Airing of Grievances

FestivusSo here we are again. It is that special time of year to gather with those we hold dear. A time to look back—another year older and hopefully wiser—and take stock. Yes once again, Festivus is upon us and we pause to reflect on the people near us and inform them of all of the ways they have disappointed us in the past year.

That’s right. You read correctly. Let the annual Airing of Grievances commence. I realize that some may think ill of me for keeping track of all of the ways I’ve been wronged in the previous 365 days… but honestly it is thanks to a cool app on my phone that I was able to keep track. Thank you technology!

It is simply called Grievance and it is a thing of beauty for those who enjoy fostering and nurturing a healthy grudge. All year long I can open it and enter said wrong-doings and then, on THIS day, December 23, Grievance lets me see the year in review. So in the spirit of the season, I thought I’d share with you the Top 10 types of grievances I filed in 2013.

  1. Line Holder-Uppers. You know… People in line at the pharmacy, the post office, the retail checkout, Subway, or the grocery store… having scripts or postage or coupon codes explained to them in great detail by the store associate.
  2. The Media. For being SO obsessed with being the FIRST to break a story, that the information being disseminated is purely and entirely false.
  3. People who paint their ring fingers a different color… Because… why?
  4. Stick Figure Families. And the suburbanites who insist upon putting them in the lower left corner of the back window on their ginormous, consumptive SUV’s.
  5. Daylight Savings Time. For screwing with my sleep patterns and making me gruff, tired and totally intellectually annihilated for 2 whole weeks following the change.
  6.  The Starbucks Barista. For screwing up my order. ANY Starbucks Barista for screwing up my order… Ever. Because anything equivalent to caffeinated gold should be flawless. Every. Single. Time.
  7. My Doctor. For insisting upon insisting that I arrive 15 minutes ahead of my scheduled appointment time for supposed “paperwork” even though it’s already been filled out — but who isn’t even there yet himself.
  8. The Aflac Lady. For being a pusher by coming to my office to sell me additional insurance coverage and attempting to put the fear of God into me by casually tossing about words and phrases like “accidental death” and “dismemberment” and “unforeseen illness” or “unexpected tragic events”.
  9. The insurance company. For trying to use my migraines as a “preexisting condition” so as not pay my claims simply because I MENTION that I take medication for migraine when asked by ANY doctor what type of medications I am currently on.
  10. Fashion. For elevating “skinny jeans” to the level of MUST WEAR apparel so much so that boot cut is nearly impossible to find.

Happy Festivus everyone! I hope you’ve had a great one and please feel free to air your own grievances in the comments section to keep this blessed tradition alive!

Seinfeld-ology: “Nods to Nothing”

SeinfeldWhile having lunch with a coworker the other day, our conversation wondered to the topic of a man we work with. For the sake of the story (and to protect the guilty) we’ll call him Bradley. She and I commiserated about the fact that while very friendly and outgoing initially, Bradley’s interactions with each of us had indeed diminished over the course of time.

“Don’t you think that’s strange!?” I said to her in an extremely annoyed and curious tone. “I mean, why in the world would a person just STOP communicating for no apparent reason?”

My dining companion appeared to be equally vexed at the mere consideration of my question. “You know,” I continued “You’re probably too young to have watched or remembered the show, but this whole situation reminds me of an episode of Seinfeld.”

Of course, as many of you know… almost EVERYTHING reminds me of an episode of Seinfeld. Though I’d like to think that rather than this being due to my having some sort of sick, twisted obsession with the “Show About Nothing” — it can be contributed to the fact that the show was pure genius in that it dealt with the mundane, everyday things that happen to all of us.

Tell me friends, has anything like this ever happened to you? Here is Elaine’s scene from the aforementioned episode…

ELAINE: Tell me if you think this is strange: There’s this guy who lives in my building, who I was introduced to a couple of years ago by a friend. He’s a teacher, or something. Anyway, after we met, whenever we’d run into each other on the street, or in the lobby, or whatever, we would stop and we would chat a little. Nothing much. Little pleasantries. He was a nice guy, he’s got a family… then after a while, I noticed there was no more stopping… Just saying hello and continuing on our way.

