Mz. Mannerz: Hi Seems To Be The Hardest Word

Time for another exciting edition of Mz. Mannerz!

Hi.

Who would have thought such a little word could inspire so much rage?  I mean, I would have thought that, but I fly into rage over someone misquoting lines from Caddyshack, so I’m a bad gauge of what’s rage-worthy.  You should probably talk to someone who doesn’t have a vein semi-permanently bulging out of their forehead if you want calm and well-thought out commentary on the matter.

I mean, goddamn it.  If you’re not gonna get the quote from the movie right, then don’t quote it.  You can’t just replace Bill Murray’s line “Big hitter, the Lama” with “The Lama is a big hitter” because you will have ruined the line.  RUINED IT.

As I will pontificate to anyone who will listen while I eat pizza:  Comedy is as much science as it is art.  Maybe more, even.  The order of the words counts.  Every word, change of tone, inflection, eyelid movement – it all counts.  It is 100,000 times more complex than drama, and I will stand by that until the day I die eating pizza.

Drama is so freaking easy, it annoys me to no end how much credit people get for it.  Oh no, they killed that character everybody liked and it was sad!  A lone tear falls from a sad British person’s face.  Cue violin music as people make stern facial expressions under overcast skies.  Black umbrellas.  HERE’S YOUR OSCAR.

Sad shit happens in real life all day, every day.  Making a movie about sad shit where the main take is, “That was sad!” is not the work of genius.  That’s just long-winded reality with a soundtrack.

You try killing off a character everybody likes and making it funny.  Craft a touching death scene to kazoo music.  Shoot Old Yeller with one of those guns that just unfurls a banner that says “Bang!” yet still preserve the integrity of the scene.  That shit is hard.  That shit takes finesse.  Watch “The Adventures of Priscilla: Queen of The Desert” for further reference.

Where was I?

The person who texts you with the word “Hi” followed by nothing is the most obnoxious person in the universe (besides guitar players, which I try to cover in every other blog post.  Try to keep up).

What this person has done with their lone “Hi” is start a conversation with you by immediately forcing you into an awkward silence, thereby drafting you to be the person who remedies it.  They’re not being folksy with their “Hi”, they have given you a J-O-B.

My whole life, I’ve had this desperate need to fill the awkward silences in conversations to make sure everyone is having a good time.  You might better recognize it as, “Good lord, you never shut up, do you?” but your better class of swap-shop psychologists would call it “codependency”.  I always try to have at least three universally interesting topics on-hand just in case an awkward silence happens.  I literally cannot take it when people seem uncomfortable.  It makes my palms sweat and my heart race.

The person who just sends “Hi” is the same person who when you respond with:

“Hey, what’s up?”

Will respond with “Nothing!” and then continue to sit there in silence.

GIVE ME SOMETHING TO WORK WITH.  Why did you text me if you have jack jimmy squat to say???

Did you just want me to entertain you?  Because if that’s the case, feel free to say that right up front.  “I’m bored and I can’t find any way to amuse myself, can you tell me a knock knock joke?”

Hey, schedule-permitting, I would be fine to tell you a knock knock joke.

Schedule-permitting.

Also, my schedule does not permit that ever, so if you want to be a wisenheimer and text me and say, “I’m bored and I can’t find any way to amuse myself, can you tell me a knock knock joke?” your text will be deleted and you will be immediately put on “The List”.

Is “The List” a good list or a bad list?

You tell me.  Do you think something that I refer to as “The List” is a good thing?  Take a moment.  Really think that over while you look at my prom picture:

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It was a magical  night.

I’m not filling awkward silences anymore.  If you text me a “Hi” followed by jack jimmy squat, guess what you’re getting back?  Jack.  Jimmy.  Squat.

I will wait you out, joke-a-cola.  I will let that “Hi” lie there like a corpse if I have to.  I refuse to participate in your senseless games.  I won’t do it.  The ball-rolling is now your job.

