Category: Attitude

Text Messaging and Cell Phones Has Created a Generation of Pussies

Having had the good fortune to travel all around the world, I am always reminded in ways both obvious and subtle how similar people are from place to place. While we too often choose to focus on our surface differences, most people that have actually experienced different types of people and cultures up close and personal will agree that below the surface, we are basically driven by the same motivations.

That established, I am not willing to go so far as to say we are all the same and that stereotypes are wrong. Because as much as I am diametrically opposed to stereotyping based on size, shape or color, I am forming a hypothesis that seems to grow stronger every day that there is a criteria that can fairly accurately predict how an entire group of people will act: access to text messengers and cell phones during adolescence.

Something very significant happened when I was in school, as AOL’s Instant Messenger eclipsed house parties and frat parties in popularity as the place for college kids to hang out. For the first time, it was possible to get laid without ever having to muster up the courage to talk to a girl. Guy is bored at 2am on a Saturday morning and logs into AOL. Girl from his history class, who lives two dorms over, is equally as bored and chatting with her friends back home. Guy messages girl with the most impersonal of ask outs: “what are you doing?”…to which she replies, “nothing.” “Cool.” “We should, like, watch a movie or something”…and so it goes.

It has only gotten easier from there. Now, kids in the single digits have cell phones. This means something very significant: even though computer-based chat messengers are pretty much extinct, guys today under the age of, say 25 or so, have never once had to speak to the father of the girl they were chasing. I’m not sure about any of you, but I look back on the first few times calling my high school crush and praying like hell she would answer the phone (specifically and intentionally timing the calls at the exact time I thought her father would still be at work)–only to have a deep male voice greet me on the other end–as some of the events that helped me develop into a man. “Hello Mr. (silly readers, you aren’t getting a name out of me!), this is Steve Klimek calling. Is (pretty, tall girl) home…may I speak with her?” As I was saying this, I remember looking in the mirror and seeing the most pained expression on my face, as though the receiver was actually pulling the teeth out of my gums. And if her older brother answered? Even worse, because I knew that he actually could potentially kick my ass if he felt like it.

I know it sounds like I’m making this into a joke, and to some extent I am. But I believe that the technological revolution of chat messengers and cell phones has deprived young people of actually developing the confidence and skill set to speak with purpose–it has allowed them to stay within the confines of their comfort zones and still achieve things (such as getting laid) that previously required at least a slight foray outside of it. It is funny looking back on those awkward middle- and high school phone calls, but I can’t underestimate the impact those 10-second conversations had on my ability to handle personal and professional social situations as an adult, particularly as they required me to venture into unfamiliar situations and surroundings.

I’m not preaching, either. Believe me, if I would have had access to a direct phone number of my crushes (actually, one of my high school girlfriends had her own line, which at the time was like a gift from heaven), and the ability to chat rather than actually have to speak to them with a cracking, stuttering voice, I would have taken full advantage. Unfortunately, I had to go through those awkward conversations the hard way, but in hindsight, I’m glad I did. The same goes for flirting–it’s a lot easier nowadays to make those provocative comments complimenting some physical feature of a girl, fully intended to be a hook into something more, via text message than having to actually look her in the eye and get the words to come out. After all, if she doesn’t reply in 60 seconds or so, you can forever save face and be bailed out by the follow-up “LOL, just playing” text.

I believe that you can see the impact of this all over pop culture. Today’s generation of athletes, or the AAU generation as I call them, often doesn’t seem capable of even doing everyday chores such as grocery shopping by themselves. They can jump through the roof and squat-thrust a million pounds, but they can’t make a doctor’s appointment. This is because as a result of the access to mobile technology they have had since childhood, they have had grown-up leeches lining up to wipe the sweat off their ass since age 9 in hopes of “access” down the road. Michael Jordan is the greatest of them all, and he still had to do some things on his own as a young adult before Nike’s Air Jordan line made him a global phenomenon. It is evident in our celebrities as well–just look at the vastly different behavior of a young Usher 15 years ago as compared to his own personal protege, the obnoxious and bumbling Justin Bieber today. That’s not to say that yesterday’s celebrities didn’t act like jerks at times also, but I think there is a difference between acting like a jerk because a) you can; b) it is fun; or c) it helps your image, rather than doing so simply because you are incapable of handling social situations thrown at you.

One thing I am sure of is that if I ever find myself interviewing people younger than me to work on anything important, one of my criteria will be to make sure that they have, at some point in their lives, actually approached a member of the opposite sex (or same sex if they swing that way, no discriminating here), and spoken (with their voice, not through an electronic messenger) to introduce themselves. Bonus points if they have been horribly rejected. And even better yet if they have had to speak with that love interest’s father on the other end of the phone. A simple criteria, sure, but in my humble opinion, a significant indicator of one’s ability to adapt and adjust to the varied social situations that life outside of the comfort zone will throw at you.

