Friday, April 29, 2011

Opposite Perspective Guy

Do you know opposite perspective guy? He generally exists amidst your group of friends passing himself off as one of the team, that is until you try to have a basic discussion. This is when opposite perspective guy strikes. He may share the same political or religious views as you, yet every conversation you create and every point that you make he has the opposite perspective.

 Taking a Devil's advocate approach to a discussion is often a good thing however, to be a Devil's advocate you must be able to first hear and accept a point before you can refute it with evidence. Opposite perspective guy routinely shits on any point that you make and seems puzzled when you bring up common everyday occurrences in order to introduce a point.

Example: I want to talk about the dangers of ingesting too much toothpaste.

Me: Hey you know how you brush your teeth everyday?
OPG: I don't brush my teeth everyday.
Me: Well, you know how you are supposed to brush your teeth everyday?
OPG: That's just a conspiracy, we have positive disease fighting germs that live in our gums.
Me: Okay, well you know how people have been told to brush their teeth three times a day since they were kids?
OPG: I've never heard that.
Me: Really? You never saw the brush your teeth song on television when you were a kid?
OPG: I don't watch television
Me: You don't watch Television, why not?
OPG: It poisons the mind
Me: Ah, so your parents didn't want your mind being corrupted by all of those negative images?
OPG: No, there are chemicals released into the air from TV's, they are toxic.

As you can see it doesn't take long for what appeared to be a simple conversation to stray way off course. OPG is a clusterfuck of of insane ideas and never quite seems grounded in common sense. OPG is unable to follow a conversation because to follow a conversation he would have to listen, process and interpret what you say. 

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Complaints and Observations

On a daily basis I try to come up with ideas for things to write about and most of them get left on the cutting room floor but not today! I've collected a couple weeks worth of burnt offerings and I am going to give each idea the two sentences that they deserve.

1) Having great ideas when you are about to go to sleep.

I dislike that brains work best at conjuring ideas when you have just laid down to go to sleep. I suspect the thought nerve is connected to the "I've got to pee now" nerve. There are no two things that I've had to do more before falling asleep then run to the bathroom or jot something down on paper. One time in a sleepy stupor I may have confused the two.

2) The minds ability to make anything scary in a dream

Recently I had a dream and in that dream I had run out of Raspberry Jam. For some reason it was a crisis. I didn't need the jam for any recipe. In the dream I was not starving nor was I giving the gift of Smuckers to someone as a present. Yet, I was filled with this great fear and a bottomless sense of loss for not possessing some jam. 

3) Why are people terrible at interpreting and answering direct questions?

Have you ever sent an email to someone and asked three questions that you think are essential to the success of the day that you and another person are going to collaborate on?

Me: Hey, we have to make that cake together for Grandpa's 84th birthday so I need to ask you a few questions:

1) He's diabetic, so did you get the Splenda or do I have to drop by the store and get it on the way?
2) I was thinking of coming over either at 10-12 in the morning or 2-4 in the afternoon because I have an appointment from 12-2, which works best for you?
3) What did you make for the potluck dinner so that I don't bring the same dish?

Their Response: That sounds good, I'll see you then.

Wait! what the hell just happened? Did I not just ask three different questions of which the success of the day relies on you answering them? What enrages me most about this situation is that people never blow off your questions because they've got the situation "handled" What happens as a result of the person not answering the questions is this: I arrive at 10 am at their house with Splenda in one hand and Swedish Meatballs in the other. The person who I have come to collaborate with is not yet awake. By the time they get in the shower and get ready it is almost twelve o'clock. So now I either have to blow off my appointment or run all the way across town to get there and then come all the way back afterward and make a cake for the remainder of the day with this dolt. And of course they will have an abundance of Splenda and Swedish Meatballs already at their house. If I would have brought neither they would have had neither and they would have had the excuse "But you said in your email you were going by the store to pick some Splenda up."

4) Scientists that do not consider future ridicule when they name things. 

Here's the deal when you are a teenager you get zits. Zits are a result of the clogging of your pores which I believe is helped in part by the production of sebum. That's right, if you've got seabum all over your face you're probably going to have acne. Is there any worse term to arm Junior Highschool kids with than sebum? If you're not following my drift, it sounds too much like semen. Why could the science crowd have not just named it zitius juicius. For the record I don't want to hear the actual explanation about how it's liquid composition is similarly based to that of semen. The point is, you do not give young kids in groups dangerous words like that unnecessarily unless you are trying to incite chaos. 

