Wednesday, April 22, 2009

What Does It Say about the Rest of Us?

Okay, so I finally watched the video of Susan Boyle's performance on "Britain's Got Talent". Of course, I was impressed by her wonderful voice. She's especially gifted in comparison to the contestants on "American Idol", who are often unable to get through abbreviated versions of much simpler pop songs without hitting notes flat. But the real reason everyone is so blown away by Susan Boyle is that she has the nerve to be so talented when she is also unattractive.

Did you see those grimacing, eye-rolling twits in the audience, the ones who mocked her when she said at the beginning that her dream was to become a professional singer? As if 85% of Brits have anything to say about someone else being ugly. Screw those people.

Nevertheless, while I admit it was satisfying to see that audience worship her in the end, when it was all over, I was left with a distinct sense of "is that all?" I'm not downplaying her skills. But if she were 25 years younger and able to wear skinny jeans and a halter top without making anyone nauseous, I wouldn't be hearing enough about her to actually warrant a youtube video viewing.

In an odd, roundabout way, the Susan Boyle phenomenon reminds me of an Ann Arbor guy who was commonly known as The Guy Without a Nose. I referred to him as The Guy Without a Face (sung to the tune of Billy Idol's "Eyes Without a Face"). Anyway, the story about him was that he had once tried to commit suicide by shooting himself in the head, but didn't succeed. So, his face was terribly mutilated, he couldn't speak very well and he had no nose. When you'd see him on the street, you just did everything you could to not look at him - politely. Like a lot of other homeless guys, he would panhandle at lines outside of music venues. But I bet he made a lot more money than the other dudes, because people just wanted him to go away.

I remember an old co-worked telling me, "The Guy Without a Nose likes to stand outside of the YMCA and scare the little kids as they came out of daycare". Of course, I was horrified. But then I thought, how do I know that story's true? And even if he does hang out there, who knows why? And ultimately, why did it make me so sickly happy to think that I finally had a good reason to dislike the guy?

That's the magical quality that Susan Boyle and The Guy Without a Face share - the subtle ability to remind us how shallow we really are.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Tales from the Bus: The Terrorist Toddler

Every time I see them on the #3 bus heading to Ann Arbor, I cringe.

I think I first saw them about 9 months ago - a young, attractive, hippy-ish mother (couldn't be more than 22 years old) and her equally pretty, but extremely hyperactive two year old daughter. The little girl was sprawled across her mother's lap, when she wasn't squirming or trying to run to the front of the bus. Despite her intermittent shrieks, another young woman (an enabler) cooed over the child. "She's so cute!" The young mother smiled. She was proud. She didn't scold her daughter for screaming, but cajoled her instead. At first, she tried a couple of gentle shushes, but that didn't work. Then came the awful song, in that shrill, crazy-making voice -

"The wheels of the bus go round and round,
round and round, round and round
The wheels of the bus go round and round, all day long!"

And then the verse with the "up and down", and the "up" part was so loud and fake-happy sounding. But it worked. The little girl actually sat still and stopped yelling. Singing that song was the one way the mother could placate her child.

But I felt like a hostage. That's why there are very strict rules on the bus. No radios. No loud phone conversations. No eating or drinking. Why? Because you can't get away from it.

My immediate impression was that the mom is more concerned with being cool than being in charge. She's not mature enough to know why the latter is as important as the former, so she isn't in control. The daughter is.

I've ridden with this pair several times since that first meeting. Every time I see them, mom sings "The Wheels of the Bus". Louder. More often. More deperately. It's painful to sit there - when everyone else is silently reading, or listening to their ipods, or just staring off into space - while this overwrought woman practically wails a nursery school song, so she can save her obnoxious daughter the embarrassment of being the loudest person on the bus.

Well, I'm guessing a fed-up driver must have banned "The Wheels of the Bus", because when I saw them on Thursday, mom didn't use that tack. And the little girl screamed all the way to Washtenaw Community College, where they were finally deposited. Mom begged her endlessly. Sometimes she pleaded, "Be quiet," as if she were asking a favor. Mostly she whined, "You need to lower your voice!" But of course, this toddler doesn't need to do anything she doesn't want to do. And for that reason, I give her a mean look whenever she passes by me.

When I was in my early twenties, I was totally the enabler that doted upon smiling tots no matter how rude or hyper they may have been. My parents were so strict about public manners and behavior that I suppose I found the lack of restraint refreshing. That's why most 22 year olds shouldn't have kids. Not enough perspective.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

...and the answer is "yes"

I work in the catering department of a Jewish deli. Every spring, we take phone orders for deli Passover foods. As you can imagine, this is a very busy time and yet the system we use to take and track orders is, well, archaic - lots of paper forms and an excel spreadsheet. I actually love it.

But, with such a low-tech system, there is a high potential for miscommunication. So the management is really anal about training us to fill in all those little boxes correctly. And being the good recovering Catholic that I am, I tend to follow strict directions very well - at least most of the time.

