Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Things I Don't Understand - I Have No Blue Teeth

So I am sitting in Bramlage Coliseum as the countdown to tip off ticks second-by-second closer, and something a few rows in front of me catches my eye. A man stands, clapping (mostly in rhythm) to "Wildcat Victory." He's decked in Wildcat gear, and has no features that might cause one to gasp in horror, yet something about the guy strikes me the wrong way - his right ear... Not his ear in particular, but what was in his ear - a Bluetooth earpiece.

I have no qualms with the Bluetooth earpiece in general. In fact, it's a pretty slick innovation. It allows folks to devote both hands to driving and yet talk on their cell phone at the same time. As a result, it follows Derek's Essential Rule #84 - Safety First.

My issues with Bluetooth earpieces are multiple.

- What's a hand to do?
It's time for the first ever Writings of Derek Larson Physical Challenge. No matter where you are currently reading this, put one of your hands up to your ear (in phone-holding fashion), get up (if you're sitting - or lying down (I won't claim to know how you relax) - to read this), and walk 10 paces, turn around, and walk back to your current spot. I'll give you time to complete this challenge, occupying myself by singing a little tune...

"A man walks down the street, it's a street in a strange world;
Maybe it's the Third World, maybe it's his first time around;
He doesn't speak the language, he holds no currency;
He is a foreign man, he is surrounded by the sound, the sound;
Cattle in the marketplace, scatterlings and orphanages, he looks around, around;
He sees angels in the architecture, spinning in infinity;
He says 'amen, hallelujah!'
If you'll be my bodyguard, I can be your long lost pal;
I can call you Betty, and Betty when you call me you can call me Al;
Call me Al."

Thank you, Paul Simon.

Anyway, hopefully you've had enough time to complete the physical challenge. Now it's time to evaluate... While walking with your hand to your ear, did you walk right into anything, injuring yourself? Did your arm get really tired, to the point that you could no longer hold it up? Did you feel less safe than you would have with that arm at your side?

My point with all these inane questions is that taking advantage of the hands-free quality of the Bluetooth earpieces when not using your hands for anything else seems to serve no other purpose than promoting laziness. Granted, I'm not the ideal person to be giving a lecture on avoiding laziness. As I write this I'm slouched on my couch with my feet propped on my coffee table, and I'm slowly going thirsty because I can't reach my cup of lemonade (grow, arms, grow!). Nevertheless, I have successfully completed the physical challenge and stand by my "don't use Bluetooth earpieces if you're arms aren't engaged" stance.

- Are you talking to me?
You've (hopefully) passed the physical challenge (if not, I deeply apologize), now it's time to test your imagination.

Picture yourself in the grocery store of your choosing. Your cupboards are bare in your home and you've made the poor decision of going to buy groceries at dinnertime - before eating (dun dun DUNNNNN). Every food item you see looks delicious, and your cart is filling up faster than an Arrowhead Stadium restroom at halftime. As you stand in the frozen food aisle, attempting to determine exactly what brand of frozen pizza is right for you, you hear, "Hey, what's going on?"

You glance to your right and see some little lady pushing her cart your way, seemingly looking in your direction. You don't exactly recognize her, but you aren't exactly one who remembers every name/face you encounter. Not wanting to seem rude, you begin to toss your preferred greeting (whether it's "hello," "what's up," or "a hoi hoi"), before she seemingly cuts you off and says, "Yeah, I was totally hammered," (Is the fact that I live in a college town evident from the fact that such is a commonly overheard statement?).

You stand stunned, unsure exactly what the heck this girl is talking about and thinking it's a bit weird that she took the conversation - without any prompting - in such a direction... That is, until you notice that her hair is covering a barely visible Bluetooth earpiece. This girl does not know you and was not speaking to you, but instead was speaking to one of her little friends via Bluetooth. As you realize this, you attempt to cover up the appearance of your hand (partially raised, as you prepared to give your preferred visual greeting (be it a wave, a peace sign, or a Three Stooges eye poke)) and your mouth (partially open, as you had begun to toss out your spoken greeting) by quickly coughing into a closed fist... Your efforts earn you little more than a bewildered look and a stronger sense of self deprecation.

Had it not been for the Bluetooth earpiece, you would have minded your own business, picked up a couple pizzas, and been on your way.

Thank you for taking part in the this 100-percent hypothetical (I certainly never encounter awkward social situations... never) imagination exercise.

- Can you hear me now? Of course not!
My last point refers back to the whole reason I was set off on this rant - the guy at the ballgame. Have you ever tried talking on a phone in a basketball arena or outdoor stadium while game action is actually occurring? Normally these athletic events involve screaming fans, clapping hands, and pep bands (you get the rhyme for free). Such an atmosphere does not exactly ooze the opportunity for civil conversation.

