Monday, April 27, 2015

Cell Phone Addicts

Do you remember when cell phones were these huge devices that only made phone calls and were meant to just be used for emergencies? Do you remember when cell phones were considered luxuries and only rich people who had names like Thaddeus Waltham Jameson III, Esq. owned them? Can we go back to those days please?

Once I went to a movie where some teenage girl answered her cell phone during the movie. She deliberately put the call on speaker phone, and when the person who called her asked, "So what are you doing right now?" she answered, "Nothing much," and proceeded to talk loudly until everyone in the audience groaned collectively and acted like they were going to unleash their wrath and their popcorn upon her head. She finally walked out of the theater, continuing to chat with her friend on the phone.

When I study in coffee shops, I often notice people sitting nearby, who are on dates or hanging out with their friends. I can't help wondering if those people would be happier sitting at home alone with their true loves, specifically their cell phones, because they usually spend 95% of the time texting/Tweeting/taking selfies than actually talking to the people in front of them. I always think that if I were to grab the food they're eating and then lie across their table eating the food while talking about how lame it is to be obsessed with electronic devices, they wouldn't even look up from their phones.

I have a particular acquaintance who will text me and then disappear for hours during the middle of our conversation. Then he will come back hours later and start texting me again, without apology or explanation for the long absence. This person does this every time we text each other. The last time he did it, I asked him why he stopped texting for so long. But I made the mistake of texting my question to him, and he did not respond until A DAY LATER.

When this person does that, it makes me think that maybe he's multi-tasking or texting other friends while texting me. But the fact that I always have to wait hours for a response makes me feel like my conversation (and my feelings) do not matter at all.

When I was doing the online dating thing, guys rarely called. They preferred texting, because apparently it was less nerve-wracking for them. I don't expect long love letters like women in the past received from their suitors, but it would be nice to get something more than a text that says, "Hey what's up?" or a text that has nothing but winking emojis in it. (It's like, really? I'm 34, not 14.) I once dated a guy who spent more time texting (I suspected he was texting other women during our date) than he did actually looking at me. It was like, "Perhaps you should order a drink for your cell phone, too?"

I admit that I freaked out when my cell phone was stolen recently. Even though I don't know how to use more than half the apps on it, I do use it for e-mail, phone calls, Twitter, and the Internet. Still, if I'm with friends, I always focus on THEM, not my phone. I miss the days when I could walk around outside, go to a cafe, or ride the bus without looking around to see almost everyone glued to their phones. I don't think it's just about the desire to be constantly connected anymore. I think it's about the desire to be constantly entertained. But when people focus so much on their devices, they end up missing out on the real world around them, and I think that's wrong and kind of sad.

What about you? What are some of your pet peeves regarding your cell phones and the people who are addicted to them?

Monday, April 13, 2015

I Think Karma Is Broken

Recently, I was walking past a doctor's office when I found a debit card on the ground. For a moment, visions of paid bills and Prada bags danced through my head. But I didn't use the card, of course. I made sure that the bank listed on the card was alerted that the card had been found. After all, if I had tried to use the card, it could have gotten traced back to me. Then there would have been visions of me in a prison jumpsuit dancing through my head, only they wouldn't just be visions; they'd be reality.

Once I found a Kindle. This was before I had the money to buy my own e-reader. I could have kept it, and it wouldn't necessarily have gotten traced back to me. But the owner of the Kindle had put his name and e-mail address on the back, probably so that if he ever lost it, the e-reader could be returned to him. So I contacted him, and he was grateful to get it back. And I felt good that I had done the right thing.

The other day I was studying in a coffee shop, and I accidentally left my cell phone on the sink in the bathroom. When I realized my mistake and went back to get it less than half an hour later, my phone was gone. The baristas said no one turned it in.

I was at the coffee shop that day because I had a coupon for a free cup of coffee. Ironically, that free cup ended up costing me more than a hundred dollars, because I had to pay for a replacement phone (fortunately, I had insurance on my old phone, so I didn't have to pay full price), a memory card, and a new case. I spent more than an hour at the phone store, learning about how to remotely wipe the data from my old phone so the thief couldn't access it, lock my new phone, and back up the data on my new phone. I foolishly did not back up most of the data on my old one, so I lost all the pictures I'd taken, including the ones from my trip to New York.)

I also had to keep running down to the mailboxes of my building to check for the delivery of my new phone, because my loser neighbors have a bad habit of not only stealing my magazines (I actually had to cancel all my subscriptions) but also my packages. I once put up a note asking for the return of my mail, and the losers put up their own note mocking me for their theft and saying they would do it again if they found more of my mail (the postal workers keep putting the wrong mail in the mailboxes. I tried to file more than one complaint about it, and the post office retaliated by giving my number to one of those workers, who called me to scream at me and blame ME for getting the wrong mail, as if it was my fault she kept doing a bad job). Fortunately, I got to my new phone before those leeches did, so they couldn't steal it.

The theft of my cell phone really pissed me off. I always try to do the right thing (though admittedly I don't always succeed). I don't keep things that don't belong to me. The one exception is when I find coins on the ground, because who's going to run back and search for a quarter or a couple of pennies, right?

