Hark! Hear ye, hear ye! Sage pearls of wisdom are here. If you work in an office setting or aspire to, read on as I will share the secret of success in such a workplace.
Success has nothing to do with technical savy or proficiency. It is all about how you're perceived by coworkers and management. And that is all about day-to-day chitchat. Yes, this is idle but it is also vitally important for your nascent career. Not what you say, but what you don't say. There are specific topics that will either bore others to tears, disgust them or otherwise make you unlikeable and thus immediately dispensable.
1) Your unpleasant medical problems or anyone's in your family.
2) The success of your children.
3) The failures or shortcomings of your children.
4) Baby pictures of any sort. All babies look the same unless they are yours.
5) How much things you've purchased cost.
6) How much you saved at Walmart or Costco.
7) The weather.
8) The intricacies of your particular job.
9) How overworked you are.
10) The way somebody screwed up a given project, case or meeting.
13) TV shows or movies you watched. Everything is lost in translation.
14) Your pet peeves. They are like assholes in that everyone has them. If you share yours, you're an asshole.
15) Anything to do with your sex life, unless you are young, attractive and have a penchant for wild, sweaty orgies.
So what does that leave? Nothing. Just keep your yap shut and do your job. Be a silent enigma, a blank slate. It's best that people have no opinion whatsoever of you personally.
Every once in a while I tell someone that hanging out with Goths taught me a lot about life. They always laugh. But I am serious. Subcultures teach people many things.
The only subcultures I knew before high school were gangs. There wasn't too much gang activity in my elementary school, but in seventh and eighth grade (our last two grades) there was a little activity. The next year, in ninth grade, I had a class where I sat in the back with three people who, as 14-year-olds, were already Goths.
Two had a head start. One of them had a father who worked with musicians, including Danny Elfman. That is very Goth. The other had an older sister who was already a Goth. She had been listening to the Cure since fifth grade. She had a lot of street cred.
Those three introduced me to some people who were hanging out together because they liked music. They were nice people. It didn't matter what you liked, although most of what they liked was good. It's the kind of stuff they never played in the '80s, but play on the radio now when they want to play '80s music. They liked bands like the Cure, Depeche Mode, and New Order. But if you were cursed with a soft spot for New Kids on the Block, it was okay. Maybe Donny Wahlberg was too much man for you to resist. As long as you could still admit that Peter Murphy was God or maybe a minor diety, you were still in.
From these friends I learned that the important thing in life is to love honestly. If your love for something was honest, it didn't matter what that thing was. If you didn't pretend to like things just so you could get something in return--approval or popularity--you were okay. Somehow we knew that it was loving that was important.
Basically I learned that at least some people in the world have their heads on straight. I didn't have to learn this from Goths. I could've learned it from some other group of people if things had been different. And not all Goths are like this. But that's how it happened.
Here's a second story.
I also learned interesting things from the Beautiful People. When I was driving to Chicago I stayed with a friend in San Francisco overnight. We knew each other from high school. He wasn't a Goth or a beautiful person, but I knew him from class and I knew some of his friends in elementary school. We talked about work and making friends in new places. We talked about turning 30, trying to figure out what we wanted to do in life, and high school. I mentioned that I'd seen our valedictorian's Web site and he had some pictures of some real terrors from high school there. I said that I wondered if he realized that he could really be around better people, or whether they were still buttering him up even though they didn't need to copy his homework anymore.
My friend started laughing. He said, I can see you not still bitter. I said that I knew exactly those people for who they were, because they used to demand my homework too, and at the same time talked behind my back about the degenerate people I would hang out with. They had something bad to say about everyone. How much of it you heard depended on how much they felt threatened by you. But even if you never heard anything, they still hated you as much as they hated everyone else. Then I said, "You know what, if it's anything I learned in high school, it's that you've got to put on the show of being one of the beautiful people. It's not for the decent people, because they will treat you well no matter what. But every once in a while, you'll run into one of these beautiful people, and unless you look like you might be one of them, they'll try to stab you in the back."
He laughed even harder and said, "That's the most cynical thing I've ever heard." He said that some day he was going to make a book about what people from our high school thought about going there. "Everyone's going to say something nice. And then I'm going to put your quote in." I think that was a compliment.