And then the verbal hellos stopped, and we just went into these little sort of nods of recognition. So, fine. I figure, that’s where this relationship is finally gonna settle: Polite Nodding. Then one day, he doesn’t nod. Like I don’t exist?! He went from nods to nothing.

And now, there’s this intense animosity whenever we pass. I mean, it’s like we really hate each other. And it’s based on nothing.

You see, this was a perfect description of what was happening to my coworker and I! We went from nods to nothing with this guy. And although it remains annoying… there is a bit of comfort to be found in the fact that this MUST be a somewhat common occurrance in social settings.

I only wish that I had the guts to confront “Bradley” the way Elaine eventually does with her problematic rude dude…

ELAINE: So, I had what you might call a little encounter this morning. I spotted the guy getting his mail. And at first, I was just going to walk on by, but then I thought “no, no, no, no. Do not be afraid of this man.

So, I walked up behind him and I tapped him on the shoulder. And I said, “Hi, remember me?” And he furrows his brow as if he’s really trying to figure it out. So I said to him, “You little phony. You know exactly who I am.”

And he goes, “Oh, yeah. You’re Jeanette’s friend. We did meet once.” And I said, “Well, how do you go from that to totally ignoring a person when they walk by?”

And he says, “Look, I just didn’t want to say hello anymore, alright?” And I said, “Fine. Fine! I didn’t want to say hello anymore either, but I just wanted YOU to know that I’M aware of it!”

But alas, I would never actually have the intestinal fortitude to say such a thing. Most of the time art imitates life. But oh how I wish (in this case) it could be the other way around.

It’s Not Me… It’s You

the_jerk_store-208x300In 37 years I still haven’t managed to figure out that some people are simply NOT worth my time or energy. They will never be kind no matter how many cheerful “Good Mornings” or “Hellos” I waste my breath on uttering day after day after day. Being a friendly and outgoing person myself, I offer everyone I meet the benefit of the doubt by being nice to them. Call me crazy — that’s just how I was raised. However, as I age, I am learning (not nearly fast enough) that there IS a limit. Or at least there SHOULD be a limit on the quantity of niceties I offer up to someone who is—for lack of a better, KINDER term—an @$$hole.

As was discussed recently on a CBS news program, @$$holes are growing in number. I’m sure this doesn’t come as a shock to you wherever you are. I’m sure that in the last seven days you have most likely crossed paths with an obnoxious tailgater or cutter-offer in traffic, a jerk who line jumped you at the register when your arms were busy juggling 12 cans of cat food, a value bottle of shampoo and an unusually large loaf of frozen garlic bread, or an office mate or acquaintance who could not return a greeting to save his or her miserable life. If you’re out there in the world, then you’ve most certainly run across one if not ALL of these characters at some point in time.

There will always be jerks in the world. I get that. But the one thing I truly have a problem with is dealing with the @$$hole(s) who KNOW you and yet REFUSE to be civil. When nothing bitter, sour or otherwise distasteful has transpired between the two of you—how can it when you’ve never even spoken?—yet you’re the recipient of endless cold shoulders, dismissive actions and downright rudeness. What do you do with THESE people? Seriously. I’m asking. Inquiring minds want to know. I want to know what others of you do when dealing with this particular individual in your own lives.

I know the whole “It isn’t you, it’s them” routine is the standard issue response to this question, generally. So please don’t give me that one (plus I already used it in the title). Because I can repeat that to myself until I’m blue in the face, pumping up my morale momentarily and feeling all I’m OK, You’re OK about the whole thing… that is until the very next time one of us veers into the other’s world. And I am dumbfounded once again at their blatant disregard for the other human being in their midst. “HELLO!?! ARE YOU BLIND!?! WERE YOU RAISED BY WOLVES!?!” I end up screaming inside my brain before rolling my eyes and muttering obscenities under my breath as I stomp off in the opposite direction.