-KS

Now It’s Time for Twice as Many of Us to Attend the NYC Marathon, Fourth of July Fireworks and All Public Celebrations

In the 48-or-so hours since the Boston Marathon bombings, I’ve made a point to stay in public places to overhear the inevitable chatter the tragedy has stirred up (this article is being written from the Terminal 2 lobby at San Francisco International Airport). I figured this would be a particularly good place, given the number of direct flights arriving from Boston and the news crews I can see about 50 feet ahead of me, cameras ready to catch people who may have been at the marathon.

While it makes sense that people are talking, I have observed complete polarity in terms of the future effect events like this will have on people’s day-to-day lives. Some are adamant that the event will come back stronger than ever, and if they participated or attended, they wouldn’t miss it for the world again next year. Others, however, seem to be taking a very clear stance that the world is just nuts and they will think twice before attending any event of this magnitude in the future.

If any of you find yourselves leaning towards the second category, I’m writing this article in hopes of bringing you back to the first.

That someone would do something like place a bomb next to a trash can with the intention of killing innocent people at random is reprehensible. I’m pretty sure any of you reading this are fully in accord with that. But by letting such an tragedy deter you from pursuing something you would otherwise enjoy, people who take this approach are simply reaffirming the responsible party’s intention of not only killing people, but creating lasting fear and paranoia, which I would argue is just as toxic in the long-run.

The Marathon bombing was truly tragic, and everyone’s thoughts and prayers should go out for the three fatalities and 176 people injured in the blast. Scary stuff? Absolutely. But let’s shed some perspective on it. Of 23,000-plus runners and an estimated 500,000 attendees, perhaps we were fortunate that there were only those three fatalities and 176 injuries. By comparison, the city of Boston alone has averaged about 10 traffic fatalities for every 100,000 residents each year over the past two decades or so, which projects out to about 52 for the same amount of people who attended the Marathon. That breaks down to one every week. Add in the suburban area, and pedestrian and bicycle fatalities, and we’re probably talking about a total death and injury count that is comparable to what happened at the Boston Marathon on a weekly basis–just by people going about their daily business to-and-from work or activities.

Of course, the often-sensationalized media coverage also doesn’t help deter the spread of this paranoia and fear that the culprits intended. Watching the news last night, I was saddened that the report about a 20-year-old who was identified by police as a “person of interest” because he was seen running from one of the bomb sites with a hand injury (which would make him just one of 176) had to specify that he was a Saudi national. It turns out that after police talked to to him, this “person of interest” was determined to be nothing more than a victim, but I can’t help but think about all of the people who heard that report and what they will think the next time they walk past a Middle Easterner on the street. I simply don’t see why the “journalist” couldn’t have just reported that police were talking to a person of interest, rather than specify his ethnicity or nationality, at least until there was any evidence that he was in fact involved. We only have to look back as far as Newtown to see that it isn’t just foreigners that commit acts of terror in this country.

My point in all of this is not to belittle the magnitude of tragedy that the 2013 Boston Marathon will forever be remembered for. Lingzi Lu, a 23-year-old from China fulfilling her dream of pursuing her Master’s in the United States, Krystle Randle, a lively 29-year-old from the Boston area and 8-year-old Martin Richard all had promising lives ahead of them, and will be dearly missed. The 12 others who suffered amputations of some sort will also surely never forget Monday.

My point is also not to suggest that we should be afraid to drive or bike or walk to work. Accidents have and always will be a part of the cycle of life, and the reality is that no matter how careful or cautious we try to be, any of us could have our number called at any time.

My point is to demonstrate that by pursuing the things we love to do, participating in things like Boston’s Patriot Day and storied Marathon that are celebrations of the human spirit, even with the ever-present threat of life’s evils, we are at no greater risk than we are going about our everyday business. And more importantly, to emphasize that if we allow fear and paranoia to dictate the way we live our lives, we are allowing the people responsible to succeed in their mission far more emphatically than they have already. I didn’t have the honor of knowing any of them personally, but I would argue that Lingzi, Krystle and Martin would rather be remembered as heroes who died celebrating one of the more exciting days of their short lives rather than as symbols of the day we let the fear and paranoia stirred up by a few sick individuals triumph over the human spirit.

It is appropriate that we should all be in a state of mourning for the three beautiful people we lost on Monday, and send our thoughts and prayers to their families, friends and the other victims who will have to struggle the rest of their lives without an arm or a leg. But we should also be careful not to let the psychological impact that Monday’s bombing, and the sensationalized media coverage that has surrounded it, sap some of our spirit for celebrations of humanity. I can’t help but thinking back to childhood, growing up watching Mister Rogers, and remembering him talk about seeing scary things on the news:

My mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’ To this day, especially in times of disaster, I remember my mother’s words, and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers–so many caring people in this world.

