Tuesday, August 4, 2015

A complete catalogue of the times and places it’s ok to whistle

Spoiler alert - it’s never ok to whistle.

Whistling is probably the single most annoying sound the human body is capable of making - setting aside Roseanne Bar jacked up on painkillers squealing the national anthem.  And despite millennia of human evolution designed to eliminate members of the species who provoke one another with their shrill, piercing assault on our ears, there remain a shockingly high number of people roaming the streets with a skip in their step and an off-key whale mating call emanating from their lips.  To put this whole messy business to bed once and for all, below are a list of common misconceptions about when it’s acceptable to whistle.

The office - You’re already persona non grata with most of your co-workers after snatching the last cupcake at Barry’s “good luck on the face lift” party.  People are looking for any excuse to report you to the boss for squirreling away a lifetime’s worth of those really smooth gel ink pens that they keep in the supply closet.  But you’re feeling particularly oblivious to the feelings and comfort of others on one particular Monday afternoon so you start screeching out the chorus of “Baby Got Back” while everyone else prays that you choke on the lifesaver just popped in your mouth.  All it takes is one of them, just one, to rat you out for stealing and with every foul, off-key note, you bring yourself closer to the precipice.  Why would you take that chance?  

A wedding - There are only two real possible outcomes of you whistling at a wedding and neither of them has a happy ending.  You’re standing around at the post-ceremony cocktails and you’re bored because no one is impressed by your ironic bowtie with matching pocket square and so you start to whistle a little diddy you picked up while you were, I assume, learning to whittle in prison.  The worst case scenario is that someone assumes you’re “hollering at” the bride which is offensive to literally everyone else at the event and you go from unpopular wall flower to social pariah.  However, the best case scenario is not much better.  Maybe everyone assumes you’re whistling at the hot bridesmaid who bought the dress a size too small to show off her new boob job and now you’re upstaging the bride and being a lech all at the same time.  Well played, you.  Maybe you should have just kept your lips shut in the first place.

The gym - Do you see that big guy over there?  The one trying to lift twice his weight in...weights?  He’s focused.  He’s determined.  He’s 30 seconds away from a roid rage outburst that would blow the doors off of your whittling shack in the prison yard.  Why on earth would you lackadaisically blow the air from inside your skull out through your mouth to pierce his eardrums and his concentration so that he drops half a car’s worth of metal plates on the floor before coming over and making you pick them up one by one with what’s left of your toes?  Doesn’t seem like it was worth it?  Non?

Really anywhere - There’s really no end to the number of places where you really should just zip your lips rather than whistle.  Suffice it to say, if you’re one of the few people that evolution has forgotten, it’s only a matter of time.  But there’s help, and so there’s hope.  Next time you are feeling light of heart and fleet of foot and you can feel your mouth starting to form the devil’s most insidious instrument of torture, just remember that a defendant cannot be held responsible for actions taken during a state of temporary insanity caused by the excruciating discomfort you are about to create.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Dumbass Oblige

The people of the Internets appear to be confused about the meaning of the word obligatory.  According to dictionary.com, the definitive source for etymology, “obligatory” comes from a latin word meaning “to bind”.  Modern synonyms include “mandatory” and “compulsory.”  So you can imagine how confusing it is to see a stream of social media posts with “obligatory selfies” and “obligatory shout outs to the diner in Nowheresville, USA, where I just had the BEST scrambled eggs - seriously, you’ve never even TASTED eggs until you’ve stopped by Aunt Matilda’s Lard Wagon on your way through Nowheresville.”  

Knowing what we know about the english language, one cannot help but picture sweet Aunt Matilda sidling up behind you and pressing a cold, steel, 9 mm pistol into your back and whispering in your ear, “you WILL get out your phone and post something on social media about my eggs or I will END you.”  How else could we explain all of these compulsory messages flooding our inboxes?

An alternative, if less titillating, explanation is that our friends’ self-absorption has now seeped so far into their brains that they have confused their own need for constant external affirmation with a genuine desire to live up to the commitments that a civil society binds us to keep.  So in the spirit of putting the world back in order, let’s set some bright-line rules for the road:

  • Unless you’re on a vacation to North Korea, there are no obligatory selfies.
  • The only shout-outs that are obligatory are the ones Kim Kardashian makes to fulfill contractual obligations with her well-paying sponsors.
  • You are never obliged to comment on anything.  Period. [But, of course, please comment below if you have something interesting to add to the discussion.]
  • If and only if there is some sort of bizarre, Mommy Dearest quid pro quo in your family for Christmas money are you obliged to post pictures of your kids looking like hot messes next to the perfectly good chocolate cake that they ruined.

