Total Perspective Vortex
What really happened to Trillian? Theories abound, but you can see what she's really been up to on this blog. If you're looking for white mice, depressed robots, or the occasional Pan Galactic Gargleblaster you might be better served here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/cult/hitchhikers/guide/.
Words are cool.
The English language is complex, stupid, illogical, confounding, brilliant, beautiful, and fascinating.
Every now and then a word presents itself that typifies all the maddeningly gorgeousness of language. They're the words that give you pause for thought. "Who came up with that word? That's an interesting string of letters." Their beauty doesn't lie in their definition (although that can play a role). It's also not in their onomatopoeia, though that, too, can play a role. Their beauty is in the way their letters combine - the visual poetry of words - and/or the way they sound when spoken. We talk a lot about music we like to hear and art we like to see, so let's all hail the unsung heroes of communication, poetry and life: Words.
Here are some I like. (Not because of their definition.)
Mamas, Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to be Smart Girls
(A Trillian de-composition, to the tune of Mamas, Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys)
Mama don’t let your babies grow up to be smart girls
Don’t let them do puzzles and read lots of books
Make ‘em be strippers and dancers and such
Mamas, don’t let your babies grow up to be smart girls
They’ll never find men and they’re always alone
Even though men claim they want brains
Smart girls ain’t easy to love and they’re above playing games
And they’d rather read a book than subvert themselves
Kafka, Beethoven and foreign movies
And each night alone with her cat
And they won’t understand her and she won’t die young
She’ll probably just wither away
Mama don’t let your babies grow up to be smart girls
Don’t let them do puzzles and read lots of books
Make ‘em be strippers and dancers and such
Mamas, don’t let your babies grow up to be smart girls
They’ll never find men and they’re always alone
Even though men claim they want brains
A smart girl loves creaky old libraries and lively debates
Exploring the world and art and witty reparteé
Men who don’t know her won’t like her and those who do
Sometimes won’t know how to take her
She’s rarely wrong but in desperation will play dumb
Because men hate that she’s always right
Mama don’t let your babies grow up to be smart girls
Don’t let them do puzzles and read lots of books
Make ‘em be strippers and dancers and such
Mamas, don’t let your babies grow up to be smart girls
They’ll never find men and they’re always alone
Even though men claim they want brains
Life(?) of Trillian
Wednesday, August 10, 2005 I Rent. Okay? I Rent.
Since I’m all hopped up high on my new do the opposite because I am void of emotion because I have no expectation thing, I decided the time was right for me to revisit what used to be an emotional hotbed of issues for me.
Yep, I looked at real estate. Or. Well. Condos. I’m still not on board with categorizing an apartment as real estate, I mean, there’s no estate and it’s not really property. It’s an apartment you purchase. But it’s still an apartment. You do not own the building. The building, yes, that’s real estate, but you’re not buying the building. You’re buying a small bit of floor space in the building. But I choose to live in a large city and that means, even for many of the wealthy residents, owning a home, as in a building and the land on which it sits, is out of the question. Even if you have the money, finding a home, a house, with land, single family, is not easy. There's only a certain amount of space and only so many homes in that space. That’s why architects long ago began looking to the sky. Stack ‘em up as high as possible! Cram a ton of people in the air! Oh sure it’s a social catastrophe waiting to happen, but think of the money to be made!
Actually, I like skyscrapers and, well, yeah. I can’t complain too much. It’s obvious I don’t need a home, as in a building and land. It’s just me and the Furry Creature. We’re even getting used to our tiny compartment. That’s what prompted my recent trip down inferiority lane.
Somehow I got this crazy idea that I might be able to afford a small condo somewhere in the city. When I’ve thought about jumping into the real estate game in the past my aim was for a two bedroom (bona fide bedrooms, the kind which will actually accommodate, you know, a bed) in a “nice” or at least quiet neighborhood with an easy commute either by public transit or my own steam. That’s it. Those were the parameters of my dream home. It was only a dream. Those parameters were way out of my price range. Real estate agents laughed at me and my wacky dream. Mortgage companies were angry at me for wasting their time.
I gave up on my dream and never allowed myself to think about owning a home or condo.
Another American dream bites the dust, another brick in the wall of disillusionment.
The broker at the fourth mortgage company told me if I had a husband or parents who weren’t retired to cosign the mortgage he might be able to swing me a high interest balloon mortgage. He told me to keep his number in case those circumstances changed. I assume he meant if I found a husband. Or maybe I could find an older working couple to adopt me. My parents would understand. “Mum, Dad, we need to talk. I love you, but you had me too late in life to be of use to me now. This is really best for us. I have to move on with my life. My needs have changed. It’s just not working out for us. We’ve grown in opposite directions. You need to be free so you can find someone better than me. You’ve been great, really, and I’ll never forget you. You’ll always hold a special place in my heart. But now we need to move on, apart. It’s not me, it’s you. Thanks for the DNA and college and everything, I never could have done it without you. I hope we can still be friends. I’ll be by sometime next week to pick up my stuff.”
