In Pursuit of Happiness

I quit.

I’m done.

I can’t take more of this chaos, this insanity, this week , this year . . .

I refuse to accept that human beings have nothing more to offer each other than clinging  to stupidity in the name of the perception of freedom, and allowing a minority ignore the will of the majority who just want to feel safe from the brutality of those who see violence as the answer to everything.

I refuse to believe that we cannot find our way past fear and the perception of difference to live in  a world full of peace, kindness, and love.

I can’t continue to gather the pain and anger that fills this world, and feel so helpless. I can’t watch as media agencies care more about being first than about reporting news properly.

I can’t take any more.

It’s time to make change . . . inside myself, in society, in this world.

I don’t like walking around feeling angry, sad, frustrated, tired, and hopeless. But, I realize, that I’m the only one who can change that for myself, and maybe making the  internal changes will somehow create chain reaction that will grow into others.

Today is the day that I am going to close my eyes and ears to all the negativity in the world, and focus on happiness.

This doesn’t mean I will stop caring, but that I simply cannot take anymore in. The  only way I’m ever going to make a difference. The only way we are ever going to make change, is for each and every individual to say “Enough! This insanity has gone on for too long! We want  a better life for everyone!” And then they have to start . . . with themselves.

“Your personal contentment is more than a feel-good story. New research shows it can have a profound effect on your health. . . It’s not too late to pursue your own happiness today.” (Ronald Siegel “Why You Need to Pursue Happiness”

Today I choose to pursue happiness and love, because if I don’t I think I’m going to lose myself into a darkness m which I’ll never escape.

Today I choose pursue happiness because I cannot accept that humans cannot rise above the darkness, despite all evidence to the contrary.

Today I choose to pursue happiness and hope.

Does anyone want to join me? If we do, maybe we can change the world, one step at a time.

Yellow and purple flowers make me happy.

Yellow and purple flowers make me happy.

UPDATE (a few moments later): I’m going to learn from the wisdom of the incredible “word hermit” Andra Watkins . . . visit her post to find out more.

Arts Advocacy Day: What is Life without Arts?

Performing

Picture a world with no arts in it. Nothing would decorate our walls. No music would fill the void. We wouldn’t be able to share stories or understand and empathize with anything beyond our immediate understanding. Life, as we know it, would not exist.

I wonder if the people who argue to de-fund the arts, really understand the intimate connection between the arts and what makes us human?

Of course, even without the arts we would have access to the beauty painted by the greatest artist of all, Mother Nature.

Photo By Steve Kramer http://taochild.wordpress.com/

Photo By Steve Kramer http://taochild.wordpress.com/

But without the arts, would we be able to express our understanding of that beauty? Would we even understand what it means? Or would our lack of understanding lead to an environment that looks only like this:

Of course, some people might find beauty in this image, and the creation of these machines themselves required the development of creative minds.

Minds become creative through exposure to the arts.

If  arts didn’t play such a vital role  in the development of humanity, then why has it existed in so many forms throughout the history of human kind?

20,000 Year Old Cave Paintings: Mammoth

20,000 Year Old Cave Paintings: Mammoth (Photo credit: Carla216)

Why have things like theatre, dance, and storytelling developed in culture after culture even when travel and communication across distances didn’t happen at the blink of an eye?

The arts play a vital role  in encouraging us to think, to create, to question. The first image on this page comes from a student in my after school literacy through drama program, called “In Our Own Voices.” He is from Cambodia, and is perhaps the most recent immigrant in that group, with some of the biggest language challenges. Yet each week he grows in confidence as he speaks and reads. He expresses himself through written words and through drawing. The arts have helped him grow as a student, and celebrate his own life.

In an  article entitled “10 Reasons to Support the Arts in 2013”  Randy Cohen writes about all the practical reasons why arts are important, including improved grades and economic growth. He then asks for our reason #11.

Reason #11: Art is life. Life is art.

Do you think the arts are valuable? Why?

 

“Crood” Lessons

Yesterday Sarah and I went to see The Croods.

