Miss(ed) Manners

March 25, 2005

Miss(ed) Manners: Sit Down and Shut Up

Filed under: Column — missedmanners @ 3:58 pm

I used to hear that phrase a lot. I was a hyper little kid. I’d jump around and just shout and yell and generally make a fuss, and then the teacher, my mother, the bus driver or the part time employee at Orange Julius would just shout at me, “Sit down and shut up!”

Goddamnit if I didn’t hate it. I hated sitting down and shutting up. So I’d sit down and wiggle. You know that phrase, “Ants in the pants?” They totally made that up for me. I’d wiggle around like a life size bobble head doll in Osh Kosh corduroy until I got yelled at again.

I only bring this up because I find it incredibly ironic that today as an adult, I would kill a small wiggling child to be able to sit down while riding the subway to work. I haven’t had a seat during my rush hour morning commute since that time I woke up one Saturday thinking it was Friday and arrived to a cold and lonely office.

My ride to work, today was not much different. I had been out later than I should have been, I had gotten much less sleep than I should have gotten and apparently I had slept on a copy of the Oxford English Dictionary because my back was tied up with more knots than an ascot at a yachting convention.

There were no seats and I stood in pained anguish, staring out through the key-scratched & sticky gray windows on the gray subway car going over the gray B-burg bridge at a gray city covered by an even grayer sky. It doesn’t get much better than that, let me tell you. I made my transfer and again, found myself standing.

There is a magical moment, and all New Yorkers know this moment, when the doors slide open on a packed train, it is a moment fraught with excitement and a little bit of danger. You, and all of the other wretches who’ve been standing for the past thirty minutes, realize someone might be getting up. There’s a chance you, yes you lucky contestant, could be sitting down and resting your weary bones. It’s like the tense seconds before a cockfight complete with clucking, flapping, pecking and all.

This morning was no exception. As the train pulled into Second Avenue, myself and the other vertically inclined passengers noticed someone shift in their seat. You know, that shift the sitting people do to let the standing people know that the rumble is about to be on. Everyone saw it, and we all started moving in.

When you know a seat is about to open up it’s like you suddenly get transported into a Shaolin Kung Fu movie. You size up the other people looking at that seat, you work out the path they’d have to take to get into that seat and imagine the events unfolding: If the sitter gets up and goes left, you’ll have to move fast around the pole to maneuver into a more favorable seat grabbing position; if he or she goes right instead, there’s a fifteen percent chance the woman doing her makeup will block you out from making it to the seat in time. You take note of other course obstacles like the asian grandmother’s grocery cart or the baby stroller blocking the aisle left of the pole, and map your route over and around them accordingly.

It’s a bloodless fight, but you usually know if you’re going to win before the doors even open. If your seat opponent is for example that same little asian lady, you’re generally screwed before you begin. Even if acquiesing the seat wasn’t the socially decent thing to, she’d knock you down and rush the seat anyway (don’t be fooled by that gray hair, they’re spry, and it’s a long ride to Flushing). So sidle on up to that door and get comfortable cowboy; you’re in for a haul.

This morning, fortune was in my favor as I spied a seat opening up right next to me. I looked around and saw I was the only one with even a shot at snagging it. Some dude in one of those army green, “I’m sensitive to the Cuban worker’s plight” canvas jackets leaning against the door opposite me made eyes at my seat and I stared him down. I could see the scenario play out already: the lady would get up, move to the door, block all approaching traffic and it would be mine. Sweet release for my aching feet was but seconds away.

As the doors opened I made my move. I could feel the lactic acid that had built up in my legs start to wash away like so much chemical run off after a meth lab explosion. I moved into the seat and began to bend at the middle.

That’s when I saw it. I saw someone who I had to give my seat to.

Let’s pause a second and explain the complex hierarchy when it comes to who gets to sit first on a train. It’s not just a simple law of supply and demand. It’s incredibly old fashioned and prejudiced. But it’s alright because I’m at the bottom of the totem pole. Here it is from least deserving to most deserving:

*Healthy young urban professional male with no bags

*Healthy young urban professional female with no bags… wait HAHAHAH! That’s right, that doesn’t exist! Man I crack myself up.

I mean:

*Healthy young urban professional female with a purse or whatever you call them nowadays.

*Healthy young person with some luggage, perhaps going to the airport.

