Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Notable Commuters: Weird Boots Guy

Fig. 1. Weird Boots
It’s been a while since I’ve just written a plain old observation. That, uh, is the name of the blog after all. And what better place to observe strange and fascinating creatures but within the MTA train system. As a creature of habit, I usually sit in the same train car every day. Unfortunately, so does a group of loud, obnoxious old men playing cards on what appears to be a pizza box. The first time I saw it, I was perplexed by how their group defied all unspoken rules of train etiquette. Whereas normally conversations or cell phone calls get you a look of death from other zombie commuters, these men shout, cheer and converse as if throwing back beers in a bar. Amid the noise of their gravelly smokers’ voices is the fluttery flipping of a deck of cards, conjuring images of leaves getting stuck in a bicycle spoke. Or similar. Not a card player myself (unless you count the drinking game “Asshole”), I have no idea what it is that has them so entranced. But I do hear them shouting things like “29? Is it 29? Whattawe got, 45 to 92?” What does it mean, readers? Anyone? Anyone?

This enigma aside, there is one passenger who gets on the train who cannot escape anyone’s attention. He is older, probably somewhere between, say 55 and 100. His tall, burly, Paul Bunyan physique is accented by a fluffy gray beard, a half smoked cigar hanging out of his mouth that he CHEWS all the way to the city, and—the icing on the cake—tall, knee-high funky black boots (see Fig. 1). The boots are what catch my attention every single day. If you only focused on them, you’d think (Punk Rocker? Goth? Motorcycle Mamma? Oktoberfest Partaker? Sadomasochist? Shit Shoveller?) until you look up and see that they are attached to Santa Claus with a bad cigar habit.

Weird Boots gets on the same car as me and immediately gravitates towards the card players like a fly to feces. He leans on the back of the six-seater they occupy and bends down, flagrantly invading their personal space. At first I thought he was part of the group—the silent observer, who, for lack of a seat, participates from above. But over the weeks, I’ve noticed he’s not. He is just a random guy, with weird boots, resting his cigar on the island pattern bald guy dealing the cards, watching every move they make like Big Brother watches all of us. When the train pulls in, he immediately exits without so much as a goodbye. The group in turn never greets his omnipresence with hello, goodbye, or what the feck are you looking at?!

Who is he readers? Only time will tell. For now I will continue to silently observe him as he silently observes them, while snapping secret photos of his boots (can I get a pair somewhere?) as I pretend to text my BFF in Spain.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011


I’ve been trying so hard not to let little things get to me. My therapist (look, everyone in New York has one) says that when annoying people bump into me, play loud music that blares out of their headphones, or just simply exist I should say to myself “I allow these people to inconvenience me” or “I will not let these [a-holes] change my day.” Apparently I'm some kind of perfectionist and hold people to high standards—resulting in continuous disappointment in others. I didn’t really need to pay $150 a session to figure out that peeps irritate me—bad! But though I’ve been doing better, it’s rather hard to keep a smile on one’s face when one has to ride the shittiest and most frustrating elevator that ever existed to work every morning.

I work on the 19th of 20 floors, and there are many offices and people in my building, with six inefficient elevators to cart us to our respective places of work. While some buildings generously program their elevators to stop on the lower floors on one side, and the upper levels on the other, ours does not. The result: sheer vexation when you get crammed into the small space with 10 other people and the elevator stops on floor 2. Really? You couldn’t walk up one flight of stairs?

These antiquated machines are also slow, and when I walk into the building there's always an enormous line of people waiting to get on. There are so many offenders, I don’t even know where to begin: The “I’m just going to ignore the line and waltz up to the front because I’m more important than you” rider, the “I have a double-barrel stroller with children big enough to walk” rider, the “there are already 15 people in here, three of whom are morbidly obese, but I am going to get in anyway and invade your personal space and/or breathe on you” rider, the “I’m the lazy mailman who will stop on every floor, making you use your entire lunch break on the elevator” rider, the “I’m going to pass noxious wind and you’ll never guess which of us it is” rider…and the list goes on.

Today I got on and practiced my mantra, while smiling (grimacing) at my fellow riders, and pressed floor 19. The elevator stopped at floor 2 while everyone sighed with undisguised angst as a young, able-bodied passenger got off (note: next time at least fake a limp). It proceeded to stop on every other floor while my blood pressure creeped up faster than the elevator ever would. Finally, when it stopped at 18 and I only had one more floor to go, I sighed in relief. Until it started to plummet down.

“WTF! NOOO!” I shouted to the bare walls. It stopped on 15. Two men walked in. “Up or down!” I barked rabidly. “Down,” they said. I exited the elevator huffing, puffing and swearing while one of the men said “looks like it’s not her day.” ARGHHH.

On floor 15 I waited 10 minutes for another "up" elevator to no avail. Finally I decided to go back down and start all over. The elevator stopped on floor 6. The doors remained closed. I began to sweat. And still no movement. Panic disorder activated, I was just about to push the emergency button and scream that I was two seconds away from a shit storm, when it began to descend. Back on floor 1, I realized it had now been 20 minutes since I'd arrived to work, and was still not in my office. The cycle repeated itself as the elevator once again stopped on floor 2 to let a lazy passenger out. This time I got off at number 20, the main lobby of my office, and walked down to 19.

