On the origins of ‘The Unexamined Life’

In conversation with my dad yesterday he mentioned that he didn’t know where the phrase “The Unexamined Life,” came from but he was sure it was deep.  Come to that, I didn’t know where it came from, so I decided to make sure I had cribbed it from someplace cool.

And I did! Here it is, in Apology, Plato’s account of the trial of Socrates.

“Someone will say: Yes, Socrates, but cannot you hold your tongue, and then you may go into a foreign city, and no one will interfere with you? Now I have great difficulty in making you understand my answer to this. For if I tell you that this would be a disobedience to a divine command, and therefore that I cannot hold my tongue, you will not believe that I am serious; and if I say that the greatest good of a man is daily to converse about virtue, and all that concerning which you hear me examining myself and others, and that the life which is unexamined is not worth living — that you are still less likely to believe.”

It’s shocking to me that I managed to snatch this one right out of the air, because I would have told you I spent my sophomore year in Philosophy class doing a crossword puzzle and seething about being surrounded by moonbats.  Evidently somewhere along the line I did the reading.

So here’s an odd list.

Things about which Socrates and I agree:

  •  Being a smartass is a divine command.

Things about which Socrates and I disagree:

  • That you need to examine every aspect of your life in order to make it worth living.

And in the great spirit of philosophy classes everywhere, I leave you with the following essay question:

What would Socrates – advocate of the examined life- have thought of wearable technology?

What we talk about when we talk about the Blerch

The Beat the Blerch race I mentioned in my previous post grew from this particular comic from The Oatmeal. I bought the book – which is to be made available tomorrow- and I recommend it for new runners, much as I recommend the Couch-to-5K.
The Beat the Blerch comic takes its inspiration from Haruki Murakami’s “What I talk about when I talk about running,” which I have not yet read but will link to as I fully intend to add it to my queue.

The Blerch, Wearable Tech and Me

Hard to believe that it’s already been a few weeks since the world first glimpsed the Apple Watch.  I had the distinct advantage over much of the consumer populace during that announcement because I have already completely converted my entire mobile chain of command (Tablet, Phone, Camera, and yes, a Gear) to Samsung products.  Much as I might be tempted, there’s no reason for me to purchase this impressive new timepiece.

The iWatch renewed my interest in the wearable tech market.  Or more accurately, the rise of the wearable tech market and the impending demise of the unexamined life.  Before I delve too deeply into that, though, here’s some background.

A week ago I ran my second half marathon, a race called Beat the Blerch.  A year ago- almost to this exact day- I started running.  It’s really  easy for me to tell you the exact day because I started running using an App called “Couch-to-5K.” .  The app integrated GPS, music, and an audio coach with what I now understand to be a well phased training plan.  It delivers exactly what it promises- it took me from being a complete running-hating non-runner to finishing a 5k in 30 minutes.  It did this in 9 weeks, but well before that it had turned me into a ravening running fan.  I had signed up for a half marathon before I’d even reached week 6.

A couple of times the app lost my run.  No data? No mileage? No average speed? It was like the run hadn’t happened. Another couple of times I did the run using a different phone.  The app had no cloud behind it in which to save data.  That meant there were orphaned runs that were not being tabulated into the whole.  Panic struck . Spreadsheets were created.  A second running app was downloaded to merge the spreadsheets.  But that one reckoned time and distance differently because it didn’t include warm up and cool down as separate from the run.

It was about here that  wearables started proliferating.  I needed a single source of truth for my data, one that didn’t vary with the phone I was carrying.  I needed to stop my earplugs from bouncing out of my ears.  I needed to make sure that the mileage was properly recorded in my IBM-funded Fitbit..  Sometimes I wanted to take pictures if I was on a particularly scenic (or taxing) run.  So on a typical outing here’s what had to be suited up before I could leave.

1) Phone, because it contained my music and my training plan.

2) Bluetooth headset, because the armband for my phone swung too far away from my body and yanked out my earplugs.  Also, I like to be able to change songs.

3) Garmin 610 GPS watch, newly acquired during a doorbuster sale the day after Thanksgiving.  There was a heart monitor I could have worn that came bundled with the garmin that I remember absolutely requiring and haven’t used once.

4) Fitbit.

5) My samsung gear.  Because I found it confusing to have watches on each wrist, the gear and the GPS would be next to each other on my left arm, a fashion statement no one has signed off on since the end of the Swatch fad in the 80’s.

