Category: complaints

The End of Fun

I’m always pretty down the day after Martin Luther King Day. Why? Because it’s official: the fun season is over. Sure, there are some things still to look forward to. Groundhog Day is coming. The Oscars are at the end of next month. But those are small islands of fun in a vast empty sea of Routine.

Each year, I’m ecstatic when September rolls around. It means we’re approaching my favorite stretch of the year: September to Mid-January. And each mid-January (today), I’m just . . . bummed. Because that favorite stretch is now over, and it won’t be back for 9 months. This year seems to be worse than normal, because I also decided to take a break from the no-sugar rule and the diet over the holidays. Each day after New Years, I’ve been telling myself that I need to start those up again. And that resolution lasts for a day or two (or maybe an hour or two), but then it gets broken. Again. And again. And even before that, it was a super fun season, since there was a Disney vacation involved. The higher the highs, the lower the lows.

I think I’ve been trying to pretend this day wasn’t really coming. That the holidays hadn’t ended. But like all good things, they’ve finally come to a close.

So here I am. Kind of counting down the days until September again, and trying to look on the bright side. I live in Maine. Summer isn’t that hot, right? (Yes. Even in the middle of January, I still much prefer winter to summer. That’s just how I roll, folks.)

What’s your favorite time of the year? What’s your least favorite?

The Double-Edged Sword of Social Platforms

I’m fairly present online. I write this blog every day, I keep track of what my friends are up to on Facebook and Twitter, I scan the news reports as they come out. I consider myself to be pretty “plugged in.” (Sometimes I wish I wasn’t so plugged in at all.)

But one thing that I’ve noticed more and more is just how often we’re upset about things online. (And yes, I note the irony of me writing an upset post about other people being upset all the time. I’m not really upset this time. Just observing something and wanting to get the thoughts down on paper.) I mean, when I go through my Facebook feed, I see a lot of the same things pop up again and again: vacation pics, family pics, life updates, and then a whole slew of outrage.

Outrage over the Democrats. Outrage over the Republicans. Yelling about needing to end Obamacare and about needing to extend it. Outrage about Columbus. Outrage about people who are outraged about Columbus. If you can think of it, then I almost guarantee someone’s upset about it *right this instant* somewhere online.

I’ve certainly contributed more than my fair share to this stream of upsettedness. (Though I’d like to think that writing in-depth blog posts about something at least contributes more to the discussion than slapping a meme on my Facebook page, I realize that we all have different ways of interacting, and it’s not for me to say that someone else’s way is better or worse than my own.) And when I take a moment to step back, I have to wonder if any of it is worth it, or if it’s all like American Idol.

I used to follow American Idol faithfully. I watched every broadcast, from the start to the finish. I would talk to friends about who I wanted to win, and express outrage (there’s that word again) when something didn’t go as I thought it should. I enjoyed the show.

And then I stopped watching.

And you know what? I didn’t miss it at all. Everything that had seemed so important while I was watching it just ended up being . . . not. Who cared who won the next season? I didn’t listen to their music anyway. What did it matter if there was another “scandal”? None of it mattered. And in the end, I think (most of us) can agree that American Idol really didn’t matter. (Sorry, Clay Aiken.)

So is all this social media outrage the same thing? Is it nothing more than a bunch of us yelling about things into an echo chamber? Sometimes it can feel that way, especially when I see stories pop up again months after I first saw them. (It makes me wonder how these things spread–from friend to friend to friend, in a ever-repeating loop? Will we still be seeing warnings about Facebook charging fees decades from now?)

I’m not saying that the issues don’t matter. Racism, sexism, abortion, gay rights, health care. All of these things certainly are important and deserve to be discussed. But is the outrage and horror that’s expressed online worth it? Does it really get anything done?

So far, I’d have to say that in general, it doesn’t. We’re all well trained to be upset about whatever there is to be upset about. Share a post. Like it. Comment on it. Then move onto the next one. But it’s like we’ve somehow confused getting upset about something for a day or two to be the equivalent of actually getting anything done. Actually making a difference.

Sometimes we’ll identify a person or persons who have particularly angered us. Who are representative of some evil we’ve identified. And the internet as a whole will tear those people to shreds. Ruin their lives. What good does that do? Anything?

I’ve seen a fair number of friends step back from Facebook or Twitter and just take a vacation from it all for a while. Almost all of them are happier away from this, from what they report when they return. That doesn’t really appeal to me, however. I enjoy these blog posts (or I wouldn’t write them.) While the outrage or thoughts I might express on them might not make a difference in the world as a whole, they certainly make a difference for me. It helps me to think things through and come to a conclusion about what I believe, and occasionally someone calls me out on an error, and I get a chance to learn I was wrong about something. I can actually change my mind.

But that’s a conversation. That’s not just yelling into the Interwebs and then moving on with your life, forgetting it all the next moment, because you’re too busy being upset about the next thing to come down the road.

This is a blog post that doesn’t seem to have a point. Drat. I suppose for me it comes down to this: social media is changing us. It’s connecting us, and dividing us in ways society hasn’t seen before. Some of that’s helpful and good. Some of it . . . not so much.