Finding an older working couple willing to adopt me proved to be almost as difficult as finding a man willing to marry me. I’m still holding out hope for the former, but it’s looking dim for the latter.
So I gave up the real estate dream and channeled my efforts into trying to find a better paying job, a husband or new parents.
So far those efforts have been fruitless. (Fingers crossed, though, I heard about a nice older couple from Wilmette. Four sons, two gay, always wanted a daughter, no grandchildren, North Shore, I know, they sound perfect for me. If play my cards right and I might get more than a mortgage cosigned!)
I’m basically happy in my compartment. A lot happier, than I expected (yes, back when I still had those pesky expectations) Or well, wait, happy’s not the word. Ummmm, content? no…satisfied? no… not wanting to slit my wrists out of despair and frustration with my tiny living quarters? Yes. That’s it.
It’s small. Oh yes, it’s very small. But. It’s me and a cat. Sure, I’d like a nice place. Sure, I’d like to go home to a spacious, well appointed dwelling where I can relax and be comfortable. Sure it would be nice if Furry Creature didn’t have to tolerate cramped litter box conditions. Sure it would be nice for him to have a space or two to call his own so he can have some privacy now and then. Sure, it would be nice to have more than two people over at a time and not have to stand shoulder to shoulder inhaling and holding breath to see “the view.” Sure, it would be nice to have a little space for all my computer and work stuff, really, even just a closet, so that I don’t have work where I sleep. Sure, it would be nice to live in a home which isn’t a glorified dorm room. But all of that aside, my compartment doesn’t make me suicidal so, you know, it’s okay.
I have let my mind wander to…”Well, maybe I could tolerate a small condo after all. Just for a year or two, make a little money and sell up to a larger place. That’s what everyone else does, and now that I’m coping in this tiny place I suppose I could deal with a smaller place. After all, it’s just me and a cat…”
Yes. That is how the metropolitan real estate sucker punch begins. Anyone who succumbs to this mindset a) has given up and lost touch with reality and b) is a victim.
Let’s take a time out for a life outside the metropolis reality check. Paying more for a 613 sq. ft. room than the price of a 2,500 sq. ft. four bedroom house with attached garage and a ½ acre of land 25 miles away from that condo makes no sense. Spelled out like that it might even sound stupid to some people. Even insane to other people. And yet every day hundreds of people sign four bedroom sized mortgages for one room. Happily. They feel lucky. They feel smug. Most will tell what a great deal they got. And then they’ll tell you about their big plan to move up the real estate ladder. In a couple of years, max, they’ll be in a much bigger place with a lower mortgage, to boot! And then they’ll force you to take their real estate agent’s business card.
And don’t get me started on the property tax on that insanely priced room. Seriously. Let’s not delve into it. I don’t want to be ill.
But lately I’ve been thinking I might as well do the opposite of what I’d normally do in the real estate regard, too. Someone at work just bought a place and rolled her debt into the mortgage so she's proud to tell everyone how smart she was to buy a place because she's debt free except for her mortgage and her monthly cash flow has increased dramatically because of this smart manouevre. I'm not sure I really understand how a person can purchase a home and end up with more money every month, even with a 30 year mortgage, but somehow she's done it. So I thought, well, I could use more cashflow every month, it worked for her so maybe I should give this another try. And that means playing the game. I haven’t had time to seriously consider it, but it’s been on my mind. It's one of the few reasons I'm still bothering to try to find a man to marry.
I was talking with a client last week. Yadda yadda yadda I looked at a few condos in a new development area in the city. Several habitat solutions and price points, something for everyone!
“Oh go on, just take a look at the models. Looking is free. I’ll tell them you’re coming and that you’re not interested in buying, just getting some ideas for the Fall promotion. If you end up liking one of them, I’m sure we can figure out some way to get you in there," the client who is not a real estate agent said.
Sounds innocent enough, right? Just having a look. Looking is fun. Interesting, even. I like architecture, when money’s no object I have a flair for interior design. This should be fun, right? No one’s saying I’m interested in buying, no expectations, perfect.
The person who greeted me, my new best friend, the Manager, Housing Specialists, was gracious and kind. She said she was so glad my client had this great idea for me to stop by and view the many unique housing solutions she has to offer. Hear that? That's the exact moment I should have turned and ran. Far. Fast. But I didn't run. I stayed planted in the reception area showing off my four years of orthodontia smile. I heard someone say, "I'm so glad to have a chance to take a look at the many unique housing solutions! The photos don't do the area justice, quite a development you're building here." Oddly, the person who said that sounded a lot like me. But it couldn't have been me because that smile was firmly planted on my face. But there was no one else there so it's just kind of weird. Atrium. Echoes. Tricks of sound.
My new best friend, the Manager, Housing Specialists, began showing me around the building. Lots of amenities are standard in every building on the site. Spacious yet tastefully and comfortably appointed common areas, perfect for greeting guests or business associates. Speaking of business associates, each building offers a business center ready to handle all business needs. Just like at a hotel. When I was little I thought it would be really cool to live in a hotel. Then I grew up and started traveling for work. There are times I never want to sleep in another hotel again in my life, I don't care if it's a Ritz or Four Seasons or one of those cool boutique places. But now, for some reason, living in a building which looks and feels like a hotel/office complex seemed like a dream come true. I heard someone say, "When I was little I wanted to live in a hotel. Tee hee. This would be like living in a hotel." Atrium. Echoes. Tricks of sound.