Image found at IMDb

When I first saw a preview of this movie, I had no desire to go. The figure of the daughter (named Eep), the rebel teen who initiates the journey this family goes on (aided and abetted by a natural disaster as the earth moved) disturbed me. Not her character, so much, as the fact that she was drawn as a completely sexy, and possibly unrealistic, body type–thus supporting stereotypes of women that need to be confronted in our culture. When I begin worrying that an animated character is about to bust out of her clothing (pun intended) then there’s a problem.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not one of the people who believes that if a woman dresses to feel sexy she’s asking to become a victim. My concern lies more with the contrast between how this character was presented and how the others were presented. I have no problem with her being a little aggressive as she discovers her attraction to the first unrelated male she sees. I have no problem with her desire to be more independent and break free of the unrealistic and controlling restrictions laid on her by an overprotective father. I have no problem with her trying to express herself as an individual separate from her family.

The only thing I have a problem with is the fact that her animators created her as an ideal sexualized woman, with large breasts and a dress that just barely covered her lady bits. I have a problem with the message this sends to my 10-year-old daughter–a message about appearance and dress that she doesn’t need to see.

The mother in this movie is–in my opinion–sexy because she exhibits strength, caring, power, and intelligence. That to me is true sexiness.  I agree that women should be able to dress in whatever makes them feel comfortable, confident and happy. To me there is a big difference between being sexy and being sexualized. Sexy comes from feeling confident in who we are  as women, in believing that we have many things to offer including brains, beauty, ideas, words, and kindness.

Sexualized is the type of sexy laid onto us by society. It is the picture of a woman who has little more to offer than the physical beauty  of her body.

I agree that women’s bodies are beautiful, and we should not have  fear of sharing that beauty. However, we all know that true beauty comes from other things as well. Eep’s journey had nothing to do with her appearance. It had to do with learning to love and respect her father despite their differences in perceiving the world. Actually, this movie wasn’t about Eep’s journey. It was about her father, Grug, who  had to learn the message “Never be afraid. Follow the light.” Grug’s journey was of discovering that he could learn, change, grow and have ideas. He learned that life is truly about taking chances, not hiding  in the darkness and safety of a cave.

Perhaps Eep’s appearance represents the wildness of taking chances. However, that message could have come across if she appeared more like your average, every day cave-teen, without all the sexualized curves.

I hope Sarah knows that beauty and true sexiness comes from the inside. But for now, I just want her to enjoy being a 10-year-old girl.

Sarah's eyes

Wishing for Internal Harmony

I bet you thought my next wish would be for world peace.

I don’t want to waste birthday wish  magic on something that, at our present stage, is impossible. It’s not that I don’t want some kind of peaceful resolution to the conflicts that plague us, but that I simply don’t believe that humankind has developed enough to be able  to overcome our innate greed, protectiveness, war-like sensibilities, or our desire to define ourselves by an “us and them” mentality.

On an individual basis, however, I believe we can work toward peace and harmony. I believe that peace begins within. If individuals have confidence in who they are, what they believe, and where they fit in this world without trying to force those same thoughts and beliefs onto others, then they have taken a step toward creating a more peaceful world.

Today another good friend is celebrating her birthday. Tanya is an amazing woman who impresses me with her own inner confidence and  faith in herself. I wouldn’t describe her as peaceful (she’s more like lightning contained in a bottle), but her inner peace always gives me hope. So today I borrow from her birthday wish magic to wish for internal harmony for all.

Tanya and her son Eli two years ago, finding peace in the pool.

Tanya and her son Eli two years ago, finding peace in the pool.

This wish actually comes from reading a comment on my post yesterday, a comment that made me ask some serious questions about myself. Am I too close minded when it comes to religious extremists? Do I practice what I preach when it comes to not trying to force my opinion onto others?

The comment refers to a post I wrote a long time ago called “Hell is Living in the Bible Belt” where I express my disdain for the religious road signs that dot  the highways throughout Kansas and Indiana. I re-read my own post to ask myself these difficult questions. In the post I say that I believe in freedom of speech as well as freedom of religion. I also say that I envy people who have true faith because I’m not sure what I believe. In reality, I have no problem with the signs that say things like “Trust Jesus” or “Jesus is  love” or contain actual quotes from his words.

I have more of a problem with signs that say “If you don’t find Jesus you will burn in the  boiling fire pits of hell for all eternity!!!!!!” (Okay, I never saw a sign with those exact words, but you know what I mean).

I find those signs especially unappealing when hurtling  down  the highway in a machine. (Did I mention that Nathan, Sarah and I had a very near miss the other day, when an  accident  happened right next to us?)

