YOUR BRAIN HAS BEEN SOLD TO THE HIGHEST BIDDER

By Suzanne Sparrow Watson

Whew…these are tough days we’re in.  I readily admit that my stress level is through the roof.  This week I decided to take a break from news shows and social media.  Yes, I’m going to miss all the posts of cute dogs and scrumptious birthday cakes, but my mental health requires it.  A few days ago I decided to stick with Netflix and I hit upon the documentary “The Social Dilemma”.  The film features former executives and developers from Facebook, Google, Instagram, Pinterest and Twitter and their comments about the dangers of these social media platforms are both illuminating and frightening.  As is so often the case, these sites started out with good – perhaps even innocent – intentions to make the world more connected.  But to a person the executives are alarmed at what social media has become.  The documentary spells out in a clear way how our brains are being manipulated and even rewired by algorithms designed to get our attention and make us buy things.  And not just to buy physical “things” but to buy into ideas.  Ideas about the world, ourselves, and each other.

After watching the documentary I wanted to know more.  I read as much as I could stand about social media manipulation, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Attention Extraction (AE).  You may not have heard of the latter.  AE is a business model used by all of the social media platforms to monetize their business. In other words, it’s how they make the big bucks.  The basic construct is they employ surveillance tools to observe what their users are viewing and clicking.  Have you ever thought it was creepy when you see an ad for something you were just talking about or Googled?  It is all planned.  The tech companies are constantly reviewing what interests you and then they  configure the algorithm to have ads or stories come up related to that interest.   And who is paying for those ads or stories?  Big business and big politics.  In other words, the product that big tech is monetizing is YOU!   If we only saw ads for a dog food we’d researched that might be pretty harmless.  But it goes deeper than that.  The algorithms in AI and AE  use what they know about you to tailor the news results you see.   The upshot is the average person is only seeing stories that reinforce their preexisting inclinations. Some of the tech executives opine that no one knows what is genuinely true anymore because every story has gone through a filter.  That goes a long way toward explaining why we’re so divided.  AI is increasingly being used to curate and generate the news.  Even traditional news organizations such as the AP, Bloomberg and The Washington Post are utilizing it and Microsoft has transitioned to AI to generate all the news on its MSN homepage.  And who is programming the AI and checking it?  The executives in the documentary point out that only a handful of people in any of the companies understand the AI algorithms and that AI is becoming so sophisticated that soon no one will understand or control it.

Perhaps more troubling than skewed news and advertising is the affect of social media on our youth.  According to a September 2020 report by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the suicide rate for pediatric patients rose 57.4% from 2007 to 2018.  That should alarm everyone.  The Facebook engineer who invented the “Like” button did so thinking it would be a positive reinforcement.  Instead, it turned into a social measurement of popularity among young teens.  Other social media platforms followed suit and we now have a generation of kids who assess their self-worth by the comments others make about their posts and photos.  Pre-teens, who have never been known for their kindness, have taken criticism and cruelty to a new level.  Almost all of the executives interviewed in “The Social Dilemma”  ban the social media apps on their children’s devices.  That speaks volumes.  In 2020 when we add in COVID and its isolating impact, it’s easy to see how overwhelmed and vulnerable young kids have become.

Certainly social media is not to blame entirely for our problems and, in fact, it can provide some positive relationships and distractions, but we need to be better informed about how we are being influenced and manipulated.   Bob and I obviously get the irony that some of you may be viewing our blog on Facebook, which means we’re contributing to the problem.  We are going to spend some time this week discussing our social media presence going forward.  Look for news on that next week.  In the meantime, we ask that you subscribe directly to our blog.   Why?  Because we don’t monetize our site – no one pays us and we don’t pay anyone (except platform management fees) and we certainly don’t share our subscriber list.  Here is a link to the site and you can sign up in the right hand column:  https://fromabirdseyeview.com/

For me, I’m taking a break from social media.  If you post something fun or interesting please don’t be offended if I don’t click the “Like” button.  If you don’t get a Facebook message from me on your birthday, rest assured I’m still wishing you a happy year ahead, I’ll just do it via email.  Finally, if you’re one of my friends who is constantly re-posting news and political stories I respectfully ask that you stop and think about how you’re being used by the big tech giants.  If you want to write something original – great!  But re-posting just feeds the beast and the beast needs to be killed.

See you on the other side.

P.S.  In addition to “The Social Dilemma” I found the following article to be most informative.  I’ve included the link in case you’re interested.

“The Dark Psychology of Social Networks” by Jonathan Haidt in The Atlantic

https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2019/12/social-media-democracy/600763/

 

I Couldn’t Have Said It Better Myself

by Bob Sparrow

(When writing this blog, I’ve never just copied and pasted an entire article I’ve seen elsewhere, but that’s about to end, as this 96-year old woman’s letter to her bank said it much better than I ever could.  I share her dislike of banks.)