Unless a full ten seconds go by, and then my palms will start sweating and I’ll tell you about that time my best friend Anne and I went on a date with five Moroccan contortionists and fire-eaters at Epcot when we were 19 and when I called my mother beforehand to brag about it, she yelled, “DON’T YOU MARRY ANY OF THEM! THOSE MOROCCANS TREAT THEIR WIVES LIKE PROPERTY!” because that shit is universally entertaining.

So!  To summarize:

  1.  Don’t quote the movie if you don’t actually know the quote.
  2.  Comedy is harder than drama.
  3.  There should ideally be a give-and-take in successful human communications.
  4.  Don’t tell my mother that you’re going on a date with Moroccan fire-eaters and contortionists.
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That Mighty Mighty Bosstones t-shirt I’m wearing never failed to attract inordinately flexible Northwest Africans.

Old Man Yells At Cloud

I feel sorry for you Millennials with your student loans.  As a solid Gen-Xer, I was fortunate enough to not have to bear the burden of having student loans.  I know.  I’m one of the fortunate ones.

What’s my secret?  How did I manage to escape the burden of such heavy debt?  How rich are my parents?

Were my high school grades just that outstanding and I got a scholarship?  I mean, my extensive knowledge with regard to the 1982 NBC primetime line-up alone…

All good questions.  Every last one.

I managed to escape the student loan trap by being a goddamned dirtbag who never went to college.  I do not recommend this as an approach to avoiding student loan debt.

Not attending college was a “bold move”, in that I had no money to go to college.  Since nobody else in my immediate family had gone either, there was nobody to tell me how I could have even done it, anyway.  There was no internet to find this information.  We were poor as fuck, so nobody knew the first thing about crazy shit like “applying for financial aid”, or “talking to someone about your future”.  When you grow up poor, you are acutely aware that you don’t have a future.  It was just assumed that if you didn’t have $40,000 in cash lying around, then you didn’t go to college.  Go find yourself a jobby-job.  End of story.

As the brilliant Ted Knight so eloquently says in Caddyshack, “Well, the world needs ditch-diggers, too.”

When people asked me on my graduation day from high school what I was planning on doing after school, my answer was that I was going to, you know, hang out.  See some bands.  That’s exactly what I did, too.  I hung out.  I saw some bands.  I had no car and no job.  Had my mother not gotten remarried and moved out of the house, I would have had nowhere to live, either.  She let me live rent free in the old, falling apart house for six months as a graduation gift to me, thank god.

After lying around on the couch doing nothing for months on end and slowly descending into a flaming bout of mental illness which was akin to those scenes in “The Aviator” where Leonardo DiCaprio is crazy as fuck, manic with OCD, stops bathing, and keeps repeating the same sentences over and over while twitching, I finally pulled myself out of it and got an entry level full-time job that paid me $6.00 an hour, through a friend who could also give me a ride there.  My two-week paycheck, after taxes and whatnot, for 85 hours of work, was $373.00.

Anne eventually moved in and we split the rent at the house.  We relied heavily on the Burger King “Two Cheeseburgers and Two Fries for $2.22” deal for meals, and ate at our parents’ houses whenever we could.  I still didn’t have a car and instead had to pester everyone I knew to give me rides.

I was fortunate that my mother’s husband surprised me with an awesome used car one day when I was 21 years old, that he let me pay him back for over a five year period at $100 a month with no interest, otherwise I would have never been able to get a car on my own.  I was never able to put more than $5 worth of gas into it at a time.  The first time I could afford a full tank of gas, I was 26.

In the end, stuff worked out, and by “worked out”, I mean I spent decades of my life not even having $400 to my name.  If I had to estimate how much money I spent cumulatively in overdraft fees at my bank, it would be in the thousands.  Sometimes I overdrafted on purpose, and took the max amount of cash out as sort of a gonzo loan until payday, where I would deposit my paycheck at the end of the week and it would just take my account back up to $0.

After working full-time for 16 years, the first time my checking account had $1,000 in it, I was 34 years old.  I felt like a millionaire.  I opened my first savings account when I was 36, and didn’t start contributing to a retirement account until I was 37.

When the subject of my lack of higher education has come up at job interviews over the years, it makes me feel like I want to literally die right there in the interviewer’s office.

