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Burnett's Urban Etiquette

Monday, July 31, 2006

Weekly Behavior Awards

With deference to our friends on the West Coast, it appears we're off to a slow start this morning. So let's wrap these awards up this week with just two nominations - one for Best Behavior and one for Bum of the Week.

For Best, we have from our faithful friend Bronchitikat in the British countryside this story: "Well, for Commendation there's the guy who, last Monday afternoon, noticed I was struggling with my bicycle on the railway footbridge steps & offered to help. As you've noticed, not all 'young people' are yobs!"

And for Bum here's my tale: Actually this didn't happen in the past seven days, but I'd forgotten to mention it last week so I had to tell you about it today. So the wife and I were Einstein Bro's getting a bagel and what not - you may recall that's where we saw a woman in a full sweat suit on a day it was over 90 degrees outside - when a couple came in behind us with their small child. I know it was hot, and that conventional wisdom says fewer clothes are better. But this kid (I'm guessing he was about 3-years-old) was in raggedy drawers (underwear, not shorts), a grimy, stained t-shirt - and I don't mean sweat stains; these were food stains or some other biological material, and no shoes. The bottoms of his feet were black as soot. His parents in the meantime wore clothes...from top to bottom. And they seemed to have no problem with their kid rolling around the filth of the floor. Nor did they seem to notice or care when he dropped his banana at least once, picked it up and resumed eating. Kids will be kids, and kids can attract dirt like magnets, I know. But c'mon? Not one of you can tell me it's cool to come out of the house with your kid looking like he's been raised by wolves. I'm not saying they were starving the kid or abusing him. He looked chill and fed, but there's public casual look and private casual look. Whatever happened to cleaning yourself and/or your kids up before taking them out? Anyway, I offer these parents up as Bums of the Week.

Oh, and I also nominate for Bum my neighbor across the alley who sneakingly left a stack of his old fence planks, full of exposed nails, on the swale behind my home and not behind his own place. Technically most of the planks appear to be sitting on my next door neighbor's side. But some are on my side. So if a kid had been playing in the alley and stepped on one of those things I could be liable. And if the city decided to issue a ticket for that stuff being placed there improperly or at the wrong time of the month? Yep, I could get the ticket. He's an older guy, and I might have felt a little more sympathy, except when I confronted him he played dumb and acted like he didn't know he should have stacked this stuff behind his own house instead of mine and my nextdoor neighbor's. Yeah, and I just fell off the back of the yam wagon.

Finally, a special Coolness Award goes to Bronchitikat for introducing us - or me, at least - to a new slang. I've made my way through crumbum, knucklehead, pinhead, chowderhead, and all manner of other heads, to describe triflin' people. But Bronchitikat taught us "yobs" today. Thank you B, and I plan on using yobs in a new posting just as soon as I see a yob in action. And if things go as usual that won't take too long today.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Weekly Behavior Awards - Nominations Please

If you have a story of great, kind, considerate behavior by someone you know or observed over the past week or so, let's hear it.

If you have a story of someone you know or observed being a tool over the past week or so, let's hear it.

If we don't get nominations by Monday morning, I'll post a couple of my stories - 'cause trust me, as a still relatively new South Floridian there are still things I'm shocked/pleasantly surprised by.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Props I forgot to give

My wife made me come w/her Thursday night to our neighborhood association meeting in Hollywood (if you're reading this from outside South Florida, yes, we have a Hollywood down here too).

And while I won't deny I hated every minute of it, there was a bright spot in addition to the end of the meeting an hour and 20 minutes or so later.

The president of the association announced in the middle of the meeting that he had a couple of awards to give out for what amounted to good citizenship above and beyond...

The recipients it turns out were two high school students, Kevin and Derrick Cote. During one of those torrential downpours a couple of weeks ago, the Cote boys were out and about and stumbled across an elderly couple in the rain. The couple had gone to dinner, and then apparently got lost in the rain trying to walk their way home. They both fell and injured themselves. When the Cotes found them, they were drenched and bleeding. The boys not only helped the couple up, but called for help, and stayed there with the couple and physically supported them till help arrived.

I'm always giving young'ns grief these days for being knuckleheads. Kudos to these two for doing way more than a lot of adults would have in the same situation.

Friday, July 28, 2006

It's all in how you see it

A reader, who emailed me off the blog and asked not to be identified, said that he (or she?) was confused about my definition(s) of courtesy. The reader said my use of the word from time to time was fuzzy. And the reader thought I might sometimes use the word in a "stuffy" context.

Of course, I disagree, but I figure I owe something deeper than "it means being nice," 'cause there really is more to it than that.

So how about a description, rather than a definition.

Earlier in the week I was ranting about nutballs on the Metro Mover, downtown Miami's free elevated trolley. So here's one more public transpo story for you. Hopefully it'll answer the reader's question.

While riding the M&M to another station where I was going to connect with another train two people boarded one stop after I got on the trolley: a young man, and a young woman. A quick once over told me both they were likely college students at the nearby Miami-Dade College. Both wore backpacks. Both carried notebooks and textbooks, and she had an art portfolio under one arm. Later they proved me right, getting off the trolley adjacent to the campus.

Right after they boarded the trolley though, they both whipped out headphones to music players and popped 'em into their ears.

Here's where the similarities diverge: I couldn't tell what she was listening to, and unless the other folks on board were part bat, I doubt they could either. She had the volume set to where only she could hear her music. She gently bobbed her head and mouthed the words to her tunes.

He, on the other hand, made sure everyone knew what he was listening to - not 'cause the volume was so bad, but because he shouted the lyrics defiantly, staring down anyone else who dared glance curiously at him. It was almost with glee that he went on and on about "bitches" and "hos" and shoot this and kill that.

Dear anonymous-by-request reader, I hope this story did it for you. But just in case, she was courteous. He was not.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Not one word?

That's to anyone who has not yet weighed in on the youth homicide problem Greater Miami (and no doubt a lot of other big metro areas) is dealing with now.

It's a serious issue, and one I know is not unique to South Florida.

Give me some feedback folks. How do we get kids to stop killing each other over BS? I once covered a murder, in which the would-be victim accidentally stepped on the shooter's girlfriend's new shoes. I say would-be 'cause the shooter had horrible aim, missed the shoe-scuffer, and instead struck and killed a 12-year-old girl, sitting in her grandmother's home nearby, minding her own business. Insane. How do we convince them their heroes in the music biz are mostly phonies, who no longer live the hard street life that they brag about in song? How do we convince them that getting shot or locked up really isn't all that cool?

In case you missed two posts ago, I wrote about the issue in Wednesday's Miami Herald.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Gotta Keep My Word - Here's the Cat (and dog)

Even though I stand to lose major macho points for doing this, I promised dogncatmom that I would post pictures of our new kitten.

But we must respect our elders, so above is a picture of our dog, Cheko, who has been around for a few years now. And below are two pics of the kitten. Her name is Andy.

Murder Was the Case that They Gave Me

I still remember the Snoop Dogg song of the same title. I think I was 19 or 20 when it came out.

Here's part of the first verse with a scene setter - Snoop is sort of daydreaming that he has been shot and sort of feels his life slipping away as paramedics work on him. He expresses regret and asks "what if" he'd led a different life:
As I look up at the sky
My mind starts trippin,
a tear drops (from) my eye,
My body temperature falls
I'm shakin' and they breakin'
tryin to save the Dogg
Pumpin on my chest and I'm screamin'
I stop breathin'
Damn! I see demons,
Dear God, I wonder can ya save me...

I remember my guys and I thinking this song was so powerful. Of course, we knew it was just entertainment. Too bad waaaaaaaaaay too many kids still take songs like this as some kind of badge of honor and testament to living reckless and dying young.

