Dumb

“Stupid” is an over and misused word. All too often we throw the word ‘stupid’ around when we actually mean things like ‘oblivious’, ‘lacking in common sense’,’or lacking in manners or propriety’. The word ‘stupid’ can even mean funny and silly in a complimentary manner today in an inner-city vernacular. I had to check in with my friend Miriam Webster to see what the most basic definition of this word is.
Ah, here we are. “Not intelligent” “Not sensible or logical”. So, for simplicity’s sake and the exact circumstances of this piece let’s stick with Mimsy Webster’s definition of stupid.

The other night I was coming home from work, and had decided to duck into my local burger and chicken joint for some health food. I was feeling tired, lazy and not up for cooking. I entered Chicken Lickin’ and placed my order. Next to me at the counter was a middle aged woman trying to decide what she wanted. While I was waiting for my order to be prepared I heard this woman ask what was quite possibly the stupidest question ever. Who ever said “There are no stupid questions” had obviously never encountered this woman. She asked ( and I’m not making this up ) “How many come in the 10 piece?” She-asked-how many-come-in-a-10-piece. I shook my head to clear it and then looked more closely at this woman. She had somehow managed to put her shoes on the correct feet. Maybe someone helped her get dressed.

Now, we all say the occasional stupid thing. We all speak without thinking. Luckily I only seem to do this when trying to impress women, or during important job interviews. So, in fairness, maybe the “How many come in a 10 piece” inquiry was a fluke.

Nope. Her next statements and actions confirmed that she was a member of the room temp IQ club. She asked the nice (and patient) man behind the counter how much the 10 piece was. Oh, and in case you’re wondering; Yes the nice (and patient) man behind the counter answered her previous inquiry (“Um, 10. 10…pieces”). He managed to answer without slapping his forehead or making any sarcastic remarks. I was impressed. To be even more helpful, the counterman pointed up to the huge, illuminated menu and price list above him and less than 6 feet from this woman’s eyes. It should also be noted that every chain restaurant, pizzeria etc has this huge, menu and price list in their establishment…and yet we never seem to be at a loss for inane questions from those who don’t want to or possibly can’t read. Since the chances of her being illiterate were fair, he also vocalized the answer. “$6.99″. She slowly looked up at the menu, her mouth agape and said “Oh…you ummm have all the prices up there.” The man behind the counter nodded that, yes-indeedy all goods and their prices were right in front of the widescreen dimensions of her forehead. However, she had to double down on stupid. Not more than 2 seconds after her verbal confirmation that the prices were listed, she asked “So, how much is a 20 piece?”

Wow.

I grabbed my food and bid a hasty retreat from the “I Can’t Believe It’s Not Chicken” Palace.

Unlike my fellow chicken consumer, I found my mind racing. How does a person so stupid survive in the world? How does she get dressed, cross the street, pay her bills or hold down a job, if, she was indeed employed? Who had taught her to speak…and perhaps more importantly, how? Was it a scene like something out of “The Miracle Worker” where Helen Keller finally makes a breakthrough and mental connection with water. Did some wonderful teacher with the patience of a saint have some kind of breakthrough with this women where she began shrieking “TEN PIECE…TENNN PIECE” and embracing the saintly teacher?

Although I don’t make these type of determinations, it seems to me that if she is genuinely this slow then she should probably be eligible for some kind of public assistance or disability. Is there some kind of doctors note that can be taken to a public assistance office ( or perhaps safety-pinned to the person in question ) that states their IQ is too low to telemarket or any other kind of employment? Back in my Western Massachusetts hometown the local supermarkets hire the mentally retarded (or cerebrally challenged, or whatever feel-good euphemistic phrase is en vogue) to bag groceries and retrieve shopping carts. I have mentioned it several times because frankly, I have always been in awe of their work ethic and their attitudes while doing their job. They have become my go-to example in regards to the chronically stupid or lazy. Hell, they have a better attitude than I do when it comes to work and dealing with the general public. Interesting to note that my job is to deal with the general public.

I seriously doubt this woman could get a job much less hold on to one. She might fill out an application in finger paint or crayon. Anything requiring a degree or certification is out. Maybe she could move boxes from Point A to Point B, but she’d need regular supervision or she’d get lost, or forget to put the boxes down. People are fond of saying “Go work at McDonald’s” or they make fast food references to denote an overall lack of skills, drive and intelligence. Yes, it would be a lovely poetic irony if this woman were to work in a chicken or rib joint…but let’s be real here for a moment. How long would it take her to reach into the hot oil to grab a wing? I’m sure the DMV might take her if they had an executive position open. Then there is always congress or the senate. But, she might be over-qualified.

It’s sad and scary that so many people don’t want to or simply wont think. It seems to me with regard to people who can‘t think are at least giving it the old (community) college try.

Furthermore, rather than allowing for natural selection to smarten up the species; we as human beings spend time and money to cater to these people, when really the most natural and perhaps merciful thing to do would be to leave them behind to smarten up or die.

It never ceases to amaze me the many different attitudes that people have regarding nature, having a humane mind set in regards to animals and other people. If someone was watching a nature program on Discovery, PBS, Animal Planet or any other educational show, and there was an animal who got killed and eaten because it was incredibly stupid, we wouldn’t bat an eye. If we were watching with a small child, and said child got upset because the cute little antelope or baby hippo got killed and eaten by the hyenas, lions or some other predator, we’d stop and explain the natural process to the child. “I know honey, it is sad that the cute little deer got killed and eaten…but you see, that deer in particular kept walking into a tree over and over again while trying to go to the river for a drink of water, rather than going around the tree…well that’s nature sweety. That’s how nature or God gets rid of the weak and the stupid, so there is enough food and water for everyone else.”

Years ago, the TV show ‘Seinfeld’ made a famous episode called “The Soup Nazi” which was based on Al Yeganeh’s restaurant “The Soup Kitchen” here in NYC. The episode was a big hit and a cult classic which coined the phrase “No soup for you!!” Jerry Seinfeld, writer-producer Larry David, and David’s former next door neighbor ; Kenny Kramer all experienced Al Yeganeh’s unique manner of dealing with customers who routinely lined up for his delicious soups and chili. Mr. Al would simply expedite the out- the- door- and- around -the- corner lines of people who had come for his soup. If you didn’t know what you wanted, or hadn’t figured it out by reading (gasp) the huge menu overhead while in line, Al would tell you to step aside. If you asked questions that could have been answered by reading the clearly printed and centrally posted menu, he’d frown and point. I never went to the Soup Man “back in the day” as it wasn’t in my neighborhood, and the Seinfeld episode apparently made the place a tourist trap nightmare. It even caused Al to close, sell his name and image to another company, and reopen under a different name years later. I remember there was an article about how he (Al) was upset that Seinfeld and the show had ruined his life and business. Many people had the knee-jerk reaction that Seinfeld and the show had helped him in terms of popularity…but I suspect this isn’t what the soup man had in mind. He was already doing a booming business prior to the episode, and hadn’t been branded a “Nazi” except, perhaps by some customers who don’t like to be told to step aside. My friend Herbie used to go to his place for lunch all the time. “Was he really a Nazi?” I once asked Herbie. “No” Herbie exclaimed rather passionately. “He was right. Who wants to wait in line behind someone who can’t be bothered to read the menu? He just kept the line moving and told people to step aside if they didn’t know what they want”.

This raises an interesting issue. Should it be socially acceptable to be dismissive of those who aren’t paying attention. As it stands now in society, we cannot. That person who has been standing in front of you at Starbucks, blabbing away on their cell phone until finally it’s their turn to order…socially speaking they can hem and haw for 10 or 20 minutes and think about what they want. Yet, it’s painfully obvious to me that they are in the wrong here. They damn well should have made up their mind while waiting in line, and then taken care of their cell phone addiction. Now, some people are considerate. They know they don’t know what they want and let others go ahead of them. It’s the right thing to do. I’d venture to say that most people, if on their cell phone, or who simply don’t know what they want, and the counter person bypassed them to attend to the person behind them who is ready to order, pay, pick up and move along…then that person would get angry with the staff member and think they were being rude. I have even experienced this first hand, so I know of what I speak. I’ve worked many a busy weekend night at a bar or restaurant where it’s 3 deep at the bar. You ask “Can I help you?” The person stands directly in front of the taps and asks what you have on draft. Or they simply don’t know what they want…OR the crème- de la crème of busy bar douchebaggery …they wait for the bartender or server to ask how they can help them, only to turn to 5-20 friends scattered throughout the establishment and ask them what they want. This is when they decided to have a little pow wow.


“You guys want shots?”
“Yeah.”
“No.”
“What kinda shots?”
“I just wanna glass a wine.”
“What kinda wine?
“Are we getting shots?”
“Yeah.”
“No.”

And so on and so on… The person conducting this impromptu survey will become angry if the bartender attempts to serve someone else who has been waiting patiently, has their money out and just wants a bottle of beer.

It also dawns on me that people who go into a McDonald’s, chicken shack, Starbucks or what have you, should have a basic idea of what they want to begin with. You don’t go into a Starbucks hoping they might finally have fish tacos do you?

I understand that people don’t like to be told what to do, or to be told that they’re in the way or holding things up. But sometimes it’s necessary. When I have visited London, my friend Ruprecht had to tell me a couple time to step aside on subway escalators so others could get by me if they wanted or needed to. I think he even pulled me to one side once or twice. I didn’t like it, but it GOT it. I understood.

I suppose the 10 piece queen does provide a small service. She makes others feel more secure in their intelligence. So, she’s got that going for her . . . which is nice.

No One Cares

Posted: January 26, 2014 by S. Trevor Swenson in General, Life, Me & Mine, You & Yours
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,
Really, no one is listening to The Conversation you're having.

Really, no one is listening to The Conversation you’re having.

We probably wouldn’t worry about what other people think of us if we could know how seldom they do- Olin Miller

A few years ago while I was being tested in college for Attention Deficit Disorder and other learning disabilities, my mother sent me a book with the above quote in it. The book was called The Most Brilliant Thoughts Of All Time ( In two lines or less ) The reason she sent the book was because I think she started to recall my attention level as a child and teen, and the many difficulties it caused she and I. Being a romantic I like to think that she felt a little bad about the years of fights and dramedy that were a result of my inability to focus, pay attention or…Oh there’s my remote control…. Oooooo… a Happy Days marathon…that sounds promising…. That Fonzie is such a card…Now ,where were we?

This quote stuck out as I had been pondering a piece titled “No One Cares”, which coincidentally is remarkably similar to the essay I’m typing up at this very moment. I became inspired to write this as a result of my anger and frustration toward a couple of regulars who drink in the bar where I am employed. When people frustrate us, yet we are unable to confront them for various reasons; (we work with them, we work for them, they are bigger than we are,they’re attractive and might sleep with us, they have a badge and gun, they are elderly, they are small children…the list goes on and on) we often spend a great deal of time thinking about what we’d like to say to them if the dynamic of the situation were somehow different. As a bartender,like anyone who’s job it is to deal with a rude and disrespectful general public, I have to contend with a fair number of assholes regularly. In the interest of building and maintaining customers and keeping my job, I have to find ways to hold my tongue, paste a smile on my face and interact with these people. I must find a way to do so in a reasonably pleasant and professional manner. So, I find myself rehearsing in my mind various cutting remarks that would make them flee from the watering hole in shame, or apologize to me and hand me hundreds or thousands of dollars in retroactive tips, or commit suicide. Keep in mind, I can’t really utter these well rehearsed and justly deserved dressing downs. Chances are it wouldn’t do any good. People don’t change after a stern talking to like in TV shows and movies…regardless of how clever, true and deserving the dressing down might be. Plus, I’d probably get in trouble and possibly lose my job. To put it bluntly and succinctly, we all have to take bites of the shit sandwich that is life.

One of the aforementioned customers is a rather dour man who never tips. Tips are my livelihood, and are therefore extremely important to me. They are yet another reason why I try to refrain from having verbal meltdowns with customers. Adding to the frustration of this customer’s stiffing me daily is his personal and socio-political philosophy, He is a self described Marxist. This is a man who goes on and on ( and on) about the plight of the working man. He obviously fancies himself some kind of working class hero. Now it has been a while since I have read Marx and Engels The Communist Manifesto, but I don’t recall the chapter on gratuities and the running dog capitalist waiters and bartenders who suppress the proletariat and keep them down. Like most tipped workers, I am also taxed on my gratuities…This means if and when I am not tipped, I am essentially paying to serve people drinks.

