Sunday, February 24, 2013

grumble grumble february

At the risk of getting my ass kicked, I think I have a case of the Februaries.  

It may have started when I got a rejection letter from a job I was putting most of my hopes on.  Of all the positions I've applied for in preparation for my upcoming nuptials/move to Chicago, this was the one I was most qualified for.  They rejected me without even an interview.  I can only think of three explanations for this:  1.) they had several internal candidates and they couldn't bother with bringing in someone from out of town, 2.) there's a bias against rural downstate applicants (people in Chicagoland don't take anyone south of I-80 seriously), or 3.) I suck. 

Whenever I get a rejection letter for a job (I've received 10 of them in the past year), this is the voice I hear in my head:


I've started to replace the mantra I used to have when I was single-- "No one will ever love me"-- with a new job-seeker's version:  "No one will ever hire me."

But the jobsearch is not my only symptom of The Februaries.  I've been irritable and have been picking fights with everyone, even other drivers.  I've had several highway incidents this month that have left me in a bad mood.

My betrothed and I have had 2.5 fights this month (two fights and one intense discussion), which is odd because we hardly ever have any disagreements.  I felt a lot better, however, when I discovered that other couples we know have also fought in the middle of Crate & Barrel over wedding registries. 

Why do they have 17,000 different styles of silverware?

My amazing tennis winning streak has ended and I'm sliding into another February tennis slump.  This weekend I played in a tournament.  I lost my first match but won my second.  As if to mock me, I received a trophy for it.  I was the "Consolation Winner."  There were five guys in my bracket, and because I beat the worst guy, I got a trophy.  I really didn't want it, but it would have been rude to refuse it.

ARGH. Although I've rotated and saved this pic four fucking times, I can't get it to show up here with the right orientation.  I blame February.

Today I noticed in the mirror that I have a lot of gray hairs on the left side of my head.  I don't know why just that side.  Maybe it's the latest manifestation of my leftitis, my vague annual winter ailment.

To give you a good idea of what this month has been like, perhaps the highlight was going to a funeral.  I got to see my brother and sisters and mom and we laughed while texting with our oldest brother.  

There's just been this dark cloud hanging over me all month.  It's cold and I'm ready for spring.  I have no confidence and keep feeling like no one likes me, despite evidence against it.  I'm not as excited about things as I usually am.

I know that my life is good.  I'm healthy, safe, well-fed, loved, and spoiled.  It's just that February often gets me down.  I'll be better once Spring starts.  Winter can suck it.    

Monday, February 18, 2013

Highway Harassment

The white van.  That motherfucking, annoying, asshole, douchenozzle white van.  It refused-- absolutely refused-- to move over into the right lane.  For 20 miles-- at least the 20 miles it cruised in and out of my site on the highway-- it clogged up traffic in the left lane as cars would line up behind it.  Eventually the car behind it would realize the asshole was never going to move over and pass it on the right.  Then the next car would do the same.  This wasn't easy, though, because occasionally a slower car would be blocking the right lane.  Also, the sonofobitch white van would vary its speed, sometimes speeding up just as people would try to pass it.

The fate I fantasized for the white van

That passage about the white van has been sitting in my drafts folder since last year.  I decided to dust it off and post it in honor of February, which appears to be Annoying Highway Drivers Month.  Twice in the past two weeks I've encountered drivers like the white van.  Last week I actually got into an altercation with one.

As I was driving home from work on the highway, this SUV from TX would not leave me alone.  They’d drive along in my blind spot, not passing or slowing down. I’d speed up, they’d speed up. I’d slow down, they’d slow down. Finally I jerked my car as if I was going into their lane, just so they’d see how dangerous it is to drive in my blind spot. They drove up next to me and gave me nasty hand signals.  I motioned for them to pass me, but instead they intentionally messed with me for miles and miles, staying with me and not letting me pass slow vehicles. They thought it was a game. I almost called 911 to report highway harassment, but I don’t know if that’s a thing. Finally I just took an exit off the highway and let them drive on by. I got back on the highway a minute later. I don’t know what else I could have done, but the whole experience put me in a foul mood.

