New York to Boston

My sister moved up to Boston recently. It’s the first time since I was in college that we have lived in different states. And while it’s sad that she moved, it doesn’t really worry me because our schedules are so busy that we will probably get to see each other only marginally less than when she did live in New York.

Boston is only 3.5 to 8 hours away (depending on traffic) and inexpensive busses make the trip pretty simple and efficient. And in recent years the amount of bus companies competing for poor yuppies’ dollars has made it even better.

It’s a big improvement from the old days when the only option was the “Chinatown Bus.” This was quite literally a bus that left from the Chinatown in one city, and went to the Chinatown in another city. (Or in the case of D.C., the China… Block)

It often left from the dodgiest part of town, with no real indicator of where the actual stop is except a very long line of Asians with way too much luggage standing on a random street corner. It was a bit like a cattle call, if all the cattle were Asian.

These new busses like Bolt and MegaBus leave from Midtown. But even though these new busses and new companies leave from the better part of town, it still doesn’t make the trip ideal exactly.

First and foremost getting on the bus is insanity. Since the Port Authority Bus station is already jam packed with all the crappy busses going to god knows where, the only place available for the cool new bus services, are main streets in Midtown.

So this past Friday I ran out of my office at a (my boss said it was ok, seriously) and got in a glob of lines to get on a bus that I hoped was going to Boston.

There are no signs for what city, or what time on the street. There is just a sign that says, “The Bus stops here” and 240 people asking each other

Are you going to Boston? Which Bus is going to Boston?

And then there are the people who work for the bus company who must get really tired of answering the same 1 question. So they try to get people going to 3 different cities to stand in a normal type of line.

I got in the line for the to Boston. And then Bus guy number 1 said everybody from half the line go stand 100 yards further back. Then Bus guy number 2 told me to go stand in that other half line, so I moved back. But then guy number 1 was like, why are all these people coming here, so then he made everybody go back and stand in the first line.

Are you confused yet? You should be. The only thing you need to understand is that the order shuffled a little bit, and I actually ended up standing in front of somebody I had been behind.

Now normally I am a decentish person. I tend to give my seat up on the subway for pregos and old folk, and I hold the door open for others and all that other crap.

And in any other circumstance I probably would have said to the guy, “oh I’m sorry you were ahead of me, go ahead” but this is different. Getting on these busses is only slightly more organized that trying to catch dollar bills dropped from a blimp.

I heard rumor about there being a second bus coming in to take everybody but I really didn’t think that was a solid bet. So I trusted my gut to be a jerk and just stood my place. The line was getting exponentially longer.

As it turned out I got the last seat on that first bus. There ended up being one empty seat because a woman had to get off because her friend whom she was traveling with hadn’t arrived yet.

And she kept yelling, “Wait my friend is a block away, he is almost here, can you just hold on?!”

Can you imagine somebody trying to hold up a plane? Or a train? Because those people can’t see or talk to the pilot or conductor, but something about the bus makes people feel like they have more influence. Like they should be able to control what bus they get on, and what time it leaves, or doesn’t.

So she got off the bus. I think. I don’t really know. I was too busy trying to figure out a comfortable sitting position that did not require me putting my knee in my own eye socket.

But we eventually left. Hooray right?

Not so much.

It is still a bus. And busses haven’t been fun for me since we traveled around Italy on one my senior year of high school. Completely stupid with excitement to see an actual Bell Tower in person, I thought it a brilliant idea to shout out every time I saw one; not realizing every frigging town in Italy has a bell tower. So while a Bell Tower might seem like a novelty to me, to Italians they were like… Burger Kings.

So imagine riding down the highway with somebody who screamed out BURGER KING every time he saw one, and you get an idea what it was like to drive around Italy with me.

What can I say? I’m an excitable kid.

Then there was that point in the trip when the bus driver pulled over on the side of the highway and everyone simultaneously thought and said the same thing.

Oh shit.

Turns out our bus driver just had to tinkle. And as he walked to the back of the bus he kept saying “Sorry, sorry, when nature calls…”

Well after he answered the call, the bus went back into gear and we were off to arrive at Boston in a little over 5 hours.

Not awful, but there are a lot of things that could have made it better.

Like some Bell Towers.

May I Take Your Coat?

I know it’s a little late for New Year’s Resolutions. But I actually make Chinese New Year’s resolutions so technically this is coming in early.

