Saturday, December 27, 2008

I'm on the phone.

Today's bucolic family scene comes courtesy of the local supermarket: A father with his two sons in tow - dad clueless, babbling on his cell phone - one hand on the cart the other hand holding the phone. Son number one (8 years old?) playing with his own cell phone while son number two (younger) admiringly watches, knowing his day with his own $100 a month play toy is coming.
My question: Why does a grade-school kid need a cell phone - with a QWERTY keyboard no less? He probably can't even spell Qwerty. I'm sure it's mom and/or dad taking advantage of some "family plan" offered by the phone company, but really ...
It's pretty much all I see anymore. Teenagers (and now, kids) and adults fiddling with phones in public. I wonder to whom they're talking. I see drivers leaving their driveways talking on the phone. Couldn't you have called them before you left? We must have had this insatiable desire to talk on the phone that was unsatisfied before the portable device was invented. Life must have been so frustrating: "My God, I'm driving and I don't have anyone to speak to. I wish I had a telephone without a wire that I could use to incessantly babble on while I drive." [ding] Problem solved. Thank you, Nokia!
I found myself next door at the liquor store (drawn like a kite to a string). At the counter, the bagger wants to earn his salary and reaches for a paper bag, even as my canvas one is coming out from under my arm...
ME: You can put it in here [opening the canvas bag]
CASHIER: He's green.
ME: And the bags are, too. [funny, eh?]
BAGGER: I keep wanting to get some of these, but I never do it.
ME: They sell them next door.
BAGGER: [sheepishly] Thanks for making me seem even more lazy than I actually am.
Bad grammar aside, sometimes it takes a tough love approach to bring these kids around. These are the kinds of things I have to deal with on a daily basis.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Mister Popularity

A poll was released by the USA Today newspaper that asked Americans whom they most admired. (Note: I'm sure they didn't say "whom"). The answer came back thusly:
Barack Obama - 34%
George W. Bush - 5%
John McCain - 3%
This poll tells me two things:
One, five percent of Americans can be sold anything and like it. That's why people still smoke cigarettes and Oprah is popular. Who still admires Bush? Do they know what admire means?
Two, the poll had a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percent. That means that it's statistically conceivable (Kimmy) that nobody admires John McCain. That, I can believe.
I don't know what happened to the other 58%. Chances are, it was split up between Sarah Palin, Jesus and Satan. 19.33% each.
I've never been polled, except for that time several years ago that I was called and asked about my television viewing habits. That one took a while. I'm not sure whom I'd say I admired, especially if I had to pick someone living from a list of celebrities or politicians. I have a difficult time admiring somebody I don't know. I like a lot of celebrities, athletes and politicians, but there's a big difference between liking someone and admiring them.
I'd guess that most people answered someone they know, like their mother or father or the person who runs the company they work for. If you allowed those types of answers, Obama wouldn't stand a chance. My mother has had a much more difficult road in life than him, and she's managed to live 84 years, mostly on her own, without having to declare bankruptcy or sue somebody.
When she was a kid, a nurse dropped ether in her eye and her eyesight was forever altered. Today, there would be a lawsuit and your health care premiums would increase because the hospital had to fork over a half million dollars in some accident claim. In 1935, it was called an accident.
In 1967, her husband died after a long illness. She hadn't worked since the war years when she was a stamper in a shirt factory, back when the size of a shirt was stamped on the tail. She supported a house with a child by cleaning other people's houses, and later got jobs in local factories making things like padded toilet seats and chairs.
She still manages to get around, better than most people half her age, and works a few hours a day at a local grammar school herding kids in and out of the cafeteria. She doesn't make much, but she gets bigger raises than I do and the job keeps her moving around and so far, she's still healthy enough to do for herself.
Those are the kind of people you admire. You don't admire the son of a president who had his road paved for him. You don't admire a guy who went to prep school and followed his father and brother into a military academy, got shot down and used that experience to catapult him into politics.
Those are the kind of people you feel sorry for, because they didn't make something better of themselves.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas in Philadelphia

51 days.
Pitchers and catchers report to spring training in Clearwater, Florida.
Click the image for a lovely 1024 x 768 jpeg suitable for livening up your PC screen

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

One icy Christmas Eve.