I ask, readers, would you be able to maintain calm after this palaver? As I sat down, shaking and twitching, my coworkers started to complain about the fact that the elevator has now been programmed to not stop on my floor due to recent thefts. So now everyone has to go to the main reception area one floor up. Feeling an explosion brewing at the inhumanity of not having received any warning of this from "the man," I was just about to call the CEO (in other words, stew silently) when there in my inbox I saw a vague message about security updates. Sure enough, there was the info I'd chosen to ignore the day before. Guess this time, it was my bad.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Smells Like Halloween Spirit

Fall is my absolute favorite time of year. Living in the Northeast United States, one has the privilege of witnessing the amazing transformation of the leaves. (Or, leaf peeping as my mother recently informed me it was called. Snort.) Vegetable death and decay mingle with smoke from chimneys to create that comforting autumn smell. And we can’t forget Halloween—my favorite of all holidays. I love dressing up as something evil (witch, vampire, devil) to truly get in touch with my inner demon.

My obsession with ghosts and ghouls probably came about at a young age, when my father introduced my brother and me to Stephen King. King was his favorite author, and when we stayed at his house on weekends, he’d read a bit of it to us before bed. He also took us to see scary films, much to our young delight (and subsequent neuroses)—Pet Sematary, Serpent and the Rainbow, Nightmare on Elm Street, The Candy Man. You name it, we saw it. Of course, while this might have been good to brag to our friends about, as we were the only kids under age 10 seeing this stuff, I still sleep with a nightlight at age 35 and check behind my shower curtain to make sure “Zelda” isn’t lurking.

Every year, when pumpkins blaze from neighbors’ windows and witches and skeletons hang from people’s front doors, I’m reminded of a funny ghost story. It was 1998. I was living abroad in Glasgow, Scotland. My brother came to visit me, and I took him around the city and surrounding areas. One day, we decided to hit Edinburgh, which was a short bus ride away. As we walked around the cobblestone streets, we debated whether or not we should pay the few pounds to go inside the castle. As we discussed the pros and cons,  fate stepped in with a gust of eerie wind, carrying with it a flyer that settled at our feet.

The flyer said Auld Reekie Tours, and boasted a guided visit of creepy underground chambers that used to be part of the old underground city along the Royal Mile...a witches' vault, a torture chamber, and plenty of paranormal activity. What could be more exciting? Then we saw a testimonial on the flyer: “I saw a ghost. I REALLY saw a ghost!” We were sold.

So…down we went, after paying more than we would have to see the castle. A hunchbacked (real or fake?) man in a cape led us and the other gullible tourists into what appeared to be someone’s basement. He pointed out a room that used to be a witches' circle. It was a shadowy corner that we could barely see. Several more empty basement rooms followed. And though it was all dank and dark…I didn’t see any ghosts. In fact, I didn’t see ANYTHING. All the while, “hunchy” told cheesy ghost stories that wouldn’t scare a child, much less a professional horror buff like myself.

At one point the guide turned out his flashlight, making the easily-pleased crowd squeal with delight. Next thing I know, I felt something pelt me. As the lights flickered back on, we saw that he had merely thrown rubber spiders at us. My brother and I covered our mouths to keep from laughing.

As we left the tour, heads hanging, we realized we’d been duped. Not only did we NOT "see a ghost," but not even the torture chamber—i.e., a room with papier mache people being tortured in weird devices—could cheer us up. To "quoth" a famous raven....Nevermore!

Here’s to hoping your Halloween, readers, is truly frightful! And feel free to tell your own ghost story in the comments box.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Hey Pool Losers, Your Kids Aren’t That Cute

Photo by littlegraypixel, via Flickr
On the last official weekend of summer, I went to my family’s summer home in a small town in Pennsylvania (a place I call Buttcrack because of it’s vicinity to…nothing) for what I foolishly thought would be a weekend of relaxation. Oh how wrong I was.

The small lakefront cottage is inside a “gated community.” This means nobody can get in or out without a key or checking in with security, though somehow this never stops vandals from throwing garden statues into the lake, untying people’s docks, drawing penises on the dock, or other such mischief. But in Buttcrack, PA, what else is there for the punk ass teens to do?

The community shares two swimming pools, tennis courts and a community center. Last summer I made the mistake of going to one of the pools on a holiday weekend, where I witnessed an embarrassing display of ignorance as a morbidly obese woman yelled to a Russian man to go back to his country, that “This is America!” The argument started because the woman, with her skinhead looking husband and two equally obese neo-naziesque children, tried to bugger into the pool and hoard some lounge chairs, cutting other people in line, resulting in the Russian man calling her ignorant. Her subsequent display only proved his point. Later, the man tried to apologize, but the woman's red-faced husband actually stood up and chased the poor speedo-clad Russian away.

This year, seeking a little fresh air and reading time, I decided to try again. It was a cloudy day, so the pool was empty. No sooner had I sat down with my family, a bee began to buzz around me annoyingly, while I swatted and tried to remain calm. Relentlessly, it returned, getting right in my ear and buzzing uncontrollably. Do what I might, the bee pursued me with the reckless abandon of a stalker pursuing a stalkee, until I had to jump into the cold water to escape its hostile attack.

