Obnoxious Fans Make Me Want To Go Take A Long Nap

I’m a Serial Obsessive, which means I rarely continue a strong interest in any one topic for more than a few months at a time.  Casual interest in a topic means I don’t quality as being in any particular “fandom,” really. I’m not saying my way of doing things is better or worse than anyone else’s, and having interests and hobbies is not a bad thing, either.

That said, most fandoms simply exhaust me. Been there, did that. I actually do have some t-shirts, too.

Things about fandom that really piss me off:

1. Other people don’t give a crap. Please get other (completely unrelated) interests, so you do not bore everyone.

2. Being a Big Name Fan is a generally empty prize, much like winning the Doesn’t Sweat Much For A Fat Chick gold medal award. Speaking as one who was thrust into BNFness and took years to escape from it, if you have had BNFness thrust upon you, for whatever reason, be it visibility, or knowledge, or active participation within fan circles, don’t let it define your entire being. I do know that you can’t escape from BNFness, whether you want the label or not, unless you withdraw completely from the fandom. Did that.

3. Melodrama about how your fandom saved you from social retardation, illness, mental illness, suicide or self-harm really make me worry about you. Save the drama for your mama.

4. Insisting that you know better than the participants involved (actors in a film, writers of books/scripts/etc., band members, team mates) what “really” happened is delusional. It goes beyond speculative fiction at that point.

5. If you are not twelve, then banding together with socially retarded peers and feeding off of each other’s social retardation to annoy other members of your fandom or outsiders is BAD. Just STAHP, okay? You make non-socially retarded members of your fandom look stupid by association, and it is a sad fact that the loudest and most outspoken fandom members are typically those with the fewest other interests in life, and the most free time.

6. Feeling jealous rather than happy for peers who have had an enjoyable fan experience you wish you had experienced is childish.

7. Sock puppetry for fun and profit is the sign that you are taking your hobby FAR too seriously. You are not “more right” if you and all twenty of your alter egos show up to argue that you are right.

8. Refusing to acknowledge any flaws your fandom or objects of interest in your fandom might have is silly and a way of avoiding critical thought and perspective. Example: “Arena” was embarrassing. Sane Duran Duran fans acknowledge this. Insane ones think it is high art because it has a reference to a softcore French comic book that was later a film. Ooh. Art.

9. Shipping in general is tiresome to me, but that is a personal gripe. If the writers put a couple together, I accept it. If they don’t, I accept it. I don’t spend a lot of time poking at the possibility. In fact, I generally dislike situations that make a big deal about relationships. Example: X Files jumped the shark when Chris Carter pandered to Philes and got Mulder and Scully to hook up and breed.

10. A real person’s sexual inclination and preference isn’t really cool to speculate about unless it is generally known and discussed by said person. Example: No, Merry Whosits is not secretly sucking Frodo’s toes behind a bush in Chapter Twelve. Or in the trailers between takes. “Gandalf”, however, has a truly hot real life boyfriend. It is entirely possible there was some hot boy on boy lurve in the Wizard’s Winnebago occasionally.

11. If a character is supposed to be 12, what possesses you to spend hours lovingly sketching him or her having sex with an adult and not seeing that there may be a slight problem with this? If nothing else, it is distasteful. Quick guideline: can you show this to your grandmother and your pastor (or imam or rabbi, or whatever)? It’s probably not okay to upload to Teh Intarweeblez. Srsly. What’s your motivation for this, if not to titillate someone (if only yourself)? Which is gross. And illegal.

12. Characters are not paper dolls that you can write absolutely anything about. Well, you can’t do it convincingly or well. Also, spelling, grammar, punctuation, paragraph breaks, plot, characterization, showing rather than telling and lack of cliches are all required in GOOD writing. They are not optional.

13. Mary Sue and Gary Stu can go get bent.

14. Lack of well-roundedness in life, when reflected in obsessive fandom-ness, can make you boring. There are things outside of your fandom ‘verse. Truly. A sense of perspective is useful in life. Enjoy your fandom. Just give it a rest once in a blue moon.

15. Just because you want something to be true, it does not make it true.

16. Speculation and satisfaction with said speculation is no substitute for actual research, logic, and, when appropriate, canon.

17. Don’t expect outsiders to understand fandom-specific slang, acronyms, band member names, footnotes, the name of the gaffer on the set, your favourite character’s girlfriend’s birthdate, and so on. Why would outsiders care? Conversely, don’t be surprised if an outsider does happen to know some of the Sacred Secret Insider Information, as s/he probably saw the same TV show / website / interview you did.

18. Do not tattoo your fandom on your body. It is unkind to name your children after your fandom. Example: If your dog is named after a Hobbit or a Jedi, do not be surprised if Obi-Wan the poodle bites you.

19. Tips for writers: “Rape” is not a synonym for being 100% willing and OK with being talked into having sex so you don’t feel guilty or dirty because you have some prudery issues or whatever. It is, however, rape is someone says no or is unable to consent.

20. Tips for writers: “Incest” is not healthy or sexy or titillating. Family members who are close do not inevitably secretly desire to have sexual intercourse with each other.

21. Tips for writers: Even if two characters you find attractive are gender- and sexual-preference-appropriate for each other, that does not automatically mean they “should” hook up. If they are not sexual-preference-appropriate partners, bending the laws of space and time to make them bi or gay when they are not is not “being gay positive,” it is called “having a sexual kink that is sparked by writing or reading about fictional people getting it on”.

22. Tips for writers: Relying on death, sex, or soap opera plots to insert Dramatic Tension in your story is rarely going to result in a fine result. It’s been done to death, it’s been done very badly, and there are other ways to construct plot and dramatic tension and excitement into a story.

23. Tips for writers: Mixed metaphors, especially inserting quotes from another obsession or fandom ‘verse into your writing, is generally a bad idea. Strive to be original and to speak in your own voice when writing, without neglecting the natural voice and character development set forth in canon for your borrowed characters. NOTE: Crossover fic has its own rules, but it is still a good idea to remain true to the various established personalities and ‘voices’ of your borrowed characters.

24. If cosplay is part of your fandom, glamour bombing and freaking the mundanes is an attention-seeking ploy that makes your fandom peers look bad by association. Try to restrict your urge to run around like a vampire or fox person to your private gathering spot.

25. If you are a furry, don’t bother non-furries or try to win converts, and, for god’s sake, please don’t mongle your dog.

I’m just sayin’, man.

I could go on, but I’m getting repetitive.

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The Hunt for Yohn Yohnson: The Worst New Year’s Eve Party EVER

Let’s time travel back to 2003.

My worst New Year’s Eve ever.

Like most best-laid plans, my New Year’s Eve started off quietly. I’d been working my arse off all week talent scouting–my job at the time (don’t do it!)–and was actually looking forward to an excuse not to work for a few hours. (To illustrate: most new talent scouts get two or three “shows” at their Open Calls…I had SIXTEEN.) Dennis and I got invited by our friend Suze to come out to Ackworth (translation: we got invited to drive nearly an hour to go to her parents’ house in Deepest Darkest Suburbia) and we were both up for seeing Suze and having a mellow, pleasant New Year’s Eve with friends. We both love Suze and her boyfriend Marty and one of Susan’s greatest gifts is taking a diverse group of people and turning them all into close friends within an hour or two. We figured we’d meet some old friends and make some new ones, and the added lure of being able to spend the night (after presumably downing many Ab-Fabs (Stoli-Bolly cocktails) all night to welcome in the New Year) was the clincher.

So Dennis and I pack up our kit bags and stop off for provisions and set out for the nether regions of Atlanta. When we arrive, Susan and her friend Heather (and, lest we forget, Susan’s family’s dog, Chewie) were the only attendees.

Which was actually fine with Dennis and me. I was worn out from having to approach hundreds of strangers a day, and from walking miles and miles through malls and bars and clubs and grocery stores (I even recruited talent at the movie theatre and a Waffle House). Dennis was looking forward to being able to drink freely and then not get pulled for a DUI. We all settled in to watch “Cujo” and “Poltergeist”, waiting for Marty to get off work and join us.

It was far too quiet for Susan, though, and she and Heather started calling up friends, former bosses and a mall maintenance man they befriended and who they call “D’oh” because of his startling resemblance to Homer Simpson. It’s a tribute to Susan’s friendly and well-meaning personality that D’oh embraces his nickname and likes it.

After a few dozen phone calls, people started to arrive en masse at Susan’s place. Her parents, knowing full well that Suze can be a hellion, nevertheless entrusted their lovely home to the mongol hordes that would inevitably descend. We all wrote a collaborative, artistic “thank you” to Mom and Pops V to thank them for their hospitality even while in absentia.

The hordes actually consisted of less than two dozen people, but that was the perfect amount to invite over. No one was at a loss for someone to talk to. In fact, some of us would rather not have been talked to quite as enthusiastically. That would be me.

INTERNATIONAL SIGN-LANGUAGE FOR “YOUR PARENTS’ (OR ROOMMATES’)
STUFF IS ALREADY
GETTING TRASHED.”

If you see this guy, that is a sign that your party has gone
OUT OF BOUNDS!!

quartet of men showed up, two hailing from Wisconsin. Of the two Wisconsinites, one was well-behaved and charming.

Which leaves, of course, the other one. He took a shine to me, which shows his lack of selectivity overall, and would NOT leave me alone all night. I’m not talking about merely flirting with me and me being disinterested, though that was certainly accurate.

He got off on the wrong foot with me immediately by grabbing me far too intimately within the first two seconds after being introduced to me and not taking a hint when I disengaged and walked away. He further pissed me off by declaring that my name was too difficult for him to retain and that he’d call me by an annoying nickname that he preferred instead. To which I replied, “I’d rather you did not, I want to be called by my real name. Only my close friends are allowed to call me nicknames and you are not a close friend.” He did not learn from either of these two “you’re being annoying” reprimands and continued to harass me all evening.

At first I dealt with The Annoying Man by merely avoiding close proximity. Everyone else at the party was civil and well-behaved and interesting. It was just the one clown who was being insufferably boorish. I’d see him coming and duck into another area as fast as I could. This was my way of being tactful, and it failed miserably.

At one point, things improved when The Annoying Man demanded that Susan, a beautician and hair stylist, break out her scissors and tools and give him a haircut in her parents’ kitchen. Susan, being an accommodating soul, did so.

Dennis came out to the back porch where the smokers (i.e., everyone) were hanging out and told me I was being paged to the kitchen. Foolishly, I assumed that he meant I was being summoned by our hostess, Susan. So I trot in there and make the mistake of getting within lunging reach of The Annoying Man. I soon discover that Susan wasn’t the one seeking me out, it was him. Dorkus Maximus. And he lunged, and I was dragged bodily onto his lap, which was the last place in the universe I wanted to be at the moment (unless the possibility of facing down an angry, hungry, fang-endowed basilisk in a disgusting, nasty, swilly sewer pipe a la Harry Potter was my other choice).

