Assholes Out to Dinner

Even in the age of plastic and pay apps, there are some people who still like to pay for everything in cash. I know, I know, hard to believe… but it’s true.

Some people like the cash-only method because it’s easier to budget when they can see what they have right before their eyes. You can better live within your means if you know you only have $80 in your wallet to last until the end of the month.

Well, a couple I know exclusively uses cash to pay when they go out to eat.  For them, it’s not a budgeting tactic. It’s a means of payment that they reserve solely for eating out, and I do believe there is method to their madness, so to speak. I think they do it as a way to show off to other people. They want the servers, the cashiers, their friends, and even complete strangers in the restaurant to know that they’ve got money. They hear those dollars screaming, “We’ve got it! We’ve got cold hard cash! Look at me and admire it!”

If they lived in Hollywood, their attitude might fit right in. But they’re eating out at places like Cracker Barrel, so I’m not entirely sure why they feel the need to brag. Don’t get me wrong, I like Cracker Barrel as much as the next person, but it’s not exactly an exclusive hang-out. And this story will confound you even more when it comes to the way they show off. It’s not with a fancy Tesla or a Gucci bag.

This story is about 41 cents. Yep, you read that right.

Well, as you know, the past year has seen a major decline in dining out due to COVID. This couple, however, still sits down to eat at restaurants on a regular basis. I know. But what can you do?

This story I’m about to share was told out of frustration. They were upset and angry. They felt victimized and desperately needed to share their story with anyone who would listen. The whole mise en scène had an air of “How dare they?”

Basically, the restaurant where they had dinner didn’t want their waitstaff or cashiers handling money because of COVID. They were asking customers to pay with a card the customers could put through the machine themselves so that the staff didn’t have to touch it – a contactless purchase. No big deal, right? Wrong.

This couple? They refused. Absolutely not. There was no possible way they could pay with their card (even though there was every possible way they could pay with their card). Since the couple insisted, the cashier says, “okay, fine, we’ll take your cash.” I’m sure a huge eyeroll was also in the offing, but really, who can blame the cashier at that point.

Here’s where that 41 cents comes in. The bill was $38.59, and the husband – who was in line while his wife wandered into the merchandise area of the restaurant – wanted to pay with $39. Well, the restaurant (along with the rest of America there for a while) was experiencing a coin shortage – also due to COVID. So, the cashier asks, can we round your bill up to the $39 and donate the 41 cents to a local charity. Other patrons were usually happy to oblige. I mean, right? Who wouldn’t? Pennies add up after a while and charities are hard hit right about now.

Well, the husband felt truly put out at this point… I mean, the audacity of a cashier asking him to donate 41 cents! Just FYI, his wife later concurred, but that goes without saying. He was indignant and loudly – but loudly – proclaimed this was stealing. Stealing.

I’m still trying to figure out how being asked to donate to charity was a form of theft. First of all, the restaurant asked for their consent. Second, when you’re going out to eat anyway (which implies you have the funds for said meal) is the exorbitant sum of 41 cents really all that much to get yourself worked up about? Third, the restaurant wanted to give it to charity! It’s not like the cashier wanted to pocket the money, though at this point, she deserved that and so much more.

I imagine that as this scene was unfolding, there was someone with the unenviable job of ushering the other guests around them. They’re saying, “Move along, folks. Nothing to see here. No stealing, just assholes out to dinner.”

So, then, the husband GOT OUT OF LINE to search for his better half so he could ask her to come up with 59 cents so he could pay with exact change. Because he’d be damned if someone was going to get over on him!

This man would rather cause an outrageous scene and dig around the bottom of his wife’s purse for lint-covered pennies and dimes instead of donating a measly 41 cents to charity. And somehow, he is the victim.

Behind this mask-down-around-their-chin-type of couple, a line is beginning to form. The cashier – who just wants to get through her day without getting sick, is waiting uncomfortably, no doubt dreading the prospect of handling dollar bills and sweaty coins in the midst of a freakin’ pandemic from a couple who is clearly careless in regard to said pandemic and society as a whole. And the couple is ignorant to it all.

As they share this story over and over, somehow proud of themselves, everyone else is just shaking their heads at the assholes out to dinner.

X is for Xenophobia

Here I am, spilling more tea about my book club. Hey, my daughter taught me that phrase and I’m going to use it whether I completely understand it or not!

As you know, I recently got kicked out of a Murdoch Mysteries group and quite frankly, I’m not sure how I didn’t get kicked out of my book club today.  And this time, it would have been a proud moment.

This was posted by a member:

I have a petty pet peeve. Just started a book and there it is again.  Characters with impossible to pronounce names.

That’s it. That’s the post. She came on to complain about hard to pronounce names. Now, you might be thinking ahhh, the fantasy and sci fi genre can certainly have some unusual character names!  But, no. She’s reading a book with Russian characters and she hates their names because she can’t pronounce them, and she can’t be bothered to Google a pronunciation. Her solution? To just give them completely new names. Simple easy to pronounce names, names that she feels are befitting her narrow-minded view of the world … um, I mean, reading enjoyment.