Letter to my bank

To whom it may concern,

I am writing to thank you for bouncing my check with which I endeavored to pay my plumber last month. By my calculations, three nanoseconds must have elapsed between his depositing the check and the arrival in my account of the funds needed to honor it. I refer, of course, to the automatic monthly transfer of funds from my modest savings account, an arrangement which, I admit, has been in place for only thirty-one years.

You are to be commended for seizing that brief window of opportunity, and also for debiting my account $30 by way of penalty for the inconvenience caused to your bank.

My thankfulness springs from the manner in which this incident has caused me to rethink my errant financial ways. I noticed that whereas I personally attend to your telephone calls and letters, when I try to contact you, I am confronted by the impersonal, overcharging, pre-recorded, faceless entity which your bank has recently become.

From now on, I, like you, choose only to deal with a flesh-and-blood person.

My mortgage and loan repayments will therefore and hereafter no longer be automatic, but will arrive at your bank, by check, addressed personally and confidentially to an employee at your bank whom you must nominate.

Be aware that it is an offense under the Postal Act for any other person to open such an envelope.

Please find attached an Application Contact Status form which I require your chosen employee to complete.

I am sorry it runs to eight pages, but in order that I know as much about him or her as your bank knows about me, there is no alternative.

Please note that all copies of his or her medical history must be countersigned by a Notary Public, and the mandatory details of his/her financial situation (income, debts, assets and liabilities) must be accompanied by documented proof. In due course, I will issue your employee with a PIN number which he/she must quote in dealings with me. I regret that it cannot be shorter than 28 digits but, again, I have modeled it on the number of button presses required of me to access my account balance on your phone bank service. As they say, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

Please allow me to level the playing field even further. When you call me, you will now have a menu of options on my new voice mail system to choose from.

Please press the buttons as follows:

Press 1: To make an appointment to see me.

Press 2: To query a missing payment.

On hold with the bank!

Press 3: To transfer the call to my living room in case I am there.

Press 4: To transfer the call to my bedroom in case I am sleeping.

Press 5: To transfer the call to my toilet in case I am attending to nature.

Press 6: To transfer the call to my mobile phone if I am not at home.

Press 7: To leave a message on my computer, a password to access my computer is required. Password will be communicated to you at a later date to the Authorized Contact.

Press 8: To return to the main menu and to listen to options 1 through 7.

To make a general complaint or inquiry. The contact will then be put on hold, pending the attention of my automated answering service. While this may, on occasion, involve a lengthy wait, uplifting music will play for the duration of the call.

Regrettably, but again following your example, I must also levy an establishment fee of $50 to cover the setting up of this new arrangement. Please credit my account after each occasion.

Your Humble Client…

(That’s telling ’em granny!  I thought of your letter again today as eight of us were waiting in line at the bank (socially distanced out the door) while one teller was working and 5 other bank employees were busy doing nothing behind the ‘glass curtain’, being sure not to make eye-contact with those of us waiting in line!  They want to take care of my money, but don’t seem that interested in taking care of me. Arrrrrrrrrrrrrrg!!!)

LET THERE BE LIGHT

By Suzanne Sparrow Watson

                     Original and updated

A friend commented the other day that in the 20 years she’s known me I’ve been in a constant state of remodeling my house.  That’s not really true, but it’s not far off.  Hey, tastes change.  Plus, in my defense, when we moved here 22 years ago interior design trends were different.  I recall our first designer promising us that she would never inflict howling coyotes or cactus motifs on us, but we did end up with another popular trend at the time – darker finishes.  So over the ensuing years we’ve undertaken five remodeling projects.  I’ve changed the kitchen, modernized the office, torn down fireplaces, put in new windows and doors and updated the master bath and laundry room.  I don’t think that’s so much over a 20 year period but then again I may be in a state of denial.  Or the paint fumes I’m smelling right now have made me a bit delusional. In any event, this latest project I’m chalking up to Corona virus.

                I had no choice, right?

We’ve spent a lot of time in the house since March.  A lot.  The one thing I’ve never changed over the years is our flooring.  I hated it but I have heard such horror stories about removing tile that I never had the nerve to rip it all out.  I became increasingly irritated with it over the summer.  Okay, it was probably the virus and all the other crap we’ve been through that had me in a bad mood, but the floor took the brunt of my angst.  Finally I decided that I might not be able to do anything about a virus but I sure as hell could change some tile.  As it turns out, it was amazingly easy; the relatively new “dustless” tile removal is a miracle.  In 24 hours they had removed 1650 square feet of tile and cleaned it up.  It is unbelievably quiet and while it’s not completely dustless, it’s darn close.  I spent about 500 hours on Houzz looking for ideas and finally chose new tile much lighter than our old one.  Unfortunately (but not really) it became obvious that we would need to change the backsplashes in the kitchen and bar to blend better with the floor.  The problem was the countertop on the bar was dark so in order to change the backsplash we really needed to change the countertop.  You can see my point in the photo.  It HAD to be replaced.  I sought out just the right slab that would blend with our current kitchen granite.  The kitchen countertops in the showroom were stunning so I floated the idea of getting all new granite for the kitchen.  That idea was met with a stony stare, no pun intended.

