Sunday, December 23, 2012

Only Chicagoans Will Feel My Pain

It’s embarrassing when friends from out of town come to visit me and I have no idea where anything is. I’m not talking about my keys or my phone or my mind – that’s just embarrassing on a daily basis. I’m talking about specific locations.

If one more person tells me Chicago is “just a big grid”, I’m gonna give them a wedgie. Many a time I have made three right turns and not ended up in the same place. Elston, you bastard! Clybourne, you are a nincompoop. And what’s up with Ogden? Ogden is like that friend in high school who's a bad influence. Every time I run into her, I end up some place I shouldn't be.

When someone tries to explain the grid system to me, it strums up the same confusion I get when getting my cash back at the grocery store. Yes, I still pay in cash. And yes, my brain still goes into a tizzy when they try to count it back to me.

“And four, six, eight and twenty makes ten,” says the cashier as I stare at her, inanely confused, like a sorority girl who's just seen Avatar.

My hipster sister who now lives in California informed me there’s an area of town referred to as ‘Six Corners’. I ain’t no geometry wiz, but I’m pretty sure that grids involve squares and squares have 4 corners. Count ‘em. Four. While on the phone, she also decided to give me the ever annoying anecdote of, “You know what I love about California? You can drive two hours and be somewhere totally different”. I can drive for two hours in Chicago and be somewhere totally different too. I just might end up outlined in chalk.

Ever heard of the Viagra triangle? The West Loop? The Ukranian Rhombus? Please don’t go googling the last one. I made it up to further prove my point. Unless it’s a colossal game of tic-tac-toe, shapes do not belong in a grid.

Here’s what I can’t quite comprehend. What is the difference between memorizing what numbered block a certain street is….and just memorizing the street? While we’re at it, why are we calling freeways by a number and a name? It’s like when Prince decided to change his name to a symbol just to mess with people. That’s what you’re doing Chicago – you’re messing with me!

Why not get a GPS you might ask? Because I wouldn’t want to rob my father of the joy of receiving my frustrated phone call so he can give me directions for thirty minutes, describing every intersection I’ll pass, every stop sign I’ll come to, and each bar he used to troll around with his buddy Carl back in the 80’s.

I mean if you’re gonna tell me that State St is 0 east-west and Madison is 0 north-south and I need to get to 1800….wait. I just figured it out. 

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Dont Be a Jerk

One of my favorite types of people are the ones who say they just “tell it like it is” when trying to explain why people don’t like them.

For the record, I haven’t quite mastered the art of writing with sarcasm. So forgive me if you were turned off by the first sentence. On the flip side, if you agreed with the first sentence, I suppose you should forgive me for what you’re about to read.

I know plenty of people who tell it like it is and still are well-liked. Martin Luther King comes to mind. Well, I suppose there were some people who didn’t like him, but that had nothing to do with what he said.

One of my best friends, Kim, has this magical way of telling people to their face that she can’t stand them. She proceeds to rattle off her reasoning, yet they still want to hang out with her. The late and great Nora Ephron made a living and legacy of holding nothing back, and I think you’d be hard-pressed to find one person who knew her or knew of her who would dare say, “Yeah, I’m not a big Nora Ephron fan.”

While comparing my sorority sister to Martin Luther King might have punched a hole in my argument, the point I’m trying to make is that if people don’t like you, it’s probably not for the reason you think it is.

I’ve never been at a social gathering where someone has warned me to steer clear of another guest because they’re too honest. And I live for the day when someone says, “I’m not going to vote for him in the next election. He tells it like it is.”

This phrase has become an excuse for people to be just plain nasty. I know. I’ve used it. I’ll probably use it again. It’s a common phrase in our society, so common in fact that several titles of websites and blogs preface the saying with “I’m not a hater ...,”  “I’m not a jerk ...,” “I’m not a snitch…,” “I’m not a (rhymes with snitch) ...” and all end with “... I just tell it like it is.” Real classy.

While honesty should be revered, what happened to being diplomatic? The difference between the two is the sensitivity and effectiveness that comes with diplomacy that is often lacking in brutal honesty.

While there are some situations that call for a “snap-out-of-it” moment, that rarely is the case. To walk around saying whatever you feel whenever you feel it in whatever phrasing you choose to feel at that moment you feel it ... that’s just plain nasty. Don’t mask it under the guise of honesty. Just stop being a jerk.

I wanted to tell my boyfriend the other day how the Levi’s he wears make him look like he has grandpa butt, yet I chose to be ... whoops.

A fitting way to end this column would be to say “I’m just telling it like it is.” But that would be too easy. So I’ll end it with an equally annoying sentence that makes no sense to me and that I probably will write about at one point and no doubt use to end some argument in the near future.