I didn’t haul off and clobber him immediately, actually. I sat there for about thirty seconds and hated every moment of it. If loathing were visible to the naked eye, you’d have seen waves of it streaking out in all directions looking just like vile green oily tentacles.

I tried to make a joke out of it, to give the guy the option of wriggling out of his social blunder. I asked “Santa” if I could have a Barbie, since I’d been a good girl all year. And Santa Fuckhead said no, but he’d bring me some crotchless underwear.

Not even remotely funny.

And, of course, if this dork insists on playing Santa six days too late AND refuses to grant me my Christmas request, then friendship is not in the stars for us.

I escaped and resolved that the time for gentle hints and evasion was now over. Direct and forceful rejection would perhaps work better. I’d tried politeness, hints, humour and hiding, and none of those methods was getting me anywhere. Much as I dislike being openly negative, I could see no other way. But I wasn’t in any hurry to deal with it, so I attempted evasion and distraction instead.

While I was busily evading the fuckhead, the time for the New Year to arrive drew nigh and we all stopped listening to Dennis’ kick-ass music DVDs and started tuning into Dick Clark’s Rockin’ New Year’s Eve, where the 2,000 year old Clark beamed in a frankly non-geriatric manner and then proved his continued mental agility when he managed to count backwards at the appropriate moment without a hitch.

Meanwhile I was busily fending off The Annoying Man in the kitchen, while I was trying to remove delicate glassware from a high cabinet. He felt that this would be the perfect time to press up against me and grab things he shouldn’t. “For god’s sake, will you PLEASE fuck OFF,” I snarled, juggling stemware.

Too bad that was the last thing I said in 2002. Not a great way to end what was essentially a crappy year for me overall, but at least I saw the year out assertively.

The Annoying Man then attempted to follow me around and force a kiss on me and I managed to escape that fate, but it took about thirty minutes for him to give up on the concept. He managed to put his hands all over me and several other people who were just as unthrilled with the bodily assault as I was.

Things got worse after someone broke out some pot. No names will be mentioned. In fact, so we can continue to receive generous funding from family-friendly advertisers, let’s revise that and say “things got worse after someone broke out the funny cigarettes”.

If you’re confused about what a funny cigarette might be, here’s a helpful chart:

Funny Cigarette (a.k.a. Mary Jane, The Chronic, Cheeba):
Je suis un transvestite executive! Le singe est sur le table! J’aime la plume de ma tante. Anyone slower than you on the highway is an idiot. Anyone faster than you is a maniac. I’m picking out a thermos for YOU…

Mildly Amusing Cigarette (a.k.a. Those Damned Sampoerna Clove Things):
Take my wife, please! I just flew in from Wisconsin and BOY are my arms tired! Jalapeno on a steeek! S’okay? S’all right. *sledgehammer to a watermelon*

Plain Ol’ Ordinary Cigarette (a.k.a. Available at all fine gas stations and grocery stores near you):
Knock, knock.

Wait a minute…WHAT generous funding?! “Family friendly”? How can my blog be family friendly when my favourite word is “fuck” and variations thereof? (YOU know. Fuckity, fuckwit, fuck-all, fuckhead, fuck it, fukt, you fuckin’ fuck…you get the idea.) Geez, did I get into the wacky weed, too? (I plead the fifth.) Well, hell. Never mind. It was marijuana. We’re all adults here. All nine of us. Me and my eight faithful Gentle Readers. (Hello. How Are Ya?)

So we’re all on the back porch watching Susan’s creepy neighbors The Swingers blow shit up in their driveway and we’re drinking Stoli-Bollies (champagne + vodka = make happy nice), and The Annoying Man keeps trying to pull me aside to explain why he’s being so persistent. I tell him I don’t give a damn, and that he needs to chill out.

“There’s no such word,” he slurs.

“I’m telling you to back off, you’re freaking me out, you idiot,” I say.

“No,” he says, petulantly sticking his lower lip out and trying to grab my body parts.

“YES,” I say, and I squirm away and vanish.

Meanwhile The Swingers are happily setting their lawn on fire with high-tech explosives. It’s a great big happy pyrotechnic joyfest at The Swingers’ Pad.

…. ? ….

Oh, did I not explain about them? The Swingers are these creepy neighbors of the V family. Among their many sins:

1. The Swingers attempted to ingratiate themselves with the V family and friends by leaning over the back fence and repeatedly bragging on Madam Swinger’s culinary prowess. Finally, in a fit of boredom and misplaced optimism, some of the Vs and friends took them up on their dinner invite, whereupon Madam Swinger opened up a can of pork ‘n’ beans and a can of corn and nuked them both in the microwave. Emeril she is not.

2. The V family cut down some trees on their property and installed a fabulous pool and sun deck. The good news is that the pool is awesome. The bad news is that the missing trees enable them to see more of their neighbors and vice versa. The Swingers took it upon themselves to build a stone walkway from their property to the V’s pool gate. This means that they were constructing a walkway across the V’s land as well as their own, all without benefit of an introduction first, getting permission from anyone or even having a casual “Hi-diddly-doodly-ho-howdy there, neighbor!” relationship beforehand. The Vs removed the stone walkway in hopes that the presumptuous arseholes would take a hint that the Vs had not just invested thousands of dollars to build the community swimming pool.

3. Failing to grasp a clue, The Swingers invited themselves over, skanky female friend in tow. The skanky female friend then ostentatiously hit on Pops V in front of Mom V. This did not go over well in the V household, or with the friends of the Vs who were visiting at the time.

4. There are numerous other tales of woe, but most of them involve The Swingers playing the role of The Fat Naked Guy As Seen On The TV Show “Friends” (i.e., failing to close their blinds) and, conversely, peeping out of their unclosed blinds at Susan and the other Vs and their friends at all hours of the day and night in a rather creepily scary manner.

We chose not to engage The Swingers in cheery New Year’s Eve saluations. Marty said that they were probably trying to lure innocent neighbors over to their squalid shack d’amour with loud noises, flashing lights and scary sex toys.

All that they succeeded in doing is getting another neighbor, a redneck, ganked up on macho firework-related showmanship, and the two households proceeded to try and blow each other (and the few remaining trees on the block) up all night. Big fun. Poor Chewie hid under a table after a few hours of this nonsense.

Dennis put the music back on and lots of pictures were taken, including one of The Annoying Guy passed out under a bonsai on the back porch.

Shortly afterwards, his friends noticed he was missing. He’d wandered off. There was speculation about whether The Swingers had found him or not. We decided that we didn’t much care.

He, unfortunately, turned up again after we’d all enjoyed about a half hour of relative peace and tranquility, and he honed in on Yours Truly once more. At this moment, we all heard a loud crash coming from the bathroom. Susan’s friend Peaches had managed to break the shower curtain rod and tear the shower curtain down. This provided some welcome distraction, as far as I was concerned. I fled towards the noise and by doing so managed to evade the octopussy grasp of Yohn Yohnson, Annoying Man from Wisconsin.

Peechee’s husband Clegg was holding forth about The Jesus on the back porch, and it says a lot that I was more willing to hear all about how The Jesus was the only viable religion and how all others, including those humans who might choose to be pagan, Jewish, agnostic, Catholic (!?), Buddhist or Other, were wrong, than I was to endure close proximity to the scary Cheesehead. Of course, I couldn’t stand it for long.

Places to hide were becoming fewer and fewer, and the Annoying Man was becoming bolder and bolder. He grabbed me again while I was talking to Marty and Dennis about Urban Legends, interrupting a particularly amusing Marty Anecdote.

“Back off and leave me alone NOW,” I said, angrily. His friends apologized profusely to me and took him aside and told him he was being an arsehole and to cut it out.

“No,” he said.

“YES,” they said.

“I don’t WANNA,” he replied.

Then he bolted, ran down the back porch steps into the night and vanished again. This resulted in a collective sigh of relief from everyone except the poor guy who drove everyone to the party, as he envisioned spending the rest of his evening hunting down Yohn Yohnson somewhere in the neighborhood while it was raining.

“This is the third time he’s wandered off,” said Mike, who was looking like he regretted having friends from Wisconsin…even though he, too, was actually from Wisconsin. (He also claims to have been employed as a cheese-maker for the government. This is not helping the stereotypes die down, you know.)

At about three am, everyone was ready to call it a night.

Unfortunately, Yohn Yohnson had not yet returned from his night wanderings. His friends all trooped to the front door and fanned out through the neighborhood, combing it for signs of wanker spoor.

Much later, they returned and announced that they had had no joy, he was still missing. Someone had the bright idea to search the house again and lo, the miscreant was sleeping like a baby in a bedroom downstairs, having apparently slipped past his friends and snuck in through the garage. They all decided that perhaps it would be best to just leave the idiot there to sleep it all off, and they bid us adieu and the folks who had opted to spend the night (Dennis, me, Marty and Suze) all filed into our respective bedrooms and passed out from fatigue and too much party.

I had forgotten to bring night clothes (I usually don’t bother with any when I’m sleeping in my own bed) but I had been given a big pile of blankets. I decided that I didn’t want to remake a king-sized bed the next day, so just took off my jeans and shoes and made a little warm blanket nest and curled up on top of the spread with some blankets over me. And that was extremely cozy, so I managed to fall asleep easily.

At four am or so, the door to the bedroom I was staying in burst open and the crazy man ran in with wide, red-rimmed eyes. Shit! I thought I’d locked that door! Needless to say, I woke up immediately. He then jumped on top of me, ripped all the covers off me and tried to pin me to the mattress, all while sobbing incoherently about some man being downstairs with a gun trying to sodomize him.

I was not very sympathetic, as you might imagine. I asked, rather stupidly, what the fuck he was doing in my bedroom. He didn’t respond, he just wailed and thrashed and tried to grab some of my limbs. I then leapt out of the bed and told him to get the fuck out of the bedroom, and he, unsurprisingly, didn’t. I then got the fuck out of the bedroom myself, leaving him to do whatever he had to do by himself, which seemed to be sobbing, screaming, yelling, flailing a lot, and tearing up the Parental V’s nicely made bed. (And yes, I was unable to knee him in the balls, though I tried.)

I grabbed my coat, put it on, picked up my purse, jeans and shoes, and then I stomped downstairs in what can only be termed “a high dudgeon” where I found Dennis clutching his clothing to his naked bod. He’d been awakened by all the screams and banging around upstairs. I turned my back while he got dressed and we both went back upstairs to try and prise the crazy man out of the Parental V’s bedroom so I could get back to sleep. He refused to depart, and took a swing at Dennis. I spoke in my Stern Voice to him and he still refused to straighten up and get the fuck out. (Well, that shouldn’t have come as a shock–the Stern Voice technique didn’t work in “Cujo” either. What was I thinking?)

