Sunday, December 18, 2016

Occam's Razor's Edge City Lights

A paunchy, greying man wearing a dark sweater walked up and down the security lines, asking each in turn to please not put our shoes in the bins, because people put their food in those bins! I thought, “What kind of dingus would put their food in those bins — they've had shoes in them!” Bombarded by the noise of his voice and mine I forgot to empty my pockets before entering the X-Ray machine...

“I've about had it with understanding," the man said. He sat on the edge of the bed, facing the wall, pulling on a sweatshirt. He cracked, "I tell every line the same damn thing but the next one never listens!" His voice was still raised from the din of the terminal. The joke did not land.

“You don't have to do this,” his wife sighed. “We could move to the coast. You could do something else.”

“Ah, it's not like that.” A long pause followed. He was a couple generations removed from northern farm people that stared at the flat horizon and left lots of space in their conversations. “I'm adjusted.” As if remembering himself, his voice adjusted to the house and they spoke softly as usual. “How about Saint Paul?” He turned to show his grin. “Chicago? Always has great Christmas decorations, not like here.”

“No! Bad! No more shoveling snow!” Now she smiled slyly. “Barcelona.”

“It's bad enough to fly back home from here, with both cities being Delta hubs.”

“How does a guy work so many years in an airport and hate flying? You're not half as well adjusted as you think, mister!”

“Oh, I love flying, watching the ground recede and return, it's still awe-inspiring. I just hate the security lines. Those pompous tyrant-for-a-days telling you to take off your belt, hassling you about your arch supports!”

“Just get pre-check already!”

“Anti-democratic nonsense. And everyone trying to sleep on the plane making me feel like a real jerk for having the reading light on.”

“... and a neck pillow...”

“I don't need comfort, I need purpose!”

“... and an iPad...”

“I don't need to be entertained,” by this point he couldn't keep a straight face and he laughed and stammered while he searched for a line, and she let him search, and he finished, “I need to be enlightened!”

“You don't need to be right —”

“— in fact, I prefer to be wrong —”

“— you just need to be contrary!”

“Anyway, I really have just had it with understanding. Everyone's on Facebook, they just want you to understand this one thing, whatever it is now. This fucking year. The idiots crowing about Trump. The idiots ranting about how we have to understand the idiots crowing about Trump, making carefully sure not to share with any of the idiots crowing about Trump. Half my old friends from Madison that are just mortified, apparently about what Trump says about them. The Bernie people, still. The anti-Bernie people, still! At least the Bernie people are for something. But when I go see them we don't talk about all that, we treat eachother like people. When I live in the midwest I never use Facebook, I never get on airplanes, and I treat my friends like people. That's a life.”

“When you lived in the midwest you didn't have a cell phone.”

“And I was a bike-riding vegan. Now I live in Seattle and run 'em down in my Suburban on my way out to go hunt pandas.”

“You live in Federal Way, you take the bus to work, and you keep a patch kit in your Civic.”

“In case I come across someone in need. And I have.”

“Wasn't he a Bernie person?”

“Yeah, but it was still 2015, and he didn't even spout any nonsense about superdelegates. And I proved I can still fix a flat better than some kid even if I never could ride fixed in this town. I'm happy with the exchange.”

“You could fix people's flats on the coast. No more hopeless-ceaseless-line-of-fresh-clueless-assholes-from-shift-start-to-shift-end. You could stop being a... a pompous tyrant-for-a-day or whatever.”

“I'm adjusted. What about your job? It's all the same once we're adjusted. Your quarterly planning meetings, where you set goals for advancing —”

“— the new woman on my team, not the new new one but the one from six months ago —”

“— Amy? —”

“— Yeah, she said like half the stuff I said was dystopic in the 2017 goals was dystopic, and I couldn't... I had to —”

“— You're, like, her mentor —”

“— I'm her manager, her mentor is... you don't know him, different sub-team.”

“You're like her mentor. You're her role-model.”

“She took over a bunch of stuff in the women-in-tech group at our branch that I was supposed to be doing, and she's killing it. I run around and get coffee and shirts for her events. She connects with the youth. The youth are scaaaaary. They outnumber us, and they're just learning how bad our knees are!”

“You did ride fixed in this town for... longer than she's been coding? Anyway, she said, like... half the stuff you said was dystopic... she also said the advancing dystopia was dystopic. She has an eye for dystopia.”


“And you couldn't agree out-loud, even in a one-on-one meeting.”

“Sure, and every quarter they're going to keep making new plans and we'll keep making new goals and maybe if I'm lucky the best I can hope is that they won't be dystopic?”


“I don't think that's fair. We make people's lives better. I'm someone's like-mentor. And I have a real voice.”

“To shout against the dystopia?”

She rolled her eyes. “Shouting against the dystopia is just not how I roll!”

“So you'd walk in next week, mysteriously give your two weeks, and fuck off to the coast without shouting against even a little dystopia?” He made a silly face and waved to indicate somehow that the phrase “fuck off” was not meant as pejorative, which basically worked.

“Maybe not the coast, anywhere but Minnesota.”

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