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Burnett's Urban Etiquette

Friday, June 30, 2006

Rusty Pipes or Good Laughs - Which Shall We Choose?

Here I was all set to post the Impromptu Up Yours With a Rusty Pipe Awards this evening, 'cause of all the knuckleheads I encountered while driving home from work this evening, but then I got a good laugh that tempered my newfound road rage.

I call it newfound, 'cause I didn't have it before moving to South Florida last October.

But we can still give the awards. Trust me. They are deserved.

First place goes to the guy in the brown minivan who cut me off on Biscayne - without using a turn signal, causing me to swerve to miss him and then gave me the single digit salute after I honked at 'im. That little handle on the side of your steering wheel isn't just there for decoration, buddy. Up yours with a rusty pipe.

Second place goes to the woman in the black Beemer SUV across from Aventura Mall, who screeched to a complete stop in the middle of fast flowing traffic, as she chatted on her cellphone. It appeared she was debating something with someone on the phone - directions maybe? But that's what the side of the road is for. Up yours with a rusty pipe, sister.

Third place, goes to the mouth-breathing cousin kisser on Hallandale Beach Blvd. who, as the light was turning yellow in the direction he wanted to walk, stepped out in front of traffic going my direction, giving us angry stares as he sloooooooooooooowly strolled across the street while our green light ticked away. Up yours with a rusty pipe, pal.

I finally made it home in one piece though, picked up my wife, ran an errand, and then we decided to stop over in downtown Hollywood for a quick pick me up.

While we sat at a sidewalk cafe sipping our beverages, we saw the strangest thing: a woman in stripper clothes gyrating outside a swanky restaurant. I'm not kidding. She was wearing so little she made pro sports team cheerleader outfits look like those neck-to-ankle Little House on the Prairie dresses.

I thought she might've been lost, like maybe the trail of breadcrumbs leading to the Old Strippers Home had ended in front of that restaurant or something.

I felt so bad, I was gonna go give her a $1 bill, but my wife didn't like that idea.

Anyway, she reminded me that we'd seen stripperish dancers on the sidewalk in front of this restaurant before. Apparently they dance in front of this particular restaurant often, presumably as a means to draw in undecided diners.

Maybe it's a South Florida thing, but that was crazy. A swanky restaurant in a nice part of town and instead of a menu, or a sample dish, or even enticing music wafting from indoors, this place has a stripper-like dancer bouncing on the sidewalk!

Only in South Florida. Hey, if it was good for nothing else that dance routine cracked me up. I wonder what the food in that place tastes like.

Why the Vanilla Ices of the World Ultimately Fail

I am an old school hip-hop kid. I've said that before on this blog. Hip-hop, for the most part, is a welcoming, open-armed culture.

Let's be clear though, before it started looking like a Benetton commercial, which I think is a good thing, hip-hop was born in the black and Latino 'hoods of New York.

So I've always been fascinated by the two general types of hip-hop fans: those who understand and accept its history, and those who base their knowledge and embracing of it on music videos.

I have a neighbor who fits the latter description, I think. Based on his behavior and appearance, he is less about hip-hop culture, and music, and style, than he is about trying look a certain way.

See, he's one of these guys who thinks that in order for him to be taken seriously as a hip-hop fan he must have what he thinks is black street cred. And to him, black street cred means speaking Thuglish, wearing his pants 4X too big, and always snarlin' at people.

I find it insulting, 'cause I know plenty of black fans of hip-hop who wear suits, speak perfect English and are smart enough to separate the entertainment from real life. Besides, guys like him don't really want to be black. If they did, one of them would have taken my place in high school when I was pulled over and hassled by a racist cop who felt like I was in too clean a car in too nice a neighborhood. That's a more "authentic" experience than any music video performance.

My suspicions about this neighbor were confirmed not so long ago when my wife got a call from a real estate agent and friend who said a client might be interested in purchasing the duplex/apartment building this guy lives in. The agent/friend invited my wife to join her on a walk-through of the house. When they arrived, Ice, as we'll call him opened the door, immediately straightened his posture, put on the airs of a gentleman and greeted my wife and the agent/friend....Politely, and with proper English! It's funny though that when my wife and I passed the guy later, walking our dog or something like that, he was standing in his driveway back to his tired thug act - and I mean act, what with the swearing, and crotch-clutching, and with the bragging to his buddies about how tough he was. And yes, his pants were back down at half mast.

He's a fraud. If he was really the hardcore street kid he was pretending to be, he wouldn't have changed his style and speech for anyone.

And guys like him will never achieve the hip-hop and street cred they so badly desire, 'cause they really don't mean it. They want to look the part, but that's it.

It reminds me of a story from when I was a kid - probably 19 at this point.

I've mentioned before that while I was in college, I worked full-time as an aircraft maintenance machinist at the Norfolk (VA) Naval Air Station. I had a co-worker on that job who spent night and day decrying hip-hop and all its evils. He ranted and raved about how it was ruining America, etc., etc., and then one day I met his oldest son.

Actually, I heard him before I met him. I was standing at my lathe, turning down a piece of steel that would eventually take shape as a machine part. And outside the shop I heard some tremendous booms. Yeah, yeah, I was on a Naval "Air" Station. But trust me, these weren't sonic booms.

I'm nosy. So I turned off my machine, grabbed my drink, and strolled to the hanger door just in time to see a tall, lanky blonde kid get out of a low-rider pickup truck, that was bumping the loudest, angriest, West Coast rap I'd heard in a long time. I'll never forget, he wore a Dallas Cowboys jersey, too-big jeans, a giant "goldish" medallion that Flavor Flav and Mr. T would've been proud of, and he walked with the practiced limp of a pimp or gunshot victim.

Here's where it gets funny: As the kid approached the door, he saw me, proceeded to ask "Yo, homey," where he might find his dad. I didn't know whether to laugh or get annoyed. So I pointed to the break room. He stood there for a minute yammering away in Thuglish about the man breakin' his you-know-whats, and keepin' it real, and a lot of other nonsense. But before he could walk into the shop and to the break room. His dad, who had been expecting him and had probably also heard him, walked outside. Dad's face was beet red and definitely annoyed.

So what do you think sonny boy did when dad got close? Yep, he pulled up his slacks to a reasonable height, he tucked the chain into his shirt, straightened his posture and greeted his a totally different voice! "Hey dad, how's work," Junior asked gleefully. "Gosh, that's pretty complicated looking stuff you guys are doing in there."

Junior, as with Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, had transformed from DJ Suburb into Wally Cleaver too.

Be you, kids. You can be a huge fan of all sorts of music, and cultures, and styles, and still just be you. 'Cause if you're a fraud now, when you finally do grow up later in life and look back on the way things were, you're gonna feel really stupid for having been a pretender.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006


I'm trying to be understanding and opened-minded of different types of folks, but for the world of me I just don't get my neighbors' obsession with peeing outdoors.

I swear I don't live on the grounds of an asylum, and Big Daddy, if nothing else proves it, this should convince you I don't live in the 'burbs.

I'm in a pretty decent working/middle class zone of Broward. But there's an apartment building across the street from my house in which a group of like 10 dudes in one unit.

Pretty regularly - I won't swear it's every day - after work, these guys hang out on the sidewalk leading into their little building and they chill, and drink beer...and toss the cans on the sidewalk, and occassionally smoke weed. Some of you would credit them for abiding by the puff, puff, pass rule. I ain't giving these guys credit for anything, 'cause inevitably after they've been out there for an hour or so they start peeing on the outside walls of their building.

They never go inside to pee. I'm no sicko. I mean I'm not watching them for the sake of watching them. But they do it so much that you can't help but notice the frequency of their weeing, as you piddle about your own house and yard, etc.

These guys are like pups marking their territory. They have peed from every angle on every wall of their building. It's as if they their goodie bags are allergic to toilet bowls. They have turned peeing into a competitive sport.

You sit 15 feet from your front door. Why not take your wang indoors and handle your business there? Your beer will still be cool when you get back. What in the world is this outdoor peeing thing about?

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Why doing business can never fully be friendly

I never used to understand why old folks say "Never do business with family (or close friends)."

When I was younger I assumed that there'd be no better people to do business with than family or friends. You know them best and they know you best, right?

Well, it didn't take long after high school and into my first full-time job - as a civilian aircraft maintenance machinist at the Naval Aviation Depot, Norfolk (VA) Naval Air Station - that I learned why you don't do biz with family or friends.

The simple answer? Money trading hands is never a friendly prospect. It's almost impossible for it to be. The exception being those independently wealthy among us, no one likes to give up money, even if they're getting something in return for it. Instinctively, we are suspicious that we're getting screwed.

In my machinist job I was making good money, enough to pay for college, pay rent, pay a car note...and loan money to friends. Inevitably a couple of my buddies never managed to pay me back. It made me salty, and our friendships faltered.

Lesson learned.

Fast-forward to today. I have three or four gray hairs now - my wife says six. And I've learned that the same rules about business and money and friendliness apply. The first two don't mix well with the latter.

A month ago, my wife got a new car after a couple of weeks of haggling with the dealer over the price. And it's a fine car. I drive it sometimes, though not often, 'cause it's a soccer mom car and it would make me borderline hypocrite for bumping hip-hop tunes in it.

Anyway, when we finally closed the deal my wife, a more savvy negotiator than me, told the dealer she wanted an electric cooler the manufacturer makes to plug into this car. It's a nice little convenient tool, especially for road trips and trips to the grocery on hot days.

The dealer agreed to throw in the cooler but said it had to be ordered and would take three to five days to arrive in the mail.

Four weeks later, no cooler.

I call the manager last Thursday and say "(Let's call him Fred) this is James Burnett. I know you're busy, but I'm wondering about that cooler."
Fred: "Hey buddy, how's it going?"
Me: "Great, everything's good. I can't complain."
Fred: "So what can I do for you?"
Me: "Well, like I said, I'm wondering if that cooler has arrived."
Fred: "Oh, yeah. I'll have to check with the parts department on that. Give me your number, and I'll call you back in a few minutes."