I am not asking to be best friends. I don’t want to know what you’re buying your kids for Christmas or what color ornaments you hung on the tree this year. I don’t even want to know whether or not you’re having a good day. All I’d like is the simple acknowledgment that you and I are indeed occupying the same space on this spinning blue marble called earth at this very same moment in time. A nod, a smile, a simple return of my greeting… Is that too much to ask? Hell. I’d even settle for a grunt of recognition. At least then I’d know you had a soul.

NYC: The City You Forgot You Knew

I’m a bit of a pop culture groupie. And New York City—with it’s starring role in so many movies and TV shows—is a popular culture lover’s dream. Forever a fan of both the small and large screen, I’ve been able to enjoy countless portrayals of life as I will never know it thanks to the magic of television and cinema throughout the years. 

I had not been to New York prior to this visit and yet I was amazed at how familiar it was to me once I arrived. Rounding every corner provided the strongest sense of deja vu I’ve ever experienced. And taking in many of the sights was like looking into the face of a dear, old friend. Whether you’ve been to the city or not, take a look at some of these famous places. Perhaps you will find them to be as familiar as I did…

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Scratches on the Hardwood … And a Good Ol’ Dose of Reality

Who would have thought something as simple as scratched hardwood floors would trigger a full-scale meltdown? And yet… it did.

I have shared in past entries that I have occasional panic attacks and am somewhat of a high-strung, high-anxiety being. I am a bit of a delicate, contradictory creature in that I often fully embrace life, grabbing onto adventure firmly with both hands… And yet, I am also plagued by excessive worry and bouts with anxiety.

For weeks leading up to my move, Lee had been telling me that I seemed so “calm” for someone who had recently quit her job (without having secured a new one) and was moving all of her worldy possessions into a new home. And you know what? I kind of agreed with his level of perplexedness on this one because “calm” is NOT a word that anyone would really ever use to describe me. But I was calm. I had been calm. Perfectly sane and calm.

Until Sunday night. That night, as I packed a duffel bag with a few items and enough clothes for one night, I began to have a good, old-fashioned anxiety attack. My heart was pounding, I was sick to my stomach and my mind was racing. And the odd thing was that I had no real reason for such an attack. I’d had a relaxing but productive week and was now going back to my old house to get the last remnants of my things, see my parents and return. Simple.

Monday morning as I woke… it was still there. And it has followed me throughout the last 48 hours. My mom, sensing my unessessary anxiety and worry tried to keep me grounded and focused, telling me that I didn’t have to rush back or finish by any strict amount of time so I ought to just slow down, stay one more day to get everything finished and chill out a little bit. It wasn’t as though I had a job to return to… just my fiance, yoga mat and more boxes to unpack. And all of those things would STILL be there the next day. 

It wasn’t until the landlord came in and pointed out some deep scratches on the hardwood floor made by my computer chair. See, another thing about me is that it takes VERY LITTLE… to make me feel guilty. MINUTIA. I can be made to feel like shit with so much as a minsinterpreted sideways glance.

And that was the last straw. Operation Meltdown had begun.

I called Lee who was only a little bit put out by the fact that this was ruining our dinner with President Obama. He was also a tad bit concerned about the sick children all over the world who probably wouldn’t make it through the night due to my decision to stay on another day to settle my affairs. And he was slightly disappointed that by my being gone another night he would be forced to watch Sports Center rather than Seinfeld all evening long. 

But then—as unexpectedly as the anxiety had arrived—it disappeared with my laughter at the absurdities of his “statements of concern.” All I needed, as it turns out, was a nice dose of REALITY to adjust my warped-and-freaked-out-for-no-good-reason perspective. And with a lot of help from some friends and parents, the house was cleaned and emptied… and I turned over the keys… anxiety-free.

A Festivus for the Rest of Us

It’s that time of year again! But I’m not talking about Christmas. For most people, this time of year is all about Christmas. But for a dedicated (and perhaps obsessed) few, is also a time for celebrating the lesser-known holiday that is Festivus.

