Monday, January 30, 2012

Why even bother?

You want to help me? Stop asking me if you can help me!

"Can I help you sir?" Why do people who work in large department and electronic store chains waste my time with this question? If you frequent any major store chain, you'll be faced with this question anywhere from :0.03 seconds to :30 seconds upon entering the store. From the Red-shirted pseudo-friendly drones at Target to the mindless-blue shirt zombies of Best Buy, chain store employees everywhere seem to be in a hurry to be helpful. You really want to help me out? Stop asking me if you can help me out.

You see, these lost souls don't actually KNOW any more than we do (if they did they would be in management or corporate), no they are just doing what their manager tells them to do to collect their paycheck. I understand, heck we've all had THAT job. I also know this job from the other end, which supports my general belief that a person is reasonably bright, people are dopes.

Here's a few of my favorite examples:

Scenario 1


Mutant Drone: Can I help you find anything today sir?
Me: Yes can you tell where I can find a 12-inch DVI cable?
Mutant Drone: Yes sir, those are right over there, Aisle Six (points to a sign above him that says "Aisle Six: Cables")

You do realize the only way you were able to "help" me was because you ran across the store to ask me a question we both already knew the answer to. You asked me something I was able to fundamentally answer on my own. That's not helping me, that's patronizing me. Knock it off!

Now to be fair, I am sure some fancy market research firm charged your company millions of dollars and gave your corporate officers a big stack of papers that said stuff like "... customer satisfaction is increased 13.4% when you say 'please' and 'thank you'." or "Your brain-dead customers don't know jack about the crap they're looking for, so if you chase them down as soon as they walk in the door, you'll show you are an authority on all things cables. They will then worship you as DVI cable Gods and offer their endless loyalty by paying obscene prices for a cable that is probably in their kitchen drawer."

"What's more, your employees can revel in the brightly colored shirts you force them to wear while also taking pride in the fact they know where the cables are by having thoroughly studied the store signage before your customers. This in turn gives the illusion of knowledge." These in-store 'heroes' were probably the same kids in 10th grade Geometry that were excited about getting 2 points on the exam for writing their name down. 
Ready for a fun exercise? Try this:

Mutant Drone: Can I help you find anything today sir?

Me: Yes can you tell why the supply-chain dynamics of your store are so poorly conceived that–along with your insultingly rancid, salt-of-the-Earth advertising–you are forced to charge me $49.99 for a $3 cable?

Mutant Drone: "[SQUAK!] Errr! Zapp!! Cannot_com_pute... must... get, store.. manager. Answer [Beeep!] above pay grade!"

Works every time.

Scenario 2

Mindless Robotron: Yes sir, can I help you?
Me: Do you have anymore of these sweaters? You have six left but they're all Extra-small and I'm 6' 2"…
Mindless Robotron: Sorry sir, everything we have is out on the rack (returns to chatting with co-worker)
Me: Anyway to check in back just to make sure?

Mindless Robotron: (Rolling eyes, voice dripping in sarcasm) Sorry sir, everything we have is out on the rack (returns to chatting with co-worker)

I'm now made to feel as though I am an intrusion into the all-important conversation between two minimum-wage "go-getters" discussing the latest reality TV show developments. 
Really? I kind of thought that helping a customer find what they were looking for and insuring a satisfactory experience was–I don't know–good business? 

Apparently, I am stupid and bothersome and should feel honored you acknowledged my presence because I don't have a super nifty name badge with the company logo on it. Sorry, next time, I will try and force my worthless pea-brain to remember NOT to ask you for assistance. I can see you are clearly too busy for me while you're discussing important world-changing events and altering the course of nations.

Time for another fun exercise! Try this:

Mindless Robotron:
Yes sir, can I help you?

Me: Yes, please share why you hold the people who pay for your job in such utter contempt?

Mindless Robotron: Excuse me sir?


Me: You heard me! Also, are you and your co-workers hoarding all of the XLs, XXLs and XLTs?
Mindless Robotron: Uhh…
Me: Oh, and by the way, I am with corporate to review the toxic levels of contempt and disdain our employees have for our customers–you will be getting a detailed report from your manager this afternoon he will provide you with a host of mandatory customer appreciation classes. Have a good day!

