Sunday, December 27, 2009

Be Nice and Say Cheese

Manners: They are rare and elusive like a good doctor or a unicorn. While I would like to think I am a patient and loving person, I constantly find myself bemoaning the lack of manners and politeness in society.

For instance, I get all silently bitchy if I hold open the door for somebody and don't receive a thank you.

"You're welcome" I'll mutter extremely sarcastically to myself like a cranky old woman before storming off, all the while complaining about the deteriorating quality of the human race.

Now I know I can be a bit extreme about some things but I don't think I'm alone on this one. If you are looking for a conversation starter just mention how somebody was rude to you recently and you will light one hell of a fuse. The funny thing is those people who love to talk about their personal indignation were probably the same people who didn't say thank you when somebody else held open a door for them.


But I digress.

Now I think big cities get an unnecessarily bad rap, especially New York. Something about the hustle and bustle and the constant motion can be a little off-putting to people who are not used to it. Eight million people in a hurry to get where they need to go can come off as rude.

And aside from the staff at Trader Joe's (the people there are so dang friendly) I rarely walk out of a clothing or grocery store and think to myself, "Wow, the friendliness and eye contact of the sales staff in there was incredible!"

And I love living in New York. The energy, the opportunities, all of it is fantastic. But as I have detailed several dozen times in this blog, sometimes even this native New Yorker can lose his cool living there.

It usually happens on the subway when I'm in a pissy mood because I burnt my Ego or something. I'll be standing on the subway and some Neanderthal is pushing thorough the train car without regard for anybody and I think "If I just leaned my knee out a little bit they would trip and it wouldn't really be my fault."

Then I catch myself and realize I am a bad person. And I realize I need to get away.

I then usually take some time off to visit my parents in South Carolina where things are quite the opposite of what they are in New York. Things move slower. People are good natured and jovial. OK maybe not jovial, but the sales staff in stores are strikingly friendly. So friendly in fact, that it confuses me sometimes.

My dad and I went into the grocery store to get some lunch meat for, well, lunch. He was already at the deli counter when I met up with him and as I walked up to the counter the meat slicing lady said, "I will be right with you sir." I paused for a moment and looked around slightly confused. Who was she talking to? Was she talking to me? I hadn't even spoken to her. Why was she acknowledging my presence if I hadn't made some sort of a complaint or yelled at her.

I smiled to myself and just enjoyed the moment. It was so polite of her to acknowledge my presence without any precursor. Just, oh there is a human, let me make him feel welcome. This is a stark contradiction to when I normally go buy lunch meat and have to throw multiple bags of pumpernickel in the air just to get someone to notice me.

After I got over my flusterment I watched as the deli lady sliced a half pound of yellow American cheese for us and do something extraordinary.

First of all she sliced one piece of cheese and then asked me if I would like a sample.

Of course I would like a sample!

In the history of my life there have almost no instances where I didn't want to taste a sample. In fact when I was a kid, my friend Mike and I would walk around the food court at the mall feeding ourselves exclusively on samples.

I did this same thing in my college years at Costco around lunch time. But there you have to battle the old fogies who line up 20 minutes early for a cocktail weenie or a crab puff.

So back to my deli lady who is offering me a sample. And not just one sample, but for every single meat and cheese we ordered (4 in total) she offered up a sample. I should have just held up a sign like Wile E. Coyote that said "Yes I would like a sample" so she didn't have to ask.

But then she did her most magnanimous act of all. She finished slicing the cheese and put it on the scale to make sure it was indeed a half pound like we had ordered. Seeing that the weight was just slightly over the correct amount she took 2 slices off the pile, weighed it again, printed out the ticket, and then added those slices back onto the pile.

In essence what she had done was not charged us for some cheese.

She had given us FREE CHEESE!

This woman was a vision. A meat slicing prodigy. I wanted to take her home with me and install her at my local grocery store where they don't even look at me unless I happen to actually be laying down on the counter.

Now I'm not saying people in New York aren't friendly. You meet plenty of sparkling personalities in my dazzling city. But sometimes you forget just how nice people can be.

And you certainly forget what it is like to get some free cheese!

I really shouldn't' have been caught off guard by such a small gesture. I shouldn't have whispered to my dad, "Hey dad did you see what she did? Did you see?!" But I did. Now I'm not suggesting that everyone give away free delectable sandwich products. But I think it does say something about a slower pace of life where people are friendly and go the extra mile with you.

So for these reasons and several more, I have decided I am ready to retire.

To be continued...

