Friday, February 12, 2010

What Time Is It?

Today we were waiting for the FedEx truck. I had to send my computer battery back to the company because it wouldn't fully charge. It would charge partway and it would run on the battery, but I could not get a full charge. After following all of the instructions received from the tech support people and discovering that none of them solved the problem, we were instructed to send the defective battery to them so they could send a replacement. Delivery of said replacement was to be today. Since we live upstairs and the only way in and out is a side stairway, we were watching for the truck so we could run down and get the package. Most delivery people just go to the front door, which leads to someone else's apartment—someone who happens to work at FedEx but is on vacation right now. We didn't know whether a signature would be required and if so, whether our downstairs neighbor would be there to sign for the package if it was and if they tried to leave it there.
We heard someone knocking on the door downstairs and looked out the window just in time to see someone get into a nice new FedEx van that was so quiet that we didn't hear it drive up the way we usually hear the big old trucks. We didn't hear the door get answered, so we thought maybe they'd just left the package on the porch. I went down the back stairs, out the side door, and around to the front. I walked by but saw no package. This was about 10 or 10:30 this morning. Bill checked the tracking number on the website and it said it was still on the truck.
Later on he was going out to move his truck to the other side of the street and he checked again. This was at about 2:10. It said it had been delivered at 1:59 and “left in front of door.” Well, not really. There was no FedEx truck here at that time. Bill went and checked again before he moved the truck. Nothing. As he was getting out of the truck, the neighbor pulled up so he asked if there'd been a package delivered. There was not—the earlier FedEx person had come to deliver something to do with this person's employment. So we began the hunt for the number to call, since we figured they had left the package at the wrong house. I called one number and was sent elsewhere. Then I got one of those automated menus that ask you to speak and give you limited categories. I chose “more options” until I got to “claims,” figuring that was as close as I'd come.
The woman I ended speaking to was friendly and pleasant. She asked for the tracking number, which I gave her. She said, “It says here it was delivered at 1:59.” I told her, “I understand that that's what the computer says. But it isn't here and there was no truck here at 1:59. We've been watching for it.” I think she repeated that the computer said it had been delivered at 1:59. I repeated that I understood that, but that I didn't have it and the downstairs neighbor didn't have it. I was told that they could trace it. I was thinking that it was unlikely that this was going to be at all useful, since presumably once it was scanned as delivered they would no longer be able to track it at all, and the computer already said it had been delivered at 1:59. However, realizing that this was a line of discussion that was likely to lead nowhere, I asked whether they would let me know the results of this exercise. “You can call back in a day or two,” she said. If they found nothing, which I suspected was pretty much a foregone conclusion, I should tell the company that sent it to file a claim. It was now 2:35.
At about 2:40, we heard our neighbor calling from downstairs that our package, which was already delivered at 1:59 and left on the doorstep according to the computer had just been delivered by hand to our neighbor. This is good to know. Either I am in a time warp or FedEx drivers just randomly scan things as delivered that have not been delivered at all. There was nothing about that computer entry that was correct. For a time, it had not been delivered, though the computer said it was. When it was delivered, it was not at 1:59, but at about 2:38. It was not left at the door, it was handed to a live person. So, now we know that “the computer says...” really means pretty much nothing. But at least I got my battery.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Don't Burst the Bubble!

The other day we facilitated the second of six story circles with members and attendees of the First Unitarian Universalist Church of Niagara. As these things usually are, it was amazing. I was reminded again of why I have such faith in human beings to change the world in miraculous ways. I sometimes despair when I read about the many, many people who simply believe what they are told through various media outlets. They seem to be quite willing to enter the bubble of unreality that these people construct. On one hand, I understand this—these people offer simple solutions. Or at least they seem simple. Usually they are totally illogical and make no sense whatsoever. But if one is in a drowsy state of unawareness, I suppose it can all seem pretty attractive. It seems that lots of people are scared and so they are willing to leave their brains at the door whenever someone tells them that it's all Obama's fault, or that Democrat equals socialist or whatever. People want things that are simply impossible to have happen all at the same time. Some idiot at some town hall show or tea party rally or something had a sign that said, “Keep your government hands off my Medicare.” Huh? Without government hands on Medicare, there's no Medicare. It is after all, government run health care—gasp! Maybe that person who receives this government run health care is actually a closet socialist who wants to take over the world—the total ignorance just boggles the mind! Then there are the cries to lower the deficit, magically create jobs, cut taxes, and fight terrorism around the globe. Never mind that you simply can't do all of these things effectively all at once. It makes me laugh to hear people blatantly lie and make stuff up watch the masses agree. I read an article the other day arguing that maybe populism isn't such a great idea. I take the point. If people want their elected leaders to listen to them, then they have to be truly knowledgeable about the issues they care about. Ignorance is not enough. Taking pride in your ignorance is not enough. Just believing something is true because some other ignorant person said it and told you it was the truth is not enough. Usually I am pretty accepting of the idea that I am witnessing the continuing downfall of this nation as a superpower. I don't necessarily think that's a bad thing. Clearly, the population is simply not up to the task. You can't create a fantasy world, pretend it's real, revel in your own ignorance and expect to thrive. What goes around comes around. And the fact is, you can't reason with someone who is attached to their own ignorance and the fantasy world they inhabit. Because you don't live in their world and they don't live in yours. And when you ask them questions or ask them to clarify their position, they can't. They keep repeating the party line to which they have subscribed. I find it sad. We have these incredible human brains that many people deliberately choose not to use—wasted resources, indeed. I read the other day that neocons are coming back. One in particular keeps getting invited onto talk shows simply because he edits a journal. Their ideas have been completely discredited and they keep repeating them. One friend of this guy said that he didn't care if he was right or wrong, as long as he is unique. I don't have a problem with the guy himself. This is a strategy that's working for him--and that is all he seems to care about--himself. The problem comes when people give him credibility. In a world of aware people, he would be a fringy guy who most people don't take seriously. His ideas have never worked, remember. In fact, they have created a mess for the country. And yet, people still believe him and ask him to come and talk about these discredited ideas. A Republican pollster who gets much business from the financial industry advises people to just lie or to oppose things before they know what they're even about. This may good in terms of individual gain--I am sure he making lots of money. The moral question about what he is doing is one he will have to answer--and has, I suppose--for himself. But again, these strategies should not work. The only reason they do is because there are enough people who are willing to hand over their brains to someone like this. So as things continue to get worse, people should be looking at themselves and their failure to take responsibility for knowing what is going on rather than embracing ignorance. It's easier, though, to blame someone else and then be surprised later when things don't work out as your fantasy storyline says they should.
I think the sooner the US loses its world dominance—a moment that seems to get closer each day—the better it will be for the planet. I am not sure I want China at the helm, either, but since we helped them get where they are—our mindless consumption of cheap crap certainly has helped their economy grow—we will have to live with those consequences, too. And the more US debt they hold, the more control they have over us.
But as I listened to the stories in the circle on Saturday, I was reminded that there are people who are energized by learning different points of view, who are not stuck in one mode of thinking, who have the capacity and the desire to engage in independent thinking, who have chosen to live in the real world, messy as it is, and who actually seek out ideas. These are the people we don't hear about on the news. These are the people who give me hope. These are the people who can change the world—one story at a time.