Long Story Short

I think we’ve all been in the position where there’s something incredibly simple that we’ve needed from someone, but we loathe asking for it. Oh, not because you fear the person will reject your request, quite the opposite in fact… they are often eager to help. You just dread the long and drawn out interaction that you know is going to go with that simple ask.

For instance, you need that recipe from a co-worker… you know, the one for that dish everyone was raving over at lunch last month. You jotted it down but misplaced the napkin you sketched it on. In all probability, you forgot you had made the note in the first place, duly wiped your mouth, and threw the napkin away. So what do you do? Call up your pal, except she’s one of those people who will literally talk your ear off. It doesn’t matter though; you promised some friends that you would make the best tapenade that they ever had and damn it, that’s what you’re going to do. So, you begrudgingly make the call, knowing you’ll be on the phone for hours for a piece of information that would take a normal person no more than a few minutes to repeat.  And… you were right. Because before you know it, you’ve learned that 3 generations of men in her family have done their time in the military, but not Henry, oh no, not good-for-nothing Henry, and little Janie is getting straight A’s in school (thanks to the tutor that her hairdresser recommended), her husband got a promotion, which was long overdue, because allegedly he could perform the job better than his boss could have, in his sleep mind you! And finally, little Billy is all grown up, and off to college, so after an hour and a half of story time, and 20 minutes of sobbing into the phone, I’m now equipped with the knowledge to prepare that banging tapenade from the pot-luck lunch we had a few weeks ago. Next time I need a recipe, I think I’ll just google it.

My mother has a neighbor that will talk about nothing for three hours. She’ll get off the phone with this woman and I’ll ask, how’s Marion, what did you talk about for five hours? And my mother has no idea. Of course, she wasn’t the one doing the talking, so there’s that. We’ve all known someone like Marion. For instance, I didn’t even know there was lecture-length material out there on the history of bowling balls, but growing up, my friend had an Uncle Randy, and he could talk to you about bowling for a full day and not repeat himself. True story.

Another pet peeve of mine is people that take the long way around to tell a simple story. And I mean, the scenic route. Especially if I’m in a hurry or already trying to do something. Or when the story starts out sounding like it’s kind of important.

“Hey, don’t freak out, but I was in a car accident.”

“What? Are you ok!? What happened?!”

“I’m fine. But get this… so I was at the grocery store, right? They had this crazy sale on Milkbones and I was like, wow, that’s a really good deal…”

“That’s great, but the accident? What happened!? Are you okay??”

“I was getting to that, but you didn’t let me finish. Geez! So anyway, I got the Milk-Bones and I remembered that you said you had that thing for work coming up…”

Yeah, you get the idea, 40 minutes later you find out that the guy who rear-ended her used to be her husband’s old co-worker who got drunk at a work party once and ate a box of Milk-Bones.

I’m telling you, even kids notice.

“Mom, do we have to go to Aunt Karen’s?  All she does is talk about her Pomeranians.”

“I know sweetie, but it’s her birthday. Just pretend you never heard any of it before.”

“How am I supposed to do that when I could write a book on Pomeranians just on what I remember from last week’s visit?”

Don’t get me wrong, I can gossip and shoot the bull with the best of them, and I’m sure I’ve talked someone’s ear off a time or two. Especially when I’m riled up about something. I’m sure we all have. It’s just that some people seem to have the uncanny ability to do it often and do it well. Too well if you ask me.

 

 

Ode to Strangers

Have you ever played the “people” game, where you watch the people around you and make up a story about them? Say, you’re sitting in a café having a cup of coffee and you watch the customers come and go. For each one you make up some sort of crazy backstory based on their attitude (good or bad) or something they’re wearing.

For instance, that woman with the silver sky-high bouffant hair and neon pink suit is a dog groomer who specializes in poodles that frequent the canine beauty pageant circuit.  At one time, she was in beauty pageants herself, and won quite a few medals too, but she didn’t want her talents to go to waste so she combined her love of dogs and her love of outdated hairstyles to create a really successful business. Go ahead and mock, but she could buy and sell just about everyone in the café.

