The Declan Chronicles

Posted: October 23, 2014 by S. Trevor Swenson in Uncategorized

Among my favorite customers at the bar where I work are Scotty and his little boy; Declan. Scotty and I usually shoot the bull about sports, cooking, movies and music. We don’t discuss women, because being married his life is essentially over in that sense, and I don’t want to make him feel bad. He’s easy to talk to and I enjoy his company. He usually stops by for a beer or three with Declan after getting the little boy a slice of pepperoni pizza from the pizzeria next door. “Fold it in half and then eat it…You’re a New Yorker boy, and you’re going to eat you pizza like on”. Declan promptly ignores this and picks off the southern most slice of pepperoni and eats that before going into his own unique slice consumption technique.
While Papa Scotty drinks beer, Declan has a ginger ale which he asks for with a “Please” followed by a “Thank You”. I’m thrilled in this day of so many entitled little brats and their enabling clueless parents walking around that someone is teaching their child good manners, how to share and respect for elders. ( Although I hate being thought of as an “elder”, even to a three year old ) I once made him a Shirley Temple, but the sugary grenadine made him act like a Tasmanian devil under the influence of 3 double espressos.

I also thought I should address a little boy being in a bar. I can certainly understand the concern or disapproval of such a thing. Our owner is from rural Ireland where people bring their kids, dogs etc. to the local pub. It’s a warm and” neighborhoody” place and these are Declan’s neighbors who he has grown up around his whole life. We also take pains to ensure that no one swears or discusses anything “adult” near him.

Declan is a cute little boy with angel-blond hair. He’s quick to smile and laugh, plus he’s reasonably well behaved for a 3 year old. Frankly if he was anymore well behaved, I probably wouldn’t be so fond of him. I like kids with a touch of mischief to them. I have a low brat threshold and an appreciation for childlike devilry…Probably because I can relate to it. He reminds me a little of Calvin from the comic strip Calvin and Hobbes I am also fond of the name “Declan” which is the name of an Irish saint. My employers also have a son named Declan. He’s never bratty near me, and on the rare occasion that he starts to cry or whine all I need to say is “Declan stop whining” or “Declan, be a big boy” and he’ll stop immediately. My best friend has expressed a great deal of frustration that this technique doesn’t seem to work with me. She has tried “Putting me in time out” but has found that I am generally more responsive to corporal punishment and yelling.

Recently Declan has been asking his father to drop by the bar to visit me more frequently. ” I want to go visit Uncle Scott”. Now I know I’m lovable and marinated in particularly potent awesome-sauce, but my little 3 year old friend has an ulterior motive in coming to see me. I have been bringing my computer to work and I take care of the bar’s ( and my) social media updates. A few weeks ago I went on youtube and found some clips of “The Swedish Chef” from The Muppets that I thought Declan might like to watch while his dad and I discussed the shortcomings of each other’s football teams. As I said, we don’t swear in front of the boy…so we spell out all the no-no words. “The Pittsburgh Steelers eat dead wino C-O-C-K” Declan was promptly hooked on The Swedish Chef. Scotty and my theory is that because Scotty likes to cook at home and Declan “helps” him in the kitchen that he relates to the chef. Plus, of course, the Muppets are wonderful for people of any age.

“Wanna see the Weedish Chef” Declan will exclaim when I plop my laptop in front of him. “OK…OK…hold your horses” I say (God, I loathe being a grownup and saying crap like that. Next thing you know I’ll be belching out parental clichés like “It’s good for you” and “Because I said so”) So I cue up “Weedish Chef” clips for him and seeing the rapturous delight on his face makes my life a little more worth living. We’ve watched every Swedish Chef clip at least 5 times, but he hasn’t tired of them yet…He even has some favorite clips which he has titled based on whatever the hapless chef was attempting to cook. “Popcorn” or “Pum-kin Carving” or as the Chef says “Kar-vin dee Pooompkin” he’ll request. as those are a couple of his favorites.

Scotty and I have attempted to introduce Declan to some of the other Muppets like Kermit, Statler and Waldorf, Pepe the King Prawn, Gonzo…No dice. He wants the chef and pretty much only the chef.

I am a huge fan of Beeker the masochistic and anxious lab assistant Muppet. I collect Beeker toys and I find him hilarious and cute. Today, I tried once again to introduce my young friend to one of my favorite Muppet characters and I cued up a clip of Beeker and Dr. Bunsen Honeydew for Declan. Declan patiently indulged me and watched for a few seconds, and then his face changed to one of sad concern. I hadn’t thought about it until I saw the little boys face, but Beeker’s lot in life is pretty horrifying. He works for an incompetent scientist-inventor who uses him willy-nilly as a crash test dummy or ( dangerous ) product tester. I felt bad as Declan pointed at the screen and said to me and his father “He needs help” Yes, I suppose Beeker could use some help. I also felt hopeful in that this little boy of 3 is already learning empathy, pity , kindness and a desire to help others who might be having a hard time. Don’t ever lose that Declan…it can be in short supply in this world.

“Be a good boy, or there wont be any beatings for you”

In addition to the Muppets, I like to put Declan on my shoulders, toss him around and roughhouse with him. In the back of the bar where I work are some lounge areas with couches and small tables. I love to grab my little buddy, sling him over my shoulder and carry him to the couches while I announce in a loud voice ” OK boy…that’s it, you’re getting a beating” When we get to the couches I drop him on top of the cushions in a slamming motion and I punch the cushions next to him pro-wrestler style. “Arrrrgh” I exclaim, picking him up and pretending to slam him again. ” Oh, Ladies and Gentlemen…This once great fighter “Declan Dynamite” is in big trouble here at Madison Square Garden…” I say as I pretend to punch him and then tickle him mercilessly. Declan giggles and shouts. “Again!!!” I pick him up and “slam” him down a few more times, tickle him and make wrestling commentary until I get tired. He is the only human being I have ever met who asks to be tickled more, instead of begging the tickler to stop. I used to hate when bigger or older friends and relatives held me down and tickled me, and my ex girlfriends would start to look for heavy objects to brain me with whenever I tickled them.

