#thedeathofpound

Some tweets make me want to cry.
Some tweets make me want to cry.
A friend of mine who is a math teacher says she was teaching symbols in her class.  She would draw it on the board and her kids would yell out the name.

So she drew “#.”

And her kids yelled “hashtag!”

Hashtag.  Of course # is a hashtag. Ten years ago, it was a pound sign, but to a ten year old, # isahashtag.

And while #isahashtag everything else #hasahashtag.

A parade #hasahashtag.  A church #hasahashtag.  A feeling #hasahashtag.  Life #hasahashtag.

Shoot,  I find myself often listening to an intelligent news commentator dressed in a $9000 suit sitting in front of three fancy cameras reading to me what Joe Smith tweeted from Wichita, Kansas.  #iranoutofthingsofmyowntosay

Did it occur to them that if I wanted to read what ignorant people have to say I would be on Twitter instead of watching Fox News?  #whyaretheypayingyou?

Whether or not I am a fan, I’m having to face the fact that Twitter is here to stay.  Or at least as much here to stay as any element of technology in our changing world.

And maybe Twitter does bring some good things to our world.  It levels the playing field.  Anyone can be heard.  In 144 characters or less.  If they have the right hashtag.  Sorry, I meant, #iftheyhavetherighthashtag

Or maybe it doesn’t level the playing field at all.  It isn’t about your money.  It isn’t about your education.  It isn’t about your looks.  But it is about your followers.  #otherignorantpeople

I might not know about the power of twitter if it wasn’t for my friend @debostic. 

But I do.

For example, Delta airlines (who may account for more of our business credit card bill than any other vendor) has little respect for our financial contributions to their quarterlies.  Between business, ministry, and personal travel, you’d think they’d at least stop showing me how to buckle my seat belt.  But not only do they have no respect, they have no inclination toward flexibility.  When you want to change a ticket, you are just a tiny speck of sand on the Delta airlines beach.  They will charge you hundreds of dollars more than you already paid to get on the same plane and eat the same pack of pretzels a few hours later than you previously planned.

So, Daniel tweeted about them.

And the next thing we know, Delta is bending over backwards to change tickets.  New flights were being scheduled.  Open seats were appearing.  And Delta was giving out frequent flyer miles like they were a hot potato.

So, apparently, while #Moneytalks, frankly, #Twittertalkslouder.

Then there was State Farm.

We are lawyers.  We were suing them.  We were dragging them into court on behalf of a compelling plaintiff in front of a jury of people who know well why we call it “Snake Farm.”  And they seemed to be treating it like the briar patch.

But a few good tweets and State Farm was ringing our phones.  They couldn’t write a check fast enough.

#alotcheaperthanalawdegree

And that’s just the beginning.  Companies like Toyota and Enterprise have a lot of concern for their social media reputation. More, in fact, than the actual implications of their actions, their repeat customers, or the signature on the bottom of a legal document.

#bigfail

Apparently, even though it is no longer a pound sign, # gives weight to words in a powerful way.

And in the end, nothing has really changed except that instead of the pen being mightier than the sword, it is now the pound that is mightier than the sword.

That is, the hashtag.

There Are Worse Things than Nothing to do on Valentine’s Day

I’ve had some terrible Valentines Days. I’m not gonna lie.

But there is at least one bad Valentine’s Day that I can finally laugh about. I’m over it. It just has just taken about, well, twelve years.

Our church had an annual Sweetheart Banquet.

The reason that matters is that this particular year, they decided to do things more informally and just have a dessert and a program. The program was to be put on by two couples that I knew were excellent musicians. Translated: It would be good.

Kevin was taking Allyson, so my sister Erin and I (we’ll share equal blame in this part of the story) thought that it would be really fun to go too. Mom and Paul we’re going to be out of town, so, good sport that he is, Dad said he would take us if we really wanted to go.

The next Sunday after church, Dad decided that he’d better put his plan into action. Just as Dad was ready to hand over the money for the tickets, I raced over to the table. I had changed my mind. What on earth had I been thinking? I didn’t want to go to a sweetheart banquet! Going as a family would be like advertising the fact that…well…never mind.

