Sunday, October 26, 2008

Please Don't/Do Look at Me

In college I majored in Human Communication. When I tell people this they usually respond by saying something outrageously hilarious like “Oh, as opposed to animal communication?” No you moron, as opposed to just studying language and words I learned how human beings throughout the course of history have interacted with each other across cultures and different mediums.

Woah, sometimes I lose my cool.

As a Human Communication graduate, I try my best to make my interactions with all people pleasant and enjoyable. However, the amount of people in the retail/food service world that refuse to make eye contact while talking to me is driving me a little bit crazy.

I was at a Subway Restaurant a couple of weeks ago and when I got up to the register man behind the counter took my sandwich to bag it and ring me up. He was about to tell me the price when his cell phone rang, so he ANSWERED it before telling me the price and completing the transaction all without looking at me. I was so confused I put the change in his tip jar.

Yea, I don’t know why I did that.

I actually can understand incompetent store help avoiding eye contact, but the detached robot-like answers I have started receiving are just weird.

New York City has a drug store called Duane Reade. There is one a block away from my job in Manhattan, and one a block away from my apartment in Queens. It was here that I was the recipient of bizarre communication.

I was at the Duane Reade near my apartment because I was out of hand soap and was having people over. Nothing says “I’m a gross human” like not having hand soap at your sink. You might as well put a sign on your door that says “I don’t believe in bathing and I eat trash.”

So I’m standing in the soap aisle contemplating the many varieties of soap. I am reading labels, opening bottles and examining the contents. I am quite aware at this point that I am rapidly losing masculinity points. I go to start sniffing the products to see which I like best when I notice a man next to me checking out the Axe Body Sprays. I know something is wrong with this man because… well… because he is checking out the Axe Body Sprays.

But he is not just reading the labels, he is spraying them… on himself.

I am so fascinated by this man that I have become completely oblivious to my sniffing and submerge my nose into a bottle of green tea and aloe scented hand soap. In my haste to classify Mr. Axe as the moron, I have quickly pulled ahead in the standings.

Standing there with soap all over my nose I quickly realize the 2 of us look like the guests of honor at the Drug Store Idiot Convention.

Eager to get out of this hell hole I wiped the soap off my nose, grabbed a bottle of foaming hand wash (masculinity falling faster now) and headed to the counter. As it was 7 pm on a Saturday night, it was pretty much just me and Lord of the Body Sprays in the store so I waltzed right up through those black poles that show you where you stand before you pay.

It was at this point that the woman behind the counter looked me straight in the eye and said, “May I help the next customer in line.”

I kind of squinted for a second before brushing off her strange way of addressing me and walked up to pay. Perhaps she liked formalities. As she handed me my change I almost said “The customer thanks you” but I thought the better of it.

I paid no mind my counter exchange until the following week.

I was at the Duane Reade in Manhattan buying candy. I work in an office and if you don’t have a regular supply of candy, people go completely bat shit crazy.

What is even worse than never having candy to begin with i if you have candy… and then you run out. People who normally take the candy will walk up, throw their meaty paw into your giant sparkly hat, or wherever you keep your candy and say something like, “Oh man, what happened to all the candy?”

To which I usually respond, “Have you checked your ass you Butterfinger-for-breakfast creep?”

No I don’t say that… but I want to.

I’m not sure if it bothers me more that people take candy and don’t replace it, or that people purposefully walk by known candy suppliers just to see if the stash is full. I want to put a live rat in that deep dark candy hat one day so I can see someone walk by, shove their hand in there and scream “EWW A RAT!”

“Oh I’m sorry I forgot to tell you, we switched from Hershey kisses to giant live rats. I hope you don’t mind. You do eat giant live rats right?”

ANYWAY I was in Duane Reade buying some candy (because they don’t sell rats). I grabbed a bag of York Peppermint Patty minis (half the size, just as good) and went to go pay for them. I walked into that little roped off area and prepared to approach the counter. I was the only one waiting, there was nobody behind me, and there were 3 Duane Reade associates behind the counter.

One of them, once again, looks directly at me and says in a voice that makes her sound like she’s working the checkout counter at Guantanamo Bay’s torture store, “May I help the next customer in line please.”

I stopped and had a momentary panic attack. Was I not really there? Had I ceased to exist? Had I turned invisible? Why wouldn’t she just say to me “Can I help you sir?"