My new best friend, the Manager, Housing Specialists, said, "That's the concept. Four star service in your home. Most of our buildings even offer daily maid and laundry service."
Someone said, "Wow. Do you have nightly turn down service with a mint on the pillow, weather forecast on a little card and a bottle of Perrier? I like the Perrier. Sometimes I get thirsty in the night."
My new best friend, the Manager, Housing Specialists, laughed. I just thought the whole conversation was stupid and weird and I wished that person who sounded like me would go away or stop talking.
My new best friend, the Manager, Housing Specialists, led me to the first of five units in three buildings we were going to view. We started small and "cheap." A one room studio condo on the third floor of the West Building. It was smaller than my compartment. The view from its one small window was of the back side of the fire station across the street. They had cleverly furnished this model. I have to give them credit. It was nicely decorated and gave the illusion of a much larger space. Or maybe that's the wine on an empty stomach talking.
Oh. Didn't I mention the booze? Oh yes. Somewhere between the reception area and the business center my new best friend, the Manager, Housing Specialists, gave me a glass of wine in a darling and unique wine glass shaped logo imprinted sippy cup. There’s a reason beyond nice hospitality they offer you booze. They are hoping to numb your synapses so that you get taken in by the mood lighting and expensive furniture. If you think the room is spinning because you’ve had too much to drink you won’t notice how small that room actually is. And you won't think twice about divulging that you have a little money in your 401K you are thinking about trying to finagle and as a down payment. Good hospitality indeed.
We went from the basic studio starter unit to the one bedroom young executive model. Which was also smaller than my compartment. I only know this because I happened to see the floor plans when I started working on the project with the client. My one coup in all of this was when I casually said, "Remind me again what the square footage is on these models. I seem to recall from the floor plans the client showed me it's around 800 sq. ft." My new best friend, Manager, Housing Specialists, seemed uncertain of the square footage. Which I found odd since she is, in fact, Manager, Housing Specialists. I kept mentioning the floor plans back in the office until she finally relented and "found" the square footage of the units we were viewing. The second unit was also tastefully but deceptively decorated.
It was at that point I became suspicious about the job history of their interior designers. I heard there are openings at Winnebago and Airstream in the interior design departments. I have a hunch I know where their interior designers are working now. "Your living room couch becomes a bed..." "Your dining table becomes a desk..." "Your seat cushion becomes a floatation device..." And other lies, oops, I mean clever use of function and design decorators use to deceive and sell. (See? It's not just ad biz people who are deceptive liars shilling for dollars.)
We then left the West Building and strolled across the botanic garden to Lake Terrace Estates. Lake Terrace Estates are what I would call attached townhomes. My new best friend, Manager, Housing Specialists, called them multistory housing units for today's changing definition of family. I know, not all of you speak real estatese. I'll translate. They're two story, two bedroom townhouses with a basement which can be converted into an apartment for your in-laws, college graduate kid who can't find a job or your brother who will undoubtedly be divorced and broke within the next three years. Or, if you're a gay couple, that basement will make a great lounge and entertainment area but please note the party and noise policies of the community. Some units also have a roof deck option. I won't try to lie. These places were nice. But I can't imagine raising a family in one. Even with a clever basement conversion if you have more than one kid the sleeping arrangements are going to be interesting. But, for Furry Creature and I they are perfect. Lots of space, but not so much space that we "feel" our singleness every time we walk in the door. I hated the decor in the model I saw, the "we're family friendly, see?" feeling was way too forced. Still. A very nice place for Furry Creature and I to call home. I could almost see us lounging by the fire, reading a book, sipping a glass of wine from an actual wine glass, every now and then I throw Furry Creature a toy and he fetches and retrieves it, a big smile on his face as he prances back to me, fur glistening and flowing in the warm glow of the fire. "Thanks for finding us such a great home, I'm so happy here," he appears to be saying.
It was at this point I had a flashback to a much different and happier, expectation and emotion filled time of my life. I've taken away the expectations and the emotions, but those memories are a real bitch. I'd like a spotless mind and eternal sunshine, please. But until someone delivers, dealing with memories is one of the last and most difficult challenges to my new approach to life. Memories are a tough audience. They're tricky, too. They'll sneak up on you out of nowhere. And, they'll mock you in your dreams.
I was walking through the multistory housing unit for today's changing definition of family when a memory attacked me. Way back when HWNMNBS and I were, you know, a happy couple, back when I still had emotions like happy and fun and excitement and enthusiasm and optimism (I'm not sure exciting and optimism are emotions, but you know what I mean), we went house hunting. It's probably the closest I'll ever feel to being pregnant. Huh? You're thinking. She must have really hit the wine glass shaped logo imprinted sippy cup.
