There must be 50 ways to celebrate your lover

Ah, my wife.

I present to you a woman who never gives herself enough credit. She never thinks she’s smart enough, funny enough, pretty enough, good enough.

Well, today, now, here, on the 50th anniversary of her birth, I’m here to celebrate the woman that never celebrates herself. The one that always…always…puts others before herself.

So, let’s look at these one by one, shall we?

She never thinks she’s smart enough. Yet, I can’t tell you how often she’s taken charge of a situation and, going on nothing but gut instinct, made the decisions I was too stupid or too locked up with emotion to make. And each time, I didn’t just question the decision, I openly opposed it. It was wrong. Every time, I knew it was wrong.

Yeah, the only damn thing that was wrong was my opinion. Karen was right. Karen is always right.

It’s tough for me to write that, but in my heart, I know it’s true. It’s hard to admit that I’m not as smart as I think I am, and that my wife often outsmarts me. Doesn’t matter if it’s a big life decision, or something as simple as watching an episode of Criminal Minds and she always guesses the plot before I do. She does it every damn time. And I’m the writer, dammit!

She never thinks she’s funny enough. Okay, well, to be fair, I’m a sarcastic joker and I’m always on. I’m sure that gets tiring. But then, add into the mix our daughter, who inherited the sarcasm gene from both parents. And there’s Hunter, our son. He’s hilarious. In fact, our daughter actually created a Twitter feed for him, Willy’s Wise Words. And then there’s our friends Ryan and Lisa. Ryan’s gotta be one of the funniest people I’ve ever met, and his wife is hilarious too (especially when she cracks a joke, laughs at it, and says, “I’m funny!”). So, in a group like this, it’s hard to consider yourself funny.

And yet, Karen is often hilarious. She won’t let me post the video, but there’s a lovely few minutes of footage of Karen when she had dental surgery, and being stoned afterward on the drugs that’s simply gutbusting. There’s also this one, where Ryan plays on Karen’s fear of defying superstitions (specifically, opening an umbrella indoors).

How about that scream, huh? Jamie Lee Curtis had nothing on her.

But even this past week in Vegas, Karen had us in stitches by simply doing the John Belushi SNL sketch about cheeseburgers. You know the one.

“Chee’burgarchee’burgarchee’burgarcheepcheepcokenocokePEPSI!”

Yet, when Karen does it, she does this weird thing where her face freezes up and her lips don’t move. It’s unexplainable, and a riot to watch.

So is watching her try to curl her tongue. Or when someone’s getting to her and her chin sharpens. I can’t explain it any better than that. Her chin gets…pointier.

And then there’s what happened this last night. We went out to dinner and, as I sat across from her, I reminded her this was her last meal as someone in their forties. Then I said, “Jeez, tomorrow, I’m gonna be married to an old lady.” And her immediate response was perfect.

“You won’t be if you keep that shit up.”

She never thinks she’s pretty enough. I remember, long ago, I worked in a camera store, on the camera sales side. On the opposite side of the store was photofinishing. I stood with one of my coworkers and we watched this hot woman come in and drop some film off. The coworker nudged me, and said something like, “Damn, she’s got a great ass.” Then she turned around and he said something about her being hot. I ignored him, because she walked straight across the store to me, leaned over the counter and kissed me. My coworker’s jaw damn near bounced off the counter. Yeah, that hot girl was my girlfriend. And now, just a hair under 25 years later, she’s my wife.

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The amazing thing is, over those intervening years, she’s only gotten more beautiful. Maturity suits her.

Vegas

She never thinks she’s good enough. This, above all the others, shocks me. Over the years, I could not have asked for a more wonderful wife. She always supported me in whatever I tried to do, believing in me when I didn’t believe in myself. She always put my needs and others that actually didn’t deserve her attention ahead of her own. She would bend over backward to help anyone in need, even those that had been horrible to her. If it weren’t for my wife, I would never be the guy I am today.

And she’s the ultimate mother. Seriously, if it had been up to me to raise the kids, they would only have memories of sitting in front of a television with some sugary cereal to eat, and maybe a lot of Beatles and Pink Floyd playing in the background. Karen planned all their events, their lessons, their sports, trips, vacations…everything. I’m useless when it comes to this stuff. Seriously, I’m lucky to get myself dressed in the morning.

And overall, beyond all that, she’s been my partner through life. We’ve navigated many rough waters together, sometimes paddling in sync with each other, sometimes trying to paddle in two different directions, but always in the same boat. And our destination is clear. We’ll be there for each other, no matter what. But for me, Karen’s the one I turn to, the one I talk to, the one that is my rock.

