Saturday, November 22, 2008

Riding with the Crazies

The concept of public transportation is pretty good in theory. Like the carpool, it operates on the premise that if everyone is going in the same direction it is more convenient if we go there together. What it doesn’t take into account is every single person’s bizarre quirks and weirdnesses that combine to make traveling by public transportation a symphony of strange.

With cuts in the transportation budget of New York City on the horizon the frequency of service is sure to decrease, making every train even more jam packed with maniacs. This will only serve to drastically increase the volume of this symphony, and create new instruments to drive everyone out of their mind.

Millions of people ride the trains, commuting from one corner of the city and back again. Sometimes they spend 10 minutes, sometimes over an hour. And it is those people with the longest commute times who feel the need to do what I call “private time activities” while on the subway. They are also the ones most likely to completely lose their shit for no reason. These are the people who sit next to me.

Case and point, not too long ago I was riding the subway into the city on a weekend, so the train was relatively empty.


I found a seat and opened my magazine for a pretty relaxing ride. That was until I heard the unmistakable “click….click…” of a nail clipper.

I turned to my left to see a gentleman, no that’s not right, ogre-man clipping his nails. The sound alone sends such a violent chill down my spine that I can feel my insides twitch. There are few things that skeeve me more than watching someone remove parts of their body they deem to be no longer necessary, and then spread them amongst the ground like a flower girl at the wedding of gross and disgusting.

Would you ever just take out a scissor and starting cutting your own hair on the train? No of course not.

And nails being clipped don’t just fall to the ground, they fly off the clipper like rocketships leaving planet yuck. The man clipping his nails was considerably larger than me so I didn’t say anything, and I probably wouldn’t say anything if the person was smaller than me either. If you’re crazy enough to think that clipping your nails on a subway car is ok, god knows what else you’re capable of.

Some people discreetly bring their crazy onto the train. They are just feeling it that day. Maybe they found a cucaracha in their cheerios or something but they just decided before they left the house, “I’m going to grab a little extra insanity from my stash and throw it around like it’s a ticker tape parade.” Once again, these are the people who sit next to me.

They are just waiting to be tapped or bumped into. They have their nonsense at the ready, hidden deep within their pockets. Kind of like a jack-in-the-box. They wait with coiled spring for somebody to turn their handle just far enough so they can explode.

Case and point, recently on the subway a tiny Hispanic woman was almost bumped by a larger Greek man, so she opened her bag of crazy.

“Excuse me. Excuse me!”


“You almost hit me. You almost bumped into me.”

“You bumped into me!”

This went back and forth escalating more and more and culminating with the Hispanic woman saying;

“Just remember, joo have a mother and joo have a sister. God bless joo.”

I’m not really sure what having a mother and a sister has to do with anything. But ya know what crazy lady? If there are 200 people in 9 square feet of space, somebody might hit your bag. I constantly have to stand with my pelvis inches from people’s faces, they don’t enjoy it, and frankly neither do I. But I don’t go bananas.

And I’m working on a theory here, but the amount of bags you carry with you is directly proportional to how completely out of your mind you are.

1 Bag = Normal

2 Bags = Slightly off

3 Bags = Audibly and visibly crazy

People with one bag tend to blend in pretty well. People with multiple bags most likely speak in tongues and have suitcases full of dead squirrels.

There are three times as many people on the train as there are seats. Odds are you will usually be standing because 4 million people ride the subway every day and they are ALL on every train. Nobody knows who is getting off at what stop so everyone has a moment of anxiety when the train pulls up to a station and a sitting person stands up.

Then the subway becomes kind of like musical chairs. Except there are no kids, there’s no reward, and everyone hates each other.

In fact it’s more like musical chairs meets thunderdome. And I tell you, it is funny when 7 year olds lunge for a chair and miss, it is down right hilarious when a grown up does the same thing. And if you do manage to get a seat you are probably sitting between a woman who looks like she could use a shave and another who is putting on blush like she’s dusting her face for finger prints.

Now that winter is upon us, people are getting on the train fully clad in every wool item they own. So they will get hot, which will lead to cranky, which will be immediately followed by crazy.

It’s really only a matter of time. Something will happen soon, I can feel it. Until then, God Bless Joo.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Shopping Does This to Me

The Holidays are fast upon us which means soon, we will all be spending way more time in malls and major department stores than we prefer. There will be consumers everywhere. Oversized bags, strollers, and bell ringers will impede our movement throughout the malls of America. But it isn’t the other shoppers in the store that will cause the most stress.

