Ruined My Life

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Ugly Americans

I constantly hear when we Americans travel abroad that we are the "ugly americans." However, I have encountered a number of Europeans lately who (and I do NOT want to generalize all Europeans this way) are some of the most misguided and pompous people I have met. They've accused us as being racist, conformist, misguided, etc. Meanwhile, while telling me we're racist they scream about, "ARABS, ARABS, ARABS who want to take over!"

The issue that we discussed at length was the banning of religious symbols in French schools. I am a privately religious person who believes in the right of my fellow man to decide his own path. I try to live the cliche "I don't agree with you but I will fight to the death to defend your right to believe that."

So, I was told that children should "not be allowed" to wear turbans, burkhas, crosses, yarmulkes, etc. in schools because it promotes freedom for the individual. I have no idea how denying choice to the individual does so. It seems to me that allowing people to express their religion or thoughts in a public arena (without imposing those beliefs on others) is one of the cornerstones of a free society.

Personally, I believe that Europe is so obsessed with maintaining and protecting an antiquated European Cultural Ideal that they do not have room for other ideas. The U.S. is not perfect by any means, but at least our system is set up to protect the individual and their expression through law instead of forcing them to conform. It's ironic though how the Europeans feel that our system forces conformity.

To be honest, I think they're upset because they can't waltz through our country whenever they want, are faced with views that they disagree with, and are presented with a multitude of cultures that carry the weight of nearly 300 million people. I would humbly suggest that they learn a thing or two about the right to free religion and expression. This is one area I know that we, as Americans, are light years ahead.

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Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Let's Go to the Airport

So I travel for work. A lot. There are weeks when I feel like I'm living in the airport. As such, I have a system for getting through security. My phone and keys have a place in my brief case (and are placed there as soon as I am out of the car), I know when I need my ID, I know what to do with my laptop, shoes, and jacket. I even have the liquids thing figured out. As a result, when there isn't a line I breeze through and am back together quickly.

While I don't agree that the measures at these checkpoints do any good, I live with it because I have to. However, I've noticed a lot of people who seem to show up at the airport and I want to ask them, "Did you know you were getting on a plane today??"

So many fellow travellers show up with more shit in their pockets than I thought humanly possible. They wait until they get in line and then they're pulling out phones and change and belts and moneyclips and lighters and pocket knives and pens and PDAs and Crapberrys and Starbuck's cups and small children. It's like another dimension in their pockets and they always seem to have forgotten that none of it can go through the metal detector. While they're pulling it all out, they look up while mouth breathing and ask, "Do I have to take my shoes off?"

Get a clue, please! We're all in it together at the airport, stay alert and organized. Don't have your pockets filled. Please get out of my way, I'm grumpy in the airport and all I want is to get to the Admiral's Club as quickly as possible.

On another note, the amoount of noise pollution at airports just keeps getting worse. They're putting in tile floors (so the sound bounces), playing CNN at full blast, making gate announcements, making security announcements, and playing Muzak on the planes as you get on. Delta, why the hell do you think Michael Bolton is going to relax me? If anything, you're adding to my tension. Thanks!

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Work all the Time

I was speaking with my wife this weekend and I thought she summed up the world very well. There are two types of people, those who gain energy from people and those who are drained by people - gaining energy from being home in their nest. I have determined that while I have to deal with people day-to-day, I am one of the latter types.

My work requires travel and right now I'm in the middle of a large trip. I'm the only person in my office who understands my desire to go without sleep, food, etc. in order to get home. There is something about home that helps me recharge. Travelling with coworkers is tiresome, no matter how much you like them. After a while I need to sink into the couch and just spend time with my wife.

I feel as though work is creeping into the spaces I hold dear. It's not that I mind working late hours or hard (ask my wife, she can tell of many cold dinners), it's that after a while I need to get away from people - clients, coworkers, strangers, vendors, waiters, hotel employees, etc.

I was thinking this weekend how when I was a kid, the best times I had were those playing in my room by myself. Spending time alone or with family seems like the greatest thing to do with my time. As the second year of my marriage is drawing to a close I find that my family (my wife and I for now) is the greatest social bond I have ever made. We can be together without asking anything from the other beyond the other's company. It's nice.

I find myself searching for a better balance between life and work. This doesn't mean ignoring my responsibilities, it means finding time for myself. I'm not a drinker, I don't work out, I don't have many hobbies that take me away from the world. My refueling comes from spending time with the ones I love. Being away from them (specifically Shannon) drains me beyond any task set before me.

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