Wednesday, September 9, 2009

They'd Rather Text Than Eat



We all know people who act like they would rather text or check the internet than eat. The airlines have noticed this, too. A new survey suggests that more business travelers would choose an airline with WiFi service over flights with meals, free movies, or even convenient arrival times. I understand that when it comes to airplane food, nobody ever asked for "seconds." But to choose the internet over a snack? The survey didn't ask them if they'd rather have WiFi or a promise that their luggage wouldn't get lost, but I have a feeling that they would have gone with the Web. If their luggage gets lost, they'll probably just shrug and buy new stuff on the internet.

76% of the people interviewed would choose an airline based on the availability of in-flight internet service. I tend to choose an airline based on which is the cheapest and then which is the most convenient.

Among others, Southwest Airlines, Delta, and American either already have WiFi on their flights or they will soon. So those people who can't go for more than a few minutes without using their computers or "smart" phones, will be able to fly and check on the weather in Trinidad-Tobago, find out which football players got arrested today, and learn who Jennifer Aniston went out with last night.

I'm not a computer addict, but some people are. It's no joke. In fact, the first American live-in treatment center for internet addiction opened recently. There are many such centers in China, South Korea, and Taiwan where Web addiction is taken more seriously. These are people who spend almost every waking hour playing video games, watching porn, or talking to their virtual friends rather than eating, sleeping, working, or spending time with their families. These folks have fallen on hard times, so it's appropriate that the treatment center is in Fall City, Washington.

Let's move away from the serious to the merely annoying. Like most people, I've had to put up with someone next to me who types away on his computer the whole flight. Intellectually, I understand that a flight is a good opportunity to get some work done, but I usually find it irritating. I almost always think that these people are showing off how important and busy they are. Of course, the corollary to this is the thought, "If you're so important, why are you with me in coach?"

But once in-flight WiFi becomes commonplace, we will have to put up with all kinds of new things. Do you really want to sit next to a teenager who is "Facebooking" for 2000 miles? Can you imagine how important those missives will be? "OMG, we just passed another cloud."

And what will the airlines' policy be on porn? Is there even a way they could ban it? I don’t see how. So forget worrying about what movies the airline will show in front of your kids. Now you'll have to worry about what the guy next to them is viewing on his computer screen. I don't think an airplane is an appropriate place to watch something like, "Julie and Julia...and Jack."

Then there are those who need to check their stocks every few minutes. That's not a good idea for an in-flight activity, either. If the stock shoots way up and your neighbor shouts in celebration, aren't you going to feel a bit jealous that you didn't have that stock? On the other hand, if someone's stock tanks during the flight and they yell in despair, he or she might become a danger to other passengers.

Admit it. If someone next to you is using their computer for the entire flight, it's probably impossible not to glance over there every once in a while to see what's on their screen. In the past, it's been nothing special. Usually, it's business stuff like charts or graphs. Now things may be quite different.

For all I know, the person next to me might be having "internet sex." I'm only human so I'm likely to try to casually look over at my neighbor's screen as he or she is smirking and typing and then smirking lasciviously again. Then I'll be shocked as I read something like: "There is a really annoying guy who keeps peeking at what I'm typing."


Friday, September 4, 2009

Sexual Equality Where It Counts





A woman almost won the nomination for President recently, women are heads of universities, CEOs of corporations, and astronauts. The overwhelming majority of Americans are perfectly comfortable with this development in sexual equality. However, there is still a bastion of sexism that plagues our country. Few people bring up this topic, especially in "polite company," but I think our society is ready to deal with it. I'm talking, of course, about public bathrooms.

At sports events, the line for the women's bathroom is often two or three times as long as the men's. This isn't right. Something should be done to fix this situation,
especially since the world of sports purports to be dedicated to fairness.

This isn't the only area where gender issues are involved with public bathrooms. They are the source of much anxiety. For example, when I'm at a restaurant for the first time and I enter the bathroom, there is often a moment as I step inside when I panic and say to myself, "Did I go into the right bathroom?" I can't be the only person who experiences this. Fortunately, this is only a momentary fear, because you quickly notice other people of your gender or you see that symbol of masculinity -- the urinal.

Some restaurants try to be clever with the way they identify the Men's and Women's rooms. Instead of just writing the word "Men" or "Women" on the door, they may have figures that supposedly depict men and women. The restaurateurs might think these drawings are perfectly clear, but often they're not. If I'm in a dark hallway, how am I supposed to tell the difference between a male and a female elk? Sometimes restaurants use symbols that are supposed to represent men and women. They look like some sort of scientific drawings, and I can spend several minutes trying to sort them out. Some restaurants have what they think are clever synonyms for "men" and "women" on the doors like "Ballerinas" and "Danseurs." Yeah, that's really helpful. And of course, if you go to an ethnic restaurant, there's a good chance that they will have the words for "men" and "women" in a foreign language on the doors. They might think this is cute, but the rest of us aren't sure which door is which.

This anxiety about "Men's" and "Women's" rooms brings up the relatively new concept of unisex bathrooms. I'm all for them. Okay, maybe they aren't a good idea at ballparks where, well, things are just too public. But when it comes to those in restaurants and office buildings, why not?

I doubt that you have separate bathrooms for men and women in your house. No, I'm not suggesting that people of different genders use the facilities at the same time. But if it's a public bathroom with just one toilet and a sink, why should someone have to wait for the one that has their gender on the door if nobody is in the other one?

What is it that those who set up separate bathrooms fear that a man or woman will experience if he or she is in the "wrong" one? Are people going to write some graffiti in there, claiming that their gender is better than the other one? "We're Number One At Number One?" I don't think so. My theory is that some of it has to do with the aforementioned plumbing fixture, the venerable urinal. I have the feeling that some women just don't want to be in the same room with a urinal. It's like that annoying cousin whom you avoid at all costs. Some women would rather wait twenty minutes for a room that has flowers and a little couch in it than go into a room immediately if it has a dreaded urinal.

There are two solutions to this problem: the first would be to get rid of these plumbing fixtures, and the second would be for women to just get over their urinal-phobia.

Designing and building more unisex bathrooms would solve so much of this sexual anxiety and politics. No longer would we have to worry that we were in the wrong place. We wouldn't have to try to decipher symbols while we're really in a hurry. And we'd never have to push open another door marked, "Caballeros," "Cheerleaders," or "Wahines." Obviously, the unisex bathroom is the way to go.





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