Random Thoughts from a Restless Mind

Dr. Darrell White's Personal Blog

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Archive for October, 2022

Every Vacation Is Too Short: Sunday musings…10/30/2022

1 Gallimaufry. A confused jumble or medley of things. Not a new word for “musings…”, today pretty much how I see every airline or hotel booking.

2 Booking. Pretty sure I’ve done this before. While adding stuff to my Outlook calendar, you know, in case I don’t have my stapled 8×11 stapled pieces of paper with me, I noticed a tiny, completely distressing detail I’d missed while booking a flight: I’m on a PM flight when I needed to be on an AM flight.

See #1 above.

3 Re-Booking. At the moment I’m in an airport getting ready to head home after a vacation in the Low Country visiting Megan (see below). Seeing my distress after my discovery above Beth gently took my computer away from me so that she could try to re-book my flight. This is the point in “musings…” where I usually gasp in awe at the power of Beth, of remote computing for, well, everything.

About that.

Turns out you can’t go directly to the airline if you used, say, Expedia to change your booking. No worries, unless Expedia isn’t working. Gallimaufry, again.

4 Short. As in cut short. Having taken a month off to recover from my hip replacement we weren’t able to get out of Dodge on the Thursday flight last week as planned. You see, all of the airlines that once had a direct flight from our hometown airport to Savanah and Megan have up and left town. Seems the landing fees at CLE are outrageously expensive. So if we wish to have a direct flight, and given #’s 1-3 above trust me, we do, we now have to drive 1.5 hours to another airport. This limits our options if I have to work on a Thursday morning because I was out of the office for a month.

Fewer options equals less gallimaufry I suppose, but in this case it makes “Short Vacation Syndrome” even worse.

5 Vacati. Every vacation is too short. There should be a word for this. Simply cutting off a couple of letters at the end of the word “vacation” seems kinda lame, but you get the picture.

I think the phenomenon is particularly if you are visiting someone you love like our daughter and son-in-law. Or going to a place you really love like beach or the mountains. Or headed out on a dream trip like an upcoming vacation we have planned to knock off state number 49 on Beth’s lifetime list, Alaska. Or…oh come on, vacation is always too short.

We were all set to put this conjecture to the test in 2020 when I was celebrating my 60th birthday and we were honoring our 35th wedding Anniversary. Seriously, when I decided to say yes to literally everything I was totally out of control. There must have been 8 or 9 trips of varying lengths added to our regular schedule of vacations visiting family. Just nutso. Of course we never got a chance to test the theory since all but one of the trips was canned by COVID.

This past week was kinda hard, and yet it still seemed too short. At the moment I’m struggling with IT band issues from my hip surgery and walking more than 20 yards or so is really painful. Our routine when we visit the Low Country is to start each day with a walk on the beach, and maybe end up at a breakfast place before heading home. Sometimes we head back to the beach later in the day to sit and read, or to exercise the pups if they are along. Sadly, all of that was impossible for me this time.

And yet, even though I like my job (my boss is AWESOME!) and I have family (GRANDKIDS!) to come home to, there’s something about not waking up to an alarm, to not having any real agenda other than maybe what time and where you’ll be fueling your body during the day. You can do the same thing all day, every day–all we do is sit on the beach when we visit the Cape–and you feel like you need a couple more days to do whatever that is when it’s over. Massively crazy vacations just chockablock filled with activities and tight schedules? Same thing. We once had a trip to London with the kids when they were younger and would have gladly suffered more exhaustion for a couple more packed days.

We probably don’t need to visit more wineries when we are in wine country, but there’s something to be said for being on vacation while you dry out.

There’s no real point to any of this. Seriously, none at all. I’m just whining about the fact that I’m sitting in an airport, sore leg and all, feeling like I’m here too soon at the end of another vacation that was just too short.

I’ll see you at home next week…

Fresh Cut Grass: A “Sunday musings…” Update 10/9/2022

Randy texted me about the exciting finish to an NCAA football game. It made me smile. Not the result, not even the topic, but the excitement. A parent is only as happy as his least happy kid, and at that moment one of my kids was very happy. Randy’s football playing days are long behind him, but the game still brings him joy. Me? Not so much. I can’t shake the image of that young Dolphins quarterback drunk walking off the field after getting his head slammed to the turf.

The FIRST time. He got pole-axed again 4 days later and is now sidelined for who knows how long.

Oh sure, there was a time when football never seemed to be any lower on my list of wonderful things than 2 or 3. I was a medium-sized fish in a puddle as a high school football player, but I didn’t have the game out of my system when I graduated. Accepted at one Ivy League school and waitlisted at another, I turned down both because I was too small to have any chance of playing football at that level. Instead I went to a very old, very small school and played a bit each year all 4 years. Now done as a player I was nonetheless still enthralled by all other things football.