Anyway, I don't want to get too preachy. I'll leave that to the pros. Check out my most recent article. It ran in today's Miami Herald. It's about plans by a group of ministers to try to help police stem the tide of juvenile homicides in the Miami area.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Again with the unfair fights

This is a weird topic for me, 'cause it involves bashing an elderly person - not physically 'cause I don't believe in hitting strangers, and 'cause I'm too pretty to go to jail.

But let me ramble for a second: A week or so ago I wrote about an encounter I had with several angry young women at a roadside rest stop and how one of them behaved as if she were gonna swing on me. And all I could think then was how helpless I felt, 'cause I knew that if she did swing and connect there was nothing I could do. I couldn't have punched her back, even though she was at least as big as me. It would have resulted in me being outcast generally and clowned by every comedian out there worth his weight in salt.

That incident launched a few old buddies and I into a friendly debate about people who are off limits when it comes to fighting and criticism. We call it the "Unfair Fight Club."

We came to the conclusion that even if you are right you cannot release your fury on the following without risking figurative hisses and boos from society at large: children under about 16, people in wheel chairs, orphans, widows, and the elderly.

Especially elderly women. Most of us were raised by parents who used the mantra "respect your elders." And most of us accepted that people who were two and three and four and five times our age were just wiser than us by virtue of having lived longer than us. And so they deserve a measure of respect from us. But my grandfather used to dispute that. He insisted that just because you managed to survive a lot of years doesn't mean you're wise or deserving of respect. It could just mean you're lucky. One of his favorite sayings was "There's no fool like an old fool."

Yesterday afternoon I was sitting on the Metro Mover - again, if you're new to this blog, that's a free downtown Miami trolley system - on the way to connect with another train that I would ultimately ride to the site of an interview for an article I'm working on.

Now, I have long legs. And those trolleys can get crowded. So as a rule, if I manage to find a seat I sit straight up and keep my feet flat to take up as little space as possible. And I hold my briefcase on my lap.

So an elderly woman approaches, and instinctively I begin to stand and vacate my seat. But before I could get all the way up she sat on the window-ledge seat perpendicular to me. So I shrugged it off. Five minutes and two trolley stops later there was still no one sitting next to her on the ledge seat, so I lifted my briefcase off my lap and sat it in the empty spot next to her.

And she went off!

Her first words were "I want to sit there!"

I responded "I'm sorry I didn't know you wanted to sit there."

She replied, "No, I want to sit there now!"

I answer, "Either way, I didn't know that. I couldn't have known that."

She said "You should have guessed it."

Pause: At this point, I admit I'm getting salty, but I'm afraid to speak my mind, because, you guessed it: she was old.

I answer "Ma'am, if I could read minds I'd be buying lottery tickets and selling gossip tips to the tabloids."

She said "Well, I couldn't sit there anyway, because your legs are in the way."

I answer "With all due respect, my legs are directly in front of me and couldn't possibly be in your way in the corner to my left. They're not that long!"

She then said "You people!" and mumbles something else indecipherable.

I shake my head incredulously and - straining to bite the sharpest part of my tongue - say "I wish I could hack 'em off at the knee for you, but that's not gonna happen."

She said "Your education shows. Why can't you be like other people?"

She said a few more things and I answered each one with "Sorry, I'm not shorter for you." Admittedly, my tone grew saltier with each response. But my words didn't change.

Now, here's the funny thing: I really held back for one reason and one only - she was old!

And I couldn't bring myself to talk to her in the same tone and in the same type of words she was using with me. It's very strange, but had she been 50 years younger, I'm fairly certain I would have blasted her and called her a vile name or two for attacking me like that.

Based on a few other things she said, which I won't rehash, it was safe for me to assume that her admonitions about my education and me not being like other people on the train were racial digs. I know that's uncomfortable for some of you to read. But it happens.

Why though do we fear calling certain people out because of their physical condition (disease, age, weight, etc.) or their lot in life (orphaned, widowed, rich, poor)? Why do some people get a pass 'cause of those "conditions?" Shouldn't we feel comfortable putting someone in check because of how they're behaving?

I wish we were, 'cause if anyone deserved that salute and a harsh word or two, it was this woman who snapped on me yesterday. But alas, she got the Old pass.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Is it Just Me?

I realize I'm not a native South Floridian, but someone tell me if I'm right: It's hot outside, these days, no?

I only ask 'cause over the past several days, with temperatures hovering in the low 90s, I have spotted at least a half dozen young women around Miami walking around in sweatsuits. I don't mean sweatpants. I mean full suits - the thick stretchy cotton pants, and the long-sleeved, heavy cotton jackets w/hoods, or hoodies as they're commonly called.

One woman we saw, while we melted in shorts and short-sleeves Sunday afternoon at Einstein Bros. bagel shop in Aventura, came strolling in wearing a velour warm-up suit...zipped up...with the sleeves pulled all the way down.

Am I nuts or is that nuts? It was 90-something degrees! Anyway, I saw several more today.

I know those cutesy suits can be fashionable, but I didn't think so in hot weather, unless you're Rocky Balboa training for a fight and you feel a need to sweat buckets as you run up the stairs to the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

But what do I know? Maybe long-sleeved hoodies and sweatpants are fashionable mid-summer gear in South Florida.

Just in case, I'm going to go home and break out my camel hair overcoat and a turtleneck sweater - the ones I didn't think I'd need to wear for a while after moving down here from Wisconsin last fall. If cold weather clothes in the summer are stylish, I don't want to miss out on the trend.

And I was trying not to break a sweat

A great big rusty-pipe-up-yours-with-no-tetanus-shot-afterwards to the Hollywood Blvd. Tri-Rail station workers this morning.

After snippily sending passengers for the 8:03 a.m. train, which actually arrived closer to 8:20 a.m., to the East platform for boarding, the station workers waited till about 30 seconds before the Southbound train to Miami pulled into the station to say "oops!" and call all the passengers back to the West platform for boarding.

Running like O.J. through the airport in a Hertz commercial, lugging a deadweight laptop bag, and virtually hurdling other people's stuff to make it to the end of the platform, around the fence, across the tracks and back down the other side before the train closed its doors? Not my ideal start to the morning. I was sweating like in middle school gym class.

Hey, Tri-Rail: Save some money on payroll. I can find my way to the wrong side of the tracks without help.

Weekly Behavior Awards - The World is Changing. Or I'm Sleepy.

What up, folks?

No clever banter tonight. I can't stay this pretty if I don't get some sleep.

So for Best Behavior, here's what we have:

  • Chris A. of Just a Bit of Terrific - "I nominate my neighbor for helping me yesterday, moving furniture down two outdoor flights of stairs, in the Arizona sun. That was awesome!"
  • Michelle - "I want to nominate the folks at the OCCS office at Old Dominion for trying to help me recover my term paper that mysteriously vanished off of my laptop. They tried for a few hours but to no avail :-(I did finally get my wireless connection set up and some new anti virus software to boot. The point is, they were extremely accommodating, and even convinced my professor to give me an extension on the paper. Hats off to Deborah!"
  • Me - The granola in me nominates all the people who went through the Broward Humane Society this weekend and adopted a pet abandoned during last hurricane season.

Interestingly enough we had no major infractions or serious cases of triflin' reported for the past week. So there will be no awards for Biggest Bum. A few bad drivers here and there, a few crotchety line-skipping seniors at the grocery, a few teenage girls dressed like they were on the stroll, a few knuckleheaded boys bumping waaaay too loud heavy bass and vile lyrics on their car stereos and seemingly every one of them pausing in front of my house to give me an earful. But nothing you don't get everyday in South Florida or many other major metro areas, for that matter. I was at the nexus of the nutball universe Sunday afternoon. But it was so funny to me that I thought we'd save it for a full post. I'll share it some time later Monday morning.

Maybe the lack of major bad behavior being reported this weekend means people are becoming more civil? Then again, maybe I'm too sleepy to think rationally.

Peace and hair grease.