On the off chance that you are actually being held against your will by a captor whose idea of a sick joke [touche evil captor] is to have you narrate every mundane detail of your life as though a gaggle of TMZ paparazzi were waiting to see what you would order at Starbucks, then please give us some sort of signal.  Maybe instead of “obligatory selfie” you could type “there’s a madman who is hell-bent on making me look vain and insecure” and we would all get the message and send help.

We could also just flip the equation and keep using “obligatory” but only for things that actually are.  We would be hard pressed to justify rolling our eyes at your “obligatory tax return” or “obligatory mug shot.”  But even this has the potential devolve.  We assume our friends would have more sense than to post about their “obligatory colonoscopy” or “obligatory court-ordered community service”, but stranger things have happened.  So probably best just to finish where we started and begin the obligatory “unfriending” of anyone who cannot be bothered to open a dictionary before opening their mouths.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Officially Anti-Choice

It’s official.  We give people too many choices and it is getting on my last nerve.  Every clothing store, deli counter, car wash, and massage parlor seems to have a menu of options longer than the Magna Carta.  You can get your salad in a bowl or in a tortilla or deep fried and served in a cone of newsprint.  You can get 2 for the price of 3 or half a dozen for the price of 6, but only if you fill out some paperwork and leave a urine sample.  The problems that this modern reality creates are like the stars - too many to count and yet they all manage to appear every night with merciless consistency.

My chief complaint is that we have created ever growing number of options while humanity’s ability to make good decisions (or really any decisions) continues to deterioriate.  “Would you like olives on your pizza?” “Oh, you know, I hadn’t really even thought about that.  Let me take a few minutes with this line of people behind me to consider.  Do I like olives?  What are olives anyway, when you really think about it?  I’ll tell you what, can you put olives on half the pizza, but like, alternating slices?”  This is not final Jeopardy and Ken Jennings (or his pizza-ordering equivalent) is probably going to beat you at life anyway so you may as well go ahead and make up your mind.  


But there’s a group that is even more likely to get Darwin’d in the next go-round than the rubes who get stumped at Domino’s.  It’s not that these individuals get thrown for a loop by an unexpected decision (though heaven help us if one of them ever got his hesitant little finger on the big red button that would nuke the Russians).  These bottom feeders don’t even understand what they were there to do in the first place.  They are the ones who will wait in a 20 minute line at Starbucks only to get to the front and start thinking about which drink to order.  “You want to know what drink I want?  What is this, a Starbucks?  Oh, it is a Starbucks, my bad.  No no, don’t skip to the next person, I’ll decide rill fast.  Now let me see...do you guys have high-fat soy milk?”

Now there’s a subtle theme running through both of these examples that the most astute among you will have caught.  The sense of entitlement to infinite customization means that everyone feels they have license to negotiate with any poor checkout clerk with a credit card reader and a waning will to live.  Do you see that giant sign about the merchandise you are about to purchase?  The one that explains, literally in black and white, every detail about the terms by which you can part with your money in exchange for whatever trivial nonsense caught your eye in a rare moment of lucidity?  Well, I’m sorry to disappoint you, but that’s the ballgame.  You may not use 30 Groupons (ha! remember when Groupon was a thing?) to make this shirt cost -$10.  And I’m sorry about that unfortunate combine incident but you may not get a pair of shoes of 2 different sizes.  And that discount is for senior citizens, not potheads about to wrap up their 12th semester of community college.  

I can hardly believe I’m saying this but I think we have finally found the one and only virtue of communism.  The toilet paper may have been rough and in short supply, but at least they didn’t have to wait in line behind some comrade demanding paper towels.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Eat Me

Now I know this post is going to ruffle some feathers, but I don’t want to chicken out and shy away from a critical issue that must be addressed. So before you start squawking, let me put a few things on the…ahem…table. I have nothing against picky eaters and even less against people with particular dietary restrictions. Some of the world’s heathen populations eat animals that Gd has commanded us to leave alone, like pork, stingray, and sometimes panda. I recognize that it is tricky to avoid going straight to hell when you’re in a place like Tallahassee (pun INtended) and I’m not unsympathetic to the plight of folks there trying to walk the path of truth and righteousness. However, with that big ideological-hypocrite-sized caveat out of the way, I submit to you that if you are one of these individuals, you have two and only two mutually exclusive options. I will list them in sequence:

1) Eat the food put in front of you.

2) Don’t eat it.

