Archive | June, 2009

Oh, the Joy of the Wal-Mart Parking Lot

30 Jun

Dear nice lady in the Wal-Mart parking lot who bit my head off,

I did not steal your Very Close Parking Space on purpose.  For some reason, I thought you were holding up the entire line of cars because you were waiting for that handicapped car to back out.  I’m not sure why I thought that.  Perhaps it’s because you were waiting behind that space with your blinker on for several minutes.  Unfortunately, they sat there motionless, unable to back out because you were too close to them.  You couldn’t back up because I was behind you, and so on.  So what did I do?  Well, naturally, when I saw that minivan back out a few spaces up, I went around you so I wouldn’t be in anyone’s way anymore.  How was I supposed to know you didn’t have one of those little blue handicapped tags dangling from your rearview mirror?  Too bad I realized a bit too late that I had completely ruined your entire day, and that you had, in fact, laid claim to said Very Close Parking Space an hour ago, when you started holding up the line.  You made your message bitterly clear by laying on your horn and waiting for me to get out of the car.  Oh, and there was also that bit where you informed me (loudly and with pointed finger, might I add) that I am, “VERY, VERY RUDE!”  I’ll be the first to admit it wasn’t the nicest thing to do when I decided not to move my car after your yelling fit, but seriously.  I was only trying to get out of the way, and I could have gotten my green beans and been back on the road in the year that spanned while I sat behind you in the lot.  I hope your legs didn’t wither as you walked the extra ten feet to the door, after you quickly found that spot a few spaces over.  

Best regards,

The Girl in the Sweaty Green Shirt

No, McDonald’s. Please. (Pleasé?)

30 Jun

Is it just me, or does the new McDonald’s promotional campaign for their coffee really not make sense?  Don’t get me wrong – McCafé is a wonderful, absolutely logical choice for the name of their coffee section of the menu.  It’s just that I don’t get all the commercials that play out like a misguided handbook on how to study for a standardized test.   

Seriously.  Everything is better with an accent?  Really?  Possible becomes possiblé (“possiblAY”).  As does commute (commuté), shuttle (shuttlé), and cubicle (cubiclé).  

Okay, I’m on board so far.  The accent magically transforms the mundane commute to something that sounds as elegant as a fancy ballet move.  I get it.  My problem comes with the asymmetry of this verbal display – we all know McCafé has only, always been, McCafé.  Take away the accent and it’s just the same word misspelled – and not pronounced McCayf.  

Using the style of those analogy questions on test such as the SAT and the GRE, possible:possiblé :: commute:commuté :: cubicle:cubiclé.  None of these are the same as McCafe:McCafé.  This logic only continues to McCafé if the non-accented version is pronounced McCayf.  Alas, it is not.  And alas, as silly as it may be, this campaign drives me crazy on principle.  I tried avoid trying their drinks because of this, but then came a problem.

In the middle of nowhere, with only a McDonald’s in sight, I was suddenly struck with a craving for a latte (I say this as if this is a rare occurrence).  I struggled to push back my hang-ups with their very lamé ads, and pulled up to the curb.  Hesitantly, I admit it – the drink was delicious.  Despite the guy who forgot to give me my dollar in change, despite the fact that he made me the wrong drink after I specifically said hot latte, no flavor whatsoever (twice) – once I finally got my beverage, it tasted great.  

What about you?  Do you ever avoid potentially great things for trivial reasons such as this?  Like, not only McCafé, but also places like Kwik Kar (it pains me to type that) and the movie The Klumps or Avril Lavigne’s song “Sk8er Boi?”*

 

P.S. – This entire marketing campaign is, in my opinion, marginally better than their last memorable commercial – the one that looks like it should be on MTV, and the dude is singing his heart out about his girlfriend’s selfish hoarding of McNuggets.  (I woke up to find you creepin’, tip-toe-tip…Girl, you got a ten-piece, now don’t be stingyyyyyyayaaay…)

 *Disclaimer: not saying all of those things are potentially great.

Thunderstorms and Influences

29 Jun

Days like today are my favorite kind.  

I love the dark sky, the thunder, the sheets of rain.  I love this weather because I find it inspiring, and everyone needs extra doses of inspiration on Mondays, right?  Some people want to sleep through this weather; I (almost) always want to get up, drink a latte, and get down to business.  

Lately, I’m reading Pretty in Plaid, by Jen Lancaster.  If you’ve never read her stuff, you should – at least, I think you should.  This is her fourth memoir, and her voice is refreshing, genuine, and absolutely entertaining.  As a writer, I aspire to – like Jen Lancaster – have a distinct voice.  I long to bring something original to the table; something fresh, yet classic; something that will emerge from the furnace of critical opinions and easily-distracted minds in one solid piece.

I can easily think of a handful of people who do this with admirable dexterity:  

J.K. Rowling, who creates a magical feeling in the reader merely by her words, and whose very  first novel was wildly successful.  I’d say she’s my number-one inspiration.

Patty Griffin, folk artist whose skillfully woven voice, lyrics, and melodies create music like no one else.  I want to meet her and have her disciple me in the ways of improving my song-writing skills.  