The frustrating thing was, as is so often the case with social media… the comments. Not all, but I’d say 90% of the comments were in agreement and the number of people who simply rename characters or give them nicknames because they’re too freakin’ lazy to learn something new was astounding.  This is a reading group. Reading. Group. Presumably this is a group of people who want to expand their horizon via the written word, but alas, no. They apparently have no desire to truly open their minds or expand their world view or tread anywhere outside of their own bubble.

Here are a few of the like-minded comments:

I hate this too. WHY do authors do this? They should be writing to their majority audience, not just a specific few.

I just make up my own pronunciation. Doesn’t matter if it’s right or wrong, all it does is identify the character. I have too many books to read to be looking up names and who cares how they’re pronounced anyway?

I make up my own names: ie: Laghoire [sic] becomes Lori. (It should be noted that it’s Laoghaire – a name with Irish origins. Apparently remembering how to spell a name is equally too much effort, much like Googling the pronunciation.)

I just come up with my own pronunciation and go with it. Authors need to do better.

I won’t even read a book if the names are too ridiculous or if I don’t know how to pronounce them. It’s definitely a pet peeve.

It’s so annoying to stumble over the name again and again. A book should flow so you can get lost in it… writers should use names that everyone knows how to pronounce and if they don’t, I just make up a name that starts with the same letter and read it that way!

If I can’t pronounce a name in a book, I just give them a name I like and then that is who they are the rest of the book.

I just give them different names. LOL! Life is too short to worry about pronouncing someone’s name.

I won’t get a book if I read the synopsis and the names are too crazy.

I make up my own version of the name which is usually better anyway.

It annoys me too so I just give them a similar name that I can pronounce. I just read a book with main characters from Nigeria and I didn’t even try. Buy a vowel for god’s sake. 

I size those long Russian and German names down to some four-letter words. I assign them names like Bob, Billy, Hank and use those nicknames all thru the book. Muslem [sic] names are even worse.

I just make a sound up in my head and go with it for the rest of the book.

Bob, Billy, Hank instead of Mikhail, Fyodor, or Piscine. A fucking arbitrary sound instead of Aiofe, Itumelang, or Adaugo. Yeah, I mean, that seems legit.

Mispronouncing names or words that you’ve only read is one thing… I personally do that quite often. Okay, fine, all the time. But once you figure out the correct pronunciation – and let’s be clear, you should figure out the correct pronunciation, you say it correctly going forward. No, it’s not that. It’s the adamant refusal to even try to learn how to pronounce these names that I find so maddening.

The original member who ignited this firestorm of xenophobia came back later to rebut comments – mine included – that called her out on her pet peeve. She claims to be “incredibly inclusive” and “loves diversity” but she’s lazy, so what?  “… but I can’t be bothered to try and figure out what the author means or how to pronounce some of these god forsaken names they come up with. So, I’m lazy. Who cares?”

There’s lazy and then there’s lazy but I’m sorry, this is waaayyy beyond lazy.  There are elements of xenophobia and racism as these readers minimize entire cultures and heritages in an effort to remake the world – even a literary one – to fit into their fantastically small bubble of existence.

Why do I find it hard to believe that these people limit their “pet peeve” to the fiction section of their lives?

So yeah, I didn’t get kicked out. But long story short, I need a new book club. That 90% statistic? I didn’t like those odds.

“Names have power.” — Rick Riordan, The Lightning Thief

“Mutilating someone’s name is a tiny act of bigotry.” – Jennifer Gonzalez

“If they can learn to say Tchaikovsky and Michelangelo and Dostoyevsky, they can learn to say Uzoamaka.” – Uzo Aduba

Karen’s Trip to Target

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but I’ve seen yet another article that tugs at my last nerve. I know. Shocking.

In this blog article, the author, Jennifer, tells us about a trip to Target that she claims was ruined by a Karen. The article is riddled with hypocrisy, self-centeredness, and a generally unkind attitude towards a woman who suffered the loss of her child.

If you don’t want to read the article, the gist of it is that Jennifer goes to Target with her very young daughter, admittedly lets the child trail behind her and then turned a corner where the child is briefly out of sight, when a woman looks “at [her] as though [she] had done something wrong.” The woman says something along the lines of “your daughter is far away from you,” which (the author again points out) was said with “a tone that implied [she]’d done something wrong.”

Already, Jennifer is taking this woman’s actions as an extreme personal offense with an attitude that considers only one person (and spoiler, it’s not her daughter).

I will digress for a moment to say that Jennifer claims her daughter was only two feet away from her. I don’t believe that for a moment. Want to know why?  Jennifer explains: “I have the pitter-patter of her steps imprinted in my heart.”  So, she could hear her child, but not see her child.  Jennifer also states this about the woman: “…she could have simply watched her from afar to be sure she was OK and when seeing the child united with a parent, left it at that.” If the child was just two feet away, why would there need to be a reunion in the middle of Target?

To be clear, I’m not mom-shaming Jennifer (god forbid *insert eye-roll here*) but rather, just empathizing with the woman Jennifer encountered.  There was obviously reason for some concern. I also believe that’s why Jennifer was so offended at a stranger approaching her: she knew the concern had merit.

Once Jennifer hears the woman say, “I had a child who was taken,” her thoughts immediately bounce to, you guessed it, herself. She is overly concerned with her own emotions—not her daughter’s feelings, not her daughter’s safety, not this woman’s profound grief, but her own feelings of discomfort in the situation.