I have the same problem when a fellow Jew tells me that I am not Jewish enough if I don’t ___________. In other words, I have no problem with people believing what they believe and talking about what they believe, but I do have a problem with being cursed or told I’m going to hell or told I am inferior because I do not believe the same thing.

I try not to do that with my own words.

Today a friend posted this on Facebook.

The message against bullying is one that I believe. I don’t think its right to make fun of others. I don’t think its right to make jokes about others. I don’t think its right to judge others based off of one aspect of their personality or appearance. However, I wouldn’t share this post on Facebook because of the last line. Telling someone they will be heartless if they don’t share the post is bullying.

Telling someone they are going to hell if they have doubts or don’t believe the same thing as you do, is bullying and threatening.

Telling someone that their love is going to damn everyone simply because you believe it is sinful, is bullying, and threatening, and unfair.

What does all of this have to do with inner harmony or peace? I think that believing in something is important. Having a moral compass and following  it with confidence is priceless. Having faith  in yourself and your thoughts and dreams is invaluable. However, if you feel the need to push those beliefs on someone else in order to validate them, then you have not achieved inner peace or harmony.

I suppose that simply writing about these things could be seen as an act of trying to push my beliefs onto someone else. Or teaching about arts and  theatre and their value to society could be seen as trying to validate my own belief system.

The difference lies in expectations. I don’t expect my words to change people’s minds or thoughts. I don’t expect everyone to leave my classroom passionate advocates for the arts. I do hope that my words or my lessons encourage people to think, or question, or wonder.

I don’t ask people  to think the way I think in order to be my friend or to achieve some specific goal in the after life. I don’t say “If you think differently than I,  then I will not talk to you, tolerate you, or have anything to do with you.”

Inner peace comes from the  ability to say, “I believe this, they believe something different. Their belief doesn’t hurt me, my belief doesn’t hurt them. That is all.”

Now, I’m not saying I’ve achieved this inner peace. If I had, I wouldn’t have worried about the comment on my post, or worry at all about what other people think of me. I would just be who I am.

That is why I make this wish today. I wish for all of us to achieve inner harmony. To find that place inside ourselves where we can be content with who we are without trying to change anyone else or justify our beliefs on the backs of someone else. Only through that could we ever hope for world peace.

 

 

Wishing for Equality

Today I choose to use Birthday Wish power on the big issue of the day:

Marriage Equality!!!

I choose to write about this today because today is the birthday of another wonderful woman/blogger/friend, Kathy from Reinventing the Event Horizon. She is also one of the few bloggers whom I have met live and in person.

Meeting fellow bloggers Kathy McCullough and Tori Nelson. Picture borrowed from Kathy's post about the experience. Click on the image to read that post.

Meeting fellow bloggers Kathy McCullough and Tori Nelson. Picture borrowed from Kathy’s post about the experience.

Kathy and her partner Sara are two  of the most amazing, caring, intelligent and talented women I’ve ever met, and I have met a lot of amazing, caring, intelligent and talented women.

They are also one of the most loving and supportive couples I’ve ever known.

Kathy and Sara

They, and so many like them, deserve to marry if they wish.

So today I choose to use the power of birthday wishes, tapping into the power of Kathy’s birthday, to wish that the Supreme Court recognizes that equality for all doesn’t mean equality for only the people who look/think/act/love and behave like one group who wants to define and control everyone else.

Equality for all looks like equality, plain and simple.

Dear World . . . Using the power of Birthday Wishes

It’s still my birthday month, plus today is the fabulous Andra Watkins’ birthday, which multiplies the power of birthday wish magic in immeasurable amounts, so I have a few birthday wishes I’d  like  to share.

But wait, you say . . . if I share the wishes then they won’t come true. The wishes I want to share aren’t my personal, private wishes, but wishes that affect many other people. So maybe, if other people agree with my wishes and we all use the power of wishing and birthday magic together, some of the wishes come  true.

So let’s blow out some candles, find a falling star, and make a wish or two for the good of all:

There's powerful birthday wish magic in Andra's decadent looking dessert.

There’s powerful birthday wish magic in Andra’s decadent looking dessert.

 

Wish #1: Educational Sanity

“Whimper, whimper, whimper.”

I pull myself out of my hard-won deep sleep (after a 3 hour bout of insomnia) to the sound  of my daughter whimpering as she crawled into my bed for a  morning snuggle.

“What’s wrong, sweetie?”

She buried under the covers moaning and mumbling something.

“What? I don’t understand?”