He tried to kill Dennis again, throwing him into the Patental V’s nice dresser, scattering some no doubt expensive knick knacks and toiletry items hither and yon. Dennis and I glanced at each other and wordlessly agreed to retreat to the kitchen.

We then tried to make sense of what had just occurred. It wasn’t really possible, given our collective shock, fatigue and annoyance. And before we could come to any useful conclusions, the crazy man found us in the kitchen and started jabbering about the man with the gun trying to give him head. Needless to say, there was no masked, gun-toting ween-sucker in the household. The only armed and dangerous person in the household at that moment was the crazy man.

Here is an example of Unfairness and Bad Luck. Earlier in the evening, I asked Susan’s boyfriend Marty if he could get me a fork. It took him three tries to find the correct drawer, and he’s been dating Susan for over a year now. It’s not like he hasn’t ever been in the kitchen when utensils were removed from their designated spot. Unfortunately for us, the crazy man found the appropriate drawer on his first try and started brandishing a huge and very scary steak knife at us, still yammering away about his imaginary trauma.

And when you’re on the wrong end of a sharp pointy thing, it tends to look even larger and more pointy than it really happens to be. Take my word for this.

“We need to leave now,” I said, quite reasonably. Dennis concurred. We slipped out of the kitchen and went to collect our things. When the crazy man left the kitchen as well, I went back in and got the bottles of alcohol I’d brought that it turns out no one but me actually liked. (Every other alcoholic substance in the house had long since been consumed and I figured that the last thing the crazy (drunk) man needed was access to more booze.) And then when he went back into the kitchen, presumably to corner me again with tales about his psychotic fantasies, I again slipped out the other entrance and ran off, picked up all my things in the bedroom, and met Dennis in the foyer. At this point, we fled, shrieking, into the night.

Well, okay, there was no shrieking. But we got the fuck out of there. With great haste.

Ten seconds later, Dennis realizes that he’s still too drunk to drive, and we can see cop cars everywhere. I, on the other hand, am nowhere near being drunk. Even if I had been, I think that the attack by the large, sweaty, stinky, screaming man would have sobered me up. Our first order of business is to pull over so I can drive instead, which we do. Then we debate what we should do next.

See, Marty and Suze were sound asleep throughout all this commotion, and we started to worry about them. After all, they are unconscious in a house with a crazy person running around. And the crazy person is ranting and brandishing a big, scary, serrated knife. And he’s seeing people who aren’t there and sobbing and, in general, acting like a big dork, and these are all Bad Things.

We debated about what we should do for about ten miles, and then decided to go back. This is what you should never do in a horror movie, of course. Needless to say, we were a bit scared. Remember, we’d been watching “Cujo” and “Poltergeist” earlier in the evening. I suppose that there were some after effects from this.

Oh my God, The Crazy Man could be carving up our drunk, unconscious (and probably nekkid) friends RIGHT NOW!!!

We also realized that I’d left my only watch and two expensive rings, and that Dennis had left without some of his CDs, but, of course, the foremost deciding factor was our growing concern for Marty and Susan. We planned to park the car across the street and go around to the back door of the house (which leads into Susan’s bedroom) to let them know there was a problem. I tried calling Susan’s mobile, and no one answered. This freaked us out more. Then I tried calling the house phone.

V Household: *heavy breathing*

Me: Hello?

V Household: Jeremy!

Me: *puzzled pause* Um, Marty?

Oh, it’s The Crazy Man: *wailing* Jeremy?

Me: May I speak to Marty, please?

The Crazy Man: JEREMY! HELP ME!

Me: Um, no, I need to speak to Marty.

The Crazy Man: JEREMY! JEREMY! SAVE ME! HELP! HELP!

Me: NOT Jeremy! Marty!

The Crazy Man: Jeremy!

Me: MARTY!

The Crazy Man: *screaming and sobbing* JEREMY! JEREMY! JEREMY!

Me: ….

The Crazy Man: *more shrieking and hiccoughing* JEREMY!!! AIIIIEEEEEERRRRGGGHH!!!!

Me: Oh, for fuck’s sake! *click*

I called twice, and that’s pretty much how both phone calls went.

When we returned, the house was ominously silent. Using Secret Squirrel Spy Signals, Dennis and I sneakily crept into the garage and then into the downstairs of the house where, fortunately, Marty and Susan were now awake and alert. Better yet, they did not appear to be traumatized.

Unfortunately, they had been awakened by the crazy man, who ran into their room, ripped the covers off of them and screamed. They were both butt-naked, and the crazy guy still had the knife in his hand. Marty had better luck with his Stern Voice than I did, and the crazy guy dropped the knife and curled into a fetal ball, giving Marty and Suze enough time to dress themselves.

At this point, Marty had had enough nonsense out of this reject and threw him out of the house into the rain. Eventually he also dialed up the crazy man’s friend, who arrived back at the house shortly after Dennis and I returned.

We all shared our exciting experiences and collected our forgotten belongings and then I drove Dennis’ car to the Waffle House, where we both ate and giggled somewhat hysterically for a while. And then we went home.

Dennis tells me that whatever you do on New Year’s Eve sets the tone for the rest of your year. I say that I hope that this only applies to events prior to the Big Ball Drop, because otherwise I’m majorly screwed. I don’t think I have the stamina to fend off psychopaths for the next 365 days. Besides, prior to midnight, we all had a great time. The curtain rod was still unbroken. Clegg had not yet begun to proselytize on the back porch. The Annoying Man was merely annoying and persistent, not crazy and holding a knife and jumping on people in the middle of the night.

That, dear readers, was the worst New Year’s Eve party EVER.

The end.

The Shemp Fight

People sometimes ask why I tend to be a hermit. It’s because I am naturally introverted, but it is also because outings that would be uneventful for most people seem to turn into huge dramas for the people who want to socialize with me. Case in point: A run-of-the-mill lunch ends up becoming a huge ‘shemp’ fight.

Once upon a time, my classmate Eun-Young wanted to talk to me about school stuff over lunch, and she wanted to take me to her “favourite place for Udon noodle soup,” so I loaded her and my laptop and stuff into my car, swung by the house to drop it off (and so she could say “hello” to my pet ferret), and then we headed downtown to Sakura.

The name was ringing a slight bell, and I realized that this was the chain that my old boss once owned and sold, and the guy who bought the old Sakura restaurants was who he eventually sold his last property to while I was working with him.

I detest going Downtown, especially during the week, because parking is always a misery (and expensive) and everything is overpriced, and even though we love and are grateful for our tourists, they drive stupidly. If you want a closer look at a historical building, pull over, for God’s sake. Do not weave all over the road at about 2 mph trying to operate a car and a videocam at the same time. The Baby Jebus hates people like you.

That was the first clue that this might be a Bad Idea: the branch of the restaurant Eun-Young wanted to visit is located in one of the most aggravating areas as far as parking and touron confusion go. The second clue was The Stinky Tree.

We parked, and paid the meter an exorbitant fee, and were assaulted with this weird stench. It was like pepper, and fish, and pee, and curry, and body odor, all mixed together. Was it cooking? Was it a backed-up sewer? Where was that smell coming from? Gah. As we walked away, a stiff breeze kicked up and the offensive tree unloaded a metric ton of pollen and leaves directly on top of my poor car, ensuring that I would smell The Stink for days on end. It lingered, this vile pong. It was a mystery smell, implying edible gourmet food and bodily malfunctions and death on the other. We debated the source of the stink for several blocks, which was as close as we could park to the restaurant, and super fun to walk when in heels and while the temperature was pushing 85oF.

All in all, though, we were excited to have a little Girl Time. The mystery smell was soon forgotten, and when we arrived at the restaurant, we were seated promptly and the food looked good, and only slightly overpriced, which, when compared to the rest of the (grossly overpriced tourist-mugging) Downtown area, is pretty good.

We order. We order Too Damn Much, actually. Our waiter is clearly brand new and delighted at the unusally large tip he anticipates he will get from us. Food keeps coming. I decide, on a whim, to order ebi, which is a type of nigiri sushi: a mostly raw butterflied shrimp atop sticky rice ball. This is important later.

Our waiter is being shadowed by the only other Caucasian on the restaurant staff, a fact which is also important later. They start bringing more and more food, and the training server makes increasingly presumptuous remarks about our order, its size, and our choices, but we shrug this off as an ill-advised attempt to be amusing with customers who are also clearly students.

Eun-Young is served a helping of soup in a tureen the size of a toilet bowl. She can barely lift her arms up high enough to reach over the rim with her spoon and chopsticks. It’s obscenely huge. I got a hubcap full of tempura shrimp and veggies. We also had fried tofu (a big fave of mine, and something I used to eat on a regular basis in Atlanta, and which I have sorely missed), sesame chicken, and gyoza. The first sign that all might not be well in paradise was finding a huge shard of aluminium foil in the chicken. I said nothing, and moved it to the side of my plate. Then the gyoza arrived charcoaled to a cinder on the bottom, and were not the type I’d requested, but I like the boiled and grilled kind as much as the fried kind, so I let that issue go, but I couldn’t eat coal. This was more than I could ignore, so I sent it back, and the kitchen staff, visible from our table, were not best pleased.

Finally we received the bill, and Eun-Young volunteered to pop more money in the meter because I was still eating and she was not. So I reviewed the bill, which was not split per request, and noticed that I’d been charged for ama ebi, not ebi. This was a $2 difference, which was not earth-shaking, and when shrimp sushi arrived at the table, I didn’t notice that it was the wrong shrimp sushi. I’m not a sushi expert. I put my share of the bill in, including a generous tip (because I still remember what it is like to be a waiter, and, even more, what it is like to be the new waiter), waved our waiter down and pointed out the error, and requested that the bill be adjusted to reflect the proper item. He agreeably trots off to ask his new boss to change the bill, and she is instantly furious and refuses, and cusses him out. Er… what?

The poor guy. He slinks back over, tail between his legs, and starts to apologize just as Eun-Young returns and catches wind of what happened. He confesses that he’s sure he hit the wrong button, that he remembers me ordering the ebi, not the ama ebi, and he’s very sorry, but the owner’s wife refuses to change the bill because we ate the more expensive, but incorrect, shrimp sushi. I shrug it off. It’s two dollars! I’m not made of money, but it is not worth my time to argue over a measly two dollars. I made a request, they said no, and as far as I am concerned, the matter is closed.


I want my two dollars!

Lane Myer: Sorry Johnny, I don’t have a dime.

Johnny: Didn’t ask for a dime. Two dollars.

Lane Myer: My little brother got his arm stuck in the microwave. So my mom had to take him to the hospital. My grandma dropped acid this morning, and she freaked out. She hijacked a bus-load of penguins. So it’s sort of a family crisis. Bye! [slams the door shut]

For some reason, getting all bent out of shape over a mere two bucks just seems ridiculous to me, no matter how poor I am. I’m not sure where I got that idea from, but it is fairly consistent of me, personality-wise, not to spazz out over money issues when I’m the one who is owed, and the amount can’t even buy a hungry lolcat a cheezburgar.

