Friday, June 26, 2015

When You're Old Enough It's Just Intimidation

I am a peaceful person. I never look for trouble. In fact I go out of my way to avoid things that could possibly, maybe, if things went wrong, become trouble. That includes drama. I can't imagine anyone liking it less that I do.

Even so, trouble and drama seem to enter into my life on a regular basis. They seem to be the uninvited guests of my life that I just cannot get to leave.

I can't even escape them at the YMCA ...

I go to the YMCA 3 times a week to swim. I've been doing so since the middle of January this year. If there was such a thing I would be a "legacy" member there. My parents joined this YMCA in the 1980s and have had a membership there ever since. That's somewhere close to 30 years.

They were members (as I am) for the use of the pool. They did (as I do) what you would expect someone that's using the pool would do. Showed up with their gym bag in hand, used the locker room to change in and out of their swimming suit; and swam in the pool.

Since they've been members they were able to enjoy the use of the YMCA without any issues of any kind, sans water temperature. I've been going for 6 months and already I'm embroiled in the middle of controversy.

It all started a couple months ago on a Saturday. I had gone in to swim laps at the pool during open swim time. This mean the pool has just one lane that is partitioned off for lap swimming. The rest of the pool is split in half at the start of the deep end. The rule is a simple one. You cannot use the "lap lane" unless you're swimming laps.

It seems simple enough, yet when I got to the pool that day there was a woman in the lane. She wasn't swimming laps, she was just ... meandering in the shallow end of the lane. Now it's not uncommon for someone to stay in the lane after they're done swimming for a minute or two of rest.

So I politely waited for her to exit the lane. After nearly 30 minutes of politely waiting I approached the lifeguard on duty. The lifeguard was a young girl that couldn't have been much more than 18 years old and she was of small stature. I asked if the rule was in fact that the "lap lane" was only for lap swimming. She replied it was. I then asked if this woman was breaking the rule. She confirmed my suspicion that she was. I then asked her if there was anything she could do about it. She shrugged her shoulders and said no, she had a history of being "difficult" and there was nothing she could do.

So I politely waited another 15 minutes and finally decided to ask this woman how much longer she was going to be using the lane. She told me to just jump in and use it, she was happy to share. At that time that didn't work for me. You see, I swim using a lap snorkel. I have a bad neck and it keeps me from being able to properly turn my head to breathe when I swim. So I swim with my face down the entire time. I don't see well in front of me and my concern was that I would run into her.

I explained all this to her and to my surprise she ducked under the lane markers and let me use the lane. At the time I thought it was a nice thing for her to do.

A couple weeks later was my next interaction with her. This time it was on a weekday and her husband was with her. They look Russian to me. I could best describe her by telling you to envision a Russian gymnast whose has gained 60lbs and made it her 60s. To describe him you have to have seen one of those old war movies. Think the HUGE old Russian General with the big head to match.

I have been calling them the "Gorbechav's".

Since I swim with my head down I had no idea that they had entered the pool. Even if I had known, I wouldn't have had any kind of concern, as my first interaction with her was amicable and she knew I had politely waited. So if she was there to "meander" in the lap lane, I would have expected her to wait. After all, I did the same for her.

Imagine my surprise when I almost hit her because she just came into the lap lane. So I stopped swimming and asked her why she was in the lane. I didn't get much of answer. The response I received was something close to "too bad".

I wasn't about to let her take the lane away from me. She had no intentions of swimming and even if she did, I was there first and on weekdays all the lanes are open for laps. She could have chosen any other lane. This was just her attempt to intimidate me.

That is never going to happen. Intimidation is nothing more that bullying for adults. When I was young I was a small in stature and I had my share of experiences with bullies. My growth spurt was a little late at 17 but once it happened I became a pretty big guy. Large enough that's it's rare for me to have issues with anyone.

In the past whenever an attempt has been made to bully me I have just ignored it and went about what I was doing. I will not tolerate that kind of behavior and certainly will not validate that kind of behavior by giving in.