Later Thursday, no call from Fred.
Friday morning, no call from Fred.
Saturday, Fred: "Thank you for calling (the dealership), this is Fred."
Me: "Fred, it's James Burnett. I never heard back from you."
Fred: "Did I say I'd call you back this weekend, I thought I said first thing Monday morning?"
Me: "No, you didn't say that. You said in a few minutes...several days ago."
Fred: "Oh, OK, sorry about that. I must've been thinking Monday."
Me: "It's OK. So what did the part's department say?"
Fred: "Oh, they're closed for the day. I wish you had called an hour earlier, I could've checked with them then."
Me: "Well, did they ever return your call or give you an answer as to whether the cooler had arrived?"
Fred: "I'm not really sure."

At this point, let us pause and reflect. When the wife and I first encountered Fred in the dealership we laughed and joked with him. And then money changed hands. We signed on the dotted line and in exchange got a car. Suddenly, I'm not feeling so laughy anymore, because my instinct nags me that the dealership probably got the better of us. But what can you do? So the friendly element to this relationship at that point was ruined. And we hadn't even walked out of the dealership yet. Now, with an item related to the car still owed to me, Fred can't understand why I'm not feeling friendly vibes anymore.

Back to the convo
Me: "Fred, I'd like to know where the cooler is, and I'd like to know soon."
Fred: "I know, I know. And I swear first thing Monday morning, I'll have an answer for you. It may be there in the parts department already."
Me: "That's fine. I'll wait for your call on Monday."

Monday morning, no call from Fred.
Monday afternoon, no call from Fred.
Monday, evening, Fred: "Hi, this is Fred."
Me: "Fred, James Burnett. I never heard back from you."
Fred: "Yeah, I'm sorry the parts department is closed again for the day."
Me: "Fred, call me tomorrow with an answer."
Fred: "Will do, buddy. Thanks for your patience."
Me: "Fred, I have no patience. Call me tomorrow."

Tuesday morning, no call from Fred.
Tuesday afternoon, no call from Fred.
Tuesday evening, Fred: "Hi, this is Fred."
Me: "Fred, James Burnett. Where's the cooler?"
Fred: "Oh yeah, let me call over there right now. And I'll get back to you in five minutes."
Me: "That's fine."

Tuesday night, no call back from Fred.

This morning, no call from Fred.
This afternoon, Fred: "Hi, this is Fred."
Me: "Fred, this is James Burnett. Where's the cooler?"
Fred: "I just got off the phone with parts, and they told me it was on back order."
Me: "You told my wife, it would take three to five days."
Fred: "That's if it was in stock."
Me: "That makes no sense. If it was in stock, then you could walk over to the parts department, take it off the shelf and walk it back over to my wife. It wouldn't need to be ordered."
Fred: "True, my friend."
Me: "Fred, stop calling me friend."
Fred: "But we're cool."
Me: "No we're not. You seem to think I'm Cletus the slack-jawed yokel and that I just fell off the back of the yam wagon."
Fred" No, no! I swear, I wish I had a better answer for you."
Me: "If you don't have a cooler or an answer for me tomorrow, I swear I'll move into the lobby of your dealership and sleep on that crappy couch till the cooler arrives."
Fred: "It's OK, we're cool!"
Me: "What did I tell you about that?"
Fred: "OK, buddy. I'll call you with a better answer later."
Me: "Sigh."

Whether personal or business, money and friendliness just don't mix.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Friendly Obligations

So what makes you a better friend, putting up with another friend's bad habits or calling that friend out on those habits?

I ask, because a close friend in another city was telling me earlier about being frustrated with a new co-worker-turned-friend. The new co-worker moved to my friend's city a few months ago to start the new job. So my friend, remembering what it was like to have to establish social connections in a new town, has made it a point to make the new co-worker feel welcome.

My friend has introduced the new co-worker to other friends. My friend has held a semi-party in honor of the new co-worker. My friend has regularly invited the new co-worker out for social events.

With each invitation and increasingly though the new co-worker spends these social outings griping about the new city and lamenting that it isn't enough like the old city. The griping has escalated to the point of being whiney, I hear. No casual chatter, no laughing and joking, no curiosity about off-the-beaten path treasures of the new city, just whining, whining, whining.

I urged my friend to check the new co-worker and tell that person to shut the hell up and try enjoying life for once. But my friend, being a much nicer person than me, is loathe to do that for fear of offending the new co-worker.

I say my friend has fulfilled the new friend obligation by being defacto social guide to the new co-worker for a period of several months now. All bets are off. If it were me, my logic would be "If you can take my company and that of my friends, then you can take my advice too. So don't expect the benefit of my companionship, if all you want is someone to listen to you describe your glass-half-empty life."

Then again, maybe I'm too harsh.


And you guys thought I was intense about my lawn

Overheard when I went to let my dog out early this morning:

"Hey, you shut up!"

"Wonk wonk wonk!!"

"What's that? Say it to me in English!!!"

"Wonk wonk wonk wonk!!!!"

"Oh, yeah! Well, stay off my grass! Park your car somewhere else!!!!!"

"Wonk wonk wonk wonk wonk!!!!!!"

"What! I can talk to you any way I want. I'm standing in my own driveway. I didn't plant that grass for #@$%! like you to park on it!!!!!!!"

"Wonk wonk wonk wonk wonk wonk!!!!!!!!"

"You think so? Fine, park on my grass again and I'll slash every one of your #@$%! tires, you dumb #@$#%!!!!!!!!!!"

"Yap, yap, yap, yap, yap, yap!!!!!!!!!!"


That was play by play of my neighbor three doors down, who apparently let his dog out this morning and found a strange car parked waaaaay up on his grass. When the driver of the car returned, my neighbor gave him a few choice words and dared him to pull that stunt twice. BTW, the yaps came from my neighbor's excitable Shnauzer, not either of the humans involved. And the squeal came from the tires of the driver, who apparently took my neighbor seriously by the end of that conversation and got out of Dodge in a hurry.

Weekly Behavior Awards, update

Thanks for the nominations folks. Got busy last evening and couldn't post, but here are the nominations, and once again you decide whose is best.

Best Behavior
  • From Manola B., of Sex and the Beach - I would like to nominate my neighbor three doors down, the Jewish carpenter -- no joke -- for being unusually considerate. He knocked on my door earlier this week to apologize for the work being done next door. My next-door neighbor, which some may recall from my Helen of Oy story, moved out and the carpenter man brought her apartment. He is making some repairs before renting it and truth be told, he had no obligation to tell me work was being done as I could hear it and it was all well within daytime hours, not too early or too late. But carpenter man just wanted to give me the heads up, even though there was nothing wrong. I found this to be a great
    neighborly courtesy.
  • From Melissa from Spoke in the Wheel - I'm nominating the woman who pointed out an empty clothes dryer to my roommate at the laundromat this morning. When everyone is there waiting and waiting, it's hot, it's loud, no one really wants to be there doing laundry... it's amazing how something so small and seemingly insignificant can really make an impression.

Biggest Bum

  • From Wide Lawns - I would like to nominate Mr. Gordo (not his real name of course) for not honoring his friends dying wishes by removing shrimp and lamb chops from the menu, shortening the open bar time, and most of all, not allowing employees to come to his wake. I seriously can not imagine what horrible behavior could ever top that. As for good behavior, hmm. That's hard to come by.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Heat Beef

First, my disclaimer: Again, I love the Heat! Great team, great effort, great display of team basketball in winning the NBA title. An A+ all around. Say it with me, Pimp Pimp Hooray for the Heat!

So, onto my beef. I hear so many parents griping about their kids growing too quickly. Their clothes are too grown, their attitudes are too grown. Their vocabulary is too grown. It ain't new. When I was a kid, I remember my folks and aunts, and uncles, and neighbors, etc., specifically using the words "grown," and "fresh" in reference to the growing-up-to-fast gripe.

But that type of complaint seems to mean less nowadays. It seems to be all talk.

Case in point: Last Sunday night I had to attend the Heat game at the American Airlines Arena in Miami to write a short story for my employer, The Miami Herald, on which celebs, if any, were in attendance and what they were up to. I know, groundbreaking journalism. Ha ha, I've heard all the jokes. But if you want to take another shot at me, feel free. Hey, every reporter occasionally writes a little light-hearted fare.

Anywho, as I'm wandering around the AAA shortly before the game started I was soaking up the energy and checking out the fans. There were the cute 20something women waving at themselves on the big screen, the insane 20something guys with painted faces, waving at the cameras and begging to be shown on the big screen, and the families whose kids were holding up homemade posters, hoping to land on the big screen.

Some of the signs were funny. But one jumped out at me. A little girl - about 10, 12 at the most - was captured on the big screen waving her poster. Get this. It read "Dwyane (as in Wade) Does Dallas!"

Ok, if you are over the age of 25, indulge in booze, and attended a typical college, you know what that play on words means.

Back in the day there was another, ahem, person whose name started with the letter "D." And she too did Dallas, but not like D. Wade. And she too was on camera, VHS to be exact.

I guarantee you the parents (or at least the dad) of the kid waving the sign knew the connection between the adult film, "Debbie Does Dallas" and the joke/play on words on their kid's poster.

And, as double standards go, they're probably parents who tell friends, family, etc., "I'd never let my daughter...."

It's possible mom and dad had no clue. But c'mon. What are the odds. Letting your little daughter hold up a sign spoofing a classic porn? That's triflin' to the 3rd power.

Parents don't complain about how grown your kids are and then plant seeds that could make 'em curious about things they have no business knowing about before a certain age.


365 Days and Counting

To all the hater, doubters, ex-girlfriends, buddies, ex-buddies, etc., who were skeptical of me getting married, you can all bite me!