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Last Christmas I Gave You My Patriotism

Music has a tremendous power over us as human beings. Certain songs can make us happy or sad or a host of other emotions. But for me, no music is more stirring than Christmas music. It puts me in a warm and fuzzy mood. And it distinctly reminds me of December afternoons of my childhood. My sister and I would come home from school and dance around the living room "choreographing" moves to go along with the Nutcracker Suite.

Aside from Mariah Carey's "All I Want For Christmas" (which I could listen to every single day on repeat without getting sick of... seriously, I love that song) my favorite songs are the ones I find on my parents old records. I even bought a record player just so I could fill my apartment with the crackle and pop of Mr. Johnny Mathis on the turntable.

Granted I only have about 6 Christmas records (I don't count "The Care Bears Christmas" or "Christmas With The Chipmunks Volume 2" as part of my collection) so I listen to the same songs pretty frequently. And I've noticed something strange about what people considered holiday music 30+ years ago.

For instance, I have two different albums entitled "Christmas America" (I have no idea why they made 2) from 1974. And on these albums there are compilations that include:

God Bless Our Native Land
My Country, Tis of Thee
Star Spangled Banner
Battle Hymn of the Republic
America the Beautiful
America (My Country Tis of Thee)

Now I have nothing against America (I live here) but there is nothing about decorating a tree with ribbon and ornaments that makes me want to burst into the National Anthem.

Maybe I'm kind of misguided, but patriotism and Christmas have just never gone hand in hand for me. When my friends and I regularly get together to discuss the birth of Jesus to Mary and Joseph we rarely bring up the birth of our nation.

"You know what Frankincense and Myrrh remind me of? The rockets red glare and bombs bursting in air!"

But those patriotic songs don't really bother me. Christmas music is Christmas music wherever and whenever you are. But there is a more modern song that doesn't appear on my records that really gets to me. Like I said, I like most songs, but this particular song makes me so angry that when it comes on I want to shove a Christmas tree in each of my ears.

It is a song that, for some ungodly reason, gets a ton of radio play and has been covered by other bands as well.

That song is none other than "Last Christmas" by Wham! For me, this song is quite possibly the most depressing, annoying Christmas song that exists. I don't expect you to feel the same way I do. But I will now point out some of my issues with the lyrics of this song. We will start at the beginning.

Last Christmas
I gave you my heart

You gave her your heart? What are you 12? Did you also tie it up with string and attach a note to it before you put it in her locker? Who even says that? I gave you my heart. Did you also plan to give her your flower?

But the very next day you gave it away.

Well, did you ever stop to think maybe your heart was defective, or maybe it was a crappy heart? That's why I give shit away. Maybe this girl felt the same way. People regift things sometimes. Get over it.

This year
To save me from tears
I'll give it to someone special

Seriously? Are you still giving your heart to people? But aside from that you are really getting profound on me. So you didn't think this girl was special when you gave her your heart? Why on earth did you give it to her for, moron? You're so dumb it's no wonder you gave away such a crappy heart.

Once bitten and twice shy.

Once bitten and twice shy? What is this, A True Blood Christmas? Here's a hot tip for you songwriter of the year, if you are looking for a romantic verse to slip into a song, girls rarely fall for lines about biting. That just doesn't put them in a great holiday mood.

I keep my distance.

Good. Creep.

But you still catch my eye
Tell me baby
Do you recognize me?

Why do you care? You already said this person is not special. Why do you care if a not-special person doesn't recognize you? Why? Do you have some other crappy thing you want to give them?

It's been a year
It doesn't surprise me
I wrapped it up and sent it
With a note saying "I love you"
I meant it

So basically it's been a year since you decided to give your heart to a not special person and since nothing happened you thought it was a good idea to contact them again and your opening line was "I love you?" Really?

Perhaps you are thinking at this point that I am being a bit of a scrooge about this song. And maybe I am. But I am not an overall scrooge. For some reason this song just irks me. I know Christmas isn't the most favorite time of year for everybody. But listening to Wham bemoan their Christmas woes does not put me in any kind of mood other than "stabby."

I guess I am just more of a traditional guy when it comes to Christmas. I like songs about the magic of winter, the joy and rapture that comes from singing carols around the fire, and of course, bombs bursting in air.

Happy Holidays everyone.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Sample Crazy

People be crazy. I think we've already established that but it bears repeating. A great place to see people's ridiculous behavior is in an elevator, any elevator. And if you take that ridiculous behavior and pair it with a sense of unnecessary urgency well, ridiculosity ensues.

