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Faux Outrage

Literally the most important blog in the universe since 2010.

The good news is that the recent Faux Outrage hiatus is the result of a number of positive developments: I accepted a new job, reached one of those birthday milestones where folks start give you a hard time (and enjoyed the corresponding celebration), and am currently preparing to leave on a 10-day Europestravaganza.

In many ways, life is golden.

These are all positive developments and perfectly within my realm of reasonable expectations.  Despite the fact that my new job is (technically) in another state and casually traveling to Europe is only possible as a result of highly evolved transportation technologies, I grew up — and continue to live — in a culture that, above all, seems to encourage movement.

And for good reason.

There are plenty of upsides to a highly mobile populace.  For example, students are educated at institutions tailored to their specific interests, workers can fill labor voids created by the demands of industry, and similarly-minded individuals can form a community instead of living as individuals scattered throughout.  The (theoretical!) result of all of this are highly-functioning environments composed of (theoretically) self-selected persons who (theoretically) choose to live in a location based on where their skills are most valuable.

Perfectly efficient mobility positively impacts everyone, even those of us who choose at a given time to stand pat.  Incoming community members help static members of society by expanding our current knowledge.  And as times goes by, as these new persons become enveloped in our ever-expanding social networks, we draw on their knowledge and perspective to refine our understanding of the world around us.

On the other hand, there are downsides to all of this movin’ around.  The most obvious drawback is that our support networks are never complete and always in flux.  I grew up with the unsubtle expectation that I would become a high school graduate, then a college graduate, and then…who knows, but in all likelihood the result of all of these educational experiences would push me outside the friendly confines of home and to a place where my skills/interests could be effectively utilized (so far as I understood at the time).

The end result is that our ability to move to greener pastures means we will ultimately physically leave the support group that is our family, the friend groups that we developed during our adolescence and early adulthood, as well as the mentors who helped develop and cultivate our adult personalities.  Or in the alternative, the people that make up those groups are bound to leave us for any number of “reasonable” mobility-related reasons.

Ultimately, if you are like me and lucky enough to have had a life filled with opportunities, you spend your entire existence building up social networks and watching important people walk into — and out of — your life.  It is a blessing and a curse (though mostly a blessing) to make so many great connections over the years.  While it is nice to know that there are great people spread all over the country (and world) that count themselves among my best friends and confidants, the sad truth is that at any given moment, I am without a vast majority of the most important people in my life.

It’s just math.

This weekend, about the same time I check-in to my hotel in Prague, my life back home in DC will be forever changed, and not for the better.  I am losing a best friend to the Blue Ridge mountains of North Carolina, for all of the “right” reasons.  As much as I hate to admit it, I do recognize that this is not where she belongs.

She is an artist.

And despite the pain associated with her departure, I feel fortunate that we even crossed paths in the first place.  It is an accident of history that she moved to DC several years ago, an accident that we met, and in the end, an accident that she fell in love with clay.  And now, three years later, I spend my time wishing that I loved anything as much as she loves spinning mud on a wheel — even though that wheel is what is rolling her out of town.

She belongs in a pottery studio in the South, which is where she is going.

Mobility wins out.

The system works!

Yes, the system does work, but it is times like this when I wish it didn’t work quite so well.

Going to miss you, LeE.

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A emotional existence defined by negativity most often does not develop in one sudden rush.

Do not chase these.

Individual negative event particles (“NEP’s”), like microscopic frowny-faced ions (“MFFI’s”), drip-drop around a person’s soul until that individual is eventually pummeled by the now-formed waterfall of negativity (ironically, “WON”), which can culminate in the lashing out at a stranger who made the mistake of being in the same room as as our subject, now drowned in negativity, completely pissed off.

Unfortunately, this state of being “pissed off” is the downfall of many otherwise healthy relationships.

With that in mind, we also acknowledge that “it is better to be pissed off than pissed on,” and though I suppose that may technically be true, it is nonetheless a shockingly low bar.  Returning home from work and remarking, out loud, “At least no one literally urinated onto my person” should provide about as much emotional comfort as a teddy bear made of aluminium foil and day-old croutons.

The soft — and wet — bigotry of low expectations.