Dad had his money poised in the air, and the lady had the tickets also poised. Dad was buying tickets for the two of us girls plus my grandma and another friend of ours, Meg, who had happened to be sitting in church with us that day.

Dad said since he had already asked Meg, he really shouldn’t change his mind. I agreed and braced myself for an evening of feeling foolish sitting with my sister and grandmother eating dessert with a bunch of married couples.

Too bad Sweetheart Banquets hadn’t gone extinct prior to that year.

Later, at home, we had a big discussion. Erin had changed her mind too. Dad didn’t want to take Meg unless we girls were going, etc. We all groaned and travailed, but finally came to the conclusion that we would come up with something else to do and have Meg over for that. It was an unfortunate waste of ticket money, but anything was better than being stuck at that awful sweetheart banquet.

Before I was able to tell Meg about the change of plans, things got worse. She was so excited about getting invited to the Valentine Banquet that she announced it in Wednesday Bible Study. The news got back to us in the form of “So, I heard…”

It was too late to change plans. Everyone knew that Mom was going to be out of town and that we were coming—we were ALL coming—to the banquet. Oh, I wanted to die.

So the next Sunday, our youth pastor announced that the church would like to provide babysitting for the banquet. I poked Meg, who was conveniently sitting next to me, and asked her if she would rather babysit than go to the banquet. She hesitated, but said both sounded like fun. That did it, I ran to Pastor Steve afterwards and volunteered Meg, my sister, and I to help babysit.

Ahhh! The sweet taste of freedom.

Well, the dessert didn’t start until 7:30, so one of the girls at church invited us all over to come to her house first. Even better. We’d go to Leslie’s for dinner and then babysit. We’d get out of going to the banquet, have some fun, and make a little money in the process. Maybe I wasn’t going to have to dread Valentine’s Day after all.

That brings me to Tuesday. I was minding my own business when Pastor Steve gave me a memo about the Valentines babysitting. I glanced at it briefly and then let out a squeal. The babysitting was supposed to begin at 5:00 so parents could go out to dinner before the dessert. Now I had double booked myself.

So I talked to Pastor Steve about it. Surely he would let me come at 7:00.

Pastor Steve said that he wished he could let me off, but he only had one other person to babysit—a teenage girl with no experience. I couldn’t leave her stuck there by herself, so I would have to cop out on the dinner invitation.

Then I asked, innocently, “How many kids are signed up to come Friday night?” He handed me the list.

There were 36 names!

36 kids ages 6 months to 13 years for four hours among the four of us. I nearly croaked. We had 11 kids under the age of three. That alone would take four of us. He said he’d try to get more help.

Oh, the tangled web…I was just trying to get out of going to a Valentines Banquet and here I had just put myself, my sister, and my friend on the struggle bus.

Wednesday I talked to Meg again. Wouldn’t you know it, she was going to have to work Friday night! All this and she wasn’t even going to be able to come at all. I just wanted to sit down and cry.

But I didn’t have time to cry. I had to try to figure out what three babysitters were going to do with 36 kids for four hours. I was seriously considering getting married in the next two days so I could ditch the whole mess.

Things got worse. Erin said she saw enough of kids during the week. That put us down to two. I tried to do some recruiting, but most of the other single girls at church were also school teachers or else they had other babysitting plans. Pastor Steve was running into the same problems.

Thirty six kids. Two babysitters. Four hours.

This was February in New Hampshire–it was far too cold too take the kids outside even if we could control them once we were out there.  The church approved list of movies was far too short to be of any use. The large spread of ages made it difficult to try to plan anything meaningful.

I was getting an ulcer.  And I love to babysit.

Who invented Valentines Day and where does one go to file a complaint?

When all else fails, recruit Dad.

Like a trooper, my dad (who had taken my Mom out before she left town) said he’d help. Now we were back up to three babysitters. Whoohoo! 

So Valentines morning, I had to work for eight hours, teach a music lesson on my lunch break, make a fast run to Wal-Mart for activity supplies, and then came back to church for four long hours of 36 kids ages 6 months and up.

