless outside. And then, where do people gather maskless to socialize? Inside their homes”—where the risk of transmission is higher.

I thought Thompson’s article was fair and balanced, and the information within it was reasonable. I especially appreciated the comments from Julia Marcus, who came right out and said that there are people (like me) who worry that the mask mandates will turn into an indefinite rule. Allowing for some easing of the rules outside gives people hope that we won’t have to tolerate these rules forever, and that will make it easier to keep being vigilant. A lot of us just PLAIN don’t want to live this way for the rest of our lives, and we resent other people insisting that this is the way it HAS to be from now on. The fact is, many people feel that this is NOT how it should be. We should be working hard on a solution that makes mask wearing obsolete for most people. Or, at least that’s my opinion… but it seems like more and more people, especially in the United States, feel like only one opinion is the correct one. Anyone who disagrees is automatically an “asshole.”

One thing I take comfort in, at least here in Germany, is that it’s pretty obvious to me that people here are not going to accept being forced to wear face masks forever. In fact, I have noticed that even rule loving Germans are starting to rebel. There have been more protests lately, especially as Angela Merkel has pressed for stricter lockdowns. People are really getting tired of the crisis and they’re becoming more apathetic and lax.

I know there are people in some countries that are forced to wear veils whenever they are outside, but the rest of the world isn’t the Islamic world, where those kinds of oppressive rules are okay. And Thompson then ends with this uplifting conclusion:

Hyper-neuroticism is a mitzvah during a pandemic. But we really don’t have to live like this forever, and it’s okay for more people to say so. We can learn to look at a well-populated beach and not see a gross failure of human morality. We can see somebody unmasked in a park and not think, I guess that one doesn’t believe in science. We can walk down an uncrowded street with a mask, or without a mask, or with a mask sort of hanging from our chin, and just not really worry about it. We can reduce unnecessary private anxiety and unhelpful public shame by thinking for a few seconds about how the coronavirus actually works and how to finally end the pandemic. Let’s tell people the truth and trust that they can take it. Let’s plan for the end of outdoor mask mandates.

BRAVO! And let that be the FIRST step in eventually ending ALL mask mandates, because COVID-19 will be under control, like most infectious diseases usually become after time passes and science advances. Or, at least that’s what I think we should be aiming for. That’s what makes the masks different from seatbelts, which I don’t think we’ll ever get rid of, at least in my lifetime.

I felt pretty good as I read Derek Thompson’s article. But as I finished reading about how there’s a weird dichotomy between hyper-neurotic mask police types and vehement anti-maskers, I had sinking feeling that there would be tons of comments left on the magazine’s Facebook page. Sure enough, I was right. So many people, clearly folks who didn’t bother to read, left comments regarding this article. And one person wrote that non-maskers are his personal form of an “asshole detector”. Behold:

At this point I think of them less as masks and more as asshole detectors. Even if the chances are small, it’s the very least you can do for your fellow man. How damned privileged is our society that this is a hot button issue? If it happens to save even a few extra lives, it’s worth it. Buck up buttercups.

Seriously, dude? I think YOU are an asshole for taking this attitude toward your fellow man, especially as you pat yourself on the back for being so “considerate” as you judge people you don’t even know. And I think people who comment on things they haven’t read are assholes, adding unnecessary and uninformed noise that everybody else has to wade through.

and…

I live in southern Georgia and literally no one wears masks in stores, etc. All asshole behavior. I literally got into a verbal argument with a man that refused to stand on the 6 ft marker on floor in grocery store check out line. No mask. Even the clerk was like, “Sir, stand back!” It’s like the non-maskers get off on being a bully.

Why get in an argument with someone? Just get away from them. Arguing with a stranger is “asshole behavior” too, isn’t it?

There were more comments like that, along with the usual chorus of people writing things like “just wear the damn mask”, which I find pretty offensive, myself. I don’t think it helps compliance when you swear at people. In fact, people who swear at perfect strangers are probably assholes, right? I actually feel like telling them to go fuck themselves, but because I’m a lady, I don’t do that. 😉 Instead, I just think it to myself… and if I get angry enough, I vent about it in my blog.

