Thursday, March 31, 2011

Diary of a Commuter: The South Shore Tales.

Looking back, I have been a South Shore rider for about 20 years. I can recall traveling with my dad quite a few times before the age where it was acceptable for me to ride on my own which usually meant that a Cubs game was in order, so it was very exciting indeed. I can't really remember my first trip as a commuter, but it was probably around the time I did an internship in downtown Chicago, circa 2002-03. It's only recently that I self-diagnosed myself as a train commuter. Back then, I always told myself that it was only for three months, after which I could then return to my judgmentally elitist video store clerk role that had been so easy to maintain AND disregard.  Usually I was barely awake, and probably a bit hungover, if not slightly still intoxicated. Don't judge, it was the swingin '00s, and I was still a conquer-everything college kid, and staying out till 4:30 really wasn't that much of a stretch. It's amazing how 7-8 years and few times sleeping in your car will change things. I digress...
Now that I'm on the cusp of being 10957 days old, I realized that as long as I choose the lower cost of living in Indiana, I am gonna be riding this sucker and it's gonna last longer than three months. This now causes me to observe so much more, and probably doesn't have a whole lot to do with the decent nights of sleep that I now get at this advanced age. (advanced being more skilled and badass, not old) This caused me to come up with a list of people that one will find on commutes to and from downtown Chicago:
  • The smelly person. Ya know, a few months ago, this would of been the smelly guy, but after various experiences with the two-seater 8:12a.m., 40-minute ride, I can't be gender specific or, well, anything specific. This is consistently the one that confuses me. Now, as unpleasant as it is, I would be willing to accept if you have a bit of funk to you on the ride home. You've had a long day at work, and some people don't sit in a climate controlled environment in a chair all day, but WHY THE HELL do you smell like you just ran a marathon and then didn't fully dry after the 2 minute shower you took to rinse off the sweat at the start of the work day? Now some have argued that there are 3rd shifters who might be just getting off of work at this time, but if they are working in Northwest Indiana and living in Chicago, then I have seriously underestimated the job market there. Now, where I did say I would be more willing to accept at the end of the day, I still don't have to like it, and will try to reserve a special place in hell for you if you decide that you've already reached your couch and can take your damn shoes off.
  • The phone talker. Usually I like to end my marriage, argue with my kids, gossip about friends that aren't the one I'm talking to, berate my mother, and do my automated-voice prompted banking sometime after 10am, but I seem to be in a minority. I hate talking on the phone. I know that this gives me a bias, but every single one of the conversations that I've been privileged to on the morning train is definitely something that could of waited till you got in a less populated arena. One morning I was treated to a conversation about a woman's fear of catching an STD after she took a stranger home from the bar two nights earlier. Try fake sleeping through that. Ironically, this was around the time that the discussion about cutting funding to Planned Parenthood became top news, as I was thinking how painfully uninformed she was. It was my own living PSA. I understand the need to get things done on that morning ride, as you will more than likely be busy at work for the day and won't have the time. But, what you should consider is that you are inviting everyone within an earshot into your life, and some of those people might have a blog.
  • The eavesdropper. I'm a super interesting guy. I know that. But really, if the text or email that I'm sending, status I'm updating, Sodoku puzzle I'm struggling with doesn't have you as a recipient, un-blocked friend, or...well, actually, I would rather die than ask for help with a Sodoku, so forget that one. My Kool-Aid flavor is Mystery, so you better get outta it.
  • The Kindle/Nook/book/newspaper reader. Good ones here. They have no intention on bothering anyone, being loud or out of my experience so far, smelling like a gym bag sock. Probably a train veteran, this person has a monthly pass, gives you a nod of recognition without overselling the point, makes their way towards the doors one stop before theirs, and has a stainless steel travel mug. They would be the direct companion to...
  • The earphones guy/girl. All the same attributes above, with the added respect that they are sometimes sleeping. You might teeter into the annoyance territory if you happen to be snoring, or have the volume cranked so loud that I can hear your music with all the clarity that you can, but for the most part, you're alright by me minding your business and listening to your Steely Dan.
