Last year at this time a facebook status, some stories in the news and a number of You Tube videos on "coming out" compelled me to write on a topic I might have otherwise avoided. As you will see below, I could not find a dramatic You Tube video at the time on the harrowing coming out story to which I referred.
Four years ago, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts decided they could save a few bucks if they stopped reminding people to renew their drivers licenses. We are all supposed to remember what year our license expires. Since drivers licenses are good for five years, pretty much no one remembers, thus no one can renew on-line: an expired license can only be renewed in person. Because anyone who has an expired license needs an eye test.
It doesn’t matter if it’s one day or 3 years 364 days. If the license has expired, you must come to the RMV in person to get an eye test. According to the RMV, there is a direct, if somewhat obscure and mystical connection between an expired license and failing eyesight.
Note: After 4 years, you have to start over as if you never had a license at all, including written and road tests.
To save us even more money, the Commonwealth decided to close down all the kiosk RMV (Registry of Motor Vehicle) mini offices at malls where you could get simple tasks completed quickly and conveniently. But that was not enough. They then closed more than half the local RMV branches, keeping only the main offices open.
Between one thing and another, the result is a guaranteed daily pile-up of disgruntled Massachusetts motorists at the Registry of Motor Vehicles.
Garry discovered his license had expired and came home upset. I tried to renew it on-line, but though it had expired less than two weeks earlier, he had to renew in person because he needed an eye test. This makes sense to someone. A punitive eye test. It is your punishment for not noticing that your license was expiring.
He wondered if he could defer it. No one ever wants to go to the RMV, but there’s no reprieve. Driving around with an expired license is not an option. Should something happen, even a minor fender bender, you would end up getting hit with a fine that would make your head spin.
We headed up to Worcester, which according to the RMV office locater was the nearest branch. That turned out to be untrue, but we needed to get it done and had barely enough time. Away we went. It was a trip backwards in time.
I remember saying if revolution comes to this country, it will start at the motor vehicle bureau where frustrated, tired, aggravated citizens get bounced from place to place in pursuit of accomplishing a simple goal in a reasonable length of time. That we were at the RMV at all was because some moron thought sending a postcard to licensed drivers every 5 years was costing too much money. I’d like to see a cost analysis on this brilliant piece of legislation.
There used to be dozens of queues at the RMV. In the bad old days, you waited on whichever line you thought was the right one until you got to the front, discovered you had waiting on the wrong line, were directed to some other place to start over.
After several hours of bouncing from line to line, with the queues getting longer and angrier as the day wore on, at 5 o’clock sharp, they’d close and tell you to come back another day. The new method eliminates lines. Not a queue in sight. The Powers That Be have used chaos theory and a non-linear approach to eliminate lines and logic simultaneously. It’s a new world, a science fiction world, a completely incomprehensible world.
To get you oriented, everyone starts on a single information line where you get a little deli counter paper ticket. On it is printed a 3-digit number preceded by a letter. We were I-256.
There are letter codes A, B, C, D, F, G, I and Z. I do not know what any of them mean or if they mean anything. I don’t know why those letters were chosen as opposed to other letters. It’s all part of the non-linear thing. In the front lobby, there is a single, rather small illuminated sign that flashes the next number up. There is no order to what combinations of numbers and letter might be next.
Any combination can be called any time to any window. There were about 24 queues, though not all were open. If you got lucky, you could hear a sotto voce announcement I’m sure Garry couldn’t hear at all and I could only hear parts of and only sometimes. There were words to the effect that “We are now serving A-132 at window 14″ and that number would flash on the screen. Sometimes they would flash the number for a couple of minutes, sometimes for just a few seconds.
They might be serving Z-542 at window 2, followed by D-234 at window 17. Everyone hovered near the screen because the noise level precluded being able to hear anything. When finally your number was up, you had to dash madly to whatever line you were called, which could be a long run (in my case, hobble) to the other side of the building. No way to know how soon you would be waiting. You didn’t dare leave, not even to go the bathroom.