If the things you believe and say and do aren’t any different because of what you’ve seen and been exposed to online, then maybe it’s time to take a look at yourself and wonder why. Are you having conversations, or are you just nodding your head to what others are saying in a never-ending stream of agreeing-with-those-you-already-agree-with.

Deep thoughts for a Tuesday.

In Which I Pay $1,600 for Shakeology

You all know I’m on sort of a health kick (for me), right? I exercise. I don’t eat (too much) sugar. Then would it surprise you to hear that I’d recently spent $1,600 on Shakeology products? That, in fact, I’d signed up for $800 worth of Shakeology to be delivered every month?

Because it certainly surprised me.

I was sitting in my kitchen last night, going through the backlog of mail that had accumulated while we were away on vacation. Our LL Bean credit card statement was in there, so I dutifully opened it up and scanned it to make sure that–

For the love of all that’s good, why do I have a balance over $1,600?

Denisa and I love some LL Bean and all, and we had bought some backpacks there last month, but I was pretty sure the backpacks weren’t quite that expensive. The Bean can be pricey and all, but not that pricey.

“Denisa,” I asked. “Why did we spend over a grand on our Bean card?”

She was just as surprised as I was. I turned the page to see what the charges were for, and there were the lovely Shakeology purchases. $800+, recurring every month on the fourth.

Not cool.

So I called LL Bean and was speaking to a representative within a minute. They were very understanding, issued new cards to us, took off the charges, and had me fixed up and ready to go in about ten minutes. They suggested I call Shakeology and alert them as well, so I called them next.

After being on hold for a half hour, I spoke with a representative who insisted on knowing my name, zip code, and account number with them. Even after I explained I didn’t actually have an account with them, and that I wasn’t in their system. That rep had a script, by golly, and she was going to follow it no matter what. She talked over me, ignored what I had to say, and took ten minutes to figure out why I was calling.

And once she did?

“Since you don’t have an account with us, I can’t make any changes to someone else’s account.”

I blinked. “It’s my credit card. It’s under my name, with my address. I can’t stop it being used to buy stuff from you?”

Yup. That’s pretty much exactly what the story was. She did offer to send me to a different rep who might be able to look up the account by credit card, but by that point, I was done with Shakeology. I was just doing this as a favor to them, and they didn’t really seem to care. Whatever.

Long story short, my brief affair with Shakeology didn’t amount to much. I don’t have to actually pay any of that $1,600, and I was way impressed with Bean’s customer service. Real people, real help. Shakeology?

Not so much.

To the Single-Brain-Celled Organism Riding that Harley Last Night

I get it. I understand how low your self-esteem is, and how the only thing keeping you from crying every time you look at yourself in the mirror is the fact that you shelled out money on a Harley Davidson loud enough to rattle windows in a tri-county radius every time you accelerate. Typically, I try to be an understanding and compassionate person, ready to see things from someone else’s point of view. The kind of guy who gives everybody the benefit of the doubt.

But wake up my sleeping two year old with your decibel blasting idiocy, and so help me, I throw all that understanding garbage right out the window. So just for today, I’m going to tell you what I really think about you. And I’ll use moving pictures, so that you have a chance of understanding.

When you go out on your motorcycle and rev it really loud at 8:30pm, you think you come off like this:

Peter Fonda. Dennis Hopper. The open road. Epitome of cool. But you, sir, are no Peter Fonda. You’re not even a sidekick Hopper. This is what you actually look like:

That’s right. You’re Jim Carrey.

Sweating the Small Stuff

If there’s one thing I could change about me, it’s probably my tendency to stress out too much about small things that don’t really matter. (Okay, maybe that’s not the only thing I’d change, but it made for a good intro to this post.) Case in point: this last Memorial Day, Denisa and I had a cookout with the kids. The only problem? I almost never use my grill, and so I’m far from comfortable when it comes time to put it into action.

You’d figure most normal people wouldn’t be too worried about something like that. After all, it’s a private family dinner, no one else is going to be there, and if things go wrong, what’s the big deal? But I just couldn’t seem to not worry about it. Was I lighting the charcoal the right way? Was it hot enough? Were the burgers cooking right? Were they too burnt? It sounds silly to write it all now (and I felt silly for feeling that way at the time), but I was seriously getting upset about those things. To the point that I was grouchy with my family and had a hard time relaxing.

Second case in point: my dislike of flying. It’s something I know is silly. It’s something I can recognize as being unfounded. I’ve been on planes plenty of times, they’ve always gotten me where I wanted to go (sooner or later), but I just can’t seem to talk myself down from being anxious each time I know I have to fly. It takes me out of commission for the days leading up to the trip. Once I’m parked and past security, I’m usually a lot better. I don’t know why.

Both situations are facets of the same thing. I just get so worked up about things that there’s no need to be worked up about. I can mentally acknowledge it, and I can wish I were different, but I haven’t been able to actually do anything to correct it.

So I turn to you, smart friends of mine. Are there any experiences like that you have, where you know the easy solution (“just get over it”), but you can’t seem to apply it? It’s not like I let it stop me from doing things (most of the time), but I sure would appreciate it if I could figure out a way to get this part of me straightened out.


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