Saturday, July 22, 2006

Random Saturday Crap

  • So I'm over the flu bug today (been trying to shake it for two days), so the wife and I decided to go to the Broward Humane Society for a kitten to keep our old dog company, 'cause we know that while he has no patience for puppies he's OK with cats. I am hoping that none of the buddies I grew up with read this, 'cause we all made fun of cat owners when I was young. I don't remember why exactly. I think we might've just assumed back then that cat owners were all dirt-eating, job-fearing hippies. Plus, everyone has a story about scary dogs from when they were kids. Not me. I never had a cross conversation with a pooch. But I was attacked by a cat when I was like nine. I swear, I'll never forget it. I was walking down the street about two blocks from home, lickin' a popsicle, and from the side of a neighbor's porch came this cat at about 100 miles an hour. He took a flying leap, teeth bared, claws bared, and tore my arms up. I may have been a 9-year-old boy, but I'm sure I screamed like an 8-year-old girl, tossed the popsicle and ran home. I don't know if the cat pursued me, 'cause I didn't look back. You may laugh. I did years later, but that cat scratched me up pretty badly and left me bleeding. Now, I am old. And I get sort of envious in a fun non-hater sort of way when I'm at other friends' homes and see their cats romping around. What happened to me?
  • Pop quiz: When do you say excuse me, before or after you bang into someone in a narrow aisle? Answer - after if your collision is accidental, BEFORE, however, if you saw the other person in time to avoid them. Unfortunately, the woman who rammed me w/her cart inside the pet store today didn't get that. I felt a cart in my rear, turned and looked up and she's standing there smirking at me. Then she says "excuse me" in the tone of voice that translates into "Well, I'm trying to get by. What do you expect?"
  • Could the same local police agencies that are cracking down on people who block intersections so they won't miss green lights, please start ticketing numbnuts who think turn signals are recommendations? I lost count of the number of break slams I had to do in order to avoid hitting sudden-turners-with-no-signals in front of me.

PS. Tomorrow is Sunday. Can we get a nomination or two for the Weekly Behavior Awards? Best Behavior and Biggest Bum are the categories. Any act of incredible jerkiness and bad behavior or any act of incredible kindness/good behavior qualify.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Blog abuse

I just opened up my blog email and found 18 consecutive spams.

Blog spammers should be heartily pimp-slapped and not allowed to eat fresh food.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

To be honest...

I have lied a few times in my life. BUT, according to a recent Associated Press/Ipsos poll so have many of you.

The poll says that 1 in 4 adults thinks lying is sometimes justifiable. Four in 10 said it was OK to exaggerate sometimes to make a story better or for a parent to lie to a kid about the parent's past misbehavior. One-third thought it was OK to lie sometimes about your age or whether you're sick to get a day off of work.

I found it most interesting that the people most likely to OK a lie were 18 - 29-year-olds - 57% according to the poll. By comparison, "only" 4 in 10 folks 30 and over believe lying is OK.

It also said that college grads and people with higher incomes were less likely to think lying is justified.

There's more. Click the link above to read it.

But I want to know if you guys think lying is OK and under what circumstances.

I have to confess, in a room full of my guys, with beverages flowing freely, I'm certain - though I can't give you a specific example - that I've gussied up a story to make myself look more macho.

I know for a fact that every adult male on this planet lied in high school and/or college about sexual prowess and "alleged" encounters with young women. And I know that guys - at least younger dudes lie about their "endowments." I'm sure young women have lied about these types of issues too. But I can't prove it.

And I've lied to people to spare their feelings.

Who has not feigned bubonic plague to avoid a second date with someone? I know I'm not the only one. In fact, when it came - pre-marriage, of course - to avoiding romantic encounters w/people who were even less attractive than me I have lied like a rug and easily killed off a number of a number of relatives to make sure a certain date was "booked" and I wasn't available for dinner, movies, or hanky panky.

BTW, can anyone explain the origins of "Liar, liar, pants on fire?" I wanna know, 'cause I'm thinking if your pants are on fire, lying isn't your biggest problem. You need a doctor.

One more thing: as I write this entry from my couch, I have to say boss I really wasn't feeling well today. That's why I decided to work from home.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

The Peter Griffin/Homer Simpson School of Parenting

It always cracks me up - in a sad, sad way, of course - when I see inattentive parents. Not 'cause I think putting your kids in danger is funny, but because I'm in awe at how karma and fate and whatever/whoever else allowed certain people to procreate, when they shouldn't be allowed to eat fresh food.

A co-worker and I were just on Miami's Metro Mover (free downtown elevated trolley) on our way to grab a bite to eat, and we saw a disturbing sight. A little boy - maybe 4- or 5-years-old - was leaning up against the train's doors, pounding on 'em. Knowing how herky jerky those doors can be I whispered my concern to my colleague, who decided to tell the boy to move away from the doors.

It was an admirable gesture, and one I'm not even sure I was willing to make, 'cause I've seen triflin' parents react viciously to other adults saying anything to their kids that even remotely resembles an admonition. And some folks are bananas. They want to fight you for trying to be helpful. I was with my mom once in a department store and there was a woman beating her kid like he owed her money. Come to think of it maybe he did. Kidding. But seriously, she was knocking him around like a piñata. Well, I can assure you my mom had no problem with corporal punishment. I got my share of spankings for my smart mouth, among other things. But without getting into the whole argument about whether or not kids should ever be spanked, right, wrong, etc., anyone with one eye and half a brain knows there's a difference in spanking a kid and beating a kid. And this woman in the store had gotten carried away. Who knows? Maybe she always got carried away. So on this one occasion, my mom put her hand on the woman's arm and gently suggested that maybe she should take a deep breath and restrain herself. There were all sorts of things to consider - getting arrested, having child protective services called, seriously injuring the kid. Instead of calming down, the woman jumped up, cursed at my mom for interfering, and asked my mom if she wanted a piece.

So back to the trolley. My colleague tried to get the kid's attention. The boy didn't listen. So my colleague called over to the mother "Ma'am, that's kind of dangerous - him leaning on the doors like that. He could fall out when they fly open at stops. You might want to call him away from the door."

The mom, who was on her cell phone, shot daggers at my colleague for interrupting her chat, said something snide into the phone about the interruption, and ignored it all. She didn't say one word to the kid.

An elderly woman standing next to us shrugged and said "At least you tried. I wanted to say something too, but..."

We got off the trolley before mother and child. Hopefully he didn't fall out when they reached their stop. And hopefully, mom won't accidentally grind broken glass into his food tonight, or absentmindedly hand him powdered bleach instead of sugar to sprinkle on his cereal in the morning.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Mixed Feelings

You might remember that I wrote Sunday evening that the wife and I spent the weekend near Orlando so she could hunt for antiques and I could get some rest.

I didn't get any rest, but we found some dusty old stuff. Seriously, I have to admit I am occasionally fascinated by old junk at antique fares and flea markets. It gives a little glimpse into the past.

And that brings me to my point. It is inevitable at these fares - especially those held in the South - that some vendor is going to be flying a Confederate flag or lots of 'em, and is going to have a table full of black lawn jockeys with exaggerated facial features, and "Whites Only," "Colored Entrance," or "Colored Drinking Fountain" signs for sale.

And even though I've seen these things a million times, they never cease to amaze me every time I see 'em again.

It's not what you think. I don't get instantly outraged and belligerent. I learned a long time ago that that sort of reaction won't move certain people. And as the kids like to say I'm not sweatin' anybody who thrives on division.

Actually, I try to keep an open mind with this stuff. I try to tell myself with the flag, for example, that maybe there are legitimate and amateur historians who fly that flag to simply preserve a piece of Southern history. I tell myself that, but I can't help but feel a vibe of anger and defiance from the vendors flying the flags each time I get within 10 feet of their booths/tables. It's not like I'm on a mission, making snide comments, wagging my finger at them, etc. I'm just shopping and browsing like everyone else. If anything seeing that stuff and not reacting has helped me perfect my poker face. And as an aside, every time I've heard some angry person on TV defending the flag as a part of history to be celebrated, they're always talking about Southern pride. I've got pride too, and I'm from the South. But that doesn't mean that everything about the history of my birthplace is to be celebrated. Some of it is to be acknowledged, learned from, and put in a museum somewhere.