Garry was baffled. I said that the RMV had eliminated bourgeois linearity and gone to a non-linear chaos-based formula.
“What?” he said.
“Completely random,” I assured him. We were both having flashbacks to the near riots of the 1960s as the lines in the motor vehicle bureau would stretch into the street and around the block. There were just as many people waiting now as then, but there were no lines, just folks sitting on hard benches with dull, blank faces or milling around wondering what happened to order and logic, and why don’t they simply send a postcard reminding you to renew your license? It took three and a half hours.
I took some pictures. Security concluded I was a terrorist. It had been a bad week for Boston and even on a good week, bureaucrats always assume anyone with a camera has evil intentions. I took the pictures quickly, so by the time they told me to put the camera away because “this is a State building!” (what that had to do with anything I don’t know), my camera was out of sight and I was standing around looking bored, annoyed and out of sorts like everyone else.
Finally, they called us. Garry got a new picture which is nominally less horrible than the one he had for the past 10 years. He passed his eye test, signed an autograph for the lady who served us (who became much less rude helpful after recognizing Garry), and we finally got out of there.
I took pictures of the flag being raised again because it was exactly a week since the bombings at the Marathon which was also weird.
So I ask you: are they really saving money? Or is this just another way to make our lives more difficult?
Because I don’t believe for a moment that the savings are not more than offset by needing many more people working at the RMV instead of the rest of us being able to renew our licenses on our computers at home.
While the eyes of America are diverted by the need for media flavored chewing gum, faux celebrity and egocentric politicians who dance and posture like drunken lemmings on the edge of a fiscal cliff, the lost and the broken take root on the sidewalks of New York like unwanted urban weeds that force themselves through the cracks in the concrete.
If the media were covering the Exodus today, this is what we might expect to see:
- Israelis urged to be ‘vigilant’ after locusts descend on Egypt ahead of Passover (news.nationalpost.com)
- I just saw Locusts on my balcony in Israel, we all need to return this Passover 2013 / Pesach 5773! (midnightrabbi1eligoldsmith.wordpress.com)
- Locusts Swarms In Egypt Ahead Of Passover Put Israel On High Alert (huffingtonpost.com)
The question was: “How come religions that say they are all about peace and love seem to be leading the march to war … and are responsible for so much death and destruction?”
And so I said:
Proclaiming you are fighting for love and peace is like screwing for virginity.
Have you ever noticed that every nation at war has God on their side? Has anyone ever heard God weigh in on the subject? Or considered that God might favor the other side? Or no side?
No one goes to war for peace and love, no matter what they say. Wars are begun and fought for money, land and power. Not necessarily in that order.
War is fueled by greed and hate. The rest is rhetoric intended to make us march to the beat of war drums, to stir whatever embers of hate live within us into a fire hot enough to burn through our prohibitions against killing. If a soldiers’ heart is full of love, how could he be sent to kill?
There are times when fighting is all that remains … but how often is that really true? How often is it more rhetoric intended to make aggression sound like self-defense, a thin excuse for a land grab?
War has always been with us and probably always will be. We seem ever able to find reasons to kill and few reasons to seek mutual respect and peace. If everyone genuinely wanted peace, we would have peace.
I don’t believe my God wants war, but I guess it depends on who you worship.
- On War — Our Terrible Friend (chasingwildgeese.com)
- ## : Quakers in Peace and War: An Account of Their Peace Principles and Practice (neardb8k0.wordpress.com)
- Fresh Quotes PEACE March (strawberryindigo.wordpress.com)
While the government diddles around with our lives, someone asked me “Where do you see yourself in five years?”
This is a bad question to ask people our age, especially right now. We are living on fixed incomes that barely allow us to survive. The future is not something we really want to talk about, look at, or think about. We have a pretty good idea what is coming for us and it isn’t pretty. We won’t get better jobs. There are no bonuses, promotions or raises in our future. Our careers have ended and we no longer work. No one is going to leave us their fortune. I’m pretty sure we aren’t going to hit big on the lottery.
