Friday, December 17, 2010

Second Life

I deal in seconds. Not the seconds that come after firsts or those that follow already generous helpings, but those that measure the passage of time, degradation of life. My breaks at work are 15 minutes each. You shouldn’t clock back in more than 15 seconds before your time is up, and you’re late if you stay on break for more than 15 seconds after.

OK, I went on break at 12:57 and 30 seconds. I have to be back at 1:12 and 30 seconds, but I should leave the break room at 1:10 and 30 seconds. Wait, I have to get some water, don’t I? I better get up from my chair at 1:10 sharp, then.

Oh, dammit. One of my friends just walked in. It’s 1:08:17, and she likes to talk. I should stand up so she knows that I have to go soon, but I don’t want to do it just as she’s walking in, or she’ll think I’m trying to avoid her. Dammit, it’s 1:08:32; I’m just going to stand up. And she caught me. Fuck. And she has drama going on that she wants to tell me about.

Your roommate’s mom and sister did what? That’s fucking stupid. You don’t have to put up with that shit.

1:09:40. Time to walk over to the sink to get some water while listening, hoping that she’ll get the hint. 1:10:21 – a break in between sentences where I can tell her good luck and that I have to get back. I can’t stop glancing at my watch. This is ridiculous. Life is meant to be savored moment by moment, not counted down second by second. 1:12:30.

There’s so much more to life than this.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Leaf Blow Me

Autumn is a time of decay and hibernation. Squirrels gather the last of their nuts for the coming winter, trees shed their leaves so that they may better weather approaching storms, and the warm, playful spirit of summer retreats into its annual exile. It seems that the volume of the entire hemisphere is lowered a little every day leading up to the winter solstice.

That is until some jackass with a leaf blower comes by at five in the damned morning and jerks you out of the restful cocoon into which you’ve nestled yourself for the night, unaware that leaf blowing is in fact an utter waste of time. Leaf blowers are the bane of my existence, and if I never had to see or hear a single one ever again, I could die happy. Leaf blowing is perhaps the least productive activity performed today, ranking firmly ahead of doing absolutely nothing. At least when you’re doing nothing, you’re not making a detrimental contribution to the environment by burning up gasoline and generating a ton of noise. Leaf blowers contribute to degradation of auditory senses and air quality just to push leaves around—not to dispose of them or turn them into something useful like mulch, but just to move them around.

It is with this session of bitching that I entreat you leaf-blowing people of the world to put down your instruments of annoyance and pick up a damned rake. Thank you.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Professional Empathy Service

It’s getting close to election time, and that means some important decisions have to be made. I’m not going to pump up or knock down any candidates, nor am I about to launch into any political agenda, but I do have a last-minute proposal that I feel needs to be put on the ballot. Just as many countries have compulsory military service, the United States should implement government-mandated professional empathy service.

“Professional empathy service? What the crap is that?” you may be asking. Well, I’m glad you may have asked. Professional empathy service entails spending a year working in several different occupations to gain appreciation for the work that people do everyday. The year would be broken up into three four-month periods during which people would work in one of three fields: blue-collar work, custodial work, and customer service. People would learn what workers in these fields experience on a daily basis, as well as learn to empathize with a greater portion of society in general.

Actually, forget putting it to a vote—let’s just make it law. A program such as this would reduce the number of miserable bastards in the country, and if it catches on elsewhere, reduce their numbers around the world.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Photography Pholly

Photographers, camera-wielding people of the world, we need to have a talk. I understand that there is a need within many people to create art, and I am no exception. Whenever I write, I feel fulfilled, like I’m chipping away at a monolith of marble to reveal the figure captured by my mind’s eye. The need to write is right up there with food and shelter. Creation of art is a worthy pursuit from which I could never in good conscience dissuade anyone…

But let’s be realistic.

Let this thought set the tone for the rest of this post: taking black and white photos of flowers with a DSLR does not make you a photographer. What separates photographers from people who take photos? Technical skill, knowledge of how to properly use equipment, and perhaps most important of all, an eye for the art. I know I’ll never be a photographer, or even anyone who is decent at taking photos. Why? Because I don’t have an eye for photography. Photos I take tend to turn out crappy or mediocre, and though I’m sure there are ways I could make improvements, they will only be marginal. Seeing as this is the case, I know full well that I should just stick to writing.