Then, she has the audacity to write that “if what she is sharing is true; silence is the kindest thing I can do in this moment.” Wow. Her invalidation of another human’s experience is automatic. And she truly believes that putting a hand in this woman’s face and saying nothing is the kindest thing she can do.

The blog ends on a note urging readers to “always be kind and sensitive” because her day was absolutely ruined by a stranger who she refers to as a “Karen.” The whole piece is meant to vilify a woman who lived through a parent’s worst fears—losing a child to abduction. If you ask me, there is a Karen in this situation, and her name is Jennifer.

As soon as she found out that the woman had her child taken and likely has PTSD from the horrific experience, the author could have shown compassion (as she urges her readers to do). Saying “thank you for your concern, I’ll keep her close” wouldn’t have been hard to do. In fact, it would have been ridiculously easy. Even taking one moment of consideration for this woman’s pain could have resulted in a very different experience for both parties. The concerned woman would have walked away feeling heard and Jennifer could have walked away feeling good about her day and how she helped a stranger to overcome an anxious moment in the middle of Target.

Instead, Jennifer felt violated that the woman “projected her PTSD” and “mom-shamed” her. She felt strongly enough that she needed to write this entire blog about it.

What is wrong with people these days?

It is so obvious that Jennifer is criticizing this woman for not showing compassion or empathy while at the same time failing to glance at her own reflection. If she were to see herself in the mirror for who she truly is, she would recognize her shortcomings in that department.

Instead of lighting a fire within herself full of distaste, shame, and anger, Jennifer could learn about practicing gratitude for her daughter, kindness towards others, and how to not take everything so personally. If she did that, there would be one less Karen in the world.

Comedic Fragility

You might know Drew Carey from his 10+ years on The Price is Right. Or you might recognize his name from his big break, The Drew Carey Show, which aired from 1995 to 2004. For me, his name brings to mind the nostalgic improv comedy show Whose Line Is It Anyway?

With great comedians like Wayne Brady, Colin Mochrie, and Ryan Stiles, Whose Line Is It Anyway? is an iconic American television show that aired in 1998 featuring Drew Carey as the host. The show experienced a reboot, which is still airing today, with Aisha Tyler as the host and starring the same comedic mainstays of Brady, Mochrie, and Stiles.

With fond memories of laughing through the night, I revisited some of the old episodes from the 90s recently, expecting hilarity and wistfulness. Instead, my most profound emotion was disgust. I usually can’t get through an episode without at least rolling my eyes and at worst, cursing at the screen. My main issue, to be honest, is Carey’s blatant homophobia (we’ll save the racism and misogyny in the show for another rant). During the 90s, it’s likely that few people found this problematic. Hopefully that’s not the case in this day and age as we see things with a lens of awareness that we didn’t have in the 90s.

I found it especially troubling considering Drew Carey’s previous relationship (and brief engagement) to celebrity sex therapist Amie Harwick (who tragically passed away in February 2020). You would think that he would be an open-minded or sexually liberated man. This is apparently not the case – at least when we look back at his former actions.

To be fair, the content I touch on is 20 years old, give or take (depending on the season). I’m not implying that Drew hasn’t – or couldn’t have – changed. He could be looking back at his behavior and self-reflecting and reaching the same conclusions I am right now. Or maybe he already has. Or, maybe he hasn’t. We won’t know unless he tells us.

And now you might be thinking – this was 20 years ago – why does it matter now? Trust me. It matters.

We can’t forget history. And yes, that’s exactly what this is. History doesn’t only exist in outdated textbooks and museums. The media that raised us is cultural history. In looking back we can learn valuable lessons and move forward. If we ignore it, we learn nothing.

So, yeah, this is a half-rant half-analysis about Drew Carey’s behavior on Whose Line Is It Anyway? and why it matters 20 years later. This is gonna be a long one, so you might want to take a seat and get comfortable.

If you’ve ever seen the show, you know that things can get out of hand quickly. If you haven’t, here’s the gist. The general format goes like this: Drew reads a card with a prompt. The comedians follow suit accordingly, improvising a comedic sketch. Sometimes these prompts are rather ridiculous like one that asks Colin to act as a dating contestant who is “having passionate secret affairs with Wayne and Ryan’s shoes but must decide between them.” See how things quickly rise to hilarity?

Working on an improv comedy show together, the comedians do their best to stimulate laughter – in the audience and their cohorts. For these guys, getting someone to break character is a huge comedic success. As a quick aside, the main comedians, Colin Mochrie, Wayne Brady, and Ryan Stiles, have been working together in this sort of format since the British version of this game aired… which they all starred in before it was reconstituted for a US audience. Their history together presumably solidified a comedic relationship and also provided ample knowledge on how to make each other laugh.

Sometimes, the best ways to startle each other involve kissing, butt-grabbing, or even licking (the face, people, the face). Which in one extreme case was followed by a comedic show of Ryan swallowing an entire can of Altoids that in turn created hilarity when it just about set his mouth afire (well, they are the curiously strong mints).

All the performers have planted a smooch on each other at one time or another (especially Wayne Brady and Colin Mochrie).  And all the men on the show seem comfortable enough in their masculinity to touch or kiss another man without “jeopardizing” their sexuality or having their “manhood” called into question. That is, everyone except Drew Carey.