Many of my closest friends were met on the freshly cut football fields of my youth. Wins and losses followed on those fields, most of which I’ve long forgotten. Indeed, I’ve written before that it is only the losses I remember, especially those that resulted from some personal failure in a game. A fumble, perhaps, or a blown coverage. And yet there is no escaping the fact that those countless hours at practice, in the locker room, and on the field are in large part responsible for who I am, the adult I’ve become.

It’s a powerful thing, football. The game itself is exhilarating to both play and watch. At least, it was. I find myself finding all kinds of reasons not to watch football games now. Not consciously finding “big picture” reasons so much as tiny reasons, like Beth wants me to tag along to the barn, or Sasha and Bohdi, the world’s smartest (and most easily bored) dogs, would like an adventure kind of reasons. Football of all sorts played at any and all levels has sunken to a kind of triviality, easily trumped by a trip to the grocery store.

No one thing is responsible for this falling out of love, as it were. This fall is different from the last, and the one before only in that it is now glaringly obvious that football holds for me no essential attraction by itself. Looking back my only surprise is that it took me so long. Why didn’t I begin to turn away as my friend the ER doc buzzed through my son Dan’s shoulder pads with a saw in order to get him into the MRI? Or when I walked onto the field after Randy knocked himself out cold with a helmet-to helmet tackle, his first concussion? I was still young, still sure that the game would bring my sons what I thought it had brought me. CTE had yet to be discovered.

I see them now, both of my boys, face down and immobile, and I shudder. I started to see them each time I saw a player go down in high school, or college, or the pros. I saw them all over again each time I saw the replay of Tua being carted off on a stretcher. I began to see that I valued those young men nearly as much as my own boys, and I started to notice that the game of football had become The Game. Those entrusted with The Game at all levels did not–do not–appear to share my feelings about the players.

The junior high coach carries the star running back to the bench, there to wrap a sprained ankle in the hope of returning him to the game. In a high school freshman game, a rout, the first string defense is still on the field in the fourth quarter, the opportunity to play in a game slipping away for kids who may never get another chance, when the starting safety goes down with a severed spine on a play he should have been watching from the sideline. What was the first string defense learning at that point in that game?

Alumni and athletic directors and coaches at colleges noted for academic excellence openly opine that they cannot win without lowering the admission standards for football players, and just as openly run those kids off the team and out of their scholarships when they are no longer needed to win. The game in the NFL becomes ever more violent, with ever more gratuitous violence magnifying the carnage wreaked upon the bodies of the players. Ex-pros roam the earth as a kind of walking dead.

When did football become The Game? When did the keepers of the game become keepers of The Game? When did football players as young as high school become a modern stand-in for gladiators thrown into the arena for little more than the amusement of the many and the benefit of a tiny protected few? I’d like to think that there was such a time, an inflection point, when it did change, but I fear it has been ever thus. If that is so then I, too, bear some responsibility for what The Game has become. I did not turn away, or turn my own sons away, at the time of my own dawning awareness that The Game and its keepers cared naught for our sons at all, but only for themselves and their respective place and privilege.

Need evidence? Count the number of quotations from college coaches bemoaning the coming doom from “Name, License, and Imaging” money vs. the safety of the players? That kid from Miami is already yesterday’s news.

There was a time when my playing days were long over when I still found myself on edge as the weather chilled and the smell of cut grass filled the autumn air. It was time to get ready to play football. Those days are long past, and I find that I no longer even think about watching, indeed can no longer see myself watching, except as a vehicle with which I can channel the joy of a child, or perhaps foster a friendship. And that is perhaps why: I can no longer watch a game whose keepers have lost sight of the fact that someone’s child plays in The Game.

One wonders about the parents of gladiators past. Did they see then what is so easy to see now?

Today is Sunday. The local team is on and most of the community has tuned in. They talk about yesterday’s game in which the flagship state university defeated a conference rival. The debate a controversial quarterback and the reckless off-field behavior of their best defender as they dine on brats and beer. Me? I’m about to head out into a sunny autumn day and take my dogs and my bionic but balky hips out for a whiff of fresh cut grass. I won’t be thinking about the score or the decision go for it on 4th and 1.

I won’t be watching the today’s gladiators playing The Game.