Anyway, Eun-Young is upset. This is her favourite lunch spot, and she sort of pressured me to go with her and I didn’t want to spend the money after blowing my budget this month. She is a regular there, and thus she feels attached to it, like it belongs to her. So she apologizes, again and again, and I say, honestly, that is isn’t a big deal, I’ll just not come back to this particular restaurant if they are going to be shortsighted enough to make their (two dollar!) mistake into mine after I’ve spent approximately seven times what I normally spend for a lunch and tipped the waiter an embarrassingly huge percentage of the bill to boot. It’s not located conveniently for me, anyway, and I can’t afford to eat out often, so it is probably a good thing I didn’t fall in love with the place too.

I want my two dollars!

The waiter comes back to the table to collect the money, since he saw me put it in the check holder, but it is not at the table. Eun-Young has marched up to the owner’s wife and there is a lot of pointing at the check and pointing at me and pointing at menus and pointing at the waiters, and this weird Korean-Chinese-English hybrid mostly consisting of punctuation marks and symbols (or it would if life were a graphic novel), and the newbie waiter and I both exchange puzzled looks, and he apologizes profusely again, and I tell him I’m cool with not getting the bill adjusted, and we both sigh a bit and bond a bit, and meanwhile, the arguing is starting to distract everyone in the restaurant as well as people randomly passing by the front door of the restaurant, and I’m not easily embarrassed or anything, but, geez, I have work to do and want to go home. What the heck is going on?

Finally I get up and go over to see why it is taking so long to pay the goddamned bill. I mean, really.

Eun-Young is insisting that because it is the waiter’s error, the restaurant should fix the bill. The owner is insisting that because the stupid gweilo couldn’t tell right away that the wrong type of shrimp sushi was served at the table, and we ate it, we should pay for it. (This is, frankly, my position on the matter. If they had fixed the bill to reflect the mistake the waiter made, great; if not, that’s fine, too. It usually doesn’t hurt to ask. And it’s still a matter of two dollars. My time is more valuable than this.)

Eun-Young, however, is pissed off. She won’t let go of the issue. It is at this point that I am sitting with my head in my hands, wanting more than anything to just leave, already. I put the money in the bill holder twenty minutes ago. My take-away package of leftovers is already packed. I have my car keys in my hand. And a Bizarro World version of a Miller Lite beer commercial is going on, at top volume, in a tiny little restaurant, and it just won’t end.

Eun-Young: It was him mistake, he poosh wrong buttan, he say it he mistake. You should take moneys off.

Owner’s Wife: You eat shemp, you paying for shemp and (Taiwanese dialect of Chinese!!).

Eun-Young: He order wrong thing, it wrong, you stealing our dollars.

Me (thinking): Tastes great!!

Owner’s Wife: We serve shemp, you eat shemp, you paying for shemp!!

Eun-Young: But she say ebi, not ama ebi, and he put ama ebi, and (Korean!) and she not wanting ama ebi!

Owner’s Wife: I telling you, you paying! He bringing shemp, you eating shemp, you paying for shemp!

Me (thinking): Less filling!!

Eun-Young: I coming here all the time, and (Korean!)

Owner’s Wife: I not care!! (Taiwanese dialect of Chinese!!), you paying! Then you go!

Eun-Young: (Korean) and (Korean!!), it not right, (KOREAN!!), ama ebi, not ebi, (Korean? Korean!!) not fair.

Owner’s Wife: (TAIWANESE DIALECT OF CHINESE!!!), (very profane American English slang term), you eating the shemp, you paying for the shemp! Otherwise, you is stealing the shemp!

Me (thinking): Oh God, please make it stop so I can go home.

Eun-Young: I am not try to stealing the shrimps! Just want you to be fair and not make (Korean, Korean), not her fault!

Owner’s Wife: You ated the shemp, so you pay, is our policy! (Taiwanese dialect of Chinese!!) Is final!

Holy crap. This went on for about four months. My hair grew an inch. I began to wish for death (or deafness). All of this over a discrepancy of two dollars.


I want my two dollars!

At this point, my waiter and I are in psychic pain, and the senior waiter decides to insert himself into the argument, but he has no fucking clue what the problem is. He latches on to the Owner’s Wife fussing about “stealing shemp” and decides that Eun-Young is refusing to pay for her meal. He then lectures her, loudly, that if she doesn’t pay her bill, he will call the police. She attempts to explain what the issue is, and as he is actually visibly gleeful that he’s involved in a conflict, he must be that kind of stroppy personality, and so he interrupts her and repeats that if she “doesn’t want to pay her bill”, he is going to call the cops.

Meanwhile, on a $32 bill, there is $48 and change sitting in the bill folder, which is open for all to see.

Eun-Young tries to recall enough English to explain this to the waiter, and he doesn’t even attempt to try to understand her, he just repeats that if she doesn’t want to pay the bill, he will call the cops, and he says this while no more than two feet away from the bill folder, which is open, full of money. Also? The argument is taking place next to the cash register. A desire not to pay the bill is not the issue.

Eun-Young gets frustrated and says that is fine, he should call the cops. The waiter talks on the phone, the owner’s wife talks on the phone, then Eun-Young talks on the phone, which is when I get up again to find out what is taking so damn long and find out that the police are on the phone and are coming to the restaurant.

What the fuck is this nonsense?

Our waiter gets wind of what is happening and has a meltdown and QUITS. He removes his apron, says this whole situation is utter bullshit, he can’t work for a place like this, this is retarded, this is fucked up, he is walking out the door right now. I take his tip out of the folder and insist he take it before he leaves. He finally agrees, and stops by the table to co-miserate with me one more time on his way out the back door, all while tapping a Djarum clove out of a cigarette pack. I idly remark that I smoke the same brand and would much prefer to be having a clove cigarette rather than waiting for the motherloving COPS to come over TWO DOLLARS, and it strikes us as suddenly incredibly hilarious.


I want my two dollars!

He insists on giving me a cigarette, then vanishes. Maybe he had a warrant or something. He was gone so quickly, I would swear he left cartoon dust clouds in his wake.

I go up again to plead with Eun-Young to let it go, but she has her teeth clamped down into a perceived injustice and is worrying it back and forth and refusing to let go. I find myself apologizing to the owner’s wife, and pleading again with Eun-Young to get a sense of perspective about the issue (TWO DOLLARS!! GAH!!), and even sharing that I knew the previous owner of the restaurant chain, and was a former employee of the most recent acquisition of the owner, and knew the original owners (which is true, I babysat for them when their kids were very small), and I tell the bolshy head waiter that I made a request and was okay with it being denied, and it was never a demand on my part. He bitches that Eun-Young made it a demand, and the police were on their way, and then he visibly melted a little and acknowledged that I was not involved in the dispute except tangentially, not that this made me or anyone else any happier.

And, in due course, as I sat, back at our table, shaking my head and moaning quietly to myself under my breath over how loooooong it was taking to get some goddamned lunch I didn’t even goddamned want and really couldn’t afford to goddamn well pay for, a policeman did show up.

And the argument dragged on and on, so up I popped again. “May I nutshell the situation for you?” I asked. The cop agreed. I explained that the waiter misunderstood what I ordered, made a mistake, brought a more expensive menu item, and I asked for the difference back. When this request was denied, I accepted it. The money had been in the bill folder the entire time. (I then pointed at it, and the officer actually noted for his own satisfaction that the bill was well and truly OVERpaid, and all we needed was Eun-Young’s change.) I added that she was trying to do a nice thing, not that I wanted her to or asked her to, and I would very much like to have the argument on my behalf to just stop, already.

Finally Eun-Young capitulated, and then crankily refused to tip the waiter (who had quit, but would be back to pick up his tips and pay later, surely), so I asked the head waiter if our waiter was ever coming back, got a complicated answer that boiled down to “eventually,” and handed over another TWO DOLLARS for his tip, meaning he got tipped about 35% when all was said and done.

I had a serious headache at this point, and was thoroughly sick of my fellow humans, and was delighted to finally get to go home. As we were leaving, our cop and a lady cop were outside on the sidewalk, chatting, and I told them both I was so sorry they had to waste their time with such a petty issue, given that it was never even a remote possibility that the bill was not going to be paid. I added that I was aware that they had far more important things to do than mediate misunderstandings over two freaking dollars.

Eun-Young was completely unabashed about the whole thing, except she felt badly that I’d said I would probably not be going back to her favourite restaurant any time soon. She apologized to me repeatedly, and, to be frank, I was frustrated with her but not particularly angry at that point. In fact, I started to laugh. It was just too ridiculous that an hour of my time was wasted arguing over two dollars worth of ‘shemp’.


Not worth fussing about. Truly.

Also? We successfully determined that the Stinky Tree was responsible for the stench, a fact that explained why we managed to find a parking spot a mere three blocks away for the restaurant. Everyone else was too smart to park beneath the smelly tree. The top of my car still smells a bit like fishy, smoky cheese. Ugh.

I dropped her off at our classroom building, reassured her that we were cool, and still friends, and not to worry about the whole drama-rama, please (LET IT GO!), and finally I was free to go home.

And that was my exciting day! Screw the two dollars. This day sucked.

Of course, I can see the humour in it now.

By the way, ama ebi means “sweet shrimp”, and “sweet shrimp” sushi actually includes the disgusting heads, sitting there looking at you all accusingly, and there is no way I’d order that on purpose, as I like to pretend that shrimp aren’t actually roach-like sea bugs.

Those Darn Jehovah’s Witnesses

Apparently we live near a hive of JWs, because they have started to regularly ignore the large posted signs that say NO SOLICITING at the entrances and exits of our neighborhood and then swarm our homes to irritate us.

I’m too annoyed to type a nice rant, so here’s a not-so-nice one. I also didn’t feel like thinking too lengthily about JW beliefs, so I cut and pasted from Wikipedia. I already know what they believe. They won’t leave me alone about it. I’ve had 20+ years of being stalked and harassed by these knobheads. It’s got to stop. I’ve read their tracts (but then again, I read instructions on shampoo bottles and nutritional labels on cereal boxes just to read ANYthing). Of course I read it. It had words on it and I hadn’t read it 40 times before. I’m a read-a-holic. I have not learned anything new after 20+ years of being irritated by these puds.

See, they think everyone but them is going to Hell. I got that point pretty quickly. If they went off and were smug about it on their own time on their own turf rather than making a point to seek me out at my own house and rub my nose in it every damn weekend, I’d be more sanguine about it. I’m sick of picking up water-logged lumps of cheap paper tracts out of my bushes, off my lawn, and off my driveway. It’s bad enough that The Pennysaver won’t go away and insists on leaving me more trash to throw away every week. I don’t live in a mobile home, so I’m not in the market for Franklin Mint plates, Precious Moments figurines, a new used motor home, a crappy bass boat, a 1970 Firebird (Frank Burham is welcome to his), splay-hipped genetic disasters of mixed-breed hound dogs or overpriced non-collectible boxes of used modern-era Barbie dolls that the owner thinks are genuinely worth more than a free haul to the dump.