I, along with most of you, became aware of Festivus from Seinfeld, but it did actually exist before George’s father Frank Costanza (Jerry Stiller) made it famous in 1997. It was originally created by writer Dan O’Keefe back in 1966, who was the father of one of the writers for the show. So in this case, art really did imitate life.

I find 2011 a particularly good year to make note of Festivus because of the holiday’s emphasis on anti-commercialism. At a time when many people are having to “downscale” Christmas due to financial strain, perhaps it is even more important than ever to find “alternative” ways of celebrating.

One of the aspects of the Festivus tradition (besides setting up the aluminum pole and carrying out the Feats Of Strength) is my personal fave: The Airing of Grievances. Therefore, I have taken the time to compile a list of some of my own grievances. Truthfully, they are more like annoyances, but nevertheless, it was entertaining as well as cathartic to create this list. And I encourage all of you to do the same!

Here they are, in no particular order… My own personal Festivus Airing of Grievances:

  1. “I-see-London-I-see-France” extremely low-rise jeans
  2. The “Muffin Top” created by aforementioned “I-see-London-I-see-France” extremely low-rise jeans
  3. Twilight hysteria
  4. People on the road between 7 and 9 a.m. who aren’t going to work
  5. Bad grammar
  6. Low water pressure
  7. Bullies
  8. Celebrity “Baby Bumps”
  9. Anyone who calls a baby bump a “bump”
  10. People taking up the entire aisle at the grocery store and NOT budging even though they KNOW you are there and that you cannot pass
  11. Passive Aggressiveness
  12. Men who think women are second-class citizens
  13. Closed-mindedness
  14. Finding a garment that I absolutely love, only to discover that they are out of my size or color choice
  15. The one hundred million “talent shows” that are currently on TV. I mean seriously… enough with the singing and dancing already
  16. Michigan
  17. Dropped calls
  18. DVDs that skip or get stuck right at critical moments in the plot
  19. Claymation, stop-animation, nutcrackers, marionettes, ventriloquist dummies, puppets and clowns
  20. People who do not respect the importance (and necessity) of a good 12-hour sleep stretch
  21. Jell-o with fruit in it
  22. Internet pop-ups 
telling me I’ve won something when all they really want to do is give me a virus
  23. People continuing to call me Joann, after I’ve corrected them or they already know my name is Joanna
  24. Computer crashes
  25. Sarah Palin 
  26. Michele Bachmann (with ONE “L” in Michele and TWO “N’s” in Bachmann)
  27. Donald Trump and his little hair pet
  28. Newt Gingrich mentioning his wife Callista by name 3,000 times in one sentence
  29. ALL of the Republican Party / Tea Party candidates AND the ones who refuse to admit they are going to run but hang around constantly (i.e. Sarah Palin and The Donald)
  30. The Duggar Family (sorry, I know they just experienced a very real and legitimate loss but why must we know every single detail of these people’s reproductive lives?) Why isn’t 19 enough? After all, eight was enough to entertain us in the 80s (If you don’t get the aforementioned 80s pop-culture reference… add yourself to this list)
  31. Drivers who don’t signal
  32. Products that don’t do what they say they’ll do
  33. Drivers who are slow
  34. The fact that ALL of the best TV programs are on at the same time on Thursdays
  35. Pre-existing conditions
  36. Magazines that are full of both airbrushed, anorexic models AND articles about why you should love yourself just the way you are
  37. Hidden fees
  38. People who don’t believe in birth control, but then bitch when… SURPRISE!!… They have another kid
  39. Radio stations that claim to play a lot of music and nothing BUT music, but in actuality have a 5 to 1, commercial to song ratio
  40. People who don’t understand or appreciate the cultural beauty and timelessness that is Seinfeld

Happy Festivus everybody! May you discover the joy and fulfillment of airing your own grievances this holiday season and all year long.

Hummus: The New French Onion?