I was a christmas tree of wearable tech.  None of this prep included things like sunscreen, camelbak backpack, my inhaler or my house key.  As things got more intense during the training for the half, I had to add mid-run electolytes and caffeine.  So the suit up phase could last for up to 20 minutes while I found all of the various elements needed to properly facilitate, soundtrack and record the use of my own legs.

The rise of the wearables is being facilitated by our addiction to data.  As with most addictions, the onramp seems worth it until we find the downside.  A couple of days ago I came across this article in The Suit .  The article discusses the potential dangers of having employees bringing networked devices into the workplace, which is a variant on the current thinking around BYOD.  But the kicker sentence is right here:

From an administrator’s point of view, a business can monitor and track employees through their use of wearable tech

As I mentioned earlier, the fitbit I was wearing during my christmas tree days was an IBM-funded device.  As part of our personal vitality rebate, we had the option of having IBM provide us a fitbit, then linking the fitbit account to a third-party wellness program.  This saved us the trouble of having to manually log our activities, and also gamified the process of leaving our desks by providing points for different levels of activity.  These points were redeemable for Amazon rewards.

I am ambivalent at best about my employer being able to read my activity data.  I went into the program knowing that I was training for a half marathon and was therefore going to shatter whatever bar was set for the game.  My  fitbit fell off my wrist while I wandered around the expo floor of SXSW – which I now realize was the fitbit equivalent of running away to join the circus- and therefore never got to redeem any of my accrued points.  But there’s a balance here that we need to contemplate.

1) Is it a good thing that we can no longer work out without data-driven feedback?

2) Does our employer have any place whatsoever in that data?

 

If we accrue too many points in one day, are we spending too much time away from our desks? If we spend no time away from our desks, are we then a health insurance risk?  To me this seems like a door we need to be very deliberate about opening, as it will be very difficult to close again.

P.S. Wearable tech skepticism be damned,  I saw this at SXSW and raved about it then:  “Ring,”  should be the standard for design of these devices going forward. [Buy one.  I mean be careful and everything, but Buy One.]

2014-03-10 14.23.31

On Starbucks, Part 2: Frappucin-EWWWW

To recap: I was at Heathrow. I’d bought a Starbucks mug. I was happy.

My post-acquisition emailing haze was shattered suddenly by someone behind me bellowing out the following:

YOU. YOU ARE SAYING YOU NEED THIS CHANGE BUT YOU ARE NOT EXPLAINING WHY. WHAT IS THE BENEFIT OF THIS CHANGE. YOU SAY YOU NEED IT BUT NOT WHY IT’S POSITIVE.

I have a game I play at airport gates where I scope out my fellow travelers and give out a mental award to the person (or persons) I least want to sit next to when we board. The easiest way to win this award is to be loud at the gate, towards your family, an airline employee, or into the receiver of your portable phone. I was stricken by this voice because it had by nature won the award, but it was too early to give it out as I was still in the main terminal waiting hall. Not wanting to spoil my fun early, still high from mug acquisition, I willed myself not to turn around.  It continued:

OKAY. OKAY. So it’s because you want to move off of Windows. Okay. There was a lot of background noise and I couldn’t hear you. I APOLOGIZE. I LOVE YOU.

I recognized these as the well-tweezed words of someone who has spent a decent amount of time in couples therapy.  I had no choice but to turn around.  I had to lay eyes on the person who was taking the completely understandable desire to escape the lock jaw of Microsoft’s mediocrity and turning it into a public airport spectacle.   The best way of describing her – although my judgement is clouded by ensuing events- is that she was a human fireplug. Well dressed and surprisingly well-coiffed for an American woman traveling internationally on a Sunday, but still.  Fireplug in a pink cardigan.

I returned to my email for about 30 seconds when…there was not so much a sound behind me but somehow a received sense of reverberating shock on the back of my neck. I turned around again and saw the following things (in order)

A large puddle pile of reddish coffee colored vomit.
A sickly pale eight year old standing at the foot of that pile.
The Fireplug staring at the eight year old, frozen and agape.
A half-finished venti frappucino (with whipped cream) sitting on a waiting chair.
Ten other people, also frozen in time and space, staring at the same things I was.