NoTip

In addition to being stiffed daily by this man as I pour pint after pint of Guinness for him, I resent his slight air of smugness about his never tipping me. It’s almost as if he believes that he is doing something noble and virtuous by screwing me. Furthermore, he probably feels superior to me and more enlightened that I simply can’t grasp his strict policy of not tipping for services rendered. Of course, this is the general attitude of tipped workers whenever they encounter cheap, petty and trifling customers. We have a long memory of who doesn’t tip us.

The particular telling off of this man that I go over and over again in my mind would be to point out that no one, repeat, No one gives a shit about his political theories. No one, repeat No one discusses at great length, or any length for that matter what a working class hero he is. Despite what he may think, No One Cares.

Now these sorts of statements could potentially cut a person to the bone. It also made me realize something . 99% of us have strong perceptions and beliefs that are immensely important..but only to us. Again, No One Cares.

Just like Trotsky-Tipless, I have strong perceptions of myself that are varying degrees of truth, fiction and everything in-between. However, with very few exceptions, No one really gives a damn. Now this is not a pity trip. It’s simple reality. I’m just as guilty of this apathy. Hell, as a former punk rocker, a current New Yorker and lifelong cynic…I’m probably more apathetic than the average bear. If ‘No One Cares” can be said about most people, then I would somehow manage to care less. It’s a warped point of pride with me. Probably similar to the point of pride I imagine Mr Persona- Non- Gratuity has about being a cheap bastard.

Perhaps this inane little observation goes much further than I ever could have imagined. Maybe, just maybe it’s a huge part in the very meaning of life. Is it possible that getting others to care about us or issues is the key to happiness, health, wealth and self actualization? It is also interesting to note that even people who are deemed interesting or important to care about by the media often fall victim to the curse of “No One Cares”. Isn’t it safe to say that many of us roll our eyes at the daily and hourly reportings on Justin Bieber, Kanye West, Professional Athletes, The Kardasians and their ilk? And what is our first and most primal reaction to them? That’s right. “Who Cares?”

Just eat your food. There is no need to Instagram it first.

Just eat your food. There is no need to Instagram it first.

Other people’s favorite hobby seems to involve a shift in focus from “No One Cares” to a “You shouldn’t care about that, but rather focus on this”. Often these people are well meaning and trying to garner interest and awareness in worthy causes…. or perhaps more accurately, causes they feel strongly about. We’ve all met these people. You’ll be cheerfully discussing something or someone, and they will tut tut and inform you of something infinitely more important.

In my refraining from going off on the working class zero who never tips me, I have started to focus on things that are important to or about me that fall securely into the “No One Cares” file. I’m a writer, or at least that’s what I tell women I’m trying to impress. The fact of the matter is that. A: I have never been published. B: I have a blog that approximately 4 people read with any regularity and C: Being a writer isn’t all that impressive, unique or interesting. You can’t swing a dead wino in NYC and not hit someone who thinks they’re a writer. So, just as my never-tipping regular feels that he is somehow a noble and fascinating warrior of the proletariat…nobody gives a shit about my literary observations of cell phone etiquette or how people who try to get 12 items through a 10 items or less line at the supermarket should be tried and executed for crimes against humanity.

“No One Cares” for all it’s apathy can be a very powerful thing. People take medications and go to therapy because of “No One Cares”. People go on shooting rampages, and even commit or attempt suicide because of those three, single syllable words. What is a major cause of suicide? The very perception that no one cares. There are even “Cry for help” suicides which is the tragic, yet desperate attempt to get others to give a flying fuck, if only for a little while.

Technology has been driven by “No One Cares” predating recorded history. I’d be willing to bet that it took all of 30 seconds for some Neanderthal hipster to roll their eyes and say “Whatev’s” after a fellow caveman drew some stick men and stick animals in the Lascaux caves in France. Haters gonna hate.

Twitter. The ultimate (currently) in “Pay Attention To Me” narcissism. But can’t we safely say that 99.7% of tweets fall under that “Who cares” category. I know on a very personal level that I only pay attention to ” I plan to have sex with Scott Swenson” tweets from Dolly Parton. Interestingly, while researching Ms Dolly’s twitter account for this piece I found out thatshe had a fender bender on Oct 21st of last year, she was fine and was resting comfortably at home when she tweeted this. I’m guessing she was spared serious injury by “airbags” Nyuk Nyuk.

The genius or geniuses who created Twitter were very aware of human nature and how so many of us are under the misconception that we have something of note to say that the rest of the world gives a damn about.

nobody-cares

Twitter was invented because so many are think others care about what we’re thinking or doing… unaware of how few really give a damn. I don’t tweet. I’m not part of the Twitterverse ( even that term makes me want to vomit), but I can safely say that if I was, there are very few bits of info from others that I’d stop and pay attention to….alien abduction, Armageddon and the aforementioned Ms Parton wanting a booty call from yours truly.

So, although I am fairly certain that very few people care about what I say, even fewer care about what I write, and no one cares about what I think…I just want to say, that the world would be a much better place if we’d put a little more effort into caring…and we can start by caring more about MY writing, getting my contact info to Dolly Parton and leaving me better tips.

Hearing Voices

Posted: January 2, 2014 by S. Trevor Swenson in Me & Mine
Tags: , , , , , , ,
High Ang . . . ZIETY

High Ang . . . ZIETY

Years ago, I went to see my first psychiatrist regarding an unacceptable level of anxiety in my life. I had been having panic attacks with more and more frequency, and it was starting to affect the overall quality of my life. “Panic Attack” or “Anxiety Attack” are the common parlance, although I prefer the terminology from my grandmother’s time, “Having fits or spells”. One simply can’t go to a modern MD with a case of “The Fits” anymore. It does sound better when I’m in the midst of having one and someone asks what’s wrong, why am I hyperventilating and twitching…I just stammer. “Don’t mind me; I’m just having one of my spells.”

My path to psychiatry began with a tiny boo-boo under my index fingers nail. I didn’t think it was a big deal. It was painful and being located on a very popular digit, it made life awkward…but it wasn’t oozing puss or smelling of eau de gangrene.  Upon seeing the boo-boo, my co-worker and friend Matthew told me I should see a doctor. He’d experienced a similar injury before, and it had turned septic and nasty. Plus going to the doctor was a good way for me to skip out of an uneventful day at work. At the time, I actually had a real job with medical insurance and paid time off, so I left work early and went to see a very nice doctor about said boo boo. He gave me a couple of owchie shots in the finger which wasn’t one of life’s great treats, clipped the nail, drained the wound and bandaged me up. Then he wrote me a prescription for enough pain killers to keep the Mexican Coast guard high for a month. As I said, I liked this doctor, which is rare for me. I don’t generally like doctors, nurses, hospitals and medical procedures regardless of how minor they might be. I read an article once which stated simply and beautifully …”Why don’t people like doctors?” “Well, in addition to keeping you waiting around for hours in waiting rooms and in your underwear on butcher paper, they can be smug, do painful things to you, and finally they have a unique ability to deliver VERY bad news.” Like many patients, I pulled a “While I’m here doc…” as our visit was coming to an end and I confided in him that I was having panic attacks. He listened to me, asked me a few questions and then he prescribed a medication instructing me to follow up in a couple weeks and let him know if it had helped.

The medication worked on the panic attacks, but gave me vivid and disturbing dreams. I was getting cranky at work after waking up suddenly from dreams of being chased by lobsters dressed like Liberace singing “Who’s making love you your old lady?” So, when I followed up with the nice GP, he suggested I see a psychiatrist that he knew who would be better suited for medications and problems of my sort. So I made an appointment with Dr. Yakov Greenstein (How cliché is that name? Was Dr. Inkblot McFreud already taken?)

Dr. G was a nice enough man, albeit a caricature of a psychiatrist….Tweed Jacket, beard, glasses, yarmulke, mandatory Van Gogh prints adorning his office walls…

Now, it is S.O.P for a psychiatrist to ask new patients a series of questions; A psychiatric evaluation of sorts.

“Have you thought about hurting other people?”
You mean besides telemarketers and people selling religion door to door? No.

“Have you thought about hurting yourself?”
Um, does a chest waxing and a Brazilian count?

And finally..:

“Are you hearing voices?”

I thought I had given the correct answers on questions one and two, but on question three, I couldn’t help myself. Poor impulse control and trying to be funny have gotten me in trouble before. I smiled my best Cheshire-Cat grin and replied… “Yes, I hear voices, but they only tell me to do ‘good things’.” Dr. G looked at me with a totally blank expression before making a small note in my file. One would think that psychiatrists and proctologists would have better senses of humor. Guess not.

Because of changing insurance companies and networks, I have had to see 3 different psychiatrists over the years, and have luckily found a medication that helps with my anxiety. Every single Shrinky-Dink has asked me the same line of questions, and fortunately I have learned to curb my wise-assery until they got to know me, and my ummm unique sense of humor first. But today while walking around Midtown Manhattan, something dawned on me.

We all hear voices. At least I’m hoping we all do, and that I’m not all alone here. According to my best friend I am a “Special Little Snowflake”, but I certainly don’t want to be the only person not living in a puzzle factory who hears voices.

How many times have we heard the expression “I can just hear so-and-so-saying such-and-such?” Well, friends…that’s hearing voices. Ever stopped someone short from lecturing or bawling you out with a raised hand of capitulation and an “I know..I know…” That’s because we know what they’re thinking and what they’re going to say. We already heard their voice. My mother died a year and a half ago, and I have cried a million tears and know there are a million more to come…but I can still hear her voice…clear as day saying “Nice boy” when I do something, well… nice…and I can still hear her disapproving of me, lecturing me, her laughter and what she’d say to our many private little jokes. I hope I never stop hearing my mother’s voice. Besides some photographs, her extensive Rubber Ducky collection and my memories, it’s all I have left.

Before you tear up at this picture of poignancy…I also have far too many Norman Bates moments.

Mom’s Voice: “Well it’s no wonder you can’t find your keys in that pig sty you’re living in.”
Me: “Not now Ma…”

Mom’s Voice: “I’m just saying that you feel better when you clean your room, now you’re going to be late for work.”
Me: “Ma, seriously…not helping.”

Mom’s Voice: “Just look at this place, socks everywhere…underwear…I hope you don’t have any girls over with your apartment looking like that. Did I raise you to be such a slob?”
Me: “Shut Up, Shut Up SHUT UP!!!!”

Now I may be a fool, but I am not such a fool as to ignore the fact that there are people out there who hear voices that plague them with very bad and destructive advice. I once met an outpatient schizophrenic while walking on the beach in Florida. She was a young black girl who came up to me while I was out for my walk, and just started a conversation. I think she was a little lonely. She almost immediately confided in me that she was taking medication because she had been hearing voices. I talked with her for a little while. I wasn’t scared of her, even though schizophrenics can be dangerous. She seemed more sad than anything, and lonely too as I have said.

I still think about that girl from time to time. I hope she’s OK. OK, like me…hearing voices that only tell her to do good things.

I was glad the girl was on a medication that was helping her. The quality of mental health care isn’t always up to snuff here in the Land of the Free and the Home of the Whopper. I wonder if anyone has ever said: “The meds seem to be working doctor. I still hear voices, but now they speak Spanish and I only understand every third word.”

My dear friend Pamela J is a psych nurse. I’m blessed with lots of close friends who have interesting jobs. Pam the psych nurse, Fred the Marine to name two, and I enjoy talking to them about their jobs. For further research I decided to call and ask Pamela J about hearing voices and how serious, common and or benign it was. “Well, do you argue with the voices and more importantly, how often do they win the arguments?” One of the Pamela’s duties is to do “intakes” for psych patients who are similar to a psychiatrist’s evaluation without the tweed jacket and Van Gogh prints. She’s an incredibly patient and kind-hearted person, while at the same time having an extremely astute BS meter and low BS threshold. The first part of this equation would explain our lengthy friendship. As for the BS, my only guess is that my particular variety of BS doesn’t step on her dress as much as others. I can imagine she’s quite good at her job, although she has confided in me on a few occasions that she felt the psych gig has diminished the skill set she learned in nursing school. She’d rather be working with Doctors Without Borders or such agencies as she’s quite adventurous. Instead, she has to tell drug addicts 5 or 6 times an hour “No, you get your methadone at 6pm…not 5:35″ followed by “No, you get your methadone at 6pm…not 5:40. No, blah, blah blah 5:45, blah blah 5:50, and blah 5:55″. You get the idea. I often tease Pamela that I plan to take a vacation at one of the facilities where she is employed. She counters with gleefully administering Thorazine as well as shock treatments, and that a cruise to the Bahamas might be a better choice for me.

