‘We expect that behavior from three-year-olds and senile delinquents doddering into dementia. We do not expect it of United States Congresscritters or Senators.’
Just got back from Alaska.
This was the first time we’ve cruised since 9-11-2001, which found us pulling into Juneau as the first news of the Twin Towers reached us and before the towers collapsed in endless loop and slo-m0 for weeks thereafter. Downtown Juneau brought that all back in spades, but that’s not what I’m going to talk about.
North to Alaska 2013 ( photo by author)
No, our story begins in Seattle, at the train station.
We detrain (a variant, necessarily of “deplane”) and walk up the platform to the station.
From a Victoria B.C. bus — metaphorical, not literal
Now: think about it, this is the purest form of democracy. No one is better or worse than anyone else. We all have the same long walk to the railroad depot in white marble, that is Seattle. All have different skills and levels of physical ability, perhaps, but we are all passengers disgorging through the same hole in the train, with the same walk down the same walkway. The faster ones can pass, the slower ones can dawdle, average people can walk at a normal pace and all will reach the terminal in their own good time.
Except that two fatasses suddenly decide to speak about some trivia, make some important decision, remember some important thing.
And. They. Stop.
Spiritual sister of the two fatasses ignoring
“DANGER DO NOT ENTER” signs on Washington beach
They don’t just stop, but they stand, four buttcheeks abreast, gargantuan rubber baby buggy bumpers athwart civil society, reverting to the “ME!ME!ME!” selfishness of the three-year-old or the modern libertarian.
Flying over Misty Fjords National Monument in a de Havilland Beaver
And the twin whales beach the entire flow of people, unconsciously but subconsciously doing it at a column that neatly bifurcates the natural traffic fl0w: wide walk to the left (where most passengers are) and narrow passage to the right, against the train itself.
Another “physics doesn’t apply to me”
hiker on the Wash. fatass trail (see above)
The entire line stops momentarily, like the marching band in Animal House (1978) and resorts itself. Having ridden for hours on Amtrak, NOBODY wants to figure out a new route, detour, change speed and dodge fellow equals all making the same adjustment to the self-centered fatasses of the Amtrak Walkway.
Hobbes Leviathan: the collective entity of the nation
The death march to the bathrooms resumes, as exhausted travelers (many carrying or rolling their two carryons, packed with as much crap as possible) stagger into new lines of approach and new speed lanes.
These are the fatasses you find at every airport, every stadium, every public sidewalk and gathering place.
I really don’t know. I imagine that it must be because this is their first time ever being in actual public, and I applaud their bravery at plunging into so large a mass of strangers on their first attempt.
Because, while we have been socialized in those most important of social skills — standing in line, taking your turn, taking the next open space — without which civilization becomes impossible, they seem to have not only been suddenly confronted with this new knowledge of how humans move in groups, but don’t even understand how in the bloodstream of Adam Kadmon, the Corpus Christi, they become the bloodclot, sending waves of annoyance in all directions, the fishbone stuck in the throat of Leviathan, enemies and subverters of society.
Leviathan cover detail – the state as an entity composed of its citizens
Odd, because without that sense that all are moving towards a common destination, the world becomes a much harsher place, and goods and services vanish, making it a less comfortable place for all. Point being that everybody is annoyed, inconvenienced and thrown off their step by the self-absorption of four enormous gluteus maximae, and all suffer as a result.
And as the line of weary travelers passes, they remain unaware that they are not, in fact, the center of the Universe and remain in adamant conversation while the line to the terminal snakes into the Seattle mist.
Victoria, B.C. — Monument to the
Unknown Tour Guide
Godzillas, with the emphasis on the first three letters. (An aside: when one rejects the belief of a higher power, there is a tendency to naturally become one’s own god, and behave accordingly. ESPECIALLY at the end. It is also a popular form of worship among the godly, as well, masked more cleverly in the cant of scripture. Either way, the notion that one is the center of the universe, dismissive of all public opinion or convention has become a more and more popular pastime of late. Virtually all humans pass through a phase between learning to walk and going to school when the Universe is seen as being entirely for the amusement of “me.” And, therefore, everything is “mine!” This notion generally passes after the first few dog bites, bricks on the head, fingers in the electric socket or bullying by a larger child. And we are socialized.)
Espresso is finally beginning to catch up to blasphemy in today’s Alaska
And then, after waiting in line for cabs, spending a night hauling baggage into and out of a hotel room, taking the shuttle and being dropped off in the cowpens of the cruise ship docks, we return to our common humanity. All have the same needs. And all are cattle.
