A Manifesto for the Not-So-Dexterous

I apologise for my recent disappearance. My only excuse is that I live in England and the sun has been out for the past two weeks, which from my experience is most likely to be both the start and the finish of the elusive “British Summer” and therefore had to be celebrated. Not to worry though, I am sure that the inevitable forthcoming three months of rain will give me all the time in the world to be prolific.

Aside from limiting my time and causing an awkward standstill in my general brainpower and creativity, these past few weeks of celebration (better known as outdoor drinking) have had some more conspicuous side effects. In the form of a bountiful array of heavy black bruises, covering my legs to the point that I fear I would have to ward off the lustful advances of confused Dalmatians were I to leave the house in shorts ever again. Circling the heavier black bruises are little smatterings of smaller bruises and minor scrapes and abrasions. You could quite literally draw out the constellations on my legs right now.

I believe that I belong to a select tribe of people who simply react more strongly than others to the Earth’s gravitational pull. This occurs in both the downward and sideways directions; if I am not cascading to the ground, I am bumping into a large and obvious object I failed to note was in the way. And it doesn’t stop there. This phenomenon is so powerful that it can extend to any and all objects in my vicinity. For some reason or another, it seems to have a greater impact on liquids, particularly those with the ability to stain. The reason for this partiality is still to be determined.

Not as easy as it looks.

In the past many have offered me advice. “Be careful”, “move less quickly”, “watch where you’re going/what you’re doing”, “try not to spill that”. But as anyone who, like me, is particularly sensitive to the power of gravity will know, telling someone so epically maladroit to “be more careful” after a heavy plummet to the ground is about as effective as trying to tell two pandas to go ahead and procreate. I believe there is a greater power at hand here which cannot be controlled or explained.

So, to those out there like me, there is only one thing to do. Hold your head high (since looking where you’re going has proven fruitless anyway), cover your legs in the presence of spotted mammals, and embrace your unique relationship with the surface of the planet. And remember that towels and stain removers are your best friend. Damage control is essential.

The savior of many friendships.

Published in: on June 2, 2010 at 11:21 am  Comments (2)  
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The Sadism of the Surprise Party

We all know the joys of a Surprise Party. Our loved ones group together to surprise us with a lavish and meticulously organized display of their love on our special day. It is a heart-warming experience reminding us just how lucky we are to have these tenderhearted yet crafty people in our lives, willing to plan scrupulously for weeks, feverishly sending out a flurry of Facebook invitations, trying to remember which Stacy from work we’re still on speaking terms with, huddling in the dark for minutes at a time to ensure that this day, this party, will be untopped by any before or after it ever, ever.

For these reasons it’s not easy to speak harshly of the surprise party. But while the end may justify the means, the surprise party, like all situations founded on a web of lies, has its darker undertones. I dedicate this post to the voiceless masses who dread the day they are on the receiving end of this well-intentioned ruse.

Stage 1: The Lead-Up

The point of the surprise party is to catch you out. If you have even an inkling that something is going on, your friends have, by definition, failed. There are two methods generally applied to carry out the deception. Your friends might choose to ignore the situation completely, leaving you to harness the devastating belief that they’ve forgotten about you or simply don’t care. Or they might purposefully lead you to believe that you’re only worth the effort of some very lame and unsatisfying plan. A cloud of rejection will envelop you, and, as you wallow in self-pity, you may remind yourself of the various ways you have been let down over the years. Depending on the duration of the lead-up, you might, by the time of the party, be burdened with such a sense of bitterness that you end up drunkenly telling Stacy (the wrong one was invited of course) just what you really think of her.

He's been looking forward to this for weeks.

On the flip side, you might be fully aware that a “surprise” is being planned. You are then forced to live a lie for weeks on end, turning a blind eye to the subtle hints and winks abounding around you. In essence, you are forced to play dumb for the sake of your friends. You may even ask yourself just how stupid your so-called friends really think you are. The answer is often a straightforward “very”. Happy Birthday.

Furthermore, living a life of constant anticipation can be very stressful. Every corner you turn could mean a room full of people jumping out at you from behind an assortment of objects. You live your life on edge, continually preparing for and anticipating the moment. By the time of the party, you feel more relief than rapture. And you know when it comes you will still be caught off guard.