I finally stormed over to the opposite side of the pool and sat down. I was already annoyed by the bee incident and the lifeguards (because they were young, dumb, and not manning their posts. And let’s face it, because I was jealous over the loss of my youth, when I too had been such a lifeguard). That’s when the Pool Losers came in.

The family consisted of a mother, aunt, father and three small children. As they entered, they made the huge empty space seem like a crowded Walmart at Christmas. Their screaming loud voices pierced through my peace and quiet like Jon Bon Jovi and Bret Michaels had pierced through my heart in middle school.

Next thing you know, the kids got it in their head to have a talent show of sorts. The game went like this:

1) Stand as close to our lounge chairs as humanly possible without actually sitting on our laps.
2) The mother and aunt, who planted themselves about 25 feet away from the kids and therefore had to shout across us to converse, would call out a topic, e.g., “THE OLYMPICS!”
3) The kids would do a rendition of “THE OLYMPICS!” while walking towards the water and jumping in.
4) The mother and aunt would clap, guffaw and shout, scoring the child from 1 to 10. That’s IF they were paying attention. If not, the children would screech, as if their young lives depended on it: “MOMMMM watch MEEEE. WATCH MEEEE. MOOOMMMM!!!”
5) The cycle would repeat itself, endlessly.

Now I know a pool is a place for kids to have fun and not even I can begrudge the children their fun (after all, they are the future). But this pool was the size of two Olympic pools and nobody was there but my family, and theirs. So why did these Pool Losers feel the need to get up in our grill? Shout across us? Scream at the top of their lungs? Laugh over their children’s painfully silly renditions? Allow their kids to stand a millimeter away from where others were trying to read? Because they, like most parents and family members, thought their kids were cute. And so should everyone.

After about 20 such renditions, when even my ever-patient stepfather was about to go postal, I contemplated shouting out “LIBRARY!” or “DROWNING VICTIM!” to the kids. Instead we passively aggressively decided to get up and move, all the while huffing and puffing under our breath. As we walked past the mom and aunt, I heard the mother say, “OK kids, time to pack up and go!”

“Are ya kidding? Now you’re leaving?” burst forth from my lips, as we headed around the corner, where the monsters’ father, sitting peacefully with a book and noise cancellation headphones, had the right idea.

So, to end this rant, I’d just like to give the Pool Losers a helpful FYI: Your kids really aren’t that freaking cute. OK? Thanks.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

The Cruise Collector*

So sorry I haven’t written sooner, my dear Reader(s). It seems I’ve been lost in the Bermuda Triangle. Or something. To my dismay, summer is over, having only just started. Wasn’t I just on a cruise to Bermuda a few days ago? Or has it already been a month?

Amazing how fast vacation bliss wears off once one is back in reality. As I sat on the train the other day, listening to yet another moronic conversation, I couldn’t help but feel like I was stuck in a version of the movie Groundhog Day:

Annoying commuter #1 (girl donning rock the size of Jupiter on finger): So, how's your new house? What have you done so far?
Annoying Commuter#2 (socially awkward guy who most likely works in IT): Nothing yet. But I have a plan. Electronics first. Then furniture. Rugs will be last.
AC #1: What about Curtains?
AC #2: Curtains will be last.
AC #1: What about art and stuff for your walls?
AC #2: Art will be last.

What?! So I closed my eyes and let the rocking of the train lull me back to the rocking of the ship I was recently on, sailing towards sun, crystal blue waters and cotton candy sand. I picture myself lounging on the coveted lounge chairs, a cool drink in hand. I'm already feeling better when another annoying commuter interrupts. But it's NOT the train commuter–oh no, it's a species far worse and more bewildering. The Cruise Collector.

“How many have you been on?” someone barks in my ear.

I adjust my sunglasses and open my eyes to the dizzying sun. “Excuse me?”

“This is my 15th. This boat has nothing on Princess. And Norwegian is much bigger. I mean, where are all the pools?”

I decide not to tell the collector that this was, in fact, my first. Instead I excuse myself to dip into the hot tub, in other words, the cesspool of human germs.

It doesn't stop here. On the beach in Bermuda, where one goes to escape the other passengers, three women frolick in the sand like a couple of sea lions, mysteriously rubbing sand up and down their legs with fervor.

“What are you guys doing?” My stepmother asks them.

“We’re giving ourselves a spa treatment,” one says in a thick Jersey accent. “Cheapa than on the boat.” We nod, trying not to cringe, while the other demands: “Which are you on?”

“Holland,” we reply.

“Oh, I went on that last year. Too small. The best is Royal, but Princess isn’t bad either. This is our 10th.”

And so it goes. At dinner:

“How many has it been?” (The Cruise Collector never has to define “it.”)

“Um…my first?”

An embarrassed glance as if I'd just admitted to being the 40-year-old cruise virgin. “Oh really? We've been 'cruising' for years." (The Cruise Collector uses 'cruising' as if it's an activity such as running or hiking, when in fact, it's really just 'slothing.') "This is our 25th. Not so much food on this one. On Royal (the cruise collector never has to give the full name of the ship) you could ask for TWO entrees. Here they only let you have one.”

