5

News Feed = Bad News

I’m pretty serious about this one.

Every time I scroll through my Facebook news feed, it’s garbage. Old garbage, new garbage, political garbage, garbage about racism.

It’s just plain bad news. Don’t do it.

I started writing this the other day but didn’t get around to finishing it.

Anyway, I keep getting sucked into this endless trap of suck. I mean, there are a few things that are worth keeping up with. One of my friends is going to give birth any day now, and is posting updates about contractions and such. Another friend posts a lot of cute kid pictures and funny stories, and I have a few more friends who get me with their witty one-liners or a funny meme or something. But if it’s a link to an article about something political, whether it’s race relations, the Presidential campaigns, Israel, gender discrimination – and now, the $20 bill changing to Harriet Tubman – I tend to not scroll past them as quickly as I know I should.

Yet, I still subject myself to it. I guess it’s important to me to know what’s going on with my friends, even if it is pictures of what they ate that morning or them checking into airports in exotic cities I’ll probably never get the chance to see. However, that doesn’t stop the Facebook feed, from becoming a dangerous place. Often times I’ve found myself practically agreeing with what a friend posts, even if it’s totally against my own belief system, because it’s well worded, or looks official, or something. And then I wander off and suddenly it’s two hours later.

Maybe I just need to get more positive friends.

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10

Jacob What?

No, this is not a post about my crazy brain that’s going to make your head spin.

Nor is this a post that’s about an undiscovered temple in the Cambodian rainforest.

Nope, it’s just your everyday, average rant about something I don’t like.

You know when you start a conversation with someone new, or you get introduced to someone new? The conversation normally goes something like this.

YOU PERSON: Hi there.

ME: Hi, nice to meet you!

YOU PERSON: Nice to meet you too. I’m [You], what’s your name?

ME: I’m Jacob.

YOU PERSON: Jacob…what?

Bitch, WHAT? Michelle Tanner style

::explosion of rage in my head::

I know this is super weird and really, really petty, but why in the world do you need to know my last name, before we continue with the niceties like “how are you?” or “where are you from?”

First of all, let’s start with You. Nine times out of ten, you introduce yourself as You. Not as You Person, not Mr./Mrs. You Q. Person, but You. And then you expect me to tell you my last name?

If I want you to know my last name right off the bat, I’ll tell you, no big deal. But when you hold that expectant pause, it’s like you can’t go on in life without knowing my last name, despite me not knowing yours. It puts me in a super-awkward spot then, because, what if I don’t want you to know my last name right now? What if I don’t feel like introducing myself beyond the “Hi-I’m-Jacob-nice-to-meet-you-bye” today? What if it just plain doesn’t matter because we’re never going to see each other again, and by the time we do, we’ll have forgotten each other’s first names?

I’ve caught myself saying it to people a few times, especially when I know I’ve met them before but can’t quite place them, but unless I’m flirting (and actually, this is probably a very unsexy way to start a conversation; maybe this is why I don’t date), there’s no need to demand information from anyone when you first meet them.

Most people I’ve met in life do not do this. The demographic of people who ask this question is usually 40s-70s, male, and Jewish. Quite possibly a rabbi, who then wants to know your hometown, your parents’ names, your Hebrew name, what shul you go to, and if you’ve put on tefillin this morning (if you’re a male). But in general, it’s just nosy people who want to add another possible notch to their Jewish geography standings. Now, don’t get me wrong, Jewish Geography is the Game of Champions – seriously, if it were an Olympic sport, I would try out for the team – but I generally don’t break out into full-on JG until the second or third time we meet, or if it’s a situation neither of us can get out of, like waiting for a bus, stuck in a really long line, or in the trenches of the wintry French countryside in World War I. Unfortunately, to the above demographic, if you choose not to engage with their question, you kinda look like an asshole, and even more so if you lie.