Stage 2: The Event

Catching a person off guard is a phenomenon which, while potentially fun, comes with hidden dangers. It’s nearly impossible to subtlety suggest adequate preparation for the event to the guest of honor (or “Surprisee”) without giving away the whole game. There is therefore a high risk of the Surprisee arriving woefully unprepared: face worn in by the day, attired in a pair of ill-fitting jeans and a dingy t-shirt purchased sometime in the late 1970s. Cameras will be in abundance and the guest of honor’s confused and deteriorated face will the number one target for documentation.

An oft-overlooked fact is that if the Surprisee in question has failed to plan themselves such a monumental event, chances are they’d like a little time out of the lime light this year. Nothing says “low-key” like a sea of camera flashes and shouting in your face when you least expect it. Quick rule of thumb – if someone says they don’t want a lot of attention on their birthday, respect their wishes. If they’re just saying it to appear modest and unassuming, punish their lack of directness by treating them to an exhilarating night of late night TV and board games for two.

Rock on.

Stage 3: The Aftermath

The surprise party can reveal many truths about its organizers and all others involved. You learn that your friends believe you can be easily duped, and, if you did fall for it, you can rest in assurance that they are right. A whole new set of self-esteem issues arises.

You also learn that your friends are capable of elaborate deceptions. The paranoid at heart may find this difficult to deal with. If they found it so easy to keep you in the dark about this, what else are they hiding? Nothing says “Happy Birthday” like a nice healthy dose of paranoia and distrust in those you hold dear.

***

If you feel confident that the Surprisee will be among the many who love and appreciate a cunningly planned surprise, by all means, go for it. Even those who don’t will give you a smile through their worn-out faces – no one wants to be a spoiled brat when someone they love has gone to a lot of effort for them. And maybe once the shock wears off and the sense of betrayal from the weeks prior starts to lift, they will genuinely enjoy themselves. But be careful.

And always remember, whatever you do, no clowns.

Unless affiliated with Rob Zombie.

Published in: on May 8, 2010 at 1:05 pm  Comments (4)  
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Smart Phones and Attachment Issues

Is your phone attached to your wrist?” This question, directed at me over the luminous glow of my trusty smart phone, was asked of me by a woman of the baby boomer persuasion about a month ago while I was winding down after work.

Let me preface this by saying I am no way implying that her age was in any way related to her opinion on the subject; she in fact was the one who suggested that it was my age which influenced my views. I know many people her age far more attached to their gadgets of choice than I am, just as I know many my own age more than willing to write off the recent ‘innovations’ of communication and exchange of information.

I clarified that no, my phone was not literally attached to my wrist, though given the severe damage I’ve caused to the screen in my short time with it, maybe it should be.

My insurance won't cover this since it's purely "cosmetic damage". Great.

I explained that I enjoy the continual contact with friends and family my phone provides me with, take pleasure in the ability to listen to my music of choice whenever I feel like it, and am thrilled with the nearly unlimited amount of information at my disposal at any time of the day or night. She continued to ask me a series of questions, which I will answer here.

When was the last time you sent someone a hand-written letter?

I am not denying the sheer joy and excitement that comes with opening your mailbox and, among the hoards of bills with increasing intensity of threats peppered throughout, finding a beautifully hand-written letter from an old friend. I myself like to send out cards around the holidays (usually around the 3rd of 4th of January each year) and postcards to oh-so-subtlety gloat about my travels. And remind the recipient that they are, in fact, more important to me than the occasional two-word text message with a smiley face tacked on the end. I’d argue that the ease of communication in the modern world actually makes this a much more powerful gesture. We are not required to send letters; in fact it is totally unexpected when we do. Modern technology has, in fact, turned letter writing from a functional act into something a lot more valuable. So while I can’t remember the last time I sent a letter, I know that it meant something when I did, and it will next time as well.

Why do you feel the need to listen to music when you’re walking around?”

I understand the appeal of connecting with your environment. iPods and similar portable music devices can build a bubble around you and distract you from the many splendors and interesting happenings around you. However, living in an urban area and using walking as my primary means of transportation, I don’t always want to feel connected to my environment. Having drunk people vomiting two feet away from you at 10 o’clock in the morning, homeless men shouting abuse at you for having the nerve to not have been carrying change on you at that particular minute in time on the off chance you might bump into them, and abnormally hairy men with swastika tattoos on their foreheads loudly requesting oral favors from their car windows can put a damper on your desire to be at one with the world around you. Sometimes I need some decent musical distractions.

