Saturday, January 30, 2010


Travelling by foot on a sidewalk, in general, should be simple. Left foot, right foot, repeat. Sadly, often times getting from point A to point B, both quickly and efficiently, becomes an exercise in futility coated with pure frustration as you end up dealing with varying obstacles, which can include some of the most annoying people in the universal history of all peoples. I’ll go through a brief list of obstacles you may encounter, and how best to deal with them.

The most common encumbrance is that person that you’re heading straight towards, face to face. You know, and then you both try and dodge each other, but end up manoeuvring towards the same side, and then you both go back the other way, and then back again, and part of you is worried that maybe a kiss might happen, but then that excites you maybe just a little, and you feel like you’re dancing or some shit? Apparently the reason that this happens sometimes is that some peoples’ brains are wired so that they instinctively go left to dodge someone, or something, and some people go right. The times when you do a little dance (and perhaps make a little love) is when you face someone wired the opposite of you. It’s true I took a sociology class once and, during the one class that I went to, they said something in that general ballpark’s vicinity. The worst case is when you both end up coming to a complete stop. Has it ever happened that after the stop, when you try to resume, you end up both going the same way again?

“Whoa geez, huh, whoops, oh well, oops, sorry, ha ha wait again?, ok just…, my bad?”

And why is everyone always so angry and annoyed at the other person? It’s just as much your own damn fault for moving in the opposite direction as the other guy. I know, you think, "everyone should dodge the same way as me". But that’s being a little egocentric, no? Granted sometimes both of you end up laughing about it. And it becomes a grand story to tell.

“And then I went one way, and they went… that’s right, the same way as I did.”


I wonder if any love stories started that way. Seems to me that in cruddy movies that could happen. They bumped into each other because they were in a rush, and neither of them tried dodging the other, and then they hated each other. But guess what? Ninety minutes later they make babies or something. Here’s the solution to all of this (well, not the cruddy movies, those will still get made), just jump over them. Simple, quick and efficient, like Sonic the Hedgehog. If they also jump, it risks being a painful game of face to face leap-frog gone wrong, but at least it will be a good story to tell for the other people on the sidewalk.

“Remember when those two people bounced into each other? Dat shit was old-school, like the Mario Brothers n'shit.”

Another frequent occurrence is being behind the group of people in a solid straight line, taking up the whole sidewalk width wise, walking super slowly and chatting away. It’s like that scene in Reservoir Dogs, but they’re actually moving in slow motion, for reals. Also, instead of witty dialogue, it’s a really awful conversation about whatever they all do for a living together, or whatever. Why is that guy laughing so loud? Fuck, sooooooo slow! It seems like every time you try and go around them, someone is coming from the other direction, or for some reason, the sidewalk suddenly narrows, or, “look out ahead!” it’s a mailbox, or lamppost, or fire hydrant, or street sign, or open sewer, or phone, or tree, or metal grate with an opening full of dirt where there used to be a tree.

Unless you have a “go around them by walking directly on the road or grass” option (be careful for traffic and/or snakes!), often times your best option is to try and break through the middle of the line-up. I find that turning slightly sideways sometimes helps, unless you are wider when turned sideways. In this case, stay normal. Sometimes if I’m coming up behind a group like this, I will yell “scatter” really loud. They often don’t actually scatter, but they will usually stop in shock, and I can easily get through them. Remember, if at some point you look around and realize that you are part of a group like this, do the mature thing, and tell everyone to line-up single file and to wait until you’re at your destination to have a little chitty chat.

Annoying couples that refuse to walk fast or disconnect hands are the kind of the dumps too. Please don’t make the mistake of thinking that this is every couple, it’s not. When my wife and I walk, we’re an efficient walking machine. We dodge, we manoeuvre, and we walk really fast, together. We’re actually going somewhere, as a team. We take cues from one another and follow each other’s leads. Sure, we hold hands a lot, but we’re always quick to detach if it’s clear that we are about to clothesline someone. On a big sidewalk, these clingy coupley types are usually not a big problem. They move slowly, and shouldn’t take up too much space, so they are easy to get around. In the case of a smaller sidewalk where you absolutely need to break through, just treat it like a game of Red Rover.

“Red Rover Red Rover, what’s that? You done called me over? Aw, hot diggity dawg, Charrrrrrrge!”

Always look menacing and scream like a pirate (apparently). It increases your chances of breaking the chains of love. The only couple worse than the non stop hand holding walkers are the ass holding walkers (extra demerits if the hands are actually down the back of the pants). If you are a part of an ass holding couple, please break up, then wash your hands.

Winter makes every sidewalk a smaller sidewalk. The snow clearage is often only done for half of the sidewalk, so one half clear, and the other half becomes a little snow hill or fort. You also end up with this little tunnel that has next to no manoeuvrability. It’s the walking equivalent of being on those two-way highways behind an old person driving a huge fuckin' Buick. You have this long line-up of people behind some slow ass, and in the odd chance there’s a window of opportunity to pass, only a couple people manage to get by at a time. Here’s a solution: Wear snow pants and walk in the god damn snow. Whistle the tune of “Walking in a Winter Wonderland” if that helps at all. Every walk will feel like an adventure. Have a compass and walking stick in case you get lost. Also you can throw snowballs at the people stuck in the sidewalk-snow-tunnel. You’ll be from an elevated position, giving you the advantage, like Ed Harris taught us in ‘The Rock’.

“I just... I just wanna find some rockets!” said Nicolas Cage to James Bond.

Winter also offers icy sidewalks, which can be real time-murderers. You have to take those little elf steps! Long strides on ice lead to wipe-outs. Usually half way into the winter you’ll start worrying that, come spring, you might actually have forgotten how big your normal steps are. Don’t fret. You’ll always end up remembering.

Jaywalking is also an important tool that you need to master to gain an advantage on most pedestrians. If you always wait for the little flashing man to tell you to walk, you’ll end up walking inside of big crowds after every traffic light, struggling to break free from the pack. If you are in Montreal, make sure that there are no MUC Police peoples around, as they occasionally give tickets for jaywalking. I’ve also heard horror stories of certain countries where jaywalkers could even serve time in jail, not just receive a fine. So, jaywalk responsibly, and don’t get hit by a car. Getting hit by a car can seriously throw off your overall pace.

And how about those sudden stoppers? You know those people walking in front of you in the middle of the sidewalk that just suddenly stop? These are the same people that stop at the top of escalators or right after walking through a door. Are they so lonely that they crave the crotch to butt rubbing from a complete stranger? They’re just walking along and something catches their attention?

“Oh gee, look in that window! I guess I’ll just stop in the middle here and check it out. Say Alfie, did something just run into my ass?”

I’ve found that shoving is the only solution. Don’t worry if they’re elderly or a child. Those groups usually fall easier. Add in a real loud “HEY!” with the shove. Surprise is your friend.

The only thing I hate more than the sudden stoppers are the walking readers. Sometimes it’s not just books. I’ve seen people with huge open newspapers. Scream at them to “Look Out!” If this doesn’t get them looking up from their book or whatever, then trip them with a casual foot sweep. They won’t know what hit them. In fact, throw in walking Gameboyers with this group too. Hell, let’s add the walking Texters as well.

“i cant c u 2day @ lunch :( sum1 tript me g2g hosptial ttyl rofl”

Get it? They’re on the floor rolling and laughing, because I tripped them, win-win. You could always try relaxing, taking it easy, slowing down and not being in such a rush. But where is that going to get you? Well, I guess it would get you to the same place, just not as fast.

That’s it. Now, you go walk the walk.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Stranger Danger.

Maybe it’s all the standing around. Maybe it’s that your mind is completely occupied. For whatever reason, browsing in stores often leads to photo finishes in the restrooms. Not the number one, but the sensational deuce. There is usually a period before you get the official knock at the back door, when you feel the need to relieve some internal pressure. Often times you will be browsing in a record store or film store of some kind and things start a-grumblin’ and a-shakin’. It’s at this point that you need to be confident and sure of your own body’s internal language and signals, to know if you can safely unclench a certain amount without risking the sanctity of your best pair of jeans, contaminating the overall atmospheric hygiene of those around you and ruining a floor.

I won’t discuss what transpires after a miscalculation, the calm yet quick retreat to a nearby restroom, the necessity of evidence disposal (down the toilet, in a dumpster or behind a bush), and then living with the shame and the guilt. What I will discuss is what transpires in the event that you correctly interpreted your body’s cues, and you safely unleash hell, without error in judgment.

The way in which you deal with passing gas in a public milieu is important, not only to retain your own image in the immediate public eye, but mostly to ensure the safety of all of those around you. You may take this lightly, or think that no one could or will get hurt. Worst case, people will be offended. And what do you care what a stranger thinks anyways? Well you’re wrong, and that’s how people get killed. Allow me to share a story that best describes the very real dangers of careless “anything goes” style of in-store public gas-passing.

Picture a young man, nineteen or twenty years old or whatever. Overweight and not particularly concerned about what anyone may think of him, he wanders aimlessly at a grocery store on a rainy fall afternoon, dressed in his finest jogging pants, four year old hoodie and colorful winter hat, complete with puffy pom-pom. He is shopping at a small midtown grocery store, the kind with very narrow aisles, and filling his hand-basket with essential items like frozen orange juice, Chef Boyardee, pepperoni sticks and frozen meat pies, “tourtière” to the natives. He eventually finds himself in the cereal aisle holding a box in each hand. He is weighing the pros and cons of each trying to decide which to procure.

