Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Jane Fishman Is My Favorite Columnist

This one's for you, Ms. Moon.

Star-crossed days and too much rain

By Jane Fishman

It's one thing to see the "check engine" light in my car when it's parked in front of my house (and when I just got it back from the shop), but to go to the mechanic, again, and to see no sign of any trouble is another.

It's kind of like waking up to a good hair day when you're supposed to get it cut. Or walking into the swanky Bohemian hotel on Bay Street, and wondering how to explain the name. Was it referring to Gypsies? Artists? Counter-culture sorts?

We know there will be disconnected events, but all in a two-day stretch? The moon must be in retrograde. Maybe it has something to do with the rain.

Chickens to Wi-Fi

One day recently, I got home in time to see our recently acquired free-range bantam chickens, Sarah and Marcus, new pets/diversionary items, grazing in the yard next door, days before we install their new plush living quarters. Was it something I said? You're too young to fly the coop, you hear?

The next day, thinking I finally had some luck going because I beat the rain, I started up the steps to the second floor of the public library, only to be told I can't take a cup of coffee inside when many libraries have their own coffee shops on the premises.

I'll show them, I thought, and left. Looking for a new hangout, something anonymous, I ventured into Starbucks, got settled with a pricey coffee, opened my laptop, only to find you have to pay for Wi-Fi (unless you have a Starbucks card). Foiled again. Fortunately, I live near the down-home Krystal, which offers free Wi-Fi on KrystalHotSpot. Now, that's some crazy stuff.

While I lounged at Krystal on some weak but cheap coffee, I took out the September Harper's magazine (now a whopping $6.95) to read in its well-sourced, well-documented Index page that seven in 10 Americans bankrupted by health insurance HAD health insurance, that profits of the top 10 insurance companies have skyrocketed 428 percent. This, a day after submitting myself, out of obligation, to listening to yet another debate on health care only to realize there are people in this nation crying about "socialized medicine" who don't know that Medicare, a highly bloated but decidedly successful program, is a federal program. I guess we are socialists after all.

We're voyeurs

There's no wonder why some of us spent more time than we needed last weekend checking back on Tiger Woods' final round, played in front of the Statue of Liberty in New York. Would he make one of his famed comebacks? Would he throw a club? Would we get to see his young children?

Or why we found ourselves glued to the Ted Kennedy funeral, wondering how his emotional and seemingly unstable and uncomfortable second son, Patrick, ever got himself elected to anything, ever got into politics. Or why we teared up when we saw any hint of Ethel (Kennedy) or any other mop-headed offspring of the fabled and star-crossed clan.

I think it's called displaced emotions.

It's a good thing there's Facebook.

But even that is losing its appeal. I'm beginning to have the same push-pull emotions toward Facebook that I have about the National Enquirer. They're both easily accessible, both hard to resist. And they both have nothing to do with me.

During a recent trip to see my mother, I was in the beauty shop with her when a fellow resident had the latest issue of the tabloid. Angie kicks Brad out of the bedroom, the headline read. The woman holding the tabloid was sitting under the dryer with her hair in curlers. She was about 110. I needed every bit of self-control I could muster not to grab the paper out of her hands. It was like staring at a piece of chocolate. I needed it, and I need it then.

That's how Facebook is to me. Or was. Until I realized I've been using it as a voyeur (one step short of being a stalker) much the same way some pervert would use a pair of binoculars on my bedroom. I am reading exchanges between people that were not meant for me. Oops. Make that "friends." I am flipping through someone else's photo album at people I don't know. I might as well be reading someone else's mail. And that's kind of icky.

I can see why parents might want to be on (to keep tabs of their kids) or merchandisers (to make money) or nonprofits (a new form of press release) but when someone who already has my e-mail address and phone number, and knows where I live, starts contacting me through Facebook, I have to wonder. When did this disconnect between people start?

Back in sixth grade we had something called "slam books." Everyone's name in the class was listed at the top of a page. The book, a notebook, was passed around for people to make comments about everyone else. My stomach does butterflies just thinking about it. Not exactly like Facebook but an early type of voyeuristic activity, an early form of "social networking."

It might be time to open a hardcover book, to write a letter or to ride my bike to the Bohemian hotel and have a beer. It might be time to go bohemian.

Jane Fishman's columns appear biweekly in Accent. Contact her at


Ms. Moon said...

You know, Ms. Bastard, I think maybe Jane Fishman and I are the same woman. Is that possible? Am I living a parallel existence?
Not on Facebook, I know that for sure.

Sarcastic Bastard said...

I think so, too, Ms. Moon. All I know for sure is that you are both two of my favorite writers, and I'd sure like to sit down for a drink with you both. Could we throw Wendell Berry in, also? Just for fun.

Ms. Moon said...

Of course. And Leonard Pitts, too.

Syd said...

I have some difficulties with the whole Facebook concept of writing about what you are doing and then everyone gets to comment. It all seems like texting on the computer.

Sarcastic Bastard said...

That's a good analogy. I don't go for it either, but then again, I refuse to have a cell phone even.