Wednesday, November 30, 2011

WTF Wednesday: Holiday Travel

WTF Wednesday is a semi-regular feature of this blog. It documents the things that have made me pause, slap my forehead and say "What the f**k!" Well, that and I just like saying WTF. I'm retired. I don't have to watch what I say anymore. I'm not any one's role model.

I got home late last night from a lovely Thanksgiving visit with my grandchildren in Austin, Texas.  There’s nothing like holiday airline travel to fuel a WTF Wednesday post!

The problem with traveling during holiday periods is that the sky is filled with amateur travelers.  Aunt Edith flying to Nebraska to spend time with her sister was last on a plane during the Nixon administration. I don’t expect every traveler to be experienced, but why can’t they pay attention to what is going on around them.  At the airport security screening in Pasco, a small regional airport with just two security lanes, a woman with six plastic tubs that had gone through X-ray stood at the exit of the machine and slowly started to put away one item at a time from her six tubs.  The line  of travelers waiting to enter security stretched to the door, but she was oblivious that no more luggage could enter the X-ray machine until she moved her baggage further along the belt. 

WTF!  My shoes and one suitcase were trapped inside the machine until she moved.  I tried to model appropriate airport courtesy by reaching around her for my shoes and moving them down the conveyor.  She never figured out that she should move all her belongings to the end of the table before stopping to reorganize.

This trip we flew United.  It is not my preferred airline.  They have an additional charge for everything.  In case of emergency if those masks fall from the ceiling, I bet United would bill you an extra $25.00 for oxygen!

It was two days before Thanksgiving and the flights were crowded, but not full.  Our first leg of the journey we flew from Pasco to Denver and had an almost four hour layover.  We ate lunch in Denver and then wandered down to our gate.  On the way we noticed another United flight going to Austin boarding.  Since we had only carry-on luggage, we thought “Hey, let’s take the earlier flight.”  We checked at the gate and seats were available, but…

WTF !!!  We had to pay an outrageous ticket change fee!   We decided to just wait for our original flight.  I don’t understand the airline’s reasoning.  The flight to Austin was ready to leave with empty seats.  Once it left the gate the opportunity for revenue was lost.  If they had let us take the empty seats, they would have had an additional opportunity to sell our original seats on a later flight.  The closer it got to Thanksgiving, the more crowded the flights become.  Doesn't it make sense to fill those early seats and have some space for the last minute travellers? 

We were flying small regional jets.  Because the spouse was traveling with me, at least I was squished into a seat with someone I know.  A definition of hell might include being strapped into a coach class seat on a cross country journey with a stranger’s damp body parts pushing against your thighs and shoulders.  On this trip the sensory assault came from the passenger in front of me who had bathed in a musky perfume.  It didn’t do much to cover the stench of stale cigarette smoke that hung in an invisible cloud around her.

United charges an additional fee for “preferred” seating.  What they consider preferred are the exit rows and the rows toward the front of the economy cabin.  You pay a premium price to not sit in the row just in front of the rest room.

Leaving from Austin on our flight home there were a lot of families with small children.  Having just spent a week with a six and a four year old, I realize that wrangling children is a challenge.  I’ve learned to always carry bribes,um…I mean small educational toys.  The only reason Nana eats a Happy meal is for the free toy that can be used as a behavior modification tool.  The parents in the Austin airport apparently didn’t believe in behavior modification.  Their children were entertained by pushing an empty stroller around and around and through the crowded waiting area.  I arranged my carry-on suitcase as a crash barrier, other waiting passengers weren’t so lucky.  The smallest child was entertained by a toy cell phone.  Every ten seconds the fake phone rang and rang and rang, and then ten seconds later it rang and rang and rang… 

WTF!  Parents, bring your damn child a SILENT toy or, here’s a novel idea, read them a book in a quiet voice.  Yes, your kids are adorable, but the rest of us aren’t interested in their cute utterances.

How quickly the glow of Thanksgiving gratitude faded once I hit the airport.  I found my usual cheery disposition turning surly.  I tried to regain a sense of thankfulness amid the irritations of travel.  Not an easy task, but as evil smelling and uncomfortable as air travel has become, I am grateful that I have the opportunity to spend the holiday with my family.  The joy of hearing my granddaughters scream “It’s Nana!   It’s Nana!” when we knock on their door makes the trip worthwhile.

I hope you all had a delightful Thanksgiving.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

What's Wrong With Us?

I haven't posted for a few weeks.  When I looked at my blog, I was surprised to see how long it actually had been since I posted anything.  I haven't  been absent from the online community, I've been reading the blogs I subscribe to, but I haven't been writing.  I've had a few topics roaming around my head, but the issue I needed to write about, I couldn't bring myself to write.  Over and over  my thoughts have been drawn to the horrible events at Penn State.  Jerry Sandusky, football defensive coordinator, is accused of raping young boys.  That by itself is horrific, but the scandal has brought down many others who are charged with not taking any action to protect the children that Sandusky preyed upon.  The abuse went on for years and those in power did nothing.  They turned a blind eye and maintained the status quo...and more children were abused.

I would like to say that I'm surprised at how those around Sandusky ignored his perverted behavior for so many years, but I've become far too cynical in my old age.  Every day, in every community, atrocities like those that happened at Penn State are going on.  What is wrong with our society that we can't protect our children?

I know that I couldn't say that something like what has happened at Penn State would never happen in my community, because it has.  It is not unusual to read in the court report in the local paper of another conviction of child molestation.  But there are also those incidents that are never reported.  And don't get me started about the fourteen and fifteen year old girls who get pregnant by older boyfriends and don't call it sexual abuse because they're "in love." 

Oregon has a mandatory reporting law that requires educators to report abuse.  There was a time when inappropriate behaviors were overlooked.  When my daughter was in high school a coach suddenly left his teaching position with the school district for "family reasons."  On Friday he was working and on Monday he was gone.  Some time later when he came up in conversation, my daughter told me he was having a relationship with a student.  It was never reported.  He still holds a teaching license. 

It was not an isolated incident, but in the fifteen years since  my daughter was in high school, we've implemented some safeguards.  Oregon now requires school officials to report investigations of inappropriate teacher behavior to the state licensing agency.  TSPC maintains a public list of teachers who have been disciplined.  It's quite an eye opening read.  Click here to visit the Oregon TSPC discipline list. 

There was a time when our society was somewhat tolerant of drunk drivers.  Our perception of that crime has changed over time.  Perhaps it's time for us to raise the awareness of child sexual abuse to the same level as drunk driving.  Our children are our future.
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