This year I made a life resolution:

Never check my coat anywhere, ever, ever again.

A coat check is a good idea in theory, but based on several bad encounters and 1 extremely awful experience on New Year’s eve/day. I have resolved to just keep my coat with me as opposed to subject myself to the insanity that comes with trying to retrieve a checked coat.

The first time I checked a coat I was living in Italy during my college years. It was winter in Florence so we would head out to the dance clubs all bundled up and ready to party.

Invariably every single person would leave the club at the same time and a gaggle of drunk Americans would converge on the coat check like they were trying to get a peak at a bearded lady or a unicorn. The process was always cumbersome and pushy and way too exhausting for my liking.

Going to school in Arizona I never had to check a coat… I never even had a coat. And then when I graduated and moved in with my roommates (my parents) I didn’t have what many people consider to be a thriving social life. I honestly don’t know if I checked a coat between 2006 and 2009.

But I went to a friend’s birthday party in Manhattan last year in a bar that had way more feet than square feet and against my better judgment, I checked my coat. I quickly forgot about it but was given a brutal reminder of the awfulness that comes with a coat check when I tried to leave.

The coat room was empty but for a giant black wooly mound on the floor. With terror in her eyes the coat check lady looked up at me and said:

“The coat rack broke; all of the coats are on the floor.”

Thank you coat check lady. I can see that.

I think it’s fair to point out that this is why I rarely pre-tip the coat check lady. It seems to me that any time I put a dollar in the coat check ladies bucket at the beginning of the night, it says to her,

Hey do me a favor and make my life a living hell when I try to get this back OK?

Amazingly that night ended with me getting my coat back but I was pretty sure that was my last interaction with a coat check.

Not so much.

Flash forward to New Year’s Eve 2009. Chicago! A swanky price fixed bar! Fancily dressed ladies! A bow tie! What could go wrong?


Everything.

As we checked our coats downstairs at MARKET BAR in Chicago I felt hesitation, but knew that I was planning to dance and dancing with a coat in hand would inhibit all of my sweet moves.

So we hand off our coats. Megan is number 84, Jen is number 85, and I am number 86. Brilliant. Ticket goes in my pocket. And we go upstairs to celebrate the New Year.

The night was a smash hit (to say nothing of the bow tie) and we had a blast. Around 12:45 we decide we better round up the cattle to go. The line going downstairs for the coat check is understandably long… perhaps 40 or so people. But I figure it should move quickly since it is only a coat check. I give you number, you give me coat. Right?

Wrong.

I’m not sure what happened while we were upstairs dancing but apparently there was seismic shift in the space time continuum because 45 minutes later, the 3 of us still had not gotten our coats and we were now only in the middle of the line.

Why were there no coats to be distributed? Where had they all gone?

Had Rumplestiltskin come by at midnight and spun all the coats into gold? Had there been a coat heist? Had the coats been thrown so far into the closet that they ended up in Narnia? Where the hell were the coats?

Of course it only got worse as drunken idiots from upstairs got on the line. And of course nobody was yelling, or pushing, or being obnoxious.

But the dramatic idiocy of the coat check fiasco got even worse if you can believe it. Every 8 minutes somebody would come out of the closet and say something like,

Does anybody have number 146?

Are you effen kidding me? This isn’t coat bingo. I wasn’t hoping to impress my friends with the sweet ladies pea coat I won on New Year’s, I want my coat!

Does anybody have a Banana Republic coat?

You know who has a Banana Republic coat? Half the frigging yuppies here. Give me my damn coat!

What does your coat look like?

What do you mean what does my coat look like, its black and made of wool like every other winter coat in the known universe. GIVE ME MY MOTHER @#$*% COAT!

Megan finally gets her coat. Soon to be followed by Jen and myself right?

Wrong.

We waited another 20 minutes for Jen to get her coat. So then there was just me in the middle of a frigging riot. I felt like I was battling to get my rice rations from the Vietcong. People are screaming, there are multiple idiots from the Market Bar trying to make things worse for everybody including one dooshbag manager who looks like a pre-pubescent Muppet who starts screaming:

Do you want people to start dying? No? Then back up.

Now I know my training in crisis management is minimal, but I am pretty sure telling people that they might DIE while waiting to get their COAT is not a best business practice.

During the 90 minutes it took me to get my coat I was pushed, prodded, shoved, condescended to, ignored, yelled at, screamed at, and cursed at.

