Monday, February 22, 2010

The Fall of a Dictator

Jobsworth: (almost strictly British) A low ranking official who follows their instructions and procedure to the letter. Often just to piss you off and to make them feel important.

For years he had me shaking in my boots every time I wanted to seek a little entertainment. Sometimes I would actively avoid his domain, either sending in reinforcements or going without on desperate nights of boredom. His fascist rule and unreasonable policies were unyielding. He was the manager of Hollywood Video, and he scared the pants off of me.

The first time I met Dan* I made the mistake of trying to rent a movie without a card. As I lived abroad and was only in town once in awhile, I used my parents' account. Before I had the chance to explain he barked: “license please.” I fumbled in my wallet, giggling nervously as one tends to do in the presence of intimidating people. But why was he so intimidating? He was as short as he was wide, had a mouth full of braces, a pale face riddled with raging zits and freckles, curly red hair and couldn’t have been more than 25. Yet something about his stern features and his inability to fold beneath my charm disturbed me.

He grabbed the license out of my hand, screwing up his face as he said my name. “Doesn’t match anyone’s name in the system,” he said. “But my name is different than my parents…so my license won’t…” I started to say. Sighing loudly, he rolled his eyes and said: “Primary account holder name?” Prickles of heat pranced across my shoulders as a queue of anxious parents and children tinkered behind me.

“It’s Fitz*, but my parents are divorced, so my last name is different, can you just use my phone number to look it up?” I said. Dan shook his head as if I’d just asked him to submit himself to Chinese water torture. Finally, he succumbed, mumbling about how it wasn’t supposed to be done this way.

The next time I went to rent a movie, I made sure to go at a different time, hoping it wasn’t Dan’s shift. I slipped into the shop, smiling at the harmless older woman at the front desk, and happily took my time making a selection. As I sauntered up to the desk to pay, grabbing a box of jujyfruits to celebrate, I heard: “Card and license please.” My eyes flashed up as the woman stepped aside and Dan resumed his rightful position.

“OK, look. I don’t have a card, and last time it was a real hassle so can I just get a new card?”
“Name and license?”
“Well, it’s under my parents’ account, so their name is…"
“Account holder has to ask for their own card.”

Crooking my jaw and holding onto the counter I prepared for the Mount Vesuvius of anger in me to blow. But it didn’t! Where was all of the aggression and bravado that usually helped me to tell people to stick it where the sun don’t shine? My hands were actually shaking. I took a deep breath.

“My parents want a new card. I promise you. They asked me to get one tonight.” I said.
“No can do. Tell your parents if they want a card, to come in themselves.”

A few days later I was cycling on the local bike trail when through the mist ahead a large looming figure emerged. As I got closer I saw it was Dan. He was walking quickly and tensely, as if a pole had literally been inserted into his ass. Across the large expanse of his man boobs, I saw the Hollywood Video logo sewn onto his shirt. We were miles from the video store. It suddenly dawned on me: yes, Dan was a big douche, but he had to walk miles to work, every day. Suddenly I felt a rush of sympathy. Who wouldn’t be a little annoyed after walking miles, covered in sweat, through rain or shine, to get paid minimum wage and deal with morons like me who had no card? And no wonder Dan hated me so much, I probably reminded him of all those bitchy girls in high school who'd never give him the time of day. How could he know that I was the champion of all nerds, dorks and the generally down and out? Next time I would bring my new card, and I would be so nice, he couldn’t hate me if he tried. Kill him with kindness.

“Card please.”
“Hey Dan! Here you go! I finally got a new one,” I said, smiling widely, piling popcorn and soda on the counter to surpass the ten dollar minimum needed to pay with a credit card.
“That will be $11.50” he said, still frowning.
“Cool. Thanks so much. Here’s my card.”

Dan swiped it, while I grinned stupidly, despite the fact that his eyebrows were still furrowed.
“You know what? Your card just froze my whole system. GREAT!” he said, his voice raising dangerously. He looked like a three hundred pound time bomb ready to blow.

“Ok, Ok, I have cash.” I said, starting to sweat, and digging around in my wallet. To my horror, all I had was a pile of dollar coins that the MTA ticket machine had spit out at me the other day.