  • The double-seater. Look, I know that everyone would prefer not to sit directly next to a stranger for an extended period of time. It's in the fear that they fall into one of these lesser categories. If you are riding a train anywhere from 5-8:15am, or from 4-7pm you are not sitting alone. So GET YOUR SHIT OFF THE SEAT NEXT TO YOU. If the train goes through the major stops and the seat is really not required, then by all means, seat your bag. Until then, my ass trumps your laptop every time.
  • Rookie train rider. Usually you can spot these even before you get on the train. One day, when I went in a little later than normal and there was no agent at the ticket window, I spotted a young girl with an expression of confusion on her face as she dragged her two suitcases around the Hammond station. Looking around the room, there was a homeless man there to use the bathroom and get a drink of water, a lady on the phone and a middle-aged man with his nose buried in 'The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo', so I knew for sure that I was gonna be her source of information. Questions will always consist of: 'how much is a ticket?', 'can I buy it on the train?', 'where do I get off for Chicago?' and probably not much else besides that. Due to the lateness of this particular day, I didn't mind all of this, but if it would of been at the regular time when I'm in 'commuter mode', probably would of taken her head off. Least I be seen talking to a rookie.
  • The talkative one. A while back, I would of been on the negative end of this person, even considering, that I, myself am very talkative once I get going. I would of cited the same annoyance over hearing someone talk on the phone and getting all up in their biz-nass. But, now I realized that there is a huge difference between what you hear inadvertently and what people actually intend for you to hear, which can sometimes be storytelling gold. Let's take Got Kilt? Guy. This guy was, to be polite, a very obese man. He happened to be carrying on a discussion with a very kind and accommodating woman directly behind me, which I guess was like hearing a phone call...but the way he was announcing every statement, I truly believe he wanted the whole train to hear. From this, I learned that he belongs to "a little known, affectionate groups of gays called Bear fags", he has been unemployed for 2.5 years but aspires to be a pastry chef, was currently on Vicodin, enjoyed cold weather, and he was meeting his partner downtown as a surprise. I imagine it's a two-fold surprise as his partner probably didn't expect him to actually be wearing a kilt, which he was.
  • The disaster movie savior. If terrorists, a comet, an electrical short, dinosaurs or flood ever got in the way of a normal ride in, and the conductor was the first casualty(he would probably also be the sacrificial black guy), then there would be that one rider, likely in his late 40s/early 50s who has been riding this line so long and knows the train so well, that he would be able to step in and gain control of the train before it killed every on board.  He's also the guy to ensure that the doors between the cars is closed as we leave every station. For example. He probably might wear a trench coat, Burberry scarf, and Red Sox baseball cap. For example.
  • Half your high school. Well, maybe this isn't as common for everyone, but really, between Facebook and every other digital tool available to keep in touch with people from high school, this train has ensured that I can still see some people in real life that I might not have had the chance to see too commonly if I drove in every day. It's in the win column for human interaction before computers become self-aware and kill us all.
  • Seeing someone you don't know...again. Self explanatory. Also, anyone familiar with Louis CK knows what this is about. I don't have a link for it, but that's good, as you can now watch his stuff in search of the joke. Which you should do anyway.
  • The daily beer drinkers. Good for them.
I used to think that it was solely because of socio-economic standings that people behaved the way they behaved. Those standings would trickle down to parenting and privilege and affect everything else if you wanna look at in the freakonomics point of view.  I still believe that to be partially true, but from what I've witnessed, it's too wide-spread to be pinned to that. A little social grace and courtesy go a long way, even if it's just shutting up for a bit.
I sometimes wonder how some behave in their regular, non-commuting life. Do the double-seaters make dinner for their families and then proceed to lick a few extra dinner rolls claiming them as their own? Do the phone talkers discuss their sex life outloud at their daughters dance recital? Of course all of this leads into a new category:
  • Quiet, judgmental, opinionated guy. Proudly accepted.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Remember when MTV played music videos? Remember when NASA went to the MOON??