Out with the old…

…and in with the new

Our project started on September 7th, with the slab company dropping our piece of quartzite and shattering it.  Not an auspicious beginning.  I hadn’t planned on being stressed out on the very first day.  I began to question doing a remodel at a time when my husband and I were spending an inordinate amount of time together.  But luckily the company was able to fabricate a new piece in a couple of days and from then on it was smooth sailing.  Every person working on our project was great to deal with and worked efficiently.  I loved the floor when it went into the great room but once it was laid in the living and dining rooms it looked terrible against the carpet.  My eye doctor told me I have an extraordinary ability to see color but I may be seeking another opinion.  My “eye for color” was a bit dodgy in this case.  I woke up at 2:30 one morning, distressed that I had made such an error.  Later that morning, my husband gave me a big hug and said if new carpeting would make me happy then I should order it.  And THAT is why we’ve been married 37 years.  The carpeting goes in next week.

         I’m DONE…for now

I have found it amazing what change and light can do for one’s attitude.  Change is a very good thing.  Some people change their hair color, and here in Scottsdale, lots of people change their faces, but the fact is a change of any sort helps us view the world a bit differently.  Adding lighter tones to our rooms has made my world a bit brighter, which in turn, has made me a bit less crabby.  I admit I’m a bit of a remodel junkie and not everyone likes to change things up as often as I do, but I swear that just changing out the bathroom towels can elevate your mood.  I highly recommend it.  Of course, I won’t be buying any new towels for a while – I’ve been put in remodel jail.  Oh well, at least it’s pretty in here.

SOUL SUCKING

By Suzanne Sparrow Watson

 

          Before the cleanup

This is going to be a short post.  Last week in the midst of remodeling I broke my toe.  I should know better than to walk barefoot – I’m way too prone to bumping into things.  But we had our tile floor taken up and for a few days we had nothing but dirty concrete in the majority of the house.  Sure, the contractor vacuumed after he was done but somehow 22 years of dust and mortar clung to the surface.   At one point I got on the working end of a wet mop in my compulsive attempt to clean it but even I realized the futility of that endeavor.  Anyway, I couldn’t wear shoes on the concrete and then walk on the carpeted areas of the house so I was barefoot much of the time.  As I was playing with Dash the Wonder Dog one evening I ran after his toy (“fetch” is not his strong suit) and rammed my foot into an ottoman.  When you hear a loud crunch at my age you know it’s not a good thing.  For such a small digit it hurts like hell.  The only time I’m comfortable is with my foot up with ice on it.  And ice in a glass.  With alcohol.

OMG, it’s gooooood

But broken toe aside, two good things happened this week.  Perhaps the first good things that have happened in 2020.  First, Soul Café, our favorite little breakfast place re-opened.  Dash is thrilled because they are very pet-friendly (they even have a separate dog menu) and he gets scrambled eggs when we go there.  As for me, I’m excited because I can once again gorge on my favorite Raspberry Granola pancakes.  They are perfection itself.  Crispy on the edges and soft on the inside, chocked full of fresh raspberries and house-made granola.  I have a huge appetite and even I can’t finish one.  The regular order comes with TWO pancakes.  I can’t imagine anyone being able to eat two in one sitting but our favorite server assures us that people do.  And speaking of servers, we have two of them that we adore and have gotten to know us over the years.  Actually I think they like Dash more than us but since we’re footing the bill they tolerate us.  I was so happy to see that both servers have been brought back after months of being laid off.  Somehow it made life seem a little bit more normal in this very un-normal year.

The second great event was that the Pac-12 announced they’re going to play football this fall.  That may not be earth shattering news and college football is certainly a “nice to have” but, boy, being able to watch the Pac 12 play football again has lifted my spirits no end.  I hear that there is an election going on this year but I’m choosing to focus on college football instead.  I know that I don’t have control over either one of them but at least with college football you avoid the slimy, soul-sucking, utter hypocrisy that is our political system right now.

So for the foreseeable future you can find me in my she-shed, foot propped up, remote control in hand, studying the Pac 12 schedules and rankings.  At some point I’ll work on teaching Dash the concept of bringing the ball back to me but I’m not getting my hopes up.

