Monday, November 30, 2009

Awkward is as awkward does OR Embrace the awkward

Logically you would never try to have a conversation with someone you had no interest in talking to, but it seems like an awkward conversation is better than an awkward silence, if only slightly. I find myself having to make awkward conversation all the time: at work, at church, out in the community.

Public transportation, though, is kind of like the Holy Grail of awkward conversations, at least for me. Trains, buses and subways are where the awkward gather.

Me, I take the train to work. Compared to driving, the train is super cheap. So not only am I saving money, I’m also sitting in super cramped quarters with about 9,000 other people, approximately 14 people per square foot. People are practically sitting in my lap but I am saving money and being environmentally responsible.

And if 13 people in your personal bubble wasn’t awkward enough, some of the 13 are always very chipper and want to talk and talk about everything and nothing, unaware that it is six o’clock in the morning and you are sitting as close as a teenage couple on a drive-in movie date.

Most of these just like to hear themselves talk, I suspect. They are away from their cats, cellmates or drug dealers and just need someone to talk to. It’s not so bad because usually all you have to do is say “uh huh” in the right spots and let them ramble harmlessly on about their kids, political opinions and medical conditions.

Another group is the “too much information people.” These people have issues ranging from moderate to sever and are in need of a therapist. They can’t afford one, so some random guy on the train will do just as well.

One guy was telling me about his “relationship” troubles, how he and his girlfriend had been fighting. I became interested in spite of myself when he forlornly said, “It just hasn’t been the same since she got that restraining order against me.” He was optimistic, though. He followed up that shining example of “too much information” with “Every relationship has its ups and downs.”


A third variety of talkers just want to tell you how awesome they are. They want to talk about how they threw the state championship-winning touchdown pass in ’88, are the leading expert in their field and are really good with women.

Yes, sadly, this third group is predominately made up of men, but you can work this to your advantage because an extremely high percentage of people in powerful positions are people who love to hear themselves talk. If you can feign interest long enough, you can get in good with politicians, management and college professors.

I’ve found that a certain amount of awkwardness training is good, especially if you’re into dating. When an awkward silence comes along you have to decide whether to embrace it or try to navigate around it. You have to be pretty savvy (kind of an awkwardness connoisseur, if you will) to know which to do. You might never know when a solid background in awkwardness might come in handy.

Even if you have been dating someone a long time there are still awkward conversations. For instance, I dated a girl who was absolutely obsessed with the Sacramento Kings and that’s all she could talk about. I had to pretend that I gave a crap, which was positively exhausting.

A person who can’t handle awkwardness in conversation is the same person who ends up handling break-ups and other relationship problems through text messages.

Don't be that person.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Turkey overdose kills New Mexico family OR Turkey for me and turkey for you

As the year draws to a close I try not to think about all the New Year's resolutions I haven't kept or how the year has gone by so fast and I haven't accomplished half of the things I wanted to. Instead, I think about all the holidays coming up and all the food I'm going to eat.

This week is Thanksgiving aka The Great Turkey Massacre aka Vegan's Worst Nightmare. I laugh really hard inside when I think that this state-sanctioned turkey genocide must chafe vegans like crazy. I don't disagree with vegans in principle, I just think that most of the vegans I've met are snotty, pretentious, hypocritical and holier-than-thou like crazy. I get along better with plain ol' vegetarians because we have more things in common like eggs, cheese and Ben & Jerry's.

Only in America would we devise a holiday devoted to eating. The best way to celebrate is with excesses of excesses, I always say. According to stuff I found on the internet, the average American consumes around 5,000 calories and 229 grams of fat on Thanksgiving. That is like eating two and a half days worth of food in one meal plus a few tablespoons of lard. It is also about as much as people in other countries eat in one month. God bless America.

My family gets together and cooks all morning and most of the afternoon. We each make a certain dish and my mom acts as Thanksgiving commander-in-chief, coordinating our efforts to make the stuffing, potatoes, side dishes and desserts. It's quite a job. She does all this while she handles cooking the sacrificial turkey and making the gravy and such.

I saw my mom make gravy one year and that is a gross process. First you pull a little plastic bag of turkey organs out of the middle of the turkey where they are preserved like some urn in an Egyptian mummy sarcophagus. Then you chop them up and cook the crap out of them and voilĂ ! Turkey innard gravy. Mmmmm-mmmmm. I might become a vegan too, if I think about it too much. But it tastes so good on mashed potatoes.

After cooking for 8 or so hours and when the turkey, gravy, potatoes, 800 sides dishes, 800 pies, salads, relish tray and cranberry sauce are all ready we sit down and start our feast. We eat for about 30 minutes. Then we stagger away from the table and scatter throughout my parent's house and find a place to sleep like people in drug-induced comas. If you came into the house right after we eat you might mistake us for some cult mass suicide.