In the 1960s, one of the greatest technological advances known to mankind emerged from the imaginations of many to the welcome arms of ambitious dreamers. Of course, I'm talking about The Pill. Now that scientist had that pesky risk of pregnancy with carefree sex out of the way, they could really get to work. A horny mind is an occupied one, and a mind with numerous unplanned offspring is one that's on permanent vacation.

With this renewed, relaxed vigor, science and President Kennedy, who himself was surely high fiving himself on the birth control's creation, forged into what would be one of the largest scientific endeavors ever taken on by us walking meat bags. Kennedy gave a speech in 1962 to Rice University, and while I don't have that verbatim, the idea of it was to dream, set goals for that dream, and get that matter how difficult or seemingly impossible. Of course, by claiming that we would reach the moon and back within the decade, he was tasking hundreds, even thousands of others to fulfill his own goals, which must be a perk of being the leader of the free world, as I have trouble getting my friends to help me move when the time comes. I guess I have to offer them patent rights and vast sums of money versus pizza and beer. Oddly enough, increasing the amounts of either of these combinations renders the payee incrementally useless. When Kennedy was killed a little over a year after making that promise...well, in a word...we got shit done.

Everyone involved felt a tribute to a great man was in order, and if the moon is what the man wanted, that's what the man got. Over the next six years, science, technology and testicle size of the people at NASA grew at an unmatched, incredible rate. Every time they would hit a brick wall in terms of ideas or processes, they would just have to find a new way around, instead of reinforcing the front end of whatever hit that wall. They would dream big, think big, get small results, and use those small results to dream bigger and move forward. Can you imagine how bad those guys got hit with the 'we can put a man on the moon, but...' scenario? I mean we use that scrutiny on each other just from being from the same country that happened to send a human into space flight. The actual people must of been brutalized at home: "I see. You can put a man on the moon and have him survive the vacuum of space for more than a week, but you can't put the toilet seat down!?!"

Anyhow, at the time Kennedy died, they had not created, flown or tested any of the actual vehicles that would take three men to the moon, allow two to jump out, have a look around, then all of em shoot back home to sit in a Winnebago with an admiring Dick Nixon on the other side of the glass. In six years. It's now been forty-one. How many times back? Well, five. Would of been six had Kevin Bacon not stirred those oxygen tanks. But that's also five in three years after the first. How many times back since then? Zero.

The program never died really. Just went into a phase of putting to use all that had been acquired, which really only meant something to the people involved in the program. I liken it to Halloween when I was a kid. Everyone paid attention and produced a lot of hoopla when I would get dressed up and go out trick or treating. Once I got home with my massive amounts of candy, no one cared what I did anymore, just as long as I didn't spoil my dinner. Apparently, it was all about the spectacle of me going out there, with the result just at a "meh".  That was discouraging to me, because my whole purpose was my result. I went outside, sometimes looking ridiculous and acquired all these things through my own hard work and now have them all at my disposal, and NOBODY cares??? I mean look...I even got a king size Snickers! I know those came out a few years back...but it's still A KING SIZED SNICKERS. Oh well, more for me. Then, as I grew up, Halloween became less and less important, and soon I was buying all the candy myself, so it wasn't too exciting any more.

All clever allusions to my storied childhood aside, we lost that desire to break the brick wall. Or, any more, to be impressed by the things that technology brings us. We all blindly purchase little pieces of tech that make lives easier, not realizing that years before it was state of the art, or just a tiny thought in someones head that seemed ridiculous and unpractical. Right now I'm typing this on a very outdated laptop that will soon go to my computer graveyard. It's a real thing. It's hallowed ground, since it contains both the computer I had when I discovered internet porn and the computer I had when I would play 'Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, The Graphic Adventure', which was a pretty epic game in my household.  The thing that should be amazing to me now is that this outdated, crappy laptop has 2000X the computing power that we had in a craft that flew and landed on the moon.

The point? I don't know that I ever have a point. But the idea is...why haven't we gone back? The technology that got us there to begin with is over forty years old, and based on how fast my laptop earned 'crappy' status, I'd say that we could probably do it with our eyes closed, backwards, on a rainy day with a hangover with absolutely no trouble. The problem? People lack imagination any more. Everyone is very wound up in filling the status quo. Outside thinking anymore is considered frivolous and cost inefficient. Not to mention that there are more pressing social, political and global concerns before we pump another $25.4 billion($170 billion in today money) into some spacemen playing golf on some dusty rock in the sky.

But maybe we need a re-introduction of imagination. I mean, yeah, we've been there, done that...but maybe by getting back there will make use our considerable resources and imagination to get further.With our unemployment rate so high, I think a reactor plant on Mars as depicted in Total Recall could be the ticket to some new jobs for folks.

The status quo bores me anymore, and is constantly changing anyhow. Look what we did in six years. What could we accomplish if another goal was set? I'm up for the challenge. As long as a bunch of other people can do all that science-y stuff.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Tea, Nein!

I was reading an article in the Chicago Sun-Times last week about teenage texting obsession. It's assertion that teenage sex, drug use and general bad behavior has been compounded by the amount of text messages they send, got me thinking.

It got me thinking how when I was that age, that absolutely no one my age, NO ONE, was using drugs, having sex, or getting into trouble. The only conclusion that I can arrive to is that texting and probably the internet has brought all this about since those tender, innocent years of my youth. There must be some sort of connection of using their fingers to type intimate details about day to day life to general misbehavior. Kind of like the Carl Jung psych test that links water to your sex life.

This reading was done at a franchise coffee joint off of State St. in downtown Chicago. Not the one you are thinking of the ones that have "healthy" skillets and panini to go with your overpriced coffee. God help you if you're the one who orders tea here. I mean, don't you know that today's selection is a single sourced, direct trade, full-bodied, cooling finish with a hint of spiced rum? Why the details? That's the way I write and maybe you just pay attention to these things. Moving on... As I read this, I happened to look around the room and take a rough count of how many younger people were in this particular purveyor of smiles and poorly designed plastic lids. Seriously...why is Dunkin Donuts the only one to get that lid right? Twelve. This is just simply a judgment based on looks and what they are wearing mind you, so I may have mistaken a few college aged girls for much, much younger(to their despise) and some much, much youngers for college aged(to their pleasure). Seven of these specimens were currently on their phones, more than likely texting. More than likely about all the sex, drugs and crime they were gonna get down with after they've had their skillet.