Glancing around at the predominately obese passengers, it’s no surprise to me that most are here for one thing: the abundant food.

“One entree is usually good enough for me!” I say cheerfully.

At the disco:

"Have you 'done' Carnival? It's much more lively."

By the end of the week, I had classified the collectors into the following categories:

The Food Collector: racks up multiple cruises for one thing only: eatfest. These collectors not only gorge on the breakfast and lunch buffets and three-course dinners, but attend the midnight buffet and hoard food in their room.
The Cheap Collector: likes to "cruise" because the price of a cruise is cheaper than getting a hotel and buying meals separately.
The Fearful Flyer Collector: Or, me. Those who want to travel but are at risk of getting stun-gunned by an air marshall as they run down the airplane aisle screaming 'we're all gonna die!'
The 'I Have a Boring Marriage' Collector: These couples spend the entire trip separately whether it be in the pool or at the casino, and are the ones most likely to lean into your personal space and say "So, how many?"
The Priveleged Collector: Thinks cruises are a luxury (when in reality they're kind of cheesy) and has no problem shouting at the already stressed waiter "Put me some more mustard, would ya?" or "Get this wine OUT of my face, it's terrible!"
The Geriatric Collector: My personal favorite, and omnipresent on my ship, these golden oldies throw all shame to the wind, boogie on the dance floor like tweens and are probably poppin Viagra more than Dramamine.

By the end of the week, if one more person asked about my sad collection, I was going to say "It's my 500th! The last one I took was Apollo. You haven't heard of it? I mean, how often do you cruise? It goes to the moon!"

But, we all need to start somewhere. Next year, I'll be able to say I'm on my second cruise. In time, I too will become a collector. In fact, one day you may find yourself on a cruise (Royal, of course). I will sit down next to you at the pool, staring probingly while you pretend to read. But the intensity of my gaze will be too much. You will make eye contact. And when you do, I will pounce, and say:

"So, how many has it been?"

*Dedicated to my father, who has been waiting with bated breath for this post.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

I Covet Your Pants

  To the overtly effeminate, dapper young Asian man wearing skin tight yellow and black acid wash jeans on the N train last night, I only have one thing to say to you. Where can I buy a freakin’ pair? I want them…nay, I need them. I can understand why you may have thought I was staring at your not so discreet bulge—which was made even more painfully apparent by the tightness of the sausage casing over your legs—especially as it was at my eye level. The way you flaunted it, putting your hand on your hips and shifting side to side, was like watching a psychiatrist’s gold watch swinging back and forth, inducing a momentary state of hypnosis.

But what I was really hypnotized by was your pants. A rare, bright gem amid a pile of pale subway riders. Those blackboard-chalk-yellow pants swirling around in front of me got me spinning until suddenly I found myself back in 7th grade, outside of the window at Jean Country BEGGING my mother for a pair of acid wash jeans. They had every color imaginable hanging up on a wall—hot colors on black and bright pastel colors on white. I wanted them as badly as I secretly wanted to keep playing with Barbies and Jem and the Holograms, despite the fact that it was no longer cool to do so in middle school.

I’m sure it wasn’t the pants my mother objected to, but we didn’t have very much money, so I missed out on a lot of the “hip” styles of the times. Mind you, these were fashion’s worst ever times—the 80s. At the end of this decade, when we awoke in a horrifying haze of big hair and shoulder pads, we swore that we’d NEVER go back. But one only need to trot into Brooklyn to see how the Hipsters have brought the most questionable of the 80s trends back into fashion. Thus the reason, I am sure, that you yourself were wearing those glorious pants.

So, when all of my predominately Italian American junior high school classmates were wearing IOU sweatshirts and gold chains – I had on the Sears wannabe special. If I had been a boy, I would have begged for Z.Cavaricci pants as well, surely to no avail, and drench myself in Drakkar Noir. When Skids became the fad, my mom said they looked like pajama pants and refused to pay the outlandish price for a pair. Even if she had, those baggy checkered pants wouldn’t have fit me, even in size small. Because I was a 90 pound, gangly dork with braces, a spiked mullet and bad taste. And later when even my father had those MC Hammer pants, I was not able to get a pair.

Despite the fact that I was convinced I was stylish, I once overheard a friend saying I needed help in the fashion department. I guess my ruffled skirt with spandex half leggings and tie dye shirt with suspenders didn’t impress. But I did have some cool things. For example, I saved up for ages to get an acid wash jean jacket (from Sears), and made it cool by sewing a huge, airbrushed Jon Bon Jovi face patch onto the back. I still have it. Maybe I should throw it on next time I go into Williamsburg. And for my college friends who claimed I was stuck in the 80s in 1994, the reason is that once I could afford the clothes, I didn’t want to give them up so fast!