PERSPECTIVE

By Suzanne Sparrow Watson

My husband and his mother, 1941

Ten years ago this week my mother-in-law passed away at the age of 96.  That’s a good run by anyone’s standards but given her life story, it was truly extraordinary.  I’ve been thinking about her a lot this summer as we have wended our way through the coronavirus pandemic.  At times it was easy to get discouraged, between social distancing, isolation from family and not being able to eat the raspberry granola pancakes at our favorite restaurant.  But whenever I would begin to feel just the teensiest bit sorry for myself I would think of all that she endured and realize what a dope I was for being ungrateful.   Some may have read my previous posts about her, or read our book, In the Enemy’s Camp, but for those of you who are unfamiliar the following is a recap.

 

          Internee shanties 

Kathleen Chapman Watson was born in the Philippines to a British mother and an American father.  She enjoyed a wonderful childhood that she spoke about fondly for the rest of her days.  At age 22 she married Daniel Watson, a Scot who was based in Manila working for a Glasgow import/export company.  They expanded their family in 1937 with a son, Richard, and in 1941 with my husband, Alan.  They believed their life to be perfect.  Then in December 1941 the Japanese attacked Manila.  By January, all men who possessed Allied citizenship were taken to an internment camp at Santo Tomas University.  Kathleen and the boys stayed in their home but the Japanese slowly began to confiscate their possessions.  First it was their car, then furniture and finally, their house.  By August, her parents were sent to the U.S. in a prisoner exchange and she saw no choice but to join Danny in the camp.  All told, more than 3500 Allied citizens ended up in Santo Tomas, mostly businessmen and their families.  The overcrowding was stifling, both in terms of privacy and space.  Eventually many of the families, including Daniel and Kathleen,  built shanties outside the main dormitory building to gain some semblance of a home.

For more than three and one-half years they lived with the privations and vagaries of their Japanese captors.  By the end of their captivity they were allotted just 800 calories per day.  Danny had every tropical disease known to man and his 6’2″ frame was skeletal.  Kathleen suffered with malaria throughout their internment.  The news they received was spotty at best and most updates were based on unsubstantiated rumor.  Finally in September of 1944 they heard the rumblings of something unrefutable: American bomber planes.   By Christmas of that year they were still held captive, with increasing retribution and punishments by the Japanese.  The salvation they thought was imminent in September had still not materialized. Yet despite their disappointment, in the diary that Kathleen kept during their time in Santo Tomas, this is what she wrote on that Christmas Day:

Contrary to all expectations, Danny and I have agreed that is is the happiest Christmas we have ever experienced because our sense of appreciation has been so sharpened that every simple thing has appeared in a roseate hue.  This Christmas season, watered by the tears of desperation and despair, and enriched with a great hope for a new future in a brave new world, is a Christmas which we shall always remember.  

Her children were habitually hungry, she and her husband were weakened and sick, and she hadn’t seen her family in over three years. Still, her optimistic attitude shined through.  It was her defining characteristic until her dying day – she always found something cheerful on which to focus.  So, as I said at the beginning of this post, whenever I feel a little down with all that’s going on in the world I try to channel her buoyant outlook and remember that as bad as things are, I’m not living in a leaky shanty held captive by an invading army.  Sort of puts things in perspective.

2007 – Kathleen with her two great-grandsons 

Footnote: Kathleen’s optimism was rewarded in February 1945 when the First Cavalry burst through the gates of the camp and rescued the prisoners.  The family set sail for the United States in early April and by mid-May they were safely docked in Los Angeles.  Abandoning their plans to move to Scotland, they decided to settle in Pasadena, where they eventually started a business, worked hard, and lived the American dream.

MARRIAGE IN THE AGE OF COVID

by Suzanne Sparrow Watson

I now pronounce you husband and wife.There are few phrases as sobering, with the possible exceptions of ”We have lift-off” and ”This country is at war.”   Erma Bombeck

     Boy, do we look young!

Yesterday my husband and I celebrated 33 years of marriage.  Or as my dad used to say, “Thirty-three years of indentured servitude”.  He was joking, of course.  I think.  In any event, I was thinking about marriage last week as we prepared to observe our special day.  We have remarked several times over the past few months that we are very fortunate that we’re so compatible because it seems like we’ve spent 25 hours a day together since March.  And like many others, there have been a few challenges.  In addition to dealing with soaring COVID numbers in Arizona, I had some minor surgery in May, my husband underwent nine weeks of radiation therapy for prostate cancer and even Dash the Wonder Dog joined in with the diagnosis of a heart murmur.  Add in the hottest summer on record and it seemed like the fun just never stopped.