In the article, they presented these statistics for various texters and how much they text in a day and if they feel it's a problem. Most of subjects with high numbers felt that it was definitely a problem and that they did it far too much. The moderate numbers didn't see a problem. They sited time saving as the most common upside to texting versus calling or tapping someone on the shoulder and talking with their mouth. The low numbers didn't care either way, as low numbers are expected to. What do the numbers mean? Well...draw your own conclusions: the high numbers are whores and dirty dudes, but can't change because it's all they know, the moderates are embracing the streamlined process of being a bad person and the lows are all "whatever" about it.

I guess to blame should be the parents, who have allowed their teenagers to do things based on popularity. When I was a kid, I didn't have a cell phone. Didn't have a Facebook page. Didn't have a pen to write letters with. A telephone to call with. A bike to ride, a bed to sleep in, food on the table, school, a car, or friends to corrupt my delicate sense of right and wrong. Good thing too, because who else would be here to point out the lack of common decency among the new crop?

Just to note: I am a texter, and average about 25 outbound a day(more if it's complaining about these morally bankrupt children), but clearly because of my age, I'm exempt from any sort of scrutiny.

On The Inside Looking Out

I'm a moderately misanthropic guy. I complain about pretty much everything I can get my sights on. I complain about technology, music, mainstream movies, independent FILMS, Chicago sports, my knees, other people, wind...I don't need a list...EVERYTHING. The problem is, that, with most things that I complain about or make fun of, I'm completely involved with. Does it make me a hypocrite? Probably. Does it stop me from complaining or incessantly rolling my eyes? Absolutely not.

Let's take texting. The other day I wrote a cleverly sarcastic(not only hypocritical, but egotistical as well...and I'm single??) entry about texting among younger folks. My point with that was to say that new, faster forms of communication aren't going to speed up or slow down teenagers from doing what they do, just changes the way they do it. It seems that parents...some, not all, need to pin a target on someone or something when their children don't turn out to be like the Cleavers. Because it obviously can't be something they do wrong...which brings me to complaint #3482 about parenting practices.  Anyhow, my complaint with texting is that people are abusing it as they would the phone call of yesteryear. Complaint #1242: people call just to call. No agenda. No point. Sample:
Friend 1: "sup man"
Friend 2: "nothin. Sup you?"
Friend 1: "nothin."
Friend 2: ...
Friend 1: ...

I've been both Friend 2 and Friend 1. I think we all have. If not, congratulations. You are the most conversationally efficient human being I have ever met. Years of this sort of conversation, mostly in high school and early college, mind you, has caused me to pretty much hate being on the phone for period that crosses the 2 minute mark. Now, there are sometimes when a phone call versus a text or email are preferable, but we should all know the difference there. This is what I'm noticing texting is turning in to for most people. The complaint is, that people are losing out on the art of conversation and storytelling if they have to do it in 160 characters.

Now, there could be a flip side to that coin. I came across another article about texting. This one says, according to Bill Savage of Northwestern University, that the more writing you do, be it text. email, tweet, or update, the better writer you will be. There's a selling point for parents to get cell phones in the hands of their kids ASAP.

For me, while I do still tell plenty of stories using the medium of texting, it still doesn't beat doing it in person and creating subtle inflections of voice and witnessing reactions on people to see how my story of fetish porn, Irish whiskey, and a crack addict plays to a crowd of friends. Yes, those things went together one night, but again, would not benefit unless you could hear me tell it...or justify it. Although...maybe the story itself wouldn't live up to the tantalizing promise of that short description. Like how sometimes the tagline to a movie or the short byline of a book doesn't live up to the thing as a whole. Maybe I have to digress...

The same complaint can be made of Facebooking. #2349. Some people live their entire lives out on Facebook...good, bad, and ugly. Now with the Places feature, they are able to pinpoint with GPS accuracy where exactly all of this is taking place. Share pictures, compromise privacy, tell a joke, share a link, etc, etc...enough is known about Facebook for me to go on. Some of these things teeter into the eye rolling category, where things are little too personal for people to be sharing. Family troubles, people who wronged you, that drunk brunette girl that spilled vodka and cranberry all over your new phone that you picked up from Verizon that day because the last one got dropped in an alley while you were arguing with a friend over why he shouldn't drive home after he just tried to get into a vehicle that was definitely NOT his...for example. Some things are best left private, and if you need the rallying of some people, then call up a friend and tell them what's up in 2 minutes or less.