Sure, Cinnamon Toast Crunch is sweet, but on the other hand Crispix stays crunchy in milk longer. Then again, he could go with Life, which actually still tastes good when it’s soggy and is sweet as well, as does Corn Bran, but that is less sweet. Hmmm… the decision is not an easy one, and he starts to factor in the prizes found inside, as well as the back-of-the-box games. Then, suddenly, Golden Grahams enter the contest, due to their goldenness.

All of this browsing is increasing the need for releasing. He quickly looks to the left, all clear. He quickly looks to the right, all clear. There is no one in the aisle but him. Let’r Rip! With a thunderous roar, he feels instant shame-free and guilt-free relief as he soothingly exhales in unison with his joyous gaseous explosion. The woman crouched directly behind him, however, with her head resting perfectly at ass level and mere inches away from the mouth of the beast, looking at various coffee products, seemed less relieved, far less joyous.

“Eeeehhhrrrghhaaaaaa…” she faintly groaned, shedding a single tear, likely due to the mixture of gas and horror. From the wind of the blow, or perhaps in an instinctive effort to distance herself from the source, she fell forward, head first into a large tin of Maxwell House coffee. A very distinct ping sound echoed through the aisle as her forehead dented the can. The young man felt this ping reverberate through his entire soul.

“What have I done?” he thought, as he dropped his basket to the floor, stepped over the woman and ran as fast as he could out of the store, unable to face his victim, or bother to try to explain to her that he had eaten many beans and wieners for lunch and convince her just had no control over it, which isn't true. He had control, he just did not properly scan the area. “Is she alive? Is she conscious? Will she be able to give my description to the police? Should I throw away my easily identified hat? Are there severe laws against what I just did? Is it considered as a form of public indecency?” All of these questions raced through his head as he stood in line for two-for-one pizza down the street, simultaneously contemplating if he wanted Hawaiian or All-Dressed.

Something changed in me, err… I mean him, something changed in him that day. Ok fiiiine, it was me. Something changed in me that day. Unfortunately, it wasn’t my eating habits, not yet anyways, that came at a later time in my life. Nay, I decided that that was the last time that I would allow myself to bust ass without first being sure to examine my surroundings and devise a proper Flatulence Concealment Plan.

There are some pointers that I will give you, and that may come in handy someday, as well as some important rules to follow to ensure that no one is hurt, and that, as a bonus, you don’t become regarded as disgusting in your workplace, some other social structure, or by random strangers just hanging around the same place as you. Remember that these are very general guidelines, and may differ from city to city, location to location. They are intended to give you a rough idea of how to execute a safe and successful flatulence plan. When I say successful, I mean that no perfect stranger is forced to inhale your fumes. If you are specifically trying to get someone to breathe in your internal toxicity, likely as part of some variation of the Fart Game, then disregard all of this, as you are looking for a Flatulence Attack Plan, not a Flatulence Concealment Plan. Here we are talking about people you don't know, or barely know. The worst part about strangers’ gas is the unfamiliarity. The smell is so alien, not like anything you or your friends or family would make. Well, if we all change together, and follow these simple rules of engagement, none of us will have to smell strangers’ gas ever again. Isn’t that the kind of world that you would want to live in?

It is important to remember that when dealing with strangers or even minor acquaintances, the “you smelt it you dealt it” defense becomes null and void sometime around puberty. It is no longer the law. The thought process should now read more like the following:

“You smelled it, through simple logic you have deduced that I have definitely dealt it, and now I must retreat in shame as you look at me with fear and disgust in your eyes. I had cheesy scrambled eggs this morning, I’m sorry, fuck. I never meant to hurt you. Please don’t tell anyone of my disgustingness, and please don’t inform the security guards.”

Now, you must also realize that certain areas are entirely off limits. Whether fast food, sit-down style, or a combination of the two (like Pizza Hut), restaurants may not be used as resting places for your pockets of gas. Tooting in crowded areas with little to no movement and poor air circulation is also strictly prohibited. Some examples are indoor lineups, theaters, concerts, sporting events, public transportation (including airplanes), elevators or waiting rooms (doctor, dentist, DMV, wherever). If you absolutely must commit to a release, find the restroom and be discrete.

If you are in the workplace you must also retreat to a restroom every time. Crop-dusting is for chickenshits and nasty assholes, sometimes referred to as nastholes, in my head. Even from within your own cubicle, you must remember that the air travels quickly to the cubicles in your surroundings, and you should never engage in this type of dangerous chemical warfare. If you have your own closed door office, then it’s fine, so long as you have no upcoming meetings, don’t have frequent unsuspected pop-ins and have a candle handy and lit. But don’t let one go too close to the candle, or KABOOooOOM.

In the car, if you are alone, cutting the cheese is acceptable, but only if no one else is getting in for a while. Also, try and find a way to air it out if it still smells before leaving the car parked. Don’t lock it in and let it brew in there for the next driver who comes along. With one or more passengers, it is not advised to fart under any circumstances, even with open windows. Open windows never really help, and they usually only get opened too late in the game, after the smell discovery has been made, the blame has been placed and appetites have been destroyed. Also, never press the lighter thing.

Next, let’s move onto some more flatus-friendly indoor situations and locations. It’s always best to do your homework on the place before hand, since when the urge does strike, you won’t have much time to react. Wherever you may be, you must find the locations that have the least amount of traffic, and the most air circulation. Also be sure that the location has more than one decent exit (no dead ends and also you probably won’t want to stick around too long after you drop the bomb, just long enough that it makes its nest and doesn’t follow you out).

Grocery stores and mega super marts are easy. Don’t drop one in an aisle, ever, or you risk trapping the smell there, or worse hurting someone (as described in the lead-in story above). Unless you are looking to ambush someone, you’re better going into one of those sections that is more open, like a produce or bakery section, or a section with kitchen appliances and shit to ensure the least amount of potential victims of smell. There are also many ways out of there, so you can be sure to get out with the least amount of suspicion heading towards you, if you do end up with any innocent bysmellers. Use caution, as the world’s worst farts can cause fruits and vegetables to quickly rot, plants to dry out and die, baguettes to instantly become stale, plastic to boil and certain kitchen appliances to explode. Also, cutting the cheese near actual cheeses may cause them to spoil.

Don't fart in drugstores or pharmacies. The gasses tamper with the molecular make-up of the drugs and alter the effects and side-effects. They also turn all of the lipsticks and eye make-up brown.

Record stores, libraries or bookstores, movie stores, video game stores or clothes stores, are a bit more challenging. You have to know your place well, and realize which sections are most unpopular. Air circulation is never on your side in these stores, as they are usually quite cramped and claustrophobic. Similar to the aisles in a grocery store, you risk trapping someone in a smelly corner if you haven’t researched well enough. Sometimes you may not have had time to research, or worse yet, misfortune knocks while researching. In this case, here are some helpful hints.

The New Age section in music stores is a safe bet, no one ever browses there. You may end up looking lame for being there at all, but at least you won’t be labeled as gross. If it’s really busy, try the poster section, using the big book-like pages to fan the section out a bit.

At a library or bookstore, head towards the kids section. If any unfortunate souls happen to be around, it can easily be passed off as a child’s dreadful mistake in the pants. Simple, timeless.

For movie stores, head towards the Adult film section. Even if it is crowded, who are they to judge? And who knows? Maybe you will get them to leave and go look at proper movies. They may thank you in the end. You may still be labeled as a pervert initially by other onlookers, but once they see you have not picked up anything to buy or rent, they’ll forgive you and figure you’re just curious. Again, you will avoid the 'gross' label. If there is no Adult section, go with the kids cartoon section, applying the "library/bookstore kids poop their pantsalot" technique.

Video game stores are very tough, as they are crowded in almost every section. Try and head to the PC games, as that section is generally less crowded and there usually is at most only one or two people browsing the "online virtual live another second life other than your own as a flying dwarf dragon or someshit" games. And honestly, they won’t even notice.

Clothes stores are complicated. People travel frequently from section to section, and it’s tough to gauge where it would be safe to make a deposit. Do not under any circumstances think you can utilize the fitting rooms. You will trap the smell in, and when you open the door, it is a dead giveaway. It’s also like a punch in the face to any unfortunate bysmellers walking by. Aim for sections with heavy cotton clothes, such as sweatshirts, jogging pants or jeans, they tend to absorb a large amount of smell. Stay away from polyesters, wools and leathers, they enhance smell. If there is a sale section in the back of the store, with one of those circular racks, then tunnel your way through the clothes into the center of the rack and stay there for a while, and let the surrounding sale clothes act as filters to the outside world as you squeeze one or more out. Don't poot near mirrors, or you risk fogging them up. Never break wind near Windbreakers, the damage will be exponential.

You cannot ever fart inside of anything that can be referred to as a boutique, ever.