And do you know how I finally was able to get my coat back?

I said to the coat check guy; I am looking at my coat. I can see it. Can you please give it to me?
Finally with coat I thought I was free. Hooray.

Except of course for the drunk girl sitting on the steps who would not let me up, the 45 minute wait in 0 degree weather to catch a cab, and the cops who refused to let people wait inside the bar.

But hey at least I got my coat back right?

At least.

Doogie, The Brie, and Me

Megan’s dog got diarrhea and it’s all because of the fish museum.

Here is how it happened.

This is my friend Megan.
I spent the New Year in Chicago with Megan at her Mom’s apartment. It was a very thoroughly planned out trip, it happened kind of like this.

Richard: What do you want to do for New Years?
Megan: What if we just went to Chicago?
Richard: I’ve already bought the tickets.

So we arrived early on a Wednesday morning. Megan’s lovely mother Barbara picked us up at the airport and brought us back to her beautiful apartment.

I forgot to take a picture of her.

When I got to the apartment I immediately looked for Megan’s younger sister Jaime. This is Jaime.
I ran into Jaime’s room. Jaime was still asleep so I jumped on top of her to wake her up. I was joined by Megan’s very fluffy Mini Australian Sheppard dog named, I’m not kidding here, Doogie Bowser.

Yea. I know. This is Doogie.
We get Jaime out of bed and we stroll into an as yet not painfully cold Chicago to get some breakfast. We filled our bellies at a delightful placed called West Egg and then hopped in a cab to the Shedd Aquarium.

Now, I myself am a huge fan of aquariums. I have been to aquariums in several different states and countries. And while they may not always be amazing, they are always a good time.

Not so much this time.
We get dropped off at the museum and there is a line of several HUNDRED people. The line is so long that it goes down the steps and snakes around the park out front. The line bends so much in fact that in this picture we are in line, but not even at the end of it.
So after about 30 minutes in this line a museum employee comes by and says he can get people inside instantly and starts taking people to get into the “express line.” This employee doesn't explain what the “express line” is but to me this sounds like a scam so Jaime, Megan and I pass and stay outside.

Well after another 20 minutes and another offer to get on the express line I decide to investigate and figure out what the difference is. Basically instead of paying 19 dollars you pay 39 dollars (39 Freaking dollars) which guarantees you a ticket to the 4D movie and a ticket to something at “Fantasea” which sounds like some sort of Burlesque show involving King Neptune and a dolphin.

With our extremities approaching blue we cave and decide to pay the outrageous fee. So they take us inside to the “express line” where we end up waiting for ANOTHER 30 minutes. The only difference is it was indoors.

Whoopee.

By the time we finally got our tickets  (including a ticket so see the topless King Neptune show which doesn't start for 3 hours) we were ready for some fish to blow our minds.

As it turns out, every human being in the state of Illinois was at the aquarium. I stepped on the tiny feet of no less than 40 toddlers. We had to wait on a line for everything. A line to see the skinny fish. A line to see the fat fish. A line to get in the elevator. A line to get out of the elevator. It was awful. And we were carrying our coats.

The entire time Jaime keeps raving about the 4D movie because she has seen it before. Jaime tells us this movie is amazing. This movie will change our lives. This movie will make me a good singer and thicken Megan’s hair. This movie is amazing.

This is us waiting on line for it.



We finally get into our life changing movie and does it change our lives?

No.

As it turns out a 4D movie just means that for a 15 minute film they spray water on you, whip your ankles with a string, and poke you in the back with a stick. After that we were cranky and ready to start drinking.

We left the aquarium and abandoned our plan of having lunch somewhere and just went back to the apartment. Extremely pissy and sore (from the pokes in the back) and since the view from Barbara's apartment was so grand we just decided to open a bottle of wine and decompress a little.

Well 1 bottle for 4 people is not nearly enough so we quickly opened another, and Barbara brought out some crackers and a very large, very lavish triangle of brie complete with the rind.

These delicacies were placed in the living room on the coffee table where Megan and Jaime and I sat and nibbled on them while Doogie sniffed around and looked for a cuddle. We didn’t eat much because we were more interested in drinking and bemoaning the dramatic inefficiencies of what I was now calling the Fish Museum.