My point here is, though she’ll never admit to it, she is smart enough, funny enough, pretty enough, good enough. She’s more than I deserve, and all that I desire.

I can’t imagine my life without this woman and, today, as she celebrates five decades of life, I’m glad that she chose to spend more than half of it with me. I hope she’ll be with me when we’re staring down 100 years.

I love you, babe. Happy birthday.

 

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When customer service isn’t

It’s time to write about something other than death. I’m not sure when this blog became a sad tribute to those we have lost, but looking back, I’ve realized that five of my last six blogs are all about people who have died. So, on to other topics.

What I’d like to talk about today is customer service, or the lack thereof. From about 1988 straight through until about three years ago, so a solid twenty-four years, I was involved either directly or indirectly in providing service to customers. I was in retail camera sales, I worked for a small photocopying and print storefront, I addressed letters directed to Columbia House, and I worked both on the phones and as a manager to those on the phones at TELUS. I’ve trained people in customer service, and I’ve coached them.

All to say, I know what good service looks like, and I know what bad service looks like.

HOME DEPOT

We’ve had our ups and downs with Home Depot, but for the most part, they’ve been good. We’ve likely spent $15K with them over the years, from purchasing appliances, to the supplies to complete our basement, to services like getting our garage door replaced and our roof done.

About eight years ago, we paid a sizeable sum for them to replace the shingles on our roof. We were provided with a 10-year warranty on the labour and 25 years on the shingles. It was noted that we also had protection on our shingles for up to 115 km winds.

Back around mid-November, we experienced heavy winds one day and I was dismayed to find a couple of shingles from our roof sitting on the grass, obviously torn loose the previous night. We figured we’d have to go through home insurance, but pulled out the paperwork from Home Depot and reread the coverage. When I saw the wind thing, I went back and looked up the windspeed for the night in question. 82 km. Great, I thought, we’re covered.

So I called Home Depot’s customer service and explained my issue. At the same time, I figured I might as well get someone to check my eaves troughs for replacement. I was told that was two separate things, and that I would hear back on both within 48 hours. Of course, I heard back on the sales side in less than 24. He came, he quoted. Again, a couple thousand dollars, and I told him I’d discuss with my wife and call him back.

In the meantime, I waited for Home Depot to call back about the roof. Silence. After three days, I called again, explained the urgency about it, as a section of my roof was bare to the elements. The person acknowledged that, empathized, and swore someone would call within 48 hours. Four days later, I called again. Same acknowledgement, same empathy, same promise. Then it snowed. Fantastic. At that point, I took to Twitter and Facebook, outlining my issue.

It's sad when you have to shame a company to get them to respond to you.

It’s sad when you have to shame a company to get them to respond to you.

Within four hours, I’d gotten a call back. Funny what a public shaming will do, huh? Anyway, the guy was nice, and asked me to scan the docs and send them over to him. He called back the next day and the conversation when something like this:

HIM: So, I checked with someone else who knows more about this than me, and I’ve got an answer. It’s not often I win one of these, but this time I will.

ME: Okay.

HIM: The wind guarantee on those shingles is only five years. So, unfortunately, we can’t help you.

ME: But the paperwork says ten years.

HIM: I know. But if you go to the website for the shingle manufacturer, you’ll see, it plainly says five years. And since yours are eight years old…

ME: It may say that on the site, but wouldn’t I go by Home Depot’s paperwork?

HIM: No, we have to go by the manufacturer.

ME: Okay, well, I guess I can’t argue with you, can I?

HIM: Not really. It is what it is.

ME: Fine.

HIM: By the way, you aren’t going to write something else on Twitter or anything, are you?

ME: I guess not.

So now I had to contact another roofer, which turned out to be another Herculean task in Itself. In the end, it was the nephew of a writing friend that came and helped me out. It cost me $200. He was fast, he was courteous, and most of all, he gave a shit. And this wasn’t even his profession, he just had some skill, as he’d done it previously.

And those eaves troughs? Yeah, for the sake of a $200 repair, Home Depot lost that $2200 job, as well as all future business. No more appliances, no more home repair services, nothing.

And it wasn’t necessarily of hewing to the manufacturer’s warranty. I don’t necessarily like that, nor do I agree with it as it’s not spelled out (at least that I can find) on the paperwork.

No, the thing that will stop me from ever spending another cent with Home Depot was the statement, “I don’t normally win these things.” He looked at his company NOT helping a longtime customer as “winning.”

He’s got a skewed, fucked up idea of what the two words “customer” and “service” mean when pushed together.

Congrats, buddy. You won.