 

“People shop for a bathing suit with more care than they do a husband or wife. The rules are the same. Look for something you’ll feel comfortable wearing. Allow for room to grow.”   Erma Bombeck

Now that we’re almost to fall with its sub-100 temperatures and the COVID numbers are abating,  I’ve had some time to reflect on how we’ve changed.  At first I mused that the only “growth” we’ve seen is in our girth.  But in fact, we have gained renewed appreciation for each other and our home.  Not necessarily always in that order.  I love our house and am giving it full credit for getting us through this.   A few years ago we contemplated selling our home and moving into one of those slick retirement communities.  I think we have commented 1,000 times this summer that we’re grateful we saved ourselves from that fate.  Our friends who live in said communities have spent months cooped up in their apartments with meals being delivered to them.  It’s like prison only with better food and nicer guards.  The advantage of our house is that we have plenty of room to spread out.  Like fighters between rounds, we are able to go to our separate corners to gain space and sustenance.  In actuality, we seldom even argue.  Still, spending 24/7 together is like the ultimate game of “Survivor”… just hoping one of us doesn’t get voted off.

“Marriage has no guarantees.  If that’s what you’re looking for go live with a car battery.” Erma Bombeck

As I was researching articles about marriage in the time of COVID I found several about the increase in marital discord.  Apparently lots of people are being voted off their marriage island.  All over the world couples are struggling with lockdown, from mental health issues to realizing you’ve married someone who, in fact, is very annoying in a 24/7 world.  The pandemic has caused higher divorce rates and it’s anticipated the rate will only increase once everyone is fully out of lockdown or back to work.  I know that we’ve had it easy and have thought often about families where the parents are working from home AND trying to instruct their children on the higher principles of algebra or the periodic table.  There are many parents who have lost their jobs and are juggling a job search and childcare/home schooling at the same time.  It’s a lot to ask of a marriage to hold up amidst all that stress. On a brighter note, I also read many articles about people reconnecting, both with their spouse and their children.  It seems being locked up together has caused people to talk more about their frustrations, desires and needs.  It’s also caused a boom in real estate and remodeling as people “nest” as they did right after 9/11.

Well heck, I don’t want to be left behind the current trends so I’ve decided to undertake a bit of a home facelift next month.  We’ve been through remodels before so I realize that COVID may be a cakewalk compared to demolishing tile floors.  In fact, under no circumstances should “remodel” and “marital bliss” be uttered in the same sentence.  They start next week so I’ll keep you posted.  We may have to place bets on whether we make it to year 34.

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE RELUCTANT SEPTAGENARIAN

By Suzanne Sparrow Watson

      Leslie, (left) supervising me

I knew this day was coming – I could tell by the hanging jowls and the crepey skin.  Yet somehow waking up last week to the realization that I’ve entered my 70’s was a bit sobering.  I feel pretty darn good and my doctor says I’m in tip top shape.  Hmmmmm.  I cleaned out files recently and found some documents from a gym I belonged to in 1980.   As I perused my old weight and measurement chart I was pretty pleased until I took my current measurements.  How can I possibly weigh the same and yet be bigger in every place that counts?  Are my ear lobes appreciably smaller?  Does gray hair weigh less than blonde?  I’m guessing the weight loss has occurred in my brain because I’m not sure how much is up there anymore.  I’ve spent a lot of time at home this summer so you’d think I would be pretty familiar with my house, yet I still wander into a room and wonder what I’m doing there.  As my friend Liz Gett always says, “These days I only retain water”. 

 

Still, I’m doing just fine and especially in this catastrophic year of 2020, I’m just glad to be upright.  Don Imus, the former disc jockey also ran a camp for kids with cancer.  He once said whenever he’d go to some soiree on the Upper East Side where people complained about their age his response was to ask them if they would like to visit his camp, where 12 year-olds were just hoping to make it to 15.   Every year on my birthday I think about Leslie, my childhood best friend.  The photo is us at my 10th birthday where she supervised my gift opening, just as she supervised most everything I did. She called me every year on my birthday without fail.   On my 64th birthday we had a long conversation and she laughed hysterically when I told her I had chickenpox.  It was the last time we spoke; she died suddenly a couple of months later.  I still miss her and think about her on my birthday so far be it from me to complain about reaching 70.

           Just some of my bounty!

Besides, I had a wonderful celebration filled with …what else?… cake!  I guess at this age it’s good to be known for something.  I have friends that are known for being smart, dressing well, a kind heart, a great artist, you name it.  I, on the other hand, am known for my love of cake. I used to be the kid at the birthday party who would elbow my way to the cake cutter so I could get the corner piece with the big, sugary flower on it.  This year I received three cakes for my birthday, including one that exploded with flowers, candy and cake when I lifted the lid.  I didn’t share ANY of them with my husband.  It dawned on me that I might have a problem when the guy we’re working with to select new flooring (that’s an “I need to have my head examined” story for another blog) brought me a dozen doughnuts.  I think I have a problem and so far as I know, there is no such thing as Cake Anonymous.