Today, my friends, is my one-year wedding anniversary. I have survived one year at this. More importantly, my wife has survived one year at this.

And guys, I can tell you some truths and some myths that I have learned in this first 12 months of the rest of my life.

Women, you pay attention too in case your husbands are actually trying and you just don't realize it.

So guys,
  • all the cartoonish stories you heard from dad and granddad about her being "always right?" Myth. Unless you are the biggest screw-up on the planet, she will be wrong sometimes. And the worst thing you can do is lose your spine and concede E-VER-Y-THING to her. It won't make her think you're sweet and cuddly. It will just make her think that you are weak and can't take a stand....Unless, of course, she's evil and sadistic. Then she will want you to be spineless and take blame for everything.
  • The stories from dad and granddad about not sweating the small stuff? Truth. Trust me, she will sweat enough small stuff for both of you. And if you're not sweating your own small stuff, then when something is upsetting her that you just don't get - like how a hair is out of place, or an outfit that looks terrific to you doesn't feel quite right to her, or a squirrel in your front yard looks malnourished so she wants to catch it and nurse it back to health - it's a perfect opportunity for you to show you care by expressing concern. But your little things? Seriously, don't sweat 'em. In the grand scheme, most of your little things are your own creations and involve you screwing up at work, forgetting to pick something up or drop something off for her, or glancing for 15/16ths of a second too long at the woman walking past you on the sidewalk. So, in theory, if you improve your memory you'll eliminate your little things and can focus soley on hers.
  • The logic from your buddies that she knows she's the only girl for you? Myth. She knows nothing! That's not a knock on her. It's a testament to the fact that so many guys have been weasels in years past that many savvy women just don't feel they can just take it as a given that we are loyal to them. We must demonstrate to our women how we feel about them guys. I'm not talking about public kinkiness. I'm talking acts of affection. For example, when you're standing on the sidewalk in South Beach and a super model walks by - an entirely believable scenario, BTW - a clueless guy might take his allotted peek and then turn back to his woman. That guy is a dummy, because I guarantee you that her back may be turned, but through the eyes in the back of her head your woman also saw that super model. The smart guy will grasp his woman's hand even tighter, or pull her in for a hug. That does more than words for her. It tells her that you feel something big and special for her and that even if you are surrounded by Miss America contestants she's the hottest woman around.
  • The logic from your buddies that she knows how you feel about her? Myth. This may sound like the last point. But it's not. That your wife is pretty may be a given. That she dresses well may be a given. That she cooked a great meal may be a given. But if you don't tell her each of those things she'll wonder how you feel and may even assume that you don't have positive feelings. So tell her often that she is pretty and looks great in whatever she's wearing. Tell her often she smells nice (or she will assume her scent is no sweeter than your dingy musk). Tell her the meal was delicious (or she'll assume you hate it).
  • The logic from your old thrice divorced alky uncle that you should always stand your ground, no matter what? Myth. Humble yourself sometimes. There are times she'll know she's wrong about something but she'll feel so overwhelmed about whatever that she can't bring herself to admit it to you. You could press her on it and declare some sort of moral victory. But if you do, you're gonna create an awkward cloud in the room, and you'll inadvertently lengthen the "healing" period. Or you could brush it off, laugh it off, give her a hug or a kind word and tell her it's no big deal. And that will demonstrate to her that you're not a control freak. And, unless she is a sadist, she will appreciate the gesture and the awkwardness will dissipate sooner, and the healing period will be over instantly.
  • The logic from your colleagues that she doesn't want to hear about your day at work? Truth and myth. She doesn't want to hear you describe every widget you assembled or every TPS report that you filled out. That stuff is tedious, and will either put her to sleep, cause her to look at you in a new light, a bored light, or make her think that you believe your job is the be all and end all. She does, however, want you to tell her how your day was and about special things at work - a promotion, a compliment from the boss, a funny incident. It makes her feel like she's an insider, a part of the team.
  • The logic from your sister that your woman needs you to pay attention? Truth. Sleeping on the floor or the couch will become habit for you if your wife or girlfriend asks if she looks "fat in this dress" and you nod yes, because you were reading the paper and not paying attention. BTW, if she ever really asks that question, it's because women have been conditioned in this society to believe they are too big unless they look like coke-snorting models. So, guys, the answer to that question is always NO! Even if you are not literally telling the truth (and in my wife's case I would be ;>), you are showing her moral support. No matter the circumstance, she looks great - even when she has stomach flu, and is wearing pajamas and no makeup.
  • Finally, if ever you feel you can't tell the truth about something she asks involving her appearance, new art she purchased for your house, or some food she made, then do not try to be a diplomat. To her a neutral answer may as well be a negative answer. So to be safe, do like the guy in the Snickers commercial and stuff your mouth so full that she can't make out your answer. She will take your smile to mean that whatever garbled nonsense came out of your mouth was complimentary.

So those are a few of the things I've learned in year one. Trust me guys. I tested all these theories, even the bad ones, and sometimes inadvertently. But I tested 'em. And I know I write the truth here.

Peace and hair grease till tomorrow.


Friday, June 23, 2006

Quick Hits for the Weekend, Miami Heat Style

  • Checked out the Miami Heat NBA World Championship victory parade/party this afternoon in downtown Miami, while on a coffee stroll from work and was fascinated to see tens of thousands of people there to join in the fun. I'm a big fan, because I love the game of basketball. But I'm not so much of a fan that I'm willing to stand in brain-scrambling sunlight for hours on end just to catch a glimpse of the home team. What struck me the most was the bulk of the crowd was parents and their children. Let's hope that the same parents who were willing to bring their kids into sweltering heat and spend two to four hours in that heat cheering for athletes who no doubt appreciated the love but were not about to share the spoils, will also be willing to get out of bed on Saturday or Sunday and take their kids to the library. Hey, you can drive downtown for a parade, you can drive your kid to get a book.
  • Speaking of not sharing the spoils, if you've been reading this blog for more than a minute then you know I've been struggling lately with charitable giving. I want to give. I've just gotten so cynical. So my guy and I were walking back to the Miami Herald building after our coffee break, and we were stopped by a guy wearing a crisp brand new Miami Heat victory T-shirt. I know it was new, 'cause we'd just passed the booth where the shirts were selling for $20. Anyway, the guy began a spiel that we knew was leading to a request for cash. Let me get this straight. You're broke. But you take time out of a good working day to spend hours in the sun cheering for dudes who ain't splitting their cash with you, you spend what little you have on a T-shirt, and you want cash from me now? You'd better fold the wrinkles out of that shirt and take it back for a refund. I decided to stay out of this one, 'cause I didn't want to open my mouth and be a jerk. So I stepped aside to look at some postcards.Turns out the request never came though. My guy must've been wearing a skeptical look too, 'cause T-shirt dude stops halfway through the story, contemplates for a minute and then says "Forget it. I can see you're not tryin' to hear it." Good call.
  • Took the train to work earlier this week and watched yet another young kid get up and offer his seat to an elderly woman. Kudos to him. I'm starting to think there's hope yet.

More to come tomorrow morning.

Peace and hair grease.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

The Cowboy Code: Chapter Four

There's no delicate way for me to approach this one, so I'll just be out with it: There is no sex in the Champagne Room.

Wait, that's what Chris Rock said in his graduation anthem.

What I meant to write was that guys who don't date much have to be really careful about who they hit on and when...especially when they're in the Champagne Room.

So I was chatting w/one of my guys, who has a tendency to fall for ticket takers, and cashiers, and waitresses, and strippers. All law-abiding work, so I'm in no way poking fun. It's just that they're all jobs with the common denominator of frequent interaction with the paying public.

Anyway, my guy was lamenting that a "date" planned with Hooter's wing slinger had been postponed...again...for like the fifth time.

I asked who postponed. He said she did, every time.

I don't have a problem with the ladies, they're just doing their jobs.

But my guy doesn't get that. He misreads their attention, and their smiles, and their giggles, and their small talk as genuine interest or possible genuine interest.

To be fair, it could be that some of these women are occasionally interested. More likely though, they're just trying to do a good job and capitalize on their tools.

My natural cynicism would say there's no way on earth they're really interested. But who knows?

I told my guy to spare himself some heartbreak and work by this standard: If it takes you walking into her line at the grocery, or through her turnstile at the arena, or in front of her table in the Boom Boom Room to draw a smile out of her, that smile is work-related and not personal.

Two Fingers Worth of Rhinotillexomania

Seen while taking a head-clearing stroll earlier in the work day: A guy two knuckles deep into one nostril, who appeared to be trying to fit another finger in there. More manpower, better results I guess. The craziest thing is this dude saw me see him...if that makes any sense. And he kept digging!

The grossness of public nose picking notwithstanding, if you insist on indulging then the same rules apply as with ogling another guy's woman. Once you've been busted in the act, you are obligated to least for the moment...unless recouping a little dignity is not important to you.

And just for fun, I'm not tellin' what rhinotillexomania means. You can probably guess. But if not, look it up.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Hypocrisy at its finest

I often hear political types - not just in public office, but those who like to talk about it, like radio chat hosts - ranting and raving about personal responsibility and how people need to own up to their behavior and their own shortcomings and take more active roles in forging their own path.

And to that theory I say bravo. I like it. I love it even. It's so much better to try hard to improve things for yourself, than to wait for someone else to hook you up. That's an ideal world. But let's not be naive. We don't live in an ideal world. So I also know that as much as we'd like to deny it there are institutional hurdles in place in that make it tougher for the poorest of the poor to simply work hard and do well without a little bit of help. So even if you are a person who suspects that most poverty stricken adults did it to themselves, don't forget that for every one of those adults there's a kid out there who can't be blamed for the situation he was born into and who really needs a helping hand to break the cycle.

Enough cryptic talk though.

