OPINION: Four minutes at the drive-thru

Abbey Marshall | Staff Writer

abbey column

Working at a Culver’s drive-thru, I’ve seen a variety of people: anything from a whiny kid demanding custard after an arduous rec basketball game from his mom’s minivan to an old woman hauling a tractor with her seemingly out-of-character Ford truck. Despite the wide range of characters, everyone can ultimately be categorized into two groups.

There are those who whiz by in a flurry of impatience, a rude demeanor and permanent frown etched upon their faces, and there are those who have the decency to make eye contact and say, “Thank you”. The second type of people is extremely rare.

With today’s constant hustle and bustle, politeness is forgotten while curt and impolite behavior runs rampant. When we want something, we want it now–because that’s what we’re used to. We can refresh a page and receive breaking news, we can Google a question and have an instantaneous answer. In a world of notifications and ringtones, simple face-to-face communication is lost because there simply isn’t enough time.

Outside the realm of technology, person-to-person encounters are all I experience at my job. It brightens my day when someone takes the time to glance at my nametag and personalize their “thank you”s, or when someone smiles and compliments me. On the flip side, I become irritated and quickly upset when someone harshly comments on pricing of which I have no control, or rolls their eyes because I took too long to scoop a chocolate cone.

The way I see it, you can either spend the four minutes of drive-thru wait time one of two ways. You can cheerily chat with your passengers, crank up your favorite song, roll down the window to enjoy a nice day, and kindly thank the employee who hands you your meal when it’s ready, or you can restless drum your fingers on your steering wheel, glare out your window at someone who is trying to do their job, and snatch your bag when it’s ready and drive off in a huff.

Either way, you still wait those four minutes.

 Originally published in The Chronicle on May 15, 2015.

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OPINION: Journals galore

Abbey Marshall | Staff Writer

abbey column

I know what inevitably awaits me behind every sheet of tissue paper I unfold, every ribbon I unravel, every piece of wrapping paper I mercilessly tear apart: a journal. The surprise of a gift eludes me each birthday I experience because I know beyond a doubt that a notebook lurks within the gift bags handed to me.

Don’t get me wrong; it’s really quite thoughtful of my friends for considering my interests and personality. I’ve loved the way a pencil felt beneath paper since third grade and I’ve been writing ever since. What people don’t consider, however, is how many spiral bound notebooks I have piled up in my desk drawer,crowding the little free space I have in my room. I often tell eager gift-givers there’s a queue of notebooks waiting to be used that may stretch on for years.

The problem with this endless string of journals is that the world is very tech-oriented. Most of the writing I do involves frantic revising, which is impossible to do without a digital copy of my work that can be changed with a click of a button. While the online world has it’s benefits, I find this to be problematic for the same reason. With one glitch, one glaring, red “x” button in the top right corner, one malfunction of a computer, everything you’ve done can vanish without a trace.

While the excitement of a gift has for the most part vanished, I find it reassuring to be surrounded by unused journals. It’s as simple as writing can be: pen and paper. No keyboards. No mouse clicks. No chance of viruses destroying your work. Blank lines are waiting to be filled with any thoughts I might have, any letters I may write, any stories I wish to tell.

So it’s okay that my pile of journals grow by the holiday. It’s refreshing to have something so simple to rely on, free from the distraction of the busy online world.

What’s supposed to be versus what can be

Practice makes perfect.

That phrase has been drilled into the heads of everyone since they were young children, whether it was mothers reminding their six-year-olds to practice the same monotonous scales over and over on the piano or dads playing catch with their sons in a suburban backyard, assuring them that they would make it to the MLB if they constantly tossed a baseball to and fro. Experience makes you flawless and skill is a shining star on résumés.

What if I said this was wrong?

In a lecture about the uses of social media and technology in modern journalism led by Eric Stearley, he contradicted this popular saying with a surprising comment. Younger journalists have the upper hand compared to more experienced journalists.

Younger journalists are social media pros, and in today’s internet-crazed society, that’s an important thing to be. Breaking news might not be relevant in a week when a print publication comes out, or even a day. Breaking news needs to be sent out immediately, via Facebook or Twitter, which may be foreign terms or concepts to the older generation.

If I had a dollar for every time my dad asked me to help him use social media, I’d probably be a billionaire by now. A few months ago, I set up an email, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat for him so he could keep in contact with my siblings and me. As I watched him fumble over buttons and keys, I would be asked frequent questions about how to zoom in on Instagram (which is impossible), how to follow someone on Twitter, and how to view a Snapchat. I’ve only been alive for sixteen years, while he’s in his forties. He definitely has more life experience, but is clueless when it comes to social media, as are most others his age.

It’s been proven that the internet is an effective way to get out news stories. Eric Stearley discussed how one internet post on Reddit drew in 62,000 people to their news site that covered the events of a simple, rural town, as opposed to the typical 3,000-4,000 visitors. A single Facebook post can be liked, commented, and shared to other friends and it starts a chain reaction. One view can suddenly become thousands. The internet can do something that a print newspaper never could: it’s instantaneous and extremely easy to pass along. Without growing up in an era of phone-obsessed people, always procrastinating by scrolling through various news feeds on social media, it’s hard to pick up these new skills.