Though the relationship between being pissed off and pissed on is good for a laugh, sometimes the connection being pissed off/on is actually quite literal.

For as long as indoor plumbing has existed, it can be safely assumed that women who cohabitate with men find themselves drawing a straight line from “pissed on” — the toilet seat, that is — to “pissed off.”  Of course, this idea is nothing new.  The notion that “men should put the toilet seat down” is as old as indoor plumbing.  In fact, by now, the concept is fairly described as equal parts cliche and uninteresting.  And because this proverbial horse has been beaten to death for so long that his glue has already dried, we have either become complacent about this subject or have unemotionally declared this fundamental male-female strain unserious.

But it is quite serious!

Now, because I am a solutions-oriented guy, and because I do not believe that women should be subject to live in a world where the left of one’s behind is subject to what is left of what was left behind, I am hereby embarking to remedy this rift.  And men, let us recognize that this is not necessarily a Women’s Rights issue in any real sense.  On this issue, Rosie the Riveter is nowhere to be found.  It is merely a practical issue that — when it is apparent — most often negatively impacts the female sect of the species.

But it may be possible to find a solution that benefits both parties.

We can do it!

And in any case, no one likes pee on the seat.

America, let it be known:  I have the solution.

Urinals!

Every home in America, every apartment, every bungalow, should be equipped with a urinal (or three).  The immediate benefit is obvious.

Imagine, ladies: no more pee on the seat!

Imagine, men: no more pesky seat to fiddle with and keep track of!

The Solution

Besides providing a boon to our sputtering economy — I’m sure the Porcelain Industry could use a boost — an increase in the number of urinals in this country would have a calming impact on domestic situations from coast to coast.  Because toilet seats will no longer be pissed on, women will no longer be pissed off.

The connection could not be more straightforward!

And lest we start believing that an explosion of urinals would serve to benefit only womankind, please also note that we men love them, too!  Urinals require almost no aim, can (usually) be peed into hands-free-for-the-most-part, and there is never any clean-up required — unless you are very, very drunk and/or are literally trying to mark your territory.

Folks may fairly argue that space is at a premium in most bathrooms, but you will never be able to convince me that a second sink is more valuable than an argument-suppressing urine catching device.  Couples who are interested in making it work will find a way to make it work.

Let’s make it happen, America.

A urinal in every home.

Support the two potty system!

It has been a little while since I’ve added to the fictionary.

My apologies.

This is the fourteenth FWOTD.

eccentrick (ik-sen-trik)
noun

an individual’s inherently narcissistic belief that by engaging in seemingly “contradictory” behaviors, he/she has an unusual, peculiar, or otherwise interesting personality.

In other words, a manufactured sense of eccentricity.

For example: “Isn’t it weird that on some Fridays, I like to party all night and other times I just like to sit in my pajamas and watch a movie?”

No, it isn’t weird.

I praised Alanis a few weeks ago for (unfortunately but) fundamentally changing our use of the word “irony,” so it might not be a big surprise that I am pinning eccentrick in part on another female singer/songwriter from the 90’s: Meredith Brooks.

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I’m a bitch, I’m a lover

I’m a child, I’m a mother
I’m a sinner, I’m a saint
I do not feel ashamed

The song above (understandable titled “Bitch”), which peaked at #2 on the Billboard charts in 1997, tells the tale of a proud, fierce woman who, so far as I can tell, is completely normal.  Yet woven throughout the lyrics is the implication that by acting differently depending on the singer’s mood or circumstances, she is worthy of our attention.

This mentality is eccentrick.

Though Meredith Brooks may have helped popularize this particular brand of self-absorption, eccentrick behavior is most pervasive in the world of online dating.  The unattached are so frightened of scaring off a potential mate that they find it necessary to hedge any statement or claim that could be considered strong.

Rather than be thought of as a “girly girl,” someone might write, “I love buying shoes but also like to lounge around in flip-flops!”  Rather than be thought of as a workaholic, that same person might say, “I take my job seriously, but I also find time to go out and have fun.”  Instead of saying anything, this person has said nothing.

Though the (faux) definition of this term is couched in negative language, the fact is I believe we are all guilty of this kind of thinking in one way or another.  We seem to be more than capable of giving ourselves the benefit of the doubt — or even patting ourselves on the back — when we act in a way that is antithetical to what we know to be “usual.”

