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Call Me a Goober. I Don’t Get Uber.

2 Mar

by Roger White

 

OK, my fellow aficionados of the absurd, before we slice into the juicy prime rib of this here column, let’s settle the squabbling once and for all: What color are these words? Do you see blue type on a black background or gold type on a white background? I’ll give you a minute. No, Leonard, fuchsia on lime is not a choice.

who gives a

Apparently, because of one silly photo of a dress that was e-passed around the globe in about, oh, twelve seconds, everything we knew and believed about how we human types perceive color is right out the window. I heard tell that there were acts of gun violence in many cities and more than a few divorce proceedings initiated because of this stupid dress.

Fox News even reported that Turkneckistan declared war on neighboring Rosannadannastan over this garment argument. Citing an anonymous source, Fox claimed that the dress was to be worn at a Democratic fundraiser and that the current White House Administration is to blame for all the hubbub. As the Fox anchor concluded, “Thanks, Obama.”

Anyway. That’s not my rant for this episode. (It’s blue on black, by the way.) No, the rusted bobby pin stuck in my lower craw this time out is this Uber phenomenon. If you haven’t heard of Uber, it’s an app—started in California, of course—that magically transforms any Tom, Dick, and Hot Rod Harry with a set of wheels into a taxi cab driver. Here’s actual wording from the Uber site: “Got a car? Turn it into a money machine. The city is buzzing, and Uber makes it easy for you to cash in on the action. Plus, you’ve already got everything you need to get started.”

So, if I may extrapolate, I need nothing more than my derelict little Ford Pinto, some free time, and a desperate desire to make some cash without really working in order to chauffeur my way to riches? What a fantastic concept! What could possibly go wrong?

ruh roh ruber

Hmmm, let’s see. If you’re the guy behind the wheel—we’ll call you the Uber-er—it’s all easy money—until you get summoned to the lower east side of town to pick up a half-dozen Hell’s Angels, whose request is something like, “Just drive us around town for a while, lights off, and DON’T look in the back seat! Got it?” Or, say you’re the one looking for a ride—you’re the Uber-ee—and you get picked up in a two-tone primer and day-glo yellow ’63 Impala by a dude with a patch over one eye and a tattoo of Jeffrey Dahmer on his bicep. “Um, Sixth Street, please. Wait, um, downtown’s that way. No, wait!”

waitYou see my concerns. The threat of death and dismemberment aside, did you know that if you—the Uber-ee— opt for the Uber route during a time that is considered “high demand,” you will be charged what the smiling Uber people (Uberites? Ubereeenos?) euphemistically term “surge pricing”? Yeah. So, say you’re having little luck getting an honest-to-gosh taxi at 3 a.m. on New Year’s, and you punch up Uber on your phone thingy. It’s only a five-minute ride from the bar to your house, but you’re a little tipsy—and besides, your neighbor used Uber for the same trip only a few weeks ago, and it was only $25. Uber to the rescue! Your Uber driver is a tad odd and smells like onions and cat litter, but he gets you home in one piece. You whip out two twenties, feeling generous, and your cat-litter-smelling-cabby laughs. “That’s $675, lady.” Yep, surge pricing.

You see her concerns.

If I may extrapolate further, where will this lead? Will we have Uberfied air travel soon? I can see the Uber site now: “Got an airplane? Got at least a student’s license? Turn your Cessna into a money machine. The nation is buzzing, and many people—especially those on cartel payrolls—need transportation fast! Uber makes it easy for you to cash in on the action. Plus, you’ve already got everything you need to get started….”

Roger White is a freelance writer living in Austin, Texas, with his lovely wife, two precocious daughters, a very fat dachshund, and a cat with Epstein-Barr. For further adventures, visit oldspouse.wordpress.com.

Huzzah for Hard Line on Hardheads with Handhelds! …Huh?