I hate it when there's a rhinoceros in my blind spot

The thing is, I think those cars like the TX SUV and the white van-- ahem, the motherfucking white van-- are the exception.  For the most part, people are competent drivers.  Which actually astounds me.  I'm amazed at how few accidents there are, considering what clumsy, selfish, dumb, inefficient animals we can be.  How often do you spill your coffee, stub your toe, or bump into someone?  How often do I miss an easy shot in tennis?  And yet each of us gets to be in charge of a 2,000-pound piece of machinery moving at 70 miles per hour?  And we're supposed to operate these things in conjunction with each other?  How is it possible that we're NOT constantly crashing into each other on the road?  How do we ever reach our destination?

Why don't our highways look like this all the time?

Clearly we have a pretty good system in place.  We have rules designed for courtesy, efficiency, and safety, and most people make a good faith effort to follow those.  When I'm away from the moment, out of the hellish experience of sharing the road with someone who refuses to obey those rules, I understand that for the most part, people are good drivers.  If we weren't, the system wouldn't work.    

There are lots of other cars on the road that frustrate me, usually because we have different levels of urgency, space, anticipation, courtesy, or what the speed limit actually means.  I can logically and objectively understand this, even after I've just cursed them out for being in my way.

The incident last week made me realize that I need to take a step back from the road rage and be more patient on the highway.  You can't control other people, even when (or maybe because) they're being asshats.  I just need to lower my expectations and avoid such situations as much as possible. 

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Fascinating Feud

Identical twin girls were born on the Fourth of July, 1918.  Esther Pauline Friedman would be known as "Eppie" and her younger sister (by 17 minutes), Pauline Esther Friedman, would go by "Popo."

In 1939 the two girls, at the age of 21, got married in a double wedding ceremony.   Eppie became Esther Pauline Lederer, and her sister became Pauline Esther Phillips.

Some random double wedding-- NOT the Friedman twins. 

In 1955, Esther Pauline took a different name, Ann Landers, when she inherited an advice column started by the late Ruth Crowley.  The new Ann would become wildly popular and revolutionize newspaper advice columns.  By the time her column ended 47 years later, with her death in 2002, she was a household name.

The dashing Ann Landers in 1961

Perhaps the only other advice columnist with as much name recognition as Ann Landers during that time was that of Abigail Van Buren.  Van Buren was the pen name of none other than Pauline Esther Phillips, Eppie's twin sister.  For 46 years her column, Dear Abby, rivaled that of her sister's.

Dear Abby in 1961

Even more striking than the two most popular advice columnists of the 20th-century being twins is the fact that for most of those years, they were estranged.  It started when, according to Wikipedia: "Phillips says that because she applied for the columnist job without notifying her sister first, it created bad feelings between them for many years."  They had a public reconciliation some years later, but the feud seemed to continue, off and on, until Lederer (Esther Pauline/Eppie/Ann Landers) died in 2002.
The two sisters getting along in public
It's amazing that although they counseled thousands of people on family relationships, they couldn't get along with their own sister.  And the few things I read about the feud just seem petty and childish.  For example, they bicker over whether the other's column is any good, and one of them publicly criticized the other one for how old she looked. Of course, it's possible the media just played up their feud because it was more interesting.  But it's also credible that two talented sisters with a shared history and genetics would also share a drive to be successful, and that would make them very competitive with each other. 

I think it would have been funny to have written a letter to each of their columns seeking advice about my contentious relationship with my twin, and see if either of them would have answered it. 

As if the irony of two of America's most beloved advice-givers not being able to follow their own advice isn't enough, the story continues after their death.  Each of the twins had a daughter.  And both of those daughters also became advice columnists.  Eppie's daughter, Margo Howard, writes the popular column Dear Prudence wrote the column Dear Prudence, until it was taken over by Emily Yoffe in 2006.  And Pauline's daughter, Jeanne Phillips, took over her mom's column in 2002, and continues to play Dear Abby. 

Not Eppie's daughter, but Emily Yoffe, who took over the column in 2006.  Jeezus, all these names are hard to keep straight.  

Popo' daughter.  I didn't realize this wasn't the original Abby.  When I was a kid, that's the picture of Abby I remember.

And the daughters-- cousins to each other-- have continued the feud.  After Eppie's death in 2002, the two traded swipes at each other in the media.    

It all sounds like a bad soap opera. 

I'm surprised that more has not been made of this amazing story.  You'd think there'd be a book or a movie or a mini-series about the whole thing.   There is one book from 1987: Dear Ann, Dear Abby: The Unauthorized Biography of Ann Landers and Abigail Van Buren by Janice Pottker and Bob Speziale.  But that book is over 25 years old, and the title makes it sound kind of trashy.  A lot has happened since then.   

