Neither Philly nor my alma mater can catch a break these days, it seems:
- Just a few days after Time named John Street one of the worst mayors in America (and rightly so; he’s a disgrace), Men’s Health ranked Philadelphia at the top of the list of the most depressed cities in the nation based on a number of depression-related metrics.
- It’s probably safe to say that the average Philly resident isn’t exactly chipper all the time — this town definitely has an edge to it. But the thought of being named número uno in terms of sadness is…well, depressing. (And how the hell did Philadelphia surpass both Detroit and Cleveland in this category?)
- For the first time since 1951, Penn State was shut out in the NFL draft last weekend. Out of 255 players chosen over the course of seven rounds, not a single Nittany Lion was selected. (Considering PSU owns a record of 26–33 over the last five seasons, the draft results aren’t very surprising, I guess.)
- A handful of PSU players were signed as free agents this week, but it’s pretty embarrassing to be the only Big Ten team to post a goose egg in the draft. Just one more reason why the phrase “Happy Valley” is becoming a misnomer.
[ No. 168 ]
My friend Todd recently alerted me to an article about the latest changes to the Bowl Championship Series. His favorite quote from one of the BCS officials:
“There are a lot of different ways you can structure it. All of them have different weaknesses and probably different strengths.”
Indeed, those pesky “different weaknesses” abound: the BCS formula is more complicated than the tax code, changes practically every year, and offers no practical solution when three teams finish the regular season without a loss.
For the last time, how about trying a revolutionary concept called a playoff system? Figure out a standard way to select the top four or eight Division I-A teams at the end of the regular season, and let the players decide the champion on the field. (Divisions I-AA, II, and III have had playoffs for years, by the way. It can be done.)
In the meantime, say it with me: you can’t spell “BCS” without BS.
[ No. 167 ]
Little did I know that my latest business trip to Research Triangle Park, N.C., would involve such a rigorous departure process:
- The day before the flight, I attempt to print my boarding pass from usairways.com, as I had done for a previous trip. But this time, the system displays an error message: you must check in at the ticket counter.
- Upon arriving at Philadelphia International on Sunday afternoon, I approach the entrance to the serpentine check-in line, where a US Airways employee directs me to a nearby touch-screen kiosk.
- I enter my flight information into the self-service system, which displays a vaguely familiar error message: you must check in at the ticket counter.
- I return to the US Airways employee at the head of the check-in line. She is skeptical that the kiosk would not allow me to confirm my e-ticket and asks me to try using it again in front of her.
- Repeat step (3) above.
- The US Airways employee sees the same error message that I had, and casually guesses aloud that someone with my name might be on the no-fly list. (Read that sentence again before continuing.)
- Although I have nothing to hide — I don’t exactly resemble an al-Qaeda operative, and I don’t have any relatives in the Irish Republican Army, either — my heart is beating rather quickly as I wait in line for the ticket counter. I hand over my e-ticket and driver’s license to the agent, who proceeds to type the equivalent of a term paper on his keyboard. After several minutes, I politely ask, “Is everything OK?” Yes, he says, but the flight is overbooked. I’ll have to check in at the gate, and I might have to wait on standby to get a seat.
- On the escalator, I shake my head and grumble about the situation to my coworker Paul, who had successfully printed his boarding pass the previous day and was able to conveniently skip steps (2) through (7) above.
- I pass through airport security without being asked to remove a single article of clothing. Things are finally looking up.
- I arrive at the gate, where the ticket agent miraculously finds a seat for me on the plane. “That’s it?” I ask hopefully. Yes, I’m confirmed for seat 10D. But do I wish to volunteer my seat in exchange for a later flight and a free round-trip ticket? Um, no thanks — I’ve earned that seat and I plan to use it. In fact, after being compared to a terrorist, I might just have that ticket stub framed.*
* * * * *
My return trip to Philadelphia on Thursday had some drama of its own. During the wait for my suitcase at the baggage claim and on the ride back to my house, I searched through my backpack and realized that I couldn’t find my house and car keys. Earlier that day at the Raleigh-Durham airport, as I was dropping off the rental car, I had taken my keys out of my bag to make sure that I had them with me, and must have misplaced them. Smart plan, you moron!