I say Fish Museum because it did not deserve the title of aquarium. For me an aquarium is a happy place full of fish and joy. Whereas a Fish Museum now means a place where you pay 39 dollars to wait on a hundred lines and get poked in the back.

We were depleted. We couldn’t find enough wrong with the museum from the extra charges, to the misinformation, to the complete lack of order. We had just lost it. We were done.

So when we walked into the kitchen to join Megan’s mother for a third bottle of wine we were starting to feel more than OK. Jaime would tell us later that as we walked into the kitchen she thought to herself that she should maybe bring the Brie with her.

We continued to indulge ourselves in our 3rd bottle of wine and some time before we opened the fourth I wandered back into the living room and saw Doogie next to the coffee table but the brie was gone.

Not have chewed or half consumed but gone as though it had never existed. The plate was completely empty.

Doogie had eaten and entire wedge of Brie, rind and all and was now walking around the house with somewhere around 30 dollars worth of French cheese in his stomach that was going to make his (and Barbara’s) life hell for the next 36 hours.

It quickly became obvious the following morning that Doogie was in a world of hurt. He walked around the house in a listless kind of haze with a look on his face that seemed to say, “What have I done?”

There were many whimpers that came from the poor pooch. Many trips over the door to be let out only to change his mind and turn around when the door was actually opened. He just didn’t know what to do with himself. And in fact every time he came back in from outside, Megan’s poor mother would pick him up and put him in the sink. She would then wash his fluffy little but off so he wouldn’t leave a trace of his poor decision on anything he sat on like he did when he hopped on Megan’s white bed Thursday morning.

Even though he had done some damage Doogie wasn’t done eating.

In fact over the course of 5 days Doogie also ate other things left on the coffee table including:

A small chunk of Boursin cheese
Half a peanut butter bagel
And some eggs over medium

This was all in addition to what he was able to get from the dishwasher.

He was absolutely incorrigible. I would love to say that Doogie learned his lesson this week but I don’t think he did. In fact I am almost positive that if he saw an even larger, stinkier block of Brie on the table tomorrow that he would eat the entire thing without a second thought. So while Doogie didn’t learn anything, I certainly did.

The Chicago fish museum gives dogs diarrhea.

Losing It - Part 2

You know you are in a bad way when you walk into a library looking for a fight.

In addition to being frustrated with everybody lately, I have made an effort to save money. I have stopped purchasing books and instead started using the Library. The Library is great. It is quiet, it is free, and in the summer, it is cool as can be.

But I got myself into trouble with this place recently. Due to some very exhausting weeks at work, a bout of slow reading, and general laziness, I had a book that was becoming increasingly more overdue as each day passed.

By the time I was finally able to return the book, it was approximately a month overdue. Entirely my fault for sure. And the day I brought it back was just as busy as all the ones before it, so I was only able to carve out a handful of minutes to run over to the library.

So I hustled my butt over to the library. Being completely fed up with service people and knowing that the book was extremely overdue I tried to drop it in the night slot hoping that I could just pay the fine at a later date. I would rather have the money owed already on my account to than have to see the look of disappointment in the librarian's eye as I hand her my book that was due roughly 4 weeks earlier.

I must pause here to tell you a story about my childhood. I was a pretty good kid, didn't get in too much trouble, but in the eyes of the library I was pretty much a felon. I couldn't for the life of me, bring myself to get books back to the library on time. I was always getting those carbon paper overdue notices saying I owed something like $1.67. And my parents would make me go there by myself to fess up and pay my fine.

The librarians even knew who I was. They were an old decrepit bunch, adorned in clothes from another time, spectacled, and smelling of powders. I would walk, barely taller than the counter and tell them I had a fine to pay.

Ahh yes, Richid Bomkey.

It was always so embarrassing.

The pinnacle came though when I had an abundance of overdue books and the library sent the notice along that said how not returning books was against the law and in addition to fines, criminals would be sent to prison. PRISON!

I held it together long enough to get out of the house and get on my bike to the library but once gone I started bawling. I cried all the way to the library and then sat down on the lawn outside reread the notice, get to the part about prison, and then start bawling all over again. How could this happen? I was too young to go to prison! I think I cam close to dehydration that day.

So fast forward to the future and you can understand my issues with returning overdue books. I tried the overnight box, but it's locked. So I have to go into the library where there is usually at least 2 people at the desk, one doing returns and one signing out books.