5) Carrot Cake

I used to eat carrot muffins. The best part about carrot muffins or carrot cake is not the carrots. It is whatever spices and brown sugar and blah blah good ingredients that are in them. Well, recently someone made a boxed carrot cake and said "look what I made, a carrot cake!" I was delighted in fact, I think I asked to take half of the cake home with me to which they obliged. Well, just as they were cutting the cake up I noticed something, giant rounds of carrot slices inside the cake. I asked "Where did all that carrot come from?" to which they replied "I put extra carrots in the cake!" " nice I remarked." Let me tell you, box cakes are hard to screw up. Even if you burn it, I'll still scrape off the burnt parts and eat the rest, but let me tell you this carrot cake was awful. First off, the carrots were unwashed and so the entire cake tasted like dirt. Secondly, the cake had CARROTS CHUNKS IN IT! The carrots themselves were still crunchy, Third, the cake was dripping wet. The person who made the cake didn't even dry out the carrot slices so all of the water  leaked into the cake making it taste like one big, soggy, lump of dirt. This just in, the last time I ate a mud pie was when I was three! disgusting.

Okay guys, that's it for this round, see you next garbage day.

Energize Me

Why are batteries still so terrible?. There will be no grand philosophical argument veiled with humour about how batteries are representative of "the man".  Today, I will just talk about batteries and their inability to light up what will certainly be a very dim future. 

I was about to watch some Netflix one weekday afternoon (as all career oriented people do) when I realized that the batteries in the Wiimote had died yet again. About four times a month I go through the process of swapping out old dead batteries for fresh new ones. Certainly the types of batteries I buy are the cheap ones but even the best quality ones don't work much longer. Rechargeable batteries are worse because they give you the illusion that they will last a long time. Realistically, the first three charges give you decent energy output but after that, they die a quick, bloated, corrosive death. 

Laptop batteries are probably the best and longest lasting batteries yet most of these "superior batteries" can only power a portable PC for just over an hour. When Laptops came out for sale about 20 years ago their big claim to fame was that you could take them anywhere. Sure you can, as long as wherever you go has an A/C outlet or you have an adapter in your car. I tried thinking of something that has been as widely used as batteries that has had little advancement over the years and all that I could think of was the Microwave. Yet even the microwave solved most of its problems with the addition of the rotating plate and the creation of those little silver pockets that you put things in to crisp them. 

Batteries have been around commonly since the early 1800's and it has been rumored that the ancient Egyptians also had several inventions that were battery like in nature. With all of this time using batteries why haven't we come up with one that lets you use the flash on your digital camera and take more than six pictures before the images start getting dark and fuzzy? There are about 7,000 laptop-like batteries in a Tesla roadster and they have a top estimated distance of 100 miles before they crap out, I guess that trip to the Grand Canyon is cancelled.

Over the last 20 years our world has become mobile. Most of us don't even have a land line anymore and yet while we keep churning out electronic devices and ways to communicate from afar we have not increased these devices abilities to stay powered. Certainly there are a few exceptions of devices who have upped their battery game but the final result is still no where near ideal. If we are headed to a fully electric future battery power is going to play a big role in that equation. If we don't start investing time and energy into charging our tomorrow then we should prepare for another Dark Age.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

I Declare You A Douchebag

It occurred to me very recently while somebody was making a declaration that they are vegetarian, that anybody who makes a declaration is a douchebag. Allow me to list a few examples before I go on a rant. 

1) I am a Christian...douchebag
2) I don't watch television...douchebag
3) I drive a Prius...douchebag
4) I am an animal rights activist...douchebag

Let me be clear, none of these things I listed above are bad things however, the simple gesture of having to announce it to people is what makes you a douchebag. 

I'm glad that you are vegetarian or that you are eating raw foods only. I'm glad that you have discovered the virtue of grain and it is enhancing your life. In fact, I might even ask you for a recipe sometime. When you announce to everyone that you are a vegetarian however you are making a statement and that statement is "I am superior because I am not doing what everyone else is doing." 

