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Archive for July, 2010

Terminate

I think I’m in the throes of another life crisis where I question what I do for a living and why.  Well, the why would be easy.  I work for a cool company and am surrounded by some of the most talented people in the world.  It’s a great environment and totally comfortable.  I don’t make great money, but I get by and have a pretty good life.  Still, I have moments like the one I had today and I have to ask myself, “Is this all there is?”

Today I had the not-so-pleasurable task of reading through a focus group report to cull information into soundbites for senior management who are too lazy to read the dreadfully boring report themselves.  If I had minions, I would do the same. The focus group was conducted on one of our movies with the hopes of figuring out a viable sales strategy for the upcoming DVD release of said film.  There wasn’t anything particularly fascinating in the report, and in the end was an appendix that listed all the questions the people in the focus group had been asked.  At various points, as an instruction to the researchers, there were notes on how to move forward with particular answers to particular questions. And by notes, I mean the word “TERMINATE.”  If someone had already planned on buying the movie on DVD, the instruction read “TERMINATE.”  Why waste time analyzing responses from someone who has already been hooked?  These being targeted studies, there were other disqualifying criteria that would cause someone’s answers to be apparently useless to the overall results.  The one that stuck with me was the household income question.  For those who answered that their annual household income is less than $35,000, the instruction read “TERMINATE.”  This made me sad.  Poor people can’t afford to buy DVDs – they’re too busy worrying how they’re going to put food on the table.  So it seems their responses and opinions have no merit in the grand scheme of a capitalist society where we are obsessed with peddling our wares and convincing people to buy things they don’t need.

I had a similar moment yesterday when I was in a meeting with our video game vendor and they gave us an update on the state of the video game business in general. Which is not good. Apparently sales are falling.  This was a huge problem for everyone in the room since this is how they make their living. But all I could think was, isn’t this a good thing?  As a society, isn’t it a problem that we watch too much TV and play too many video games?  It’s why the future generations have limited social skills beyond texting and are fatter than we ever were.  Yet everyone sat around this table strategizing how we can convince kids to buy more and play more.  I left the meeting feeling icky, like we had been talking about how to sell drugs to kids in the schoolyard.

It is possible that next week I’ll re-read this post and think that I’m taking this all way too seriously and probably need to lighten up.  Or maybe this crisis of conscience will ultimately weigh me down and I’ll eventually get a new job doing something I actually feel good about.  It is times like these when I wish that humanitarian work would actually pay the bills. Or that I had a viable money-making talent.

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Anyone who knows me knows that I think my Dad is one of the best people on the planet. This is a story that sums up why he makes me smile like no one else.

A few weeks ago I was headed to Boston to visit my family. Since my flight times were as inconvenient as flight times can possibly get (I was leaving at midnight on a Friday and arriving back in town at 11:30 on a Sunday night) I decided to find my own way to and from the airport. This involved booking a Super Shuttle, which is not an ideal way to travel, but it beats bugging your friends when you know they don’t want to drive you or pick you up.  The Super Shuttle is a shared-ride van, which means you generally book your pick up much earlier than you would normally leave because you never know how many people the shuttle will be picking up along the way.

About 20 minutes before my pick up time on the night I left, I got a call from Super Shuttle. They informed me that instead of a shuttle, they were sending me my own cab.  I can only assume they were overbooked or didn’t have enough pick-ups in my neighborhood to merit sending a van. They assured me I wouldn’t have to pay anything and that the cab would be there at the scheduled pick up time.  Sure enough, the cab showed up right on the button. My cab driver was an excessively friendly man who kept calling me by name and had an accent exactly like Borat.  He welcomed me heartily and then proceeded to drive 95 miles per hour to LAX.  At one point on the 405 we were going so fast that when I looked at the car in the lane next to us, it looked like it wasn’t even moving. I equated it to a ride on the Knight Bus from Harry Potter because it felt as though we were weaving through other vehicles at breakneck speed the entire way. The upshot was that I arrived at the airport a good two and half hours before my flight was leaving. 

What does one do when faced with this much free time at the airport? Head to the bar, of course!  I made my way to the sports bar in the Jet Blue terminal and ordered myself a whiskey – it just always seems like an appropriate late-night drink to help you sleep on a red eye.  The waitress offered to make it a double to which I replied, “Sure!”  So, I sat there, read my magazine and drank my double whiskey. When it was gone, I still had tons of time to kill and the waitress asked if I wanted another, to which I replied, “Why not?”  Suffice to say, by the time I paid my bill and made my way over to the gate, I was pretty loopy.

I should also mention that this was at the end of an exceptionally long work week that involved travel and several 5 AM wakes ups and a few very late nights. So I was exhausted to begin with.  My flight was a teeny bit delayed in boarding and as I sat at the gate, I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to stay awake until I got on the plane. Luckily I did, but not for long after.  I buckled myself in, grabbed my neck pillow, curled up against the window and passed out cold.  And I mean cold.  Normally I can’t sleep well on red eyes and wake up every half hour or so.  I must have slept through for almost the entire flight.

Which was why, when I finally woke up and looked at my watch, I was thrilled to see there was less than an hour left until we landed. Great! So I turned on my “Live Map” channel (I heart Jet Blue) to see how close in we were, and was completely stupefied to see we were only over Indiana. What the hell? My neighbors were still asleep so I couldn’t ask them what was going on.  So I sat there, confused, still kind of tired (yet miraculously not hung over), and grumpy that we were still in the air.  My flight was supposed to land at 8:30 AM local time and we didn’t touch down until 10 AM or so. By the time I got my bag and met my Dad outside, it was close to 10:30 (I later found out that we sat on the runway for 90 minutes before we ever took off. Since I was in a whiskey coma at the time, I was completely oblivious). 

My Dad and I had our usual 4 second reunion on the curb outside Terminal C while he hoisted my 42 lb. suitcase into the trunk (“Was this under the weight limit?” “Yes, Dad.”) before we got yelled at by the State Troopers for live parking.  We drove off towards home and my Dad asked, “Why were you so late?” I said, “Dad, I’m not gonna lie.  I had two double whiskeys before we took off, so I passed out and  have no idea what happened.” My Dad looked at me, nodded, and said, “What kind of whiskey?”

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