Was she a robot? Animatronic? Blind? I didn’t know. I seriously had to make sure I was

A. Not a ghost

B. In fact, clearly visible

C. In the line for the counter

What happened? Is Duane Reade brainwashing its employees Clockwork Orange style? Its bad enough they ask me every single time if I have a club card. Don’t you think I would show it to you if I had one? Damn it I don’t want one. I just want you to treat me like a normal human being and look me in the eye like I actually exist.

Maybe I should have just majored in retail communication. Maybe I just take things to literally. Ah hell, I’m just cranky because our sparkly hat has no good candy in it right now.

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Sunday, October 19, 2008

Rest-room for Improvement

There are few things on this planet that cause me as much stress as using a public restroom. They seem like simple enough establishments to operate. Use, flush, wash hands, throw out towel, exit. But this is not what happens. It appears (from my personal experience) that it goes something like this;

Use while dancing around

Don’t flush

Dump entire contents of soap dispenser on counter

Wash hands with no soap and splash water around sink area

Scatter crumpled paper towels on the floor around trash can

For some reason or another, public restrooms turn people into wild savages completely incompetent of behaving in a sanitary manner.

Our seemingly civilized country has restrooms that constantly leave me on the edge of a nervous breakdown. And while some restrooms have made tremendous advancements that really put them on the forefront of potty wizardry, I find myself struggling with the same issues no matter where I go.

Every restroom I have ever used has always had a very distinct smell. They either smell like they were just hosed down with bleach, or they smell like an elephant farm. There is no in between.

My first problem has to do with the toilet itself. They are often in poor condition, or have a wobbly seat, or are not clean. Sometimes they are all three. And those little slices of tissue paper that even MacGyver couldn’t figure out how to use do NOTHING to improve the situation. I usually go through about 5 before I get one to work that isn’t ripped or hasn’t sunk to the bottom of the toilet by the time I sit down.

But even if I can bring myself to sit on the porcelain throne, I am very insecure. Nobody looks cool sitting on a toilet. Nobody sits on the toilet with perfect posture and their legs crossed. Nobody leans back like their sitting on a Lay-Z-Bowl. No, everyone sits on the toilet the same way; hunched over, forearms on knees, in the ready position, with their face about 18 inches from the door.

My greatest fear, as I imagine most people’s is, is of somebody bursting into the stall. For whatever reason, people don’t precariously open stall doors, they swing them open as though they are going to yell “Surprise!”

Whenever people knock on a restroom door while I’m in there I get a shot of adrenaline and for some reason I resort to the third person, and in a panicked quasi-pubescent voice shout “SOMEONE’S IN HERE.”

Someone’s in here? What the hell is wrong with me? I guess I get paranoid that if I say “I’m in here” they may not know who I am. And the last thing I want to do is encourage more conversation at that point.

“You're in there in there? Well who are you?”

Yea, no thank you. I think from now on I will resort to Spanish and just scream “OCCUPADO!

In general I really prefer the handicapped stalls. I know its probably not the most ethically responsible thing to do but to be honest I just feel more comfortable. There is space, I can stretch my legs if I want to. Comparatively the other stalls seem just a little claustrophobic. Regular stalls are so tiny I feel like I’m crouched in a cannon waiting to be shot into space… with no pants. And that’s a bad feeling.

So if I can find a toilet that doesn’t look like its falling apart, bring myself to sit down on it, AND lock the door, I am about ready to relax. But some people insist on talking. Talking while standing next to somebody at a urinal is bad enough. I can barely concentrate on one task at a time. But once I am in the stall that is the fortress of solitude. That is quiet time, concentration time. Ladies, from what I understand talking to each other while in the stall is commonplace and accepted. That is fine, you may continue to do so as I will not (to the best of my knowledge) be using your restroom in the near future.

Most of the time while I am in the restroom all I am thinking about is how long it will be until I can get the hell out of there.

I’m not opposed to noise in the restroom. Actually I prefer it. The restroom is a place of noise, of bodily functions. We should feel free to be ourselves there. But perhaps that might be easier if we had some medium volume bossa nova music playing. Something that could act as kind of a distraction sound if you will.

I don’t like to touch anything in the restroom either. I push the door open with my shoulder and flush the toilet with my foot. If it were up to me the whole restroom experience would be very similar to a surgical operating room. I would back into the room where someone would put latex gloves on my hands and scrubs over me. I would do my business and then I would throw everything in the trash on my way out.

