Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Vacation Etiquette

I just got back from a vacation—two whole days on the Jersey Shore (not with “The Situation” and Snooki, TG, I’m talking about the somewhat classier Long Beach Island) with my family, where blue skies, warm coconut-drenched salty air and lapping waves lulling me to sleep were just a few of the pleasures I experienced. If only there were no “people” there to spoil it. As my brother and I complained on the drive home, maybe we should just move to like East Buttcrack, Wyoming, or something. Somewhere where people don’t flock and annoy. But is that a mere fantasy? As the Countess Olenska cries to her lover in The Age of Innocence, “Oh, my dear—where is that country? Have you ever been there?”

Seriously People! It’s hard enough to escape and get a few measly days of rest and relaxation in today’s cah-razy world. So if you happen to go on vacation, follow these five simple steps to ensure that you don’t F up my (or someone else’s) only days of annual happiness.

1) Talk not on your cell phone loudly on the beach for over an hour while people like me are trying to read. Nobody cares about your mundane, boring, unnecessary conversation. Aren’t you worried about the sand and grease infiltrating your precious iPhone? Get over yourself. You’re. Not. That. Important.*

2) Let not your horrid rugrat invade my golf space while I’m trying to tee off. It takes an extreme amount of concentration to get my hole in one. Yes, I know it’s only miniature golf, but I take it very seriously! You know you have crossed the line when your kid:
     a. steps on the green I’m playing on
     b. rolls around on the green I’m playing on*
     c. enters the cool cave green I’m playing on and walks around screaming oooh and ahh.

3) Butt not your annoying face into my conversation with the maitre d’ at dinner to ask “How long’s the wait?” in your shrill voice while I am trying to secure a table. FYI: I don’t have to wait because I made a “reservation.” So step off.

4) Spread not your belongings across the beach at 7 am, making it impossible for anyone else to sit down. You don’t own the fartin beach. You can’t reserve a spot. You don’t need five hundred beach chairs and you certainly don’t need a family-size tent!

5) For the young, cutesy waitress at The Marlin: Ask not for my ID to make sure I’m of age to drink, only to lean closer to me, squint your eyes, and then say ‘never mind’ when you realize I’m “old” before I’ve even had a chance to fish my license out of my bag. You broke my MOFO heart!

Thanks for your attention to this matter. If you can’t abide by these simple rules, do me and everyone else a favor and stay home. Or barring that, I hear East Buttcrack, Wyoming, is good this time of year!

*denotes hypocrisy.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The Rise and Fall of Captain America

When I was a student teacher at college, before I realized I couldn’t teach because I don’t like kids, we learned the tactic of studying by association. The idea was to associate a word or idea with the thing you were trying to remember. But the mind works like this naturally. One word can make your brain leap to another place and time. This happened to me this weekend while watching an all-day "Beauty and the Geek" marathon on TV (yes, somehow I still had brain waves while watching it). For those of you who don’t watch mind-numbing reality shows, the concept in a nutshell is a house full of socially awkward but mega-smart geeks paired with ten “beauties” who share three brain cells between them. They have to interact with each other, the idea being that the beauties get smarter and the geeks get…well, less geeky. Each episode, the geeks/beauties take a pop quiz (for the women, something “intellectual” and for the men, style or fashion). The question for one of the women was—hold your laughter Alex Trebek—what are the three colors in the comic book character Captain America’s uniform?

At the name Captain America, mind association kicked in and I had an instant flashback to nine years ago. I was working in Spain for a family-owned publishing company that hired American ex-pats who would later morph into angry, miserable, bitter “lifers,” wasting away their talents and intelligence for 800 bucks a month. The place had an amazing capacity to turn even the most upbeat person into a paranoid, negative psycho. One by one, I’d see a "New Guy" come into the cushy office full of hope at a real job in a foreign country, only to be broken by the backwards office politics, the miserable, jealous lifers, and the “Dr.,” the 70 year-old company patriarch who ruled his kingdom with an iron fist. The worst of the lifers was a woman who took it upon herself to do a CIA-like background check on every new employee (she’d check the history on their computer, refuse to give them the code to the office door and could be heard saying to anyone who’d listen that the newbie might steal the company’s secrets). We called her “Paranoid Wendy”* or PeeWee for short.

