4

Thanks for the Vote of Confidence, Amazon Textbook Rentals

Normally, I buy all my textbooks for class. However, I had a class this semester which required a very expensive textbook – I couldn’t even find a decently-priced used copy – so I decided to try out Amazon Textbook Rentals for the first time. It seemed kind of like an early version of Netflix, but for books: you pay to rent a book for a relatively cheap price ($24 for this one, when it retails around $60), they send it to you, and after a certain amount of time you print out a shipping label and send it back. The sending back part is free thanks to UPS.

So, I bought the textbook, used it the prerequisite number of times for the class, and then returned it a few days ago via UPS. Yesterday, I get an email saying (the bold was highlighted by me):

Dear JACOB,

Thanks for sending back your rentals. The carrier received your package on Thursday, May 12, 2016. All future late charges on these items are stopped. We will send you an email once we have processed your return (please allow up to 30 business days).

Well, gee, Amazon, thanks for the vote of confidence. Why would you talk about hypothetical future late charges when they’re nonexistent, and will never exist, because I returned the book on time? I know it’s probably just processed boilerplate, but it makes me sound a little on the “naughty child” side, as if you were expecting me to return it late, or something. I’m imagine you pacing, all ready and raring to go with late fine emails addressed to me just sitting in your draft box, waiting to be sent. Really, now. It’s like…was there an office pool, betting on whether I’d return it on time or not?

“He’s not going to return it on time, Carol, I just know this guy’s gonna lose it in his apartment or leave it at a Starbucks.”

“Oh golly gee Jim, have a little faith. Speaking of Starbucks, you wanna go out and get some?”

“No thanks, I’m in a relationship.”

“I know, lighten up Jim, that wasn’t a come-on, I just want some hot coffee.”

“So get some in the break room, and…::phone rings:: hold up, it’s Lynette, I gotta take this call.”

“Yeah whatever. See ya Jim.”

“Bye Carol.”

“::murmur:: note to self…find out where this Lynette lives and how to get rid of her…”

And that’s how Carol got fired from Amazon.

4

Coupon Theatre

Who says you can’t see an immersive piece of theatre at Target?

Last night, I was there buying colored pencils, chocolate, and a fancy hat, and got in line behind a young woman with an impressive coupon binder in her cart. As she was organizing her coupons, we were chatting; she was a lovely, but tired, stay-at-home mom, and clearly very methodical.

She finished her transaction and gave the cashier the coupons, and he called over two managers to help out. Obviously, they did not understand how coupons work.

  1. “You can only use one BOGO coupon on these feminine products.” BOGO, limit 2 coupons per customer = you can get 4 items, 2 of which will be free. She had 2 coupons, and 4 items. Simple math.
  2. A second coupon rang up 4 bottles of kids’ shampoo at 4 cents each (nice work!) and the manager said, “um, no, that can’t be correct, why would we do that?” Um, you didn’t do that; this lady managed to combine coupons so well that it comes out to 4 cents.
  3. A third coupon was refused because “it expired today.” Hold the phone, Joe. Expiration date means that you can use it that day. Kind of rubbing salt in the wound.

On top of it, the managers were kind of jerks about it to the lady, who was being assertive, but not loud or abrasive. As she was writing their names down to call corporate, I whispered to her that she was absolutely correct, and to come back tomorrow morning and try again with a different manager. We exchanged a smile before she left, defeated. She had clearly calculated everything down to the penny, and was not trying to stack or cheat the system, just being a conscious shopper. Maybe the first two were legit, but with the third one, the managers were just rubbing salt into the wound. Some couponers are greedy, but the majority are a) really in need and doing the best they can for their families or b) like to save a little money here or there to save up for other things. I enjoy using coupons, but I’m grateful that I do not have to rely on them for a living, and as a result, deal with clueless managers who think that you’re stealing crappy shampoo from their chain store.

2

Give It A Rest…Aurants

I went to a cafe the other day, and they have the cups behind the counter so people won’t come in, use the water filter, and leave.

And today, Chipotle put the lemons behind the counter.

Trust us, America!

Oh the humanity.