After Thanksgiving we have left-over turkey that lasts approximately until next Thanksgiving and turkey hangovers, which can last until Christmas/Hanukah/Kwanzaa/Solstice. When I wake up the day after I eat a turkey sandwich to try and clear my head, the “hair of the dog that bit you” and all that.

I perused the internet for ways to curb overeating on holiday meals. A lot of sites said to reduce your alcohol consumption, because alcohol impairs your judgement and lowers your inhibitions. That, and no one likes a drunk who eats all the pumpkin pie.

One site said not to use certain illicit drugs that make you super hungry before you eat Thanksgiving dinner, which is hilarious to me.

I never really associated Thanksgiving with drug use but I guess my family is pretty conservative in our Thanksgiving celebration.

The only drug we abuse on Thanksgiving is tryptophan, and lots of it.

Monday, November 16, 2009

I wake up weird and whiny OR I break for stolen lunches

I've complained a lot about growing up, becoming an adult and getting a real job. I've fought it the whole way but after four months I have to say that being grown up is not so bad. The worst part so far is waking up early.

In college there was always the option of getting late classes or sleeping through classes and getting the notes from an over-achieving friend. There were also tons of holidays, sometimes class got canceled and sometimes I would just pretend that class was canceled.

If it was work that was threatening to wake me up early I could always call in sick to whatever crappy minimum wage college student job I had that I didn't care if I got fired from. Most places that employ college students kind of expect them to be super-flaky anyway and they don't take it too hard when you bail on them.

Unfortunately, those days are in the past. Now I frequently find myself rising before the sun, and just as frequently, I find myself arguing with my alarm clock, which is a silly thing to do seeing how an alarm clock is an inanimate object and can't really be swayed one way or the other.

Alarm clock: Beep beep beep beep beep beep

Me: What?! It can't be 6 already!

Alarm clock: Beep beep beep beep beep beep

Me: But I'm so tired.

Alarm clock: Beep beep beep beep beep beep

Me: I swear I just went to sleep! Honest!

Alarm clock: Beep beep beep beep beep beep

So, having failed to convince my alarm clock to alter the space/time continuum and give me a few extra minutes, I wake up. But just barely.

Working is not so bad because the older I get, the more money I get, but I also lose my youth and my general enthusiasm for living. This principle could best be described in this graph I made in Microsoft Paint:

Working for a living is fraught with temptations, too. Where I work the office refrigerator is like The Garden of Eden. You know what The Garden of Eden is, don't you? God made the earth, saw that it was too clean, peaceful and orderly and decided to create the first man and woman whom he called Adam and Eve, respectively. Then God told them not to eat certain fruit, which of course they did the first chance they got.

Upon questioning Adam blamed Eve and Eve blamed the serpent. The serpent didn't have a leg to stand on. God was so annoyed that he kicked them all out of the pretty garden and they had to start wearing clothes, paying taxes and flossing.

The fridge is in the break room, but some people are too good to store their meals in a community food cooling receptacle, so they have their own small personal fridges in their offices. I can't afford one, and I think that having you own personal fridge in your office is borderline ridiculous, so I am content to stash my bologna sandwiches with everyone else's stuff.

The problem comes when I see what everyone else has for lunch and I am sorely tempted. Would it really be so bad to steal Co-worker's leftovers from Olive Garden? I ask myself. Other Co-worker would probably never miss that fried chicken, I think. Like Adam and Eve, I would definitely be cast out of the break room for eating that forbidden fruit. The main difference is that I'm not naked and God is not really involved, so far as I can tell.

Thank goodness.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Girlfriend gift getting is getting easier

After years and years of championing the cause of single people and just generally smack-talking committed relationships I have decided to take the girlfriend plunge. That's right, ladies. I am off the market. Cry if you must and then you'll just need to get over me.

One night I was hanging out with my brother Brennan. He just got engaged recently, so this story obviously takes place before he got engaged because engaged people evaporate into thin air the instant they become engaged and their friends never see them again. Anyway, I was complaining about how I was broke and needed to figure out how to save money.

“You should just break up with your girlfriend,” Brennan said. “That is the most cost effective thing a man can do.”

He is absolutely right, but it's not like he can really talk because he just shelled out a bunch of money for an engagement ring, which is basically a huge conspiracy. Long ago the world's jewelry retailers came together from all over the world and held a super-secret meeting. They asked each other, "How can we sell more diamonds?" Then a ratlike, shifty-eyed jewelry salesman said, "Let's make it a 'tradition' that when a couple gets engaged the man has to buy the woman a really expensive diamond ring. Then when they get married he has to buy her another one."