“I’m not ready for MCAS long essay. I wish we didn’t move here. I wish I went to school where I didn’t have to take  these tests.”

“These tests are everywhere Sarah. You’ve taken them everywhere, they are  just more emphasized this year.”

“But Massachusetts is in the name of the test.”

“Well, yes, but every state has these stupid tests. That’s the problem. I just want you to do your best and not worry about it. These tests mean nothing about you as a student.”

“I feel like I’m going to fail.”

“I’ll be proud of you if you just try. I don’t care  about these tests. They have nothing to do with you and everything to do with a broken education system.”

“I’ll try, Mommy. I’ll try.”

Okay, so maybe this wish is a little personal. My heart breaks when I see my daughter losing the joy of learning to her stress over achieving some mandatory score on a mandatory test that proves nothing than the fact that these kids know how to take tests. They aren’t learning how to think, to be creative, to challenge themselves . . . they are learning how to take tests.

I wish for a complete education overhaul that does not treat education like a business and teachers like servants who only win rewards if they prove numerically that students are improving, when we all know learning can’t always be proven by graphs and charts. I wish for an education system that embraces creative learning, challenges and questions societal norms, and incorporates all the things I’m passionate including learning through the arts.

Does anyone else wish for some educational sanity?

Wish #2: Governmental Sanity

Okay, since I’m already wishing for the impossible,  I might as well wish for the ultimate impossibility of  a sane and functioning government here in the United States. I am probably naive. I simply do not understand why greed and hatred have such a powerful hold over officials who are supposedly elected to represent the will of  the people. I don’t understand why a body of people can continue to get paid and not fired when they aren’t doing their jobs. I don’t understand why 1/4 of 1/3 of the government (as in 1/2 of the congress which is only one half of one branch of the government) has held us hostage for so  long and can demand unrealistic cuts in the name of more money for the richest few in a country where everyone is supposed to be equal, and get away with it. I don’t understand why we are still fighting for equality for women in 2013. I don’t understand why immigration is such as an issue in a land full of one time immigrants.

I don’t understand anything. I feel we are being ruled by insanity lately, although I must say that some of the people I know who are labelled as “insane” or “crazy” would make wiser choices than many of our elected officials.

It’s a simple wish, bring some sanity back before the US. government destroys everything.

More wishes to come . . . 

I don’t want to overwhelm you with my long list of “soapbox” birthday wishes, but I will explore more for  the next few days, until my birthday month is officially over (although I am actually celebrating into April when I go to my birthday concert so maybe the wishes will continue).

If you knew the power of birthday wishes or any wishes would work, what would you wish for to make this world a better place?

Dark Reality and My Writing Journey

The young girl lay in her bed under a dusty rose comforter with delicate white flowers. Stuffed animals graced the sides of her bed, while extra blankets folded over her feet made her feel safe and  secure whenever she fell asleep. The early morning sun began to sneak in through the window over her bed, despite the curtains pulled across to block out the light. 

The girl clutched her covers around her. She had been awake for  a while now, before the golden light seeped into the room. Despite the beauty of the morning, she didn’t want to turn her head toward the empty bed across the room–deserted by her older sister when she left for college a few weeks before. She wasn’t afraid of the empty bed, but of what she had seen on and  around that bed upon waking up. 

I can’t look. What if they’re still there? She knew she had to look. It must have been a dream. I imagined it.

She turned her head.

It wasn’t a dream. She saw the bodies piled on her sister’s bed–emaciated bodies with dark circles underneath dead eyes and bald heads. Next to them was an even bigger pile of skulls and other bones  in a jumble. 

She wanted to scream but couldn’t find the breath.

She stared in shock for several long minutes, rubbing her eyes and blinking in the hopes that the nightmare would end. She couldn’t find her voice to call out for help.  After what felt like a long fifteen minutes the image shifted. The piles turned into the reality of her bedroom. The bodies turned into pillows and clothes she had put on her sister’s bed. The bones turned into knickknacks and collectibles on her sister’s bedside table.

She was back into reality, but she knew it wasn’t a dream.Dusty rose bedspread

***

A few days ago I mentioned how the mini-series The Holocaust helped me recognize the power of words. In a comment on that post the fabulous Kathy mentioned how the Holocaust influenced her desire to become a writer. Kathy’s words and images on Lake Superior Spirit never fail to inspire me and give me moments of peace, so we are all blessed by the fact that she found inspiration in the horror.