In fact, I'm confident I can sum up 96.4-percent of such phone calls with the following transcript -

Fan at Arena (FaA): Hello?
Friend Calling at Inopportune Time (FCaIT): (inaudible)
FaA: (yelling) What?
FCaIT: (inaudible)
FaA: (yelling louder, because if you can't hear the person talking to you, it's obvious that YOU need to be louder) WHAT??? I'M AT THE GAME.
FCaIT: (inaudible again)
FCaIT: (inaudible... although one phrase sounded like "chicken pudding in a trailer")
FaA: (now yelling so loud all fans in the area are glaring) YEAH, OK, I'LL CALL YOU LATER.

The point of this whole spiel is that - due to the fact that the odds of having a productive phone call at a ballgame are as likely as one of the athletes in that game removing his shoelaces, fashioning them into a bullwhip, and then using that whip to swing from the rafters - there is no point to having the Bluetooth earpiece in "ready to converse" position (in an ear) while at a sporting event.

As far as I know, these earpieces are not surgically attached upon purchase, and therefore they are removable. Wouldn't it be nice to give an ear a chance to live a little during a game, freeing it from its intrusive new occupant?

Please, guy at Bramlage and other Bluetooth earpiece users, use this technology in a sensible manner.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Observations From the Air - Southwest Edition

This was written a few weeks ago, on a business trip, but not publicized until now because of (insert valid excuse here). Forgive the lack of postings in February, my only excuse is that there are fewer days in this month, which makes it hard for me to take it seriously.

That's right, folks - traveling for work means more astounding airport action, which in turn means plenty of time for the thoughts that claim residence inside my head to run amok. What adventures will Derek encounter this trip? Read on...

2-11-08, Kansas City to Tucson

Good news - while waiting for my flight to board here at Kansas City International, I just made eye contact with one of the most attractice girls I've ever seen. We're talking absolutely gorgeous. Naturally, 43 seconds later some guy who looks like be belongs to the cast of "The Hills" came up and gave her a kiss... I now despise that show more than ever. Oddly enough, no more than 2 minutes and 19 seconds later, a TV in our Southwest gate 33 waiting area played a commercial featuring the theme song from the aforementioned, now exceedingly despised show. At this point, I'm getting worried about the prospects of this trip, since it seems that even my good friend television is turning against me.

Later, on the plane...

Good news - Southwest laughs in the face of those with peanut allergies and provides the little bags of peanuts anyway. Not only that, but my traveling companion has no interest in the tiny bag of deliciousness that she was given (which contains neither peas, nor nuts... think about it) and handed it to me. For those of you keeping score, I now have in my possession two bags of peanuts, despite the fact that I was completely lacking in the "package of generic peanuts" department when I awoke this morning... This is what we in the business refer to as positive peanut profit. It's the true goal of any trip.


Thanks to a short stop in Albequerque, I've had time to learn a little Spanish (salida means exit, or so I gather from the bilingual signs at the front, middle, and rear of this aircraft. I've also done a little browsing in the Skymall catalog. I have a theory that the folks at Skymall are the ones who insist that alcohol be available when traveling by air. That's not to say that I don't need a "Voice-Activated R2-D2" or a "Bigfoot - The Garden Yeti" sculpture, I just might need a few glasses of something pretty strong befor I realize it.


2-13-08, Tucson to Las Vegas

It is 6:30 a.m., the sun has yet to rise, and I'm on a flight out of Tucson. What have I come away with from my short time in the Arizona sun? Well, I've been treated like a VIP everywhere, visited a spot that John Wayne filmed movies, participated in a Tequila toast, eaten a meal that may have been more expensive than my weekly food budget, and learned more facts about cacti than any person who lives in the Midwest should know (are you aware that the barrell cactus grows leaning to the south 90-percent of the time?). Sure, there are other details, but who is here to hear about work?

2-13-08, Las Vegas to Kansas City

Unfortunately, my attempts at hitting a big jackpot in the LV airport and coming back to Kansas a rich man went unfulfilled. My time spent "gaming" was so unfruitful that the most exciting part may have been when the attendant monitoring a section of the slots asked to check my ID... Exciting stuff.

Making a special gues appearance on this flight - and sitting directly across the aisle from me - is a young man who seems to be the lead in an air-one-man-band. At our curising altitude of 28,000 feet, I've had the opportunity to witness this guy perform solos on the air guitar, air drums, and what appeared to be the air keyboard (a rare happening). He has also tossed in a little air dancing, and I can't believe I'm getting this show for free (and that I've been able to keep from laughing out loud).

This kid has talent. Granted, he may not be up to par with a group of young kids that formed an air band in basement back in the 80s (their rendition of "Wipeout" was amazing (this is a pretty obvious insider's inside joke... sorry for those who may be confused)), but he's still pretty good.

I may have to request an air autograph.