The older generation of journalists entered a divided newsroom many years ago. There were the writers, the photographers, and the graphic designers. They were specialized in one specific category. Writers have no idea what to do when a camera is thrust in their direction and photographers can’t hold a pen and notepad. However, young journalists were trained to be versatile, well-rounded reporters. If you can only do one specialized job, you won’t be hired onto a staff, plain and simple.

According to Stearley, the difference between young journalists and older journalists is that the more experienced writers tend to focus on how something is supposed to be, while the younger ones focus on how something can be. It’s a comfort issue; people generally like habit. Those who don’t know any better will have fresh ideas.

Think about it this way: if we kept things the way they were supposed to be in journalism, online media wouldn’t exist. As newspapers died out, so would the entire industry. The point is, evolution is necessary to sustain journalism, which comes in the form of youth.

So, practice doesn’t make perfect. Perhaps amateurity makes perfect.

Western Row Elementary School improves security

buzz in system

In the wake of recent school shootings, there is no such thing as too safe, according to Western Row Elementary School principal Eric Messer.

Western Row Elementary is implementing new security equipment and procedures to deter any possible dangerous threats. New changes include a buzz-in system at the front entrance.

“Anyone who comes here will have to buzz into the building,” Messer said. “That creates a heightened awareness and a heightened security system.”

Visitors will have to present a driver’s license or ID to be buzzed into the building, where they will then get a visitors pass.

“I’ve never had to show my ID before,” said Lori Phillips, mother of third grader Nicholas Phillips. “So maybe [the buzz-in system] will help make [Western Row] a little more secure.”

Western Row had already established security measures in the past, such as always locking doors and only being able to access locked doors through staff electronic key cards. However, the school is always striving to improve, according to Messer.

“Any time you make an improvement for safety, it’s necessary,” Messer said.

Other changes include restricting class parties and the elimination of KISS day, an occasion for elementary students to bring a family member or friend into the classroom.

“You are bringing in probably four or five hundred people from the outside,” Messer said. “There’s no way for me to check that. That just becomes a security nightmare.”

According to the Mason Ohio Schools website, the buzz-in system costs $35,400 out of a fund for the Mason School District’s improvement.

“Anything you’re doing to improve safety, it’s money well spent,” Messer said.

After the school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, the country was in a panic, especially parents of young children.

“I was nervous and scared [after the Newtown shooting],” Phillips said. “You hope that’s not going to happen where your child goes to school.”

The new procedures and equipment being implemented at Western Row, however, gives Phillips a better peace of mind.

“I’m glad to hear that they’re trying to do something to make [Western Row] more secure. That makes me a little more relieved,” Phillips said. “Anything they can do to secure the school– the more they can do the better.”

Between the parents and the staff, they’re all in agreement that safety is the most important concern for their children, according to Messer and Phillips.

“My number one job is my kids’ safety and my staff’s safety,” Messer said.

The glitch with technology

Technology is both a blessing and a curse.

While trying to word that first sentence, I scrolled through Instagram, sent a tweet, and texted back two people. Technology is a distraction from the real world; a deterrent from progress. While sitting in a doctor’s office waiting room, I’ll yank my phone out of my pocket and play Angry Birds, wondering how people “back in the day” passed time such as this slow-as-molasses moment without getting bored.

It turns out they spent their time actually being productive.

Just take a moment to think of all the hours you spend peeking into the lives of others on Facebook or sending a silly picture to a friend on Snapchat. Now imagine something you’ve always wanted to do. What if all those pointless hours were spent working on something of importance?

I believe that technology is the root of the progression of procrastination in today’s day and age. Everyone wants to be successful, but not enough people are willing to put in the effort. Students deem posting on Tumblr and tweeting more important than homework. College students laugh at funny cat videos instead of studying. Kids now sit inside playing Fruit Ninja on their iPads instead of frolicking outside.

I’ll admit I’m completely at fault in these situations. I open my laptop and stretch out my fingers, prepared to type out a three page essay for English class. But my eyes will wander, glancing every now and then to the tempting blue Internet Explorer icon in the bottom left corner of the screen. “Just five minutes on Facebook,” I tell myself in reward for writing a thesis statement. Half an hour later, I’ll stare in utter panick at the clock, then begin rapidly typing. A text will illuminate my phone, begging for me to respond. My fingers will absentmindedly roam to Temple Run, the most addicting app, and twenty minutes will pass without me knowing. It’s an ongoing cycle until I finally have the courage to turn the wi-fi off on the computer or push my phone out of sight.

Although iPhones and tablets have been invented to make life easier, they do have a downside and sometimes produce the opposite effect. So many problems have been caused because of texting, mindless games, and social media. All we have is wasted time and severe anxiety from stress and worry over finishing an assignment in a time crunch.

So I’m encouraging you to do what I’m going to do right now: Put down the phone and get outside, revelling in a perfect evening.

Well, perhaps after just five minutes on Facebook…