Seattle: Packing the ship with sheep
This is neatly pointed out to me by the baggage handler who refused to NOT smash the heaviest bag onto the most fragile, containing my keyboard, charger and memory chips. Acting liike an asshole, just to pay it forward from some other snooty or snotty customer, or pissed that he has to move baggage for a living. We are herded, put in lines.
Put in multiple lines.
As we approach the escalator, a fellow in a sweater uniform (you know, with epaulets on the sweater as some form of official asks me if I need to use the elevator, and I say, “No. That’s fine,” I say. “I’m just fat, I’m not crippled.”
This joke causes no laughs. I guess SOME people aren’t OK with a body image that’s less than ideal.
Worse, it was not meant in a “mean” way, or a “smartass” way, but merely that others needed the elevator far more than I did, and I was gladly ceding any phony priority for a fake disability — as I have seen more than once. I do my best to take my turn.
Packed in Olive Oil
I would like better, but I’m not hating myself in the meantime. And I’ll keep using that joke until it gets a laugh. For now, however, as I step onto the escalator, I am the bad guy. I have somehow offended the sweater vested Line Official, who was only trying to help.
Hell, if he wanted to try and help, he should have laughed supportively, whether he thought it was funny or not. Buncha fat-ass Americanism and we get all uppity and snitty if someone is OK with not meeting the Greek Ideal.
Whatever. I’m not posing for a statue. I ate it, I got to lug it around, end of epistle. Sisyphus can have his stone, but if he’s OK with it, who is Camus to complain?
WATCH FOR ROLLING ROCKS
At the intake facility, as two-thirds of the 1916 capacity of the cruise ship arrives, checks baggage and is screened, questioned, put in several lines and then photographed before boarding the ship.
The setup is reminiscent of lines for Space Mountain at Disneyland in the 80s.
You are never quite aware of just HOW long those lines are, because they move quick (unless a clot happens, as in granny doesn’t know where her passport is) and then to the next line.
All by those neat black-ribbon cattleguards, and twice, we manage to not get to the junction before the path is extended, necessitating a long, void and meaningless detour carrying two bags.
Now, I have my keys and micro-Leatherman along, and I put it in the airport style security screening tray. It goes through. I wouldn’t risk it at an airport, but since I have ANOTHER one sitting in a drawer, I thought: hey, why not risk it, and if it goes, it goes. But it stays.
I was raised to carry a pocket knife, and have always felt kind of naked without one. But you know, Nine-eleven and all that. I’m going through metal detectors and x-rays for a boat. This will continue through every port of call.
And then, after countless lines, I stop to go to the bathroom. My wife waits with the nice security lady, as groups of disgorged lines clot into the cattle-pens in regular enemas of motion. This is where they check your diseased condition by asking and undoubtedly observing. Thence on to the end and the photos.
As I came back from the bathroom, I pick up my bag, my wife picks up HER bag and we start at the entrance of the cattlepens to walk to the “front.” A fellow, spry, all white hair and goatee, comes rushing up and tries to cut past me. This is not a good idea.
I know how to block a running lane, as the Official Photograph of the Oregon Delegation to the 2000 DNC in Los Angeles’ Staples Center bears testimony to.*
Not the official photo, but best I could do on short notice
(* I was asked by the state chair to block the aisle on the floor for the moment it took to take the photo, along with another fellow as ad hoc sergeant at arms. A snippy CNN type or campaign professional VIP and his trophy girlfriend were behind the drawbridge when it went up.
He said, I’m going to get security, in his most peevish voice-to-the-serf manner. I said, “Do what you want, but you can’t get them here in two minutes, and I’ll only be here for one. He deflated, saving up his best bon mot for 60 seconds later when I unblocked the aisle.
Sadly, it was so UN-cutting — unintentionally — that I merely said, “You have a nice day, sir,” and meant it. I used to play left guard in a league, I know a teensy bit about keeping lanes open or closed. There, in the official Delegation picture, that guy at the bottom with the ponytail who looks like he’s directing traffic is me.)
He is unable to get in front of my wife and I for some reason. We take the first dogleg of the maze.
The fellow shoves his bag under the tape and cuts in line ahead of us. A woman who appears to be his wife is now with him in the long, empty lane, and they stop to discuss something, and I push past him. My wife reluctantly follows.
Seriously: y0u cut in line and then STOP, thus blocking the selfsame line? Pretty hostile or selfish or idiotic, if you ask me. Consider me asked.
