4

What Not To Wear, Retail Edition

It happened to me again today.

Well, not really, but something close.

Maybe it’s me, but it seems like it happens to me a lot more often than others.

Or maybe I just don’t see it happening to anyone else but me.

“Where are the bathrooms?”

“How much are these towels?”

“How does this attach to my computer?”

These are questions commonly asked when I wear certain items of clothing to certain stores. I found this out the hard way, failed to correct my mistakes, and it happened again and again. It also does not help that I am a young, white male; many older female shoppers (read: many shoppers) tend to gravitate towards someone of my stature and build rather than, say, an older male, a non-white male, or an older woman. Younger women often get similar treatment, especially at places like Abercrombie or the Gap. It also does not help when I wear my keys around my neck like a lanyard; that really throws people for a loop. But to most, it’s the clothes that meet the eye first, and the proliferation of consolidated American businesses mean that the consumer has gotten lazier about seeking help in stores. Behold…

That’s So Jacob Presents: What Not to Wear, Retail Edition

Target: A red polo and khakis. This has happened to me several times, even when just wearing a red t-shirt. To be on the safe side, just never ever wear red to Target. Ever. This includes pink, magenta, maroon, scarlet, and crimson. Don’t even wear red underwear to Target.

Best Buy: See above, but in blue. Also, avoid wearing glasses. Due to the extreme lack of employee care in a Best Buy, if you manage to  wear blue and escape the store without getting mobbed, consider yourself extremely lucky.

Apple Store: Similar to Best Buy, try to avoid blue and glasses. Bring a book to look super non-technological. Or even ::gasp:: a periodical.

Home Depot: If you left the house in plaid, go home, change, and spare yourself the incessant questioning on drill bits.

Starbucks: Avoid aprons. I am not sure why anyone would go to Starbucks in their apron unless they had just come in from the dairy, in which case, you better have a good explanation planned for your cows when you come back from your lunch break with a foreign-teated iced latte.

Any preppie mall shop: Don’t go dressed to impress. Who wants fashion tips from a chick in sweats?

Any pharmacy (CVS/Walgreens especially): If you work as a nurse, veterinarian, or dental hygienist, do yourself a favor and have a spare outfit in your car for that emergency Twix, lunchtime Fiji water, or picking up dryer sheets on the way home. If you have an ID badge, they might actually put you to work.

Dollar store: Leave the acrylic nails at home. One look at your hands and they’ll be asking you where the cosmetics are. However, if you do own acrylic nails and frequent the store, you could probably actually be of help to him/her.

Department store: Clinton and Stacy love blazers, but if you look too much like a perfume sprayer…you might be mistaken for one.

Airplane: Yeah, put the bomber jacket in your luggage unless you’re preparing to take over in the cockpit in case of emergency. This would probably also be a good place where should someone ask you what you are wearing, call it an aviator jacket. And if you have a coordinated pantsuit or skirt suit and a brightly-colored scarf, don’t be surprised if someone asks you when the in-flight beverage service is going to start.

Middle Eastern marketplace: Avoid caftans and turbans, unless you want to confuse the tourists and anger the locals. Thanks, Israel!

On the other hand, maybe I should dress like an employee and just pick up a paycheck. For being awesome.

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20

Thumb and Thumber

51qm0m31jyl_The concept of a “helpful tips column” has been around for awhile. From Ann Landers to Emily Post, Dear Abby to Heloise, “hints” and “tips” have been at our fingertips, literally, since my grandmother could clip them out of the newspaper and store them in a fancy box in the kitchen. With the decline of the print newspaper (you can argue that it’s not dying, but I’d ask you to read the front page advertisements in The New York Times before you stated your case), the advice column is probably what’s taken the biggest beating, along with weather (which is even in cars now), stocks (already outdated by the time the issue hits your hands), and sports scores (24/7 sports television takes care of that). Plus, society has changed; people care less about how to clean the insoles of your shoes than about how to set up a video game console. Certain things matter less to people, like having a squeaky-clean kitchen, reusing flour sacks as diapers, and the proper way to show up to a cotillion. They’ve been replaced by antibacterials, recycling, and…well, who goes to cotillions anymore? Certainly, the advice column as we know it was about to go.

Then, along came Pinterest.

And Buzzfeed.

And Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.

And Cake Boss.

And suddenly, “tips” got hot again, whether for going green in the kitchen, saving bathroom space, or artsy-craftsy things like making baby shower invitations or making a bookshelf out of an old oven range. What came back in full force, though, were the cooking tips. Gluten free, vegan, and of course, all those mini-mini-cupcakes and cake that looks like a Mondrian painting when you cut into it.

Ever going along with the trends, Reader’s Digest presses on with their columns, but sometimes the advice isn’t that well-thought-out, like this past March’s column on page 46 entitled, “The Clever Cook: Be A Spotless Gourmet.”

Tip #1: Place ingredients on an empty baking sheet prior to prepping them.

Okay, so it’s just basically saying, get your shit together before you make a mess.

Tip #2: Broken glass? Pick it up with white bread!

I really wonder who thought of that idea, and who had to test that.

Tip #3: As you cook, toss scraps into a large bowl to contain messes if a trash can isn’t around.

When I cook, I don’t tell my trash cans to go out on a date and “come back before midnight”…most kitchens have trash cans for this purpose, or even sinks with garbage disposals to eliminate this problem entirely. Moving on…

Tip#4: To protect a recipe card, put it under a glass lid.