“You mean you didn’t go to college…at all?”

Then they make the face.  The face that, if I’m lucky enough to be hired, makes me feel like I have to work ten times harder than everybody else, just to prove that I’m worthy of the position.

That’s why it is incredibly insulting when someone asks you what college you went to, and when you tell them that you didn’t go to college, they say, “Good for you!  I wish I hadn’t gone!”

It’s like telling someone who has polio that you wish you could go back in time and not get vaccinated against polio.

Why am I regaling you with all this nonsense?  Because I want to impart one large piece of wisdom on you.  GO TO COLLEGE.  A CHEAP ONE.  FOR A DEGREE THAT WILL SOMEDAY HOPEFULLY MAKE YOU SOME MONEY.*

“Okay!  I’m thinking of majoring in philosophy!”

No.  If you tell me that, I will push you into a fire and walk away.

You can toss any arts degree in there while you’re at it, and I say that as someone who has both tried to make a living as an artist and is a huge, huge supporter of the arts.  Someone whose friends are almost all exclusively artists.  Someone who believes art is the most powerful language in all of humanity.

Had I had the ability to go college when I got out of high school, I surely would have majored in some broke shit like creative writing, or painting, or poetry.  You know, things you absolutely do not need a degree for in order to do them.

Get an accounting degree.  Major in international finance.  Medicine.  Science.  Engineering.  Something with computers and whatnot.  You can work your job and still write poetry in your spare time.  Also, your poetry sucks.

That was uncalled for.

I guess what I’m really saying is loans or no loans, nearly everyone is fucked unless they’re born with money.

 

*This is just one humble dirtbag’s opinion.  Your anecdotes where you fully disagree with me or show me your student loan bills will be printed out, put through a shredder, and then used as kindling for a drum circle bonfire, which I will not actually be attending, because “drum circle”.

Gene Gene, The Lunatic Cab-Driving Machine

My best friend Anne and I didn’t get cars until much later than most young people, which was a problem because we also wanted to have as much nightlife as possible.  This put us in many compromising positions over the years catching rides from other people (as you may have read about a few blog posts ago where we were nearly murdered in the woods), so we had to find other solutions for how we were going to get to the various bars and clubs that we needed to go to every weekend.  We were finally over 18, and we wanted to break free of only being able to hang out at places that were within walking distance.

We were both working full-time at shitty low-paying jobs ($7.00 and $6.00 an hour, respectively), but we had super low living expenses at the time, which meant we at least had a little spending money.  Not enough to buy a car, and we weren’t old enough to rent a car, so we had to figure out some other way to get around town to go out dancing.  We lived in a severely public transportation-challenged area in Florida.

The closest place to go hang out and dance to “alternative music”, which would also let us in as 18 year olds, was about a half hour drive away.  Every now and then we could convince a third party to drive us up there, but they more often than not would be of the variety that wanted to go home at midnight, and Anne and I wanted to stay until the sun came up.  We were budding party monsters, and we wanted to stay out all night every night.  You invest enough time gluing tiny crystals to your eyelids and you need to make sure you get as much dancefloor return on your investment as possible.

We decided we would start taking cabs to the club, which was far from ideal.  Not only did it cost $40 each way plus tip, but the cab service in our area was spotty, at best.  You might get all dressed up, call for a cab, and the dispatch place would literally say, “We don’t have any cabs available for the rest of the night.”  Sometimes they would show up three hours late.  Sometimes they just didn’t answer the phone at all.  When somebody actually did manage to show up, they would be the type of person described on America’s Most Wanted as “Last Seen in Florida”.

Also, pretty much everyone on America’s Most Wanted was described as “Last Seen in Florida”.  I don’t know why they didn’t just change the name of the show to that.

One particular Saturday night, we called the cab company and they said they had someone in the area who could pick us up right away.  We were thrilled, and we scrambled to finish getting ready.  The cab driver pulled up into the driveway a few minutes later and we hopped in.