Being the thrifty, savvy shopper that I am, I sometimes shop at sample sales.

Sample sales are basically a chance for manufacturers to make some money on the items they use as samples when developing their line. The samples are usually available in only one or two sizes and manufacturers sell them at a discounted price rather than just chucking them.

Attending sample sales in Manhattan can be a bit of a contact sport because as I've mentioned, people be crazy.

Hundreds of people cram into a tiny room whose original purpose was not shopping. They rifle through stacks and racks, picking up, evaluating, and dropping, looking for that 80 percent off diamond in the rough.

It is especially intense on the first day.

I went to a sample sale a couple of months ago during my lunch break. I realized this might have been a bad idea as I was 1 block out of my office when I caught my pants on some construction scaffolding and tore an industrial size hole in the side of them.

But I continued on, because now I had to buy pants.

The first day of this particular sample sale started at noon. It was in the corporate offices of the brand. I arrived in the lobby of the building and was told to head up to the 12th floor. I walked over to the elevator, pressed the button, and waited.

Almost immediately I was joined by a frantic woman who looked as if she were late for something very important. Like she was the owner of a winning lotto ticket and she had only 2 more minutes to cash it in. Surely she had actual important business to attend to. Surely she was not on her way to the sample sale.

As I stood there, she jabbed the up button. Repeatedly. She would step back to see if either of the elevators had opened up before stepping forward to continue jabbing the button.

She turned to me and with obvious frustration and asked;

Are they working?!

How the heck should I know? I was not, at that time, wearing a monochromatic jumpsuit that had "Rich's Elevator Repair" embroidered across the chest. And based on my button down shirt and ripped chinos, I can't imagine I appeared to be anything other than a corporate stiff with a hole in my pants waiting for a functioning elevator.

But presuming that I am a semi-competent human being, why on earth would I be standing waiting for an elevator that wasn't coming?

Are they working?

No ma'am but I sure am an optimist.

I mean what was I supposed to say to this lunatic? According to her "logic" if I waited for broken elevators I was probably also the type to try and board cancelled flights and make calls on a dead cell phone.

Trying not to be judgemental (seriously I tried) I figured she was probably late for an important doctor appointment that she had hustled across town for. It was a feeling I could relate to so I tried to put myself in her shoes.

Thankfully the elevator arrived and she flew into it as I gingerly followed. I was going to push the button for floor 12 but stopped when she pushed it before me.

Hmph. I guess her appointment is on the same floor as this sample sale. Because honestly, who would get that worked up over poplin casual shirts and merino sweaters. Surely not this woman. Surely she was not going to the sample sale.

When I got in she looked to be about seconds from a breakdown. She was practically shaking. The elevator doors closed and we started moving but stopped on floor 4. The doors open but nobody came on. So instantly she jabbed the door close button and proceeded to hold it until the doors closed all the way.

I halfway thought she might take her thumb off of it once the doors did close, but no, she did not.

She kept her thumb on the door close button for the rest of the trip up to the 12th floor... as though this would really make a difference.

If she had taken the time to turn and look at me she would have realized I was starting at her with my mouth wide open. I couldn't look away. She was ridiculous. A frantic woman completely devoid of logic who was late for what? A child birth?

She kept her thumb on the button as though removing it would cause the doors to fly open and her to be vomited from the elevator out into the bowels of cold black space. Like keeping her finger on this button was keeping her entire life together, and removing her thumb would cause her appendages to explode off her body like some sort of children's action figure.

Crazy Elevator Lady - Now With Exploding Appendages!!!

I started to realize this woman was so ridiculous she might actually be on her way to the sample sale. Surely she was pressed for time and had to hurry in order to take advantage of this super advantageous scenario. But she couldn't really believe that holding that button would take us express up to the 12th floor.

Could she?

What if the doors had opened on another floor and someone had started to walk in, would she have closed the doors on them? Would she have even apologized? Would she have the common decency to at least shout;

"I'm sorry but there's cashmere up there!" as the doors amputated her sentence like a guillotine.

Nothing would stop her. I have no doubt she would have closed the doors on the pope, had he an interest in cold weather accessories and accidentally disembarked on the wrong floor.

We arrived on 12 and sure enough, the sample sale was the only thing there. She flew out of the elevator and into the sale, leaving me in her dust. And I was left with but one thought:

I hope I get to the pants before she does.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

The First Rant

Since I began writing this blog, I have had many ideas for stories that never made it into a post. For the most part, these ideas are just one-liners too one dimensional to be fully fleshed out.

