What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Bathroom stall phone calls. Yes, you’re sitting down and probably bored, but the shitter in the public restroom really isn’t a conference room. And yet at least once a week I walk into the one down the hall from my little section of cube farm and there’s someone holed up in one of the stalls having a full blown conversation. First, it’s the one room in the building where I can mostly go to escape pointless conversation. Secondly, whoever you’ve got on the other end of the line doesn’t need to hear you dropping the kids off at the pool. Lastly, you can save the stink eye, because every time I walk in there and find you on the phone, I’m going to fart, belch, whistle a jaunty tune, and generally be as loud, obnoxious, and passive aggressive as possible… because I dare you to say something to justify yourself in the eyes of gods and men.

2. City slickers. In Paul Krugman’s recent screed in the New York Times, Getting Real About Rural America, his thesis seemed to be that things could get better if only people in rural America started thinking more like people living in urban America. The catch, of course, is that I’ve made the conscious decision to live in rural America precisely because it doesn’t think (or behave) like urban America. I could have just as easily decided to live in Baltimore, Wilmington, or Philadelphia but none of those places support the kind of lifestyle or the quality of life that’s important to me. If the capital “D” Democratic Party ever wants to make serious inroads into the vast swath of country beyond reliably Democratic voting cities and inner suburbs, they’re going to have to come up with a far better argument than “you should just think like us.” The day I declare I want to give up wide open ground, backyard wildlife, towering oaks, no traffic, and idyllic quiet for “everything the city has to offer,” consider this my written permission to begin proceedings to have me psychologically committed. 

3. Recognition. After spending the better part of six months mixed up in delivering a final product that’s “rolling off” the proverbial line next week, there’s nothing more cheering that sitting in a meeting where one of the Gods on Olympus turns to you quizzically and asks, “Ummm, why are you here?” Oh, no particular reason, I saw a meeting forming up and I didn’t have anything else to do this hour so I thought I’d hang. I don’t ever do things for public credit to see my name in lights – in fact I actively avoid those things. Still, though, sometimes it might be nice to know it’s recognized that I’m not just wandering the halls lacking anything better to do. You can just color my morale well boosted today.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. No paper towels. I’m all for environmental responsibility where it makes sense. I recycle. I’m replacing all the light bulbs in my house with LEDs. The new water heater I installed is ridiculously efficient (and has the price tag to match). Some things, though, are beyond the pale. I know that keeping old fashioned paper towels in your public restrooms is a hassle. They’re expensive, they end up all over the floor, and they become bags and bags of trash to be disposed of… even knowing that, I just don’t care. All I want to do after taking a wiz is wash my hands and be able to dry them. The underpowered, barely functional “hot air dryer” just doesn’t cut it since I don’t have 43 minutes to thoroughly dry my hands each time I used the facilities. Public restrooms are an unfortunate necessity. I don’t expect them to be gold plated but for the love of Pete, I’d like to be able to dry my hands.

2. The demand side. Given my predisposition towards fairly conservative economic principles I can safely be called something of a supply sider. Watching the US Coast Guard show off the nearly half billion dollars wort of cocaine and heroin interdicted last month, though, I’m not sure the who “drug thing” is something that we can fight principally from the supply side. As long as there’s a demand, the suppliers are going to find a means and method of supplying that demand – at an increasingly high cost on both sides. I’m not enough of a libertarian to think that flat out legalization of everything is a good idea, but it increasingly strikes me that to get after the issue with drugs means going after it on the demand side. Pouring increasingly large amounts of money into chasing the supply would seem to only garner continuingly middling results. I have no idea what the answer to the demand side is – treatment, sure, that will work in some cases. Start letting the addicts drop dead, or what I like to cheerily think of as letting Darwin have his due? OK, maybe it’s hard medicine but perhaps best in the long run if it means that subset of the population is no longer thieving and whoring and begging, which might help alleviate the impression that every city and small town in the country is well along the process of turning into a filth ridden hell hole.