After his beating, I usually announce “That’s it boy…get outta here now, yer buggin me” and will run gleefully back to his fathers side. Scotty will ask “Did you get a beating?” to which Declan will squeal blissfully “Yeah!!” Sometimes I carry him back to where his dad is and ask. “You want this back?” Scotty will answer nonchalantly ” I dunno, let me think about it”

Sometimes Declan wants to “Play in his cave”. What he means by this, is for me to put a couple of the small tables together for him to crawl under and in to…like a cave. I don’t want to deny him any fun, but I get a little worried he’s going to bang his head a good one on the low ceiling of his “cave”. I sound like an old lady telling him “Watch your head…don’t hit your head”. When did I become such an old lady?

These shenanigans have become quite routine. I started asking nonchalantly “You wanna beating Declan?” He immediately brightens up and squeals out a delighted “YEAH”. I make an exaggerated mean face and grab him, tossing him over my shoulder, then we make our way over to the couches. Scotty and the other regulars think this is hilarious. I suppose it is.

This routine has lead to some problems. Perhaps unaware of the literal meaning, Declan with his young child’s gift for horrible timing and brutal honesty will exclaim in public to his dad…”I need a beating” or ” I didn’t get my beating today and I’ve been good”, and all adults within earshot give Scotty a look of utter disgust prior to hopping on their phones to child protective services.

I experienced a similar reaction when Declan’s mother; Denise came in one day, and Declan piped up “Uncle Scott gave me a beating today”. Denise flashed me a less than pleased look at this and I shrugged sheepishly trying to explain.

Luckily now Denise is with the program, and even uses our game as incentive. “Declan, if you can’t act like a big boy, them I’m taking you home and No Beatings”

Top 20 Lists

Posted: October 17, 2014 by S. Trevor Swenson in Uncategorized

My cousin just sent me a “20 Things That Annoy Your Bartender” list/article online which I read both eagerly and dutifully. If someone was kind enough to think of me and send something that they felt I would be interested in or entertained by, it’s the least I can do to read it and thank them.

Thank you cousin Sharon.

There are lots of these types of articles bouncing around in internet-land. I have come across several and from many different professions. Strangely I haven’t read any listing the common laments of billionaires…well, just National Review and Fox News. I suppose it is safe to say that nearly everyone who has a job has something or some-things they can gripe about. The world’s a tough place, and as I am fond of saying “The general public isn’t generally very pleasant” People are entertained by lists of grievances and gripes that cover the pitfalls of their occupation. Everyone’s got them; from the triangle player of the philharmonic to the Walmart greeter, to the cops, ambulance drivers to soldiers( Getting shot at probably trumps my annoyance at the drunks who tear up coasters and leave messes for me)…Teachers and nurses always seem to have lots to be angry or frustrated about, but I’ll bet prison guards and meter maids, on the whole, have worse jobs. Prison guards routinely have feces thrown in their faces by inmates. How does that hold up to the jerk in your office who keeps taking your yogurt from the office fridge? Yeah? I thought so. Perspective is important.

I have even written my fair share of these types of essays. I’m not so much of a list maker, which seems to be the contemporary substitute for biting satire. I guess things move too fast these days to read and analyze something. It’s much easier to burn through a list. I’d like to earn a living writing or performing comedy, or just writing. However, I am well adjusted and possess enough self honesty to realize that there is a whole new top 20 list out there for successful ( a very relative term) or at least an employed writer or comedian with the things that make it an effort to get out of bed some days and sit in front of an audience, computer screen, or if you’re particularly good and in demand; both.

Stephen King, Matt Taibi, Danielle Steele, Bill Maher, or whoever, they all have very real gripes with their jobs that some of us can only imagine, and many that we probably cant. The latter is where your average Joe say’s “Aw Poor Widdle Baby….Is ooo having twouble wif aww doze millions of dowwars for tewwing jokes?” I do it too. Nothing makes me roll my eyes so fast I am in danger of ocular injury than seeing someone like Kanye West angry with his lot in life. Kanye seems very pissed off. Somebody give him a hug, huh?

I sometimes wonder how I’d handle literary fame. How many people have pestered Stephen King to read something they wrote? “Oh your roommate liked it, well that goes to the top of Mr. King’s Must- Read List.” Stevie seems like a nice fellow, so I’m sure he takes the essays, smiles and thanks them kindly.

As interesting and apt as some of these lists about my profession are, I am always equally fascinated with the commentary that follows. Lots of people like to kvetch…significantly less like to listen to or read kvetching. It has, what I like to call a “socially short shelf life”. It’s a precarious balance. We need to purge ourselves of the frustrations of our occupation, and the ever accompanying “How clueless so many people are, and how much they suck”. Similarly we need people to listen and to commiserate or agree with us. What people really like, and probably hope for, is to actually educate others on how to behave toward their waiter/waitress, police officer, dentist, doctor, or drug dealer. This all too often becomes a “Fools Errand”. Not surprising, but that’s a favorite expression of this particular curmudgeonly author.

Perhaps the most important thing to remember when reading and especially writing these essays and lists, is that those annoying behaviors that make you fantasize of shooting sprees…Well, the culprits see things very differently, and for better or worse, very, very few of them are going to change.

My best friend who also often acts as my editor, literary agent and a plethora of other thankless ( and sans pay) jobs used to be a waitress and a bartender. When I lament to her, or write a piece about the nightmare shift I had consisting of trifling old ladies or mean drunks; she gets it. I was a salesman briefly, and I’d like to think that I get it in regards to the garden variety nonsense that salespeople must contend with.

So keep pumping out those lists. I enjoy “The Bitchy Waiter” blog. He’s funny, entertaining and I can relate. And I encourage my friends and family members to keep sending them to me. At the very least it shows that you’re thinking of me, and that I’m not alone.

However, I think it would be a wonderfully emphatic exercise for us to make a list of the 20 things that drive some other occupation crazy. Yet someone you feel complains too much or has it easy at their job.

Give it a shot…and send me the list.

