Tuesday, September 13, 2016


*In this post I am referring to services such as Uber and Lyft, though some take exception to calling them ride-sharing as the person driving you, while sharing their car, is not necessarily going where you are so it implies an untruth. So, call it whatever the fuck you want, such as Bernice. Read on about Bernice.

I am a huge fan of Bernice. The apps are quick, informative, painless, upfront, easy... etc. I like that the drivers tend to be pretty normal people and their cars are usually pretty darn nice and clean. Taxi cabs were starting to wear on me with their ripped seats and fogged up windows and cigarette smell, and that is only after you survive interacting with a dispatcher and driver with only modestly reliable outcomes (perhaps a future post about the one time we needed an airport ride and asked for NOT a Prius because we had lots of bags and they sent a Prius anyway so we had to wait for another which arrived with a flat tire, and then on the same trip on the ride home where our cab driver was rear ended by a large pickup truck... OK, maybe that was enough and I don't need to write it now).

Anywho, let's just say I am a fan. But there is one beef I have with Bernice. Since you are (theoretically) riding in someone's personal vehicle, it is almost like being invited into someone's home.  As such, besides not wanting to be an ass or make a mess or whatever, you are kind of expected to make nice and do the small talk thing. The setup is begging for it, and what's more, these drivers are usually outgoing and so damn friendly (except the one time in Seattle when our driver kept almost falling asleep and I thought my family was going to die on the freeway) that you feel bad if you don't have the energy to match the enthusiasm. I mean, you wouldn't be invited to a party and then show up and not say anything to anyone and leave $5 on the table to cover the food you ate, right?

As someone who is not presently holding a job, I could see the appeal of making some cash driving people around in your car. But yet, no amount of money feels worth it to me to have to be chatty with strangers for hour after hour. I might die. And since you really should never bore strangers with your conversation (see this and this), it would feel morally wrong for me to make someone talk to me because they are in my car. They are paying me. As such, they should be able to get whatever experience they want, ideally.

So, what if you are having a terrible day and you need a ride but don't want to chat? I propose that the rider could check a "silence" box on the hailing app so as to let their driver know "I am over it so don't talk to me and it isn't because I hate you but maybe I do but in any case please just drive me for money and shut the hell up." Further, I should think that a driver having a bad day might choose to only pick up passengers with the box checked. I mean, wouldn't you love knowing that the person you are picking up doesn't give a crap about talking to you and wants to stare out the window and you will get the same amount of money at the end? Maybe even a bigger tip because you otherwise suck at playing the "I care what you have to say" game? Win-win if you ask me.

So please, all current and future Bernices, take my proposal under consideration.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Pokemon Stop

I have recently had debates with other parents about children playing Pokemon Go. When asked if my kids play it, I say they do not because it is forbidden in my house. This is typically met with surprise, and other parents have tried to convince me about the benefits of it, such as:

  • It makes them more active
  • It is motivation when going on a really long hike
  • Kids find it fun to do with each other so it builds relationships
  • It blends being outside with the only thing kids these days want to do - be on screens
I am actually not such a pessimist to deny these benefits were the intent behind the game development in the first place (second to making gobs of money and re-brainwashing the world about how awesome Pokemon is, of course). But the thing that I don't get is how, in this day and age, the creators forgot one critical factor that makes it a really bad idea... PEOPLE. Have you met people? We always take what could be a good thing and ruin it by being who we are. Common sense rarely applies. Drive to win exceeds reasonableness. Addiction. And because of all this, there is also the contingent who will find a way to use it to lure other people in order to take advantage of them.

In my house, where we routinely discuss the pitfalls of being a person (don't judge me, so far it is working and making them less likely to grow up to be asshats), my strategy is to ban the game and routinely show them the latest headlines that reinforce why. People fall off cliffs. People wreck cars (when the whole point is to be active, not driving!). People block fire stations. People get shot or stabbed. If I get a chance directly, I point out to my kids very stupid uses of the game such as the teenagers riding bikes without helmets while staring at their phones to find Pokemon. Today we watched two young kids who were definitely going to be late due to playing it while walking through the park to school. It was my kid who noticed and pointed it out. :)

So, my rage about this game is finally wearing off. To those of you who use it well, game on. For the rest of you, your Darwin award moments are providing my screen-loving children with solid street smarts about how not to be. Thank you.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Huh... Weird!