So what do you figure is likely to be the scenario in five years? You don’t need to be a visionary or a prophet to figure it out. It’s kind of obvious.
We will be poorer. Hopefully we will have somehow managed to not lose the house which will be in serious need of repair and improvements for which we still won’t have money. Each year, we will have less money to work with, fewer resources. Our fixed income doesn’t stretch to cover the month now and will cover less in five years.
Most of you are younger than we are. You can’t imagine a time in your lives when you have no expectation of life getting better. For us, things are never going to get better. Our fondest hope is as our situation worsens, we survive. That’s not pessimism. It’s reality. We will fight an endless battle to make ends meet. Just like we are already doing but we will be five years older and that much tireder.
Social Security won’t go up nor will any pension money. We’ll be lucky if they don’t take it away; if they do, we are on the street. We won’t get younger or healthier. Property taxes will rise as will the cost of medical care, drugs, food, and everything else. Our income will remain the same or less. If we don’t die, we’ll be lucky to have a roof over our heads and something to eat.
A look into the future fills us with trepidation. We live with constant gnawing dread as our resources shrink and our government continues to marginalize us, as if all the contributions made throughout our working lives count for nothing, as if our lives count for nothing.
I’m not inherently pessimistic, but reality bites and I’ve got a big hole in my ass to prove it. You can run, but eventually, you hit a wall. This is reality for most senior citizens. Grandma and grandpa live in or at the edge of poverty. They live in fear. They know nothing good is coming down the pipeline. Relief is not on the way. The vast majority of us worked hard and now we can barely make ends meet. It’s humiliating and depressing. What the government calls “entitlements” is actually our money. We invested in programs we were assured would provide a dignified retirement. The money we paid into these retirement programs and social security were supposed to prevent exactly what is happening. It was supposed to keep the wolf from the door, make sure that we didn’t end up in poverty. It was supposed to guarantee we would have a decent quality of life and be able to live in dignity.
For those of you who think we are just being negative, your turn will come. It will be a lot worse by the time you are our age. Everyone thinks they are going to dodge this bullet, that this is a scenario that can never happen to them. But it will. Unless you are very good with your money (never too early to start), exceedingly lucky, or already wealthy, this is your future too. There’s no “Get out of old-age free” card on the Monopoly board of life.
Not long ago, we believed something good was bound to happen. This could not be our fate. The economy and the housing market would go back up. We could sell the house and find a place we could live better. But it didn’t happen. With each passing month, as the months roll into years, we know there’s not going to be a last-minute save. Not this time.
The overall economy and real estate market — even in this depressed area — will ultimately recover, but it will be too late for us.
- Pessimists Live Longer Than Optimists (blogs.smithsonianmag.com)
- Pessimists don’t really live longer (rdashknowledge.wordpress.com)
- Retirement no more: Median net worth at lowest level since 1969 recent study finds. (mybudget360.com)
- Truth And Lies About Poverty (bigcircumstance.com)
This is, more or less, the anniversary of when I started blogging. I say more or less because I started Serendipity last year on February 4, 2012 by writing an opening post and creating an “about me” page, but after that, I did almost nothing until May.
Maybe I just needed to write. Perhaps it was all the pictures I had never shown to anyone. I know the heating up of the political season had more than a little to do with it, the increasing noise of politics rolling through America like an out-of-control freight train.
I had been trying to ignore the whole thing.
It’s not that I am disinterested in politics. Far from it, but I was and remain unhappy with America, her handling of the election process, the failure of everyone in both parties to address real issues in favor of mud-slinging. Anyone who was even tangentially in touch with the greater world could feel the rumbles of that train. Eventually, it would leave no one untouched.
