Thursday, April 17, 2014

My Latest Pet Peeve

Nothing really new, but these parkers seem to be proliferating, and I can't stand them.

If there's any divine justice in the afterlife, these people will be getting their ears flicked for eternity.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

In Praise Of Elasticity

Intrigued but not wholly believing, I like to read my horoscope at the end of the day, to see just how accurate the dang thing is. Tonight's reading proved that today's was a bulls eye. It read: "Listen to a conversation on many levels. Look at facial expressions, consider the tone of voice and pay attention to what is not being said. You will see that there are many facets to what you are hearing."

Well, maybe not an exact bulls eye, but the gist is perfect. Without going into too much work detail, today, in my job helping people over the phone, I did a 180 in the space of about five minutes. Despite my best attempts to be non-judgmental and openhearted, I am human with prejudices. Those nasty buggers were getting the best of me at first as I talked to this particular person, but after listening a little more, I was able to dodge them and understand much better the real person I was talking to.

After years of working face to face with people--teaching, retail--I now work almost exclusively with people over the phone. And I love it. Facial expressions, body language, and just general appearances can certainly aid in helping to understand somebody, but they often can be a distraction at least and a mine field for prejudices at worst. I find that I need to--or maybe it's just really that I am able to--concentrate much more while on the phone, which enables me to understand better not only what is being said, but even, at times, what is not being said. Anyway, in this particular instance, and in dozens of others every week, my preconceived notions were obliterated, thankfully, by simply concentrating on what a person was saying.

Even before I read my horoscope, I was thinking about another short, though much more profound and "truthful" piece of writing: the great sentence that Herman Melville writes in his wonderfully compassionate opus Moby-Dick, when Ishmael, previously so freaked out by having to share a bed in an inn with the "pagan" "cannibal" Queequeg, reflects on things after getting to know his bedfellow a little bit: "Be it said, that though I had felt such a strong repugnance to his smoking in the bed the night before, yet see how elastic our stiff prejudices grow when love once comes to bend them." Have truer words ever been spoken?

I think of all the things--people, especially, but also foods, music, books, locales, whatever--I've grown to appreciate and even love after first dismissing them, usually out of some stupid fear. I love the elastic metaphor Melville uses to characterize prejudice. What a world this might yet become if everybody could just meditate on that image for a while. We all have prejudices, which should be self-apparent, but the thought that they are so elastic, so bendable, with the instigation of just a little love, love or its vast components--compassion, knowledge, open-mindedness, etc.--is such a comfort.  

St. Herman, the patron saint of elastic.

Monday, April 7, 2014

At Least We Un-Rich Aren't Boring

Some things are so stupid you shouldn't even waste breath commenting about them. But that's what blogging's for, I've discovered, so here goes. I saw a news story (sic) the other day telling the world the five things the rich don't like to talk about. Some tony investment firm (the likes of which I'll never even sniff a business card from) actually commissioned a study to find out the top "don't even go there's" of the hoity toity. Avoiding the obviously only response to this study--who gives a rat's ass, which I obviously did because I read the insipid thing--I love the fact that the study was commissioned by a tony investment firm. It's like the Vatican studying what priests talk about. Open your ears, jot a few notes, study done. Right?

Anyway, surprise surprise, the rich don't like talking about money, politics, sex, religion, and health.

Which leaves croquet and crumpets, I believe.

As Neil Young said, it's a lot more interesting in the ditch. See you there, and bring five bucks if you can spare it until Friday, thanks.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

This Is The Face Of Menopause Sympathy

Yes, that is my mug above. And no, the comments about a resemblance to Phillip Seymour Hoffman haven't increased or decreased much since his death. They've just gotten a little stranger.

Anyway, is there really anything unusual about my face? I don't think so. And yet, if we were some kind of weirdly obscure scientists and had enough time on our hands, maybe we could detect something in that visage, that benign countenance that might help explain the phenomenon I've recently encountered that has me wondering about my face for the first time in years. You see, totally unbidden (as if one would ever bid for such a thing), various women I know have felt extremely comfortable telling me all about their problems with hot flashes. Two of my most immediate co-workers inform me all the time, and today, as I was innocently getting some coffee and innocently asked another not-so-familiar co-worker, "How's it going," as she passed me at the coffee maker, the response I got was, "I'd be doing a lot better without these hot flashes."

Now I have great respect for women's hormones, and great respect for whatever those hormones do to disrupt a woman's daily enjoyment of life, but--and I mean this in the most respectful way possible--I don't give a damn. I wish women all the best and a life of ease, comfort, and good vibes, etc., but just as I assume they don't really need to know about whatever itch issues I might be dealing with, I assume that I don't need to know about the thermal dynamics going on with them. Am I nuts in this? I mean, what am I supposed to do with this info? Crank a window? Suggest removing a sweater? What? Tell me and I'll do it. I'm seriously thinking of walking around with a ping pong paddle in one hand (the closest thing to a fan I possess) and a spray water bottle in the other--"Well, sorry. Need a spritz?"

I never want to be nasty. I'd like to believe that on the whole I'm a considerate, even kind man. So I don't want to use this great platform to scream, "Stay away from me all you over-heating women!" No, not at all. If, as it damn near is appearing to be, I am destined to be the Statue of Liberty for hot-flashing distressed women ("Give me your sweaty, broiling, dying-for-a-cool-breeze women") so be it. I'll stand there, smile as unweirdly as possible, and say something like, "Oh, I'm sorry. Can I get you some cold water?" I will gladly serve, but until further explanation, I'll do so in sheer wonderment of the twists and turns life provides for us. But beware ladies, sooner or later I'm going to crack, and one of you is going to hear a long diatribe about my 4 a.m. pee break that morning. I apologize in advance.