I am firmly opposed to everything. And nothing. I have no position on the burning issues of the day. My apathy is all-consuming. I just don't care anymore. More accurately I never did. I am lucky I wasn't of age in the 60s. People would have called me square and slipped acid into my beer.
Well, there are a couple things that concern me. I have grown quite accustomed to living indoors. Al fresco life doesn't appeal to me. Eating food is good as well. I don't want to subsist on a steady diet of nothing like Kate Moss, of whom the only good thing AmyIAnnoying.com could come up with is that she doesn't take up much space. And I dig being warm. And with natural gas prices predicted to double overnight, I am bracing for some hard times ahead.
So we embarked on our new econo-life, out first attempt to curtail our out of control spending. Previously we ran our household like it was headed by supply-side economists: If you need more stuff then pour more money into the mix. But with this new heating bugaboo, that just isn't possible.
I drew up a list of savings measures: Microwave lunches, carton cigarettes, box wine, fill up both cars with bargain gas that is 20% ethanol, only home ATM, suicide etc. I went on e-surance.com and realized a $150 a month savings. I canceled my current credit card and got one from Capital One that only charges $6 per thousand balance and no killer late fees.
I wanted to make sure nothing else got billed to the old card. So I told my son to change all of his online accounts to Capital One. When he got to Amazon, he couldn't figure out how to change the billing unless we bought something. I perused the site looking for a cheap paperback. For $9.95 plus shipping you could have this book.
It arrived Frday and I've been mesmerized ever since. I might miss my Redskins pounding the hapless 49ers as I glumly turn the pages. I am telling you that this child-molester-defending, abortion-mongering, bestiality-loving, Boy Scout-bating, tradition-hating, anti-everything, contrary bunch of smartasses is dead-set on destroying out whole society and replacing it with some namby-pamby, diversity-tolerant piece of shit life. And they aren't tolerant either. They are only tolerant of their own twisted, sick point of view. The ACLU is like a virulent cancer growing in a patient who is trapped in a hospital where all the doctors are on strike.
Sure, we're all going to die. But first, could somebody else post?
I pulled into a crowded gas station. Spying an unoccupied pump I scurried toward it. At the same time a sleek 300-series BMW did too. I got there first forcing the BMW to back up and do this complex maneuver to line up with the only other available pump. Feeling bad as you do when snagging a parking space someone else was waiting for, I sauntered over to apologize.
A women got out, dressed in a smart, job-interview-worthy pantsuit; all black and revealing none of her gym-rat contours. She wore those pointy-toed boots common among witches. Blonde hair looked freshly coiffed and shampooed. Sported lots of makeup, but tastefully applied. A huge diamond engagement ring threatened to wrench her arm from its socket. She assured me there was no problem, we'd both approached the coveted pump at the same time. "Are you sure," I asked. "Absolutely," she said in that chirpy voice of VW ad voiceovers.
This gal exuded poise and cheerful affluence. She's the young office newcomer you treat with deference knowing she'll soon be your boss. She's the home office type who comes breezing in towing a suitcase on wheels, chock full of presentation materials. At the seminar she will represent herself as a "facilitator" while encouraging "dialogue." She appears to really buy into this rah-rah corporate nonsense.
She wisely filled her tank, knowing full well how they often double the price while you're pumping. She put in on auto and strode purposefully inside to wait and pay. After exchanging my usual $7 for 3 drops of gas, I joined her. She was busy recording her debit card transaction in her checkbook ledger, something I never do. Then she rummaged in her handsome Gucci bag, frowning slightly.
Then a most unexpected thing happened. "Uh, could I get a pack of Benson and Hedges 100 Lights, please," she whispered conspiratorily. She paid cash for the contraband and smiled at me by way of apology for the delay. Then she sashayed away, smacking the smokes on the palm of her hand.
Moments later we were both mired in the same traffic jam, she daintily blowing clouds of smoke out her window. Young attractive go-getters don't smoke any more than they'd shoot up at meetings. Smoking is for the downtrodden, old people and celebrities. Smoking among society's yuppy elite is a character flaw, like buying lottery tickets.