Pamela has given me some great first hand insight into various psychiatric conditions. “The only ones I don’t like are the borderlines.” (Borderline Personality Disorder) Pamela, like many in her profession has developed a healthy detachment. She works hard, tries to help, but doesn’t beat herself up over those she can’t. She once told me something interesting that I never knew about paranoid schizophrenics…that they often naturally get in touch or perhaps more accurately, come back in touch with reality after a certain amount of time has passed. Maybe the voices they hear stop, or they realize the voices are self-manufactured. I hope my voices don’t abandon me completely.

I’d get lonely.

Fra-Gee-Lay. Must be Italian

Fra-Gee-Lay. Must be Italian

During one of my many whining sessions over the phone with my late mother, she once told me; “You know, I have noticed you are very easily slighted. I can be that way too, but it’s really not a great way to go through life.” She was right. Of course, (I never told her this. Rule number one in the Parent/Child instruction book is “Never admit when they are right.”) I am, and I have always been, hypersensitive and it’s not an endearing quality or a particularly pleasant way to live. Add to this my raging generalized anxiety disorder, my exceptional creativity and a newish technology (social media) for my insecurities to work out with, and we have a recipe for a fairly miserable online existence to couple my everyday fairly miserable existence. Trust me, my many insecurities and various neurosis’ don’t need to work out… they are already jacked like a Gold’s Gym Steroid Queen.

I’m not going to bash Facebook like I did cell phones in a recent post because I use Facebook on a daily basis. FB has been wonderful for reconnecting with old friends and staying in touch with others. It also allows for me to post clever, poignant and funny little one-liners, creating a facade of depth, decency, a soul and many other positive qualities that I pretend to possess.

“Butt-Hurt” is one of my favorite new expressions from the contemporary vernacular. According to another favorite website of mine; Urban Dictionary, Butt-hurt is defined as:

An inappropriately strong negative emotional response from a perceived personal insult. Characterized by strong feelings of shame. Frequently associated with a cessation of communication and overt hostility towards the “aggressor.”

Perfect. I think the reason I like this term is because I have spent so much of my life being butt-hurt. Like a pompous hipster asshat, I can honestly say I was into being butt-hurt before it became main stream. I’ve been butt-hurt regularly since 1975 when my grandmother told me I was sitting too close to the TV, watching my neighbor; Mr. Rogers, and that was why I had to wear glasses. (With the dorky strap that would insure that I wouldn’t lose them, but that I would be beaten up regularly at recess.) I was 5 at the time, so this was probably 2 or 3 years before I started using obscenities and threats of physical violence when addressing my grandmother…But I do remember not speaking to her, until she bribed me later that night with rhubarb pie and ice cream. I’m a big fan of using the silent treatment, which is interesting as I really suck at sticking with it. I fold after the second or third, “OK…what’s up?” As I said I capitulated quickly with the offer of the pie. I was cheap then, and come to think of it…. I’m cheap now too.

Facebook nuance and etiquette is a perfect breeding ground for butt-hurt-ed-ness or is it butt-hurtury?. I routinely pout and sulk over my FB friends not responding quickly enough (or at all) to my many inquiries, greetings and salutations. “I wished you a happy birthday 16 minutes ago and you haven’t thanked me….WTF?” What’s worse is that I know they saw what I wrote, because the little messenger thingy confirms with a little “Seen” followed by the time. “What’s the matter? Too busy to type or text “You too” after I wish you a “Happy St Patrick’s Day”? The time feature allows a truly anal retentive and delicate little flower like myself to determine exactly how long they have been ignoring me. Sometimes they respond just as I was settling into a nice juicy sulk, and I almost resent this. Nothing worse than having one’s butt-hurt interrupted or…um healed? Is that the opposite? Butt-healed? Well if it isn’t, it should be…that’s a great expression too. Remember, if it isn’t an expression yet, you read it here first.

"Yeah, I hath de-friended her this very morn. For she doth believeth that she is all of that."

“Yeah, I hath de-friended her this very morn. For she doth believeth that she is all of that.”

So there is that little nuance of FB. Sending messages on FB is communicating, but it’s a very different type of communication. One cannot just stop talking during a phone conversation. (Like I used to with certain exceptionally long winded family members. For example, If my grandmother started talking about how Aunt Miggie’s piles were giving her trouble lately, I knew I had a 20 minute lapse in our conversation window where I could quietly put down the phone, make a sandwich, trim my toenails or do a crossword puzzle before I had to pick the phone back up and say “Yeah, that must be terrible.” and pretend I had been listening the entire time. I just wonder if other people who are more well-adjusted than I (you know like, pretty much everyone) get upset by this. I hope so. I don’t like being the only neurotic on FB.

Another thing I wonder about in regards to FB is “de-friending” someone. To begin with “De-Friending” sounds frighteningly Orwellian.

“What’s wrong Scott? You look really down.”
“I was just de-friended.”
“Ouch.”
“Yeah.”
“Who was it?”
“Jimmy.”
“Jimmy?”
“Yeah.”
“Jimmy from high school?”
“No, we aren’t Facebook friends.”
“Jimmy from the Starbucks in Union Square?”
“No, Jimmy from the bar.”
“Do I know him?”
“I don’t know,”
“De-friended huh?”
“Yeah. (sigh)”
“Um, you want a hug or something?”

FB doesn’t tell you that you’ve been de-friended and I think most people aren’t aware of a de-friending right away, unless it is someone you correspond with regularly. I wonder if the executives and developers at FB ever had some kind of butt-hurt management seminar to avoid these kinds of situations. I mean it certainly wouldn’t do to have flashing lights and Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Good Bye by Steam playing when you sign on to FB after a de-friending. (Although in a warped way, that would be kind of cool) De-friending on FB is a little like de-friending in real life in that these people sometimes just phase out of our lives. I tried to find some friends who had suffered from a major de-friend fallout when researching this piece, but no one owned up to having had one. I’m sure it happens. Although the experience probably lacks a certain je ne sais quoi. When a friendship, FB or otherwise, ends, there should be some interesting and dramatic fallout…. some yelling followed by an “I want my Ken Burns Civil War DVDs and my ABBA CD’s back!!!” It’s just not the same, to hover your mouse over the “Friends” box and click them out of your life.

“Oh Screw you, ya creep!”
“Screw Me??? Screw Me?”
“Yeah!”
“Well, if that’s how you feel!”

“Let’s see…here it is…’friends’ … (CLICK) “Well, I certainly told her!”

At this rate, in the next 10 years we will all be breaking up, divorcing, getting fired and colonoscopy results via a swift click of the mouse

(RING) “Excuse me I need to take this….Hello? I see…OK Thanks. Bye.”
“Who was that?”
“My wife…she’s leaving me and running off with our pool-boy; CoCo.”

I admit I have gone on FB purges that would have made Wacky Joe Stalin proud. I have this weird notion that people with over 300 “friends” on any social media site are highly suspect. So occasionally I go through my FB friends and just drop the people I never speak to. What’s really strange about this is that I almost always find a “friend” or three whom I don’t even recall becoming FB buds with. I don’t worry about this too much. These things can happen when one has been known to drink to excess. To date, no one has reached out to appeal a de-friend ruling I have made. Maybe it’s a question of pride. Personally, I would be crushed upon discovering that I had become the victim of a de-friending. Even if it was one of the friends I don’t remember as we became friends while drinking to excess.

Oh, come on, Scott. You can tell me. Just whisper it.

Oh, come on, Scott. You can tell me. Just whisper it.

Sometimes we need to ponder a de-friending. I recently cut my cousin off after serious consideration. He had been posting political rhetoric nonsense on an hourly basis. For the most part I laughed it off, or pointed out where he was wrong. The final straw was when he posted that we need to teach the bible, morality and handgun training in schools. Yeah. There’s a real “What would Jesus do” philosophy. Sorry Cuz. I love you, but I don’t want to get interviewed by Anderson Cooper after the FBI and ATF surround your compound.

“What can you tell me about your cousin Scott?”
“Well, he was my favorite cousin growing up. We played Star Wars and tormented his sister a great deal.”
“Were you Han Solo or Luke Skywalker?”
“I was always Luke Skywalker.”
“That sucks. We had a gay kid in my neighborhood growing up…a boy who didn’t mind being Princess Leia.”
“Hey, we had one of those…we also got a tall wino to play Chewbacca.”
“How did you feel about being Luke Skywalker?”
“Well, it kinda sucked, Anderson. But, I was the blond cousin and he owned a vest, so it seemed a logical conclusion. But, of course, Han is much cooler.”
“I see on his Facebook page he commented that “The Bible and Handguns should be taught in American grammar schools.”
“Yes, sadly that was when I defriended him.”
“Do you think he’s dressed up like Han Solo in his compound?”
“Good question.”

This raises another issue and kindles a small fire of insecurity. When you de-friend someone, and they don’t reach out for an explanation, do you begin to wonder if they really give a rat’s ass? How dare this person whom you have no further interest in interacting with not flip out when they discover your little social nugget of rejection. I have to say, upon further reflection, it must be rough being a junior or senior high school student during the Facebook era. Back when I was an adolescent (an actual adolescent and not the 42 year old I am today with an adolescent’s mentality) we had to go to the mall for rejection that was more up close and personal. It was the 80s and things were tougher back then. Speaking of junior and senior high school, I can’t begin to imagine what it must be like to be a young student during the Facebook era. Kids today are really proficient with computers and I shudder to think of the cyber bullying potential. It’s interesting that I have reconnected with lots of people from high school that I frankly never interacted with back then. As adults they say nice things to me “You always cracked me up.” No I didn’t. I wasn’t that funny. In fact, you never spoke to me in high school. Sadly, I can understand why adolescents are committing suicide as a result of cyber and Facebook bullying. Just thinking about what complete and utter bastards my friends and I were in high school. I could easily see us creating fictitious Facebook pages for classmates I didn’t care for. “Hey, 266 people like the “Jerome’s a Bum Boy Douchebag” page. I even had a kid I hated from high school try to invite me to his list of friends. I refused, and he tried again. Finally he wrote and asked why I had refused his friendship request and I mentioned that he had stolen my bike in 7th grade and that I am generally pretty enthusiastic in regards to cultivating grudges.

marx

Hello, I must be going” Is a brilliant Marx Brothers song and routine. It’s also a wonderful description for another FB phenomena. I hope I’m not alone here, but I have at least 5 FB friends who can’t, don’t or wont interact with me for more than 5 minutes without typing “Well, I have to go now.”, “Dinners ready,” or ” I have to pee.” I understand that people need to pee sometimes, or that dinner is occasionally ready, but every time they are chatting with me? I’m dubious. Then it becomes even more awkward because there is no way to ask about your friend’s rate of urination without seeming needy and annoying. Interestingly, a former FB friend once called me those very words. At least she had the class and courage to say this in person to me, which I appreciated and which allowed me to retort using an expletive that women aren’t so crazy about. No, not that one…the other expletive. She asked for it.

In Japanese there is a word; Wa or Wah which is an expression for a collective social harmony. Japan is a relatively small country with a lot of mountainous terrain that isn’t so suitable for habitation and a large population. It can get quite crowded in Japan and ‘Wa’ is the way that people get along through a rather rigid code of behavior and manners. A friend of mine who taught for over a year in Japan told me of a gesture that the Japanese make when they are in a serious rush or find themselves in an urgent situation and simply don’t have the time to say 14,000 sumimasens which is an all-purpose Japanese Wa expression that means “Excuse Me.”, “Thank You.”, “Sorry.” and “Yes, I’m being a rude bastard, but this is an emergency.” This gesture is considered a little rude, yet is still socially acceptable. Probably similar to the charming western custom of farting during a dinner party and then blaming the dog. I must pause here and say, I am a gentleman in these instances and own up…proudly. “Yep, that was me…pass the beans please…Where were we? Oh yes… You were saying handguns, morality and the bible should be taught in grammar schools” So, when a Japanese businessman is in a rush to catch the 3:10 to Kyoto and is in a crowded train station, he will lower his head and place a flattened hand across his forehead (much like Curly from the Three Stooges avoiding a eye gouge from Moe) and plow on through. Everyone understands he’s in a rush.