The world is a beautiful place.

What would you do if the internet and mobile phone networks just stopped permanently?

What would you do if the world’s water infrastructures failed and we had to revert to using outhouses? Or every TV in the world decided just to never turn on again? (This wouldn’t really bother me too much as long as they waited until after the series finale of Lost.) Or if clocks stopped working and we had to go back to checking in our local sun dial for the time? Or the postal system collapsed and we had to revert to using the Pony Express or better yet, messenger pigeons? (Who’s placing bets on how many kids would decide to call their pigeon Hedwig?)

This would actually be pretty cool.

Obviously the end of the internet and cell phone technology wouldn’t be the single most dramatic thing that could happen to me or the world. I would mope for a few days, shoot off a few expletives now and then whenever I had the urge to check what the weather was like in the capital of Uganda or couldn’t remember the who sang the original version of “99 Luftballons” (20°C and fair, Nena), and eventually buckle down and start looking forward to willfully boring my grandchildren with the memories of the technology of my youth. Maybe I’d even get around to installing a landline. I would survive.

Published in: on May 4, 2010 at 1:01 pm  Comments (34)  
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Trivial Rant #001: People Standing Still In the Middle of Escalators

I consider myself to be a calm, reasonable person. So if I develop scarily high blood pressure and die an untimely death before my mid-30’s, there will be only one explanation.

People standing still on escalators. Right in the middle. Blocking my only chance of getting past them without looking like an escaped mental patient who will probably die an untimely death before their mid-30’s thanks to high blood pressure.

She looks like she'd move.

Once again I’m going to go for a cheap blogging trick, this time by choosing to explain myself with a list.

1. Brief History of Escalators (for the three or four people out there who are interested)

Escalators were initially created as a novelty ride combining the heart-pounding thrills of moving at an achingly slow pace and staring at the back of people’s heads. Eventually someone (follow the link above if you really care) figured out that they could be used as a functional part of a mobile society. Mobile. Okay, this list item isn’t really a reason why I’m annoyed, more just general background and an opportunity for me to make fun of the daredevil thrill-seekers of yore.

2. General Human Laziness

Unless you are on one of those monumentally tall escalators they have in places like airports or the London Underground, it will take the average person 4-8 steps to reach the top of an escalator. This will burn approximately 1/2 calorie if that sort of thing motivates you. If you’ve skipped breakfast or are suffering a mid-afternoon energy slump, I suggesting popping 1/4 of a Tic Tac to supply you with the energy needed for the excursion. 1/8 if you’re going down.

Just think how far these could get you.

3. People’s General Lack of Purpose

Escalators are located in a variety of places – public transportation hubs, museums and large shops are just three examples. When I’m in a place with escalators, I’m generally there for a reason – I have somewhere to go, art to browse (or pretend to browse in some cases, no judgement there), things to buy. Not to stand around mindlessly bopping my head to Lady Gaga (more of an issue in shops). I can do that at home. I have chosen not to. Please respect my decision and let me pass.

Sometimes it’s not my decision either. And if I haven’t chosen to be where I am, there is probably somewhere I am required to be – work, a meeting, an appointment. Please don’t make me late. If I’m late I’d rather it was on my terms, not yours.

4. Escalators are Boring

Escalators are not fun. They are not pleasant. Unless the escalator in question is surrounded by fields of blooming floral decadence accompanied by the singing of angels and/or a mind-blowing live thrash guitar performance, I’m really not having a good time. I just want to get off the thing.

5. Exceptions

If you are rendered immobile by issues you really can’t help (old age, carrying heavy baggage, the company of children who have yet to understand basic social conventions, extreme tiredness, or a physical handicap) – you are excused for standing still, but still please try to keep to one side.

6. Stairs

Some places do have the option of stairs, which I will gladly use if they are available. Many places hide these stairs in incredibly obscure areas of the building, further stretching out the time I have to endure the dulcet tones of Ms Gaga. It’s still better.

Published in: on April 30, 2010 at 10:53 am  Comments (130)  
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