FUTURE SHOP

On the Saturday before Christmas, I checked online and found out Future Shop opened at 8:00 am. Fantastic. I had some running around to do, and had to be somewhere by 10, so I rushed over there, arriving at 8:12. Surprisingly, for the last Saturday before Christmas, the place was quiet. All the better.

I walked purposefully over to the Apple section and found the computer I needed to buy. Then I looked for a salesperson to help me. There was no one.

I walked into the next section. “Can you help me?” I asked. I was told that laptops weren’t his section, and he went back to whatever he was doing. No offer to find the right person. I went back and fiddled with the laptop for a bit, figuring someone would show up to see if I had any questions.

At 8:20, I went over to the service counter and asked if there was anyone working in the laptop section. I was told Jeff should be there. The woman I talked to at least offered to find him. So, I went back to the laptop again.

At 8:25, I went back to the service counter again. “Jeff still isn’t there?” she said. I told her he was not. I told her that the easiest $2000 sale they were going to make that day was going to walk out of the store in two minutes if someone didn’t show up. The other guy behind the counter said he’d help.

I showed him the computer and he retrieved it. As he was about to punch it in, a guy I could only presume was Jeff came waddling up, coffee cup in hand, in absolutely no hurry, even though he’d left his entire area of business empty for almost a quarter of an hour. He couldn’t have been on break, because the store had only been open for a half-hour. “Guess I got here a little late,” he said.

“I guess you did,” I said. “I was going to walk out.”

So, now the sale was turned over to PolkarooJeff.

Polkaroo! Where are you?

Polkaroo! Where are you?

He then tried to sell me an extended warranty package that was about 20% of the cost of the machine…on sale. I told him I didn’t think so, but that I knew the drill and had 30 days to get it after the purchase. He told me that wasn’t the case anymore, that the warranty had to be on the same receipt as the purchase. So it had to be purchased now or never. I said, fine, forget the warranty then. I’d already had a bad experience with a previous Future Shop warranty that ended up costing me $700, so I figured I’d take my chances.

He wrung up the purchase, I paid, and he handed me the receipt. Then he said, “Make sure you hold on to that, because if you change your mind about the warranty, we can return the purchase and then just re-sell the laptop with the extended warranty anytime within the next thirty days.”

“So you totally lied to me earlier when you said it was now or never,” I said.

“Well, no,” he said.

“Well, yeah,” I said. “You show up late, almost lose the sale for the store, get someone else to do the work, then lie to the customer, then collect your commission.”

“No, that’s not…”

“I’m done with you,” I said, and walked out of the store.

The sad thing is, I can’t even go to Best Buy, because they’re owned by the same damn company. And I won’t even go into the bullshit we went through with them last Christmas.

But I’m done with Future Shop. I’ll take my business to any other electronics place I can find. Again, a customer that’s likely dropped in the tens of thousands of dollars with your company.

BELL

On January 1st, our modem died, taking away all internet to our house. I called Bell customer service, who took me through some troubleshooting steps that I’d already told him I’d gone through, but, no big deal, I get it. He has to do his due diligence. He quickly determines that the modem is dead. “Okay,” he says. “We’ll send you out a new one.”
“When will that get here?” I said. “Because both my wife and I work from home, and we rely on the internet, so we really need it up and running no later than Sunday.”

“It will get there tomorrow, Friday, January 2nd,” he says.

“That seems awfully quick, especially at this time of year,” I say, but he assures me it will be here by tomorrow. Fair enough.

At two o’clock the next day, I phone Bell and tell them the modem they promised for today has not yet shown up. The person then runs me through the exact same troubleshooting on my modem as the person did yesterday. I put up with it. Then I give them the tracking number for the new modem and they tell me it will be three to five business days, which means somewhere between Tuesday and Thursday of the following week. I explain that that’s not acceptable, based on what I was promised the day before. I can almost hear the shrug of her shoulders all the way from India or the Phillipines or wherever the hell she is. So, it’s left up to me to then do the problem solving. I suggest that they can perhaps use a different courier and overnight it? No, that can’t be done. I suggest we can go to the nearest Bell store and pick up the modem, and bring the other one back when it’s received. No, that’s impossible.

How is that impossible?

Anyway, she’s doing nothing for me, except shutting me down, so I hang up. My wife says, “You want me to call? Wanna sic the pitbull on them?” I agree, then leave the room, because I’ve seen her in action. She’s not mean with the agents, as she understands they’re often handcuffed by procedure, but she’s tenacious, and it’s often painful to watch as she lovingly flays their logic, strip by strip.

Almost two hours later, I finally hear her hang up. I go back up, and she relates the entire sordid story. She moved up the chain from first level care all the way to Executive Level complaints. She had a manager actually hang up on her partway through the ordeal.