16 Sep

by Roger White

 

Normally, I’m not one to send out hearty huzzahs to governmental entities for actions they’ve taken, and this is likely because governmental entities these days rarely take any action at all (unless it involves evasive action from pursuing police cars, gaggles of reporters, or issues of real import). But I must say that I feel a robust huzzah coming on for the gallant move the Austin City Council made in August. The council types put their pointed noggins together and approved an ordinance banning cellphone use while driving within the Weird City Limits. So here goes. Let’s hear it: Huzzah!

 

Carl, I didn’t see you huzzah-ing.

 

I imagine that this new law, which goes into effect January 1, 2015, will be called by some shorthand name like the DWP law. Driving While Phoning. Or maybe DWT—Driving While Texting. Or we could simply stick with the term DWI and call it Driving While Intexticated. distracted dudeRegardless, label me a cappy hamper. It’s about time we put these handheld monsters in their place. I mean, crikey, time was when you saw a car weaving all over the road and sideswiping lampposts it was usually 2:30 in the morning and the driver had a handful of cheap hooch. Now, any time of day or night you can easily spy a meandering motorist, but these days he’s got his head down, engrossed in his handful of high-tech hosannas. Holy high-speed highjinks!

 

Alas, too, in the olden days, the term “distracted driving” meant that a guy was accidentally steering onto the sidewalk on Guadalupe Street because he was ogling a crowd of college coeds walking down the drag. Nowadays, it usually means somebody put his Dodge in a ditch because he was watching a Vietnamese potbellied pig play the harpsichord on Youtube. It’s insanity, man.

 

So I not only applaud the council for standing up to the mobile madness, I say we take it a few steps further. I vote we enact stiff fines, public shaming rituals, and/or jail time for the following:

  • WWT: Walking While Texting
  • WMWT: Watching a Movie While Texting
  • IYPWT: Ignoring Your Parents While Texting

And, of course:

  • CWRLPWT: Conversing With a Real Live Person While Texting

 

WWTYou’ve surely seen the videos out there of those unfortunate saps who’ve strolled into mall fountains or off sheer cliffs because of their single-minded attention to their devices. And I suppose some of the yahoos in these videos were actually watching videos of other yahoos walking into fountains or off cliffs. Gads. It’s a glimpse of infinity—the fractal geometry of the absurd. Don’t you see? Where was I?

 

Oh. Get this. The Chinese, recognizing the inherent dangers of WWT, have actually devised an urban solution. The city of Chongqing has decided to parse its sidewalks into normal human walking lanes and cellphone user lanes. Apparently, the cellphone lanes have warnings painted onto the pavement about such things as the fact that the sidewalk is ending soon, there’s a naked lady walking right next to you, and your neck could stay permanently frozen in that position if you don’t stop gawking at your phone.

 

I would guess that such walking lanes might need rumble strips or warning buzzers for the hardcore cellphone addicts who refuse to tear themselves away. Such measures may have saved WWT2the tourist in Melbourne, Australia, who walked right off a pier into the frigid waters of Port Phillip Bay recently. According to news reports, the woman thrashed about in the sea for about 20 minutes before being rescued. “There will be no need for a lost property report as the woman kept hold of her mobile phone throughout the entire ordeal,” said a local police officer. The woman’s child and two dogs, unfortunately, were never found. OK, I made that part up.

 

So, anyhow, here’s to our intrepid city council for taking a swipe at all the app-addled addicts out there. I’m with ya, pointy-noggin council types. Is it so hard for people to PUT THE PHONE DOWN? My hope is that once we move into the second phase of our fair burg’s sanctions—the laws against WWT, WMWT, and the like—that eventually we’ll develop edicts against the more grievous mobile device offenses. Such as SWT. You know. Nudge, nudge.

SWT

Roger White is a freelance writer living in Austin, Texas, with his lovely wife, two precocious daughters, a very fat dachshund, and a self-absorbed cat. For further adventures, visit oldspouse.wordpress.com.

