While navigating my way to the day job the other morning, I got stuck in traffic that's all too common with any weekday commute involving a freeway. There I sat, idling away my time and my gas, calming my nerves to the sounds of Ernestine Anderson, imagining myself floating in the warm ocean waters of Tulum. I was employing every technique I know to find my Zen place—as I often do when in a sucky predicament—when a Very Important Person passed me in the utility lane.
Mr. Entitlement Himself put the pedal of his gold Honda Accord station wagon to the metal, and sailed past me and all the other obedient worker bees patiently waiting our turn to inch closer to our dreary destinations. I let out a sigh and floated a few expletive-filled thought bubbles into the air above my head. But I didn't waste any precious syllables over the matter since I see this move nearly every day and I knew the strain on my vocal cords wasn't going to change the situation. Plus, I understand that the Very Important Person had Somewhere Very Important to be. So I cranked the volume and returned to my cloud-busting, Caribbean back float.
I like to believe that people are mostly decent. I have to constantly remind myself of my belief that, fundamentally, human beings want to do the right thing. But my affirmation is increasingly challenged when I'm faced with perpetual evidence to the contrary.
Case in point: Do the motherf%ing children need to have the motherf%ing beach in La Jolla so desperately that the seals must be forced out?! Are there not hundreds of miles of beach where the motherf%ing children can enjoy polluted waters and the damaging rays of the sun? Must the more highly evolved—self-declaredly so—adult humans evict the seals in the name of the poor motherf%ing children because the beach was ours before it was theirs, neener neener? Yes, says the state court. Take that, stupid seals!
See, I have to choose my happy place because the alternative is to become bitter, bitter, bitter! Nevertheless, I've come to a conclusion about Americans and it is this: We're going to hell in a weather-weary hand basket.Just last week, the Union-Tribune published a story about the surge in undergraduate applications at San Diego State University. The story includes an interview with a freshman from New Jersey, who discussed why she was drawn to SDSU.
“At first… I didn't really want to go to college,” Alexandra Napolitano told the rag. “I wanted to do traveling and be, like, an actress, but my dad was like, ‘You have to go to school.'”
Dang! Her daddy sounds like a total hard ass! I mean, who can blame the girl for wanting to do traveling or, like, actressing? Fortunately, this tough-love parenting helped guide our wayward Goldilocks to San Diego for her college experience. Napolitano deemed San Diego a superior city compared with her hometown, which “was too cold,” or Miami, where undesirable weather would make her hair “frizz.” Precisely my college-selection experience. Her father must be proud.
On the same day that the emergency-lane Speed Racer graced the 52-West with his presence, I happened to witness a different college student throw his trash in the street before hopping in the car of a friend. (Maybe the universe is trying to tell me something, what with the tossed garbage flying in my face at every turn.) I rolled down my window and asked, “Dude? That's what you do with your trash?” The spoiled little twerp looked at me like I had 10 heads, shook his lobotomized one and rolled up his window.
But if the proliferation of dumb, over-indulged youth doesn't convince you that we're on the fast track to oblivion, how about the abundance of depressed, outcast youth? On this end of the spectrum lies the terribly lost among us, like the teen who gunned down shoppers in Salt Lake City this past February or the guy who committed the Virginia Tech massacre in April or the 19-year-old man who killed eight people in an Omaha shopping mall last week. That's three mass shootings in one year off the top of my head; I'm sure there were others. It's not even surprising anymore, it happens so often.
And each time it does, we ask ourselves with wrinkled brow, “Why did this happen?” pretending for at least three news cycles that we're truly interested in finding answers and, more importantly, solutions. But finding solutions demands a hard look at our values and, well, we know how that goes around these parts. Finding real solutions would require a functional and supportive healthcare system, one that recognizes mental illness as the legitimate illness it is, rather than some out-of-pocket taboo we speak of in lowered voices; solutions would require tougher gun control laws, including more thorough background checks and more stringent waiting periods; solutions would require a genuine compassion for the lesser among us.
No, no and no. These unpalatable choices demand the giving of something that can't be bought at a big-box store, even if you're first in line for the 4 a.m. sale. So we rat-race ahead at any cost, feeding ourselves a diet of soul-suffocating reality shows. We ogle at the ghastly Keeping Up with the Kardashians and the equally vile Flavor of Love, shows in which men degrade women and women degrade themselves and each other, and in which people with too much money and too little talent make spectacles of—and more money from—their privileged lives. It makes for good ratings, though: According to Wikipedia, roughly 10 million people tuned in to see the second episode of Kardashians. I wonder how many of them risked speeding tickets to get home in time to see it.
To the VIPs of the world, I hope the extra 37 seconds you shave from your commute by being an asshole allows you time to drop by the beach and club a few seals in the name of the motherf%ing children. As for me, I'm going to pretend I didn't see you pass me because it makes my day so much better believing you don't exist. Write to firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com.