Thursday, October 30, 2014

Lost and Found

Not long ago, my wife and I spent an evening at the Opryland Hotel in Nashville. In order to get to our room, we had to pass by the lost and found office for the entire facility. Given that the hotel has over 2,000 rooms, it was a fairly large operation and I stopped in because I doubted that there was anyone else in the hotel with a better story than the people that staffed this particular office.
Upon entry, I peered over the half-door and there was a dark-haired woman seated at a computer and wearing a headset. There were several rows of industrial shelving behind her and each held large plastic bins of what I assumed where misplaced items waiting to be claimed. She cordially inquired if I had lost an item and I informed her that I happened to be walking by and was curious what the strangest item they had ever had claimed. The phrasing was intentional because while I am sure they had many odd items placed in their care; there are many people who would rather replace said item than face the embarrassment of claiming ownership.

She smiled warily and assured me that “there is nothing you could imagine that we haven’t had.” I clarified to see if her statement still applies to items that had actually been claimed and she reiterated that regardless of the nature of the item, they had seen it all. By now, she had clearly begun to wonder what she had done to deserve the punishment of being on duty when I walked in and was eager to get back to work. Thanking her for her time, my wife and I made our way back to our room where she was going to freshen up her makeup.

While sitting in the room and waiting for her to get ready, I replayed the conversation in mind and the more I thought about it the more I felt like she had challenged my creativity. On the complimentary stationary, I quickly compiled a list of items and called back down to the lost and found office to see if her initial statement still held water. She cheerily answered the phone, but I did notice a change in tone when I explained that I was the guy who had been inquiring about strange items earlier. I told her that I had a list and simply wished to know if they had seen any of the following items:

Me- Inflatable giraffe?
Her – Pool or otherwise?
Me – Either
Her – No.
Me – Last will and testament?
Her – No.
Me – Container of combustible liquid?
Her – No.
Me – Artificial limb?
Her – No.
Me – French currency?
Her – No.
Me – An urn with human remains?
Her – No.

With each successive answer, I could almost hear her wondering why she couldn’t have called in sick today.I ended the conversation by thanking her again for her time and adding (somewhat haughtily) “So I suppose they are some items I could imagine that you have not had….” Undoubtedly already filling out the paperwork necessary to be transferred to another department, she conceded that perhaps she had underestimated my creativity and optimistically asked if “that was all I needed.”

As I hung up the phone, my wife emerged from the bathroom and asked me who I was talking to. When I explained and showed her the list in my hands, she simply shook her head and wondered aloud for what to have been the 500th time in our marriage “What is wrong with you!”

I always wonder if there are people that just walk into lost and founds and start fishing to see if they can luck out by asking vague questions like “You guys did not happen to find a large amount of cash and/or precious stones that may or may not have been left in a common area in the past few weeks did you?” I have been told that going to the lost and found at a large hotel is also the easiest way to acquire a spare phone charger without incurring any additional cost.   

Wednesday, October 22, 2014


When the CDC announced that Thomas Duncan, a 42-year old Liberian national, had been diagnosed with the Ebola virus in Dallas, TX it ignited a wave of panic that only intensified when the disease spread to two nurses who had treated him. Confusion and disinformation abounded, spurned by Facebook posts and conspiracy theories. I personally witnessed a conversation between two highly educated people that occurred just a few weeks after Duncan’s diagnosis:

Person 1 – How was your trip?
Person 2 – Good, coming home we had a layover in Dallas but the flight was good.
Person 1- You were in Dallas!? I hope you didn’t touch anything while you were there.
Person 2 – I know. We were very careful.

What does that even mean? Did you torch your clothing when you left the terminal or did you simply use the paper towel to open the bathroom door? To my knowledge there has not been a single documented case of airport transmission and not even the people sitting with him on the plane caught it. Don’t get me wrong, even without Ebola in the equation I wouldn’t go around licking the Cinnabon counter at LAX, but Ebola is a little harder to catch than you might think.

I have heard the counter-arguments. The government told us that it could not come here, and then it did. They said it could not spread here, and then it did. While that is true, it is important to note that, so far, all of those cases have been healthcare workers in direct contact with the original case. Their job required them to treat Mr. Duncan while he was the most contagious and handle the very fluids necessary for transmission. Perhaps we should spend less time second guessing their decisions and more time admiring the courage necessary to risk your own life in order provide medical care to another human being.   