That was what I did this time. I told her she was being rude and I went back to swimming in lane. She remained on one side of the lane, hanging on the lane marker while she spoke with her husband. On about my third lap with her in the lane I was passing her and she actually kicked me in the face.

I'll have to admit I was startled. Rather than saying anything more I stopped my swim. As I got the the edge of the pool I was approached my the lifeguard on duty and (fortunately for me) the pool manager. They had seen that something had happened and wanted to know what. I explained what happened and they believed me. Not just because they saw something happened, I had a nice large red mark on my face.

I was assured that they were going to deal with this issue. I was also told that this couple had been creating problems for some time. After hearing all this I assumed that they would be having their membership revoked. I assumed wrong. The following week they were back at the pool. Mrs. Gorbechav wasn't in the lap lane and Mr Gorbechav reminded me a lot of a hippopotamus. No matter where I was in the pool he was pointed towards me, the only thing I could see was his head. The look on his face could best be described as intimidating. Not to me, but I could see where it might work on some.

This behavior continued for a couple more weeks and then they just disappeared. I thought they had left the YMCA. So I thought the it was all done. Until this week.

This Tuesday while I'm swimming in the lap lane I almost hit someone again. Now you have to work at getting that close to being in my path. I don't swim that fast and there's no way you cannot see me in the pool. With the snorkel I use I am the equivalent of the old guy that rides a trike with the flag on the fiberglass pole.

She didn't stay in the lane so I figured that was just her way of telling me to go to hell. So I continued swimming and on the next lap  as I came up to the wall I see this huge body standing against the wall. When I bring my head up out of the water I find it is none other than Mr. Gorbechav himself, giving me an ugly look. I just turned around like I was doing a regular lap and ignored him.

I get to the deep end of the pool and as I turned around I could see he has decided to start swimming in the lane. Now I'm sure he's trying to intimidate me because there are 3 other lanes open. Even so he's swimming on one side of the lane but he's so large he's actually going over the center line.

Undaunted I continue to swim on the other side of the lane, squeezing past him. I was waiting for him to do something stupid. After 4 or 5 laps the lifeguard on duty who was another young gal came over to me and when I got to the wall told me that there was another lane open. I told her I wasn't moving because I wasn't going to give this guy the idea that he could interrupt my workout.

I continue to swim laps and at this point, I'm about 20 minutes into my regular 65 minute swim. Mr Gorbechav isn't in good enough shape to even float for 10 minutes and by the time I'm at lap 20; he has now stopped and is just taking up one side of the lane in the shallower end of the pool talking to Mrs. Gorbachev. He remained there until I finished my swim.

At the end of the swim as I take a minute to rest the manager of the pool approaches me. I explain to her what happened and she said she already knew, she was watching the whole thing and that he would the issue was being "dealt with". She proceeded to tell me that there had been an "incident" with these same people the previous Saturday. She didn't tell me what happened but made a comment at one point that the police should have been called.

At this point I don't know how they are going to "deal" with this. One of these 2 have already kicked me in the face. That in itself should have cost them their membership. Add to that it isn't just my word that they're being aggressive, the manager of the pool has witnessed both of these incidents.

I can only hope the YMCA actually does revoke these idiots' memberships. The next closest pool is at a YMCA in a slightly larger town about 20 miles away. I hope they enjoy the drive and think of me every time they make it.

If the YMCA lets them keep their membership, I'm going to ask them to take down that anti-bullying poster on display in the pool managers office.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

You're Not Being Courageous If You Don't Care

Caitlyn Jenner (or Bruce Jenner if you must) made a big splash recently when Vanity Fair did a 22 page cover story with pictures taken by Annie Leibovitz. She's certainly one of the greatest photographers of our time and it shows in the photos she took. The truth is Caitlyn Jenner looks pretty good.

She started a Twitter account when Vanity Fair posted her pics and in 4 hours had 1 MILLION followers. At the time of this writing (about a week later) she is already up to 2.5 million. Clearly, people are interested and supportive of her.