This morning, the roads were coated with what the news people call "Black Ice" (always blaming the blacks) and cars skidded all over the roads in the morning rush hour. The thing that instantly came to mind was that the salt crews were nowhere to be found during all of this. The local TV weather people tout their "Mega Doppler" radar and other such expensive gadgets designed to either get us to tune in or be scared (or both) of the impending threat, but apparently none of them was able to warn the gang at PENNDOT (the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation) that the roads were going to be icy on Wednesday morning. That seems like the least they could have done.
Meanwhile, the icy roads were the top story on the evening's news broadcast. Seems to me like a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Among the nonsensical crap that went on during the day was the usual last-minute shopping by men (mostly) who were either clueless as to what to buy for "sweetie" or clueless as to the date and what day Christmas fell on this year. HINT: It's always the 25th.
The local malls were jammed with dumbasses wandering about with shopping bags filled with stuff that will probably be returned on Friday. But, it's the thought that counts, right? If that's the case, then the lack of thought counts for nothing.
On my way home from mom's tonight, I noticed that the local Walgreen's parking lot was filled with cars and people (presumably) stocking up on last-minute pain relievers and cold packs for their Christmas Eve needs. The flashing sign out front (if you could see it over the vehicles) proclaimed that they were "open all day Christmas." Holy fuck, is that really necessary? Close the damned place and let your employees enjoy a day off. If, for some reason, somebody needs a last-minute Tylenol, maybe they'll realize it's Christmas and the believers are at home dancing around their Druid-inspired tree, opening those last-minute gifts, eating leftover ham and cursing the Friday that they have to return to work with a hangover.
The stores are open all day Friday, for your last-minute gift-returning needs. As for me, I'll be searching out a Chinese buffet, because nothing rocks Christmas like some General Cho's chicken.
Merry Christmas, bitches!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

I thought UPS was playing Santa

I got home for work tonight and discovered not one, not two, not three ... but four packages from QVC on my front porch. I wondered what drunken stupor I must have been in to order stuff from QVC. What I should have been wondering was what drunken stupor the UPS guy (or gal) was in who mistakenly delivered not one, not two, not three ... but four packages to the wrong address. I suppose it's excusable, since they were only off by 6 numbers. Geez. Those kinds of things make me wonder how much of my stuff gets delivered to other addresses and the people who get it aren't as considerate as I and don't bother to drop it off at the correct address. I want to know what those UPS guys (or gals) earn in an hour so I can get my cut. Lay off the egg nog.
Meanwhile, the Bad Parking blog posted my photo! For those of you who live in the area, you'll recognize some bad parking at a local convenience store.
Wednesday at work we're doing Yankee Swap. Fans of "The Office" will know what I'm talking about, and fans of silly Christmas traditions will know, too. It's one of those deals where you pick numbers and gifts from a pile, and you can swap (hence the name) your gift for one you like better. We had a $20 limit, and I was all set to buy "The Dark Knight" DVD, but found that it was sold out. So, plan B became "Burn After Reading," which I haven't seen, but it's new so I figured no one would own it. Besides, if nobody wants it, I'll take it myself.
The really funny thing is that the people in my office who organized the Yankee Swap didn't know it was an Office episode, so I'll be giggling to myself the entire time (which I hope isn't too long) and as usual, no one will know why.

The Reason for the Season - December 23.

Frank Costanza: Many Christmases ago, I went to buy a doll for my son. I reached for the last one they had, but so did another man. As I rained blows upon him, I realized there had to be another way.
Cosmo Kramer: What happened to the doll?
Frank Costanza: It was destroyed. But out of that a new holiday was born … a Festivus for the rest of us!
Cosmo Kramer: That must have been some kind of doll.
Frank Costanza: She was.

The celebration of Festivus begins with Airing of Grievances, which takes place immediately after the Festivus dinner has been served. It consists of lashing out at others and the world about how one has been disappointed in the past year.

Frank Costanza: The tradition of Festivus begins with the Airing of Grievances. I got a lot of problems with you people! And now, you're gonna hear about it.