When there's a break in the seminar she will skulk outside like a leper to steal a few forbidden puffs. Then she'll pop a breath mint and spritz on some perfume in a futile attempt to mask the stench. When she returns all the participant-prisoners will be fully aware of her awful transgression. They'll think less of her for it.
So did I. The Beemer's a rental. Her flaxen mane is a wig to cover up her chemo-patient baldness. She borrowed the pantsuit from her sister. The rock is a cubit zirconia knockoff. She's been trying to quit. She swims after troop ships.
Ah, Man---the species with forcible dominion over all others. Unlike a hyena devouring a gnu, he eats his rivals daintily with a knife and fork---except in his declining years, when he sustains himself through a feeding tube. He’s evolved so far that he feels a need to handicap himself. His favorite sport involves no use of his most versatile of appendages. He’s marshaled the immense power within the atom for the benefit---or destruction---of all. No longer content to listen as a handmaiden idly plucks the strings of a harp or lyre, he’s amplified the rhythms over which angry young men snarl about their bitch-slapping prowess. He’ll fart in your face while you’re giving him head. He invented such absurdities as competitive eating and monster truck pulls. He brought you Girls Gone Wild.
Nor is Woman (or as feminists call her, Womyn) any more sophisticated. As man conducts his global business she is squatting between his thighs on the Oval Office carpet. To attract a better class of scoundrel she’ll implant C-cups that may or may not leak poison into her body. To satisfy porn directors’ perversion she’s learned to lodge two large penises in her rectum at once. She’ll seduce billionaires on their deathbeds. When she’s not parading down the catwalk in skimpy negligees she’ll shroud her ample artificial cleavage in a burqa. She accessorizes with frou-frou lap dogs. She invented such absurdities as eating disorders. She is in Girls Gone Wild. She is woman, hear her roar.
I'm moving out and moving on. Remember when I talked about getting a phone interview for my dream job? Well, I've gotten it.
The folks at a tour company that does tours in Latin America offered me a job, and I've accepted. I'm going to be leading tours throughout Central and South America, and my training begins in Peru, though I'll probably be sent up to Central America shortly thereafter to start working.
And I leave in a week. So, Bad Sam, you might see more of me, you might see less of me, but just know that I'm in a happy place. Too bad things with Kim are going so well... Right now, in the grand scheme of dream job vs. girl, the job wins out.
In the Christian faith there are two Gods. One is the fire 'n brimstone, vindictive, judgmental God of the Old Testament. The other is the more laid-back, forgiving New testament God who sacrificed his only Son for our sins. Which isn't to say He couldn't have snapped his fingers and produced a Catholic-sized brood of little Jesuses had He chosen to do so. He's God, after all.
I have got to think the former is in the house at the moment. And no this isn't some raving lunatic spouting about the apocalyptical (sp?) End Days or any of that crap. All I am saying is that these have been hellish days for a helluva lot of folk.
Entire villages were engulfed and wiped out by mudslides. The worst earthquake in a century decimated the disputed Kashmir area straddling the Indo-Pakistani border. And of course there is the endless misery in once-proud New Orleans.
Maybe it's just me but when it says 19,000 people were killed instaneously in one place I find it impossible to even fathom. But in the pictures survivors appear to be mostly standing or milling around aimlessly. You'd think they'd be diving in with both feet trying to rescue loved-ones. Perhaps they're in shock, but in times like those you need to pull yourself together immediately.
That is one of my myriad quirks. Whenever something awful happens, and readers of this site know that it has, I go utterly numb. Icewater courses through my veins. Therefore I am a very useful person to have around in times of trouble.
And who knows, maybe there's a bright side to the earthquake. Indians and Pakistanis have been at each other's throats for generations over that damned place. That is why they have nukes pointed at one another. Maybe now that it is decimated (on both contries' claimed territories,) they will stop. Or better yet, pitch in together to deal with the devastation.
So I drove across America. America is really big. I drove eight and ten hours a day, and by the end I could really feel in my gut how big America really is. There are some amazingly beautiful things on the road out there. There are the forests in Tahoe, the scrubby foothills in Nevada, the red cliffs in Utah, and the green valleys of Wyoming. I was excited to drive through things like Donner Pass and the Continental Divide. But I must be a true California girl, because everything interested me except Kansas and Missouri. Those two states had lots of deciduous trees and wheat fields, and I just didn't identify with them.