I was driving home yesterday afternoon and I tuned into a radio talk show on which the host was preaching personal responsibility on the one hand, but on the other hand blaming hip-hop culture and rap music for bad behavior. Can't have it both ways. This is one of the same hosts I'll bet who spouts the theory that guns don't kill, people do. Fine. My mother owns a legal, registered handgun (this is true, not a made up example). And I'm not at all worried that she'll shoot me. Somewhere out there though is a schmuck who also has a handgun. And under the right circumstances, I'm sure I'd have reason to fear him shooting me. But if you're gonna blame the shooter and not the weapon, use the same standard when the weapon is supplanted by a form of entertainment. Hold the person responsible, not the music they listen to.

This talk show host ranted about how hip-hop culture and rap music has caused major damage to young people in general and black people in particular. He went on and on about how hip-hop - he later narrowed his target to "gangsta rap" - was essentially responsible for a large portion of children born out of wedlock, violent crime, and general immoral behavior.

It's pure hypocrisy.

I can guarantee you that most teenagers - black, white, Asian, Latino, or other - who have unprotected sex and get pregnant don't do it 'cause some rapper suggested it. Most kids who shoot other people over a pair of tennis shoes don't do it 'cause a rapper suggested it. Most kids who generally thumb their noses at convention don't do it 'cause a rapper suggests they should. If a kid's actin' up like that, he's doing it 'cause he either hasn't gotten any good home training, or (if he's old enough, say over 15) he has chosen to behave badly and doesn't care about the consequences...Or maybe he's one of the reallllllly impressionable kids who believes song lyrics are instructions. And I know those kids do exist.

When I was covering crime, I once met a mom and dad who busted their humps for their kids, and kept them clean and clothed and fed, and made sure they kept up on their studies. They had a young son - 5-years-old, if I remember right - who was hit by a car while playing in the street near his yard. When the ambulance crew arrived and began to tend to the boy, they were shocked to find little baggies in his socks with white powdery chunks inside. They immediately - and reasonably - thought the boy was being used as a coke mule for some neighborhood drug dealer.

Upon further testing the substance turned out to be baking soda. When the kid was well enough to talk, he sheepishly admitted to cops and family that he had put the stuff in a bag himself and tucked it into his socks 'cause he had seen older boys do it on a nearby playground, and assumed it was cool. It was a sad situation. This was an exception. His mother did her job. His father did his job. Kids see a lot of things parents don't realize. And no doubt there are impressionable kids. But this situation is wholly different from a talk show host suggesting that a type of music and the culture surrounding that music is a cause for bad behavior across an entire community.

If a nearly grown kid - someone in his mid to late teens - is a morally weak, violent person he's gonna be that way whether he's listening to Bach's Brandenburg Concertos or "Stranded on Death Row."

That's my word. You don't have to agree, but don't bother commenting unless you can articulate your opinion. Remember I'm not a social scientist. I just play one on this blog.

I.T. Training - It's not what you think

DO NOT READ THIS POSTING... if you have not read the prior blog entry. If you did read the last entry, then read on.

So, I was talking w/a couple of buddies, friends from my high school days about being one of a kind in a crowd and what that is like and the kinds of feelings it can generate. No doubt we all have a story or two or 10 about how we were not treated well because of something different about us.

I remember a kid in elementary school who had a kidney ailment that required medicine that made him smell fishy, literally. It wasn't nice, but the other kids used to tease him and call him and call him all sorts of cruel seafood-related nicknames. He stood out. There was the girl with the long neck. She stood out. There was the kid in the wheel chair. He stood out. And I remember being one of maybe two or three black kids in an entire school. And yes, I stood out. What each of these stories has in common is that the folks who stood out did so 'cause of something they had no control over. And there's no debating or talking logic to someone who teases you because of how you look. I remember when my older sister, a star basketball player at her private high school (where she too was one of just two or three black kids), had a slumber party of sorts. And I remember vividly that night - I was in 5th grade - when one of the other girls told my sister that she was really cool "because she didn't seem black." My sister didn't know what to say. How do you respond to that kind of nonsense? "Well, that's a relief! For a minute there I was worried I would actually fit into the broad behavioral stereotype you have about people with brown skin!"

Anyway, my guys read Melissa's comments and naturally, given situations each of us has experienced, they felt sympathy and empathy. "Tell her welcome to the club," one of them said.

The other though laughed wryly and brought up what we used to call "I.T." Not information technology, but something my guys and I used to jokingly call "Integration Training." Every black person under the age of 40 who is leading even a partially productive life has undergone I.T. It's something our parents and grandparents hammered into us like drill instructors.

I.T. comprised our "lessons" on how to maintain your dignity and still get along in a crowd where you're one of a kind and where the rest of the crowd makes that fact an issue. There are exceptions where no amount of "training" you get is gonna matter. Melissa's story - last blog entry - is a perfect example of that. People in her old neighborhood were clearly going to treat her badly just because of the color of her skin, and there was nothing she could do about it. Again, I know the feeling.

But our parents, being wiser than us, knew that throughout most of our lives we would be in the minority in so many ways and in so many places. And I don't care what anyone says - being one of a kind in a crowd is always potentially uncomfortable. It just is. So our folks gave us subtle instructions about when to grin and bear silly comments, how to answer potentially offensive (but possibly innocent) questions, basically when to put folks in check and when to let things slide.

So when a female classmate asked to touch my hair and said it felt like a brillow pad to her, I knew to bite my tongue and write it off as ignorance. But when a "buddy" felt so comfortable with me that he thought he could tell an N-word joke, I knew to put him in check and explain that that type of joke was not cool under any circumstances.

When I started a new high school looking to join the debate team but was immediately discouraged from doing that and confronted by everyone from the principal down to a math teacher about joining the basketball team, I knew to chalk it up to assumptions related to my height. Sure, they assumed that I was a great hoops player because I was 14, 6'2" and black. But what did I have to prove by calling them out over those assumptions? I was a pretty good basketball player, but they didn't know that. So I chose not to play, instead putting my energies into debate and singing. Just demonstrating that I was as good or better than the other kids who participated in the academic and "artistic" extracurriculars said more for my argument than any speech I could've given.

But you better believe when I heard a classmate making a disparaging comment about black women - in general, not one woman in particular that he had an issue with - I put him in check quick, fast, and in a hurry.

During college, when I was on the way to visit a tax accountant in an office tower in downtown Norfolk, Va., near my campus, there was the elderly white woman on the elevator who clutched her purse and scooted to the other side of the lift when I stepped in. Nevermind that my watch alone could easily have been worth more than everything she was wearing. I might have snapped at her and told her "Lady I don't want you or that raggedy purse!" But my I.T. had prepared me for this. I kept to my side of the elevator car, and when I stepped off before her moments later I smiled, said "Have a nice day" and moved on. That might not have changed her world view. But if she had any sense at all, maybe it planted a seed of doubt in her mind over what she'd assumed about me just minutes earlier.

My guys and I learned through I.T. that sometimes you make more of a statement to an ignorant person by how you don't respond to them, than if you preached an extra hole into their heads.

Maybe we could all use some I.T.

OK, I'm in danger of rambling. I'm gonna sign off now and do some real reporting.

Think this over before commenting. But please do respond.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Melissa's Story

So if you've been reading Burnettiquette, then you know I spent last week in NYC for work. While there I wrote a couple of blog entries on civility up there and civility down here, New York North vs. New York South.

When I was asked which I like better, I sort of dodged the question. But our good friend Melissa, of SpokeintheWheel, who has lived down here and now lives up there, weighed in and gave her vote for New York being the nicer place.

A primary reason for Melissa's opinion was the harsh treatment she got in Miami in a neighborhood in which she was one of a kind - one white person in a sea of black folks, some born here to families that have been here since the...ahem early-mid 1600s and some relatively recent transplants from the Caribbean. She was constantly picked on, she said, for simply being white and being alone in that neighborhood. Some folks were just snarky, some were down right mean, and others went a step above and were menacing.

The baffling thing, Melissa said, was that she lives in a similar neighborhood in NYC, comprised predominantly of black folks, some born here and some relatively recent transplants from the Caribbean. And in her NYC neighborhood, all her neighbors are nice and friendly to everyone else...including her.

I wanted to comment on this sooner, but I had to think about it.

Also, I want this conversation to be ongoing, so let's establish a few things: First, I am not a social scientist. I just play one on a blog. Second, my experiences are mine, and though you may disagree with my opinions in the days and weeks ahead, it doesn't change my experiences. Same goes for you. Third, we can probably all agree that there are nice people and cornholes on this planet of all shades and stripes and backgrounds. We can also agree that some people of different races and ethnicities and skin colors (I don't think those things are necessarily synonymous) sometimes get along, and sometimes they don't. Finally, what I want us to address here is why. Why do different folks sometimes get along and sometimes not? I have a pretty simple theory that is largely rooted in perceptions. But we'll get to that.

So there is some irony in Melissa's story. I can relate to it from the opposite perspective. Growing up I lived in a predominantly white neighborhood. I attended two predominantly white schools, where as I grew into a tall - taller than most of my peers at the time - lanky teen, being my friend became conditional on two things my willingness to play team sports ('cause as one coach used to say "We really could use your height on the team) and my willingness to grin and bear it when the other kids told racist jokes around me.

Take my junior year in high school, for example, I decided halfway through I was gonna quit the whole sports thing - 'cause I knew then I'd never go pro - and instead spend my after school time at a part-time job, lining my pockets with money. I lost several friends, other student athletes, for being "selfish," which showed me I was friend-worthy to them as long as I had something tangible to offer. And when I scolded other "friends" for making terrible, racist jokes about black people, they scolded me back for being a rabble-rouser, and again for not being a team player. Apparently, if I'd laughed and pretended those jokes weren't offensive to me, I'd have solidified my spot as one of the guys.

So Melissa, I do feel your pain for being treated badly at one point in your life, simply because of the color of your skin.

