Mugger beats up little old lady; film at eleven

There are a couple of oddball ways in which I’m really falling behind the curve.

Like having to figure out where I’m meeting someone before I leave the house, rather than pinging Zeno-like calls back and forth with the person I’m meeting while we narrow in on the same location. Or like not finding out about the interesting television shows until a few years after they’ve been canceled, or jumped the shark, or both. Or like feeling literal, physical discomfort when I’m exposed to the unmistakable sound of Newscaster for more than a few minutes.

I only notice these gaps on the, um, increasingly rare occasions when I, er, leave the house, so am exposed to things like cellphones. Or televisions that are connected to more than a Netflix subscription. Most of the time these gaps feel like positive things — I don’t need a cell phone, 99% of the time. I don’t like watching TV as it’s broadcast: there are those pesky ads, and you can’t binge on a whole season’s worth over the course of a weekend. And I definitely, definitely don’t need to be exposed to the TV news. This whole country would be a lot saner if none of us were, I think.

But it means that a short business trip with a disposable cellphone and a TV in my hotel room leaves me really, really discombobulated; it’s like I’m visiting a foreign country. A foreign country in which my pants pocket keeps vibrating at unpredictable intervals.

Anyway, that’s not really what I was talking about. Which was this: every time I’ve flipped through the channels in my hotel room this weekend, or walked past one in an airport, which has been an uncommon lot of flipping and walking-past-of, I’ve been shown one of three things:

  • Security camera footage of a mugger beating up a little old lady
  • Security camera footage of someone suspected of stealing a baby from a hospital
  • Security camera footage of a minivan driving Blues-Brother’s style through a shopping mall

…all accompanied by that steady stream of breathless, intense Newscaster Voice, which seems to sound the same whether it’s announcing the invasion of a city or a little old lady getting punched in the face. Minor variations on the above available from — I counted — nine different news channels, apparently at all hours of the day or night.

Was this just a weird weekend, during which nothing real happened, but some inconsequential things happened to have some lurid footage? Or is this normal?

Do you get used to it after a while?

I keep switching back and forth on this: at first it seems really dispiriting, that we have this massive information-gathering and -dispersal system, which seems to be devoted entirely to footage of a little old lady getting punched in the face. Then it seems almost reassuring: of all the millions and millions of little old ladies in America, only one of them got punched in the face this weekend — and it was unusual enough that the whole country is watching it on nine different channels. That’s pretty good odds. But then it seems dispiriting again. Because, you know. Little old lady getting punched in the face.

In other news, I today renew my frequently-made vow to never get on an airplane again if I can possibly avoid it. Maybe I’m just doing it wrong, but it seems that after you factor in layovers, security checks, and transport to and from airports, the seven hour train ride I was considering would have been faster than this one hour flight is turning out to be. Given that we’ve already got a vacation flight booked for a couple of weeks from now, it’s not much of a vow. But I figure if I keep making it, eventually I can’t help but follow through.






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