The JW tracts are worse than Pennysavers because they don’t courteously pre-wrap them in a plastic sleeve, perfect for toting directly to the garbage can. Then there’s the judgmental smugness. Nothing makes your day like random strangers trying to convince you that only they can save you from fire and brimstone.

I’m getting increasingly irritated by the insensitive and bullheaded obstinacy of these people. First of all, they decide that “NO SOLICITING” signs can’t possibly refer to them. In truth, they are the ONLY reason we folks in the neighborhood posted the signs. We are now missing out on Girl Scout cookies and small kids selling greeting cards and band candy all because these religion-addled opportunists assume that their message about The Jesus is so overwhelmingly important that it’s not REALLY soliciting to wake people up early in the morning, or interrupt them during dinner, or to get the entire dog population of the neighborhood up in arms and barking because the JWs are tromping all over everyone’s front yards, or to resist polite attempts to shoo them off if they corner while you are outside on your porch attempting to relax with friends.

Nothing breaks up a nice cocktail hour gabfest like two fresh-scrubbed JWs demanding that we listen to their spiel, giving us the stink-eye for drinking alcohol (I got the stink-eye over my glass of soda pop a couple of times, which irked me even more and made me want to run home while they were still hanging about just to break out the vodka in front of them even though I’m not a huge drinker at the best of times), insisting that we take their stupid, poorly-written propaganda pamphlets even if we protest we already have a huge collection and these will just end up in the garbage unread, and attempting to engage in intellectual debate with folks who are 10 or 20 or more years older and, as it always transpires, far better-versed in knowledge about various religions and spiritual issues. Not to mention the life experience that far outweighs any that a JW brought up so sheltered as to be unquestioning about the need to harass people about their ghost and pumpkin Hallowe’en or reindeer and Santa Christmas decorations around the holidays.

So fucking rude. And presumptuous.

Next time I’m going to tell them that we’re celebrating a birthday (a big JW no-no!) and that unless they wish to explain to their elders about it, they need to scoot before we sing and break out the cake and presents and consider them invited guests.

Party cooties! Going straight to hell!

Kill ’em with kindness! And high-cholesterol baked goods!

Then again, I don’t just have cakes laying around the house. Maybe I should do, but I haven’t done, thus far. Cake is good, I should consider it. Go on an all-cake, all-the-time diet. Mmmm, cake.

But I digress.

It is rude to inflict your agenda on strangers. It is rude to assume they are heathens that require your guiding hand to save them from Hell. It is also rude to assume that they need help picking out a religion or spiritual philosophical belief without some crew-cutted dweeb in a necktie leading them to Glory (Hallelujah). I daresay that there are very, very few teenagers capable of teaching me much about life. I remember that I was not an arrogant, know-it-all teenager, and I was fairly humble and all, but deep down inside, as much as I knew from books and lectures and life itself, and as high as my IQ was tested to be, I still knew NOTHING about life. I cringe at the idea of me at that age deciding to go out and minister to total strangers. I wouldn’t have, because I’d never have the gall to be so rude as to assume everyone else was in need of my brilliant religious guidance, or feel motivated to go door-to-door with tracts.

You know, it’s not the door-to-door thing; I sold Girl Scout cookies door-to-door. It isn’t a lack of gumption. One year I supposedly outsold every other child in my age group in the entire state. I don’t recall the details, just three rooms of our house stuffed to the ceiling with cartons of cookies and the unpleasant task that cookie delivery ended up being. (I was politely discouraged from selling so many the next year.)

But, hey, I obeyed No Soliciting signs, AND it helped that people actually WANT Girl Scout cookies. 🙂

Here’s a little bit about JWs:

“The Bible is considered by Jehovah’s Witnesses to be the inspired word of God. The New World Translation, produced by the group in 1950, is regarded by the group to be the most accurate translation of the Bible to date. They believe that the use of God’s name (rendered Jehovah in English) is vital for acceptable worship. They also believe that Jesus’ death was necessary to atone for the sins of humanity, opening the way for everlasting life. They believe that the wicked will be destroyed at Armageddon, and those who survive will form a new society and live in an earthly paradise forever. Jehovah’s Witnesses differ from mainstream Christianity in rejecting doctrines such as the Trinity, eternal torment in hell, and the immortality of the soul.

Jehovah’s Witnesses refuse to become involved in social, religious, or political conflicts.” 

They don’t vote, or protest social injustice, or take sides during wartime conflicts. I don’t get the impression that this is done with a Quaker-like non-violent conscientious objection. Did they protest when Jews, gypsies, gays and others were slaughtered by the millions during The Holocaust? Did they take a stand when blacks were struggling for their Civil Rights?

Oh, gosh, no. It’s far more important to annoy people who have a sheet-with-eyeholes  “I got a rock” Charlie Brown-style ghost hanging from a shrub or a cardboard witch cartoon hung on their front porch.

“They are well known for their refusal of blood transfusions. This has garnered criticism from medical and legal sources. Their search for bloodless treatment options has added incentive for the development of many bloodless surgery techniques and the codification of patient rights.”

The ends justify the means, apparently. Their bizarre taboo against using someone else’s blood (why? because it could belong to someone of another gender, race, religion or sexual preference than the recipient?) at least benefits scientific progress in a round-about way. This may sound cruel, but if the person refusing the blood treatment is legally an adult, respect their wishes. I mean, honestly. If we get pissed off that they insist on pushing their beliefs on others, who are we to press our technological and scientific beliefs on them? Let them attempt to survive without it. I mean, really! Aren’t there other people who need it and have fewer qualms about HAVING it?

“Members who are judged to be unrepentant sinners, for such actions as committing adultery, stealing or continued drunkenness, are excommunicated (“disfellowshipped”). The Witnesses view the procedure as a Biblical practice of keeping a congregation in clean moral standing before God. Members subsequently discontinue their association with disfellowshipped ones (except when it comes to business or unavoidable family matters) until they are deemed repentant and seek re-admittance. Critics have labeled this practice as cruel and arbitrary.”

Nice to see that the JWs are into doing God’s work, judging their fellow humans about things such as these, including certain things that rely on opinion. What constitutes “continued drunkenness”? Enjoying more than one beer at a picnic every year or so? Passing out in puddles of your own barf every day? I got glared at for drinking a soda in the company of people who were having a glass of red wine on their own porch on their own property at a reasonable hour of the evening. Prats.

This “clean moral standing” bunk is particularly amusing, given the stereotypes and cliches out there about religious leaders who abuse their wifes and children, who commit adultery, get caught murdering people, who steal money from parishioners, who are closet drunks or self-hating homosexuals, and so on. To become a clichè, it has to have been repeated more than a few times.

To be fair, it’s not usually the JWs who get caught. Probably because it’s a lot easier to get shunned for being a normal human with faults than it is to rise in power and achieve the inevitable judgmental moral “superiority complex” smugness within the ranks.

“Within each local congregation, elders assigned by the branch organize the congregation’s public ministry, and schedule various speakers for congregational teaching. They also decide on qualified members of the congregation for the positions of elder or ministerial servant, requiring the approval of higher leadership.”

Qualified = able to carry a few pounds worth of Watchtowers in a basket on a bicycle, and to pedal the bicycle while wearing dress shoes.

“Elders are prominent in congregational matters, particularly in religious instruction and spiritual counseling; ministerial servants generally assist elders in a limited administrative capacity. Elders are unpaid, but Circuit and District overseers receive a small financial living allowance. All baptized Witnesses are considered to be ordained ministers, and are expected to be able to provide religious instruction to others. Males are encouraged to qualify to become elders. Within local congregations, the role of women is minimal in terms of responsibility, but they carry out a large proportion of the preaching work.”

If you think that being female makes you less qualified to be a religious leader, or if you believe that being flicked with or dunked into water automatically turns callow young males into “ordained ministers” capable of tendering a rational and well-reasoned argument to total strangers about matters as personal and private as religion, then maybe you, too, can be a JW. Or a twenty-something-year-old “elder”. That just bends my brain. Since when were 20-year-olds, at least in modern times, capable of being consistently wise about anything? It’s not a condemnation of youth, it’s just a fact: the wisest teen or 20-something doesn’t have the life experience to draw on that an older person does.

“The entire Biblical canon, excluding the Apocrypha, is considered the inspired word of God. A literal interpretation of the Bible is usually favored, though it is acknowledged that at times biblical writers and characters employed symbolism, parable, figures of speech, and poeticism. The doctrine of sola scriptura is principal, that is, only the Bible should be used for deciding issues of doctrine. The codifying interpretation of scripture is the responsibility of the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses. God is the creator and supreme being, sovereign of the universe. Using God’s name, Jehovah (a derivative of the Tetragrammaton), is a requirement for true worship. Jesus is God’s first creation and he was used by God to create everything else. Jesus is literally the only begotten Son of God, and received his life from God. He is the one who is the means of approach to God in prayer, and is the “Chief Agent of life” and salvation for all worthy mankind. His role as mediator of the “new covenant” is limited to those going to heaven, whose number totals 144,000.”

There are between 6.6 and 7 million JWs out there. Are they going to draw straws to be one of the 144 thousand, or what?

“The vast majority of God’s faithful servants will live on a renewed paradise earth. They believe that Jesus did not die on a cross but on a “torture stake” without a cross-bar.”

Despite recorded accounts to the contrary. Though, sure, there’s a lot of room for inaccuracy when you’re dealing with a subject that has been scrutinized exhaustively for over 2,000 years. (That’s not sarcasm.)

“Mary was not perpetually a virgin, but bore more children after Jesus. The soul is the human body and consciousness, not an immaterial entity that dwells in a physical human. Death is a state of non-existence. Hell (Hades or Sheol) is not a place of fiery torment, but the designated common grave of all mankind.”

There is no mention of Hell in The Old Testament, FWIW. There’s certainly no Dante-esque or Bosch-like Hell described within the Bible, though Revelations is enough to scare the pee out of the devout.

“The period known as the “last days” began in 1914. All religions, including Witnesses themselves, will shortly come under attack by governments leading into Armageddon, banning all forms of religion.”

Thanks to the Religious Right, that isn’t going to happen any time soon.

“After religion is destroyed, governments also face destruction. Any who are not deemed faithful by God will be destroyed. The fate of some, such as small children or the mentally ill, remains indeterminate.” 

A recent film, “Left Behind,” implies that small children will be whisked up to Heaven, but it promotes the Rapture specifically, not necessarily JW beliefs. Christian prophetic themes are explored in a fictional context around the theme of the “Rapture”, an interpretation of the Book of Revelation that is not accepted by some major Christian denominations. Among those Christians who believe there will be a Rapture, there are three main theories on the timing of this event: Pre-Tribulation, Mid-Tribulation, and Post-Tribulation. This book takes the Pre-Tribulation Rapture position. The story is built around such End times themes as the Second Coming, the Antichrist, the Tribulation, and the expected coming Millennium of Messiah.