Scandalous! I may try to read it anyway.

The only other work I've heard of that covers this amazing story is a 2006 play by David Rambo called "The Lady With All the Answers."

Incidentally, and mostly unrelated, one of my favorite current advice columnists, Dan Savage, bought Ann Landers' desk at an auction after she died.


Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Tipping for Jeezus

Imagine you're a server at a national restaurant chain, working your ass off, making around $2 an hour, depending on tips for the bulk of your income.  Then you get a receipt like this one:

The 18% tip is crossed off, with the note, "I give God 10% Why do you get 18" (sic).  On top of her signature she's added the title "Pastor." 

The server who received this receipt showed it to another server, who took a picture of it and posted it on the web, with the snarky line, "I'm sure Jesus will pay for my rent and groceries."  While I appreciate the pro-active shaming of this obnoxious customer, I have to admit it is a gross violation of privacy, especially since posting someone's signature online can lead to identity theft.

The picture went viral.  

The Pastor complained to the restaurant-- Applebee's-- and the server who posted the receipt (who was not the one who was stiffed) got fired for violating their customer privacy policy, which set off a brand-new shit storm.

Suddenly the story shifted from a rude customer not tipping to a PR nightmare for Applebee's.  The intarwebz, where everyone loves to get angry and judgy, jumped down Applebee's throat.  When the restaurant chain tried to respond, it only made things worse and fanned the flames. 


This fascinating story touches on so many different issues: tipping etiquette, rude customers, religion, privacy, social media, PR nightmares...

Here's a good summary of the story, along with a discussion on privacy issues in the Web 2.0:

Big Op-Ed: When Private Comments Go Very Public

I've been obsessed with this story for several days now.  All issues of privacy and PR aside, I wanted to get more into this Pastor's head and see what she was possibly thinking to write such an ignorant thing on a receipt.

I find the whole God thing ridiculously offensive.  You don't give "God" your 10% (AKA tithing), you give it to your church.  (And if you're a pastor, and the church pays your salary, then aren't you sort of just giving that money back to yourself?  How Jesus-like is that?)  God doesn't give a damn about your money, and I'm sure if there is a loving benevolent God, he would much prefer you honor him by paying the people who serve you.

But the really obnoxious thing is that she felt the need to add "Pastor" to her signature. Is that supposed to impress, or show how she's entitled to stiff the waitress, or what?
This pastor's local TV station gave her a chance to explain herself in a 9-minute interview here:

The interview is a huge disappointment and the interviewer does a terrible job. She's sympathetic to Ms. Bell, which is fine, but she goes so far that she doesn't ask any questions that will make her look more sympathetic to the general public. It ends up making her look worse. When Bell explains that she did, indeed, tip the waitress 18%-- TWICE, in fact-- the interviewer reacts with a tone that says, "Well, that's that! Why would everyone yell at you for that?" I was confused by her assertion that she did tip. You tipped twice? Why? How? Clearly it's crossed-off on the receipt. If you paid cash, then why write the nasty note?

Ms. Bell repeats throughout the interview that is was a "lapse in judgment" and that her biggest regret is that her actions reflected poorly on God. She mentions how she's received hateful emails of people calling her a hypocrite.  There are lots of questions I'd like to ask her, but one of them is: does she understand WHY people are reacting this way?  Can she explain what specifically was so repugnant about the comment on her receipt?  Because after nine minutes of explaining herself, it's still not clear to me that she understands. 

The only question the interviewer asks that I really wanted to know is, "What have you learned from this experience?"  Her only answer is that she'll never write on a receipt again.  That's totally not the point. (It reminds me of the episode of South Park where all the Catholic bishops decry the "problem" of all these molested kids coming forward.  Um, one priest points out, the problem is not that these kids are coming forward, the problem is that they are being molested.) 

You'd think that after such an ordeal, the Pastor would at the very least have answered the rhetorical question she so snottily wrote on the receipt.  Why does the server get 18%?  Does she understand the economics of how servers are paid?  Does she think that people deserve to be paid for their work? 

In the end, getting a glimpse into Pastor Bell's mind was unfulfilling.  Sadly, the Pastor just comes across as stupid and immature in the interview.  Which, I suppose, is what you would expect from someone who did something like that in the first place. As an educator, I would at least hope this would have been a learning experience for her.

I'll end with a fun article that discusses the relationship of tithing to tipping:

My Name Is Jehovah, and I’ll Be Taking Care of You Tonight