Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Local Christmas spirit

'Tis the season for heartwarming but formulaic news filler featuring the selfless acts of various clergy, charity organizations, social service frameworks, philanthropists, and the like. 

But as I wait patiently for my family to get out of bed this Christmas morning (early risers they are not!), I'd like to pay homage to another manifestation of the spirit - the kind that the mainstream news media (MSM) never seems to feature. 

Every year around the holidays, it's the same predictable progression of stories in commercial newspapers and on TV: mass shootings and sale-driven mall brawls that I'm not even going to dignify by providing URLs. 

What never seems to get transmitted with those stories is that mass shootings are extremely rare.  People pulling out guns, knives, and fists in order to secure some sale price on basketball shoes or cappuccino machines... these things are just astonishingly rare.  We have 312 million people in this country and an infinitesimally small number of them suffer from the type of acute mental illness that drives them to go on murderous rampages.  Each year, there are about twenty mass shootings in America.  This means that, at any given time, mass shooters number about one in fifteen million Americans.  That's just an incredibly low number which attests to the corresponding decency of the overwhelmingly large majority of people. 

But the MSM never puts that kind of thing in perspective as they flog these rare events to death with story after story, angle after angle.  Why??  Because if it bleeds, it leads.  They make money by telling those stories at the expense of stories about what's good in our society.  They make money by stimulating fear and distrust. 

There was a pretty cool story of collective goodness happening right here in Clear Lake within the past few days, and not a damned one of the commercial media outlets seems to have picked up on it. 

The pretty cool story is about what happened at Baybrook Mall

Do you remember previous years when there used to be radio reports of the holiday parking situation at Baybrook?  It's an older mall and the parking was not optimized to account for the current-day population load when it was built.  Every year like clockwork, there would be reports that the parking lot was X% full, Y% full, then 100% full.  It was important to know this percentage in advance of your shopping trip because you wouldn't want to show up and find no place to park. 

I found it curious that I didn't hear any reports this year - I turned on the radio to check and there was nothing.  My teenaged daughter wanted to go to the mall less than 48 hours before Christmas.  I first told her that we'd have to get a mall report, but I couldn't find any.  Then I told her that we'd give it a try, but I warned her that we might have to turn around and come home for lack of parking.

But then when we got to Baybrook, I saw this, which explained everything.
People had driven their vehicles en masse into the empty fields surrounding the mall, where they proceeded to park in a very orderly fashion, apparently without any guidance from external authorities.  In our area, which was the east side of the mall closer to IH-45, I saw nobody directing traffic.  I saw no curb ramps, no traffic cones, no taped off areas, or other types of temporary lane markers to help guide people.  People simply seemed to apply their collective common sense and got the logistics accomplished all on their own. 

Pic looking roughly east toward the IH-45 frontage road. 
Baybrook was indeed crowded.  Like, shoulder-to-shoulder crowded (the Fire Marshall with jurisdiction must have been hyperventilating into a paper bag at the mere thought of it). 

But do you know what??  Not a single person was rude to me in the one to two hours we were there.  I did not see a single person being inconsiderate to anyone else.  The extent of mutual cooperation was simply amazing.  It amounted to some of the best peoplewatching I've ever done. 

But that stuff never made the news.  Nobody got shot or beaten up, so that kind of thing is not newsworthy, right?  Thousands and thousands of American people found a way to spontaneously self-organize and accomodate each other under trying circumstances in the spirit of the season, but it's not newsworthy.

But it is newsworthy to me.  In fact, I think it's the most newsworthy thing of all.  Baybrook was just one example among countless other American communities which were undoubtedly manifesting the same type of consideration.  What if the newspaper headlines instead screamed, "AMERICANS BY THE MILLIONS DEMONSTRATE TRUST AND MUTUAL RESPECT"?  Wouldn't that be something?? 

Merry Christmas. 
Who needs curb ramps anyway?  If you're careful, you can just drive up over them without damaging the underside of your car.  And then carefully park in ways that don't block anybody else in the impromptu grass lot. 

Looking roughly north toward Baybrook Mall Drive.

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