Hear me out on this one. HWNMNBS and I were house hunting. It was going to be something we created together, something which would have been ours. It never materialized, but, those house hunting days were, I think, like the creating and nesting phases women go through when they're pregnant. It felt weird and a little scary, but with HWNMNBS I felt empowered and able to do anything and, well, there's the whole doing something together with the end result being a tangible asset. Okay. I know. It's a stretch, but I'm a pathetic single woman who is realizing she's never going to have a loving marriage and children and is trying to make peace with her really crappy choices in life, okay? The point is I was hit with some vivid and ultimately painful memories of HWNMNBS and the places we considered calling our home and the future we were going to have in that home.
I tried to do some quick oppositing technique, but it was useless. My efforts were futile. These were strong memories being hurled at me in rapid fire succession and no oppositing or voiding of emotions could combat them quickly enough. Let's just say I spent a lot of time having a look at the bathroom in the master suite trying to chase away those memories and regain some semblance of composure, at least enough to get through the two more condos and away from my new best friend, the Manager, Housing Specialists.
We walked through the water garden, with synchronized fountain display every hour on the hour, with accompanying light show at night, and entered one of the luxury high rises. Another atrium, this one with less glass and more plush, and that sort of hushed tone prevalent in executive offices and funeral homes. First stop: 12th floor, one bedroom unit. Ah. Well. Now. This was also very nice. Gorgeous panorama of the Lake outside the wide expanse of windows in the living room. Fabulously gorgeous appliances in the kitchen (sexy, yes, the stove was sexy. And the fridge wasn't too, bad, either.) Two, count 'em, two enormous walk-in closets as well as hall coat and linen closets. An actual dining room. And a purposely designed niche off the living room, a mini-den, a denette, if you well, for a home office. Oh. And. If I ever have a man in my life again this is the bedroom I want to, erm, well, have him. And yes, I was on my third wine glass shaped logo imprinted sippy cup of wine so the images may have appeared larger than in real life. But even so, even deducting 35% of it's spectacularity, this is a nice condo. The multistory housing unit for today's changing definition of family was great, but, now, seeing this smaller, hipper, condo I realized this is probably more where I need to start my home owning adventure. Maybe after a few years I could move up to a multistory housing unit for today's changing definition of family.
My new best friend, the Manager, Housing Specialists, let me linger in this unit for a while. I know she knew I was feeling some serious emotions about it. I know she could smell the desire burning in me. I know she knew she had her prey, now it was just a matter of standing back and waiting to pounce.
She's clever. She played the, "Oh, I know you're not looking to buy, I know you're just scouting for the campaign. Take your time, get a feel for the place, maybe you'll get some ideas for the layout. Of the brochure, that is," card with ease and finesse. She made a couple calls on her mobile, you know, all casual like. Then she said, "Okay, saved the best for last, let's go have a look at an Ambassador."
Yikes. An ambassador? I'm not really dressed...I didn't know...should I leave my wine glass shaped logo imprinted sippy cup here? How does my hair look? Let me just put on some lipstick, I'll be right there. What country does he ambassador? Is it okay that I don't have a gift? I could give him my Wisconsin floaty cow pen, the cow floats across the cornfield, see? Maybe he'd like that. Very American kitsch.
I tried to shake off the two and a half sippy cups of wine, pulled my shoulders back, put my chin up and followed my new best friend, the Manager, Housing Specialists, to the elevator. We had to go back to the lobby and go to the private entry and elevator area. Accessible only to ambassadors by special key code. They also have their own private door person. Oh. And. A butler. Natch. We got in the elevator and were whisked, express, of course, to a high level. All the homes in the Ambassador section are two levels. There are 10 floors devoted to Ambassadors. My new best friend, the Manager, Housing Specialists, who really cares about the residents, used discretion and did not reveal any names and would only divulge that the entire top two floors are owned by someone very famous and influential. We were looking at one of the units below that. Okay. I'm not going to get into what this place looks like. It's almost comical in its lavishness. Hollywood. Design magazines. Aging rock stars. You get the picture.
Nice as it was, my mind was still back in the one bedroom with expansive panorama Lake view. My mind was being stupid. My mind was thinking, "oh sure, this is nice, but realistically the one bedroom we just looked at is more in keeping with my budget." As if I have a budget. My new best friend, the Manager, Housing Specialists, clearly figured out I was still back in the one bedroom. She knew I was thinking I could honestly afford to live there. She didn't know I have a mental health problem and suffer from delusions.
We left the Ambassador and made our descent back to reality. My new best friend, the Manager, Housing Specialists, asked me if I had any questions or wanted to see anything else. She told me I could keep the wine glass shaped logo imprinted sippy cup. Which was nice of her. A little odd, though, considering I was the one who procured those wine glass shaped logo imprinted sippy cups all the while thinking they were the dumbest and tackiest item I'd ever procured for a client. I got a lot of mileage out of those at the last, "My job sucks the most and here's why" meeting.
We were back in the atrium. I heard that voice. "So what's the starting price on the one bedrooms in the luxury high rise tower?" Who is that person who sounds so much like me yet can't possibly be me?
