Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Let's get something out of the way.

I like to complain. In fact, I'd rank it right up there among my favorite activities. The catch is, I'm sneaky about my complaining. It's usually done privately via internal monologue because, to be totally honest, if I complained aloud every time I thought it in my head, no other human being would want any contact with me whatsoever. Sure, I find the random person who enjoys complaining as much as I do, but they are few and far between. To be more accurate, I consider myself more of a curmudgeon than I do a complainer, but let's not split hairs. I'm a judgemental, snarky, terrible person. Kind of. I have often wished that I had the ability to start fires with my mind, but it's probably a good thing that I don't. I'd certainly be behind bars for burning 99% of the people I encounter on a daily basis to cinders.

I am also a list-maker. I make lists for everything - things to do at work, things to do at home, books I want to read, music I want to listen to, classes I want to take...you get the idea. It's really at the point now where I'm beginning to wonder if I have some form of list-making OCD.

So what happens when a chronic complainer also has a compulsion for list-making? I make lists about things I don't like! The list that follows was prompted by my recent excursion to the grocery store (thankfully it wasn't Wal-Mart or I'd have to quit my job to work on the list), where I encountered a variety of annoyances that weren't worth wasting the breath to discuss, but are possibly worth blogging about.

The 4 Things I hate most about waiting in line at the grocery store

People who get into the express lane with too many items.

Let's get the most obvious out of the way first. I'm not really talking about one or two items over the limit. Nobody is that picky, not even me (although I confess, if someone's order looks borderline, I will count their items*). But if you are one of those people who gets into the "ten items or less" lane with an entire cart full of merchandise, I hope you contract a virulent disease up to and including the AIDS virus. A little harsh? Probably. But is there anything that smacks of a sense of entitlement and/or the attitude of "the rules don't apply to me" quite as much as when people do this? Get over yourself. You're just as much of a peon as the rest of us or you'd be paying someone to do your shopping for you. Unless you're a cardiac surgeon on the way to the hospital for an emergency transplant or a fireman on the way to save several small children and a litter of puppies from a raging fire, you're not in any more of a hurry than the rest of us are.

I had to run to Wal-Mart on my lunch break a couple of weeks ago (I managed to get in and out of the store without permanently disfiguring myself this time) and got into their version of the express lane. I say "their version" because I don't believe that TWENTY items or less counts as express, but whatever. They suck on every other level imaginable, their checkout lines might as well suck as well. The guy in front of me had at least fifty items in his cart, probably more. Needless to say, I did a lot of passive/aggressive eye-rolling and sighing in his general direction. When the cashier was ringing me up I said, "I'll bet you get a lot of people in here who can't count to twenty." I don't think she appreciated the humor.

* A six-pack of Pepsi counts as one item. 653 individual but identical cans of Fancy Feast cat food does not.

People who write checks in the express lane.

Or any lane, really, but I'll give it a pass in the regular lanes as long as the check is either ready to be printed or pre-filled out before the cashier finishes ringing it up. If you wait until your order is completely rung up before you even bother pulling the checkbook out of your purse, you deserve a beating. Seriously, though, I was only vaguely aware that checks still even existed. With the option of using debit cards and paying bills online, what is the point of using a check? I guess people who still write them also balance their checkbook on their abacus once a week.

Putting the oldest cashier in the store in charge of the express lane.

I am sure this will come off as ageist, and that's fine. I have been known to slander the elderly in the past (especially when I get stuck behind them in traffic). But in the real world, the words "express" and "septuagenarian" do not go together. The elderly, as a rule, are sloooower than the rest of us. They're more deliberate in their movements, because a) their bodies are decaying and their bones are softening and b) they actually give a damn if your bread gets squashed before you're even out of the store, because they remember when it cost a nickel. Many people probably appreciate the care with which their purchases are handled. I do not. When I go to the express lane, I want a surly teenager who's only motivation in life is getting me the hell out of their faces so that they can go smoke weed and listen to My Chemical Romance on their iPod. I want someone who is going to put my cookies in the same bag as my 40 lb. sack of dog food because it's quicker than getting another bag. I don't want someone to prattle to me about what a nice day it is or how tasty that frozen pizza looks. I expect speed, and abruptness is an added bonus.

People who request that their items be double bagged.

"Oooh, double bag that. Put it in a paper bag inside the plastic." This request is almost always made by the elderly (again, ageist). Lady, unless you have an anvil in your cart, chances are good that the flimsy plastic shopping bags are going to hold all of your purchases just fine. I was behind an (old) woman at the Shop 'N Save (or Shop 'n Slave, haw) the other day who was purchasing two 5-lb. bags of flour. Not only did she make the cashier double bag them, she made her double bag them IN SEPARATE BAGS. Am I the only one who finds that excessive? I'm no physicist, but I really think one paper bag would have held 10 lbs. The store wasn't wetting down the bottoms of the bags before handing them out. And of course, it was in the express lane, which severely compromised the speed with which the cashier was able to ring up the order. I don't know who was more irritated, the cashier or the line behind her stretching back to the deli counter.