But unfortunately, some people aren't honest. Some people are selfish thieves and just immoral. This isn't the first time I've gotten robbed, because this is Chicago, after all. I've gotten mugged and pickpocketed on more than one occasion, which is why I never carry a lot of cash or major credit cards with me. Once I accidentally left my coin purse in a bathroom at one of the schools where I teach. I went back less than five minutes later, to find the purse still there but all the coins missing. And I don't think it's a coincidence that not long after some of my mail went missing, someone tried to open up a bunch of credit cards with my information; fortunately, my credit card company stopped them and alerted me to what was going on.

It's times like those that make me wonder why I even bother trying to be considerate and honest. I know it's the right thing to do, but it doesn't always pay off. Even when I try to help people, it occasionally ends up backfiring.

For example, once I saw an old woman struggling with a shopping bag as she went down the stairs of an El station. The bag split open, and all the things inside fell out. Other people walked by, some of them trampling over her things without a second glance. I said, "Here, let me help you with that," and I tried to pick up what she had dropped. She screamed at me to keep my hands off her stuff and accused me of trying to steal it. I quickly backed away and let the old witch take care of it herself.

In spite of creeps like that, I will continue to try to do the right thing. If I find something valuable again, I won't keep it; I'll make sure it gets returned. I have enough Catholic guilt in me to motivate me, after all. But it still discourages me and makes me mad that no matter how nice I try to be to people, I still end up getting screwed again and again. It bothers me that some of the worst people in the world end up rich, successful, and getting everything else that they want, like karma isn't real after all. It's not like I help people with the expectation of being repaid every time, but it would be nice if people would show me the same consideration and at the very least return my possessions. But maybe that's expecting too much.

What about you? Have you ever gotten robbed? Have you ever tried to help someone, only for your efforts to end up backfiring? How do you deal with people like that?

Monday, April 6, 2015

Go Fund Yourself

Recently I read an article about a guy who started a gofundme campaign so that he could buy a plane ticket to Florida, where his girlfriend had gone on spring break. He was worried that she would cheat on him during the trip. He even got upset that a swimsuit picture she'd posted online got 200 "likes." (Jealous and insecure, your table is ready.) His campaign was successful; he took the trip to Florida, and his girlfriend didn't think he was possessive AT ALL.

I also read that almost a million dollars has been donated to a gofundme campaign for the owners of Memories Pizza in Indiana, who suffered a huge backlash after one of the proprietors said that he "chose" to be heterosexual and that he believed others "chose" to be homosexual. The owners also said that while they would still serve pizza to gay people, they would not cater a gay wedding.

Who would serve pizza at a wedding? (The only people who would like that are probably the people who don't think it's necessary to wear a shirt when they get married, like the ones I saw on a reality show recently.) I think the owners said that to make it clear that they supported that "religious freedom" act. I thought about the kind, funny, and good people I've met in Chicago, who are gay. None would choose to be homosexual, because why choose an identity that motivates other people to discriminate against you, beat you, or renounce you? While people have a right to practice their own religions, I don't think they should be given thousands of dollars for discriminating against other people who are different from them.

I wrote a blog post about Karyn Bosnak, who asked for money on the Internet (before gofundme even existed) in order to pay her $20,000 credit card bill. Many people responded with money and gifts. At the time I thought it was cool. Countless gofundme campaigns later, I'm not so sure.

I like the idea of strangers helping each other. There are legitimate campaigns out there. For example, I donated a small sum to a campaign for a homeless man who did not want to be separated from his dog, because the dog was all he had left. Both the man and the dog no longer have to live on the streets, thanks to the kindness of strangers.

I've heard of other campaigns where people ask for money for lifesaving surgeries, or they ask for help when they are struggling to support their families. It's great when people show compassion for each other.

I hoped to travel this summer, either to make a second trip to New York or to travel someplace else I've never been, like Boston or Seattle. I need a new laptop, because my current one keeps breaking down. I'd like to move out of my 300-square foot apartment, with its cracked walls and constantly non-functioning shower and fridge. My neighbors leave beer cans in the elevator and steal my magazines, and one especially loud neighbor is either an amateur porn star who streams videos from her apartment or just really loves her boyfriend.

But this year, my health problems (which I'll write more about later) were very costly. Even though my insurance paid for most of my treatment, I was still on the hook for more than a thousand dollars. My student insurance will end once I complete my PhD (which will hopefully be this summer), but I still need health insurance for ongoing treatment. I also owe thousands of dollars in student loans. I have barely enough money to get me through this summer. After that, if I don't find a full-time job, I'll be screwed.

Will I start a gofundme campaign for myself? No. I hated that I even had to sign up for student loans. I worked full-time for as long as I could. I think that some people give gofundme campaigns a bad name, like the guy who started one in order to go to a comic book convention, students who want money to enroll in study abroad programs, and a couple who wanted a vow renewal ceremony.

I think that people should continue helping each other, but everyone has their limit. What about you? Have you ever donated to a gofundme campaign? What do you think of these campaigns?