On this issue of the bad treatment in Miami vs. New York, I asked a couple of friends and friendly acquaintances who are both black and from the Caribbean and they too were baffled. One of them said he might have an explanation if the people in your Miami neighborhood had been predominantly Caribbean. He suggested some Caribbean blacks just don't like certain elements of American culture - that some feel that those of us who were born and raised here don't fully appreciate how blessed we are - and likely would have hassled you had you been white or "native" black American.

So that's that. But this topic isn't dead. I'm hoping y'all will give some feedback on this one.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

WBAs, live from the AAA

So I'm sitting in a basement overflow press room at the America Airlines Arena in downtown Miami. And I just filed my tiny contribution to the Miami Herald's Heat/NBA playoff coverage, so I can take a breath now.

First, the Weekly Behavior Awards.

We got a few nominations this week, mostly for Bum of the Week. No one saw anything worthy of the Best Behavior Award? Sheesh!

From Rick C. - "I'm not sure if this is quite the right category, but I'd like to nominate the guy who came around a one way u-turn-under-an-underpass the wrong way while I was driving up it the right way a while back."

From BigBadWolf ( - "Alright James, I'll jump in with a bad behavior suggestion. One of my coworkers was on his way to the grocery store and was sitting at a red light with 2 left turn lanes. He was at the front of the inside lane and an "old, crust redneck in a pickup" was in the lane next to him. The light went green and both made the turn. In the course of it, however, the pickup cut off my friend (during the turn) and they met again at the next light. My friend rolled his window down and asked the guy what was going on. Along the lines of "What the hell were you thinking?" The reply? "F*ck You!"I'd say that ranks up there for bad and stupid behavior."

Thanks to Bronchitikat (, one of our friends from across the pond, for trying, with the nomination of Queen Elizabeth II for Best Behavior Award, for Her Royal Highness's endurance and impeccable manners.

My nomination for Best Behavior Award this week: the NYC cab driver who was rushing me to the airport Friday and quoted me a price for the cost of the drive. When we arrived at my terminal at La Guardia the fare ended up being about $5 more than the cabbie said. Now, what he'd given me was naturally an estimate. So he was well within his rights to demand every penny. However, he felt so bad about the meter being more than what he'd guessed that he insisted I pay the first, lower price he'd quoted. That moved me so much that I gave him the full fare. Maybe it was reverse psychology on his part. Or maybe he was just a nice guy.

And my nod for Bum of the Week: The small pantload of big $$$ fans at AAA, who nearly knocked over a guy in a wheel chair so they could dart past him and onto an elevator mostly reserved for media and physically disabled. He was at the head of the line waiting for the lift. Kudos to the guy in the chair for buckling down and forcefully rolling his way on. Ironically, a couple of the same pin heads who tried to shove their way past the guy ended up having to get off and wait for the next car 'cause that elevator was over-filled.

So there you have it. I don't know who wins this week. I always decide. And my opinion has been known to bite. I won't fake. I am going to watch the rest of the game. Tonight you guys decide. You tell me who wins the week's awards.

Until tomorrow,

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Keep 'em coming

Thanks to BigBadWolf for his Biggest Bum nomination for tomorrow's Weekly Behavior Awards.

How's about another? And another. And another. And another.

BTW, forgot to include Manola B. on the short list of folks who regularly submit nominations.

Thanks, MB, and any others who share their adventures with the good and the bad.

Airplane etiquette and catching up

So sorry I didn't post last evening, by the time I made it off my plane and back home last evening I was beat.

But I realized when leaving New York what I love so much about the city: the people who know everything about everything - like the woman in the ticket line in front of me, who had been on a connecting flight earlier. "Listen, honey, I know travel. I know airplanes," she said to her friend. "And that plane guy (think she meant the pilot) was driving (think she meant flying) really, really fast!"

So what are the rules of going to the can on an airplane? I think there's only one rule, especially if the plane is full and/or you are sitting in an inside seat. If you have to go, excuse yourself and handle your business. And don't feel bad for it. Nature calls.

But I felt bad for the older guy sitting in the aisle seat in front of me on the flight back, 'cause he had to get up five times for the woman next to him. I have bad knees. And the way he was wincing, I think he had worse. Now, could be that she really had to go badly. Or could be the lovey dovey phone call she made just before takeoff had something to do with it. Right before the crew said turn off your electronics, etc., this woman was telling someone - presumably a romantic interest - how she couldn't wait to see them and how she was gonna be all over them when she got back.

That's cool. I dig romance. But back to the can. Each time she forced this elderly man to get up and out of her way so she could go to the can, this woman came back to her seat with her hair coiffed a different way.

The first time I thought it was odd but interesting. The second time, just odd. The third time, obsessive, and so on. It hit me finally that she wasn't relieving herself in there. She was primping for whoever she was flying to Miami to meet. Not a cool reason to keep forcing someone to get up and out of your way. It's a flight. It's over in a couple of hours. Fix your hair when you get off the plane. There'll be bathrooms along the way, before the person who's waiting for you even has a chance to catch a glimpse of you.

Oh, and to the guy next to me who offered me your NY Post, that was a very nice gesture. I hadn't had a chance to catch up on the day's news yet.

That's it till this evening, when we're gonna get a little deeper.

I know it's futile to ask - except for Og and Bronchitikat - but if while out and about over the past week or so you saw or heard an act of incredibly good behavior or an act of incredibly bad behavior I want to hear about it. Tomorrow night we do our Weekly Behavior Awards.

Peace and hair grease.


Friday, June 16, 2006

Post Timing

Sorry to tease, but I have a flight to catch. Will share more thoughts on my visit to NYC and life w/friendly folk when I get back to Miami this afternoon.

Melissa, I definitely want to talk about your time in Miami. That's really deep. I'd love to hear everyone's thoughts on being one of a kind in a crowd - how you got/get along or didn't/don't and why.

Gotta run.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Overheard at a coffee shop this morning...

Three women discussing the etiquette of undies.

No kidding. I stopped for a cup, while walking to the subway. And decided to sit a minute and enjoy, when I caught the conversation from the table next to me.

I'm not mad at 'em or anything. I was actually fascinated, 'cause they were discussing bloomers in earnest, with looks on their faces that made it seem like the fate of the world rested on the right type of shorts being worn.

I mean, I knew women talked about what to wear and what not to wear and why. But I never realized it went to this extent.

This particular debate was on what to do when wearing white. One woman said wear a white thong, so as to avoid lines. The next disagreed and said if the fabric of the outer garment was too thin, then their cheeks would show through, so "full-bottomed" white shorts were better. The third disagreed with both and said if the fabric of the pants or skirt or dress was thick enough then perhaps going commando was the best idea.

They went on for about 10 minutes, till one said perhaps flesh-colored shorts were best, 'cause you wouldn't see lines and the color of the undies wouldn't stand out. And they all finally agreed...except one pointed out that crude dudes might stare harder at their bums if the guys were under the illusion that there were no shorts on under there.

All too complicated for me. I'm glad most of us guys don't have to think about this stuff.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

You are the weakest link!

I saw a guy last night whose player credentials must be immediately revoked. He was working the bar in a tiny corner tavern in the East Village and spent probably 20 minutes on the phone apparently wooing a young woman.

He did everything but beg her - actually he did beg; he just didn't say "please" - to come to the bar and hang out with him while he worked because he was bored and she was "stunning," and "beautiful," and "really unique."

It worked. Sure enough she showed up about 30 minutes later. Their cooing and giggling went on for about 30 minutes more, and then another young woman came through the door looking around.

She flipped her hair, clutched her purse nervously, and rubbed absentmindedly on her glossed lips. Then, the bartender who is more than a few inches shorter than me and was seated on the other side of me stood up to walk back behind the counter.

Woman number two saw him. Seconds later she saw woman number one, who remained surprisingly calm as woman number two stalked toward them. I was expecting (and half hoping for) a Springer-esque showdown. But it didn't happen.

Woman number two just confronted the bartender who turned beat red and wore a look on his face that read I forgot I invited her here too! He stammered a few minutes, shrugged and held out his hands like he was trying to fend off an attacker, and finished with something along the lines of "I don't know what to say!" Woman number two turned and walked away. Woman number one stayed to finish her drink. But she didn't say another word to the bartender.

Tsk tsk.

I don't advocate being a player, but if you're gonna put yourself out there like that get it right.

And this guy, who had been passing himself off as a player on the phone earlier, got busted like the rankest of amateurs.

To the Player Control Board: revoke this man's credentials and tear up his membership card, please.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Spoke too Soon

I'm walking back to my hotel from the subway earlier this evening, and I come to an intersection and wait a few ticks for the light to turn green. The orange hand turns off. The big light turns green, and the little white guy (the one on the walk light) illuminates. I start the crosswalk, and then I hear squealing tires and look up to see a yellow cab bearing down on me.

Laugh if you want, if you think I'm paranoid. But after yesterday's headlines up here - a 21-year-old woman was killed when the cab she and her girlfriends were in crashed after the alleged reckless driver passed out and slammed into a wall - I ain't turning my back on cabbies.

I try to walk faster, but it isn't fast enough for this guy. He honks his horn and keeps coming. Obviously he doesn't hit me. I'm sitting here writing, but as he speeds around me he makes a shoo-fly motion with his hand and yells at me out his window "Get out of the street!"

Are you kidding me! Me get out the street? I had the little white guy illuminated! That street belonged to me for another few seconds.

Needless to say, using my own brand of sign language, I show the cabbie that "We're number one!" and keep walking.

New York North friendlier than New York South? Sheesh, how could I even have considered it.

I've been in some bumper-car taxis in Miami, but I haven't ever had one nearly run me down in a cross walk and then tell me I shouldn't have been there.

Bits & pieces

C'mon Miami. You have some sucking up to do.

