Tuesday, March 18, 2014

#blogpost #socialmedia #deargodmakemestop

A few weeks ago I had a dinner party at which I had a bizarre revelation.  Looking around at the faces of my friends, I cried out "Oh my GOD!  I just realized that I met all of you through social media!"  Befuddled, I pointed at them one by one.  "I reconnected with you guys on Facebook, I met you on Twitter, you three all read my blog, and I met you on Match!"*

*Yes, I'm still friends with guys I dated in the past.  I have trouble getting rid of things.

My mother believes that in the future, we will look back at the era of Facebook, Twitter, and Match.com and mark their emergence as the beginning of society's downfall.  And maybe she's right.  I mean, I have definitely met some quality people on those sites, but there's a certain level of narcissistic crazy out there as well.  Most of these sites only offer you a limited view of the person; a snapshot and "profile" of their best self along with enough posts and "likes" to make you feel like you really know them.  But you don't.  You don't KNOW them.  There is a false sense of intimacy created as we begin bonding and relating to people when in reality, what is lying below so many of those smiling timeline pictures and snappy tweets would leave you more rattled than a cocktail shaker at the Kennedy Compound.

I myself am guilty of such deception.  My Facebook page doesn't show pictures of me cleaning cat puke off of the sofa, nor do I tweet about how many times I've cried during an episode of "Hoarders".*

*Five.  Don't judge.

It's easy for people to think they know me based on what I put out on the internet but in reality, that's only one facet of who I am.  The only glaring exception is my blog.  Because, yes; if you read my blog, you know me.  You can't make this shit up, y'all.  But if you honestly believe that there are people out there Googling your name, searching your "friends" list on Facebook, and scrolling through your SoundCloud playlist in a concerted effort to get to "know" you better, then you aren't paranoid, you're perceptive.

Lately, we have become such a computer-based society that we've been driven to the confines of our homes and offices which in turn keeps us from meeting other people which THEN forces us to turn to the internet yet again in an effort to mix and mingle.  Loneliness and agoraphobia has driven more people than a taxi driver on dollar beer night, straight into the arms of the World Wide Web.  It's even permeated into our pop culture.  From Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan in "You've Got Mail" to Scarlett Johansson in "Her", modern internet romance is de rigeur.*

*Although, I'll admit I never saw "Her".  I have issues with Scarlett Johannson.  And, yes, I know she wasn't actually IN the movie, but I find the mere implication of her disturbing.

Lately, I've been thinking about my level of involvement on social media and realized that it's gone about 50 shades of 'cray'.  I check my Twitter feed more often than I check on my kids, and I treat Facebook like I do my refrigerator: I keep opening it at random intervals thinking something good will be in there...but it never is.  I have spent hours discussing and critiquing articles on the Huffington Post like I was at a NATO summit, and my browser history is crammed tighter than a Bejing subway during rush hour.  I have got to stop this insanity before I start asking my short people "How was school today, dot com?"*

*Although, if I were asking about school, it would probably be 'dot edu'; but I digress.

I don't regret the time I've spent on social media in the past.  Well, except for Pinterest; because. . .fuck you, Pinterest and your artistry of time suckage.  Because despite all of the deception, douchebaggery, and delirium, I have met some amazing people on the internet.  My fellow female bloggers have become my tribe; ones I can turn to in times of need.  I have met so many of my readers face to face and found that each and every one of them is an amazing and powerful person with their own incredible stories to share.  I've reconnected with high school friends on Facebook who are every bit as magical today as they were 20+ years ago, in part because we share a history.  My best guy friend I met on Twitter.  My best girl friend I met in a parenting chat room.  And the man I'm currently dating, I met on Match.  And no, he doesn't have any dead coeds stashed under his floorboards, nor does he appear to have any disturbing flesh wounds, so I'm declaring that a win.