In 2004, Penn & Teller’s TV show “Bullshit!” devoted an episode to the “end of the world” phenomenon, following centuries of incorrect prophecy. The show explained that Bible prophecy is nothing new, and that the vague descriptions in the book of Revelation can apply to almost any location at any time. The Left Behind series was featured, and Jerry B. Jenkins was interviewed. Jenkins said “in my mind, in a way, we are sales people for the Gospel.” He continued, “people say money is the root of all evil, and actually it’s the love of money that’s the root of all evil. So there is nothing wrong with money if you use it right.” The host, Penn Jillette, responded, “what’s the story on money if you get it by creating an irrational fear in people?”

Word.

“After Armageddon, an unknown number of dead people will be resurrected, with the prospect of living forever on the paradise earth.”

Beam me up to Earth Two!

“Their view of sexual behavior reflects conservative Christian views. Homosexuality and premarital sex are considered sins. Abortion is considered murder. Modesty is heavily encouraged in dress and grooming.”

Which is why they all look like accountants.

“Gambling is strictly forbidden.” 

Though technically they are gambling each time they harrass people by wandering up to strange households and bothering people repeatedly about converting from their own perfectly good religious and spiritual beliefs to convert to THEIR damn religion. Gambling that someone doesn’t get sick of being interrupted during dinner, a bath, while sleeping, while working, while doing any number of things that are far more important than being preached at by pairs of earnest strangers that reek of man-made fibers, Ivory Soap and Clearasil.

“Practices that connote nationalism or false religion are avoided.”

Yup. I get pamphlets around every holiday, or when my neighbors display flags. I’m tempted to display my Union Jack on the Fourth Of July to see if it confuses them doubly.

“Weddings, anniversaries, and funerals are typically observed; however, common celebrations and religious or national holidays such as birthdays, Thanksgiving, and Christmas are regarded as unchristian and are not celebrated.” 

That’s right. CHRISTmas is unCHRISTian. Celebrating birthdays and Giving Thanks (again, who are you supposedly giving thanks to?) are also bad.

Need we add that Easter Bunny is bad? And they left tracts stuffed all around my Hallowe’en decor. I’m tired of picking up JW garbage off my front stoop every week. Worse, it’s all written on the intellectual level of your average Jack Chick comic.

“The family structure is patriarchal. The husband is considered the final authority on family decisions, but is strongly encouraged to actively solicit his wife’s thoughts and feelings.” 

I’m glad they are into feminist theory and aren’t the least bit backward or misogynist or Troglodytic with regard to their cultural and social awareness.

“The preaching work is regarded as a form of humanitarian effort by giving people a hope for the future. Aid work after large natural disasters is considered an important part of their work. Often hundreds of thousands of donated money is used in the affected areas to rebuild communities and provide aid. However, on-going aid work that some other religious groups provide, such as soup kitchens, clothing donations, or building homes for the homeless, is not focused on.”

Nice to know that it takes a major disaster to get them out in force to help clean up and rebuild. I suppose when it affect your own homes or religious halls it’s more important. But apparently the most important work of all is witnessing to the disinterested majority of strangers around them in their communties. Leaving unwanted tracts and booklets all over the city is far more important than feeding and clothing the homeless.

Do I hate Jehovah’s Witnesses? Emphatically not. I just find them rude, pushy, irritating, judgmental and arrogant.

  1. The NO SOLICITING signs apply to everyone.
  2. If you drop off tracts 200 times at a single house and never get a nibble of interest and are, in fact, told to go away and to stop bothering the people in the house, you are pushy. And trespassing.
  3. If it becomes expected that you will litter your garbage all over everyone’s lawn at the first sight of a coloured egg, pumpkin, American flag, black cat, reindeer or cornucopia, you are a killjoy jerk and I pity your kids.
  4. If you repeatedly assume that everyone you don’t know from your narrow JW-only social circle requires education and saving and enlightenment from you, you are judgmental and annoying.
  5. If you automatically assume that strangers are in need of your particular flavour of religious guidance, without which they will go to Hell, you are an arrogant prick.

I’m just saying.

People with evangelical zeal convince themselves that rules don’t apply to them because they deem their message all-important. Spreading the word about God-as-they-know-Him is, in their minds, a Good Thing. They’re just looking out for all their heathen brethren (and sistren).

I’m generally polite to them if I don’t just ignore the banging and ringing at my front door instead. I can say that I never get the same pair twice after I shoo them, but their communication skills are poor down at Jehovah Central Command because they send more out month after month.

Clearly I’m a short bike ride away from The Hive Mind.

I’ve worked with Mormons; I generally like them and have no issues with them. They haven’t been the polygamous Mormon types (as far as I know), but they all were anti-stimulants (which means no caffeine, which means no chocolate, no soda pop, and no teeeeeeeeeaaa! I’d die without my tea).

Mormons (in my town at least) and Quakers tend to actually practice what they preach and lead by example, which is the best way to impress me, personally speaking.

The only sect I am annoyed by more than Southern Baptists and JWs are Scientologists. They don’t take criticism well. I’ve been online for over a decade and could tell stories about rogue Scientologists engaging in denial-of-service attacks and personal harassment when anyone dares to comment on the loonier aspects of their beliefs. A case of “if they won’t join you, beat them.”

Then there’s the Religion-Of-One crazies I encountered in Las Vegas and Los Angeles who left photocopied and mostly illiterate screeds on my doors, the best one of which explained that Hell was your stomach after you engaged in fellatio, swallowed, and your stomach acids killed all the sperm. Every sperm is sacred, y’know. I suppose Heaven is a partner that spits. I frequently wish I’d saved them. They had cool hand-drawn art and everything. I’m not sure who these people worshiped: dread God Pornulus, probably.

I also got some “God is an ET” flyers, but gave up trying to decipher them. Picture little green men with halos and wings, though. And reptile-like ETs with horns and forked tails and tongues…sort of a Jack Chick Devil character, but it was from outer space.

Of course, here in Georgia, we have dirt-eaters and snake-handlers nearby. I’ve never known any personally, but I think Darwin’s rules, specifically those concerning adaptation and survival of the fittest, tend to keep their populations on the small side. They probably can’t recruit too many folks from outside their community.

Now that it’s getting chillier, the JW neighborhood-wide infestations will slow to a trickle. Instead of 2-3 forays a month, I’ll get maybe one or two every other month.

Last time I mentioned my annoyance with JWs, an online friend posted this:

This website summarizes 300 United States court cases and lawsuits affecting children of Jehovah’s Witnesses, including dozens of cases where the Parents refused to consent to life-saving blood transfusions:

DIVORCE, BLOOD TRANSFUSIONS, AND OTHER LEGAL ISSUES AFFECTING CHILDREN OF JEHOVAH’S WITNESSES:
http://jwdivorces.bravehost.com/

This website summarizes 160 United States court cases and lawsuits filed by Jehovah’s Witnesses against Employers:

EMPLOYMENT ISSUES UNIQUE TO JEHOVAH’S WITNESS EMPLOYEES:
http://jwemployees.bravehost.com

Yikes.

No comment.

Tales From Grad School: The ‘Double Dunkers’

In 2006, I was in the process of earning my Master’s and ended up bonding more with the professors, who were closer to my age, than the other students, many of which were undergrads.

My prof and I were discussing an Amish school shooting (the shooter was not Amish) and that led to discussions about the difference between Mennonites and Amish (as far as I can figure, the Amish are slightly more strict than the Mennonites, but outsiders would easily confuse the two sects) and the similarities. They are both Anabaptist sects. That led to this conversation:

Prof: What’s that? Anti-Baptist?
Me: No, ANAbaptist. And I am not positive, so I must invoke the power of the Internet…hold, please. *wikipedia search*
Prof: ‘kay.
Me: Ah, I get it. They are double dunkers.
Prof: *laughs* What?
Me: You get dunked once as an infant, and re-dunked as an adult. Apparently the original dunking comes with a limited warranty.
Prof: “Double dunkers.” Holy crap.
Me: Well, sort of, yeah.

Then we both had a good LOL over that. It was nice being a grad student.

I’m back in school working towards getting an AS Paralegal (you may have noticed the paralegal-related stuff I post on Mondays), and it is mostly online and my classmates are mostly very, very young or very, very old. It’s weird.

My grad school prof  that I had that chat with had a class of undergrads after my class and if I was hovering about doing work on a project, the children would say the most entertaining things. Apparently I missed some real doozies on Tuesday. The prof started discussing current events and polling the class about films that they thought were culturally significant and important and so forth. I tuned out when I overheard half the class ask what “Citizen Kane” was. Even if you haven’t SEEN it, it’s culturally illiterate not to even have heard of it. AT AN ART SCHOOL.

Then again, this art school has a football team and tons of conservative Christian Republican activists. Yay, Georgia. It’s a way to rebel and be non-conformist at an art school, I suppose, where the default settings / stereotypes are liberal, culturally-cognizant youths who are far more interested in the fine arts than in chasing the pigskin around. A few quarters back, there was a big kerfluffle over whether or not the art school should have fraternities and sororities. NO! Go to a party school if that’s what you want. For chrissakes. They don’t make art students like they used to, people.

Also, most of my professors were in a semi-permanent state of despair because hardly any of the children knew how to speak or write using proper English, and few of them read. Anything. Ever. Even if it was an assigned article. On the plus side, most of these kids did get weeded out after tackling the core courses they had to take as undergrads…those who were stubborn about remaining illiterate and those who decided that going to art school would be the equivalent of getting a degree in Advanced Basket Weaving (even the Fiber Arts program requires its students to be able to communicate clearly) were quickly disabused of that fantasy.

Twenty years ago, the school was desperate for applicants and it let pretty much anyone in who could stomp their hooves on the floor to do basic maths, but now only 20% of all applicants are accepted, and far fewer manage to make it through the various hoops and obstacles involved. Ha, joke’s on you, this particular art school is actually FREAKING DIFFICULT. Who knew?

In the meantime, my professor and I would sit and chat, and that particular day the newbies hadn’t had their first midterm yet, and they were actually all being rather gleefully ignorant and lazy, and acting as if The Olds in the corner were stone deaf and unable to hear them…and I am guessing that my professor probably took a lot of Tylenol every day.

We’re still friends on Facebook and LinkedIn. I am not friends with any of the children.

The Happy Fun Joyousness Of Menial Labour For Pay!