Communicating: Sunday musings…10/2/2022

Yesterday I read about the relatively new popularity of using something called “voice texting”. In short, you record your part of a text thread and send a verbal message. The WSJ article went on to describe how to do these, to whom to send them, and how to receive them. My friend Lee has been doing this for several years, much to the chagrin of most of the people who are on the receiving end of his missives. Me? I think it’s a very “Lee thing” to do; it fits his image as an iconoclast, or even a little bit of a rebel. I don’t mind getting “voice texts” from Lee, but frankly I really wouldn’t be all that enthusiastic if this became a more widespread “thing”.

A small poll done by the WSJ shows that I am firmly in the majority on this one.

Thus far today I have communicated with a couple dozen folks and it’s only lunch time. Awake to a string of texts from my “play group” buddies. Answer a few emails and look at pictures from the sources of my weekend’s double FOMO, our annual major professional conference and a once in a lifetime celebration of a life saved at my Alma Mater. WhatsApp spoke up with more news from the Chicago conference, and messages trickled in on both Twitter and Facebook. I chatted with Beth over coffee and a couple of newspapers. All of this culminated in old school phone calls–real live, talking on a phone to a live person phone calls–with my Mom and closest friend from college. The only thing missing was opening a letter or getting a telegram.

Have you seen that commercial, I think it was a Heineken commercial, where people with diametrically different points of view were put together for one-on-one discussions. You know, the one with the bigot talking with the immigrant from Africa, and the arch conservative going over local social policies with the liberal activist. In front of their keyboards and in pre-conversation interviews they were openly disdainful of the people with whom they would soon be chatting. Not the opinions or viewpoints of those people mind you, but the people themselves.

It makes you think. How much of our social discord is driven by mode of communication?

One of my tiny morning rituals is to glance at the “Memories” that come up each day on Facebook. Turns out I’ve written about this general topic more than once. Indeed, the first time may have been more than 10 years ago. There are a couple of new modes of communication around now, WhatsApp and SnapChat for example, but spending a few moments with my earlier posts leads me to conclude that the both the macro and the micro issues remain the same.

Nothing trumps “in person”, or as the more modern lingo would have it, IRL or “in real life”. Everything that makes us human has ultimately evolved from how we communicate in person. For one thing, it’s impossible to dehumanize a human who is standing right there in front of you. It’s just kinda hard to dismiss the existence of a person when they are sharing the air you are breathing. When you are engaged IRL everything you do is part of the communication. The words you choose. Your inflection and tone. How fast or how slowly you speak. What your face is doing and how the rest of your body is moving as you speak. And while you listen. You are words and all of the emojis in the world, right there in your whole self as you stand or sit across from another.

Nothing compares with this.

All of the Zoom and Zoom-like platforms are really as flat as the screens on which they appear. Oh sure, a video chat is much better than anything other than IRL. Give me FaceTime with my Mom over even a phone call, for sure. But still how much we get across is still measurably less. An old school phone call gives us tone that we cannot really convey via text, PM, Snap or WhatsApp. I confess that I am at a loss as to whether “voice text” is closer to Ma Bell or Meta, but any conversation carried out through your thumbs is definitely lowest on the evolutionary scale, however technologically advanced it may be.

On the micro scale I have long held that you actually begin the conversation when you choose which of the communication modes you will use for your conversation. Think about it; you are sending a bit of a message through your choice of venue. It would be awfully disrespectful if I insisted that most of my conversations with my Mom be via text. Heck, she doesn’t really even text at all; she calls emailing from her iPad texting (sorry Mom!). By the same token, I am aware that younger folks, my kids’ age for example, often find an unannounced phone call to be an intrusion bordering on insult. Knowing this I text first with a request to hear their voice. At any moment you may be on either the accommodating or the accommodated side of this decision, of course. Just thinking about it makes you better at communicating.

I don’t think I will be adopting “voice texting” into my daily communication menu. For as much as hearing from Lee in this manner amuses me, I really don’t want a steady diet of this particular comms. I appreciate the convenience of texting, although as a “senior” texter I am likely not replying with the same degree of urgency I detect among those younger than I. Likewise, email has a place when I wish to expand on an idea, especially if I wish to have a concrete record of my conversation. All of the other “Keyboard Comms” are simply more than I need; I choose them infrequently, and almost never initiate a conversation via something like WhatsApp, for example.

In the end I think my Mom and I would agree that the best conversations, those in which we express the best version of both ourselves and our message, are those that involve evolutionary developments that supersede the appearance of the opposable thumb. Hearing a voice with your ears is ever so much better than “hearing” what’s been written. If you can pull off a chat IRL, right there in person, well, it really doesn’t get more effective. Both sides of the conversation are at their best and more likely to be giving their best. Doesn’t get any better.

And for all of the time I’ve spent over the years thinking about how we communicate in this not always so brave new world of communication technology, that really hasn’t changed a bit.

I’ll see you next week…

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