25

Random Thought of the Day: Breakfast Menus

Complaining less is something that I wanted to do this year. While so far, I’ve done some complaining (two days in, really? Yes, really) but here’s just a random thought to round out to the day. It’s a complaint masked as a thought, but let’s just go with it.

My dad and I just came back from getting a late night snack/dinner at a small restaurant nearby. They have a huge menu, of which breakfast items take up half. I had never been there before, so it took me awhile to read the menu from start to finish, which was only up on the wall behind the cashier. I finally decided on an egg-and-cheese sandwich from the breakfast menu, only to be told “I’m sorry, sir, but we don’t serve breakfast after 1 PM.” While I settled for an egg salad sandwich, I read over the menu again, and I pointed out to the woman behind the counter that nowhere up there does it say anything about breakfast NOT being served after a certain time. The woman looked at me as if she had never even heard of the concept of eating breakfast food for a meal other than breakfast.

Simple solution: just put the breakfast hours somewhere on the menu, instead of staring at me like I’m crazy. So many restaurants these days do serve breakfast at non-breakfast times, and if they don’t, they have hours listed.

But seriously…is getting an egg-and-cheese sandwich at 10 PM strange? Anyone?

7

Bye, Bei, Bye

Now that I finally have a moment…

Here’s another pet peeve of mine.

The sentence “we stayed by my grandparents’ last night” is something that a Jewish person might say.

It is also horribly grammatically incorrect. I never actually noticed it until a few years ago when my dad pointed it out, but if you think about it, it makes sense.

By means via, as in “by train”, alongside, as in “pass by a house” or “sit by a window,” or indicates a creator, as in “a painting by Picasso”. It does not mean over, at, or with.

“But why do you call out Jewish people, Jacob?”

Because they’re the only ones whom I’ve heard use it that way. I used it myself until my dad corrected me.

Actually, it has a linguistic meaning. In German, the word bei means “with,” therefore making its usage in the aforementioned sentence about staying with grandparents grammatically correct. For some reason, this word kind over traveled over and became a false cognate in English speech.

For some reason, though, it irks me more and more each time I hear someone use it incorrectly. I don’t know why it does, but it is grammatically incorrect. One time, I tried to correct someone, and was greeted with a blank stare, so it is not something that I try terribly hard to change about others’ speech patterns.

But don’t start saying it now.

That, or singing the Maude theme song in public, or else Lady Godiva will be freedom riding through your brain for the rest of the day.

23

Go Check Yourself Before You…

Finish that sentence however you would like to, but there’s something that I’ve just got to get off my chest, something people do that for some reason really, really irks me. It’s kind of small and probably not at all inappropriate, but for me, at least, it sounds incredibly patronizing, especially when you begin to hear it…all the time.

“Can I get a rain check?”

First of all, that is one of the stupidest, tritest, most cliched phrases ever. It makes no sense in 99% of contexts. The original concept of the phrase (yes, I’m irked enough to look it up) comes from a baseball idiom that originated around the turn of the twentieth century. It referred to when a game was rained out (this is before the era of enclosed stadiums, obviously), and those who bought tickets were entitled to go to another game sometime in the future on a day when it does not rain. That actually makes sense. The term eventually expanded to include other outdoor ticketed sporting events or outdoor events in general, such as concerts. These days, however, people just throw around the term even when there is no ticketed event or precipitation involved.

For example, if you invite someone over for dinner or out for coffee or something, and they cancel with that phrase, it makes me feel like I’ve entered into some sort of unwritten social contract with them. As in, since for whatever reason they cannot or don’t want to accept my invitation, they assume that I am going to ask them again in the future, which may or may not happen; in fact, if you ask for a rain check, it is probably less likely to happen. Again, I don’t know why, but it just feels like another way of saying “Umm…I really don’t want to hang out with you, like, at all, ever, and I’m saying it in the nicest possible way it sounds in my head,” or “Well, okay, we can do it another time, but when it’s more convenient for me and obviously less convenient for you.”