But until I can set that up I will be forced to do what I always do; Hold my breath, not touch anything, and be ready at a moment’s notice to scream OCCUPADO!!!

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Sunday, October 12, 2008

And the Pretty Shall Inherity the Earth

The apocalypse is coming. The talking heads are discussing the failing/failed economy 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The planet needs a bailout. Companies, states, and even entire governments (Iceland…who knew?) are failing. It’s affecting the middle class, the working class, and everybody in between. But I have news for you America. It isn’t who you are or what you do that will determine how you survive this recession. No, the only thing that matters is what you look like. The people who are in most danger are the unattractive. Ugly people, you are on notice. This crisis will affect you worst of all.

Consumers are cutting back spending and employees are being laid off. There is a bit of palpable hysteria in the air. It’s kind of like the worst thing ever. People are worrying about what would happen to them if they lost their jobs, myself included.

So I thought about what I would do if I got laid off. I can’t imagine the frustration of looking for a job while the unemployment rate is rising. I considered all the jobs I’d had in the past. And while it is quite an impressive portfolio of random jobs, most of them are pretty impractical or just not possible. (Being a summer camp bus driver doesn’t really translate into a full time job)

I honestly believe if I got laid off tomorrow I would just look for a full time bartending job until the insanity died down. I remember when I first started bartending all of the jobs required that applicants have at least 3 years experience. It was kind of frustrating at the time. But that was almost 4 years ago, and I am now properly experienced to get a prime bartending job.

So I went on Craigslist to see if there were any jobs available. There were tons! I came across this posting. This is real.

-3+ Years NYC Experience
-Smart and Intelligent
-Fairly attractive
-Witty and Charming (for the customers)

The hilarity of the posting speaks for itself.
Fairly attractive? How does one go about figuring that aspect out? It’s kind of like how I refer to myself as “relatively good looking.” To me, “Fairly Attractive” is what you say about somebody who is NOT attractive. Imagine a conversation where that description would be used.

Mike: Hey Rich I know this girl you’d like.
Rich: Oh really? Is she cute?
Mike: Well… she’s fairly attractive.
Rich: Does she also have a GREAT personality?

Fairly attractive is what you say about someone who cannot get away with just being called “attractive.” On a scale of 1 to 10 I have to imagine fairly attractive is like a 6 at best.

I suppose its better than unfairly attractive. People like Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie are unfairly attractive. They are the kind of good looking that pisses people off. Unfairly attractive doesn’t pay for drinks, gets out of speeding tickets, and gets gift baskets for just showing up at places. I would love to be unfairly attractive. Unfortunately I am just Theoretically Handsome.

I am very happy that this bar is an equal opportunity employer that doesn’t very much care what its employees look like as long as they are friendly, but that is cancelled out by this establishment’s next requirement.

Witty and Charming (for the customers). Only for the customers? Yea good point, forget everybody you work with. Be a complete and total a-hole to your boss and coworkers. Curse, swears, and be inappropriate as much as you like. As long as you’re Witty and Charming for the customers, all is well.

That posting was a little silly, but the more posts I looked at the more I realized a trend. Looks are extremely important for bartenders. All the posts wanted people to send a picture or apply in person; if you didn’t do either or both they were very clear you were not welcome to apply. It makes sense that good looking employees would probably sell more drinks, but these bars weren’t even being subtle about it.

“Resume sent via email must have picture.”
“Resumes with PHOTO will be answered first.”
“Italian restaurant looking for a good-looking waiter.”

But what if you are not good looking? What are my people supposed to do if we can’t pass the test of non-ugliness? Will I not be able to bartend to support my livelihood?

Not necessarily. There are still some options for bartenders; however they do require some other more… obscure skills.


I became a bartender to make money and meet people, not so I could get stinky and meet shellfish. I imagine the amount of Oyster Shucker/Bartenders in the city are quite limited. Its kind of a niche market.
And as for a being a no experience bikini bartender, well, I’m kind of confused this post did not require a photo. But then again, I suppose if you look good in a bikini, it doesn’t really matter what your face looks like. Lucky for me I look great in a bikini

So I will continue to do my best at my current job while still keeping an eye on the craigslist postings for “Goofy looking individuals with extreme ADHD who bear a striking resemblance to Guy Smiley.” That job I know I could get.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

The Dating Manifesto - Part 2

So I started thinking about what my friends do to meet people. What were their tactics? What techniques did they use? How could I meet the pretty pretty ladies?