Finally, we move to the great outdoors. Now, you may be thinking that most outdoor locations would be open season locations for the flatulent. This is often true, so long as they are not overly crowded, and that there is a certain amount of movement. However, never forget that outdoor lineups, like those for rides at an amusement park, fall in the same category as those indoor lineups described above. The smell may linger for a lesser amount of time, but it will linger nonetheless. Another fun fact about the outdoors is that there is usually wind. The more wind there is, the less likely people are to notice when you break it. But, pay attention to the wind patterns, and be sure that no one is downwind at the time of the break. It is imperative that you remember to not squeakily deflate yourself near a barbecue or near a human smoker. It is a fire hazard. In a hot tub, pool, or sauna of any kind, mystery bubbles are prohibited.

The above rules and regulations pertain to public exposure, but sometimes even in the private sector, like your own home, you should apply some of the same general rules, specifically when you have random guest acquaintances over, especially when at the dinner table. Beware of your bottom’s proximity to guest faces, any food or open flames (like dinner candles or a fondue set). Pay attention to where you are sitting so that you don’t accidentally fart on someone’s sweatshirt or jacket. Finally, if you must retreat to the bathroom to let one rip, be sure that you run the faucet or perform a courtesy flush to hide any potential noise.

I suppose you could try holding it in, in any one of the described situations, but I’m pretty sure most doctors and scientists have proven that this is unhealthy and could cause permanent brain and intestinal damage, according to all sorts of journals that I’ve not read.

That’s it. Have fun, be careful, shop 'til you drop, and be sure to drop it like it’s hot.

The preceding text may contain some cheap and somewhat juvenile potty humour. Maybe this warning should have been at the beginning of the farticle. I apologize.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Seasonal Affective Disorder.

Darkness prevails as a buzzer sounds in the corner of your mind. You wake to find that the sound is all too real. You must find the source, and shut it down. It must be a mistake. It’s far too dark to be time to get up for work. The street lights appear to still be lit. In denial, you hit the snooze at least one more time than in your usual morning routine. Eventually, your brain processes the numbers on the digital monster and you can deny it no longer. It is time. You rise to start your day in the darkness. You skip breakfast since it is still too dark. Breakfast is supposed to be sunny, cheery and lit up. You decide to replace it with a light supper instead to brighten your dark morning. It looks like night time, so maybe it could just be supper time. After a chicken leg, a handful of french fries and a diet soda, you exit your home, flashlight in pocket, lantern in hand, and journey to your daily occupation.

The days are long, and riddled with hunger and acid reflux due to the consumption of improper morning nutrients. You regret not ingesting a simple muffin or toast, and a cold shiver passes through your body as you think about what you packed for lunch this morning, more chicken and fries. Through the office windows, you sense that there may be light outside at long last, but you don’t have time to investigate any further. You must return to your windowless environment, and continue pretending to work, whilst watching the minutes pass by at an impossibly slow pace and surfing the internet. Upon the eventual completion of your routine daily hours, your entire system is once again thrown for a spin as you step foot outside. It is dark again.

“How can this be? Perhaps the sun simply has just not risen yet. Surely I could not have spent all of the bright hours indoors... here. That would be, well, it would be not good.”

Later, as you eventually find your way back home, you dreadfully conclude that the sun is not about to rise. It definitely has already fallen. Network television can only divert your attention away from the bleak truth for a certain amount of time, as you eat reheated turkey out of a cereal bowl with your bare hands. You probably would go to the gym, or even for a brisk walk outside, but now, what’s the point? Anyways, you already went to the gym once this week. Or was that last week? Hmmm... The dark mornings and nights all seem to blend together. No matter, the sun is gone, and won’t come up again until a time when you won’t be around to see it anyways.

Should you decide to take action against this dark and dreary lifestyle, you must make some drastic changes in your life. After all, you can’t go on like this. It wouldn’t be fair. No, the answer is not going the gym, having productive hobbies or starting better dietary habits, stupid. You need to start devising a plan, a schedule wherein you can still get your eight hours of sleep, as well as your eight hours of work, and keep the maximum amount of the sunlit hours as your free time.

You must go to sleep at two in the morning, and wake up sometime between nine and ten, the golden morning hours during this dismal season. You will not rise and go to work. Instead, you will spend your sunshine well. Bask in the living room in your underwear and let the sunshine warm your body. Go outside, shop, eat, or even take a nap. Do everything that you always dream you could be doing when you are normally indoors during sunny sky time . Sometime before sundown, unfortunately, you must then head to work. Work until and then return home for bed.

The schedule is perfectly balanced and maximizes at home sun time. But your main obstacle is to make your employer agree to it. Ask. If they say no, you must first try and convince them that you are in fact a Vampire, or whatever supernatural or alien type of being or entity is trendy, and that you need to spend the sunlit hours at home asleep in your coffin, cave or spaceship. Vampires do seem to be so popular these days, so give that one a whirl first. They are just so cool and shit, so I feel that they’ll totally agree to it, like, for sure.

If they don’t believe your sudden Vampirism, or whatever creature of the night you suggested, the second tactic is to make up a religion and say that these are the only work hours that comply with the decrees of your rare and special Sun God. Don’t take a name that sounds too goofy. Just create a fake religion with a name that sounds official and real like Radapopolism, Solar Molasses, Sunny Deezlhism, American Apparel or Scientology. Try to get a few other colleagues on board with your religion, to make it seem more legitimate. If you just tried the Vampirism argument, best to wait a week or so before trying your new religion argument out on them. You’d hate for them to catch on to your ruse.

If these genius ideas still don’t work, then just quit your job. You’ll definitely be happier getting a nightshift job somewhere than to have to spend all of your free time in the darkness. Some options are:

-Lady / Man of the Evening
-Private Detective, film noir style, not Ace Ventura style
-Something at a Hospital
-Babysitter’s Club

If you insist on keeping your current Vampire unfriendly job, then there are some techniques to employ to assist in combating misery during the year’s dark ages.

You should take at least three personal or sick days per week. Take longer lunch breaks when you actually do decide to go into work, and spend them entirely outside. Move your cubicle next to a window, or directly inside some executive’s cushy corner office. They won’t notice. They’re busy working. Decorate your cubicle with palm trees and pictures of the sun and the beach. Garnish every cup of coffee or glass of water you drink with paper drink umbrellas and always drink with a twisty straw. Keep Hawaiian shirts, board shorts and flip flops in your desk, and change into them every day. You must remember to bring them home occasionally to wash them. Most people don’t like stinky people. Put a space heater in your cubicle. If this makes you sweat too much, than I would advise against it, or at least advise you to bring the clothes home for a wash more frequently. Bring a boombox armed with reggae tapes and carry it with you at all times, even in meetings - especially in meetings. Tell people that you hope that they like jamming too. Every day, bring a container of sand, and dump it on your cubicle floor, slowly creating yourself a beach at the office. Be sure to leave a note for the cleaning crew ordering them not to vacuum up the sand. For your lunches, only eat spicy Mexican food. This will simulate warmer climates and sunshine inside your body and also help you to take sick days more honestly, by increasing your diarrhea frequency.

All of these techniques may lead to the unexpected and early termination of your employment. Don't worry. This in turn, will enable you to enjoy more sunlight time. If you start looking for work elsewhere, remember to job hunt in the dark night hours. The contacted employers will be gone for the day, allowing you to leave messages instead of talking directly to them, and you will definitely look like a real go-getter when they see that you called in the middle of the night. Mention your desired work hours, but wait until the interview to bring up your religion or Vampirism. If, however, you fail to snag a job that suits you and your desired schedule, and you eventually have become accustomed to being home during the day, then switch the focus of your job search to some of the options listed above.

If all else fails, move back in with your parents, and tell them it’s entirely their fault. They’ll love hearing that, and you can enjoy free food and sunshine. If this is not an option, then begin crashing on a friend or relative’s couch after your eventual eviction. Assure them that it’s just until you get back on your feet, sometime well after the spring equinox, of course.

In conclusion, Winter sucks the bag, and I hate the Winter Blues.

That’s it. Let the sunshine in.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Turn It Up, Man.

Since the moment you learned how to drive you probably learned how to fix the stereo just the way you like it. You figured out how to turn it up real loud and vibrate the rear view mirror and “shock” your neighbors. You found the correct combination of bass and treble so that the speakers don’t sound like they are popping or crackling with every beat. Maybe you changed the whole stereo system altogether to make it more awesome and make it go to eleven. You may have even mistakenly thought that this instantly made you cool and bad-assed. Most people ridicule the ghetto blasters that pass by. But, not all vehicular loud music will be ridiculed and warrant pedestrians and other drivers to say:

“Look at this fucking guy.”

If you follow my strict guidelines, then through the proper use of the vehicular sound system, you can achieve the title of Mysterioso-Skary, Über and/or Hella Cool, Rebel Yella’, Fun Lovin’ Baller, Chillaxor, Breezy to tha’ Mo’ Fo’ Shee-Zee, All Pimpin’ N’Shit, iPoderrific, Exxxtreme, For Reals, Awesome to the Max, Sooo Metal Dude like Sooo Freakin’ Metal, Fuckin’ Core, OMG’ed, PWNzORz, !!!WOOT!!! or any of the other eighty-seven recognized forms of Badditude. The pedestrians and other drivers will revere, respect and maybe even fear you. The very first thing, that you must always remember, is that the driver is in charge of the music by default, and will be held responsible for the vehicle's musical status. So, if you let one of your passengers handle the stereo, be sure that they can be trusted to not tarnish and destroy your rep or street cred. It would indeed suck if someone dissed or shafted you, or to be called a poser.