As did I, but I’ve also found challenges because of it. For you see, that little girl under the rose-pink bedspread was me. That vision or hallucination or glimpse at memory was mine, and I was wide awake.

The miniseries sparked a sort of fascination within me, where I wanted to learn more and understand more about how such horror could happen, how mankind could be so cruel based on things so invisible and meaningless–differences in culture, in belief, in race. I became a voracious reader of Holocaust literature, starting with The Diary of Anne Frank and moving up to more mature and adult fare. (I was a very advanced reader). I talked with Mrs. Sekler, my Hebrew School teacher and the  only person I knew who had the blue numbers etched into her arm.

Until the day I saw the bodies and the bones.

I told my parents what happened,  and they said I had to stop reading Holocaust literature. They said it was probably a dream, fueled by the books. So I stopped until I was an adult and could handle it again.

What does this have to do with my writing journey?

I know my biggest flaw as a writer, if I want to make it as a successful author of fiction, especially YA/NA, I need to be willing to write darker material. Don’t get me wrong, I have plenty of eerie or creepy pieces, and my characters often have a dark side. They aren’t always flitting with fairies and riding on rainbows. However, I could never have written The Hunger Games because I can’t get myself to write about young people killing young people. I can’t write the descriptive and violent darkness found  in so many successful books these days.

I’m blocked when it comes to that stuff.

Yet, in a world where this cruelty exists every day, in blatant and subtle forms, I have to confront my own inability. I live in a country where a loud and powerful minority want to maintain their flimsy and mostly imagined supremacy by limiting the rights of others to things like healthcare, marriage, control of their own bodies, and the right to worship as they please. How is that different from the desire  to have a “Master Race”? I live in a world of rape-culture where the victims get blamed and the rapists get glorified. I live in a world where people are murdered by guns, while others cling to their rights to have weapons built only for the purpose of killing lots of people as quickly as possible. I live in a world where women are tortured and brutalized every day for reasons as meaningless as the desire to become educated. I live in a world where people are still judged by the color of their skin, the way they worship, the language they speak, or the way they dress.

I live in a cruel world.

If I want to become  the writer I dream to be, I need learn how to write about that world, in the  voice of that world. I need to embrace the possibility of seeing the darkness, the violence,  the pain with my own waking eyes, and then combating it with the power of my words.

This is my challenge to myself. This is my writing journey.

Sex and the Double Standard

Since yesterday was the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, I read a lot of articles discussing how important reproductive rights are to the lives of women.  One that really struck me was an article written by Lizz Winstead at the Huffington Post called “Abortion is a Medical Procedure”. Winstead writes:

“Of course, those are the sluts like me: Unmarried women who are stigmatized because we choose to have enjoyable, non-procreative sex, a concept that is hideous and freakish and out of the mainstream. And to ice the slut cake, if our birth control fails, we may choose to have an abortion.

Actually, I am surprised they haven’t started spelling it, abwhoreshun.

Yes, women like me are called whores and worse, when, if an accident happens and we choose abortion, we don’t offer the proper amount of remorse and contrition.”

I quoted that particular section because it is perhaps the motivation behind this post. I’m not foolish enough to think that my words might convince anyone to believe in the right to choice if they believe otherwise. This is one of those arguments where nobody wins, and it can turn into an ugly battle of words that just leaves everyone with an awful taste in our mouths.  (On that note, please remember that I welcome comments, but reserve the right to block any comments that attack others or are disrespectful of my readers)

No, my discussion today goes back to an argument I’ve made in the past, words matter and words have power.  I learned that in a different matter this week, when United Airlines agreed to refund the fare difference after my somewhat public display of anger at the way I was treated, which resulted in many of you joining your voices with mine and several e-mails and letters. Words won that battle (but I still will try to fly other airlines as the money doesn’t really make up for how I was treated).

[Update: I am leaving this passage in and crossed out because I just found out they only gave me a refund of $82.88 on my $205.06 extra costs. NEVER FLY UNITED!]

In that small instance, words had (a miniscule amount of) power.

But they always do, which is the subject of this post. This morning, a few questions began to float around my head, based on all the articles and videos I watched yesterday.