A proud member of genus jerkus
When we get almost up to the end of the human line, a woman in company uniform creates another long leg of the maze and another void for us. This time they do not attempt to cut past us. We now reach the end of the human line, and guess who has to come up behind us.
I turn and confront him: “I was just trying to get past to my wife,” he says.
“I speak English,” I say. “‘Excuse me,’ would have worked just fine.”
He starts to say something, I say: “Why would you ever think that cutting in line and then BLOCKING the line was a good idea.”
coming into Ketchikan
He is very mad. I am becoming a scold. So, I turn and say, “Look, it’s going to be a long cruise. I hope that you have a wonderful time.” He accepts this gracefully, taking it as an apology, although it isn’t at all. (The next day, he spotted me near a stairway and beat it the other way, so I guess he took it harder than I thought.)
But the moral imperative is there: he has behaved like a selfish prick, in which ONLY his skinny ass matters, and we are mere obstacles, objects to be brushed past for what? Getting in another line thirty seconds sooner?
You see, most of the people on the cruise are the age of the CHILDREN of what Tom Brokaw calls “The Greatest Generation,” the Flower Children and Newt Gingrich generation (Newt’s birthday is within two months of Mick Jagger’s birthday.)
And cutting in line in a perfect democracy of opportunity seems to be their forté.
This will now continue for several days in the narrow confines of the ship.
Canadian dollars are 99 and 44/100ths American
(Kids! Get your parents to explain the 99 and 144/100ths reference)
I will only relate two incidents, because I tried to NOT be threatening or insulting. The first happened when we got to our first port of call, and were conned into believing that there were TWO points of egress and ONE of them had nobody in line. The ship’s speakers announced it.
Since the egress was just off the stairs, two women of middle age came running down and quietly stood still, waiting to sneak into line at the first break. My wife moved forward (they had to scan our card keys, which would draw up our ship entry photo, which they ALSO tried to sell us in a display near the formal dining room that one would often pass to get there) and the two women slithered in.
I said, in my best radio voice: “Would you mind if I was in line behind my wife?”
The federal building (pink) reflected in Ketchikan
Oh, CERTAINLY! All apologetic and slithering into the place behind me, screwing a hallway full of people with JUST AS MUCH right to exit the ship as her, and who had waited LONGER than had she. But, you know, Godzillas in the Mist.
The Zillster hisownself
And the other, as two fellows and one’s wife, pulled the same stunt by getting off the elevator and not bothering to move, just slipping in when the line started to move. I followed them into the dining area and said: “Next time you decide to cut in line ahead of me, I’ll say something quite different than what I’m saying right now.”
I didn’t worry about their reaction. Just continued to my table. I’m not going to watch these bastards and not say something, but I am not going to be made the bad guy, either.
Barbarians at sea
I call it “cultural barbarism” — which means that you use the civility of others to get your own selfish (barbaric) ways. A big part of it is that most people would rather let the cheater, the thief, the line-cutter, the tableware palmer, get away with it than cause a “scene,” in which, even when y0u’re in the “right” you’re the “bad guy” for having made a scene.
Let the cheater cut in line.
Because he or she’s less civilized than you are.
All societies have them, of course. We call them “the terrible twos” (which are, in actuality, the “traumatic threes” the trauma usually being to the parents). Or “Republicans” nowadays. But I was surprised at just how widespread it is.
A wholesale rejection of the principles of fair play or equality, embracing cheating, lying, cutting in line, and lord knows what else. Were it just the usual minor league stuff, it would be one thing.
Misty Fjords rainbow & muskeg
There’s ALWAYS a couple of bad apples, but this rejection of civility, this my way or the highway, this “screw the rubes” mentality was bow to stern, port to starboard, keel to crow’s nest.
It seems focused on this generation, which to0k a rejection of authority to a rejection of all rules to a rejection of YOU, pilgrim. The many instances of senile delinquency are too tragic and shocking to go into here, but suffice it to say, the world owed them a living, evidently.
Instrument panel of a de Havilland Canada DHC-2 Beaver
At the cab stands, in the stores, getting off the ship, getting on the ship, going to dinner, standing in line for french fries or for salad. Always the cutting in line, the shoving ahead. Something like the absurdly blatant sports announcing of late. First, two weeks ago, against Virginia, AT Virginia, they were so busy touting the Virginia quarterback that, when said QB threw an interception in the end zone, and it was run back 97 yards (Oregon scored on the next play) they were “impressed” at how fine a performance the VA quarterback had been to chase all the way up the field and be part of bumping the Oregon D-back out of the way.
and in other weird news …
You know, the QB who just THREW THE INTERCEPTION IN THE END ZONE which was the last time that Virginia threatened to score in the game?