It really is

It really is

And this is what I need to point out: the ordeal. A company’s product doesn’t work. A promise is made to replace it within 24 hours, then that promise is rescinded and the customer is told there’s nothing the company can do. My wife heard that comment several times through the two hours.

Interestingly, as she was telling me all this, the phone rings. It’s a woman named Asia from Bell and she’s calling to set up a tech service call for tomorrow, Saturday. Did I want it between noon and six, or six and ten? I chose the earlier one, and didn’t say anything about how my wife had suggested this very solution quite a while ago and was told it was impossible. I did ask if this would cost us anything, and was told it would not. I confirmed that again.

The next day, at 11:00, so even earlier than promised, a great tech guy, nice as anything, showed up, replaced the modem, improved the connection, and left me with a smile.

So, why did my wife have to argue, berate, badger and beg for two hours, only to be told it was all impossible, when it obviously was possible? That’s the problem here.

And in the case of Bell, don’t get me wrong. Overall, Bell is a pretty good company. And I can’t say I haven’t experienced a similar level of frustration with my own company at times. And, of the three examples above, only Bell stepped up, clued in, and fixed the issue. So, good for them.

My point here is, outline a process for the agents to confidently make decisions on the company’s behalf to keep the customer happy while not giving away the store. I know customers still run on the misguided and completely erroneous guideline that “the customer is always right.” That’s bullshit. I know customers will often try and take a company for every penny they can. But an agent should also be able to look at a long-standing customer’s file, their purchase history (are you listening, Home Depot?) and make a quick, educated decision on whether that customer is trying to soak you, or they are simply frustrated and trying to get some answers. I don’t care if it’s Home Depot, Future Shop, Bell, TELUS, or any of the other customers that want your repeat business.

I mentioned I used to do training for customer service. One of the first questions I asked my agents was, who are we in competition with? They would quickly answer all the other companies that share our particular industry. I would tell them there’s more. Who are they? Eventually, I would give them the answer. As a company that offers customer service, we are in competition with every single other company that offers customer service. Banks, car dealerships, phone companies, furniture stores…all of them. The ones that do it well will win the loyalty of the customer. The ones that do it poorly will lose it.

It takes years to build loyalty. It takes one bad experience to lose it.

Shop the madness! Or, grocery shopping etiquette in 11 + 2.5 easy steps

Anyone who reads this blog knows how much I love shopping (and for those who haven’t read this blog before, “love shopping” is total, unadulterated sarcasm). If I die and go to hell, the devil will give me a shopping cart and tell me to shop ’til I drop.

devil

Today, due to a confluence of evil forces, I was forced to shop in my local No Frills, as well as WalMart, and finally, at Costco. And I also had to shop not only for my family, but for my mother as well. Pretty damn close to that hell scenario above, right?

Anyway, likely because the stores were closed yesterday for Good Friday, today should have been renamed Evil Saturday. Everyone seemed to need to feel the smooth plastic of a shopping cart in their hands. Everyone seemed to need to line up endlessly. And here was I, caught in the middle of this retail maelstrom. In fact, at one point, when I was in an aisle that could accommodate at least four carts side-by-side, and I was locked in position for a solid five minutes, I looked over at my wife and said, “kill me now.” Several people snickered. But no one moved.

Anyway, having spent so much time in line, I hereby present Tobin’s Rules for Shopping.

parking_lotRule 0: Don’t park like a douchenozzle
Yes, I’m starting at rule 0, because you haven’t even started shopping yet, and already you’re pissing people off. I’m going to try and be as clear as I can here: A parking space is an area of pavement usually bordered by three yellow lines. You park your vehicle so that it is contained within those three lines. To do anything other than this is to park like a douchenozzle. How does a douchenozzle park, you ask?

  1. A douchenozzle will take up two spaces, either on purpose or because they lack the basic talent to navigate a vehicle. You can tell the difference, because the one that does it on purpose will likely park it at a rakish angle, where the no-talent will just be over one of the lines by a foot or two.
  2. A douchenozzle will park where there is no parking space whatsoever. Usually closer to the store than anyone else, often right in the path of other cars.
  3. A douchenozzle will foolishly believe they will only be a few minutes, so they don’t need no stinkin’ parking space. Instead, they’ll park right up at the curb beside the store, usually blocking everyone else’s access to and from the store. Often, the douchenozzle themselves will stay in the car, smoking and playing obnoxious dance music at an obnoxious volume while they wait for their significant other (usually the one with the clothes that were in fashion in the 80s, back when they were twenty, or they’re wearing clothes that are five sizes too small for them because it makes them sexy, or, as they say, “schmexy,” or they look like they just came off a welfare-cheque financed bender) runs in for the stuff.

