Archive for the ‘Soapbox’ Category

Tourism Fail

Klondike and I recently spent a few fun- and friend-filled days in my favorite big city, Chicago. We had a marvelous time; how could you not when there’s theater and deep-dish pizza and the original Marshall Field’s store (which I refuse to acknowledge is now a Macy’s)?

It was a thoroughly marvelous time, with one glaring exception: our trip to Shedd Aquarium. The aquarium is wonderful, and we had a splendid time once we got tickets, but actually getting tickets was beyond absurd.

I had scoped out the situation online a few weeks before our trip, but I actually found their site sort of confusing and couldn’t determine what level of ticket we would want, so I figured we would just buy them when we got there, understanding we might have to stand in line for a bit. A bit? HA!

There’s a big plaza in front of the aquarium. When we got there around 12:30 on Saturday, the line extended down the stairs from the entrance, up one side of the square, across, and then back up the other side, in a giant U. I caIMG_4047n’t even begin to guess how many people were waiting. But the line was moving, slowly but steadily, so I felt pretty optimistic in spite of the chilly temps and biting wind. Forty minutes later, we had made it up and across and just had up the last side and up the stairs until the promised land of INDOORS. That’s about when the line stopped moving. Every once in a while there would be a brief forward surge. Slooooooowly across the plaza, finally to the stairs, where there was a tent so we had a little shelter from the wind. Very, very, very slowly up the stairs, and into….the vestibule! More waiting, with no idea what lay beyond. Eventually through the revolving doors into the lobby where we were met with…a rat maze to wait in to buy tickets! Oh, yes, and we were greeted with a sign telling us that all the aquatic shows for the day were sold out. Total time to get in and buy tickets? Approximately 2.5 hours.

The facility kept throwing salt on the wound, too. We went to put our coats into a bank of lockers that only accepted quarters, and the change machine was out of service. We wanted to buy a soda, and the machine wouldn’t accept cash (out of service) – we had to use a credit card. To buy a soda.

In the end we had a great time; the jellies exhibit was super cool, and how can you not love seeing dolphins and beluga whales and otters and penguins and turtles and sea horses? But it felt like perhaps the least tourist-friendly tourist attraction I’ve ever been to. Oh, and did I mention that if we had purchased our tickets online the day we went, there would have been a FIFTEEN DOLLAR SURCHARGE? Each. I live someplace where everything is cheap, so maybe I just had Big City sticker shock. To find out, I did a little comparison shopping of the other big attractions in Chicago.

Art Institute: $23 ($2.50 service charge for online purchase)
Museum of Science & Industry: $18  (add ons for special exhibits = $8 each)
Field Museum: $15 basic / all access $30 ($2.50 online order fee)
Adler Planetarium: $12 basic (all exhibits, no shows) or $28 full access plus two shows (can’t buy online?)
Shedd: $8 basic, but that doesn’t include half the exhibits and you can’t add the jellies exhibit (which costs more) to that ticket. $28.95 for all exhibits PLUS $3 for jellies. Also, $4 for aquatic show, which was sold out.
Total experience = $34.95, but IF PURCHASED ONLINE THE SAME DAY AS YOUR VISIT it’s $49.95

So yeah, Shedd is steep. To feel so under-appreciated as a visitor was a drag for almost seventy bucks.

A reasonable person might be thinking right about now, “Hey, it was Saturday, they were busy, good for them, how could they help how long the line was?”

I’m so glad you asked!

Here are some of the ideas that occurred to us during our hours-long wait that they could have done to improve the experience. To those of you at the Shedd who are surely reading this, please feel free to claim these ideas as your own. Be a hero in the office.

  • Encourage more people to buy tickets online ahead of time. If the website had told me to expect a 2+-hour wait, I would have worked harder to figure out which tickets we wanted.
  • You know those signs they have at Cedar Point and probably every other amusement park in the world that say, “Your wait from this point in line is 8 million years”? GET ONE. If we had known what we were getting ourselves into, we might have bailed. Of course, we’d just paid $19 to park the car, so maybe not. But at least we would have been informed.
  • You know those aquarium employees or volunteers or whoever they were who walked around outside periodically surveying the line? They could share information, like announcing things like the aquatic shows being sold out, in case that was a deal-breaker for anyone. Or, ‘’Hey, we know it’s cold, we’re glad you’re here, hopefully you’ll be inside soon (although we really have no idea because we run an inefficient operation).”
  • You could give out wristbands or tickets or numbers or something so we could go sit in our car to stay warm for the first hour or so.
  • Make us aware of the Go to the Head of the Line option sooner (rather than after you’re already 2/3 of the way through the line), especially if you’re going to charge 50% more for that option.
  • You could – hold on, this is a wild idea – HAVE MORE PEOPLE SELLING TICKETS ON BUSY DAYS, like, say, Saturdays. As far as we could tell, the only reason it took so long to get in was because it took so long for tickets to be purchased. Perhaps you were at capacity at some point. I have absolutely no idea because you provided zero information.
  • Act like you’re happy to see us. When we finally make it to the person waiting to take lots of money from us, have her acknowledge how nice it was for us to wait so long to see your fishies.
  • Make sure once we’re inside, everything is PERFECT. If that means loading more quarters into the change machine by the lockers midway through the day, do it. It’s not rocket science, people, it’s customer service.