AmyMC, circa 1987
And now I bet you are wondering, pants boy, did I ever get the acid wash jeans that I wanted so badly and that I wish with all of my being I still saved, despite the fact that I probably couldn't get one leg into them now? The answer my friend, is in this photo- which is worth a thousand words.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Mixed Nuts

Have you ever been to the kind of restaurant that has long tables at which you are seated with people you don’t know? Presumably the “pro” is to pack in as many people as possible into a small space. The con: you never know what kind of nut job or annoyer you’re going to get stuck sitting next to. FYI: overheard convos aren’t any less annoying in a restaurant just because it’s a place where talking is acceptable.

Take the quaint Italian bistro I recently tried in Brooklyn. To the right was a harmless, quiet couple who I could barely hear (thank you), followed by two old ladies with smokers’ voices who ordered “a half a glass of wine” each. To my left, however, was a painfully obvious first date couple plagued with cringe-worthy convo. The couple looked to be in their thirties, the man a chubby-cheeked dork with thick black plastic glasses of the variety so frequently sported by Brooklyn hipsters. The girl was thin, had an '80s hairdo and a sour puss, and was wearing a hooded sweatshirt. The man’s voice immediately penetrated my space with geeky, radio personality-like flare as he demanded that the girl “not be a lady.” When she looked confused he said: “Don’t be a lady, just don’t be a lady. Actually, be whatever you want to be. Don’t let me tell you what to do…but what I mean is take these [mussels] and slurp them up.” As he explained, he himself slurped one up noisily, wiping drool off of his chin in the process. “Just slurp them up, mussels are meant to be slurped,” he continued, his mouth full. A barely hidden look of disgust flashed across the girl’s face as she opted to scoop her mussel out with a spoon.

“So, you said you’ve traveled all over the world?” she asked. Internet date, I immediately thought, picturing his profile blurb “World traveler seeks equally motivated companion…”

“Maybe it’s better to say where I HAVEN’T been,” he said smugly with a nerdy guffaw. He then continued to name most of the globe. “I haven’t been to Asia. Africa. South America. Antarctica. Eastern Europe….Basically I have been to North America and ALL of the countries in Western Europe, well, those on the Atlantic, except Spain and Portugal.”

Was this guy kidding me? So, he’s been to Canada and three other countries?

She looked equally disappointed as he tried a new tactic.

“Sooo, what’s your favorite dessert?” he quizzed.

“Oh, I like all desserts,” she said, unadventurously.

“Come on, you must have a favorite…let me help you narrow it down. Let’s say you have a choice between…..ice cream, homemade cake, homemade pie, homemade croissant, homemade tart, homemade brownies, homemade muffin…”

As the list went on I asked myself on what planet this was considered NARROWING it down. Just give him an answer, I thought, so I could go back to my meal in peace.

“Well, they’re all homemade...so I’d probably like them all equally.” Weeerwerrrrrrrr. Lame alert.

Dish number two came out at this point—cavatelli with goat’s cheese. They were apparently sharing and ordering a dish at a time (his idea). After a few spoonfuls she admitted it wasn’t up to much.

“Yes…I see what you mean,” the geek mused, looking pensive. “But it’s like…I can TASTE the quality. It’s like, QUALITY food. The pasta has quality. The cheese has a quality, non-processed, non-pasteurized taste to it. But maybe you’re right. Maybe it needs something else. Maybe some sage or thyme to spice it up.”

At this point I think everyone at the table was rolling their eyes heavenward. He then made the cardinal first date sin of complaining to the waiter and suggesting what could be done to improve the dish—this time throwing in parsley and rosemary as a suggestion. (Was he perhaps thinking of the lyrics to "Scarborough Fair" rather than having actual knowledge of food and what tastes good together? I’d venture yes.) The girl squirmed in her seat, looked at her watch.

“Let’s say we get another dish!” he said, undeterred.

“I’m really not going to finish another dish.”

“Well, we’ll share it…”

“Well, if we must…”

“And I know exactly what you want…the pork loin. Right?”

The girl wrinkled up her face. Cardinal sin number twodon’t presume to know what someone you just met wants to eat, or order for them.

The arrival of my food must have distracted me for a moment, 'cause the next thing I knew, their check was on the table and they were leaving.

I immediately thought of Chuck Woolery saying, “Well, I’m sorry your date didn’t work out for you, Samantha. If you’d like to go out with Daniel again, we’ll pay for it, or you could try to see who the audience picked…”

Meantime, I think I’ll try sticking to a table for two.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Parting of the Subway Sea

Question: have you ever been on the subway when some sort of unidentifiable substance prevents you from sitting on a highly coveted chair? And, more importantly, is it really bad that I secretly hope someone DOES sit in it?

Seats on the subway are a luxury, especially in New York City where the trains are always overcrowded. While I commonly complain about the Metro North on this blog, it is nothing next to the shitshow that is the subway. Any hopes of silence, decorum or manners are thrown to the wind when on this mode of transport. People eat full meals on the subway, listen to music without headphones hoping to serenade you with their hideous selection, and will fight tooth and nailagainst pregnant ladies or old fogiesto scap up a seat. Just the other day I myself was guilty of stealing a seat from a preggo…well, sitting down faster than she could waddle…while feigning a “feeling like shit” face to compete.

So when one walks onto the subway and the aisle is parted like the red sea, with nobody standing in a certain vicinity and empty seats a plenty, you know something is amiss.