My point, finally is that I'm completely immersed in all of these things. I text every single day to multiple people and don't always have the most intelligent or useful thing to say. Sometimes I tell stories that drag out over three, four texts. I have a Facebook account, obviously, as well as the app on my phone, and am updating and visiting the site at least three times a day. I share ups and downs. Still no location though. You gotta find me the old fashioned way. I can't really explain or justify it in any valid way, except to say it's expressive and quite possibly making me a better writer. I really can justify anything.

Another one is a blog...#5790, respectively...people share thoughts and feelings about their lives and other things like what they are cooking, or where to find places that people didn't pick up their canine's feces. The internet is a very self indulgent bazaar full of neurosis and distraction. One would notice that I'm saying all of this in a blog, but we've already established that I'm probably a hypocrite, among other things.

Saturday, August 1, 2009


It's been a long gap between blogs, and once again I feel I must explain this to the mass crowd of 2 followers I have. This just might be the common theme of all my starting off explaining why I don't blog more often.

I guess I haven't really had anything interesting to write about. Summer was as good as it can be without a job. I was allowed more Cubs games and rounds of golf per month than any other summer in recent history. My Netflix queue has a daily visit just to make sure that when I receive the movies that are en route, I already have my next 50 lined up. This week, 'Freaks & Geeks' comes in, which I've never seen, so I'm pretty excited about that. Yes, things like that excite me. Whatever you may think, you're sitting there reading my blog. Enough said.

One of my new unemployed summer activities is utilizing the instant feature on Netflix that allows you to watch a growing library of films streaming to your computer. It's not easy to sit through an entire movie simply watching on your 19" computer or 15" laptop, as I learned fairly quickly. What I did find was that I was able to multi-task on my laptop with documentaries. They have a very good selection in Netflix's instant section and I've been quickly working my way through them. Documentaries present their messages more vocally than a fiction feature film would, so I found that I could post resumes, compose emails, play games, or, hell, even blog while having one playing docked to the side of the screen. Whether or not I have one playing now will be an interesting point of wonder for you right now.

The other day, I came across a documentary that was made by director Tony Kaye. I had seen some work that he has done, most notoriously 'American History X'. Besides that, I have seen some interview work somewhere on the vast collection of internet videos, and had read about a doc that he was working on for the better part of 17 years. The subject of that film? Abortion. There it is. You see how it took me about 3.5 paragraphs to get to the subject? That particular subject just does that to me, and to a lot of people for that matter. It takes us time to work into it. Almost as we are still deciding our position as we go along. Not long ago, I had a discussion with a friend on what my position was on abortion, and I claimed to not know where I stood, but after talking it out, my position was very clear, and now, at least I know.

The film was 'Lake of Fire', and, like this excellent film, I will not reveal which side of the argument my opinion falls with. Probably for the best anyhow, as just this subject in general is a powder keg for debate and judgment. People often complain that documentaries are too one-sided...usually the view of the filmmaker. I have never minded this. I can form my own opinions based on what information I collect, and no amount of careful editing or bias can ultimately sway that fact. With this film, I can say that they make convincing arguments for either side and I wasn't sure which side Tony Kaye favored. That's to his credit.

The film shows two actual abortions that I can recall. The first is one that is shown mid-procedure, and the ensuing aftermath of the doctor running the aborted material under water and fingering through the remains to ensure that he removed the entire fetus. The second one happens at the end of the film, when we get a bit more. Not more in terms of the actual procedure, but we follow the patient as she walks into the hospital, through the waiting room, through the wrenching discussion of her medical history, and then through the abortion procedure. We learn why she is there, how many times she's been there before and some of the emotions involved. Both of these would give plenty of fuel to the fire of pro-life. Though, they also have some frightening people on their side.

There is a scene with another filmmaker outside of an abortion clinic demonstration interviewing some of the pro-life activists. The camera turns on Paul Hill, who explains very plainly that all abortionists should be executed. With no reservation he goes further to say that any blasphemer should also be executed. He was then ask to clarify what a blasphemer actually was. His response? "Anyone who uses 'God damn it' should be executed." Apparently I have been bound for death since the age of 12. In 1994, Hill used a shotgun at close range and murdered Dr. John Britton and his bodyguard. In 2003, he became the first person in the United States to be executed for killing an abortion provider. He was also a supporter of the death penalty.