I will go through several very general and vague categories of music and explain the whens and wheres of playing them at high volume in your ride. I won’t mention band names, so that this guide may remain as timeless and unbiased as possible, and so that you can judge for yourself what fits into each category. If you come across music which doesn’t fit into any of the below mentioned categories or that fits into many categories, then pick the rules that you feel best apply to that particular piece of music.

One general rule: if you drive a DeLorean, you can only listen to Huey Lewis and The News. This is the only band name that I will mention, I promise.

Another general rule: before I get into the musical categories, I need to touch base on singing along. The sing-along is always acceptable, but only if you are not stopped at any traffic lights, if you know all of the words for the part you are attempting to sing and, most importantly, only if no one can actually see or hear you. Violating this rule gives onlookers the right to ridicule and honk. If there are multiple people in the vehicle, the Sing-Along is only permitted if everyone can and does sing along. No one likes a showboat.

Final general rule: if you have been pulled over by Highway or even Regular Police, do not have any music on. Humming a tune is also frowned upon.

Now, let’s get into the categories.

Rap and Hip Hop is probably the most saturated category of music in the world of blisteringly loud vehicle output. You will look like a real phoney unless you adhere to the following rules. This type of music may only be played in vehicles with completely tinted windows, including the windshield, and that have either a bad muffler, or one that is purposefully and obnoxiously loud. If your vehicle does not meet these requirements, then you may only blast this type of music on Saturday or Sunday mornings, between the hours of 8 a.m. and 11 a.m. Outside of these hours, you will look like a complete jackass, no matter how many people are crammed into your vehicle.

‘60s and ‘70s era of Funk, R&B and Soul should always be turned up past the fifty percent mark on your vehicular stereo. While blasting this type of music, you should avoid highways and always take the back roads, even if it takes a little longer. The only time it is permitted to have the volume lower than the fifty percent mark is if you are engaging in some form of make-out session or sexual activity inside your vehicle, at which point, you should lower it to enable yourself to hear the approaching pedestrians or police sirens. More modern and later era R&B should follow the same guidelines as those designated for Rap and Hip Hop.

All forms of Islands music or Caribbean music, especially partying music, must always be played at high volume, but only in convertible vehicles, or vehicles that can’t fit in regular sized parking spots, due to their excessive width or length. This includes RVs or vehicles towing something else like a boat. Come to think of it, apply all these same Island rules to any upbeat music that uses bongos.

Techno and any other forms of Ambient Electronic Dance or Lounge music may be used any time, but can only be played full tilt if you own a Honda sedan or hatchback. In rare cases, certain models of Acura will be accepted as well. The more modifications made to the vehicle, the more useless junk added onto it, and the more random accessories found all over it, the louder you are permitted to play your music, and the faster you are allowed to drive. Fast and, dare I say, furious.

Pop Groups, Boy Bands, Children’s Albums and Television or Film Soundtracks popular among the Tweens and Teens may be played loud only in Mini-Vans and mid-size SUVs, and only during regular work or school hours. There should be a small to medium sized dog of some kind in the vehicle, and having the windows open will gain you extra street cred. You must drive no faster than the posted speed limits and even, if possible, up to ten kilometers below them. If you are on a road with more than one lane, be in the rightmost lane, but hover slightly into the lane to your left from time to time. Stick your hand out the window sometimes to signal people to "go around" you.

Pop-Punk, most “Alt” rock from the ‘90s up until today and all this new “Emo” music the kids are talking about can only be blasted in your vehicle if you are currently looking for a spot in a mall parking lot, or are driving past a hilarious wacky and funny t-shirt store. If you break this rule, pedestrians have the right to throw eggs and yogurt at you.

Heavy Metal, Death Metal, Black Metal, Power Metal, Metal Core, Grind Core, Thrash, Goth, Doom and the like (pretty much all things dark, metal or scary) should only be played at high volume starting at the summer solstice, and ending at winter solstice. The day on which you blast the music must be a darker day than the preceding day. Otherwise it would be a grave misuse of your metal library, and may cause your four tires to blow out simultaneously. Certain Progressive Rock albums may also fall into this category if the subject matter is gloomy enough, however, remember, never turn off the engine if you are only half-way through any concept album. You must stay seated in your parked vehicle until the album finishes. Disregard these rules for all Pick-up Trucks, SUVs and Mini-Vans. These vehicles are never permitted to play these types of music loudly.

Really Underground Rock and Punk from the ‘80s-‘90s or up until today, early Punk stuff, early or even later Hardcore stuff, most Underground Garage bands, or your favorite local act that no one has ever heard of may be sonically exploded out of your speakers and towards the public at any hour, any day, and any time of the year. The only catch is that your windows must be fully open. If you can’t handle this in the winter, then you’d best wait until the spring, or grow a pair. This type of musical announcing will be most appreciated in the urban scenester environment, but may also gain you approval in certain suburbanite milieus. If you have a bumper sticker of a band on your vehicle, you may never play their music in your vehicle, no matter the volume. This is similar to the “don’t wear the shirt of the band you’re going to see” rule, uttered by Jeremy Piven to Jon Favreau in the ‘90s campus cult classic PCU.

Classic rock from the ‘60s or ‘70s can be turned to the max for highway driving only and, please take note, that the use of the vehicle's Air Conditioning is forbidden. If you are warm and sweaty, you may open your windows. Singing along is highly encouraged, but if your windows are open, be ready for potential bug swallowing. Popular music from the ‘80s and ‘90s can be played full blast only if the band playing turned out to be a “One Hit Wonder”, and you have turned off the vehicle's Heat. Let the ‘80s and ’90s easy cheesy charm and heat warm you up.

Modern Country music, or New Country, should never be played in any vehicle, at any time, at any volume. It is important to follow this guideline, and I should remind you that, in certain extreme cases, playing New Country too loudly, while driving, has caused vehicles to suddenly explode. The same rule applies for most New Age or “World” music, except that if played too loudly, the driver themselves may explode, rather than the vehicle. Older Country music, as well as very early Rock'n'Roll and RockaBilly is acceptable at any volume but only if driving a Pick-Up truck and only if you are driving in the Wild West, otherwise the pedestrians around you may explode. It is up to you to figure out if you are not in the Wild West. You can do so by watching for exploding pedestrians.

Soft Rock, or “Sunday Music”, can be played only at medium or low volume, and never on Sundays. Be careful not to turn it up too much since, in certain extreme cases, Soft Rock played at high volume has caused vehicles and their drivers to slowly melt into a big ol' mellow mushy pile.

The Blues can only be played loud if you're driving the vehicle off of a cliff.

Jazz can be played loud whenever, by whomever, and in any type of vehicle, but only if the driver of the vehicle has written a ten page essay explaining why this particular album or song or artist is genius.

Talk radio, Comedy albums, Lounge Singer Acts or Novelty bands may never be played loudly and should only be listened to at a reasonable volume. You may laugh as loud as you wish at any time. You should do so with your windows closed. However, if you are stuck in traffic, you may open the windows and raise the volume slightly. While we are on the subject of traffic, music may never be played at full volume in a traffic jam, no matter the category.

During any leap year, on February 29th or during the opening ceremony of the Summer Olympics, you are permitted to completely assault everyone with horrifyingly loud Classical Music. Outside of these two events, you may never turn up the volume on Classical Music beyond ten percent of the vehicle’s maximum volume.

If your vehicle only has a Cassette player, you still must apply all of the above rules, but you are permitted to yell at other drivers to get out of your way. You forfeit this right if you hook up an MP3 or CD player with one of those nifty tape adaptors. If you don’t even have Cassette capability, and all you have is an AM/FM radio, then you still must follow the rules, however you are allowed to ask pedestrians for change. This does not apply to rental trucks.

If your vehicle is more than twenty years old, then absolutely none of the above rules apply. You get a free pass and are permitted to play any music as loud as you see fit anytime and anywhere, and can even sing along with the windows open, and all of this at a crowded red traffic light. You can make your own rules. Just try and remember that if the vehicle is old and beat up enough, turning up the radio too loud may cause the brakes to fail or the hood to fly off.

Sometimes it's good to leave the stereo off and enjoy the sounds of the highway. Let yourself drift away into the gumdrop dreams and memories of simpler times, as you slowly fall asleep, hypnotized by the serene repetition of the dotted lines, only to be woken up and startled by the loud lawnmower noise of the shoulder grooves, and your wife screaming.

Scream. Swerve. Radio on. Volume up. Sing along.

That’s it. I think you're ready for the road test.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Knife, Spoon, Fork, Garbage.

When was the last time you bought cutlery? How about the last time that you threw away cutlery? I’m not talking about some fancy new knife set that surprises you every time by its extreme sharpness or the good shiny set you bring out when old Aunt Jemima visits. I mean the garden variety flatware shit. The stuff that you use for everyday breakfasts, lunches and dinners. You don’t remember, do you? Well, neither do I, but we all have it, and have too much of it. There is the rare household that has a spoon or fork shortage, but I’m not going to discuss them. Besides, they’re on the right track. Less is more, and they really only feel the shortage when there have one too many guests over and someone ends up eating spaghetti with a butter knife and the measuring spoons. Incidentally, the Tablespoon is awesome for eating cereal.