His name was Gene, and he was an old school loudmouth-type from New York.  You know, the kind of guy who in the 70s, when his dad would hit him in the back of the head at the dinner table for talking back, he would yell back, “Would ya just watch the hair?! Ya know, I work on my hair a long time and you hit it.  He hits my hair.

But he wouldn’t even be quoting Saturday Night Fever.  If anything, Saturday Night Fever was probably quoting him.  Now I have to go watch Saturday Night Fever again.  For the 800th time.  Be right back.

Man, that movie is fucked up.  I hope they got some trauma counseling for Annette besides “head-shrinkin’ is for pussies”.  It never fails to turn me into emotional jelly when she sobs at Tony Manero, “All I ever did was like you!”

When we gave Gene the address of where we wanted to go, he said he was going to need the money up-front in order to drive us that far.  I guess he thought we were going to get to the club and make a break for it in our 60s throwback minidresses and white knee-high go-go boots and stiff him for the fare.  We would have been fairly conspicuous trying to pull that off regardless of our outfits, considering we would have collapsed fifty feet from the cab, because we both had the athletic endurance of a wet paper towel.

We didn’t have any real options, so we gave Gene the $40 fare up front, and then got on the road – where he proceeded to tell us his entire life story.  Something involving a union, a meatball, and/or Mussolini’s purported cousin who lived down the street from him.  Naturally, he let us know that he “knew a guy” who could “take out” anyone he wanted with “one single phone call”, because all of those guys know a guy who can take out anyone they want with a single phone call.

I’ve never understood why that’s a thing people brag about?  Also, I’m pretty sure if you brag about that sort of thing to strangers, then you don’t really “know a guy”.  I’m sure the “Know A Guy” Guy doesn’t generally like to murder strangers on behalf of cab drivers who tell people their life stories within thirty seconds of meeting them.  Loose lips sinking ships and what-have-you.

We got the impression Gene was a Grade A bullshit artist, but he was so intriguing as a 70s New Yorker stereotype, we were transfixed by his stories.  It was like having a cross between John Travolta and Travis Bickle drive you around town.

As Gene sped down the I-95 on-ramp, he became annoyed at a car he perceived wasn’t letting him in.  After he merged onto the main highway, he hit the gas and sped up to them, then jerked in front of them and slowed down, turned on the light inside the cab, turned his body towards us in the backseat, leaned over and stretched one arm waaay back, right between our faces, and stuck up his middle finger at the car behind us.  “Sorry about my reach there, girls – I had to make sure that fucker saw I was flippin’ his stupid ass off!  Some fucking people, I tell ya!”

Right after this triumphant flip-offery, Gene’s favorite song happened to come on the radio, which meant that Gene, now brimming with middle finger power, turned the volume up until the blown-out speakers crackled, slammed his foot down the gas pedal, took both hands off the wheel, and started playing furious air-drums, with a lit cigarette in one hand.

No, it wasn’t a Journey song.  If this were fiction, trust me, I would make it a Journey song.

It was the Red Hot Chili Peppers cover of Stevie Wonder’s “Higher Ground”, and since Gene had all the windows down, his cigarette ashes were flying right back into the car as he air-drummed away.  We sped down the highway towards the club going a hundred miles an hour as burning snowflakes of cigarette ash whipped us in our glittery faces.  At the big drum finish at the end of the song, Gene got so wild with his air-drumming that the cherry from his cigarette flew into the backseat and landed on my lap and burned a hole in my dress.  I picked it up with my fingernails and threw it out the window as fast as I could.  Gene said, “Oh shit, did I get ya?  SAHH-REE!” as he lit a new cigarette.

Then a Sublime song came on and he said, “Fuck this shit!”, and turned it down. At the very least, you could say Gene certainly had his standards.

When we got to the club, Gene gave us his business card and said to call him when we needed a ride back home, I guess since he now knew we were: (a) good for the $40, (b) apparently didn’t scare too easily, and (c) hadn’t yelled at him for trying to set me on fire.

Did we throw Gene’s card away?  Hell no!  This is the part where I remind you that young Anne and Maggie were idiots.