The most common term I hear used with her name is "courageous". I have to admit I am bothered by this. Before I tell you why, I want to use a saying I picked up from Denver radio host Mike Rozen; "tell me where you sit before you tell me where you stand".

I am not bothered in any way by what Caitlyn Jenner has done. It's her body and her life which makes it her choice. Who am I to judge? I heard those very same words from Stanley Biber in the early 90's. For those who do not know that name; he is considered one of the pioneers of sex change surgery.

I met Dr. Biber in Trinidad Colorado where he practiced medicine. Trinidad is a speed bump on I-25 near the northern New Mexico border. I was in Trinidad on business when I met him in passing. It was a surreal experience to be sure. An unassuming man, he looked like any other Trinidad resident. I watched him get out of a pickup truck and walk across the street to come into the bank I happened to be standing in front of. The banker I was with introduced me to him, and the conversation we had came up because my father was a doctor, and I was telling him about my father. To his credit it wasn't Dr. Biber who brought up what he did, it was the banker. Dr. Biber was succinct he said "People want what they want. Who am I to judge?"

I later found out that he didn't get into medicine to do sex change operations. It happened completely by accident. In 1969 he had a patient ask him to do a sex change because he couldn't find anyone to do it. Dr. Biber already did general surgery, so he studied all the information he could find on the subject and did his first one, developing technique as he went. For quite sometime, the little town of Trinidad Colorado was considered the "Sex change capital of the world".

That all being said, let me tell you why Caitlyn Jenner is not being "courageous". Because she really doesn't have to care what we the public think. While I realize I can't know exactly what is in her mind, I feel like I can make that assumption.

Why? Because what are we as a public going to do in "retaliation" for what Caitlyn has done? Absolutely nothing, that's what. Caitlyn has an estimated net worth of $100 million dollars. If Caitlyn were to lose every single endorsement and contract she had she would still be able to live the rest of her life in comfort.

I would also submit to you that in order for a person to change their gender, they would ultimately have to decide what other people thought didn't matter. It would be impossible to go through with something like that if you were worried about "what people thought".

Is she doing something good for the transgender community? Of course she is. She has put a name and a face to the process. She's started a public dialog about he subject. All (hopefully) good things for the transgender community.

 But calling her "courageous" takes away from those who have done true acts of courage. The people that have risked and even lost their lives for people they didn't even know.

I think we all know true courage when we see it. Caitlyn Jenner is not risking her life to do this. She may be risking her income, her standing in the community or relationships she values; but none of those translate to an act of courage to me.

In my mind she's showing resolve. She is showing a belief in who she is and what she needs to do to truly be herself. That is an admirable thing; but it is not courage. It shows she was able to get past being afraid of what people thought of her. That she was going to be herself, no matter what the cost.

If you want to use that as a "measuring stick" for courage ... then most of the standup comedians I know are "courageous". We go on stage every show knowing someone is probably going to dislike us. Yet we go on anyway. Knowing that someone inevitably will disapprove of us.

All I'm saying is that maybe the definition of "courage" needs to be refined. If you look up the definition of "courage" it does NOT include the fear of physical harm or the loss of life; I submit to you, it should. What Caitlyn Jenner has done may "technically" meet the definition of the word "courage" but I would submit what she's done would be better described as fearless.

Fearless is a component of courage, but without physical risk. Fearlessness alone just doesn't "cut it" for me. To illustrate, you're using the same word to describe both these actions:

A person changes her looks and lives her life as the opposite gender.

A "door gunner" on a Huey in Vietnam.

One is getting up every morning and their greatest fear is what are people going to think of them. The other has a pretty good chance of being killed every morning they get up.

I just don't see those two as being the same ...

Sunday, June 07, 2015

Crime Without The Punishment

I hate to admit it but for the past couple years I've been watching a lot of the Investigation Discovery ( ID ) Channel; or as I like to call it the "Murder Channel". It's become my "go to" channel. If there is nothing else on I switch right to it.