If there’s one thing I hate, it’s when someone treats a captive audience like that’s what they are. Be better than that. Wow me with how well you handle the situation rather than shrugging your shoulders and letting us stew and fret. In the end, we spent as much time waiting to get in as we did enjoying the exhibits. And we did enjoy the exhibits. Really, truly. I highly recommend the aquarium. I also highly recommend buying your tickets in advance. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

And here are some pretty pictures to offset my angst. 🙂







Paleo Schmaleo

I will shove processed carbs down the throat of the next person who says “paleo” around me.

omg. dude. that made me laugh so hard i almost peed.


Ok, seriously. Can we please give it a rest with the over-sharing of food choices, dietary restrictions, fad diets, gastro-intestinal issues, food allergies, all of it?

I support healthy living, even though I don’t always act upon it myself. I am all for learning about food and nutrition and taking an active role in your own well being. I am sorry you are allergic to nuts or are lactose intolerant or have celiac disease. I am glad you have discovered that eliminating carbs from your diet does whatever you wanted it to do. I support your choice to be a vegetarian. But sweet fancy Moses, do we have to listen to you talk about it all the fucking time?

(And by “talk” I mean Facebook, but also the real world.)

Let’s keep whether or not it’s boring out of it. I find it so obnoxious when people go on and on about whatever life-altering change they’ve made in a manner that suggests we should all make the same change immediately. We are all different, and what’s good for you might not be good for me. We all have different needs and different bodies and different tastes. And quite frankly, one person raving about how she is now eating nothing but dirt and we should all immediately start eating nothing but dirt starts to feel a little bit like someone suggesting her church is the one we should all join.  Please stop proselytizing your food. I am begging you.

Because also, it gets kind of boring after a while.


And ps, my dad hasn’t eaten meat in something like 35 years, and many in  my family have some kind of health-driven dietary restrictions, so I know it’s possible to not talk about it all the time, because we don’t.

Facebook & Politics

Lately a lot of people have been bitching and moaning about all the political posts on Facebook.

“No one’s ever going to change anyone’s opinion by posting something on Facebook.”

People seem put out by the sharing of articles and cartoons and videos and ideas and opinions.

Not me.

True, I have hidden and unfriended some people. Mostly people where there was never any reason for us to be friends – I don’t actually know them in real life, and they don’t contribute in any positive way to my Facebook experience (and where I’m not sure why they friended me in the first place). I’ve also had that moment of shock & dismay when a FB friend shows up in my stalker feed as having liked Mitt Romney. (This is my blog, I don’t need any pretense of neutrality here, and it shouldn’t come as a surprise anyway.)

I try not to take it personally, too – the complaining. I am a heavy FB poster, and it is a rare day that I don’t post something political or current eventsy. Some days, lots of things. My joking defense is that I haven’t amped up for the election season – I post like that all year ‘round. But I am sure people have hidden me, and that is fine (their loss).

I find that many of my Facebook friends read and share interesting things, from a broad pool of sources I could only scratch the surface of on my own. I really appreciate the things they share; it’s like having my own personal shopper for reading material.  Hopefully some of them enjoy some of the things I post in return.

Do I think people’s minds are being changed? Probably not. However, some of the conversations I’ve been in have been lively and interesting and respectful. (That last one is key.)

But here is the real reason I am not only not pissed off by political posting on Facebook, but truly grateful for it.

I have lived in Fort Wayne most of my life, other than a handful of glorious years in the Ann Arbor area. I have spent most of my 41 years in a world where I am different, suffocating under the blanket assumption that we are all the same here. We are all Christian, we are all straight, we are all Republican, we are all socially conservative. “Midwestern values.” I’m not those things. (FYI, I am straight. Not that it matters. I feel the need to include sexual orientation because like my Judaism, it isn’t visible like skin color. Does that make sense?  Because I identify with anyone who is different.)