Last month we attended a birthday party for an adorable 1 year-old. It was in a Portland park, and it was a lovely sunny day. There were treats and food and even a small keg of beer. It was a great afternoon party.

If you haven't been to Portland before, me telling you that the park was in the SE section of town wouldn't mean much to you. So I will just describe it generically: it attracts a very relaxed, hippie, natural, unique, dare I even say odd but so very kind sort of crowd. SE Portland is where pretty much anything that is not normal but not hurting anyone is going to happen.

So here we are in this park, minding our own party business, when my husband and I hear the voices of some people walking behind us and they say, "Wow, a keg in the park! Huh...weird!" We turned around to see who was impressed by this only moderately unusual party-with-keg. And what we saw was a couple walking two goats on leashes. Only in SE Portland do people walking their goats to the park on leashes call a keg party "weird"...  


Sunday, July 10, 2016

Road Trip

I just returned from a three week road trip. As I reflect back upon those weeks to decide what was the most seriously annoying part, it is hard to come up with just one single thing. Given that we saw 15 national parks/monuments, I predicted the most annoying thing would be the U.S. National Park Service rudely deciding to have their centennial celebration on top of this trip I planned long before they did their math and publicized it. Surprisingly, the parks weren't nearly as rammed with people as I expected (except Zion... never, ever go there) so I was quite pleased with that. And, even the kids did pretty well with all the driving thanks to the tip from my sister to listen to Harry Potter audio books. So what, then? Easily, the most seriously annoying thing was people's widespread lack of interest in following park rules. 

I checked, and it seems I have not had a really good rant on the subject of rules before. As a person with OCD tendencies, I like things to be orderly and predictable. Likewise, that comes with an affinity for rules, since (in general) rules are designed to keep order, whether physical, social, or otherwise. And like your parents may have said to you a thousand times, "There are rules for a reason!" ... well, duh. But what so many people don't seem to get isn't that part. They know WHY rules are there, but they just seem to feel no particular compulsion to follow them.

Our lovely national parks have lots of rules, and yes, they are for good reason. I would argue the most important ones are those that preserve the park, since otherwise, what good does it do to have it established as a protected area? I saw many instances of people deciding that their trash was OK for everyone else to have to look at, and that they could climb up that thing or stand in that place where it said not to because, well, probably the intense need to show off photos of this on social media where you look like you are the only one there (because you were, because you were that idiot out of bounds, thank you). But the thing that really got me were the videos in the Yellowstone visitor's center of people getting too close to the wildlife and being attacked. These videos, combined with signs everywhere, and then your own subsequent sightings of these huge bison, for example, should be plenty of motivation to keep a great distance. Yet, of course I saw it over and over. People more interested in getting a photo than in living, apparently. It is really surprising there are haven't been more tragedies given how stupid people are.

And I could digress into a rant about deaths of people who were not following clearly posted rules and how I don't really feel that badly for them, except then we wind down into the parts of my brain that are not socially acceptable that no one really wants to see. Plus the families of these dead people have to live with not only losing that person, but the knowledge that it was senseless. I am not a (completely) unfeeling witch.

Really, the worst part of being on a family vacation and seeing person after person, from country after country, in place after place, just simply not following the rules, was having to explain it to my children. "Maybe they can't understand them?" I said, trying to be reasonable, since I heard more languages on this trip than I have heard in a long time. But I don't think that accounts for the widespread lack of interest in doing what was being asked (or moreover, NOT doing what was being asked) and the kids weren't buying it anyway. And so, throughout my vacation, we had variations on a conversational theme of 1) what that person is doing that is against the rules, 2) why they might be doing that, and 3) predicting the outcome of the behavior. The WHY was the hardest for me to answer, because my logical brain can not compute why people break rules or seem to feel they are an exception. So, I used that opportunity to blame it on social media pressure and people being self-centered or short-sighted or otherwise suffering from a common-sense disability. I explained there is just a part of the population who doesn't want to follow rules and these are the people who might end up in jail during their lives. We never got to see any consequences in real-time like a bison goring or someone falling off a cliff. I wasn't hoping for that (mostly) but would have liked to have someone to at least get a stern lecture from a ranger. My kids follow rules, and I would like to keep it that way. But realistically, I feel like if no one else follows them, eventually they are going to wonder why they bother. 

P.S. A request to anyone who ever stays in hotels. If you set the alarm clock, please turn it all the way off before you check out. The person in the room after you probably does not also want it to go off at 5 a.m.