I mean, I do wear a mask if I have to. But I go out of my way not to be in situations where I have to wear a mask, or deal with assholes who take it upon themselves to determine what perfect strangers are or are not doing as “asshole detectors”. Here’s one that made me laugh…

But it doesn’t matter. Wear the mask. It’s not an inconvenience in any way. It’s the least difficult thing that has ever been asked of us to do collectively. Articles like this only lend credence to selfish, broken people. Wear the mask until the pandemic is over. Simple. And until then, STFU.

Dude… to some people, it truly IS an inconvenience. You may not think it is, but they do– and they get an opinion and a vote, too! And telling someone to STFU, sorry, is also “asshole behavior”. You don’t get to tell people to STFU, simply because you claim to agree with the opinions of “experts” and you assume they don’t. There are all kinds of people out there who really are experts, and most of them have more balanced, fair, informed, and sensible opinions than yours. This lady had a sensible comment, in my opinion…

As a biologist, I can confirm that masking while outside was only suggested if you would be less than six feet from others (the transmission distance for errant coughs, sneezes or loud talking); it was never required by science to mask all the time outside. I carry or wear it and put up/on as I approach others on a path etc. ps I would warn against dining inside until one is vaccinated: the author’s point about the indoors being highest risk is valid.

And this guy also has reasonable thoughts, in my view…

I agree with this. The problem with outdoor mask mandates with fines for noncompliance is it becomes something law enforcement can selectively enforce. Look at what Miami was doing. They passed an ordinance that said everyone had to wear a mask at all times indoors or outdoors even when social distancing is possible. Miami police basically set up mask traps and stood outside supermarkets just waiting for people to come out of the store and take the mask off or wear it under their nose so they could ticket them. A woman was walking through an empty parking lot without a mask and was ticketed. Someone was in a barbershop and pulled his mask down for a few seconds to take a drink of water and a police officer happened to be walking by and that person was ticketed. I think a reasonable person would agree that this enforcement was overreach. I get the seriousness of the virus, but you have to give people a little breathing room. If a person is walking in an empty parking lot or on a back residential street and is not wearing a mask, but has a mask with them in case he or she comes to a situation where he or she can’t socially distance, then I don’t see the problem.

Sounds to me like Miami has found a great way to fill its coffers by oppressively fining people over mask wearing. Glad I don’t live there, especially as hot as it gets.

It baffles me that so many people have gone to such extremes on this issue. It should be perfectly okay to hate wearing a face mask. It should be okay to say it out loud, and hope for the mandates to end at some point. It should be alright to expect and fervently hope that we’ll get to a point at which this nightmare is either ended or mitigated. Otherwise, why go on living? I HATE living this way, and I don’t have it as bad as a whole lot of people do. Telling people that they don’t have the right to their feelings is toxic, and labeling them as “assholes” because you make assumptions about their character based on their masking habits is extremely limiting and offensive. Obviously, people who feel this way about other people are assholes themselves. Are there really people out there who think the whole world should be expected to accept living like this from now on? It blows my mind! As long as people are complying, what’s it to you, anyway?

I particularly love it when people compare mask wearing to wearing a seatbelt, or they compare going outside maskless with drunk or reckless driving. It’s absolute lunacy. I think, if seeing someone’s bare face outside in a sparsely populated area makes you compare them to drunk drivers or reckless people, you should simply do your best to avoid them. That’s what I do when I see someone on the road who drives erratically. I let them go ahead and get away from them. I don’t fan the flames by flipping them off or cursing at them through my window. Doing that in Germany can get you a pretty stiff fine, actually. It’s against the law to insult people or shoot the bird at them. Seems like doing one’s best to avoid problems is the better way to get through life. But… that’s just me.