So, is my mom right? Will social media ultimately destroy society as we know it, leading to an Armageddon of dystopian proportions where governments crumble and buildings burn?  Perhaps.  But at least I can toast marshmallows with my internet homies over the charred refuse of our fallen cities.  And you can't buy entertainment like that folks.

Although your iPhone probably has an app for that.



Monday, March 10, 2014

Captain Stubing Would Never Stand For This

For someone with more stamps on their passport than a Colombian drug mule, I am as loathe to leave my house as Howard Hughes during a SARS outbreak.  While my father shares my love for all things agoraphobic, my mother is a wandering gypsy at heart, and as such, my sister Holly and I have traversed the globe more times than I can fathom.  Since I became a single mom seven years ago, my travels have been limited to our vacation home in Central Oregon and the odd trip to the coast but this year my dad shocked us all by suggesting a family getaway to the Caribbean, sans short people.

Now, by and large, I am a pretty tolerant person.*

*Shut up, Mom.  I said 'by and large'.

I can commune with the general public and mingle among the unwashed masses with a relatively low level of angst, but as I came to realize this last week, a cruise ship is Ground Xenophobia for someone who does not suffer fools lightly.  On paper, our entrance to the ship seemed simple: flight...boat...fun in the sun.  Sadly, life rarely imitates that which is on paper.

It started with a red eye flight.  Anyone who has been privy to that singular joy in life knows that there ain't no party like the sleep deprivation party 'cuz the sleep deprivation party don't stop.  So my entire family was sufficiently twitchy when we emerged from Bush International Airport and clambered aboard the shuttle bus to the docks.*

*Although, flying into an airport named after one of my favorite Republicans since Lincoln filled my blackened heart with so much conservative glee.

Once we arrived, unshowered and unfed, we were all anxiously awaiting some quality nap time on the Lido deck, frosty drink in hand.  We were about to be sorely disappointed.  Many of you may have heard that a popular cruise line had a recent outbreak of the norovirus.  For those unfamiliar with the norovirus, it basically entails the projectile removal of everything you've ingested since the Reagan administration via your mouth and anus.  It is both very messy and HIGHLY contagious.  well, we just happened to be travelling on the cruise line in question. . .*

*I won't mention its name, but let's just say it rhymes with "Paribbean Crincess"

. . .and apparently they had yet ANOTHER outbreak of the turbo squirts on their last Caribbean voyage.  So, rather than curling up peacefully in our staterooms, we were herded into a holding tent with approximately 1,000 other people while the hazmat crew disinfected the Love Boat.  For four hours.  With no food or water.  And one bathroom.*

*As we were entering the holding area we heard a woman leaving the ship say "That was the worst cruise I've EVER been on!"  In retrospect, that should have been a sign; however, as she had a neck tattoo and was wearing a sleeveless Harley Davidson shirt with a glaring lack of irony, she hardly seemed like the most reputable source.

While we waited, an ebullient blonde with a megaphone and a Texas drawl kept us updated on our status which was...unmoving.  At one point, Holly and I decided to avail ourselves to the watery sunlight and venture from the tent, only to be harshly reprimanded by the Steel Magnolia with the bullhorn and, thus, chastised, we returned to the comfort of our parents. 

"This is ridiculous!"  my father muttered, pacing like a caged tiger.

My mother sighed.  "Well, there's nothing we can do."  she concluded, pulling a magazine from her tote bag.  "Just go over there and figure out how much longer we'll be here.  And don't leave your bag unattended.  And don't wander off without your boarding pass, just in case."

My father scowled affably.  "Stop telling me what to do!"  he muttered.

My mother shrugged, leafing through her copy of InStyle.  "Well," she stated "if you didn't keep screwing up all of the time, I wouldn't have to."*

*My family is magical.

However, lest you think my mother is all zen and spiritual, bear in mind that this exchange occurred a mere hour and a half into our wait.  By hour four, she was stabbier than a Manson youth at a Beatles concert.  Fortunately for the fine people of "Crincess Pruise Lines" they began slowly boarding passengers before mom released the Krakken.  And by slowly, I mean s-l-o-w-l-y.  As in twenty to thirty people at a time...alphabetically.