Day two on my "workish" trip up north, and I've tripped across some really nice folks. Got back to my hotel last night and couldn't find my room key. Also couldn't find my little document saying I was staying there. And for a moment I couldn't find my ID. By the time I did find it, the harried front desk clerk, whom I had been certain was annoyed with me waved me off and said of my ID "put that thing away! I know you. I trust you. Here's my key. Go on up to your room and after you find your key come back down. No hurry!" I could've been a pro thief and used that key to slip in and out of other rooms. So maybe she shouldn't have been so trusting. But even though I don't believe in the general goodness of mankind (I believe in the badness of mankind, and take all good behavior as the exception, not the rule), a little trust between strangers feels good. Besides, I'm not a thief and only wanted in my own room, anyway. So it was really nice of her.

Walking to the subway this morning, I saw a parking lot attendant a half block ahead speaking to every single person who passed him on the sidewalk. I thought he was nuts or maybe trying to entice them to park in his garage or something. When I got closer I heard what he was saying: "Good morning ma'am. Have a nice day." "How are you today, sir? Enjoy your day." "Beautiful day, isn't it buddy. Take care. Be safe."

That last one was directed at me.

Finally, I feel for folks in one Brooklyn neighborhood. Saw on the news last night that some residents were starting to get ticketed by the cops/city for trash on their swales, and the sidewalks and curbs in front of their homes. We're not talking half eaten mutton chops and old diapers. This stuff is empty chip bags, old soda cans, candy wrappers - the stuff that pinheads walk by and drop on the ground when they're done with it. A couple of residents interviewed for the story said they'd told authorities before that passers by were dropping their food wrappers and other junk and that they tried to pick it up as fast as it fell, but sometimes you can't keep up. That sucks that other people's bad habits are getting these folks in trouble with the law.

Monday, June 12, 2006

I love (a trip to the public restroom in) New York!

At the risk of sounding like a slack-jawed yokel, I need to say that my mood this afternoon - which was already good - improved ten-fold when I walked to the can a short time ago.

No jokes, please. I'm not talking about feeling relief. I mean that when I got to the can, I was more pleasantly surprised than I've been in a long time. It was huge, and clean, and had a great view of downtown NY, bustling traffic, all the little ants on the sidewalk, below, etc.

You have to understand that this was a public restroom in a highly-trafficked government building. And you have to also understand - and my friends will verify this - that most of the time I'd rather hold it till my innards burst than use a public can.

Many public restrooms are nasty. And in the many vacation and few work-related visits I've made to NY, I've found some of the worst. I've usually required counseling after exiting a public restroom in NY and have not only wanted to burn the shoes I wore into that can but my feet for having been in those shoes.

This time was different though. This can was really nice and clean and pleasant... and again, large. I swear if it not for the "purpose" of this gargantuan room I could've sat there at the window, sipped a cup of coffee and just enjoyed that view. But, considering the purpose of the room, that would have been weird and gross of me. To be fair, this public can was locked and required a key code for entry. But this is NY. If someone wanted in that can badly enough, no pin number is gonna keep 'em out. So lock or no lock, I say this can was an amazing feat of...cleanliness?

So back to the grind. I may be nearly over my public can phobia. Won't know until I check it out again tomorrow.

Live from New York, it's the WBAs

Sorry for not posting 'em last night folks, I was wandering the streets of the East Village looking for non-gut-rotting carryout to take back to my hotel room.

But we have several nominations.

For Best Behavior, Og the Neanderpundit, gives this nod: "For good behavior? the lady at the lunch counter at the airport, who made me a sandwich like she was making it for her own child, smiled at me, made sure I had extra napkins (She GAVE them to me, I didn't steal them-LOL!) made sure I had a straw and wished me a good day. yeah, I know that's how you're SUPPOSED to act, but that's uncommon. SHe made my day. Also, as a nomination for the weekly good behavior awards, the fine men and women of the US Military, for bringing an end to the violent and bloody regime of Zarqawi."

Og made this suggestion for Bum of the Week: Borrowing a page from Dave Barry's book, I won't give a direct name of the company. But I'll say Og has a beef with an airline that rhymes with Moonited. Because this is a PG-13 newspaper-related blog, I cannot reprint Og's suggestion in it's entirety, but it involves the airline's bosses and self fornication with a diseased elm tree (Og's Airline Adventure). And while in O'Hare, awaiting the Moonited flight in question, Og overheard another traveler tell an Asian man to "Go back to your own country, a**#$!*!"

Bronchitikat's vote for Best Behavior: The ladies of Portsmouth & District Branch of the Embroiderers' Guild (UK) who have an exhibition on in Emsworth (Hants, UK). The embroiderers' work was creative, and artistic to the point of almost being intimidating, B says. But just as important, these artists are gracious and friendly to the throngs admiring their work - something that can't be said for all folks with standout skills. Just think about certain actors and singers for mental image of what I'm getting at. I don't even need to say which ones.

Bronchitikat's vote for Bum of the Week: "I nominate the idiot, or any idiot, who reckons that the three prisoners at Guantanamo Bay who committed suicide did it as a PR move for their cause. Insensitive or what?"

Well, since once again I'm feeling like a softy, you both win. Og, the sandwich lady was cool. Nice to have someone dote over you like you're family. Also, have to agree with your nod to the troops who got Zarqawi. Support the war or not, this guy was a pantload. And Bronchitikat it is nice to see skilled artists of any kind who are nice people.

As for Bum, having read the link supplied by Og, I have to give his story the edge on this one. Between the airline - which I am in no way suggesting should go and love itself to death- and the racist knucklehead who mouthed off to the Asian traveler, you've got huge Bums of the Week.

Bronchitikat I feel your frustration. The prison at Gitmo seems to be a mess - and I have to imagine that opinion grows whether you're for the war in Iraq or not. Prisoners killing themselves, whatever the reason, isn't a good sign that they're being watched very well.

That's all for me for now, folks. I have to run off to work. Will post again later this afternoon.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Odds and Ends

  • Hollywood Bites: Let's make it official. For reasons I can no longer explain, last week I rented A History of Violence, a film starring Viggo Mortensen and Maria Bello, about a former mob killer who restarted his life in a small town by marrying, having kids, and opening a diner. And after years of bliss his past catches up with him, and Mayberry goes haywire. We finally got around to watching it tonight. Just finished a few minutes ago. Now, I'm going to go take a shower and huddle shivering in the fetal position. Then I'm going to run into the street in front of a moving car, and hope any merciful impact erases what I saw from memory. This was a bad film, not just bad, but stupid. For the first 30 minutes I couldn't figure out how a picture starring two accomplished actors - both of whom I liked before seeing A History of Violence - could be so disjointed and stilted. It was bad like a car accident on the side of the road. Even though you know you shouldn't look, the more you see the more you can't help yourself. Then it hit me. It wasn't the actors. It was the writing, the plot, the script. Hollywood is a giant con game, all about fast money - very similar, in theory, to pimping and prostitution. And guess who's getting pimped at the theater? Badly written flicks are for mindless drones who don't care what they're watching as long as someone gets shot, Rogered, or both. Until they start writing dialogue and scripts that either successfully take us into Fantasyland and allow us to laugh at or dream about the improbable, or reflect some reality of the world today, then we're gonna keep getting fed crap. And no this isn't sour grapes or Hating because I wasted nearly $5 on this movie. I rented Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigalo once...on purpose. But at least that film's corniness forced you to laugh at it. I say boycott Hollywood, until we get one solid year's worth of good movies - comedies being the exception, of course, because all our senses of humor range from scary to goofy. So good comedy is relative. That's just my take. You're welcome to disagree.
  • Mutton Head of the Day: We were rolling into the parking lot at Target (pronounced Tar-Zhay when you're shopping for furniture), and I was forced to slam on the breaks, because a guy in a big sedan ran a stop sign and whipped in front of us. As he was turning into our path I leaned on the horn to let him know it was a stupid thing to do. And I may have saluted him. I don't remember. Yes, Miami-esque responses to stupid driving have fully rubbed off on me. So we got to the next stop sign and wouldn't you know it? He stops this time! But only to open his door, lean out, turn around to face me and ask "Hey, so what is your big hurry?" Come again. My big hurry? I wasn't in a hurry. I couldn't be 'cause you, dumb dumb, cut me off. In my mind I responded "Hey Speed Racer, you are disqualified, ha ha! You have proven that you cannot drive, ha ha! You are no longer allowed to eat fresh food, ha ha! Nor can you look both ways before walking into traffic, ha ha!" But, because my wife thought he may have been nuts for stopping and confronting me, I only called him a name and told him to quit asking rhetorical questions and move his car out of the intersection. I admit it was probably stupid of me to call this guy out. He could have been an illegal gun-toting psycho. But see, what he did was also stupid, 'cause I may have been the crazy one. And how bad would his day have gotten if I'd yanked him out of that car by his nostrils and proceeded to fling him like a pendulum a la Bamm Bamm Rubble? Alas, I am too pretty to go to jail. So he did not get flung. Instead, he got off with a verbal "warning." But I'm really getting into this road rage thing. Who knew that six months in Miami could make me kooky as a native, when I'm behind the wheel?
  • Myspace: My neighbor, who violated my chill space a couple of months ago by draping towels, clothes, and other random wet stuff over my fence is at it again. The first time I caught heat from at least one person (that's right Big Daddy; but I forgive you) for allegedly being a suburban snob. But I don't live in the 'burbs, and I busted my hump to make that yard look good. And I'm no snob. I just don't want to see your mildewed towels and dirty drawers hanging in my yard. Put that stuff in your dryer, especially if you have one that works (and my neighbor does - don't ask how I know). I didn't say anything to him the first time he did it. Now, I think I have to. My vision of tranquility in that corner of my yard doesn't include looking at raggedy towels, and old, dingy pup tents, I mean great-grandma undies. What's next, cars on cinder blocks being parked in my driveway?
  • WBAs: Finally, don't forget to try and think of nominations for Sunday's Weekly Behavior Awards. If you've seen an extraordinarily good or extraordinarily bad act over the past week or so, let's hear about it.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Chapter Four: The Hater Chronicles - Last Word

Well, it's been a fun week trying to plan postings around Blogger's outages and hosting a forum on the Hater family.