For the rest of you, that have more than an ample supply of eating tools, chances are that you can’t even remember where every fork, spoon or knife actually came from. They’re all different shapes and sizes. You know that some were inherited from your parents’ home or handed down to you when you moved out. You’re pretty sure that some were stolen from restaurants, work or school cafeterias, or in rare cases, someone else’s home. And you don’t have to admit it to anyone, but there may even be a few pieces that were left behind by the previous tenants that you washed and kept. Some are just strange and intriguing pieces that seemingly appeared out of nowhere: the three-pronged spoon-fork, the feather-weight paring knife complete with the half-melted black plastic handle that you left too close to the burner one time, or that inexplicably tiny spoon (you’ll say it’s a family heirloom, but you don’t actually know where it came from). And then there’s always that one really dirty spoon or fork, too. The one that, no matter how many times you clean it stays dirty and rusty looking, and you always wonder if that brown somehow affects the taste of the food.

“Does it taste rusty to you? I’d better hang on to it to figure out if it’s the food or the spoon that tastes rusty.”

We have no problem throwing most stuff away. We accidentally throw out important crap from time to time, or get rid of something decent just as an excuse to buy a bigger and better version. Why doesn’t this apply to flatware? We hang onto every last piece forever. Are we somehow worried about needing it all at the same time? Maybe you’re hoping that after the apocalypse, you’ll be chosen by the New Ruler to have the entire survivor population over for a pot-luck dinner. But even when it does happen, you’ll probably just buy the plastic crap so you won’t have any dishes to do.

“But mister, this plastic fork won’t pierce the ravioli, and I think some plastic broke off in my salad and I ate it.”
“Shut up, it’s full of calcium and vitamin McG. Stop whining and use two forks stuck together, back to back, like the rest of us.”

On a side note, why do we still say we need to “do the dishes”, when there are probably just as many non-dishes to wash? Doesn’t anyone ever “do the spoons”? Perhaps it’s because people feel safe putting a spoon in the dishwasher, but no one would dare put a dish in the spoonwasher. Here’s another thought: at a pizza restaurant that serves the deep dish pizza, can the dish washers refer to themselves as deep dish washers? These are the kinds of questions that occupy my brain.

Often times, you only end up using the bad cutlery when you’re too lazy to clean the good stuff. You know that feeling you get when you open the drawer.

“Rats! The only fork left is the one with the badly aligned prongs. It always scrapes my teeth and makes my tongue bleed… oh well, definitely still beats washing something.”

If you have this type of bad utensil, my recommendation is that you throw it away, and clean a good utensil. I know how bizarre this will feel at first, since you may have to wash forks and shit more often. But you’ll soon realize that if you wash it shortly after using it, the scrambled eggs come off much easier. And, don’t try and donate all of your bad stuff to charity or sell it at some stupid garage sale, otherwise, you’re only spreading bad cutlery around.

“Hey! They’re selling forks and spoons for twenty-five cents each, what a deal, let’s get fifty.”
“For you, buy fifty, get fifty free.”

Don't help this person. Don’t be part of the problem, be part of the solution.

“But what if I someday need the thin weak spoon that got bent when I used it to scoop vanilla ice cream, and then I bent it back as best I could, but it didn’t look quite right, and now it’s crooked and has a kink in it like an inch worm?”

Trust me. You won’t ever miss this spoon. Also, butter knives may appear to be good for a lifetime, but they need not be, and you probably have at least ten too many. Maybe you feel guilty throwing away a perfectly straight and rigid butter knife.

“It still butters so well, how could I throw it away? I can’t. I guess I’ll just have to throw away some clothes and start using my top dresser drawers to store them.”

Take them out of those drawers and start putting them to other uses, if you feel you can’t toss them. Use them as screwdrivers, bookmarks, coffee stirrers, drum sticks, rulers, or whatever. Glue them to your walls to spell out words. You can name each room. That way you’ll always know where you are. Don’t donate these to charity either, unless you’re also donating butter.

The steak knife is not often considered in the same family as what I've been discussing here, but it needs to be addressed regardless. You know how every home has at least a few bad steak knives? The knives that barely cut anymore and sometimes have one of those loose handles with the missing screw? I've noticed that it’s always those older ones with the cheesy wooden handles. They’re the steak knife equivalent of taking the bus. They may get you there, but not comfortably, quickly or smoothly, and you might lose your appetite along the way.

You have people over for dinner and you eventually notice a guest sweating over a pizza crust as he saws and works at it like a lumberjack with a log. It is poor dinner party etiquette for them to tell you that the knife that you gave them sucks. So, they’ll wait for you to offer to switch it up. Only offer once, if they don’t take it, they missed their chance.

“Oh gee Bill, here, gimme that, I’ll get you one of the good knives.”
“Oh, no worries, this sharp spoon seems to be cutting my steak rather nicely.”

Why are you keeping the bad knives anyways? Are you worried that a knife fight will break out, and you want to be sure that you control who has the good cutting and stabbing power?

“I don’t trust that Steven guy, honey. Sit him in the corner with that old worn down serrated knife with the miscellaneous brown spots and the wiggly handle. I feel like he might come straight for me during the brawl portion of the evening.”

And then, after dinner, but before coffee and cake, during the brawl:

“Ha, nice try Steven, but you didn’t even break the skin. I gave you the bad knife.”

Although, chances are he’ll have brought his own blade for the rumble. Just throw away the shitty steak knives. And don’t think that you can keep them, and let some of them serve as some kinds of thin, mildly sharp butter knives either, because as discussed previously, you already have too many. Maybe you’re hanging onto them in the hopes of getting them sharpened one day. Well, don’t bother, because you won’t.

What are you thinking exactly? That you’ll be at home at just the right time when one of those knife sharpening trucks drives through your neighbourhood? They’ll play a little jingle just like the ice cream man? You’ll run to the window and realize it’s a knife sharpener? You’ll rejoice and run to the kitchen and gather all the bad knives and run out to the street? Maybe, but then you’ll realize that the truck is moving at roughly thirty kilometres per hour, slow for a car, but fast for a human, and is long gone. You could start running around trying to find him, but if you do that, you’re more likely to accidentally stab someone, trip and kill yourself, or get arrested, than you are to actually turn your bad knives back into good ones.

“Yes officer, he just ran by again in an open house coat, flowing in the wind, wielding and waving three or four knives and repeatedly screaming ‘WAIT’. Please hurry; this is not the first time. I don’t know what he’s going to do next.”

Is it worth the risk? Is collecting and hanging on to useless shit really worth going to jail for?

It’s time to break the mould. Bad forks, bad spoons, bad knives, just throw them all away. If you’re left with nothing, just eat with your hands for a little while, until you save up enough money to buy a new set of cutlery. Future generations will thank you, when they are handed down decent flatware. This may even take several years, since, after all, they must be quite expensive if you’re still clinging to the shit you have at home. I highly doubt that a new set only costs ten bucks or so at the store. Right? Right?

That’s it. Stay sharp.

Friday, January 15, 2010

You Talkin' to Me?

You know the bizarre forced small-talk you have with someone when you run into them on the bus or something? Not some complete stranger, but not a real friend-friend either, just some casual acquaintance who shit his pants at your birthday party years ago, or whatever? This conversation usually sucks, and should be avoided.

You’re on the subway or the bus and you peripherally spot an acquaintance of this type. You have a few different options. Pretending to sleep is popular, but also lacks ambition, and is usually pretty transparent. You also run the risk of actually falling asleep and missing your stop.

A more daring and acrobatic approach is to twist your body and head in such a way that it becomes impossible to look in the assailant’s direction, and then, try to act casual, and as if you always sit that way.

“This is how I always sit, leaning to left and staring at the floor next to my left shoe.”

You can often combine this contortionist technique with looking out the window, but you will potentially look crazy, and often will develop a kink in your neck. Therefore, I would say that burying your face in a book, newspaper, or handheld video game is probably the safest bet. There is no real risk of injury and you’re being entertained at the same time.

Now, regardless of your efforts to avoid eye contact or recognition, sometimes the acquaintance will still recognize you and want to “catch up”. Who wants to catch up anyways? I’m fed up with having to put up with having to listen up when someone I didn’t even keep up with while growing up feels they need to take up my time. It makes me want to throw up. Why can’t they just shut up?

They’re annoyingly tenacious too. Have you ever had someone tap on your shoulder, to try and force you to look at them? First, you fake sleep, but still you feel them getting closer and closer. You see them in your peripheral vision after you fake wake up and bury your face in a book, music full blast. You know that it’s coming. They’re not going to let you avoid them. They’re on the offensive. They’re going to initiate a conversation. Fake sleep, fake wake up, fake read, and, regardless, you’re still going to have to fake talk and fake care. Tap, tap, tap!

“Hey! Hey? Hey! Second grade? Remember?! We played marbles during recess?”

They always open with some nostalgia to somehow try and convince you of how important they were in your life. As if this one memory is supposed to rank in your mind’s Billboard Top 100 memories. Sadly, in the back of your mind, you worry that it might actually be in their Top 5. Everyone played marbles. You played marbles with everyone. Strangely, you don’t remember ever playing with this person. But regardless, you pretend to remember.

