The Other Woman

| FROM THE PRINT EDITION |
 
 

The Other WomanI'll never forget the look on my husband's face when he held Betty for the first time. Cradling her almost reverently with a sparkle in his eyes and a childlike sense of wonder, Jim examined every facet of her sexy, smooth skin to ensure she was flawless and virginal, as promised. It was the way he used to gaze at me.

He spent days researching Betty's numerous talents and learning how to best use and care for her. She was sleek, with smooth curves, a vision of perfection. She sang to him, dazzled him with sports trivia and kept him abreast of the latest news. Betty filled my husband with excitement, mystery and wonder. I, on the other hand, was merely human.

Though I had Bruce-my own BlackBerry-I was jealous of Betty. She was an upgrade, a Storm, and she offered Jim much more than I could. When she first moved in, Jim often disappeared to be alone with her. He'd explore her features and wipe off his fingerprints afterward so I wouldn't know where he'd been. Then he started bringing Betty to bed. While I watched late night TV, he caressed her, learning all of her idiosyncrasies while she chirped with delight. I seethed with jealousy. Jim claimed he needed Betty near him 24/7 because he was on call, but I knew better. I could not compete.

He tried, perhaps out of guilt. We were newlyweds, after all. Before going to sleep, Jim laid Betty on his nightstand, trying to put her out of his mind, but the little vixen would not be ignored. She flirted with my husband with her winking red and green lights and her seductive purr.

Trying to ignore her siren song, I'd roll over and stare at Bruce. He was attractive, a bit older and thicker, but he got the job done. He was mine and I loved him. Bruce was fun and as comfortable as an old shoe, but he and I just didn't connect the way Jim and Betty did. Bruce wasn't... alluring. He tried to make me feel wanted; he'd blink his single red light at me and beep his single note. But it wasn't enough. And Betty wasn't letting Jim go.

I wanted to captivate him the way Betty had. I wanted Jim to leave her in his office when he came to bed and to look longingly at me when he discovered one of my new skills or talents. I knew I could fill her shoes. I could be Jim's personal assistant, update him on the latest sports and weather, post to his Facebook profile. He didn't need Betty.

But first I had to put Betty in her place. I considered the obvious-hiding her in our compost pile, accidentally flushing her down the toilet, tossing her from the 520 floating bridge-but I knew those methods wouldn't work. Jim would just replace Betty with a newer, sleeker model, a Marilyn, a Roxanne, or a Vanessa.

Instead, I needed a more subtle approach. I had to wean Jim from Betty. I started texting him to say, "i love u," e-mailing useful web links to him and flirting with him on Facebook. I silenced Bruce during dinner and turned him off at night. I even laid Bruce next to Betty one evening, hoping they'd hit it off. (They didn't. Bruce thought she was too superficial, and Betty thought he was just too old.) I even left Jim's browser open to a page on virulent BlackBerry viruses.

Gradually, as often happens, the shine began to come off Betty and Jim started spending less time with her. He'd leave her on the counter when he left the room, and he silenced her when we spent time together. I knew I'd made progress when Jim turned Betty off during date night. He thought I was crying at the end of Gran Torino, but I was secretly rejoicing.

Some things haven't changed. Betty still comes to bed with us, but I'm the one Jim holds. I just hope Bruce doesn't get jealous, either of Jim or this hot little iPhone 3GS I have my eye on....

 

Final Analysis: Flying Higher

Final Analysis: Flying Higher

How a certain local airline could strike a blow for fairer treatment of college athletes.
FROM THE PRINT EDITION |
 
 
Here’s a thought: While Alaska Air Group spends $2.6 billion swallowing up Virgin America, it should wield some of its new clout — Alaska will soon be the nation’s fifth-largest air carrier — on becoming the college athlete’s best friend.
 
Alaska already showers upon the University of Washington nearly $5 million a year for naming rights to the football field at Husky Stadium and the basketball court at Hec Edmundson Pavilion. It also has sponsorship arrangements with athletic programs at the University of Oregon and Oregon State University. It even paints some of its airplanes in the colors of 11 Western universities, including the UW.
 
On the weekend that news of Alaska’s acquisition of Virgin America broke, the UW women’s basketball team was completing its improbable and exhilarating run to the Final Four of the NCAA women’s basketball tournament. It occurred to me that there’s an opportunity here for Alaska CEO Brad Tilden to start lobbying the NCAA on behalf of student-athletes everywhere, but particularly in Alaska Airlines’ own backyard.
 
Alaska’s Husky Stadium agreement — 10 years, $41 million — already earmarks half of the money for scholarships and “student-athlete welfare.” Last year, for the first time, the NCAA started allowing Division I schools to pay athletes a stipend for incidental living expenses — things like late-night snacks, student fees, incidental travel — that aren’t covered by athletic scholarships for tuition, room and board. 
 
The UW’s annual stipend for athletes is $3,085, or roughly $11.40 a day during a nine-month academic year. It’s not a lot, but it’s enough for a couple of cheeseburgers and a chocolate shake when the dining halls are closed.
 
Alaska’s naming-rights money goes into the pot that helps provide those stipends, which the NCAA instituted as a means of closing the gap between what an athletic scholarship provides — tuition, room, board, books and fees — and the “real” cost of attending college.
 
The problem is that this “cost of attendance” stipend has made a  playing field that’s not level even less fair. Some schools pay stipends of more than $5,000, which is totally permissible under the NCAA guidelines. So if you’re a poor kid being recruited by several universities, which school would you choose — the one offering no stipend, the one offering $3,000 or the one offering $5,000?
 
This is where a corporate CEO has the opportunity to say to the NCAA, “We are a major employer who believes in treating its workers equitably. As a huge supporter of our local university’s athletics program, we think it’s time you paid your athletes a little bit more than cheeseburger money — and paid them fairly acros the board.”
 
It doesn’t have to be a quid-pro-quo situation, as in “pay these athletes or we’ll take our sponsorship money elsewhere.” But airlines have become adept at squeezing travelers for every last dime via baggage fees, boarding fees, legroom fees, beverage fees and the like. I imagine an airline executive could be pretty persuasive suggesting the NCAA assess itself a “fairness fee” and pay student-athletes a decent wage from its enormous piggy bank.
 
The NCAA can still call it a stipend if it wants. Regardless, it should finally admit that scholarships are meant to provide an education but don’t begin to acknowledge that an athlete’s contribution to an institution’s bottom line — not to mention its reputation in the media and its perception by the public — deserves considerably more than free tuition. 
 
JOHN LEVESQUE is the managing editor of Seattle Business magazine.