Second of all, the more you hear it, the worse it gets. I find that there’s only so much I can handle of that damn phrase. I once had dinner plans that went on for three whole weeks with someone. We were going to have dinner together on a Wednesday night, which was the only night both of us had free time at that point in our lives. The first time, it was actually raining really hard that day (or possibly snowing, since it was in February), so I didn’t mind it that much. The next week, the text came like this “I have a family thing that just came up, can I get a rain check?” A little more annoying, but I said OK. The next week, maybe an hour or two before we were supposed to meet at the restaurant, I got a text saying “rain check 4 2day.” As in, I don’t care enough to text using full words, and since we’ve done it the last two weeks, why not a third? (Apropos of nothing, but the next Wednesday, which we were trying for a fourth time, I didn’t get a text or call, but instead went to the restaurant and waited two whole hours with this person pulling out excuse after lame excuse for being “give me a half-hour” or “just ten more minutes.” Needless to say, that friendship ended that night and I ended up going downtown to a party that was happening that ended up triggering some awesome things for me, but that’s another story).

The absolute worst is when you get it as a response to an open invitation. As in, posting something on Facebook like “Hey, I don’t have dinner plans tomorrow night, who wants to come over?” or “Who wants to go do karaoke tonight?” For the former, someone actually responded with the audacity of “rain check?” Basically, what that says to me is “I would like to take advantage of you and your generosity, but, once again, when it’s convenient for me,” and “I guess this means you owe me now, so I can call you anytime and cash it in and come over and you’ll have pasta with meat sauce hot and ready for me by the time I arrive.” Seriously, if you care that much, either a) ask me if I can do something similar at another time/date, like “I can’t today, but do you want to do something next Tuesday?” or b) cancel whatever you’re doing and actually take up the damn invitation.

Wait, no, I lied. The absolute absolute worst is when people are just so into themselves that they think they’re doing you a huge favor just by responding to your simple request that they say “I’ll take a rain check.” Um, who said that my invitation was more than a one-time offer? Maybe my brain is just addled, but that basically feels like a giant “screw-you, you unimportant waste of time, you, I do what I want and if I ever want to have dinner with you I will show up at your door and demand that you make me a filet mignon with a side of coq au vin and truffles and your finest cognac.” Seriously, seriously, audacity, nerve, gaul, chutzpah.

The only time it’s a legitimate and non-patronizing excuse, I feel, is if it’s an actual thing that somebody can’t attend because of weather.

In conclusion, don’t take my kindness for granted, and don’t walk all over me, but if you do, walk on my back, because I’ve never had one of those type of massages before and I’ve been dying to try one. Just say something like, “can we do it another time?” or “sorry, I’m not available,” or even just a simple, “I can’t, but thanks for the offer.”

Whew, that took a lot of energy, and now I’m all riled up. Sorry if this made you think that I’m a stone cold bastard, but I just had to yell about it out to the whole world, or at least whoever’s reading this far. I think that a much calmer and tamer follow-up post is due, right about…now.

 

7

Candy Crushed

I originally published this on November 1st, but since I’m completely swamped with school and everything, I’m going to do what I always wanted to do, and add more info.

Maybe it’s our culture of excess, but seriously, everywhere I go, the giant family size (and which family, might I ask? the Duggars?) candy bars and candy bags are available. And the smaller sizes are not. It’s like Nestle and Hershey’s are run by a dentist/personal trainer conglomerate. Definitely not the people who run Abercrombie & Fitch.

All I wanted today was a small pack of Twizzlers, maybe three or four pieces.

Down in the candy aisle, the smallest package is about the size of three boxes of spaghetti. The candy bars are like surfboards. I could probably buy a bag of Hershey kisses and use them as a pillow on my next flight. Now, I understand the purpose of large bags of candy; they’re great for teachers, camp counselors, or Halloween. But if you’re only in the market for a small sweet treat for one, it’s damn near impossible.

Twenty minutes later, after scouring the whole store, I caved and bought the only size available, because I wanted Twizzlers that much. And that bag probably lasted me all of one hour, because I live alone, am a graduate student, and have no self-control.

Damn you, candy companies.

This is why China is beating us.

2

A Collaborative (Lack of) Effort

Two days ago, West Virginia University freshman Nolan Burch tweeted that “[i]t’s about to be a very eventful night to say the least.”