*Healthy young person with a child.

*Healthy young person with a stroller.

Now just repeat these steps, alternating between male and female adding ten years with each iteration, in about twelve cycles you’ll get to what I saw walk onto the train.

She looked like Grandma Moses’ walking corpse and she must have been 145 years old, I swear to God. She was pushing a stroller and dragging behind her a full set of luggage. As she tottered into my car I noticed she had another kid attached at the hip. She looked like she was fleeing the Titanic. She probably did flee the Titanic.

Just my luck, I thought to myself as I unbent and moved towards the center pole. I motioned to her to sit down in the now vacant spot. I can hear you collectively saying, “Awwwww.” Well shut it, bitches. I didn’t give up the seat out of any battered sense of chivalry or beleaguered form of ancestor worship. I really gave it up out of guilt, or the staving off thereof. Nothing ruins a good subway seat like sitting on completely functional legs and watching the AARP poster lady tumble around like a pair of fuzzy dice in your windshield.

So I gave it up and stood the rest of the way to work, it was, as usual, a hellacious experience.

The more I think about it, I’m convinced that the MTA are in cahoots with the big corporations of this city, coniving a way to pacify the workers of this city by breaking our will. There are maybe four people who live in the ass end of Brooklyn who get on the train at 6am and get those seats. The rest of us stand and stare and some even cry, quietly, I’ve seen you, it’s ok. The standing commute we endure is such a pain in the ass, literally, that by the time you get to that cubicle, you’re actually happy to see it just because it means you can finally sit down.

Am I wrong?

Is there a better way to make you sit down and shut up?

March 11, 2005

Miss(ed) Manners: Pacified

Filed under: Column — missedmanners @ 3:49 pm

I’m a man of many ideas. For the most part they’re usually pretty good. Like when I had the idea to switch from coffee to green tea, that was a great idea. I’m drinking coffee right now, however, due in part to another great idea I had. I got it in my head that I wanted to write a movie review. Not just of any movie, of Vin Diesel’s new family laugh-fest, The Pacifier.

But I couldn’t be happy with just that, noooooo, somewhere in the deep recesses of my most idiotic self, I decided it’d be a good idea to add an entire bottle of Georgi vodka into the mix.

Georgi vodka is my absolute most favoritest vodka on the planet. Its market value is just above three plucked strands of pubic hair and tastes about as good. It comes in a plastic bottle, so when you’re down to your last few intestine-exploding gulps, you can actually squeeze the bottle. It’s like skull-fucking your stomache, only from one degree of separation.

So, I arrived home last night and started drinking. Ever since I came up with this awesome idea earlier in the week I’d been so excited. I attacked the bottle with reckless abandon. I had also purchased a bottle of tepid cranberry juice, which I was using liberally to hide the biting battery acid taste of the vodka.

One pathetic showing of “Must See TV” and a huge turkey sandwich later (remember the sandwich, that’s called foreshadowing), I was just nearing the half way point in my bottle. I took what was left and filled the cranberry juice bottle to the brim. Armed as such, I headed into Manhattan.

At some point on the train ride I realized that I was a complete and utter waste of humanity. I looked at my reflection in the window and I could see that I was visibly drunk. I had a small cranberry juice stain on my shirt, and I swore I could see the vodka stink coming off of my head in cartoon smell lines. I decided it would a good idea to start taking notes, unfortunately, I had left my journal at home and all I had in my bag was a recent bank statement envelope. I figured it would be good enough. Here’s what it looked like:

It’s pretty easy to see where this is going, right? By the time I got to the theater I was slurring my words. I asked the ticket attendant for one adult for the Paficier and she stared at me like I was a registered sex offender. I took the ticket and immediatley dropped my phone and tripped on air trying to pick it up.

Here are a few explanations of the above notes:

9:15 and 9:25pm are pretty self explanatory. Like a baby alcoholic I was exploring my new world of drunk, amazed that a subway car could be so comfortable.

9:40 was in response to a trailer for that new Herby the Love Bug movie starring Big Boobs McIntosh, aka Lindsay Lohan. I stand by the statement, those boobies are indeed very right.

9:55, attempting to write in the now complete darkness by the light of my cell phone, I tried in earnest to explicate my feeling of impending doom of the coming movie. All I got out was, “These titles were done by a retard!”