An example of the continuing misconception of the disease occurred on a recent episode of Fox News Sunday where Pulitzer-prize winning columnist George Will claimed “there are now doctors who are saying, we’re not so sure that it can’t be in some instances transmitted by airborne.” Rarely has a more ambiguously-qualified statement been uttered on national television. Let’s really break this down:
George Will
Who is saying it – “doctors”
Doctors of what? Which doctors? Are they epidemiologists? Did they get an honorary Ph.D in Forensic Graphic Design?

What they are saying – “we’re not so sure it can’t”
Double-negatives aside, that is the least actionable piece of information in medical science. In essence, they are telling you that possibilities do in fact exist and that they may be applicable to this situation.

When – “in some instances”
What instances? Hypothetical instances? Peruvian Independence Day instances?

Of course, all that most people took away from that broadcast was the juxtaposition of the words “doctors, Ebola, airborne” which is more than enough to feed a panic. Before you know it there are Facebook posts claiming that this Ebola outbreak actually began when President George W. Bush ordered the controlled demolition of the twin towers on September 11th.

I have always found it ironic that the people most likely to accept sweepingly complex Federal government conspiracies are also the ones who vehemently dismiss the Federal government as hopelessly inept. In other words, how do you believe that the same group of employees are perpetuating a highly-orchestrated nationwide ruse while simultaneously lacking the cognitive ability to perform the most rudimentary tasks in their job description? You cannot have it both ways. If the government is successfully running a clandestine operation with that many moving parts, they are not hopelessly incompetent. Conversely, if they are hopelessly incompetent they would be unable to successfully run a clandestine operation with that many moving parts.

Don’t get me wrong, Ebola is a terrifying disease and in this modern era of globalization an outbreak is everyone’s problem. I came dangerously close to soiling myself when I first read Richard Preston’s 1994 book The Hot Zone; but unless its method of transmission changes you needn’t stockpile the bunker yet. Of course, that could be exactly what the CDC wants you to think so that when it goes airborne there will be more canned beans for them.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Girl's Clothing

A few weeks ago my wife wanted to stop by Old Navy to look for some yoga attire. As the designated retail pack-mule, I found myself standing by the women’s athletic gear killing time while my spouse decided between identical pairs of black stretchy pants. Glancing over the display, I noticed an interesting trend in the athletic tops: cringe-worthy idioms.

Are there that many women who want to show up at the gym wearing a tank top that says “Get It Girl” or “Free Your Mind”? Some even implied impulsiveness and possible promiscuity by featuring “WILD” or “FREE SPIRIT” across the chest. One just featured the word “SWAGGER” printed vertically. Are these meant to inspire the wearer or the people they come in contact with at the gym? Is the idea that you put this on, look in the mirror and say to yourself, “I was going to binge-watch True Blood and eat fried chicken, but now I think I’ll dead-lift instead.”

Inspired by these items, I have created my own cringe-worthy screen-print series for Old Navy Women’s Athletics:

  • You Go (to the gym) Girl!
  • W.T.F.  (Why The Flab?)
  • Sugar-Baby in Training
  • Me – 1 / Excuses – 0
  • Don’t Cha? (need to avoid gluten)
  • Estrogen Warrior
  • I Physical Exertion

Another trend I noticed was that nearly every upper-torso mannequin modeling a top was posed with its hands behind its back. It was as if they wanted to show the consumer exactly how the blouse would look were they to be handcuffed wearing it. I realize that a woman puts much more thought into attire than a man, but are such scenarios really taken into account? I would love to have passed by a woman telling her friend, “The green top looks great when my arms are in a comfortable position, but what if I get caught with 2 kilos on St. Patrick’s Day?”

The clothing problems for girls apparently can begin in utero. My wife was explaining that she had pre-ordered an outfit so that we could get it on its day that it is released. Please allow that to sink in. Things have gotten so bad that children’s clothing now has a street date. I wonder if there are people standing outside a Gymboree the night before discussing rumors.

“My cousin heard that the new pastel rompers will feature an offset accent bow.”
“No way! I just saw a Facebook rumor that the fall line will reflect their corporate de-emphasis on ruching!”

I can only hope that this release date business has created a thriving black market scene. Hordes of desperate middle-class parents ducking into alleys and avoiding eye contact as they whisper, “Anybody got the 2015 smocked kitten pattern in a 2T?” as nonchalantly as possible. Their inquiries undoubtedly met with suspicion until some guy in a trench coat presented a hypothetical situation where he might know a guy who did time with the dock manager at Zulily. But just before the conversation can continue, a lookout shouts “five-0!” and the minivans scatter just as quickly and mysteriously as they appeared.