Scenario 3


Me: Excuse me, green bean soup toasties are on sale this week, could you tell me where those are?
Headdless Zombie: Oh, that's in aisle 11, halfway down, right next to the plaster-flavored snack balls.
(I get to isle 11 and the product I am searching for is nowhere in sight)...

What is it about Grocery stores that fill me with dread? Is it the three year old who saw a box of chocolate frosted sugar bombs he was told he couldn't have and is now auditioning for the opera? Is it the yuppie with a cart parked right in the middle of the aisle who then looks at me with utter disgust as I try to edge by? No, it's the apron-wearing food custodians that do only a mediocre job of hiding their repulsion of me as I approach them to ask a question. How does sending me on a wild goose chase help either of us? I am only going to come back and ask you again.

Gang, this ain't the place for elitism. For reals. No need to take out your frustrations on me. The rest of us just assume that if you work in a supermarket you just might have some idea where things are. You know, the same way I expect a judge to know the law or that Doctor might know about the human body.
And while we're on the topic, why are you wearing an apron while stocking the food? Are you whipping up some bar-b-que behind those giant swinging doors in the meat department? I like my ribs well done, please.

Fun exercise time!

Me: Excuse me, could you point me to the green bean soup toasties?

Headless Zombie: Oh, that's in aisle 11, halfway down, right next to the plaster-flavored snack balls.
Me: No they aren't, you and I both know they aren't there. Why can't you just tell me you don't know…?

Look, I know firsthand that having to deal with the public gets annoying–we've all had to be kind to people we loathe. But that's the job. And here's the golden nugget–if you continue to accept the money for the position, then you need to do the job to the best of your competency. And while you're at it, let management know that people don't like to be descended on the moment they walk in the store. Isn't it implied that you know something about the store if you work there? I'll come for you if I need you, okay? So put the smile on and be a courteous representative of your organization.
That's how you can help me.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Who are you people?

Who or what are Baby-Boomers–and when will they be going away?

If you were born between 1946 and 1964, you are what society has branded a Baby Boomer. You’ve lived through the contributions–and the assassinations–of some history’s most historic and iconic people. You’ve watched the internet rise and the Berlin wall fall. You’ve watched men walk on the moon and women walk in the sun. You've seen sound barriers smashed and color barriers thrashed. So why are so many of you such big pains in the ass?

Don’t get me wrong, your generation has set the stage for us to attain unimaginable new milestones–from science and technology to emotional honesty. So why are so many of you so damn closed-minded, resistant to change, technophobic and often downright racist? Yeah, yeah, I know, I am going to catch hell for this one. But before you grandstand and go all Matlock on me–read my words (not my lips!)–I said most of you. If you’re reading this saying “… that’s not me–!” or “… how dare you?” or maybe even, “… who does he think he’s talking about?”

Then the answer is you. I’m talking about you.

I realize the danger in making sweeping generalities about any group, trust me, but just like many of you when stating your narrow views–I just don’t care anymore.

I’m tired of statements like, ‘I miss the good old days’ or ‘we need to return to old-fashioned values’; please know you are only speaking for yourselves. Who the hell wants that? What ‘good old days’ do you mean? The days before the internet, HDTV and social media? The good old days of McCarthyism and near-fanatic levels of censorship? How about those days when women couldn’t vote, Blacks hung from trees, Asians could only cook or run drycleaners and Hispanics were second class citizens? Are those the good old days you’re talking about? You can have them. Generation X (those born between 1965 to 1976) and our children, the Millennials (born 1977 to 1998) will be forever grateful for the trails you blazed. But, just so we’re all clear, we reject your particular brand of crazy.

Spare some change? The world is a scary place, a cauldron of change. Change is inevitable and for those that need footnotes, this means you can’t stop it. So embrace it. Blacks, Hispanics, Gays, Asians, Jews, the Mentally and Physically challenged are all–and you may want to sit down for this one–people. Not punch lines to jokes or lesser beings to step on the backs of on your way to the top of whatever sick, twisted ladder you were ascending. The world has changed, so join us. C’mon, you can do it–we’ll even help you.

Stop pushing buttons! What is it about technology that has so many of you running for the hills? I watched my own mother struggle with figuring out why a DVD player didn’t work for more than two years—turns out it wasn’t even plugged in! How about the recent PIPA & SOPA bills that tried to pass through congress–spearheaded by Boomers wanting to regulate the internet–without having a first idea of what it even is. If you don’t understand something don’t simply assume it is evil.