I've mentioned this before but not watching television does not make you superior to people who do watch television. In fact, the majority of people who "do not watch television" are at once stupid and tragically boring. There is a misconception in todays world that by not doing something we are somehow more virtuous or more intelligent. The truth could be no further from this idea. FYI television can be educational, it can also teach us how to socialize, relate and plug in with society. The greater that one can understand society and its wants and needs, the greater one can understand themselves and their own origins, thoughts and feelings. Just because stupid people are put on display on television does not mean that the viewer is a) as stupid as them or b) stupid in general because they are watching. Your pompous declaration that you do not watch television is a warning to me that you are simultaneously boring and out of touch.

People only tell you that they are Christian or religious in order to push a religious agenda. For the record, I can't confirm if there is a god or if there isn't but I can confirm that most people who declare themselves Christians are assholes. A declaration of Christianity is again a statement of superiority. "I have found the answer, I am on the winning team. And just so you know, christ is part of my daily life and every decision that I make." 

I drive a Prius: "I am saving the world because my car get's twice the gas mileage of a regular car"............douche.

I am animal rights activist. Again, what are they really saying is: "I am a compassionate individual who cares about little helpless creatures that can't defend themselves." There is a hidden implication in that statement and it is: "Why aren't you?" What? I am a compassionate individual who cares about helpless creatures I just don't feel it necessary to announce it whenever I see people. By blabbing your business all over town you are seeking approval and admiration for a gesture that was supposed to be made out of compassion. Now this same gesture has become your tool of condescension and passive judgement. Well, I judge you and you are a douchebag.

Finally the last group I am omitting is the on the spot declarative douche. Let's say a relative is over at your house and they have a long drive ahead of them and they ask: "Do you have any coffee?" You scrounge around in the cupboard for five minutes and say "Yeah I do, but it's instant coffee." To which they reply "Instant coffee, I don't drink instant coffee." First off, apparently I do so why don't you have some common decency and withhold the asshole statement. Secondly, if you are too good for instant then you don't really need coffee so go fuck yourself. Lastly, if you don't want to drink instant coffee you can simply refuse with a "That's alright, I guess I don't need a cup too badly." In that instance you are taking the pressure off me by owning the fact that you are refusing what I am offering. However, in the first instance you make it seem as though I am at once offending you by suggesting that you could drink instant coffee on this one occasion (a beverage enjoyed by millions) and that I should feel a sense of shame that I even offered it to you in the first place.  

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Rememberies Volume 2

The Job I Got Fired From (The really looooooong version)

To think back on it now, it seems like 10 years ago, well in fact, it was 10 years ago. Boy bands were at their zenith, the world had averted Y2K Armageddon and I, a fat headed boy of 19 (or 20) years was in pursuit of a career I could really dig my teeth into. My friend had recently secured a job at a collection agency. He told me that my qualifications were perfect for the job they had really low standards. I found my best dickie/sweater combo and bolted out of the house to fill out an application at their place of business.

The "business" was named Common Collection Agency, later renamed Common Corruption Agency by me. It was  the type of place that perpetually looked like they had just moved in. Row upon row of dirty desks were littered with giant old style computer monitors and uniform black multi button phones. I would liken it to a chicken coop if chickens had to make phone calls all day instead of pooping out eggs. 

Needless to say, my interview went well. I possessed the two things they required to work there, a pulse and a voice. I was hired and scheduled to start immediately. The next day I came in and was introduced to my cell mate team mate named Gary Hambley who was assigned to show me the ropes. I bet you're wondering how I remember a guys name from 10 years ago that I barely knew, well I'll tell you. In the collector world you have to make a lot of phone calls and many of them go to voicemail.  Regardless of who he was talking to, Gary made certain that the person on the line knew who they were talking to. "Hello, my name is Gary Hambley, H-A-M....B-Elly-Why" That's how he would say it 900 times a day. I can't complain too much about him as he was one of the good ones. I found a current picture of him on Facebook. Gary, if you're reading this, just email me and I'll remove the picture.

 There were two sides to the office. On one side they were doing legitimate collections for banks and credit cards. Our side however, was focused on getting people to pay off their Zellers card. Zellers is the equivalent to Target, perhaps a half a step down but not as pathetic as Walmart. The highest balance anyone could rack up on a Z-card was 300 dollars. From personal experience, the only person who maxes out their Zellers card is someone who can't afford groceries and has to make dinner with whatever odds and ends they can find at a department store. As a collector, it was imperative that we demand payment immediately. The only way to get paid immediately at the time was if someone went to Western Union and paid extra fees or personally delivered it. I don't know about you but  people who can't afford groceries and have to ride the bus don't knock down your door and thrust a valid check in your face. 