And then, the Wyoming at Air Force game on Saturday, where the stadium was more empty than full, and the Cowboys stomped the Air Force Falcons into the dust, but which sounded like s0me kind of male masturbation commentary on how great all the Air Force Cadets were and how everything they did was great, and there was virtually zer0 balance, even including, once, I think, a failure to bother to name the player who scored a touchdown. Just raving on about a team that is looking more and more embarrassed.
ESPN d0esn’t even make a pretense at balanced commentary any more. Just pandering to the largest demographic audience.
And celebrating things one team gets away with while screeching about how unfair it was that a certain penalty WASN’T called against the other team.
A sense of sportsmanship? Fair play? Just calling a straight game? Naw. These bozos are too busy reading Air Force Press Releases to bother. But it IS troubling. The utter contempt for rules (unless it’s THEIR ox being gored … er, falcon being ack acked) is appalling. It is another symptom of a society spiraling into chaos.
Please and thank you are more important than we think, but we live in a lawless society and we wonder why. (Because kindergarten manners and courtesy MATTER, dammit.)
Washington D.C. is paralyzed because we have an entire party who think they can ignore the results of a national election and unless they get their way will shut down “the government.”
We expect that behavior from three-year-olds and senile delinquents doddering into dementia. We do not expect it of United States Congresscritters or Senators.
Takes one to know one…
It’s only a minor matter of degree.
Blame for Both Sides as Possible Government Shutdown Approaches
Pew Research Center for the People and the Press
Tea Party Reps Say Stick to Principles, Even if Shutdown Results — If the federal government shuts down because Republicans and the Obama administration fail to agree on a budget, there will be plenty of blame to go around…
Barbarians at the gates poll well in a kleptocracy, I guess. It’s Caesar’s fault they’re so Gaulling, I guess. At least to a brainwashed or amoral bloc of heads, I guess.
Stupid Gauls, anyway
Gorillas applaud luggage destruction, one supposes.
And so it went, all the way to the final boarding of the train in Seattle, to head home.
Seattle train yards and prismatic raindrop effect
I ought to be more civilized, but, if you hang out with enough dirty hippie tricks, sooner or later you become corrupted. And I was corrupted.
Yea and verily.
The Temptation of St. Anthony. Also a
Black Oak Arkansas album cover
We decided to just go ahead and let everybody board, rather than hike halfway across the room to hike all the way back to the line snaking from the Gate 3 door to the back of the room, and then a dogleg right angle left all the way to the street entrance. And we stood.
And two fatasses, yea and verily, suddenly stopped in their fatass tracks, and half the room was stranded as the front of the line moved rapidly forward. I grabbed luggage and wife, and — I am not proud of this — I just said “screw it!” and we went. Naturally, as karmic payment, we are sent hiking to the very LAST car.
Stretch limo in front of British Columbia capitol building
So, through to the platform walkway, two golf buddy types in polo shirts (maybe there for the Mariners’ game the night before) cut in line ahead of us, just as we get to our boarding site (you know, a steel, welded, yellow step stool) and make fierce faces. I wouldn’t say anything, out of, perhaps a sense of guilt. I’d just done the same.’
And as they shoved to the front of the line, the Conductress said: “I’m all full here, you’ll have to go to the NEXT car” back the way we came.
And yea and verily, did the two stooges who’d shoved themselves to the front of the line NOT hear this, and as they asked the conductress what was going on, everyone else got on the previous car. Thus were the last made first, the first made last and those in the middle did cut in line.
The train returned to Oregon.
Union Station Portland
And that would be the end of it, save for one, final, grace note:
Just as we lefty Albany for the final thirty miles of the train trip, I had Yes “Does it Really Happen” cranked up in my earbuds from my $28 Coby mp3 player.
And a woman came up and said she could “HEAR” my music so could I turn it down?
Oregon – scenic rail route
And I thought “Where were you when the woman carried on the long conversation on her cell phone, or when the two yuppies with the laptops AND smart phones talked business on their headsets, ignoring the rest of us as cattle?”
And I thought, “How is it with all the ambient noise in this train car that my ONE moment of pleasure in a miserable long train ride is what offends you?”
Too late …
But, I turned my mp3 player down, ridiculous as the request was.
Because it’s the price I am willing to pay for a civil society.
Glacier calving – Glacier Bay National Park
And, hell, it was also probably my bad karma for being a yenta.
Gorillas in our Midst.
Just north of Wasilla, Alaska
(photo by author © 2010)