A special kind of lunacy. Okay, now I will cry “havoc!” and let slip the dogs of war. Here’s a handy quick reference guide that is sure to alienate any closed-minded troglodyte still living in a world that has already left you at the station. Ready to be offended? Great! Here we go:

1. The world isn’t “going to hell in a hand basket” it’s just changing. Like it always has.

2. The mentally handicapped and socially challenged aren’t “retards”, they’re “people.”

3. Jesus Christ (the man) was NOT white. How do I know? Let’s try a fun exercise, just point out the last person NATIVE to the Middle East that was blonde and blue-eyed. If you were wrong about that, what else could you have been wrong about concerning religion? I’ll await your findings…

4. If you don’t approve of Gay marriages, don’t have one.

5. If you don’t like abortions, don’t get one.

6. Fun fact! You cannot see Russia from any point in Anchorage Alaska (distance between
Anchorage and the Russian shoreline is about 700 miles–that’s like seeing Atlanta from New York City—Fail!)

7. Stop saying you’re loosing the country. You’re not. You’re gaining new countrymen–whose taxes BTW, are paying your retirement. (Yes they ARE paying taxes.)

8. Modern music doesn’t suck just because you have no ear for it. It’s just variants of Jazz, Swing, The Blues, Hip Hop, Folk, Country and a little thing called Rock and Roll. They said all the same stuff to all of those music forms as well. Connecting any dots?

9. The second you catch yourself saying, “Pfft. That’s dumb–!” to any new technology or gadget you don’t understand; Congratulations! You have officially been left behind and you’re opinions no longer matter!

10. If you’re offended by movie content–don’t go to the movies. If you’re rattled by TV shows, well, there’s this little device with LOTS of buttons on it called a remote control–fascinating little invention. Guess what it does?
I apologize to any Boomer who is truly open-minded, and there are quite a number of you. This rant is NOT leveled at you. Recent events in the news and life have pushed my ability to tolerate racist, right wing religious fanaticism past the point of no return. If you can no longer be reasonable, then it’s time for you to go away. Don’t be sad, it was a good run. We’ll be picking up the pieces made from the fallout of your blunders for decades. But now, sadly, it’s time to close up shop. Choose your destination and away with you. Buh-bye.

I wrote this blog because our children are watching–my children are watching. If you don’t like what I have to say then please, go write your own blog. That is, when you learn how this whole inter-web thingy works.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

I'm not your friend! (yet)

Stranger Danger! Social media is letting a lot of new people into my life–and I think I like it.

For those of you old enough to remember the 80's song by Rockwell; "Some body's watching me"–I am sooo there! If you are plugged in to any type of social media web site, social smart phone App or chat board these days, then you have been exposed to the online world of social networking. A virtual place where you have Avatars, profile pics and obtuse descriptions of yourself to tell the world who you are, what you're all about and what you are up to; moment-by-moment.

And we're all hopelessly addicted.

I mean, how many "friend requests" on FaceBook have you answered in the past year? I don't just mean long lost high school buds or someone you worked with once upon a time. Those folks, to me, are more or less what FaceBook is for. No, I mean the completely random Twitter Zombies or the unknown FaceBookers who read some random comment you made on a mutual friend's page? Or maybe they are simply looking to pump up the number of friends on their friend list. So what? Who cares? I care. So you have asked to be my–uh–"friend"? Oh well, since we're friends, come on in!

It has been long rumored that FaceBook pays special attention to people with friends lists of a certain volume. I guess the thinking is, if this person has 5,400+ followers, they must be important. They're not. These people are no more or less relevant than you or I. They just spend more time than we do building lists of fictitious "friends" for some yet-to-be determined master-plan for world dominance. Clearly, they don't spend their time doing far more constructive things–you know, like ranting about social media conspiracies on do-it-yourself blogs.

I just can't seem to get away from sharing me with the world, my thoughts and opinions (haven't you noticed?), my favorite foods, colors, movies, video games and graphic novels (that's a fancy name for $20 comic books that will later get made into blockbuster movies!). And there are so many ways to get connected, my head spins—or maybe those are just the eyes on my XBOX 360 Avatar–hard to keep track of at this point.

And so it goes, as the Mythos of Me continues to grow, I am swept into a tidal pool of self-actualized relevance. I am my own best/worst PR engine and I just might be the most important human being on Earth. At least I think so, the world just hasn't discovered me yet. Don't worry, though, I'm working on it. I believe, as the saying goes, there's an App for that.