Then this happens:

“Jacob Bergenpretzel. Bergenpretzel? Of the New York Bergenpretzels or the Miami Bergenpretzels? You’re from Germany, right…which part? Are you related to Milton Ber-no, wait-Melvin Bergenpretzel? No? How about Gertrude Bergenpretzel? I knew a Gertrude Bergenpretzel, she used to play mahj with my mother-in-law…was she your grandmother, or cousin, or maybe a great-aunt? Is Bergenpretzel short for something? What’s your mother’s maiden name?”

And then they get into health insurance form territory and it’s just a downward spiral from there. Especially because you know that all the answers will be no, because you just plucked Bergenpretzel out of the back of your brain.

So here’s a solution: get to know me a little better. Ask me where I’m from, or how my day was, or what’s on my mind. Then ask for the rest of the details. Or just don’t ask me that question at all because I don’t owe you a thing, it’s that simple.

Unless you’re from the IRS.

In which case, you probably already know my last name.

Word.

Holla for a six-continent day; what up, USA, Chile, UK, Netherlands, Belgium, France, India, Sudan, Australia?

 

10

Leave The Devil In Hell Where He Belongs

Yesterday, I posted about something that I like, and today, here’s something I don’t like:

People who constantly play devil’s advocate.

I mean, what purpose does it serve? Most of the time, said person just does it to either be contrary in a situation that was perfectly fine until they opened their trap, or to get attention in a way other than throwing a temper tantrum. Sometimes we don’t want to hear your opinion. Or that of the devil. Do you really dislike us to that degree? If so, you might need to find some new friends.

Then, there’s the whole cliched phrasing of it. “Devil’s advocate?” For some reason, I think of 1970s crime dramas. You know, the kind where the men had suits with patched elbows and women wore shoulder pads. I mean, really. And why would the devil need advocating? I’d like to think he’s probably pretty convincing himself, after all, isn’t he the definition of evil? The polar opposite of good? Or something.

Seriously.

If I had a dollar for every time I heard that phrase in an academic setting, I’d have enough money to set up a scholarship fund.

But only for people who know when to shut up and when to…shut up.

Pray the Devil Back to Hell

 

11

Terrible People, Part 1: The Person Who Smokes Their E-Cig Like It’s Nobody’s Business

I actually had a pretty nice day today, but something’s been bothering me for awhile, so here’s a new series to commemorate that fact. It’s called Terrible People. You all know some of them, and I sure hope you’re not one of them. I’ve written before about bad people, bad habits, bad parenting, and other things I don’t like, but terrible people just deserve their own special place in [fill in the blank]. If you’re that type of person that likes everyone, good for you, and here’s an anchor because you’re probably a pushover.

Now that that’s settled, ladies and gentleman, here’s today’s featured Terrible Person. This would be the person who smokes his/her e-cigarette like it’s nobody’s business. Anytime, anywhere, always. Indoors, outdoors, and in between doors. I get it, you’re trying to quit smoking – that’s great – or that you’re trying to save money – understandable – but please, take it elsewhere. Just because it’s not strictly a cancer stick doesn’t mean it doesn’t smell like one and bother the heck out of everyone else in the room.

At another school, I had a class with some girl who had the chutzpah to light up during class, not even joking. Like a Christmas tree. If Christmas trees smoked e-cigs. Right in the middle of discussion. It was disgusting. First of all, isn’t it illegal to smoke inside university buildings? And if not, it should be. Second of all, just because it’s fancy does not give you the right to pretend that we’re in a hospital in the 1950s. This includes sauntering down the hallways too. Again, no matter what the cigarette, the smell is bothersome so take it outside, if you must smoke at school.

You, sir, are a chimney and a terrible person.

Okay, mostly I’m just sick of smokers. There, I’ve said it. Health reasons aside, it’s terrible for the environment, for teeth, and for getting out of clothes. Seriously, some garments take at least two washes to get the smell fully gone. And no, it’s not the same as a “pleasant, woodsy smell,” even if you are smoking pine needles or a Glade plug-in. The past few days, I feel I’ve been ambushed by them, everywhere I go. It could be someone walking a half block ahead of me, or just through a wayward wind gust. I was out on the Terrace yesterday trying to read and do homework, and had to move tables twice because some idiot’s addiction of choiced started making me light-headed. I don’t mind the smell of cheese curds, or brats, or beer (actually, some beers smell sweet and homey) but one person with one cigarette can just ruin the air quality for everyone.

