On being ... an alphabetical walk through 2022

 by Ingrid Sapona

I start this list early in the year (not necessarily January, but early). I add phrases or words as they jump out to me, whether in the news or just in terms of what’s on my mind. As I have the past few years, I’m including links to articles and other information that helped me formulate different entries. I imagine some of these concepts and ideas are things you’ve reflected on this year – and I hope I’ve drawn your attention to a few things you maybe haven’t focused on. And, to the extent you may have been struck by other words and phrases not on this list, I’d love to hear about them. 

A is for aggrieved entitlement – a term sociologist Michael Kimmel defines as the perception that the benefits and/or status you believe yourself entitled to have been wrongfully taken away from you by unforeseen forces. Sadly, politicians wishing to create a wedge in society have employed this to great advantage this year.   

B is for burka – In May the Taliban once again started requiring Afghan women to wear them. As the months passed, we realized that the burka decree was only the start of the total repression of Afghan women, as the Taliban now prohibits girls from going to high school and university.  

C is for critical minerals – these are “the building blocks” of the green and digital revolutions – things like lithium, cobalt, magnesium, nickel, platinum, titanium, aluminum, graphite, iridium, tungsten, and so on.  These minerals are critical as an input in different devices and processes, but another aspect of what makes them of critical interest and concern is the fact that some of the places these minerals are found are not always friendly to the west or politically stable. 

D is for DeSantis, Don’t Say Gay, and Disney World – a Florida triple-play. 

E is for emboldened – hate has become emboldened and easily spread via digital megaphones like tweets and chat rooms.

F is for fusion – this is a last-minute addition to the list. On Dec. 13th it was announced that U.S. scientists carried out a nuclear fusion reaction. I’m sure you read about it, so I won’t try to explain it… though I must say, one of the takeaways I got from all the stories was that it creates helium. Whew… that means that for generations to come kids will enjoy the sound of their high-pitched voice after inhaling a bit of the gas. (Friendshoring was my original choice for F – it’s the practice of relocating supply chains to countries where the risk of disruption from political chaos is low.) 

G is for grifter – the most apropos description of Donald Trump that I’ve have ever heard.  While Trump has the distinction of having served as Grifter in Chief, this year confirmed that Millennials have also gotten into the game: Theranos’ Elizabeth Holmes and FTX’s Sam Bankman-Fried.

H is for hate – hate has been around forever, but the fact that hate talk has become normalized is an emerging trend that should concern us all. 

I is for the Inhumane Weapons Convention – what does it say that we even have this? 

J is for January 6th – the irony of it being Epiphany hit me as I was watching the January 6th hearings, which were, as the word epiphany means, revealing. 

K is for Kyiv – here is to hoping Kyiv still exists a year from now. 

L is for lies – we will suffer the consequences of many of Trump’s legacies or a long time to come but perhaps none will have as devastating an impact as the normalization of lies. I don’t know if it’s just considered impolite – or impolitic – to call a lie a lie, but it seems few people are willing to do so. Instead, we find polite ways to refer to lies, as the New York Times did in describing Representative-elect George Santos’ resume as “largely fiction”. 

M is for Marina Ovsyannikova – the Russian woman who on March 14, 2022 burst into a live broadcast of Russia’s most watched news show and held up a sign that said stop the war and “they’re lying to you here”. In the fall she fled house arrest and is living in an undisclosed European country.  

N is for nuclear weapons – this year the notion of Russia deploying “tactical nuclear weapons” made the news, as did the reality that a nuclear power generating station can become, in effect, a nuclear weapon.  

O is for oligarch – before 2022 many of us were familiar with the term. But this year, thanks to a number of Russian oligarchs, we also learned the meaning of defenestration. 

P is for Putin – Putin certainly was front and centre in 2022. However unintentionally, his actions this year made him a uniting force: he helped unite much of the west. 

Q is for Queen Elizabeth – though the past few years she became visibly frail and we knew her age, it was still a bit of a shock when she passed away. It’s odd to think that in my lifetime there likely will not be another Queen on the English thrown. 

R is for rage – rage is the physical, often deadly, expression of anger and hate. And, like hate, overt expression of rage is on the rise. While that, in itself, is troubling, the fact that politicians and power mongers have learned to exploit others’ rage to their advantage presents a huge risk to democracy around the world.

S is for special military operation – war by any other name is still war.

T is for thermobaric weapons – a true sign of human depravity. These weapons create high temperature fireballs the literally suck the air out of any living being in the vicinity, according to experts. And yet, they have not been banned by international convention. 

U is for undersea cables – I was surprised to learn that 95% of international data transmission occurs via undersea fibre-optic cables. I read about this in the aftermath of a post-earthquake tsunami off Tonga that snapped an 872 km. long fibre-optic cable connecting Tonga to the world.  

V is for variant – talk of variants of the Covid virus have subsided, at least as compared to how much attention they got in the first quarter or so of 2022. But, I’m guessing variants will still be a news story in 2023, especially with China lifting its zero Covid restrictions. Hope I’m wrong…

W is for Wordle – what else? It’s fun to play, but I don’t mind admitting that I find it a bit odd when people post how they did on social media.

X is for (e)xtreme weather – bomb cyclones, floods that devastated Pakistan, and record heat in England and Europe are just some of the catastrophes suffered this year due to extreme weather. In the face of all these things, I don’t see how there can be any doubt that climate change is real. I also don’t understand why it’s not obvious to everyone that unless we all work together to restrict greenhouse gases, we’ll all end up paying the price for weather-related catastrophes.