10:15 and 10:25 two great boobie jokes were made in the film. I don’t really remember what they were about, but I laughed at the word boobie, and I’m laughing right now just thinking about it, I have no idea why.

10:45 I have no fucking clue what this is. There are more notes on the front of the envelope, but they are completely illegible. By 11pm I had developed a visible tremor and was making headway through what had become a luke warm container of bile and cranberry. Every time I took a sip I think I cried a little.

My actual review of the movie is going to be a little sparse. I went into the theater knowing exactly what I was going to see, a formulaic piece of complete shit, served up piping hot by Disney. However, in my impaired state, nothing seemed to make sense, and I can’t really remember much of the plot. I took a few camera shots with my phone, so I’ll try to piece them together for you.

Act I: A Man and His Wet Suit

This is Vin. He’s apparently the world’s greatest Navy SEAL, which means he can fly and shoot laser beams out of his eyes. I don’t know, I wasn’t really paying attention.

Anyway, he starts off on some mission to save some doctor who’s been kidnapped for no apparent reason. He starts off as all Navy SEAL’s do by giving a morale boosting speech to his group of teammates, or platoon members, or whatever, ah fuck it, his homies.

Apparently his homies don’t listen that well, because it all goes to shit. Right after the captive doctor guy shows Vin a picture of his kids for no reason whatsoever other than to show that he’s got mutant strength sperm, everyone gets shot. Even Vin.

Somehow he lives, they don’t really go into how he survives a bullet wound but the doctor guy doesn’t, but I’m thinking it has something to do with the fact that Vin is made of a dense ferro-steel alloy. In a completely unforeseen turn of events they decide that the best thing to do would be for him to keep an eye on the kids of the man that just died because of him.

Brilliant, I know.

Act II: Getting to Know You, Getting to Know All About You

That’s my middle finger in the frame. Why? Because that chick from the Gilmore Girls is in this movie and I don’t like that show, I think I shouted at the screen.

Anyway, in Act II, Vin changes into a white T Shirt and has to watch five or six kids, I can’t really remember, but one of them is a girl scout. All of them really don’t seem to give a fuck that their dad is dead, a point I mentioned out loud at least once.

During this act RoboVin brings his unique brand of discipline to bear on the household. Apparently being in the Army makes you better at literally everything, even ACTING, which is so ironic, because Vin was never actually in the army in real life and he’s a fucking awesome actor.

Vin 2.0 does the following things in this act better than any human could possibly do them:

* He beats up the Vice Principal
* He teaches girl scouts how to fight
* He learns how to make a baby stop crying by doing an intricate dance.
* He directs the Sound of Music (seriously)

All of these were done in fifteen movie minutes in a beautifully rendered training montage. The music may have been by Stan Bush, I can’t remember.

Act III: Hey! It’s That Guy From that Show!

Dude, I know. That motherfucking kung fu cop from that show that one time is totally a traitor and it rocked my world. When he pulled out a gun and made them go into some safe that for some reason is below the garage, and resembles a fucking egyptian burial tomb I was crying.

And he totally has Vintron by the balls, until the Gilmore girl comes out of nowhere and goes all super kung fu on the bad guys. Then the FBI shows up, like they just literally show up, out of the ground and sky. I could have made up this entire ending because I nodded off for about two minutes and I went out to pee, not at the same time though, I don’t know.

Anyway, it’s not important, what is important is that this movie was awesome. I’m not sure if it was awesome because of the sheer massive amount of baby feces jokes, or solely based on the talent of Vin the Animal Steel. It may be because I was drunk, but only time will tell.

I didn’t throw up the sandwich, I just put in that foreshadowing comment to mess with you! Hahahah! Once the movie let out I went over to Sin Sin and ended up doing shots of some horrible liquor with Miss Blue Sky, and I don’t know how I got home, but when I woke up I had a different pair of pants on one leg and an Advil stuck in my nose. A successful night.

Daveraver’s Drunktastic Rating of Doom: 3 Shot Glasses (out of 5)

March 4, 2005

Miss(ed) Manners: Getting Hitched

Filed under: Column — missedmanners @ 3:48 pm

I hitch-hiked to work today.

Not on purpose. It’s not like I leave my building in the morning and head out to the closest thoroughfare, hike up my jeans, show a little leg hair and hope to grab the first Manhattan bound pederast freight driver. While the great romance of the road is not entirely lost to me, this happened totally by chance, and I’m really glad it did.