For my dear readers who like to play the role of my little inedible dancing monkey pets that I know some of you are, at this very moment, puttering and sputtering and trying to formulate a coherent sentence to try to tell me that my list is restrictive and ignores man’s capacity for freedom, flexibility, and adaptation. While you “chew” on that, the rest of us are going to proceed with an earnest discussion of why people who make fussy food requests at a meal that someone else prepared are societal bottom-feeders who should only ever be served gluten free dry bread and filtered tap water.

There are two main dynamics that get me hotter than a bottle of Sriracha. The first, coincidentally is the subset of the population that likes to compensate for their physical inadequacies by incessantly requesting hot sauce (or really any random condiment) when they’re out dining at restaurants (using that term loosely enough to cover McDonald’s). “Excuse me, waiter, this filet mignon is delicious but I’m still anxious about my inability to satisfy my wife. Can you please bring me a bottle of hot sauce so that I can prove to her that I’m a man capable of tending to her needs?” You know what comes next. “Mmmmm, (sniffle, choke) this red meat is delicious. And the lethal serving of Texas Pete’s brings out all of the red-blooded goodness (tears streaming down his face).” I’m not even going to address the cruel irony of being at once both pretentious (asking for some special ingredient) and classless (ruining a perfectly good meal with said ingredient that would have the chef rolling over in his grave…if he were dead). The focus of this discussion, and really life, is how the manner in which you eat your meal affects me. Of course we have the general awkwardness of not knowing whether we can eat our piping hot and well-prepared meals while you wait for the waiter (irony number 2) to run down the street to the grocery store and buy a bottle of whatever random thing that restaurant would never even keep in the kitchen because it’s so disgusting, or we should hurl dinner rolls at you so hard that you pass out and then we can eat our food in peace. Either way, we need a mechanism to force you to internalize the social discomfort you inflict on others. Fair warning, my preference is for plan B. The other big problem (here comes irony number 3) is that if you have such a sophisticated palette, why are we not at your house eating your food? My hypothesis is that someone at the table thinks your food tastes like dog chow…drenched in hot sauce. In fact, you may even think your food takes like dog chow drenched in hot sauce. In which case, you should just sit there, ashamed at your ham-fistedness in the kitchen and quietly enjoy your edible human meal so we do not have to spend the evening reliving the night you gave us all dry heaves.

On to the second course. If you have ever tried selecting from the in-flight meal options on an airline website these days (I know, airline food, right?), you know already exactly what I’m talking about. There is a stunning variety of the number of different kinds of –tarians who will only eat food grown in hermetically sealed hydroponic gardens by Austrian nuns in a Leper colony. I struggle to convey how precisely this situation captures the self-important, self-indulgent absurdity that has seized our communities. No one expects airline food to be tasty. In fact, I’ll bet that every mother on the plane has a stash of something she knows her kids will eat in case they wind up with the kind of fare that this woe-begotten traveler, uh, gotten: http://blogs.creativeloafing.com/dailyloaf/2009/01/28/dear-richard-branson-best-complaint-about-airline-food-or-anything-ever/. But simply not eating a terrible meal is not sufficient for our fussy foodies. No indeed. They must have the opportunity to turn their noses up at precisely the combination of ingredients and degrees of dead flesh (don’t even get me started on the delusional hypocrisy of being pescatarian) that they prefer, under threat of unmeritorious nuisance suit. Apart from the selfishness of trying to turn every food experience into a made-to-order nutritional regimen, there is the much more important matter of cost. Every time you insist on special food accommodations, you increase the cost to the rest of us who would happily pay $100 less for a plane ticket and eat our rubber chicken in peace. A brief lesson in economics: chefs get paid for their time, the price of food incorporates the cost of the chef’s time, the cost of the ingredients, and the degree of WASTE. You are the only one who wants wheatgrass and kale puree next to your oat-burger and yet we all pay for the cost of throwing away everything that you don’t eat (because, of course, no one else wants to eat it).

My solution is as simple as it is implementable. If someone serves you something that you can’t or won’t eat, then don’t eat it. This will have the salutary side effect of making it easier for you to keep your yap shut. Problem. Solved.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Go F*nd Yourself

Let me get this straight, MTV is now promoting a new show where 20 year olds check things off of their bucket lists? Can this be right? What on earth wouldn’t be on the life-long “to-do” list of someone that has been alive for approximately 5 minutes? “Ok, we smoked a bong while watching a re-run of yesterday’s Tyra, cross that off the list.” Well, congratulations, MTV, you have officially green-lighted the most vapid and self-indulgent journey ever launched into the beef tripe of youthful American angst. Exhibit A: http://www.theburiedlife.com/.