Maybe on some level it’s a good thing. At least it got people involved. Eventually, it pulled everyone into a vortex. We all have a stake in America. Even non-Americans have a stake in us. We aren’t supporting players on the world scene. Our name goes up above the title when the credits roll.
It doesn’t mean that we do such a great job. We get mixed reviews at best, but it’s not like some other nation is doing so much better. It’s easy to take potshots at the U.S. We are a big target, a larger-than-life bullseye and anyone who isn’t blind can hit us. I must be more of a patriot than I think I am because I get pissed off at people from other countries who rage about our politics. Clean up your own mess before you criticize ours. But I digress.
I got sucked in. By September, I was deep into the tornado of the American Presidential election. From my perspective, as a senior citizen with serious financial concerns, dependent on Medicare and Social Security that was supposed to keep me alive in my old age, the Republican position on these issues scared the pants off me.
Mind you, there’s no way to be sure any candidate or party will keep campaign promises after the votes are counted, but we don’t have unlimited choices. In the current universe, we get to pick A or B and if we aren’t happy about the choice, the only other option is to become politically irrelevant — vote for a third-party with no chance of winning or not vote at all. It’s a choice many people resent.
But. If there’s a better way to elect a country’s leaders, I don’t know about it. I’ve lived under parliamentary rule. It’s different in theory, but practically speaking, you still wind up picking A or B because any other party for which you vote is going to hook up with A or B after the election as part of a coalition. In the final analysis, all representative democracies are two-party systems. The mechanics are different, but the result is the same.
So I started dipping my oars in the water and eventually, I went from dipping to strenuous rowing. All over the Internet, from Facebook to private email, there was a passion and intensity to this election I’ve never seen before. Shouting, ranting, verbal violence, racism, classism and a scary amount of ignorance made my head spin and my stomach twist into a knot.
I’ve always enjoyed elections. Politics is our national sport, the only one where everyone can play with no restriction on age, physical abilities, or talent. This was not like previous elections. It was disturbing on many levels. So much rage on both sides, so much hatred spewing from so many mouths, right and left. There was no room for the voice of sanity, civility or commonsense. Although things have cooled off, there’s a roiling anger, a seething unrest that is almost palpable and scary.
Americans are unhappy. Discontent with their government and leaders. Many are angry about how everything has been handled for the past 20 years or more. It’s not only this election; it’s the direction of the country. There are good things that have happened … but there are too many bad things being ignored by everyone who could do something.
That was when I began to participate in the blogging world. As the U.S. sunk deeper into a particularly violent political battle, I got a leg up from the activity. Without the election to grab people who normally ignore news, I would not have gotten so much attention. It was mostly luck. This isn’t humility. I’m not especially humble or modest about my writing. I have personal insecurities galore, but I’ve spent a lifetime writing and I do it pretty well.
It reminds me of the conversation I had with our dentist. He’s frequently criticized for having a lousy “bedside manner.” I like him because he’s fast and he’s good. His prices are average or lower than average, you can get an appointment immediately any time you call. He’ll get done in two hours what most dentists stretch out for weeks or months. I commented how much I like the quality — and speed — of his work. He looked at me. “I’ve been doing this for more than 35 years. If I’m not fast and good now, I should be doing something else.” Right you are, doc.
I kind of feel the same way. If after all these years of calling myself a writer and writing professionally as well as just because I love it … if after all that I’m not good at it, I should pack it in and watch more television.
Mostly though, I knew the Internet is vast. The virtual world is crammed with voices clamoring for attention. I figured the odds of my getting heard was small to none. Surprisingly, I was wrong and I am grateful to have been wrong. I wish I’d risen from obscurity to a this highly localized celebrity by dint of brilliance, but it was more like dumb luck. I wrote something that got picked up by Google and pushed me to the top of the search engine. I reblogged a post that went viral. A few other popular posts and suddenly, I had an audience. I thought they would go away when the election was over, but apparently there are people who think I am worth a few minutes of their day. In a world so busy and frantic, that’s no small thing. I’m more than a bit awed when I realize that I’ve had over 46,000 hits in about 6 months, starting from zero. Once you get rolling, the process continues on its own momentum.