Anyway, I'm off on a tangent. So onto the signs. They never bother me as much. In fact I've told my wife I want to buy a few of 'em and hang 'em on the walls of the spare bedroom and create my own miniature museum of hateful history, so visitors to my home have something besides my jokes and our food to reflect on. But, ironically, I joked with my wife that if I were to hang up "Colored Only" signs I might be accused of reverse discrimination. Again though, on Saturday I couldn't bring myself to give $20-plus hard-earned dollars to a dude who was looking at me as though he'd spit on me given the first chance. Not even a piece of history was worth financially supporting that guy.

Maybe one of these days I'll buy those signs and tell a Confederate flag waver how I really feel. Maybe not.

Monday, July 17, 2006


It's inevitable that on Mondays I get nominations for the Weekly Behavior Awards, though we tend to hand them out on Sunday evenings.

So this time it worked out well that I fell asleep last evening before posting our nominees, 'cause sure enough when I woke up this morning and checked my email I had more nominations.

And here they are:
  • For Best Behavior, Bronchitikat, our blog friend from the UK, offered this: "I was coming home with my bicycle, struggling over the railway station footbridge, when a guy who'd come to meet someone asked if I'd like help. Would I? You bet! Thanks for asking. & the other proposal is for my husband, who has allowed (even paid for) me to attend far too many concerts at this year's Chichester Festival. Thanks!"
  • For Biggest Bum, Adlib had this: "Maybe I'm too late, but I encountered a bum this morning on my drive to work...I pull out of my apartment complex with plenty of time before the next cars on that stretch of road reach me. Suddenly, one of them overtakes me, probably going 70 mph in a 45 mph zone. This guy ends up slowed down in traffic like the rest of us going through 4 or 5 lights. I see him turn on his signal near the next interstate ramp, but he does not move over and eventually turns off his signal. We head down to the next light after the overpass. He's still in front of me in the same lane, but I squeeze by in the last space in the left turn lane. At this point, he starts to move over precisely when I pull up next to him so I honk to let him know I'm there in case he didn't see me. He proceeds to honk back and gesture frantically like I took his space in line! Now when I pulled up in the turn lane, he was still fully in the driving lane and did NOT have his signal on. Yet somehow, he made it seem like I had just cut him off so he drives up to the light like a maniac when it turns green and muscles his way in at the front of the turn lane, probably almost causing a crash. People, is it really too hard to turn around at the next light if you're so stupid that you can't get over when you're supposed to? The sad thing is, drivers do this all the time here like if they miss their turn, their life comes to an end."
  • And my nod for Biggest Bum goes to the woman whose family was checking into the hotel I stayed in near Orlando this weekend, as we were checking out. She was sort of getting snippy with the clerk because she and her family arrived for check-in at about noon and their room wasn't ready. Problem is the hotel, like many, posts signs on the grounds and notes on your reservation that say check-in isn't until 3 p.m. unless you request earlier check-in. And then it still isn't a guarantee. This family apparently had not requested early check-in, anyway. So after the woman's bit of 'tude didn't intimidate the desk clerk, the woman walked away in a huff saying she'd be back at 3. But first she stopped in the hotel snack shop and helped herself to a root beer, and handed one to her kid too. Mom and kid started to walk out the door with the drinks. The shocked desk clerk called out "Excuse me, did you want to buy those root beers?" The mom, exasperated, replied "Do I have to pay for them? Now?" The clerk: "Um, yes." The mom: "Why can't you bill it to my room?" The clerk: "Because you haven't checked in. You don't have a room here...yet." The mom and kid walk away. The clerk says to me "I can't believe that. The sign says snack shop, snack store. To me that means you pay for what you take, not help yourself."

That's it folks. Tell me if one of these really grabs you.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Oops! I forgot

It's Sunday night. Please post your nominations for the Weekly Behavior Awards.

Remember the categories, as always, are Best Behavior and Biggest Bum.

Bronchitikat has already given us one nomination. Let's try to get more.

Either way I'll post the "winners" in a couple of hours.

Peace and hair grease.

Line 'em up

Sorry for the lack of posts the past two days.

On second thought, no I'm not sorry. The wife and I needed to get away for some peace and sanity. So we went to the Orlando area for the weekend so I could veg out and so she could hunt for old crusty stuff. I think they call 'em antiques.

Anywho this afternoon on the drive back south to the world's friendliest region we stopped at a roadside rest area to grab a quick bite and let the dog stretch his legs.

She walked the dog, and I went inside. So I picked a place to eat and went to stand in line. When I walked up there were two cash registers open. One line was longer than the other. Being the dunce that I am I got behind a group of three women at one register, who were already standing behind another woman, when there were only two guys at the other register.

After waiting five minutes and seeing the line in front of me not move, I walked over to the other register which was now down to just one guy. He paid his tab and walked away to wait for his food. I stepped up and placed my order. But as the cashier was handing me my change, one of the women from the other line reached out to me and said "Hey, we were next you know?"

My response? "Yeah, but you're standing over there at that register, not over here at this one."

Her: "Yeah, but we were here before you."

Me: "Sorry, but you chose to stand in that line and wait it out. I didn't want to wait for that cashier, so I came over here to this one."

Her: "That's not cool, dude."

Her girlfriend: "What the f---? You got a problem?"

Let us pause and reflect for a moment. Till this point I'd been trying to be civil. No one likes to get their feathers ruffled in a public madhouse. So I was trying to be nice. But they had to go and talk to me like they didn't have good sense, so all bets were off.

Me to the first woman: "Them's the breaks."

Me to the second one: "And no I don't have a problem. What I have is a better place in line than you."

Both of them nearly in unison: "You're supposed to step aside for the person who was in front of you."

Me: "The person who was in front of me just placed his order and is now standing over there digging through his bag of food, which I plan on doing sooner than you."

The first one: "You're an a--hole."

Me: "Yeah, but I'll be eating before you."

The first one: "Dude, we were just gonna order three drinks."

Me: "I'm just ordering one sandwich. What's your point?"

The second one: "We can do something if you want!"

Let's pause for more reflection. You should know that these women were, shall we say, rough in appearance, covered in tats and nearly as big as me. Laugh if you must, but the second one was shaking her arms loose the way a boxer does before a fight. She even balled up a fist and was all fidgety - what we would have called "breaking bad" when I was a kid. Top that with her "we can do something" quote, which, where I'm from, amounts to challenging a person to a fight, and suddenly I had an epiphany about fair fights. Ann Coulter recently defended her criticism of a group of 9/11 widows by saying the women had been deemed untouchable and that it was an unfair fight for people with opposing views, because any criticism of these women's views would be taken out of context. Now, don't misconstrue my comments to mean I agreed with Ms. Coulter's criticisms. I don't care what your politics are. The words you choose can take credibility away from your argument. So I kinda thought Coulter's shots were mean and unnecessary. But at this moment in the rest stop I was thinking about the unfair fight defense: "This woman is about to hit me, I think! What can I do?" We can step outside of chronology for a moment and say that ultimately she did not hit me. But if she had hauled off and slugged me, she could've done some damage. She was big. But what could I have done? Punched her back? Yeah, right. I've told you guys I'm too pretty to go to jail. I'd have been a pariah, clowned on every talk show, booed by little old ladies, girl scouts, and politicians itching for re-election. So I would've had to take my beating and done nothing. Back to the chat.

Me: "No we can't - do anything, that is. You're not my type."

The second one: "Dude, next in line, hello!"

Me: "Listen, if this had been the type of line where we were all in one big queue and it was set up so that the next in line went to the next available register this would be different. But it's not that kind of line.

The first one: "You don't get it."