Luckily Brennan's fiancee is super cool and only wanted a regular-sized, modest ring. My GF is also awesomely low-maintenance, but dating in general is not cheap. As a man, you have to pay for dinner and basically everything else too. If a man and a woman are out and money is being spent, it is a safe bet that it is coming straight out of the man's wallet.

In a serious relationship you are obligated to buy gifts for birthdays, your anniversary, Christmas/Hanukah/Kwanza/Solstice/whatever, and Valentine's Day. That's four gifts a year minimum. And that's only if nothing else comes up. If she has a kid you have to add Mother's Day and then you also have to get her stuff if she graduates and when you get in trouble.

And so, if you want to keep you girlfriend and not declare bankruptcy a simple solution is to skimp on gifts. Here are a few examples:

The first thing I do is get her something I want and then steal it back. CDs are great for this.

GF:Stir the Blood by The Bravery? Who the heck is The Bravery? And I don't even like this kind of music.
Me:You'll love them. Can I borrow it?

The next trick is to make her something because girls eat that up. A “homemade” card is pure frugal genius. If you put a poem in there – no matter how shocking or awful – you are set for life. If your girlfriend doesn't like the free gifts then she is probably a gold digger and you need to tell her to take that poem and hit the bricks. Homemade gifts save money and weed out losers!

If you own a guitar, that is a money saving device! And if you don't have one, buy one. It will easily pay for itself after 1-2 gift-requiring days. Songs are an awesome free present, and they don't even have to be good. Just throw in a few metaphors (“I love you like salmonella loves improperly cooked chicken”) and something about “true love.” The perfect gift for any occasion for only $FREE.99!

You can also substitute cheap stuff for expensive stuff. Instead of buying my GF perfume I get her fried chicken because that is a smell I really get excited about.

Monday, November 2, 2009

More thought on Halloween OR Don't send your ill-mannered kids to my house asking for candy ever again

Another Halloween has come and gone and I find myself in a reflective mood. I've decided that when it comes to dressing up there are two types of people: those who LOVE to dress up and those who can really do without it.

I am, of course, the latter. I love Halloween but not costumes. I love pumpkins, fall weather and, most importantly, candy, but weird outfits are not my cup of tea, ok? Little kids dressing up = cute, adults dressing up = annoying.

The “thrive on dressing up” group, on the other hand, starts planning their costume for next year the day after Halloween. And the weeks before Halloween they are always saying what they are going to be. These people might even go so far as to make a costume. Goodness gracious me.

The two groups cannot communicate either. The pro-costumers can't understand why other grown people don't get as excited about playing dress-up as they do. Don't get me wrong. If you like to dress up, by all means, dress up. Just don't make me do it too. I want to save my money for candy.

The main problem is costume selection is tricky. This year I thought about buying a bald cap and shaving my beard into a goatee and going to work as my office manager for Halloween. I figured this would either be a huge hit and he would be flattered or it would be a huge bomb and I would be on his crap list forever. I decided the risk was too big to take for a new-ish employee.

When dressing up on Halloween in an office setting you run the risk that no one else will come in costume and you will look like huge fool. Nothing ventured nothing gained, right? If this is the case you can just show how confident you are and proudly strut around the office, flaunting your Halloween spirit and youthful exuberance. Or you can call somebody to bring you a change of clothes and change in the bathroom partway through the day.

Some people did dress up. We had several very serious meetings that day and I had the hardest time keeping a straight face when discussing serious child welfare matters with Little Bo Peep, a French maid and a giant whoopee cushion.

On Halloween night I was passing out candy and a little kid came to my door. When I threw the candy into his pillowcase he said, “Ugh, I don't want to eat that.”

What?! Have you ever heard that “Beggars can't be choosers,” punk? Pretty sure what you're doing right now qualifies as begging, so get the heck off my porch!

Last blog I smack talked white people for not giving out very much candy to trick-or-treaters, so I had to put my money where my mouth is and buy a grip of candy.

I poured all my candy into a bowl and when the kids would come by I would hold the bowl out to them and let them reach out some candy. That was a stupid way to do it, but I was laboring under the false impression that little children are innocent and sweet. Little kids are greedy, if you didn't already know. I didn't. Some of those kids pulled out ridiculous amounts of candy in just one little fist. Other kids weren't shy at all and grabbed with both hands, or took several handfuls.

By the end of the night I was having to ration the candy, one piece per trick-or-treater.

Darn those stingy white people.

PS - 
"Tony Hillerman Week" is November 1-8. If you haven't read his stuff, you should.