I am sure there are good reasons for a person to smoke, but do it in your own home, or somewhere that’s not where people are reading/eating/congregating for extended periods of time. But when you do it in a public place, full of people, you’re basically saying, “I don’t give a crap about any of y’all because my nicotine level is too low and I can’t be bothered to excuse myself, in more ways than one.”

So there.

Now, I feel the need to write a more positive post to counterpoint this one, so stick around.

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.

 

6

DDS: What It Is, and What to Look Out For

Hello from Baltimore, everyone. After 2 days on the road, including stops in Chicago to see cousins and an overnight in Fremont, Ohio, I am back home for a few well-earned weeks of R & R.

Part of the reason I started this blog was to write down all the stories and experiences that have been percolating in my brain for ages so I don’t have to continually relive them and say, “gee, I wish I had written this down somewhere.

So, totally, an actual goddamn story from my actual goddamn life.

Has any older person ever told you that they (or you) suffer from CRS? Well, for those of you who don’t know, CRS is an acronym standing in for a condition known as Can’t Remember Shit. CRS affects women who write in online forums and use expressions like DH (dear husband/dear hubby) and IBS (irritable bowel syndrome/I be shittin’). It is used as an excuse for misplacing items such as keys, glasses, and dentures; for missing appointments and birthdays; or, in general, for forgetting a certain word or the rest of the sentence. Often a symbol of the wackiness of aging and senility, it is usually viewed as “cutesy” by the person using it and as a “copout” by the rest of the world.

DDS is an offshoot of that.

What exactly is DDS?

No, it has nothing to do with dentistry. I coined it, to stand in for Doesn’t Do Shit. Basically, it refers to anytime an older person feels so entitled to being waited on hand and foot that they have absolutely no interest in the feelings of other people, their time, or their willingness to help them out.

Now, I’m not knocking the elderly; most are kind, sweet, and well-mannered. They deserve help and attention, especially when it’s needed. Most of the time, when an elderly person asks for something, they try to help as much as they can, or are at least gracious of your efforts and apologetic for taking your time.

Here’s an example of DDS:

For two consecutive summers, I worked as PR for a local theatre festival. I heard about the position via word of mouth, and when I went to apply, I was basically handed the job (yes, a job; it came with a small honorarium) on a silver platter and told about the (soon-to-be) previous PR person, an older lady whom I’ll call Trudy. According to the head of the festival, Trudy was not only a bit old (read: grandmother of 3), but a bit…old school. She had been working on this festival for almost its entire existence as its publicist, and her idea of publicity involved telephone calls and snail mail. Yes, snail mail. In the 21st century. She did not even own a computer; she typed up everything on a typewriter, with the excuse that “I don’t do e-mail, that’s for young people,” yet she’s a publicist. A PUBLICIST. 

No wonder I had barely heard of this festival, and it was 25 years old already.

Basically, they needed a change, and fast.

Getting wind of this, however, Trudy was not prepared to go down without a fight. She begged and pleaded to be reinstated with “you’re replacing me, replacing me!” She even convinced one of the directors to continue allowing her to do her PR, even though she had been explicitly told not to. If we were going to keep this little play festival going, we needed to do so with more than $50.00 in the bank account, which is approximately what we had. Money comes from ticket sales, and tickets need people to buy them, and people come via PR; clearly, somebody had not been doing a very good job.

So, that first summer, it was a continual battle for me. We would have biweekly committee meetings, and somehow, she usually managed to show up and sit there sadly. However, she didn’t drive. I honestly don’t know how she got there; probably a taxi, but usually a ride from a family member or some big-hearted committee member. And generally, if you’re in a position where you need transportation, the thing to do is arrange it beforehand, both ways. Every meeting, without fail, she would realize, “oh, I don’t have a way of getting home.” Rather than calling a taxi to pick her up, or call one of her many children or other family members, she would beg for a ride either home or to a taxi stand from one of us. I would usually duck out of the meetings as soon as they were done so I wouldn’t be stuck with what we would call “Trudy duty.”