Perfect pairing – wine and dessert

My celebration was capped by a fabulous dinner at Vivace Restaurant in Tucson.  Due to illness and a wariness of COVID it ended up being just me, my niece and my great-niece for dinner.  Actually, it was perfect!  We had such a wonderful time catching up.  There is something special about three generations who enjoy each other’s company and share laughter and good stories.  Most of them true.  The restaurant is spectacular and the food was beyond tasty.  One advantage of our smaller group was there was more dessert to go around.  The restaurant offered a lovely tiramisu in honor of my birthday, but really, sharing dessert among three people doesn’t quite meet the mark so we also ordered a crème brulee and a chocolate molten lava cake with ice cream.   All that, coupled with the wine, provided a sugar rush that I’ll still be recovering from on my next birthday. Still, it was worth every spoonful.

So I was feeling pretty good about turning 70 and life in general and then the worst happened – the NCAA cancelled the football season. Is it even fall if there is no college football?  COVID has been hard enough but life without college football seems unfathomable.  I may just have to eat more cake.

DEAR INSTACART…

By Suzanne Sparrow Watson

Dear Instacart,

I thought this day would never come and I can’t believe I’m writing this, but I’m afraid I’m going to have to break up with you.  We’ve been through a lot together over the past few years.  You have tolerated the last minute changes to my shopping list and I have put up with your delivery fees, ridiculous upcharges and tipping requirements even for poor service.  Oh, we had some good times and I will always be grateful that we didn’t have to haul those 40 pound bags of potassium home from Costco, but no amount of heavy lifting can compensate for the seemingly brain-addled “customer service” delivery people you have in your employ.

I realize that COVID has caused all of us to make some changes to our lifestyle.  For those of us drawing Social Security that has meant staying home a bit more and relying on delivery services such as yours.  I do realize that has required you to hire a lot of people quickly to meet the demand.  But might I suggest that in addition to a drug test you also hold a mirror under the nose of any prospective employee just to make sure they’re functioning?  Or perhaps hold a flashlight up to their ear to see if a beam of light shines through to the other side, to determine if there is actually something in between.  Let me detail my last two experiences with your company.

In May I placed a  very large order – we were at the beginning of “hunkering down” and I wanted to ensure we had adequate supplies.  When the driver arrived my husband and I took turns wiping down the groceries before bringing them into the house (remember those fun days?). As the driver was backing out of our driveway I noticed that quite a few items were missing. I ran out into the street and flagged him down to tell him of the problem. It was then that he remembered that he had another large box of items for us in his trunk. TRUNK??? What happened to your promise of “your items will be kept in a temperature controlled environment” during delivery? In May, in Arizona, the only temperature in the trunk of a car is HOT. I wrote it off as a one time problem. But, alas, I was being way too optimistic.

Two weeks ago we needed more potassium so I ordered three bags plus seven other items. My shopper notified me that she started my order at 11:15.  Because I don’t have much to do these days I obsessively kept looking at my phone for updates as she shopped.  A person with blindfolds on could have shopped faster.  At first I thought maybe she was grazing the “tasting stations” but then remembered they are shut down. It got to be 11:45 and she had three items in the cart. I was screaming at the phone. That didn’t help. She didn’t conclude shopping until 12:10. I could have driven there, shopped and been home in that amount of time. I assumed (correctly, as it turns out) this person had trouble finding things so I called our guard gate and asked them to provide your driver with a very detailed map to our house.  Hansel and Gretl could not have done a better job at highlighting the trail.

It is normally a 20 minute drive to Costco but your driver must have detoured to … well, I don’t know quite where.  She didn’t arrive at the gate until 1 pm. It should take six minutes to get to our house from there. At 1:15 I assumed (again, correctly) that your driver was lost. I got into my car and drove around trying to spot her. No luck. Finally at 1:25 she called to tell me since we weren’t home she was leaving our groceries in our driveway. We were IN our driveway. She asked me to confirm the address – which was on both our Instacart account and the map she was given – and sure enough, she had the wrong house number. Finally, she arrived at our home, unloaded the potassium and a small box of other items and then said, “Oh yeah, I have your case of water in the back of my truck”. I assumed she meant the back seat of the cabin but no, it was actually in the flatbed of her truck, roasting in the 106 degree temperature for the past hour and fifteen minutes. The water was so hot I could have brewed tea. We refused the case, explaining that it’s not healthy to drink out of hot plastic bottles.  She stared at me blankly.  I was speaking Greek as far as she was concerned.  To her credit, she refunded our money and took the case with her, no doubt to foist it on another unsuspecting customer.

So, dear Instacart, I hope you understand that unless and until you can hire people who have some modicum of common sense, we’re finished.  Might I suggest that you start with simple map reading.  I am not holding my breath.