  • Why is it that, if a teenage girl has sex, especially if she becomes pregnant, she is labeled as whore, slut, etc. while the male part of the equation is called . . . (drumroll) . . . the father of the child?
  • Why is that a young woman who has been raped or molested is labeled as asking for it, whore, slut, etc. while the male perpetrator (unless actually convicted) is called . . .(drumroll) . . . the accused, a star athlete who made a mistake, a misguided youth, and (if the young woman becomes pregnant) the father of the child?
  • Why is it that there have been hundreds of movies where the main premise is the guy intends on getting laid, and sometimes will even go so far as to buy a prostitute to help him lose his virginity, and they usually go after women who may be called whore, slut, prostitute, etc? There are some movies where the women set out to do the same, but somehow the men in those pictures (at least the one that the woman hooks up with) don’t come off as players in any way, or if they do it doesn’t remain a negative.
  • Why is it that women who speak up about the rights of women–the right to reproductive choice, equal pay, and equality under the constitution–are sometimes labelled whore, slut, bitch, hag, etc? Vocal men usually don’t get similar labels placed on them (except the most extreme ones like Rush Limbaugh, but even then the terms don’t seem quite as ugly).

I could go on and on with this list, but the point is that there are not really terms applied to males that are as derogatory as those applied to females. I mean, I suppose a male could be called a “man-whore” but that still implies that whoredom lies in the realm of women.

Let’s face reality folks. It takes two people to have sex! I’m not talking about self-pleasure and other things. I’m aware of those. But, it takes two people for a girl to gain a reputation. It takes two people for a woman to become pregnant. In the reality of sexual behavior, the male has to take the more active role. A woman can lie there, but a man has the appendage that does the work. So why then, is all the negative terminology about sexual behavior aimed at the woman?

The answer is simple, words have power. As long as we continue to allow these words their negative connotations nothing will change. As long as the men who want to to stay in power (I’m not saying all men, I mean the ones who use this language on a regular basis) continue to label women with these words, nothing will change. As long as women continue to call other women by these words, nothing will ever change.

I turn again to a quote from Lizz Winstead’s article:

And to all the people who claim we shouldn’t talk about abortion, or even say the word abortion because you claim it will be used against us by those aforementioned haters:

That is true only if we let them.
We must stop letting them control the language around this issue. They are trying to control everything else and I say no more.
I am taking back the word abortion.

Words have power, so how can we use that power to claim the rights of everyone to be happy, healthy, independent, sexual beings?

Let’s reclaim the words.

Dear United Airlines Part 2: The Power of Social Media

 

 

Thanks to all the hits and responses to my post yesterday, I actually did hear from United Airlines. Don’t get your hopes up however, the response was less than satisfactory. For your reading pleasure, I will include the response and my answer to that response. I have removed names because I am not trying to get any individuals in trouble, but to ask a corporation to realize that there is a human factor in what they do.

 

 

 

Dear Mrs. Kramer:

Thank you for your reply. We send our condolences for your loss.

Your comments clearly convey how disappointed you were to learn of additional costs associated with changing your ticket.

I was glad to see that our reservation agent made an exception to our policies and waived the change fee for you due to your recent loss; however the additional fee that was assessed was applicable as your original fare had an advance purchase requirement.  The amount you paid was the difference in fare of your original ticket & the current fare level.  I regret the circumstances which required you to change your ticket on such short notice.  I accessed our past-date database to verify the inventory for the day you wished to travel. According to our records, the itinerary no longer met the advance-notice criteria for the original fare.

You state that your original return was changed and our records indicate that the change on your return travel was done when your husband called to change your ticket. I regret any confusion in regards to what happened with your return flight reservation.

Most excursion tickets are non-refundable. A service charge usually applies for changing the time or date of travel. Service charges help cover costs associated with processing ticket changes, adjusting passenger manifests, and filling empty seats.

Tickets are often reissued for a $150 service charge; however, depending on the available inventory when the ticket is reissued, an additional collection may also apply. Customers must pay the difference between the original fare and the new fare when there is reduced inventory or published fare increases.

Our published terms and conditions are designed to balance the needs of customers with the business needs of our company. We sell several types of tickets with varying levels of restrictions. Please visit our website for more information: www.united.com

Mrs. Kramer, we appreciate your business and look forward to welcoming you on board a future United Airlines flight.

