When Did We Get So Wimpy?

Quit Hiding Behind Your Computers and Go Stimulate the Economy

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Peter Madden Peter Madden
I was at a restaurant yesterday waiting for a friend to show up and saw two corporate types eating cheeseburgers. With knives and forks.

Are you kidding me? I will assume one or both of them had a small container of Purell in their striped, tailored jacket pocket. Because germs are scary, after all, and it is cold and flu season. At least they seemed to be having a real conversation and not texting away with friends not present at the table.

When did we get so wimpy? It's a legitimate question because we're staring at one hell of a cloud gathering and, at most, hoping for the best. But what are we really doing about it? Virtually (literally) nothing. We're watching the news while talking heads do their best to analyze the problem, logging on to see who else is analyzing the problem, and believing anyone with a mouth or access to a keyboard that there is no good news out there. If these same geniuses who are supplying us with the news had it together, maybe they would have announced that there was going to be problems afoot, instead of beating their chests about the incredible real-estate market in 2003 and interviewing Donald Trump about his latest show.

Do we really care that much about what got us here or how the hell we're getting out? Cue: Obama. Courtesy of our stimulus bill, we throw words like "trillion" around as if we're adding to our order at the the McDonald's takeout window. Yeah, I'll also take a trillion fries with the No. 2.

You couldn't count to a trillion in a million lifetimes. Think about it. A trillion is mammobigagantuan (new word!) big. Ridiculous. Thinking about a trillion makes me dizzy, like I just shotgunned a Slurpee with Mount Gay Extra Old floated on top.

But because we're wimps, we twitter away about the trillions, the numbers, the stimulus, and we hope for the best. Matt Lauer continues to read the cue cards with concern about joblessness in the nation and squints his eyes like a bad actor who just observed the cattle are laying down for no reason. But do you know whose picture is next to "job security" in the dictionary? Matt Freaking Lauer's.

So stay tuned because the stars of "Slumdog Millionaire" -- up next on "Today"! A story about a kid from the slums that actually had guts! As always, it's fun to watch. Just don't get too close to the action.

Speaking of wimpyness and watching, I'm watching the death of paper everywhere. Standing in line at a Starbucks in an airport, eight people in front of me in line all paid with debit cards. There was even a sign: "Use your card, it's faster!" And it freaking was!!! I still defiantly paid for two coffees with three crisp, all-American $1 bills. The guy looked shocked -- like now he was going to have to interact with me a few seconds longer than with the person holding a card. It would be a little too human to maybe chat a bit with a customer, I'm sure. Trust me, we're only a step away from cashiers wearing iPods and texting their friends with one hand while handing your coffee (with a protective paper sleeve!) to you with the other.

Whether bills or newspapers, paper's become the new enemy No. 1. I watched Philadelphia's local newspapers -- the Inquirer and Daily News -- file for bankruptcy. Who wants to read papers anymore when we can click-click-click through stories that share the same digital space as my completely random, un-journalistic self. So now my 2 a.m. musings are sharing the same space as a Pulitzer-Prize-winning journalist? It makes me want to kick my own ass. It won't be long before PR people are pitching me about things to write about. Won't that be the ultimate joke?

Paper is dirty after all. Do you know on average how many people handle a dollar bill in its lifetime? That's right -- a mammobigagantuan amount. That's why paper money is dying and your real value is completely virtual, in some ways literally. We Kindle ("kindle" is such a cute, wimpy word it makes me feel all squishy inside) instead of reading a real book. Now, we're referring to Huffington Post as an actual source? Didn't Arianna Huffington marry a multimillionaire then divorce him? Whatever it takes, I guess. Now she's the new Bob Woodward. Good grief. I wonder what she thinks of the stimulus package? Oh wait, that's right. You could back a Brink's Truck up to her mansion. Matt Drudge? He worked at a 7-11 at one point, then he worked at the gift shop at CBS where he picked up gossip. He starts e-mailing his friends the gossip, and lo and behold the Drudge Report is born! Now sharing the same reverence as CBS itself. Who let that happen? Wimps.

I'm not longing for the old days, kitty cats. I'm just saying that what got us here is the lack of human interaction or interest in people beyond our selfish selves, as well as a lack of respect for what money really is. What if someone really explained to that homeowner what a floating rate meant? What if that kid in college actually asked someone for advice about getting a credit card they'd never be able to handle? What if Diddy, before he was Puffy, actually let the people who follow him in on the joke that the more they watched him, the more he made, and the worse they would feel? Jealous, selfish wimps who just wanted a little slice of the Diddy lifestyle. So forget buying real food -- Mickey D's is cheap, and his new cologne is out!

What if you had a really good idea and a respect for what $1,000 actually looked like? (Shout out to the new Geico commercials -- they are so stupid, they're genius).

Just slide that card here, kid, and don't worry about the balance you'll accumulate. It's virtual. Eventually, "it's virtual" will be a dance craze much like "it's electric." Boogie woogie woogie.

If we don't start bucking up, connecting in a real way and solving the problem, things aren't going to get any better. Maybe go pick up a phone and have a real conversation instead of twittering away.

Wouldn't that be stimulating?

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