College was so liberating. I didn’t have to think twice about voicing my opinion or finding like-minded friends. There were lots of Jewish kids – I was no longer the only voice representing an entire freaking religion. I went to Washington with a roommate for a march for reproductive freedom. Ann Arbor wasn’t just a liberal haven – it was equal opportunity. Every culture and way of life in the world had an officially sanctioned student group.

Moving back to Fort Wayne was a bit of culture shock. I had gotten away from that assumption of sameness, and I resented being lumped back in again. My then husband worked at Lincoln, and we joked that finding other Democrats was like a secret society.

It’s not even a question of discrimination or something overt. It’s just the idea what we’re all the same. We all agree. The way people assume.  If you’ve never been the one sneaking peeks around the room to see if anyone else is sneaking peeks around the room, you probably have no idea what I’m talking about. It’s exhausting just trying to make people grasp the concept that maybe the person sitting next to them doesn’t share the same belief system. And not only that, it’s a good thing.  Celebrate diversity. It’s boring when we’re all the same. Quit trying to make it so.  

Anyway, back to Facebook. Glorious Facebook with our rampant oversharing and lack of filters. You know what I found when Facebook came along? A whole bunch of people right here in northeast Indiana who are just. like. me! Who I can relate to. Who share my values. Who I can talk to about stuff that gets me fired up. For the first time in my life I feel like I have a large pool of people who get me. It’s not a secret society. It’s a community. And I love it.  

I may be a bitch, but at least I’m not a bigot

I used to have employees. Until about three and a half years ago. That’s all you really need to know for me to tell this story. I still receive emails sent to their old addresses. I have them filtered to a separate folder, and scan them periodically to make sure nothing important has been sent by a client. It’s pretty rare anymore that something does, and I can probably eliminate the addresses. One of my former employees (let’s call her Janice) still gets personal email, however: renewal notices from the library, prescription pick-up reminders from Walgreen’s, and messages from someone I presumed to be a family member (let’s call her Agnes – and she turned out to be an aunt). In the beginning I sent things along and/or responded that Janice was no longer using that email address. Then I stopped and just deleted things.

Aunt Agnes continued sending things to Janice. Generally, forwards to groups of people. Mostly I ignored them. A few weeks ago I read one. I don’t know why. It was about a store in a mall in Texas that is run by Muslims, and that it was going to be closed on September 11 supposedly in honor of one of the pilots who flew into the Twin Towers. It was so bizarre that I had to investigate, so off I headed to Snopes, my favorite internet myth-busting site. It was, naturally, a ridiculous misunderstanding and gross misrepresentation of the facts 

I despise stuff like this. People are too lazy to verify things before they forward them, and generally these stories are based on fear and ignorance and do nothing but harm. They get people fired up by playing on prejudice and perpetuate total bullshit. If you read the Snopes article, the store’s proprietor faced ongoing backlash for something he didn’t even do. When friends and acquaintances send emails of this nature and post them on Facebook, I have no qualms about sharing the information I find to debunk the myth.

What to do.

I responded to Aunt Agnes with a brief note that Janice hadn’t been at that email address for more than three years. And that the story in the email wasn’t true after all, along with the link so she could read more. I figured that was the end of it.


The next morning I got a message from Aunt Agnes, sent to Janice’s email, but this time clearly for me. It was another forward, sent only to Janice/me, and it was about Snopes. How Snopes is funded by the left, and is in Obama’s pocket, and isn’t a reliable source, and it’s all a big conspiracy.

Hmm….again…what to do? I wasn’t looking to pick a fight. And obviously I couldn’t use Snopes to debunk her email, because Snopes lies. (eye roll)

Good thing I had urbanlegends.com to help me out! I responded with no commentary, just three links addressing the major points in her forward, including this one.

So far, so good….right? Maybe.

Her response to Janice/me was,

“I think the devil is working overtime and maybe the LORD is comming [sic] very soon!! So many people have turned their backs to GOD.”

Um. What??

Again, I wasn’t looking to pick a fight. I just like to get people to stop spreading emails filled with falsehoods, especially when they’re easily proven so. But now it was getting….personal. Pretty sure Aunt Agnes just called me a heathen. And here she’s never even met me. Usually people have to know me for at least a day or two before coming to that conclusion! Maybe I shouldn’t have, but I responded.