Maybe a little backstory would help here. Last night I stayed at my girlfriend, Eileen’s, apartment. She lives in Bayonne, New Jersey. It’s not the most accessible part of the Garden State, at least not by public transportation. Most of the coming and going takes place in crowded commuter buses, home to terminally rude cell phone users and happy hour drunks. What would normally be a 15 minute trip by car is generally anywhere from 45 to 90 minutes.

One of the upsides of course is that given the chance, you can catch an extra hour of sleep on the ride in to Port Authority. Be careful when you do this, I’ve awoken to the old “Unsolicited Hand on Leg” more than once, and just once the “Gratuitous Leg Spread and Stare.”

It’s a love-hate relationship, which goes mostly as evidence to my state of mind this morning when Jane pulled up in front of where I was waiting for the bus. It was a rather nippy morning, and standing at a bus stop, next to a busy road certainly doesn’t make for any warm gusts. It’s kind of like sitting on Jack Frost’s anus after a trip to Tijuana.

I’d been waiting for about ten minutes, getting blown back and forth, and I can only assume I’d taken on the, “my balls are making icicle sounds” face of pain, when a car pulled up in front of me. It was a red light, so I didn’t notice anything until I saw the window start rolling down.

At first I didn’t even look at the car, I just took out my headphones and waited for the inevitable request for directions that I would undoubtably be unable to answer. Instead all I heard was, “You going to New York?”

That was when I turned and looked. She was obviously offering me a ride. The first thing both parties involved in a hitch-hike do is size up the other, trying to make sure that the other isn’t crazy, or a born again Christian (take this one on personal experience).

“Yeah,” I said.

On this occasion, my ride was a forty five year-old black lady on her way to work. She reminded me of a camp director I had when I was thirteen, and when she smiled and asked if I’d like a ride, I said, “That’d be fantastic, thanks.”

I’ve told about ten people so far today about this story and the reaction has been split right down the middle. On one half, I get the, “Are you fucking crazy? She could have been a psycho killer.” Which is certainly a valid point, considering how many middle-aged African American female psycho killers out there regularly troll for fresh meat in Bayonne, NJ.

The other half has been in agreement with me that, a) That was a very nice thing of her to do (it was freezing), b) The world would be better off with more people like her and c) What makes ME look so harmless that I’d warrant a pick-up? (I’m guessing it was the, “Gay for Clay” button on my lapel)

We had a lovely ride in. We traded small talk, what we do for a living, where we’re from, our names, our likes, our slightly glossed over “for the sake of conversation” political beliefs.

Her name is Jane, she was originally from St. Martin (I think), her accent had been sanded down by nearly two decades of living there in New Jersey. She’s a paralegal at a law firm in midtown and apparently she gets free parking. She’s a Catholic and voted for Kerry in the last election. She knits in her spare time and tries to get her son to come home from college at Rutgers for a visit once in a while.

When we were nearing the Lincoln Tunnel, after we’d nearly run dry of niceties, I said, “You know, I have to ask, do you normally stop for people and offer rides? Is that entirely safe?”

She said, “Not really, but today, when I saw you standing there in the cold, waiting for that bus, I said to myself, ‘here’s a person who wouldn’t mind some help, and I can offer that help and it won’t mean any skin off of my back, so why not?'”

“But what about the crazies, psychoes out there?” I asked.

I’ll never forget what she said then, “We’re the crazies if we’d rather lock our doors to people in need instead of offering our help.”

When she let me out on 8th Avenue, near a subway station, I remembered that my parents used to pick up hitchhiker’s all the time when we were kids. That someone on the road might just need some help or a lift was the assumption we’d make.

Now a days, if I saw someone on the road for some reason I’d think he was an escaped mental patient with a penchant for eating sauteed genitalia. When did we start fearing our neighbor and stop fearing for their well being? The greatest thing about what Jane said was that the help she had to offer, just a lift in the direction she was going, was so insignificant that it would be crazy not to offer it.

Maybe we have all gone crazy, because I certainly can’t say with any kind of honesty that I would have acted the same way she did in her situation. At least with people like Jane driving around offering up societal prozac in the form of politeness, maybe we can keep the straight jacket off for a few more years

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