But of course today there was only 1 person at the desk (what is this the post office?) and a line of 11 people waiting to take out and return books. Having been there before I recognized the lady behind the counter as one of those shining beacons of civility and kindness.

I am pretty sure this was also the same clerk who snapped at me the last time I had been there when I accidentally handed her my gym card instead of my library card.

That's not the right card!

Alright library lady, play it cool. That was just a simple mistake on my part. Tiny plastic cards look alike OK? I am not trying to pull a fast one here.

Might I also point out that these books are free. What conman scheme could I possibly be running here. I mean, sheesh lady. Chill!

So as soon as I noticed there was only 1 person behind the desk, I did that thing where I looked around fanatically for another person to help me. I looked at the snaking line of misery and just muttered to myself while spinning around in a circle like I was Mary Tyler Moore.

Realizing there were no other solutions, I walked up to the counter, already a little bit on edge, and asked the woman if I was just returning a book if I could just leave it on the counter.

Did you check the drop box?

"Yes I did." And then I walked over and tried it again and came back in, and it's locked! "Can't I just leave it on the desk?"

I CAN'T BE HELD RESPONSIBLE FOR THAT, she snapped at me.

Can't be held responsible for that? What is that? That is a book! It is not like I walking in holding a radioactive baby Jesus. It's a frigging book! I can promise you it is not going to jump off the counter and run out the door.

But I guess I must be ridiculous. How could I expect you to control your own eyeballs and be aware of the shoebox sized orange book I place 1 foot from your face? And ya know what? Somebody is probably not going to steal it either because it's F#$%^& FREE! Everything in this place is free! It is a building dedicated to free. It shouldn't be called a library, it should be called the Freebrary. You don't even need to put locks on the doors!

After she snapped at me I stood there muttering rhetorical questions to no-one in particular. things like, "Well what am I supposed to do about this? Huh? Hrmm?"

And then I stormed out in a huff, holding my overdue book that was about to cost me 35 cents more.

So much for free.

Everyone was driving me crazy. The lifeless, unresponsive, barely coherent bodies behind desks whose only job is to scan a book or hand you a marble frosted. Are the only people who take these jobs those who have had their souls removed? I mean it must be miserable sitting in an air-conditioned building all day handing out donuts, stamps, and free books to people. Why are you so disgruntled?

I can only imagine the job posting these trolls replied to.

Hey there! Are you not proficient at anything? Do you have a bad attitude? Do you hate people? Have you never smiled in your whole damn life? Well have we got the job for you!

These feeling were all bubbling underneath the surface like lava, just waiting to explode. I was going to lose it big time, and this time it wouldn't just be muttering. I was going to do something that would get me into trouble that I would regret.

I was venting about these very things to a friend on my cell phone as I waited to cross the street in the city later that week. The light changed and I started to cross.

As I walked leisurely across the street talking into my phone, I must have looked like quite the a-hole. but ya know what? I was walking at a normal pace, and while I may have looked like I thought I was hot shit, I didn't actually. The little white man on the sign is walking, he is not sprinting, or pogo-sticking across the street. So I took was walking.

A guy waiting to make a turn obviously was not happy with my speed and shouted several derogatory things out his window at me. Without even thinking, and without turning my body I just reached back to give him the finger before I realized, wow Rich, this is not something you do.

So instead of giving him the finger, I just pointed him. Without looking. As if to say, "While I acknowledge your dooshbaggery, I choose not to respond to it."

I didn't stop walking. I didn't turn to see his reaction. I just kept on moving, praying the whole time that he wasn't chasing after me with a tire iron.

Maybe I need a vacation.

Losing It - Part 1

I am not an angry person. Most days I am quite the jovial bloke. I walk around town with a smile on my face and a song in my heart. But sometimes, the general mental incompetence of a select few pushes me to the edge of my sanity, causing me to lose my cool and have a small irrational meltdown.

I had mentioned before how some frustratingly detached vendors were making me angry. After a brief series of poor interactions with said vendors things got better. In fact, I had great interactions with many people. I thought my unfortunate collection of events had passed.

I, of course, was wrong.

It all started at the post office. Nothing especially memorable happened there, the place is just awful. No matter how hard I rack my brain I can think of few places on earth that are more awful than the post office. I mean at least the department of motor vehicles has seats! And there is the excitement in the air of teenagers thirsting for freedom has they get their license issued to them for the first time.

