Tag Archives: people are the worst

The Easy Way is Not Always the Right Way


In college, I had this roommate, Pete.

He was the nicest guy you could imagine; this gentle giant of a guy. Soft spoken, always smiling, the kind of guy who somehow always seemed ready to drop what he was doing to help you out with whatever minor inconvenience was on your mind at the minute.

Basically the polar opposite of me, which is an amusing enough happenstance, but not particularly relevant.

I don’t remember much about Pete, because I have the memory of a coked-up goldfish on its fortieth trip round the little castle with the little cage-helmeted deep-sea diver (“OMG what is THAT??”). But I will never forget this story.

It’s February. And it’s bloody cold outside; cold for Georgia standards (I was living in Athens at the time, Go Dawgs) and probably even cold for non-Georgia standards… I want to say temperature in the teens? For Georgia, heckin’ cold.

But Pete was from up North.

So when the winter weather came, he was prepared for it.

Anyway, it’s bloody cold out, and we had, overnight, had that just-a-hint-of-precipitation-that-threatens-to-turn-into-snow-but-never-really-does-down-in-Georgia stuff that leaves a sturdy sheen of ice and frost over car windshields and made for some treacherous walks down the front walk. (Georgia does this stuff remarkably, by the way. It comes down liquid and then freezes, so you’re left with this layer of crispy-crunchy-not-quite-snow over a compacted layer of ice. Nasty stuff to hit on the predawn roadways, and nasty to try to chip off your car.)

Ice Falling GIF by Lewis Automotive

But like I said, Pete’s from up North, so he’s totally unfazed. He grabs his marshmallow-man coat and heavy gloves and tromps outside to free his car from its icy prison. And he starts chipping away, like Tim Robbins digging his way to freedom in Shawshank.

And as he goes, he sees, a few units down, a woman, bundled up, walking toward her car, just a few spaces away from him.

A woman carrying a steaming cup.

Now, seeing somebody carrying a steaming cup in the cold weather is no big deal, because coffee’s a thing, right? But still, something resonates in Pete’s lizard brain and he looks again. It’s not a coffee cup she’s carrying. It’s an oversized plastic kitchen cup, a re-usable big-gulp. With no lid. Which can only mean one thing.

It’s boiling water she’s brought out to thaw her windshield out in a big damn hurry.

“Ma’am, don’t!” Pete cries.

She looks at him. Says nothing. Cocks her head sideways that way dogs do.

“You don’t wanna do that. Give me a second, I’ll come scrape your windshield for you.”

I can’t speak to what this woman’s life experience was. I can’t tell you what made her so grumpy, so unresponsive to a good-faith offer of help, so contrary to not only decline Pete’s offer, but to do so with gusto, with flair, with joy, the way she did. I can only report that she sneered, shouted at him, “Oh, PLEASE. I don’t need your help,” and tossed the steaming contents of her cup onto her windshield.

Which promptly spiderwebbed and sank into the front seat of her car.

Look, we get a lot of transplants in Georgia. It’s entirely possible she was from Louisiana or Texas or sunnier states out west, and this was her first brush with snow and cold weather, and she had no idea what rapid thermal expansion can do to a windshield. But there she was, uninformed, presumably in a hurry, certainly not wanting to be inconvenienced by perfectly sensible and, under the circumstances, necessary measures to solve the problem at hand. And rather than accept the help that was offered to her — by somebody who knew what he was talking about, by somebody who was offering to give up some of his time and convenience to help her out, by somebody who just wanted to do right by her — she went ahead with her own thing and ruined her morning (to say nothing of costing herself several hundred dollars) in the process.

I think about that a lot, lately, in the face of current events.

Over 350,000 people have died in this country because so many of us think the way to solve ice on our windshield is to throw boiling water on it.


The Theory of A-Holes


  • Problem: Everywhere I go, I run into a-holes.

I don’t know what it is, but lately, I keep running into a-holes. People cutting in line. People blocking up roads with their cars and grocery store aisles with their carts. People arguing with authority when they are 100% in the wrong (and usually they know it). For a while there, I was thinking I must just be an a-hole magnet: something about me, or my particular effect on my locality of the universe, causes people to act like a-holes when they’re in my orbit.

But I’m a skeptic, so I know that’s ridiculous. And because I’m a skeptic, I started digging into this weird thing I was noticing. And after months of study, I have a few conclusions to share with you.

  • Theory: The dispersion rate of a-holes is high, while the concentration rate is low. Phrased another way: you can find an a-hole just about anywhere you look, but the actual number of a-holes in the population at large must remain a small, perhaps even minute percentage.