“Oh, ha, yeah well, good times. My, you’ve really grown into that moustache… Cindy is it? It’s just so great to see you again. I was sleeping and then reading, but this is way better. Don’t you love when you’ve been at work all day and your breath smells like ass?”

After the ice breaker, there’s always some ultra vague question about your entire life since you last saw this person eighteen years ago.

“So what are you up to now?”

To which you give a generic mechanical response, as if you’re filling in a form for an insurance company, wishing you could give something more like:

“I was up to page seventy-five. I guess I won’t make it to eighty today thanks to you. Happy, pappy?”

This brings me to my next point: ending the conversation abruptly and efficiently, without being rude. With public transit, you can just get off at the next stop. First, though, be sure to ask them quickly if their stop is next. The last thing you want is to exit with them accidentally and then have nowhere to go but stand and talk.

“So where are you getting off?”
“75th and Turd.”
“Oh, yeah? This is my stop, see you around.”

Next stop: elevators.

Elevator conversations are the worst. Even if you’re in the middle of telling some great story, the moment you get on that elevator and those doors seal you in, the conversation just sort of fades. Often times this is because of some other random person's presence, and you feel weird continuing, figuring it would be impossible for them not to eavesdrop. After all, they don't deserve to hear your story, right?

“[…] so then I says to the guy I says… euuuh… I says…” he stops suddenly as he notices in the corner of his eye, next to the glowing lit up button for the tenth floor, the stranger is listening, watching, judging. Silence then prevailed as they all stared at the magically increasing digital number, wishing it would jump directly from number three to their floor, so that they may hear the soothing sound of the bell and be the chosen ones.

Sometimes it’s not even that. Sometimes it just inexplicably stops being a good story as soon as that door slides closed. There must be a scientific reason for it, kind of like animals not mating in captivity. Maybe it's the close proximity of everyone and the sudden inclusion of their smells that makes everything just all too real.

But what I’m more interested in destroying here is that other form of elevator conversation. Not the one that dies mid-flight, but the one that was started during the elevator ride, with some total rando that you usually try and avoid altogether. You have nothing pertinent to say to them, and they don’t have anything to offer you either. Unfortunately, camouflage here is much trickier, because you’re in such close quarters. Stare at your feet, the corner of the elevator, the door, or even the numbers. Just don’t look at anyone. This becomes harder in those mirrored elevators, but can almost always be achieved. Just believe. Don’t worry about looking weird. Everyone is doing the same thing. Everyone is uncomfortable. Have you ever seen the way most people flee out of elevators? They have their nose right up to the door crack as their floor approaches and then as soon as the door starts opening, they sort of exit sideways?

“I’m free!” he thought to himself, as he walked determinedly to the comfort of his sterile grey cubicle. It was private, and he sure liked it that way.

The only people looking all around are the people that want to talk to someone. They look around hoping someone else will accidentally look at them. Then they can reel them in and start right off into their bullshit. It’s so intimate, so close, so disturbing and creepy with that romantic dim lighting. If and when you do get that rare gem of an individual who insists on talking to you, about work, sports or himself, and you’re not getting off at the next floor, change the subject to the weather. Even though experiencing weather is maybe the only thing you do have in common, oddly enough, it still seems to help end pretty much any conversation.

“I’m so swamped. How about you? So how are those reports going? Mine are crazy. Man, its crazy. Man, I’m crazy, right?”
“What? Yeah, sure, man, how about that weather? It’s fucking cold.”
“Yeah, it’s… yeah I can’t believe it. So I –”
“Yep, cold” he abruptly interrupted. He then very comfortably resumed staring at his left hand, as he had been doing prior to that unpleasant vocal interference. He notices that he is just one number away from his escape. A calm washes over him, while in the background, a voice can still be faintly heard, yammering on about global warming.

The worst cases are when you get someone who doesn’t seem to understand that an elevator ride is roughly thirty seconds long, and gets into something that could potentially carry over into your post-elevator life, if you’re both going to the same floor. Now, you’re off the elevator and you’re just praying they're not going in the same direction as you, so that at least during their next pause for air, you can run for the hills.

“Well, I’m going this way. Bye.”

That brings up the other big problem with elevators, you can’t just pretend you need to get off at the next floor. You made your choice at the beginning. They saw. They know. You’re riding all the way to the bottom, and so are they. That’s why when I get on I press all of the buttons, so that I have an exit plan in case I need one.

Next floor: the walking encounter.

On the sidewalk, on the street, in the park, at the mall, you see them in the distance. It’s snubbing time. The walk-by ninja snub is an art form. The key is to look like you still were naturally moving your head around, but that just casually, not ever has your line of sight gone in their general direction. Avoiding eye contact of any kind is always the goal. But, don’t just fixate your head in the opposite direction of them, since this looks robotic and would be a dead give-away. The desired effect of the walk-by ninja snub is to not have to talk to them, but to somehow still have them go home and say:

“Hey honey, I saw Poonis Lagoonis today, but he never saw me. Man, he looked fat.”

Success, you’re a ninja, albeit, apparently a fat ninja.

If your eyes do meet, and you’ve recognized each other, go to your next level of defence. Keep a steady pace but pull out the wave, the salute, the finger gun (only the single gun, never the dreaded double guns, and please, no arm pumping), the hat tip, the wink or the head nod and just keep walking. Do not stop under any circumstances. Chatterboxes will see stopping as an open invitation for the brutally long stop-and-talk. Do not throw in a “how’s it going”, as they often lead to a “bla bla bla, and you?” response, which could be the beginning of a conversation. If you instinctively feel that you absolutely must make some kind of sound, keep it to a single, or double clicking noise made with the mouth. Figure out what combination feels the best for you. Personally I go with a single finger gun / wink combo, with a double clicking noise from the mouth.

If after your mute or semi-mute greeting, they also keep walking, then you’re in the clear. This person is not a stop-and-talker, and probably also wishes that you had not made eye contact in the first place. On the other hand, if they do stop, you’re screwed. You can keep walking, but then you look like an asshole. The point is to be an asshole, but not to look like an asshole, a subtle but important distinction. The stop-and-talk is the toughest conversation to get out of. The only way out is to say that you are running late and have somewhere to be. It’s probably best to have one of these excuses handy every time you step foot outside your home, just in case you have a run-in.

“I’d love to stay and chat, but I just took some laxatives.”

Walking really fast all the time helps. This can help back up your “gotta run” story, but also increase your chances of a successful walk-by ninja snub. Speed is your friend.

Only apply these techniques to people you really don’t want to talk to. Sometimes you may wish to welcome small-talk on your daily journey. Once in a blue moon, you may even notice someone you actually wouldn’t mind chatting with, but you're not sure if they saw you, so you go out of your way to approach them. However, while approaching, watch carefully, and if you notice them employing any of the above mentioned techniques, don’t be hurt. Just walk away, and remember, according to the internet and several websites, not just Wikipedia:

“This is the sum of duty; do naught unto others which if done to thee would cause thee pain.” – Mahabharata 5:1517

That’s it. I need to go – I’m running late for a miscellaneous appointment.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Paper or Plastic? Neither.

Where I am from, they have begun eliminating paper/plastic bags completely from all grocery stores. You must bring your own reusable bags from home, or pay extra money to get plastic bags to carry your groceries in. I don’t know if they have begun taking this green initiative where you are from, so I felt it was important to fill you in.

And begin.

I’m getting a little sick of the reusable bag craze. I know we’re all trying to save the planet, but I’ve had enough. It seems like any event you go to, whether a career fair, festival, marathon, or whatever, they are throwing reusable bags at you. Even when you go shopping at certain stores in the mall, if you spend enough money, they give you a reusable bag.

“Oh gee, you spent over two dollars, here take this bag. It’s great for the grocery store, or packing a lunch. Oh, also it’s free advertising for us, but that’s not what we care about, we care about the planet earth.”

How is it great for lunches? These reusable bags are gigantic. It would be great for packing a lunch if you were eating a rack of lamb, maybe. But lamb is a supper food. In theory, it’s nice to receive free shit, but I already have about seventeen thousand of these bags that I bought at the grocery store, right when they first started featuring those coat racks of bags near the checkout.

“Hey those nifty reusable bags are on sale, I’ll get some more, you can never have too many.”

Actually you can, and now I do. Do you?

The first thing you need to do is find other uses for the bags. Unless you’re buying enough groceries to feed a moderate sized army, you’ll never need all seventeen thousand bags at once in one trip to the grocery store. You can’t throw any of them away either, because, that’s not being very green at all. So, put them to good use. There is a whole array of reusable items you can create using the reusable bags.

Staple a bunch together to make reusable curtains or a quilt. Shove newspaper in one and staple it shut to make a reusable cushion. Nail them to your wall as reusable posters. Fill one full of rocks and make a reusable weapon. Don’t bother with paper towels, J-cloths or Sham-wows ever again, since, you guessed it, they can double as reusable wiper things. It is not advised, however, to follow this theory with reusable Kleenex or toilet paper. Cut out the bottom of the bag and turn it sideways, and there you have it: a reusable tankini-top. Think of the possibilities: reusable pants, reusable belts, even reusable neckties! And you’ll be making a statement, publicly declaring that you clearly have a green seamstress thumb. But be careful when creating reusable fashion, as a pair of reusable underwear is only good for a few days before you’ll get a reusable rash. The same goes for reusable socks, with reusable athlete’s foot. And what you do behind closed doors is your business, but you must always remember that reusable condoms can lead to reusable herpes, or even reusable babies.

