Archive for the ‘You & Yours’ Category

No One Cares

Posted: January 26, 2014 by S. Trevor Swenson in General, Life, Me & Mine, You & Yours
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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.

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.

Just Thinkin'

Just Thinkin'

Something about the supermarket, bus stations, the subway, doctor’s waiting rooms, the gym and the laundromat gets my creative juices flowing. Perhaps it is taking part in something with the general public. I am back from a stop at the supermarket and lo and behold I am now inspired. I got to thinking about way back when, before cell phones when it was socially acceptable, in the event of a pressing matter or emergency to ask a person on a pay phone politely “Are you going to be long?” It was a way to test the waters, or to nudge someone along, without being rude. I suppose “Are you going to be long” is still used in some social situations. People say it at the gym.  “Can I work through?” they say when someone is resting between sets, yet occupying one of the coveted workout benches. I never ask if I can work through. I just make several dozen impatient glances at the person I am waiting for. How dare they use the bench I wanted to use at that moment? Actually, I am reasonably patient with people working out. It’s the people who sit on the benches and text message, that I fantasize about braining with one of the 25 lb dumbbells and immediately after taking a bow to the thunderous applause of the rest of the room.

I guess it isn’t appropriate to ask someone in or entering a bathroom if they’re going to be long, although I seem to remember people asking if they can go before me when they feel there might be an impending accident. It is leaps and bounds more socially acceptable for a person to ask if they can go first when it’s “#1”, than when it’s “#2”.  Numero Dos is almost always a tricky situation. I am close to and fond of my current roommate, but even I; Mr Potty Humor would feel awkward telling her “You better go first.” if I had to lay some cable. Leaving a bathroom after a particularly noxious boom- boom when someone is waiting to use it after you is never an easy situation and almost always lacking in couth.  It’s interesting to note that my cat Chong often has intestinal callings when I am on the throne reading a book and Lamaze breathing…but Chong and I share a special level of closeness and familiarity. His sandbox is 2 feet in front of my toilet.  Maybe our crapping together is some kind of feline bonding ritual that I have been lucky enough to be invited to. But I digress . . .

Nothing to worry about here, I'm not a patient man.

Nothing to worry about here, I'm not a patient man.

Back to the supermarket and the consistent source of inspiration it is to me…I got the idea while scouting a check out line to join. I must say, I have the world’s worst instincts in these matters. I know better, but I guess I am a hopeless romantic. I always think that this time, the little old lady with the four items won’t take more than 45 minutes in line, and I step in behind her, hopeful, wide eyed and moments away from inevitable disappointment. You’d think I would have learned by now, but apparently I have not.  Wouldn’t things be better if it were socially acceptable to ask the person in line in front of you; “Pardon me, but are you going to be an absolutely oblivious and clueless pain in the ass?” Then the little old woman, mother of 6, or whatever room temp IQ person would turn and say “Oh yes, I’m going to be a tremendous  pain in the ass. I plan to argue with the cashier about the price of every other item. I have coupons here in my purse, but I’m not sure where in my purse and at least half of them have expired. I am going to wait until the cashier has scanned every item prior to snapping out of my stupor and paying for my purchase…via check. I will have to ask the date and who do I make the check out to, because surely it can’t be the same entity I made last weeks check out to. For a finale, I will stand back as the cashier bags my groceries, because God forbid I should help or do it myself. Then I will take another 20 minutes to pick the bags up and move along. Sometimes to keep things fresh I leave the line and go looking for something I forgot, giving you the chance to share looks of disgust with the cashier.”

After that onslaught of painfully refreshing honesty, I’d thank them kindly and find another line to get into. In my careful research over the years, I have determined that a thoughtful, intelligent person with many items to check out takes the same amount of time as a clueless person or annoying old lady with only a few items. Maybe I get in these lines out of some subconscious need to be annoyed which, would speak volumes as to what a poorly adjusted little man I am.