Misanthrope

Posted: October 4, 2014 by S. Trevor Swenson in Uncategorized

I have said it a million times( OK…OK…I’ve said it 5 or 6 times give or take); I LOVE Words. I think more than using new and cool words, I really love to discover them. When I say “discover” what I really mean is that I figuratively get off my literary fat ass and look up a word I have heard several times before, and yet I’m not entirely certain of it’s definition. I do like to misuse words, but I like to know that I’m misusing them, purposefully and for my own entertainment. My favorite example of cool word discovery is when I looked up the word “pedantic” after being told I couldn’t go to the bathroom by a teacher…IN FUCKING COLLEGE. In hindsight, maybe if I had held my groin, crossed my legs and squirmed around, maybe he’d have taken me more seriously. After hearing about this another teacher mentioned with a chuckle that “certain teachers at our college could be a little pedantic. I agreed and then I looked up the word, because looking smart and educated always takes precedence over being smart and educated.

For weeks afterward I used “pedantic” whenever possible. I slipped it in during lovemaking “Oh take that you pedantic slut…you know you want it” I took an extra special delight when I used it and others got a look on their face that they didn’t know exactly what it meant…Morons. I started using it incorrectly to see if I could get away with it, which is another one of my favorite word games.

“Hey Scott, you tried that new Mexican place “Loco Louies” on Astoria Blvd…how was it?”

“You know, I have eaten there twice, and I found their tacos and rice to be…pedantic, very pedantic Mexican food.”

“So, you liked it?”

Then in my most wonderful Coach Bill Belichick moment, I narrowed my eyes and mumbled ” I think I was pretty clear about how I feel about their food”

Once during a Pity Party and Reassurance Reception with my best friend, she once told me “Well honey you’re not the most prolific writer.” I became very quiet, told her I was tired and was going to bed, and then, after hanging up I wept. The next morning I woke up, still very depressed and finally decided to look up “Prolific”. It turns out, she was right…but I’ll never tell her that.

My latest word is “Misanthrope”. Now I knew contextually that it had to do something with hate or disliking, which sounded right up my alley. So last night I broke down and looked it up.

Misanthrope or misanthropist.

A person who has a general dislike or distrust for the human race. Although they dislike the majority of the human race they can function considerably well in sexual and friendly relationships. They are often humored and disgusted by the human species. They are not often harsh or bitter people.

Oh Great Spirit…It’s ME!! There is a dictionary definition of ME. Oh Happy Days. I’m going to send Miriam-Webster some photos of me to put next to the definition. I’m thoughtful that way. I am a misanthrope…not a selfish douchebag.

I find it fascinating that a person who dislikes humanity so much has chosen to spend the past 20 plus years in a city of eight to ten million other humans. I’d be so much better suited to working solo at a research facility in Greenland, playing Scrabble online and yelling out my window at penguins “Hey you kids, get off my goddamn lawn, I’m not telling you again”

Maybe the reason I’m in NYC is that it is such a paradise for misanthropes. The city that never sleeps is chock full of people just begging to have others shake their head in disbelief and disgust at them. Some of my favorite conversations with my NYC friends ( Yes I have friends, Misanthropes can have friends…it’s in the rule book) have to do with our shared annoyance and hatred of others.

“I wish they’d build a bridge over Times Square for RESIDENTS only, then not only will I be able to get around without crawling behind stupid tourists, but I’d still be able to spit on them”

“Oh I know. I was trying to cross Broadway the other day and was stuck behind two dumb assed hicks taking pictures of Bubba Gumps”

(In an exaggerated Southern drawl) ” Looka thar Jethro, that buildings got more’n FIVE floors high”

“Ah knows Bubba, Dat thar guide book said that Applebees is right ’round “chere”

I’m an agnostic ( Yeah, I had to look that one up too), and I still pray…sometimes several times a day. I was thrilled to discover that I could do both. I’m equally thrilled to discover that I can hate humanity, and still love individuals as well as have friends.

With the exception of humanity…the world’s an alright place.

How Full Of Shit Are You?

Posted: August 24, 2014 by S. Trevor Swenson in General, Life
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,
http://quizdoo.com/

Not without several years of training I’m not!

There are these tests on Facebook and probably throughout the internet. “Are you going to Heaven?” or “Are you more street smart or book smart”…They’re silly things that help pass the time, and that we can post in Facebook to look more interesting….as long as we’re not meeting anyone in person.

I got to thinking about some good ideas for tests. Important info for people to know, and important to know about yourself….Not as important as “What True-Blood Character Are You?”, but pertinent info nonetheless.

How about…

How Full Of Shit Are You?” I asked my best friend how full of shit I was tonight and she told me “Average I guess”. I suppose I was hoping for a “Not very” I told her I’m sorry, and I’ll work on it. I appreciate her honesty. This would make her not so full of shit, which is a good thing, and probably an excellent choice to ask these important questions of.

How Annoying Are You?” I don’t think people think they’re very annoying or annoying at all. I can be annoying, but I also think I’m slightly more self aware than the average bear. I’m also one of those who is entertained by annoying others… subtly of course. Tiny torments can amuse me for hours if not days. There are also different types and levels of annoyance.

I find subway "entertainers" very annoying. Feel free to judge.

I find subway “entertainers” very annoying. Feel free to judge.

How about, “Do You Generally Know What You’re Talking About?“. I suppose that could also possibly be filed under the “How Full Of Shit Are You.

I think there are subtle differences. I think I am more ‘full of shit’ than going through life not knowing what I am talking about. I certainly don’t know everything, and I try to be certain when I speak on various subjects. I think my “full of shit” comes into play in(hopefully) a somewhat harmless manner. I make comments or chime in on discussions where I know a little, but I probably make it seem like I know more than I do. I like to talk, and I have a gift for gab. I hope I’m not “full of shit” in an eye-rolling “Oh God Here we go” kind of way. I have worked in bars for several years, and I see this kind of thing often. I see when certain patrons walk in and others mutter to themselves or whomever is next to them. They groan and the whisper comments. I’d hate to be thought of like that. I know everyone doesn’t like me. I know it’s impossible to be liked by everyone ( Or it’s pretty damned difficult)

I have been thinking recently that one of the biggest problems with assholes, is that they not only have no idea that they’re assholes, but they wouldn’t and wont believe others when they tell them. Sorry for all the potty-mouth in this essay…”Full of Shit” and “Assholes”. I’m trying to reel in my swearing, I just feel for the sake and feel of this piece that these are the best words or expressions.