Signed,

Just Another Satisfied Customer

 

On the Path to Social Dysfunction

by Bob Sparrow

(Because I usually write about where I’ve been or where I’m going, I don’t often sit around pondering my navel, but Covid-19 has changed all that.  In fact, it’s got me thinking about today’s two most-used words, ‘Social Distancing’.  Here’s what I pondered).

“We’re all in this together.” How many times have you heard that?  It’s an oxymoron, spoken mostly by morons.  We are social beings and nothing could be further from the truth than us ‘being in this together’.  We have been ordered to stay apart, with serious repercussions if we don’t!  You could wind up in jail if you disobey – solitary confinement probably!

But the reality is, we’ve experienced social distancing for some time – perhaps since the middle of the last century.  Yes, we, as a species, have been ‘distancing’ ourselves from each other for at least the past 50-60 years – so we should be pretty good at it by now.  Don’t believe me?  Let these ‘Then and Now’ photos tell the story, a story that many of you, who have passed the mid-life crisis phase of your life, have witnessed firsthand.

Remember when you stood around and talked to your friends?  Today’s kids have been physically close, but socially distant.

 

Remember when the neighborhood would get together to play a game?  Now a kid can play a game with another kid half way around the world from his bedroom

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Remember when office meetings were a time when the whole staff came together?  Now you can attend the meeting ‘digitally’ in your underwear.  I’m sure you’ve heard that this, like so many other ‘socially distant’ activities, is the ‘new normal’!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Remember when the family used to go to a game?  Now there is a cardboard cutout in your place and you will root through your phone.

 

Remember when you used to dine out?  Now your meals are delivered to your home.

 

 

Remember the hug?  It’s now been replaced with the elbow bump.  So personal!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I know what you’re saying – this has all be brought on by Covid-19.  Yes, Covid-19 has exacerbated this issue, but social distancing has been going on for way too long and unless we stop its momentum we’re going to find ourselves as protagonists in an isolated dystopian world, probably in a bubble.    Experts say that Social Distancing leads to loneliness, depression, post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), substance use disorder, domestic violence, child abuse, increase in suicide and a broad range of other mental and behavioral disorders.  In other words, Social Distancing is NOT GOOD FOR US!

I’m not advocating ignoring the health warnings that have been issued, as random and illogical as some may seem, I’m just saying, for our own health and welfare, when this is all over we need to get back to ‘socially magnetizing’.

 

HOW’S YOUR YEAR SO FAR?