There is a disease that affects millions of shoppers every year, and there is no cure. It is both annoying and frustrating. Have I mentioned there is no cure?

I’m talking about Commercial Retail Anxious Paranoia. People across the country and the world suffer from Commercial Retail Anxious Paranoia, or CRAP. Symptoms of CRAP include

-Frequently purchasing items you don’t need
-Yelling at store clerks
-Wandering aimlessly through the women’s intimates department looking for power tools

I really enjoy shopping. I don’t always have the money for it but I like looking at stuff I might one day own. A nice suit, a sweet laptop, or even a fancy watch are some things that might catch my eye. But when I walk into a store I am so fearful of being accosted by a sales rep or other employee that I go into CRAP Red Alert.

I know most sales people work on commission and they are hungry for that percentage. So when I walk in it is quite an uncomfortable scenario.
Employee: Hi welcome to…
And I run to the back of the store and hide in a sale rack.
Somewhere along the line I got it in my head that every salesperson in every store is a used car sleeze trying to sell me a 1976 Jalopy. It’s not like I have to leave there with a car, or they are going to try and rip me off on price. But I get so stressed about it that I freak the hell out.
I don’t want to hear what they have to say. I don’t want to know about the sales or special items. And I certainly don’t want to know their name. I am terrified that I am going to be duped, or confused. I struggle to balance my desire to be nice to the clerk, with my desire to get something I actually want. And the internal battle ends up making me look like a raving lunatic. CRAP does that to you.
On the off chance that there is something in the store I am going to purchase, when I get to the register and they ask me if anybody helped me I usually point to the person who tried to say hello to me because I feel so bad.
I think I feel pressured by the pushy sales people. I remember trying on these jeans once at some mall store. I told the woman my size and she brought me some different kinds. “This pair is slim fitting but their great.” Ok jean lady. Do you normally wear boys’ pants? We’ll see if their great.
So cut to the dressing room and she knocks on the door while I’m shoving my legs into these pant legs like a fat kid trying to get into a snowsuit. “How are you doing in there?” I look at the pair of pants that have become immobilized halfway up my thighs, “I can’t get my legs into them.”
“Well that’s normal their supposed fit tight.”
If I had been able to move my legs I would have run out of the dressing room and drop kicked her in the face.
I don’t even like going shopping with my friends. I like to go shopping by myself. I can’t be talked into anything that way. This is what is known as Amicable CRAP. Even though your friends mean well, they can cause CRAP to come out quite quickly. Shopping alone is easier. If I don’t love something, I put it back; if I can’t put it down I buy it. And I don’t have to worry about somebody else hating the thing I love, because I’m the only one there. I always agree with myself.
Even when I ask for feedback I don’t trust it.
There is one store that I go into, staffed by a lot of women in black clothes, where everything I try on looks good to them. I can’t not look good in something.
One woman even said to me, “Oh you’re the perfect size, you could be a model… ya know, for fit.”
Thank you for pointing out that I could not be a model on looks alone, because I HADN’T realized that already.
But everything I try on looks great. I could be wearing a sundress made of pink marshmallow peeps and they would say, “Oh yea absolutely, its so you.”
Shut up lady, you’re giving me CRAP.
CRAP does not only apply to the retail industry. Service industry folk are responsible. Like my nice Asian cleaners for example.
I recently brought 4 pairs of pants to my dry cleaner to have them hemmed. They were about 2 inches too long. A week, and 36 dollars later, they are all an inch too short. How did this happen?
Well to be perfectly honest my dry cleaner doesn’t speak the best English. And I was duped into thinking he was a skilled tailor by the sign in the window that said “Tailor.” Any other sign I would have doubted. If the sign had said “Plumber” or “Accountant” I might have been skeptical. But somehow in my head, since this man washed pants, he must also be able to sew them.
When was the last time you asked the guy at the car wash who wipes off your vehicle to take a look under the hood?
Everything looked normal when my “tailor” pinned the pants for the fitting, and then when I came back to try them on, he kept saying “It’s good, it’s good.” I didn’t really think so because it felt a little short, plus I’m standing in front of a shit mirror in a dry cleaner and I know he’s kind of rushed because there are other customers. So I say yes, pay and leave.
I didn’t realize it at the time but I was having a CRAP attack.
It’s not until I start wearing these pants to work that I notice I can feel the refreshing breeze on my ankles. A wonderful feeling if you are at a beach, or in a meadow, not when you are wearing a suit in an office.
My point is, as you rush out in droves to the retailers that haven’t yet gone out of business, and you realize the salespeople on the floor are even hungrier to make a sale; you are likely to have CRAP attack. But don’t worry. CRAP can be avoided. Just stay home and do all your shopping in your pajamas while surfing the internet. You don’t even need to shower to do this, and most importantly, you will never have CRAP again.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

What the Hell Are You Saying?

