Thursday, May 29, 2008

Here lies "May I help you, please?"

Once again, I find myself browsing through magazines that are almost two months old and wishing I had been able to comment on an article in a timely fashion. But then again, the closest I ever am to having my fashion be timely is when I'm wearing something so old that it has come back into style.

That said, I draw your attention to an article in Time by Barbara Kiviat (a name that is actually an anagram for "via a rabbit ark") that is part of the cover feature, "10 Ideas That are Changing the World." Barbara's contribution is Idea #2: "The End of Customer Service."

Ms Kiviat chronicles the demise of customer service (and the rise of self-service) starting with the 1916 opening of the first Piggly Wiggly store in Memphis. Until that momentous event, people "shopped" for groceries by telling the clerk what they wanted and waiting for him or her to fetch it. (Remember Mr. Olsen in Little House on the Prairie?) The idea of customers walking along aisles of foodstuffs, filling a cart or basket, and paying for it on the way out of the store was so revolutionary at the time that Clarence Saunders actually applied for a patent.

The "self-serving store" was just the beginning of an avalanche of do-it-yourself developments: Self-service gas pumps, ATMs, ringing up our own purchases at Wal-Mart, buying our own plane tickets at a kiosk or on the Internet, ad nauseum.

But none of this was what I thought the article was going to be about when I read its title. When I saw "The End of Customer Service," I thought, "You got that right, sister! Nobody knows how to serve the customer anymore. Why, Monday night I went to see Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull and the dermatologically-challenged, zoned-out child behind the counter didn't even ask me if I wanted my popcorn floating in butter-like substance. He didn't seem to care whether I wanted to spend "just 90 cents more" to also get 30-cents' worth of shriveled grapes covered with brown wax.

And, yes, I realize that here in the pampered suburbs having the concession stand employee put the butter-like substance on your popcorn for you is a soon-to-be quaint custom of the near-past. That's why I don't go to movies at the Mall of America anymore: you dispense your own yellow oil...onto a full bag of popcorn...meaning that only the top third of the bag contents gets soaked. Barbaric!

Next question: how many of us self-diagnose our illnesses by looking things up on the Internet? Now, there's a grand idea. From the same people who bring you the true stories of $300 cookie recipes and multi-million-dollar giveaways from Nigeria...health care!

Please excuse me...I would write more on this topic, but I've got to pull a tooth that's been bothering me...and then take out this useless appendix. Now where did I put my scalpel?

Thursday, May 22, 2008

A rose by any other name...

I was reading an article about actor Chris Noth in Entertainment Weekly ("The Next Big Thing" by Vanessa Juarez) and stopped cold in the penultimate paragraph. Mr. Noth was semi-whining about his loss of anonymity in New York City--seeing as how he's been in not-one-but-two versions of the TV behemoth, Law & Order, and a little HBO project on both the home and silver screens, Sex and the City:
  • ""I have been walking these streets and taking subways all of my adult life, and [before] I was just another face in the crowd," he says. "It's pretty annoying to be suddenly looked at as some exotic bird in the zoo." That could be why Noth and Wilson are still discussing whether to raise their newborn son, Orion, in New York City or L.A.
I probably know what you're thinking. You're probably thinking I was stopped in mid-read because I couldn't believe the guy was annoyed by becoming such a successful actor that people recognize him on the street. "Oh, poor, poor, pitiful fella! Hey, Sir Lawrence, you chose to put yourself out there, so suck it up and take the fame along with the fortune...would that I had your problem, crybaby."

You're probably wrong.

What stopped me in my tracks was the thought, "Orion?" Seriously, naming the kid Orion has made your choice of locales not only obvious but vital. You absolutely must move to Los Angeles. You put a kid named Orion on the streets of NYC and you might as well shave his head and paint a target on it. What were you thinking?

If you wanted to stay in New York, you should have named your son Vinny or Butch or even Edwardo...but Orion? Get yourself to the Left Coast where your precious little Orion can play in the sand with Bambi and Neptune and Grape-Nuts.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Do you hear what I hear?