Don’t do any of this. Douchenozzle.

Rule 1: Don’t block the entrance
When you have made your list, grabbed your coffee, somehow managed to find a parking spot, remembered your bags, dug out a quarter and snagged a shopping cart then you’re already ahead of the game. So why the hell do you feel it’s necessary to get just inside the doors, then stop? Why? Get your ass all the way in, find a quiet, or at least an out of the way spot by all that weird fruit that no one buys, then get your shit together. Dick.

Rule 2: Watch where you’re going
Yes, there’s all sorts of things to do when you’re shopping. Keep track of that shopping list. Drink your coffee. Avoid all the morons. Scan for sales. Compare prices and sizes because it’s stunning how often they rip you off with the jumbo sizes. Etc. Etc. Etc. But seriously, it’s no worse than driving a car. So why do so many people simply choose to look sideways, or at their list, instead of where the hell they’re going? If you do this shit in the grocery store, I guarantee you’re the type to text and drive and I trust you will end up on the Darwin Awards shortly. And if you do this, and don’t know what the Darwin Awards are…don’t worry. You’ll find out. Moron.

Rule 3: Don’t walk forward and look backward
If you’ve already passed something, then you should have damn well looked at it then. If you didn’t, you have two choices: Back up safely, or loop around and check it out on the second pass. You should not be staring at it, trying to decide if it’s right for you, as you continue to walk away from it. There’s people’s heels in front of you, moron. Those damn carts hurt when they nail you right on that tendon. Again, if you do this here, you likely do this when you drive and obviously the sidewalks are no longer safe to walk. Shithead.

Rule 4: Don’t block the lane
So you’ve read the first three and you’re feeling pretty satisfied because you can honestly say, “I’ve never done any of those.” Well, then how about this perennial gem: Instead of slamming into people by looking backwards or sideways, you leave your cart to go on an exploratory side expedition, because those Ballpark Hot Dog-flavoured Potato Chips are strangely intriguing you. So you leave your damn cart in the middle of nowhere while you go off to scan the product. You’re like that stupid geologist from the movie Prometheus that sends all those flying robots to map out the place, then gets lost. Because no one leaves their cart for a second. They leave it, a large, grocery laden, steel-mesh chunk of flotsam, for a few minutes while everyone else now has to navigate around it. Watch out for me, because I’ll toss that damn cart down the nearest aisle and I don’t care how much stink eye you give me. I’ve done it. Fool.

Rule 5: Paying more attention to your phone than to the task at hand
Okay, yes, they’re convenient. Yes, people can now call you/text you/FB you/Tweet you and every other thing they pack into mobile devices these days. I use mine to hold the shopping list. So, they have their uses. But it is not acceptable to stop in the middle of a crowded grocery store to update your FB status.
FBIt’s not cool to slam your carts into other shoppers’ carts because you’re texting your BFF. That’s not an LOL. Or a ROFL. That’s a GTFOOMW (Get The Fuck Out Of My Way). That’s a WWTHYD (Watch What The Hell You’re Doing). Asshat.

Rule 6: There’s always someone behind you
Which means, when you decide to take twenty minutes to decide between the President’s Choice Decadent Chocolate Chip Cookies and the President’s Choice Decadent Chocolate Chunk Cookies, you’ve likely chosen to stop your stupid cart directly beside the person who is updating their FB to complain about the dude taking twenty minutes to decide between the President’s Choice Decadent Chocolate Chip Cookies and the President’s Choice Decadent Chocolate Chunk Cookies. Meanwhile, there’s a logjam of people stuck behind you both. Now, most people are polite. But if you hear a low, menacing, “Jesus H. Christ on Toast!” behind you, that’s me wondering if I hit you hard enough, will you press into the mesh of your cart and have to explain to your significant other why you suddenly look like you came out of a waffle iron. So move. Cretin.

express-lane-is-THIS-manyRule 7: Learn to count prior to jamming up the 8 Items or Less line
So you’ve managed to navigate the hazardous waters of the grocery store and now you’re ready to check out. Then, after a flawless performance, you then blow it all by parking your sorry ass in the wrong line. This one’s a particular pet peeve of mine. You can read further adventures here. Here’s a crazy suggestion: Try these steps.