Drew often jumps into the final skit of the episode or manages to get pulled into the performers’ antics before the episode is through whether he wants to be or not. He tries to be a team player, but the fact is that he’s just not as funny or witty as the featured comedians. I think a part of this is that he doesn’t feel comfortable on stage – and it shows. Add to that, he seems to be an insecure man whose toxic masculinity prevents him from unlocking his potential.

Whenever Drew finds himself the target of a kiss or a touch of affection from another performer on Whose Line, his reaction is painfully predictable. He withdraws, and quickly. He literally runs away, and sometimes he removes himself from the skit entirely.

If all else fails, and he’s forced to lock lips with another comedian, he slaps his palm across the other man’s mouth, creating a barrier of “safety” for his lips. Clearly, the social stigma surrounding men kissing infiltrated Drew’s brain.

Okay, so you might say, he just doesn’t like being touched… but this behavior isn’t repeated with female guests or the women they pull from the audience. Just his male colleagues.

Time and again he’s shown that that it’s not just his expected participation that has him rattled. He becomes visibly uncomfortable watching the other comedians get cozy. And he feels the right to voice his discomfort freely.

In one scene, the actors form a sort of dogpile, and in the style of the Whose Line handbook for humor, it gets a bit sexualized. Wayne Brady climbs on top of guest Greg Proops and Drew almost loses it.

Attempting to disguise his disgust with humor (unsuccessfully, I might add), Drew tells Wayne, “the way you straddled Greg there, you almost gave me a heart attack. You guys had – his legs were wrapped around you.” And Wayne explains to him in return “it’s for the scene, dude,” as if it were a reoccurring point of contention between these costars.

Why is Drew so appalled at sexualized male relationships? And you might think well, maybe he’s just a family man, he wants to keep his shows clean. Well, he had no trouble with sexualizing his eccentric female nemesis Mimi Bobeck on The Drew Carey Show. His issue isn’t sexuality – it’s homosexuality. And that’s where the problem is.

Why, for so long, has it been an acceptable opinion that there is something inherently wrong about homosexuality?

And why does this opinion, in media, seem to present specifically towards male homosexuality? Female actresses and comedians aren’t similarly ridiculed as their male counterparts for same-sex affection.  Even in everyday life, it’s deemed more acceptable for women to hug, kiss, or generally touch each other. It means they show affection, give support, or display friendship.

Why is it that men giving each other physical affection causes a stir, turns heads, is labeled (with negative connotations) gay? Don’t get me wrong. I know we live in an increasingly progressive society, but we still have a long way to go. Members of the LGBTQ+ society experience more freedom in America now than ever. But they are also still deeply oppressed. And that’s why we need to talk about it. That’s why we need to talk about Drew Carey on Whose Line and why his comments, actions, and behavior reinforce toxic masculinity, heteronormativity, and homophobia.

What’s so wrong about being gay? What’s so wrong about being straight and kissing another man for improv comedy or any other reason, for that matter? For Drew, he probably can’t name it. It’s probably a feeling of disgust and discomfort in the pit of his stomach (or the depth of his psyche) that tells him: being gay is wrong.

He clearly believes that it’s wrong for other men, and it’s wrong for him. At least in these historical episodes of Whose Line.

News flash. Being gay is okay. In fact, it’s awesome. Being straight is okay. It’s awesome too. Being straight and resisting heteronormativity is necessary. We can’t let ourselves fall into these boxes – these cages – that have been built for us by society.

Relying on social ideas about what makes us a proper man or woman is futile. It makes us insecure in our identities. It forces us to judge others unjustly. If you care too much about not seeming gay, you’ll end up looking like Drew Carey: an unfunny homophobe.

If you want to resist heteronormativity, go your own way. Do what makes you happy. Show love and affection to the people who are important in your life (so long as they consent), regardless of their gender.

Analyze what you feel and why you feel it. If someone makes you uncomfortable because of their sexual preferences, behavior, or looks, think about what that says about YOUR values.

That goes for you too, Drew. I wish that you had overcome your insecurities a long time ago. Whose Line would have been better without your comedic fragility and homophobic commentary.

Outdated Ideas

It’s been a while since I ranted, so I figure it’s due. Lucky you, right? As is often the case, anything to do with animal cruelty can send me off on a tangent. So, humor me as I climb up on my soap box to hopefully open a few eyes… or at least, start a conversation.

From centerpieces to carnival prizes, animals are increasingly exploited as a novelty or decoration. The direct physical abuse and killing of animals is an issue at the forefront of many people’s minds (as it should be) but there is an entire world of cruelty that is mostly ignored, or, if we’re being honest, doesn’t even register to most people as abuse.

I’ve seen fish – goldfish and bettas – languishing in brandy snifters or decorative bowls that are far too small to support them so that they can serve as a fancy centerpiece for weddings. What an excellent conversation starter! “Why is that fish swimming upside down, Mommy?” They are literally suffocating in their own filth and contaminated water in teeny tiny containers so that drunken guests can have a distraction. Contrary to what pet stores will tell you, bettas aren’t meant to live in small spaces.  And those lovely tea lights floating over the heads of the fish? Oh yeah, you find those in their natural habitat don’t ya know. And what happens to the fish after the wedding? I can’t imagine it’s anything good. But ohhhh, look how lovely the table is!