Witnesses to a traumatic event experience a moment of paralyzed disbelief afterwards- as though we cannot quite grasp the hole that has rent itself in the universe.  I am not equating seeing a kid barf in public with witnessing a car accident. However, there is similar frozen moment, during which witnesses calculate their place in the x-y axis of personal responsibility for what happens next.  Normally the people who have the most responsibility – either the vomiter or their parents- take the longest to recover from the freeze.  The Fireplug recovered with precisely the reaction you’d expect from someone who let their eight year old drink a football-sized caffeinated drink at 11:00 in the morning.

WELL, THAT SURE IS STINKY. DO YOU HAVE ANY MORE IN YOU?

No words of comfort.  No words of remorse at their collective dietary choices that morning.  Nothing else.  Her husband, who had just prior to this whole event been on the receiving end of a lecture, reacted more practically.  Having evidently unfrozen slightly earlier than his wife, he procured a roll of blue paper towels, which he deployed to corral the mess as best he could without actually doing the hard work of cleaning it off the floor. There was an older child who evaporated and returned without having accomplished much except making his parents wonder where he’d gone. The sick kid reanimated enough to walk over to the chair on which he had left his Frap with the intention of picking it up to finish it.   Not on my watch. Nope.  I engaged in a moment of inter-tribal parent glaring with his father, during which I offered the vomiter a bottle of water to wash out his mouth.   This bought his one functional parent enough time to confiscate the caffeine sugar supernova and throw it away.

Having insured that there was not going to be another episode, I returned to my computer.  I’d moved on from email and was hip deep in the news when something odd occurred to me.  There’d been no actual clean up of the pile of paper towels. It was still there.   What was no longer there? The family that had caused the mess. They jetted, leaving their kid’s bodily fluids strewn on the floor of the airport, narrowly enclosed in paper towel, the roll of which had been left on the same seat on which the venti had once stood.

The ecosystem of an airport is so completely regenerative in nature that even though there was still a fouled mess on the floor, new people arrived and sat down in the surrounding seats.  Keep in mind, we’re still within 15 feet of the starbucks line.  So people are leaving Starbucks with their coffees, turning a corner, and getting confronted with the worst kind of coffee afterburn you can imagine. I f I’d had a camera at that moment I could have launched a blog to rival Humans of New York. I would have called it  “Humans and their mess.”   Remember the blissful faces of the lidded coffee cup carriers? Not so much when faced with it in floor form.

To paraphrase the Simpsons: Starbucks, the cause of and solution to so many of life’s problems.

With respect to the family, I think half of why I’m writing this is because I was disgusted with their behavior.  The consensus I was able to build amongst other parents on my facebook feed is that the parents had a responsibility to at least facilitate the hand off to the people responsible for mopping the floor.  Especially in an international airport during this the time of Ebola sensitivity.  No one expected them to mop it themselves. As it happens there had been a previous vomiting child incident (like an outbreak of some kind) at the check in desk at Charles De Gaulle.  These people, being decent human beings, had their kid corralled over by a trashcan with a bag at the ready.  And there was no sign that she’d been given coffee beforehand.  The upshot of this is I think running like that was a chickenshit move, but then so is letting your kid drink a frappucino before he gets on an airplane.

In case anyone is wondering, Fireplug ended up winning the award.  No one at the gate got close.  This includes a woman who was traveling with three warring screaming little boys.  Never let anyone tell you that the age of glamorous air travel is over.

On Starbucks, Part One: The Lidded Patronus

Starbucks is now a major force in tourist coffee in Europe. They’ve colonized the spaces you go in Paris if, on a homesick Sunday afternoon in the middle of your junior semester in Paris, you need to get your Chipotle or KFC on. They’ve also made some nice inroads in the airports, which we’ll hear more about later.

There are those who would tell you  the influx of Starbucks  is the End Times of individualization, and Europe’s coffee shops are in danger of being drowned by a corporate meta-incarnation of themselves. I disagree, largely because we’ve seen this all before with the incursion of McDonalds and other fast foods. French culture fights these things off as the body would a virus.

Stage 1 – injection and nasty immuno reaction  [Discusses the 2000 bombing of a French McDonalds, which killed an employee.]

Stage 2- isolation and healing [as evidenced by the fact that the Starbucks are being relegated to areas already popular with Tourists and homesick students.]

Stage 3 – adaptation, whereby the idea is picked up and replicated amongst France’s cultural white blood cells in native form. Hence places like Quick and Flunch, where you can get a burger and a decent white wine and eat it all with silverware and a nice pastry afterwards.

