Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Instant Karma

Normally, I’m not surprised at people’s capacity to disgust me. From frivolous lawsuits and censorship to spoiled, overpaid athletes and corrupt politicians – there is usually a representative or 2 of our fine nation that leaves me shaking my head on an almost daily basis. Things were a bit different last week however. I heard that at the Presidential Inauguration, where there were an estimated 2 million people in attendance, there was not a single incident, or arrest. Pretty amazing! ‘Could it be,’ I though? ‘Could this change about which we’ve been hearing ad nauseam, be upon us already?’ Well, as it turns out, that wasn’t the case at all. As I said, hearing or reading about people’s stupidity, greed, piety, entitlement or outright apathy toward others is so commonplace, it’s rare that I get ‘wowed’. Yesterday, I got ‘wowed’.

Travel back with me if you will… Thursday, Jan 15th at 3:26 PM, US Airways flight 1534 took off from NY’s LaGuardia Airport bound for Charlotte, NC. Shortly after takeoff, several geese were sucked into 1 of its 2 engines causing it to blow out and catch fire. Since the Airbus A320 was just taking off, and was still at low altitude, and low speed, it could not maintain flight with just one engine. Knowing he would not be able to maneuver the big jet back to the airport for an emergency landing, Capt. Chesley B Sullenberger opted for a water landing in the Hudson River. As a result of the pilot’s quick thinking and skill, and the crew’s professionalism in the face of potential catastrophe, all 155 passengers survived, and most escaped without injury. OK – that, you already knew.

When you purchase an airline ticket, the Airline is required to either make sure you get your belongings back after the flight, or compensate you for loss or damage up to $3,300. That would easily cover my alligator bag, platinum toothbrush, and mink boxers. You know – necessities. US Airways has offered the passengers of flight 1534 $5,000 for the loss of their belongings. Most folks are OK with that, because like most of us, upon walking away from a plane crash, replacing luggage wouldn’t tend to be something we’d be consumed with. But of course, there are a few who don’t want to make any rash decisions just yet. Me thinks somebody got a lawyer… You just survived a plane crash! How do you spit in the face of karma/God/fate/nature like that? A Salesman named Joe Hart from Raleigh, NC is one of the displeased. Joe says he would like to be “made whole again”, and adds that, “flying is difficult now”. Death is easier Joe, though lacks a certain excitement. There is also an advocacy group for crash victims involved… Really – I couldn’t make that up! The National Air Disaster Alliance & Foundation thinks aside from lost possessions, the passengers went through a ‘terrific ordeal’, and $5,000 is not enough. I know what my Blackberry cost, but how much is a terrific ordeal worth? Also – Kreindler & Kriendler, (guess what they do), are representing several of the survivors. They will of course be entitled to 1/3 of the terrific ordeal pay. The plaintiffs are lucky. K&K don’t do ‘ordeals’, but ‘terrific ordeals’ are right up their alley.

Why does someone else always have to be responsible? Life is random, unpredictable, and based on choices that we make. Life, in big part, is a crap shoot. There is chance in getting out of bed in the morning – driving, flying, athletics, marriage, work, even going to the store… Some choices work out, and some don’t. And when they don’t, it doesn’t entitle us to a check! Tell me how Heather Mills was worthy of $40 million in her divorce from Paul McCartney. Or the woman who spilled her own coffee on her own legs while holding the cup between her knees to add cream and sugar, and was awarded $2.5 million because the coffee was hot! If Ronald McDonald himself threw the coffee in her face while maniacally laughing at her pairing ‘that sweater with those pants’, then I could see a little compensation. Clowns are mean, ya know.

It saddens me that we’ve gotten so litigious, that our experiences now have price tags. The fallout from our bad choices make up who we are as much as the benefits of the good ones. Our buddy Joe, who fell from the sky in an 80 ton aircraft full of fuel, and walked away with a bloody nose and soggy shoes, feels he’s entitled to a settlement for his ordeal, from a company who really did nothing wrong. Hey… Maybe they can sue Canada too - They were Canadian geese after all.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Happy New Year

“Order this free DVD… it will change your life.” How many of these commercials have you seen in the past couple weeks? Yep, we’ve segued from the season of ‘eat, drink, and be merry’, to the season of redemption, and resolution. Tis now the season of diet supplements, deals on gym memberships, Bowflex, Total Gym, Nutrisystem, and Jenny Craig. We are bombarded with success stories – Marie Osmond, Valerie Bertinelli, Mike Ditka, Dan Marino, Jillian Barberie, (who still hasn’t returned an of my calls… busy I guess), and a host of other unknowns who’ve lost large amounts of weight in very little time. It’s also time to wash out the gray, and re-grow that bald spot. Everything we see this time of year seems to offer us an opportunity at a new beginning of some sort. Improve your appearance, start a new career, or find that special someone on-line. Every year the resolutions seem the same. Somehow, the beginning of a new year inspires us to start things we, for some reason, couldn’t start in October, or June. But statistically, most resolutions have gone by the wayside my mid-March. So why do we do it year after year? What’s your New Years resolution?

Let’s face it, we all have ‘things’ about ourselves we don’t particularly like, and there is nothing wrong with wanting to improve our quality of life. But New Years seems to be the time of year that the advertisers like to remind us of our flaws. You can’t blame them, it works like a charm. Just drive by a gym and see how much more packed the parking lot is as opposed to a month ago. Yes – I feel bad for spandex this time of year. The abuse… Oh the humanity! I wonder why it is so many folks bail after 8 or 10 weeks. After that long, you have to be seeing some sort of result for your effort. Why quit? It seems like it would be inspiring. I’m hoping I last longer than that. I resolve to eat healthier, and give up wearing spiked heels on the weekends… Sure, they make me feel pretty, but I twisted an ankle pretty badly last month.

And while I think we Americans could be in a little better shape, here are a few other things that would be good fodder for New Years resolutions…

We resolve to...

- Not sue anyone, even though Jim Sokolove says we should.

- Stop voting by phone so American Idol will finally go away.

- Not order the new 20 piece Mcnugget meal to eat alone.

- Use directionals… That’s why cars have them!

- Stop being so whiney, and offended by everything!

- Be more creative in naming a newly created drink as opposed to just sticking the suffix ‘tini’ at the end.

- try to coerce Tyler Perry to stay dressed as a woman… He looks more creepy as a guy.

- If you’re a rap artist thanking God for the award you just won, stop saying ‘first and foremost’. It’s redundant.

- Help a friend – in this economy, at least one person we know will need it.

- Not talk on the phone while putting on makeup and taking a sip of coffee, in rush hour traffic. (I actually witnessed this, and admittedly was a little impressed!)

- Make an effort to show appreciation to at least one member of our Armed Forces for their efforts, and sacrifices.

So, here’s to new beginnings… 2009 is prime for both optimism, with the upcoming change of administration, and a bit of fear and uncertainty when it comes to the economy. And while the latter is foremost in everyone’s mind, (see? No need to add ‘first’), I remain optimistic. I’m sure it will be a hard year, but I think the difficulties will bring about changes for the better in the long term. I wish everyone luck and success with your resolutions – and good fortune with work, family, and friendship in ’09.

Happy New Year!