Y is for the Y chromosome – apparently it is degenerating. No need for immediate panic though, so long as evolution kicks in sometime over the next million or so years. 

Z is for Zelinskyy – surprising how a guy whose name is linked to the first Trump impeachment would go on to be a major world figure in 2022. I doubt it was a coincidence, but the historians will have the last word on that. 

And finally, with a heartfelt Thank You for reading On being… , I wish you good health and much happiness throughout the New Year.


© 2022 Ingrid Sapona


On being … fee’d up

By Ingrid Sapona  

The other day I got an email from a theatre company announcing their 2023 schedule. One particular play sounded interesting so I clicked through to see the prices and dates. For that play, seats on the main floor ranged from $33.90-$146.90, with seats in the balcony ranging from $124.30-$146.90. Fortunately, there are special rates for previews: $27.12-$102.83 for seats on the main floor and $87.01-$102.83 for balcony seats. Given the odd prices, I assumed they included the 13% sales tax.  

Tickets had just gone on sale and they still had a couple of the $27.12 seats on one of the preview nights. With my credit card ready, I started to place my order. When I clicked on “Purchase”, the total that came up was $64.24 – not $54.24, as I expected. That’s when I noticed a $10 service charge was added. Frustrated, I cancelled the order.  

So, in effect, $27.12 tickets are really $32.12 tickets. I know – we’re talking a difference of only $5/ticket, which doesn’t seem like much. And really, $32.12 to see live theatre is pretty reasonable. Still, it bothered me to have that additional charge, especially given that they don’t even send out real tickets – they are electronic only. I stewed about it for a few days. Ultimately, I ended up shelling out the $64.24 for the two tickets. I rationalized the purchase based on my belief that $32.12 (the true cost to me) seems reasonable to see a live production of this company’s calibre. 

That said, I really don’t understand why they don’t just increase the cost of each ticket to include all their costs. Since they don’t really specify what services are provided for that service charge, why bother breaking it out? Heck, for on-line purchases they don’t break out the sales tax portion of the $27.12, so why not include the service charge in the on-line per ticket price too? Surprisingly, just yesterday I got a printed brochure from this company and it shows all ticket prices before the sales tax. So, the ticket I paid $32.12 for is really a $24 ticket, before the sales tax and before the service charge. I also read in the printed brochure that the service charge ($10) is per order, regardless of how many tickets you buy. But, there was no explanation of what the service charge is for.  

As a theatre patron, I assume there are all sorts of costs that go into putting on a play but the company doesn’t bother breaking out any other specific costs. I assume that running a box office, whether staffed in person or done using software, is just one of the many costs of doing business – it’s called overhead. To me, adding an itemized service charge just feels like a cash grab. 

The past few years I’ve noticed more-and-more purveyors of non-essentials are adding additional fees and charges for “services” that aren’t really adding value as far as the customer is concerned. The most galling example I’ve come across lately was a hotel restaurant that had advertised a $44 three-course Thanksgiving dinner that included turkey roulade, a vegetable, and a slice of fruit crumble – for take out or dine-in. 

A friend and I were going to celebrate Thanksgiving together and we talked about perhaps doing a pot luck. But, neither of us really felt like cooking a huge, traditional Thanksgiving meal. So, when we read about the $44/person menu we decided that ordering it to go would be perfect.

We figured we’d drive over together to get it and bring it back here to enjoy with a bottle of wine of our choice. I offered to place the order, which I had to do on-line, as they didn’t accept them on the phone. When I went to click on Pay, I was expecting the bill to total $88+tax (so, about $99). 

I couldn’t believe when $119.00 came up! On review, it showed $88 plus sales tax plus a 20% service charge. (20%!) What the …? I had no intention of paying $59 for a slice of turkey, a side, and a berry crumble that I had to go get. I emailed my friend to see how she felt about the whole thing, and she agreed. Both of us were quite incensed. You know, it’s not that she and I can’t afford – or are too cheap – to have a nice meal at a restaurant. And perhaps if we were at the restaurant and had seen the same three-course menu priced at $59, we might have been fine with it, even knowing full well that our final out-of-pocket costs would be higher because we’d add a healthy tip if we were eating there. 

But to price the meal at $44 and then charge a “service charge” of 20% for the pleasure of picking it up to take home. Come on…. Preparing the meal is a service, but at a restaurant you expect that to be included in the menu price. And with customers picking up their own meal, there isn’t even the cost of a server, or the cost of cleaning up after the meal. Sure, there are costs associated with “to go” containers and packaging and if they wanted to itemize those things and charge me, fine – but not 20% of the price of the meal! We ended up reverting to plan A and we made a turkey breast roulade for ourselves, which meant we had delicious leftovers, at no extra charge! 

I don’t know about you, but I’m getting pretty fed up with these kinds of games. I resent being put on the spot at the end of the deal – after I’ve decided to make a purchase at a price the seller set and then advertised. It’s not fair to slap on additional fees over and above what the buyer expects to pay and it seems a bad business practice to me. When I see an unexplained or unexpected service charge tacked on, regardless of the actual amount of the charge, I end up thinking much longer and harder about whether to make the purchase. And, more often than not, I decide not to patronize businesses that charge such fees. Maybe if other patrons did the same, businesses might think twice about this questionable practice. 

© 2022 Ingrid Sapona