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Mean, Meaning, and Meaningless

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For a fleeting moment, on December 19th 2016 the entire City of Miami came to a sudden and complete halt. The announcement was shocking, almost unbearable. Upon hearing the news, city commissioners stopped talking over each other. Motorists stopped honking their horns. Drivers refrained from texting. They even respected traffic lights. City officials in Opa-locka refused to take bribes, and the former mayors of Sweetwater and Miami Lakes promised to never accept kickbacks again. In Hialeah, people stopped using the Spanish “pero” instead of the English “but.” Plastic surgeons interrupted breast augmentations that had been scheduled for months. Medicare fraudsters stopped enrolling their dead cousins in bogus clinics. Cubans in Calle Ocho interrupted their decade-long festivities celebrating the death of Fidel Castro. TSA personnel stopped hogging the accessible toilets in the Miami airport. Pill mills ceased operations, and, most importantly, termites took a pause from eating my house in Coral Gables. Such grave news had not been heard since the Bay of Pigs.

The severity surpassed the disloyal demeanor of LeBron and Dwayne. Upon hearing that Miami was ranked near the bottom on the latest survey of most caring cities in America, residents took to the streets. Such outrage had not been felt since Miami was ranked the worst city to live in America, which had only been matched by placing first on rudeness to tourists. (By the way, these are all googable facts, and they all happened in 2016. Don’t take my word for it, go to the nearest google station and check it out yourself).

The latest ranking on caring, published by WalletHub, positioned us 93rd out of a 100. The classification considered three factors: caring for the community, caring for the vulnerable, and caring in the workforce. Madison, Wisconsin, proved to be the most caring city in the country. Earlier in the year, Travel + Leisure granted Miami the honor of being the rudest city in America, while 24/7 Wall St. listed our city as the worst place to live in the whole country.

Immediately after the release of the latest ranking in December, something unprecedented took place. In a valiant act of solidarity, various civic, government, and business leaders from the 349 rival ethnic factions in Miami crafted a manifesto rejecting the results of the surveys. Various communities came together to denounce the fact that we are regarded as a mean city. In a written communique, the 579 signatories claimed that “We are not a mean city, we are a meaningless city: BIG DIFFERENCE. We find meaning in meaninglessness, which is more than you can say for Madison.”

The Miami Meaningless Manifesto, as it was called, called into question the veracity of the rankings and referred to the journalists reporting the story as “the most dishonest group in America.” The authors also wrote that “reporters are very bad people.” Still, in a gesture of good faith, the signatories agreed to go above and beyond the call of duty to make Miami the most caring city in the world. They all committed to create a public fund to offer free plastic surgery and Brazilian butt lifts to all the locals, and get this, tourists!!!! Top that Madison!

While Miami is near the bottom of any livability index, Melbourne, Australia, is almost always at the top. For the last six years, the Economist Intelligence Unit has ranked Melbourne as the most livable city in the world – another googable fact. The ranking includes factors such as safety, transportation, education, healthcare, and infrastructure. In characteristic self-immolation, my wife Ora and I decided to leave Melbourne and move to Miami several years ago. To check out for ourselves whether Melbourne still lives up to its reputation, Ora and I recently went back for a visit. Since Ora uses a wheelchair, accessibility counts for a lot in our family. No sooner we got to MIA than we encountered several accessible toilets occupied. From experience, these are used by TSA personnel, who are not, I repeat, not disabled. Once I got so irritated by their use of these toilets that I asked one TSA officer why he was using a toilet clearly designated for people with physical impairments. He told me, and I’m not kidding you, that it was dangerous for them to use the regular toilets?!

If you have a physical disability in Miami, or you know someone who does, you know that it is nearly impossible to obtain decent public transportation for wheelchair users. In Melbourne, there is frequent, predictable, and accessible public transportation, including taxis! In Miami, you have to book accessible taxis days in advance, and there is never a guarantee that they will show up or that they will know how to operate the ramp, in the unlikely event that it is working, or that it does have a ramp.

Similarly, when you find an accessible toilet in a public space in Miami, it is usually occupied by your law protection officers or by women who cannot powder their nose in a regular restroom. In Melbourne, every single public venue had clean and available toilets for wheelchair users. But I’m not bitter.

I should not complain though, The Miami Meaningless Manifesto promises to fix my big ears and my big nose, for free. In fact, I’m also considering a Brazilian butt lift. For all its livability, I could never get such a deal in Melbourne.

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