Me: "One last example, then I'm recommending you guys for remedial classes. If we were both in the grocery store and you finished your shopping and approached the registers ahead of me, but chose to step into line one, that's your decision. I approach the registers two minutes later, and I choose line two. Line one is shorter, but line two moves faster. Am I supposed to make way for you, 'cause you sort of got there before me?"

Them: Silence and pouting.

Me: Whistling.

The second one: "You're an idiot."

The cashier: "Here's your food, sir. Have a nice day."

Me: "And you guys pick slow lines and are hungry. Peace!"

Friday, July 14, 2006

Friday Smackdown

Busy day, deadline day. So here's a few random thoughts:

  • For the last time, Anonymous, I was not bragging in my last post about compliment etiquette. You miss the point. The post was about how you respond when people compliment you for stuff you didn't "accomplish." I threw in the example of my wife, 'cause the little old lady complimenting her the other day made me think of this really inconsequential issue. Clearly you are not married, 'cause while I mean every word that I write, even if I didn't mean or believe my own words I'd still call my wife pretty 'cause she's my wife! I married her, which means even if she was three feet tall and 800 pounds I'd call her pretty. Get married and then come back and tell me that you don't feel your wife is attractive. And when you do that I'll be sure to let you sleep in my back yard while you're looking for a new place to live after your wife kicks you out. Anyway, again the point was the compliments. I've never been comfortable excepting them when they're aimed at me. It really weirds me out when I get other people's.
  • Val, good to hear from you. And you get points for the funniest response of the week. I think I will tell 'em my dog's hung over. That'll make for an interesting reaction.
  • The Miami Herald recently ran a story on breakups by phone/text-message, email, etc., which got my buddies and I talking. We all compared notes and all agreed that we've dumped at least once each over the phone. Shameful as it is to admit, I know I've broken up with at least one woman over the phone. But I was young and insensitive then. That's my excuse and I'm sticking w/it.
  • Question from a good friend: Say you meet a person of the opposite sex while they're visiting your town on a bit of vacation. You two hit it off and romance seems to be a strong possiblity. That person leaves town with hints and overtures. You trade flirty emails with that person. They drop more hints. Suddenly you find that there is a real possibility that the out-of-towner could be moving to your town. Coincidentally, that's when the out-of-towner's interest in you seems to cool off. What's going on? My answer was now that the out-of-towner might be moving to your town, they're backing off 'cause they don't want to start fresh with a significant other in tow. They want to keep their options open. Not nice of them, but I say true. I could be wrong. What say you?

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Compliment etiquette

So I don't have an answer to this one.

It's not that serious, but I'm just curious: How do you respond when someone compliments something or someone related to you for something you had nothing to do with, but not you yourself?

What I mean is when someone tells you "Your dog is so cute!" what do you say?

Or, when your girlfriends tell you "Your boyfriend is a real hunk!" what do you say?

I don't know, but I've always felt weird in those situations like I'm accepting unearned praise, you know?

Then again, I'm nuts that way.

I'm thinking about this 'cause my wife and I were out handling business the other afternoon and a woman at this office we visited turns to me and says "She is so pretty!"

Without thinking I replied "Thanks!" Then I thought about it. I agree with that woman, but I didn't have anything to do with it.

How do you guys do it?

The only time I guess wouldn't feel like a dork when getting someone else's compliment is if - when we have kids - they say "What a cute baby!" or "Your child is so smart!"

I won't have a problem saying taking credit for those, 'cause I'll be half responsible for that kid's good looks and big brain.

I know. I'm nuts for even thinking about these things, but I'm still curious.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Gone to the dogs

Spotted inside a Home Goods (sister store to Marshalls to which I originally attributed this second-hand story as told to me by my wife) department store this afternoon: A woman with a small dog, one of the yappy varieties.

It's South Florida. People take their dogs everywhere. No big deal, right? This pooch wasn't on a leash and was scampering freely around the store.

Dogs scamper. No big deal, right? This dog stopped scampering just long enough to bend a fresh biscuit next in the aisle between the pictures and the pillows.

Dogs handle their business whenever and wherever (sometimes - unless you're my dog, in which case you'd better do a Lassie and bark at me that you need to go outside). All dog owners know it. No big deal, right? This attitudinal woman did not clean it up. She didn't lift a finger to help. She kept shopping.

Saddest part of this whole story? A store employee cleaned up the dog's mess. But when she was alerted to the mess in the first place, she sighed and shook her head, but didn't seem at all surprised.

How messed up do things have to be that a dog crapping INSIDE her store didn't seem to even shock the clerk? I feel for the person who's seen so much bad behavior that such clean-up duty feels routine.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

What's Your Problem?

So Monday I posted an entry about the recent rash of youthful homicides in Miami, and I got a lot of positive, encouraging feedback. I appreciate that. No matter what "solution" you recommend, it's never an easy topic to discuss.

A friend from my old stomping grounds in Milwaukee reminded me earlier in the day how we used to discuss violent crime as being the entire community's problem, not just the problem of the neighborhood where the crime is taking place.

No worries. I'm not getting all hippie on you. But what I mean is whether you live in the middle of Dodge City or on the outer cusp of the 'burbs it is your problem.

It always used to amaze me when non-reporter friends at after work gatherings would say things like "Saw your article; glad that didn't happen in my 'hood!" They didn't realize that if the violent crime problem wasn't curbed it was gonna grow. And when it outgrew the boundaries of the typically unsafe 'hood where do you think the problem was gonna go? It was going to expand to other neighborhoods until it eventually reached the doorstep of the mythically safe 'burbs.

So, while I still insist that no govt. program and no amount of cops can directly fix the problem, I believe there is obvious and tangible benefit in extra cops on the street and well-structured activities for bored, hopeless-feeling youth. Better you're sitting in the Y after school getting music production lessons or reading a book or playing hoops than getting tempted to sling rocks on the street. And better to have the presence of an extra cop or two around to make you think twice, than lawless streets to give you a false sense of confidence that crime might work for you.
In the end though, nothing works like good home training to keep a kid from growing up into a heartless psycho.

But if you're wondering what your contribution could be, think about that kid on your block with no dad, no big brother, no hard-working uncles, and a mom working too hard to support him to actually spend time w/him. Think about that kid whose dad is working hard but just doesn't have the cool cred to impress upon the kid to behave. Would it kill you to chat w/the kid here and there? Demonstrate your coolness? When you see him walking up the block to play hoops at the playground walk with him. If he's lounging in his yard with his buddies, ask them about school so they can see someone cool and hip like yourself puts a premium on education. You don't have any kids? Tell that kid's folks you'll show him around your fancy office on Take Your (Kid) to Work Day. You might end up steering him in the right direction. And so what if he is a shiftless punk now. He didn't get that way on his own. If you have to be mad at someone, be mad at the adults who let him down. But don't take it out on the kid, or you may be indirectly contributing to the cycle repeating itself when he grows up.

Seriously folks it is your problem. If you think otherwise, you've subjected yourself to the worst kind of denial - even worse than the waiter who served me the hairy chicken sandwich last week.

One last thing, and then I'm done. This whole issue reminds me of a black kid in college who was from the Caribbean. He took great pride in his roots and used to remind people regularly that he was not "African American." And that was fine. It was an accurate claim. But at times when he got really animated - say at a booze-laden party - this kid would go so far as to insist he wasn't even black, so issues concerning black Americans were not his issues. Seriously, in spite of his appearance he equated "black" with being American. So he would loudly protest the label. When the Black Student Union sent him invitations to participate in community volunteering - picking up trash, working with troubled teens, etc., he was dismissive of them. That all stopped after this kid had a nasty confrontation w/a couple of white men who called him all kinds of racial slurs. I felt bad for him, but my first reaction was "Hell, why didn't you just tell 'em you were Caribbean and not black!" Of course, we know the answer to that one. Needless to say, suddenly this kid became concerned and actively involved in what he had considered to be just "black" issues before. He realized that even if you can't see the connection between you and something you feel you don't relate to, it doesn't mean a connection isn't there.