Fortunately, I had provided my parents with a spare house key when I had my locks changed last year, and my dad was able to stop over at my place within an hour or so. Once inside the house, I was relieved to quickly find my spare set of car keys as well. Best of all, later that same evening, the kind folks at the National rental agency returned my earlier call to the lost-and-found, saying that they had found the keys in one of their shuttles and could ship them to me.
At this time, I will bow my head and say a prayer of thanks that my job doesn’t require frequent travel.
* Update: Another anecdote from the trip that I nearly forgot — after landing in Raleigh-Durham last Sunday, my coworker Paul and I selected a rental car and pulled up to the cashier booth. Naturally, there was one small problem: my corporate American Express card, which I rarely use, had expired in March.
Paul turned to me and quipped, “Maybe you’re on the no-drive list, too.”
[ No. 166 ]
Yet another advertising-related post — yesterday, I drove past a bus stop ad that caught my eye. It was a promotion for a new caffeinated Budweiser drink:
YOU CAN SLEEP
WHEN YOU’RE 30.
(Check out the graphic version online for the full effect.)
Before I even address the slogan, I must lodge a complaint about the name of the drink itself: it’s called BE.
If you’re scratching your head right now, you’re certainly not alone. I had to perform more than one Google search to figure out how to pronounce it. The correct pronunciation is “B-to-the-E” — that’s B for “Budweiser” and E for “extra,” as in “extra stupid.” (The company probably held a series of important meetings to choose the name of their new beverage, and this math-class expression won? What other options were considered less marketable?)
As if the product name isn’t bad enough, its advertising slogan is a slap in the face to any potential customer over the ripe old age of 30. (That’s right, thirty!) Sure, I’ll concede that I’ve mellowed a bit and I don’t stay out all night very often anymore, but good Lord, I’m not dead, either! Turning 30 last fall never bothered me until now — I’m suddenly feeling very defensive about my age.
I guess Anheuser-Busch simply doesn’t want my business, and that’s perfectly fine with me — I’ve always hated Budweiser anyway.
[ No. 165 ]
An embarrassing sales promotion for a local jeweler, as seen on the lighted sign in front of the shopping center in my decidedly non-urban neighborhood:
SAVE UP TO 60%
SPRING BLING SALE
At this time, I must ask everyone (especially Caucasians who try and inevitably fail to sound hip) to retire the term “bling” once and for all.
What’s next, a local florist running a half-price sale on daffodizzles?
[ No. 164 ]
Some TV ad campaigns that must cease at once:
- Old Navy: Your kitschy song-and-dance routines have never been funny to begin with — I mean, who actually liked those irritating sweater-clad carolers from last December? But your recent spots that parody the theme from Fame, as well as “Bust a Move” by Young M.C., are giving me seizures.
- Mazda: Your stupid “zoom-zoom-zoom” jingle has been on the air for years, and it’s only grown more annoying with time. Please make it go away.
- America Online: “Want a better Internet?”, you ask. Um, there’s only one Internet, and contrary to your users’ perception, AOL and the Internet are not the same thing. And you’re kidding yourselves if you think that people would want to leave their current provider for AOL. If other people are like me, they’re going to start with AOL by picking up one of your free installation CDs at the local post office, stay with your service for a while out of sheer laziness, then finally switch to a better and faster ISP and never look back.
- And that reminds me — who do some companies still include an AOL Keyword in their ads? It’s 2005, for crying out loud. If your potential customers see www.companyname.com and still don’t know what that means, then you probably don’t want their business anyway.
[ No. 163 ]
This past Saturday, Pope John Paul II died at the age of 84. As a moderate-leaning Catholic, I didn’t agree with him on every issue and doctrine, and I think he should have been more aggressive in responding to the priest abuse scandal that has rocked the Church in recent years. But I have an enormous amount of respect for him, and I can’t think of a more honorable leader and decent man of our time. He will be an extremely tough act to follow.
However, I’m quite surprised at the nonstop media coverage of the pope’s passing. Over the last decade or two, news outlets have become very secular because they’re afraid of excluding or offending anyone — for example, you’ll seldom encounter the phrase “Merry Christmas” in print or on television, even on the 25th of December itself. But the same newspapers and TV networks that hesitate to mention a popular Christian (not just Catholic) holiday are the same ones that are falling over themselves to honor a popular Catholic leader.
Is that a strange double standard, or is it just me?
[ No. 162 ]