Needless to say our phone calls were many but our results were meager. Not to fear, a new section manager was hired by the name of Cleveland Pinder. Cleve was was a skinny black man of about 35. When I say skinny I mean Kenyan runner skinny. His origin was ambiguous because he didn't have an accent but if I had to guess I'd say that his parents immigrated from the Islands. As I recall Cleveland was short and slim but he compensated his small stature by having bulging white eyes. I suspect his hero must have been Mr T because his hands were covered with about 8 low quality gold rings. I don't know who said it first but my friend and I both referred to him as "Ludacris." we named him Luda because the first day he drove in in his 1989 Cutlass he had his stock stereo cranking out Ludacris at 9:30 in the morning. Cleveland will now be referred to as Ludacris for the rest of the story. Ludacris was poorly educated and I suspect everyone who has met him in his life thinks that he is a prick. Perhaps he is one of these people who have had to fight for every scrap they have ever gotten in life. Regardless, he was the killer combo of dumb and dickey.

After a few days of me and the other new recruits doing poorly Ludacris called a meeting. Earlier that day he passed me during break and spied me reading a copy of Bluebeard by Vonnegut. He shot me what I perceived to be a condescending look and minutes later said the following: "Some of you might be doing this part time or you might be going to University to get a degree but I chose collecting as a career." It was at this point that I released an unintentional and unexpected "Pssh" noise from my lips to indicate to him that I didn't respect his life's work. I was consciously forcing my bullshit detector to stop me from saying anything stupid but my backup bullshit detector sounded the alarm.  Who chooses hassling the elderly and people on welfare as a career without the benefit of the riches that a gang would offer? I don't know why little men in a position of dominance have to justify or build their mystique. Either way Ludacris was not happy and he cut the meeting short although he didn't address me directly. 

From then on Luda found ways to ride me hard. He kept demanding results and suggesting that I was not pursuing leads long or strong enough. He started babysitting me and tried to find ways to be condescending about my methods. My method went a little something like this: "Hello, please give me money because I don't want to yell at you. If you don't give me money the scary little ferret behind me is going to grab the phone and yell at you."  To be honest I wasn't very good at collecting. Many people found me to be pleasant and agreed to pay me on the phone but they never did. In order to succeed in job like that you have to willing to fill people with more shame and sadness then they already feel. 

There were several reason why I may have gotten fired but to this day I still don't know exactly why. All I know is that I was called into the big bosses offices and he told me that since I was working there for less than 3 months I did not pass their evaluation period. I inquired  why I was being shit canned but the coward could only muster "Uh, I legally don't have to tell you." Thinking back on it now they could have only fired me for 2 reasons: 1) Ludacris was insulted 2) My collection performance was poor. Either way it was a pretty weak move in my opinion to not tell me why I was being let go when I asked so casually and without hate or resentment in my voice. 

The funny part about this story is that I was fired at 11:30 in the morning and I had carpooled to work with my friend on that day. When they cut me I had to leave immediately. So there I was for the next hour milling around the front of the building waiting for my friend to come out for lunch. Before he came outside all of my coworkers filed out of the building and said "what happened" and individually I each had to tell them "yeah, I got shit canned."At some point Ludacris walked passed me and gave me and "I won" sneer. Finally my friend came out and I asked him for the car keys so I could sit in the car. For the next few hours I sat in the car and watch the daylight fade and the little lights come on inside the building. Eventually I watched the same people file out and walk past me and give me strange "What the hell are you still doing here looks." Finally my friend poked his ugly head out of the building got in the car and drove me away from that nightmare. 

Monday, April 18, 2011


I'm the type of poor person that has to buy toilet paper two rolls at a time. The paper isn't that fancy two ply either. My T.P. is gas station quality, the transparent kind that dissolves on contact with water. I'm the type of poor that Taco Bell seems like fine dining  I am financially challenged not to the point where I go starving but to the point where I have to cook food in bulk and eat the same thing over the course of 12 days. I'm not planning on going on a whining rant about how poor I am and how you should feel bad for me, rather I am setting the scene to relay a short story that I think is funny. Dark funny.