By Suzanne Sparrow Watson
Once in a while that great wasteland of Facebook has a pretty spot on post.  I have always “written from scratch” but this was too good to pass up so I’m sharing it today.  Unfortunately I don’t know the author but it’s obviously someone with a pretty good sense of humor!
Dear Diary 2020 Edition,
In ❄️ January, 🔥 Australia caught on fire. I don’t even know if that fire was put out, because we straight up almost went to war with Iran 🇮🇷 . We might actually still be almost at war with them 🤔. I don’t know, because 👩 Jen Aniston and 👨🏻 Brad Pitt spoke to one another at an awards 🏆 show and everyone flipped the crap out 😲, but then there was this thing happening in 🦇 🇨🇳 China, then 👑 Prince Harry and Megan ✌🏼 peaced out of the Royal family, and there was the whole impeachment trial 👩‍⚖️, and then corona virus 🦠 showed up in the US ✔️“officially,” but then 🏀 Kobe died 😭and UK 🇬🇧 peaced out of the European Union.
In February, 🌽 Iowa crapped 💩 itself with the caucus results and the president was acquitted and the 👩🏼‍💼Speaker of the House took Ten. Whole. Years. to rip up a speech , but then The👨🔬 🌎WHO decided to give this virus a name COVID-19, which confused 🤔some really important people 👔 in charge of, like, our lives, into thinking there were 18 other versions before it, but then Harvey Weinstein was found guilty👨🏻‍⚖️, and 🇺🇸 Americans started asking if Corona beer 🍺 was safe to drink🤦🏻‍♀️, and everyone on Facebook became a doctor 👨‍⚕️ who just knew the 🤒flu killed way more people than COVID 1 through 18.
In March, stuff hit the fan👿. Warren dropped out of the presidential race and Sanders was like Bernie or bust 💥, but then Italy 🇮🇹 shut its whole country down 🚷, and then COVID Not 1 through 18 officially became what everyone already realized –  😱a pandemic – and then a nationwide state of emergency 🆘was declared in US 🇺🇸 , but it didn’t really change anything, so everyone was confused or thought it was still just a flu 💁🏻‍♀️, but then COVID Not 18 was like ya’ll not taking me seriously? 💡 I’m gonna infect the one celebrity everyone loves and totally infected Tom Hanks👨🏻, get y’all to close all of the schools so y’all can 🙏🏼 appreciate teachers 👩🏫 for once (because you can’t teach them anything other than how to use a touch screen🤦🏻‍♀️ ) close down all of salons so you can’t get your 💇‍♂️ hair or your nails done💅 , everyone had to work from home and attend Zoom meetings in their underwear. The 📉 DOW took a crap 💩 on itself, and most of us still don’t understand why the stock market is so important or even a thing 🤔 (I still don’t), We were then all introduced to 🐅 Tiger King and the ONE thing we can all agree on this year , 👍🏼Carol totally killed her husband⚰️ ….. whacked him! And then Netflix was like you’re welcome, and we all realized there was no way we were washing our hands enough in the first place because all of our hands are now dry and gross and we’re all searching for lotion.
In 🌧 April, Bernie finally busted✌🏼 himself out of the presidential race 🏃 , but then NYC 🗽became the set of The Walking Dead 💀 and we learned that no one has face masks 😷, ventilators, or toilet paper, or THE FREAKING SWIFFER WET JET LIQUID , and by now our 🦁outgrowth is showing, so there’s a shortage on 📦 box hair dye and all of our hair dressers are like , 😱 NO DONT DO IT!!! But, then Kim Jong-Un died, but then he came back to life … or did he? Who knows, because then the Pentagon released 🎥 videos of UFOs and nobody cared, and we were like man, it’s only April….
In 💐 May, the biblical end times kicked off , historical locust swarms, we learned of murder hornets 🐝 and realized that 2020 was the start of the Hunger Games🙈 however people forgot to let us know. People legit started to protest lockdown measures with 🔫 AR-15s, 🏀⚾️sports events were cancelled everywhere. But then people all over America finally reached a breaking point with race issues and violence. There were 🗣protests in every city🌃 ,which was confusing to some of us because people were definitely gathering in 👫crowds of more than 🖐🏼🤚🏼10 and for sure closer than 6 feet away ⬅️➡️from each other. Those people must have forgotten about the 😖pandemic called COVID Not One Through 18. Media 📺 🗞 struggled with how to 🤬focus on two important things at once, people in general struggle to focus on more than one important thing. A dead whale 🐋 was found in the middle of the Amazon rain forest 🌳 after monkeys 🐒 stole COVID 1 Through 19 from a lab 🔬 and ran off with them, and either in May or April (no one is keeping track of time now) that a giant asteroid ☄️ narrowly missed the Earth🌍.
In ☀️ June, common sense just got thrown 🤾🏼 straight out the window and somehow 😷 wearing masks became a 🏛political thing, but then everyone sort of remembered there was a pandemic,  then 👨🔬scientists announced they found a mysterious undiscovered mass at the center of the earth, and everyone was like 🙅🏽‍♂️🙅🏻‍♀️🚧DON’T YOU DARE TOUCH IT, but then everyone took a pause to realize that people actually believed Gone With The Wind 💨 was non-fiction, but then it was also announced that there is a strange 🛰radio signal coming from somewhere in the universe 🌌 that repeats itself every so many days 🗓 , and everyone was like 👽 DON’T YOU DARE ATTEMPT TO COMMUNICATE WITH IT‼️🚫 but then America reopened 🙌🏼from the shut down that actually wasn’t even a shut down, and so far, things have gone spectacularly … not that great 👎🏼. All of the Karen’s came out at once, and people started tearing down 🔨 statues. Everyone is on Facebook arguing 🤼‍♀️ about masks 👃🏼, but then Florida 🏖 was like hold my beer 🍺 and let me show you how we’re number one 🥇 in all things, including new Not Corona Beer Coronavirus. Then we learned there was a massive dust cloud ☁️ coming straight at us 📍from the Sahara Desert 🐫 , which is totally normal, but this is 2020, so the 👻 ghost mummy thing is most likely in that dust cloud. We then 📚 learned of meth-gators 🐊 , and I’m like that is so not on my flipping 2020 Bingo card 😡 can we use it as the free space?? 🤷🏻 Then we learned that the Congo’s worst ever Ebola 🚨 outbreak is over 😓, and we were all like, there was an Ebola outbreak that was the worse ever? 👀 … and don’t forget we just discovered FLYING SNAKES! 🐍, seriously! FLYING SNAKES!!!!
So here comes July…. at this point we are over it , just tell us what’s next … 👽 Aliens? 🔱Zeus? ☄️ Asteroids? Artificial Intelligence becomes self aware? Can it just be something cool 😎 or fun for once? Maybe even a good laugh , like hahaha 😂 April Fools! We all actually wouldn’t mind that joke at this point.
Also, why didn’t I know about the whale in the Amazon? Or a few other things because I just can’t keep up anymore!
BTW, a squirrel with Bubonic plague was found in CO… because, you know, it’s 2020.