This kind of blunt yet time saving honesty could be used in many different contexts. Of course I instantly thought of my own job, waiting tables. As I do so a smile is creeping across my bitterness lined face and I think of a party of eight coming in to my restaurant…

Me: “Hi folks, are you here for dinner?”

Dad: “Yes.”

Me: (gathering menus) “How many?”

Dad and Mom: (in unison) “Eight.”

Me: “Eight…ok, if you’ll just follow me..”  I lead the large party toward the dining room before I turn and say.  “Oh I’m sorry, I forgot to ask…do you people suck?  I see you’ve brought an infant in with you, so I’m inclined to think that you do, but I just wanted to make sure.”

Dad: “Oh goodness yes. We suck tremendously.”

Mom: (nodding) “Yes,  you will need to get drunk tonight after dealing with us. We’re a nightmare. First the baby is going to scream throughout the meal. We’re used to it, but other good customers will get up and leave.”

Small Child. Age 4: “I’m going to run around and get underfoot, I will also knock things over which neither me nor my parents will pick up.”

Young Teen Girl:  “I’m going to be a spoiled little princess brat with a lousy attitude. I will make disgusted faces at every dish you bring and I will be text messaging throughout the meal, ignoring you when you ask if you can take my plate or if I’d like another soda.”

Grandmother: “I’m going to complain about the temperature.”

Grandfather: “I’m going to complain about the prices.”

Mother: “I’m going to be staring at the menu 5 minutes after everyone else has ordered, I will ask you questions that I could find the answers to by looking at the menu…oh, and I’d like my water refilled 9 times.”

Uncle: “I’m an inappropriate and mean drunk. I will be making bad jokes throughout dinner and repeat them until you’ll have to placate me with your well practiced waiters fake laugh.”Baby: Screeches.  My nose begins to bleed.

Dad: “Oh, and I never leave more than a $5 tip regardless of the cost of the meal.”

Older Teen Daughter: “I’m going to mumble my order and not touch my food.”Baby: Screeches louder just in case someone 10 blocks away might have missed the first screech. Mom smiles. Mothers are the only creatures in the universe who can tolerate the glass shattering screeching of babies.

Grandfather: “My daughter has been known to write lengthy emails of complaint, filled with lies and warped exaggerations to the owner that will get you in trouble.”

Mother: (nodding) “So don’t forget to keep that water glass full sonny boy.”

Grandmother: “It’s cold.”

Uncle: “Can I get a Jack and Coke…easy on the coke…haha…didja hear me? I said easy on the coke…get it, easy on the coke…Regardless I will complain about the amount of alcohol in every drink.”

Grandmother: “Why is it so cold?”

Me: “OK folks, right this way, let me get the new server for you.  They need to be initiated in a trial by fire.

If only…

Your Children, My Smoking

Posted: August 15, 2011 by S. Trevor Swenson in Life, Observations, You & Yours
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I was originally going to call this piece “Your Brats, My Smoking”, but then I thought, ‘Why start out with negativity? There is plenty of time and space for that as this piece progresses.’

Come to think of it “brats” would be a more accurate title, as brats and the parents of brats are the issue and not children. Parents are a huge part of the issue. Before any parents have a grand mal flip out and start telling me about how difficult parenting is and how I wouldn’t fare any better, save your breath. I have a fair idea about how difficult children are and that’s why I have taken pains to avoid having any. This is why in my 25 years of being sexually active I have yet to slip one past the goalie.

Recently, a couple of restaurants have made the high profile and oft debated decision to not allow children under a certain age to dine at their establishments. This has been met with debate from both sides. I’m sure one can easily guess where I stand after reading the first few lines of this article. Yes, I am one of the big, bad, clueless, compassion-less, selfish meanies who doesn’t have one ounce of patience for small children. Yes, I know your little darlings never act up in any way, or if they do, they’re “just being kids” and I should be the grown up in this instance.

Yeah? Well I’m not gonna, and you can’t make me.        