One time, however, one of the other committee members, a kind woman who usually moonlighted as Trudy’s chauffeur, had to attend another meeting or something and asked me if I would be on “Trudy duty” for the night. I said yes, not knowing what I had gotten myself into.

The meeting ended, and everyone jetted. I told Trudy to wait out front and that I’d be back to pick her up. With a quickly-whispered “thank you” from my friend (the chauffeur, not Trudy) I headed out and returned a few minutes later with my car. She gets in the passenger door, and we sit there.

And we sit.

And I ask her, “So, where am I dropping you off?”

Trudy goes, “Can you take me home?”

Me: “No, that’s a little too far for me to go tonight [note – she gave me her address, and it would have been quite a long trip out of my way and it was already getting], so where can I take you to catch a cab.”

Trudy: “I don’t know.”

Okay, Trudy. You’re about three times my age, and you’ve lived in this city all your life. You come downtown regularly, and you never drive, since you don’t do that. You either get rides or take taxis. In fact, you are usually in this neighborhood when you come downtown, so you should know how to get from point A to point B, or at least direct people how to get there. And here I am, being gracious of my time and energy, to take you at least part of the way home.

And you don’t even know where to get a taxi?

I ask her, “Where do you usually get a taxi?”

Trudy: “Um, there’s a taxi stand somewhere around here…”

Me: “Do you know what street it’s on?”

Trudy: “No.”

This is getting ridiculous. Finally, Trudy contributes something, even if it is sort of a command.

Trudy: “Just drop me off down by the Inner Harbor, by one of the big hotels, and I’ll get a taxi there.”

Me: “Which one? How do I get there?”

Trudy: “I don’t know. Whichever.”

Helpful, Trudy.

Anyway, I drive her over to the Harbor, navigating the way myself, and just as I get to a hotel, she goes “Oh, no, not this one! That one over there!” So I do that, and she gets out of the car without so much as a thank you or an offer to repay me for gas money, for something that she should have honestly planned beforehand, with either a relative or a friend, instead of constantly relying on the kindness of others to delay their lives and wait on you hand and foot. Just because you have gray hair does not mean you get to use people and be treated like a queen while bringing nothing to the table.

Readers, don’t be a Trudy. Say no to DDS and do shit. Have some forethought, be appreciative of others’ time and energy, and for goodness sakes, offer to help them while they do it for you.

Anyone who is reading this who is familiar with the Festival or the Baltimore theatre scene in general probably knows who I’m talking about. I’m not embarrassed, though, about being so frank with this story. Given Trudy’s stance on technology, I doubt she’ll ever read this.

3

Things I Like and Don’t Like About Cleaning

Much like Carol Channing’s famous monologue from Free to Be… You & Me, I hate housework.

 

Well, most of the time.

So of course, instead of spending last night and today on my homework, I spent the majority of the day cleaning my apartment.

Things I Like About Cleaning

  1. I like doing laundry. Like…I really like it. The smell of dryer sheets and clean clothes. The joy of watching stains disappear. The fact that I can fold clothes and watch TV/listen to music/talk on the phone/read at the same time. Feeling like a champion with a freshly organized closet and/or drawer.
  2. I like the pristine look of things the second that they are clean. Of course, then you have to stand, sit, spill, stain, and shove stuff on it, but for a second, it’s like a catalog.
  3. I like giving (and having) the illusion that my apartment is that clean, 100% of the time.
  4. A clutterless counter or table top is perfect for all kinds of ACTIVITIES.

Things I Don’t Like About Cleaning

  1. Dishes. Everything about them.
  2. Folding fitted sheets. We send a man to outer space and make a phone that’s thinner than a slice of bread but no one has figured out a foolproof way to fold a fitted sheet.
  3. Looking for things that were easily found in the mess, and having to wreck your whole apartment to find them ten feet away from where they were when your apartment was a mess.
  4. Resisting the urge to redecorate. Every time.
  5. WHERE ARE MY WOODLAND FRIENDS?