The guy in the ratty jeans (and not in a designer $500 a pair way), muddy boots, and stained jacket but oh so perfect hair, just got back into town. His best friend was abducted by aliens and he spent the better part of the last three days digging pits and booby-trapping his backwoods cabin and he’s only in town long enough to pick up his hair pomade and an espresso before he heads back up to the cabin to await the return of the alien mothership.

Hey, I can do this all day. A man walks in wearing an expensive looking tracksuit. He’s handsome and fit. Most likely has a bit of money but wait! What’s this? A fresh scratch on his cheek. He seems to be in a bit of hurry. Let me put it all together really quick. A good looking, athletic man who looks like he may have gotten into a bit of a scrap with a certain feline adversary. Don’t worry Batman, your secret’s safe with me.

I personally like to play the “people game” in reverse. That’s when you dress up before going out and let people have a stab at your backstory.  Throw on some weird outfit and head to the grocery store or the drug store or wherever you need to go. Not now… right now, you just need to stay home, but when things are safe again, consider adding some fun to a stranger’s day – and your own. Wear that bright purple cowboy hat with the tassels (on the hat!) along with your yellow fishnets and jogging shorts. And don’t forget to throw on that “Pink Ladies” satin jacket that you bedazzled the hell out of for a laugh last Halloween.

On a closing note, I’m reminded of a story from a friend of mine. It’s always brought out and dusted off on those nights out when the stories told around the table invariably start with, “this one time, I was so drunk…”  During his time in art school, he and a few classmate chums had a presentation to do prior to graduation. I forget the details of it, but during the day of said presentation, they all decided to get nice new haircuts to go with the matching suits they rented to wear. And no, I have no idea why they rented suits, and matching ones at that. From what I understand, they looked like a 4-man crew of Ray Liotta à la Goodfellas impersonators.  Anyway, the presentation went great, or so I’m told. Drunk with the joy that is having your final project graded and behind you, they decided to splurge, you know, as one does. So, they went to a somewhat nice restaurant to eat and chat and generally celebrate. They ordered wine and way more food than anyone in their right mind should be ordering… or eating for that matter (on the other hand, yay! leftovers!).  Yeah, you could say they went a bit overboard. Due to the constant flurry of wait staff at their table and the trays upon trays of food and drink that kept materializing in front of them, people took notice. You wanna know what else they noticed? The suits. The haircuts. I mean, really, matchy matchy for a presentation is a bit much on its own, but cosplaying a Goodfellas tribute band?  Yet, here we are – we wouldn’t have the story without a few bad choices.

As a family of 6 was making their way past the table to be seated at an adjacent booth, one awestruck teenager whispered to his mom, “see, I told you the mafia comes here to eat.”  Needless to say, the whole family kept their eyes down as they scurried to their table.

Oh, how we must look to strangers sometimes.

The Faults of Facebook

So, here lately, I’ve been thinking about Facebook and social media in general.  While an amazing feat of modern technology that allows news to spread in the blink of an eye, social media also has its pitfalls. There’s the obvious cyber-bullying issue… that’s too great of an issue to discuss in one blog entry. But there is something more insidious at work here. People get lost down the rabbit hole of social media never to return. My ex was – and remains – mired in the faux-emotional muck that is Facebook. The 5,000 close friends, the groups, the pages touting the benefits of the radical survivalist communes you long for (you know, as one does), all of it.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I enjoy my daily foray into Facebookland as much as the next person. It’s just that so many people are on Facebook and other social media, spending their time trying to impress (aka convince) an online audience that their life is perfect… to get the attention, the validation, and the “approval” they think they deserve.  Many of these rabbit hole divers have family or spouses or significant others at home who would love to be a part of that perfect life portrayed online, but are ignored … because, Facebook.

Some people use Facebook as a time-killer (that would be yours truly), but others live on it as a reality-killer. Or rather, a reality enhancer. It just boggles the mind, truth be told.

Generally speaking, Facebook posters fall into several broad categories.  We all know at least one from each.

The meme sharer:  Also reposts lost pet photos.  This is the person who has such a mixture of friends on Facebook that posting anything at all personally will offend at least a third of them, so they play it safe and post generic memes.  I would … ahem … likely fall into this category. I save my demented mental-meanderings for you, lovely readers!