And more often than not they just get added to a rapidly growing list of ideas that never get used. Seeing as that document is now approaching 12 pages, this is my best effort to purge myself of these baby rants.

Home Made

In the south you come across a lot of signs that say "homemade." I don't know how this became the go-to marketing ploy of restaurants. To me it seems very similar to slapping the word "eco-friendly" on a product. But even if eco-friendly is a lie, it still implies something good. "Homemade" doesn't necessarily means something is good.

Do you know how many homemade things come out awful? Half the shit I "home make" tastes disgusting. Homemade means, "not made by professionals." Would you ever get on an airplane that said "homemade" on the side?" Would you use aspirin if it said "homemade"on the label?

Vanity Plates

If you have an idea for a vanity license plate you should have to submit it to a panel of judges at the Department of Motor Vehicles. And if that panel can't guess what it means within 5 seconds, you are not allowed to have that vanity plate. It is not fair for you to have a secret joke that I don't get on your license plate.

It will piss me off while I am driving. And then I will all of my time tailgating you to see if I can decode your plate. You might as well have a magic eye poster on your bumper.

Concert Encores and Side to Side Hand Waving

I understand there are some songs where some side to side hand waving seems appropriate or even matches up with the beat. But it has gotten out of hand. How did hand waving become the pinnacle of fun? "Oh my god here it comes. We are about to start waving our hands side to side, I am so excited."

Pretending I am a wind wiggler does not make me feel good. If I am really enjoying a movie or a good steak, I don't throw my arms into the air and start waving them around. I like to have most of my fun with my hands at my sides thank you very much.

And concert encores have gotten so predictable. Who doesn't know when an encore is coming? "Oh look the band stopped playing. Jeez, I sure do wonder if they are going to play an encore. Why are all the lights still off? I wonder if... oh my god the band is back on stage it's a MIRACLE!"

Just once I would like to see somebody come on stage and say, "Hey, I'm going to stand up here and rock your face off for 2 hours and give you the best concert I can. Screw the encore." That would be something I could get behind.

Light Beer

I understand that I am easy to make fun of. Seriously. Spend any amount of time with me and you will not be at a loss for material. But if you drink light beer you are no longer allowed to challenge MY masculinity. You know what light beer is? Diet soda for alcoholics.

Beer fills you up for a reason. It means you're done. And if you are full but not drunk, you shouldn't be drinking anymore. Drinking copious amounts of light beer while condescending to me does not make you tough. It makes you fat AND rude. Grab a real beer and leave the light beer to 10th graders and people who hate beer.


Speaking of 10th graders, it is really easy to hate teenagers.

That's it. Just wanted to mention it.


Every time somebody says "Have a good flight" to me, I always respond by saying thanks. But what else am I supposed to say? "Thank you, I'll try?" I know its just people being polite but my brain always wants to say "Oh yea, good point. I'm actually co-pilot for this one so I will be extra careful." Being on an airplane is one of those scenarios where you have absolutely NO control over the quality of your journey.

You don't get to pick the route, the plane, the pilot, where you sit, who sits next to you, how many people you travel with, etc. The only thing you are given the option of is whether you want the chicken or the pasta and even that doesn't matter because they microwave the hope out of everything so it all ends up tasting the same thing anyway.

Old Phone

How come in old movies when the phone rings and there is nobody on the other end of the line or they get disconnected, the person always hits the hang up button 3 or 4 times? Is there something in their mind that says hanging up on the person will make them reappear? Has this ever worked to get the caller back on the line? What is the logic progression that led to this? When you open the door and there's nobody there, do you close it and open it 3 more times just to make sure?

The Movies

When a film starts in a movie theater it is always, "MGM is PROUD TO PRESENT."

Well who is going to go see a film that starts out, "MGM IS SLIGHTLY ASHAMED AND RELATIVELY EMBARRASSED TO PRESENT:______?"

Food Network

I must I admit I am a little bit behind the times because I don't have cable but for some reason I get The Food Network. I been watching this channel a lot lately and holy crap I am addicted! Has anybody else seen this channel? Right, I'm sure you probably all have. But this channel is my crack!

I find it so inspiring. I go into my kitchen after watching some amazing concoction on TV feeling all ambitious and ready to create a masterpiece but all I have in there is peanut butter, spaghetti, and garlic salt. Here's an idea Food Network, instead of giving me recipes based on your suggested ingredients, why not base a show around the ingredients I have in my kitchen? You could call it something new every week. The first show would be called Peanut Butter, Spaghetti and Garlic Salt.

And the dish would be good. It has to be.

It's home made.