You decided to have children. You are responsible for them. In addition to feeding, changing and teaching them, you are also responsible for paying for things that they break and ensuring they don’t disturb the grown ups. There are zillions of family friendly and small kid based and themed restaurant, and people have the nerve to challenge the ridiculously few culinary refuges for adults who want a quiet night? Wow, do you need a fork lift for your cojones? They seem awfully big.

Not only do badly behaved children ruin adult experiences with noise and other childhood hi-jinx, they put the adults in an awkward position. So don’t think of it as your children bothering others, because I know that you seldom if ever do. Think of it more that our boiling rage is focused on YOU mom and dad. Yes YOU. We know how kids act. Most of us have been there. What you always fail to realize is that nature has given you an evolutionary immunity to children (YOUR children) that the rest of us don’t have. You quickly develop a finely tuned editing process to the noises your children make. Otherwise, you’d never sleep. You are able to determine when they are going to cry for 30 seconds or if it will be 20 minutes. You are able to determine if they are having fun and if they are going to escalate or if it is a momentary giggle. You have grown and evolved to understand the delicate nuance of every noise your child makes, what it means and when and how it needs to be addressed.

Know what it sounds like to the rest of us? A brat ruining our dinner. Know what it looks like to the rest of us? A brat ruining our dinner with oblivious parents standing by allowing it to happen

Let’s take a quick look at grown up behavior for a moment. Inevitably people will read this an accuse me of being childish. Ha, you have no idea how childish I am…the difference is I don’t scream in restaurants…except of course, if there are noisy children dining there too.
So lets say an adult acted like a grown up and went to a table where there were children screaming and acting out. Suppose they smiled and asked nicely if they could speak to one of the parents for a moment please… then they asked pleasantly and politely…”Hi, it’s my anniversary and I wanted to have a special dinner with my girlfriend at this fine dining establishment. I was wondering if it would be possible if you could ask your children to sit down and stop yelling? It’s really messing with the quality of our dining experience. Frankly we can’t afford to eat at places like this every night, so it’s really becoming an expensive and unpleasant experience… Really? Thanks, you’re a dove. have dessert on me.”

That’s fairly straightforward and adult isn’t it? Of course lots of parents would be incensed at even being asked politely, but it beats this reaction by a country mile.

“Hey Mike and Carol, you wanna maybe shut Bobby and Cindy’s traps before I take ’em in the back and stuff ’em in the ice machine? I’m trying to get laid tonight and you’re messing with my chances.”

Yes, I think it safe to say that many a parent (not all) would be put out at such a polite and frankly reasonable request..So who isn’t acting like the grown up now?

Here are my responses to everything a parent might have to say on the subject.

“They’re just kids. Kids make noise”
“Yes they do, so how about keeping them out of quiet places ’til they outgrow it”

“I’m entitled to a night out too”
Yes you are. Hire a sitter or see if grandma has a date tonight and leave the kids with them

“It’s a free country”
No, it really isn’t and it’s especially not a free restaurant NEXT!!

“This restaurant is open to the public”
So you wont mind if I invite two smelly winos to sit next to you, take off their shoes and play “Hey what does this smell remind you of?”

“You have no idea what it’s like to be a parent”
And after observing you, the prospect terrifies me.

“It takes a village…”
Yeah? Well I’m not one of the Village People.

The self righteous indignation of these parents reminds me of fascist non-smokers. I am a smoker and I am well aware of how unhealthy it is as well as how intrusive it is to non-smokers. While there is little to no justification for smoking, the behavior of the No Smoking Nazis leaves much to be desired.
I have partaken in many a debate about smoking legislation. No smoking in restaurants…OK, I get it. No smoking in bars…hmmm. This law was bulldozed through in NYC, and yet Mayor Bloomberg never ran on any anti-smoking platform. Therefore my black lunged brethren and I never had a chance to vote on it. Seems a little unfair.