We need to define terms, here, or at the very least, define one term: the a-hole. The a-hole is a person (I’m gonna go out on a limb here and wager that they’re mostly men, though I don’t have statistics to back that up — or any other claim in this post for that matter) who routinely puts his or her own interests above the interests of the group in which he finds himself, to the extent that it causes those others pain, discomfort, or inconvenience.

To simplify, the a-hole could be characterized in a single thought: “what I’m doing right now is more important than anything that anybody in the vicinity has going on.”

To clarify, a few examples of a-hole behavior:

  • committing just about any traffic offense
  • blocking the aisle at a grocery store at full Saturday crowd
  • being on his cellphone in the line at Starbucks who hasn’t decided yet what he’s ordering by the time he gets to the front
  • doing the “nice guy” thing by letting you go first even though he’s blocking people behind him from going
  • standing right behind you on the train or in line when there are literally dozens of other places he could be standing that wouldn’t involve invading your personal space

We could go on, and ladies in the audience could certainly give many more examples that I’m sure don’t even occur to me, but the point is, we recognize the a-hole when we see him. (I’m saying “him” from here on just for simplicity, but c’mon. You know.)

We don’t like a-holes in our societies. The non-a-holes dislike them for obvious reasons: they’re inconveniencing us, annoying us, or at worst, actively causing us pain. Other a-holes also dislike a-holes for the same reasons plus a few more: the other a-hole is stealing resources, or making the environment inhospitable for other a-holes, or is just straight-up getting in the way.

Luckily, there are self-correcting measures for the a-holes out there built into our evolution.

  • Big Fishes, Small Ponds

Consider a pond. In this pond are several fish of varying sizes and temperaments. Every fish has to eat. Some fish eat plants, some fish eat bugs, some fish eat other fish. A simple study of the food web you know from third grade will tell you that a small pond can only sustain so many big fish. The big fish does what it wants because it’s the big fish; who’s going to stop it? The big fish gets what it wants by being an a-hole and just taking it. All well and good as long as the big fish is the only big fish.

But what happens when the big fish is not the only big fish?

The moment one big fish takes what another big fish wants, there’s trouble. Now, fish don’t have a lot of tools in their belt: these fish are either going to fight or one of them is going to have to move on. Either way, of the fish in the conflict, one will be forcibly removed from the picture.

One a-hole takes the other a-hole out. The problem rectifies itself; the pond is back to just one a-hole of a big fish.

  • A Bug’s Life

A-holes self-regulate in another fascinating way. Consider the movie A Bug’s Life from the early days of Pixar. In this movie, there’s a colony of ants living together, working hard, storing up food for the winter. But every year, a roving band of grasshoppers demands a share of the food, else they’ll start squishing ants. You know; being a-holes. Now the grasshoppers are bigger and meaner than the ants, so there’s not a lot of point in fighting them; it wouldn’t work. Perhaps more to the point, the ants are generally peaceful and don’t want to fight, so they figure paying a bit of food is worth avoiding the conflict.

Until the grasshoppers make life so absolutely untenable for the ants that they can’t take anymore. The ants rise against the grasshoppers like a tsunami, risking life and limb to fight the injustice. While individual ants might get squished in the conflict, the grasshoppers are simply no match for the unified numbers suddenly coming their way with pitchforks and torches.

An a-hole (or group of a-holes) can push their luck past the point of reason, and the community casts them out.

  • Extra-Strong Charmin

The last resort against a truly nasty a-hole is exactly what you’d expect: toilet paper. (Look, I’m sorry. The metaphor is disgusting. But hear me out. I’ll be discrete.) The toilet paper are those people who hold jobs — often menial, unglamorous, or practically invisible to the average person — that carry a surprising amount of power when it comes to cleaning up sh*t.

Make no mistake, it’s unpleasant being toilet paper. And not every a-hole you come across demands your full attention. But when the TP gets involved, it’s over for the a-hole.

An a-hole running into some toilet paper has options. He could attempt to make himself look small and unassuming and not worth the trouble of cleaning up — but let’s face it, the a-hole isn’t going to do that because, well, he’s an a-hole. No, he’s going to make the other choice: Inevitably, the a-hole is going to go to war with the toilet paper — but anybody who’s been there knows that this particular path isn’t going to go well for the a-hole. The toilet paper has reinforcements. The more the a-hole struggles at this point, the worse it gets.

These are your idiots arguing with cops, acting smug with judges, getting drunk and disorderly in public. And when they act out enough, well … they get forcibly cleaned up.

  • Conclusions

So: a-holes are everywhere. Or rather, there is a self-regulating number of a-holes regularly spaced such that it feels like a-holes everywhere.