Exhibit A: Can you imagine finding this at a local Wendy’s?

flunch

France is in between stages 2 and 3 in the Starbucks contagion.  What is changing are the patterns of consumption.  Starbucks is not just about the coffee. It’s about the portability.   Portability is where Starbucks manages to wend it’s way into our day to day lives in a truly insidious way.  North Americans have adapted to the Starbucks cup in much the same way homo sapiens adapted when we domesticated the dog.  Our entire physical and emotional balance – the bags we chose, our walking style, and our sense of wholeness- is now centered around the idea that one hand is going to be occupied carrying around a lidded coffee cup.

As I packed for my vacation, I was faced with two weeks of being without my metal lidded Starbucks coffee mug.  I packed it with the actual thought that I was “treating myself” to a bit of homemade normalcy.  Not only did I chose to carry it,  but I used it on a road trip to Lourdes.   The thought of the walk to the car without the coffee cup, skipping the dance of putting it on the roof while I buckled my daughter into the car, missing the act of settling myself into the driver’s seat without situating my coffee, was unbearably foreign.  Americans are lost without our fix- and that habit is spreading much faster than any brand name could, Gone are the days when the french sit for 45 minutes enjoying their once ounce cup of rocket fuel – there is no coffee bar in France that doesn’t offer version of the 12 ounce to-go cup.

I’ve digressed..  My reptilian brain was overjoyed to see Starbucks in both London and Paris because it meant I would be able to add two cities to my Starbucks’ mug collection. Yep…I’m that girl. For the uninitiated:  There are generally two stripes of city-specific mugs. One, the standard issue with some iconic city images stamped on the front and the city name emblazoned on the front in Starbucks type. I have some of these, but they’re not usually the ones I pick up.  This group suffers from too much uniformity – there is no way to tell if you’re dealing with one from Tokyo or Cedar Rapids.  The second type is usually some artistic take on the city itself, or the specific neighborhood of the city. Those are the ones I grab.  I have maybe eight total mugs now.  People who know me pick up type one for me because they know I’m an enthusiast. I pick up type two when I travel.

I can’t even pretend to be apologetic about it.  My collection  fills me with such a sense of personal well being. I don’t know why.  It has something to do with the idea of having a collection of things from around the world (or the western hemisphere) that all share a common tasteful aesthetic. There is usually a good memory or two around the trip associated with the mug, but they’re not soooo different from each other that they don’t fit in with the decorative whole. They’re also typically of generous enough size that they function day to day as I stumble around the house with my first cup of coffee.

I’ve digressed again. I obtained my lovely Paris Starbucks mug on the Rue St. Germain on Friday. It’s black, with a white outline of the city imposed on it, and several important uniquely Parisian Metro signs interspersed on the white outline. Oh and the Starbucks logo is prominent, but that’s to be expected.  I felt stupid being in Starbucks for even the five minutes that it took to buy the mug. I purchased no coffee.

My London opportunity cropped up unexpectedly, as there is now a Starbucks in the main waiting hall of Heathrow’s terminal 5. Could it be, I thought? A two-for-one mug purchasing experience? Might I get two of the same themed mug in the same trip from two of the world’s major capitals? Clearly this chance could not be foregone, in spite of the fact I was lugging about 45 pounds of hand luggage already.

My daughter and I forded upstream to the Starbucks through the foot traffic headed out to the gates. A surprising number of the walkers were holding lidded coffee mugs, an expression of relief on their faces as they were reunited with their caffeinated guide dogs after an unknown period of kinesio-psychic uncertainty.  The bliss as they  moved forward with their Starbucks latte Patronus.  I cannot accurately describe it.  The closest I can come is the last scene of a medical drama when an accident victim manages to move their toes, regaining feeling in their lower body where doubt had lingered.  That or Timmy’s face in the last scene of Lassie Come Home.

When we reached the Starbucks, the queue was at least forty people deep.  The mug was there.  As anticipated  it looked similar to the Paris mug except that the white background featured London icons and a picture of a phone booth.  Still, it was hard to jump over the mental hurdle of standing in a forty person line for a mug.  I looked at the mug, looked at the line, and gave up. Then looked at the line, the mug, and re-upped on my crazy mission.  In the manner of chaotic Starbucks efficiency everywhere, the elapsed time between getting in line with the mug and cramming it into my overstuffed tote bag was an action packed 10 minutes.