“If the devil is working overtime, it’s by spreading false propaganda in the name of fear. I see nothing godly in the messages you’re sending.”

And I stand by that. I can’t believe in a God who wants people to hate and fear and distrust each other simply because they are different. I won’t. And I will call you out on that at any opportunity.

Aunt Agnes wasn’t very happy, either. I can’t include “[sic]” every time I would need to, so just know that this is verbatim.

“What is Godly about snoopes?? I am a Christian FIRST! If a president or anyone running for office says they are for gay marriage, abortions,and He don`t even go to a church( as he himself said it would cause a problem), And, I have a video where he is giving a speach and told the muslems he is one also. That came from his mouth. Remember, his mother was white and his dad a muslem. He isn`t a black man. You surprise me by accusing me of propaganda.What messages are you talking about? Christians need to be very carefull who they vote for. I am independent and will vote for either party if they stick to not being for the top things I’ve already said. AND, I see nothing in the message you sent me that is very christian. I will make sure I don`t send you anything else.”

And then my head exploded. I truly can’t understand this mentality. You have your values and I have mine. Maybe they’re different. That’s fine. I want to respect you. But if your values are that everyone who disagrees with you is wrong and dangerous, you scare me. Because I am different. I’m a liberal Jew in Indiana. A woman who isn’t scared to identify as a feminist. Someone who doesn’t think socialism is a dirty word.* And there is no place for me in a world defined by people who think Christianity is the one and only measuring stick. Aunt Agnes doesn’t care what is true. She only cares about what is Christian. Which, ps, seems like a pretty vague definition to me.

So you see, I had to respond.

“You didn’t see anything in my messages that was Christian because I am NOT Christian. Snopes isn’t about being godly, it’s about being FACTUAL. All the messages you send are propaganda. You don’t care if they’re truthful, and the messages are about hating people who are different from you.”

I haven’t heard from Aunt Agnes since. I did, however, hear from Janice. She was not happy, to say the least. How dare I treat her aunt this way, just because we disagree? I should have simply deleted the messages. And some other fairly unpleasant things. Fine. I decided there was no point debating anything, and did a preemptive unfriending on Facebook to prevent residual nastiness.

Maybe I shouldn’t have responded. Maybe I should have just continued deleting the messages. Maybe I am a bitch. But at least I’m not a bigot.




*Please note, I am not a socialist. I just don’t get offended or worked up when people cry socialism.

Into the heavy stuff…..

The briefest amount of background for people not around these parts: a 9-year-old girl was murdered by a family friend. The mother was sick and the girl and her two sisters had been staying with the friend for a number of days before the murder.

Here is what is weighing on me (other than all the obvious things about the horrible nature of the crime, which is so gruesome I can’t even think about it). A lot of people are posting about it on Facebook, and there seems to be a heap of guilt being thrown at the mother. I have seen a number of comments about bad parenting, bad decisions, the children not being protected from this monster. (Make no mistake – I agree that he’s a monster. And he apparently confessed, so I feel ok judging HIM prior to his conviction.)

None of us knows anything about the specifics of this woman’s situation, so we aren’t in any position to be condemning. I know people are trying to make sense of this and trying to reassure themselves that it can’t happen to THEM. I saw one post that this is why she never leaves her children with anyone she’s not related to. Um. What? That’s what makes this so scary. Child molesters, rapists, murderers – typically they are people you KNOW. Your neighbor, your friend, your spouse, someone from church. They don’t look like monsters. They don’t have a big “X” on their foreheads. And how many people are doing criminal background checks on their friends? Seriously?

I’m not a parent and I can’t pretend to know what it’s like. But the idea that people shouldn’t rely on friends, that parents shouldn’t ask for assistance when they need it, that trusting people who aren’t blood relatives is somehow wrong and that this woman is to blame for the tragedy that happened to her family makes me ill. She already has to live with this for the rest of her life; she doesn’t need the rest of the world blaming her. Let’s not be in such a rush to damn her.

I know it’s scary to be powerless. It would be so much easier to make sense of tragedies like these if there were someone to blame, if we could believe that this can only happen to someone who has made a mistake. We don’t want bad things to happen to good people. But sometimes they do. And sometimes there is no reason why, or if you’re a person of greater faith than I am, we can’t understand that reason.

I am not suggesting parents don’t need to be vigilant. Things get scarier around here (Earth) every day. But how about if our initial knee-jerk reaction is compassion for the survivors instead of blame?