The vague status: “I can’t believe it.  I’m so heartbroken.”  This generates a flurry of concerned responses from people far and wide, to which the next status update is “Thanks for all the concern, I’m so touched.  I just don’t want to talk about it.”  The obvious question would be, if you didn’t want to talk about it, why the hell did you post anything at all?

The perpetually sick person:  This is the person who posts every sniffle, papercut, broken fingernail or stomach cramp for the world to see.  And no matter how inane the medical “issue,” the support is overwhelming.  “Unreal. I have a hangnail (picture of offending hangnail covered under eight layers of bandages).  And the comments roll in. “Oh, no! (sad emoji) Feel better soon!” “I’m so sorry! (sad emoji) I hope it clears up soon!”

The knower of a perpetually sick person:  “Prayers, please.  My friend has a hangnail.  It doesn’t look good (sad emoji).”

The offender:  Posts deliberately annoying and offensive comments just to get notifications on his phone.  “Clean air is stupid.” “Drinkable water is overrated.” At some point, this person will be placed in Facebook Jail for a week, unable to post, and then brag about it when he comes back.

The sharer of fake news:  No matter what your political beliefs are, fake news abounds.  The sharer of fake news will defend the most ridiculous and unsearched “news stories” as truth.  “Aliens landed in downtown Hollywood today and while wearing kilts and playing kazoos, they spirited away Grauman’s Chinese Theater! The. Entire. Theater. No, really, it’s true!”  Eventually someone will blow her out of the water with the definitive Snopes judgment, and then the circle begins anew as everyone debates whether Snopes is actually impartial.

Perpetual Optimist:  Just wrecked my car, but I saved my fuzzy dice! Life is GREAT!

Perpetual Pessimist:  Just won the lottery.  Great big gobs of money.  Life stinks.

The new reality for many is that social media has become their fountain of validation. They prefer the adulation of hundreds of friends acquaintances people they barely know to the love of their own family. I mean, really, with untold hours spent connected to the internet perfecting their online persona, who has time for loved ones?

I would say more on this, but I gotta go. My notifications just went off and it looks like my friend’s dog’s mother’s uncle has a sprained pinky toe. Boy, I sure hope he feels better soon.  (Sad emoji)

Winter is Coming

I don’t know what possessed me — possessed probably being the key word here — but, I ventured out into the world today. You know… among people. And not just regular people either. Mall shoppers. Oh yes. In a fit of misplaced optimism, I decided to try my hand at in-person Christmas shopping. I mean, really. What the hell was I thinking? You tell me, I sure don’t know. It did teach me one thing, however. My disdain for people is nothing if not valid.

Which brings me to this recycled blog post. Oh sure, it’s not Black Friday any longer, which is what prompted the original post. In fact, we’re smack-dab in the middle of the yearly free-for-all we euphemistically call holiday shopping. However, the moral of the story, if you can call it that, is just as relevant today as it was last year. BUT, beware, my friends. Winter is not just coming. It is here. It. Is. Here.

Musings from a Tangled Mind

Friends, danger is upon us. We are approaching that time of year when brother will turn against brother, sister will deceive sister, and strangers will come to fisticuffs over dwindling supplies of cherished treasure. There’s only one thing that can bring the madness in our society to such a fever pitch. Yes, my friends, I’m talking about holiday shopping.

Get those elbows ready for pushing people out of the way (I hear a sale on elbow pads starts today!) and start brushing up on your bob-and-weave coordination, it all kicks off today, Black Friday, and soon it will be followed by an all-out Christmas merchandise assault. I don’t know what it is about good deals, but it truly unleashes the beast in some people. Maybe it’s mob mentality that comes from being in large, billowing crowds of shoppers. It overtakes rational thought about how to treat your fellow Man and…

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Midday Revelations

You know, to be fair, the Grinch didn’t hate Christmas. He hated people. And I can completely relate to that, especially as I get older. Oh, who am I kidding … I’ve always been this way. I was, am, and will forever be Team Grinch.  Long live the Grinch. Praise be and pass the eggnog.

I Have a Great Attention…Look, a Puppy!

Facebook, in its ever evolving need to placate everyone, has implemented a service to help busy Facebook users better manage their time.  You may have noticed that under each article or video, Facebook has added a handy dandy estimate of how much time it will take their oh-so-busy users to read an article.