“Excuse me,” Lee asked the weary Wal-Mart worker, “where can we find the hummus?” She gave him a blank stare and then squished up her face like he’d just asked for pickled pig’s feet and exclaimed that she did not know. A quick survey of the store and a few more fruitless inquiries later and we gave up on Wally-World as a potential place in which to find the dip that’s sweeping the nation.

“Maybe Meijer will have it.” Lee said while secretly nursing a new hatred for the en-vogue, Middle-Eastern staple since it was now interfering with his ability to watch the Big Ten Championship game. “Whatever happened to good, old-fashioned French Onion? Why, now does it have to be hummus? What the hell IS hummus anyway but a bunch of shitty, random, ground-up vegetables that ‘we’ as a culture have branded as the ‘thing’ to eat now?” he grumbled aloud while pointing the car in the direction of the next big box grocer.

“That’s a good question!” I exclaimed, laughing at his colorful outburst. “What DID ever happen to a good old tub of French Onion dip and a bag of Ruffles to take to a party?” I took off on a rant of my own… “Now it’s hummus this and hummus that… and hummus here and hummus there… Have you tried the HUMMUS? Oh you’ve GOT to try this hummus it is TO DIE FOR. And these are the BEST pita chips around, by the way. Have you TRIED them yet?”

All of the sudden the world around me seems to have fallen in love with hummus. For me, my awareness of this seemingly new love affair started at the office this past summer when my boss began bringing in pita bread and hummus from a local farmer’s market. Everyone tried it and almost everyone liked it (myself included.) Then while visiting a friend in Cleveland this fall, she offered me a snack of what else but pita chips and hummus. Two months later at a tailgate party before the Ohio State / Indiana game, pita chips and hummus sat on the table between the burgers and buns and the cheese plate… right smack dab in the spot where the French Onion used to be.

Now, here I was preparing for our office Christmas party by volunteering to bring pita chips and hummus. That’s right, folks, I have boldly and unabashedly jumped on board the hummus bus. But being on board does not negate the fact that the sudden surge of hummus’s popularity still puzzles me. How did this chickpea, lemon juice and garlic concoction from the Middle East dethrone a long-standing, all-American party favorite? When exactly did this happen?

In 1998, a season 9 episode of Seinfeld was my first exposure to the word. George is troubled by the fact that Kramer and Elaine think his new girlfriend looks exactly like Jerry. Thus indicating that George is “secretly in love” with his best friend by dating a “Lady Jerry.” Kramer even refers to Janet (the girlfriend) as a “Femme Jerry” and a “She-Jerry” further antagonizing an already-tormented George. Seeking some solace that there truly was some chemistry that brought them together, George questions Janet about the genesis of their relationship:

  • GEORGE: You know what’s great about our relationship?… It’s not about looks.
  • JANET: It’s not?
  • GEORGE: No, Can’t be… For instance I remember when we first met, we had a great conversation.
  • JANET: I remember you said I was the prettiest girl at the party.
  • GEORGE: … But after that we really talked didn’t we?
  • JANET: Well, you told me how familiar I looked and that you must have seen me somewhere before.
  • GEORGE: NO! … This relationship has… has got to be about something and fast or I’m in very serious and weird trouble… hmmmm… What else happened?
  • JANET: You asked for a piece of gum because you thought your breath smelled like hummus.

So there is was. And like many a word before it, hummus came to be known by me (and probably many others) simply because of that show. It would not be until much, MUCH later that I would actually try (much less like and embrace) hummus on a personal level.

A Google search on hummus’s skyrocketing fame in America revealed some very recent and fun headlines such as: U.S. Dips Into Hummus and There’s a Hummus Among Us. (Titles, I for one, wish hadn’t already been taken prior to this writing.) The presence of the articles proving the point that some things are definitely shifting in our culinary culture… even going as far as to infiltrate a famed spot on the tailgate table.

So, I guess there’s nothing left to say but: French Onion, you had quite a reign there for a while and damn if we didn’t have some good times in the 80’s and 90’s. Welcome hummus! Enjoy your 15 minutes of fare fame before you get bumped by something even more exotic of which we’ve yet to hear.