Old School Rules

This is so not a new topic, but it's one I'm always curious about, 'cause different folks handle different strokes differently.

So I have a close friend, a young woman who is like a sibling to me. And she told me a story recently about a guy who had been courting her.

Unfortunately for him, she decided relatively early on that she wasn't so interested. But while she was still deciding on what potential he had - friend, more, or nothing at all - they still went on a few pleasant outings like dinner, drinks, coffee, etc., always at his invitation.

And while my friend ultimately decided that this guy was/is nice enough with platonic potential, my friend did have one procedural beef with him: he always expected to split the bill down the middle when they went out.

Now, before you react guys and cheer for him, and before you react ladies and scoff at him, you should know a few other things: He even expected the bill to be split on occasions that he asked her out. After one meal, in which his food took up the lion's share of the cost, he suggested they split the bill. And (worst of all to me), after their first outing he told her all about his monied family.... and then proceeded to suggest they split the bill.

I'm old-fashioned enough. So my thoughts on this are:
  • If the guy asks the woman out, he should pay;
  • If they both agree mutually to "hang out" they should both be prepared to split the bill(s);
  • Even if they're just "hanging out" and it's not exactly a full-fledged romantic thing, if one person's food/drink costs significantly more than the other person's then the former should cover a larger portion of the bill than the latter;
  • If a woman actively pursues a guy and asks him out, she should offer to pay; but the chauvinist in me says he should graciously decline and the bill should be split.
  • Finally, if your family's money is a significant enough part of who you are that you feel the need to tell your date about it your first time out, then screw the rules, you should pay! That'll teach you to tout your deep pockets.

But trust me, I need no reminders that not everyone thinks like me. So let's have your thoughts on this one.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Settle this debate

Am I a curmudgeon?

Don't answer that unless you're Big Daddy, in which case you'll inevitably tell me I'm headed for the retirement home on the fast bus, shorts pulled up to chin, black knee socks with my sandles.

Seriously, though, here's the debate: I was chatting w/a friend today about the wife and I going to church on Sunday in an effort to stave off full-fledged heathenry.

So we sat near the back, 'cause growing up a PK taught me that sitting near the front of a church exponentially increases the odds that the minister will call on you to stand up and help him illustrate some point he's trying to make.

I prefer to be incognegro in church.

Well, a woman with two small children came in and sat behind us. I'd say the kids were three and four. Very cute kids. But they were loud as hell - ironic, considering where they were, I guess.

They were so loud - screaming and shouting the whole service - that I couldn't hear the minister's message. It annoyed me. My wife was more understanding.

I know that kids are loud by nature, and squirmy and all of that. They bore easily. I totally understand that. It's all about short attention spans. And I'm willing to accept that. Kids will be kids, right? That's the argument my friend made during our chat today.

But here's where our opinions differ. I distinctly remember also being loud and annoying as a very young kid in church. And based on funny conversations I've had with my folks in the years since then I know that sometimes I was disciplined, and sometimes my mom would make an excuse for me and speculate that maybe expecting a kid to sit still and pay attention for an hour or more was asking too much.

Funny thing is though, I also remember at that same age being home on a Saturday morning when my dad (a career Navy vet, before entering seminary and becoming a minister) was out to sea. And my mom, having household chores to do like laundry and what not, sitting me down in front of the TV for Saturday morning cartoons - Bugs Bunny Road Runner Show, Looney Toons, Tom & Jerry, etc. And you know something? I never moved an inch or made a peep. I'd sit there like a statue, staring straight ahead at that box, even holding in my pee, because I didn't want to miss a beat.

And I know from comparing notes that it was the same thing for my friends whose parents took 'em to church as kids.

So call me a cynic, but kids can sit still and be quiet and respectful when they want too. Seriously, I was like a disciple in front of that TV on Saturday mornings, and I'm sure I would've pimp-slapped anyone who entered the room and made a sound and caused me to miss even one solitary punchline.

It's that childhood experience that keeps me from being too sympathetic to the parents with the loud kids in church. I'm not even talking about specific belief systems. Believe what you want, or nothing if you want. But if you attend some sort of church-like place, teach your kids that it is as important a place as the TV room or the video arcade. Maybe that way it'll place higher on their values scale. And they'll respect it.

Unpopular Post

I probably won't win any friends with this one, but all the news coverage lately about juvenile murder victims and what the city, community, families, etc., could/need to do to curb the violence has made me wonder when everyone's gonna start addressing the fact that most of the people murdering these juveniles in senseless acts of violence are juveniles themselves.

Kids killing kids.

Sure, more cops on the street would be nice. But they prevent a percentage of bad acts and catch a percentage of perpetrators after the fact. They don't fix broken people. And the kid who thinks it's OK to shoot another kid over a harsh look, a scuffed tennis shoe, or a misplaced wink at someone else's girlfriend or boyfriend, is broken and has deep, deep problems. Whether mentally or spiritually I do not know. But I do know they're the kind of problems that no amount of extra cops or government programs will directly help to fix.

I covered crime for four years before moving over to features and pop culture. And I went to hundreds of murder scenes over that period, in a city that was averaging more than 120 murders a year. I even had occasion to interview dozens of victims' and perpetrators' families, as well as some of the perps themselves. And I never met a young killer whose behavior was affected over the long term by the number of officers patroling his neighborhood or the depth of the after school programs available to him.

The men whose crossfire killed a 9-year-old girl in Miami last week? Knowing that more cops were around might have prevented their shootout. But more likely it just would have delayed the incident, till they thought the coast was clear. What would have definitely prevented the shootout though? Those guys behaving like they had some home training and not solving their differences with guns.

I'd like to hear what parents are gonna do to help change the mindsets of such young people who feel so hopeless and care so little about their own lives that they put no value on the lives of others.

Until it becomes routine, like eating, walking, and breathing, to some of these young killers to value other lives as much as their own, random, senseless murders of other kids will keep happening.

Denial is a Chicken Sandwich

Forget the puns about rivers in Egypt. I met denial in person a few nights back, when my wife, two friends and I grabbed a bite to eat at bistro in downtown Hollywood.

I'm feeling forgiving, so I won't name the place - especially, since I eat and drink there all the time.

Anyway, we sat and the waiter took drink orders and brought 'em back a short time later.

Well, my guy's wife found a hair on her water glass. So she immediately recoiled and tossed the hair on the ground.

When the waiter came back she alerted him, and he gave her attitude, stopping just short of telling her it was her own hair on the glass. She's blonde. The glass hair was black or dark brown.

We all joked about it and brushed it off.

But then he brought our food. I got halfway through a barbecue chicken sandwich, took a huge bite and got what I thought was a stringy piece of lettuce in my teeth. Nope, it was a long blonde hair.

I don't want to know what my own hair tastes like, much less someone else's. So, yes, I was freaked out, the same level of freaked out I get when trying find a dry spot to stand in a public restroom. But I bit my tongue - better that, than a hair - and calmly (that's my version) explained to the waiter that I too had hit the lottery on what apparently was South Florida Restaurant Hair-in-Food Day.

His first response? "I'll ask the chef to investigate, but it probably blew onto your sandwich." That'd be fine, except the hair wasn't on my sandwich it was in it, deep in it, squarely in the middle in fact.

With that the waiter stomped off in a huff, and about 10 minutes later returned to report that the chef had "investigated" and that there was no one in the kitchen with hair longer than an inch or two.

So that's what denial looks like? An angry waiter.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Weekly Behavior Awards

What was I thinking? I thought I had gotten a lot of nominations. Oh well. I guess I was just fielding all purpose gripes.