I won’t even touch on the fact that many Facebook users don’t (or can’t) read an informative article to begin with.

I will even ignore the fact that I can read a 300-word piece in well under 5 minutes, Mr.  Mark Zuckerberg.

Let’s cut right to the chase, shall we?  If you are on Facebook for the twentieth fiftieth gazillionth time today, explain to me exactly what tight, rigorous schedule you are on that prevents you from choosing to read a five-minute article?

“Wow, teens exploring a wooded area next to the local mall downtown discovered a live wooly mammoth family today in New Hampshire! Oh wait, it’s a 5-minute read!? Who the hell has time for that??”  *Keeps scrolling* … “Coke adds the name Adonis to its line of labeled bottles and cans … 2-minute read. All right! Now, that’s the kind of timeframe I can get behind! Let me at this one!”

If it takes you more than five minutes to read the article, can you sue for lost time and damages?  Does that five-minute read include pictures and captions?  Really, Facebook, I have so many questions!

I suppose you could time your Farmville crops to article lengths and give yourself something to do while the crops ripen.  “This one will take exactly one corn harvest.”    “Oh, man, I’ll never get to harvest those yams in time if I read this one, forget it.  Who cares about the newly discovered pyramid on Mars, anyway?  Those crops are waiting!”

Now, what happens if I choose to invest my time in, say, a five-minute article and it only takes me three minutes to read?  I have two extra unplanned minutes in my day.  I could:

  • Post a vague, slightly disturbing update in the hopes it will gain attention from my friends.
  • Read someone’s political beliefs and become angry … not by the post, but by all the comments under it (although I may not have time to post a reply to any of the more egregious statements).
  • Share eight lost dog posts or three Minions memes.
  • Place four posts that I will never look at again in my “saved” folder.
  • Like three posts by accident when swiping up. These will include a friend’s dad’s funeral, someone who broke both legs falling down a flight of steps, and someone’s cat being run over by a bus.
  • Type out a well thought out rebuttal to someone’s post, then spend the next two and a half minutes trying to figure out how to delete it while frantically realizing that I am now over my allotted time limit.
  • Accidentally click on an ad for hemorrhoid cream and watch my page fill with ads for hemorrhoid creams.
  • Try to understand why a video about cake icing has been “covered because it may contain gore.” Uncover it.  Watch in amazement as someone falls into a vat of frosting and is iced.
  • Wish happy birthday to three “friends” I have never met in my life.
  • Search for a two-minute article. Find it, then realize it has taken me two minutes to find so I don’t actually have time to read it.

Years from now we’ll be telling our grandchildren, “In my day, we had phones that plugged into the wall, TV sets without remotes, and we never knew how long it would take to read an article on Facebook!”

So, my followers and friends…what will YOU do with all of your extra time?

Dueling Radios on the Road

We all do goofy things with our car radios while we drive.  You’re lying if you tell me you’ve never inched up at a traffic light to get better reception during your favorite song.  I might have to call you out again if you claim you don’t turn the radio down while you look for an address.  And I know I’m not the only one who hears a song I love, then immediately searches all the other channels to find it again.

Don’t tell me that if your window is open and you are listening to an embarrassing song, say A-Ha’s Take on Me, while playing the air keyboard on your dashboard, that you don’t punch the button to change the station as soon as you hit a red light.  We all know the stations we can tune to for music while other stations are on commercial breaks, and we have at least one station programmed that we never even listen to, wonder why it’s saved, and still refuse to reprogram it.

We get embarrassed when we sing the wrong words to songs, even when we are alone, and play the “Who sings this, it’s right on the tip of my tongue, dang it” game to the point we may even Google it at the next stop light.

But there is a certain type of person who takes car music to a whole different level.

You are at the stoplight, waiting for it to turn green.  You feel it before you hear it.  Your teeth rattle and your car shakes as he pulls up beside you.  It’s Mr. Bass Man.  That’s bass, like the music, not bass like the fish; he is another post altogether, now, isn’t he?