Jeff Jensen at EW.com, one of the most well-researched columnists I’ve ever read, consistently delivers articles that transform my weekly addiction to LOST into mental yoga.  

Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse, writers of LOST, who have skillfully paced their addictive plot and juggled an ensemble of intriguing characters.  

Michael Slezak at EW.com, who is not afraid to put his opinion out there on all things Idol-related (and by the way, if I ever make it on the show – totally giving him a shout-out). 

Jen Lancaster, who puts her life on the page in such a familiar, yet totally distinct, tone.  (www.jennsylvania.com)

 Jodi Picoult, a master at conveying tension, emotion, and the intricacies of life-destroying situations, all through the use of written words.  

Evangeline Lilly, an actress who seems to have retained her humility and uses her resources to make a difference in the world.  

Jonathan Larson, who wrote the Broadway masterpiece RENT, its music and cast deftly woven together.

These people inspire me, some more than others.  It is my hope that their various influences will trickle into my own creative work to make something wholly other – something wholly me.  

So, on this inspiring, rainy Monday, I wonder – who inspires you?  Someone famous?  Someone not-so-famous?  And, what are they inspiring you to do?  I look forward to reading your comments!

Neon Skin

23 Jun

Maybe it’s the fact that my hair no longer looks like Medusa’s nest of snakes.  Maybe it’s the fact that my trips to the gym happen more like daily than twice a year.  Maybe it’s because I’ve learned what I’m good at, what I’m not good at, and that I don’t have to take on every opportunity that falls in my path.  And maybe it’s because I try things I’ve never done, just to find out if I can.

For whatever reason, a subtle layer of confidence has grown just inside my skin.  When you live in your day-to-day life, though, those small changes go pretty much unnoticed.  Happiness, confidence, drive, ambition, opinions – these things build over time.  When you step back a bit, they glow like neon against the dull background.

Over the weekend, my cousin married a guy who graduated in my high school class.  We are nearing our ten-year reunion, and I have hardly been in touch with anyone from this era of my life.  The groom was popular in school, and naturally, so were his groomsmen.  I was not.  It’s not that I was particularly unpopular.  I moved to this small town at the height of junior high, when egos and cliques had already been set in stone.  I wasn’t clearly related to anyone, and I was clearly different from everyone.  Frustration and bitterness nagged me for a long time – I was alright with being myself, but why wasn’t anyone else alright with me being me?   

It occurred to me last Thursday that I would most likely see some of these people at the wedding (especially since half the town was invited).  To my surprise, I felt excitement bubble up in me, not the heavy dread I expected.  

On the arm of my handsome (and extremely talented and smart) husband, I already felt a thousand times different than I did a decade ago.  We navigated both the rehearsal dinner and wedding reception comfortably, and had good conversations.  It was surreal to talk to people I went to school with, people whose opinions I thought were The Final Word on all things cool.  Now that I know how much bigger the world is, I wondered why I ever held them in such high esteem.  I also pondered the mystery of a small town’s effect on aging (not so) gracefully.  They didn’t look bad, they just looked about ten years older than expected.  Also to my surprise, their forever-friendships struck me as sweet and special; back in the day, I felt jealous and annoyed.  

Against the background of my past, the subtle changes in me glowed obvious.  For the first time in this place, I felt confident and at home in my own skin.  I felt no hunger for their approval, and that freed me up to enjoy the weekend.

Whatever my expectations, among them was not the closure I ended up with this weekend.  Who knew that a wedding could bring balance to years of frustration with the nuances of small-town life?  Not me.  It was a small reminder that bitter memories can be reversed, or at least re-balanced.  I have changed – is it so surprising that the world I remember is different now, too?    

Can any of you relate to these things?  Bad experiences, relationships gone wrong, or other things you’d rather forget – then, one day, something happens and you feel closure about it?  I’d love to hear your stories.

The World’s Most Under-Appreciated Utensil?

18 Jun

Though this will (probably) not impact the world in any way…I have to ask.

Do any of you use a butter knife on a regular basis?  For as long as I can remember, I’ve used a regular old knife for all my buttering needs.  Lately, though, when I reach in my drawer, the butter knife just stares at me like, “Hey!  This is my only purpose – please use me!”  So I do.  It made me wonder, am I the only one who uses a butter knife these days?  Or, am I the only one who hasn’t used one until lately?  

Like I said, not the most life-changing post in the world, but if the butter knife had a voice it would probably thank me.

Satirical Instruction Manual, Entry No. 1

16 Jun

How to Use the Drive Through at the Bank

1. Do not use the buzzer as a weapon. Hearing the buzzer (especially in rapid succession from customers who have been in line for less than two seconds) is equivalent to being the object at whom daggers are thrown.
2. A deposit slip is used when you make a deposit — NOT when you only want to cash the check.

3. No, I cannot do ten transactions at once. You might have to wait a couple of minutes.

4. Yes, you do need I.D. if you want cash back. I don’t doubt that you’ve been our customer for forty years. However, I’ve only been alive for twenty-four of those years, and what’s more, I’ve only worked here for one of those years. And, I’ve never seen you before, so what makes you think I know who you are? Yes, I will need that I.D. Thanks.