I was managing a bar at the time and both tobacco biggies R.J. Reynolds and Philip Morris were offering to pay for separate ventilation systems in bars and nightclubs, or to build separate rooms as smoking lounges. It wasn’t even considered for one second. This is my problem with the rabid non-smokers. Even when they aren’t exposed to it, they seem to get a big and lively bug up their asses in regards to someone smoking…anywhere. So we smokers were forced out into the elements to indulge in your yucky little addiction. But, of course, it didn’t stop there. It never does.

Then the non-smokers started complaining about the smokers outside. One expression I hear when a non-smoker is making their case is “blowing smoke in my face”. Exaggerate much? No one blows smoke in anyone’s face except in the movies. On an online discussion group I recently read about a woman who felt put out because “Every time I walk by a smoker with my children I have to pick them up and run past them telling my kids to hold their breath.” Um, hysterical much? I’m sure your children will grow up to be neurotic little me-monkeys just like mom.

Once while waiting for a flight I found a “Smokers Lounge” at JFK airport. It was gorgeous. Wood paneling with free coffee drinks and snacks, beautifully ventilated and not a single non-smoker had to be exposed to one-step-below-child-molesters that are smokers. Yet, sadly, predictably, on my next flight it was closed. Why? Because the non-smokers just couldn’t stand for us to have a place to smoke. There was no exposure to our smoke…children were not allowed in, so what is the rationale?

In closing, I would like to say that it really takes some serious namby pamby whining to get a curmudgeonly grouch to address these non issues. Wouldn’t we be better served focusing on real issues? You know… like old people in front of me taking too long to pay for their groceries.

People I Can Do Without, And Suitable Punishments

Posted: April 5, 2011 by S. Trevor Swenson in You & Yours
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1. People at the gym who sit on the benches or at the weight machines talking on their cell phones. I’m tempted to start sitting very closely next to them, well within their ‘personal space’ staring and smiling until they get the hint.

2. People on crowded stairways or busy sidewalks who interrupt the flow of traffic, walking slower than a glacier going uphill, because they just have to respond to that urgent “Wat U Up 2” text. Let’s introduce a bill making it legal to throw rocks at these people.

3. Bicyclists that don’t obey the rules of the road, who ride like Mr. Magoo, forcing pedestrians and motorists who are obeying the laws of traffic to stop short, jump back or run just to avoid being hit by them, They should be sentenced to ride a tricycle with training wheels and a neon orange flag that reads “Asshole” everywhere for 3-5 years.

4. Any corporate employee who makes a 6 figure bonus on top of a 7 figure salary with benefits after the corporation has lost money and/or got bailed out by tax payers. Bonuses are incentives to do a good job or to work harder. They are also used to attract the best and brightest to make innovative decisions that make the company, shareholders and gasp, even the employees more money. They should never be automatic and never given when a company has a poor performance. Sentence these people to shovel chicken shit in Mississippi for the entire month of August for minimum wage, fed nothing but Ramen Pride and Kool Aid and forced to listen to Celine Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On” for every second of that month.

5. Men who make unwanted comments at women walking by. Sentence: 40 hours of go go dancing in a sequined thong at a truck stop gay bar.

6. Barbers and Hairstylists who do a bad job and still charge for the haircut. Sentence: They must sit down in the chair after handing the client the scissors. They will then be charged double and a 40% tip, as the victim smiles and says “No, really, it looks good!!!”

A Translation Of Customer Service In America

Posted: December 2, 2010 by S. Trevor Swenson in You & Yours
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“Your call is VERY important to us . . .” Just not important enough to have a human being speak with you within an hour. Your call is important enough to make you listen to a recording while you beat yourself about the head with your telephone in frustration.

“Please enter your telephone number, area code first” When you finally reach a human being 2 hours later, we will ask you again for your telephone number, so apparently punching it in now means diddly, but it keeps us amused.

“Your call may be monitored for quality control or training purposes” After work we get drunk and stoned and laugh at the recordings of frustrated customers.  It makes our horrible minimum wage job almost seem worth it.