Regardless of how many of these bags I have in my household, I never remember to bring a single one of them to the grocery store, even with the reusable curtains and bedspread serving as constant reminders. Has this happened to you yet? You’re walking in to the grocery store and you look over at the other consumers heading in.

“Say, those people already have bags.” He pauses briefly and thinks for a moment. “FUCK!”

To turn around, get back in your car, drive home, get the bags and drive back, defeats the entire eco-friendly purpose of the reusable bags. But unless your last name is Rockefeller, paying five cents for a plastic bag just seems like a luxury that we commoners can’t afford. So, it’s time for some creative shopping.

Your first step is to aim for food with handles. Buckets of corn oil, jugs of cranberry juice or Sunny D, box of Diet Pepsi cans, or even those little plastic containers with the barbecued chickens and the built-in cardboard handles on top, are all good choices and great ways to cover some of your basic nutritional needs. To ensure that you always get your necessary daily nutrients, make sure to cover the four essential handle-food groups: Buckets, Jugs, Boxes and Random Things with Built-In Handles.

If you can’t fulfill all of your grocery needs with the above mentioned groups, grab a big frozen pizza box from the freezer aisle and start balancing stuff on it like a serving tray. When you go out and serve up a tray of groceries to your car, you’ll feel like you work in one of those cool new roller skating waiter or waitress type restaurants like I've only read about on T.V. It’s also very important to remember that frozen pizza can also be eaten, but only if cooked.

If all of these techniques have been attempted, and you still find yourself with loose articles of food, your next course of action should be to take bags from the produce section. They have giant rolls of free bags, and you can take as many as you want. It’s not illegal. No one is watching to see if you take them and then actually put apples or pears in them. Nowhere does it say, “Only use these for produce, not to store your groceries at checkout”. Even so, you’ll probably get one of these real hippy cashiers named Jeff, or Dwayne, or Cheyenne, or Coco-Puff, who will give you a real suspicious look and ask you real sternly if you took those bags from the produce section. Be prepared for this, don’t let it stop you, and say what I say.

“Fuck you! I bought a whole mess of fruit last week and now I’m reusing. I’m doing my part, Dwayne.”

That will shut him up. He might even throw in a scared and embarrassed “Good for you” if your performance was solid enough.

The weight limit on these bags is low, with a capacity of only two or three cans of Manwich. Quite possibly, your groceries are too heavy duty, and the thin and clear produce bags will not suffice. Well there is one final technique that I like to apply in this case. You must be sure to have some rope in your trunk at all times. Throw all of your groceries back into your cart at the checkout line, after paying for them, of course. After all, you’re not a criminal. But let it be a no-bag free-for-all in your cart. Now take the cart out to your car, take the rope out of the trunk, tie your cart to the roof of your car and take your groceries home. It’s foolproof. You don’t even need to worry about that little device on the wheel of the cart that locks it at a certain distance from the store. Your car is doing all the necessary wheeling. If you’re worried about losing food along the way, don’t worry too much. Think of all the money you saved on not paying for those expensive plastic bags. If you are really hell-bent on keeping all of your food, wrap a big tarp around the top of the cart, sealing everything inside like leftovers on a plate in the fridge. This is good for rainy days as well.

Afterwards, because of the wheel locking device, as well as the elemental damage from the drive, the cart is not at all reusable, so after you’ve unloaded all of your groceries into your home, dump the cart, preferably in a lake, field or forest. If it's one of those old-school carts in which you had to deposit a quarter, or for some reason you insist on trying to reuse it, simply leave it strapped to your car roof and reuse it next time you go to the grocery store. This works best with most sedans and hatchbacks, however if you have a van, truck or SUV, you probably won’t be able to maneuver through the aisles very easily.

I guess another idea is to, instead of leaving rope and tarp in your trunk, leave some reusable bags in there. But that seems like an awful lot of work. Honestly, who has time to think about that kind of stuff?

That’s it. Remember the four R’s: recycle, reuse, and rinse, repeat.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

7 Levels of Conversation.

There are seven levels of conversation that take place in any serious relationship: Chat, Talk, Discussion, Debate, Argument, Fight and Break-Up.

Small talk and minor conversations always start out as Chats, and often don’t go very far above that. More serious subjects however start out as Talks. More serious Chats turn into Talks.

“We need to have a talk.”
“Can we talk?”
“I have to talk to you about something.”

Ok, let’s talk. Depending on the nature of the Talk, it could potentially turn into a Discussion, or it could just as easily fizzle down into a Chat. Once you’ve started a Discussion, however, you need to be careful. If either party shows too strong an opinion, or both parties have opinions that oppose one another, this could spiral upwards into a Debate. Once you’ve reached a Debate, it’s often hard to turn it back down into a Discussion or Talk and nearly impossible to bring it directly back down to a Chat.

Debates often resolve themselves when someone gets too sleepy to debate anymore, or ends up changing their opinion altogether (sometimes just to end the Debate). But if either party has the nerve to press at the issue for too long, you’re looking at an Argument. The important thing to remember during an Argument is that one wrong move and you will escalate it into a full-blown Fight. So try and play your cards right. Then again, if you are willing to not be so stubborn, and compromise your opinion for the good of the community, you can easily lower it to a Debate, or even a Discussion. I once knew someone who claimed to have gone straight from Argument down to Chat in three words. I think they work for NASA now, but I never did find out what those words were. Try not to yo-yo between levels too much, as most times, this type of mental anguish and strain often results in a Fight.

It’s also important to note that it is not healthy for the relationship to end an Argument or a Fight without first returning the conversation back down to a lower level, such as Debate or Discussion, if you wish to avoid a Fight maturing into a Break-Up. The only good thing about a Fight is that if you are lucky enough and you both get worked up and sweaty enough, Fights can often lead to Make-Up Fun-Time Activities, an absolutely terrific way to end a conversation.

Make-Up Fun-Time Activities , or MUFTA, pronounced MOOF-TUH, often involves very little talking, or none at all, which is why, unlike the Break-Up, MUFTA is not considered to be one of the levels of conversation. Also, once it begins, the conversation is definitely over. No one goes from MUFTA back to conversation, that’s just crazy talk. Great MUFTA leads to more MUFTA. Bad MUFTA, however, can lead to a Break-Up. Post Break-Up MUFTA is probably pretty solid, but generally frowned upon, since I guarantee it won’t be long before the next Fight and subsequent Break-Up. Sadly, the only way to achieve MUFTA is through a Fight. Never initiate a Fight hoping for MUFTA, it won’t happen, it must occur naturally in the wild.

The step from Fight to Break-Up is definitely more infrequent and rare. However, I would assume that every Break-Up happened at the end of a long Fight, or a very long series of Fights. A Break-Up is also likely the beginning in a series of Talks, Discussions, Debates, Arguments and Fights, which is why it is the seventh level of conversation, and is also known as level infinity.

To avoid Fights and Break-Ups, understand that one of the pillars of a good relationship is communication. So, you had better start learning what makes your partner travel from level to level, and what behaviour is still acceptable within each.

First, find out during which levels it is still safe to take bathroom breaks. Obviously during an Argument or Fight, no one wants to hear the bathroom echo of:

“Keep going honey, I’m listening”

coming from down the hall, with the faint sound of number one or number two. Perhaps for your partner, this activity is acceptable from Chat all the way up to a Debate. The importance of knowing this is mainly for your own comfort, so that you can take the opportunity to go while you still have a chance. A badly placed bathroom break can lead to a Fight. On a side note, I always find it rather amazing, and frustrating, that most women can’t make a two hour drive with out two or three bathroom breaks, but can often have a Talk, Discussion, Debate, Argument or Fight for twelve hours without a drop of pee coming out. Doctors do recommend that you pee before and after MUFTA.

You must also figure out when it is still considered acceptable to fart. I know you’re thinking that it could help lighten the mood in any level, maybe even take a Debate back down to a Chat, or a Fight back down to a Discussion. After all, it’s just like fun and silly punctuation! It’s a way to sound out an exclamation point and emphasize a statement made. You may think this, but the other person perceives it as the following:

“I haven’t even bothered to listen to what you have to say, but here’s what I think of you and your opinions”.

And then the inevitable (I don’t know how to spell out a fart noise, but here it goes):

Braaaap” or
Pooo-wooooot” or
Skreedleweeeeeeee” or
Fwatatatatatatatata!!TAT!!” or

Again, some people have a wide range of levels during which farting will be accepted, or even welcomed. If you need to, first test the waters with a silent smelly one. If it goes over badly, you can try and blame the smell on the pet, or if no pet is around to blame, blame it on the garbage can or the neighbour’s nasty fish supper. If your partner does figure out what the smell is, and somehow still does not seem too bothered by it, then maybe its time to try a full bodied noisy one next time around. Always try this first during a Chat or a Talk, and slowly move your way up the levels, to find out where the cut-off is. Never try your first conversation fart during anything above a Talk, or you may instantly enter a Fight. I knew someone once that said that they went straight from a Fight to MUFTA, in three farts. I think that they work for the Government now, making seven figures.