We sat down with my treasure in some waiting seats adjacent to the Starbucks. I proceeded to check my email, all the while relishing the pleasant back-of-brain buzz that accompanies an exciting material acquisition. The  reptilian lobe was already envisioning the moment of arriving home and reuniting the two mugs, staring at them next to each other, and lovingly placing them in the cupboard next to Zurich and Maui. It was then, however, that the story took a turn for the dark side…both of Starbucks and of human nature.

And here are the mugs:screenshot_861 screenshot_862

Yes, this is still an active blog.

I looked at the date of the last post and it’s been more than a month since anything went up here. This would at first seem odd given the wild amounts of things I’ve been up to, but then I went down the list and realized that talking about 90% of it would end up either being

1) Boring
2) Personal
3) Proprietary
Or the controversial 4) which is “Heavily redacted so that things seem neither personal nor proprietary and end up being even more boring.”

Faced with the choice of silence or a series of sentences that looked like this-
I had a meeting with my [unbloggable] and he sent me a list of [unbloggable] and it came at just the right time because I was once again getting frustrated about [unbloggable]-
I went with silence.

So let’s chat about things that are a combination of none of the things above.

1) The Weather.

I think part of the overall blahness of being is that summer has set in. It’s too hot to be outside for any period of time longer than it takes to walk to your car. Then you get in your car and that’s unbelievably hot, so you have to drop all the windows and crank the AC. This cycle repeats itself at every stop until you’re basically drained from having the temperature fluctuate every few minutes from the relatively comfortable 70 degrees inside, to 102 outside, to 168 inside your car, back down to 80 degrees once the AC starts producing cold air. Ironically, that moment is usually when you get to your next destination, so it’s outside into the 102 again. Lather. Rinse. Repeat. At the end of a morning of errands you feel like a frog that’s escaped repeatedly escaped being boiled.

2) The Planets.

Yeah, maybe this isn’t as non-controversial as it should be but Mercury Retrograde was some rough stuff this last time. For those of you who don’t follow Astrological happenings, four times a year Mercury’s orbit moves backwards with respect to the orbit of Earth around the sun. Depending on your perspective, this either means nothing or it means EVERYTHING. Short answer, though, don’t buy anything new that plugs in, don’t trust anything you currently own that plugs in, don’t sign a new contract, expect old contracts you signed to get all screwed up, and avoid making any agreements over the phone. I’d have ended up ahead this last time – which went from June 1 – 30th-  if I’d just stayed in the basement with a blanket pulled over my head. I was without air conditioning for a week, which if you go back and review #1 again you’ll understand was a complete catastrophe.

3) The World Cup.

I was into it this time from the ground up, largely because I was really hoping France was going to be France again by getting all pissy and going on strike. They did so well this time that I bought an FFF jersey. Of course the jersey arrived after they won their round of 16 game, and I missed their game with Germany. So the jersey has not yet seen actual international play viewing. It’s still nice to have.
I’m from [an area close to] Philadelphia originally, so I have serious issues around football superstition. I’m not allowed to watch any important Eagles games lest I cause them to choke. And forget wearing any themed clothing.

The other interesting part about the World Cup was that Texans who could have been talking about the summer training camp of their university football team of choice were talking about Team USA. This includes older Texans who probably would have wrapped their gum in soccer players if there had been any while they were in high school. Not once but twice there were texan sports commentators who talked about soccer for an entire 30 seconds or so before returning to an in depth discussion of the Spurs’ draft prospects. It was damn near revolutionary, I tell you what.

4) I haven’t been running.

I had trouble getting back into gear after the half marathon and had a disastrous run at the Autism 8K memorial day weekend. I decided to take a forced two weeks off of running, and then my first day back I managed to hurt my foot in a way not easily healed unless I stopped everything. I did about a month of short runs and inclined bike at the gym, but I have Beat The Blerch coming up in September and I am 100% untrained. I’m also signed up for three more race after that, too, so something has got to give.

I joined a gym so that I’d have someplace to go run during the worst of the heat. I’ve learned something important about the gym, and that is if you go during an “off” time you are going to see a gallery of bad exercise decisions the likes of which you cannot even dream. The early, lunch and evening crew all have a certain amount of horse sense that comes with being employed or otherwise driven to adhere to human schedules. The mid-crew? Not so much. People are leaned over on stair machines with the resistance jacked all the way up, heaving themselves sideways while fully dressed in street clothes. And those are the sane people. On a sane day.