Like the other day, for instance, when an unidentifiable smear of brown material frosted the top of the plastic seat. The smell emitted from the substance gave a good indication as to what it consisted of. When I first got on the subway, I saw the empty seat and immediately walked towards it. Till I noticed that half of the car was empty. Kinda of like when one has to recover from an unreturned high-five, I nonchalantly did a 180 and walked away, positioning myself close enough to see if anyone else fell for it, but far enough to avoid the noxious odor.

The several people after me who almost fell into the trap provided much amusement, as I watched with anticipation, almost as if waiting for a soccer (football to my European readers) player to score a goal. One by one I watched their eyes light up as they move determinedly to the spot, only to back away in horror as they got closer.

Then came the victim. She was a young, pretty, Asian girl who was obviously too tired to care. She marched over to the spot, looked at it, shrugged and plopped down right on top of it. “Argghhh…” I heard myself moan out loud before alighting at my stop. Was it REALLY worth it?

Anyway, this got me thinking…would this not make for a great reality show? A candid camera of sorts? Or am I just seriously sick in the head?

Thursday, March 17, 2011

The Pleasures of Paddy’s Day

Help! My feelings towards fellow commuters have reached an all time high of annoyance and hypocrisy! As an Irish American who, yes, is wearing green today, I should be delighting in the joy of other revelers as they mill about the train platform ready to join the herds heading into Manhattan for the St. Patrick ’s Day parade and subsequent drink fest. But I’m not. Instead I’m seething with irritation. It’s 8 a.m. and they’re already here! With their shamrock sunglasses and strange props, talking excitedly in flagrant disregard of the commuter train’s ‘no talk zone,’ a beer already in hand. And to make matters worse, among the horde I see my Worst Date Ever, the second such sighting on this train, looking as put out as I am by the invasion.

Just as I start to think to myself that the Paddy’s Day throng should have its own special train, I begin to realize how bitter—or amargada, as they would call me in Spain—I’ve become. When did this happen? Not so long ago, when I was ‘young,’ I too was heading down to the city with my friends, wearing green, carrying props, drinking in the street with glee. One year my best friend and I came to NYC to “watch the parade” but somehow couldn’t find it. Whether it was because we were under the influence of green beer, or just newbs to the big city, we traipsed about with the lonely call of bagpipes in the distance, drinking all day and ending up in St. Patrick’s cathedral chatting it up with an equally wasted priest.

So why the sudden change? Well, age, obvi. There have been other signs of the affliction (I cringe at today’s music, don’t know what a Bieber is). But in reality it comes down to this: I’m FN jealous. I secretly wish, with all that I am, I could shove the papers off my desk and announce I’m leaving work, finger guns a blazing as I exit the building, pull my hair out of my sensible ponytail, grab a beer from the first bar I pass, and do a freaking jig down 5th Ave with the rest of them. My envy, dear reader, is as green as their shamrocks!

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Monday, February 28, 2011

GPS Makes People Stupid

And that includes me.

We’ve all read about the morons who turn onto a train track because they’re intently following a GPS that hasn’t been updated. And we’ve probably all laughed at the episode of The Office when Michael and Dwight plunge into a lake while following their GPS’s instructions. Plus there's nothing more annoying than people fiddling with a GPS and pressing all kinds of buttons while they’re supposed to be driving.

In fact, one of this blog’s followers had a dumb GPS moment. While I'm ever discreet and won’t reveal names, this particular friend was so obsessed with his/her Tom Tom that s/he once drove to the wrong town for a job interview, even though s/he KNEW what city the interview was in. When s/he arrived to the mistaken locale, tumbleweeds were blowing across the dusty street and whistling wind could be heard all around. His/her answer: “Tom Tom told me to come here!”

I myself once scoffed at owning a GPS, a feeling that was compounded by the horrible mishap of driving home from Long Beach Island, NJ, for FOUR hours with a borrowed GPS set to the voices of Beavis and Butthead. Do you know irritating it is to make a wrong turn and hear “You’re going the wrong way, dumbass. Hehehehe”?

Eventually I broke down and am now the proud owner of a Magellan (we’ll call it Madge). I don’t usually use it, but this past weekend I put it on while taking a different route than usual to my father’s house. While approaching a traffic light I heard the GPS demand that I make a right turn. As my brain had already settled into a low-functioning state while I let Madge do all the work, I blindly made the turn. Not two seconds later, I saw the bright, intrusive flickering lights of a cop car on the prowl.

The worst part? It was a female cop and my charms, or what remain of them, had no impact on her. She was large, in charge, and pissed off. Sauntering up to my window with her hands on her abundant hips and her black hair pulled into a fierce, angry ponytail, she barked whether or not I knew what I’d done wrong.

“Ummm, no” I said, making matters worse. “You made an illegal right turn. There were TWO green arrows pointing left AND a sign,” she said, before stalking off to write me a ticket. I glared at my GPS while I waited for her to come back and toss the ticket into my hand. I then followed Madge’s instructions down through a loop until suddenly I realized I was back at the same fartin traffic light.

“Don’t do it again!” warned my brother, from the passenger seat.