Some doctors and pro-choice activists have pointed out that before the Roe v. Wade decision, the highest death rate among young women was the side-effects of illegal abortions. Not heart disease, cancer, murder, or accidents. Whether that is propaganda or not I am not sure. Basically, if they were made illegal, the number of abortions would remain about the same it is now, only fatalities would increase. Speaking of the of the Supreme Court decision, Norma McCorvey, who was "Jane Roe" in the case, was once a proponent of choice, but after a pro-life organization moved into the property right next to her, she started spending time there and was converted. She is now one of the loudest voices for the people who once condemned and provided death threats to her. One wonders if she converted to finally get peace in her life, as she attempted suicide and could barely leave her house due to the scrutiny she was under from the pro-life movement's more militant members. I speculate that, but don't judge her for her choice good or bad, because it was hers and I cannot pretend to know for certain her thought process.

The most reasonable argument I have heard to date for life comes from Nat Hentoff, a writer for the Village Voice who describes himself as "a member of the Proud and Ancient Order of Stiff-Necked Jewish Atheists". By that, his point of view doesn't originate in religion. His argument is that the process of egg-sperm union forms a human and cannot be interrupted. Not dogmatic law. No fire and brimstone. Just his own logical conclusion. It's probably also safe to say "God damn it" in his presence without fear of execution. Being a civil liberties advocate and opponent to censorship, he might encourage it, actually.

Another article along the same lines is that called 'The Seamless Garment' by Cardinal Joseph Bernardin. Which basically says that if you oppose abortion, then you should have the same opposition for the death penalty or other methods of taking life. A good quote to sum it: "A consistent ethic does not say everyone in the Church must do all things, but it does say that as individuals and groups pursue one issue, whether it is opposing abortion or capital punishment, the way we oppose one threat should be related to support for a systemic vision of life."

That makes me wonder if Paul Hill or any of the other religious zealots who have killed abortion providers thought of the irony and futility of their actions as they were carrying them out. I also found it almost laughable that Paul Hill's organization, Army of God, death penalty advocates, mind you, were outside of his prison protesting his execution. Paul and the more extreme members felt that he was doing God's work by eliminating someone who willingly took life. Apparently he was not subject to the same judgment.

Abortion was a behemoth issue in last years election. In many cases, the issue even outweighed that of economic, health, or global polices. When McCain's platform came under fire, they seemed to make a push for the issue of pro-life, and speaking to the viral nature of the subject, almost made an impact, disregarding other issues. Some of even Obama's supporters admitted that his opposition to the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act and the Born Alive Infant Protection Act were a tad extreme, but I liked that both politicians stuck to their respective guns and didn't pander to leverage votes. It declares that with abortion, there is hardly a middle-ground.

Most of my life has been spared this debate. There have been very few conversations where it has come into focus. This is possibly why I chose to write in length about it now. I have been cautious not to blatantly reveal my position, but going back over what I have already wrote, I think I did regardless.

A rabbi was once asked to settle a dispute between a married couple. First he hears the wife's point of view. "You're right" he tells her. Then he hears the husband's point of view. "You're right" he tells him. Hearing this, one of his students protests: "Rabbi, they both can't be right." "You're right" he says.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Common fu**ing Courtesy

A phone call from my friend Sarah started this one.

She was at Speedway, on the way to work, to pick up a Mountain Dew slushee. Because they are delicious. As she comes out, she notices as car parked lengthwise blocking in the entirety of the customer parking spaces. She calmly entered her car, started up and backed up as close to the car as she legally could. Then the guy saunters out, over to the car, stares at Sarah and jumps in the passenger seat.  So she decides to go back and talk to the guy, figure out what's going on. Maybe he is having car trouble. Maybe he had to pull up in front really fast so that whoever was driving could run in a get a pen in order to perform an emergency tracheotomy. Maybe this particular human was ignorant to the fact that a car's movement is based on a forward-backwards situation with some degrees of turn based on those two originals, and that cars DON'T MOVE SIDE TO SIDE(yet). She gets over to ask what was happening, explain that she needs to leave, and just generally make this guy think about where his life is going if he's doing things like this. The D-bag explains that his wife was inside and would be right out with the keys. Also points out that there was no way for him to know that Sarah didn't work there and didn't need to move in a timely fashion. After a while of waiting, the wife does come out with a large bag of M & Ms. That's it.

She has a cooler head than I. As I was hearing her tell me this, I was imagining a completely different scene if I was there. Granted, she did lose it on the guy a bit by explaining that she NEEDED to leave and get to work, but still physical violence/property damage was avoided. If I had to wait, I imagined trash cans getting dumped on Inconsiderate's car and a possible key working it's way from the tail end of the car up to the headlights. Then back again. If the message wasn't received with those tactics, then I would do a Myth Busters-type test to see the crushing speed from park that my rear bumper could handle. WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH PEOPLE??

