Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Political Advertising – Make It Stop!

I know this blog is supposed to be about leading a contented life as a disabled person. But there is something else I'd like to write about today, if you will indulge me.

Here in the United States we have a big election next week. It's what we call a midterm election, so we're not voting for President, but we are voting for just about every other possible position in federal, state, and local government.

I'm not here to advocate for any particular candidate or political party, but rather to publicly protest about how absurd the process has become. I understand that it's better than the alternative – not being able to choose your own representative government. But we've been doing this for over 200 years now, and it is getting worse, not better.

Specifically, I'm here to complain about political advertising on TV. As a disabled person who sits at home all day, I tend to watch a lot of television.
In the last couple of months, my television viewing experience, and more importantly my enthusiasm for next week's election, has been raped and pillaged by incessant political advertising. It would be one thing if the commercials were informative, well done, or even creative. But they are not. They are absolutely mind-numbing.

In response to this deluge I conducted a scientific study of the candidates’ advertising. My extensive data analysis indicates that if a negative claim is made against an opponent, there is a 99% chance that said claim is at best distorted and at worst completely fabricated. The data further reveals that if a positive claim is made about a candidate, there is an 80% chance that said claim is at best distorted and at worst completely fabricated.

I have scientifically established, therefore, that negative advertising is less informative than positive advertising, and that positive advertising is far less informative than no advertising at all. Because of this, as I finalize my voting decisions, I will award “bonus points” to the candidates who inundated me with the fewest commercials (but I’ll give more bonus points for lack of negative commercials, as they are the worst kind).

OK, maybe I didn't really conduct a study, but I bet my percentages are pretty damn close to the truth.

I can think of only one good reason why candidates spend so much money on television advertising. It must work. I would be ashamed of myself if I let the content of these commercials influence my vote in any way (other than my bonus point system). We should listen to debates, meet with the candidates, hash things out with our friends and neighbors, but we can’t let these fraudulent commercials sway us! Since many of us apparently are duped by this disinformation, then I must reluctantly conclude that we are a weak-minded society, prone to manipulation. Shame on us.

But it doesn’t have to be this way.

I'll make my informed voting decisions based on how I feel about the candidates’ ability to represent my family’s interests, with adjustments made for how I was treated as a consumer of their advertising.  The only way we can stop the insanity is to demonstrate to the next round of political candidates that mudslinging and tacky advertisements will not produce the desired outcome.  All television commercials of the current style, even the positive ones, are a waste of our time and an insult to our intelligence.  Make it stop!

Can I get an amen?

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

The Top Ten Reasons I Want to End MS

When I checked my email this morning I saw a note from the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. They asked the question, "Why do you want to end MS?" Their goal is to have 20,000 people answer by October 31. Here is the link.

This is the kind of rah rah mentality that usually turns me off. It is blatant cheerleading. But I had no other blog post idea this week, so I thought I would give you my top 10 reasons.

Reason #10:
If we end MS, then we can put people like me back to work so we are financial contributors to society instead of financial burdens, and so that we can once again feel the satisfaction that comes with a job and a career. This time around I don’t want to be an engineer. I’m thinking astronaut or Rom Com movie star.

Reason #9:
If we end MS, then I can change the name of my blog from enjoying the ride to enjoying the mountain climbing. Who am I kidding? That was never me. It would be more like enjoying standing up to pee.  

Reason #8:
If we end MS, then we can make organizations like the National Multiple Sclerosis Society (bless their hearts), and silly campaigns like this one (and I mean that in the nicest way) obsolete.

Reason #7:
If we end MS, then we can reallocate the enormous sum of money spent on research and treatment. This money can instead go toward other diseases. But I would like a little of it to go to those of us who were cured of multiple sclerosis so we can vacation in the Caribbean – all of us at the same time and on the same island. What a party that would be!

Reason #6:
If we end MS, then we can answer, once and for all, the question of what was its root cause. I hope it’s not something too embarrassing though, like you catch MS from picking your nose or excessive masturbation.

Reason #5:
If we end MS, then I can reclaim my initials from this damn disease.

2011 08 202

Reason #4:
If we end MS, then those people who are cured will save money on wheelchairs, wheelchair vans, ramps, grab bars, home modifications, and a million other things. However, our costs for footwear will increase dramatically (a pair of shoes typically lasts me 5 to 7 years now).

Reason #3:
If we end MS, then people like me can get our lives back.

Reason #2:
If we end MS, then people like Kim can have the respite that they deserve. They won’t have to be caregivers in addition to all their other roles.

And my #1 reason is:
If we end MS, then our children and our children’s children will not be cut down in their prime. We will stand tall and say, “No person will never suffer this way again.”

Why do you want to end MS?

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Adventures in Public Transportation #3

I posted #1 in this series in 2011. It was as about a transportation service for disabled people, called RTP. It sucks, and I haven’t used it since.

I posted #2 in this series in 2012. It was about my initial ride on the South Portland Public Bus system with Kim, and my first solo ride shortly thereafter. Big effing deal. What a rookie I was.

Fast-forward to 2014, where I am a seasoned city bus rider. That’s right. I ride the bus once or twice per week on average. My most common destination is the physical therapy clinic near the Maine Mall. I also go to the mall or to downtown Portland on occasion. My frequent bus travel started in the spring of this year, so I’m uncertain how I’ll like this mode of transportation in the middle of the winter. It’s going to be freaking cold.