  1. Read the sign and ask yourself, “How many items do they allow in this aisle?” It could be 8. It could be 10. It could be 12. Hell it might even be 15. In any case, between your fingers and your toes, you have enough to count them. Do so.
  2. Don’t be a bitch and say, “Well, I’ve got three loaves of bread, but really, they’re only one product, so that counts as one.” No it doesn’t. If you’ve got three, then count three.
  3. Count up all your items.
  4. Now here’s the tricky part. If the number of items in your cart or basket exceeds (which is a fancy-schmancy word for “is more than”) that number on the sign, then you cannot go in that line.
  5. Judge yourself accordingly

Trust me, this will save you a lot of harrasment at my hands if I happen to be the dude standing behind you, counting your items loudly, then bemoaning the fact that our school system no longer sees fit to teach our youth how to count. Pus bag.

buttRule 8: Don’t butt in line
So you’re looking at those horribly long, slow moving lines and even the 8 Items or Less line is stunningly long (likely with those that can’t count past five), so you find someone with a cart that’s bulging with food items and groaning under the weight and, when the person looks the other way, you choose to just deke in front of them. After all, you’ve only got a few little items, right? They won’t mind.

Yeah, they will. There’s a reason we use the terms butt and ass interchangeably. Your time is no more important than that poor bastard you just cut in front of. You are no more important than anyone else, no matter what your mama told you back when you were four years old. Buttmunch.

Rule 9: Next in line means next in line
There’s five of you in line, but then a new cashier comes in, opens up her register, smiles and says, “I’ll serve the next person in line.” Okay, just to be clear on this, what she really means is, I’ll serve the next person in line. What she definitely doesn’t mean is, I’ll serve the person that can elbow their way here the fastest. What she doesn’t mean is, I’ll serve the asshole who thinks they’re far more important than anyone else next.

I know it sounds crazy, serving the person that’s been in line the longest. But that’s really what they mean. So don’t be that jackass that shows they don’t understand rudimentary English, ‘kay? Jackass.

Rule 10: Don’t leave your cart or your fat ass in the laneway while you pack your groceries
This fits with rule 6. Because you’ve chosen to block the laneway with your cart and your ass while you pack your groceries at a glacial pace, the person behind you can’t even get up to the cash register to pay, even though they’re trying to get out of the way of the dude behind them. And you’re all doopty doopty doo, look at me packing my chocolate chunk cookies! The corollary to this is you getting the hell out of that laneway, but then scooting around to the far side and parking your fat ass in someone else’s way while you’re all doopty doopty doo. Doo-doo head.

Rule 1 Revisited: Don’t block the exit
You’re now heading out of the store. Again, rule 6 still applies. So don’t stop just before, or just after, the exit doors to dig your sunglasses and keys out of your purse. Don’t stop to adjust your junk before you head on out. Don’t stop and choose that moment to put your change/debit card/credit card in your wallet. You’ve made it this far, just keep going, stay the hell out of other people’s way, get to your car, then you can do all that shit. Bunghole.

shopping-cartBonus Rule…Rule 11: Put the cart in the corral
You’ve likely invested a whole quarter for the use of that cart, don’t you want it back? And even if you don’t, the rest of us don’t want to have to dodge the carts scattered willy nilly through the parking lot because you were too frigging lazy to walk it the twenty or thirty feet to the corral. Really, is it that much of a chore? The cart’s empty, it’s light. And besides, this is where you can have fun, putting one foot up on the cart and scoot it up to 15 mph and ride it across the parking lot, the wind blowing wildly through your hair. Yes, you look like a five-year-old, and some other asshole will likely blog about what a shithead you are, but who cares? It’s fun.

Otherwise, you’re just leaving a big chunk of metal around to scratch someone else’s car. Dork.

Rule 0.5: Learn how to back up
You’ve done it! You’ve run the gauntlet, you’ve gotten out alive, hell, you even had a little thrill returning the cart to the corral. Now, you just have to back the vehicle out of the space and get home. So how about this? When you’re backing up, actually look where you’re going. I guarantee that old dude with the walker, or the mother with her child in the cart weren’t really planning on a visit to the Emergency Room because you plowed your back bumper into their fleshy parts. Other cars are running up and down that parking lot. People are walking. Carts are blowing by. So when you back out, ease out, look behind you, look to your left and right to ensure nothing is coming at you, then and only then, can you vacate that space and get your ass gone.

Because, honestly, you wouldn’t want someone calling you a bad name, would you?

Of course not.

Post-apoc-a-lip-service

I didn’t want to (and still don’t want to) write a “post-apocalypse” blog because that whole Mayan thing is simply one more example of the vast majority reading only the headline and not the full explanations, or they were too damn lazy to find out the real story.

In my lifetime, I’ve survived at least two raptures, the Mayan apocalypse, Y2K, and both Saved By The Bell and Glee. I’m a survivor.

glee-logo

Anyway, something did capture my attention this morning, the always-interesting blog of Jason Darrick. He wrote a blog based on some tweets done with the hashtag #ApocalypseConfessions. I’ll let Jason explain it, because he does it better than I ever could.