I think it’s important to try to be aware of how full of shit we are. It’s also important to try to keep that in check or improve upon it…ie trying to be less full of shit. I wonder if I were to be followed around with a camera for a full day or week if I would cringe at some of my more full of shit moments. I probably would, but that’s a good thing. One should cringe at such behavior.

I have been writing a great deal of haiku recently. They’re not great, but my friends and family seem to enjoy reading and commenting on them. A couple weeks ago, the middle line of one of my haiku was ‘Try not to be an asshole”. This is sound advice and a good philosophy.

In closing, I’d like to say to those who know me, that I’m sorry if I’m an average level of “full of shit” and I will try to be more aware and address this. Maybe I can improve my batting average, My best friend is a kind person, and she’d never say that I’m average in the full of shit department out of malice. Hell, she wouldn’t hang out with me if it was a major issue I suppose. Like a true best friend, she wants me to be my best, while still loving me for who I am… However, I do think the average person is quite full of shit, and not terribly bright. I know that doesn’t sound very nice, but it’s honestly how I feel…Therefore, I don’t want to be part of that gang. I want my full of shit tank gauge to be pointing closer to “Empty”

Thanks For Reading By the way…I scored more book smart than street smart ( I disagree) and the chances of my going to Heaven are pretty solid. I never took the True Blood quiz.

Hot For Teacher

Posted: June 28, 2014 by S. Trevor Swenson in Uncategorized
“They say “Those who can’t do, teach, and those who can’t teach…teach gym”- Woody Allen Annie Hall
 
After submitting two articles to 3 magazines for publication and being rejected I feel I have spent far too long and more than enough time in chasing my elusive fantasy of being a writer  . I’m going to do what I do best in times of difficulty.  I’m going to quit.    It’s time to get serious and utilize my talents.  I’m going to teach creative writing.  I don’t know why I didn’t think of this before. I need a career, and I’m entirely too awesome for anything as mundane as going to school, grad school and working my way up at some profession. I am a child of the 80s.  We have a warped sense of entitlement, and those of my generation who don’t…well people like me more than make up for it.  I love writing, and even more than that I love feeling smarter than others and dashing their hopes.   Being paid for doing this?  Even better than my all time favorite job of being a roadie for a garage band,
 
Today there are all kinds of learning annexs and community centers that offer night classes.  This is a bonus for me as I am quite nocturnal…blame it on TV Land, Nick At Nite and Turner Classic Movies.   These learning centers and night classes charge big bucks and I am convinced that many of  the instructors all have fictitious degrees.   I can put together fake qualifications with ease. I have friends in England and Germany who would love nothing more than to give me an extensive contrived work history. Hint:  Accents and bogus qualifications from foreign countries are great.  Who checks on these things?  I could have my friend Silvia write me a glowing recommendation…in German.  Very few of us are strangers to the little white lies that have become mandatory with job histories.  Hell, my current resume has been praised as one of the great works of American fiction of our time. I’ll study some pretentious and obscure words for an interview, invest in a tweed jacket, grow a beard, buy a pipe and voila…I am now Professor Swenson your creative writing teacher.
 
I have rather pronounced problems with my attention span.  Experts have called it ADD or ADHD, but “disorder” is too mild a word for what I am afflicted with.  I have petitioned the psychiatry and neurology community to come up with a new ailment based soley on me.  “ADC”  Attention Deficit Catastrophe or ADM Attention Deficit Meltdown.  I have even volunteered to be a case study.  I pictured myself contentedly living in a nice clean laboratory with my own tire swing, fresh shredded newspaper, and pretty college co-eds giving me fun experimental drugs, watching me play with colored blocks, etch-a-sketches and trying to teach me sign language. My point I am demonstrating( rather well if you read the last paragraph) is that I have trouble staying on topic.  How in the world could I expect to read and grade 25 or 30 creative writing assignments.?   Well I have thought of this.  I’ll just ask that all assignments to be turned in as a word file so I can just hit the spell check feature, which also corrects grammar.   Then I will print up the papers, grab a red pencil and commence in dashing the hopes of young writers.  Surely no one can fault me for wanting a bitter outlet for my failed writing career.  You can’t keep too much bitterness bottled up inside or you begin to exhibit a  socially unacceptable level of mumbling to yourself or wackaloon persecution theories.  Case in point?  Mr Donald J Trump.
 
I want to print the papers as one of my many teaching fantasies involves storming up and down rows of desks and publicly humiliating students by throwing their papers at them and announcing their grade to the entire class coupled with biting commentary
 
“Mr Blatt….F”
“Ms Chestworthy….C minus”
“Ms Corsette…D”
“Mis-ter Mar-Za-lek….D minus…maybe if you spend more time on your work and less time drawing little scribbles in your notebook you might get a better grade”
 
and so on.
 
 
I’m sure I’ll read, or more accurately skim (because that’s how we ADDer’s read) some of my student’s papers.  If I have enough love or hate for a person or a thing, I can muster enough attention to dissect every milligram of minutia.  I’d love to discover a passionate new writer and inspire them.  I would just as passionately assassinate the self esteem of a student who sauntered into my class 3 minutes late, or sends text messages during my brilliant lecture on why George Orwell is the greatest author of all time and anyone who disagrees with me are mistaken.  One of my last English teachers told me that my college banned the use of the dreaded red pencil used by teachers to correct papers since the dawn of time.  She told me that the red pencil was banned because the college had made the decision that it was detrimental to students self esteem.  Upon hearing this, I died a little bit inside, rolled my eyes and blurted out  “But how do you let students know their stupid?  Stickers?”  Like countless teachers before her she glared at me and hissed “Shhh”.
 