So, perhaps in the interest of Facebook Wa, maybe we should find a slightly rude but socially acceptable way to get people to stop pestering us with every day minutia or to knock off the “Hello, I must be goings.”

Maybe we should start color coding our friends, or come up with an acronym like LOL when we aren’t in the mood to or can’t chat for long. How about BTD (Busy these days) or CRTN (Cant really talk now) or how about IFWTPBSAE (I’m finished with this piece but suck at endings)

The End. Oh, no, wait . . . it's not.

The End.
Oh, no, wait . . . it’s not.

Epilogue:

I felt a need to revisit this piece as I have recently experienced some FB and former friend dramedy. I haven’t been able to make my faithful editor laugh in a couple months which is one of the reasons I haven’t posted anything lately.

I had a friend. I say friend in that we had been to each other’s homes, exchanged birthday and Christmas gifts, been to movies and other outings together and were familiar to a degree with each other’s lives. He ran a football pool I have been a member of for 15 plus years. I knew this friend from my former job. When I left the job we didn’t see each other much, but we were still friends via facebook. We got together once or twice after I left the job, but saw significantly less of each other.

He became a classic example of the “Hello, I must be going” type that I mentioned. He was on FB daily, several times a day posting news stories, photos and observations, just like I do. However, I found when I reached out to him he wasn’t particularly friendly or responsive. On several occasions I left our “conversations” feeling like he thought I was a pest. Now I have admitted I am hypersensitive, and certainly online/social media communications often lack context and tone. They’re easily misunderstood, and I’m sure I am guilty of coming across as cold, dismissive or whatever at times…hopefully not too often as I don’t want to be a hurtful or mean person. This friend, we’ll call him “Pete” for the sake of simplicity…Pete would write things like “You need to move on.” or “We’ve discussed this already.”…so yes, suffice to say I felt like a pest whenever I reached out to him. I was a little hurt, and I was a little pissed off too as I went through over a year of Pete’s nonstop lamenting about a love interest who was obviously and plainly not interested.

During Gay Pride month I had posted “Happy Gay Pride To All My LGBT Friends!”. Almost immediately, one of my FB acquaintances took issue with this and corrected me that the correct term is “LGBT Pride”. We had an argument over semantics. I messaged Pete who is gay and whom both he and I had agreed that PC feel good speech has gone way too far and that we are constantly walking on eggshells with what we say. As usual, Pete was a little dismissive. Maybe he didn’t agree with me. Maybe he was busy…I don’t know. But he messaged “Have a good day Scott.” which I took as a dismissal. I responded “Sorry to have bothered you.” and took him off my friends list. It had been awhile in coming. I was tired of feeling like I was an annoyance. He wrote back to me and said “Why did you say that, I was just telling you to have a nice day” I wrote back an explanation that perhaps we’d been misunderstanding each other.

As I said, there are no bells and whistles when a friend is removed from your list. He found out a couple weeks later, and wrote a rather firm parting shot at me. After speaking to my best friend about it, we decided the best response was no response at all.

Still the whole episode was sad and disappointing, and its conclusion was decidedly unsatisfying.

Institutionalized

Posted: June 18, 2013 by S. Trevor Swenson in Uncategorized
Tags: , , , , ,

I’m Not Crazybedlam-william-hogarth
Institution
You’re The One That’s Crazy
Institution
You’re Driving Me Crazy
Institution.

-Suicidal Tendencies
Institutionalized

A new nurse is on a psych ward and she happens across a patient who is completely nude save for dress shoes, white gloves and a top hat. The nurse gets upset at the patient and exclaims”You can’t run around here like that!!”
The patient calmly reassures her, “Oh no one cares what you do around this place, as long as you don’t hurt anyone or yourself…It’s just us loons and the staff.”
The new nurse ponders this for a moment and asks “Well, then what’s with the gloves, and the top hat.
The patient winks at her and says “Well, you never know.”

-A joke I heard in a film once that I enjoyed, yet never quite understood.

 

Yesterday I wrote one of my super-duper-in-a-Mini-Cooper-clever-Trevor Facebook posts. I like Facebook in that it allows me a creative outlet for my poor impulse control. Anyhoo, this is what I posted last night.

I’m frankly amazed on an almost hourly basis that I am neither
A. A Millionaire
B. Weaving baskets or doing puzzles in some institution.

I have many strange, complex, funny and unique theories about mental health, coupled with a rather serious fear of being institutionalized against my will. I suppose part of it was all the bad cliché TV shows and movies that I saw during my childhood. People would get locked up and not be allowed to leave. None of the pipe smoking, maddeningly sedate psychiatrists with the mandatory Van Gogh prints on their walls, or the burly, smiling guys in the starched, white suits and black bow ties would listen to their pleas and assertions of their sanity.

I remember as a little boy asking my mother about mental illness.

“Ma, what’s this word?”
I asked pointing to a page of a book of hers that I had been trying to read, and that I often reference in my writing titled “How To Make Yourself Miserable“.
“Neurotic” she replied before going back to her own book.
“What’s ‘new rock tick’ mean?”
“Neurotic” she corrected me. “It means a little crazy.” she said, paused for a moment and then added, “Everyone is a little neurotic.”
“Even you, Mommy?” I asked.
“No honey, everyone but me.”

I also asked my mom about “crazy people” from time to time.

“People who are really crazy don’t think or know that they’re crazy” she once told me.
“Even grandma and grandpa?” I asked.
“Especially grandma and grandpa.” she said smiling, then paused and told me
“Don’t say that to them, though.”

It’s interesting how adults have to cultivate and nurture a filtering process in their children. Children overhear adults gossiping and like to parrot what they hear. It’s sad that despite my mom’s best efforts, my filtering process is still inconsistent and unreliable at best.

“Ma, is this the lady from work with the mustache who you said needs to get laid?”
“Ma? What’s ‘laid’?”
“Owwww mom, you’re hurting me!”

So, according to mom;

· Everyone is a little crazy.
· It’s called being neurotic.
· Really crazy people aren’t aware of their craziness.
· My grandparents, despite their bland and normal facade were seriously on the flight deck and flapping their arms…and
· This was our little secret.

At some point I must have become aware that there were places for people who were really ‘Coo Coo For Cocoa Puffs’ and unable to conceal it as well as grandpa and grandma. They had to be locked up in “hospitals”. These people were “sick”, and they were locked up so “They wouldn’t hurt other people or themselves”.

“Like when I jumped off the roof with my pillowcase parachute?”
“Yes honey, something like that.”

There were rooms in these places with cushions all over the walls and floors so when these crazy people had a temper tantrum they could bang their heads as much as they wanted and not hurt themselves. This actually sounded fun to my 7 or 8 year old sensibilities. As a curious and not terribly bright lad, I had a mischievous streak and I was occasionally banished to my bed chamber for not eating my vegetables, putting rubber snake in grandma’s freezer, forgetting where I had hidden grandpa’s teeth, trying to cut my own hair or finger painting the kitchen walls. I was none too happy when sentenced to my room, which upon further reflection was really not such a horrible punishment…all my toys were there….and sometimes I would throw a good old fashioned Donnybrook of a tantrum…after, of course, informing the nice lady who had given birth to me “I HATE you!!!” She would respond that I was not her favorite person at that very moment, and if I slammed that door again, she was going to “give me something to cry about” which is a remark that never made one iota of sense to me. Once when my step-mother told me to “be quiet or I’ll give you something to cry about” I foolishly piped up between sobs, “You already did”. As it turned out, she wasn’t bluffing. She was indeed able to give me something additional to cry about. During my tantrums I would have loved to pound my head against a cushion covered wall, or to flail myself about to and fro. I think I smashed my head against a wall once after seeing it on TV or a cartoon and found it to be unsatisfying

Another funny cliché that I remember from childhood were those “Nice Men” (They were always referred to that way) in the white suits who came to take the crazy person away and they always had these huge butterfly nets, which not only cracked me up, but I find myself frequently wishing this practice was going on today. Just as ice cream trucks announce their arrival with that weird tinkling music…I think the nice men in the white suits should arrive in various neighborhoods for regular wackaloon roundups playing a calliope version of Patsy Cline’s “Crazy”…get out of their milk truck with the butterfly nets and chase down whomever forgot their meds or who has been arguing with their imaginary friends in public and at socially unacceptable volumes. Just think of how entertaining Nut-Bar Round Up Day would be in your neighborhood. People would call in sick to stay home and watch “The Running of the Lunatics”. (Which has its own little flavor of irony)

I suppose I am writing about the subject of mental hospitals in a rather cavalier manner. To be completely honest it is because it is something I find both very sad as well as very scary, and all too often I use humor to soften the things in life that upset me. It’s a pity that there is such a stigma in regards to mental health even today. Often things that are really a case of medical and bio-chemical issues are seen as short comings and weakness. I once saw a PSA for depression awareness that read “You wouldn’t tell someone with cancer to “Get over it” would you?” It’s a great sentiment, but it doesn’t always hold up in today’s world. Scientifically speaking, depression is a medical issue. Doctors and scientists have even narrowed it down to certain chemicals in the brain that aren’t flowing properly, or aren’t produced by the body in sufficient amounts. We can call in sick to work for the flu, but not for crushing sadness and a bleak view of life. There are things we can do pro-actively to combat depression or debilitating amounts of anxiety…Exercise, vitamins, better diet and sleep. Ironically these are the same things we can do to combat many physical ailments from diabetes to the common cold.

Plus, the world we live in is often an unhealthy place both physically and emotionally. Yet once again the physical is addressed by society…well sort of. I mean we pretend to care about and legislate for clean water and air. We ban and or regulate certain foods, additives and drugs. But what are we doing to make life less ugly and stressful? We’ve had automobiles around for quite some time now, and yet we haven’t even looked into a horn that doesn’t make an unpleasant sound? I say if we can come up with apps for cell phones that tell us when it’s a good time to go to the bathroom in a movie, then we can design a car horn that says ” Excuse Me” at an effective yet acceptable volume. This would certainly make traffic jams sound interesting.

Part of the reason I am so terribly afraid of being institutionalized is social. I am afraid of what my friends, family and society in general would think of me if this were to happen. Would I be shunned at the annual 4th of July family cookout that I avoid like the plague anyway? I guess it’s like our parents told us when we whined that our friends were giving us a hard time about something. . . “Well, then they’re not real friends”. This was usually true, but I still had to spend 180 school days with these bastards and live on the same street as them year round.

Who knows, maybe checking into a booby hatch is something your friends and family have been hoping would happen for years.

“Scott got taken away in a butterfly net yesterday.”
Finally!! How’s he doing?”
“He seems to be okay. Actually, he’s really enjoying the padded cell. They have to coax him out with candy and comic books.”

In reality, if and when I get taken to the macadamia farm by the nice men in the white suits and butterfly nets, I feel confident that most of my friends and family will come and visit me, bring me toys, crossword puzzle books and goldfish crackers. At the very least I’ll probably receive a “Get Well” card from relatives with whom I am on good terms and yet share a basic contempt with.

Hey, there’s a new industry. Get Well cards for people in rehab or wacky wards. I might just pitch that idea to Hallmark and American Greetings. I might land a desk job and be given a few artists to boss around.

Part of my fear of being institutionalized is practical. I seriously doubt I could swing a private suite, so what kind of roommate would I end up with? I shudder to think. With my luck it would be some klepto AND pyro maniac who would keep stealing my lighters. Or an especially talkative child molester. I don’t think the patients get to pick their own roommates and opt for someone fun like someone who thinks the institution is just some elaborate reality TV show they haven’t been voted off of yet, or someone who keeps adopting imaginary pets. I’d have fun going along with that. “Hey Jacob…buddy, can you keep Fido off of my bed please?” I’m not above indulging someone’s harmless land-of-make-believe excursions.

