Friday, May 16, 2008

Sticks and Stones

I’ll tell you… I liked the world a whole lot better when ‘PC’ stood for personal computer. And while the new PC, I’m referring of course to political correctness, rivals the computer in how it is inserted more and more into our daily lives, it does not tend to be for the common good. These days, Americans perpetually walk on eggshells in an attempt to not offend someone in our earshot… At work, at the market, at the movies, the bus, dinner parties, bars, restaurants, etc… we’re constantly in danger of someone, somewhere, being offended by something we say, do, or wear. When did taking offense become a hobby? Are there clubs? Does it burn calories? Is there a web site for info – perhaps? When did we get so sensitive?

I, like many of you, grew up in a ‘sticks and stones’ world. You were called a name, you dealt with it. Not picked for the team, you dealt with it. Picked on because your plaid slacks, that your mother thought looked ‘snazzy’, were 3 inches too short, I dealt with it. (What… It was the seventies!) We developed coping skills. Some learned how to just take it, and move on. Others would resort to a punch in the eye… I opted for humor and sarcasm for my schoolyard defense. I went that route because I figured windmill slap-fighting with my eyes closed while screaming wouldn’t do much for my rep with the 4th grade girls… much like the plaid Haggars.

Political correctness has even seeped, thanks to a new wave of over sensitive parents, into grade school. We are now attempting to shelter our kids from adolescence itself. Here’s one for you… School children can no longer play Dodge ball! I defy you to show me a better metaphor for life than dodge ball… things constantly flying at you from every direction, some you need to try to catch, some you need to get out of the way of. Some will knock you down, forcing you to learn to get back up, and get in the next game. Every day we get out of bed, those little red balls fly at us, and test our ability to dodge them… Metaphorically I mean, of course… Unless you happen to live next door to the dodge ball proving grounds or something. Then I suppose you literally have to dodge them, which I assume is quite annoying. And if you think dodge ball is too emotionally distressing for your little angel, wait until he hits high school with only ‘hugging’ as an extra-curricular skill.

And as you probably have noticed, nowhere is the PC virus running more rampant than the entertainment industry. I honestly don’t know how news anchors, and talk show hosts do it. They can’t make mistakes. And if they do, the only way to avoid losing his or her job is to endure unending apologies, sensitivity trainings, suspensions, and donating time or money to a charity he/she probably never heard of before. And aside from mistakes, what of things said in jest? Have Americans lost our sense of humor? Special interest groups, and the religious right, (a.k.a. the perpetually offended), seem to have ever increasing influence and power over dictating what is, and is not acceptable, and funny. And with their numbers, they are able to hit entertainment where it lives… Advertisers. If we're not careful my friends, what is morally acceptable for us to see and hear will be left to the discretion of groups of modern day Zealots who think evolution is a myth, and television entertainment peaked with Hee Haw.

I sometimes wonder what other countries think of us these days, foreign policy aside of course. How must we look to someone who just lost everything in a flood, or a bombing, and we’re on the news protesting because of the controversial content on some highway billboard. How soft are we going to get? Do we need to change the old axiom, ‘Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will cause me, and my family deep emotional distress remedied only by some time off work, a cash settlement, and an on-air hug from Oprah’? Or should we act like adults, and either shrug it off and move on, take it as a joke and laugh along, or stand up and return fire… Metaphorically I mean, of course. Unless someone is really shooting at you while he is making fun of your shoes… Which would really be mean.

So where will it end? Can’t you just see the end of the next Die Hard movie? John Maclaine, not quite as dirty and sweaty, (because that denotes poor hygiene), chewing sugarless gum, (because smoking is bad), pointing his finger, (no no… no guns), at the bad guy, (not really a bad guy… there are no bad guys, just bad actions), who oddly bears no resemblance to any specific ethnic group so as not to offend. He delivers his new and improved tag-line, “Hippey-ki-yay mother probably didn’t hug you enough!” Bad guy, (again… not really bad), breaks down and sobs… They hug it out – fade to black.

You’ll really burn through the popcorn at that blockbuster, huh?

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Number 9 to go

Ok… Fast food. Like it or not, it has become a necessary evil in our society. No matter how healthy we try to be; more veggies, less sugar, more exercise, less booze… occasionally, we all find ourselves ordering a meal, by single digit number, off a lighted plastic menu board. Whether we’re too busy, on the road, or we just forgot to take the chicken out of the freezer, we’re all guilty of a food chain box lunch now and again. No big deal though… I’m a big believer in the ‘everything in moderation’ axiom. And I must admit, I’m a sucker for a Big Mac. Though, I’m not quite sure between which layer they slip the laxative, it’s not in the jingle… but it’s in there. And I don’t get the super-sizing thing. How much Sprite do we need? I wound up with a ‘bucket o Coke’ from Taco Bell not long ago that dropped the ambient temperature in my car 4 degrees… I wanted a drink, not something to dump over my car to rinse the suds off.

So why do we do it? That’s easy… convenience! It’s fast, and we don’t have to cook, or clean. It’s fast food! And now, with the advent of the drive-thru, we don’t even have to get out of our cars anymore. Just drive up, shout into the clown’s mouth, get a muffled acknowledgement of your order by someone who may, or may not be Charlie Brown’s teacher... Then pay, grab your bag, and find yourself in a rage 10 blocks later when you find out Timmy, your 16 year old ‘chef’, forgot to hold the pickle on your double beef buccaneer burger. He just didn’t earn his $6.15 an hour today, huh?

The problem with the drive-thru, I’ve noticed, is that it forces us to choose between speed, and getting off our butts. It amazes me how big a line people will wait in to not have to get out of their cars. I walked up to Dunkin Donuts this morning, and counted 9 cars waiting in the drive-thru, 2 of which were out on a very busy street. I went inside, straight to the counter, no waiting, got my coffee, walked out, and only 3 cars had moved. Doesn’t that take the ‘fast’ out of it? We can’t take fast out of fast food. It disrupts the natural order of things… Dogs should chase cats, muzak should never be on your ipod, and greasy, unhealthy food should be fast – period!

Disruptions to the universe aside, having to walk 47 steps from the car to the counter might not be the worst thing for some members of the fast food devoted. As you all well know, Americans are carrying a bit more insulation these days. A condition that won’t soon be remedied by pizza deliveries, Chinese buffets, and yes… the all mighty drive thru. Don’t get me wrong; I’m not for doing away with these things, by any means… Don’t take away my Shrimp lo mein, or my KFC variety bucket… (Yeah, I know - I didn’t even touch upon the fact that we buy some of our food in buckets.) People should be able to eat what they want. Moderation, remember? But if looking for the remote, and showering are forms of exercise for you, maybe offset the cheese fries with some baby carrots.

As for the rest of you… Remember - without the ‘fast’, a Whopper is just a big, crappy hamburger. So, let’s do our part… Too many cars in the drive-thru negates the whole fast food concept, and could conceivably destroy civilization as we know it. I don’t know the exact ratio. There has to be some sort of burgers per minute formula out there I’m not privy to… Boggles the mind if you think about it long enough. Now I know how Newton felt.