He’ll never know just how eventful that night was; after being found unconscious on the floor of a frat house, he was rushed to the hospital where he died today. He was 18 years old.

Stories like this happen with more and more frequency, all over the country. The names, genders, races, and ages vary, but it’s always the same pattern. Over and over again. You could say that it was Burch’s fault for getting so drunk at the party; you could blame it on peer pressure, as he was pledging that fraternity; or you could blame it on his friends (with or without quotation marks) for allowing this to happen. But the facts remain the same. Someone is dead. This will happen again, elsewhere, next week. No one will be put on trial. It’s almost considered an act of God. Whoever was at that party, whoever served the alcohol, whoever hosted the event, will go on living their lives and Nolan Burch will become an afterthought.

In an interesting turn of events, WVU announced the suspension of all Greek life on campus. I’m going to give them two weeks, and I’m being generous, because everyone knows that when you anger the stupid rich people, their money goes away. And an act of revocation already failed; Kappa Sigma, the fraternity which Burch was rushing and who hosted the party, was suspended just one week prior to the event due to a street fight. You’d think they’d want to avoid trouble and maybe keep a low profile on campus for a while.

I’m not bashing Greek life; I know plenty of people who are in fraternities and sororities. Being a brother, and now an advisor, for APO – granted, not a social fraternity, but a Greek letter organization all the same – gives me a little more perspective on the state of fraternities. I am proud to be part of a group that does not haze nor drink, and values anti-hazing so highly that the term risk management – as in, not even risking any activities which could lead to hazing or an extreme incident such as this one. And I know Greeks who do good things, great things for charity, involving people who could otherwise be either sitting on their couches or getting drunk/high somewhere else. When a girl I knew at UMass was considering transferring because she was bored on campus and she didn’t have a lot of friends, one of the suggestions I made to her was to join a sorority that meshed with her interests and had girls that she liked in it, and she balked as if I’d told her to do yoga in the middle of a highway. (She ended up transferring anyway). But basically, Greek life is not all bad.

But then, things like this happen.

Is the Greek organization at fault? You could say no, because technically they had had their charter revoked, but the party occurred at a fraternity house, with people who would not have been there had it not been for the Greek organization. But no amount of rules and regulations by the national organization prevented this group from recruiting pledges or hosting parties, so in a way, the higher-ups in the fraternity were culpable, for not taking swifter action with the university to dispel the chapter from the campus in a more permanent way. The ones who are at fault are the occupants of the house and hosts of the party, in any event, because it happened on their property, regardless of being Greek or not. If they were true “brothers” and friends to Burch like they say they were, they could have taken action much earlier or stopped it from happening outright. Greek life didn’t control their choices; their own stupidity did.

WVU can yell, scream, and revoke Greek life all they want, but face it: unless you take legal action (at the university or the state levels) or physically displace the house’s residents, these kinds of things are going to keep happening. Because this is college, and it’s America, and it’s what happens. All of Greek life just gets thrown deeper into the pit, but nothing changes. It happens every time, and every time it does, it just returns to the status quo. Part of the blame lies with idiotic college students, but part of the blame lies with who is supporting these fraternities, and a lack of discipline and accountability on the part of the university who sometimes fail to always follow through thoroughly.

The fact that there are so many fingers pointing in so many directions that I’m going to need extra hands means that collectively, we’re doing something wrong.

It’s stupid students. It’s the alums and parents who fund their excessive drinking. It’s advisors who are left in the dark (where are they here?) It’s university police who are too busy giving parking citations. It’s university administrators who are out of touch with what’s going on under their noses.

Everyone talks about collaboration, but clearly we’re not doing a very good job of it here.

If we weren’t so caught up in our own lives, maybe we’d have more chances to save others.

Sources of Info:

Farrell, Paul. “Nolan Burch: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know.” Heavy.com. 14 November 2014. http://heavy.com/news/2014/11/nolan-burch-dead-wvu-freshman-frat-death-kappa-sigma/

Johnson, M. Alex. “West Virginia University Student Nolan Burch Dies From Injuries: School.” NBC News. 13 November 2014. <http://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/west-virginia-university-student-nolan-burch-dies-injuries-school-n248286>.