With kindest regards,

XXX

Corporate Customer Care Manager

 

My response is as follows. Note that Nathan was on the phone with them about 20 minutes after my mother had been informed of my father’s passing. (which was when I heard the news):

 

 

 

Dear XXX

While I understand you have rules and regulations there is also such a thing as a bereavement fare, which (although still ridiculously high) should still have been considered in this situation. I also think it was completely inappropriate for you to cancel my return flight with my family, and then when I wanted to get back on that flight try to charge me another full fair. Yes, the agent who worked with me did the right thing, and I commend him for that. That doesn’t excuse the fact that your company put the bottom line ahead of the reality that life happens and that, just because someone shops for a less expensive fare shouldn’t mean that they get penalized in times such us this. I’m sorry that my father did not pass away in time for me to make your “advanced purchase requirements,” but that is, in my opinion a crass business tactic.

I’m sorry, but I do not accept this apology and will make every effort to never fly with United again. I have flown with you for a long time and I used to enjoy the flights, but now it is simply not worth it.  Perhaps your policies are in line with the standards of the industry, but to me they are evidence of how much more important money has become over the human factor. I am also aware of other airlines who will make exceptions and refuse to believe that you couldn’t have done the same.

Sincerely,

Lisa A. Kramer

 

Soapbox Warning

 

 

 

I realize that I may just be tilting at windmills here, but the powerful response on social media since yesterday has taught me something. We have allowed corporations to treat us like dirt for too long. We have allowed the voices of people who don’t have lots of money to get subsumed by the voices of those who do. If we want a better world, we need to stand up and say we aren’t going to tolerate being treated like this anymore. I know that United probably doesn’t care if I ever fly with them again. I know that travelling is probably going to be slightly more difficult and more expensive if I try to avoid United and all its affiliates. I also know that I can no longer support companies that do not take into account that human beings matter. I avoid the big stores like Wal-Mart etc. Now I choose to avoid a company that simply doesn’t care.

 

Honore-Daumier-Don-Quixote

Honore-Daumier-Don-Quixote (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

Dear United Airlines

To Whom It May Concern at United Airlines,

My father passed away on December 19, 2012.

Why does this concern you? Because I was supposed to leave to visit my in-laws in Hawaii on December 20, 2012. When my husband called to change my flight, as I sat crying with my daughter, he was told that we would pay the flight change fee and be reimbursed. He WAS NOT told that my return flight would be cancelled as well. He WAS NOT told that I would have to pay for the difference in fares, to get back onto a flight that I had already booked.

When he called, we weren’t sure when the funeral would be so we were given a number and told to call back when we had more information.

When I called back, after my husband and my daughter had already made it onto the original flight, I learned of the cruelty of the way you operate. What gave you the right to cancel my return flight, and then ask me to pay an additional $1300-$1500 to change my itinerary? How dare you charge me for a flight I already paid for?

I don’t usually cry, scream and swear to people doing their jobs. This time I did. I lost my father and your policies didn’t have any respect that life happens. The poor man on the other end managed to find me a flight which would only cost me an additional $200+ but left and arrived at evil times, and wasn’t with my family. In my opinion, YOU OWE ME that money.

I have never understood how airlines get away with over booking flights. It’s not legal to sell the same seat to two different patrons at the theatre, and on the rare occasions when that happens, a new seat is always found. It’s not legal to sell the same car to two different people at the same time. How can you legally sell seats to many people at the same time? How can you legally try to have someone pay again for seats she already bought?

As I flew, I watched your advertisements about your new and improved plane. I also witnessed the most unpleasant, unsmiling flight attendants I’ve seen in a long time. I sat in your uncomfortable seats as your expensive food moved down the aisles. I paid the fees for luggage, only to have to wait for almost an hour upon arriving in Hawaii for my luggage to appear. On the last flight, as I returned home, my headphones didn’t work properly (the channel they play on wouldn’t come in although others would)  so I couldn’t watch the movies. I suppose I could have asked for help, but this was also the flight with the unpleasant, unsmiling, and quite bitchy flight attendants.

You grow bigger every day, and I realize that gives you power. You don’t care what my voice says. You don’t care about my fares, because I don’t pay for first class. You should.

Kindness matters. From this day forward, if I can avoid flying with you, I will, even with your innovations in aircraft. I will also tell everyone I know to choose another airline. I may not have the power of an airline, but I have the power of my words, and I have the power to choose.

I choose to fly with people who respect all of their passengers, not just the ones who can afford first class tickets.

Sincerely,

Lisa A. Kramer, A Very Dissatisfied Customer

United Airlines

 

 

 

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