My PT appointments are scheduled for 3:30 PM on Tuesdays and Thursdays. I leave my house at about 2:39 PM for the 2:40 bus. We have a new, enclosed transportation hub one block from my house, and it has pushbutton operated doors. The bus is anywhere between five minutes and twenty-five minutes late. So I sit in the transportation hub and read for a few minutes.

Any number of buses may pull up to the curb while I’m waiting, but the one I want is number 24B. When it approaches, I push the door-open button, exit the building, and situate myself squarely in line with the front door of the bus. This lets the driver know that I would like to board.

But before I can do that, the bus driver has to fold up one of the two bench seats to expose one of the two wheelchair stations on the bus. Usually that means evicting passengers who sat there at their own risk (there is a big sign indicating that they may have to move for wheelchair users). I then board the bus via a ramp or lift, endure the disapproving looks from the disenfranchised bench sitters, squeeze down through the aisle until I get to my spot, do a 180 degrees turn so that I am facing forward instead of backward, and then situate myself in the designated wheelchair spot. I perform this maneuver deftly, even elegantly, so I am surprised and disappointed that I’ve yet to receive any applause. Sometimes I take a bow nonetheless.

There are four tiedown straps and hooks on the floor. I soon learned that the cool wheelchair people do not ask to be secured. That process holds up the entire bus for a minute or two. I am now one of the cool wheelchair people. I suppose I’m not being absolutely safe, but neither do I worry during a bus ride where nobody wears a seatbelt, and several people on the bus are standing.

Once I am in position, the bus driver closes the door, folds up the ramp or the lift, and pulls away from the transportation hub.

I’m like a small child, in that once I get on this bus I have trouble keeping my eyes open. I typically recline in my wheelchair twenty degrees or so, elevate my feet a little, close my eyes, and rest. I only fell asleep once, and I missed my stop, so I don’t do that anymore. I’m not a pretty sight for people getting on or off the bus. They probably look at me and wonder just how awful my life must be, to have such a big wheelchair in such a reclined position – and the poor bastard can’t even stay awake! But I don’t care. I'm a hell of a lot more comfortable than they are.

When the bus approaches my stop I’m supposed to pull on a cord to alert the driver, but I have trouble with that. So, when I board the bus I tell the driver, “I’ll be getting off at Kaplan University.” So far they haven’t forgotten me. When we approach my stop, which is nothing more than a sign on the side of the street, the bus pulls over and we reverse the boarding process. I am dumped on the sidewalk of a very busy road.

I travel a couple hundred yards to Saco Bay Physical Therapy, where I push the door-open button, and I am at my destination. If things go well, I’m usually about ten minutes early for my appointment, and the therapists accommodate me. If things go poorly I might be ten minutes late, and again, the therapists accommodate me.

Kim gets out of work in time to pick me up at 4:30 PM. I’ve never taken the bus home because I don’t like the idea of sitting out in the elements by the side of the road for five minutes to twenty-five minutes waiting for the bus to pick me up. When I get into our wheelchair van Kim has usually been waiting for a few minutes, so she is typing away furiously on her smart phone. One of us will ask, "How was your day?" Then the other person will reciprocate. Next, the conversation inevitably goes toward, “So, what are we going to do for dinner tonight?” The last element of our meet and greet is to bitch and complain about the traffic or the idiocy of a specific driver. Once these compulsory requirements are met, we are free to discuss whatever we wish. Common topics are quantum mechanics, current events in the middle east, and our favorite political advertisements.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Sleeping Apart

We never slept apart out of anger. The only time Kim tried was a couple years into our marriage, but it didn’t work. We had a big fight because I was being an asshole. After going out with the boys, I stumbled home and found her on the couch with a blanket and pillow. I said, “Okay, let’s go to bed.”

“I’m already in bed,” she replied.

I went upstairs, grabbed my own blanket and pillow, and came back downstairs. I laid on the floor beside the couch and didn’t say a word. The gesture worked. We reconciled and went upstairs together.

Until I stopped working in 2009, I traveled between five and fifty nights each year for business. I typically spent between two and a dozen nights away from home each November for deer hunting. Once in a while Kim attended an out of town teachers’ conference. Sleeping apart was common and not particularly stressful for us.

This weekend we had friends over, and as I often do, I set the computer up to randomly scroll through our collection of photographs. I do this because once in a while somebody will notice an interesting one, and it will spark conversation. The picture on the right side of this post, depicting Kim in Chicago, popped up on the screen. Kim said, “That was three and a half years ago, and it was the last time Mitch and I slept apart.”

I’ve grown more dependent on Kim for assistance getting into bed, getting out of bed, and occasionally in the middle of the night. This has made it almost impossible for her to get away from me, or me away from her, for a single night.

Now that I have the overhead lift system, theoretically it is possible, but I would still be nervous. Maybe we’ll give it a try, or maybe we’ll play it safe. I’ll certainly let you know if we become daring enough.

Over the years I’ve seen interviews of sweet old couples who proudly proclaim, “We’ve never slept apart in fifty (or sixty or seventy) years.” I admit that I looked down on those people for leading unsophisticated lives. Yet here we are…