"I have a friend who's thinking about buying something before the end of the year. If it's in his ball park I'll send him over to have a look." Ha! Yes! Victory is mine, all mine, I rebound and make the shot!
And to the uninitiated, this is where it gets ugly, dicey and in all ways horrible.
"Well please, give him my card!" My new best friend, the Manager, Housing Specialists, enthuses producing a business card from thin air. "What about you? Do you own or rent?"
It happens just like that. So quick you don't know what's hit you. You're alone with a Manager, Housing Specialists, without a negotiator. And you really like that condo. You want it. You had visions and everything. You know exactly where you'll put the litter box. There is no hope or salvation. You are: A Lost Soul.
And this is what separates the owners from the renters.
"Yeah, well, I'm renting, don't want to get tied down to any commitments, you know. Foot loose. Fancy free. All that. Har har."
Do not attempt that maneuver. It never works. It was a lame and feeble effort. The long list of reasons why it's better to own than rent will commence in 5, 4. 3, 2, 1.
All very convincing reasons. But. I still have no idea what the base price of the condo is and I'm starting to sober up and I am beginning to realize there's no chance I can even afford the denette.
My new best friend, the Manager, Housing Specialists, senses my sobriety and says, "Let's go to my office. I'll run a few numbers."
Nooooooooooooooo! Noooooooo! Don't let her run numbers! Save me someone, save me! She's going to run a few numbers!!!!! If you can't save me, save yourselves! Always take a negotiator! You're delusional and having visions of the future! This is no time for anyone to be alone with someone running numbers for you! Especially when she breaks out the good wine and fills your wine glass shaped logo imprinted sippy cup without even asking.
Drinking more and regaining your buzz might seem like a good idea. But it's not. Numbing the pain and distorting reality is not advisable at a time like this.
And there will be pain and harsh reality. Oh will there be pain. Suffering. Human drama. Life.
That lovely one bedroom condo with the sweeping panorama Lake view and purposely built home office niche costs more than a very lovely five bedroom home on a well groomed two acres of land in a very posh suburb. You might think you misunderstood the price, but you did not.
Just thank the nice lady and get up and walk away.
Which is exactly what I did.
"I can also give you pricing on the studio in the West building if you'd like. We have a few of those units available," she ever so helpfully offered.
Of course they have a few of those units available. They're small, ugly, cheap and in every way a stupid patch of flooring to purchase. They're behind a fire station. Only a pathetic idiot would consider buying one of those.
But they're a starter option for those just getting into the market.
A very expensive starter option for those just getting into the market.
Even that cheap, ugly room without a view was way, way, way, way out of any league I might ever hope to occupy. Maybe, and I mean a serious maybe with this, maybe if I somehow managed to cash in my entire 401K and begged and borrowed money from everyone I know for a down payment I might be able to end up with a mortgage payment twice what I'm currently paying in rent.
Remember, this is one room, a studio, smaller than my compartment.
It's a complete non starter. And yet, I sat there. I have no idea why. Probably the booze. My new best friend Manager, Housing Specialists, launched into her passive aggressive tactic. She began initiating the process before I even knew there was a process. I said nothing, yet she was pulling out forms and rattling numbers and saying this will be a great opportunity for me.
This happens to everyone who dares travel the road of real estate on their own.
Those several refills in your wine glass shaped logo imprinted sippy cup will have really kicked in by now and you will be irresponsible and stupid. You will believe your new best friend Manager, Housing Specialists, (I love you, man) when they take you into their confidence tell you there are two other people who really want the unit. But you will feel special and hopeful because your new best friend, Manager, Housing Specialists, says in a conspiratorial whisper that she thinks you are more suited to the building than the other hopefuls and she really wants to see you in this unit. She'll even bump you up on the list if you sign the letter of intent right now. That small deposit is just a formality. Developer’s office politics, nothing to do with your new best friend Manager, Housing Specialists, whatsoever. In fact if it were up to her you wouldn't have to sign anything or pay anyone any money until closing. You can just put it on a credit card.
And this is where my new best friend Manager, Housing Specialists, and I parted ways.
How? you ask. How did I escape this?
The no expectation, no emotion and doing the opposite trick finally took hold. Well, that, and I'm flat broke. "Look, Manager, Housing Specialists, here's the thing. I'm totally broke right now. Lots of expenses, lots of issues, and I cannot possibly give you any sort of money for a condo I don't even like. Thanks and everything, the tour was great and I can't wait to get started on the project. Have a nice day. I'll tell the client you said hi."
I felt empowered because I was no holds barred honest. I callously and crassly admitted I'm broke and poor and destined to always be a renter. I can't even contemplate the cheap, ugly room without a view starter unit designed for young people just out of college and entering the work force with little income or savings. I have a job, a social security number and, you know, I'm not a deportation risk, I am legally allowed to live here for the duration of a 20 or 30 year mortgage, so even the mortgage alternative solutions are out for me. Silly me for abiding by the laws of the country and not keeping my money in a mattress. Live and learn.