Other examples that may require such investigation and testing are:
- Making and eating a sandwich
- Playing a musical instrument
- Reading or surfing the net
- Playing video games or watching television
- Taking a phone call
- Burping
- Sneezing or coughing
- Sleeping
- Playfully telling the other person to “Shut Up”
- Emitting loud stomach noises
- Grabbing the other party’s butt
- Scratching body parts
- Leaving the Room
- Listening to your ipod and/or dancing
- Playing Peek-a-Boo
- Performing a cartwheel
- Making balloon animals
- Showering
- Repeating everything the other party says
- Getting drunk
- Nose picking
- Using foul language
- High fiving
- Blank staring
- Head nodding
- Laughing
- Practicing jump kicks

Once you start figuring out the acceptability of the above list of activities, write them down, and make yourself a chart. If you have trouble remembering the different levels, what could trigger them in your partner, and what is acceptable during each level, carry the chart with you, and refer to it when needed. Checking this chart during a conversation is probably also something that should be added to the above list. You may come across other activities that need to be added for your own relationship. That’s the beauty of keeping your own personal chart; you can add as many activities as necessary.

Finally, I would like to add that if your conversation is taking place while eating a snack, or even worse during a whole meal of food, and it its starting to climb up the levels, it’s sometimes best to just relax and keep quiet. No sense in risking an Argument or Fight breaking out when each party has knives, forks and hot food at their disposal. A spicy hot meatball thrown into the eye at short range can cause permanent damage, studies have shown. Also no one wants post-hospital MUFTA with someone wearing an eye-patch.

That’s it. Conversation finished.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

All You Can Eat.

I couldn’t possibly cover everything that’s wrong with All-You-Can-Eat buffets, ever. But I’ll try to touch upon the most common issues.

Avoid places containing stereotyped Italian-style first names, like Frankie Pepperoni’s, Giuseppe Cannelloni’s or heaven forbid Tony Rigatoni’s. It’s damn expensive for what it ends up being: cheap chewy carbs. One thing you really don’t need is All-You-Can-Eat pasta stations. If you want all you can eat pasta, save yourself the money and go buy an econo-size bag of macaroni for eighty cents. Also, someone once told me that his uncle died from eating too much gnocchi, that heavy-ass potato pasta. Apparently it expanded in his stomach and he blew up. Can this really happen? I don’t know, but I don’t care to find out, especially not with greasy gnocchi out of one of those bedpans they serve the food in. Basically, whatever place you go to, steer clear of pasta.

Aim for the places with Chinese sounding names. They seem to do cheap food right, and the food is generally more acceptable. If it’s a Chinese buffet then the name will be something real epic and fun too, like Palace something or Dynasty something, or Jade Wong’s Mandarin Dynasty Palace, or whatever. Every trip to the buffet will feel like an exotic journey because of the over-the-top décor. Even though the food is generally acceptable, as I stated above, there usually isn’t anything very Chinese about it. Get a load of that Chinese sushi station. And let’s not forget about Chinese pizza. I also had some really awesome Chinese French fries once at a place called Decent Chow Empire of Jade Super Delicious. The Chinese Naan Bread, however, was nasty.

So you’ve picked a place and are now waiting to be seated. This is my next big issue with these restaurants. While you’re waiting to be seated, you should be allowed to take a plate and score your first round while you wait. This way you’re kept busy and you avoid that awkward moment when they first sit you down, when you’re not sure how long you should wait before you get back up and head towards the buffet. You know what I mean. They sit you down and you look at whoever you’re with for a second and there’s an awkward silence. This is especially bad if it’s a first date. In fact, avoid buffets completely until you’re married, or at least until you know it’s safe to fart in front of each other, otherwise it may be a long cramp filled night post-buffet.

“So… I guess we just get up and go?”
“Do we need to tell them we’re having the buffet?”
“How does this work?”
“Can I leave my purse here?”

Why are we all suddenly so stupid? We’ve been to these places before. Sometimes it’s even a restaurant we’ve already eaten at, and we still have an awkward lift-off. I’m guessing it’s because we’ve all experienced a time where the server actually asks:

“Will you be dining from the buffet tonight?”

And then we get confused and we question ourselves. We always say yes and get the buffet anyways. But you have to admit, you’re a little curious to know what kind of food isn’t already available in the buffet, what a weird menu that must be. Well, from then on, we always end up wondering if the server is going to ask us this time or not. And why is he asking us anyways? How often does anyone really go to Captain Chuck Fuck’s Bottomless Bucket of Eats to order a cheeseburger with two side dishes?

Usually you start your meal at the soup and salad station. You should be fine, just avoid the skin at the top of the soup and the brown veggies, and be careful not to take any of those shrimps with those legs still on them. This has happened to the best of us at one time or another. We head back to our table with a whole plate of shrimp.

“Hey guys, did you see that huge bowl of shrimp? Aw yeah, I love shrimp!”
“Dude, those are those weird ones with the legs and shit.”

It takes five minutes to free just one little morsel of shrimp meat. What crappy payoff. It’s definitely not worth the effort, and you always feel you need to eat a bunch so you don’t look like food-waster guy.

Another station that confuses me is that meat station. Keep away. Aside from the fact that I’ve never really seen anyone eat anything off of those big wooden tables with the gigantic smoked miscellaneous meat rump loafs, it’s insulting. I think someone should tell these buffet owners that some “Hanzo The Razor” guy, with an apron and a giant hat that goes all the way up to the ceiling, cutting off a succulent slice of beef with his pitchfork and samurai sword, does not camouflage the hilarious truth that he is standing across from dozens of tins filled with room temperature saucy ribs, chicken balls and day-old onion rings.

“Oh thank you, that’s a perfect rare cut of prime rib roast; it looks so tender and juicy. Please lay it on top of my slice of pizza, and try not to let it touch the bacon and mini corn dogs that I garnished my vegetable lasagna and fish-sticks with.”

Just dish the meat out in tins like everything else. We know nothing is fresh, you’re not fooling anybody.

I won’t get into plate sizes or even plate arrangements, because everyone needs to find their own groove, and each buffet has a different level of plate capacity. Some people don’t like their smoked salmon to be covered in General Tao chicken, while others won’t eat it any other way. Some people want to make the least amount of trips possible, while others want to stack up the largest amount of empty plates, and try to burn some calories with the extra walking. These are all personal choices that should stay between you and your God.

I can’t cover all of the entrées available in these fine establishments either, since each place is different, but a good guideline is to stick to finger foods and stuff that you can recognize without having to read the labels. If it looks mysterious and intriguing, then a cheap buffet is probably not the best place to try it for the first time.

“Mexican-Australian Ratatouille Ginger Balls? Hmmm… oh gee, what the hell, why not?”

Big mistake.

So you’re feeling full now, as you’ve just had your eighth plate. You’re contemplating a ninth plate, but then thinking that maybe, just maybe, you should leave room for dessert – a common mistake.

Don’t bother with dessert. You must believe me when I say that there is definitely not always room for J-E-L-L-O, especially not the runny kind. Don’t fall into that trap. Also, don’t touch the fruit salad. Peaches should not have that kind of texture and you’ll end up debating whether what you just ate was a pear or an apple. You will however agree that, either way, it was gross. The cakes are generally very stale, very dry and somehow always either way too sweet, or completely tasteless. There are always several types of nasty mousses and puddings to not enjoy. The key one to stay far away from is the rice pudding which, as far as I know, shouldn’t taste like cold corn on the cob.

Now, you may be thinking, hey, what about ice cream, surely that’s not so bad. Ice cream would be fine if you could just find a regular flavor. But you won’t. Pink is not strawberry here in buffet land, it’s candy-bubblegum. Green isn’t mint or even pistachio, it ends up being some kind of sour apple. I took brown once expecting chocolate. Wrong. Caramel-Coffee-Caca. One time I took white. It must be vanilla. It wasn’t. To this day, I’m not sure what it was. It was some sort of coconut action, but I swear it had a just a hint of fake banana in it. I won’t even get into Rainbow sorbet.

You probably feel that these general guidelines won’t always suffice. Well, we could help improve everyone’s dining experience by agreeing to casually warn people on our way out about what to avoid. Everyone looks so happy on the way into a buffet, so full of hope, dreams and wonder. On the way out, everyone looks slow, depressed and fat. I’m not saying that you should completely burst their bubble and scare them or puke on them, but maybe, if you have time, write your overall thoughts on a napkin and hand it to someone on the way out. You’ll have done your part. Pay it forward.

“To Whom It May Concern,

Avoid the manicotti and the Jalapeño Poppers. Also those unlabeled little deep fried balls are not full of cheese like you would think or hope; they are full of tuna fish and taste like poop.

Bloated Man Who Just Gave You This Napkin.”

Also, cut the server’s tip in half. After all, they’re only doing half the usual work, and if we all start doing it, I won’t look like such an asshole next time.

I have one final question. Your favorite selection at the buffet was probably the pizza. But, compared to any actual pizza restaurant, the pizza sucked. So why the hell did you come here instead of a pizza place? I think it’s because quantity beats quality every time.

That’s it. Bon Appétit.