Sunday, November 15, 2015

Social Media: A Place We Can Be Everywhere Yet Nowhere.

Please bear with me; I'll try to be brief in venting my spleen.

I joined Facebook around, let's see, 2008. So therefore, I've spent 46/53 of my life not engaged in social media. Not yet Twittering or Tindring or Instagrammering... just yammering.

But now, now that I've owned an iPhone for six months, I'm a crumb concerned. I used to have to crank up the old desktop jalopy for my Facebook fix. Today, I'm a thumbprint ID away from another tasty orange Instagram kibble or a juicy red Zuckerbook nugget from a Friend.

Social media has served most of us pretty well, wouldn't you say? And for people hovering within twenty years either side of my age, those who could formerly only reconnect with old friends through high school reunions and chance encounters—"where are they now?" has been been replaced by "what are they physically doing at this very moment?" And do I like it enough to "like"it?

These days, we can snap a quick shot of the Applebee's French Dip we're about to scarf down, apply a yummy filter and post it for the viewing pleasure of those whose only food choices are currently downstairs in the earthquake kit.

Or perhaps it's the one-month anniversary of our cockapoo's tummy tuck and we want him to know how proud we are that he's kept the weight off. He's a few simple key punches from being snapped, tagged and posted. Sure, he's a dog. He'll never fathom the your pride in his accomplishment, any more than he can grasp why he wears designer denim.

That doesn't mean the rest of the world can't.

There's really no debating that social media has revolutionized the way we communicate with each other. It's fast, easy and effective. But for every advantage with which we've been bestowed over the past decade, certain off-color byproducts have emerged, and I feel compelled to share them with you. Please don't take these personally if these hit a little close to home. Just because I'm judging you doesn't mean I don't love you. Here are my top five worst mobile-device inspired human behaviors:

5) As I write this on my morning commuter bus, three of the five people surrounding me here in the back seat are glued to their phones. I understand that they could be reading an interesting article or even doing some sort of business... but I kind of doubt it unless they work for Candy Crush, Inc. Either way, these folks illicit feelings of dystopian human disconnection, and they tend to bug the shit out of me, especially on Mondays.

4) Unless openly challenged, my children operate in a constant, fragmented state. They're incessantly hovering between cyberspace and physical reality, similar to the Star Trek episodes where the transporter was on the fritz and the only thing able to beam onto the Enterprise are Kirk's toupee and man corset.

This applies to lots of people as well, many of whom aren't my offspring. I'll ask them a question, only to see them focused on their small screens. Inevitably, their answer begins with one word—"Ummm..."

And this bugs the shit out of me.

3) Memes are the bane of social media. I simply don't find it necessary to proclaim my feelings using online clip art and misplaced apostrophes, as in "I love my brother. Hes the only person who really get's where I'm coming from, which is our mom. Like and share if you or your brother's came from your mom."

Bugs the shit out of me.

2) Vacation pictures: Actually, I like seeing these, but I get jealous, and therefore they bug the shit out of me.

1) People who text and drive actually venture further up the aggravation scale than just bugging the shit out of me. They incite visceral emotion and fantasies of homicidal violence. Riding public transit as often as I do, I'm able to perform informal surveys while glancing down upon the gridlocked vehicles. Of the ten consecutive cars I chose to observe one morning, four contained drivers who sat gazing at their phones.

If they'd only looked up and to the side and absorbed just a smidgen of the wrath emanating from my orange pupils, I'm convinced they'd have sworn off texting and driving for as long as they lived.

Of course, how would that even be possible—they were busy looking at their freaking phones...

... which bugs the shit out of me.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015


We moved slowly and steadily past the Peace Arch and toward the line marking the division of the United States and Canada. Our dirty white Hyundai, only seconds prior brimming with boisterous conversation and chronic interrupting, quieted suddenly as we rolled up to the guard post.

I pulled the tiny lever and the window squeaked its tired displeasure at being summoned yet again. The guard post's window slid open.

"Hi," I said. "Hi" is okay, right? I thought. Shit, maybe not. He might think that I, a cocky Yank who thinks the rest of the world just needs a Coke and a smile, am not showing the proper respect for a border patrolman who must remain vigilant on a daily basis. For God's sake, this guy has to be on the lookout for everything, from tookus-tucked dirty bombs to a forgotten box of aplets and cotlets. Just be cool.

"Good afternoon."

Wow. The guy was short in stature, but his bicep and forearm were the size of a mollycoddled toddler. A patch reading Canadian Border Patrol strained as if the stitching could rupture at any moment from its taut sleeve.

He leaned down and glared at me. "What brings you folks to Canada?"

Folks? Okay, I can work with "folks." It's... you know... folksy. "Umm, we're just going up for the night and coming back tomorrow," I said more timidly than I would have predicted. I feared I was looking at his mustache rather than his eyes.

"How long will you be in Canada?"

Didn't I just answer that, short strong man? "Uh, until tomorrow."

"What are your plans?"

"Um, well, we picked our daughter up from college in Bellingham and thought it would be fun to spend the night in Vancouver. You know, just kind of get away a little bit."

I followed his eyes as they left mine and scanned the disheveled back seat of our Elantra. "Passports, please." He nimbly thumbed through our documents, stacked them and held them to his chest. "When's the last time you were in Canada?"

"Oh, um, let's see, Geez, I'd say around 2005."

"Why would you suddenly decide after ten years to come to Canada for one night?" He scowled as he again surveyed our car.

Look, Officer Friendly, we didn't "suddenly" decide. This has been in the works for a month, I thought, but the last thing I wanted was to be made into a spread-eagled Hyundai hood ornament in front of my wife, daughters and the van full of cub scouts behind us. "Um, well, this was the only night that would work for all of us, so that's just kind of what we decided to do."

I glanced up in rear view mirror. Both kids' faces looked as earnest and uncomfortable as a couple of kids being read a goat book by the president.

"Will you be leaving anything in Canada?" I watched his fist tighten around our passports.

What the hell would we leave in Canada besides our money and little half-full shampoo bottles? "Nope."

He took another step out of the booth. Is "nope" a bad word up here? Maybe the "Nopes" are French British Columbian separatists or something! Shit, who knew?

His meaty arm jutted through my open window and nearly compelled me to leave something in the United States, but as I looked into the watchman's face, his features softened languidly into a half-smile.

"Enjoy your stay."

My wife had to grab the passports from my lap, but at least the tires didn't squeal.