There are some jobs every teen should have before being unleashed upon the world as an adult. I’ve been of the opinion for years that parents should make their kids have three kinds of jobs while they are still in school, and they shouldn’t work for their family members.
They need to:

1. Babysit

Caring for children smaller than yourself teaches patience and compassion. If parents don’t think that their kids are capable of babysitting alone, they should be close by, but the kid has to take responsibility for entertaining, bathing / changing diapers for, teaching basic information to (alphabet, rhymes, numbers, colors, etc.), feeding and comforting a small child. A good controlled environment is a nursery school at a church or synagogue or secular school with pre-K that allows volunteer students to help out.

Character-building experiences:

  • You will probably have something vile horked onto you or be responsible for cleaning up some disgusting mess at least once each time you babysit.
  • You will most likely not be able to enforce rules or discipline the children in any way (especially corporally!), whether or not they would benefit by it.
  • You will have to read the same eight children’s books over and over and over again.
  • You will want to kill Barney, Blue the Clue dog, the Wiggles, Elmo, Dora the Explorah and Diego, the Disney Princesses, the Veggietales, Mr Rogers and every other goddamned Muppet on Sesame Street. (Amazingly, I don’t hate every Muppet in the universe, but you’d probably understand if I did!)
  • You will know far more about Pokèmon than any adult ever should.
  • You will experience the joy of getting dried baked beans out of a shrieking child’s hair.
  • You will marvel at the poo that somehow wound up on the ceiling.
  • Vegetables that the children are supposed to be eating will end up everywhere but inside the child’s stomach. PROTIP: Look in the hutch and sideboard drawers after every meal.
  • The remote will always be lost, and finding it is vital, as otherwise the child(ren) will not stop crying.
  • You will watch way too many Disney videos. WAY. TOO. MANY. You will become enraged by the sexist messages being drilled into small impressionable children’s minds.
  • Some toy will break and be unfixable or require batteries you have no idea how to find. This will ruin someone’s entire day. (Hint: It’s you.)
  • There will be fights over personal space invasion (“s/he’s touching me, s/he’s staring at me, s/he’s looking at me, s/he’s making a face at me, s/he’s on my side of the sofa, s/he’s in my room, s/he’s not sharing, s/he’s not supposed to play with my (whatever thing it is), s/he’s farting”, “I’m telling”, et cetera ad nauseum).
  • An infant that does not wish to wear a certain item of clothing will go boneless, writhe around, wail, and grow nine or ten more appendages, none of which will go through the sleeve or pant leg they should go through.
  • You will have to referee or resolve fights over bed time, brushing teeth, brushing hair, wearing nightclothes, dinner time, TV time, and more.
  • You run the risk of being sued or arrested if the child hints to his or her parents that you were overly rough or overly affectionate with them, so you have to constantly monitor your every movement every waking moment.
  • You have to be a good example, so no smoking, no cursing, no drinking, no adult TV, no adult music, no guests, no adult phone conversations, and no Internet surfing.
  • Children will find their parents’ drug stashes, alcoholic beverages, medications, lighters or matches, pornographic material and so on, and you run the risk of being blamed for it if you can’t get the little devils to tell you where they found it (or put out the fire in time).
  • If there’s a pet, you will have to make sure the pet isn’t tormented by the children, and that it doesn’t get out or on the furniture, and that the children don’t eat its food instead of theirs. You also have to try to befriend the pet lest you get bitten or barked at or clawed. You will probably have to feed, walk, and clean up messes for the pet as well as the child(ren), and you won’t get paid extra to do it.
  • You’ll have to have a lot of extra energy to keep up with children who are playing on a playground, roller skating, biking or just running around in circles shrieking. Someone may get hurt, so you have to know CPR and first aid and the numbers for the police, doctors, the fire department, and a nearby responsible back-up adult or two. Considering that bros and bro hos breed like rabbits, being solely responsible for someone else’s baby/babies or small child(ren) MIGHT encourage them to use birth control regularly and responsibly.
  • You typically get no health benefits and there’s no chance for career advancement.
  • You also run the risk of deciding to have your tubes tied.

2. Work in Retail

Dealing with the public while they attempt to haggle over, steal, damage, hide, relocate, stain, or otherwise mistreat merchandise you are responsible for is a useful growth experience. In addition, they may get a merchandise discount, and will have to learn to manage money responsibly in the face of tempting short-term-gratification outlets like new electronics or fashions. Even with registers, clerks tend to have to learn basic arthmetic to answer customer questions about taxes, discounts and rebates. In most stores, a basic level of courtesy and efficiency is demanded of employees, so you can’t be a rude, surly brat.

Character-building experiences:

  • Your feet and back will usually hurt after a long shift.
  • You will typically despise most of the items you are asked to be enthusiastic about selling.
  • You will grow to hate folding, hanging things up, and the wrinkle-steamer.
  • You may never willingly do any of these three things for the rest of your life, actually, because they become such a pain in the ass when you have to do them for 7 hours a day.
  • You will probably be given, begrudgingly, a half hour to procure and eat lunch or dinner.
  • You will have to push credit cards on customers who don’t want them or shouldn’t have them, as the state of debt in this country is already ridiculously high.
  • You will be forced to maintain a certain dollar amount in sales, meaning that your coworkers will do their best to steal your customers, ring up your sales under their employee ID numbers, or neglect other required tasks in order to meet their quotas, meaning that you will have to do the shit work they won’t do.
  • You’ll have customers bringing in stuff from other stores for returns and demanding cash back.
  • You’ll have customers bringing in stuff they have worn or damaged for refunds.
  • You’ll have customers bringing in stolen items for refunds.
  • You’ll have customers letting their children use the store racks as a kindergym.
  • Customers will leave tags, food trash, dirty diapers, and worse in the fitting rooms.
  • Customers may have sex in the fitting rooms. Yes, really.
  • Customers may use the fitting rooms as bathrooms. Yes, really.
  • Customers will monopolize you for two hours by having you run all over the store fetching them stuff in different colors and sizes and styles and then end up buying nothing, because they are just bored and using shopping as a hobby.
  • Customers will ruin clothing with sweat, urine, perfume, makeup, dirt and food stains.
  • Customers will pop zippers and buttons and straps.
  • Customers will leave clothes on the floor of the dressing rooms after tromping all over them.
  • Customers will ask for items you do not, will not, and never have sold.
  • Customers will stash accessories in pant pockets, purse linings, socks, haits, umbrellas, shoes, and you wouldn’t BELIEVE what else.
  • Customers will ignore the health code laws and try on pierced earrings, bathing suits, underwear, hats and hosiery.
  • Customers will have horrendous body odor.
  • Your bosses may be younger than you, but if they aren’t, they are unlikely to be much smarter than you are or over 30.
  • You won’t get paid much, and the work can be extremely stressful and extremely boring in turns.
    This also teaches patience, and that the world does not conform to your preferences.
  • You typically get no health benefits and there’s little chance for career advancement.

 

3. Work in a Restaurant

Preferably as a waitperson, but bussing and dishwashing have their own challenges, too. Food delivery doesn’t count. Fast food restaurants do not count. Working in your colleges’ cafeteria doesn’t count. We’re talking about a real restaurant with a wide variety of customers coming in every day. You’ll have to earn your tips, and sometimes work your ass off for little reward.

Character-building experiences:

  • You’ll earn a staggeringly pathetic $2.01 an hour (plus tips) in most places AND have to declare taxes up to the current minimum wage, which means that you will sometimes be working for free…or, after taxes, actually PAYING for the privilege of working. Yay!
  • You will reek of food odors every day.
  • You’ll ache and hurt every day.
  • People will be rude to you every day. It will suck.
  • Normally you will earn less than nothing, but some days you’ll earn a living wage, and having cash in pocket also requires learning money management in order to save enough to pay bills and rent and for groceries.
  • Many restaurant workers keep terrible hours (most everything is closed when you are off duty) and many drink excessively and do drugs to kill the innate despair of their job, and that’s another temptation you need to avoid.
  • Restaurant work also appeals to people who can not do any other kind of job, so expect most of your coworkers to be practically illiterate, ill-informed, un(der)educated and possessed of bad taste.
  • Your bosses will typically have no idea what your job is like, as they have never actually waited on the public before, so expect little useful guidance or support if a problem customer turns up.
  • There will be rules that make no sense and work counter to the stated goal of providing customer service. For example, cheap-ass-bastards tend to require customers to pay for soft drink refills (notably, even most fast food chains will give you a refill if you eat in their dining area, and fast food chains are notoriously cheap), despite the fact that, even factoring in the cost of the soda, the equipment costs and maintenance, and the hourly fee to pay someone to wash a rack of glasses, it costs the restaurant pennies to give someone a refill.
  • Angry customers who resent paying for refills–not your choice, mind you!–will not tip you.
  • Cooks are usually surly bastards who like to maintain an adversarial relationship with the waitstaff, even though they earn 4-5 times more an hour (even after you factor in tips) and work fewer hours.
  • Half of the waitstaff typically does 85 percent of the work while the other half skives off early, is lazy, does it in a half-assed fashion (so that someone else has to finish or redo it), or skips out of sidework.
  • You will probably not be fed often (if at all), or, if you are, you will get something far less exciting than even the cheapest item on the menu or you will probably have to pay for all or half of what you eat. This means that your meals will typically consist of stuff you can filch between tables, like crackers, dinner mints, tea and soft drinks.
  • Customers will not want to sit where you put them, and you’ll have to shuffle them all over the dining room, which messes up the hostess’ system and means that someone gets overloaded or waits on fewer people (which means less money potentially earned).
  • Customers will rarely want the food served “as is”, so you will have to make endless adjustments and variations and service alterations for Sallies (as in “When Harry Met Sally”, with Meg Ryan portraying Sally as the typical high-maintenance nightmare who can’t just order food as it comes).
  • Children will play with or gum their food and leave crumbs and mush in a five-foot radius.
  • Customers will use condiments as art supplies.
  • Customers will refuse to help you out by getting all their requests in at the same time, meaning you will inevitably run back and forth across the restaurant three times more often than you otherwise would have to.
  • Customers will often touch you inappropriately, or ask you for a date, as if buying a $15 meal means that you are included in the deal. Fail to respond with a minimum of feigned delight and you will most likely not get a tip.
  • Customers will poke around ordering and then be in a huge hurry for their food, as if it is your fault they took 25 minutes to decide what they wanted to eat.
  • You’ll have regulars, and you’ll want to do something nice for them to encourage them to keep returning, but it is likely that the rules your cheap bosses have set will make it impossible for you to give them anything as a fillip or reward for faithful patronage.
  • You typically get no health benefits and there’s little to no chance for career advancement, unless you consider it an advancement to become head server, a position with increased responsibility, longer hours, and the same pay rate.

If every teen and young adult had to do these three things, rather than have their parents hand then an allowance, there’s be less bullcrap from people when they dealt with those in the service industries.

Or so I believe.

Adversity also builds character, and in our “Everyone’s An Entitlement Bitch” society, a little more built-up character couldn’t hurt.

People might learn some patience.

They might value hard work and achievement more than material trappings that, if bought, will result in horrendous debt and associated msieries.