Then came Mark Hardy.* From the American Midwest, Mark quickly became known around the office as Captain America or Mole. He was christened Captain A after I’d had the misfortune of witnessing one of his soapbox speeches about how George Bush had every right to invade Iraq, and how it was NOT for the oil, but for the noblest cause of all—to free the Iraqi women! Mole, his second nickname, came about partly because of the way he continuously scratched himself due to an unfortunate dermatological condition, and partly because of his ability to infiltrate a group in an attempt to “network.” He first shook things up when he started to go through lunch buddies with a vengeance, changing his group of friends several times, leaving a string of casualties in his wake as he burrowed his way to the top. He quickly became the Dr.'s henchman. He could often be heard complaining to his friend of the week about how negative everyone else was.

“I don’t get what’s wrong with everyone here…you gotta take the bull by its horns,” he’d say, ever the King of Positive Clich├ęs. Or his catch phrase: “I always say if life gives you shit, eat shit sandwiches.”

But as much as his popularity and positivity threatened the evil kingdom, PeeWee knew better. She told me one day, whispering in the hallway, the pink creeping across her angry face as she twitched in rage, “His star may be rising. But it will fall.”

And fall it did. While I never learned of the specific torture he must have gone through, within six months Captain A could be seen slouching down the hall, all traces of his usual scurry erased. His scratching became more intense, and red splotches emerged across his face and neck. Instead of smiling, a pained grimace spread across his wholesome face (too many shit sandwiches for lunch?). Rather than changing lunch buddies again, he started to dine alone. He stopped shaving. We lifers gave each other knowing looks. He’d been broken. After a few weeks of this, we never saw or heard from him again.

Flash forward nine years. The question on TV rattles me…I instantly picture Mark Hardy and wonder where he is…did he ever bounce back to his cheerful deluded self? Did he get a job where he could actually use his talents? Did he stop scratching? Dismissing Captain A, I concentrate on the question. What THREE colors (they actually have to give a hint) are in Captain America’s costume? Jesus, if only I’d studied more in school. The “beauty” pauses and wrinkles up her face. Using that one brain cell. The seconds pass. I’m sweating. But Thank G she finally answers: Red…White…and Blue. And she's right!

*Name changed to protect the person I'm exploiting to get a chuckle on my blog.

Monday, August 16, 2010

College Girls In Washington Beware - Cocky Dork On The Loose!

This just in: Freshmen college girls who go to school in or around the vicinity of Union Station, Washington D.C., beware. There is a cocky dork on the loose, “collecting” any female who will fall for his pathetic pick-up lines. The boy was last seen on the Metro North train where he was visiting a friend from New York. He was dressed in a blue button-down Ralph Lauren shirt and freshly pressed (by his mamma) beige dockers, complete with untamed fro and a scattering of angry zits. While travelling from Chappaqua to Manhattan, he tried to convince his equally nerdy, but rightfully humble, pal to visit his college dorm in Washington in the fall. First, cocky dork tempted his friend with drink.

“Dude, if people aren’t going to your parties at your college, it’s cause you’re doing something wrong. You see, you can’t just lay out beer. You gotta get a handle of vodka, a handle of whisky, a handle of rum, and a handle of Everclear.” (Note to self: WTF is a handle? Or Everclear for that matter? Must Google.)

When this didn’t tempt the friend, who admitted that his university, Brown, wasn’t a big party school, the brazen geek turned to women.

“You get a great cross section,” he said. “You got the ‘Southern Bell’…the ‘I’m a Cute Artsy girl’…In fact, I work on a three-girl rotation. At least three. Definitely have to always have a brunette in there.”