A funny thing happened on Twitter yesterday, at least, it was meant to be funny. The hashtag “ApocalypseConfessions” made the rounds, with most people throwing a joke at the wall and hoping for a retweet or two. The thing about me is that I don’t open up very well, so I took the opportunity to speak some truths about myself, not so much in the event that we all die, rather because there’s demons in my head that alcohol just won’t kill. So below are my confessions along with two retweets that apply to me.

Jason

He then went on to list fifteen tweets that applied to him. He didn’t add any explanation, which I found equally interesting, letting those little 140-character blasts stand or fall on their own.

I’d like to add some commentary on some of them, simply based on my own experiences. I checked with Jason first. He said he doesn’t mind.

#ApocalypseConfessions I really hate the personal situation that I’m in. I’d rather be with someone(s) than alone.

Ah, this is a great place to start. I’ve seen this a lot, especially with my own family. I come from a family of people that really can’t be alone. Unfortunately, what that means is, they’ve made some truly horrible choices in partners, simply because they settled. Yes, it’s shitty to be alone, however, I also believe you have to be comfortable with yourself before you can be comfortable with someone else. Never settle. Someone out there is waiting for you. Don’t let them slide by because you grabbed the first one that showed any interest. As the song says, shop around.

#ApocalypseConfessions I often feel that the image I project isn’t anywhere close to who I want to be. Rather, it’s who everyone wants.

#ApocalypseConfessions Why yes, I AM afraid to be myself. That’s why I have a blog under an assumed name.

These two seem to go together well. This was also the topic of a brief conversation I just had with the Girl yesterday. I’m always reminded of the Billy Joel song when this topic comes up.

Well we all have a face
That we hide away forever
And we take them out and show ourselves
When everyone has gone
Some are satin, some are steel
Some are silk, and some are leather
They’re the faces of the stranger
But we love to try them on

We all have many images or faces we project. There’s the professional, assured one we wear at work. There’s the sometimes vulnerable, sometimes confident, loving one we wear to our partner. There’s the gently authoritative one we wear for our children. But sometimes we just need to let them drop and be who we are. Because, in the end, if others can’t like us for who we are, if we have to play someone different to get that job, to get that partner…then really, are they worth being around? Be honest to others, but more importantly, be honest to yourself. Don’t wear the face of a stranger.

#ApocalypseConfessions I motherfucking hate Xmas. I put a brave face on for my daughter.

I’ve covered this one at length here. Long story short, this is one where you simply have to put your head down and barrel through it. The good thing is, it ends. The bad thing is, it keeps coming back. Later on, this is another face of the stranger you can drop with your child, when they’re old enough to understand. But they’ll likely appreciate what you did for them. Being a good parent means thinking of your kids before you think of yourself. You’re doing that.

“@stateofego: I’m deathly afraid of failure. This fear often holds me back.  #ApocalypseConfessions” DITTO.

My favourite quote of all time is, “What would you attempt to do if you know you could not fail?” by Robert Schuller.

It seems to also fit nicely with a quote from Frank Herbert’s Dune:

“I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.”

Fear Litany Worm

Fear is crippling. If you fear that you can’t put on your shoes, you won’t put on your shoes. If you fear anything, then try it.

This may be the main reason I’m so loyal to the company I work for: About a decade ago, they sent me on a course that was designed only to allow me to coach agents much better. Which it did, however it gave me a life lesson I never forgot. They, over the course of two days, taught me that if I’m comfortable, I’m not learning. They forced us into uncomfortable situations, then allowed us to learn from them and succeed. It’s a lesson I’ve never forgotten and I’ll be eternally grateful for them teaching me.

I’ve accomplished so much by allowing myself to be okay with being uncomfortable. Has it always worked out? Hell no. But it has worked out much more than it hasn’t. And once you get a couple of those victories under your belt, it gets easier. Give yourself permission to fail, then go and do something that scares the shit out of you.

“@StaceyONeale: I have over 100 unread books in my house and my kindle. 80% of them I got for free. #ApocalypseConfessions” Over 200 for me.

This is something I’m going to total up too, but I think I’ve got you both beat, between traditional books, ebooks, and audio books. A culling is in order. But it’s also wonderful to always have something to look forward to, isn’t it?

#ApocalypseConfessions I never wanted to be a reviewer. I was told authors just do it. Had C. not invited me, I wouldn’t be at DT.

