The demands of dealing with the pace of modern high-tech living can be daunting, particularly for those who live in urban places. Virtually everything people must or want to do has a built-in escalating frustration factor.
Commuting, whether by car or public transportation, is for most a nightmare. So much business has left the core center cities that there is as much, or more, traffic going out of town as there is coming in during the peak rush hours.
As most major airports are located in the suburbs, and as it can often take up to two hours to safely clear airport security, an early morning flight requires as much as three hours travel time to be certain of making the liftoff. As better than half of all flights are delayed, a genuine sense of humor is required to handle the pressure. The instances of families stranded for days with virtually no assistance trying to take the trip of a lifetime has grown exponentially.
Computers form the core of most people’s personal and professional lives. While the machines enable a level of communication and connectedness unimagined even ten years ago, they are constantly being invaded by virus, hackers, spammers and the like, and crash with maddening regularity.
The whole world is on their cell phones whether walking, driving, dining, shopping, defecating or having sex. In addition, these phones now enable picture taking, video, audio, email, stock market updates and pornography for those who have time on their hands. While fierce competition for customers has improved the reliability of cell phones, it never ceases to amaze how one can have a perfect, next-door quality transmission on a transcontinental call, and not be able to maintain contact five miles from home. Kids are so dependent on their phones that they prefer text-messaging the person standing next to them, rather than attempting conversation.
The magnitude of sports coverage on television enables the true fan to know every detail of their favorite player’s life, no matter how seamy or sordid, every statistic regarding their performance, every injury and aspiration, every aspect of their financial situation and what every other player, manager, owner and talking head thinks of how they compare to others. Their private lives, wives, children, lovers, foundations, hobbies, preferences in food, wine, pets and cars are all subject to intense public scrutiny. Add to that the extraordinary strain of playing for teams like the Cubs or the Red Sox who have shattered the hopes and dreams of rabid fans for nearly 100 years, you have carried frustration to a new level.
It seems like only yesterday that erections, or lack of same, was the most private part, no pun intended, of being a man. While impotence might qualify as the ultimate frustration, it was dealt with in secret with one’s spouse/lover and perhaps a doctor. Today the Rush Street area on Chicago’s North side is referred to as the Viagra Triangle and every newspaper, magazine, radio and TV station relentlessly markets multiple remedies for ED. The Cialis Western Open gives priapism, or erections lasting more than four hours, equal time to analyzing Tiger Woods’ swing. Golf continues to hold the top spot as the world’s most frustrating sport; losing one’s swing and the ability to achieve an erection at the same time is a blueprint for chronic depression or suicide.
Personal trainers and massage therapists, along with yoga instructors and meditation practitioners have given affluent housewives and the retired a whole new approach to health and well being. In order to justify hourly wages equivalent to that of an experienced street walker, these rubbers and kneaders must discover some muscular or emotional deficiency to treat on a weekly basis, forever.
Beauticians and beauty parlors have given way to salons, a designation which justifies astronomical fees for trimming, waxing, coloring, manicuring and massaging. For the upwardly mobile urban woman to admit to frequenting a beauty parlor would be regarded by her peers as an indication of marital discord or impending financial disaster. To the husbands and lovers of upwardly mobile women salon prices are frustrating, but many of them are deserting the $20 haircut in the neighborhood barbershop for the same salons in order to experience an identical trim for $75.
Terrorists, or the perception of terrorists, in the aftermath of 9/11 have increased the frustration level for all Americans tenfold. If you include in The War on Terror, the costs of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the creation of the TSA, Dept. of Homeland Security, The Patriot Act, and the massive increases in the cost of trying to provide security for public officials, the staggering accumulated deficits make it almost impossible to properly address the issue of universal healthcare, without large tax increases. This week Defense Secretary Gates asked Congress for a $190 billion increase to help kill terrorists, Iraqi and Afghan civilians and U.S. kids serving in the military, at the same time Bush vetoed an extension of healthcare coverage for poor children passed by both Houses of Congress because it cost $30 billion more than he had budgeted. If this doesn’t frustrate you, you’re brain dead.
Access to music is universal, cheap and commercial free. Whether it’s all Elvis on Sirius Satellite, iPod portables for the joggers, cyclists, commuters, air travelers, or an integral feature on personal computers. Many people, particularly the young, spend a significant part of every day surrounded by music. This is healthy and should ease some of the tension and frustration associated with competing for money, love, space and reservations. The boom box crowd, however, who insist that you endure their pleasure whether on the beach, in a marina, driving your car or sitting in your back yard, are in their own right terrorists, attacking innocent bystanders with volume sufficient to blow out their eardrums.
There are few things in life more frustrating than attempting to buy something in most department stores. With the possible exception of Saturday afternoon, there is either no help, incompetent help or rude help. They either resent being asked to find an item, don’t know where to find an item or know nothing about it. On Saturday there will likely be some help on the floor, but only enough to help 10% of the customers, creating impossibly long lines. Trying to find a pleasant and knowledgeable sales clerk at Macy’s is like trying to find Bin Laden in Pakistan.
My personal list of frustrations is quite long – well done beef, overcooked eggs, FOX News, Evangelicals, panhandlers, golf, telemarketers, politicians, economists, airports, flatulence, bankers, used car salesmen, insurance agents and Rush Limbaugh.
Imagine being awakened prematurely by your neighbor’s boom box, attempting an early morning sexual encounter, only to discover ED, and that your hot water heater has failed, your computer has crashed, your dog is missing, your car won’t start and your mother-in-law calls to say she will be arriving later in the day for a surprise week’s visit.
The antidotes are few and far between. A Red Sox victory, a Springsteen concert, a wardrobe malfunction, a charred rare steak, a blue veined throbber, a successful long birdie putt, a Caribbean cruise, chilled Russian vodka, an intimate encounter with Angelina Jolie, authentic New York cheesecake, and above all else, the end of the Bush Presidency.