It is what it is.

Dear Cliche

Dear Open Letter Writer,

I’ve been seeing a lot of you lately—on Facebook, in newspaper columns and even in spoken conversations. This banal form in which you choose to vent is not becoming—but has become—outdated, tiring and just plain unfunny.

There seems to be a lot of angst in our world, and prayers and upset are often, and simply, addressed through this method of expression quite frequently. While I appreciate you taking out your despondence in a peaceful and non-violent manner, I have to tell you—I’m just over it.

I can understand the letters that ask for a favor. “Dear weather, please behave on my wedding day.” Or “Dear Illinois Lottery, please let me be the Mega Millions winner.” These are hopeful, harmless pleas that would make your day that much better. However, you must realize you sound like an idiot, right? Can we just be old fashioned and go back to praying to God who, if he does exist, has a much better chance of making these things happen?

The other day you wrote “Dear lady standing in front of me at Starbucks” and preceded to vent about your high level of annoyance at her inability to order drinks for her office in an efficient manner, thus making you late for your pedicure. I just don’t feel bad for you if that is the greatest discord you face throughout the day. By the way, do you suppose this was the same woman who cut you off in traffic right before you pulled out your iPhone while driving to let your social network know? Was she also the chick who grossed you out by breast-feeding in public. That broad is just ruining your life. Ugh.

I have to say though, some of my favorites have been your unsolicited advice you’ve doled out to celebrities. I’m pretty sure Lindsay had no idea she had a drug problem until you brought it to her attention, and I honestly thought Tori  might literally “go away” as you requested. I’m not sure where, but your letter gave us all hope. And I’m also sure Ryan Gosling keeps your note with the marriage proposal tucked under his pillow at night. It was, after all, quite moving.

My reason for writing you back is to beseech you to come up with more clever and unique ways to vent about the mundane, for lack of a better word, crap, that goes on in your life. Furthermore, your “thank yous” that follow sunny skies should not be directed toward me as I cannot take credit for them. I have forwarded them on to goodness and your lucky stars.


The Weather

P.S. You can also stop using the term “WINNING!”

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Back In Session

At some point in life, we are all a teachers.

As autumn is upon us, we are all brought back to the days of remembering that first day of going back to school. That first day of starting junior high, traveling back from summer break to college, or perhaps even the first day of kindergarten. We remember the anticipation of who would be in our class, would we get the ornery Mr. Farland or the ever loving Miss Schimtz? Would our best friends be in our class or would we be lab partners with Brock Hoffman? And what, oh what, would we wear entering those doors as an awakened human being from summer vacation?

I’ve never had children and I’ve never been in an educational field. I think I was a peer mentor in high school and I’ve trained people on a job but it wasn’t until this past summer that I started teaching.

I entered the acting class and observed the eyes that gazed upon me as though I could map out the path to their dreams and provide the concrete answer to “what will my future hold?”. There is a slight, who are we kidding, major difference between being a teacher to a class of unwilling high school wanna-be’s and obedient adults. Little did they know, as I entered that class, that I was looking for someone who could offer me the same life leading lessons and the same answer to what my future would hold.

As the weeks went on, I felt giddy with the delight as I saw them improve. They did their homework, committed to the tasks at hand, and became much more aware of their craft and what it entailed to achieve their goals. Six weeks in, however, we hit the ever-present roadblock of frustration. Everyone seemed as though they were struggling, not just with class, but with life in general; myself included. Lesson plan be damned, we had an old school, campfire pow-wow. Keep in mind it was an acting class; we're allowed to do that.

As we went around the room expressing our frustrations in life …a new job taking up our focus, a new baby taking up our nights, and the death of a parent swallowing our hearts…we came to Liz. With sympathetic eyes and a tale of being married for over 20 years, she shrugged her shoulders apologetically and said, “You know, I don't have a lot of problems. All I can say is that my life isn’t everything I hoped for….but it’s better than anything I could have imagined”.

It wasn’t a mantra or an e-greeting on facebook. It was an honest moment that answered the question of “what will my future hold?” What I had been brought there to teach, had been taught by the student. 

Life is not always about your next success, or how far you have come. It's also about what you’re able to observe and learn from those around you. School is always in session for adults. Who will your next lab partner be? Will you and your best friends always be in the same class? Will you have a good teacher or a bad one? Regardless, if you participate, your life will change. Without getting into too much "life is a journey not a destination" talk, there is something to be said for just embracing the moment. So relish in the good and embrace the pains, and look at that guy sitting next to you on the Metro. He might teach you a thing or two. That's how we grow.