Sigh… I really think Derek Thompson’s article is a good one. It gave me hope to read it. And, if people had taken the time to read it, they’d find that he consulted “experts” before he shared his thoughts. He’s quoted a Harvard educated epidemiologist, for Christ’s sakes, yet so many people feel the need to claim that Thompson is being “irresponsible” by giving people hope that things will get better! I would certainly listen to Julia Marcus of Harvard Medical School talking about COVID-19 and mask wearing than I would some jerk commenting on The Atlantic’s Facebook page.

Anyway… if you read all of this blog post and don’t think it’s an “asshole detector”, I thank you. I really think these hyper-vigilant, hyper-neurotic, nagging mask cheerleaders are how we wind up with right wing nutjobs like Marjorie Taylor Greene and straight up narcissistic creeps like Donald Trump in charge. There needs to be balance in all things… and that includes mask mandates. But maybe I’m just an asshole who needs to STFU. If you honestly think that about me, I hope you will take it as a cue to find someone else’s blog to read. 😉

Standard
complaints, modern problems

The obligatory disclaimer…

I have noticed in recent years, that people are becoming less willing to make a statement without adding a qualifying disclaimer. This trend has become especially noticeable in the wake of the pandemic. Someone shares a fun experience they had with friends, for instance, and they add “but we were all masked and ‘socially distanced’, of course!” Or, say someone goes on a vacation and shares pictures, adding “these were all taken before COVID-19”. There are other examples that don’t involve the virus, but since that’s on most everyone’s minds these days, they’re the examples that stand out the most to me.

To be honest, I find these “disclaimers” irritating, although I understand why people add them. It’s because they don’t want someone to get the wrong idea and leave a nasty comment. Or they don’t want to come off as irresponsible or uncaring. The most expedient way to avoid being dressed down by a busybody is to preemptively state the conditions that led to situation that may somehow seem wrong or illegal.

Because I can be contrary and stubborn, I sometimes feel the need to buck this trend. I say “sometimes”, because there are times when I do add a disclaimer, particularly when I’m blogging. Sometimes I write about things that might be distressing or triggering, or I’m in an especially foul mood and have included more profanity in a post than usual. At that point, you might find a disclaimer that warns you to move on from my blog if you can’t deal with it. Despite what some people seem to think, I really don’t want to offend people.

But when it’s someone who’s on Facebook or Twitter, and they’ve shared a photo with friends at the beach, sitting at a cafe, or riding in the car, where not everyone is behaving “safely”, I must admit it’s annoying to read a preemptive disclaimer. And it’s annoying not so much because the person posted the explanation, but more because there’s always one in every crowd– that person who feels the need to take people to task for simply living their lives. Sometimes, the buttinsky is nice about calling the person out, but in many cases they’re rude, and have jumped to conclusions.

Last October, Jason Aldean got a bunch of shit for posting a picture of his family at Walt Disney World. The singer and his wife, Brittany, took their son Memphis, and daughters, Kendyl, Keeley, and Navy to the park to have some pandemic style fun. Aldean captioned the photo with “There is Nothing like seeing ur kids faces when u walk in that place.” Frankly, I am a lot more annoyed by the poorly constructed sentence than the maskless faces that appeared in the photo.

Lots of fans felt the need to comment and shame, based on that picture. One lady wrote, “Wtf are your masks? Everyone is required to wear them? WTH who do you think you are? I’ll never buy your music ever!!!” she wrote.

Seriously… why would she assume Aldean wasn’t following the rules, just based on a photo? Aldean, to his credit responded with, “Chill out lady. They are in our pocket. We took them off for 5 seconds to take the pic. Believe me, Disney didn’t give us a ‘free pass’ not to wear them. We had them on all day just like everybody else.”

Aldean then wrote “just enjoy the picture” and to “stop over analyzing.” The photo and comments were deleted, but it was mentioned in the article that Aldean’s second-oldest daughter, Kendyl, was clutching a mask.

But you see? That’s exactly the behavior I mean. Celebrities, in particular, get a lot of flak for not setting the right example. So, when they do something normal, like hit a Disney park for some rest and relaxation, they have to be careful to share photos in which they appear to be following the rules. Otherwise, they get confronted by busybodies who like nothing better than taking them to task. But again– it’s the busybodies who prompt people to issue disclaimers.