“What are these, is this some kind of joke?”
“Um, they’re dollar coins.”
“Dollar what? I’ve never seen these in my life.”
“They give them out in all of the New York City subway and ticket machines. I swear they are legal tender.”
“Well, I wouldn’t know, I never go to Manhattan.”
No shit, I thought.
“Look, I promise they’re real, OK?”
“OK, fine. Now step aside, you’re holding up the whole line.”

Two years passed until I attempted to go into Hollywood Video again. This time, I brought backup--a friend who I'd prepared with horror stories of Dan. We both laughed and said that he couldn’t possibly still be working there. But as we stepped in, there he was, bigger and angrier than ever. I came prepared with my card and the more common paper variety dollar.

As I stepped up and handed him my goods, he said:

“I see your account has had no activity for two years. Looks like you have to pay the reactivation fee.” Oh for the love of all that’s holy!

What a surprise it was, then, this weekend, when I drove by Hollywood Video and saw "Going out of Business" signs and "Everything Must Go!" all over the dusty and forgotten windows.

My first thought was: HAHA! F*ck you Dan and your FN Rules! Whattaya gonna do now? Walk to Blockbuster two towns over?

My second thought was: Guess I have to take the plunge and use Netflix like everyone else.

My third and most annoying thought (which shows you how crazy and wussy I am) was: Poor Dan (seriously on verge of tears).

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

People Annoy Me

As I age (at an ever-rapid pace), I notice that my tolerance for people is disappearing just as fast as my youth. Let’s be frank. People annoy the ever-living shit out of me. I’ve been told I get this antisocial trait from my father, and though I used to consider myself bubbly and outgoing, I find it increasingly more difficult to fake it when I hear and see idiocy unravelled all around me. Maybe it’s post-Valentine’s day annoyance that’s making me extra irritable (brings out the moron in people) or maybe it’s just another day in vexville…in any event, there’s a place I have to go every day where aggravating people convene in close, inescapable proximity: the Metro North train.

Last night coming home from Manhattan I sat in one of those cramped six seaters, with two rows facing each other. The only way to handle the heat, rank body odor and intrusive noises emanating from my fellow passengers was to push myself into the crook between my seat and the window and try to sleep. Amid the rustling of bags, cracking open of beer cans and subsequent guzzling (when did this become so popular?), stomach gurgling and cell phone calls, a shrill, shrewish voice rang out above all the rest. I opened my eyes in utter disgust and focused on the source of the noise, in the seat across from me.

Shrew: “Excuse me Sir (to the conductor), but why does the schedule say the first stop is Chappaqua if we’re stopped right now in White Plains?” (note: text does not do justice to the high-pitched, self-important, brash, nails-on-chalkboard voice. Wish had podcast to prove point).

Conductor: “Well we let people on here, but not off, so it’s not a real stop.”

Shrew: “But then the first stop is White Plains, not Chappaqua. What difference does it make if people get on or off? It takes the same amount of time. We are stopping, are we not?”

Conductor: (detectable sigh of annoyance, but trying to be nice) These trains are jam-packed as it is, we throw a few trains in with less stops to make it more comfortable for everyone.

Shrew: (waving her hands around and looking at the masses, as if trying to rile them) But that is faulty advertising! You’re misinforming people! Chappaqua is NOT the first stop.

Conductor: (first signs of ‘tude) I’m not misinforming anyone. It’s MTA. Take it up with them.

Shrew: Well, I will. It’s not right. I’m being misinformed. We all are!

Conductor: You’ll get to your stop at the time the schedule says. It’s not misinforming.

Shrew: This is ridiculous!

Me: (unable to hold back) Are you kidding me? How FAHreaking annoying can you be?

Businessman next to me: Seriously lady, shut the fu*k up!

Me: (giddy with sudden realization that the masses are now being moved by me) Jeesh! Some people have nothing better to do than complain. Get over it! This is what I have to wake up to?

Shrew: I’m a copyeditor. I pay attention to these things.

Me: So am I, you don’t see me complaining and waking people up!

Luckily at this point we did stop at Chappaqua and the bane of my existence stepped off, still complaining as she left. Me and the business guy had a chuckle as to how humans can be so irritating and then I closed my eyes in an attempt to ward off further annoyance.

And a few updates on former blog posts….