But the post office has absolutely no joy. None. Have you ever seen anyone completely beside himself to buy a stamp?

No.

Everything about the post office says; "You will wait on lines, I will give you attitude, and you will leave here depressed, crying, and possibly broke."

Let me point out that I am not anti postal worker. I am very pro postal worker. In fact, mailmen and women are some of the friendliest people in town. They are super friendly. Heck, my grandpa used to be a letter carrier for many years and they just don't make them any better than my grandpa!

But the people who work in the post office... dude... I don't know what happened to them in their lives, but it certainly wasn't good.

I think one of the big issues with the post office is that nobody moves with any sort of purpose. It appears to be some sort of time vacuum. It is all slow motion and madness. The building doesn't even look like it is open to begin with. Everything looks worn and broken and the customers in there don't have the time to be there in the first place.

Plus it seems like to do anything you have to fill out 8 forms in triplicate. There is like 1 pen in the whole damn building and that piece of shit is hanging from the counter by a braided piece of tape and string that looks like it was tied there by a one armed monkey.

The post office is 90 times more difficult than it needs to be. The automated machine is the only good thing there. But of course there is only 1 of them and it has a purchase minimum. I try to use it for everything but it is just not possible. And god forbid I need to buy 1 stamp I have to actually go wait on that crazy snaking Disneyland line of misery and revulsion.

Even just standing on that line gives you a glimpse into a hell on earth you couldn't possibly know existed. You feel the hate of everybody in front of and behind you. People's heads swing around wildly, like they are searching for something. It is as thought they think that THEY will be the ones to figure out the mystery of the post office that has eluded man for thousands of years.

Everybody takes turns letting out exasperated sighs. Only like 2 out of the 9 stations are actually staffed and open and you constantly see postal workers walking around behind the counter looking like they just came out of a coma.

I left there feeling like my soul had been sucked out through my eyeballs. And when I'm feeling soulless I head to a place that can provide me with a quick pick-me-up. I turn to my addiction.

Donuts.

Now, I have a discerning donut palate. There are few places that live up to my standards. But when I'm jonesing I head over to a nationally famous donut chain for a cream filled creation of laughter and love.

But what I end up with is a decrepit relic that tastes like I am on an archaeological dig for the fossilized remains of what once upon a time, in a galaxy far far away, might possibly, on a rainy Tuesday, maybe known as cream.

In fact it is not only the donuts that have gone down hill at this establishment, the quality of the service has taken a flying leap into the pits of horribility.

It is not just the donuts that are hollow, I am almost sure the heads of the employees are as well.

It boggles my mind because I am not sure what job could be better than handing people donuts.

What's that you say? Oh you want a donut? Oh how awesome is that because I have a donut! I have lots of donuts!

Your job is to hand people donuts. DONUTS! The last time I was in there I told they guy I wanted 30 munchkins, but the look on his face mad it seem like I had asked him to find the derivative of the square root of the metric weight of Neptune.

He asked me to repeat my request again, but I wasn't exactly sure what he was saying because he wasn't making eye contact and I could barely hear the words coming out of this guy's mouth.

I can understand that you may not be some sort of highly evolved brain genius, but surely, SURELY, you must know that you must say your thoughts out loud for other people in the universe to hear you. Right?

He asked me to repeat my order 3 times, but because he was so poor at speaking and making his question clear, I had no idea what was going on and was just getting upset.

Just give me some F#*$&^% munchkins you moron!

I knew I had really lost it when donut holes are sending me to the verge of a brain hemorrhage. You know you are in a bad way when you walk into a donut shop looking for a fight.

While I've come to expect an awful time going to the post office or buying sweet treats, I definitely did not expect to get into a fight in the library.

But that is exactly what happened next.

To Be Continued...

Please Don't/Do Look at Me

In college I majored in Human Communication. When I tell people this they usually respond by saying something outrageously hilarious like “Oh, as opposed to animal communication?” No you moron, as opposed to just studying language and words I learned how human beings throughout the course of history have interacted with each other across cultures and different mediums.

Woah, sometimes I lose my cool.

As a Human Communication graduate, I try my best to make my interactions with all people pleasant and enjoyable. However, the amount of people in the retail/food service world that refuse to make eye contact while talking to me is driving me a little bit crazy.