People might not act like non-housetrained, loud, rabid, smelly wolverines in public. It’s possible. Really.

And the concept of working for things is never a bad value to instill in your kids. If you hand them everything on a plate, how do they learn self-reliance and responsibility? The first time they mess up as adults, will they say “I messed up” and work to fix their error(s), or will they say “It’s not my fault, I’m special, I have an excuse, I am a victim, you must give me a break” and call an adult to bail them out of their mess and, additionally, learn nothing from the experience?

Just wondering aloud.

What were the most character-building (or, conversely, just describe the worst overall) jobs you had as a young person?

Meeting The Neighbors

I met some new neighbors and the couple visiting them and witnessed something akin to spousal abuse. Woo.

The neighbors across the street are high-functioning alcoholics. They maintain good jobs, they are responsible, they are kind, and they do not have any physical ailments related to the daily boozing. That said, they drink. A lot. In this regard they do not differ much from the majority of people I hung out with when I was in Atlanta. I’m acclimated to high-functioning drinkers, and to those that are not quite as adept at maintaining a boozahol / everything else in life kind of balance. After literally picking friends and acquaintances up on sidewalks, and holding hair for vomiters, and hearing tales of hangover woe, and fending off bleary advances from sticky, wobbly, wandering hands, and witnessing drunken fuckwittery and alcoholic shoutiness (“I hate everyone and everyone hates me, blarrrrrr!”), and saving furniture from un-extinguished smoking materials in passed-out paws, and much more, I’m at peace with my drinkin’ neighbors.

The new neighbors are also drinkin’ neighbors. At least the two women I met are drinkin’ fools. One lives next door, the other was visiting with her husband. I was hanging out with the across-the-way neighbors and the gals came to visit and stayed. Their husbands decided to take a dim view of this, as they were apparently unable to entertain themselves and unwilling to join the impromptu party. Fuckwittery ensued.

The men wandered over with a hyperactive terrier and attempted to lure the ladies back to their house. They were unwilling to leave. The men retreated, and, I am guessing, became obsessed with the idea that their women were not snapping to it and getting their heinies home immediately. They flicked the porch light on and off, stood on their porch and shouted across the street for the women to come back inside, and so on. The ladies declined to do so.

The visiting wife proceeded to vent a lot of personal angst. Her husband is a youth minister, and he doesn’t approve of her having a cigarette, and he doesn’t approve of her having a beer, and so on and so forth. Screw that, we said. Screw that, she concurred.

The next door neighbor lady eventually gave up when her husband embarrassed her by coming back over and demanding that she go to bed right away. The visiting wife held out and continued to chat and vent and smoke and drink and, all in all, enjoy herself. Note that it was only about 10PM and it was a Friday night and she was at least 25 years old.

At about 10:15, the door across the street slammed open, slammed shut, and the visiting minister husband stomped his way over and shouted at her to get her ass inside right that second. And she fucking DID. She went. We thought he was going to hit her.

As much as the across-the-way neighbor lady and I dislike discussing other people (our own issues are much more interesting, I guess), we were unable to hold back, and proceeded to huff back and forth to ourselves about this shittiness. We could actually hear yelling from inside the house across the street until well after midnight. Note that the visiting husband said something about how it was discourteous for them to keep their host and hostess up late–this was supposedly the reason he was so irate and demanding her obedience. Does not compute.

We were further charmed when the visiting husband stomped BACK over to claim his wife’s shoes, which she had not been wearing, and which were not with us. We were concerned that we were going to be physically assaulted, frankly.

Meanwhile, I haven’t been drinking at all, and I’m not finding any of this crap cute or funny, and have been responding with exaggerated politeness and calmness to everything the angry man says. Nice angry doggy! (Where’s my stick?) The goal was to give him a subtle hint, by way of contrast between his rude belligerence and our calm reasonableness, that there was no need to be a raging arsehole. This did not work, but he did go away.

It’s been two weeks now and the nice next door neighbor lady has not been seen (at least by me) since. I guess she’s been embarassed or scared away from making friends in the neighborhood or something.

Would you call this spousal abuse? Was it some kind of fundie Man Rules The Roost mindset? Was it an insecure 20-something young husband who can’t admit that he doesn’t like going to bed alone any more? Were the men also drunk, and thus far more idiotic than was necessary or normal for them? I don’t know. But it was unpleasant.

I had a male roommate in North Carolina who tried that “I’m the man, you’ll do as I say!” stuff on me exactly once. I’m not a ball-breaking feminist (I doubt these mythical beings actually exist, actually), but I’m an adult, for fuck’s sake, and I’ll be damned if anyone, regardless of gender, tells me what I am or am not going to do if they are not in a position of authority such as judge, police officer, professor, or what-have-you. And even then, they need to follow the rules that go along with their position of authority. Know what I mean? This roommate and I were not even dating, not that this would have excused it. We shared RENT. At the time, I was carrying HIS ass from month to month, and being understanding about it. Shit happens. Everyone is going to have a time in their life when they may need an understanding roommate. This, however, was not acceptable.

I also got the message, loud and clear, especially as he raised his voice about his demands on me, that an abusive association was likely to result. I put a lock on my door, stayed out of the house as often as possible, saved my pennies, and bailed. It’s a much longer and messier story than that, but that’s the gist of it. He did contact me via a letter scrawled on the back of some receipts and restaurant guest checks and sent to my mother’s address a few months later, begging pardon for his assiness, and blaming it on any number of things (without taking full responsibility or claiming it wouldn’t happen again, notably), but I declined to respond. Duh.

Incidentally, I live in an older neighborhood and most of the residents are retirement-age or older but new families with kids are starting to move in. Elderly people in large cars and unattended children are a bad combination. There is no speed limit posted, but the neighborhood association has made it clear that 25mph is reasonable for the ‘hood.

We had an Aggravating Bro Family in the neighborhood until recently. (I say Bro and not Redneck because they were apparently slightly more white collar and had more teeth than the average Redneckus Americanus and their vehicles appeared to be mostly Bondo-free, plus none of the children were roaming about clad in JUST a diaper (that I saw)…but it’s often hard to tell the breeds apart.) They owned FIVE large vehicles and about as many children. The FIVE large vehicles could not fit in their yard, and their lot was located at a curve in the road. What do they do? Park two or three of the large vehicles (SUVs, vans, lifted trucks) in the road right at the curve, meaning that they render a two lane road impassable in one direction, so you risk head-on collision going past their house. Then they let their kids ride bikes and run about in the roadway. So far, so bad, right? Well, before they finally moved, to the entire neighborhood’s delight, their favorite hobby was standing in their front yard drinking beer, not supervising the children, and shooting the bird and yelling at passing motorists for going the posted speed limit, complete with obscene commands to “slow the fuck down!” and so on. Even more delightful, occasional missiles like pine cones or sticks were hurled at passing cars to underscore their comments. Yet more fun, the four- and five-year-old children learned to yell at the motorists rather than to stay out of the damn street.

Nothing is more adorable than a snot-faced sprog trying to master the muscle coordination required to shoot you a bird and offering unsolicited commentary on your driving skills when they are in the fucking road at ten at night and their damn parents have parked two or three enormous vehicular behemoths in the fucking roadway. They’d often do this while the parents were RIGHT THERE egging them on (to be obnoxious, not to get their arses out of the road).

They let their dogs run wild and out into the street as well. It is truly a miracle that no children or dogs were pancaked during their all-too-lengthy stay in the neighborhood.

Good riddance. I finally verified (my across-the-street lush-y neighbors know ALL) that the peace and quiet I’d noticed were not my imagination, the Bro Family was gone. Huzzah! There was much rejoicing.

There were other, less earth-shaking events. I became That Neighbor, and I felt bad about it. The yard was neglected (due to wet and miserably hot weather, a freakishly busy schedule, and lack of obsessiveness about lawns in general) until the grass went to seed, which is what those nearly uncuttable tall things with black Vs on top are. Aggressive grass trying to spread grass babies all over the place. There could be a long and boring saga here about the elderly yardman and the apparently Alzheimer’s-afflicted elderly crone neighbors we share him with (or did) and some possible amusing surreal conversations with the dotty neighbors about the yardman’s well-being (or lack thereof–he’s nearly 85) and so on, but you’re better off missing out on that.

So. Yard grew too much, Mom whinged about it and guilted and blackmailed me until I had to get over my admittedly stupid lawnmower phobia (last THREE times I used a mower, I managed to get injured somehow, so I developed a “thing” about mowers as a result…I have nice scars from where projectiles were lobbed at me at high speed by evil mowers and, ten years later, these scars still decorate my lower legs). Spent a miserable five hours attempting to get new evil mower to function and mowing around chuckholes and fire ant nests and sharp, pointy sticks and the electric cord powering the mower and snakes and some flora (one type of which I am apparently extremely allergic to), after which I managed to mow 3/5ths of the yard before saying “never more!” and giving it all up as a bad job. I now have to find someone willing to mow the damned grass. I don’t have the skills.

Eventually I will live in a condo specifically so someone else has to worry about the frickin’ grass cutting and the neighbors whipping out their mental yardsticks and checking the height of the grass fronds to make sure they are robotically precise and even with everyone else’s. I like tall grass. It doesn’t bother me until it becomes possible to lose a shoe or pet or small child in the yard. That’s too tall. Golf course grass is not a high priority in my life. I doubt I’d be sexually attracted to anyone neurotic about mowing, so I can’t count on having a husband or live-in partner who digs yardwork in the future. See? I’m doomed to condo ownership…a condo with yard service.

Irritatingly, I do love gardens. It’s the upkeep that kills me. I’m just not an outdoorsy person. I like to parcel out my outdoors time as a result, which means I want to go sit in a garden and enjoy it, not grub about with a hoe. I want to go for a walk up a mountain, but I can do nicely without going potty under a shrub. I enjoy the genteel allure of a porch swing or a gazebo, but I am less fond of bugs and weeds.

This is akin to the reason why I appreciate vaulted ceilings in theory, but not so much in practice. Who is going to dust the damned things? Or change the bulbs in the fixtures?

I’m just going to have to earn enough money one day to hire a gardener and a housekeeper to come in weekly and bail me out of my unhouseproud messes, or learn to love basic maintenance chores.

To be fair, when I have the tools at hand, I am very good at keeping up with things. A functional washer and dryer and ample closet space = I have a perfectly maintained wardrobe at all times. A working dishwasher = dinner dishes get done right away, not the next morning. If you want to cook, a working stove and oven are required. I’m just saying. If I have sufficient shelf space, no book gets stacked in a teetering pile. I need to pare down my material goods further than I already have, true, but it’s amazing how much easier it is to be houseproud when you have the right tools. My first three apartments were immaculate at all times with anal-retentive vacuum tracks in the carpeting. Then again, my responsibilities were fewer, I had more free time, and I had the necessary tools to make cleaning up on a par with Adrian Monk a feasibility.