He is wearing something darker, you think, you can’t really tell because his windows are tinted.  You peer through the tint and see a reflection of sunglasses, which makes no sense because it’s eleven at night. His music is so loud that birds are falling from their nests, dogs are howling in protest, house windows are shattering, and the lady in front of you just ran the stoplight to escape.

Not to be outdone – more importantly, to keep the lyrical insult to music Mr. Bass Man is playing at bay, you crank up your John Denver, but Country Roads is no competition for Mr. Bass Man.  Your head is swimming as you are trying to hear about those roads that will take John home, but John Denver has given up.  You crank your windows up; the bass still winds around you like a boa constrictor and won’t let go.

Mr. Bass Man appears to somehow be talking on a cell phone, his voice raised over his musical offerings.  Far be it from Mr. Bass Man to turn down his radio to have his conversation, he is kind enough that he doesn’t want to deprive you of this real music experience.

Thank you, Mr. Bass Man, for showing me that my tastes in music sucks. Thank you for sharing your obviously superior music with the world.  I appreciate the valuable life lesson I have learned here today.  If I had a clue what the hell you were actually listening to, I might even look it up online and continue this valuable education.

Off he goes, his bass fading into the velvety night.  You sit at the light for a moment more, letting your hearing correct itself, and watch him blow the next stoplight.  Mr. Bass Man has important places to go, and won’t let a pesky thing like traffic laws slow him down.

Thank you, again, Mr. Bass Man, for allowing your musical choices to wash over me, and the six city blocks surrounding us.  I feel all the better for having, if only for a brief moment, a glimpse into your life.

And I feel even better knowing that you are somewhere teaching others the error of their musical choices, and spreading the love.  Because at least you’re not next to me anymore.

Nurse’s Week: A Little Fun with Nurses

Let me start by saying that nurses are some of the hardest working people on the planet.  The garbage you all see and put up with is a constant source of amazement to me.  I’d like to wish each nurse and med tech out there, Happy Nurse’s Week; you all deserve some recognition.

I’d like to give a special nod to one particular nurse who cared for my father after his recent back surgery (a big middle finger to cancer, by the way).  Her bedside manner was quite appropriate … if we were all three-year olds.  Picture yourself talking to a puppy or kitten; this is a good approximation of how she acted around us, or I should say, around my dad.  To the rest of us, she was just “normal.” She was trying to be nice, I get that, she had an awesome bedside manner, but she came off as just a wee bit condescending … or sarcastic which is even better. Now, she was dealing with my dad so she should probably be forgiven, but I will say this: it was hilarious to the rest of us.

In the recovery room where he had to lay flat for like a gazillion hours straight, my father told her his back hurt, and she nodded in rapt understanding.  “Do you know why that is?” she asked.  We all leaned in, holding our collective breath, waiting for the medical pearls of wisdom we were sure she was about to share with us.  She touched my dad’s hand ever so comfortingly and looked so wise, and then she told him, “Because you had that procedure on your back this morning.” And then she nodded sagely with the sweetest smile on her face. At that moment I realized:  I, too, could be a nurse … I’ve got the sarcastic bedside manner down pat if not any form of medical training whatsoever.  I wonder if she uses that same soothing-seemingly-helpful-yet-in-reality-sarcastic-kindergarten-teacher-type voice with all her patients, and I wonder if she uses it on her coworkers or in general daily interactions.  If so, I like her more and more.

As you all are aware, my mind tends to wander, and we all know how dangerous that can be.  As I watched the nurses scurry back and forth under the crushing demands of patients and doctors, I thought of ways I could brighten their day.  Or, drive them crazy.  Here is a short list of fun ideas I had.

Page fictional nurses and doctors:  Nurse Ratchet, Dr. Who, Florence Nightingale, Dr. Doolittle…you get the idea.

Bring empty beer cans and stash them all over the room:  Look innocent when the staff questions you.

Start doing a stand-up comedy routine on the overhead system:  “What’s the deal with hospital food?”

Grab a set of scrubs and a clipboard and wander the hallway looking concerned:  Added plus for muttering phrases like “That leech treatment sure didn’t work, I’m not sure what could’ve went wrong, they were fresh leeches” or “We never covered vampire bites in medical school.”  Even more points if you tell a nurse to order a “Wingdang KPT frontal scan of the terrapin flimflam on Mrs. Smith.  STAT!”  Extra extra points if you stop a visitor, make up a disease and ask them what they think of your treatment plan for your patient.