So, for Best Behavior, I have two nominations:

  • From my mother-in-law, Carole (as paraphrased by me) - We all have beef with people who walk their mutts, let them bend biscuits, and then don't pick up after them. Well, Mother Carole spotted a guy in her neighborhood back in Mequon, Wis., who not only picks up after his dog, but as they walk he stops along the way to pick up random trash on the sidewalk and road side. That, my friends is a good citizen.
  • And from Melissa, of Spoke in the Wheel - "Kudos to the man on the A train (in NYC) Friday who gave me his seat. Gold stilettos look great, but they can be a killer on the tootsies. He offered, I declined, he insisted, stood up, gestured for me to please sit down. As I was getting off a few stops later I said thank you again and he replied, "No problem at all, enjoy your weekend." So nice. Again, it's the small things."

For Bum of the Week, I nominate my crumbum of a neighbor who installed a fence so poorly crafted that her Jack Russell slipped under the gate, onto the sidewalk, and bit my leashed dog as we walked by on Saturday night. Lucky for the neighbor and the JR it only got a mouthful of my dog's ample fur. 'Cause had I not reigned my much larger dog in, and instead let him defend himself against the JR, he could have/might have eaten it in two bites. When the neighbor heard the commotion she just called the JR to the back yard instead of coming out front to investigate. I know she heard my wife and I out there on the sidewalk loudly "seeking" a human to come out and chat with us about what had happened. But she ignored. For her sake, and the dog's, I hope she gets that fence corrected before her dog slips under it and bites a big dog whose owner isn't feeling magnanimous.

I also nominate the guy on the Metro Mover (downtown Miami trolley for you out-of-towners) cleaning his crack pipe energetically while children stood nearby clutching their mom and staring wide-eyed. It's the second time in the past few months I've seen that sight.

And I nominate the two soccer moms in Pier 1 Imports in Ft. Lauderdale who mean-mugged me, as though I disturbed their ambiance by simply walking through the door of the place. Get over yourselves, ladies. Neither of you was wearing anything that would fit me. And it didn't look like you were packing anything underneath that I'd be interested either.

Finally, I nominate the Romeo on the train one afternoon last week who spent a 30 minute ride talking on his cell phone in speakerphone mode. So the rest of us had to listen to him and the woman on the other end talk dirty to one another that entire time. Dude, I hope you sit the battery on that phone springs a leak when it's in your front pocket next to your fellas. It'll be just punishment for subjecting the rest of us that conversation.

Two Quick Hits

First, here's my latest article, available in today's Miami Herald or at this link on

Second, thank you all who submitted nominations for the Weekly Behavior Awards. There's still time if anyone else has a nomination.

I'll be posting them and the winners this evening between 10 and 11.

Peace and hair grease,

Saturday, July 08, 2006

By the Way

Don't forget to submit nominations for the Weekly Behavior Awards.

If this is your first time visiting Burnettiquette, every Sunday night (occasionally Monday mornings) we try to announce "winners" for Best Behavior and Biggest Bum of the week. So if you've observed or heard about an incredibly moving act of courtesy and kindness over the past week or so, let's hear about it before Sunday evening. And if you've observed or heard about an appalling act of bad manners or uncivil behavior in the past week or so, let's hear about it.

Deputize me, please!

This story ran in Monday's Miami Herald. It was about local law enforcement agencies announcing a plan to crack down on drivers who block intersections and impede cross traffic, because they're either too inconsiderate or in too much of a hurry to hang back and wait for the next green light.

Sign me up. I'll help hand out a few of those tickets. And maybe next we can go after the numbnuts who make sharp turns or lane changes in thick traffic, without so much as a hint of a turn signal.


Ladies, I've joked about making sure your feet and toes look right if you're gonna wear open toed/heeled shoes, but this story gives a whole new meaning to "too much."

The doctor in the story was featured tonight on ABC's 20/20.

In case you opt not to click the link, it's a Dec. 7th NYT article about a doctor who "helps" women whose feet don't fit comfortably into their tiny, expensive, name brand shoes, by giving them cosmetic toe surgery. Seriously, she shortens some of their toes to make 'em fit better into Prada and the like.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Who Let the Dogs Out? Their Owners in My Book.

I've been wanting to hit on this for a few days now.

One of my blog buddies - and now personal friends - recently gave me this real scenario: Two good friends recently move to the Big Apple to fulfill youthful and professional dreams. Once there they hook up with a third person, and the three become roommates.

Two of the three own dogs, one of the old friends and the third, new roommie. If you know NY, you know maintaining a dog can require Herculean effort.

Few folks in the city have yards in which to let their dogs run free. And taking the dog out to handle his business is not as simple as opening the back door and letting him run outside. It can mean trekking 10 or 20 flights of stairs from in some oldschool walkup apartment building. Who wants to do that at 3 a.m. when the pooch is whining for a bathroom break. Even if you have an elevator, who wants to make that journey in the middle of the night so you can find a telephone pole or fire hydrant for the dog?

One of the dog-owner roommates recently had a change of schedule - work or school, I can't remember.

So that roommate tells the roommate who is NOT a dog owner that for the foreseable future, the non-dog owner roommate was going to have to let the other roomie's dog out to accomodate that person's new sked. I hope that makes sense.

The non-dog owner roomie wasn't sure how to respond. My blog friend told the non-dog owner roomie to be firm and stand ground and point out that if you choose to own a pet you willingly take on extra responsibilities. And you can't just dump those responsibilities on someone else 'cause you develop new priorities.

My friend was much nicer than me. The dog-owner roommate didn't even ask. The person just told the non-dog owner that they would have to step up and help out. I might have just said "no!"

If I'm the non-dog owner, do I have to start adjusting my life 'cause you adjusted yours? If so, then your new job/school sked is affecting us both. And I should be sharing in the benefits from it.

Your thoughts?

Quick Hits on the 4th

  • I was starting to worry that I was becoming a prude, 'cause I was getting annoyed with the folks around my 'hood shooting off extremely loud (but largely invisible) fireworks till the wee hours of the morning and for about the past week. But I thought about it yesterday, and no, I'm not a prude. On the contrary, I love fireworks. I sat at Hollywood Beach last night w/my wife and friends and thoroughly enjoyed the show the city put on. What annoys me about the cats in my neighborhood shooting off the fireworks is none of these dudes are thinking about Independence Day or Freedom or any of that stuff. I'm not stupid. As with Christmas and the "reason for the season" none of us - unless we're running for office - spend all day on July 4th meditating about 1776, and the rockets red glare, and Uncle Sam needing us, etc. But these guys who get drunk and shoot their popper off so they sound right outside your window? They're just knuckleheads taking advantage of an excuse to make noise.
  • Gotta give it to the men and women on the space shuttle. After the disasters NASA has had in recent years, I'd have been scared to death to fly in one of those things. Weren't they built in the '60s? I know they've made upgrades, but even airlines are required to add new birds to their fleets every so often. Besides, if just upgrades are OK, how come my buddy's 1964 Corvair with the new/modern stereo and the new/modern upholstery, and the new/modern tires and rims, is sitting in his driveway with a tarp over it? I'll tell you why, 'cause that old bucket - while it may be nice to look at - is what they call in the hood a hardcore hoopty! But God bless the astronauts. I hope they make it back OK.
  • So I wrote yesterday about the U.S. flag meaning more to me as I get a little older and I briefly touched on the thought that there are different ways of respecting the flag, but sometimes efforts to respect go awry. Case in point, we're sitting on the beach last night waiting for the fireworks show to start, and we see a couple of guys up ahead wearing what look to be colorful capes. My eyes are terrible, but I'm too scared to try contacts and too busy and too vain to get my eyeglass prescription updated. So it took my wife pointing out that those capes were actually American flags. I squinted to get a better look, and sure enough both shirtless, too-short shorts wearing dudes had flags tied around their necks as they sat in the sand with the flags dragging the ground behind them. Not cool. If you can't keep the thing out of the dirt, take it off and hang it on a pole or the wall like everyone else.
  • Finally, speaking of the beach, what is it about festive atmospheres that bring out the triflin' in people? It's as if the full moon comes out during public holiday celebrations, and an invisible signal goes off and compels people to "act a fool," as my Grandma Rosa would say. As we strolled the Broadwalk (if you don't live in South Florida, you wouldn't know this, but "Broadwalk" isn't a misspelling; apparently that's just what the city of Hollywood, FL calls it's beach boardwalk.) looking for a good spot in the sand to settle in, a group of teenage boys - I'd say all were ages 15 to 17 - walked through the crowd loudly calling out "Where are all the fine b--ches at?" They were yelling like they were the town criers, and really proud of themselves. The worst part is there were teenage girls responding to the shout outs like they were being given prizes. Also, in about five minutes time I saw three incidents of mean-mugging (hard, menacing stares) between strangers that led to near fist fights that had to be broken up. People are nuts.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

How I Know I'm Getting Old...Or Patriotic, or Something

As far back as I can remember I've always had a respect for the American flag. That's not a bragging point or anything. Most of us were raised with the same kind of general respect.