*I saw a man on the train this morning use the Kindle for something other than “finding keys” (see Earwig’s Delight: Key Books). Apparently it can also be used to pick up women. The man leaned over his chair, invading the space of the girl in front of him, who was reading her Kindle, and said in a husky voice: “Do you like your Kindle?” The girl, startled and somewhat disturbed, said yes and resumed reading. “Cause I like mine,” the man whispered seductively. Unfortunately for him, the Kindle did not pull through, as the girl turned to him and said “My husband doesn’t like it though, cause I buy even more books now.” Ouch!

*Last night the news showed Silent Bob of Clerks, Mall Rats etc. using Twitter to wage war on Southwest airlines for forcing him to buy two seats for his size (You tweet 'em into submission Bob!). The news then panned to many morbidly obese people outraged, claiming that people come in all shapes and sizes and the airline should accommodate. Have to say, sticking to my guns here on the entitlement issue (Fat is the New Thin). Yes airplane seats suck and could be made a little bigger for everyone, but by the same token if your ass is already on half of my unnecessarily small (but paid in full) seat, buy two seats please!

Monday, February 8, 2010

Stealthy Stalkers

1: to pursue quarry or prey stealthily
2: to pursue obsessively and to the point of harassment

The first time I was stalked, a construction-boot wearing lad liked my shoe selling abilities a tad too much, and after buying several pairs of boots from Sears—where I worked part time during high school—told me I looked like his dead girlfriend before lunging across the counter in an attempt to attack me. This jump started my career as a professional ‘stalkee’. But back then stalkers really had to toil! Not only did this poor fellow have to make multiple trips to the mall, spend gas getting there, dress and leave his house, but he also had shell out a few hundred bucks on waterproof Wolverines!

Man, these stalkers today—they have it way too easy. All they need to do is log on to Facebook or “Google” you. This allows for stalkage from afar, ergo nobody needs to know they're a victim. Unlike calling someone and leaving a message, or worse, hanging up when you know they have caller ID, nobody knows if you pore over their profile or lame gift registry.

And it’s not just creepy weirdos clad in boxers, searching for you from their home computer—it’s ex boyfriends/girlfriends, crushes, coworkers and the poor nerd in high school who never got up the nerve to say hello. And let’s face it—it’s you. Growing metaphorical “Facebook balls” has led to many a shocking friend request, uninvited e-mail and inappropriate chat session in these privacy-lacking times. The barriers have been broken, the playing field has been levelled, and anyone is fair game when there is a screen separating you.

I recently “broke up” with Facebook (I have long since erased all embarassing traces of having been on MySpace and Friendster) in a desperate attempt to recover my anonymity. But before doing so, I experienced the following phenomena:

*An old friend from college revealed that he was now a sadomasochist and asked if I wouldn’t mind walking on him in high heels, slapping him around, or spitting on him (or in his food).

*A guy who asked me to the high school prom (who I turned down because he was too short. Sorry!!) wrote to inform me, and I quote: ‘I’m married now. You snooze…you lose.’

*I mistakenly struck up a convo with a guy from my home town because I thought his MySpace site was cool, which culminated in him sending me a nude photo of himself complete with an amateur photoshopped gift box covering his privates, a la Saturday Night Live’s famous "Dick in a Box" skit (only not as a joke and before that sketch had ever even surfaced). The label on the gift box read: “Your Property”. Help!

*Several exes long since relegated to the closet o' skeletons, have resurfaced, as if spilling their woes, money issues and “I’m so bored with my wife” dramas would ever induce me to have another go.

And those are just a few (scarily enough, true) examples.

Remember when you used to be able to lose touch with people? Or break up with someone and revel in the fact that you never had to see them or their (bad clothes, unibrow, alcohol problem) again? Or pretend you were so much better looking than your ex’s new partner and that his or her life was a shambles since they left you? And cutting someone loose did not involve severing the seven degrees (or more) of Kevin Bacon as they are now Facebook friends with all of your friends or family members? Well, no more, my friends, no more. Personally I think I’d rather go back to the ‘stone age’ where my friends and I were not victims of this unrequited attention (and, hell, that we weren’t three steps away from having a restraining order slapped on us ourselves for obsessively tracking every move made by the ghosts of our pasts [and/or future]).