Friday, October 23, 2015

37 Years a Curmudgeon

I was once at an Eastern Star (what the old-timers call “lodge”…think The Masons) installation for my grandma and I heard someone at the microphone refer to my grandpa at a “curmudgeon”. My grandpa didn’t know what that was so it kind of pissed him off. I guess the guy at the mike knew what he was talking about (although, in general my grandpa was one of those guys who would go far out of his way to help just about anyone in any situation).
Well, now I’ve reached that age where 40 is on the horizon and my body doesn’t always do what I ask it to anymore. So you get to listen to me slap on my suspenders, yell at the kids to get off my lawn and complain about the government.
1. My Finger Hurts
There’s a scene in Happy Gilmore where a lady at the retirement home complains to Ben Stiller’s character as she is being forced to relentlessly sew. She says “my fingers hurt.” His response? “Now your back’s gonna hurt cuz you just pulled landscaping duty.”
Well, I’ll tell you something. My finger hurts. And my back doesn’t feel so great either. The middle finger on my right hand is sore at the first knuckle. I don’t remember doing anything to it, but every time I make anything more than a typing movement it really hurts. I’m 37 and my wife asked if I have arthritis…and she was serious…and I didn’t know the answer.
And just about every day I get up out of a chair at some point and say “oh, hello there back…thanks for reminding me you’re there.” It wasn’t too many years ago I didn’t even know I had a back unless it itched in a spot I couldn’t quite reach. Now I’m aware of it…ALL THE TIME.
2. Customer Service is Garbage
I called the eye doctor’s office a day before my followup appointment during my trial week of contact lenses. I said I needed another brand because these ones were uncomfortable. Andrew, the lazy dope of a receptionist who has no customer service skills, replied “oh…Abie just left for another office but I’ll try to get her a message.” The tone he used when he said “try” had two meanings: a) I was really burdening him and this was going to be a difficult task b) there was no way in Hell Andrew was going to call Abie. I showed up the next day for my appointment. Andrew had no idea who I was (my third time there in a week) and Abie had no idea I wanted another brand of contacts. Result? They gave me a new brand in the wrong prescription. So I have been wearing glasses all week instead of trialing the contacts because I can’t very well be blurry all day. It’s exhausting. Screw you, Andrew.
I also had a debacle trying to get an exchange on the baseball (Cubs) shop website. That’s a whole blog unto itself. I hate that place. Two hours of my life later I have nothing to show for my efforts. They literally ‘accidentally’ hung up on me AND put me on hold for 10 minutes because of an ‘emergency’.
And would it KILL any single fast food or fast casual employee to grab a moist towel and wipe down a few tables? Are employees allergic to terry cloth? Why do I have to ask every time I go somewhere for one of the 4 gossipy employees doing nothing to break away from their catty chat about Tracy and how she was flirting with Jimmy to wipe down one of the EVERY TABLE IN THE STORE for me to sit at because they are ALL covered in food? And why, after they have wiped down said table, is it STILL DIRTY??? For this we are asking THE LAW to pay them $15/hour?
3. Warranties
Remember when you would go to a store and buy something and then it would perform the function for which it was MADE and you didn’t have to worry about it? Remember when even if that item broke you could take it back and the store would replace it? What the hell happened to THAT? I guess you can still find it at Costco, so that’s good. Other than that every store basically asks you to gamble your money, one way or the other, on whether or not that piece-of-crap-Made-in-China thing is going to make it 12 months. “Sir, this is a $1,000 TV…are you sure you don’t want to lay down that side bet of $150 that it’s going to roll over and die like a diseased feral cat? Roll the dice, sir, it’s fun!” Screw you. Everybody knows that side bets are sucker bets. If this TV breaks I’m going to punch you in the face…which is really going to piss off my arthritic finger.
4. Lanes Merge
There are four working theories on how to merge in a “this lane ends” scenario:
a. Left-Wing Driver Guy:
Tra la la, I have a bunch of socialist bumpers stickers on my car so I’m far too intellectual to care about things like driving etiquette. I’m not really even certain which lane I’m in and the divinity of nature is far too important for me to do anything but weep about my carbon emissions while I’m driving, let alone pay attention to merging lanes.
b. Continuing Lane Only Guy:
This person finds the long line and stays in it no matter what. When you are this person you hate the guy in the right lane with a passion. You say things like “What? Is he so much more important than the rest of us? What an a-hole.”
c. Merging Lane Only Guy:
This is the a-hole. But the thing is, if we all played by either b) or c) theory then there wouldn’t be an issue here. But there are two competing theories in play. So this guy, who rides the ending lane all the way until he’s about to run into the barricade, pisses off the other people. And the other people want to punish him. Everybody thinks they’re in the right. There are a lot of slow motion near fender benders that really nobody is going to let happen, but everyone claims they will. There is also a lot of cussing behind closed windows. Also, many of this guy is driving a BMW.
d. Merge Before the Lane Ends Guy:
This guys screws up the whole system. He’s your typical timid driver. He wants the advantage of the fast lane, but he’s insecure about it. So he stops halfway up the waiting line and turns on his blinker until some a) lets him in because she’s so involved in her Ani Defranco music that she didn’t notice the line was moving…or that there was a line…or that there’s something called ‘shampoo’. Meanwhile the true b) people are irate because now d) has merged in before the lane ends and c) is zooming by to merge in up there too…all the while pushing the b) line back into oblivion.
The point is we all need to subscribe to one system. My suggestion is that all of us b) drivers literally smash into every c) driver out there. Also, the a) drivers need to have their licenses taken away and d) guy should be confined to the retirement home.
5. Gluten
Sure, some of you may be allergic to gluten. But you know what? Most of you aren’t. And I don’t care. I really don’t. Unless you’re in front of me at Chipotle the ONE TIME the line isn’t 20 miles long. AND YOU INSTRUCT THE EMPLOYEES TO STOP THE LINE AND WIPE OFF ALL FOOD SERVICE SURFACES FOR 5 MINUTES BEFORE PREPARING YOUR FOOD. Sure, you’re 23 and you and your life partner have bonded over this hypochondriatic sense of self-righteous gluten evasion. But you know what? The only damn thing on that line that has gluten in it is a stack of tortillas that is sealed in a plastic package. Every one that has gone down that line was on a sheet of foil. If you want the employees to change their gloves, be my guest. But you, ma’am…sir, you are a self-important tool. And I’m hungry. If I take a bite out of your arm in lieu of my carnitas bowl, will that make you change your actions next time? WILL IT?
6. Microsoft Windows
Windows 8? That was a joke, right? Oh, yes, I upgraded to 10 for free. IT’S THE SAME PROGRAM! Hate.
7. Your Dog
I know you don’t think you’re part of the problem. But you know who isn’t part of the problem? Me. Do you know why? Because I don’t have a dog. Your dog barks at 6:30 am and it barks at midnight. Sometimes the excuse is ‘there was a raccoon’ and sometimes it’s just ignorance: ‘I had no idea…’. Your dog craps in my yard and sometimes you even pick up that steaming hot pile of dog ass. But even when you do pick it up you’re leaving feces, excrement, sh*t smears in my grass and I’m going to step in it (or roll in it when I’m playing with my kids). Also your dog leaves snot on my arm. It glues my arm hairs together. It makes me go to the dry cleaners and pay $8 to have my pants cleaned. Your dog knocks over my kids and licks my sandwich when nobody is looking. But we live in a society where all of this considered cute because dogs are basically stupid people. So maybe I AM the problem. But still, just for good measure, screw you and your baby (dog). Keep it out of my grocery store you selfish prick.
8. Healthcare Costs
We always talk about how everyone needs to have health insurance. But you know what we really need? A healthcare system that doesn’t gouge the crap out of us every time we get a paper cut. Do you know what insurance does? Creates a GIANT bucket of money so hospitals can charge outrageous prices for just about everything.
When Taela and I were first married she cut her hand washing dishes. We went to the ER to get her stitches. The itemized bill came. Suture string? $65. Latex gloves? $30. Umm…what? Yes, I’m serious. And that was 15 years ago!
Ever notice that different clinics and different pharmacies charge different prices for the same care or drug? No, you didn’t. Do you know why? Because none of them ever talk about prices. It’s all hidden behind the copay on your insurance. Is there ANY OTHER SERVICE/ITEM IN THE WORLD that you buy that doesn’t show you the price before you pay?
We get mad at this guy:
 Martin Shkreli
Because he is openly holding sick people hostage. But the entire medical industry does this! They just don’t openly throw it in our face.
Get off my lawn!!!!!