"OK!"  our blonde cruise leader cried, "First one up, Group A!  A is in ALOHA!"

"A as in my ass which needs to be in a lounge chair, STAT."  my sister Holly muttered.

"Next one up, Group B!  B as in Beach!"

"B as in 'Bee-yotch, please!' I had best be on that boat in five minutes."  I replied.

"Group C, everyone!  Group C as in cruise!"

"I can think of another C word."  my dad grumbled.

My mom quickly snapped to attention and continued along this vein with increasing enthusiasm.

"Group F!"

"F as in 'F. Yourself'."  my mom smirked.

"Group G!"

"G as in 'Go F. Yourself'."  she retorted.

"Group H!"

"H as in 'Hurry'!"  my mom cried, "'Hurry up and F. Yourself'!"*

*The apple doesn't fall far from the tree, y'all.

Before shit got real and my family was charged with any felonies, we were summarily escorted onto the vessel.  Happily, our staterooms were disinfected and ready.  Not so happily, although we had all handed over our luggage at 8:00am, my father was the only one with a suitcase waiting at the door when we entered at 12:30pm.

"Seriously!?!?" Holly cried, throwing her hands in the air in frustration. "I just want to take a shower!  Is it too much to ask for a change of clothes and some deodorant, for sobbing out loud?"

I flopped onto my bed, emitting an aroma of plane sweat and apathy.  "It could be worse."  I sighed.

Holly arched a perfectly groomed brow in annoyance.  "How so?" 

I thought for a moment.  "I'm not sure.  It just seemed like the right thing to say."  Then, as if the travel gods had heard my voice, as I arose to walk to the bathroom my right sandal snapped in half.  Yes, you heard me.  In.  Half.  Holly snorted in amusement.  "Well, I guess you just answered your own question, Shoeless Joe."

"Oh, holy Saint Peter in a Pop Tart!"  I cried, throwing my shoes into the trash can with a satisfying 'clang'.  "It's bad enough that I smell like the underside of a freeway offramp, now I'm barefoot on the Pestilence Cruiseline?  What's next?  Should I hang out in the casino to get cigarette smoke hair to truly complete the white trash trifecta?"

Holly sulked on the edge of her bed.  "They owe me wine for this."  she concluded gravely.  "Copious amounts of wine."  With identical sighs, we collapsed in matching sweat-stained heaps on our beds, waiting indeterminably while my mom poked her head in at regular intervals asking "Is YOUR luggage here yet?"*

*SPOILER ALERT:  The answer was 'no'.  Every.  Single.  Time.

As the hours crept by, Holly grew more and more despondent, while my hate-fire was fueled by each luggage-free moment and the "Ding DONG Ding!" of the captain's asinine and undecipherable announcements from the bridge.

"Is it the sleep deprivation or the fumes from my pit stains talking, or does our captain sound like Father Guido Sarducci?"  I mused.

"Can't. . .answer. . ." Holly whimpered from her bed.  "Must. . .bathe. . ."  Finally, with a world-weary sigh, she dragged herself to the phone beside the window and dialed the front desk.  "I'm going to ask for some robes,"  she explained, "then we can at least shower while we're waiting for our bags."  I listened as my sister calmly and with great dignity and restraint, explained our plight to the passenger services desk.  After a few moments of polite conversation she set down the phone and turned to me glumly.  "They can get us robes, but they need to charge us for them."  she said, her blue eyes beginning to shine with unshed tears.

Oh. . .no.

Just. . .HELL to the NO!

Leaping up from the bed with new-found vigor, I stormed from the stateroom as my father stepped out into the hall.

"Where are you going?"  he asked, casting a cursory glance at my bare feet.

