Friday, January 31, 2014

Drive Me Crazy

I admit I consider myself a pretty good driver. If it wasn't for the state of New Hampshire I would have no driving citations other then one involving an accident 25 years ago. Not bad for being a licensed driver for 30 plus years now. In my recent rebirth as a constant pedestrian and as someone who lives and works in busy, thickly settled areas I've noticed overall driving skills and adherence to written and unwritten rules of the road have waned quite a bit over recent years. I'd say the #1 culprit is cellphones as it's impossible to pay attention 100% to the world around you while in conversation. Impossible. Other mitigating factors could be the number of drivers who learned the rules of the road in a city, state or even country different from Massachusetts, USA. Finally I think a lot of unwritten rules simply aren't passed on as much to newer drivers as they were when I was tutored by my mom and the drivers ed folk. These are just a few recent observations

- For many the concept of "pedestrian crossing" is less a law then a target to aim for

- In busy city blocks drivers and pedestrians often get the green light/walk signal simultaneous so cars turning left or right still need to give right of way to the pedestrian. So pay the f*#k attention and lay off your horn you ignorant tool!

- That many drivers no longer understand the etiquette of funeral processions. Twice recently I'm been in funeral processions only to have other drivers cutting in and out of the procession of blowing right through where the funeral director had traffic stopped to allow the funeral to pass. This is something my parents taught me was very important as it is the respectful thing to do if not an outright law

- That people are often so wrapped up in other things during inclement weather they drive through large puddles and slushy snow at full speed regardless of soaking pedestrians on the sidewalk, bus stops or standing in front of schools

- That people can drive cars that will save the environment and tattoo their cars with stickers telling us all the things they support from far off countries to animals rights yet still treat pedestrians in their own backyards like cannon fodder because of distractions or their hurry to get to where they are going

I've been guilty of some of these transgressions myself but have become a more attentive driver since becoming more of a pedestrian. I put most of the onus on talking on the phone while driving. You will never, ever convince me this should not be highly illegal. I don't and won't do it (I have done speaker phone and Bluetooth before but usually just wait until I've stopped) Multitasking while driving is a dumb concept as simply driving deserves you full attention. In my opinion any moving violation fine or accident caused by a person driving while on the phone the penalty would be doubled or more. All I'm really asking is pay attention people! My life may depend upon it

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Sincere Gesture Or Pre-Programmed Auto Response?

I recently went about replacing my iPad 1 with a new model. I saw that MicroCenter was running a sale thru MLK weekend but as I was working pretty much every hour they were open I decided to go pay online and pick up in person to get the deal. It went reasonably well although I never got the confirmation email that my pickup was ready (they pride themselves on 18 minute pickup) but it wasn't a real concern as I couldn't get there that night either way. After a day of no confirmation I call over just to make sure and they are befuddled why I didn't get it but assured me the order was there awaiting pickup. Cool. So I finally get there and after a quick browse of the place I go to the pickup desk. The man working the desk gets my item and upon looking at it asks one of the other guys to page a manager for a "thank you". Sure enough on the package is written "give thank you". Huh. Maybe they feel bad about the confirmation thing and are going to offer me...something? Anyway a thin, pale young man, looking very uncomfortable in a suit and tie, introduces himself as one of the managers and says "thank you for buying your iPad here" and shakes my hand. I say "you're welcome" and then we all stand there awkwardly until I say "goodbye"

Now many of you know I've been in retail sales (well small business retail entails a lot more then sales but for brevity's sake...) for over 20 years so I treat fellow retail employees with nothing but patience and respect. However, I'm still debating to myself whether I should take this as a genuine gesture or a corporate ordained come on for people buying Apple products. I always finish my sales with a genuine "thank you" and proffer a handshake even if the sale was painful. This is because 1) I mean it and 2) In a small business every sale really makes a difference to the bottom line (even for those of us not on commission). So on the one hand had the "thank you" happened organically, as in he just happened to be nearby, or if the kid at the desk had just said "thank you" it would have felt genuine. Instead with the paging, note written on the work order and practiced speech it came off instead as disingenuous. I dunno

I'm struggling with whether my standards for retail are too high as I'm a lifer at it and (if I do say so myself) very good at what I do. Practiced thank yous, phone salutations and sales pitches are so foreign and phony to me they make me roll my eyes. But then again maybe I am just becoming more jaded and cynical as I get older. At the end of the day it didn't affect my thoughts on the experience and I will shop there again but something about the whole thing just rubs me the wrong way (and yes, this was going to be a Facebook post rather then a blog but , ya know...)

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

I Hope I Die Before I Get Old (Or, More Accurately, Start Acting Old)

"Youth is wasted on the young"
George Bernard Shaw

"Maturity is a bitter disappointment for which no remedy exists, unless laughter could be said to remedy anything"
Kurt Vonnegut

"Lighten up Francis"
Sargent Hulka (Warren Oates) Stripes

"And we wanna have a good time. And that's what we are gonna do. We are gonna have a good time..."
Heavenly Blues (Peter Fonda), Wild Angels

The Joker (Heath Ledger) The Dark Knight

 "I hope I die before I get old"
The Who

Remember when you were younger and carefree? You did stupid, immature, often regrettable things. But man, did you have fun! Why is there some universal law that says as you get older your level of propriety has to be so high that all the fun seems sucked out of you? Look, I understand as "adults" certain things are expected of us versus younger folk. But I also know getting older is not an excuse for not having fun. Now I'm not saying you have to be "The Dude" but you also don't have to be so tight-assed that your sphincter whistles when you pass gas! I truly believe that NOT acting your age 24/7, 365 keeps you younger. For some of us this is easy. For others it requires getting out of you comfort zone now and again. Whether it the same zone you've always had or a new one you've developed over time is an individual thing. Here's a few suggestions both broad and specific