To begin with the most infuriating aspect of the show, we should consider the unabashed egoism that attends this fiasco. Our…ahem…heroes, in their short little lives have accomplished nothing, contributed nothing, and learned nothing before setting out on a narcissistic path (see e.g. the camera crew following their every move) to personal fulfillment. Impatience is too kind a word for the gall that these children have, with the ink still wet on their equivalency degrees, to whine that their lives are without meaning. I’ll bet if they had to do even an hour of the kind of work most people in this world have to endure just to keep their families fed, they would find it satisfying enough not to have to wash their hipster-chic wardrobe in a muddy river filled with dung and tapeworms.

But this is all theoretical. Let’s run down a few of the most offensive items on the aforementioned bucket list:

1. “Become a licensed minister”: Over the course of human history, countless millions of people have been killed, tortured, or exiled because of their religious beliefs. But you know what would be a real gas? What if a bunch of unemployed attention whores boiled it all down to a five minute gag reel? That would be hilarious. And evidently, mastering the imponderables of human existence is easier than say “learn[ing] how to play an instrument” which remains on the list and incomplete.

2. “Start a dance in a public place”: I suppose one way to get a lot of people moving all at once would be to yell fire in a crowded theater. On second thought, though, this approach is sub-optimal since it would take years to process and appeal the felony charges. Better yet, it would probably be more efficient (and make television gold) for me and my jackass friends to walk outside our hotbox of an apartment, ’80s boom box in tow like DJ what’s-his-face, and just starting f-ing dancing. That would be so sweet. And then tons of other people would totally join in and for a brief moment, we’d forget about all that divides us and just be in the…moment. Yes, this is the perfect solution to world hunger and childhood diseases. Never mind the fact that if I put the same level of effort into an actual job, any actual job, I could probably make enough money to save an entire village in Africa. No, this will be way better, and something everyone should do, just once, with the few precious moments we have on this earth.

3. “Win and yell, ‘Bingo!’ at a Bingo hall”: Does anyone else not find this patently offensive to the people who actually frequent Bingo halls? As the balls drop out of the hopper, like the sands through an hour glass, so pour out the regulars’ hopes of crossing anything else off of their bucket lists besides getting through this particular game of Bingo. What cruel mocking it is to snatch this simple joy from their arthritic claws and turn it into another of MTV’s exploitation-paloozas in worship of youth and stupidity.

Well I have a bucket list of my own. If you’ll indulge me:

1. Cause a crowd of people to point and laugh at (NOT “with”) the jackasses on MTV’s “The Buried Life”

2. Watch the cast of MTV’s “The Buried Life” pick up garbage alongside the highway

3. Convince each member of the cast of MTV’s “The Buried Life” to get matching tattoos that say “I’m a complete tool” on their foreheads

Who’s with me?

Thursday, August 27, 2009

A Thousand Words That Cannot Be Uttered in Public

Imagine that there are exactly one point six feet of space between you and your untimely demise at the hand of a steep cliff perched high atop jagged rocks battered by the foreboding seas below. You step gingerly along the way so as not to disturb any of the pebbles that might be the lynch pin holding together the teetering mass of earth beneath your feet. So far so good…now if you can just make it around this corner, you’ll have a wide plateau safely underfoot and you can relax and enjoy the view while you go to town on the ham and cheese sandwich warmed over in your backpack by a combination of sweat and sun. But just as you round the bend, you discover something blocking your way. Actually it’s two somethings. And it turns out that both somethings are wearing inappropriately tight pants cropped halfway down the shin. Both somethings are also sporting a healthy roll of flab under their inappropriately tight t-shirts and are held together by an inappropriate fanny pack strapped around their middle regions (and apologies for the redundancy…I know there is no such thing as an appropriate fanny pack…no need to write me letters). Then the most appalling cut of all, one something is holding a giant black camera in one hand and gesticulating vaguely with his other in order to get the second something to move just a hair to the right, that’s it, right there, perfect…don’t move. In fact, no one can move because this bizarre charade has taken up the entire path and an inch more to the right would have sent something number two to meet his maker.

For those who do not yet get the…ahem…picture, I’ll spell it out for you. I am fed up with tourists blocking crowded public streets to try to get a snapshot of their friend with the whole of the Manhattan skyline in the background. Invariably, one person will sidle up next to an important landmark. The other person, lacking opposable thumbs or a camera with a lens that can zoom both in and out will have to walk approximately one football field away to capture the breathtaking scene. The rest of us, who are just trying to make it to the Starbucks before we deck the next Greenpeace “intern” pestering us on the sidewalk, have to stand back a respectful distance while Ansel Adams consults with the art director in between frames. All of this effort wasted on a photo that is not worth anyone’s time, and more importantly, not worth my time. The same reason why people hate sitting through slideshows of your trip to the Everglades is the same reason why I have started to march right through these absurdly elaborate photo ops. The pictures are always terrible, no one cares, and I want some coffee.

