Bondi Beach, Sydney, NSW c. 2002

Wed, 29 Mar 2006 3:55 AM (GMT+0000)

It's been a little too long since I've called people out on their bullshit. Well, some specific people I have, but not specific others; and not general classes of bullshit. On tonight's menu: continued cell phone abuse, airplane abuse, and cowardly relationship abuse.

People are assholes with cellphones. Maybe this is a lost cause, like defending against the systematic dismantling of the English language by the lazy and stupid (thank you Lynne Truss), but you have to fight as long as there's a chance. Like the rules of grammar, the rules of the cell have essentially solidified. Assholes just have not learned to obey them yet. Maybe they need to be distributed with new phones that people seem to be buying every thirty seconds.

The biggest thing people need to learn is how to not answer the phone. Just because you can be available all the time, doesn't mean that you should. Here is the simplest way to put it: if you answer your phone in the presence of other people, it is the same thing as telling them that you would rather be talking to someone else. Fuck off. This goes for call waiting, too.

If people learn to follow the first rule, it gets a lot easier to follow the second: don't talk on the phone in public. This sounds a lot more drastic than it is; public simply means all the places where you are within earshot of people you don't know who have no choice but to listen to your irritating, valueless blather. That means public transportation (buses, cabs, and especially airplanes - that also means you, cab drivers), private transportation (if you're the driver, handsfree is critical; if you're with other people, talk to them, instead), stores (get the grocery list before you leave the house, call if necessary, but for the love of god get off the phone before you get in the checkout line), restaurants (duh, even the drive-thru should be off-limits), walking (oh, how I would love to run down a few pedestrians and put an end to their teleperambulation)...getting the picture yet? This isn't just for the people you're pissing off in person; how do you think the person you're talking to feels about you calling him while you're running errands, rather than making the time to give him your full attention? Here's the easy way to remember, for the stupid: the people around you have priority over the people on the other end of the phone, even if you don't know them. Once it becomes acceptable to have bad manners in public, it's just a short step to a free-for-all, last-man-standing killing spree.

A quick note on ringers (this should be dead obvious by now): there is no excuse for you to have your ringer on in public, because your phone should never be far enough away from you that you would have to chase it down to answer it or drop the call. That's close enough to feel it vibrate. There is no such thing as a good ringtone. Turn it the fuck off.

I hadn't given any thought to it when I said it, but I think I can still stand behind my assertion that SMS (text messaging, for backward-ass Americans) is the worst form of communication ever invented by man. It has all the worst qualities of other bad media. It is illegible, like cave scrawling and heiroglyphics are to us today. It's insecure like, well, pretty much every other form of communication. It's lazy and requires very little personal investment, like email. It's asynchronous and requires no attention span, like instant messaging. It is devoid of inflection and wide open to misinterpretation, like all other electronic forms. It even brings its own, completely new shortcomings by being totally impersonal despite being person-to-person. Yes, I think I'm just about done with SMS.

Three-and-a-half simple rules for cellular: that's not really that bad at all. They're easily attached to the faceplate of all new phones or branded onto the palms of third-strikers.

Plane rules are pretty simple, too. The latest offense I was subjected to was a woman who brought her baby on the Friday red-eye from SFO to EWR. Who the fuck does that? It's clearly a business flight; no one in his right mind buys a ticket that expensive for the pleasure of getting bad sleep packed like a sardine with hundreds of other sad, sweaty men. That's not my kind of Friday night. Well, putting it that way, maybe I could see how it was hers. Fuck, though, come on! Nobody's kid can go five hours on a plane without screaming and pissing off everyone in earshot (which is everyone on the plane).Fat guys, buy two seats or jog home and lose some fucking weight. Fat women, too. I paid for a whole seat. I haven't seen the little metal frames that measure the luggage for the overhead in a while. I hope they're melting them down and recasting them. "Your fat ass must fit in this space", before they let you on board.

Everyone needs to learn how to walk through the plane without bludgeoning people in the aisle seats with their luggage, backpacks, fat ass (see above), etc. If your bag is too heavy for you to control, you should have fucking checked it. At least say sorry when you give me a concussion.

Relax. Be in a good mood. I realize this may seem a little hypocritical considering the above, but when I'm in the airport I'm on my best behavior. Everyone hates traveling. It really sucks sometimes. But it doesn't help anyone if you're in a pissy mood about it. Suck it up and smile. Be nice to the staff. They're already tired from dealing with a million other jackasses all day, and the only way you're going to get good service is if you give them a good reason.

Courtesy of the chef, here's a quick dressing down of an unnamed Home Depot staff member, even though it wasn't on the menu. I got stopped by the woman manning the self-checkout recently (with a mere fifteen bucks of merchandise). I didn't get a bag, which is the first of the three R's, so my hands were full carrying the overpackaged light bulbs, batteries, and window latches, as well as the burnt out old bulb. I say she was manning it only in the loosest sense of the word, because she stopped me and asked me if I paid. Her only fucking job is to watch the self-checkout (which only had two open registers because the other two were out of service), yet she didn't notice a 6'3" man scan five items, run a credit card, and precariously restack everything he bought in his bare hands, gathering it from the bagging area. I had to reach into my right back pocket with my left hand, pull out my wallet, let her pull out the five-foot fucking receipt those assholes give you, and stand there while she meticulously checked off every last thing I bought. Fuck you, bitch. Why should I be inconvenienced because you can't do your menial minimum-wage job? Walking out of the store with my receipt-stuffed wallet balanced on the top of my pile, I wished I had told her so. I wished I had told her that if she was too incompetent to pay attention, then shoplifting should come out of her fucking paycheck anyway. Damnit. She wasted ninety precious seconds of my life, plus the time it took to write this paragraph.

The final note in this ballad of bellyache addresses some bad relationship behavior I've become acutely sensitive to lately. I'm getting sick of the liars and the spineless. It's absolutely necessary to be honest and forthcoming with people. I know it's hard to tell the truth, especially when you know it hurts, but it will only get worse the longer you let it go. Fuck games, life's too short to toy with people (unless you're a sadist, then knock yourself out). If you decide you never want to talk to someone again, just say so. Otherwise you're dooming them to indefinite periods of self-deprecation and misery just because you can't sac up and do the right thing. That's much, much, worse.

Tell the truth when people ask "why?", especially if it's because you're shallow. Do it, despite your shame. The only moral high ground is honesty. If you have a problem with someone's personality, you have to say so. If he's the kind that is going to go whittle himself away because someone doesn't like him, that's not your fault. Sometimes it really is him, not you. Everyone deserves the truth.


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