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Youth Sports

One of the things I have begun to figure out as I have grown older is that there is a story behind every headline. So often I scroll through the news and I read some sentence fragment in bold print and draw critical and judgmental conclusions from it. But the more I live the more I realize that I get myself in some situations and there are a handful of small steps, some of which aren’t all that irrational, that lead to whatever situation I happen to be recounting in my head. There is, of course, at each step the option to walk away…but we’re all human beings right? We all have the “fight or fight” instinct, right? Wait…wasn’t there supposed to be an ‘L’ in there somewhere?

So this past winter I was at my son’s basketball game. He was 10 years old at the time and on a team of 5th and 6th graders. Remember that 6th graders are technically middle-schoolers now so we’re not talking about tiny little children running around here. One of the kids on his team has a very ugly (please shave it now!) dark but not whiskery teenage mustache. One of the kids clearly has BO.

The point is that while these are kids, they are kids who are at an age where they need to be playing the game by the rules. And, as with any youth sport, the referees are a total crap shoot. Now I’m not talking about literally firing guns at feces here, I’m talking about the dice game craps. Or, as Mama always said, youth sports is like a box of chocolates.

At this particular game our family had a pretty good turnout. The folding chairs line the sideline and we occupied 7 of them. We were near the end of the court and were seated as follows: my mother-in-law, my father-in-law, my dad, my 3 year old son, me, my wife, my 8 year old daughter, some guy, his 8ish year old daughter.

Well my father-in-law, John, gets into any game he attends. Doesn’t matter if it’s minor league baseball or youth soccer or church league softball…John hates poor officiating. And he’s vocal about it. He also happens to look exactly like every adult male cast member from Duck Dynasty. So his manner is abrasive when it comes to being a spectator. I happen to be similar in that regard, but I do my best to be sensitive to the fact that someone’s parent is likely sitting somewhere near me.

During this game the referees were seemingly calling some rules but not others. Two of the things they just kept allowing were travelling and double-dribbling. For you non-sports folks out there those are the rules that relate to how you have to bounce the ball while moving around on the court. They are foundational to how basketball is played. So when the refs kept not calling it John would bark something and then I would yell out something like “come on! You’ve gotta call that!”.

After another of these incidents a voice came from my left. “Are you guys coaches?” I ignored it because nothing good could come from walking down this path. 15 seconds go by. “Are you coaches?” I turned to him and played dumb “What?” “Are…you…coaches?” “Are we coaches?” “Yes. Are you coaches?” “No, obviously not. We’re sitting over here. (as opposed to the other side of the court with the team)” “Then shut up.” “These kids need to learn how to play the game the right way.” “F%@# you.”

Screeeeeeeech….this thing just got bumped to a whole new level. I have some decisions to make here now. This guy is sitting next to my sweet little daughter. My wife is between us. His daughter seems unfazed so I can only assume this guy acts like this regularly and she’s going to grow up with a warped sense of what being a human living in a society is supposed to look like. Decisions, decisions. My blood is pumping.

“You’re going to say that right in front of my kid, huh?” (More slowly this time) “F % @ # YOU”.

There are certain lines you do not cross with another man. I don’t pull out this rule often, but I do believe in it. One time a neighbor who I like and get along with was mad that there was cat poop in his bark dust so he flung it all over onto my walkway and my house and I nearly stepped in it before I realized what he’d done. There are certain lines you don’t cross with another man. I gave that neighbor a pass on that one but I did talk to him about it and let him know I was aware he was flinging crap at my house. And had he done it again we would no longer be cordial neighbors.

Back to this situation at the basketball game…there is no solution here that will not leave me with regrets. I was at a cross roads. Either I can do what really SHOULD be done and tell the guy to follow me outside and break his nose. But then I end up in the newspaper tomorrow (or the following Thursday…whenever it is the newspaper actually gets delivered anymore). And that leads me back to my original point: every headline has a story. Everyone to the last person will read the headline about the two guys who got in a fight at the youth basketball game and shake their heads and talk about the demise of society as morons are fighting over youth sports. But this wasn’t about youth sports. This was about learning life lessons about how not to conduct yourself with other adults in front of their spouse and children. I truly believe even now I SHOULD have punched this guy. And a very big part of me regrets not doing it.

What I did do was say “You’re a really classy guy. Class act.” And then full on turned my back to him. Now the astute reader is remembering that my back turning, while demeaning to him, has left my wife and daughter kind of isolated by this guy. I thought about that too. But the truth is my daughter didn’t know what this guy was talking about. And had I traded places with her I’m almost certain we would have fought. It’s an aggressive move and I was literally trying to stay out of the newspaper, really.

A few minutes later a hand came into my vision. He was trying to shake my hand. “I’m sorry.” I looked at him. I almost shook it out of pure instinct…someone extends a handshake you usually take it, right? “Last week the parents were pretty out of control and I got pretty worked up.” So I looked him right in the eye and said “apologize to my daughter.” He did. She had no idea what was going on. I think he extended his hand to me again and I turned my back again. That’s the last I saw of him. Never looked at him again.

My wife says I should have accepted his apology. And to an extent she’s right. But my point is that he needs to learn you don’t go where he went. I don’t know who’s right…maybe we both are.

Good news though! I didn’t end up as a punchline at the water cooler. I didn’t lose my reputation or job. I didn’t get a black eye. All I lost is a little bit of self-respect. But I don’t really count that up very often anyway.