But I feel like it didn’t used to be this way, so … why am I suddenly noticing a-holes everywhere?

I see two possible reasons.

  1. I’m a-hole-sensitive. I’m a dad, and I’m trying to keep my kids from growing up to be a-holes themselves, so I’m extra-finely-tuned to a-hole behavior to help me catch it and point it out as Things You Should Not Be Doing for my kids.
  2. I’m an a-hole myself, and I’m extremely conscious of other big fish swimming into my pond.

I guess there’s nothing saying both answers can’t be right.


Just GO (A Terrible Reviews Short: Thor: Ragnarok)


New parents:

Did you know that it is possible not to take an ill-tempered child to a crowded movie theater on a Friday night?

It’s true!

Yes, it’s a little bit unfair that having a kid cramps your style a bit. You want to continue doing the things you’ve always done. Having the fun you’ve always had. And you can, but you have to give a little bit of consideration to the squalling anchors tethered to your nethers before you do so.

Consider:

A movie theater is a great environment for adults! It’s dark and comfortable and conducive to naps if you so choose. There’s only one thing to focus on, which is great news for our aging, overwhelmed brains! (In point of fact, instead of staying home last night stressing about the tax bill that was just passed, or getting my blood in a good boil over the latest news in the Mueller investigation, I headed to the movie theater to block all that out for a few hours and relax. Best choice of my week!)

A movie theater is also a great environment for teens! It’s dark and private and a great opportunity to suck face with your selected face-sucker without the possibility of your parents barging in. And with all those hormones raging through your system, you can easily ignore the loud sounds and bright lights of the film. Win-win!

But a movie theater is not a great environment for young kids! It’s dark — which deprives them of the stimulation they so very much crave! There’s nothing to do but sit there and watch the movie — which deprives them of the stimulation they so very much crave! You can distract them with food, but your popcorn tub and extra-large drink are only so deep — they will run out of things to stuff in their face before long, and then you’re back to the first two problems, except now they’re full of sugar and caffeine! And don’t forget, a five-year-old probably can’t follow the thread of the film without help, which means he will be bombarding you with questions for as long as he is paying attention (to say nothing of the two-year-old you also brought with you for some reason).

Your kids, in short, are likely to make going to the movies an unpleasant experience for you — their parent, who has a biological imperative to love and not murder them — to say nothing of the unsuspecting members of your community upon whom you are about to inflict this pain. And you’re paying to bring your kids with you — you pay more for the experience of going to the movie and pissing everybody off than we paid to come to the movie to have a nice time not thinking about our country circling the drain. Put another way — we put in nice, sensible bids to have a delightful little evening, and you outbid us to pee all over our nice little thing. (Incidentally, you might make an excellent Republican senator!)

Lastly, and not for nothing, not every movie is appropriate for children — let alone children whose ages can be counted on one hand! When the movie contains four of the seven words you can’t say on television, numerous references to sex and orgies, and a literal orgy of violence and terrifying imagery, you might be doing your child a favor to not bring them along for the ride.

It’s just a thought!

You have options:

  1. Accept that, as a parent, the life you knew is over. Stay home from the movie theater and check out your movies on Redbox or Netflix like a reasonable sleep-deprived adult. Watch them after the kids go to bed. You’ll fall asleep halfway through, sure, but that’s part of the fun.
  2. Find a sitter. Yes, this is inconvenient, and depending on your arrangements, possibly expensive. But weigh it against, if not the displeasure of everybody you’ll be in the movie theater with, your own annoyance at sitting through the movie with your toddler-anchors talking and crying and whining and kicking the seat in front of them and generally doing all the things toddlers do. You may find that the investment is worth it!
  3. Go to the movie anyway. It’s not illegal, but everybody will hate you, and if you have a soul, you just might hate yourself.

Finally, if you do find yourself in a movie that’s inappropriate for children with your little bundles of joy, and they start acting exactly the way you would expect a child to act in such a situation, it’s okay to leave. You don’t get bonus points for staying and prolonging the pain for everybody. It’s really okay. Just take the kid (who doesn’t want to be there anyway), your spouse (who also no longer wants to be there), and your self (who should now be fully dead inside), and go.

We won’t hate you for it. On the contrary, we’ll love you.

This has been a public service announcement.Image result for thor ragnarok

In other news, we saw Thor: Ragnarok last night. It was pretty good, I think. I can’t be entirely sure, because we were distracted by something totally unrelated.

I do know that Chris Hemsworth’s abs may have single-handedly given me an eating disorder.

Image result for chris hemsworth abs

So there’s that.

This post is part of Stream-Of-Consciousness Saturday.


%d bloggers like this: