Friday, November 23, 2018

Crossing the Mendoza Line

It started innocently, casually, almost cavalierly. It could have ended in disaster.

Thanksgiving has been, for most Americans, a time of unbridled joy. Recently, it has also been a moment of trepidation, as families feared that an impolitic phrase could lead to tragic consequences.

But, at least for my family, the negative possibilities have been virtually non-existent. The political leanings have mostly been to one side of our vast continental divide, and for those tending closer to the fault line, well they have remained blessedly silent. The recurrent distresses over midterm elections, Supreme Court nominations, over caravans and environmental disasters, over Putin and posturing, over the very fate of our nation, would, for one most thankful day, be quieted. Nothing to cause raised eyebrows or voices.

No, our conversations have been superficial and saccharine. Our concerns are as those that I imagine have existed since the first turkey was plucked, prepared and put before the assembled masses. Food, food comas and catching up on family lore, the bread and butter of the day of feasting.

And maybe there was one more tradition, as old as the first smile and the first camera. The family photo. That image which captures, for all time, the happiness (real or manufactured) of each gathering.

Those who came together at the home of my cousin were no different from almost every household stretching from sea to shining sea. Only today, for some of us, was even of a little more significance.

This was the moment that two long time best friends, who married two first cousins and thus took on a dual relationship, were introducing their first born children to one another. It was, in all respects, simply perfect. The two month old and eleven month old were soon imagined best friends, like their dads.

As the afternoon wore on, both sets of parents and their respective babies decided to sit (and/or stand) to memorialize this occasion. And, without incident, several pictures resulted, each more glorious than the one before.

And so, this story should have a simple and easy conclusion. But, an outside factor rudely intruded. Instagram.

Many are addicted to the rush that ensues when an image we unleash upon the world has a dramatic and substantial response. We are liked, in fact well liked, appreciated for whomever we say we are in the pictures that travel through space and reach your home and your mind in less than a blink of an eye. As the numbers escalate, the closer we inch toward Instagram heaven.

Thus now, for most of the waking universe, what happens in Vegas rarely stays in Vegas. This capturing of a momentous, near legendary meeting needed broadcasting to those who were interested, and those who were not. And the timing of the posting became of immediate and significant concern.

One said it had to be broadcast now, now, now, for if it were not, it would merely fall in line with the myriad other photos of cute babies and family good cheer that were sure to quickly follow. The caption for the image was to be determined with haste, it being almost irrelevant to the pressing need to beat the contemplated onslaught.

The other said it could wait. Patience and the perfect wording were what should consume them. The dispute became heated. The time that was wasting, the window of opportunity to gain the most attention and the highest number of likes, was frittering away.

In an act bordering on desperation, they turned to a second cousin (maybe even once removed - I am not very good with this family tree calculus). She was in high school, a full generation more in tune with what was to drive this engine. A proper caption was paramount, she declared. And so it was.

It took almost an hour and a half from the smiles and shots to come up with a suitable catchphrase. One of the best friends was now distraught, almost apoplectic. Surely, they would fall on the scrapheap, gathering only minimal attention and but an inconsequential number of likes. All was irretrievably lost.

Once the photo appeared on Instagram, the responses came almost painfully slow. It seemed that the one who had argued so strenuously for his position, had been proven correct. Then, little by little, even in the face of thousands of faces, in the teeth of the storm of shots of happy babies and hugging families, the numbers began to climb. And the e-mails between the participants began to fly.

With more than a hint of angst it was suggested that less than 200 likes was but abject failure. This led to a review of the recent postings of the accuser, the many pictures of his wonderfully happy child being studied for the level of approval. 200, the Mendoza line (for you baseball fans, you know what I refer to) being the ultimate barometer. It was soon recognized that breaking past this  barrier placed one in rarefied air.

At last look, there were 160 likes and counting. And the best friends/cousins seemed to be past their earlier frantic back and forth and heading on to their next major area of disagreement: their fantasy football league records and how it related to their respective mental acuity.

It turns out, the photo was just an excuse to argue. Like they had been since childhood. Just to be included as another in the long line of our family holiday traditions.

I love Thanksgiving.  Even though it will forever more, like almost everything else it touches, be altered by the long arm and the peering eyes of the Internet.


Anonymous said...

Great post


Anonymous said...


Pam said...


Anonymous said...

This is the best!!!!!!!!!


Anonymous said...

Two precious Butterballs!!!