While I was in line at the bank on Saturday, I overheard a conversation. That’s not the kind of thing I usually do. Even if it were the kind of thing I’d usually do, I’d have wanted no part at all in this conversation. It was the sort of loud mouthed yammering that makes me wonder if people ever really stop and consider the words that come flying out of their gobs.
In the span of the five minutes that it took me to get from the back of the line to bing second to front, the women directly in front of me subjected me (and everyone, really) to her stream of consciousness thinking on all manner of topics. The best (or worst), were discussions of:
1) How wrong it was that the bank made her take out that “bad mortgage.” As if someone held a gun to her head while she signed.
2) How pissed she was that the guy she had been dating for six weeks wouldn’t sign the paperwork taking himself off of her checking account. Because adding someone you’ve known 30 days to your financial accounts always ends up being a good decision.
3) How happy she was that her new beau was only going to be in jail for six months so at least they’ll be together soon. By this point, I’ve stopped analyzing out of fear that my brain might overload and catch on fire.
It’s safe to say I now know more about this random woman in line at the bank than most of the people who have known me since childhood know about me. It’s an honor I neither sought out nor wanted.
The only common thread I was able to identify through the flow of her verbal diarrhea, was the simple fact that nearly all this individual’s problems could trace direct back to piss poor decision making. Basic life decisions don’t require a 180 point IQ, but they damned well require the application of a bit of common sense. I increasingly fear the supply of this commodity has been exhausted.
If I can offer any advice, it’s just this: Stop making shit decisions. You’ll be amazed how much life doesn’t suck if you just try to get out of your own way now and then.
1. Weather forecasts. I know weather is a complex “system of systems” but damn. If I were as often wrong at prediction and prognosticating results within 24 hours I’d get shitcanned for sure. Yet another example of where I’ve made poor career decisions overall.
2. Restorative days off. I’m a jealous guard of my time off. There is almost nothing I value more highly. I do my best to maximize the value of those days. I hate wasting them… which is why it’s so sad that the restorative effects of time off last no more than two hours into the first day back. It feels like it should take longer than that to slide back into a sea apathy and discontent. The operative word there being “should.”
3. Talk. People talk a lot. They talk and talk. They make promises and speak to high ideals. What almost none of them do, tough, is back that talk up with their actions. Talk is important. It speaks to our aspirations. Behavior, though, that’s what shows people how committed you are to getting there. If you can’t be bothered with the action part of the equation, it’s probably best to just shut the fuck up.
Here’s a pro tip from the average American office – if you’re bored and casting around for something to do, the answer should never be to park yourself in front of a colleague and then as many stories about your childhood, medical experiences, coworkers as you can come up with. Feel free to stop by to say hello, or to ask a question, or to relay some important tidbit of information, but for the love of all that’s holy, don’t look to the people you work with to entertain you when you can’t come up with anything better to do with your time.
It’s not necessarily a matter of interrupting anything important or time sensitive so much as it is that I simply have no desire to be your default method of passing the time. Do what everyone else does: piss away your day on Facebook, or walk down to the lobby and spend a few minutes watching TV, or take you cell phone and go sit in the john for 30 minutes. The important thing is that you not just make the rounds engaging everyone in 15-30 minutes of conversation from which it will prove difficult or impossible for them to escape.
I get it. We’re all bored. There are 746 million things we’d all rather be doing, but adding a person who doesn’t know when to STFU and move on to the mix adds insult to injury and makes one wonder what case could be made for justifiable workplace violence. In the average office, I’d be willing to bet a very large percentage would be willing to testify for the defense if you were to ever accidentally bludgeon your office talker into unconsciousness for the greater good.
Many years ago on the day I got my driver’s license my father sat me down and offered a few last minute words of instruction. It had nothing at all to do with the rules of the road, but instead the unwritten rules that apply when being pulled over by the police. You see, even though I’m white and he was a cop, those rules, however unwritten, applied to us too. Frankly, anything that might help mitigate the potential for being accidentally shot for being a non-compliant douchebag during a traffic stop is welcome information as far as I’m concerned.
The advice I got wasn’t anything earth shattering. Wait quietly with your hands on the steering wheel while the officer approaches the vehicle. Follow his or her instructions precisely and answer questions respectfully. Don’t make any sudden movements and don’t get out of the vehicle unless told to do so. For the most part, what he was telling his teenager was not to get stupid and cocky with the cop whose main concern is making sure he gets to go home to his own family that night. Put another way, it’s always best to remember that the life you save may be your own and try to behave accordingly.
See, as far as I can tell, having “the talk” with your kids about how to interact effectively with the police – or with anyone else for that matter – doesn’t make you a saint or a martyr. It makes you a normal parent looking out for the best interest of your kids. It’s just the responsible thing to do.
1. Paid subscription to online “newspapers”. Um. No. I’m not paying for content that’s free elsewhere. If I were to pay for access, I would expect the content to be advertisement free, but since you’re not going to do that, I’ll keep my cash right where it is. I don’t mind paying for services and I don’t mind targeted advertising, but I’m not generally going to be willing to pay for the privilege. There’s nothing in the Cumberland Times-News, Baltimore Sun, or Washington Post that I really need to read, so instead of paying them for the service, I end up using news aggregator sites, blogs, and alternative media, which further reduces ad revenue for the newspapers, which further harms their business model. It’s some death spiral they’ve tucked themselves into.
2. Small talk. Not surprising for a guy who writes as a hobby/inspirational career, I don’t consider myself much of a talker. Most things I have to say tend to come across better in writing anyway, although that’s not really the point. Maybe it’s a social failing on my part, but I don’t like small talk. I don’t want to engage in it. If I’m not showing the least interest in your monolog about the week you’ve had, please take the hint that I legitimately don’t have any interest in the conversation. That should be your cue to back away slowly and let me get back to doing something that’s nominally productive. I’m happy to talk when something needs to be said, but idle chatter just for the purpose of having something to say isn’t my style. It’s never going to be my style. And if you force it on me repeatedly, I’ll consider you an irredeemable asshat and proceed to ignore you as much as possible, while seething silently inside because it’s considered bad form to punch you in the throat.
3. The New Friday. It’s finally New Friday here, which roughly translated means on this first week of furlough, it’s officially furlough eve. While I usually await time off with great anticipation, I’ve been sitting here ticking off the list of things I wouldn’t mind getting done around here. That’s good. I like having lists and like checking things off of them even more. Then, of course, the practical implication of why I have this abundant free time occurred to me and made most of the checklist a moot point. Since getting productive things done generally seems to cost money, well, let’s just say I’m sitting here looking at the first of what will probably be eleven remarkably unproductive weekends. Maybe it’s time to sit down and start the editorial and design work on the 2013 edition of the What Annoys Jeff this Week eBook. At least that’s more or less free entertainment.
I stumbled into a five sided conversation about baseball this morning and realized very early into it that the best thing I could do was keep my mouth shut, nod at appropriate intervals, and try to escape without being cornered for an actual opinion. I know that sports are what men talk about when they are in a group, but outside of the basic rules, I don’t know a damned thing about them. I don’t know who’s leading the National League or what teams are likely to be in the playoffs.
What’s more, I don’t really care about knowing these things, either. I’ve tried to pay attention, mainly because I like to have something to add to polite conversations, but God, do I find it all so dull. I can talk at length on topics from Ancient Greece, to politics, to pop culture but when it comes to sports, I’m a babe in the wood. It’s not so much that I don’t like sports as much as I just don’t care about them.
Yeah, I just admitted it on the internet. Hopefully they don’t come pull my credentials as a guy.