***I want to be perfectly, crystal clear (and I will mention this several times more) that I am NOT recommending drinking to excess or doing anything illegal or dangerous. I know some people have issues with substances and obviously certain small parts of this diatribe mentions alcohol. I also want you to know what I am saying is not just the ravings of a guy with less responsibilities then many as I've had this same conversation with friends of mine who are married, have kids, parents to care for, jobs of renown, etc etc. Now on to the drivel***

1) Get loud- We worry so much about our noise levels that we're used to speaking in hushed tones when there are others about. Yes, in most setting this is polite and proper. However, if you're at a club, bar, or concert all bets are off. Tell loud, funny jokes. Laugh a bit louder then is appropriate. Sing matter it a band, jukebox or your mobile device., just because its fun. Find a nice, quiet, secluded spot and just...SCREAM at the top of you're lungs. You'd be surprised how liberating it is

2) Stay a little longer/later then you planned- So often we go out with a preconceived time limit on how long we'll stay. Or how late we'll stay out. I tend to go out with an open mind. If I'm not having fun I'll leave early. If I'm having more fun then anticipated I'll stay longer.  Now those with young kids do need these outs but often it's just a crutch. "I have to work tomorrow". "I need my sleep". So do we all! Once in a while staying out for 4 hours or more and getting 4 hours of sleep or less isn't gonna kill you (if it did I'd already be dead)

3) Loosen up- This one has a zillion caveats so stick with me. I'm not advocating drinking , smoking pot or anything else. Far from it. I'm also not advocating drinking to excess and putting yourself or others in danger either. But if you do like to go out for a drink now and then, and if someone else is driving or you can walk or take a cab, every once and a while get a little loosy-goosy. Letting go of you inhibitions is good for the soul now and then (plus it gives you stories to talk about and try to live down)

4) Do something crazy (for you)- Again, not advocating anything dangerous or illegal. But now and then it's good to do something you would "never do". Wear a stupid hat or loud clothing. Go to a dress up theme party and enjoy it. Do something personally terrifying, just for the adrenaline rush. Run around in your underwear or go skinny-dipping. Grow a stupid mustache for Movember. Paint your face or chest for a sporting event. Go to a drag show....I could go on and on here

5) Screw the weather- I'm starting to feel like I have a legal team looking over my shoulder...I'm not recommending stupidity during the most severe of weather. I'm recommending stupidity during plain old bad weather. Do something despite the weather rather then not doing something because of the weather. Go for a run or a walk in the rain, snow or searing heat. Dance in the rain. Jump in a puddle. Belly-flop through the mud. make a snow angel. Have a snowball fight.

6) Make a fool of yourself in front of strangers- Why we worry about what strangers think of us I'll never know. I'm also guilty of this. But why? We don't worry much about making a fool of ourselves in front of friends and family we see all the time so why worry about people we'll likely never see again. So go do Karaoke badly. Go to open mike night. Take part in a audience participation show. Put yourself out there because, well, who really cares?

7) Say "yes" now and then rather then "no"- Let's say you have a group that get's together now and again for cards, or board games, or book club, or whatever. And you're always invited but you never go because "I don't like..." whatever. Well in most cases whatever they're doing is more or less an excuse to hang out with friends more then for the stated reason. Now and then say "sure, I'll be there" and enjoy a good game of poker or Catch Phrase (or um, talk about Nicholas Sparks latest tear jerker)

8) Try something new- This is probably where I'm personally guilty most often but I'm getting better. Eat a cuisine you "don't like" because you've never tried (that was me with Indian food). Go listen to a band who plays music that "isn't really your thing". Play darts, go bowling, take a hike, go rollerblading, rent some skates and hit the ice, try snowshoeing, There are so many enjoyable things we've never tried because we think we won't (or don't) like them

Now some of you are saying well sure Rich, you're just a big kid. Thank you, that's a compliment. I've been accused of being a bon vivant before (and had to google it to see what it meant) and didn't totally disagree. But it's not like I'm not a responsible adult. I've been gainfully employed for 25 straight year missing less then a 1/3 of a day a year for reasons of sickness or whatever. I also manage a home, bills, investments, etc all by myself. I am a single man without kids but also a responsible adult who likes to let it "all hang out" now and then. Also everyone's definition of fun is different. There's about a a million things I like to do that don't fall into the above categories but they fall into the atypical "adult" category that frankly aren't much fun to talk about. Lastly, most of my friends are not like me from a lifestyle standpoint but most (tho not all) share my love for acting childish now and then. They are husbands, wives and parents. They are professionals and working stiffs, Some are younger, some older. They are lawyers, teachers, and corporate drones, Some are well off and some just scraping by. Many on the surface would seem an odd match as friends of mine but we share in the joy of FUN!

Anyway I don't judge and how people live their lives is their business. That said how I live mine is my business and shouldn't be judged either. I hope I never start acting my age. My dad never did. Up until he got sick he was still the life of the party. Even tho he'd been sober for decades he went to every retirement party, neighborhood or high school reunion. He was the first to dance at any occasion. He told corny (often off-color) jokes to anyone that would listen. He yelled and whistled and made a fool of himself during exercise other words he had FUN! I can't imagine a better role model then you pop!