We had an awesome night at the club and stayed until close.  We called Gene and he picked us up, as promised, and didn’t even make us prepay this time.  Apparently, we had “bonded” on the drive up, so now he trusted us.  He was a little more sedate this time, but still talked a mile a minute.  It was less of the variety where he told us he could have someone killed, and more of the variety where he told us about all the people in his life who had let him down.  It was the end of the night, so I imagine he must have been weary and tired at that point, and really, how many stories can you tell about how you kicked that motherfucker’s ass after he stole all your gold chains?  We were tired, too, so we stayed pretty quiet most of the ride.

As we turned down a street that connected the two main streets in town, Gene, as it would soon become apparent, caught his second wind.

The connecting street was lined with huge, old trees and beautiful homes with matching beautiful yards.  It was one of those really nice family neighborhoods with tree-swings and birdhouses that matched the main houses.  Just idyllic and gorgeous, like something out of Better Homes and Gardens.  It was also one of those neighborhoods that went to great lengths to keep people from using it as a cut-through, I assume because they had already had their fair share of cars racing down the street like a straight-away when their kids were just trying to ride bikes and roller-skate.  Every intersection, no matter how small or how close it was to the previous one, had a stop sign with speed bumps before each one, and the speed limit throughout the neighborhood was 20 miles per hour. Gene was not a fan of this as a concept.

Gene got the to first stop sign and speed bump combo, looked around and said, “Well, what the fuck is this shit?”

Gene then put two and two together pretty quickly and decided that this traffic control system was no mere traffic control system.  Not to Gene.  This traffic control system was the first shot in a class war.  A class war that Gene had, apparently, been fighting his entire life, and had built a boulder-sized chip on his shoulder to prove it.

He held down the horn, hit the gas and burned out the tires as he shot towards the next stop sign, intermittently laying on the horn the whole way.  He slammed the brakes and skidded a good twenty feet before he came to the next speed bump, stuck his head out the window, and yelled, “YOU LIKE THAT, YOU MOTHERFUCKERS!  YOU WANNA KEEP ME OUT OF YOUR FUCKING NEIGHBORHOOD?!  OH, YOU DON’T WANT PEOPLE LIKE ME CUTTING THROUGH YOUR PRECIOUS FUCKING NEIGHBORHOOD, DO YA?!  OH NO, YOU’RE WAY TOO FUCKING HIGH CLASS TO LET SOME POOR FUCK LIKE ME ON YOUR STREET!  HOW YOU LIKE THIS, YOU RICH FUCKS!  HA HA HA HA HA!!!!  YOU LIKE ME NOW, YOU FUCKS?!!”

Anne’s and my hearts were racing as we gripped each other’s hands and held on for dear life.  We figured at the very least, when the cops came it would be obvious that we were just customers and had no part in this, seeing as neither of us had a tommy gun or a feedbag of cocaine on our laps.

(Then we let each other’s hands go, because we remembered we’re tough guys who don’t hold hands.  In 27 years of best friendship, I believe she and I may have hugged twice.)

There were six more stop signs in the neighborhood.  You can just go ahead and re-read a few paragraphs up to find out what happened at each one.  He even made up a little melody to go along with his obscenity-laden tirades that he punctuated with his horn honking, like this:  “THIS – IS – WHAT – YOU – RICH – MOTH – ER – FUCK – ERS – GET – FOR – BE – ING – SUCH – FUCKS!!  YOU – CAN – GO – AND – SUCK – MY – DICK – YOU – FUCK – ING – FUCKS!!”

When Gene dropped us off at home a few minutes later, still breathless from his tirade, he said, “Listen.  Girls!  Keep a few of my cards, and call me direct the next time you need a safe, clean ride.  I don’t like the idea of youse girls getting into a cab with some of these guys.  Some of these characters are real nutjobs.”

You would think this experience would mean that we would never be calling Gene ever again, but Gene actually became our regular cab driver until Anne finally bought a car later that year.

You would also think that Gene wouldn’t repeat the honking and screaming obscenities out the window thing every time he drove us through that neighborhood, but you’d be wrong on that one.  He did it every single time.