No matter how much older I get, there are certain scenarios that instantly transport me back to being in school. Something about a circumstance or situation brings me back to feeling baffled in class. Even though I am not that far removed from those days, the feeling of being unprepared, of having not done my homework is something that seemed like a distant memory. At least, until that feeling popped up again unexpected.
I don’t anticipate getting much smarter in the next 60 years, I have to admit to myself that not only will I not increase my mental capabilities, but most likely, I will at best remain stagnant. And I will be reminded of those times in school when I had no idea what was going on.
I was a good citizen this week and voted. I did a little research to see what amendments or proposals I would be voting on before I got to the booth. I did this so I would not accidentally pass a law legalizing the use of arsenic in creamed corn or ban the use of fluoride in water.
I was enlightened to see that there were only 2, one of which was pretty straight forward. The other one read as follows:
The proposed amendment would eliminate the requirement that veterans who were disabled in the actual performance of duty in any war be receiving disability payments from the United State Veterans Administration in order to qualify for additional points on a civil service examination for appointment or promotion. Under the proposed amendment, the disability must only be certified to exist by the United States Department of Veterans Affairs. The proposed amendment would also update the reference to the "United States Veterans Administration" to instead refer to the "United States Department of Veterans Affairs" to reflect current federal government structure. Shall the proposed amendment be approved?
My first instinct was to turn to the person in the desk next to me and see what they were writing on their essay.
Then I realized this wasn’t a social studies test, I’m not in high school, and I’m not 16. I’m 20freaking5. I was just sitting at my computer at work trying to figure out what the hell that amendment said. I had to read it twice before I realized I was never going to figure out what it meant on my own.
I had to go to some other website to translate what this amendment said because apparently I only speak English, I don’t comprehend it.
And what the amendment basically said was, “If you got a bullet hole in you, you don’t need to be getting money from the government in order to get a better chance at a government job.”
Way easier that way isn’t it?
No wonder ridiculous laws get passed. People are tricked into thinking that something is a good idea, or a bad idea for that manner. And just think, we vote to elect people into office, to draft these amendments that we then have to vote on but can’t comprehend because the people we elected weren’t bright enough to understand how simple we are.
Easy right?
I once had a teacher in high school who would get frustrated when the classroom got noisy and he would shout “WHY AM I NOT THE ONLY ONE TALKING?”
I had to sit there and repeat the sentence over in over in my head while drawing a tree diagram on my notebook to try and understand it.
Why am I the only one talking? Why am I not the only one talking? How about, why are you talking? Or even better, Shut up! Sentences should not be that confusing. No wonder the class kept talking; we had no idea what the hell teacher was saying.
At the risk of embarrassing myself (which I risk doing every time I leave my apartment) I would like to relate another story.
I recently took a class over 2 weekends that prepares you to sit on the board of non-profits. It was a fascinating class and I learned a lot, but unfortunately we had homework.
One of the items for homework was to evaluate the budget of a fictional non-profit. The sample budgets were shown over the course of 6 different pages. It was confusing at best. There were numbers everywhere that I couldn’t process. I started to get a headache. I started feeling insecure and inadequate. In fact it made me realize I wanted to change my major from Business to something else.
And then I realized I wasn’t in college, I had changed my major, and I already got a C in accounting.
I can so vividly remember freshman year accounting when I was the dumbest kid in my group (possibly the class) and I volunteered to type up our paper so I could at least say I contributed something.
“Shouldn’t we capitalize the R in the word Revenue? That’s what I thought too.”
In fact when I got to my nonprofit class, I was having heart palpitations thinking the teacher might call on me to explain the budgets. At which point I probably would have had to pretend I had a really important phone call or just fake a heart attack.
I don’t think that I will ever understand everything, I am not sure that I will ever stop having those moments of feeling like a confused kid in school again. I’m still trying to adjust to being a confused adult. Perhaps it was the feelings of inadequacy, the constant inability to reach my potential, or always sounding like an idiot when I talk to girls. And that was just last week.
Maybe those feelings never go away.
Either way, I thank you for being one of the people who didn’t forget to choose to not forego reading my blog.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