Still not convinced, the cocksure dweeb pressed further. “There’s a 60/40 ratio of girls to guys. They go out in ‘packs’ of like 25…looking at it that way, someone has to bite.” And, if visiting in the summer, the odds are “literally” better, according to the nerd stallion. “Dude, we can sit at the outdoor pool. There are literally…LITERALLY 500 girls clad in bikinis, all just waiting to be banged. Hell, you could have ten of my girls and I’d still have a 100 left over.”

The nerd sometimes goes by the name “the closer.” (“Dude, if you can’t seal the deal, call me in…I’ll close it for you). He frequents a bar called “Turtle,” where he usually starts off his night and gets “retarded” before heading on to Faye’s. He is most likely harmless and a virgin, despite his outrageous tall tales of being attacked by a swarm of women every night.

“The only problem with coming to visit me is…you’ll want to come back. Everybody does,” he was last heard saying as he exited the train.

So college girls, if this sounds like anyone you know, be on red alert. Tell all your friends to run the other way if the nerd is seen approaching in an attempt to “close” the deal. Gently remind him that he is full of shit and has no experience whatsoever, regardless of his claims of “wanting to get into some really funky sexual shit…taking it to the next level” (note to self: assume here he means taking it from his own hand to an actual person). Also be aware that this behavior is rampant in college frash frat boys, and the profile can probably be extrapolated to other colleges and boys of this age group.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Confidence Lessons from Big Bob

As cocky and self-assured as I can sometimes be, I am, at times, a neurotic, self-critical, anxiety-ridden girl who has extreme bouts of insecurity further fed by fashion magazines and the media and all that other crap. I worry as much as (or a helluva lot more than) the next psycho regarding superficial BS like wrinkles, aging, weight, my career etc (see my posts about public meltdowns and braces).

But this weekend I had a lesson in confidence from the most unlikely of teachers. I was at Walmart* with my mother picking out a piece of furniture. It was heavy, and as we struggled to wheel it down the aisle towards checkout, Big Bob* blocked my path.

“You’re going to need some help with that,” he said, sauntering over with an easy smile. Everything about him, from that smile, to his mannerisms, to his stride suggested he was the MOFO King of the ‘Mart. Before I could answer, he said, “When you check out, ask for Bob.” He pointed to his name tag proudly, nodded and swept past me, an entourage of geeky coworkers in his wake.

But Bob was no Brad Pitt. His ego wasn’t the only thing large about him—he was packing at least 350 pounds. His hair, which might have been, at one time, a fro, was blow dried out into a wavy pompadour. The folds of his face threatened to ingest a pair of square-framed glasses. His red Walmart shirt looked like a family sized tent.

At checkout we asked for Bob, but he was busy talking to his groupies. As my mother went to pull the car up to the door, I tried, unsuccessfully, to navigate the shopping cart onto the slanted sidewalk, where it struggled to break free from my birdy arms and wreak havoc on the parking lot.

“Allow me,” I suddenly heard in a Barry White voice. I turned, and there was Bob, gently taking over the carriage with his mammoth arms. “I think,” he said, raising one eyebrow,” I can hold this just a LITTLE BIT better than you.”

I felt tongue tied and mumbled a dorky “yeah.”

“It’s OK,” he said, chuckling. “It probably helps that I’m a huge, massive MONSTER.” He guffawed a loud smoker’s laugh and my eyes widened.

“Man,” he continued, sniffing the air. “What’s that smell? Something smells GOOD.”

I sniffed tentatively and hazarded a guess. “Pizza?”

“Yes!” he shouted “It’s gotta be garlic knots.” And with that he threw back his leonine head and practically growled. He was large and in charge AND shameless! And this was not the false bravado of the secretly insecure. This guy loved himself.

Well why the F not? I thought as we drove away after his seductive “Have a nice night, ladies.” Why not be a huge massive monster and love yourself instead of a scrawny annoyer complaining about a millimeter of flab and the shadows of crows feet? Insecurity is so tiring. In fact, I might go to the ‘Mart next weekend and get another lesson in ‘how to think I’m the Eva Livin Shiat.’

*Although also in the “mart” family, this specific evil American superstore name has been changed to protect the employee, whose name has also been changed.