I admitted I am an unsuccessful loser and always will be and did so with a four years of orthodontia smile beaming on my face. No expectations. No emotions. I feel nothing.
Which, in contrast to my previous futile adventure in home buying which left me depressed, confused, sad and full of despair, is an incredible improvement.
Tuesday, August 09, 2005 Where you at? I know, I know, there’s nothing new here, a certain mobile phone network has garnered a lot of publicity from their billboards proclaiming their apparently now official trademarked tag line, “Where you at” I'm not going to mention the mobile company name because I don't want to give them any more publicity. You probably know who I'm talking about anyway.
For the uninitiated, no, I am not suddenly plagued by bad grammar. You read that correctly, “Where you at” is their tagline and now part of their trademarked logo.
A lot of people fought this mobile company about their use of bad grammar, especially on billboards "coincidentally" placed near schools. I applaud the efforts of those people who unsuccessfully tried to get them to stop the grammar insanity. But I knew they were fighting a losing battle.
Obviously this is aimed at a certain market segment. A specific demograph.
It's all marketing.
I’m part of the problem so, you know, I always feel like I need to stay quiet about this sort of thing. “Just let it run its course. And it will run its course. It’s only marketing and media hype. The best solution is to not buy the product.”
So even though every time I saw the tagline or read about the (albeit small) furor over the bad grammar and pandering to an audience rather than trying to raise the bar or, well, at least not treat them like idiots, I stayed quiet. Even though, I, too, was annoyed by the bigger issues behind the use of the bad grammar. The whole acceptance is actually denial issue bothers me. The theory goes like this: Accept that there are people who unknowingly use improper grammar, pander to them, thus reinforcing the bad speech habit and voila! denial that there is a problem and consequently anything incorrect with the phrase “where you at.”
I have a sneaking suspicion this mobile phone company will be using phrases like "who you is" and "what you got" in their ads before this plague of grammatical insanity runs its course. Don't worry, I'm sure I didn't give them any ideas. They pay people very good money to perform market research and analysis. Then they pay other people a lot more money to develop a marketing campaign based on that data. We can all sleep secure in the knowledge that somewhere in that mix "who you is" and "what you got," among others, were tested on a focus group.
I don’t like to get on a high grammatical horse because I am very well known for bending and twisting the rules of grammar and basically biting my thumb at Strunk, White and Webster. And swut knows I don’t go around speaking Queen’s English. That. Which. Whatever. However. I have never, at least to my knowledge, said, “where you at” Not even jokingly or mockingly. Maybe, maybe a few times when I was young and defiant and cruising for a chastisement from my parents, I said, “Where are you at?” But it felt wrong to say it, the “at” awkwardly tacked on at the end as a feeble attempt at defiance.
And as for the missing verb, sentences without verbs should only be used by trained professionals. And at that point in my life, I was not a trained anything. Subject, verb, predicate. Those are the rules and we followed the rules, yes, blindly, we followed the rules of our native tongue. Basically because we didn’t know any differently. We didn’t know how to speak improperly. (Yes. I had to learn how to write incorrectly.) We did this not because our parents were snobs (well, I mean, in most cases) but because communicating in a common language is crucial to functioning in a society. I'm all for bending or ignoring some rules. But when you deliberately bend rules of language for the sole purpose of marketing to a demograph who doesn't know any better, you're merely contributing to an already huge communication problem.
I know. I’m “lucky” to have grown up in a home where people spoke in sentences which never, ever ended in prepositions. I never had to overcome the common grammar issue of ending a sentence with at or with or on or in or about or from or before. My parents are united in their hatred for the word at. (ha ha mum, look what I just wrote! Got you with that one, it’s technically correct! Go ahead, diagram it, you’ll see!) Right up there with at is got, which I flagrantly flaunt. Yeah. I’m such a rebel. Right. I’m lucky a few basic communication rules were taught to me as I learned how to speak. I’m lucky I didn’t have bad grammar influences around me in my formative years. I’m lucky to have grown up around the “right sort” of people.
And don’t you dare get all in my face about being out of touch with “reality” and how most people live and speak. I’ve lived in swutting Detroit. I spent a lot of years on the West side of Chicago for the most part blending in – I can identify a gang by it’s tag, I am nearly fluent in Spanglish and I certainly do not look down on anyone who simply does not know they are speaking incorrectly. But not to the extent that I will try to pull a Slanglish. I know I’m white, I know I speak white, and I will not make a fool of myself or insult anyone by pandering my speech when I speak to them.
And I am not the mobile service company's target audience. They want to reach young, hip urbanites. And I'm just, you know, a middle aged, semi-hip person who lives firmly in the city limits. Even though I have an income and will be shopping for new mobile service in the near future, this mobile service provider feels it's wise to alienate me and basically turn me off with their marketing. That's okay. I'm sure they won't miss me and I would be embarrassed to tell anyone I use their service. We both walk away unscathed. I realize they have to sell their service by any means possible. I know there are some tough crowds out there. I understand their dilemma, really I do.