A couple of years ago my wife (then girlfriend) got a phone call that her uncle had a seizure, fell on his head and was on life support in the hospital presumed to die imminently.(are you laughing yet?) We got in our car, filled it with it's daily dose of oil and transmission fluid, and drove down the road en route to meet up with my soon to be mother in law. When we arrived at her house it was decided in advance that we were going to take her car because our car had bad rear shocks (read none) so that if anyone sat in the back seat the tires would rub on the wheel wells until the tires blew up. 

Cue rain, heavy rain. After we loaded up the luggage into mom's car we shot off like a bat out of hell all the way to the gas station. We pooled our dollars, nickels and dimes and were able to fill the tank. As soon as we went to make our getaway from the gas station every device that used electric current died on the car. The window defroster had always been broken so the only way to see out the windshield while driving on a rainy day was to drive with the windows open. However, on this occasion the window wipers died and stuck at a 45 degree angle against the window. After we popped the hood and pointed at things that could be broken, we collectively agreed that we all didn't know shit about car repair and that unplugging and replugging fuses was probably a bad idea in the pouring rain. 

 We didn't have the money to rent a car but my wife's aunt's house was on the way. Her aunt had a previous engagement that prevented her from visiting with her dying brother. She did assure us though that if we could make it to her house that we could borrow one of her cars. We decided out of desperation that we would chance driving our car. The ultimate destination of Bakersfield otherwise known as the ass hole of California was about a 5 hour drive but my wife's aunt was only 40 minutes away. So we all piled into the car and clunked along. Every bump in the road slowed the car down about 10 miles per hour and helped contribute to bald spots in our tires but we ultimately made it to my wife's aunt's house.

Upon arriving there we were told that my aunt didn't feel comfortable with lending us her car (i.e. she didn't want my mother in law to drive it) We invited her to come along with us but she refused and instead offered up the option of renting a car for us. My wife's aunt is in a position to do this because they are well off and I suspect my mother in law likes taking advantage of this whenever she can. All money matters have to go through my wife's uncle though who is the bread winner of the house. He is typically tight on spending because his wife is not. 

Off we went to the car rental place where my mother in law and my uncle in law did a strange dance of opposing perspective. She attempted to get the largest most luxurious vehicle available while he tried to find the bridge between frugal and compassion. They eventually agreed on a mid sized sedan, a Pontiac G6. After a little more deliberation on what kind of insurance we needed we squared everything away and got on the road in our shiny red Pontiac.

At some point on the trip I started to have a sick feeling. At first I couldn't figure it out but eventually I realized in some perverse way that it was joy. Why joy you ask? This was the first time in months we had gone anywhere. We were driving in a car that had decent performance, 4 doors with working power windows. The cabin was airy and comfortable, it even had cup holders that worked. I began to romanticize what kind of person lives the G6 life? When they buy groceries do they get brand names? Do they know the luxury of filling a gas tank until it's full? Do they have enough money to wash their underwear and their shirts the same week? Better yet, do they own their own property?

When we stopped at a rest stop I asked my wife to take picture of me behind the wheel of the car. I needed to document the fact that I had once driven a mighty newish sedan. Better yet, in Bakersfield there was a suite at the Motel 6 with promises of HBO, extra towels and free coffee in the lobby. FREE COFFEE!!! We were living like kings and it was all because someone was probably going to die. A death sentence for one man became a vacation for us. 

Saturday, April 16, 2011

The Power Of Laziness

Laziness is the mother of all invention. There is nothing in our lives that is necessary. we don't know why we are here or what we are supposed to be doing. Everything that happens occurs because of  presumption and inflated sense of self importance. Certainly things like food and shelter seem like necessities but if humans have no apparent purpose then our necessity to live is purely self created. 

People don't go to work everyday because it gives them a sense of importance, they do it for the money. Certainly there are a few lucky people out there who are able to enjoy their jobs and feel like they are contributing to the world but I am speaking generally about the masses. What do people do with their money after they have paid their bills? They go on vacation. Every moment that is not spent working is spent on leisure time or resting for the next work day. What do people do when they are rich? They don't work or, they invest all their time into a blowhardy passion project that no one else cares about. Most of our working lives are spent conspiring about how we can stop working or creating devices that do the work for us.

In the beginning there was man (okay, I guess there were probably some women there too). Man did everything because of instinct. He was totally connected to his surroundings. One day while he was tracking a wild beast for 15 miles his brain had an independent thought "goddamn my feet are tired." This made him have another thought: "There has got to be an easier way to get my hands on some wild beast meat." From this point on he started obsessing about different scenarios in order to catch prey. 