Clearly, I'm easily annoyed.

Monday, September 29, 2008

The Lincoln Assassination/Sarah Palin connection

Something struck me yesterday as I was watching yet another of my nerdy documentaries, and after discussing it at some length with Shawn A. Green III, he suggested that I blog about it. So here goes.

So I’m sitting on my couch, minding my own business and watching The History Channel’s riveting documentary The Hunt for John Wilkes Booth, which I had procured from the local public library system. It’s a historical retelling of Booth’s flight from justice (and eventual demise) after his assassination of Abraham Lincoln. Obviously, as a history major, I’m already very familiar with the story. However, since I am truly a nerd, it never gets old.

Anyway, something that many people don’t know about the Lincoln assassination is that he wasn’t the only political leader who was supposed to be killed that day. A co-conspirator of Booth’s, George Atzerodt, was supposed to kill Vice-President Andrew Johnson and another man, Lewis Powell, was to kill Secretary of State William Seward (who was at that time an invalid confined to his bed recovering from a very serious carriage accident that nearly killed him). Atzerodt chickened out and didn’t even attempt to kill Johnson, coming to the realization that getting loaded sounded like a much better idea than murdering someone. Powell actually went through with his part of the plan, talking his way into Seward’s house, assaulting several members of the household, and ultimately stabbing Seward about the face and neck repeatedly before fleeing. Despite the fact that his incapacitation made an attempt to assassinate him the equivalent of shooting a fish in a barrel, Seward survived due to the splint that he wore on his neck and jaw as a result of his earlier accident, making him both the luckiest (survived devastating carriage accident, assassination attempt) and the unluckiest (devastating carriage accident, attacked by a knife-wielding psycho) bastard on the planet.

With me so far?

Less than two years later, a recovered William Seward went on to purchase Alaska from the Russians, a purchase which, at the time, brought him nothing but ridicule. If you’ve ever heard the term “Seward’s Folly,” you’re at least marginally familiar with the story. At the time, most people in the US felt that Alaska was little more than a wasteland and that the purchase was a complete waste of money (people back then had much less of an appreciation for nature, I suppose). Alaska. Home of Sarah Palin. So if not for a failed assassination attempt in April 1865, Sarah Palin might be known as Comrade Palin rather than a super-dooper hockey mom, self-professed pit bull, and current VP nominee under that puckered old prune of a man.

It all sounds good, right? An example of The Butterfly Effect, only a good example without Ashton Kutcher. I was really, really pleased with the connection I had made. I was, I thought, pretty awesome for even knowing this stuff, let alone piecing it together. Until it was pointed out to me today by a co-worker that while Palin has lived in Alaska since infancy, she was actually born in Idaho.

Oh well, a good theory down the drain. I think my point still stands, though. People in Idaho may be out there, but I doubt that they're far enough out there to elect MooseBurgers as their governor. Seriously, who names their children Trig and Track? So had she lived anywhere other than low-population towns in Alaska, it’s unlikely that her political career would have “progressed” (and believe me, I use that term loosely) as it has. It may have never gotten off the ground to begin with.

So I’m sticking with it. If Lewis Powell hadn’t failed to assassinate William Seward, Seward wouldn’t have been able to purchase Alaska, Palin’s family wouldn’t have been able to move there, and her political career would have been much different.

Place the blame wherever you’d like, there's plenty to go around. I'm going with William Seward. It seems like the guy was a glutton for punishment.

The most important thing to happen to the web since the Rick-Roll.

Welcome to my super awesome new blogspot blog!

After seeing someone else’s shiny new blog, I became green with envy and decided to create my own. Some would call that "copying" but I like to think of it as "being inspired." Don't judge me. Also, it seems like this will be a lot easier than trying to blog on myspace because, let’s be honest, myspace blogging kind of sucks. And by "kind of" I mean "really, really, really." And you’ve all gone to Facebook (which I refuse to use until it's already passe), so this seems like a good compromise. I’m sure you’re all bookmarking this blog, right? Go ahead. I'll wait.

I guess I'll have to come up with the obligatory "getting to know me" post. Though honestly, I can't imagine anyone who doesn't already know me having the slightest interest in reading one of my blogs (I'd be shocked if anyone who does know me has the slightest interest, but I appreciate it that you're humoring me). Much like the blog itself, it'll have lots of useless factoids about my life and such, possibly with photo illustrations. Some of you may be very embarrassed by the stories and/or photos, which - I won't lie - will delight me and make it worth the effort.

I envision this blog being somewhere between interesting Mental Floss-y stuff (on a good day) and the Unabomber’s manifesto (bad day). Realistically, it’ll probably be much closer to the latter – minus the whole bomb thing, of course. I’ve never been good at putting things together.

More than likely I’ll update it for a while and then forget that it exists.