5) Home Organization

I cleared through my daughter’s playroom and got all the little pieces of everything into individually labelled bucketssssszzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

Yeah that was a non-starter.

6) My Fishtank.

For my daughter’s second birthday I set up a 100 gallon salt water fish tank. Or more like, I set up a 100 gallon fish tank in the four weeks leading up to her birthday and then bought her two starter fish in what would ultimately become my pet project. The tank’s population has swelled and dwindled quite a few times. The past four months we’ve only had these soul killing damsel fish and a couple of black and white clown fish. The guy who fixes it up for us brought in a new filter a few weeks ago and the newly clean tank inspired me to repopulate it. My daughter is now much older than she was when we got the tank and she’s able to help with upkeep of the fish. She’s particularly adept at feeding them frozen shrimp, which is good because I can’t stand touching the water and would therefore never do it.

Overall we enjoy the tank, but I’m here to share a few truths about fish keeping

  • 40% of your new fish will die within 48 hours of getting into the house. The odds are no better for $60 salt water fish than they would be with a carnival goldfish.
  • 90% of the fish that die in the first 48 hours are going to be the fish your kid picked out and got attached to on the ride home.
  • 100% of the fish your kid pick out are going to be characters from Finding Nemo.

DORIE. I have removed at least five dead incarnations of Dorie from this tank in two years. The fish itself is a blue tang, which is particularly vulnerable to skin disease and generally crapping out under stress. Nothing is more stressful than a new tank. The Dorie before this one died of an apparent stroke less than an hour after getting home. The current Dorie has Ick, which means he/she is not long for this world.

…I think that’s what I have for now. Next time we’ll talk about [unbloggable.] Or [unbloggable.] Or maybe we’ll put aside all of that and get right down to delving deep into [unbloggable.]

No promises, though.

Tampa, The Ticketing Desk, and how dynamic-duo sized families look from the outside.

I don’t write often here about solo parenting for the same reason Gwenyth Consciously Uncoupled: Because Branding. But this has got under my skin for some reason so I’m going to try to work it out. WARNING: Contains strong language.

This morning my daughter and I left Tampa to come back to Austin. It’s a flight we’ve done at least ten times before, but under normal circumstances my parents walk into the airport with us when we have as many bags as we did this morning. We’d been gone a week, my daughter had her carseat with her, I had extra carry-ons, etc. But time was a factor so they got me a luggage cart at the curb and we said good-bye.

I was on a singular mission this morning because a computer glitch had caused my Known Traveler number to be lost in transmission when my company made my reservation. This has happened before and I knew it was fixable, since the lovely folks at the Southwest counter in Las Vegas had gone to the trouble of figuring out how to do it.

The reason the pre-screen is important is that security is a bitch and I paid good money last summer, over $300, for both Chloe and I to have known traveler numbers, which is supposed to guarantee that you get TSA pre-screen whenever it’s available. It saves me having to juggle taking off my shoes and pulling out my laptop(s) while getting us both through security. This was more important when we still traveled with a stroller but the principle still stands: a solo parent needs their bit of bought-and-paid-for travel sanity.

Chloe’s car seat fell off the luggage rack as I charged up to the counter but I ignored it. The calculus of traveling alone with a child allowed me to quickly tabulate that I was in no danger of having any items (or my daughter) stolen and I knew they’d be there when I had a moment to turn around. Preferably that moment would be when I was having my ticket reprinted with my TSA pre-screen on it.

That didn’t happen. And I would go ahead and call this Runway I in the overlapping ground traffic routes of why I got so upset. The lazy sun lizard at the counter got off to a bad start being actively pissed of that she couldn’t understand my last name, and then after one half-assed attempt to enter the number (which I knew wouldn’t work without the workout I was prepared to share with her), she refused to try anything else. So we sat there and stared at each other, me basically trying to out wait her expectation that I would give up and her trying to figure out if I was too dense to know I was being shut down.

In the middle of this standoff, a nice gentlemen who’d been behind me in line walked up to our luggage cart, placed Chloe’s carseat on the top of it, and went to go check in at the kiosk next to ours. In case you’ve never seen this particular configuration, it meant that he was standing next to us and being served by the same ticket agent.

She and I continued to fence over her complete disinterest in helping me out. I was getting ready to drop “I need to speak to your supervisor” onto the counter whenRunway II opened up.

