Monday, July 29, 2013

Trouble on the (Very) High Seas

Right after it happened, my son, Trent, urged me to write about it. But the wounds … mostly mental … were too fresh. Now, I’m finally ready to tell the story.

It started innocently enough on vacation. I was relaxing on an ocean-side balcony when I saw people riding Jet Skis. It looked fun. I remembered my former boss, Stilla, telling me about her Jet Ski exploits. If she could do it, surely I could.

So I looked up the address, grabbed the family, forked over a small fortune and began Jet Ski orientation. We decided to go out in pairs. Kim and Trent would be on one Jet Ski; Clark (my youngest) and me on the other. The guide said the ocean was choppy. I didn’t think much of it. If anything, I worried a bit about Kim and Trent.

So we headed into the waiting sea. I soon learned “choppy” is a euphemism for “tsunami force” in the Jet Ski business. We survived the initial onslaught, flying above the waves like dolphins, but I was never fully comfortable. 

Here’s how Clark describes what happened next, “We rode for like a minute and you turned it over.” The guide sped to our rescue. He helped pull us back aboard, advising us to go faster to gain better control. As it turns out, going faster to gain better control is another Jet Ski industry lie, just like “choppy” waters.

After another minute, there was another crash and another visit from the guide. This time, we didn’t bounce back quickly. The adrenaline and the fatigue and the waves were taking their toll. We managed to get nearly aboard twice, only to tip it over again. This wasn’t nearly as fun as it looked from the balcony. Or at least not for us. Kim and Trent were having fun, riding by doing tricks on their Jet Ski as if they were in a water show.

But the amusement was over for Clark and me. This outing had become a Baywatch episode. I knew we weren’t going to get back on that Jet Ski, and I told the guide so. Frustrated, he called to the shore for the “banana boat.” (As an aside, the banana boat is yellow, but there are no bananas on it … another Jet Ski lie). We fell over the edge and were whisked to shore. I was far too tired to be embarrassed.

For a moment, I thought about asking for my money back. I didn’t. I figured the cost of the rescue far exceeded my out-of-pocket costs.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Playing with the Language

As a PR guy and former journalist, I know words matter. That is why it bothers me to see the language manipulated by those who should know better.

Such is the case with the phrase “revenue increase.” You hear it everywhere in the media these days. It’s a happy euphemism for what used to be called a tax increase.

A tax increase sounds like something that hits your wallet. In contrast, a revenue increase sounds like some benign financial transaction that happens between accountants without impacting you. You might expect some congressional staffers to shade the language like this, but not journalists, who are supposed to be the referees … the seekers of truth.

It’s fine if you believe tax increases will help the economy, but just call it what it is.

If grandpa refers to his adult diaper “a personal protection garment,” then nobody gets hurt. But when you’re talking about public policy and our government spending, then it’s important to be more authentic.

Come to think of it, if George H.W. Bush had uttered the phrase “no new revenue increases,” then maybe he would’ve won a second term.