Let's close out the discussion Haters with this - at least this is my last word on it. Do feel free to share your final thoughts: Hating is an unfortunate quality. I think any person who is a Hater is missing out on a bit of life, because they are consumed with being first. There's a difference in that sentiment and striving to win. Striving to win is a good thing. It smacks of good work ethic and a desire to be the best. But wishing other people not to "win" or disliking them for winning or trying to keep them from winning? That's being a Hater.

If, as Og (Neanderpundit blog) says, many haters are born into Hating by virtue of the fact that they were raised to feel entitled to the good life, then there's no help for that ilk but total humility to someone they consider their lesser. And if a person, once fair-minded, evolves into a Hater because too many of his dreams haven't been recognized then that person needs to refocus his life to those things that will help him achieve his goals. By concentrating on what he wants to accomplish and not what he believes other folks don't deserve to accomplish that second type of Hater can find redemption.

But, if as Big Daddy pointed out, you are one of those people who is lazy, lacking ambition, lakcing creativity, etc., and accuses anyone who offers you a constructive critique of being a Hater, then you yourself are the Hater for your lack of willingness to humble yourself and learn from others.

I don't want to get too preachy though. So that's my word.

Enjoy the weekend, send me nominations for the Weekly Behavior Awards (best examples of extraordinarily good and/or bad behavior you've seen in the past week or so), and remember, don't be a Hater!

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Chapter Three of the Hater Chronicles: You Might Be A Hater

So in keeping with this week's theme, I was thinking earlier about one of my old favorite standup comedy routines, Jeff Foxworthy's "You might be a redneck" bit. It was such a popular routine in the '90s that Shawn Wayans, the youngest of the 375,000 Wayans Brothers, bit Foxworthy's style and wrote a book called "150 Ways to Tell if You're Ghetto."

Both acts said "you might be..." if you have this characteristic or that habit. My favorite from Foxworthy is you might be a redneck if your new house still has wheels on it. My favorite from Wayans was you can tell you're ghetto if you have a car phone and no car.

So in case any of us have doubts about whether we're subconscious Haters or if we suspect we might know a Hater, here's our take on "You might be:"

  • If you see a girlfriend who is a hit with the fellas walk out of the can with TP dragging from her shoe and you don't tip her off before she rejoins her admirers, you might be a hater.
  • If you have a pocket full of cash but confront your buddy in front of a crowd of other guys about the $1 he borrowed from you six months ago, you might be a hater.
  • If a friend tells you she just got a promotion at work and your first thought isn't a happy one for her, but rather "Why did she get the promo," you might be a hater.
  • If you preface a congratulatory statement to a friend with "I guess" - as in "I guess that's a good job you landed," you might be a hater...unless you're genuinely concerned your friend could have done better.
  • If in front of a crowd a friend's announcement of a new accomplishment prompts you to blurt out "I could have done that," you might be a hater.
  • If, when you greet a friend you feel compelled to criticize him before saying anything pleasant, you might be a hater.
  • If your best friend tells you he's engaged, and you react by telling the crowd with a straight face that she was interested in you first but you let your guy have her instead, you might be a hater.
  • If you are too busy to fulfill a prime assignment at work but you have time to lobby management so that a particular colleague doesn't get that assignment, you might be a hater.
  • If a friend shows you a new acquisition - and it's not dangerous, distasteful, reckless, or otherwise a bad thing - and you react with "that's nice, but I could never...," you might be a hater.
  • If you begrudge any hard worker his or her success, you might be a hater. And if you begrudge their success, because deep down inside you don't think they're as deserving as you, you're definitely a hater.

If any of these apply to you, seek help. And if any apply to your friends? Start thinking of ways to put them in check and save your friendship.

Chapter Two: The Hater Chronicles

It has been pointed out to me that I left out two more prominent members of the Hater family, known as I'm-Just-Sayin' Hater and Self Hater.

I'm-Just-Sayin' Hater is an interesting fellow...or woman, because while they don't say anything pointed to discourage you, they back into that message with subtle hints. Here's the example that Anonymous gave: "Dude, I would not have applied for that job if I were you, cuz they are looking for someone with (such and such) experience...I mean, I'm just sayin'..."

As for Self Haters, that one's interesting too, 'cause in name alone you'd expect that they'd hate on themselves more than anyone else. But Anonymous points out that Self Hater's dislike of himself and discontent with herself is already so deeply ingrained that he/she becomes Super Hater by virtue of taking on the characteristics of all the other members of the Hater family.

And Big Daddy, glad you're back, but why did I know you'd take this opportunity to sort of defend the Hater as possibly being the only sane person in the room?

You're gonna have to further defend that premise, buddy. Because there is no way you're telling me that the only sane person in the room is the guy calling you out in front of a crowd, or the guy telling you your new job would've been fine for him before he was so talented, or your new car is nice if that's all you can afford, or your house is OK if you don't mind living in the 'hood.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Catchin' Up

Well, now that we've fed the squirrels who run on the conveyor belt that powers this system, let's catch up a little. I want to post new material, but I don't want to get too far ahead, 'cause I want to keep this week's theme - Haters - fresh.

So for now I'll refer you to Family of Haters, the prologue to the "Book of Haters," and The Hater Chronicles, chapter one.

Give me your thoughts on Haters and what makes 'em tick, and I'll do a new post later tonight or first thing in the morning.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

The Hater Chronicles: Chapter One

So in the prologue earlier I defined the many variations of Haters.

Since then it has been pointed out that I left out Call-You-Out Hater, usually born a twin to the Blocker Hater. Call-You-Out Hater is the member of the family who waits until you are in mixed company or any sort of crowd and then points out a weakness or low point of yours. When Call-You-Out Hater sees you successfully holding court with beautiful women at a cocktail party, he will approach, smile as big as everyone else, slap you on the back and ask loudly how you can afford to buy yourself a drink since you owe him $5. She will wait until you have the rapt attention of every handsome man within earshot and blurt out "What's that you're drinking there? Whatever it is, don't drink too much! We wouldn't want you wetting the bed tonight the way you did through your 21st birthday!"

So moving on. In the prologue to this posting I mentioned that I had my own encounter a couple of days ago with a classic hater and that I had to consult another buddy about how to handle it.

BTW, I encountered the Downplay Hater. I can't give you the exact story, or else I'll be an inadvertent hater myself by unnecessarily embarrassing the culprit.

Let's say that I was having a conversation with a friend who raised the subject of something good that recently happened for me, something whose longterm goodness depends on how much or how little I make of it. Hopefully that's not too cryptic for you. Now, an even-keeled friend might have started his or her contribution to the chat with something along the lines of "Congratulations again, James!" followed by a "How's it coming?" But the Downplay Hater in this case immediately expressed doubts in my handling of the good thing. He or she wasn't teasing either. So when I tried to counter the out-of-left-field attack by insisting truthfully that the good thing was working out just fine for me, the friend came back at me by essentially saying things couldn't be doing too well for me, because he or she didn't see it that way. Then promptly, with no rhyme or reason, the friend changed the subject to the weather or politics or some other random thing.

It was an interesting conversation, to say the least. I have a theory about certain breeds of Hater: I don't think they realize they do it. I think sometimes it's a subconscious thing tied their lack of confidence in themselves, or their need to feel like the Big Man on Campus, or their sense of entitlement that tells them that there's no way you can have something good in your life without them having something better in theirs. After all, they deserve it more than you, right? They were born for it.

If you're at all curious, I decided not to directly confront Downplay Hater. Instead I'm going to keep doing my thing and let the reality of my blessings and good fortune eat at them like a tumor. And if the opportunity presents itself from time to time I'll drop the subtle hint couched in humor to alleviate the tension that maybe their critiques are a little out of line.

Pay it Forward Update

It has been 10 days since an apparently distressed man in the Blockbuster parking lot hit me up for help, explaining that he'd had a breakdown or wreck or something likethat, saying he was tapped out and explaining that he and his wife just needed to get to the train station to make their way back to Boca.

I mentioned then that I like to be very discriminating in my charity, 'cause there are so many frauds out there. But something about this guy compelled me to accept his pitch. He seemed sincere, and I never think that about the would-be beneficiary in these situations.

So I spotted the guy $20. I didn't ask for repayment, but he insisted on taking my card and giving me his. He said he'd mail me a check. Nothing yet. I guess I could give him more time. But somehow I don't think anything will change.

I didn't want him to pay it forward. Even though I didn't ask, I wanted him to pay it backward - give me back my money, as promised, and then when he's doing a little better pay it forward on his own dime. But so far I haven't heard from him.

I'm tempted to call him, but it probably wasn't even his real name or phone number on the card. And even if it was accurate info what would I say? You conned me!

That's OK, it's what I suspected would happen.

But trust me, you do not want to be the next "distressed" person who hits me up for a buck, 'cause I'm gonna do like Tupac Shakur in the movie Poetic Justice (his character was a letter carrier who wanted to be a rapper) and start offering folks free postage stamps with which to mail themselves job applications.

I'm not 100% anti-charity. I'm just going to revert to my old policy of giving - on those rare occasions - because it's a nice thing to do, not because I care.

Daddy's Day

I ain't talking Father's Day, per se, but I've been having a friendly debate with a friend over whether this day and age is the Day of Dad's, as in dads are the flavor of the month. They're it. They're the in thing. They're cool, and hip.

Bear with me. I mentioned to a friend the other night that I'm looking forward to that day when I'm a dad and that the day I find out it's gonna happen I will be stoked. And he replied with a tsk tsk and a "What happened to you?" I know he was joking when he said that any remaining cool points I have - he says I lost most when I got married last year - will quickly evaporate on the day my first child is born. But there's some sincerity in every joke, I've always felt.

When I was 21, I would have agreed with him. Dad's aren't cool, at least not married dads. Back then I thought that it was only possible for single guys to be cool.