Call fictional codes in areas of the hospital that don’t exist:  Code purple pinstripe, rumpus room.  Repeat, code purple pinstripe, rumpus room.

Clip a positive pregnancy test to a male patient’s chart:  Yeah, this one’s just fun across the board.

Attach a page of Egyptian hieroglyphics to charts:  It actually may be easier for them to read than the doctor’s hand writing.

Every time the overhead speaker is used, run to the nurse’s station: “Was that for me!?  I missed it.”

Or, whenever the overhead speaker is used, act terrified: “The voices!  They told me I wouldn’t hear the voices anymore!”  or “God?  Is that you?”

Stand backwards in the elevator:  Loudly proclaim to all who enter that it is the longest elevator ride you have ever been on and you’ve been waiting for the doors to open for an hour.

Secretly replace all the names on the white board with celebrity names: The nurses get to take care of Madonna, Justin Timberlake, and Beyoncé all in the same shift!  OR, better yet, Tinky-Winky, Dipsy, Laa-Laa, and Po.

Attach sheets together to make a rope, put one end in the toilet, and hide under the bed:  Listen to your nurse try to explain what happened to you to Security.

In all seriousness, though, I have this to say to all the nurses out there: YOU ALL ROCK! It takes a special kind of person to be a nurse. I sure don’t envy you your jobs, BUT I do appreciate that you are there, helping people. Every. Damn. Day. From the family members sitting next to our loved ones, anxious and afraid, Thank You for all you do.  We need you, and we love you all.

Happy Nurse’s Week!

A Radical Idea

Now I’m not about to pontificate like some hippy guru coming down from her cabin in the Vermont mountains, but please, take a look at the picture below. That’s our universe. It’s where we live. See how small we are?  See how absolutely minuscule our existence is in the grand scheme of things? We’re pretty much a drop in the bucket and that’s being generous.

I don’t mean to say this to be depressing. Quite the opposite, truth be told. It’s supposed to be a reminder that before we get livid over political differences, religious beliefs, or even just the people who cut in front of us in traffic, we should remember that we’re really sort of insignificant in this vast web of gases and atoms.

Now, I’m not saying we shouldn’t be involved in what’s going on in our world today, especially politically speaking (goodness knows, we have to be now, more than ever), or that we should give up on our faith to placate someone else… what I am saying however, is that when it comes to arguing with strangers online or with Uncle John at the next family dinner — neither of whom will be listening anyway, because they’re so entrenched in their own mindset — maybe rethink your participation in an argument that will only serve to create stress and anxiety for you and will likely end up being more of a name-calling contest than a civil debate anyway.

Instead of getting enraged, how about we just focus on being nice to each other? That’s it — just be nice. Pretty simple, right?  I just think that as we rotate around our gargantuan sun that in itself is part of an unimaginably vast galaxy within an inconceivable array of other galaxies (with the potential of other dimensions that could be just as large), let’s just try to make the ride a little more pleasant for each other.

And let’s not include just humans in that concept – include animals, too.  Be nice to other living creatures.  I mean, really, how hard is that?  When you sit down and think about it, it just seems like the most logical thing to do.

However, I know it will never happen on a large scale because we’re human after all, and something as simple as “being nice” would just never work for our species as a whole. It’s beyond us, which is sad, really. But imagine what we could accomplish if we could pull off this amazing yet simplistic feat!  The issues that could be settled and the problems that could be resolved are boundless.

So maybe we start small.  Maybe smile at that neighbor who is always grumpy or hold the elevator for that person who is obviously late.  Perhaps throw some food to the stray you usually shoo away.  Or give some change to the homeless person you always try to ignore as you make your way to work.  Maybe realize that your kids can have a bad day too so you ignore the half-made bed that would normally spawn a lecture, and instead pull out a family board game.  It should all be so easy, really.

And the craziest part of this hare-brained idea is that the world, which is already so overwhelmed with stress and worry, would actually become a better place, allowing for less and less stuff to be stressed and worried about.  I know….ironic, right?