Fun fact: human attention spans are now shorter than goldfish.

Along with goldfish, lizards are commonly given away as prizes at carnivals. During the run of the carnival, they are left in plastic cages filled with a hundred or more lizards in god-awful heat and not much shade and then are handed out indiscriminately to whoever happens to have good aim. They suffer throughout the carnival season and then go home to god knows what with god knows who. Lizards are not usually “easy keepers” and need specific food, habitats, etc., at an expense … if you want the lizard to thrive, that is. The kids who win these sentient prizes often lose interest in their new pets, as kids are wont to do, and the animals are then left to suffer away in their bowls until they eventually die – slowly – from neglect. Or, they are abandoned in the backyard … I mean, they’re lizards after all, they should be fine!  And those left over after the carnival? Dumped in the trash. Oh, don’t roll your eyes at me as if to say, “Oh no, they would never do that!”  I’ve seen it. The whole process is horrendous and unacceptable.

Another thing that pisses me off is when people decide to rent animals for their wedding or other momentous occasion as photo props, because, you know… aesthetics. Sure, it’s “your day” but what the hell does that have to do with the white caribou posed alongside you in your wedding portraits? Nothing, that’s what.

Specialty businesses allow people to rent everything from monkeys to caribou to foxes (and everything else, and yes, I mean everything: lynxes, macaws, you name it) and forcing them into unfamiliar and frightening situations. Yes, I get it. You read a lot of Dr. Seuss as a kid, but that fox does not want to be in that boat, and Horton the elephant does see and hear who is mistreating it.

Don’t even get me started on “white dove” releases. However, if you have a minute, I suggest you read this article from The Dodo which is much better written than anything I could hope to do.

For the most part, these animals don’t live great lives as the companies that supply them see them only as an income driving tool – nothing more. They are only a means to an end and when they’ve fulfilled their purpose and no longer line their owner’s pockets with money, there is only more suffering awaiting them as they are then sent to auction, or worse.

Of the many possible horrors that await an animal auctioned or sold off after leading a life already so full of suffering, captive hunts (aka canned hunting) is only one example. If you’re unfamiliar with canned hunting, it is a trophy hunt where animals are kept within fenced enclosures where they stand no possible chance of escaping only to be hunted by humans. The animals found at these canned hunting ranches are typically accustomed to humans and are often purchased from private breeders or owners that hold a surplus of animals from zoos, circuses, or the lovely little “animal encounter” businesses we’ve been discussing. Frequently these animals have been raised and socialized around humans their whole lives and are therefore unafraid of humans… even having been taught and encouraged to expect food when they see someone.

My point is, there is a very important conversation to be had about the treatment of animals that goes far beyond their presence on our dinner plates. We need to think about the way we use animals for our own selfish needs, find the wrong in what we’re doing, and actively work to change it. The first step in the process is simply identifying the problem and, unfortunately, that seems to be the hardest part for so many.

“It takes nothing away from a human to be kind to an animal.” ~ Joaquin Phoenix

On Time But Off Kilter

I recently stumbled upon an article written about a man teaching his family to be punctual…written by the man in question. I suppose it was meant to be an uplifting anecdote, but it was just plain stupid. The story goes that this man once completed basic training and his drill sergeant was the toughest, hardest, meanest guy around, as drill sergeants are wont to be. If the 40-man platoon needed to be anywhere, the drill sergeant would demand that they arrive waaaaay ahead of time. If they were five minutes early that was considered LATE. Anyone who arrived only four minutes early was confronted with retribution and those merely on time with “agony.” I’m not sure what that means exactly, but I’m guessing 1,000 push-ups and a good serving of ridicule delivered with a fine spray of spit all over one’s face. Typical basic training stuff, really, and to be expected in the military when time can truly be crucial to life or death.

So, after leaving the army, this guy started a family and kept up his punctual habit. He even went so far as to instill in his kids, “If you’re five minutes early, you’re late,” and “When you’re late, dammit, you’re WRONG.” Okay, fair enough. To each their own. The fact that this was a mantra they volleyed back and forth daily like some sort of inside joke is a little unsettling. Again, to each their own. However, that this dad encouraged his kids to say this loudly (‘bellowed’ was his word) – so others could hear – as people were arriving to social events and the like, is a little obnoxious, if you ask me.  But, hey, what would the world be without a few assholes. Yeah, don’t answer that. It’s rhetorical as well as sarcastic.

Then, the fateful day arrived! The stars aligned and this guy saw his chance to shine, in all his timely glory, and show his children just what it meant to be a man.  After a school function, at which another family had arrived a few minutes late, the father of the offending family made a comment about how he was sorry they were late – that they were overwhelmed with, presumably, a schedule full of commitments. To which the ever-punctual man, after deliberately checking to see if his kids were listening, replied smugly, “I guess we never have that problem because we’re never busy.”

Personally, I think this was an inane come-back… but, in his own words, ever-punctual man meant it as an insult, to humiliate the “late dad” in front of everyone. And ever-punctual man wanted his kids to know that’s what he was doing, to see it, to hear it.

In response to his little dig, his sons looked at him with these massive Cheshire grins on their faces as if he was some kind of God of Time. “Oh whoa … what? Did you just say that?” They must have thought. “Wow. Our Dad is the coolest cause he knows how to insult other adults. Wow, totally cowabunga, man!”