Here’s to taking Mister Rogers’ advice and looking back on Monday as a story of heroes like Lingzi, Krystle and Martin, and helpers–the thousands who made sure that the tragedy wasn’t any worse–rather than a story of terrorists and victims. If we do that, then evil simply can’t win.

-KS

Walking Through Life With Blinders…

This post has been a long time coming, but I just wanted to put a feeling I’ve had for a long time into words. I can remember the second time I ever flew in an airplane, looking out the window in absolute amazement at the world becoming smaller and smaller below me–people and cars and buildings steadily turning into visual ants–while the landscape simultaneously expanded, growing and growing forever. (The first time I flew, as a six-year-old, my only recollection was excruciating head pain while trying to chew gum and pop my ears). At the time, I didn’t know a thing about the physics of aviation (not that I know much more now), but  it was simply mind-boggling that I could defy gravity and experience the world as a bird does. Now, some 650 takeoffs and 1.2 million miles later, I must confide that the feeling isn’t much different. The fact that we can still defy gravity in a metal tube, taking off in one corner of the world and touching down in another, is awe inspiring.

That feeling is especially true in places where the airport location offers a treat of a view–San Francisco International and New York’s LaGuardia come immediately to mind–I could fly out of either every single day and never fail to be amazed (pictures of both attached). Yet, with both cities full of road-warrior business travelers, I am saddened each time by how many people I see simply close the window shade before even taking off, completely oblivious to the amazing view that they are missing out on. Of course some of these people probably are on these flights weekly, but we’re only talking about a minute or two, max, before we’ve climbed above the clouds. I feel for all of those first-time flyers who may be missing out because these individuals so consumed with their daily business that they simply can’t be bothered by beauty and imagination.

(I have inserted some photos to demonstrate the beauty I’m talking about, but please scroll beyond them to continue reading.)

Downtown Manhattan on approach into LGA
Brooklyn Bridge, Manhattan Bridge & Lower Manhattan
Midtown Manhattan on approach into LGA
NYC at night after takeoff from LaGuardia
San Francisco & The Bay shortly after takeoff from SFO
Downtown San Francisco after takeoff from SFO
Downtown San Francisco & the Golden Gate after takeoff from SFO

A few weeks ago, the Space Shuttle Discovery was “retired” into the Udvar-Hazy branch of the  National Air & Space Museum in Chantilly, Virginia, USA (which also happens to be the town I grew up in). It was big news–when the Boeing 747 carrying Discovery was due to land, people all throughout the Washington, D.C. area had literally stopped on the highways to get out of their cars and take a look. The plane even did a l0w-altitude fly over the White House and United States Capitol, just so everyone could get a good look. Once Discovery had finally arrived at Dulles International Airport, the 747 with Shuttle attached remained parked on the tarmac the next day while they prepared to separate the two and enshrine the Shuttle into its new home at the opposite end of the airfield. The 747-Shuttle combination sad in a vacant area, between the second and third IAD north-south runway–a good distance from the terminal. Flying out of Dulles on a near-weekly basis, I’ve noticed that we use the first runway (1R/19L) or east-west runway (30) nearly every time. However, this time, we had the good fortune of taxiing out to the furthest runway (1L), which  meant we’d be passing directly in front of the parked 747-Shuttle.

Space Shuttle Discovery & 747 circle downtown Washington DC
Space Shuttle Discovery & 747 parked at Dulles Airport

As we approached Discovery, the captain made an announcement that the Space Shuttle would be visible on the right side of the aircraft, and sure enough it was, facing us–no more than 50 meters away from the end of the wing of our little, 50-seater regional jet. While the majority of folks on board scrambled to lift the window shades and contort themselves to get a glimpse out of the small windows, the two men directly across the aisle from me, with perhaps the best view of all, didn’t even flinch. The man by the window didn’t look up from his magazine to touch the shade, while the man closest to me, a tall German with bold features and a hardened face, couldn’t seem to take his eyes off a stack of CV’s he was scouring through. (!!!).  It was as if the CV’s were printed with invisible ink that was going to disappear back into the page seconds later if he didn’t get through them. It made me realize that this was about much more than a stack of CV’s–this was probably how these men live their lives. I know it’s wrong, but I immediately made a projection onto their relationships with their girlfriends, wives or children…can you imagine trying to please someone like that?

Despite my twinge of sadness, however, I’m grateful to have witnessed this as another reminder that no matter what kind of pressure I may feel that I’m under in a particular circumstance, I must always make sure that I’m still not oblivious to the beautiful or unique things that I may encounter on any given day.

-KS

Seriously.

Life is not that serious, yo! I feel like these people in NYC are all so hardened, rough to the world. It’s, umm…interesting.

But for real, have you ever noticed how some people just seem to have that glow about them, always seeming happy, upbeat, together, etc…while others don’t? I think people lose sight of the fact that those glowing people, they have the same issues and insecurities that everyone else has. They just know how to mask it, or just learn to accept it, put it aside, and look forward. It’s really up to you what kind of person you want to be. Or come across as.