People were very nice, except for city people. Every stop I made off a two-lane highway on the way out, I met polite and cheerful people. I only dealt with two or three rude people, and they were all in cities. I played about twelve CDs to death, and I desperately need a trip to a masseuse and a chiropractor. But here I am.
It was an interesting week, although I was exhausted, upset, and lonely a lot of the way. I tried to talk to friends on my cel phone, but coverage wasn't all that good. Everything had an epic, dramatic feeling to it. I cried for an hour before I could finally get into my car to leave L.A. My friend, who I still have not slept with, despite having seen him here last weekend, was very nice about it. I guess drama can't be avoided when you pack a third of what you own into your car and empty out your bank account to get to a graduate program where you'll owe the equivalent of a nice, new, fully-loaded Lexus by the end of the year.
Don't get me wrong. People often dig events like these, but I don't believe that life is about this. Life is about the rote and everyday. I'm impatient with myself that this was such a big deal. It was only what it was. But it was a shock to my system, and I think that's what's keeping me from seeing it that way. I'm sure it'll come to me when I'm calm again.
When I was living and working in Nicaragua, there was this kid who started coming around the beach. He was a skinny guy but pretty muscular and had hair that kinda hung over his eyes. He said he was 14. One of the first nights I met him, he was getting drunk at the bar and started talking to me. He told me that he was an orphan. Well, not exactly. He said that he was adopted, and he told stories of abuse by his adoptive family, which he'd fled. He lived on the street (or at that point in time, on the beach). He nearly started crying when he started talking about his birthmother, who he thought was somewhere in northern Nicaragua. He'd never met her. He said that he lived for the day he could meet her.
Now, when he was telling me all this, I thought it was really special that he'd opened up to me and told me his heart-breaking story. Then he started to hit on me, despite our 10+ year age difference, and he started talking about how "age doesn't matter"...
Well, he was easy enough to brush off, and I saw him around the beach. He never tried to hit on me again, probably because I was a bit of a permanent tourist. It was pretty amusing to watch this scrawny guy try to pick up all of the hot chicks who floated through. He was learning the tricks pretty quickly from the other locals and started to offer girls surf lessons, despite his lack of surfing knowledge. He'd try to teach them Spanish and claimed an intense desire to learn English.
Ya had to hand it to him, though... he had no fear. He would just walk up to a group of people and start talking to them. He spoke no English, and the tourists around there sometimes spoke no Spanish, but he made it work. I noticed his priorities with time: girls, beer, weed, things.
My boss gave him work for a little while helping out with some construction types of things, paying him with food and accomodation and maybe a tiny bit extra. His eyes lit up when he told me that he had a job. He was so excited to not have to worry about where to sleep for the night.
At first, I admired him for being able to make do with no money or anything. Then he started walking up to tables and asking the folks around them if he could have some of their beer, or if they wanted to buy him a hamburger. Eventually, I noticed that he would tell his sob story, then ask for something from the tourists-- cd player, surfboard, tent. All of which he got.
After a while, my boss told him that he couldn't work there any more because the tourists had started to complain that he just mooched off of everyone and got drunk all of the time. I realized with time that he lied all of the time. About which girls he'd slept with, what drugs he'd done, who was his girlfriend. I really didn't know how to feel about the situation. If his story about his family (or lack thereof) was true, he'd had a really rough life. And he still had an ok attitude about everything, still had some spunk. Who can blame him for telling a made up story for handouts? Doesn't have money or a home, so at least he's creative with his story.
You have probably lurked somewhere you didn't belong in hopes of bumping into that special somebody. Likely he or she was a relative stranger. Sure enough they showed up as you'd hoped. You either clammed up or stammered something nonsensical. Don't feel bad, I have too. We all have. Afterwards you come up with some snappy line you should have used and you kick yourself for days on end.
The worst part is that somebody else usually steps in and begins chatting with your infatuation with seeming ease. Oftentimes they walk away rapt with one another. What gives?