This whole article is about how great this guy is, albeit self-aggrandizing, since he’s the one who wrote it, and I’m thinking… you know what, I’m just gonna say it, this guy is a total jerk. I’ve met people like this. They are usually assholes.

Let’s break this down.

Sure, punctuality is important. I’m not saying it isn’t. There are a gazillion situations where timeliness is imperative. But turning up half an hour early can, in certain situations, be considered rude. Let’s say someone is hosting a party, they ask you to turn up at 7:00pm, they expect you to turn up at 7:00pm, but actually hope everyone might be a little late, maybe even turning up at 7:15pm because they don’t get home from work until 6:00pm and all they want is to be able to change clothes and get the party things together before people start showing up. Turn up at 6:30pm and this person might be forced to entertain you at a time when really, they were counting on a few precious minutes to have a shower and get ready for company.

Let me just digress for a moment to say that this guy admitted his family is well known for their ultra-punctual habit and regularly get chided for being too early to everything, from school functions to kids’ birthday parties. If you’re routinely showing up early enough to get chided for it, to me that reeks of ill manners, and not exactly something to be proud of.

But here’s the kicker… the reasoning behind the “asshole” label for this guy… if you’re going to deliberately insult other people in a social situation for not living up to your idea of punctual perfection, it means that while you’re patting yourself on the back for counting the minutes, you have forgotten to account for compassion and  empathy.

To teach your children that it’s okay – commendable, even, to belittle and ridicule others to reinforce just how amazing YOU are, is an asshole thing to do, plain and simple. I would go so far as to argue that it’s in fact, a form of weakness. Weakness of character, weakness of intellect, weakness of the soul.

Really, does it matter if someone is only five minutes early to something? Four minutes early to something? Perhaps we need to start teaching our children that what really matters isn’t what’s on the clock or that data graph but what’s in the heart.

Smile at people. Try to be on time, but most importantly, endeavor to connect with others. Strive to be a caring person of good character. Show empathy and treat others with compassion and kindness.

Be here. Now. Because time is an illusion. It moves as you move, it dances as you dance.

And as the great Persian adage goes, “This too shall pass.”

On Respecting Our World’s Creatures

Look at that, two rants in a week.  Lucky you!

This rant comes a little late in the game, as this issue reared its ugly head earlier this summer. But I wanted to address it nonetheless. I read all about this when it first happened, and I’ve had it in the back of my mind ever since. It’s a prime example of why I hate people (as a general rule).

In Alabama (sorry to call ya’ll out, bless your hearts!), beachgoers descended on the shores and, without so much as a care in the world, not only destroyed a colony of protected birds by invading their nesting areas, they used the birds’ eggs to “decorate the beach,” ensuring their path of death and destruction was complete. Are you freakin’ kidding me?

These birds are not placed on this beach for entertainment.  They are going about their daily lives, just trying to survive, and in this case, you know, trying not to become all extinct and what-not.

Which brings me to another aspect of this rant that I want to address. I’d like to go on the record as saying that I have an amazing capacity to be outraged by any number of things at once.  Yes, I’m concerned for the African girls who need to be educated, yes, I’m also concerned for America’s vast population of homeless that include veterans who fought for this country, and yes, I am concerned about immigration reform and all the pictures I see where kids are allegedly being kept in cages.  Don’t try to tell me there are bigger problems in the world than colonies of endangered little birds; believe me, I am well-aware there are other issues. Sadly, we don’t have to pit one atrocity against another as there are more than enough to go around.

The difference is, the people who donate time, money and effort into charities that help people do not share the stigma that animal advocates do; if you defend the welfare of animals and fight for the humane treatment they deserve, you are a nut case (unless of course you’re talking about dogs and cats … then you’re right in line with other mainstream advocates).  How did we become this divided in our view of world priorities?

Why does it have to be your concerns versus my concerns?  In my mind, they are all our concerns. Not only that, we can care about more than one thing at a time.

Animals are a gift to us.  We need to take responsibility for their welfare as we are most often the cause of their demise.  In some cases, like this one, it is senseless stupidity.  In others, it is deliberate; safari hunts, eating endangered animals for the thrill of it, wiping them out so we can expand our own flawed human needs… these are ongoing issues that need to be addressed.  Sometimes, animals suffer because of our thoughtlessness and complete lack of awareness of the “bigger picture,” like the humble honey bee.

Will my own personal day-to-day world be impacted by the extinction of this tiny feathered critter?  No, not one bit.  But sadly, their world will be, and ours as whole will be.  Unlike Jurassic Park, these animals and many others like them will not be cloned back into existence. It seems a simple request:  can’t we respect all breathing beings and accept that they have a place on this planet, too?

The ego of humanity is simply astounding.  We mistakenly believe that we are the ultimate culmination of evolution; realistically, you know, we’re not.  A thousand years from now humans will be only another link in the chain.  No doubt, we will do something to cause a mass extinction event to ourselves.

I want to believe that we will wake up from our selfish ways and start to care for all living creatures.  Guess what?  Respect for life, whether human or animal, starts at home.  If our offspring is raised to have so little value for life, we need to look in the mirror and place blame where it belongs.  It’s really not that big of a stretch to think that people who can destroy a colony of protected birds (or any birds) without so much as blinking an eye, in general think so little of life that destroying fellow humans will, within a few generations, become a familiar way of life.

