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Things I Don’t Understand

Ha, that would actually make for a pretty long list, but in this case I’m referring specifically to two things I came across this weekend. Sometimes, while doing household-related things (laundry, so much laundry) I leave the TV on as background noise and a sort of faux companionship. Yeah, I know, but how else am I supposed to keep up with Law & Order if it isn’t continually running on the edges of my consciousness, I ask you?

Be that as it may, I had the TV on this weekend, some animal countdown program on Animal Planet (The Top 10 Blankiest Blanks), and I got distracted enough to completely lose track of what program was on until the horrifying reality of what Animal Planet was now broadcasting wormed its way into my attention span and snapped me into full awareness. I was no longer ignoring the top most power-hungry animal leaders, no, I was staring at the Crocodile Hunter, Steve Irwin, enthusiastically narrating his wife’s contractions as she was about to give birth to their first child. Which was bad enough but, it turns out, things were much worse than that. Because the child in question, the one whose birth was here being rebroadcast reality-TV style, was also the one telling the viewers in a chirpy voice over to the scene that her father, now deceased, must have been so very excited by her impending arrival.

Yes, Bindi Irwin, daughter of Steve Irwin, was presenting “My Daddy the Crocodile Hunter” here on Animal Planet for our enjoyment. How long since her father passed away? How old is this child? Apparently, old enough to host “her very first hour long television special” to quote the Animal Planet Web site, and to take “viewers on her own personal and private look at what is was like growing up with her famous dad” – except that it’s not all that private, is it? What with being marketed and broadcast by a large communications company and all. That 50-second bit was about all I could take before I lunged for the remote to change the channel. I spend my days behind a protective wrapping of worldly cynicism but I have my limits. I can’t deal with this 8-year-old child being marketed like that. Perhaps she can handle it, but I can’t. And I take the liberty to doubt that she really can either.

Her father only died, what, a bit more than a year ago? (A bad encounter with some sort of stingray, as the nice man at the zoo on Sunday mentioned while he was feeding the rays at the Amazonia exhibit.) And here Bindi is, narrating her own birth and making jokes about how her dad was so nervous he crashed the hospital wheelchair on the way to the delivery room. You can tell me this is therapeutic and a way to pay homage to her dad and remember him, and I will tell you that I will never understand this. Steve Irwin was an exhibitionist and clearly comfortable with sharing his life with the cameras, in the service of animal welfare as he understood it. But he also dragged his kids into that public glare, from the moment they were born apparently, and they did not have a choice in the matter. And now his wife, or rather, his widow, is continuing this family tradition.  So that we have his 8-year-old daughter meta-commenting on her dad’s exhibition of their family’s life and I find this excruciatingly sad and completely beyond my comprehension. I just don’t get it.

But then, I also fail to understand how having to make do with an “unsightly” communal cluster mailbox instead of your very own, personalized, traditional American stand-alone single family-home mailbox can mar your enjoyment of your new, large, many-roomed house, nay, mansion featuring a “gourmet kitchen with a center island and a double oven, twin fireplaces and a finished basement, as well as a whirlpool tub and dual shower heads in the master bathroom,” and every other luxurious amenity today’s housing market can offer. Or indeed, why this sorry state of affairs should merit a lengthy article in a major metropolitan newspaper. But it does give me something to mull, so I shouldn’t complain. It’s not as though I am forced to get my mail from an aesthetically displeasing communal, lockable mailbox – oh wait, yes I do. But, I live in a 1-bedroom condo in downtown DC, so at least I don’t have that onerous, long walk to the corner where the mailbox is located. I just have to go down 4 flights of stairs to get my mail.

Of course, I also don’t have a lovely garden and lawn, the beauty of which is sadly spoiled somewhat by the lack of my own personal mailbox at the end of my drive way. Well, I don’t have a drive way either, so that’s ok. When did mailboxes become status symbols of such import? Why are people referring to their lack of a personal mailbox as “discrimination” and saying that the post office has created a “separate class” of mailbox owners? The mind boggles. My understanding reels. I’m so glad I saw this story on Sunday – that way, I was able to go lie down on my couch when the utter inanity of all this made me feel faint. Imagine if I had been at work. Here are people who have, well, some might say that they have everything: the house of their dreams with all the bells and whistles, with things in it that I hadn’t even conceived of wishing for yet – and still there is a complaint. About a mailbox that isn’t where they want it to be. A mailbox that just isn’t pretty enough (but that is lockable, therefore being immediately more secure than those freestanding, unlockable personal mailboxes on the front lawn). Again, I don’t get it. But then, as I mentioned, I live in a tiny 1-bedroom condo with minuscule floorspace that can barely hold all of our books. Maybe I’m just bitter.

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