“WTF?!” I shouted looking at Madge closely. That’s when I realized that the right turn the device was telling me to make was in 1.7 miles, not at the immediate light. No wonder I’d made an illegal turn. Thanks for thinking ahead Madge, but NO thanks. As I approached the light, it turned yellow and I sped through it.

“You’re gonna get another ticket!” my brother shouted.

But alas, I didn’t. I arrived at my destination where my father, a police officer, had to hear about the latest in my string of traffic violations dating back to the time I first got my license. My only defense: “But at least this time I wasn’t speeding!” So let this be a lesson to you all. Screw all the Tom Toms and Madges and electronic guiding devices you're using and instead of being their slave Engage. Your. Brain.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Give Me a T-Shield!

Did anyone else think the 2011 Super Bowl was boring? Maybe I’m an unfair critic, as I’m not particularly fond of football. Even when I am a fairweather fan, I only really like New York teams. But this year, I can barely recollect one funny commercial let alone a play that made me gasp or jump up and clap. Is this why people turn to betting? To inject some adrenaline into things?

Admittedly I’m a poor excuse for a sports fanatic. I was kicked out of ballet class at age 5 because I made up my own routine during a recital that consisted of leaping across the stage while kicking my own butt. Other unfortunate displays of athletic ability followed throughout my childhood (picture a 5 ft 7 in 90 pound gangly dork with braces and a mullet swingin' and a missin' every ball that came her way!). As for watching sports, with the exception of a live baseball game or two, and a cool experience attending a live World Cup qualifier game in Scotland in 1998, I steer clear of viewing sports events on television because I find them boring.

But I watch the Super Bowl for several reasons: 1) to throw my diet to the wind and eat an obscene amount of comfort food washed down with nice beer; 2) to watch the commercials; 3) to see if the pre, opening, or half time acts are entertaining.

This year only number one satisfied my needs. The commercials were lame (except the strange Doritos commercial in which a guy licks Doritos remnants off someone’s finger and then off a pair of pants – disturbing yet fascinating). And as for the half time show, all I have to say is @Fergie: FYI, please don’t sing a Guns N’ Roses song again! Slash couldn’t save you and even looked mildly disturbed at you gyrating against him as he tried to play. I did a better rendition of Axl while doing karaoke  three sheets to the wind at my 32nd birthday party!

Anyway, all of this got me thinking about Nipplegate: the infamous Janet Jackson boob horror (and the nip-shield she donned). That’s precisely what the ‘bowl was missing! Some boobage! Screw the subsequent outcry across America against the evil of all evils: the exposure of a woman’s body. F the innocent children who were forced to see the spine chilling boob in all of its glory (despite the fact that, as children, it was in their face feeding them for the first months of their lives). And yes, of course I know that a boob is far more dangerous than the abundance of guns and violence we have on television. When you think about it, boobs could, if left to their owner’s devices, rule the world. Call me Canadian (only about 50 complained about the 2004 half time show), but instead of a demure Christina Aguilera in a tacky dress suit and the Tronned up Black Eyed Peas, I say we listen to Justin Timberlake (the accomplice) and next year, Bring Boobies Back.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Girl Date

Why is it so hard to make friends as an adult? (or, erm, is it just me?). When I moved to Barcelona from New York ten years ago, I was fresh out of college, with a huge group of university and high school friends. I remember feeling homesick my first few months in Spain, especially before I got a job, as I went to the beach, movies and markets, alone, not speaking the language and not able to express my stellar personality. Eventually, after years, I remember throwing a big bash for my birthday. Looking around at the 40 or so people gathered to drink, eat, and watch me do a painful rendition of Sweet Child O’ Mine complete with Axl Rose signature dance, I thought – wow, I’ve really made a lot of friends over the years.

Then I moved back home. And while I have friends here, and my dear BFFs, I’ve lost touch with many people. Over the years, the gap that was left by my departure has sort of filled itself in. People change, move on. I decided I had to make an effort to reintegrate…branch out…put a stop to my antisocial tendencies. But how to go about it? Can match.com make a findmeafriend.com? Is there speed-friending?

Enter my girl date. When a friend recently visited from Barcelona, we went out in NYC with a friend of hers that recently moved to New York. Later I thought that perhaps, being that this girl was “new” here too, I’d ask if she wanted to meet for coffee. It felt strange e-mailing someone I barely knew to ask her to hang out. Did it make me seem pathetic, stalkery, weird? I worded and reworded the e-mail. Debated not sending it. Suddenly it felt worse than a first date!

When she responded that she’d like to meet up, and seemed excited about doing so, I got all giddy, complete with butterflies in stomach. I felt instant relief for having put myself “out there” and not getting rejected. But then more worries set in: what would we talk about? What if there was nothing to say? What restaurant should I pick? What should I wear? I now have a newfound respect for men who have to take us girls out on a date…it’s absolute agony!

I wrote to my friend in Barcelona , who suggested I make a list of topics of conversation. Like a job interview, I’d have to know how to talk about my strengths and weaknesses and why I thought I was good for the friendship. “She’s worked in publishing too…likes travelling…and she likes lobsters,” my friend offered.

“Great,” I said. “So I’ll just open it up with, ‘Soooo, heard ya like a good lobster?”