Doom and gloom for a Friday night perhaps, but that’s just the way I see it.  Come on, people; we need to do better.  We MUST do better.

When Zoos Go Too Far

It’s been a while since I ranted. At least I think so… admittedly, my brain can be a sieve sometimes. At any rate, I guess it’s about time for another one … and on one of my favorite topics too, one with which I have a love-hate relationship.  Namely, zoos.

When do zoos go too far?  What is the magical line between research, conservation, and exploitation?

There are two types of people; those who love to go to the zoo to see animals they will never otherwise see in real life, and those who despise seeing majestic animals behind bars.  In my experience, there really is no grey in this one; you either love it or hate it.

April the giraffe became a world-wide celebrity a while back.  The world watched daily, heck several times a day, as she waited to give birth to her calf.  Make no mistake, I count myself among that number. Her due date came and went, and still we watched.  Finally, her calf, a male named Tajiri, made his adorable wobbly legged entrance into the Animal Adventure Park in Harpursville, New York, and people watched as April tirelessly cared for her newborn son.  Then, as suddenly as she broke into fame, April was largely forgotten…but not before bringing in a pretty hefty revenue stream to the for-profit theme park where she lived.

April is now pregnant again, and I am pretty sure the zoo will once again cash in on her experience.  But what of the now forgotten Tajiri?  Well, according to this, he is now one year old and he will be loaned out to other zoos for their giraffe breeding programs.

I am enraged at this entire venture.  For one thing, with all the funds April raised for the zoo, you would think she deserves an updated pen.  Instead, they took “her” money, applied it to other areas of the zoo (not necessarily habitats), and now need more money to upgrade the giraffe section.  Only once they have earned the money to do the updates for the giraffe pens, will April be reunited with her calf.  God only knows what they plan to do with her current calf when she is born.  Holy exploitation, Batman!

Most deliberate zoo breeding is strictly for money.  The surplus animals are sold to other zoos, roadside zoos (which are a whole different class from “regular zoos” and a rant best left for another time), fake safari parks, and reports have been made that some unfortunate animals are sold for “canned safari hunts.”

To me, this is all just another example of using animals without regard for them.  April’s pen is badly in need of an update, yet they bred her again?  Just like some rescue facilities that have too many dogs, cats, horses, or whatever they cater to, if a zoo cannot take care of the animals they have they should stop bringing in more animals, and for God’s sake, stop breeding them.

Admittedly, some parks and zoos do keep animals for conservation and research purposes … there are some very good to excellent facilities around the country. Others, however, keep animals in unnatural, inhumane conditions, and then are shocked when these animals are unpredictable, or worse, (*gasp!) act like animals.  It’s not rocket science, folks.  Elephants, whales, lions, heck even penguins were not made to be penned for someone’s amusement.  Personally, I think it has the potential to drive the animals insane. Regardless of your views on zoos, surely, we can all agree that when these animals are placed in zoos, they become our responsibility.

Part of that responsibility is to make sure that conditions for these animals are as good as they can possibly be, not to keep breeding more animals into a bad situation to make simply money for the organization.  It’s funny to me, the people who protest puppy mills, where dogs – both female and male – are kept in horrid conditions and continuously bred for money, are probably the first ones sipping a slushee in front of the giraffe pen at the Animal Adventure Park.

As for April’s newest pregnancy, consider this:  if we follow her latest experience, are we part of the problem?

 

 

Abandonment Issues

Okay, I know I’ve been quiet the past few days – the only excuse I have is, it’s been a bit chaotic on my side of the world. As excuses go, that one’s not too shabby. But have no fear, you’ll soon be regaled with the craziness that is my life. Lucky you! In the meantime, I thought I would leave you with a rant. I haven’t ranted in a while, so face it, we’re due.

I have to say that every now and then, something comes along that makes me wonder if humans are truly the most evolved species, as experts claim.    Take this incident, for example … dogs abandoned on the side of the road, in the middle of nowhere, by their despicable owner.

This hurts my heart on so many levels.  Those dogs are terrified, and looking to their owner for direction.  You can see the confusion in their eyes when she leaves them.  How heartless do you have to be to take an innocent animal who depends on you and dump them on the side of the road?

The look on the woman’s face speaks volumes about her personally.  She doesn’t have an ounce of regret in her expression.  The only thing she regrets, I’m sure, is being caught by the Good Samaritan.

Was it a boyfriend, making her choose between the dogs and himself?  Sorry, sir, you would lose that gamble every time if it was me. Maybe she just got tired of caring for them or couldn’t afford to feed them any longer.  Was she too proud to take them to the shelter?  How did she think leaving them on the side of the road was any better?

I find it interesting that she took one of the dogs to the local shelter after she had dumped them.  I’d like to think she had a twinge of conscience, a moment of humanity, or a sense of guilt and went back to find them.

More likely, though, she probably was afraid that she would be caught and punished for her thoughtless, selfish behavior if she didn’t turn herself in voluntarily.  I am not sure anything close to a soul exists in someone who would do this. Quite frankly, I also blame the driver … not as much as the owner, mind, but still. How could they witness what was happening and say nothing, do nothing?