I was at a Subway Restaurant a couple of weeks ago and when I got up to the register man behind the counter took my sandwich to bag it and ring me up. He was about to tell me the price when his cell phone rang, so he ANSWERED it before telling me the price and completing the transaction all without looking at me. I was so confused I put the change in his tip jar.

Yea, I don’t know why I did that.

I actually can understand incompetent store help avoiding eye contact, but the detached robot-like answers I have started receiving are just weird.

New York City has a drug store called Duane Reade. There is one a block away from my job in Manhattan, and one a block away from my apartment in Queens. It was here that I was the recipient of bizarre communication.

I was at the Duane Reade near my apartment because I was out of hand soap and was having people over. Nothing says “I’m a gross human” like not having hand soap at your sink. You might as well put a sign on your door that says “I don’t believe in bathing and I eat trash.”

So I’m standing in the soap aisle contemplating the many varieties of soap. I am reading labels, opening bottles and examining the contents. I am quite aware at this point that I am rapidly losing masculinity points. I go to start sniffing the products to see which I like best when I notice a man next to me checking out the Axe Body Sprays. I know something is wrong with this man because… well… because he is checking out the Axe Body Sprays.

But he is not just reading the labels, he is spraying them… on himself.

I am so fascinated by this man that I have become completely oblivious to my sniffing and submerge my nose into a bottle of green tea and aloe scented hand soap. In my haste to classify Mr. Axe as the moron, I have quickly pulled ahead in the standings.

Standing there with soap all over my nose I quickly realize the 2 of us look like the guests of honor at the Drug Store Idiot Convention.

Eager to get out of this hell hole I wiped the soap off my nose, grabbed a bottle of foaming hand wash (masculinity falling faster now) and headed to the counter. As it was 7 pm on a Saturday night, it was pretty much just me and Lord of the Body Sprays in the store so I waltzed right up through those black poles that show you where you stand before you pay.

It was at this point that the woman behind the counter looked me straight in the eye and said, “May I help the next customer in line.”

I kind of squinted for a second before brushing off her strange way of addressing me and walked up to pay. Perhaps she liked formalities. As she handed me my change I almost said “The customer thanks you” but I thought the better of it.

I paid no mind my counter exchange until the following week.

I was at the Duane Reade in Manhattan buying candy. I work in an office and if you don’t have a regular supply of candy, people go completely bat shit crazy.

What is even worse than never having candy to begin with i if you have candy… and then you run out. People who normally take the candy will walk up, throw their meaty paw into your giant sparkly hat, or wherever you keep your candy and say something like, “Oh man, what happened to all the candy?”

To which I usually respond, “Have you checked your ass you Butterfinger-for-breakfast creep?”

No I don’t say that… but I want to.

I’m not sure if it bothers me more that people take candy and don’t replace it, or that people purposefully walk by known candy suppliers just to see if the stash is full. I want to put a live rat in that deep dark candy hat one day so I can see someone walk by, shove their hand in there and scream “EWW A RAT!”

“Oh I’m sorry I forgot to tell you, we switched from Hershey kisses to giant live rats. I hope you don’t mind. You do eat giant live rats right?”

ANYWAY I was in Duane Reade buying some candy (because they don’t sell rats). I grabbed a bag of York Peppermint Patty minis (half the size, just as good) and went to go pay for them. I walked into that little roped off area and prepared to approach the counter. I was the only one waiting, there was nobody behind me, and there were 3 Duane Reade associates behind the counter.

One of them, once again, looks directly at me and says in a voice that makes her sound like she’s working the checkout counter at Guantanamo Bay’s torture store, “May I help the next customer in line please.”

I stopped and had a momentary panic attack. Was I not really there? Had I ceased to exist? Had I turned invisible? Why wouldn’t she just say to me “Can I help you sir?"


Was she a robot? Animatronic? Blind? I didn’t know. I seriously had to make sure I was

A. Not a ghost

B. In fact, clearly visible

C. In the line for the counter

What happened? Is Duane Reade brainwashing its employees Clockwork Orange style? Its bad enough they ask me every single time if I have a club card. Don’t you think I would show it to you if I had one? Damn it I don’t want one. I just want you to treat me like a normal human being and look me in the eye like I actually exist.

Maybe I should have just majored in retail communication. Maybe I just take things to literally. Ah hell, I’m just cranky because our sparkly hat has no good candy in it right now.

To subscribe to email updates send an email to Boehmcke@gmail.com