Runway II was about 60 years old, dressed in head-to-toe denim and reeked of stale beer. He was waving his license around as he walked up to my left and told me to get my stuff out of the way of the kiosk I was standing in front of. Now let me reiterate, I was in the middle of checking in. I was actively talking to a gate agent. And this drunk idiot is coming up and trying to check me the hell out of the way of my own kiosk? The following conversation ensued.

Him: Can you get out of the way so I can check in? *elbowing in to the side of my personal space*
Me: No!
Him: What?
Me: NO! I’m standing here checking in!
Him: You’re not using the kiosk.
Me: I’m STANDING HERE. This man to the side of me is almost done.
Him: But you’re stuff is in the way here.
Me: BECAUSE I’M STANDING HERE.
Him: HNRRRGHHHGH!

He was genuinely shocked that I wasn’t going to walk away from checking in. I was completely stupified. Outraged, to be honest. Sober up in time to make your flight. And who the fuck are you to tell me to get out of the way? While the words “Fuck off” were not yet approaching the Runway, they had definitely made contact with my brain’s tower and were looking for an updated flight plan into this guy’s face.

Just for fun, check out this Vine. It illustrates my internal monologue beautifully. #capscapscaps

The nice gentleman standing to the side of me was almost done checking in, and to diffuse the chaos he offered to let Drunky McYankeepants use his kiosk. It was at this point that the woman at the kiosk (aka the one I was trying to outwait) realized I was being harassed by a drunk and told him to go wait in line like a normal person. She gave him a pretty experienced airline employee stink eye and I hoped the fact she’d let me be harassed by a drunk would move her into trying my number again.

Not so.

So I get back on Runway I, where I’m pissed because I don’t have my Pre-screen and I have one ticket with it (because Chloe’s worked) and one without it. I try at every possible vantage point in the security line to make them see sense, but no. We go through the whole thing. Shoes off, laptop out, huffy huff huff huff.

In the background Runway II had a ground halt on it that was seriously backing up traffic.  That traffic was going to need to be processed at a quieter time when there wasn’t quite so much else going on to be mad about. I didn’t see the man again anywhere, but I was naturally still a little amazed at his balls and not a little worried he might get nasty with me if we saw each other. Okay, I’ll be honest. It was sort of half worried and the other half was this feeling of “OOOOH WISH he would. I WISH he would…do you know what I’d do? WISH HE WOULD” that has no succinct english word but still made my hands itch when I felt it.

It was only in a quiet moment after Starbucks walking to the gate that I realized what that asshole thought he’d seen. My daughter is blonde with blue eyes. I’m dark haired with brown eyes. The guy who picked the car seat up for us? Who was standing next to us using a kiosk while I argued with the agent?

Blonde hair. Blue eyes.

We’d looked like a “normal” nuclear family checking in at the gate. And for that reason my non-use of the kiosk had actually seemed like I was blocking a kiosk as my husband checked us in. The fact she and I had been staring at each other for long stretches, combined with the beer goggles he’d brought with him to the airport served to make him decide that I could and should be jostled out of place. Meaning that unless he was watching when the nice gentleman walked away without us, he had actually walked away thinking *I* was the asshole.

Update: Having written this last night I’m still not quite sure what if anything the whole encounter really meant.  I have a few observations.

1) My heart broke a little.
2) The fact that it took me so long to figure out why the guy tried to boot me out of the way probably means that after three+ years I’m further out of contact with the “mores” of dual-parent families than I realized.
3) I’m confused about what I would have done in the same situation had I actually been traveling with someone.  My suspicion is that I wouldn’t have been standing in front of the second kiosk, I’d have been standing either behind the person I was traveling with or they would have been standing behind me.  Runway II added one to one and got five. So the odds are that the whole thing wouldn’t have happened had Runway II had all his faculties.
4) Don’t show up drunk (next day or otherwise) to the airport. Given this guy’s approach to the situation, which was to bomb down from the left and start demanding things, I don’t think he’s all that much of a peach sober.  Beer made it worse.
5) My initial impression, that he targeted me because I was a woman by myself, was dead wrong.  The cardinal opposite of right in fact.  Sometimes a pipe is a pipe.

But then last but not least…our family isn’t broken  in any way that shows from the outside.  We looked just as happy and complete as we would have looked were we three.  And that, my dears, is probably the best thing that could have come out of not being able to pre-screen.