Not long ago I decided to watch a movie on Netflix. Because I have tinnitus in my left ear I decided to use earbuds because the other option was playing the movie loud enough to crack the foundation of my house and letting the rest of my family know what cheesy shit I was watching.
As usual the earbuds were in a tangle that appeared to be the work of unionized gremlins spending the night shift tying bowlines and half-hitches into my earbud cords, so I let out an exasperated sigh and thought: “Really?”
I was going to sit in the comfort of my own house, on my own fat ass, watch a movie that appeared on my laptop through some black magic I will never fully understand because I was too damn lazy to go to the local movie theater and I was exasperated by having to spend 15 seconds untangling earbud cords.
My next thought was: “When did I become such a goddamn whiner?”
As most of you probably already know I recently traveled to Dallas, Texas. I figured I could write something funny about airline travel; cramped seating, four pretzels and half a Diet Coke for lunch and people with carry-on luggage big enough to conceal a body.
Comedians have been mining this vein for decades.
But after the tangled-earbuds episode, I took a different view.
The Model A’s top speed – a vehicle my mother traveled in as a child – was a blistering 28 miles per hour. So if you put the pedal to the metal, didn’t blow up the engine or stop for bathroom breaks, both of which seem unlikely, covering the 505.9 miles between Kansas City and Dallas would take 18.06 hours.
Now take it back one more generation.
My mom’s mom – whose birthdate I do not have in front of me and I’m not going to call my mom to ask because it’s 7:12 AM here in Missouri, 5:12 AM in California and 1962 in my mother’s house – had stories of traveling by horseback and wagon as a child.
So let’s put my Grandma West as a tyke in a covered wagon leaving Kansas City headed for the Big D.
Covered wagons traveled 10 to 20 miles a day so my grandmother would have spent 25.29 days getting to Dallas and that’s only if the Comanches didn’t decide to shoot an arrow in her ass. Plus, I gotta assume there would be at least one bathroom break.
I may have my Comanche-grandma timeline off, but you get the point: just a couple generations ago travel was difficult, dangerous and time-consuming.
My flight to Dallas took about an hour-and-a-half, and I could have watched a movie on Netflix while making that trip if I could have gotten my earbuds untangled.
One night I was sitting in the Kauffman Stadium press box watching the Kansas City Royals with one of my favorite people in the world, former big league umpire Steve Palermo.
Steve was the umpire that called Yankee Bucky Dent’s home run against the Boston Red Sox fair and at one point was rated the number one umpire in baseball. He was a fun and funny guy. When batting gloves became a thing Steve borrowed one and during a big league baseball game did a moonwalk across the infield – like that funny.
On July 7, 1991 he was eating at a Dallas restaurant after a Texas Rangers game and heard two waitresses were getting mugged in the parking lot. He went to their rescue and was shot, suffering a bullet wound to the spinal cord, paralyzing him from the waist down; the best umpire in baseball would never work another game.
Doctors said he was unlikely to ever walk again, but Steve fought his way back and walked with the use of a leg brace and a cane and became an umpire supervisor.
Apparently that kind of shit will give you perspective.
When I mentioned the Royals losing big and the game being bad, Steve said look at it this way: “In this entire country there are 15 big league baseball games being played tonight and we’re lucky enough to be at one of them.”
When you’re fortunate enough to have a big league baseball team in your town, complaining about them losing a game – or even a lot of games – seems pretty whiny.
Steve died in 2017 and I miss him every time I go to Royals game. He was right: I was lucky to sit in the press box of a big league baseball game and share time with an American Hero even though he would probably laugh at me if I called him that to his face.
Through some luck of the genetic draw I have eaten pretty much exactly what I want all my life, never gotten as much exercise as I should and somehow never had major health problems even though I could have a heart attack and die before I finish writing this senten
(OK, that was a literary joke; other than needing to lose 50 pounds before my next doctor’s appointment in a month, I’m fi
That was another literary joke…never gets old, does it?)
Anyway, despite a lifetime of bad habits I’m relatively healthy so it seems completely unfair when some kid who never did anything wrong gets cancer or goes blind or is born with some undeserved defect that they’ll deal with all their lives.
And when those people face those problems with dignity and hope I feel like a jerk for whining about any of my problems including full-length mirrors that reveal where eating anything you want for 66 years will get you.
If God or whoever is in charge – assuming there’s anyone in charge which as life goes along seems increasingly unlikely – did not strike you with a health-problem lightning bolt, you have a lot to be thankful for including the ability to use your hands and untangle earbuds.
The strong, silent type
My father’s generation was criticized for going off, fighting WWII, saving democracy and then coming home and failing to talk about it.
That generation smothered their feelings with too many cigarettes, too much alcohol and dreams of a home in the suburbs where their best friends weren’t dying on a daily basis and their kids’ biggest problem was deciding whether to be a fan of Roy Rogers or Hopalong Cassidy.
BTW, I was a Roy Rogers fan because he had it all: a Golden Palomino named Trigger, a German Shepard named Bullet, a hot girlfriend named Dale Evans and the uncanny ability to catch the bad guy’s getaway car while riding a horse. Fortunately, there always seemed to be a shortcut.
Plus Hopalong appeared to be about 72-years-old and while I could buy Trigger catching a 1949 Plymouth Special Deluxe on a straightaway, the bad guys getting their asses kicked by a Social Security recipient was just too much.
So where were we?
Oh, yeah…my dad’s generation being told it was unhealthy to bottle up their feelings because it could result in taking up woodworking as an excuse to go to the garage and get away from their families who were prone to asking what they did in the war and the answer was shooting as many strangers in the head as possible which they really didn’t want to think about.
So those men were criticized for being the strong, silent type and my generation learned its lesson: we’re the weak, loud type.
We have been encouraged to talk about our feelings and the result is a whole bunch of Baby Boomers that complain and whine about every little thing that goes wrong or makes us unhappy.
Now that we’ve let our feelings out, I kinda wish we’d shut the fuck up and buy some woodworking equipment and my first project would be making a rack for holding my earbuds.
Maybe that would keep the goddamn things untangled.