After a slow start to the ordering season (which usually starts a couple weeks in advance of Erev Passover), I was very proud of myself for taking several phone orders last Saturday. Then I came in on Monday and saw copies of a handmade sign hanging all over the office. The left half of the sign was a copy of a Passover order form with little yellow highlighter smiley faces and the word "good!" written on it. The right half of the sign was a copy of a form with big x's covering half of its surface, yellow highlighter unhappy faces and the word "bad!". And that was a copy of one of my forms. Just like every other one I had filled, all of the order info was in the wrong column.

So, in response to the question posed in the April 1st blog posting "BUSSUHHTWAAAIN!!!" - "Have I ever been someone's example of a dumbass?", the answer is "yes"!

Friday, April 10, 2009

2 x 2 x 2 x 2 x 2

On Tuesday I will be 25 years old.

My goal for 25 is to take driving classes and get my license.

Most people get their license when they are 24, but I’ve waited twice as long.

I used to kid myself that I just didn’t care to drive, but then I discovered that I actually found it terrifying!

Undoubtedly, that had to do with all those times I was passenger in my drunken dad’s car, and the particular incident in which he ran over my foot… the day before my 15th birthday… while I was still in the car!

But he’s dead now and a lot of stuff has changed. I’m not nearly as neurotic as I used to be and I think I’m ready to do this thing that almost any given asshole can do on any given day.

When I am 26, I want to be able to say that I have been licensed for half of my life. After all, I’m not going to get a 27, and these half-a-life-ago times are definitely running low.

And sometimes, every couple years, I just want a little White Castle without having to convince someone to take me.

I’m ready to enjoy all the advantages of being the grown-up I am. Getting older is cool.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Tyra Male!

No, I haven't gotten around to writing that blog about "Why I Love America's Next Top Model" (I've thought about it a lot; still haven't found a good answer). Just wanted to let y'all know about the most exciting collision of egos since the last Detroit city council meeting.

On Monday, April 6, "The Tyra Banks Show" will air Tyra's exclusive interview with Levi Johnston, a.k.a. Bristol Palin's baby daddy. NOTE: If you think that episode will be the forum for the aforementioned ego clash, you severely overestimate Levi's moxie.

Rather, I refer to granny Sarah Palin, who ties Tyra for Public Personality I Most Love to Hate. She has already released this statement:

"We're disappointed that Levi and his family, in a quest for fame, attention, and fortune, are engaging in flat-out lies, gross exaggeration, and even distortion of their relationship....It is unfortunate that Levi finds it more appealing to exploit his previous relationship with Bristol than to contribute to the well being of the child."

Since Tyra has canonized herself as patron saint of wayward teen girls, I can't wait to witness her self-righteous rantings about Bristol's premature mamahood. But I'm more excited for Sarah Palin's response.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009


I love dumb jokes, especially the punny variety. So when my friends named their new pet schnauzer "Frieda", I naturally nicknamed the pooch "Frieda Be You and Me".

But, because I sometimes slur my words Midwestern-style, Dan thought I was saying "Freidabeeyewanmee". In other words, my inability to speak English clearly prevented me from getting a laugh. And that's a bit shameful for me.

Now, maybe you think I'm being too harsh on myself, but I'm just as hard on any ass who makes some dumb, inarticulate statement on television. Case in point - a couple years ago Dan and I took a spontaneous road trip to Texas. When we finally arrived at his sister's Austin home in the middle of the night, we were so wired beyond tired that we couldn't go straight to bed. So we found ourselves watching a late-night edition of Family Feud.

Family Feud is consistently the most retarded game show on TV, and this episode was no exception. The final category was "Name a Place Where It Isn't Okay to Floss Your Teeth". One contestant thought really hard, burst into a "Eureka!" grin, and shouted "The bathroom!" which is arguably the most acceptable venue for tooth flossing. Rather than explaining to this man that he had given the worst answer ever, the host (it was either J Peterman from Seinfeld or the "Tool Time" guy) took the coward's way out and said, "Bob says 'the public bathroom'... survey says?" And the contestant scored! That annoyed me.

The survey question was so inane that no one could figure out the last hidden answer, which turned out to be "Bus/Train". Really dumb, right? But everyone in the Family Feud audience read the answer in unison, in that singsong voice that implies "Geez, that's so obvious - how come we couldn't figure that one out?" And when they all said it together, it sounded like


So for the last two years, every time someone on the television or the radio uses a word inappropriately, or shoves a whole sentence into one breath, or doesn't bother to understand what they are saying, either Dan or I will yell "BUSSUHHTWAAAIN!!!"

But I totally BUSSUHHTWAAAINed that "Freida" joke, which makes me wonder - have I ever been someone's example of a dumbass?

And that is why I don't want to be on TV ever.