 

Life in the Closed Lane, Part Deux

14 Oct

by Roger White

 

I’ve harped on the many traffic woes of this sardine-packed city before, but now with my youngest chomping at the automotive bit and with the wife and me renewing our primal fears of bodily injury to our kiddos (and yours if they’re not nimble enough to get out of the way), I figured it was time to revisit the demolition derby that is life on these Austin streets.

 Packed like sardines

There are those who put forth that a car is merely an extension of one’s personality, and I am not one to disagree. In fact, I believe placing a human being behind the wheel of a 2,000-pound mechanical contrivance actually amplifies one’s basic behavior to the extreme. If you’re a bully in your daily existence, then you become a truly monstrous a—hole in your behemoth pickup truck. If you’re the extra-careful, nervous type, this translates into that modest little Yaris attempting earnestly to stay six carlengths away from every other vehicle—even in the Target parking lot. If you’re the meditative, peaceful sort, you transmogrify into Gandhi in a ghia, waving and smiling serenely at those who curse and aim middle digits.

 

Add to this car-as-extension-of-self phenomenon the stifling overcrowding of our byways these days and you get what we are experiencing now: critical car mass. We’re not simply employing our autos to get from one point to another—no, sitting in the sedan, waiting for the light to change or the wreckage to clear, has become a way of life. We’re in our Toyotas and Hyundais so much of the time that we eat, sleep, communicate, transact business, recreate (and, yes, re-create), and conduct practically every other function of living in our cars as much as anywhere else. I hear that Honda is actually working on a driver-activated toilet for its higher-end models. No pun intended. Okay, I made that up.

 

Despite the notion of having a potty on the go, I have come to truly despise driving now. Sadly, I used to enjoy getting in the ol’ jalopy. I envied the guys who had the gleaming hot rods. Now I see these immaculately restored muscle cars, and the occasional collector on the goPorsches (usually driven by guys old enough to remember Ferdinand Porsche personally), and I puzzle over these machines with their massive motors grumbling against the walking pace of traffic. I mean, it’s a bit like owning a racehorse in Manhattan. What’s the point?

 

Anyway, from my daily stop-n-go grind I’ve concluded that there are five basic automotive personality types. And here they are, in no particular order: You’ve got your breakneck-speed, tailgating Reckless Kellys. These guys are always late for something, and you are always in their way, for heaven’s sake. Every lane that a Reckless Kelly is not in is the lane that he or she wants desperately to be in. Conversely, you have your Vehicular Vigilantes. These are the self-appointed regulators of the Reckless Kellys, and they can be just as annoying. VVs are the ones who speed up just enough to not let others in if they feel a traffic injustice has been done. Vigilantes enjoy wagging their fingers and shaking their heads correctively at other drivers. On the other end of the extreme, you have your Motorized Milquetoasts. More than three cars on the road at a time frightens MMs, and decision-making is tough for this mild-mannered sort. Keep your distance. MMs are often seen waiting for a stop sign to turn green. Clueless Cloggers used to be an obvious category; these were the very young and very old vehicular pilots. Currently, however, CCs have grown to include every one of these imbecilic drivers who insist on monitoring their mobile devices while they themselves are mobile! Lord help us. And last but least, you have thback off pleaseose temperamental types who think of themselves as Vigilantes but are in actuality a lethal and unpredictable combo of every known personality on the road. These are the most dangerous, maddeningly volatile drivers you can ever come across. They are convinced that their path and their mission are the most important, and they will compromise with no other automobile. If anyone gets in their way, these asphalt autocrats will do anything in their power to seek vengeance—to the point that they are willing to shut down the whole traffic system to get what they want.

 

These frightening folks are, of course, the Boehner Beamers. Steer clear of BBs; you’ve been warned.

 

Roger White is a freelance writer living in Austin, Texas, with his lovely wife, two precocious daughters, a very fat dachshund, and a self-absorbed cat. For further adventures, visit oldspouse.wordpress.com.