So no, much as I am not keen on the idea of reinforcing bad grammar, the where you at isn’t actually what’s bothering me about the mobile service provider's new commercials.
It’s about Fat Joe.
They call Joe fat throughout the entire commercial. Because the whole commercial is about Joe, a husky boy, growing up to become a larger than life, well, large guy. There's an involved series of events which all include his mobile phone which lead him to become an animal psychiatrist. He does well with his animal abilities and begins to live large. And this of course means getting a dope mobile phone service. Which is of course, the mobile service provider.
The selling point being made (I think) is that Joe made it. He chose an unconventional career path, followed his heart, believed in himself and voila! he’s successful. He drives a huge tricked out Cadillac and he’s obviously not missing any meals. And he uses the mobile service provider. He even mumbles "Where you at?" at the end of the commercial. No surprises there.
I realize “Fat Joe” is a metaphor. He’s fat, as in living large. His physical being is used to reinforce that concept. I hope that’s the intention. I can hear the pitch by some hot shot biz guys in a mobile service provider's board room. “Really, young people will identify with Joe while at same time think it’s funny he’s known as Fat Joe. Get it? There's a duality about Joe. They’ll want to be like Joe because he’s an underdog who makes it. He’s got a cool Caddy and chunky jewelry and everything! Underdogs and fat jokes always sell. We can’t lose! And if the fat sector gives us any backlash, we’ll just say Fat Joe is a metaphor for living large. Obviously the whole commercial’s a joke because he’s a pet psychiatrist! See! It’s all one big joke! And just to be safe, we’ll make sure it’s a guy because it’s (air quotes) okay (unairquotes) to make fun of large men because really, it’s okay to be a large man. It’s not okay to be a large woman. Hey, did anyone catch the Pixies? Did you see how big Kim Deal is? Man, she’s huge. Yech. But Frank, man, he’s awesome! Hey! Maybe we could get him to play Fat Joe! That would be really cool! That would give us an in to the alternative rock demograph! Oh wait, no, he’s too white. Maybe we can do a Fat Frank spot for the MTV crowd. And a Fat Kathy for the Lifetime crowd. Man, the ideas are just rollin’ today! See? It’s all good! Everybody wins!”
And the mobile service provider went along with the idea. So now they are not only reinforcing improper grammar, they are now reinforcing making fun of large people while at the same time pandering to a racial stereotype through very thinly veiled livin’ large metaphors. If it weren't so offensive to, well, everyone, I would call it near genius. It will no doubt spark some continued controversy and hence get the mobile service provider's name out there.
And even that’s not what’s really bothering me enough to blog about it.
What’s bothering me most is that the mobile service provider spent a lot of money and effort to make the Fat Joe spot slick. It’s visually very well done. The wacky underdog finds success story and concept is basically good. Certainly a lot more interesting than “Can you hear me now?” They had something pretty darned good, different, and even interesting in terms of advertising mobile phone service. They had a shot at redemption.
And they wrecked it by pandering to a demograph. They Jerry Springered it. They sold out to the lowest common murk to sell their product to an audience who are already firmly entrenched in the mobile phone market. And yes, I realize that’s exactly why they felt the need for guerilla tactics. The mobile phone industry is cut throat and dog eat dog. But why not use this opportunity as a shot at redemption? I'm not saying have Judy Dench sell their service. (although...) I would just like to see them stop pandering and reinforcing negative and incorrect stereotypes. You're not helping the global community, you're helping the chasm grow larger. You've put yourself in the mix of racially divided issue. Why would you want to contribute to an already boiling over kettle of scalding water? Why, mobile service provider, why? Where you at? Who you is, mobile service provider, who you is?
Monday, August 08, 2005
There was an incident at the grocery. A rather scary incident. An incident involving violence. No I haven't moved back to my old 'hood. Yes, the grocery is in my new neighborhood. Not the ghetto grocer where I used to live. Uh uh. Nope. This was in "the nice" grocery. The one where I only buy cat food and, well, Michigan blueberries because they still had some which looked really good. But I usually only shop there because they have treats Furry Creature likes. I can't afford to buy food for myself there.
It was the usual after work crowded scene in any grocery. People rushing around frantically trying to buy whatever it is people frantically rush around buying after work, you know those last minute groceries you need RIGHT NOW. Exotic lettuce. Imported cheese. Ostrich patties. You know. Basics to throw together a simple and quick dinner.
I was not in a hurry. I wanted to get Furry Creature some treats and that was it. No rush, no urgent Ostrich patty crisis. Just some kitty treats. I was a nice co-grocer. I got out of the way of the frantic people. I didn't mind, well, not too much, that the lines were 5 - 6 people deep. I sauntered over to the produce thinking I'd treat myself to a few "good" apples.
