Monday, May 04, 2020

A Lesson from Fred Flintstone

When I was a kid, I LOVED cartoons. I would wake up at 6:30 on Saturday morning JUST to watch cartoons. In fact, my whole Saturday morning was arranged around a strict cartoon schedule that ran from 7 to 11 and culminated with a glorious 90-minute binge of the Smurfs.   

During the mid-1980s, TBS aired old Flintstones reruns in the afternoon. My daily routine during those years was to get home, get a snack (usually microwaved hot dogs), and head in to the family room to watch the Flintstones - two thirty minute episodes (that is, unless a Cubs game was on WGN, in which case I chose baseball over cartoons).  

I can say with fair certainty that I've seen every Flintstones episode multiple times. 

There's one in particular that I am constantly reminded of these days. In this episode, Pebbles has recently been born to Fred and Wilma. Fred, being a doting father, has fallen head over heels for his new baby. Intent on documenting her childhood, he immediately runs out to a store and buys a fancy new video camera. 

He proceeds to become obsessive about making home movies and showing them to everyone he can find. At first, it's all great. Barney and Betty and the others really enjoy coming over, hanging out with Fred and Wilma, and watching videos of cute little Pebbles. 

But, as usual, Fred doesn't know when to stop. The behavior continues, day in and day out. Barney and Betty begin to grow fed up with the non-stop barrage of Pebbles vids, even as Fred's obsession grows stronger. They begin avoiding him to keep from getting corralled into another home movie session. 

Then Fred really goes overboard and secretly plans to show Pebbles videos to all the members of the Water Buffalo Lodge. Telling them it's a "bathing beauty" video, the lodgers are naturally put out when it turns out to be videos of Pebbles in her baby pool. 

More zany cartoon drama ensues, before Fred finally learns his lesson and hangs up his video camera for good.  

Believe it or not, there is a point to retelling this plot from a 1960s cartoon. You probably already have an idea of where I'm going. I am constantly reminded of this episode by certain people on social media who don't seem to realize that no one wants to see a constant barrage of pictures of their kids/daily lives/vacations/dinners, etc. If the writers of this episode could see where society has gone, they'd turn over in their graves. We've got 100 million Fred Flintstones running around the country now, posting every photo and video in their camera roll to Instagram and Facebook. 

I'm obviously not gonna name names, but I've got several followers on Instagram who I swear to God post dozens of pictures of their kids every week. One of these people is worse than all the others. Since Friday, she has made 15 posts on Instagram (as of this hour), with a total of 29 pictures and 1 video. Among these are 3 pictures of wine glasses, two pictures of legs laying out in the sun, pictures of fire pits and backyard pools, and two dozen pictures of her kids and husband.

This is pretty much a normal three-day stretch for her. Not everyone is quite that bad, of course, but several others come pretty close. I've got one follower who I swear must post every picture in her camera roll when she goes on vacation. Each day it will be multiple posts of dozens of photos, including some that aren't even good pictures. It's obvious she's just going through her camera roll picture by picture and posting them all, so that we can enjoy her Disney or beach trip right alongside her. 

What, precisely, is going on in the minds of these Fred Flintstone wannabes? Why do they think their hundreds of Instagram contacts want to see ALL of those pictures? I get that maybe your mom might want to see the pics of her grandchildren, or your best girlfriend might want to see what you did on vacation. But you've got 700 followers! Why IN THE WORLD would you post all these pictures or think that ANYBODY wanted to see them? 

I realize the answer here is to just unfollow them. Like Barney and Betty, avoidance is the key. But these are friends and acquaintances of mine, and I like to see SOME pictures of them. I mean, that's why we follow people on Instagram in the first place, right? 

I guess I see this sort of thing as breaking the unwritten rules of society. Like Fred, who couldn't see that no one was as interested in his own kid and his own life as he was, some people just don't seem to realize that they and their kids aren't the center of everyone else's lives. Yes, there's such a thing as too much. 

Monday, March 30, 2020

Elegy for the Victims of the Pandemic

I never intended, planned, or expected to be working on the front lines of a global pandemic. If you had told 25-year-old Scott that he'd be doing this at age 45, he'd have probably fainted.

But the winding, hilly, curvy, tortuous path I've followed in life has led me to be in this place, at this time. I am an X-ray tech at a hospital in downtown Cincinnati. I work at night and spend the vast majority of my 12-hour shifts X-raying patients in the Emergency Room and on the various floor units of the hospital.

My hospital has spent the last few weeks preparing for a surge of COVID-19 patients. They've placed zippered, air-tight curtains over all the ED rooms that don't have doors; they've cleared out a whole wing to accommodate COVID-19 patients; they've banned all visitors from the hospital; and they have ceased all elective procedures and surgeries. We've seen a steady increase over the last week or two in patients with respiratory symptoms and expect the numbers to continue to increase.

As my friends and family know all too well, my religious beliefs these days wax and wane depending on my mood. As this blog testifies, I have long ago given up the traditional beliefs of my youth. But in these last few weeks, I've found myself continually thinking of the countless sermons and Sunday School lessons I heard growing up about great biblical characters who were faced with circumstances they didn't exactly ask for. 

I think of Abraham and the famous story of God asking him to sacrifice his son Isaac, only to stop him at the last second after Abraham proved his faithfulness. I think of David, the shepherd boy, facing off with Goliath, the warrior champion of the Philistines. And I think of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, begging God not to make him "drink this cup." 

I don't want to drink this cup. I don't want to be on the front lines of a global pandemic. But this is where my life's path has brought me. I don't normally talk about things like this, but I have always felt that I was built/made/designed for something important. Maybe that's just my white, privileged, upper middle class, male ego talking. But it's how I've always felt. 

To use words I might have used in my youth but wouldn't normally dream of using now ... being on the front line of this pandemic is what God has called me to do, whether I like it or not. I'm here, and I have to do it. It's important. And I'm made for important work.  

I realize that, as an X-ray tech, I'm not exactly saving lives or even risking my own health as much as others. Nurses, doctors, and respiratory therapists are putting themselves at far greater risks than I am, if for no other reason than because they spend more time with the patients than I do. But I'm part of the team that is fighting this battle, and I've accepted the cup that I've been given. I intend to do the best job I can with it.   

All of this is sort of a long introduction to a piano piece that I have written to honor and remember those who have lost their lives in this pandemic. I originally intended to write a really sad lament, but it turned out a little different than I expected. Though I began it in a minor key, I very quickly transitioned into the relative major. Those of you who aren't musicians won't understand what I mean by that, but minor keys are usually associated with sad or dark music, while major keys are typically associated with happy or upbeat music. 

Writing a sad song in a minor key is easy. It's been done a million times. But I've always appreciated and enjoyed sad songs written in major keys, because it's harder and less common. Maybe you'll think this song is sad, and maybe you won't. But whether it's sad or not, it's my tribute to those who have lost their lives in this pandemic - a pandemic that I have been called to risk my health and devote my services to.