As it turns out, we don’t view our contradictions as problematic when we weave them into our definition.

Yet when we are witness to another acting outside the scope of “normal” behavior, we immediately judge the scenario based on an objective, static understanding of the world around us.  We would never do something like that.  We would never be so drunk, or so wrong-headed.

We would never wear those pants.

“There are rules that must be followed!” we might say.

But our own contradictions?  Of course we can be forgiven!

Our own failings?  You just have to understand where we’re coming from!

We are precious snowflakes!

No.

As it turns out — we are not.

That we are not as interesting as we tend to believe we are is both good news and bad news, and the good and bad news is the same news:

We humans are all pretty much the same.

We want to believe that our contradictions are what makes us us, but the reality is that they simply makes us human.

 

You are walking across a major street.

There is no traffic light at this intersection.

You are in a crosswalk, legally.

You have the right of way.

A blue Ford Focus approaches, one block away.

At its current trajectory, the car will intersect your path in 5 seconds.

Technically, the driver is obliged to slow down.

Is there a part of you that wants to get hit by this car just to prove a point?

We love so very much to be right.

I have this thought almost every single day.  On the days that I walk home from work, I will access this (completely frightening) part of my brain no less than four times in a thirty minute period.  I fully admit this subconscious anti-prayer is probably the craziest thing that I continue to think even after determining it to be insane, but I seem to be completely unable to shake this brand of analysis from my frontal lobe.

And I don’t think I am alone.

We often say that our egos are fragile, but I disagree.  On the contrary, our egos are so sturdy that there is a part of each of us unwilling to sacrifice even a single bit of pride if it would mean kowtowing to a unknown person with whom we have had zero previous interactions.  In this respect, our egos are quite a bit sturdier than conventional wisdom suggests.

Even in circumstances where we would obtain no benefit — fringe or otherwise — and in fact would suffer a huge detriment, we are obsessed with being right.  Being right, above all else, is the best feeling in the world, and we know that because there is a part inside all of us that believes our being in a situation where we are right and they are wrong outweighs the complete and total bummer of getting clipped by a Ford Focus.

The hit-by-car example is extreme (because it involves our potential demise), but this kind of I-am-so-right-I-hope-someone-challenges-me internal monologue infects our lives in all kinds of (awful) ways.

When we are sitting on an insult — one we cannot wait to use! — praying that a permanent or temporary enemy verbally abuses us, our sturdy egos are showing.

When we hope we will spot a stranger steal a purse from an old lady so that we can track him down — because we are sure it’s the right thing to do! — we are confusing our own self-love with the far better scenario of living in a world without violent crime.

When we know the answer — er, “question” — to the Double Jeopardy “answer” and hope the Defending Champion will simply frown and shrug her shoulders, we are favoring our own internal righteousness over a stranger who has had — and will continue to have — no impact on our life.  It is more than a little bit strange that we root against another human in a simple trivia contest thousands of miles away so that we can have a moment of ego-stroking — even if no one is around to see or hear about it!

In the animal kingdom, “ego” is understood in terms of natural instinct.

For example, when two rams are butting heads in the wild, though we are tempted to personify their actions in terms of “pride,” we recognize that they are engaging in behavior inherent to their existing in the first place.  Rams accept these challenges in order to display dominance and prove their genetic worth to ewes (aka, “lady rams”).

Perhaps, even while walking in traffic, we are ultimately unable to shake these ram-like, animal instincts.  We want to be challenged.  We want to be able to show off our righteousness to passersby, even if our display results in a precarious situation.  We still have these aggressive pride instincts bottled up and desire circumstances within the society we have created to act on them.  Even if those circumstances involve a car and a crosswalk.

It is possible that humans have evolved slower than our social societies have.

That we generally lack serious conflict in our day-to-day lives speaks volumes of the society a sub-set of humans have been able to create, but puts us in the unique position of not being able to test our still-quite-functional animal instincts.  Our egos have been cultivated over time in a way that suggests our high opinion of ourselves comes not only from our parents clapping as hard as they can during our performance of I’m A Little Teapot, but also from our parents DNA and all of the DNA proceeding.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I believe I need to get out of the street.

