When we just looked at things

As Jenni and I were driving to the store today, I glanced in my rearview mirror. I was slowing down for a red light and I noticed that even before we got there, the driver behind us was already looking down at her phone, while still rolling to a stop.

It seems like everywhere I drive these days, so many of the other drivers are looking down at their phones. The ones that are doing it while driving are scary enough, but to me the ones who can’t quite wait for the red light to check their phone are almost as troubling.

I’m going to sound like I hiked up my old person pants to my chin here, but what is everyone always doing on their phones? There may be some rare instances where someone is desperately trying to reach a loved one to pick them up or some kind of emergency. Other than that, I can’t imagine what’s so important that it can’t wait until they’re at their destination.

[End fist-shaking old person rant]

When I used to fly a lot for work, I savored the hours after they closed the doors. For a few hours, I was unreachable. My only world existed inside a big metal tube 40,000 feet in the air. I read. I listened to music. I ate. I looked out the window, mostly. It was a chance to not be on.

Side note: this is also why I wouldn’t make a good pilot.

Remember driving in the backseat of a car as a kid and just looking? Out the window there were fields, stores, construction, tall buildings, and people of all kinds. Or maybe you just contemplated all the things you could fit into the ash tray, or watched a bee try to hang onto the window at 45 mph.

As an adult, I’m really no better than anyone else with a smartphone. I catch myself waiting in line somewhere, snatching up my phone to bide the time. What’s on twitter? Did I get any new emails since I left home? What was the name of the guy on that show with the chimp and the truck?

It’s so easy to do.

I’m trying to make an effort to go back to just looking around at stuff. Waiting in line is boring. So what? I complain that I never have time to just think, yet here I am with five or more minutes to do exactly that.

Am I better because I only mindlessly reach for my phone when I’m not in a car? Or is it kind of the same thing?

What if, when we got to a stop light we just… sat? How would the world change if we all just looked at things for a while?

P.S. It was BJ and the Bear.



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Going off half-masked

I’m tired.

No, I’m exhausted. Mask on. Mask off. Mask on. Mask off. I feel like my face is a platform for Mr. Myagi to teach about defending myself against bully viruses.

More than just the tiresome exercise of putting on and removing my mask while out doing errands, I’m tired of the ping pong-ey rules about wearing a mask.

I’m starting to pine for the days when the rules about mask wearing were clear cut and impossible to ignore. Not because I’m confused about what I should do, but because for some it seems like a license to start licking the produce.

The death and hospitalization rates in Los Angeles County have plummeted. That means that with more of us protected, we don’t have to be quite as Boy-in-the-Bubble cautious as we were last Spring.

However, I’m still in the camp of wearing a mask inside stores and restaurants, mostly because the employees have no choice. A little solidarity never hurt anyone.

My family is vaxxed (although I still need my booster). We’ve even been through a bout of COVID (Omicron). My immune system is strong and I’m in excellent health. I’m not afraid of what might happen to me, I’m more concerned with spreading it to those who can’t fight it.

I don’t usually wear a mask in outdoor spaces, because, well, air. I also wasn’t wearing one in the early days when I would go on a run, because there was literally no human within 25 feet of me at any time. I did carry one with me. I’m a pragmatist and I like logic.

What’s making me tired these days is the effect of the middle-of-the-road rules on mask wearing from the various government entities. They can be loosely interpreted quite easily. For some people, “strongly recommended” means that you should wear a mask indoors. For others, it means that only idiots and snowflakes wear a mask, ever. If you’ve been anywhere wearing a mask lately and gotten “the look” from a non-mask wearer, you know what I mean. It’s a combination of simpering half smile and snarky superiority that seems to say, Aww, you poor dumb animal being led by your emotions.

I don’t need to rehash the toddler-level tantrum thrown by the governor of Florida upon seeing a group of students wearing masks. But it’s worth contemplating, because I believe that is the crux of the problem.

It’s not really about the rules. It’s no longer about fear. It’s about the shopping cart principle. There are those who will return a shopping cart because their thinking goes beyond taking care of Numero Uno. In the same vein, protecting other people from a potentially deadly virus is a decision you make because you’re part of society, not above it.

I don’t enjoy wearing a mask, or even remembering that I need to put it on. In fact, I loathe it. When we get past this pandemic, I will breathe (literally) a huge sigh of relief.

Until then, I will wear this shopping cart mask on my face as a signal to the other people who wear them that we’re in this together.



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Toxic Productivity

This week has gotten away from me. Have you ever been off by a day? That’s what happened to me. I had two major deadlines this week and I miscalculated them by a day each. Oops.

Thankfully, I’ll hit them both and no on will be the wiser. Well, you are the wiser. But this is just between us, right?


This newsletter is short and sweet because of, well, see above. Jenni sent me an article that really made me think and I just had to share it with you.

Toxic Productivity, Tips on Going Vegan, and Holding Close to Love.

If you have thoughts, don’t be shy.



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What we can do about the price of gas

I just bought gas for our 2013 VW Jetta. It cost about $45 USD to fill it up from half a tank. I can’t imagine what it costs to drive one of those ginormous trucks right now.

What can we do about the price of gas right now?

Frankly, nothing. We have no control over the actual price of the gas we buy. We essentially have only two choices: buy it or don’t buy it.

There are so many things we have no control over right now, and that can feel very scary.

We can’t control the decisions of the governors of Texas, Florida, and Idaho. We have no control over whatever Putin does in Ukraine. We can’t stop J.K. Rowling from being, well, herself.

Admitting to yourself that you can’t do anything about something is not defeatist. It’s actually very freeing.

Admitting frees us up to focus on the things that we can control, the things immediately in front of us – unless, of course, it’s a cat. Then forget it.

The media tries really hard to make us feel that we’re always in a state of chaos, with absolutely no control over our lives. That’s partially true. We don’t have control over world events or other people.

In reality, we can only control ourselves.

We can control how we treat other humans. We have complete control over whether or not we mask up in public spaces. We’re the ones holding the credit card, staring at those shiny new Apple devices. We can control our responses on Twitter or Facebook. We can choose to champion diversity, inclusion, and human rights in our spaces.

There’s so much we’re in control of, every day.

Then again, getting out of control sometimes might also be fun.



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