My generation, Generation Y, or the Google Generation, or whatever the heck we are, is not a generation that dates. We cut our teeth on Instant Messenger, and by the time we were old enough to start having actual relationships, we could do the whole thing via email. We are a generation more comfortable with sending text messages than sending flowers.

So it shouldn’t have come as a surprise that I have a couple of friends who went on I’m not generally a fan of any kind of online space, book, or internet social networking in general. But I had one friend in particular who was encouraging me to give it a shot. She was really curious and wanted to have a buddy to try it with. So I did what any good friend would do.

I let her try it by herself.

And she was very disappointed with the results. I was sad for her. So for research purposes only, and to see what all the fuss was about, I did a little tooling around on
Seriously, for research purposes only.

In order to create a profile, asks you some very specific questions about who you are, what you want, and the person you want to meet.

For instance, it asks you to check off your best physical feature. It has many options including, but not limited to, hands, eyes, feet, and belly button. Now while it may be humorous and cute to tell people your belly button is your best feature, can you imagine if your best physical feature used to be attached to an umbilical cord?

Picture introducing your future bride to your friends. She probably looks like the wrong end of a pork roast and the first time your friends see her they cringe.

“But oh no” you say, “Don’t judge her yet. Sweetie, show them your naval!”

It also asks you what your turn-ons are. It gives you a list of options and asks you to check off whether or not you think certain things are turn-ons. This includes 2 that I have issues with.
Skinny Dipping and Thunderstorms.

Skinny Dipping? Well let’s just think about this. The fundamental goal of any male since puberty has been to see women naked. So if someone you’re attracted to you says, “Hey honey, I was thinking about going swimming, should we wear clothes or no clothes?” Are you really going to respond with, “Oh sweetie, please please, clothes ON, we get too much naked time together.”

And thunderstorms? Oh for chrissakes if you put that in your profile you deserve to have every idiot in the city show up at your door in mid-august with his “sounds of the monsoon” CD and a copy of The Perfect Storm on DVD.

Does anyone else find it abnormal that we are advertising our turn-ons on the internet? What’s next? Scenarios that make you feel insecure? Foods that give you diarrhea? also gives you the option to “wink” at somebody. Of course this isn’t a real wink, but a virtual wink. And someone can virtually “wink” back at you. Just in case emailing someone whom you already know everything about from the safety and comfort of your couch is too scary … you can just virtually greet them… like an 8th grader.

Which probably means you have virtually no ability to talk to the opposite sex, which is why your dating on the internet.


It also asks you to check off whether or not you want kids. That makes sense to me. Why waste your time dating somebody who ultimately is looking for something completely different? But people specify how many kids they want. That intimidates me. What if I can’t provide you with 3 children? What if it turns out my boys can’t swim? Are you going to divorce me? God this is stressful.

And I think that’s my problem with A lot of people find themselves on the website because they can’t meet a decent individual to begin with or they are just frustrated with the dating scene. And then once you get on the site, it enables you to be so incredibly specific on what you’re looking for and how you see yourself, that it almost makes it more difficult because you can be even more discerning.

It becomes too targeted. It’s like hunting. You’re hunting for a partner. Awww how cute.

When people put that much of themselves out there for others to see. It becomes too easy to judge. I know it’s something I’m guilty of. It almost takes all the fun out of getting to know somebody. I’d rather just repress all of the horrible weird things about myself and let somebody get to know me for 2 or 3 years before I become comfortable enough to reveal them.

But what I call fun, maybe others call stress. Perhaps when you know all the basics about somebody, you’re free to dig deeper and get to know them on a more intimate level beyond just turn on’s and favorite movies.
But for as flawed as may seem, can any of us really fault anybody for using it?

It didn’t come about for no reason. It can be so difficult to meet quality humans in this city, nay, any city. And as all of our socializing is marching towards an almost exclusively electronic medium, we are left with fewer real life options. We are posting, poking, and texting, to a complete and total social incompetence. It’s no wonder so many young attractive singles are left feeling jaded and lonely.

So I don’t fault, and I don’t fault the people who use it. In fact, I applaud them for the bravery and courage they show by putting themselves out there in front of millions and millions of weirdos, kooks, and other alumni of To Catch a Predator.

All I know is is not for me. And until they add eyelashes as a feature, or I get a better looking belly button, I will probably avoid it at all costs.