“Also, she’s tall, so maybe you should wear heels,” my friend added.

“I’m tall too! I’m 5’7,” I scoffed.

 “Yeah but you slouch.”

In any event, the big day is Thursday and my closet is a disaster. Should I get my roots touched up too? Joking and anxiety aside, hopefully it will be a ‘friend connection.’ But if not, it did seem like the checkout girl at Starbucks and I had a lot in common by the way she handed me my chai latte.

*Special thanks to Jana Lia for editing my silly spelling errors, helping with ideas for my ‘date’ and this post, and finding me a friend.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Undercover Boss

As if I didn’t have enough work—by day, an editor, by night, a freelance writer—yesterday I had another job thrust upon me by an old, bald, bespectacled man in Starbucks.

I was waiting near the bathroom, minding my own business, when he sauntered over and positioned himself behind me, wiggling around like a kid doing the peepee dance while nervously eyeing the short line at the cash register behind him. I could almost hear the gears turning in his head: Coffee or peepee…coffee or peepee.

“Excuse me, miss? I’m going to get a cup of coffee…so, if anyone comes, I’m in line behind you,” he said. I was instantly put on red alert (annoyance alert, that is), and thought of “quien es el ultimo,” the bewildering culture of line forming in Spain, which I recently blogged about.

“I’m just waiting for someone,” I said. “So I’m not really in line.” Baldy looked back at the coffee line and then at me. “You sure you don’t have to go?” he asked. I scrunched up my face, pretending to contemplate it. “Mmmmm, yeah, I’m pretty sure.”

Baldy hopped over to the coffee line, where he stayed for all of two seconds before hopping back to me, his squirming increasing (I was worried he may actually pee in his pants). “You sure you don’t have to go?” he asked again. I started to squirm myself. Did he know something I didn’t? Did I secretly have to go? Was this some sort of sign?

“No, I don’t have to go,” I said, firmly.

“Ok, so, here’s what I’d like you to do,” he said to my utter annoyance. Was this guy gonna ask me to fetch him a fartin coffee? “I’m gonna get a coffee, but if the person comes out of the bathroom, you’re gonna come tap my shoulder on line (imitates tapping motion in air in case I don't 'get it'). Before I could answer he reached back, fumbled with his pants and freed a wedgie. Even worse. A number 2 emergency.

Luckily at that moment, the bathroom became free and he jumped in before I had to do anything else for him. But it left me wondering…was he the undercover boss and CEO of freaking Starbucks? Was he just some big wig with a penchant for coffee and telling people what to do? Or simply a victim—a poor, old man asking for more than I was willing to give. I’ll leave it to you, Dear Reader, to decide.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

New Year's Delusions

Happy Fah-reiken New Year Dear Reader(s)!

And happy birthday to this blog, which I started on January 4, 2010, with the same air of post-holiday annoyance about me as I have right now! I began experimenting with blogging, like I'm sure half of America did, after watching the film Julie and Julia. Although I haven't quite inspired the same reaction as that particular blogger, and have not been thrown into fame with a stellar book deal, I do, according to my Blogger stats, have at least one reader in several countries AND one very strange blog stalker. I also started this blog because I was depressed after last year's holidays, had major writer’s block, and thought that keeping a semi-regular blog would at the very least salvage the remaining shreds of creativity that haven't been snuffed out and soul sucked by my day job (medical and business writing/editing).

In looking over the past year of angst-ridden posts, I realized that while the amount of posts per week quickly diminished from two per week to about once a fortnight, I still derive much pleasure from writing my observations, and even more pleasure from the five or six faithful readers who provide witty comments that are often funnier than the blog post itself. So, as I sit to write my list of New Year’s resolutions that I will never follow, I'm making sure that keeping up with this blog is at the top of—well, at least half way down—my list:

My New Year's delusions are as follows:

1. Convert perfect "flabs" to perfect "abs" using any means possible, including ordering strange exercise contraptions from late night infomercials that will only serve as clothing racks after initial use.

2. Wean self off of Biggest Loser, Survivor, Apprentice, and any other pathetic reality show as to be more productive person and to achieve delusion number 1.

3. Be kinder to and more patient with fellow humans
     a. commuters don’t count.
     b. bratty children don’t count.
     c. teenagers and young adults who text incessantly don’t count.

4. Get up at least twice per week before 6 AM to get an hour of writing in before work in order to finish future best selling novel.

5. Continue awe-inspiring blog writing at least once per week…erm month.

6. Reverse aging process by using plethora of products not so subtly given to me for Christmas from family members tired of hearing about said aging process.

7. Drink wine ONLY once twice ok three FN times per week.
     a. all bets are off if there is a party, wedding, family gathering, or half  price wine Wednesdays at favorite restaurant.

8. Save more of meager earnings by taking lunch to work everyday, trying to follow delusion number 7 and dumping therapist, who yawns through entire session anyway.

9. Learn [another] new language. No joke. This one’s for real.

10. Keep self from folding in regards to Facebook, Twitter and any other social network in fight for right to privacy whilst using best friend’s account to satisfy stalking needs.

That’s it! Please feel free to share yours in the comments box below. Let’s have a good year people!!