Now we’ve cast the “somethings” in our little drama as European, but to be fair, this malady is not isolated to Europe. Indeed it has spread across the globe faster than either the Bubonic plague or a Coldplay-induced coma. We now see evidence of snap-happy, obtrusive shutterbugs everywhere from the northern (and southern, eastern, and western) regions of Japan to the icy tundra of Minnesota (at least this is what researchers have been able to gather from the t-shirts worn by subjects who appear to be suffering from the classic symptoms). This all begs a very crucial question. If we have learned anything from the indigenous peoples of Papua New Guinea, it’s that taking a picture of someone is a surefire way to steal his or hear soul and lock it away for eternity inside one’s camera. Why then do so many people persist in obstructing traffic to get the perfect shot of their jackass friend doing the YMCA in front of the Taj Mahal? What is it that turns amateur photographers into professional wastes of space?

Which brings us to Ashton Kutcher. I blame him for much of this epidemic. In particular, I blame the stunning features which make him so mischievously appealing in those Nikon commercials despite not having showered in several days (I’ll assume this is just to avoid awkward encounters in the hallway with his sixteen year old step-daughter and not due the fact that he could not find his way out of a wet paper bag unless Demi pinned instructions to his jacket). If he’s going to continue to peddle the fantasy that his particular camera takes off ten pounds of ugly, he better add a user agreement to avoid liability when I send the camera off the cliff right after something number two, just to make sure we capture the full impact.

Monday, June 15, 2009

I S*it You Not

Picture it, I’m at the sink in the restroom, getting my anti-swine-flu precautions on when I hear, “So I don’t know if you got my text message or not, but like Jen has VIP tickets to the Vince Gill concert tonight.” I think to myself, “I love Vince Gill but I don’t have any idea who you are or who Jen is for that matter and frankly, I have no idea where your voice is even coming from.” And thank goodness I did not say it out loud because before I could respond some unheard person beat me to the punch and next I hear, “ok awesome, we can get some beer and meet there at like 5.” And then it hits me. The disembodied voice is coming from the bathroom stall! And the voiceless respondent is on said pooper’s cell phone!

I never in my wildest imagination thought we’d have to address this but the [ahem…subject matter of this post] seems to finally have hit the fan. And while I am all for multi-tasking, we have officially reached the limit, as I will demonstrate with a little hypothetical. You are chatting with your friend on the phone making plans to get burgers after work. In fact, you can picture in your brain the juicy looking slab of ground chuck with just a hint Dijon mustard and grilled onion bunting peeking out the sides. Your mouth starts to water as you choose a time and location for this get together and make the presumptuous decision in your head to order fries AND onion rings for the table. Suddenly a worm hole opens up allowing you to defy the laws of the time-space continuum and actually see your friend as he is talking to you making plans to get hamburgers. Your cell phone drops to the ground and smashes into as many little pieces as the shards of your immortal soul when you discover that your burger buddy is taking care of business while he’s taking care of business. You are thinking of tonight’s tasty nouveau American and he is still working on getting rid of last night’s ill advised Mexican. This latest etiquette abomination has now cost you your love of hamburgers, cell phones, and the auto-flush feature on the American Standard, all in one…uh…sitting.

Of course we hold culprits of such offenses to human decency to account for their actions, but there is another co-conspirator that merits mention, and elimination. I’m going to place the blame squarely on the Real World and its misbegotten step child Big Brother. TMI does not even begin to describe the gaping hole in the floodgates of the participants’ shame. Watching people sitting around at a slumber party playing truth or dare seems harmless enough, just some engaging young people swapping jokes and stories and the occasional venereal disease. But cameras in the bathrooms? I can imagine few things more repulsive than calculating the amount of soap it will require our protagonists to wash off last night’s bad decisions.

At least the television version of the problem we’re discussing affords us the small comfort of clinging to the fourth wall. We can keep a safe distance on the other side of the glass and pretend that it’s all pretend, it’s all a fiction concocted to entertain us, it could never happen in our own existence. That is why it is absolutely soul crushing when we discover individuals like the one profiled above in person. He reminds us of the depths to which our species has sunk and we begin to question whether his life is really worth living. The answer dear-hearts is that in the real “real world”…it’s not. So for the future, I’d suggest hanging up the phone when you cross the forbidden threshold or else the disease you pick up from that toilet seat will be the least of your worries.