Fast forward through the generations: 

"Goddamn I hate walking"= Planes, trains automoblies

"Godamn I hate eating janky smoked meat in the summer" = the refrigerator

"Goddamn I hate getting up to change the channels"= remote control

"Goddamn I hate walking over to someone's house just to talk to them"= telephone.

Inside every hard working man or woman there is a lazy person trying to get out. Every great leap in technology is the result of someone who didn't want to work. If everyone did their job 100% of the time like they claim, a thought would never be wasted on anything besides the task at hand. There would never be an idle conversation, an anecdote or dirty joke. No blushing parent would talk about their babies first steps and no one would be consoled about their mothers leukemia. Idle times are moments when we are at rest, when we are human. 

We have this grand idea that if we are working, we are by virtue of the task more important than someone who is not working. But busy work just for the illusion of importance is not important at all. Laziness on the other hand is pure potential waiting to explode. Our greatest realizations come when are minds are free and our minds are free when we are not working.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

If You Should Die Before You Wake

I grew up in Canada. In the land of polar bears they have health care for all. I don't want to argue whether or not the level of health care offered in Canada is superior or inferior to that which is offered in the Unites States. What I do want argue is the volume at which that service is offered. 

When I used to go to sleep in my igloo at bedtime I would leave the television on to help lull me to sleep. After eleven o'clock at night there is nothing good on T.V. I'd just set the channel to the first talk show I could find and let it drone on in the background. The commercials that would come on were for various food and drink products. Every so often a semi pornographic phone sex ad was spliced in but those always had soft saxophone music that did little to interrupt a determined sleeper. 

At this point I need to disclose something. I have panic attacks. Many people who don't know what panic attacks are think that they are instances in your life where you worry, stress or panic about things. Real panic attacks however are nothing like you feeling anxious about your new job or failing a math test. Often panic attacks are unexplained and happen spontaneously. Imagine yourself reading a book sitting out in the sun. Suddenly every muscle in your body tenses up, your heart rate ramps up to about 180 beats per minute, you start having chest pains, you can't breathe and you think in about 3 seconds you are going to die from a heart attack. This can happen up to and including 50 times a day and each time you sincerely believe that you are dying. The attack can last for minutes or hours, the length is all decided by your own crazy mind. As you can imagine, having no control over when attacks strike and seemingly no reason why they do it can be a source of great tension and anxiety in ones life. 

Why do I bring this up you ask? While living in the U.S. I've tried to use the same method of leaving the television on for background noise while I try to sleep. The one major difference? health care is big business in the United States. It all began with anti depressant and mood stabilizer ads. Abilify, Cymbalta, Pristiq Effexor, all of them were the same. They would fade in with some down tempo music describing the symptoms of depression. They would then go on to tell you how their product would solve your depression. That was about the first 30 seconds. What followed next was a minute and a half of them disclosing warnings and side effects, chief among them "An increase in your depression, thoughts of suicide, diarrhea and death. I don't know about you but someone who is grappling with anxiety doesn't need to be repeatedly injected with thoughts of diarrhea induced death.

What would naturally follow these commercials were the ones about class action lawsuits. "Have you recently had a heart attack? Do you know someone who has? Do you know someone who is thinking about having a heart attack? Have you ever seen the twisted purple corpse of someone who has died from a heart attack? Are you thinking about that image? Is it scaring you? Are you starting to panic? Are you breathing into a paper bag and hyperventilating? If so, call the law offices of Dewey, Rapem and Howe today!

Follow this with commericals from Dr Oz's next show "Do you have skin? Find out about a very common disease found on all door knobs that will probably kill you." How the hell am I supposed to sleep through that? At what point can we start pointing fingers and label this shit hysteria for ratings? Isn't there something in the Hippocratic oath that says not to do unnecessary damage? Just because psychology is a soft science does not mean that I need to be paranoid about dying every moment of my life. 

I guess I could just turn the television off, but then it would be so dark and quiet.

Monday, April 11, 2011


Dear quitter,

I'm glad that you on a better track in life. I'm glad that you put down the crack pipe, bottle, cigarettes, caffeine or the cheeseburger. I'm enthused that you are taking the steps toward changing your life and righting the course of your future. Do me a favor though, shut up about it. 