#ApocalypseConfessions I wanna write about pro wrestling and work for Cracked. That way I’d have all the base forms of entertainment covered

For these two, I’ll always say to write what pleases you first. It’s great that C. invited you, because it took you out of your comfort zone. On the other hand, if it’s no longer helping you (and I’m talking in general terms to any writer here), then move on. Too many writers don’t challenge themselves enough (and I’m likely talking to myself here too…so I hope I’m listening). About a year ago, Ed Kurtz approached me to write about a PI that investigates a case that turns supernatural…his excellent Sam Truman series. Now, I was born in 1962, so what do I know about being an adult in 1960? And I’d never written a PI story before, so what do I know about being a PI? Of course I said yes to his offer. Still not sure the experiment was a full success, but I enjoyed the experience, let me tell you. If you want to write something, don’t keep wishing…write it. It may be shit, it may be gold, but it will always be a learning experience.

#ApocalypseConfessions Joking aside, that last tweet was true.

So write about pro wrestling and create a Cracked.com article. Do it.

#ApocalypseConfessions Goodreads says I’ve read 18.5 books this year. That’s more than theyears 1995-2008 combined. Yes, I regret that.

According to my website, I’ve read 95 books this year and I’m still pissed that I’m not closer to 156. I really wanted to average three a week. Though, to be honest, I could go through double that and likely still not be happy. I’ve even tried to do the speed-reading thing, but it doesn’t work for me. Anyone got some tips for reading faster? I’ll take them.

#ApocalypseConfessions About 8 years ago, I planned on moving East to work in porn. If I was in shape, I’d still do it.

Okay, I originally wrote, “This one’s so far outside my experience range, I can’t comment on it.”  Then I thought about that…and of course I have stuff to say about it.

ninja porn

I’m not a big porn guy. Hell, I’m not even a little porn guy. Porn doesn’t work for me, though I must say, I find it fascinating how something that, even only three or four decades ago was still very much an underground, never-discussed thing, is now so mainstream. But that’s the internet for ya.

But that’s not what I wanted to say. The point here is, I find it absolutely fascinating that the person who wrote most of these tweets obviously doubts their abilities in many ways, yet they are confident to actually come out and state they wouldn’t mind working in porn. I’m known for saying a hell of a lot of off-colour things, but I don’t think I could ever work up the courage to even state in a public forum that I’d like to work in porn. And I know I couldn’t actually do it. Instead of being known as H.R. Puff ‘n’ Stuff

hr-pufnstuf

(I always thought that was the perfect pornstar name), I’d likely be known simply as SD&RB, which was an acronym my college roommate used to use. It means “shrink dink and raisin bag.” Yup, that’d be me on a porn set.

So, bravo Jason. Good for you stating that one. That takes balls. (see what I did there?)

#ApocalypseConfessions I write short stories because I can’t be bothered with long rewrites. Working to fix that.

This comes back to the “write what you want to write” suggestion. For me, initially, I couldn’t even envision myself writing anything longer than about fifteen to twenty pages. Why? Because I had never done it before. Then I started on this neat little story about a demon in a high school. This little short story, after all was said and done, turned out to be something like 400 manuscript pages. 100K words.

Write the story that’s inside you, not what you can be bothered with.

#ApocalypseConfessions If you’re hitting on me, you need to make that abundantly clear. I’m terrible at reading women.

Good lord, this sums up my love life from the age of 12 to meeting my wife. Women essentially had to throw themselves at me for me to take the hint. And yet, for all of that, my wife still insists that I chased her. Wrong.

#ApocalypseConfessions I keep hair on my head because folks don’t like me being bald. I hate my hair.

Then go bald. It’s your head. What if someone said they didn’t like your nose? Would  you change it? Not only should you be the person you want to be but, within reason, look like the person you want to be as well. I only state “within reason” as, if you work in a professional, suit and tie environment, then you either have to conform or be so damn good at what you do that they tolerate your personal appearance.

But as much as possible, go by this quote from an unmarked grave in Kansas: “Be what you is, ‘cos if you be what you ain’t, you ain’t what you is.”

“@babymoondrop: I buy books, but I never read them #ApocalypseConfessions” A million times THIS.

I’ve bought books that I was sure I was going to read, only to get a few pages in and hate them, so I never finished them. Some book by Charles Stross. Writing Down to the Bones by Natalie Goldberg. That one damn near killed me. I can only handle so much New Agey shit before I start getting the heaves. Then there were some I shouldn’t have finished. American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis. The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown. But I don’t think I’ve ever let a book languish just for the sake of not having read it. I always get around to it. May take some time, but I’ll always get around to it.

APsycho

Anyway, that’s Jason’s list and some of my added life lessons and crap commentary. Feel free to tell me if I’m wrong on any of this.