The accusations began suddenly and strangely.

The bold ones would simply declare, “You are left-handed!” while those compromised by self-doubt or a sense of humility and calm would less confidentially raise this serious allegation in question form:

“You’re left-handed, right?”

“Right.”

(ABOVE) An emporium of woe.

“That’s what I thought.”

“No, right.”

“You’re a righty?”

“Yeah, right.”

“So you are a lefty?”

“No, right.”

[etc.]

These types of conversations consistently left both parties confused, and following each successful defense of my correct-handedness, the accusing party would always walk away muttering the same sentence: “I don’t know why I always thought you were a lefty.”  And I didn’t know either.  For years, I could not understand why I was so often called upon to defend myself from the serious, frightening allegations of left-handedness.

I used the regular scissors in grade school!

Notebooks are made for me and my people!

Standard manual can-openers do not frustrate me in the slightest!

And then one day, all at once, “miraculously” and without warning, I immediately realized why close companions would come to the conclusion that I was left-handed, even if they had no idea where the assumption came from: I wore a (calculator!) watch on my right wrist.  For whatever reason, I did not receive the memo explaining that you are supposed to wear your watch on your non-dominant wrist.

I guess I’ve always been a bit of a rebel.

We tend to think of watches as a wardrobe staple, but the reality is that until the First World War — when watches were tied to the wrist with a leather strap for easy access — wristwatches were thought of as exclusively within the feminine domain.  To illustrate this point, in The History and Evolution of the Wristwatch, one gentleman lets it be known that he “would sooner wear a skirt as wear a wristwatch.”

Do you think he would be surprised to learn that today men wear both?

The common wristwatch rose in popularity throughout the early 20th century, buoyed in part by the invention of a self-winding system in 1923 by John Harwood (who is not famous enough to have a proper Wikipedia page but does have this).  By the end of the 1960’s, new electric-powered watches flooded the marketplace and by the 1980’s, electronic timekeeping devices had seized a majority control of the watch market.

It’s all true.

And yet, I think the day of reckoning has come for electronic watches.  For mechanical watches, too.  In twenty years, I would not be surprised to learn that watch market has completely collapsed, and that the folks still buying “timepieces” (as they will undoubtedly be re-branded in the future) are the same people who keep a record player in their house and/or are exclusively interested in the art and status of the watch.  Excuse me, the “piece.”

These days, though we may have many problems, we happen to know what time it is.  We have our cell phones, we have our computers, and we can tell by the position of the moon when The Daily Show is about to start.  Watches had a good run, don’t get me wrong, but I won’t be surprised when there is a 60 Minutes report in 2026 where Andy Rooney Jr. III laments the fact that we no longer have the human decency to wear watches.

Oh, and it would sound a little something like this (read in the voice of Andy Rooney):

Whatever happened to watches?  We still need to know what time it is, so why is it that people no longer wear a watch on their wrist?  My dad always wore a watch, and he was never late.  Watches don’t just tell time; they tell a story.  Why, when I was a boy, a watch was a sign of adulthood.  I got my first watch when I was 8.  My mother gave it to me.  She would tell me to be home by six o’clock, and by golly, if the minute hand — do you remember those? — one was click past 12, she would give me a time out.  I still have that watch, by the way, and every time I look at it, I remember to call my mom and make time for the woman who gave it to me.  A watch reminds us there is only so much time.

I am a little bit ahead of the trend, giving up my watch around 2004, and I am happy to report that I’ve barely noticed any change at all.

The only difference now is that nobody thinks I’m left-handed.

Not long ago, while walking from the grocery store back to my apartment, I passed a man who by all accounts — or at least one specific account, mine — was in dire straits.  My evidence?  The fact that he approached and asked me for some money.

I guess you could say I’m a bit of a detective.

Now, I’m not so obtuse as to believe that the mere fact a person asks/begs/pleads/juggles for money automatically means that he is homeless or “down on his luck” in a meaningful, dickensian way.  But I do know that whatever inspires a person to ask a stranger for money, whether it be desperation, depression, or any number of soul-crushing addictions, it is a behavior that I cannot (or perhaps choose not to) imagine exhibiting.