Speaking of stickers, that is one trend in teaching I was sad to see go in first grade.  I loved getting stickers on my papers.  Gold stars, red stars, little Sesame Street characters like Grover giving a thumbs up sign with a big “Great Job” caption.  Teachers had to edit themselves a little back then too as I noticed that Karl Kane our school’s less intelligent version of Forrest Gump never got the Oscar the Grouch sticker with Oscar yelling “Scram” and flashing a green furred middle finger.  I collect stickers now and have some terrifically appropriate ones for  term papers.  I got a sheet of stickers with the “Elmo Goes To The Potty” activity book that sits in my bathroom this very minute.  I bought it for the Cookie Monster images which I collect as well as to combat occasional irregularity.  The “Going to the Potty” sticker set would be perfect for correcting adult ed papers.  There were plenty featuring a smiling Ernie and Bert with a caption reading “Great Job”  or “You learn fast!!” for my favorite students, as well as some with a less than happy  Cookie Monster and the words “Don’t Forget To Flush” for my less than stellar students.   Of course If I wanted to be cryptic and make a student think, I could adorn their paper with a Guy Smiley sticker that reads “Make Sure To Wash Your Hands”.
 
Yes, stickers will definitely be a part of the curriculum.
 
Now if you’ll all excuse me, I have a fictional resume to work on.
 
 

People Matter

Posted: June 27, 2014 by S. Trevor Swenson in Uncategorized

Today I was browsing through my inbox and happened across this old piece of mine.  It was written over a year ago when I was in the midst of a soul-sucking job hunt.  I hope my readers will enjoy it.  It is slightly Orwellian and depressing, but hopefully I’ll manage to garner a few laughs too.  Thanks for reading.

Today while browsing the want ads I happened across an ad for servers, bartenders and other staff for a brand new Ruby Tuesdays set to open in Times Square.  During this particularly horrifying and lengthy job hunt I have moved well beyond applying where I’d like to work. In fact, I’ve moved well beyond total and complete desperation…I’m actually a few days short of coming up with a clever sign to hold while begging on subway platforms ( maybe something cute “Please Help” with a backwards letter “S”…  “Aw he’s illiterate honey, give him a quarter”).  So, suffice to say I really don’t want to work for Ruby Tuesdays, and especially not at a Ruby Tuesday’s in Times Square which is a homing beacon for the most annoying, idiotic and cheapest tourists in the universe. However I am not, as my friend Boring Brian used to say, “Too proud to be unemployed”. A job is a job.
 
So I followed the link to the online application that Ruby Tuesday’s  had set up via a company beautifully ironic name “People Matter”.   I started filling out all the questions…Name, address, references both professional and personal…No, I haven’t been convicted of a felony etc ( at least none that Ruby Tuesdays would ever find out about heheheheh). After 20 minutes of basic info I came to a personality test that according to People Matter should take 40-60 minutes.  Apparently the folks at People Matter assembled a team of sadistic feebs with degrees in psychology and business to assemble the single most idiotic, mundane and redundant hour long questionaire… ever .One could pull more useful information from my ex-girlfriends old Cosmopolitan magazine quizzes that I used to fill out while in the bathroom. “Hey honey, do I satisfy your inner goddess?”   Predictably, most of the  questions  People Matter came up with dealt with honesty, morality and viewpoints on team work.  I happen to love team work except for the other people ( ie The TEAM) involved.  Did the geniuses at People Matter or Ruby Tuesday’s really expect people to answer that they have always found most of their co-workers do be more useless than tits on a bull. Back when RTs had paper applications was there an avalanche of too many applicants who claimed to hate being part of a team. “Hey there is no “I” in “Team”, but there sure as Hell is a there is an M and an E…  ME”
 
In regards to honesty, had they found that dishonest people generally answer their little survey truthfully? If they wanted accuracy, they should have employed my step mother.  She had 9 kids ( 10 with me) and could always tell when someone was lying. At the very least she could narrow things down to 2 or 3 of her children and punish those culprits.  It prepared us for the justice of adulthood.  I’ll bet she works cheaper than the drones at People Matter .  All of the answers to these questions had vague replies to choose from,”Strongly Agree, Somewhat Agree, Occasionally Agree, Somewhat Disagree, Strongly Disagree”  After the first half an hour of this incredibly redundant stupidity, I started to get annoyed…but hey, I needed the job. Finally I had a minor meltdown at the question: “I obey the law more often if there is a chance I will be caught.” Huh?  Let me see if I understand this question correctly given the answers I am allowed to use.  “I strongly agree that I obey the law more often if there is a chance I will be caught?”  So, if I think I can get away with something I will break the law? Then there is a other end of the  answer spectrum. ” I strongly disagree that I obey the law if there is a chance I will be caught”..I have to be honest here, I  just wrote that last sentence, but I don’t know what it means.
 
“Have you ever taken anything from work that didn’t belong to you?”  “You mean besides those $50 bills and the wet naps…no, oh wait, I did steal lots of urinal cakes and several gallons of low fat Italian dressing and 6 , no…wait  7 toothpicks, but I can honestly say I have reformed since then…Oh sorry, I mean  Uh  ‘Somewhat Agree”  no… no, scratch that…I mean “Occasionally Agree”
 
Remember, perspective dishwashers have to go through this rigmarole too.
 
 
I want to pause here and say that I have only dined at RTs a couple times in my life. The food was average American chain restaurant fare. If you were to line up the burgers, fries, the chicken stir fry,or buffalo wings from Ruby Tuesday’s, Applebees or TGIFridays, nobody could tell the difference.   RT’s  did have a salad bar complete with…Jello? The only memorable experience I had at RTs was when my moms and I were at a mall and stopped in for a couple burgers. I vividly recall the waitress, a perfectly pleasant young lady, who was overly attentive, bordering on being a pest.  Now this becomes an awkward situation. On one hand I’d like to be able to manage 2 bites of my burger without being asked how everything is 3 or 4 times. On the other hand, one can’t very well get angry with a person who is both trying to be pleasant and attentive as well as doing what their employer tells them. So our options as diners was to be annoyed or be a little rude to a working person doing their best at a difficult job.  Think about it, there is no polite way to tell someone to back off, or leave you alone.  “Can I get you folks anything else?”  “Yeah sweety…20 feet of distance and half an hour free of you…thanks, you’re a dove”
 