The point of this story—and there is one—is that I have a wonderful Dad. How many men do you know who would invite four girls to a Sweetheart Banquet, get dumped by them all, and then come and help babysit? I know only one, and I’m very, very grateful I do. As a return favor, I sweet-talked the church secretary into giving Dad his ticket money back.

As my memory has gotten dim, I don’t remember what they paid us. But I do recall that the donations jar was sadly neglected if not wholly unloved.

Just the same, I swore to myself that if I heard any of any single people complaining about their boring evening, I’d gladly provide their names to Pastor Steve for the next Valentine’s Banquet. Just so they can come to appreciate having nothing to do on Valentine’s Day.

Sage Advice for Men at Valentine’s Day

So—since I seem to be able to peer at Valentine’s day from a safe distance, I thought I’d give a third party perspective of the Valentine’s Day dilemma. For whatever good that might do for the health of relationships—both foreign and domestic.

For years, I’ve heard bits and pieces of complaints from wives and girlfriends about what a neglected holiday Valentine’s Day is. For some reason, the 14th of February just isn’t treated with the respect that it rightfully deserves. What, with being a celebration of the life and martyrdom of the great St. Valentine and all.

On the other hand, men at various times and in divers manners gripe to me about Valentine’s Day being a conspiracy between Hallmark and the Babysitters Club. A perpetual battle of expectations in which there are no winners—only losers and quitters. Some have taken it upon themselves to battle Valentine’s Day like the bubonic plague on the payroll of the Russian mafia. A few misguided souls have gone so far as to also turn their bitter wives into artificial haters of Valentine’s Day as well.

Which is unfortunate, since St Valentine was a pretty good guy from what I’ve heard.

This puzzles me, because from my perspective, I think Valentine’s day is a gift to men. Easy points.

In fact, it’s like getting points for the shots you took during the warm up.

True, women expect something at Valentine’s Day. She expects it even if she says she doesn’t. She expects it even if she says “just save your money.” She expects it even if she’s not in the same state as you. Pretty much, whatever she tells you about Valentine’s Day, don’t believe her.

She expects you to do something. And that’s a bummer.

But here’s the gift part. Usually, romance is kind of like ice skating: you get technical points, and you get creative points. But in the end, it’s the creative points that matter. You could have all the technique down, land all your jumps, nail your spins, be skating at all the right speeds, and still be the little girl crying on the podium at the end of the day if you aren’t creative. Heartfelt. Convincing. If you didn’t pick the right music and put your whole soul into it, you’re probably going to lose.

That’s why we call it romance and not chess. The rules change every time. The pieces move differently every time. The judges love you sometimes; hate you sometimes. The crowds will forgive some major mistakes if they like your passion and your style, but they will not forgive boring.

That’s what makes Valentine’s Day such a gift.

You get a creativity pass. The date is already on the calendar. The stores are bloated with ideas. Greeting cards jump out and bite you when you walk down the aisle at the grocery store. Flowers.com has two dozen red roses for $24.99. Chocolate is sold in heart shaped boxes in all shades of pink and red. You can buy a teddy bear at a gas station. For men who completely fail to plan, they even offer child care at a local gym. And if you are hard up for things to say, you can get inspired by pre-printed messages on Necco hearts.

While, yes, there is a bar there that they do expect you to get over, it is set really, really low. Fail to get over it, and—well, that just puts you in a very small percentage of incompetent losers that get stuck on a speed bump. If you don’t do anything despite all that help from retailers, then, frankly, you deserve the wrath you are likely to incur. You are in a callous subset of loveless creation with cockroaches, pit bulls, and black widow spiders. Some would argue with me regarding the pit bulls.

So why are you fighting Valentine’s Day? If you’re looking for something to fight, fight muscular dystrophy. Fight child obesity. Fight racial discrimination. Fight extinction of panda bears.

But don’t fight Valentine’s Day. It’s a fight you won’t win and you will forfeit all of those easy points.

So…that’s my advice. It may not be of much help, but at least I can have the satisfaction of knowing that I did my part to make sure St. Valentine did not die in vain and that his cause is being championed by the noblest of men in the most predictable ways.