In that sense, if nothing else, it is fair to say that the person in this story is worse off than I can imagine.  That said, there are a couple of reasons why I felt it a tad strange — or at least a bit uninspired — that this particular man in this particular situation asked me for straight-up American currency.

Number one, I didn’t have a hand free to dig into my pockets (wherein the currency theoretically resides).  And number two, the reason I did not have a hand free to dig into my pockets was due to that fact that I was carrying two enormous bags of food.

Food, glorious food!

_
I’m a softie, though, so I said to the guy, “Honestly, I don’t have any change, but how about a peach?”

A pause.

“Nah.”

Yes, after quick consideration, this man — possibly homeless — sighed out a half-hearted nah.

Nah.

I was floored.

First of all, if you’re asking strangers for money, you should at least have the decency to pretend you’re interested in using that money for food.  Food like a peach!  If nothing else, this perception needs to be a part of any money-taking routine/charade:  You pretend that you’re not going to put my $0.60 toward a Steel Reserve tallboy later on, and I pretend not to know that very same fact.

That’s the deal.

But then, as I turned the corner and headed home, my anger rapidly faded into confusion.  The more I thought about the interaction, the more I realized that the awkwardness and indignity I felt ultimately had nothing to do with poverty, politeness, shame, gentrifier’s guilt, or any social science theory neatly explained in a Sociology 101 textbook.

Nah.

This is about peaches!

_
Who, no matter what his circumstances, turns down a free peach?

I don’t care if you’re looking for drug money, beer money, beer-laced-with-drugs money, or not looking for anything in particular.  When someone offers you a free peach, you take the free peach!

Peaches are wonderful.

Free peaches are manna from heaven.

As a general rule, I am intrigued by these getting-asked-for-change circumstances, but that intrigue is usually followed by a sharp, painful sort of guilt that I specifically associate with my interactions with the homeless (or “homeless” if you prefer).  Leading up to — and in the midst of — these interactions, my internal monologue shifts into detached academic mode.  I carefully weigh and consider the macro-socioeconomic issues that led to the interaction, thus diminishing the actual (“potential”) suffering taking place before me.  The ease with which I am able to quickly disassociate from a very real, upsetting interaction is an aspect of my personality that I am willing — but so far completely unable — to shake.

As a result, I’m a bit of a sucker.

I say “a bit of a sucker” as opposed to “a full-fledged sucker” because I never physically open my wallet.  When I have change — as in, physical, clangy coins in my pocket — I will give it away.  Even in the event the total amount of change surpasses $1, it is available to anyone who asks earnestly.  But I will never reach for paper bills.

The paper bills are mine.

In the 21st century, this is actually a bit of a problem if you goal is to get currency in the hands of those who request/need it.  I am still perfectly willing to give away my change, but the fact is I don’t use cash much these days.  Every transaction that I can complete using a credit card will be carried out in that manner.  Basically, I only have coins in my pocket when I am returning from a Cash Only (“tax evading”) establishment.  As a result, with each passing year — though my standard for money-distribution has not changed — the amount of cash I distribute consistently diminishes.

Presumably, I am not the only one with the “change in pocket” standard for giving money to homeless people.  My guess is that there are thousands of people who are in the same boat as me: they would give more money than they do, but because they are tied to using their credit card, they are not often provided the opportunity to do so.  In the end, the pool of “available” money for the needy shrinks as credit card usage increases.

But could this be a good thing?  Perhaps, as a result of the ever-diminishing pool of money, asking people for spare change will no longer be a functional way to raise money for your food/drugs/food-drugs.  Perhaps, to the extent that us change-givers are enabling a lifestyle that ultimately should be altered, there is a net benefit to our not having any pennies, quarters, nickles, and dimes in our pockets.

Wouldn’t that be peachy?

Meek, "Keep Your Coins I Want Change"

Dearest Ladies and Gentlemen:

It is time to move on!  

It is time we recognize that some of us continue to engage in completely inefficient, illogical behavior.  It is time we recognize that we should not expect the present to resemble the past, and that our future should not — and will not! — resemble the present. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, it is time to move on.

Let’s stop leaving voicemail messages.  Forever.