I Was a Teenage Halloweeny

I’m not going to beat around the bush here. I frigging hate Halloween. I didn’t always hate Halloween. During my formative years as a pumpkin, bunch of grapes, hunch back of Notre Dame, and mummy, I truly enjoyed the day. The getting ready, the traipsing through the leaves in search of treats. And of course getting home to find the elusive Vanilla tootsie roll in the bottom of my candy bag.
But somewhere around high school I started to hate Halloween. It was a gradual process but the culmination might have something to do with the fact that I was egged walking home from school in 8th grade.
I remember the day vividly. I had already hit puberty (hooray) and was starting to feel older. Enjoying school and the teenager I was becoming, I was finally in control of my future. I was walking home wearing my Vancouver Grizzlies jacket and carrying my trumpet… ya know, the apex of cool.
So there I am, jauntily swinging my trumpet with a song in my head when several dooshy kids younger than me run up and throw eggs at me. One, two, three? Who knows how many chicken babies were wasted in such senseless violence?
They didn’t punch me, or steal my trumpet, or do anything else. They just stood there laughing at me. And I wasn’t really a tough kid…I’m still not. To this day the only man I’ve ever punched was a snowman. So when these kids threw eggs at me, I didn’t really have much retaliation. Seeing as I don’t regularly carry grocery items of my own with me, I couldn’t really do much at all.
However I was not alone. No sir. Thank god that old woman was walking behind me. The egging happened and I stood there in disbelief like I had just been slimed on Double Dare… even though I had NOT agreed to take the physical challenge. And the old lady behind me says something to the effect of, “Hey, that wasn’t nice, apologize!” Which I’m sure they probably did. Thank you old lady, we sure showed them.
If my memory serves me correctly, for the next 4 years I came right home from school and went immediately to bed. I didn’t want to have anything to do with Halloween. Just give me some candy corn and get out of my face.
My point is there was a distinct moment in my life when Halloween went from being cute fun to absolute nonsense and insanity. By time I got to college, with my Halloween chip firmly implanted on my shoulder the day had become mostly about getting drunk at a place where you could see girls dressed in slutty costumes. Naughty Cop? Excellent. Naughty Nurse? A classic. Naughty Nun? Quite the juxtaposition!
Other spectators who criticized were mostly women who exclaimed, “It’s just an excuse for girls to be slutty!” Good observation, I am glad we are both fans.
Granted at this point I had become predisposed to hate Halloween but even my attempts to love it had been met with defeat. Around senior year when I was coerced into putting together a last minute costume for a party, it was a let down. My friend and I spent a considerable amount of time setting my clothes on fire in the driveway so that I could be “Struck by Lightening.” And after some clever hairstyling and makeup I was ready to embrace the night again.
But struck by lightening is no bunch of grapes, and nobody understood my costume. They just kept asking why I had soot on my face and smelled like smoke. I would tell them. They would grimace and just walk away.

I should have been Naughty Struck by Lightening.
I am older now. And the pressure to do something on Halloween is not necessarily as great. Sure there are parties and functions of a classier variety. But a large part of the population still spends the night dressing slutty and getting drunk. And my fear of being egged remains.
So I was excited to be part of a group costume. My sister had slotted me for a role in her group of “Three’s Company,” the hit television show that mixed 1 part mischief with 1 part social norms for a result that always equaled hilarity.
I dressed up as the Landlord, or Mr. Furley. A character portrayed to perfection by the comedic genius Mr. Don Knotts.
And on this most ridiculous night it felt kind of normal to walk around Manhattan with white hair, a neckerchief, the ugliest shirt on the planet and pants in colors that can only be described as Enchantment Under the Sea Dance blues and greens.
It really was just an excuse for me to act like an idiot and say inappropriate things.
I mean, that is what I do normally…except on Halloween I got to do it in a neckerchief.
And you know what? If you are with good people, and you all look like idiots, it can be fun. Having drinks with a shorty-shortted John Ritter and a side-pony tailed Susanne Summers is a damn good time. And mugging for the camera in your famous television advertisement group pose is always a hoot.
Plus it was fun to see people out and about making huge fools out of themselves. Like the trio of gentlemen who I first thought were dressed as “morons.” As it turns out, they were just from Staten Island.
But it was entertaining to see a Yankee Baseball Player, a gentleman who was (and I’m not joking here) “Hung Like a Horse” and some other tool in a tank top hit on women.
Maybe there is some fun left in this day after all. Perhaps I will try to enjoy Halloween again next year. Honestly the most fun part of the holiday is the innovation and social commentary in some costumes, and the complete lack of creativity and healthy dose of embarrassment in others.
And as for those who insist on a costume such as our friend of the equine variety, well… maybe some people do deserve to be egged.