My friend Pamela is a psych-nurse, and I read the rough draft of this piece to her. She laughed, which was the desired effect. She has confided in me about the patients she likes and those who are difficult. Pam seems to enjoy the more spirited patients, as opposed to the drug addicts who pester her every 5 minutes for their sedatives or methadone. “I told you, your next dose is at 6….not 4:30, not 4:35, not 4:40….” you get the idea.

I like to joke with Pam that I want to check myself into her hospital and make her job more interesting. “Hey Nurse Ratched, it’s time for my meds and a sponge bath!” A good sport to the bitter end, Pam retorted that they have a 300 pound, gay, ex-con orderly who does the bathing. “He’s very gentle.” she assured in me.

I hope that someday everyone who needs help can get it affordably and with understanding from all….Even smart-ass neurotics like me.

Editors Note: Oops, I thought I had posted this piece a while back. Umm . . . better late than never?

Looks like fun, huh?

Looks like fun, huh?

It’s probably best to start this rant with a little background into my thoughts on the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) as well as my struggles with Generalized Anxiety Disorder, which the MTA routinely exacerbates to the best of their ability. For those of you who don’t know what Generalized Anxiety Disorder or Panic Disorder is, perhaps I should explain, or try to. For over 20 years I have been suffering from bouts of crippling panic and fear which can strike out of the blue or when I become agitated and stressed. I have often tried to describe it to people who have never had one of these episodes, but I’ve always been at a loss. I feel dizzy, terrified, and short of breath. I have thoughts of losing my mind and/or dying flying through my brain. I tremble and hyperventilate and get tremendously entertaining twitches and spasms, which the ladies really seem to dig. I imagine that I probably look like someone who has smoked a little too much crack and skipped a hearty breakfast. Being aware of how I must look makes things worse and on occasion people have asked me if I am alright. More often however, they give me a strange look and move slowly away from me.

To this point I have combated my anxiety and panic attacks with lifestyle changes like exercise, cutting back on alcohol and caffeine and the like. What vexes me most are people’s attitudes in regards to panic attacks, which is generally summed up in three words “Get over it.” Get over it hmmm? Gee, Professor Freud, I never thought of that. You’re a genius…wow years of therapy and paralyzing fear wasted when all this time I just needed to ‘get over it’. Oh, thank you SO very much for imparting your wisdom upon me!

What other pearls do you have to share?

What other pearls do you have to share?

I was diagnosed years ago with “Anticipatory Anxiety” which means my silly little brain works against me to a certain degree. If I have an impending unpleasant errand (and taking the subway is always unpleasant) I will think and worry about it to the point where I give myself panic attacks when the time comes for whatever mundane but stressful little mission I have to complete.

Panic Disorder and Generalized Anxiety Disorder are two separate conditions within the Nervous Nelly spectrum. Panic Disorder means suffering from panic/anxiety attacks. GAD means being a worrier. I worry about everything. Add to this my creative side and I can find some really elaborate and frankly ridiculous things to waste my time worrying about. I dread when I have a message on my call waiting, because it most certainly will be bad news. Or maybe I’m not having a panic attack after all…maybe I am having a severe allergic reaction to the multi vitamin that I took last night which probably expired years ago and developed a deadly mold spore and…well, you get the idea.

My life in the fast lane

My life in the fast lane

The MTA/subway is a veritable candy store of stressors and anxiety enhancers. I have to take my hat off to them for creating the most stressful and unpleasant mode of transportation possible in a modern American city. When things aren’t stressful enough, the MTA and its staff step up their game by screaming at the passengers through a perpetually broken intercom system and selling ad space to be filled by the most disturbing advertisements humanly possible, prominently displayed to the temporarily captive rider.

Today I hopped on the N train. To combat the stress of the subway and hopefully avoid a complete panic breakdown, I try to bring things along with me that will have a calming effect. I used to bring a Sam Cooke CD everywhere as I found his voice and songs rather soothing. I also like to suck on Halls honey-lemon cough drops. More recently I have been bringing “The Path To Tranquility” by the Dalai Lama to read. It’s a great book and it has a calming effect on me while reminding me of how karmically bankrupt I am. Two birds with one stone, I like efficiency.

Looking up from the DL’s book I saw the words “AIDS” and “Anal Cancer” in big, bright red letters. Upon closer investigation I saw it was a condom ad placed by the city’s health department and Mayor KillJoy. The ad was explaining that even with the new antiviral medications available today you still run an extremely high risk of anal cancer if you become infected with AIDS. To further demonstrate this, there was a photo of a nervous looking young man and a fucking x-ray of anal cancer. What’s the matter? The city’s health department couldn’t find a photo of some poor bastard lying on his stomach in an operating room with a black and bloody grapefruit sized tumor sticking out of his emergency exit?

It dawned on me that the city posts all kinds of unpleasant ads in subway cars. A recent anti-obesity campaign shows cans of soda, iced teas and other sugared beverages covered in what looks like fat and blood removed via liposuction. Effective, disgusting and a stellar anxiety trigger. Well done MTA and a nice assist from the City of New York and its billionaire, disapproving daddy-pants Mayor.

Charming

Charming

Recently, after having a serious budget deficit, the MTA raised fares and cut services. They hire the best and brightest to run the system and pay these men and women 6 figures and incredible benefits, and the best they can seem to do is regularly cut services and raise fares. I would think that the ad space on the subways and buses would be a source of income. Sounds like a smart move until I saw the MTA advertising themselves. Last time I checked there is no competition. There is only the MTA and no private sector subways and buses. They’re out of money, don’t need to advertise, and yet spend a fortune on print ads for themselves. My favorite ad was touting how hard the MTA is working on improving things. They had a photo of four workers welding a bit of track. Having seen the corrupt union members and “workers” employed by the MTA, I knew instantly that the MTA had hired models for the ad campaign as there is a painfully obvious union regulation which strictly prohibits 4 people from working at the same time. More money wasted…

Other ads on the subway include…

Impotence; A doctor’s ad showing a frustrated and frankly disgusted looking woman and a sad looking guy in bed looking sheepishly for the TV remote.

Anti-Drinking; Depicting an obviously hung-over and disheveled woman who had too many cosmos and ended up sleeping with the nightclubs coat check guy and bouncer. Or, a drunk driver languishing in prison.

Battered women, homeless people, and my favorite ad by Dr. Zizmor; who is a dermatologist with before and after drawings of his successful treatments. In keeping with the MTA’s disturbing ad campaign I think that Dr. Z (as he calls himself…I don’t trust doctors that advertise in subways or use their first initial after “Dr.”) should make his next add using heavily photo shopped pictures of cystic acne, warts, and other sexy skin disorders.

I feel that as a tax payer and commuter that my money would be better spent on some cheerful subway imagery. I want pictures of puppies and unicorns on my anti homeless ads. How about a Cookie Monster condom ad? I’ll even write a catchy slogan “C is also for Condom so we don’t get Cancer near our Colon”
Would it really be so expensive to play some nice classical music on the trains…or some Motown?

I am going to send this off to the mayor and the MTA to be ignored immediately.

I have the best best-friend in the whole wide world. Who else would answer the phone at 5am and cheerfully listen to my ranting and raving? Well, the suicide hotline probably would, but who else really? I often wonder aloud what I did in a past life to deserve the frequent bad things that happen to me. “Was I some particularly nasty and sadistic concentration camp guard or something in my previous life?” is my standard rhetorical question. Since I’m a grumpus maximus I generally don’t think of the nice things I might have done in a past life to deserve the regular rations of everyday good luck that…maybe I should? The next time my besty does something sweet or kind for me, or I happen to catch Goodbye Mr Chips just starting on TCM (I always seem to catch the last bit of the film, and it is unsatisfying), I should ask myself “Did I run into a burning building to save a crippled kitten in some past existence?”

“Have you had a cough of cuppy yet?” my BFF; the Gow politely asks when she calls me early in the morning. Sadly, I’m not always this thoughtful. “Why didn’t you get out of the shower when I called? Why are you so damned selfish?” I scream at her.

So, what is bugging you today, Scott? (You’re probably asking yourself.) Well, get a load of this.

Bandwagon_of_Week_xlarge

1.Chloe Angyal: Feminist blogger and freelance writer; Chloe Angyal got on my nerves last night. According to a Huffington Post article MIZZ Angyal took issue with a storefront sign placed in front of a restaurant called OatMeals NY (Guess what they serve?). The offending sign read:

“Did You Know”

“Bagel with Cream Cheese-600 Calories”

“Oatmeal with fresh berries-150 Calories”

“Summers coming…
Just saying”

Shocking….simply shocking.

Well, Chloe, who obviously hadn’t expressed any outrage in the last 3 minutes, tweeted that the sign was “Fat-Shamey and Gross”, and what’s worse was that OatMeals NY took her seriously, tweeted an apology and promised to remove the sign. Tweeting….uggh a technology for people to reach thousands or millions of others before giving any actual though to what they should say. First of all, her “outrage” is ridiculous, and this is coming from Captain Ridiculous Outrage. Second of all, I don’t know if I am ready to live in a world where terms like “Fat-Shamey” make the news. And third and possibly most important. “What the Fuck???” It’s women like you, MIZZ Angyal who do a disservice to legitimate women’s issues with idiocy like this. Get a life would you Chloe? A sign that would be truly ridiculing fat people would read something along the lines of “Hey Lard Ass, skip the pizza and burgers today and get a salad for a change…Wouldn’t it be nice to see your toes this Summer?”

It seems painfully apparent that the owners of OatMeals NY are already doing or trying to do their part to offer healthy breakfast options (except the bowls with the ‘nilla wafers, bananas and heavy cream) First we have campaigns devoid of any personal responsibility demanding calorie counts by law…now people aren’t saying it delicately enough?

I’m overweight myself, and I know all too well how tough it can be to lose weight and especially to maintain this, the prejudices and everything that goes along with weight issues. Once while in Miami in the 90s, someone I was speaking to actually reached over and pinched my stomach saying “This is South Beach, you need to work out more.” 30 seconds later after a good pummeling by me, he seems to have reconsidered his observations on my fitness. This was 19 years and 25 lbs ago too. Sometimes commentary from the rude and clueless has shamed me into being more vigilant with my diet and gotten me to exercise more. Like many things, a little shame or pride in small doses coupled with some self respect can be a positive thing OatMeals NY’s sign was a gentle reminder and nothing more…It was certainly nothing for Chole to get her sensible panties in a bunch over. I know I have said this twice within 2 paragraphs, but in your case it warrants repetition Get a life Chole….Summers coming….Just sayin’.

CK

Thank goodness I’m a man and I’m not bombarded with objectifying or unrealistic male media images. WHEW!

The arrogance and self righteousness of people who elect themselves as a spokesperson for various victim groups often cause more harm than good. Spike Lee regularly causes me and many others to roll our eyes rather than bringing attention to real issues of racial inequality in this country. if you want to be cutting edge and original Chloe, how about writing an article that Calvin Klein and Under Armour portray unrealistic and damaging images of men with their underwear ads?….You know, something the feminists have been harping about for decades now….when it happens to women.

south-park-article

2. My second rant was over the hypocrisy of politicians in Texas, Senators Cornyn and Cruz to be exact. Last week there was a terrible explosion at a fertilizer plant in Texas. People were hurt and killed as well as jobs lost and property being destroyed. The emergency workers in TX stepped up like so many amazing first responders all around the country. The chutzpah of the situation was that TX lawmakers who voted against federal emergency funds for the victims of Hurricane Sandy, and wanted to secede from the union after President Shaft-Superfly-Dolomyte was re-elected…now wanted federal disaster funds for this. I guess it’s not socialism now huh? I thought you big tough guys in Texas were all about independence and pulling yourself up by your bootstraps with none of that commie federal aid crap.

Hurricane Sandy was a natural disaster that impacted hundreds of thousands of people directly or indirectly. The unfortunate events in TX were a company’s accident…probably based on negligence. OK right-wingers…you want less government oversight and regulation as well as a return to personal responsibility? Here’s a perfect opportunity to see how well that works out. It seems painfully obvious to me who the bill for this disaster should be sent to. I don’t want to see people hurt, property damaged or jobs lost. I’d like our government to help those in need as a result of disasters that aren’t their fault. Not everyone affected by Hurricane Sandy lived right on the beach. There was also massive cause and effect, collateral damage after Sandy.