Aldean obviously didn’t think he needed to explain what was normal behavior in early 2020. He probably never dreamed someone would lose their shit over his decision to take a photo without a mask. But people do, and that means people feel the need to preemptively explain themselves. Indeed, Aldean’s wife shared the same photo, but added the disclaimer “Only took masks off for pic.”

Personally, I think people should give others the benefit of the doubt. I would assume, for instance, that people who share a photo from 2021 in which no one is masked, simply took the mask off for the photo. Some people don’t want to be masked when they’re having a picture taken; they want to be able to see faces. I don’t think they should feel the need to explain themselves for having that wish. I like to assume most of the people I know are adults who are capable of living their lives without my input. I would hope they’d feel the same way about me. I shouldn’t have to don a face mask in a photo just to show everyone else how compliant I am and avoid being given a ration of shit online. Why take a smiling photo if your face is going to be covered? This isn’t America’s Next Top Model, and I don’t have a gift for “smizing”. And I don’t necessarily need someone else’s input about what I do in a photo during a pandemic.

I’ll bet Tyra Banks would love to do a face mask challenge today.

I think the other situation that calls for “disclaimers” is when parents share pictures of their kids doing something. It seems the most troublesome photos are the ones of kids in cars. Someone is always going to be scrutinizing how the kid is situated and noting whether or not he or she is properly restrained in a car seat. Or kids riding bikes without helmets or whatever safety equipment is popular… or kids staying home alone, or wearing makeup or heels or whatever. Someone is going to have some kind of comment or criticism. The poster has to either include an explanation or deal with the fallout.

I noticed the “disclaimer” habit a long time ago, but the pandemic has made that practice exponentially more common. Fortunately, I hate having my picture taken, so I almost never post photos of myself with or without a mask. And again, I spend most of my time at home, away from anyone who could post a picture of me not doing “the right thing”.

I’m finding that as time goes on, I have less and less patience for strangers and their opinions. For example, last night, a long-time friend of mine from college posted a picture of Trump with the caption “Miss me yet?” He posted that he did miss Trump. I responded that Trump is a rapist and a malignant narcissist who makes my skin crawl. A friend of his gave me a laughing emoji, which told me all I needed to know about her. I decided to block her. Maybe that seems extreme, but I realized that she obviously thinks sexual assault by men in power is funny, and therefore isn’t worthy of my attention. Donald Trump has repeatedly and freely admitted to assaulting and molesting women. He’s even BRAGGED about it, for Christ’s sake. And countless women have come forward to reveal what a depraved, dishonorable, and disgusting person he is. I believe their stories, because Trump himself has outright stated how he feels about women. I think his unabashed, public comments about how he treats women were reason enough to make him unsuitable to be president.

A woman who finds it humorous that another woman thinks Trump is repulsive for harassing women is not someone I want to get to know. That doesn’t mean I wish her ill, or anything. She could be a wonderful person. I’m sure my friend has a good reason for being friends with her. But the chances that I’ll ever meet her in person are practically nil, and she’s made it plain that she likes Trump no matter what, and doesn’t want to hear why people like me can’t stand him. So we don’t need to interact on social media. She doesn’t need to read my “hilarious” comments, and I don’t need to see her inappropriate reactions. Neither of us needs the raised blood pressure readings.

Sadly, although I’ve known our mutual friend for over 30 years, I’m beginning to lose patience with him, too. He doesn’t have a problem voting for a man who would happily molest his sister, his niece, or a female friend of his. Thinking Trump’s terrible behavior is okay says a lot about a person’s character, or lack thereof. I made a promise to myself not to break up friendships solely due to politics. I truly do think people should vote their consciences. But my problems with Trump have little to do with his being a member of the Republican Party (which is not the Republican Party of my youth). They have to do with him being a vile, contemptible, human being who takes pleasure in degrading and debasing other people. I think people who wholeheartedly support that, politics aside, are probably folks with whom I should think twice about associating.

