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People You May Know

Photo by Carol Bergman
We got stuck in the Air Train at San Francisco Airport for more than a half-hour. Fortunately, we had landed at Terminal 1 and the doors had opened—fresh air. The train was crowded, travelers leaving, travelers departing, many with so many bags they could have filled a hangar at the airport. There were children, old people, middle-aged people, a pilot. The pilot debarked and started barking into his phone. I couldn’t hear what he was saying but he was not happy. There were no trains coming the other way. The trains run on a loop—one breakdown and that is it. Who designed this brilliant system that is run by a computer terminal without any human in sight?

People were quiet at first, then they/we started to talk. Where was the staff, the personnel? (Note the word person embedded in the word personnel.) An electronic voice informed us, every five minutes or so, that we would be moving within ten minutes. And then it thanked us for our patience. How did he/she/it know we were being patient? I had to pee, my husband had to pee, other passengers had to pee, I was thirsty. Should we get off, go to pee in Terminal 1, return to the platform in the hope the trains would be moving and we’d make our flight? Was there any other way to get to Terminal 3? Was there anyone to ask?

We decided to wait it out. We were already weary from a traffic jam over the Bay Bridge, the return of the rental car, and a big bill for gas. No gas station we could see ten miles out—those were the instructions from the rental car company, either a scam or weird instructions. And we had timed our arrival perfectly to buy some food before boarding. No such thing as a decent meal on a plane anymore or a flight attendant to smile and chat and be human when we need something such as a pillow. A pillow? Forget that.

So what are flight attendants these days? Are they persons? Anything more than servers and emergency personnel? How difficult is it to hand out plastic cups of water, for example? I imagine a day will come when there will be totally automated flights—no flight attendants, no pilots. Not far off, I imagine. And with this fantasy I would like to tip my summer straw hat to George Orwell and his novel, 1984. He imagined the unimaginable. Now we are there. Or here.

So I suppose this blog is about the dehumanization of our lives and our selves. All of which is to be resisted and defied by everyone and, particularly, by artists who cannot function without deep connection. When a FB feed tells me that I might know some people and then displays the faces of these people on my screen, I get skittish. There is no way they can know the people I know unless they scan my email. So of course there are surveillance and privacy issues, at the very least. Why would I want to be a FB friend with my mother’s lawyer? How does FB know that I have communicated with my mother’s lawyer? But there is her face on the “people you may know” thread. Is this a thread?

I spoke to our pilot as we exited the plane. He was at the cockpit door waiting for the passengers to squeeze their way down the too-narrow aisle, all PR smiles in his crisp white shirt, slightly disheveled blond hair and beer belly. He hoped we enjoyed our flight. He hoped we would fly the friendly skies again. I interrupted his script when I asked if he was the pilot I’d seen on the stuck Air Train. He said no, he wasn’t, he’d flown up from San Diego in his own plane. And he didn’t seem to know or care about our little ordeal on the Air Train. He avoided eye contact. He had no empathy. He was a robot.  Read More 
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Carol Bergman:Writer

I suppose I should be pleased that I now have 67 Facebook friends on my professional Carol Bergman: Writer page. It’s an active page but what does that mean exactly and how does it enhance the writing life and/or help to solicit professional gigs and/or sell my books? I’m not sure. I do know that my students, prospective students and private clients look at my website and read my blog though they are loathe to admit this. Until I have mentioned them in a blog, then they might say something. “Oh, I think you were referring to me in that blog post the other day.” Of course, I don’t use anyone’s real name but they are nonetheless able to identify themselves and their triumphs or conundrums. I keep the FB page active by routing my blog into the “notes” function. The blog post, this one included, also appears as an RSS feed on my Amazon Authors Page and Goodreads. It also used to appear on the PEN AMERICA website but that has been redesigned and I can’t be bothered to re-do everything, not this week anyway. Are you getting my drift? All of this takes time, energy and a different mind-set than writing itself, although I am writing right now as I write this blog post. (And I hope you noticed the alliteration.) It’s so pleasurable I could do it all day but I have to get back to some other business, as opposed to writing, and then meditate/rest for a half hour before I go off to teach at NYU. Must remind myself to cut up an apple to slip into my bag. (Sentence fragment.) And what else? How about some reading? I’m in the midst of three books at the moment, two on my Kindle e-reader, another in hard copy. The current New Yorker is interesting and there’s more than one article I want to read there. I’ve read the NY Times online today. I wish I could be in a hammock, or on a cruise ship, or at a writer’s retreat because my mind is so befuddled by some brick work drilling on the East Side of my apartment house that I can hardly think much less work today on the revision of one of three failed novels. I have my headset plugged into the computer and am mildly distracted by the Brandenburg Concertos on Pandora, thank goodness. And did I mention that I’ve been “friended”( noun into a verb, quite common in the vernacular American English tongue) by a young woman writer in Kenya and a writer in Hong Kong and another somewhere else, all three people I don’t know, which is a bit unsettling. If you like me, I will like you. Isn’t that how it goes? Unsettling also because I am being “mapped” and “followed.” I forgot to say that my Carol Bergman: Writer FB page appears automatically on Twitter, whatever that means, and that I get notifications there of so many people following me, more than 67, and why? Then these same people, strangers all, writers in far flung places, turn up as requests on Linked In. I think my blog posts appear there also. All told, as I end this blog post, I realize that social media may be more exhausting than useful. Comments welcome.  Read More 
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