A constant source of annoyance for me is seeing someone I know take an interest in photography, instantly label themselves as a professional photographer, and start pimping out their new business: [insert last name here] Photography. Please be realistic. If you’re going to try to make a living out of this, at least put yourself in a position to do so. Read up on technical details, ask people (not friends) for honest feedback on your work, and get the right equipment. Blurry, noisy 1024x768 photos of baby nieces and nephews taken with a three-megapixel point-and-shoot with a smudgy lens are not going to cut it.

As I said before, I would never discourage anyone from creating art, and if it satisfies your needs, then by all means please continue to do so. Please follow your dreams, because you never know whose art will be recognized as something exceptional. If you just try, you have at least a small chance of success, but if you never even put forth the effort, then your chances of success are those of a fart in a windstorm.

Is this post going to keep any of you out there from snapping sepia-toned pictures of your pets? No. Does this post make me seem like a person who understands the plight of the amateur photographer, set adrift upon the deluge of like-minded photography enthusiasts who have flooded the professional photography market with their entrepreneurial ambition? Not at all. Does this post make me feel better about denying requests on Facebook to “like” three new photography businesses per day? Absolutely.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Friendship Struggle

Three weeks ago, a sweet couple I met had me over to their apartment for dinner. I had a great time, and made tentative plans with them to come over to my apartment for dinner the following week. Seeing as I’m a space cadet, I have yet to follow up on the invitation and actually have them over. Or even hang out with either of them since then. Or even speak one word to them since then. Whoops.

I am awful at maintaining friendships, if you couldn’t tell. It seems I either try to hang out with people so much that I smother them, or I make them feel like I never want to see their ugly mugs ever again. I feel that I have the best intentions when it comes to keeping up with friends, but when it comes to making an effort to spend time with them, I am unable to keep myself from cranking the volume knob to either a shade above mute or a tremor-inducing, deafening roar. Why is it so hard to remain on an even keel with people? How can anyone be expected to consistently maintain a balance between when you want to see them and when they want to see you?

Monday, September 20, 2010

Monday Mediocrity

It’s Monday. No one likes Mondays. Even as a person who has Thursdays and Fridays off from work, I can feel the weight of a Monday with the same acuteness as someone who is lucky enough to have weekends off. There’s a certain gloom and gravity that seems to weigh down the day, and just about everyone feels it. Garfield has even dedicated his life to avoidance of this day of the week. But what is it about Mondays that gets people? If you work or go to school Monday through Friday, you have an obvious reason to be bummed, as an entire week of work is lies ahead of you, but what about the rest of us? Does it stem from the years of a Monday through Friday schedule to which we became accustomed in school? Since most people don’t work weekends, does their depression about the start of the work week rub off on everyone else? What do you think?

Monday, September 13, 2010

Customer Service Chronicles: Body Odor

Yes, it’s that time again. It’s time to continue our discussion about how customers stink. I know right now you might be thinking that I covered the spectrum of stench in my July post about this same topic, and I couldn’t possibly have more to say, but I only scratched the surface then. I also know that you’re worried that I might be taking on too much at one time in trying to delve deeper into the world of retail stank, but I can reassure you that I know what I’m doing, and that I’ll be biting off a chunk of the topic no bigger than either you or I can handle.

Today, we will be focusing on body odor, or BO. BO is the most pervasive and enduring of customer smells. It can pack a wallop and even give you pause, but regardless of its intensity or effect, it is unmistakable and easy to distinguish from other lingering smells. Summer is the prime season for BO, as several days’ worth of sweat and dirt accumulate on unwashed customer bodies coalesce to create a pungent aroma that travels long distances in the hot, low-density air. One customer in particular, a regular at the store where I work (joy), and a notorious non-bather, could be smelled approximately 20 feet away in the heat of August.

We all know what BO smells like, but most of us are fortunate enough to be able to escape it, either by walking away from the source and/or locating the nearest fire truck to request a good hose-down of the source. If your job is to work face-to-face with people reeking of BO, however, you are not so lucky. Continued exposure can have some unusual effects, such as leading you to characterize and distinguish between individual people’s BO. One recurrent customer (who is a gigantic pain in the ass) has the typical BO base with notes of corn bread, while a few others I’ve encountered recently smell as if their BO were spiced with Top Ramen flavor packets.

Join me next time as we continue our journey experiencing the spice of customer service life that is stench.