Last but not least was a news story about new technology that would allow for cellphone use and texting at some NYC underground subway stations. Now, this was inevitable. I am already cringing inside as I think of thousands of people at Grand Central and Times Square station shuffling along in a texting haze and paying no attention whatsoever to those who are around them. The news, however was raving about how wonderful this development will be for safety and the “See Something, Say Something” Anit-terrorism campaign here in NYC. I’ve been trying to swear less in my writing, but this warrants a Puh-fucking-leeeeeze. 99% of the texting and cellphone junkies wouldn’t report a bomb if they saw a cartoonish black metal bowling ball shaped thing with a flaming wick. They’d just continue to tweet “I’m in Times Square and want some oatmeal.” or they’d be updating their Facebook status.

Lets just call this what it is…pandering to cellphone junkies who start to have convulsions if they cant use their Verizon life support systems for 10 minutes and spare me the safety/benefit to humanity angle huh?

Beatles

In closing I’d like to revisit these things quickly after I have had a little time to ponder them.

1. Yesterday I saw that a young woman whom I briefly dated had posted Chloe Angyal’s article on her Facebook page and was engaged in the exchange of commentary with other men and women. I was floored that such a bright and intelligent woman, who is well versed in very real causes (she works for the ACLU ) was taking what Angyal had to say to heart. This gave me pause. My first impulse was to post something to the effect of “really?…REALLY?” But I quickly realized I would be outnumbered and would just redouble the anger in the post. So, instead, I say respectfully…. there are much more important issues at hand in regards to weight, self image and women’s issues to spend our outrage on. Outrage is funny that way…the less you express, the more validity you garner.

2. We live in the United States of America….and the first word of that is United. We can have different laws by state depending on the realities attitudes and mores of the region. Last week after the tragic bombing at the Boston Marathon I was very upset with how quickly people pounced on the President and were looking to use the tragedy for political ammunition. We would all be better off if we were to think about that “United” part of our country. Comeuppance is a very satisfying thing, and sure it’s nice to point out the hypocrisy of these elected officials and those who share their political ideals….but at the end of the day, people got hurt, died, experienced loss and I for one want to be there for them, just as I hope they’d be there for me.

3. Cell phones aren’t going to go away and as we speak people are working away in little corporate laboratories to enable us to use our cell phones in airplanes, tunnels and in our coffins. What many seem to forget is that we thrived for years without cell phones, texting, twitter, myface, etc. Seems to me the most effective terrorist attack these days would be to disrupt people’s cell phone service. We’d really notice that.

It has been awhile since I have posted anything. My apologies as I know how many of you have been waiting with baited breath…or baiting with weighted breath for my latest complaint opera. Enjoy!

Too far, my friend. Too, too far!

Too far, my friend. Too, too far!

Customers of Size

I logged on to my e-mail account and the news headlines flashed across my homepage. I noticed an article titled “Worst Airline For Overweight Passengers” I had to check that article out because I’m overweight and seeing people who are singled out for being so big that it requires a corporate policy change makes me feel better about myself. Diets and exercise are so mundane and predictable…I just wear more black and hang out with fatter people.

In the first line of this article the expression “Customers of Size” was used. What does that make the rest of us? Is this the feel good marketing term used when someone is stopped at the airport check-in and told that they will need to buy a second ticket? One can’t say “Not so fast there ‘All-You-Can-Eat’! We’re going to need you to step on this scale.”

No, they have to pleasantly state. “I’m sorry ma’am, but it looks like you might fall under our ‘Customer-of-Size’ criteria. Could you just hand me the extra crispy 12 piece and step on the scale of shame please? Don’t worry Ma’am, no one will take it. Let’s see…three hundred and eighty…no, well you’re welcome to take them off but I don’t think removing your shoes will make that much of a difference…” I think there is a definite market for a new, upstart airline with unlimited snacks and double-wide seats. Fatty-Fatty-Two-By-Four Airlines? Come fly the chunky skies?

“Customers of Size” is a euphemistic and very confusing expression. It’s worse than “People of Color” We all have colors and sizes. Are there other such expressions on the horizon? Will people with lousy hygiene become People of Stank? Would this turn me from a “Man who couldn’t get laid with Brad Pitt’s dick” into a “Man of Hand?” And here I was hoping for “Involuntarily Celibate American.” Actually I think “Man of Hand” is a lovely expression.

“So, are you seeing anyone?”
“No, My girlfriend and I broke up in June and I’m playing the field. I’m a Man of Hand.”

How far will this go? I shudder to think.

Customer of Zit (Bad skin)
Customer of Douche (Jersey Shore Clone)
Customer of Slut (OK…that one has potential)

The euphemistic feel-good language is nothing new, but as I said before, it is something that has crept up on us as a society, and sadly I think it will continue to creep. Someone is going to sue an airline for being referred to as “Fat”, “Large” or “Obese”. “Um, excuse me; I don’t care for that word. It’s ‘Person of Size’ if you don’t mind.”

My Boy Lollipop

While riding the dreaded subway I happened to glance at one of the many gross-out public health ads that have abounded during the Bloomberg regime. This ad was an anti-sugar/dental care ad. At the top of the poster was an adorable little black girl, perhaps 6 or 7 years old. She reminded me of one of the Huckstable kids from The Cosby Show. The little cutey was sucking on a lollipop. But oh no, not in Mayor Bloomberg’s nursery, because directly below the sweet little girl was a disgusting dental photo straight out of the cast of Deliverance complete with repulsive black holes and gum lesions. I swear this photo was borrowed by one of the anti-crystal meth before and after ads. Apparently in Mister Bloomberg’s Neighborhood a little kid isn’t allowed to enjoy a lollipop.

We had PSA’s and movies in school when I was a kid that explained that a steady diet of cookies, ding dongs and candy was unhealthy. However, I don’t recall any of them giving me nightmares. We also had these mythological creatures called “Parents” (you may have heard of them) who rationed out the sugar to us, despite our best efforts to thwart their best efforts. I once constructed an elaborate rope ladder in response to my grandparent’s cookie jar being placed at a much higher elevation in a vain attempt to discourage me. The most disturbing thing we had were Crest toothpaste commercials featuring “The Cavity Creeps” who were little mouth goblins made out of something that resembled fecal matter. They ran around vandalizing someone’s pearly whites with jack hammers and pick axes while chanting “We Make Holes In Teeth”.

Little kids like candy. It is one of their few goals in life…staying up late, toys and candy….that’s it. That’s all I wanted as a kid. I wanted to stay up later and watch some of the grown up shows on TV, I wanted sweets and more toys. This is and was a short lived time of perfect innocence and unmatched happiness. And guess what? Nature has already built in a defense mechanism. We lose our teeth at an early age and they are replaced by a new and harder/stronger set. It dawns on me that the singing and dancing cartoon toothbrushes that I grew up with were pretty effective. Did Bloomberg commission Rob Zombie or Eli Roth for this ad campaign?

I wrote an article a couple years ago about subway ads and panic attacks, which was ironically titled Subway Ads and Panic Attacks. I had been riding the subway which is noisy, crowded and generally a yucky experience that is very conducive to anxiety, aggression and other none-too-pleasant feelings. On this fateful trip I looked up to see a graphic poster of AIDS and the increased risk of colon cancer. Let’s see, I get to wait in a filthy and sweaty train station for half an hour, board a subway car so crowded and suffocating that it rivaled the 3:10 to Auschwitz, listen to loud and angry announcements from Mr. Conductor “STANDCLEAR-A-THECLOSINGDOORSPLEASE!!!” While avoiding eye contact which is mandatory for NYC subway travel, I happen across a charming poster of a black and slimy, grapefruit sized tumor in someone’s emergency exit. Well, that makes everything better. Silly me, and here I thought this trip might be unpleasant.

Then there was the now famous soda ban that Bloomberg spearheaded. I don’t drink sugared beverages, and yes a 60 ounce bladder buster does seem excessive to me, but to spend time and resources on banning this option? We do have an obesity problem in this country, but it seems to me that this should fall under parental guidance. As poorly adjusted as I have turned out, I can’t remember it being because my parents didn’t allow me to inhale cookies and Hostess fruit pies by the case. They carefully explained that too much sugar and fat wasn’t good for me, didn’t keep these things in the house, and I promptly ignored them until I was old enough to know better, and by then I had discovered drinking and drug use to fall back on.

Life in NYC is stressful enough without an overbearing, billionaire nanny/mayor bombarding us with disturbing imagery. Every New York Yankee game last year on TV included graphic commercials of amputees who lost fingers, legs and feet as a result of smoking or diabetes. If this is Mayor Doucheberg’s response to unhealthy choices, then I say the next time he is indulging in the $200 porterhouse at Chez Rich Bastard a TV monitor with looped footage of undigested red meat being surgically removed from someone’s bowels should be placed directly in front of his table. Oh, what’s the matter Mr. Mayor? This is gross and unpleasant to look at? Well, we’re just trying to encourage you to make healthier choices because we care. Hmmm? Oh you’re an adult and already know this, and you just want to enjoy something tasty and these images disturb you? Yeah, kinda funny how that works.

Oxy . . . Moron

Oxy . . . Moron

Cell Phone Etiquette is an oxymoron, much like “Plastic Glass”, “Military Intelligence” or “Compassionate Conservative”. Most behavior having to do with cell phones has an appalling lack of etiquette. In fact, by design cell phones and their use is often downright rude. Poor cell phone behavior is among my favorite gripes…it’s right up there with Reality TV and perhaps a step below my all time favorite vitriolic target; the NYC Subway system and it’s governing body the MTA. Interestingly enough it was a recent ride on the subway that inspired me for this piece.

EPR (Excessive Public Repetition)
I was riding the train seated next to a young man was committing this gross and willful cell phone crime. We’ve all been within earshot of these people. This is when a person on their cell says variations of the same statement over and over again, until it takes every fiber of your being to keep from ripping the cell phone from their hand and screaming the information that everyone within ear shot has tired of, yet for some reason the person on the other end of that call hasn’t quite digested yet.

“Yeah, I called her and axed her to come.”
“No, I called her.”
“….and axed her to come..”
“Huh?”
“No, I axed her.”
“She said no, but I axed her.”
“Yeah, axed her to come…”
“No, no, no…I called her, huh? No I called her…”
“I called her.”
“I called her and…..”
“RIGHT, I called her and axed her to come.”
“What??”
“No… I axed her to come…yeah, when I called her.”

Annoyed yet? Yes, I was too, but he wasn’t finished.

“I axed her when I called…”
“No, when I called…yeah, I axed her then.”
“Well, I did axe her”

After 20 more minutes of this I found myself wishing that someone would axe him… in his forehead or kneecap. Judging by this man’s behavior, he would have just kept talking, and repeating himself.

“I just got axed…in the forehead.”
“No, some dude on the subway…axed me.”
“Yeah…in the forehead…No he axed me…”
“No…in the forehead…with an axe..”
“Listen, I’m-a have to call you back, we goin’ underground.”
The train descends into a tunnel to thunderous applause from the other passengers in the Rain Man’s subway car.

"Oh, enough about me. Let's talk about you. What do you think of me?"

“Oh, enough about me. Let’s talk about you. What do you think of me?”

Me-Monkeys
The second variety of cell phone criminals are the “Me-Monkeys.” We’re all familiar with this type too. The banality of their conversation supersedes everyone and everything else. They either flat out refuse to put their cell phone down long enough to interact like a human being and especially with a human being. I usually encounter Me-Monkeys while waiting in line for things.

It’s interesting that I chose to use an exchange at Starbucks as an example, as I kind of loathe Starbucks and the many nuances involved with them (Starbucks across the street from another Starbucks, their manipulation of the simple sizes of small medium and large, but that’s fodder for another rant. Starby’s is good as it seems to be a homing beacon and natural habitat for the Lesser North American Me-Monkey…come to think of it, it’s kind of their mating ground as well.)