Speaking of earworms -- and we were, as of the latest post: "I got the music in me" of 5/12/08 -- this morning was the second day in a row I woke up with Harry Nilsson's "Driving Along" driving through my brain.

I suppose that's not such a noteworthy event -- other than whining about the sheer monotony of it all -- except that this morning's excursion into mental diversion quickly became a two-song medley of "Driving Along" and a song by the Lost Dogs, "Up in the Morning."

I suppose that's not such a noteworthy event -- the two songs share a similar musical feel and even some lyrical content -- except that it got me to wondering: Is there anyone else on Planet Earth who could even be susceptible to this particular pairing pounding persistently in his or her head? Is there anyone other than Yours Truly who is even aware of the existence of two non-radio tunes from Nilsson Schmilsson and The Green Room Serenade, Part One? Does anyone else have my background in 70's pop and 90's contemporary Christian? Do I share musical tastes and influences with any other individual in the Known Universe?

Am I totally unique? Of course, some would put it pessimistically: Am I absolutely weird?

All of a sudden, I'm not sure I want to know the answer.

Monday, May 12, 2008

I got the music in me

Do you ever wake up in the morning with a song running through your brain? I mean really running...wearing commando boots and lifting its knees high. And it continues running all through your morning routine. It's called an earworm, and the only practical way to get it to stop running...or at least slow down to a comfortable walk...is to replace it with something else.

And the something else must be non-musical in nature. I've tried to replace my morning earworm with a different song, but I always end up going back to the original tune.

For instance, last Thursday I woke up with the theme to the cartoon Spider-man TV show from the---what...late 60's/early 70's?--continuously cycling through my head: "Spider-man, Spider-man, does whatever a spider can; spins a web any size; catches thieves just like flies. Look out! Here comes the Spider-man."

So, in an effort to switch stations, I started singing a different song to myself: "Well the south side of Chicago is the baddest part of town, and if you go down there you better just beware of a man named Leroy Brown. Is he strong? Listen bud, he's got radioactive blood. Can he swing from a web? Take a look---AUGH!"

Having been a disc jockey for a few years, and having grown up glued to a television, and having a lifetime of church singing under my belt, I've got an almost limitless supply of possible earworms filed away in my data banks. And let me tell you, Mr. Maestro Man, it is definitely random access memory. Why in the name of all that is right and good did I wake up this morning humming "rock the boat; don't rock the boat baby; rock the boat; don't tip the boat over?"

Blast! Now I'm also going to go to sleep singing the nasty thing to myself!

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Rules of the Road

Beloved has been in Indiana doing a few concerts. I flew out to join her on Thursday and learned some things along the way:

  • The x-ray machines that you pass your carry-on stuph through in order to be given the privilege of nestling in the armpit of an imperfect stranger have a Selective Transport feature. (As in "Mr. Spock, meet me in the transporter room," and "Ready to beam to the surface.") My stuph entered one end of the machine with a ziplock bag of anti-perspirant gel and aftershave and exited the other end without said ziplock bag. [Please note: the anti-perspirant gel and aftershave were two separate items, though there might be a market for such a multitasking substance. Just in case, I have already copyrighted the term Dry-N-Smelly for Face-N-Pits.]
  • Young men who live in Chicago but work in Minneapolis get very talkative and jittery when the flight is a half-hour late and they've got a date with a potential mate who looks great but probably won't wait to eat the food on her plate.
  • According to the chili's too establishment in the O'Hare airport, chipotle -- in the context of Chipotle Bleau Cheese Bacon Burger -- is a Spanish word that means "will cauterize your soft palate and leave your lips tender and puffy." (Who needs collagen?)
  • No matter how slick you feel calling on your cell phone from Chicago to renew your library book in Minnesota, the feeling drains away when the robo-voice tells you it can't renew your book because someone else wants it.
  • Being five minutes late for a flight is the same as being five hours late for a flight, except when you're five hours late, you don't have to wait as long for the next availability.
  • Taking off from Chicago at night can be visually impressive, but landing in Fort Wayne is more emotionally satisfying.