It dawns on me that many of the policy makers at RT’s probably have very little hands on restaurant or service industry experience. They are suits who may have studied restaurants, but probably never worked in one.  These are the people who throw all encompassing statements around like “The customer is always right” .  Oh really?  So, if Customer A drinks 3 or 4 martinis and harasses Customer B at the bar and loudly calls her a “stuck up bitch” when he is rebuffed…then Customer A is always right? Gotcha.  I wish this was a bad example, but things like this happen on a weekly ,if not daily basis in restaurants and bars. Interesting that the brainiacs at People Matter didn’t have any situational or contextual questions like this.That test would have a great deal of validity.  They did, however want to know how many nickels there are in $17.  Does this situation frequently arise at Ruby Tuesdays?  ” I’d like the surf and turf with the fake lobster, the salad bar, but only if the jello is fresh. and a Coors light…and I have this bag of nickels here…” Let me get the manager.  As I continued with the test, I began to wonder what kind of damage a sock full of $17 worth of nickels might cause if brought down repeatedly upon the CEO of People Matter’s pointy little head.
 
Online applications are a waste of time. Conceptually speaking they sound good  like online dating sites, but all too often they miss the mark, and produce a bad match. “Oh hey this guy sounds great, he likes the opera, he’s a devout Christian and is a New York Rangers fan”  What his little questionnaire probably didn’t cover was how much he delighted in blackening the eyes of his past 3 girlfriends when they burnt his toast or put too much half and half in his coffee.
 
 People lie, people embellish, people exaggerate and most frequently people just aren’t that self aware.  Online applications punish the honest and self aware and reward liars and the seriously deluded.( If working at Ruby Tuesdays in Times Square could be seen as rewarding) This experienced reminded me of something  I learned  many years ago and that is to immediately cease and desist all conversations with someone who utters the phrase “But, the computer says…”  This person is incapable of complex thought and it is a fools errand, or perhaps more accurately a tools errand.
 
 
I am guessing I am not the only person who sees the delicious irony in the company’s name “People Matter“.  The very fact that you designed this exercise in idiocy for a multinational corporation that treats it’s staff like dried dogshit goes to show that people really don’t matter so much… I suppose in fairness “People Don’t Matter” isn’t really a corporate name that inspires interest and trust, unless perhaps if it is an advanced robotics company. One would think if people mattered then they’d have, oh I don’t know, a person doing the interviewing. According to my mother and my best friend, I am both a nice boy and a special, unique little snowflake…and I strongly agree.
 
 I’m a firm believer in letting punishments fit the crime.  I would love for the people who designed these tests to be locked in a stuffy and humid room and told to fill out their own questionnaires with broken pencils and to have a violent gun totaling amphetamine addict twitching while pacing back and forth and keeping time for them.  The real pity was the meltdown I experienced 40 minutes into the questionnaire causing me to quit….According to People Matter, this makes me what is known in the industry as a  “Quitter”. It’s probably also a little sad to note that 40 minutes is my meltdown point with such things.  Maybe the folks at People Matter know this and that anyone who can manage to plow through and finish will actually be hired.  I wish I was a little more sad at the prospect of not being Ruby Tuesday’s material.
 
In addition to People Matter, I am having a small spat  with a recruiting company called “Harri”.  Over the past 3 weeks I have received responses to the resumes I have sent out.  I see the mail in my in- box and instantly cheer up a little.  Finally someone is responding, finally a potential job, only to be denied.  Harri.com simply wants my resume and application to pad their numbers.  I resent the deceit.  I resent my situation being exploited.  I resent Harri.com pretending that I will have a job if I just fill out their questionnaire.   I tried to be a well adjusted and wrote a couple nice emails to Harri.com and asked them that while I understand that they are trying to grow their business, but would it be possible to not do this at my expense?  I expressed very clearly that I had no interest in dealing with Harri ( Short for Harried I’m guessing).  Harri wrote back and expressed sorrow, but, no they were not going to leave me alone.  Then they signed me up for their mailing list..  Sites like Harri make me understand why people design computer viruses.
 
I just want a damn job. I have an extensive resume filled with a solid work history and great references.  Furthermore I am a good worker.  I am reliable, hardworking and I take a lot of initiative to go above and beyond the call of duty regularly. Being unemployed, I am already jumping through plenty of hoops in the hopes of landing a new job.  I spend time, effort and money to dress nicely, to travel to and from interviews and open calls, to print up copies of my resume etc.  I’m an honest person. With the exception of the occasional stray buffalo wing, I don’t steal.  With the exception of needing to take a personal day or two every year, I don’t lie to my employers either, and i wouldn’t have to lie if I was given 2 personal days a year.  
 
People looking for work in today’s job market have more than enough flaming hoops to jump through without adding more hoops or applying more lighter fluid.
 
 

Bus Trip, Halitosis, and NYPD Hyjinx

Posted: May 27, 2014 by S. Trevor Swenson in Uncategorized

Before we get started…

 
I can just hear my best friend and editrix extraordinaire; Ms Gow telling me “That title has got to go” after I read this piece to her.  I will probably have to use my literary line item veto unless she can come up with a more clever name for this essay.  The Gow makes me read every piece aloud prior to her reading and putting the editorial scalpel to my brain child.  This is both a good and bad practice.  It’s good, in that by reading my work aloud I can catch my own grammatical and spelling mistakes.  Plus I am able to mimic little voices and accents for her, slip in comedic timing and emphasis…both of which I do a fair job at.  Of course, this is the double edged sword, as potential readers don’t have the benefit of my various voices or timing. Regardless, The Gow is my best friend and I love to make her laugh.
 
Today was my last day off prior to a new work-week and I had some errands to run.  Being a world class procrastinator, I generally end up shifting my to-do list to my last day of freedom.  This is one of the  many reasons my home is in a state, my bills are often late and I’m generally pretty stressed out.  What can I say?  A nap almost always sounds infinitely more inviting than getting a money order and stamp for my credit card bill.  Yet every month as I put that payment into a postal receptacle and pray that it arrives on or before the due date, I promise myself that next month I will mail it earlier.
 