Nice Starbucks Employee: “Hello, what can I get for you today?”
Me-Monkey: “So, I told Dylan that I might be late picking him up from his play date this afternoon….”
Nice Starbucks Employee: “Miss…?”
Me-Monkey: “I have an appointment for a manicure at 3….”
Customer Behind Me-Monkey: (Clears throat loudly)
Nice Starbucks Employee: “Miss?”
Me-Monkey: “….No, just a manicure, I don’t have time for a pedicure…”
In the same sentence she barks at the nice barista “Grande-latte.”, turns her back on the peon in the green apron and resumes without skipping a beat. “Sorry, I’m at Starbucks…Yeah I know, but I’m stressed and it always calms me down…”
Notice, she didn’t apologize to the nice lady taking her coffee order.

We all know how this proceeds. She is blabbing away about the world’s least significant minutia until her latte is made. She will continue to ramble on, slipping in a “How Much?” mid-sentence, because looking at the total lit up on the register or the price on the wall, or even (gasp) having a $5 bill at the ready would cut into her precious cellphone time. She prattles on in the cab ride to the nail salon, never deigning to interact with the driver, she spews on and on throughout her manicure, and in all likelihood the cell phone doesn’t leave the side of her pretty little head after picking up her son from his play date. It wouldn’t surprise me if she was on the phone while Dylan was being conceived…and delivered.

mobilephone_mocking

It’s a pity that those who provide services to the Me-Monkeys have to adhere to strict rules of etiquette and service decorum or there are consequences…while the Me-Monkey gets served, placated and even thanked. I say if someone is droning on when it’s their turn to be waited on, then they should be skipped and the person in line behind them should be waited on first. The service provider’s only comfort is perhaps a conspiratorial eye roll from the customer behind the Me-Monkey. I always try to make eye contact and share an eye roll. I’m considerate and thoughtful like that. As manners fall more and more by the wayside it has frankly amazed me that it hasn’t become socially acceptable to give the Me-Monkey a taste of their own medicine.

Me-Monkey ( Finally ready to order ): ” I’ll have the half caff latte and…”
Starbucks Employee’s phone begins to ring.
For the sake of irony her ring tone is “She Works Hard For The Money” by Donna Summer.
She raises a finger to the Me-Monkey and turns her back on them.
“Hey…oh nothing I’m at work… the usual rude and clueless idiots…yeah it sucks….”

I’ll get to the dreaded finger raise later.

TMI

TMI & TDL (Too Much Information & Too Damn Loud)
As a writer, I try to study and examine human behavior, human nature, the human condition, nuance, reactions etc…but I assure you, I do this strictly for purposes of ridicule. For example, I have often felt there is a very real market for a computer that responds to being hit or cursed at. Wouldn’t that be great? A nice solid overhand right to your computer screen and a low growl of “Stupid Fucking Thing!!” instead of restarting when things freeze up? Similarly, I think for the benefit of the general public, cell phones should automatically shut off when a person is speaking to loudly into them.

“PUT YOUR BROTHER ON THE PHONE!!!”
“I SAID PUT YOUR BROTHER ON THE PHONE, NOW!!!!”
“Hello? HELLO?…Dammit…”
Redialing angrily…
“PUT YOUR…Put your brother on the phone please.”

Nobody likes things inflicted upon them…ugly sights, smells and especially sounds. I’m a big fan of “You wanna step outside?” preceding a bar room brawl, it’s a courtesy to those around you and shows real courage. When you ask someone to step outside, what you’re really saying is; “Oh I’m going to stomp the ever-loving shit out of you…but there is no reason to spill an innocent bystander’s beer or break the furniture in this establishment…besides, if we step outside, there is much less a chance of your beating being broken up prematurely by bouncers or good Samaritans.” It’s a simple courtesy and it shows good manners and a basic concern for those around you…except for that person you’re dying to hit the second they step outside, of course.

Shout

Sure, sometimes we are angry and we need a little volume to get our point across, just remember you aren’t at home. You’re in public and that space belongs to all of us (Except for us smokers who have become social pariahs and criminals.) Which leads me to an interesting point. If a person lights up a cigarette pretty much anywhere these days everyone will fall all over themselves to tell them to extinguish it immediately. Yet, if a person is in public talking on their cell in an inappropriately loud voice, or even screaming…it becomes an awkward social situation. Sure, maybe people turn and scowl at the offending party, and if it goes on too long or gets too loud, the staff or management might have a discreet word. Those whose cellphone conversation volume rivals that of having the seats in front of the speakers at a Metalica concert really need to be spoken to about propriety. Propriety is something that has simply flown out the window in regards to cellphone use.

That brings us to the TMI portion. While speaking to my best friend earlier this evening I mentioned this and she told me she has overheard STD diagnosis’ via cellphones. Really? Jesus, I’d have trouble talking to my doctor about this in his office, never mind everyone at Arby’s or on the A Train. Sadly, I have never overheard “Herpes”, “Chlamydia” or “Burning Sensation” in a cell phone convo. I’d probably wink at them. On a side note “Chlamydia” has always sounded like a name for a perfume or cologne. I can just see the commercial. Giselle Bundchen sniffing Tom Brady’s bare chest on a Costa Rican beach at sunset…saxophone music plays in the background. She looks up at Tom and asks “Chlamydia?” Tom winks and nods. The ad closes with a deep voiced announcer…”Chlamydia from the Calvin Klein Intimate Collection”

too-much-information

Just because I haven’t overheard STD references..actually let me pause there, I keep using the word “Overheard”. Yet in the case of TMI/TDL cellphone convos, perhaps it is inaccurate…I’ll have to come up with a brand new term for these specific circumstances…a cell-infliction, or an ear-shove, ear-cram. cell-slam. I have come across break ups, drug deals, infidelity, and more. A little discretion, huh people? As much as it can amuse bastards like me, does the 8 year old at the next table in the restaurant really need to listen to; “Well, why don’t you just move in with that fat-ass bitch and let her suck your tiny, funky smelling dick?” It’s nice that we have a means of communication while we’re out and about…it doesn’t mean every little thing needs to be communicated immediately and publicly. Take 30 seconds, walk outside and around a corner to discuss your genital warts or tell your dad about your impending sexual reassignment surgery.

yip yips

Ring Tone Douchebaggery
Yes it’s nice to personalize things. My best friend personalized her ring tone when I call to the Yip Yip Martians from Sesame Street and their encounter with a telephone. The Martians would routinely encounter inanimate objects and assume that they were unfriendly citizens of Earth. In one vignette they encountered a telephone and tried to open a dialogue with it. The phone remained silent for a bit and the Martians seemed to be discouraged and slighted when suddenly the phone rings. Initially the Martians were afraid and pulled their mouths over their heads in an attempt to hide, something that has always just killed me. After a couple rings the Martians get over their initial fright and start talking back to the ringing phone. “Br-r-r-r-r-r-r–r-r-r-r–ING. Phooooone…Phoooone Br-r-r-r-r-r-r-r-r-r-rING” That “Br-r-r-r-r-r-r-rING” is her ringtone for me, and she delights when I call while she is having lunch with co-workers.

So, I get it. Ring tones are cute and all, but like in so many areas in life, people take things too far. For months I was bombarded on a daily basis by the least talented man in music Jay Z and his annoying “Empire State of Mind” chorus as everyone and their mother used it as their ring tone. I literally couldn’t go 30 seconds without hearing an outburst of “In Newwwwww Yoooooork..” If you hate a song to begin with, having it become a popular ring tone turns into a special kind of hell that should be reserved for the Hitlers and Jeffrey Dahmers of the world.

There also seems to be a direct correlation between how annoying a ring tone is and how long it takes the person to answer their phones. I fly into unbelievable rages when people do this. “Hey, P. Diddy, answer the phone huh? The rest of us don’t need to hear the 16 minute extended remix of NYC’s most over played song.” Whether it’s a cellphone or a land line, there is something maddening about a phone ringing and not being answered.

Texter

Textus Obliviatus (The Oblivious Texter)
If Darwin was right, it should be interesting to see how we will evolve physically after a few generations of text messaging. I have a theory of my own based on eye witness accounts and drawings of aliens who regularly come down to Earth for some redneck speed-dating, that these were once human beings. After a few generations of rampant and excessive cell phone use they developed long thin fingers for quick texting, large eyes located on the sides of their large heads so they can walk and text and avoid colliding with others on their planet. This is sadly a skill that we homo sapiens haven’t quite adapted to…yet

I find myself frequently playing an involuntary game or Blind Man’s Bluff or Marco Polo on the sidewalks of NYC. I pay attention to where I am going as I plod along, scowling and mumbling to myself. I can’t make it one full city block without having to side step to avoid some dink texting “Where U @” or “B Rite thr” to another moron causing head-on collisions elsewhere. Once while at school a girl plowed directly into me while texting despite my attempts to step out of her way. She bashed right into me, didn’t look up, didn’t say “excuse me” and kept right on texting and walking. I stopped and stared after her with my mouth agape in disbelief for a couple minutes. It was one of those moments of such incredibly bad behavior that I was literally stunned and speechless. (and speechless has never come easily to me) I wanted to yell something after her, but I had a sneaking suspicion that she was equally oblivious in the auditory sense. I found myself wishing she had been a guy so I could physically confront her/him (Unless of course they were over 6”4 with a gang tattoo on their neck, in which case live and let live, I always say.)

These people need to be confronted as their behavior is not only annoying and rude as hell, but is also potentially dangerous. These confrontations need to be of a physical nature too, because they are far too enthralled typing “NM U?” to hear someone yell “Hey watch it!!” They require a heavy tap on their shoulder and to be spoken to like a very stupid and poorly behaved young child. “Hey…I know seeing the picture of the kitten in the Yankees hat your friend posted on Facebook is a dire emergency, but maybe you could look up every 20 minutes or so?” Then punctuate this with a smack or slapping their Nokia or Samsung life support system to the ground and stepping on it with a satisfying crunch. (Unless of course they are 6”4 with a gang tattoo on their neck)

This leads us to our final cellphone asshat

So glad we decided to meet for lunch. No, really.

So glad we decided to meet for lunch. No, really.

Love The One You’re With & Giving People The Finger
I have worked for years as a bartender, waiter and bar manager. These positions have allowed me to observe many facets of human behavior, which is priceless for an aspiring writer. One thing I have noticed is that many people seem to need to be in constant communication with everyone at every second, with the possible exception of the people who they are physically with at present. It fascinates me to see 2 or 3 sets of couples getting together for dinner or drinks. I overhear them saying things like “I haven’t seen you in ages!” and things along those lines. Yet, almost immediately after the greetings and initial pleasantries they all whip out their phones and begin checking messages, sending texts and making calls. These friends, co-workers, and family members you haven’t seen in ages..they are right there…in front of you, you made an effort to be in their company…and yet, they seem to be the last person you’re interested in communicating with.

When asked about their evening, these folks would probably talk about where they ate, what they drank, who they were with…but really these things have become incidental. What they really did on Friday night was to answer messages, send texts, check their Facebook status and their friend’s Facebook status. Wouldn’t it be hilarious for people having dinner together to be communicating on Facebook via their cells rather than actually speaking to each other? It may sound silly, but it’s really not so far fetched.

I have promised myself that the next date I go on where the woman feels a need to spend more time on her cell phone then asking me where I went to high school and if I prefer the Beatles or Stones…I will quietly rise from the table, excuse myself, take our server aside and ask to have two lobsters, two filet mignons and two creme brules prepared to go, and that my date will get the check…oh and by they way, she’d like a bottle of your finest champagne delivered to our table in 20 minutes…Then I will pick up my food and go home to enjoy it in the much more attentive company of my cats.

Finger

Finally, I want to close with giving people the finger. No, not my favorite finger, that long one in the middle. Although the finger I am writing of and it’s use have slightly similar meanings. I am speaking of the finger people put up when they are in the middle of a face to face conversation with you and their life support system starts to ring, quack or sing “New York State of Mind…” They give precedence to the person calling rather than the one who is front and center. I think the next time someone I am engaged in a conversation with answers their phone, I will respond with a finger gesture of my own.

The human race survived and even flourished without cell phones for a very long time. People got messages, no one died, guys hooked up with girls, ambulances made it on time to save the patient. Cell phones are very convenient, but so are cars, televisions and scores of other inventions, and in closing I just wanted to state emphatically…oh sorry, I need to take this call.