5. What on earth makes you think that I’m going to give you cash for a $4000 check made out to your roommate’s sister’s boyfriend’s mom? 

6. We cannot hear you when the tube is coming through to us. Please don’t push the buzzer and then send the tube immediately after you’ve buzzed. For that matter, please don’t buzz at all. See Rule #1.

7. Please send in all transactions at once. We feel silly if we tell you “Thank you, have a great day!” more than three times in one visit. We also feel annoyed. 

8. On that note, if you have ten transactions, please come in, instead…

9. Rolled Coin + Drive Through Tube = Broken Drive Through Tube. Common sense could be Warning #1 on that lesson, Warning #2 would be the label on the tube that tells you not to send coin through. 

10. Rolled coin is better than loose coin, though. We don’t have a counter, and we don’t have time to count your 5,000 quarters. 

11. Don’t be this person: Tube comes in, with a check. “Would you like to cash or deposit today?” I ask. “Cash, please.” Okay. So I proceed to cash. “Anything else today?” “No,” they say. I send the tube back with the cash. BUZZZZ. “Yes?” They tell me, “I want to deposit now.” Did I not just ask you a) if you want to cash or deposit, and b) if you needed anything else? Grrr.

12. Plucking your nose hairs in the commercial lane is unacceptable. We understand that you are busy and may not have time to do this before or after work, but if you want your teller to be able to focus and get your transaction right, do not distract us with this (or any) sort of bodily grooming. 

13. Please have your stuff ready before you pull up — no one wants to sit behind you for fifteen minutes while you fill out the deposit slip that we don’t really need in the first place.

14. “For Deposit Only” is not an acceptable endorsement. Is it that hard to sign your name? 

15. And, finally, please don’t yell at us. We are the bottom of the bank food-chain as it is, why would you think we have any authority over the rules and regulations? We don’t make them. We get paid to keep them.

***

Fortunately, I am no longer a bank teller.  Just thought I’d share some of my most lovely memories and hopefully – hopefully – make the life of some other poor teller a little more bearable.

Oprah’s Best Life and Bad Advice

15 Jun

I am not an avid Oprah watcher, but I tuned in the other day and was provoked to frustration.  A Newsweek article caught my attention recently about some bum advice that aired on her show, and I was curious.  The title of this particular episode (not the one from the article) was something to do with “How to Live Your Best Spiritual Life,” so I turned it on for background entertainment while I created some envelopes (alas, another story for another day).  

Now, I know “spiritual” is a buzzword as of late, and it is not religion-specific.  It seems to have lost all meaning whatsoever, and now, a broad spectrum of stuff can be called spiritual.  This irks me in and of itself, but what really bothered me was the so-called panel of “experts” – particularly the one who represented my own faith, Protestant Christianity.  I am not hating on anyone’s beliefs, but I get annoyed with panels like this.  The religions are so very different from one another, and it bothers me that Oprah seems to promote the “just be spiritual, any way you feel like it” mentality.  Not one of the panel members (*that I saw) stood up for their beliefs and said, “Well, actually, it’s not all the same…”  

I feel worried for all the people who called in for advice that day and were answered with, “Don’t worry, be happy, the world is full of sunshine, smiles, and rainbows! Those bad things were never meant to happen to you, not at all!  God does not give you sickness – He wouldn’t do that!”  Okay, so the sunshine and rainbows nonsense might have been a slight (very slight) exaggeration.  

This is the stuff that makes me wonder: in what way are these callers supposed to feel comforted?  How is a world where “God is in control of things, and He has your best in mind – despite your understanding” a more bitter message to preach than “God didn’t do that to you, wouldn’t do that to you – things just happen and he has no control over it?” 

First of all, that’s very self-centered advice – but, I forget, it’s all about us, isn’t it?  Let’s just say it is, for now.  If bad stuff is going to happen to us, isn’t it more comforting to believe that:  a) God is in control of it, loves us, and has our best in mind – rather than being told:  b) He is loving, but not powerful over that stuff?  

It seems the issue on the Oprah show is, “How do we make people feel better while not stepping on any religious toes?  What can we say that is what they want to hear, and sounds – on a surface level – true?”  

No matter what you believe, perhaps you agree with me – if Oprah is going to bring in spiritual experts (or, for that matter, experts of any kind), they should accurately represent the area over which they have the so-called expertise. No matter what your religion, you most likely agree that we are not all the same, right?  Does it disappoint you to see a panel of people representing you who pretend we all blend together in our very different beliefs?  Or, if they are not pretending, a panel of people who actually believe spirituality is no more than feeling/doing something and calling it spiritual?  

Sadly, if I was one of those poor people in desperate need of hope and advice, the impression I would walk away with from this episode is “God is loving, but not in control – and more importantly, everything’s all good!  Just do what you can to be spiritual, and everything will be okay!”  This watered-down Kool-Aid does little to heal wounds – it just puts a band-aid over it and makes it look a little better.  The expert from Christianity just agreed, and let them continue to believe this, and I think it’s sad.

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