3. The NFL. Stories are popping up on a number of news sites about the ratings hit the NFL has taken this year. Some sources are blaming the weather, others the rise of “activist” players. As someone who hasn’t watched a professional football game from start to finish since the late 1990s, I don’t really have a dog in the fight, but I can make a few observations. First and foremost, the NFL is a ratings driver. It’s not in danger of going out of business any time soon. With that said, the league would be well served to remember that despite the outward appearance of a nation of fierce team loyalists, the product they offer is entertainment and it’s subject to the same market forces that influence every other competitor out there trying to put their hands on viewer’s wallets. There has probably never been a time when there are more and better entertainment options available to the average American consumer than we have today. The fact that a game run by billionaires, played by millionaires, and marketed to the great swath of Americans who think of themselves as middle class is losing some of its grip on the market shouldn’t in any way be surprising. A good first step in bringing fans back into the fold would seem to be to making sure the paid performers don’t offend their viewers by dragging politics into what would otherwise be a nice mindless Sunday’s entertainment. Don’t put a stick in the eye of the people who you want to hand over enormous sums of money feels like it should be Rule #1.

Comfort and convenience…

So given the stink being raised (pun clearly intended) about who should and shouldn’t be using the variously marked public restrooms, I can’t help but wade in to the mess. See what I did there?

For purposes of this discussion let’s assume for a moment that there’s a clearly designated men’s room and a clearly designated women’s room. Anyone who self-identifies as a man uses the men’s room. Anyone who self-identifies as a woman uses the women’s room. Seems easy enough as long as we don’t get stuck on who has what plumbing.

With that understanding of the situation, my biggest question is what’s to stop me, a 300 pound, goteed, heteronormative male, from deciding I’d just rather use the ladies loo? Maybe it’s closer to my desk. Maybe it’s just because the ladies (maybe) don’t piss all over the seat. The reason behind my decision doesn’t really matter because we’ve established that people get to pick the bathroom where they feel most comfortable regardless of what their personal equipment or what anyone else using those facilities thinks.

Personally, I don’t care who’s popping a squat in the stall next to me, but if we’re all going to be cheerleaders for equal-access restrooms, don’t be surprised if I show up farting and belching in the ladies room at some point just because it’s more convenient. If anyone makes a fuss, I’ll just call myself a big, bald, ugly chick who likes looking awfully butch and wearing polos and khakis. How dare you question my authenticity and can you please point the way to the nearest Equal Employment Opportunity office so I can file a complaint and set myself up for a nice settlement.

I’m sure the issue is full of nuance and subtlety that I’m somehow missing, but what it seems to boil down to for me is a question of how far does my right to make the vast majority of those around me uncomfortable stretch in my relentless pursuit of pooping where I want to poop?

Potty talk…

Depending on where you work, there are many things that must be handled in a “right now” time-sensitive manner. Without question, sometimes minutes or seconds count. In fairness, though, 99.997% of the time, what we’re doing doesn’t fall into that category. We’re not defusing bombs and we’re not performing heart surgery. We’re writing reports and creating PowerPoint presentations.

Occasionally, because of pressure being exerted from echelons above reality or our own inflated sense of importance, we’ll mistake our report writing and PowerPoint building for an actual life or death situation. I’m going to go on the record here and say that no matter how important you think the issue is, there’s nothing we’re doing on a day-to-day basis that can’t wait until we step away from the urinal.

Editorial Note: This part of a continuing series of posts previously available on a now defunct website. They are appearing on http://www.jeffreytharp.com for the first time. This post has been time stamped to correspond to its original publication date.

Smellephone…

Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t feel the need to answer the phone every single time it rings. This is especially true when I am in the john at an airport trying to drop a deuce. Fortunately, the guy next door didn’t have the same hang ups about talking shop from the throne. I hope he and “preacher” had a wonderful discussion. It was still going strong when I wrapped things up. Is this now an acceptable practice or am I just missing something here? I can only thank God, that Alexander Graham Bell didn’t invent the smellephone.