I once had a friend and he was addicted to smoking. After several attempts over several years he was finally successful in stopping. A few days after he quit I was riding shotgun in his car when we slowly drove by another car in two lane traffic. One of the two ladies in the car was smoking and she had the window cracked. My friend noticed the smoker and his happy content smile turned to twisted rage. He put his head out the window and barked "Cigarettes are fucking disgusting!" You mean the ones that you were chain smoking a week ago, those are disgusting? You mean the thing that dictated much of your social life for 8 years, those things are disgusting to you? I'm not arguing that cigarettes are bad, of course they are. It was just that I, a non smoker didn't even notice that the person was smoking whereas a former smoker did, and he had a shit fit about it.

Dear former abuser,

I don't interpret your vile exuberance as a sign of strength against your former addiction. I suspect that you are trying to ward off your own demons and the only way to do that is to be overly judgmental and condescending to the thing you fear the most. I see through the facade that you want to inspire others to put down the burrito. Idle hands are the tool of the devil, and if you weren't preaching to me the gospel of gluten free then you would be gobbling down goobers and gummy bears. Gain some control in your own life and when you do then come back and rejoin society.

 I don't want to walk on eggshells around you and be fearful of bringing up a topic that you and going to go on an isolating self righteous rant about. Spare me the awkward pause and stare when I take a bite of cookie or a swig of coke. If someone asks for your advice because they respect your success and decisions in life be ready and willing to provide it, otherwise just keep it quiet. The rest of us in the muck and mire are having enough trouble making it through our daily lives without your incessant chirping from atop Mount Pious.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Small Talk

What are the rules of engagement when it comes to small talk? Is there an art to it, or does it just happen for some people as part of the natural flow of their lives? I've never been good at small talk. I fancy myself a good talker but I despise redundancy or being perceived as boring. Yet, even when I let go of the notion that am being both redundant and boring I still am unable to have a successful, short conversation that isn't rife with anxiety and awkward pauses. This anxiety manifests itself in fast talking, sweatiness and an over expressive flailing of my limbs.

Allow me to use a real life example and then we'll break down the game tape. I was walking the dog and as  I was going to cross the street I saw a lady walk out of a nearby building. I was at least 100 feet away from her, well beyond the threshold of having to politely acknowledge someone else's existence. Regardless, she was looking hard at the dog and bellowed:

Her: Is that a pug?
Me: (in my head) no it's a Great Dane.
Me: (out loud) it sure is.
Her: (still from a distance) It's cute.
Me: (realizing I have to close the gap to be polite, I start walking over) Yeah, they're so ugly that they're cute.

At this point I've walked over to talk to her and she tells me that her friend has two pugs and blah, blah, canine diabetes, blah blah, early blindness, blah blah 3 legged blind pug. And I'm there with her, I'm mixing it up, throwing counter punches of faux interest and inserting appropriate giggles at punchlines and serious eyes of recognition for the serious parts. I start to notice that she keeps cutting me off and not listening to my very short bursts between her long digressions. I limit my interruptions to knowing nods and let her continue. 

About 4 minutes into the conversation she stops her blather sharply in mid sentence and says "Well, I've got to get going." She said this in such a way that implied that I was keeping her. I thought by the way she went on and on (and on!) that she was making time before her ride arrived. But no, she was driving herself and yet she stood around for several minutes talking to me, who clearly had no desire to talk to her in the first place.

I'm not upset that this lady talked to me, I just couldn't figure out her motive. I began to obsess about our conversation. Was I less engaging then she had hoped, is that why she put a premature end to our conversation? Maybe she wanted me to pick the dog up so that she could cradle it in her arms and whisper sweet nothings to it. I gave her several outs early on for her to easily exit from the conversation yet she chose to keep on talking. Perhaps she is terrible at small talk as well and needs to work at her concluding skills.

That really is the main problem with small talk, when does it end? What if I pulled up beside the lady at a stoplight or met up with her later at Starbucks? Am I required by social contract to wave and/or give her a few more lines of conversation? I couldn't blatantly ignore her could I? I think there needs to be a code word used in every conversation that states your intention. I need to know if I am supposed to develop a thought or just rattle off a few quick lines of wit. There is nothing worse than trying to cram your whole life story into 30 seconds or to extend the ingredients of a chocolate bar into a 15 minute speech because you've misread the desired length of the conversation. "Uh, yeah, that Snickers has got, uh...nuts and nougat. You know what I like about Snickers? it has caramel. I just love things with caramel, they are the caramelliest."