But back then, my measurement of cool was based on how pimpish a dude was - how many women he could attract, how many he actually hooked up with, how well he "maintained" those liaisons, how nice a car he had, how nice his clothes were, and how smooth his overall game was.

If a guy got no girls, had jacked up clothes, and caught the bus, he wasn't cool, no matter how single he was. And game? You had to have more game than Monopoly, or you weren't even considered to be in competition. And a "cool" AKA single guy with a baby was a guy with a burden.

I'm grown up now, and as a grown man I like to dress myself well anyway, 'cause I enjoy it, and it's a mature thing to do. So I think I've got the clothes. Check. I got the girl, and I've kept her. Check. I've got a car that runs well and gets me and my stuff from A to B and back. So in essence, I do have a cool car - as cool as a station wagon-like SUV can be. Check (sort of). I'm all about kids now. Check.

So, my asessment is that my friend is way off. Being a dad will just restore some of my cool points when it happens. Because women, I'm told, like the stink of responsibility on a guy, and nothing produces that scent more than active fatherhood. And for the record, the only woman whose measurement of responsibility counts to me is my wife (had to throw that in there, in case she thinks I'll turn into one of those guys pushing a kid around the mall using it as lady bait).

But me and a stroller? When it happens it's gonna be cool.

A Family of Haters

Do you remember the Seinfeld episode where Elaine is dating a guy who was a bad breaker upper? She was warned going in that he had a history of behaving in a very salty manner after breakups. But she figured he wouldn't be the same way with her. Sure enough though, when she broke up with him he smiled at first but then told her she had a big head and he didn't want to be with a big-headed person anyway.

That guy was a member of the Hater family, known as Sour Grapes Hater.

It's only fair that since the word "hater" was introduced to us by way of hip-hop culture many years ago, that we get a hip-hop definition of it. According to Hater Magazine, whose motto is "When disliking isn't enough," hating involves making critical observations of your surrounding world.

Critical observations are fine when they're constructive. Haters simply criticize, because they don't like something about you. And that dislike tends to be rooted in the fact that you have something they want, or are doing something they'd like to do but can't. Sometimes they dislike you just because you seem to be content with your life, and they don't like contentment.

So the Hater family is large. There is also Blocker Hater, whose mission it is in life to keep her girlfriends from connecting with interested guys. There's Downplay Hater, whose mission is to remind you that your accomplishments don't really mean that much in the grand scheme of things. Then there's Back-handed Compliment Hater, who offers every kind word with a caveat that suggests your good look/good work/good deed/accomplishment is OK, but it could've been better. Finally, there's the family patriarch, Hardcore Hater, who isn't satisfied unless he/she is the center of attention, you demonstrably admire him/her, and his/her good fortune is garnished with your misfortune.

We all know at least one member of the Hater family. A trademark of theirs is comparing your accomplishments to theirs - a maddening habit to have to put up with, but even worse if you're the friend they've chosen as their "Under Achiever Mirror." If you're that friend, then the Hater, when feeling low self-esteem, will look at you and hope you reflect their perceived superiority back onto them.

Let's talk Haters this week - not Haters only, but at least once a day. Right now, I have to call a friend to consult him on how to deal with a old grizzled member of the Hater family I encountered a couple of days ago.

I'll post this afternoon on "which" member that was and how to deal.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Weekly Behavior Awards - Blame Blogger for Delays

Sorry folks. I've been trying to post all day and couldn't. Each attempt was greeted with error messages, and a note that Blogger was aware of the problem and working on it.

Anyway, we got two nominations for Bum of the Week, and one - mine - for Best Behavior.

Let's go with the good first: During a train-to-work day last week I was sitting a few seats behind a group of teenage boys who were raising cain, cussin' up a storm at the tops of their lungs, and talking about sexual things in a way teenage boys who haven't actually had sex are wont to do. After about five minutes of that, we came to another stop, and two elderly women boarded the train and made their way in our general direction. When the boys spied 'em, they did an impressive thing - to me, anyway. They piped down, lowering their voices to a more conversational tone, they sat up straight. One of 'em even smoothed the invisible wrinkles down the front of his shirt. They stopped swearing and quit the sex talk. And after sitting and looking awkward for a few seconds, two of the boys jumped up and offered the ladies their seats. There's hope for these boys yet. They get the Best Behavior award. It's a sign of good home training that you can recognize when you should and shouldn't play/joke a certain way and adjust your behavior accordingly. Those kids who would've continued on, oblivious to who was around 'em? Raised like wolves.

As for Bum of the Week, Manola B. had this offering: "Well, this may seem dumb, but one day this week, some punk was trying to spook all the iguanas on the deck across from the canal in my yard. One in particular must've not gotten enough heat to stir up its blood, because the punk kept stomping the floor next to it until it finally got spooked and dove into the canal. Luckily iguanas can swim and so the water is a safe escape. Sometimes, they get spooked by me when they cross over to my side of the canal, but I don't do it on purpose. In fact, I usually say, don't worry, I'm not going to hurt you. Thing is -- what moronic pleasure this fella got in disturbing these sedentary and unobtrusive monster lizards makes me wonder how he behaves with humans."

Not dumb at all M.B., torturing animals is how Jeffrey Dahmer got his start, before moving on to eating people and hiding 'em in his freezer.

Michelle had this nomination for BoW: "I was at work (bookstore) and a customer came asking to return a book. A relative had bought the book for them on a credit card, but the customer didn't need the book after all. There is a code to type into the register to pull up old receipts and make the return without reswiping someone's card--another co-worker had shown me once how its done. Mind you, only ONCE so I was unsure of how to do it myself. Another person working in the store went on about how we needed the card, and even sent the customer to call the relative and get the info. Then that co-worker repeatedly told me that I was wrong and apologized because our colleague had misinformed me on that matter. The customer returns with the info and just then, the manager pops out; we explain the situation to him and he does the return--sans credit card, by pulling up the receipt in the computer. Just like I thought was possible. That know-it-all co-worker didn't say anything else after that. Nor did I, just knowing that I was right was enough satisfaction for me."

Ladies, I can't decide. I think torturing animals is reprehensible. But I also have a special disdain for know-it-alls who can't apologize once they've been found in the wrong.

Let's call it a draw. That's the word on behavior awards till next week. Stay tuned for the first entry examining what makes a hater tick. That's coming this afternoon. If you're over 40, you'd probably recognize a "hater" to be a sour grapes type person.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Hip-hop is Dead

I can't even explain it. Let's just say I hope Jodie Foster has a movie coming out soon. Too much idle time. Just click the link and watch the video of her giving the commencement speech recently at the University of Pennsylvania, and when it's over if you're a fan of the any form of rap tell me this video doesn't leave you just a little squeamish and depressed:

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Klepto, or just plain nuts?

So we were out running errands Saturday afternoon, trying to relax and shake some under-the-weather feelings, and stopped in a Panera Bread for sandwiches.

After we placed our order, I stayed to pay for it, and my wife went to find a seat.

She did what we all do, grabbed a wad of napkins along the way. Not too many, maybe six or seven. I'd have grabbed an arm full, a small tree's worth. But she's pretty self-conscious about that stuff. Maybe one napkin each, plus one each for sweating, dripping drink glasses, plus one or two backups, in case we're eating a particularly sloppy meal. And if those don't suffice, she'll go and grab a few more as the meal's in progress.

When I got to the table I started to tease her like I always do, telling her a tree died because of "all" the napkins she grabbed.

But she pointed out a woman at table about six feet away from us. The other woman was just sitting down at her table, joining a guy we assumed was her husband (they were both wearing rings), and in her hand she had a humongous wad of.... powdered sugar packets. We're talking enough sugar to power up a Krispy Kreme for a weekend. I say it was a half-pound of sugar she had - packets were falling out of her hand.

Here's the nutty thing though, both she and her guy had soda in front of 'em. Not iced tea or anything else unsweetened. My wife said then that maybe I was wrong about their drinks. But then the woman took the giant wad and shoved all 7,625 packets into her purse, and proceeded to eat, drink, chat, etc.

We tried to speculate why, but couldn't come up with anything logical. I haven't heard of any sugar shortage in South Florida grocery stores. And there's no way she was broke. She was wearing a big enough rock on that left hand to buy a sugar cane field. So my best conclusion is that the sugar swiper was just insane, or a cheapskate who didn't want to buy her own packets to keep in the car or her desk at work, or both. Don't get me wrong. I'm not being pious. I'll be the first to admit that on my way out of McDonald's on more than one occasion I've grabbed a fist-full of ketchup and tossed it in my bag, telling myself that it was OK, because it's better to have a little extra than not enough. And what inevitably happens every time? I use two or three packets and then have five more to either throw away or shove into my glove box. But on those occasions, I had fries! They need ketchup! What the H. was she grabbing sugar for?

So, when we rose to walk out of the restaurant we had only used maybe three of our six or seven napkins. So instinctively, I grabbed the remaining three or four and shoved 'em in my pocket.

It struck me a second later that I had been clowning the sugar fiend for obviously taking more than she needed.

So here's my moral/ethical question: Is what I did any different than what the sugar fiend did? I'm not sure. In theory, we did grab more napkins than we ultimately needed. But, playing Devil's advocate, my wife points out that we might have needed those napkins had we spilled, etc., so they were a precautionary measure. And there are times - thanks to my eating like I have no hands, when I'm really hungry - we have used every single napkin we grabbed. Besides, having worked in a few restaurants in my pre-reporting days, it has always been my understanding that for safety and sanitary reasons anything disposable left on a table after a diner leaves is thrown away. So if the napkins were gonna get tossed, why shouldn't I have taken 'em? That would've been wasteful, right?

If this were a trial, I'd probably try to turn the tables and say to the judge, "Your honor, the more important question than whether I should have taken my extras is why did she take the sugar in the first place?"

What say you: Am I in the same boat as the sugar fiend?