Thursday, April 17, 2014

A life lesson learned on the train: Don't judge a book by its cover. Oh, and avoid regret.

Inside my neighborhood metra train station, there is a little cafe stand of sorts. A man, probably the owner, works there every morning. Offering weary, not-yet-awake daily transit passengers a cup of coffee,  a bagel or a banana for not much more than what it costs him. I often buy a bagel and a banana for just about $1; sometimes because I am hungry and other times because it's just too cheap to pass up and makes for a lunch better than nothing. So today, when I pulled out my cash, I accidently grabbed two dollars. Too lazy to reopen my wallet, I told him I would buy two bagels instead of one. I'm not sure what I intended to do with the extra bagel, but something inside me told me to grab it and go. 

So I did. Upon exiting the train, I leaned down, smiled and made eye contact with a less fortunate person holding a sign that read, "Hungry. Need food. Please help." 

The hungry, needing food please help person promptly threw the bagel back at me, screaming something nasty and making a horribly angry face. How's that for a humble brag?

The day came and the day went. 

On my way home, I kept my head down and shoved my way past hundreds -- maybe thousands -- of other transit passengers as we packed back into the metra train and headed back to our boring lives in the suburbs. As I traipsed from car to crowded car, I got elbowed, tripped, bumped into and backed up against. 

So I sojourned on. 

Finally spotting a half of a half of a seat up near the front car, I whispered an "excuse me," as I poured myself into the crevice and adjusted my belongings so they weren't touching the other seat inhabitant, or more importantly, the floor. In doing so, I bumped my new neighbor, so obviously I apologized. For the second time of the day, I offered up as genuine of a smile as I could muster, only to be met with a side-eye glance that which can only be described as unadulterated hatred. Ouch. 

And for the second time that day, I regretted my actions. I let a pinge of hopelessness sweep across me before I gave myself permission to not care. 

Then my train squeezed down to a stop, I stood up and started to trudge backward to the exit car. 

That's when I heard her voice. 

She didn't smile. But she did stand up and call out to me. The whole train seemed to stop for her. 

And all the ants marching stopped, looked up and watched as the short-haired blonde lady handed me my train pass that I had left on my seat...quietly restoring a bit of my faith in humanity. 

Sunday, April 13, 2014

The Problem With Perception

Have you ever watched The View? It's a daytime talk show starring four ladies of television, varying in age and experience and let's face it; intellect. I don't need to go on, but suffice it to say that I love a world with color. 

And being an art major for the first two years of college, I'll confess that I also love light. Together, light and hue paint the world with more beauty than most minds can comprehend. The lack of light, however, produces nothing visually appealing because as humans, we need to see it to believe it. 

Back to the original question. Have you ever watched The View? If you have, you've seen the magic of light dance across Barbara Walters face, leaving her appearing at least 30 years younger than her 84. Why? Because life is all about perception. 

So don't look too close at the lines on Barbara Walter's face and certainly don't check out her wikipedia entry. If you are a fan of hers, it will not take too much to knock her off a pedestal. That's also what makes her great, I think, and it makes her oh-so-human; more than a few divorces, family strife and turmoil, sickness and heartache. It can all be found in her story because she has lived a life well lead and a life well-documented now in social media. And sometimes the story - and the reality- is not so pretty. Hence the bright lights that flatter; creating a perception that we all crave. 

Katherine Heigl has a similar story as of late, but she is taking it a step further. Seems Heigl is suing CVS because they posted a "unauthorized paparazzi" image of her carrying two shopping bags from CVS. The perception is that Heigl endorses the brand. The reality is she probably had to buy some acne cream or Tampons (like the rest of the world) and was caught off guard. The real reality is that celebrities don't do anything without being "highly compensated." 

And if they do do something and they are not "highly compensated," they reserve the right to deny reality. That's why Kim Kardashian is so pissed about the spa in Thailand that allegedly provided her with 6 hours of luxury spa treatments a day. The reality was probably something closer to how the Kardashian clan took advantage of the spa in what they hoped would be free services and when the bill came, they were offended. The reality is the more money you have, the less you expect to pay. It's sad, really, but it's not a life of rich experiences and authentic friendships, it's a a life of endorsements and perception, in part thanks to Facebook, Twitter and Google. 

The biggest problem with perception is that reality ruins it for us all. We want to believe that movie stars, television reporters and reality celebrities are better than us. But they are not. They are, in fact, just like us. It's not far from the man behind the curtain scene straight out of Wizard of Oz. Just imagine if the reality was that everyone had a team of writers, publicists, lawyers and staff to man our Twitter accounts, update our Facebook pages, negotiate branded deals and raise our babies for us.