Tuesday, April 11, 2017

"That's not tea"

This is just one of those things, I guess.

In my work, I get "invited" to a lot of conference calls or "webinars." These are MOSTLY publishers or ed-tech companies advertising their products. I tend to ignore the e-mails: I'm busy, and I'm especially busy most afternoons (when these tend to happen), and anyway? if I'm looking for a new textbook I'd rather read over a copy in the quiet of my own home than listen to a sales pitch on a conference call.

But here's a new twist: Cambridge U. Press has renamed it "Tea with an Author"!

Oh, so cute ("Tonstant Weader fwowed up")

The idea is, you make yourself a cup of tea, and then you sit through their webinar. So basically, it's a webinar costumed to look like it's something nicer than it is.

Yeah, I'm gonna ignore this one, too. But I admit it makes me sad: I never get invited for REAL tea. If I'm going to hear an author promote their book, I would really prefer it happened with finger sandwiches and small cakes.

But perhaps this is the brave new world out there: you're marketed to, and any of the old niceties, you now have to provide for yourself.

I do get tired of the unending barrage of "sit through our webinar!" and the like. Some of the advertising is quite intrusive: in more than one case they did their best to make it sound like, "Hey, you AGREED to do this so you have to, right?"


Big local news story: a "naked" (the newsreader last night pronounced it as "nekkid," which made me laugh, but now someone with longer ties to the South than I says, "'naked' means just naked; "nekkid" is when you're naked and up to no good")

(But he wasn't really totally naked; he had, um, removed his pants, you might be able to guess why)

Anyway, apparently this guy had wandered into three separate homes in a town a bit to the north of me. The last place, which he was apprehended from, was where he took off his pants. The homeowner was in the bathtub (it was early Sunday morning), heard him, put on a robe, got her pistol (it's a rural area and the county sheriff is the main LEO). Pointed it at the guy and told him to leave.

He did, not bothering to put his pants back on, which is how the sheriff's deputies managed to catch him (I presume the pants were still around his ankles....)

The thing is: all three of the people whose homes were invaded mentioned "This is such a small safe town, we never bother to lock our doors."

And granted: the criminal here is the pantsless dude, and you shouldn't be entering homes uninvited, especially those of people you don't know. But I feel somewhat vindicated in my "paranoid" (according to some of my friends) habit of ALWAYS locking the door when I am home, and also locking it if I go out to the back yard for more than thirty seconds or so. Because you really do never know and "crazy" isn't restricted to urban zip codes.

(And yes. I wouldn't be surprised if it turns out either a substance-abuse issue, or mental problems that are untreated, turned up in this case: most people don't act like that guy without some form of chemical bizarreness going on in their heads. Part of me feels bad for the guy if that's the case, but still: I would not like to come home to find some stranger sitting in my living room even if he had his pants on.)

But still: creeps me out, big time. I admit I sometimes don't go out to water the garden or something if there are strangers roaming around in the neighborhood.

(We've also had issues down at church with both the nursery school and the little-kids' youth group being "spied on" by, as one woman described it "a creepy guy" - someone who stands outside the playground fence and watches them. Apparently he will leave when one of the men comes and asks him to, but still - creepy as everything. We're gonna ask the cops to do drive bys Sunday evenings and when the nursery school is in session.)

Gah. People.


Of course the other big brou-ha-ha news story is the United flight and its unbelievably abysmal actions (calling the Chicago PD to bodily drag a passenger off so as to make room for some deadheading United employees). My main conclusion: I never want to fly again. Definitely not United, but probably, never again. Yes, that means if I ever wanted to see Ireland I'd have to book passage on an ocean liner or something, but.

I don't think it's out of line to say that what happened to that passenger was assault. I don't know who's more to blame, United or the cops they called in to remove the guy.

I think the biggest problem is that they offered vouchers, not cash. I've never been "bumped" but I know people who have, and "vouchers" come with restrictions, sometimes pretty restriction-y ones, and if you work a normal job where vacation is limited to certain times, you might not be able to use the vouchers. I don't know if you could sell or donate them - I suppose if it were me, and I figured "makes more sense in a cosmic-karma sense for me to accept being bumped so that guy going to his dad's funeral can get there, or so that family doesn't have to leave one of the parents behind," I would see if I could donate the vouchers to some group, either one that flies people distances for medical treatment or something. Though I wouldn't be surprised to find that's not allowed.

I probably wouldn't want to get off a flight for a voucher and a night in a hotel room. I might consider it for cash and a hotel room. (It would depend greatly: was I flying to give a presentation somewhere, where arriving a day late means I miss giving my talk? Was I flying for a funeral or to say a final goodbye to a loved one? Those are honestly pretty much the two reasons I might be flying these days and neither one would be really workable for me to accept being bumped). The other thing though: as a solo flyer without kids, I'm in the crosshairs. I'm the one they WANT to bump.

Also, I tend to be meek. If an airline employee had walked up to me in my seat and told me I needed to get off because I was being forcibly bumped, I probably would have gotten up and walked off. I might have been crying as I did it, but I'd have walked off.

It was just a really bad situation but apparently United is known for this kind of terrible customer service.

I don't know. These days, when I travel, I go Amtrak. I have never known them to overbook and they have "crew lounges" on some cars where deadheading employees could sit. (Also, I think they try to work the long-distance schedules so, say, a sleeping car attendant works the run BACK to his/her base - I know I have talked with some attendants who have mentioned "Yay, I'm going home to Chicago for some time off!" on the northbound trains.

There have been a few difficult customer service things (I remember the time the sleeper "derailed" and we got moved to an empty coach, and then were told 2 hours later that we had to move BACK to regular coach), but it's never been as bad as that United thing.

(Also, crikey: I wonder how often something like that happened in the days before social media and cell phone cameras? And we just never heard it?)

But yeah: traveling is stressful. Most people are tired and unhappy when they travel. I wish sometimes the carriers would recognize that and cut people a little slack.

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