That whole thing got me thinking about where people are taught bad things like that...or if they are taught the right, courteous way to function in society, and they just choose to forget or something traumatic happens and they HAVE to forget.  Or, how they think that they are entitled to special treatment or do things that the rest of us try to avoid in order to be polite.

I'm a smoker. I have been for several years now. As a kid, when my grandmother would come and stay with us, I would steal her boxes of Kools and hide them wherever she could not find them, also I would turn the cigarettes in the opened packs upside down, thinking that she would not pay attention and light the filter end first. This was all because I love my grandma. I didn't wanna see her die from lung cancer, or have to endure another coughing bout as she is telling me what my dad was like at my age. This was the obvious stuff, and the stuff I would tell my grandma with doe eyes was the reason I kept stealing her shit. The non-obvious, less cute, kid reason is that I EFFING HATE THE SMELL OF SMOKE. I hate when it gets in your clothes, hair, even your damn shoes. I hate when a bar or room is so full of smoke that your eyes begin to tear up. I hate the smell of ashtrays and how ash seems to find it's way into everything that you own. Can't believe that kid became a smoker.

All that said, I know what a hassle it is to be around smokers and our smelly ways. That how if you are sitting across from one of us, chances are you will have some tobacco byproduct expelled your way after a quick stop in our lungs. Or if you go to dinner, the new table salt is produced by RJ Reynolds. I know. That is why I make a conscience effort not to smoke heavy and frequently around friends and relatives that are not smokers. It's just rude. I made the decision to smoke, so I won't make you suffer through all the annoying side affects, one of which is dying. Was I taught this was rude? Not really. I really can't tell you exactly what makes me follow this guideline for my habit, but it just kind of comes naturally that others should not be inconvenienced with my problem. I must of been taught at some point that I'm not the only person that matters. I also think that smoking directly around or in front of small children deserves you a special place in hell.

About a year ago, I was having dinner with my brothers and sister at my parents house. We grilled chicken, long story short, one of their dogs, Cocoa, got a hold of a leg bone and began choking. You want to feel the worst you've ever felt? Watch a little 25 lb dog unable to swallow with tear-soaked, beet-red eyes. Mom and pop weren't home, so my sister and I acted fast...grabbed a towel(she couldn't swallow, so she kept spitting up saliva), jumped in the car and headed to the nearest animal hospital, rushed in. I'm visibly covered in dog spit, her tongue looks like it's about to fall out of her head, and her breathing sounds like John Goodman running on a treadmill while eating a hoagie. There is a line...people move out of the way, without me really saying anything...until we get to the head of the line and there is a lady there who insists that she should be taken care of because she had been waiting for an hour. All I was thinking that I brought chicken over and killed the family dog, who will die in my arms while I wait. That, and I hope dog saliva cleans out easy.  So, I didn't have the energy or the presence of mind to give this woman an epic tongue lashing or just gut check her and take the front spot. Luckily, some other good pet owners came to our rescue and got us rushed in there.What was she there for? Her stupid fucking cat was shedding a lot lately and she wanted her checked out because that concerned her. What the hell is wrong with people? When did this brawd decide that her needs exceeded all others? 

Cocoa lives to choke on many more chicken bones, by the way:

I've decided that when it comes time to teach any kids that I may one day have, I have to drill in empathy. That we live in a society and have to remember that no matter what is convenient for us is not always for other people, and that compromise is gonna be a part of the deal. There are exceptions, of course. There will be times when you do have to worry about getting things done for yourself and yourself alone, but for the purposes of this particular blog, I only mention the sheer ignorance in various situations, most of which I didn't example in these paragraphs. I will also teach them that smoking will not only kill them, but also make them social outcasts and no one will ever want to be around them and they will be alone forever. Being subjective won't come into play on that one.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Domestic Nightmare

Scene: Target. Mid-day. Saturday.
The Characters: Dan and His wife Eileen. Married two years last month.

Real Life Situation
Eileen: You have to help me pick which of these hand towels goes the best with that new wallpaper I just made you hang in the downstairs bathroom.

Dan: I like the dark green ones.

Eileen: The DARK GREEN!?! It's so ugly!

Dan: Then why did you pick it?

Eileen: As a test, Dan. A test to see if you ever pay attention to me. You don't. Green was the color sweater I was wearing when we broke up for two weeks junior year. I hate green because of that.

Dan: Oh. Sorry- just the maroon ones, then.

Eileen: You really just don't care about anything do you babe?

(we now go through a rapid montage of Eileen picking up things and asking Dan what he thinks, as if his opinion matters, or as if he really has an opinion. They make it through 3 more isles of homeware when they reach a very simple square cabinet that would probably take anyone of moderate intelligence 5 minutes to get together)

Eileen: Hon, do you think if I bought this you could put it together and hang it for me?