 

1

I Had One More

Today, I came across this list of 7 Ways to Be Insufferable on Facebook.

It reminded me that about a year ago, I wrote this post and then this one a month later, on the exact same topic.

However, in that time span, people and their Facebook status updates have become no less annoying, in fact, quite the opposite. But just for kicks, I wanted to see how much this person’s list of 7 and my list of 8 align.

Mine were:

  1. The Facebook Guru
  2. The Prayer Warrior
  3. “My Life is Awesome”
  4. The Serial Liker
  5. The Social Commentator
  6. The Jehovah’s Gamer
  7. The Activist
  8. The False Sense of Intimacy Person.

Theirs:

  1. The Brag (and various forms thereof)
  2. The Cryptic Cliffhanger
  3. The Literal Status Update
  4. The Inexplicably Public-Private Message
  5. The Out-Of-Nowhere Oscar Acceptance Speech
  6. The Incredibly Obvious Opinion
  7. The Step Towards Enlightenment.

Okay, so we have a lot in common. My #1 is his #7, and my #2 is his #6. My #3 is his #1 and #5; just for the record, mine are in no particular order but I’d put that as the top annoyance any day. My #4-7 don’t really match up with any of his, but my #8 has elements in his #2, #3, and #4.

So, now that we agree on four out of his seven, there are three left. And honestly, I don’t really care about #2 and #3.

For The Cryptic Cliffhanger, if it’s someone I don’t care about, I just ignore it. If it’s someone whom I’ve seen recently or about whom I deeply care, I’ll comment, but usually I’ll text or call that person. I’ve actually done it a few times in the recent past, and it’s yielded good results; sometimes those people just want someone to care. The Literal Status Update? Not even on my radar screen. It’s like…good for you? And for The Inexplicably Public-Private Message, two thoughts. One: people do make mistakes like that, whatever. Two: if you have to check yourself and your Facebook friends in somewhere and brag about it, how much time are you really spending with them?

So there you have it, a complete comparison.

But mine came first and you have one less, one less, problem than me.

 

0

Sign of a Bright Future?

I mentioned conspiracy theories today in a conversation with someone, so I’d like to address another that recently came into my mind, both while shopping at Marshalls and then later when I was bored because of course, I have a million things that I have to do but end up slacking on.

Sunglasses.

I never liked sunglasses growing up, because I had actual glasses and could never wear real-person sunglasses until I was a teenager and contact lenses saved me from hating myself forever. I kind of have a thing for really funky, almost girly sunglasses, but never granny glasses, never. Actually, I really like the free plastic ones they give away at events – I have one on my dining room table that says “I ❤ ISRAEL” on the side – but I’m a little too old to be wearing them in public and be taken seriously at the same time. Ever since I moved to a very sunny place (Houston) followed by a place that’s not sunny but when it is, it’s blinding due to the snow (Madison), so sunglasses have been nice for things like driving and walking and avoiding eye contact with certain people. Sunglasses are also probably useful in Vietnam and Guyana, the two newest countries on my traffic (welcome!) There are so many cool kinds out there, and they’re usually pretty cheap.

The problem?

Every time I buy sunglasses, just as I start to really love them, they either a) break, or b) disappear. Usually it’s the first one.

I could give you a rundown of every single pair of sunglasses that I ever bought, but suffice it to say that they’ve been stepped on, sat on, crushed in a bag, and of course, forgotten somewhere. It’s almost to the point of laughter – every time I’ve taken a big trip, my sunglasses have been the first thing to go. I lost them early on in Ecuador, someone sat on them when we got to Slovakia, and I sat on them my first day in Israel. Occasionally I acquire new ones before the trip is out, but usually, I wait until I’m like “gee, now that was a situation where sunglasses would have been helpful, and I didn’t have them.” And then I get them, start to really like them, wear them everywhere, only to have something happen to them. And since the cheapest ones at the west side Marshalls (yes, I actually went to both) were over $15, I think that I have solid proof that I have, indeed, purchased and lost/broken all the $10 and under sunglasses in the world.

Anyway.

Just bought soap.