Reporting, Recording and Relaying - But Always Telling It As I See It

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Renting A Car - A Study In Complexity

On a recent family trip to Massachusetts for a wedding, I had the real pleasure of renting a car at the airport. If there is a more complicated transaction on the planet, I am unaware of it. Two people in line at a fast food restaurant can constitute a minute or two wait, two people in line at a car rental company means you better hit the restroom, because you are going nowhere fast.

When I finally was called to the counter by the helpful and eager employee, he asked for my name. “David Meyer,” I said, and then I spelled it, “M-E-Y-E-R.” I did this because it forty-one years, no one has spelled it correctly the first time – being it is so complicated I guess. The most common mistakes are adding and “s” or forgetting an “e”.

Anyone that possesses basic math skills understands there are ten letters in David Meyer. Why is it then that the agent appears to have to program each letter individually starting from the original Sanskrit in order to find my reservation? To replicate this, randomly punch keys on your keyboard for five seconds as quickly as possible. There, you just entered, “M.”

After this, you begin the delightful insurance up-sell. You can be insured for: collision, body damage, body fluid, sexting while driving and anthrax. Wish to decline the coverage? Not a problem, just finish that steak dinner while the agent keys that in.

By this time, my wife has finished her Christmas shopping and we see the bride and groom – they have returned from their honeymoon.

After I sign and initial in enough places that the agent has placed a box of pens on the counter, we have to wind our way to the second rental counter – which is somewhere in North Dakota. Here I get to examine a car in a darkened garage for scratches. Unless the previous renter was involved in a game of hide the drive train with a locomotive, it looks just fine with me – declined insurance be damned. By this time, I would be happy to rent the family truckster from the movie Vacation if it means I can get on the road before we have to catch our return flight.

When we finally load up, I need to turn on the headlights. This means that I have to turn on the windshield wipers, air conditioning, open the sun roof, and engage the hydraulics – everything before I find the correct switch.

This is also about the time that I tell my wife that if we would have driven our own car, we would already be in the hotel. Back at the rental counter, the agent just filed a claim for carpel tunnel.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Campaign Ads and Barnyard Animals.

In Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail, Hunter Thompson’s book on the 1972 presidential election, he relates a story from the 1968 presidential campaign where Lyndon Johnson told his manager to “start a massive rumor campaign about his opponent’s lifelong habit of enjoying carnal knowledge of his own barnyard sows.” The manager protests that no one would believe that his opponent was a “pig fucker”. To this, Johnson replied, “I know, but let the sonofabitch deny it!”

So here we are in 2010, with everyone still denying they fuck pigs. Of course, “fuck pigs” is a euphemism for any of the following: stimulus money, Obama, Pelosi, masturbation, gay rights, Afghanistan, taxes, war on terror, Guantanamo Bay, BP, lobbyists, renewable energy, jobs, whatever. In 2010, your affiliation, real or imagined, with anything makes you a target – or rather – leaves you denying something. I am starting to think that if you run for political office, fucking pigs may be the least of your concerns.

My kids have become very astute, as twelve year olds are, at knowing what sucks. High on their list these days are professional athletes and politicians. So when Chris asked me the other day, “Why are all these commercials only about what the other guy did? Why don’t they ever say what they are going to do?” I was tempted to answer, “Well son, because politicians would rather make the other guy deny he fucks pigs.”

Of course, I didn’t say that. On the other hand, I was left giving him some other bullshit answer that sounded, again, like I was trying to explain away the pathetic behavior of adults.

I do believe that people who enter politics generally do so for the right reason. They choose that vocation out of a desire for public service and probably believe that they can help change things. Then, they get elected. The sucking sound they hear is their values. Before long they are swept into the wide vortex of ducking for political cover, alliances of dubious origin and the sweatshop factory of party politics.

Ever think that one of the reasons there can be so much resistance in some countries to a democratically elected government is not because of money or tyranny, but maybe they can’t bear the thought of campaign ads? I may be willing to give up my right to vote in exchange for not listening to months of how someone’s political opponent voted against, before they voted for, a bill that provided funding for an ant farm renewable energy bill that sent jobs overseas while raising the middle class tax rate to cut offshore drilling and increase bank regulation – all for their “friends on Wall and Main Street.”

Okay, I will not give up my right to vote. But I am still waiting for the year when I look forward to voting someone it, not voting someone out. Oink, oink.