There is no reason to feel bad about these awkward moments. First of all, they are only awkward to you. Nobody else even knows what is going on with you. Contrary to how it feels sometimes, your thoughts are not an open book. But you can also take solace in the fact that what this is is an instance of someone trying to move outside their Attractiveness and Sociability Caste (AASC.) Very attractive people are usually sociable and well-liked too, in part because they get lots of practice and in part because people tend to forgive their gaffes while staring at their tits and bulges.
The same is true of even mildly attractive folks. The adage that opposites attract simply isn't true. Unless you hate yourself you tend to dig people like yourself. And you wind up dating/marrying someone within your own AASC.
This is true despite what such shows as King of Queens, Still Standing and Yes, Dear would have you believe. Big fat galoots do not land impossibly thin hotties like Courtney Thorne-Smith. Just doesn't happen.
Of course there are exceptions to this rule. Most of them involve men slumming with women from lower AASCs. Think Desi Arnez drilling the dowdy crone Lucille Ball. Think Tom Cruise impregnating ho-hum Katie Holmes. (Who knew he even had it in him?)
Sometimes one does see it the other way around. What is comely Denise Richards doing with Charlie Sheen, a dolt who pays hookers?
And everyone knows exactly where they stand in the pecking order. But it always makes me laugh when attractive women modestly try to act like they don't know. Trust me, they do. They're reminded of it 24-7. They can tell you are ogling them, even behind sunglasses. They know you are where you don't belong in hopes of bumping into them and striking up a clever conversation. They giggle as your tongue gets all tied in knots. They aren't stupid, after all.
You are, for trying to venture outside your AASC.
I see there is a big debate raging about whether it's wise to rebuild New Orlean's impoverished 9th Ward, which lies several feet below sea level and bears the brunt of every major storm to hit the city, from Betsy in 65 to Katrina in 05. While I'd have to say the smart money is on demolition and reversion to its natural swamp state, I am not here to debate this contentious, racially-tinged topic.
(Though I must say it is odd that two well-to-do 'hoods just as prone to flooding as the beleaguered 9th are sure to be restored. Then again, people who live there have worked hard to obtain their money, power and prestige. They've paid a boatload of taxes, so maybe they do deserve preferential treatment.)
All of New Orleans must brace itself for an influx of hustlers, con men and their unsavory associates. I know this because my 'hood suffered a major hailstorm a few years back. This is nothing compared with a hurricane or a flood, but the aftermath is the same. You have this post-storm deluge of unnatural money i.e. money that wasn't earned through the normal channels of running businesses, working or stealing it.
This in turn attracts said flim-flam artists in droves. It's like you've filled up an Olympic-sized swimming pool with bourbon and invited all the drunks in the world over. From far and wide they will come, bearing promises of prompt repairs and restored dreamss.
If our experience with the roving bands of storm-hustlers was any experience, a lot of people are going to have their hopes dashed big-time. You see, even though they appear to have workers and tools and equipment on their out-of-state pickup trucks, these guys don't ever actually perform any work.
They are experts at securing contracts, snagging the front money and then flying the coop. They get away with it in dealing with shrewd insurance companies with loads of experience at spotting scammers. (I work for one. Trust me, they are good at spotting fraud. Their livelihood depends on it.)
Contrast that to their latest mark, FEMA. People who run FEMA have no vested financial interest in protecting its taxpayer-funded capital from charlatan rebuilders. And you saw just how adept they are at their purported business in the post-hurricane debacle. They claim they're good at disaster relief but really they are just a disaster. Mr. Bush has promised to pay whatever it takes to put New Orleans back on the map. Well, what it will take is everything. The only winners will be Federal employees who cash their paychecks whether their work is good, bad or indifferent. (I've lived in the DC area all my life, so this too I know.)
Them, said scammers and persons who are smart enough to take the Feds' money directly and hightail it out of the bayou post haste, before the swarm o' thieves descends with its coffers wide open.
And the Saints. Go Saints! They are now playing at the Alamodome in front of a mixture of paying customers and resident refugees from Katrina. And they won yesterday. Bully for them. But don't expect them back at the sacked Astrodome any time soon, or ever.