For those of you that don't know the Murder Channel it runs 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. With very few exceptions; each and every hour someone dies. These are not Hollywood deaths. They are re-enactments of actual murder cases.

I can't lie; I've learned a lot from watching this channel:
  • It's almost always the husband/boyfriend/wife/girlfriend
  • If your wife/girlfriend gets a personal trainer, there's a good chance he's eventually going to kill you.
  • When a woman cries during the police interrogation, there's a good chance she's the one who did it.
  • If your teenage daughter is in a relationship with someone you don't like, don't try to end it. If you do, you will probably die.
  • People are never murdered for a good reason.
I think the last one is the most important. It shows you how stupid murderers really are. I've also learned that murdering another human being doesn't mean you're going to prison for the rest of your life. Maybe sometime between 15 - 25 years with time off for good behavior. So years after you've taken away a person's chance to live, you will be living your life. Free to go wherever you choose.

This observation is the basis for what I am about to say.

Once you are convicted of murdering someone; that should be the LAST day you walk in out society as a free man/woman. You are obviously broken and there is no reason for you to walk around with the rest of us.

I don't care what you reason for murdering someone is. If you managed to do so, that's good enough for me. You need to go away ... forever.

Whether or not you are pro death penalty; I hope you would agree with me that when someone murders another person, society needs to be protected from that murderer. I believe if you did it once it's that much easier to do it again. Now I'm not talking about KILLING someone. It has to proven that you MURDERED someone.
Once you're convicted, you are immediately sent to prison for life. There's no parole or time off for good behavior. You will live the remainder of your life behind bars ... period.

Once you get to prison there are no creature comforts. You get a cell with the basics required to live, nothing more. In other words; heat, water, a bed, toilet, blankets, food, and the ability to clean yourself.

Did you notice I left out medical care? I don't think someone in prison for LIFE should get any. Why prolong their existence? They're not getting out. If you treat them, you're just prolonging the inevitable. To what end? All they are doing in there is taking up space. Don't misunderstand me, I don't believe they should suffer. If someone does get sick they should be entitled to something for pain, but nothing more. If their body can't heal itself, sorry to hear that, but you should have thought of that before you took someone else's life. There's no reason for society to extend your life. We need to make room for the next idiot.

What we really need to do is build special prisons for people convicted of murder, so they're all together. Ever seen that movie "The Purge"? Me neither; but I did see the commercials. The movie was about a society when one day a year all crime was ignored. You could do ANYTHING without repercussion.

We could do the same thing in these prisons that hold nothing but murderers. Open up the cell doors and let natural selection take it's course. Whoever is left can stay until the next time they open the cell doors.Think of the money we could save by not having to house these broken people.

I'll take it a step further. These are my recommendations for sentencing people convicted of murder.
  • Kill 1 person - The rest of your natural life in prison
  • Kill 2 people - You live in prison for 15 years or to age 65 whichever comes first. Once you hit the end of your term you are sent into a gas chamber (think Auschwitz) with anyone else scheduled to go that day.
  • Kill 3 people - You live in prison for 5 years then see above
  • Kill 4 people - You're taken directly to the gas chamber.
I will take this a step further and have the similar guidelines for rape. Why? Because once you rape someone you have taken away something that cannot be replaced. They will NEVER be the person they were going to be. You MURDERED that version of them.
  • Rape anyone - The rest of your natural life in prison
  • Rape more than one person -  The same as killing 2 people
  • Rape a child -  The same as killing 3 people
  • Rape your own child - You're taken directly to the gas chamber.
I would also add this. If you're in prison for rape, you don't get a door. You should live with the same kind of terror and uneasiness your victim does. Jumping at every sound in the night.

I also believe that these prisons should contain a do-it-yourself suicide cell for anyone that wants to do the "right thing".

You think I'm harsh? Or unfeeling? I'm giving these criminals the same amount of regard they gave their victims.

How does that saying go? Karma's a bitch ...