Each year is a mash up of great strides and bitter disappointments. But as 2014 wanes, I’ve been thinking about our collective experiences. How we as citizens and consumers are grappling with the fast changing times. In some areas we are making progress and in other areas we are being tested to our limits.
Here are 10 things that got much, much better this year:
1. We’ve reached the tipping point with gay marriage and the legalization of pot, even in the red-meat states. Yawn. They’re still on the ballot? Next!
2. Blame it on Russian greed but their choke hold on oil has lost its grip. Yay! We’re paying less at the pump. In some areas of the country it’s under $2 a gallon. Hopefully we’ve seen the last of eye-popping fill-ups because Lord knows we could use some of that extra dough to buy food.
3. Speaking of which… though most of what is sold at the supermarkets is still more science experiment than food, things are looking up. And I’m not talking about the glut of gluten-free products that are this year’s darling. Did you know that many gluten-free foods often contain arsenic? But back to the good news. The once paltry aisle dedicated to healthy choices that was once shoved in some back corner is finally expanding. Now you can choose from lots more organic produce and dairy, all natural packaged goods (Justin’s Hazelnut Peanut Butter is the best!) and prepared entrees that contain ingredients you can pronounce. As always, read the labels.
4. Women continue to take three steps backwards for every great leap. Sure an elite few are business titans, political leaders and entertainment moguls, but they represent a fraction of those who are underpaid, overlooked and subjected to double standards. And yet here is a sign of hope. The Church of England named its first female bishop. A parish priest for over twenty years, the Rev. Libby Lane just got the nod. Will we ever see a female Pope? A girl can dream.
5. Stroke victims finally have a better chance of recovery. After decades of dismal options, researchers have developed a treatment that can save lives and leave less debilitating after effects. It’s a matter of removing the blood clots that blocks blood to the brain at the crucial onset. Duh.
6. Reality TV is on the wane (adios Honey Boo-Boo) and quality series are lighting up the small screen. Why else would be all be binge watching? Even better, our viewing is not limited to the big broadcast and cable networks. Did anyone say Netflix? Also, it’s fun to discuss episodes on social media (even when the haters come out). Christopher Walken’s performance in Peter Pan comes to mind. Still, it beats the days of copycat sitcoms and sappy Lifetime movies. Just wish some brave Hollywood souls would bring back sketch comedy shows like Carol Burnett and Jackie Gleason. And away we go….
7. These are not your mother’s coupons! Promo codes, group savings, private sales, bogo’s and other savings opportunities rule. In fact, restaurants, retailers and online business must offer free shipping and/or price breaks if they expect customer support. Walk into Bed, Bath & Beyond without a stash of 20% off coupons? Never! Full price is so yesterday I go nowhere without my Ziploc bag of coupons and loyalty cards and I know you are doing the same.
8. Goodbye photo albums. Photo books are the best! Gone are the shopping bags and shoe boxes filled with pictures you meant to put in albums ten years ago. Now you go right from your smart phone to a photo site and in an hour pick up a beautiful customized album. And don’t forget to add the promo codes for instant savings!
9. Amazon got its ass kicked by authors who stood up to their bullying tactics against Hachette. Looks like they’re not so infallible. Hopefully it will be awhile before they hold publishers, writers and readers hostage again.
10. Kids are great. I mean kids have always been great, but this crop seem smarter, more generous and more tolerant than any previous generation. They’re being raised to speak up, ask questions and end bullying. They’re asking intelligent questions about the environment, government, gun violence, equal pay, racism and even violence in sports. They give me hope that sanity is around the corner. Or at least greater compassion and understanding.
And here are 10 things that have gotten significantly worse:
1. Flown lately? If ever the divide between the haves and have nots was more evident it is when you fly coach. If you are not a platinumgoldelitesuperstartwinkletoes member, you will board the same time as the goats and camels. And if that doesn’t make you feel like steerage, wait until you squeeze into your seat. Even the most mild mannered turn into sumo wrestlers vying for overhead bin space. Maybe the airlines could use some of money they no longer need for high fuel prices to give back some extra comforts like elbow room. But don’t count on it. They are making record profits and don’t care if the folks sitting behind the la de dah section are miserable. Serves them right for not upgrading.
2. Oh for the days of 24/7 customer support. Today companies and online sellers alike are limiting their availability to what used to be known as bankers hours. So if you’ve got a problem in the evening or on the weekend, or heaven forbid a holiday, prepare to listen to five minutes of nonsense while you push 1,2,3 only to learn they’re closed and will reopen when the wind blows in the right direction. By the time you actually connect with a human on the other side of the world, you may have forgotten why you called.
3. If you have experienced the joy of buying your prescriptions through a mail order pharmacy, chances are by the time you get to ask your questions, you will have added high blood pressure to your list of medical conditions. These aren’t service lines, they are the Depts. of Sales Prevention. Their only function is to make sure that you do not get what your doctor prescribed unless they first send in your preauthorization not once but ten times. And only if they say pretty please and promise to no longer prescribe an expensive medication will you finally get approved.
4. Don’t you love the drivers who can text and give you the finger at the same time? Seems they don’t care that the light turned green or that scientists can prove it is unsafe to look down while operating a 5000-lb vehicle going fifty-five mph. Seriously. It’s scary out there. And it’s not just the kids that are clueless. I see parents with small kids in the car texting and driving. It’s only a matter of time…
5. Social media offered the promise of connecting with friends and strangers alike to share common experiences and make the world a warmer/friendlier place. But now it’s just an online bazaar of haters, bores, braggarts and moochers. I’m slowly withdrawing because there is a no-refund policy on time wasted on these sites.
6. We have gotten waaaaaay to comfortable with gun violence. Sure we hate it but the NRA will never back down so why bother taking to the streets? What we need to do is think of gun control as a disease to eradicate. Then we’ll witness the 4 P’s of change: protests, parades, pink ribbons and politicians pretending to care.
7. The speed at which states are circumventing the constitutional rights of women to have abortions is staggering. So too is the fact the lunatic fringe on the Supremes is rooting for them to do so. Don’t you just love the people who under the guise of being god fearing/god loving souls will carry on about the need to protect unborn fetuses, but won’t think twice about crushing skulls at WalMart to get cheap TVs? Fund programs to abate hunger? That means less money for beer and gambling. For more information, look up the definition of hypocrisy.
8. The flames of hatred and bigotry fueled by Fox News show no signs of slowing down. Although on the upside even they found Sarah Palin intolerable. Common ground, people. We have to look for it wherever we can.
9. Climate change is not a problem. For proof that only crazy liberals are concerned, tune to Fox News.
10. Haters are loud, proud and everywhere you look. And unfortunately they may be related to you. The only hope is to remember that the vast majority of people are hard working, honest, well meaning, kind-hearted, sensible and open minded. They’re just, unfortunately, very, very quiet.
What do you think got better or worse this year? Do tell!