Location, Location, Location
Until late last Thursday night, I was in Aruba for eleven glorious days with my beloved hubby. I didn't pay any attention to politics, I didn't blog, I didn't read my email. I just turned it all off and did nothing but enjoy myself. It was pure heaven.
Vacations are great for contemplation and review, and I definitely did some of that between the beach-ing, the mango coladas, the slots and the delicious meals. During my musings, I thought of that famous saying about real estate, and how it can apply to life as well.
Location matters when you're on vacation. If you don't pick the right destination or stay in the wrong hotel, you can have a horrible time. We switched hotels this year, and were very happy we did, although the room wasn't nearly as nice. The amenities, which included a spa, three restaurants and the greatest beach on the island, far outweighed the fact that our bathroom looked like it had come from my mother-in-law's house, which hasn't been renovated since the 50's. It was even the same color - pink! Unfortunately, my mother-in-law's bathroom smells a lot better. Let's just say the resort hasn't quite figured out how to defeat mildew yet. ;-)
Location matters when you're visiting a different country. You haven't seen World Cup madness until you've seen a 90-minute spontaneous parade of cars, all honking madly and festooned with bright orange flags, banners, boas, glasses and wigs, going through the high-rise district in celebration of Holland's semi-final victory over Brazil. (Aruba is part of the Netherlands Antilles/Dutch West Indies.) On the day of the final game with Uruguay, about 80% of the people you saw anywhere on the island were wearing orange, and no one seemed to be at work; they were all hanging out at bars and casinos drinking and watching the game. (By the way, I'm rooting for Holland - at the time of this writing, the World Cup hasn't started yet.) For those who missed the game during the day, giant outdoor screens ran an evening re-broadcast in all the outdoor malls on the island. Now THAT is team spirit! And people at my company think that just watching the games on the big screen in the lounge is enough! I don't think so.
Location matters when you're traveling by plane. It's just amazing how traveling out of the United States is smooth as silk, whereas coming INTO the United States is a freaking nightmare. We arrived at the Arubian airport on Thursday three hours early, as per international rules, only to wait...and wait...and wait in an unmoving line to check our bags. After a half an hour of no information or progress whatsoever, a smiling woman walked through the line (now snaking out the doors) to inform us that the boarding pass printers were not working. (Since hubby and I are in IT, we had already figured out there was a computer problem.) Luckily, we had done an online check-in and already had our boarding passes printed out, so we were able to proceed. The rest of the poor slobs who had expected a normal check-in process had to wait for the JetBlue employees to write the boarding passes out by hand. Oh, did I mention that the air conditioning wasn't turned on? It's about 100 degrees every day in Aruba, in case you're wondering.
But that was only the beginning of the fun. Here my husband and I were, American citizens according to our passports (although tan enough to be ethnically profiled, I suppose), and not only did we have to do the normal "security" screenings (I was stopped several times because the automatic screener kept identifying the underwire in my bra as a terrorist threat), but because the baggage inspector was bored and thought I was cute, we also had to submit to a full hand search of our luggage. (Well, my husband thought the guy was flirting with HIM. There was an awful lot of talk about "cigars." I told him, "Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar, honey.")
In any case, we somehow made it through this idiocy and got to the gate on time, only to have our bodies wanded and patted down before we were allowed to step onto the plane. Are you kidding me with this stuff? Where the hell would I have gotten access to something dangerous at that point?! By this time, I was so hot, sweaty and cranky that I could understand wanting to blow something up. (The air conditioning finally came on about 15 minutes before we started boarding. Yippee.)
The thing that really kills me is that none of these procedures are actually for security. The technology exists to screen you down to your last molecule. They can screen for explosives, chemicals, you name it. All you need is one walk through one machine and you're done. But noooooo, they have to check my sneakers and feel me up and classify my bra as a national security threat. Welcome to America, where criminals are elected President and law-abiding citizens are treated like criminals.
And speaking of America, location matters here. Oh boy, does it matter - perhaps more than anything else, it determines our quality of life in an ever-more-obvious way. After reading BlueLyon's astounding account of her unsuccessful attempts to get general liability insurance for her NOW meetings in Nevada, I thought, "This is only happening because she's in a 'red' state. If she were in New York, she'd have no problem at all." Then I thought about 'red' states in general, and how the laws in these states are getting more and more punitive towards women, minorities and others who depend upon the social safety net to keep themselves alive. Then, I thought about the Gulf Coast states, which are suffering on a scale that cannot yet be estimated due to the criminal negligence of British Petroleum and the greedy monsters that run it (and of course, the MMS which failed to regulate them properly). If you happen to live in a 'red' state and/or a Gulf Coast state, I mused further, you're just screwed from the get-go. You might as well just not live anywhere in America except the Northeast!
But then I realized that while the Northeast is temporarily safe from some types of disasters, we certainly have our share of problems. There's that "universal" health care in Massachusetts, which was the trial version of Obamacare, and which is now failing the citizens of that state due to its being far too expensive; and there's the fact that the legislature in New York is insanely corrupt and our treasury is always empty; and New Jersey has the most Superfund sites of any state in the Union; and Connecticut has Joe Lieberman as a Senator...etc. etc. etc. Hmmm. More thinking was clearly required.
When I was at the Butterfly Farm in Aruba, I asked the owner about what's happening to the bees. He said that the bees are dying from a massive dust mite infection, as well as a bizarre virus that causes bees to act like individual insects, and not members of a hive. When this virus infects a bee, it eventually causes "colony collapse," as the bees separate from each other and fail to build hives, make honey or do anything that helps them cross-pollinate, which is their primary function in the evolutionary chain. We both stated our belief that humankind was having its own type of "colony collapse" disorder, as we seem to fail to realize that as a species, we're all in this together. Sure, we can keep smugly congratulating ourselves that OUR location is the best, and that all others are clearly inferior; or we can realize that we are all on track to becoming inhabitants of a toxic, dying planet, desperately scrabbling with each other for that last drop of clean water and air. All our differences, red and blue, black and white, will come to naught in the end. Ain't that a kick in the head?
For human beings, Planet Earth is the ultimate location. I just hope we learn to take care of it, and of ourselves, before it's too late.