Dan: Yeah, it looks pretty easy, but do you need more stuff to hang?

Eileen: Well you just let me worry about what I need you to hang. Also, I don't want this to end up like my microwave stand when you had to borrow my dad's drill.

Dan: It'll be fine babe.

Eileen: I dunnnoooooo.

(now walks up Sarah, longtime friend of Eileen. Friend, but since she got married, Eileen has become difficult to enjoy. I added that because Sarah would want you to know that)

Sarah: Heeeeyyyyy guyyyys!

Eileen: Oh my god, look's Sarah!!
(moves in for what looks like a real meaningful hug, but just does that half hug thing and taps her back a bunch of times)

Dan: Hey Sarah. Long time no see.

Sarah: Yeah! How have you guys been? What are ya doin here?

Dan: Well...

Eileen(interrupts): Oh good, you know how it is...or at least you WILL when you find that guy!

Sarah: Ha...yeah....that's what my mom always says. Always.

Eileen: We're here getting some accessories for the new place and the bathroom we just reworked. Well, that I reworked. AHAH HAH HAH(fake, forced laugh). I would of just sent this one(jesters to Dan in cheesy fashion. You know the way...tilts her head towards him and side-mouth talks), but if it wasn't for us, these guys would just suck their thumbs and curl up in a ball somewhere and die!

Sarah: Yeah...right?(fake) Well it was great seeing you two!

Dan: You...

Eileen(interrupts): OH DEF! We have to get together for some cosmos real soon. Now I gotta stop at Starbucks and get my Chai on and then watch hubby here try to put things together.

This a scene we're all familiar with, I'm sure. You see them all the time. At Target, at Quiznos, at Home Depot. Now, let's live inside of my dream world for Dan for a change...

The Way Things Should Be
Eileen: You have to help me pick which of these hand towels goes the best with that new wallpaper I just made you hang in the downstairs bathroom.

Dan: Wait, the downstairs bathroom under the staircase that no one EVER uses? Even if they did use it, they would see these fancy towels hanging, and think "hmmm, these are fancy towels, I don't want to wipe my pee soaked hand on that...I wonder what I could use?? Why did they buy these??" Since your insistant on filling our lives with this meaningless crap, then okay, I want the dark green towels. You wanna know why honey bunny? Because I know you hate that color. I know you hate it because it reminds you of that piece of shit sweater you wore when we broke up 7 years ago for two weeks. Yeah, I remember. But I choose not to bring it up over and over again and have decided to move on with life. Get whatever towels you want. I don't care. I will never care.

(the rapid montage is not included, because while Eileen gets all the little stuff, Dan goes over to electronics and plays Guitar Hero. But then we do come back to the cabinet)

Eileen: Hon, do you think if I bought this you could put it together and hang it for me?

Dan: No. I couldn't do that. I could never do that. I earned a degree in arcitecture, but this 3' box will be the end of me. Tell you what. They have instructions with this one. Just as they do with any of this crap you buy. You know what the instructions do? They tell you how to assemble it. I know how reading is a problem for you just like watching a movie with your mouth shut, but maybe you could just give it a whirl.

(Sarah comes up, short shorts, tank top. Zero bra. Hair waving all crazy from an unseen wind source. This is a Dan fantasy, remember)

Sarah: Heeeeyyyyy Daaan! Hi Eileen.

Eileen: Oh my god, look's Sarah!!

Dan: Really? Wouldn't of figured it out unless you said exactly that to me. Idiot.
Hey Sarah...looking good. Real good.

Sarah: Thanks! How have you guys been? What are ya doin here?

Eileen: Well we needed some things for the house, and you know we can't trust these ones to do ANYTHING on their own. You'll know all about it when you eventually find a husband, but right now you have no idea what I'm talking about whatsoever.

Dan: Excuse me? What did you just say? Don't you ever speak about me that way in public. Ever. I can get along just fine doing things on my own. I know this because in the shower this morning I did something on my own that you haven't done for me in a month. 

Sarah: You're right, Eileen. I wouldn't know anything about being married. You know why? Because you told every boyfriend I ever had that I was a huge slut and would cheat on them because you didn't want me to get married before you. Awesome person. 

Dan: You know what, Sarah, I thought you were so hot from the moment I met you. Me and this one(does the head tilt) were having sex bout 3 months ago and I thought of you. Best sex in 3 years. Wanna go grab a beer?

Sarah: Absolutely! I get super horny when I drink, so let's hope nothing crazy happens.

Dan: Yeah, let's hope. Hey babe, don't wait up.

As they walk off Eileen drops the glass potpourri bowl that went with her decorative soaps. Not all is lost though as she notices a candle holder that would be PERFECT next to the fireplace.

Poor Dan.