So, as I said, I had some errands to do today.   I boarded the M60 bus to make a payment and fill a prescription, and as always Murphy’s Law of Public Transportation was in full effect.  Actually, Murphy has a few laws where public transportation is concerned.  The two most common are:
 
1. If a person is late, ill or needs to use the bathroom the subway or bus will take longer to arrive, and there will doubtlessly be some dramedy in traveling from Points A to B
 
AND
 
2. If the weather is especially uncomfortable…poring rain, freezing cold, oppressive heat and humidity…the bus or train will take approximately twice as long to arrive
 
Since I wasn’t late, didn’t need to pee and it wasn’t particularly cold out, the bus came rather quickly.  I boarded and grabbed a seat facing forward.  (The NYC buses and trains have their seats facing in all directions to ensure that everyone gets an unpleasant view or motion sickness.)  Twenty seconds after taking my seat a horrifying scent reached my nostrils.  My brain did a Google search of particularly unpleasant odors and came up with “bad breath”.  I don’t know why, but I seem to be exceptionally sensitive to objectionable bodily scents.  B.O., Ass-Gas and Bad Breath effect me like kryptonite. 
 
I quickly pegged the fellow sitting in front of me as the culprit.  What was interesting was that this passenger was also facing forward in his seat and mumbling in to his cell phone (or talking to himself…it has become more difficult to differentiate in this age of mobile phones)  What this meant was his breath was SO repugnant and powerful, that it was leaving his mouth, making a hairpin turn and hitting my nose like a prize fighters Sunday punch.   I turned my head to avoid the onslaught, but it was no good.   This wasn’t a run-of-the-mill yucky breath…this guy needed surgery and a Haz-Mat team. My breakfast was looking to make a break for it. I was amazed that his phone hadn’t melted or imploded. I pulled my scarf over my mouth and nose and looked around for another seat.  Finally after a couple stops someone vacated a seat 10 feet away from The Halitosis Kid.  I pounced, shoving an old woman with a cane out of the way.  Sorry Granny, survival of the fittest.  I took the seat and then the whole thing became amusing. 

I never realized before today that watching others react to objectionable smells is really entertaining.  A middle aged fellow took my former seat first and opened up a newspaper.  I watched as he first caught a whiff, he made an expression like Robert De Niro before he laughs and then looked around for an escape.  I swear he started to read the emergency exit instructions of how to pull the handle below the window, push the pane out and crawl out of the bus.  I couldn’t say I blamed him.  This guy opted to refold his newspaper and move 20 feet into the back of the bus and stand.  I caught his eye on the way back, and in the camaraderie of the NYC commuter, I said softly  “Nasty breath huh?”  He grimaced and mumbled “Je-sus Christ” in agreement. The next victim was a big and brassy inner city black lady. She sat down and sure enough within 20 seconds uttered “God-DAMN” and started waving her hand in front of her mouth. 

 
Just before my stop I passed the local police station; the 114th Precinct.  Across from the station is a bridge and there was an accident scene.  I don’t know how, but this guy’s car had leapt the curb and smashed head first into the side of the bridge.  From the angle or the accident and the road that it happened on, this guy must have been the world’s worst driver or he’d decided that it was prudent to imbibe 5 or 6 martinis before embarking on Mr Toad’s Wild Ride.  Right in front of the police station….  That is something my New England father would call a “Pisser”.  I’m willing to bet that given the proximity to the cop shop that the NYPD cut their response time in half and probably attended to this accident in under 40 minutes.  As the bus slowed to pass by the accident I noticed that some cop had put a boot on another cops Honda Accord parked right in front of the station for a goof.  I actually smiled and envied the cops.  The potential for practical jokes as a law enforcement officer must be great.
 
I arrived at my destination and took care of business.  The traffic light in front of my pharmacy was broken and was blinking yellow.  I should note here that drivers in my neighborhood are generally confused as to the meaning of the different color traffic lights.  Green seems to mean slow down, Red is generally optional if you catch it in it’s first 45 seconds and yellow signifies confusion.   A police car approached the lights driving very rapidly.  It’s lights and siren were having a Grand Mal seizure.  The other commuters made way for the Blue Meanies.  The police car sped by me at what I guessed was around 80 MPH and came to an abrupt halt at a bank two blocks down the street.  Hmmm  a bank robbery?  This might be entertaining.  This was not the case however.  One of the officers got out of the car slowly, went in an used the ATM.  I grinned.
 
Maybe I should have applied to be a police officer like I had planned when I was 7.
 
Those of you who know me and read my nuggets of wit and wisdom on facebook are all too aware that I have little to no patience for oblivious and self important text messagers plodding along on public sidewalks, paying no attention to anyone or anything else and forcing the rest of us to play an involuntary game of Marco Polo or Blindman’s Bluff.  I am also easily annoyed by people who feel the need to inflict their banal cell phone conversations upon the rest of us at a publicly unacceptable volume in places like bars, busses, subways, coffee shops and doctors offices.  You know, the rest of us don’t need to hear your break up. your anger toward your children or significant other…In fact, there is little to nothing that you’re saying on your Samsung life-support system that the rest if us need or want to hear. 
Thanks to my friend Ralph, I have come up with a positive and hopefully effective counter tactic for this behavior. Ralph just turned 90 years old, and I count my accessibility to his wit and wisdom among my many blessings.
So, from now on I shall open up whatever book I am reading at the moment, start to read and plow into whatever texter is hogging the sidewalk without bothering to look up and share with the rest of us.  Upon impact I will look up at them and apologize. “I’m SO very sorry, I wasn’t paying attention to where I was going or what I was doing, and on a busy sidewalk no less.  Will you please forgive me?”
For those inflicting their conversation on the rest of us, I will simply crack open my book and start reading aloud…in an ever so slightly irritating and unacceptable volume.  When they inevitably stop and glare at me, I will again apologize.  “Oh, I’m sorry, you didn’t really want to listen to me rambling on did you?  Sorry, I will bring it down to a volume that doesn’t bother others.”  The only trouble with this is that I have a good voice and great taste in reading material,  so people might actually want me to continue reading them a story.
It’s great to have found a positive and non violent solution to this issue.