If it sounds like I’m being harsh, well, yeah, I am.

I can’t imagine living in a world where people leave babies in dumpsters, kill each other because one driver cut off another on the freeway, and abandon animals.  This is not the world I want to wake up to.  Every morning I turn on the news, open social media, or listen to a morning show on the radio hoping that the day before would be free of atrocity and heartbreak.

And every morning, I am thoroughly disappointed.

I find comfort in the fact that two out of four of these dogs have already found forever homes, and I know the other two will as well.  But I wonder if they ever miss the woman who abandoned them.  I wonder if they watch for her out of the window, tails wagging, hoping to see her car pull up in the driveway of the place they now consider home. Or maybe they realize all too well they’re better off now, without her.

Mostly, though, I wonder if the woman who dumped them like so much garbage at a dead-end, on a cloudy, grey day feels regret, and I wonder if she ever replays the moment when she closed the car door and saw them looking at her in fear, confusion, and expectation before she left them.

I hope she does, and I hope it haunts her dreams.

Because it sure as hell haunts mine.

Caution – Rant Ahead

Do any of you remember when I wrote about Marius, the giraffe in the Copenhagen Zoo that was killed when he was only 2 years old because he was deemed to be “surplus?” If not, I urge you to click on this link for a refresher. If you don’t have the time to read the full article, here’s the short and sweet version: The Copenhagen Zoo encouraged their giraffes to breed… lo and behold Marius was brought into the world. However, after zoo doctors found Marius’ genes to be too common (common, not inbred) for breeding, they shot him in the head, dissected him in front of a crowd (of mostly children) and fed his meat to lions. Who cares that nearby wildlife parks offered to take him off their hands? Who cares that there was a public outcry? Who cares that it seems hypocritical that a breeding program would decrease the population of a species it is trying to save? And what about the four lions who ended up feasting on Marius’ remains — which included two young cubs — this same zoo killed them not long after they offed Marius, because they had to make room for just one incoming alpha male?

Who cares about those trivial little questions? Well, let’s just move on to what’s going on at the Copenhagen Zoo NOW, shall we? Oh look, a brand new baby giraffe was just born there (in September 2016). Yes, you read that correctly. A mere two years after one giraffe was killed because he was a “surplus animal” the zoo breeds another of the exact same animal. You’d think this means that they have their surplus problem all figured out and this latest birth is guaranteed a long, healthy life. You would think that, but you’d be wrong. As a spokesman for the zoo states, there’s no guarantee that this new baby giraffe won’t end up with the same fate as Marius. They’re admitting that, yeah, they might kill this one off as well if things don’t work out the way they want them to.

But that may not happen. This giraffe might make it to the ripe old age or 3, 4, maybe even 5! It just won’t be at the Copenhagen Zoo. When the little guy hits 2 years old he might get shipped off to another zoo like a product ordered off Amazon. Although that’s not a guarantee.

Don’t get me wrong. I firmly believe that there are some zoos that do a great job at saving endangered animals, but it’s a Catch-22 because most zoos, as they are now, are simply not great for the animals. They’re having success in breeding, but look at what the animals are being bred into. They’re pretty much led straight from the womb to a guillotine. You might say this cycle of systematic culling is simply a European practice I cannot abide, but it’s not. Zoos right here in the US regularly sell surplus animals or euthanize them. Which begs the important question, why? Why breed so-called surplus animals in the first place?

Okay, yes, strides for bettering the treatment of animals are being made. Take circuses for examples. Their animal acts, if not wholly banned, are much more tightly regulated now than in the past. However, Barnum & Bailey just sent their elephants to a “sanctuary” that also happens to run experiments on the animals in the name of science (cancer research). So, while they’re not chained to posts or crammed into claustrophobic train cars or forced to do stupid acts for a crowd, did they really win? Who knows the extent of the research they are subjected to. All I know is that the phrase “testing on animals” rarely means something good is going on. While perhaps the research facility may not be a house of horrors, I can’t imagine it’s as good as living on an actual sanctuary where they have nothing to do but eat, sleep, and be all elephant-y.

Barnum & Bailey got rid of their big cat act, too. Don’t applaud just yet. In an effort to make a final buck on these animals, they’ve been sold to other circuses and events who DO still perform animal acts. God knows what their living conditions will be. So, it’s really just trading one set of terrible owners for another. What gets me is that with all the millions of dollars Barnum & Bailey have made off these animals, they could at least have given them a proper retirement. It’d be a nice way to say, “thanks for making it through the years of abuse.”  But no. Instead, the circus, yet another greedy corporation, milked every last penny they could out of their elephants and tigers, their well-being be damned.

Say what you will about their diet and environments, but animals in captivity are just that, captive prisoners. When humans decide to interfere with wildlife to such a degree that the animals are entirely dependent, with their very existence depending on the whims of bureaucratic policy, whether it’s a circus or a zoo, then those humans have a solemn responsibility to those animals – their lives should not come down to being deliberately bred into “surplus” only to be cut short or being exploited for a lifetime only to be sold into yet another version of servitude.

At what point are they allowed to simply be a lion, a giraffe, an elephant? By the looks of it, in many cases, the answer is never. To me, that is just an unacceptable answer.