Job Hunt Mach 2

Posted: January 26, 2013 by S. Trevor Swenson in Life, Me & Mine
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
I am the 81st down from the right

I am the 81st down from the right

Like millions of my fellow Americans, I am out of work…again. A few years ago my employer of 17 years and I engaged in an F Bomb exchange which excused me from the ranks of the employed for a couple years. Do I regret our four letter word rock opera? Yes and no, but it is spilled milk now. I felt slightly vindicated when I put an “I Hate Pigs” bumper sticker on his BMW to celebrate my one year anniversary away from the job. I actually ran into him during the holidays this year. We shook hands and were cordial to one another.

I have landed 3 jobs since then. One where the owner took an instant and intense dislike to me. Not much one can do about that. (I once asked my former employer “What the Fuck is your problem with me?’, and we know how that worked out.) The general manager hired me and on my first night of training I was introduced to the owner. I extended my hand to him and he gave me a look of utter and complete disgust. I was actually impressed as I have been working on that look for over 20 years. Well played, Sir! It was a facial expression reserved for finding a hair in your food and it was depressing. I thought I was finally turning the corner, only to have a job dangled in front of me and ripped away after 4 hours. I felt a little better after noticing that this place has a “Help Wanted” sign in their window every week. It seems the owner takes an instant and intense dislike to lots of applicants. Finally! It’s not me, it’s you.

"Oh, darling, I simply must have a Sazerac. Do be a lamb and fetch me one."

“Oh, darling, I simply must have a Sazerac.
Do be a lamb and fetch me one.”

The second job was at a posh and stuffy four star restaurant. I’m not posh or stuffy. (I’m…puffy.) They wear white dinner jackets. I’m more of a leather jacket kind of guy. I lasted 3 whole weeks on the job. It wasn’t for me, and I wasn’t for them. I’m accustomed to fast, turn and burn bar tending. This place demanded that each drink take half an hour to lovingly construct. The drinks were excellent and the man who designed them is world renowned. I just wasn’t the right man for a place that wanted a 28.5 millimeter lemon twist to rim the glass 6 and 1/2 times counter clockwise, while whistling Tchaikovsky’s Waltz of the Flowers, and precisely measuring 16 ingredients to craft a gin and tonic. I’ve checked the want ads; this place is always looking for staff as well. So, I got that going for me . . . which is useless.

Finally, I landed a job at an Irish pub in my neighborhood. I really liked my job. I liked my co-workers, I liked my bosses, I liked the customers, and those who I didn’t care for so much provided me with some fantastic material for my writing and comedy. It was never extremely busy, but I was working again, making money and going to school… what I like to call “having some semblance of a life” I was doing well and considered myself lucky.

I was at this job for a year…almost exactly a year. I spent the slow summer months anxiously awaiting the lucrative football season in Fall. As luck (or lack thereof) would have it, during the first football game of the season, while traversing three little steps in the pub, I felt a sickening pop above the heel of my left foot. Apparently the warranty on my Achilles tendon had just expired. I would be in a cast for the next 3 months. With the exception of McLimpy’s Tavern on E 14th St, no one was hiring staff members in casts so I spent that time catching up on “PARQUE ALEGRIA” my favorite Spanish language soap opera, applying fat from various comfort foods to my thighs, butt and stomach, and fighting my very own version of the Hundred Years War with the New York State Workers Compensation Board and my employer’s insurance company; Apathy Mutual of Hoboken. “We Truly Pretend to Care”

After I recovered, I discovered that my job was not waiting for my triumphant return. My boss told me to bring a note from a doctor and then promptly stopped returning my phone calls and had always “just stepped out” whenever I stepped in. My (former?) co-workers greeted me with a slightly embarrassed humble-mumble-chumbles. People don’t get fired anymore…they become more of an Orwellian “un-person” or more accurately an unemployed person. New York is an “employment at will” state, meaning a company will fire you if so inclined. And it seemed my boss was SO inclined.

It was back to the job hunt for the boy.

"Hi, my name is...."  "YOU'RE HIRED!!!"

“Hi, my name is….” “YOU’RE HIRED!!!”

Had I learned anything during my first crack at being a man of leisure? Yes. I learned that the job market sucks, that many bar owners prefer breasts to experience, I learned that I had gotten spoiled having the same job for 17 years. However, I am a firm believer that we cultivate a great deal of our own luck. The more I am out there, the better my chances of experiencing some good timing or luck. I am also glad that it is winter. The cold weather has added to my motivation in terms of not having to relocate from my apartment to a refrigerator box with a breakfast nook out by where the buses don’t run. Plus, I don’t show up to open calls and interviews drenched in sweat. It’s a bummer to call and thank someone for an interview and have them say “Oh yeah, you’re that sweaty guy, I remember you, Uh, we’ll let you know” I can just imagine some manager writing “Too sweaty” on my soggy resume. Yuck.

Sometimes I go out and just drop resumes off in various neighborhoods with good street traffic and lots of bars and restaurants. I shower, shave and. dress to resemble a responsible and productive member of society. I zip into places and ask “Hi, is there a manager I could possibly drop my resume off with?” Some people are nice. They take my resume, smile and wish me luck. Others are just overtly unpleasant. Last week a haughty Maître’s D sneered ‘”You can leave it” (meaning my resume),” as if it took every fiber of his being to not follow this with “But really, we shant be calling you back.” Lots of hostesses have an utterly charming, smelling-a-fart facial expression when I swing by to drop off a resume and speak to the (never present) manager. Aren’t these women hired to be the “face” of the venue? When did friendliness and basic politeness leave this job description? Should a hostess act as a deterrent? “Sorry to interrupt your texting Ms. Evangelista, I know it’s a lot to ask, but would you be a dove and take my resume, lie about passing it along to the manager and maybe even smile? Judging by your demeanor, you’d think I shambled in here bleeding profusely from both ears and barking in an inappropriately loud voice “Hey toots, where’s the crapper in this joint?”

"Before you hand me your resume, allow me to fetch my rubber gloves and tongs."

“Before you hand me your resume, allow me to fetch my rubber gloves and tongs.”

This time around I seem to be getting more call backs and interviews, which is encouraging. The first time around I could literally go weeks without hearing back from anyone. Of course, I have been to 3 interviews in 2 weeks where the interviewers were incredibly rude and cold. This makes no sense to me. I can understand seeing someone for the first time and deciding that this isn’t the person you had in mind for the job. As much as we like to deny it, we do judge books by their covers, but it’s a good business strategy to paste a smile on one’s face, shake hands, ask a couple questions and muster a friendly “Thanks, We’ll let you know.” Really, the entire industry is based on acting pleasant and nice to people, and especially being able to fake it. Plus, it would be too easy for someone less well-adjusted than I to take offense and call the Heath Department or leave a review on sites like Yelp or Urban Spoon with fictitious tales of rat droppings in the ceviche, food poisoning or rude staff. Plus, you called me. I am merely showing up to an interview that you requested, Smiley.

I step into some places and immediately realize that I stand no chance whatsoever of working there. Lots of Irish pubs only hire illegal Irish aliens, I’ve tried to fake an accent, but I always blow it by humming “Danny Boy” and making some ridiculous reference to Irish Spring soap or Lucky Charms cereal. Other places have nothing but Charlie’s Angel’s rejects struggling with the intricacies of a vodka and tonic. I’m not young and fabulous, so I don’t even bother with chic lounges or trendy nightclubs. I make it a point not to go to places that wont let me in.

The NYC service industry is a unique microcosm. Many places want head shots, bi-lingual a plus and all kinds of other criteria. “A strong background in Northern Italian wines preferred” (For McGinty’s Pub?) This becomes a slippery slope. I think people expect us to embellish, exaggerate and..OK….OK, lie on our resumes and during interviews, but one can’t go too far with this. We’d be found out day one, embarrassed and fired….and being unemployed is embarrassing enough. There was a coffee shop in Union Square that only hired Brazilian models. Another place designed as a honky-tonk that only hired models with a special cocktail dyslexia. “I’ll have a Red Stripe please.” 25 minutes later she would produce a glass of red wine. If you decided to stay and try for a second round, she’d bring Johnny Walker Red. These are the people who are getting the jobs. Yeah, life’s fair.

Maybe I should apply

Maybe I should apply

Years ago I went into a bar in the Village to use of their bathroom. Since there is an unwritten law that people are not allowed to use restrooms without a purchase, I bought a glass of wine that I really didn’t want. It was officially a gay bar (Something cleverly named The Dude Ranch), but in neighborhoods like the East Village, the lines between gay and straight became blurred. People went were they liked the music or the prices. The bartender that day was a swishy, middle aged gay man who was balding with a pot belly. His appearance was decidedly un-fabulous. Still, as I drank my wine and he held court with the handful of customers who were there, I quickly realized he was really funny, engaging and warm. I ended up staying for two more glasses of wine because I had nowhere to be, and we were all having a good time. It dawned on me that this terrific bartender wouldn’t stand a chance of getting a job at 99% of the gay bars in the city. They’d laugh at him and make bitter, queeny jokes about his weight or appearance the second he walked out the door. Then they’d promptly hire the Chelsoid gym rat with no personality, no experience, but who had stapled a beautifully photo-shopped and shirtless photograph of his fabulous self to his misspelled resume.

My point is that the resume my mommy thinks is “Very nice honey” with legitimate experience and references can matter very little. There are many places that are always hiring. They only want the beautiful people working for them. In this economy, the owner of the corner gin mill gets to act like Steve Rubell from Studio 54. I have worked with some very good looking people, and some of them were crackerjack staff members. Yet, sadly it is all too common to find a pretty, yet aloof bartender busily text messaging while hapless patrons wave $20 bills at them in a futile attempt to get the bartender to actually tend to the bar. Eventually, after updating their Facebook status with “My job sucks”, they glance over at the customer, roll their eyes, slam down a bottle of Budweiser in front of them and fetch their change without a word of thanks. Or, when someone orders a scotch and soda, they tilt their pretty little heads and ask “What’s in that?”

Having a resume; it makes me feel all grown-up. I look over my references and continuity and feel proud of myself. Another thing that gives me minor internal hissy fits is when an interviewer takes my resume and wants me to fill out an application. I had thought that the point of a resume is to save time on things like applications. Of course, we can’t roll our eyes when we are handed an application. We have to be cheerful and act as if we were given one off those huge checks from Publisher’s Clearing House. “Oh, goody-gumdrops! You mean I get to hand write everything that is already typed neatly on the paper I just gave you on to a whole new piece of paper?” I loathe these modern redundancies, like when we punch in our account numbers when calling our cable company, and then being asked for the same number 40 minutes later when we finally reach a human being.

It is an employer’s market. I read ads of what they are seeking and it is an extensive laundry list of sacrifice and dedication for the privilege of working for someone. Under “compensation” there is usually a single euphemistic business-speak word “competitive”. Translation: as little as we are able to get away with. Some companies at least try to be creative “Work with a first rate team who are able to think outside of the box.” Well, I suppose that does sweeten the sub-minimum wage pay. While I was working I would look over resumes other people had dropped off. I was also always nice to perspective applicants. It was not uncommon to come across people with Master’s Degrees and Ph.D.’s looking to wait tables and schlep drinks. This made me feel better, while also scaring me a little. I remember showing up to an open call at a popular hotel years ago. I had shown up 20 minutes early, only to join a line of applicants that looked like one of the black and white photos from The Great Depression. In line were stunningly beautiful and handsome young men and women holding professionally designed resumes in sexy binders. They wore beautifully tailored, designer clothes and seemed so sure of themselves. These are the people I am competing with, and many of them are more educated, younger, better looking and possibly more desperate than I am. Personally, if I was in a position to hire, I’d exploit any and all desperation. “Well, you’re certainly qualified; but would you be willing to give me a foot massage and to address me as ‘Most Exalted Daddy Pants’? And by the way, how are you at ‘thinking outside the box?” Looking eager and upbeat takes energy too, more energy than one might think. This made me understand why people stop looking for work after a year or year and a half. It’s tantamount to being pumped up in the locker room for the big game, yet week after week getting slaughtered on the field. The job hunt can be exceptionally draining and soul sucking. It’s hard to keep from taking rejection and a lack of response personally.

Be it ever so crumbled....There's no place like home.

Be it ever so crumbled….There’s no place like home.

I’ll get another job sooner or later, hopefully sooner as my landlord is a little funny about my bringing in partial rent payments in rolled up pennies and nickels and saying “I’ll try to get the rest of it to you next week.”