Tom's Kvetch-O-Rama

More of the usual spew from Tucson's most vocal couch potato.

Things I learned from watching TV this weekend:

· America West Airlines is changing its policy on flying unescorted children after a second incident in a week where kids were sent to the wrong city.

Let's see, how does this work, exactly? Two people who are chronologically adults get together, get married and have kids, although not necessarily in that order. Then, after a few years, he gains a few pounds or she gets a wrinkle, so they naturally get divorced. Then, one of them discovers that he can earn an extra 50 bucks a week, but he'll have to move halfway across the country to do so.

Meanwhile, the court has decreed that the kids have to see their dad a couple weeks out of the year (or however long it takes to load up on guilt gifts), so Mom ships them off on an airplane. Now, instead of paying the $179 or so to escort one's own flesh and blood to their bittersweet destination, the parent instead uses words like "responsibility" and "independence" to salve her own conscience and in a pathetic effort to keep the poor kids from freaking out. See, she believes in her heart that shelling out a few hundred bucks allows her to transfer her parental responsibilities onto to some overworked airline employees.

Have you ever stood in an airport and watched those kids get off an airplane, their eyes frantically searching the room full of strangers? It absolutely tears your heart out. The poor kids shuffle along, hands trembling, alternately looking down at the ground and then up into the sea of faces. And when they do finally hook up with the long-distance parent, the hug is not one of love, but one of relief that they haven't been stranded, that maybe now that knot in their stomach can start to loosen up a bit.

The damage being done to these kids is incalculable.

In the case over the weekend, two kids were flying from Texas, where they had visited their divorced father, back home to San Diego. They had to switch planes in Phoenix and got on a plane to Ontario, California by mistake. At press time no one was quite sure how it happened. Probably the tags they make these kids wear--the ones that read "Kids travelling alone because divorced parents don't care enough about us to live close to each other and/or are too cheap to at least travel with us across country"--were misread.

I checked and found that at least three airlines offer direct flights from all three major Texas cities to San Diego, which, after all, is one of the 10 largest cities in the U.S. However, by making the kids fly to Phoenix, get off the plane, wander through the airport and then get on another plane, the parent(s) can save almost $90 per ticket! That's got to be worth the hell those kids went through.

And if you don't think it's about money, just look at the first words that came out of that sorry-ass mother's mouth: "I told them I expect (free) airline tickets forever."

How much do you bet that even if she gets free tickets, she still won't fly with the kids next time she sends them off to see Non-Custodial Parent?

America West has announced that, starting in September, unescorted kids will only be allowed to fly on direct flights. Lawyers are probably lining up already to argue that divorced parents have the inalienable right to subject their kids to unimaginable anguish in order to save a few bucks.

· CNN unveiled its new look.

I've been watching CNN for as long as I've had cable, but I think that practice ends this week. The "new" CNN has the screen divided into quadrants, with the newsreader and footage appearing only in the upper-right quadrant. The rest of screen is taken up with stock quotes, weather updates, scrolling sports scores, news items from the various states, and written synopses of what the newsreader is saying! This is news as done by Professor Irwin Corey.

(That's an obscure reference, but those who get it will know I hit it dead center.)

This new format is annoying, cluttered, hard on the eyes, and amazingly uninformative. Apparently, it's designed with the time-stacking cell phone user in mind. They reportedly paid a consultant hundreds of thousands of dollars to update the look of the program. It looks like she stashed the money in the bank, watched the early-morning Bloomberg Report on USA and said, "We'll just copy that." It stinks out loud.

· A Georgia woman celebrated her birthday by drinking alcohol for the first time. She got drunk, fell off a balcony and died.

Believing in God, as I do, I have to wonder why He would have some woman live 20 years or so just so that her death could be a punchline on late-night TV talk shows.

· Madonna, citing laryngitis, cancels sold-out concert in New Jersey.

At first, you would consider this a blessing, seeing as how these poor souls already have to contend with the fact that they live in New Jersey. But the show has been canceled and will not be rescheduled, so all the ticket holders can do is get a refund. However, many people bought their tickets at wildly inflated prices on or whatever it's called. Many people paid as much as 10 times the $150 face value for the tickets, and some people even flew in from out of town for the concert.

I don't really understand the cancellation. Wouldn't Madonna with laryngitis be a good thing?

· Finally, in the "What Madonna hath wrought" category, not-really-an-actress-and-not-really-a-singer Jennifer Lopez said, "Because I'm not slutty with my fashion, people find it more sexy. I know how to be sexy without being obvious."

Dude, if we wanted to see any more of you than what you've already exhibited in public, we'd need X-ray vision to examine your spleen.

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