“Thank you for calling . . . (BLANK). How may we help you?” Have you enjoyed your 60 minute wait?  How was the muzak? Are you completely at you wits end, or should we disconnect you and start anew? I am not actually in any position to be of any assistance, I am just here for you to yell at for the moment and then feel guilty for verbally abusing some poor underpaid corporate clone.

“Let me pull up your account” I actually HAVE your account number in front of me because you entered it an hour ago, but I will need to ask you to repeat it 27 times,  I am going to get some coffee and I will be back in 5 minutes.

“Let me put you through to my supervisor”  My co-worker needs a good laugh,  hold on a second while I get them and have him or her pretend to be a supervisor.

“Is there anything else I can do for you today?”  Our company really sucks doesn’t it? I have just made you wait for an hour to speak to an actual human being who has been of no help whatsoever, and now I have the balls to ask if there is anything else I can do for you. Haha!

Americas Top Model

Posted: August 25, 2010 by S. Trevor Swenson in You & Yours
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A few weeks ago there was a big melee involving several women in line to try out to be on Americas Top Model.  Apparently the line was very long and slow moving causing tempers to flare and eventually erupt into physical violence. I wonder if I am the only person to see the humor as well as the sociological statement on Americas decaying values (Hey, THERE’S a reality TV show concept for you. Right after American Idol . . . Americas Decaying Values)
I wish I was there to hand out odd improvised weapons to these women, just to spice things up and make it more entertaining for fellow YouTube junkies.

Producer and Hostess of the show; Tyra Banks “felt bad about the incident” and vowed to take steps to avoid something like this happening again. Is she crazy?  This sort of thing should be held at Giants Stadium and on Pay Per View. Think of it.  Five thousand women all convinced of their beauty, style and grace beating on and stabbing one another for the chance to be on TV.
That is also, of course, where the humor lies.  All of these women are not only convinced of their beauty, they are convinced that they are more beautiful than all the other attractive women.  I bet there were a few fatties in there who weren’t standing for any commentary from the anorexics.  Personally, I adore women with a few extra pounds.  In my opinion, real women have curves.  I have always been semi disgusted with those waif models.  I always wanted to duct tape Kate Moss to a bench, stick a funnel in her mouth, and force mashed potatoes and Twinkies down her throat.

Egos like this are so disgusting and massive they probably show up on Doppler radar.   One of the ironies is that people that are absolutely certain that they are attractive are actually quite repugnant.  I think it is honestly one of the ugliest qualities. George W. Bush was so fond of saying “The terrorists hate our freedom”. That is, until one of his advisors told him to stop it.  I think the terrorists really hate our aspiring top models, our American Idols, our Paris, Brittney, Olsen Twins and Lindsays. Our Hummers, our ‘Sex And The City’, our ‘Confessions Of A Shopaholic’, our ‘Celebrity Rehab’, our Flavor Flav, and that silly little supporting Israel thingy.
I am also so tired of these shows predictable little competitions.  I have a few ideas on how to spice up Americas Top Model. Since so many models take laxatives between vomiting to keep that fabulous Auschwitz figure; why not make that a contest?  Have all the contestants in a room in white, Victoria’s Secret lingerie.  Have them ingest horse laxatives and the last one to crap their panties wins. Maybe it’s my strange sense of what is entertaining, but I’d LOVE to watch these young ladies clenching their teeth, with sweat pouring down their determined faces as they struggle not to make boom boom in their panties.  Nobody said being a top model was going to be easy. How about a cocaine snorting contest?  Another important skill for models to have.  Last one to overdose and go into convulsions wins immunity for that week. Maybe we could have a little race of sorts.  Have the contestants drink 8 Cosmopolitans and race across a busy 8 lane highway in Manolo Blahnik stiletto heels, while balancing a book on their pretty little heads.  Posture ladies, posture! Actually, come to think of it, the most entertaining contest of all with these women would probably be a spelling bee.