"To Passenger Services."  I said with steely calm, only the slight quiver in my voice betraying my rage.  "It has been nine hours.  Nine.  HOURS.  We have not eaten, we have not bathed, we have not slept, and if I don't get a couple of robes and a bottle of wine for Holly in the next ten minutes I am going to storm up to the bridge and go medeival on Captain Sarducci.  Are you coming with me?"

Looking at the cloud of crazy eclipsing my features, my father shook his head and backed away slowly into his stateroom.*

*I'm pretty sure he locked the door behind him too.  Having seen me go all "Hulk, SMASH!" in the past, this was probably a prudent decision.

Bypassing the elevators, I stormed five flights down to the sixth floor where a line of disgruntled passengers was waiting in a queue to expel their vitriol at the stunned-looking service reps behind the counter.  Not be outdone, I marched to the front of the line and planted both hands firmly on the counter.

"Robes."  I said between gritted teeth.  "We need robes.  Two of them."

"Of course!"  the bubbly counter girl said.  "The charge will be..."

"Uh-uh-uh!"  I interrupted with a raise of my hand.  "We were put in a holding cell for four hours and have now been waiting for SIX hours for our luggage.  If we do not shower in the next ten to fifteen minutes I am relatively certain our clothing will spontaneously combust.  So, while we continue to wait for Luggagegate 2014 to be rectified, we need robes to bathe...robes which YOU will give to me...robes which will be free of charge.  Got it?"

Slowly, the girl's smile began to waver.  "Well, why don't you go to the dining room for a snack,"  she politely suggested "I'm SURE your luggage will be at your room when you return."

Stepping back, I stared at her incredulously and pointed to my freshly pedicured toes.  "I have no shoes.  Did you not see that?  I.  Have.  No.  Shoes.  Does that not seem like it may be an issue in the dining room?"

I watched as the girl began frantically looking around, undoubtedly determining the closest escape route.  "Is your luggage over there?"  she asked, pointing at a towering wall of suitcases in the far corner of the room.  "That's all of the luggage that has lost their tags."

Wait. . .wha-wh-WHAT!?!?

"Hold on,"  I said, approaching the counter with a terrifying calm.  "Are you telling me that there is an entire Island of Misfit Suitcases down here that no one knows about? All afternoon I've been hearing 'Ding DONG Ding! Bingo tournament at three!', 'Ding DONG Ding! Wind travelling at 50 knots!' 'Ding DONG Ding! Mai Tai specials on the Lido Deck!'  Did it never occur to you to let out a little 'Ding DONG Ding!  Your freaking luggage MIGHT just be hiding on the 6th floor!'  Now THAT sounds like an announcement that might be worth making!"

"You tell 'em, Girly!"  cried a man in line.

Leaning across the counter, I locked gazes with the young Ukrainian girl.  "Robes."  I whispered menacingly.  "Two of them.  And a bottle of wine to Baja 326.  I will expect them in the next ten minutes or I start wiping my butt on every doorknob, guardrail, and light switch on this boat.  Trust me, by this time tomorrow it'll be all norovirus up in here.  Got it?"

Nodding like a bobblehead doll, the girl scurried off to the back room in fear.  That's when I heard it.  A smattering at first, then the sound grew.  It was applause.  I turned from the counter to find the line of people behind me clapping and whistling.  Thus emboldened, I dropped a grand curtsy, and marched back up the stairs to my room, just in time to be met in the hallway by our stateroom attendant, robes and wine in his outstretched hands. Suddenly, Holly's smiling and freshly washed face poked out of our stateroom door.

"Hey, Jen, don't worry about going downstairs.  Our luggage got here right after you left!" she cried with glee.



Perhaps it was my threat of disease warfare that made the staff prioritize our suitcase request.

Perhaps it was my tirade that spurred the luggage gods into action.

Perhaps in locating our robes they located our luggage as well.

Or perhaps I'm just a horrible person.

Either way, a win is a win.