God’s Questionable Sense of Humor

Posted: May 24, 2014 by S. Trevor Swenson in General, Life, Me & Mine
God has a funny sense of humor.  Ever had a friend who laughs when you’re getting pissed off about something, or at some small yet entertaining misfortune?  That’s my relationship with Heavy G…The Almighty. 
I left home for the second day in a row, slightly late for work…Only 5-10 minutes, but late nonetheless. Now I am generally a prompt person and prompt people take being on time rather seriously.  I have internal nightmares of my employers discussing my termination for being late 2 days in a row.  For those of you who are kind enough to read my blog regularly a lot of this will seem familiar to you, so please bear with me.
I arrived at Dunkin Donuts as I was running too late for my ever important second cough of cuppy.  Inevitably I got the DD’s staff member with the lazy eye and the severe case of coffee order dyslexia.  The name on her tag is “Minuti”  which in her native India means “Vengeful Goddess of Incompetence”
Me: “Hi.. Small…coffee,  a little milk  and two Splenda” I said clearly, and enunciated the important bits.  I don’t know why I bother.
She looked up at me…or perhaps to the woman to my left given her lazy eye’s direction and got every…single…part…of my coffee order wrong.
“Large coffee, cream and 3 sugars” she told the staff member serving the hot joe.
“N-o-o-o-o” I said emphatically. I repeated my order and afterwards muttered “You know…the same thing I have been ordering from you for over 7 years”
I’ll spare you the 5 minutes of getting my difficult coffee order to resemble what I wanted.  My friend Ruprecht has a theory that they see me approaching daily and perform the Marx Brothers routine on purpose.  At this point I wouldn’t be surprised.
I boarded my train and according to the clock in the car I was 6 minutes late….OK…this is acceptable.
Sure enough Heavy G was conspiring with Mr Murphy, that fun fellow with that funny law.  The station I get off at to work to work is 49th St.  There was an announcement at the station before this that my train would be “Going Express” and “Skipping 49th St station”   OK.  I exited at 57th and waited.  5 minutes later another train pulled into the station and I boarded it.  “This train will be making express stops…the next stop will be Times Sq-42nd St”.  I exited again.   Four more trains…the same thing.  I started to become dubious.
Finally I boarded a train which announced “Next Stop….49th St”   Now we’re cooking with gas.   The doors closed and an announcement came over the intercom…you guessed it….”We will be bypassing 49th street due to signal problems”  Well, now I was committed to a trip to the ninth ring of Hell…42nd St.
I saw as we passed by 49th street station that HUNDREDS of people were awaiting a train to come their way.  It made me wish that there was some kind of …oh I don’t know..some kind of futuristic “tele-phonic” device to “call” the station at 49th street and make an announcement to the commuters waiting there that they might want to make other arrangements.  Wouldn’t it be nice if we had that kind of technology at our disposal?  If only…
I got to Times Sq Station and luckily the MTA ( Metropolitan Transit Authority) was all over this situation with over 50 employees standing around in hard hats and orange vests looking annoyed and doing…bupkis .
Oh God…you silly motherfucker.

Day Off

Posted: May 24, 2014 by S. Trevor Swenson in General, Home, Life, Me & Mine

 

Today was my day off…and it was a good one. One important factor involved in this was that my best friend  ( The World Famous Gow) was in town visitinv  I slept late with my BFF; The Gow and my cat Bella and leisurely drank two cups of coffee while thinking about how to squander the day.  Staring me in the face in my chamber of filth was a pile of laundry that the EPA was stating to take an interest in.  “I need to do fluffy-foldy today,” I told The Gow, and she was game to help me, which is one of the reasons I adore her so much.  The Gow wanted Indian food.  During her visits to NYC I have turned her on to both Thai and Indian cuisine.  For a person who has a low spice tolerance, she is quite the trooper about trying new things. We had a quick huddle and decided to have Indian food ( “and get your own Nan bread…” the Gow informed me prior to ordering) delivered.
I called our local Curry Castle and managed to refrain from doing my Ghandi impression while ordering lunch… Having an unamused restaurant host or waiter blow his nose in my chicken vindaloo isn’t worth the poor-impulse-control-and-slightly-racist chuckle.   I shoved my laundry into two machines.  For once I didn’t overstuff the washers.  Sometimes I jam so many clothes into a washing machine that they came out dry after the wash cycle.  I even separated my whites and colors as Bella decided last week that an expensive white bed-spread was a great place to ralph up a hairball.  Thanks Kitty.
My roommate came home with a Toys R Us bag in tow as I was heading out to throw my wash into the dryer. My eyes lit up immediately and I asked hopefully, ” Didja get me a toy?  Huh?  Huh?  didja?”  She smiled and answered in the negative.  She had bought a toy for her nephew in Brazil when she visits next month. I smiled back muttering “Fuck your nephew you selfish cunt” and stomped off to the laundramat. I wanted a toy goddamnit. Luckily the Indian food arrived after I got home and we had an amazing meal. We’d ordered lamb, lamb, chicken and two nan breads.  One for each of us.  Gow picked up one of the nans and smelled it exclaiming “Whew!!”  “Is that the garlic nan I ordered”  She said “yes” and sure enough it smelled so strong of garlic that I had no doubt there were Counts in Transylvania who were reaching for the air freshener.  The meal was delicious.
After lunch we ran back to the Laundromat and folded everything up neat as a pin.  The Gow was of the opinion that my standard procedure of washing my laundry and dumping it on my bed afterwards is not particularly conducive to a tidy bedroom.  “But, it’s clean” I explained. “Honey, you exhaust me” she replied with a patient sigh for the first of what would surely be hundreds of times during her visit.  I smiled and said “I know”
We fluffed and folded everything while I pointed out various articles from the Scotty Collection and made commentary about which were my favorites. “Like these undies”….”I don’t like these…can’t wait til they wear out”.   Gow smiled and nodded much in the fashion of a parent or guardian indulging the non-stop ramblings of a small child.
After laundry and lunchie came the day off tradition of the afternoon nap….and it was good.