But for now, we’re still friends. I’m just not following him anymore.



Standard
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.

Standard
Bill, family

Life… and death… goes on.

Today is the 18th anniversary of my marriage to Bill. We usually take trips for our anniversary. This year we couldn’t go anywhere because of COVID-19. Bill went to work because there’s a big project he’s working on. I’m reminded that last year, he had a TDY that started the day after our anniversary. I went with him on that trip, because it was to Wroclaw, Poland, and Wroclaw is a neat town. That was before the pandemic radically changed everything.

A week ago, we learned of Bill’s dad’s passing. Bill was already dressed and ready to go to work when he found out about it. I told him he needed to tell his co-workers that he wasn’t coming in. That was a good decision, since he did need some time to process the news and the fact that we were not going to be able to go to Tennessee for the funeral. A few days ago, a relative sent Bill a picture of his father in his casket. He had said he’d wanted to see the photo, but I think it was a shock to see his dad laid out like that… not looking like the man he knew. Part of it might have been because he’d been very sick, and part might have been that when someone’s soul leaves their body, the body simply turns into a shell of what it once was.

The news about Bill’s dad came less than a month after my cousin lost his husband to liver cancer. And it came a week before I found out my cousin, Karen, passed away from colon cancer. I wasn’t very close to Karen, although we had some things in common. Like me, she was a musical person. Like me, she loved visiting our grandmother’s house in Natural Bridge, Virginia. But she was much more religious than I am and we had very different political views. She was also significantly older and lived in a different state. I never got to know her as well as I might have, although her presence in our family was one of great prominence. She was the eldest grandchild on both sides of her family, and very much a leader among us. By contrast, I am one of the youngest grandchildren on my dad’s side and the youngest on my mom’s side (which consists of my three sisters and my cousin Sue).

2020 has really been a surreal year so far. It started off fine. We visited France three times between Christmas 2019 and February 2020. Bill’s mom came to visit, and he went to the States for business and found time to stop in Utah to finally see his daughter, her husband, and his two grandchildren. It was the first time he’d seen Catherine since 2004, when she was just eleven years old. She’s now grown into a beautiful, thoughtful, and kind young woman. As much as I complained about the Mormons over the years, I am grateful there were good people in the church who helped her escape her mother and launch a more normal life. Obviously, she had some good role models to emulate. And it was such a joy for Bill to see her and meet her family. It had been fifteen long years, and clearly, they have missed each other so much. It took awhile, but we finally learned that we weren’t in the Twilight Zone, after all. ‘Nuff said about that.

Then the pandemic struck, just as Bill was returning from that trip. Everything changed. Bill had to work from home. We tried to adopt a dog, only to have it escape its transport on the way to us and get hit by a car. We sued our former landlady, and Bill got asked to be a witness in a lawsuit. We did some traveling, but it was a different mood, with constant worry about masking and personal hygiene and not getting sick. And then we adopted Noyzi, the street dog from Kosovo, who has stolen our hearts.

It hasn’t been all bad. There have been some unexpected moments of joy as we’ve adapted to this depressing pandemic experience. I’ve loved having more time with my husband, who isn’t able to jet off to faraway places for work right now. We’ve been eating more meals at home, although I do really miss getting dressed up and going places. I’ve loved getting to know Noyzi, who amazes us every day as he adapts to life as a pet in Germany rather than one of many dogs in a group home in Kosovo.

I would have liked to have gone somewhere special to celebrate our special day today. The last 18 years have flown by, and we’re still happy together. But it’s not a bad thing to be home, safe and well, and enjoying the company of Arran and Noyzi. I didn’t expect to suddenly lose three relatives within a span of a few weeks, though. It really makes one stop and think how fleeting and fragile life can be.

Well… I think I’ll take the opportunity to make some music today. Maybe someone will like it. Maybe someone won’t. But at least it’ll keep me out of trouble. And I expect Bill will bring home some bubbly for tonight.

Edited to add… this was our wedding song and I somehow never did it for YouTube. So here it is…
Standard