You don't necessarily remember a specific time or place, but you just sort of know that your folks made you stand when the National Anthem was played. They (or your grandparents or kindergarten teacher) taught you to put your hand over your heart. Same goes for the reciting of the Pledge of Allegiance.

Fast-forward to today. I'm over 30 now. And I can't say I have been demonstrably patriotic, beyond standing during the anthem, holding my hand over my heart, etc. By not demonstrably, I guess I mean I haven't really thought twice about any of it. I've done it because it was taught to me as the right thing, and it is routine.

Well, you may remember that I had to attend game five of the NBA finals here in Miami to do something of a celebrity watch.

Shortly before tip off I made my way out of the main press area and into the nose bleed seats where some NBA public relations folks and foreign press were seated, along with a ton of fans. So the anthem started and to my dismay most of the people around me remained seated. The NBA employees stood. Some of the fans stood. But a lot of the fans and most of the foreign press folks who were next to me remained seated. Some people even carried on conversations w/the folks next to 'em.

Is this a first? No, there are always a handful of numbnuts like this at every sporting event, concert, etc., but it is the first time I was bothered by it. I mean it really ticked me off to the point that I wanted to grab a few of 'em, shake 'em and say "Stand up, and show a little respect, ya bum!"

But, of course, thankfully I'm all talk when it comes to physically assaulting knuckleheads.

I don't know what the whole anger over the flag thing means. No way I'm turning political. Maybe my old age is coincidentally turning me into an active patriot, compared to the appreciative yet dormant citizen I've been all these years.

We'll see. Anyway don't expect me anytime soon to come out of the house in one of those American flag T-shirts, or leather jackets, or poofy gym pants and bandana a la Diedrich Bader in Napoleon Dynamite.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Seinfeld Revisited

So what responsibility do we have to strangers and their well being? I mean, if you saw a stranger getting mugged, would you feel obligated to step in?

I think I might. But that's easy to say in writing. Let's agree that we'd at least call 911.

That's an extreme example. But two things over the weekend made me think to ask this question.

First, Saturday afternoon I was chatting w/Ben, Tere the Coral Gables blogger's husband, and he was telling me a story about "hospitality." Ben's an avid mountain biker and skateboarder. A few years ago he was skateboarding in South Beach during Memorial Day weekend. After a chance run-in w/50 Cent and an entourage who stopped to admire Ben's tattoos, Ben skated on his way and was crossing an intersection, when he saw a car coming toward him. He tried to avoid the car, even though he had right of way. No luck though. The car hit him. As he was falling to the ground, Ben recalls seeing the driver whipping around the corner, yapping on her cell phone. Shortly before he got woozy he recalls seeing her speed away without even a tap of the breaks. Ben, not realizing he had broken some bones, then slumped face down in the street. Here's the rub: not one person, pedestrian or driver, stopped to ask if he was OK! People walked and drove around him. Triflin'.

OK, so the second thing that made me think of our responsiblity to strangers: Saturday morning I posted about a Seinfeld moment I had in the grocery earlier that day, during which a meat handler wiped and blew her nose w/bare hands and then offered to help the next person, without washing her hands.

I wrote that I was freaked out, 'cause I was the next person. What was I going to say? "No thanks, I'll wait in line for the butcher without snot on his fingers." I'm not good at confronting senior citizens.

Now this is hardly as serious as ignoring the victim of a hit-and-run as he lies wounded in the street, but Big Daddy correctly pointed out that if I thought the meat handler was so nasty, then I had an obligation to the other customers to call her out.

Actually, B.D. suggested I "take one for the team" and let snotty fingers handle my meat, in order to spare the other customers. What I should have done was confront her or ask for a manager.

But nice try, B.D. I think I might jump in that mugging and take a beating, before I willingly accepted a booger burger from an unsanitary butcher. That's just not part of my obligation to strangers.

Well, that's all the rambling I can handle for one afternoon. More later.

In Lieu Of...

the Weekly Behavior Awards this week I have just one rusty pipe to hand out.

You may have noticed that I haven't posted a new entry since Saturday morning.

I wanted to post Sunday for the WBAs, but I was having computer problems and spent literally hours on the phone with my useless friends from Hewlett-Packard tech support.

By about midnight Sunday I gave up on their solutions for repairing my haywire Internet connection and the related hardware in my desktop PC. I figured slaughtering a chicken, hanging its inards around my neck, hopping up and down on one foot, and singing Highway to Hell in reverse to release the subliminal messages would probably work better...and faster.

Anyway, I slept on the problem and woke up Monday morning with the fix. I ran to my PC cove like a kid on Christmas Day, reset a couple of things, and swapped some cables around. And wouldn't you know it, within minutes my computer and Web connection were working again.

So while there may be no WBAs this week, I say to HP tech support for wasting three hours of my life on Sunday and leaving me with a worse computer problem than I started with, a pox on you and a Giant Rusty Pipe up yours...with no tetanus shot afterward.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

A Seinfeld Moment

Remember that episode of Seinfeld where Jerry can't figure out why his new girlfriend won't take a bite of his pie from the diner, and then she takes him to eat at her own father's restaurant? At one point Jerry runs to the can. As he's washing up, the girlfriend's dad, Poppy, flushes, comes out of a stall, smooths his hair, tells Jerry that he's about to prepare the happy couple the best meal of their lives, and walks out of the can sans soap and water and directly back to the kitchen. So the tables were turned. When the meal finally came out, the girlfriend couldn't figure out why Jerry wouldn't eat the food. She insisted he eat. And all he could do is stare wide-eyed and shake his head, no.

So the wife and I were in Whole Foods on Biscayne Blvd. this morning gathering last minute stuff for a barbecue later today and we decided to split the list to save time.

She went for whatever, and I waited at the meat counter. Two people were ahead of me, but there was only one person working the counter.

But it was all good; I didn't mind waiting. The next person is served, now there was just one ahead of me.

Then from the back room, out walked a woman enthusiastically scooping out each nostril with a tissue. I'm not mad. That's what you do when your honker's clogged. But she was one of the butcher folks. Nose blowing/mining is not fascinating to me in and of itself, but I watched her curiously to see what would come next.

Suddenly, I'm terrified, 'cause she does not wash her hands after the nasal excavation. Nor does she put on gloves. Instead she turns to face the counter and says "Who's next?"

I decide at that point I am a vegetarian and I pray silently, "Please Lord, I know you don't owe me one, but don't let this woman handle my meat."

What's worse, is the woman ahead of me, who was oblivious to everything, had decided that she was, well, undecided. So she told me to go ahead of her.

All I could do was shake my head wide-eyed like Jerry and hope for a diversion. My rescuer came in the form of another meat handler who came from a different direction and asked if I'd been helped. Before he could finish the sentence I was telling him in rapid-fire fashion what I wanted, before he changed his mind and nosy-fingers came to take my order.

Tsk, tsk. Not washing one's hands and handling other people's food after that kind of hand-to-nose action - actually any kind of hand-to-nose action - is definitely bad Burnettiquette.