Thursday, November 19, 2015

BOARD OF TODDLERS; OR, IN WHICH I SOLVE EVERYONE'S PROBLEMS EXCEPT ONE

It's been a rough couple of weeks for my psyche--circumstances largely outside my control have led to large amounts of controversy, anger, and heartache regarding the church I love, the transit system I love, and the marriage I love,

(Yes, complete strangers on the internet have been arguing about my marriage. It's a long story you probably don't know about if you don't know me personally. Eventually there will be a link on this blog to that story, but not for a while.)

all of which has contributed to a general feeling of discontent with sundry humanity, such that I can't sleep at night; not to mention that Baby

Yes, that Baby
has decided lately that he doesn't need to sleep at night. I worry that he'll turn out to be an insomniac like me, and more immediately I worry that my bad moods might affect him; but whatever the reason he has decided that going to bed is for chumps and that nighttime is for spreading books and toys and diapers and clothes into artfully messy patterns on the floor. And he does it for hours. The only way to get him to not do that is to stay in the room with him, also for hours, and constantly remind him to get back in bed and put his head on the pillow and not kick his legs and not run around and not tip things over and not get things out. We've tried being nice to him, we've tried being mean to him, and neither has worked. So tonight I decided to be business to him.

There's a negotiating tactic I've had to use in the past with particularly inattentive, manipulative, or agenda-driven individuals in my life. It's simply to hold ground and not respond to anything they say on their terms. Baby is two-and-a-half and is not currently capable of malicious inattention, manipulation, or agenda-drive, but when used benignly this tactic seems to work on him as well:

Baby: daddy i need to get up
Me: Lie down.
Baby: daddy how was your day
Me: Lie down and I'll tell you.
Baby: daddy i need a glass of water it will make me feel better
Me: Lie down.
Baby: daddy i need a glass of water it will make me feel better
Me: Lie down. When Mommy comes in we'll ask her to get a glass of water. Lie down.

Eventually Baby gives up and lies down. It's painstaking work, but when I do it right I get my way and Baby doesn't get his feelings hurt.

Tonight, on about minute forty-five of Baby's hour-and-forty-five-minute journey of discovery toward sleep, I had an epiphany. It all kind of came together, and it gave me the strength to magnanimously tell Baby to go to sleep for the next hour. You see, I realized that my current predicament with Baby is not unlike much of the public's predicament with UTA.

Baby, having learned to sleep the night at an early age, is used to his parents saying good night and leaving him alone. At some point he realized he could do stuff while we weren't watching him, and now that we're trying to train him out of it, he's taking it really hard. All he wants is for Daddy to go away so he can do what he wants. The problem is, while nothing he wants to do is a bad thing (there's nothing inherently wrong with reading a book or arranging stuffed animals in a semicircle), it's not the thing that Daddy wants--for him to go to sleep.

I keep waiting for the UTA scandal octopus to die, but it keeps turning out to be a hydra instead, growing two heads for each one that gets cut off. And people can argue any perspective they want, but the fact is that nothing anyone has tried has worked so far. Media coverage of UTA is certainly unfair. That Proposition 1 can pass in Tooele and Davis counties, but not Salt Lake County, certainly speaks to local journalism's insatiable fetish for trumping up inconsequential circumstances into public crises; but it has not stopped certain individuals at UTA from positively gift-wrapping them scandalous-sounding stories that vindicate UTA's enemies and embarrass their supporters. I have wondered in the past whether these individuals were in complete denial, or whether they were simply so arrogant as to feel completely above public opinion; but now I think they're probably just toddlers waiting for Daddy to close the door so they can get back to what they were doing before. There's nothing inherently wrong with a train up a particular canyon, or a trip or two to Switzerland, but the problem is, it's not the thing the public wants.

The reason so many people are willing to accept so much abysmal journalism about UTA is not, in my opinion, that UTA is substantially more corrupt than any other public or private institution; it's that people have a value conflict--they perceive that their money is not being used for what they want it to be used for.

So I propose that I am willing to stop yelling about this. Being nice doesn't work. Being mean doesn't work, not to each other, not to UTA. So let's be business.

Me: The bus needs to come every 15 minutes on the west side of Salt Lake City, and run after 9:00 p.m.
UTA: We already tried running late night service and it didn't work.
Me: The bus needs to come every 15 minutes on the west side of Salt Lake City, and run after 9:00 p.m.
UTA: Look! Mountain Accord is super important, and we need a train to serve the ski resorts.
Me: The bus needs to come every 15 minutes on the west side of Salt Lake City, and run after 9:00 p.m.
UTA: Look! We built 70 miles of rail 3 years ahead of schedule and $300 million under budget. You should be thanking us.
Me: You may need to change some of your priorities, but the bus needs to come every 15 minutes on the west side of Salt Lake City, and run after 9:00 p.m.

Me: The fare structure is too complicated, and the fares are too high.
UTA: Our fare structure guarantees maximum equity for all income levels.
Me: The fare structure is too complicated, and the fares are too high.
UTA: We'll take a look at it, but it'll take a few years, so leave us alone, okay?
Me: The fare structure is too complicated, and the fares are too high.

If UTA is willing to resolve some of the value conflicts its customers are experiencing (and UTA's customers include people who don't ride, but pay taxes), it can reduce its public perception problems, and its customers can feel better about the tax money they give to UTA. The only person that wouldn't be happy is the one journalist who has literally made a career of reporting bad things about UTA, but I don't care about him.

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