As a good friend once jokingly shared at a recent high school reunion; "I love me some me."

Amen, brother. Amen.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Your kids are NOT all right!

If you feel compelled to let your kids run rampant–don't.

We've all suffered the horror. In grocery stores, dry cleaners, movie theaters–even the doctor's office. It's the kid from hell. He (well, mostly he) shouts, hollers, whines and experiences a complete meltdown. It is more than just a nuisance, it's an intolerable act of aggression on my personal space, my peace of mind and my sense of well-being.
It's not right people, and it must stop now.

This precludes autistic, developmentally challenged and special needs kids of course, but if your child has learned little-to-no self-control of his or her emotions in a public setting, then I’m putting you on blast. It's rude, inconsiderate and I would even suggest criminal–punishable by fine. Yes, I went there.

Before you dismiss me as some clueless grumpy guy, here's my qualifier; I’m a single Dad of four with my fair share of challenges with my own kids. We all do. At one point, I had a two-seat stroller with twin 3-year-olds, a 5 year old and a 7 year old and as God is my witness I have NEVER had a child breakdown in the middle of a grocery store isle and buff out a new layer of polish on the floor. I’ve NEVER had one of my offspring loose their shit over some box of weirdo cereal featuring an odd animal dressed like a human being drooling into a bowl of diabetes-inducing breakfast food. And I have NEVER let a child become unraveled over the thought of my not buying him or her some stupid toy.

So, why do I have to be treated to the blood curdling shrieks of someone else’s little bundle of terror? To help, here are some helpful tips for new parents to embrace being out with your children. It's Arth Vader's 2012 tips to considerate social practices for parents:

1. Say Cheese–I DON'T think your child is cute–mine are cuter and don't make near as much noise.

2. Sound Check–Just because you’re accustomed to your child’s banshee-like shrieking, the rest of us would appreciate not being treated to freshly ruptured eardrums.

3. Shut 'em Down–If your child begins to throw a fit over anything that lasts longer than 10-seconds–remove them, threaten them, pummel them–hit their damn reset button. Show them who's the boss. (Hint: it's you).

4. Don't Touch Me–I happen NOT to think it's cool for your toddler to come over and touch me with their snotty-nosed, chocolate covered, look-what-I-pulled-out-of-my-diaper-covered hands.

5. Mine!–If your kid offers me something, I’ll be compelled to take it. A binky, your cell phone, their cuddly toy. Whatever. It's now mine now and if you didn't intend for that to be the case, maybe you should watch your kid more closely.

6. Don’t Be That Parent–Ever see a kid break something in a store or even worse, in someone’s home and embarrass the living hell out of their parents? If you can’t relate… it’s you. We don’t sympathize; we’re all pissed because you have put us all in the awkward position of having to laugh off your kid’s stupid antics and mesmerizing lack of self-discipline. 
7. Watch and Learn–Parents, watch your kid, honestly. I promise, it’s not hard. You chose to procreate, now walk the walk. This means you must know where the kid is at all times, regardless of how many you have. Hey, it’s not just good advice–it’s the LAW!

8. Just Stop–No I don’t want to observe little Tyler’s tantrum. No I don’t want to watch you change Sage’s diaper. Yes, I want to watch you breastfeed but now I’m in some weird space that YOU put me in by you doing it in public and now I have to pretend to be polite and not notice.

9. A Spot of Tea, Perhaps–If your child wants to chat–game on! Who’s your favorite character in Reservoir Dogs? Where do you stand on gun control? Let’s discuss who’s next to come out of the closet on Glee. Children are just little people anyway and that’s how I roll. Don’t like these thoughts? Then don’t let your kids talk to strangers. 

10. Mind Your Beeswax–Part of why my kids aren’t yours (genetics aside) are because they get the patented “Medusa Stare of Death” from Dad when they even begin to step out of line. Next will be my guttural growling of not-so-thinly-veiled threats should the stare-down fail. When this happens, try to refrain from looking at me with contempt–I know you’re just jealous because my tactics work and yours don’t.

Parenting isn’t easy but it is simple. If you’re compelled to have kids, compel yourself on learning how to raise them. Your kids, and society at large, will love you for it.

And I won’t have to ingest any more ibuprofen over your spawn’s tyrannical behavior.