The original holiday dinner in Festivus creator Danny O'Keefe's household featured turkey or ham followed by a Pepperidge Farm cake decorated with M&M's, as described in detail in Danny O'Keefe's The Real Festivus.

Cosmo Cramer: And is there a tree?
Frank Costanza: No. Instead, there's a pole. It requires no decoration. I find tinsel distracting. It's made from aluminum. Very high strength-to-weight ratio.

The Feats of Strength is the final tradition observed in the celebration of Festivus, celebrated immediately following the Festivus dinner. Traditionally, the head of the household selects one person at the Festivus celebration and challenges that person to a wrestling match. The person may decline if they have something else to do, such as pull a double shift at work. Tradition states that Festivus is not over until the head of the household is pinned in a wrestling match.

To celebrate the holiday season, a charitable donation has been made in your name to The Human Fund.
Money for people

Monday, December 22, 2008

The gift for the person who owes everything.

Over the years, I've seen a lot of TV ads where someone gives their spouse a new car for Christmas. I'd like to be in a relationship where the only (best) thing you can think of to give your spouse is a new car. A big-old Lexus with a red bow on top. Try getting it under the tree.
Actually, they do manage, but it's a tree outside in the driveway.
Generally, the ads begin with one person deceptively wondering "what could I possibly have for you?" All the while, the big gift awaits, unbeknownst to the recipient. Then, one of them usually blindfolds the other (or clasps their hands around their eyes) and leads them outdoors where the bowed vehicle awaits. The voice-over chimes in with some sentimental fluff about how much one cares for the other because they though enough of them to get them a vehicle. I'm left wondering a couple of things...
One, how you wake up on Christmas morning and, upon not seeing your vehicle, you don't wonder, "Where the fuck is my car?"
The other, bigger thing, is that apparently, I care so much for you that I volunteered to burden us with a four hundred-dollar a month car payment. "Merry Christmas, sweetie. Here's the payment book."
I think she'd be much happier getting a nice hoodie from American Eagle. And I'd be happier with a Ticketmaster gift certificate - but I'm funny that way.

You call this a vacation day?

Today I took my final vacation day of the year. (Use 'em or lose 'em) As with most of my days off, this was a utilitarian one. My car was due for its 60,000 mile service. When such things come up, I take it to the dealership because I figure those guys see Ford's all day, every day and they know them better than a regular mechanic. It costs more, but I still believe that you get what you pay for.
Now, I sit and await the phone call with the final tally of the bill, which will surely be no less than $400.
It is on these days when I realize why single people don't live as long as married people. The dealer is 3 miles down the road, literally a straight line from "Disgraceland," and generally, the walk home does me good. Today, however ... a below zero wind chill made the walk more of a trudge. Bundled-up as I was, the wind (17mph with gusts to 40) cut through me like a knife. Sadly, the vagaries of the bus schedule left me between runs, so I figured if I was going to wait a half hour for the bus I may as well be walking. You soft, married people would have your spouse to cart your ass around, and as such, live a bit longer for the effort, or so they say.
Fortunately, there is a nice diner on the way where I stopped for breakfast and a mid-walk warm-up. Seeing as how the winter chill (it's winter now) was taking a few hours off my life, I figured, why not compound the effect with a nice Western Omelet and some potatoes?
Those hours are the lousy ones anyway, at the end, when I'll already be infirm or in a wheelchair from a horrible disfiguring incident while walking on the highway.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Sunday crap.

We got one of those cold rains last night. The kind that sticks to things like stairways and windshields. After the scraping and slipping, what was left over were trees and shrubs that had a white glow. Making something out of nothing.
Meanwhile, I'm trying to control my cholesterol without resorting to prescription medication. So, I'm taking pills that wind up costing me more than what a prescription would cost, but it's a matter of principle now.
One of them says to take it "a half hour before meals." Don't tell me to do something a half hour before I do something else. I'm not in control of my life to that extent.
The Eagles lost today. Big deal, right? I know. The thing that kept coming back at me was how the game announcers kept telling us that they were "in command of their own destiny," because all they needed to do was to win in order to make the playoffs. That's a phrase that gets used a lot in sports. In truth, no one is in command of their own destiny when there is another team involved in the outcome. Who among us is in charge of our own destiny in any phase of life?