It is not often suggested that society should take cues from tweens, teenagers, tweenagers, or whatever we are currently calling Our Nation’s Most Insufferable Generation (side note: do not forget that you used to be exactly like them except your clothes were somehow even stupider).

Conventional wisdom suggests that unless you’re looking for the a comprehensive list of talentless pop stars or morbidly curious what it is like to speak with someone born after Y2K, it is probably best to leave these kids alone and hope that they won’t defund medicare and social security when they grow up.

But I recommend that we actually look to them, at least with regard to voicemail.  Simply put: kids don’t get voicemails.  They understand voicemails, sure, but that is precisely why they do not get them.

The next generation knows better.

To be clear, when I say “voicemail,” I’m referring to the voicemail tied to our cell phones.  Though there are plenty of landlines still functioning all over the world, the vast majority of the people I interact with on a daily basis depend primarily on their cell phones.

Every aspect of our voice mailbox is predicated on the technology that preceded it: the answering machine.  We all know that the original purpose of the answering machine was to provide a method for a caller to convey information to a telephone owner without actually speaking to him/her.  The answering machine benefited both the caller, who did not have to call back to convey certain information, and the owner, who did not have to be there to receive it.

The answering machine was a godsend.

Amazingly, though the technology has been around since there was a wall divided East from West Germany, our cell phone voice mailboxes contain the precisely the same instructions that we’ve been boring our friends and family with since the 1980’s.  “You’ve reached the voice mailbox of Soandso.  At the ‘beep,’ please leave your name and number and I’ll get back to you as soon as possible.”  I think as a people, we should be beyond this by now.  There are those who do think we have it all figured out, the ones who use their message to record a simple, “You know what to do!”

Apparently, we do not.

Thankfully, understanding the magic of the answering machine is not passed onto the next generation through DNA.  “Kids these days” — the ones who did not grow up relying on this particular technology — are able to view the machine’s usefulness through an objective lens.

And that is a good thing.

So what does the next generation understand that some of us clearly do not? Simple: they understand that the most efficient, effective way to communicate with someone who is not answering their phone is to send that person a text message.

There are those who will deem this practice “impersonal,” but I think that criticism ignores the fact that impersonality is the very essence of the original answering machine: as a rule, you are talking to nobody.  What could be more impersonal than that?  

Text messages provide several benefits over voicemail messages:

  1. Caller is able to communicate ideas quickly
  2. Caller is able to communicate ideas discretely
  3. Receiver instantly receives communication
  4. Receiver is able to quickly read/respond
  5. Receiver is able to discretely read/respond

For example, let’s take a look at this classic Seinfeld clip:

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While it may be a little bit depressing that almost every single telephone-based joke in the Seinfeld clip above would be lost on a member of Generation Text, it is emblematic of the transition that is taking place.  Since the popularization of cell phones, the following situations depicted in the clip no longer resonate:

  1. George is able to listen to an answering machine message as it is being recorded
  2. George picks up the phone in the middle of a message recording
  3. George pretends he does not know that he has been contacted by Allison
  4. George plausibly calls the wrong number in order to avoid communication

The main concern that George has with regard to being “found out” is his not wanting to go to the coffee shop because Allison might spot him there.  Can any of us still imagine a world where our being physically located by chance is the only concern we have if we do not wish to be contacted by an acquaintance or have a plausible excuse for not having received their communications?

George was living in simpler time: simply ignore the answering machine and lay low.

Today, our cell phones give us great power to contact anyone in a moment’s notice, but on the contrary as well.  None of us are ever more than a touchscreen away.  Yet, despite the fact that 21st century technology and society does not resemble this particular Seinfeld episode, many of us pretend that we still live in George Costanza’s world.  

Count yourself among this illustrious group if the piles of cassette tapes stacked behind George and Jerry’s pre-iMac computer did not register as laughably dated.  Etch your name in stone if you also recognized the song being parodied in George’s answering machine message.

Let’s all agree to send text messages instead of leaving voicemails.

Who is with me?

The next generation of Americans may not know much, but they do know the best way to get in touch with each other.  Even if you can bet what they end up talking about won’t make any sense.

In any case, you can stop pretending like this isn’t good news: you hate what your voice sounds like anyway.

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