It could end as fast and as randomly as it began. I am aware of the fragility of this sort of thing. Popular today, forgotten tomorrow.You can get back to nowhere even faster than you rose out of it. This is particularly true when you really don’t know how you achieved success in the first place. It happened, but it wasn’t a result of anything you did intentionally or could replicate.
Popularity means permanently treading on eggs. It is wise to have a goal beyond just racking up numbers in the win column. If you have a star to follow, you will probably survive as numbers surge and without apparent reason fall through the virtual floor.
So, here I am. One year since the “official” beginning, 6 months since I began to develop an audience.
Where to go from here? I can’t not write. It’s like breathing. Gotta do it, so you’ll keep hearing from me, though this site is getting a bit huge and more than a little unwieldy as a result of 859 posts. They are hard to wrangle.
A couple of days ago I deleted a bunch of posts, mostly reblogs, on which I got neither “likes” nor comments, just to lighten the load. I find myself in the awkward position of having to post fewer things, especially reblogs and photographs. Distressing, but I will deal with it somehow.
I’ve never been able to pick a focus for my blog. I can’t see this changing because I often don’t know what I’m going to say until I start saying it. I don’t want to get more specific. Much of the fun of blogging is the unexpectedness, the lack of structure. Not answering to a boss or having someone reminding me of an upcoming deadline.
So this is my blogging birthday. See? There’s a single candle on my cupcake. Let’s blow it out together and make some wishes, shall we?
Don’t tell me your wish. If you tell anyone, wishes don’t come true!
While I was deep into the A Memory of Light (Wheel of Time), the final volume of Robert Jordan, now Brandon Sanderson‘s epic story of good versus evil, Garry was watching the Inauguration. I had forgotten today was Inauguration day but he had not. My bad.
When you aren’t working or going to school, it’s easy to not know what day of the week it is, much else is being celebrated. I often don’t know what day of the week it is, though because I blog and pay bills, I’m pretty aware of the day of month it is.
As much as Garry dislikes political mud-slinging, he loves the ceremonies that mark America‘s traditions. For him, an inauguration is not the inauguration of a Democrat or a Republican … it’s the inauguration of an American President and he enjoys it, even if it isn’t a candidate for whom he voted. It’s American, not political.
He wrote something about it on Facebook and at least one person went into a political tirade about how he voted for Obama but wished he’d had another choice. Garry pointed out this wasn’t political. It was a celebration, the peaceful affirmation of our power that is far more American than apple pie.
Granted that other countries now have peaceful transfers of power, but only the U.S. from its birth made this a symbol of what we are as a nation … that no matter how hard-fought the campaign, when the votes are counted, the winner takes his place in the White House without violence or bloodshed. The ballot box is where we settle our differences, not the streets and not with weapons.
My take on this is simple: there are far too many people who have forgotten how to be Americans. They are so wedded to party politics, to a set of “positions,” that they are incapable, even for a single day, of just being Americans.
It seems that these folks are constantly gloating (“my guy is IN and your guy is OUT nyah nyah nyah!”) or whining (“We wuz cheated!”). Whether you fall on the side of the gloaters or whiners, if you want to make any claim to being an American or any kind of patriot, you need to be an American first and foremost, with your political affiliation secondary.
If you cannot do that, you really have no idea what this country is about.
- Obama’s Inauguration … and Mine (jessieeps.tumblr.com)
- Happy MLK and Inauguration Day! (sassncurlz.com)
- Meet the First Woman to Ever Deliver a Presidential Inaugural Invocation (jezebel.com)
- Working Together For a Better America: The Inauguration, Dr. Cornel West, and the Legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr. (beyondbelles.com)
- Inauguration 2013 of Barack Obama (anniyang.wordpress.com)