Okay, so kitchen snow globe. Not a horrible idea, but who uses recipe cards anymore? For me, it’s my Better Homes and Gardens cookbook or the Internet.

Tip #5: Secure a paper towel around the neck of an olive oil bottle to prevent drips.

This one is actually smart. I hadn’t thought of that. However, I usually just wipe the bottle after I use it, problem solved.

Tip #6: “Keep your thumbs squeaky clean by using a wine cork to make an indent in thumbprint cookies.”

…um, what?

Seriously?

wine cork?

If you’re making thumbprint cookies and are too lazy to do the thumbprint thing, maybe you should’ve thought this activity through a little more, and made cupcakes, or flan, or jello…or even a fruit salad, for that matter. Unless you intend to make a watermelon basket with your thumbs. Also, if you’re that anal about keeping your thumbs clean, then maybe baking is not the activity for you. Baking is fun, but it’s inevitable that you’re going to get something messy, whether it’s your hair, hands, clothes. Usually, it’s all three.

Try knitting, or playing piano, or watching TV.

Unless you’re also so lazy that you need to use wine corks to press the buttons on your remote control.

2

So, Tell Me About Yourself

Even though my dad calls me self-obsessed sometimes, I find it hard to write about myself.

Bios are one thing. For a program, I usually just rattle off my degrees, and two or three past projects. No biggie.

But writing for an extended time about yourself, like a paragraph, or a whole page? It’s like…what do you do?

Well, there’s one thing. Who better to write about you than yourself? You’ve been living with yourself for your whole life, and chances are you know yourself pretty well, unless you’re prone to fugue states or have spent most of your life in a coma, in which case you probably wouldn’t be in the position of writing a memoir (The Diving Bell and Butterfly excluded). But there’s also the intense pressure that comes with it; what if you write something that sounds stupid or unimportant in retrospect. What if you write something about yourself that’s just plain wrong, based on an incorrect memory of people/things/events? And how do you write about yourself without being so gosh-darned self-serving?

Here are a few ways to write about yourself.

1. I’m Awesome

You’ve probably accomplished some stuff and probably prevailed over adversity at least once in your life, so write about that. You can write about yourself as a child prodigy. You can write about learning how to play the piano, or how you were captain of the varsity lacrosse team, sang in a choir, won a spelling bee, or had your poem published in a school/local newspaper. These are all things that happened to you, so they’re factual, at least. Transitioning into adulthood, you graduated high school and got a college scholarship? That’s perfect. So many Americans (and people in other countries) do not or cannot do that. You studied abroad in China? Great, there’s a chapter right there – it doesn’t matter that it was on your parents’ dime and you drank a lot while you were there, at least you went on an adventure across the world alone and met new people. You had family, friends, and pets that you adored and adored you? They’ll work as supporting characters, mile markers on your just to becoming the amazing person you are today.

This is problematic, because inevitably, you’ll slip up somewhere and someone will notice. Or, someone reading it will pick out the one detail that you made seem bigger than it was. “So, you were a Boy Scout? Tell me about that,” someone will ask, and you’ll struggle to cover up the fact that you never made Eagle Scout and dropped out after a year and a half because you decided you liked riding your bike around the neighborhood and watching TV better. Also, inevitably, you can come off sounding like an incredible jackass, making everyone else seem inferior. Or that you enjoy tooting your own horn so much that you could join an orchestra.

2. I’ve Suffered a Lot and I’m Stronger Now

Modesty could be the best policy. You were born in a hospital, parents got divorced, didn’t make the basketball team, got the worst part in the play, accidentally broke your great aunt’s glasses at Thanksgiving dinner, and didn’t get your first kiss until you were 21. Or, all those times you had to miss school because of illness, or that you knew some people and they died and that sucked. But through it all, you managed to stick around and you don’t know how but somehow you’re here for a higher purpose.

Billy, don’t be a hero – your life’s not all crap and you know it. It’s like those kids in art class in third grade who were all, “my painting is the worst in the class,” only to make you feel sorry for them and then tell them that it was good. Looking back, I probably should have said, “Yeah, you’re right, your painting does suck, and you’re also not great at other things either.” But then you’d probably get told on and have to spend recess sitting alone in the corner, which isn’t too bad because the other kids are smelly anyway and you can work on your plans for world domination.

And now for something completely different…

3. This is me, total honesty. Just me.

You’ve written a bunch of stuff down, but since it triggers bad memories, or you don’t want people to know, or that is embarrassing or embarrasses someone else or that is boring or that never really happened, or did, but not the way that you recall it. So you erase all that and start with the facts. You were born, on a day ending in Y, in a hospital, you had parents and a sister and a bedroom in a house, took a bus to school, had a bunch of friends, and then went to college or entered the workforce and did stuff. Then you erase all that stuff, because who’d want to read that, and then go back to numbers 1 or 2.

In conclusion, you just can’t win. You either come off sounding like an incredible jackass or that your life is completely morbid or that you’re so normal that you’re mundane or that you hate yourself. One or more of which might be true, but you don’t want people to know that. So now you’re tasked with finding an official biographer, which is probably going to cost you money.

If I ever get around to writing it, my memoir is probably going to be a clusterfumble.

See ya in the Marshalls clearance aisle!