That's when I chanced upon the Michigan blueberries. Yum yum. There were a few pints of them next to the New Jersey blueberries. (not so yum yum) I took a good look at all three pints, thinking it was a bit late for Michigan blueberries and perhaps these had been sitting there a long time and might be not so fresh. As I examined the bottom of the pints, a woman, a rather, well, out of place looking woman shoved me slightly and grabbed a pint of the New Jersey blueberries. For whatever unknown and bizarre reason, I chose this moment to exercise my new opposite plan. So instead of giving her an evil death gaze I smiled and said in my best Hi! I'm from a really small town where everyone is friendly voice, "There are a few pints of Michigan blueberries here, bit late in the season but they seem to be okay. They're the same price at the New Jersey berries and probably a whole lot better!" I said sounding like a housewife on a heavy dose of tranquilizers as I proffered a pint to her. She seemed stunned and mad all at the same time. I just stood there holding out the pint of blueberries to her. She finally set down the New Jersey berries and grabbed, yes, grabbed the pint out of my hand. (You're welcome. mutter mutter. manners. mutter mutter. savages mutter mutter. don't expect anything. mutter mutter.)
I made my way to the express checkout lane. 10 items or less. Yep! I've only got three items! I'm not going to notice everyone else in the 10 items or less cash only line has at least 15 items and debit card! Nope! Because I have no expectations, good or bad! And I'm not in a hurry, so it really doesn't matter!
I was in that aware yet unaware grocery line trance. Aware enough to move forward as it progresses to my turn in line, but unaware of pretty much everything else except the tabloid headlines or if fate deems it, the behind of a cute boy. (Hey, I'm human, I'm not dead, I'm just not feeling anything. I've still got eyes. Sheesh.) There were no cute boys. And it was the day before fresh tabloids day, so the pickings were slim and I had to resort to leafing through magazines.
I was vaguely aware of the people in line behind me. And then, in my peripheral vision, I saw It. It being a hand smacking someone else's head. Really hard. Hard enough that the someone else who's head it was keeled forward and shoved into me. And I dropped the magazine I was leafing through and my very late in the season Michigan blueberries.
I felt some emotions. I scrambled to pick up the magazine and my blueberries hoping they weren't smushed. I stood up and looked at the person to whom the hand that smacked belonged.
And there I was, staring face to face with a feminazi on a mission. A mission from, well, I don't know exactly where she came from, probably Indiana gauging by the severity of her heavily peroxided femullet. She was on a mission and she wasn't going to let anyone, especially a woman like me (oh come on, you know what I mean: Nice shoes, haircut and highlights which are actually in style, iPod, cute tote bag, Michigan blueberries) standing there looking at the Glamour Don'ts get in her way.
You know how people use the term "smack her around a bit" sort of jokingly? I've done it. "The network's down again," the IS geek will say unapologetically. I will respond, "Have you tried smacking it around a bit? If that doesn't work, try smacking Jeff around a bit." Innocent remark, right? Well. Never again.
This femulleted woman made me realize there are people who smack other people around for no good reason and it's not funny. I mean, I was already aware these people exist, I dated one a long time ago. But. This woman was a bully. And she had the cheek to shove the woman whom she had smacked in the head while saying, "Apologize to the girl. You made her drop her stuff. Ha ha ha ha ha."
I know. I didn't see the humor in it either. I guess I don't get those kinds of jokes. I don't like the Three Stooges, either.
The woman who was being shoved around by the femulleted feminazi was the woman I had offered the blueberries to earlier. "Ah. Well. This could explain a few things about her lack of manners..." I thought and apologized to the Universe and anyone else who might have heard me being intolerant of her in the produce aisle. She stammered out an "I'm sorry." I told her it was no biggie, everything's cool with me.
Which the femullet found really funny for some reason.
She then set her basket on the conveyor. I did not have my stuff on the conveyor because, well, there hadn't been space. But during the smackdown the line had progressed and there was now space on the conveyor. And the femullet was taking my place with her basket of a lot more than 10 items.
So I squeezed my kitty treats and blueberries between her basket and the little separator bar thing cordoning off the groceries belonging to the person ahead of me. Femullet got mad that I touched her basket.
Or. Well. I know darned well she thought she was pulling a fast one and cutting in line ahead of me and she was mad that I was asserting myself by squeezing my stuff in line ahead of hers. Where it should be.
And yes, yes! I felt stupid for having nothing but two pouches of kitty treats and blueberries to assert myself with, okay? Yes. I see the ineffectuality of my groceries in the face of this robo femullet on a mission to cut in line. Next time I'll be sure to buy something like artichokes and rat poison just in case a bullying feminazi with a mullet tries to cut in line ahead of me.
And just in case I didn't see the ineffectuality of my groceries, she made it clear to me. "Awwwww, duz you hab a widdow pussy at home? Widdow pussy food for the widdow pussy?" she said in a mocking tone.
Yes. She said pussy three times. This was either supposed to embarrass me or entice me. I'm not really up on lesbian pick up lines, so maybe this was supposed to be funny or cute or titillating. But I just thought it was dumb. And it upset her companion/punching bag. And I'm not a lesbian. And so I chose to go with the make me mad assumption.
My tactic? Really annoy the crap out of her. I used my opposite tactic again and in my Hi! I'm from a really small town where everyone is friendly voice said, "Yes, I do have a cat at home! But he's not so little! Would you like to see a photograph?" (Always, always carry a photo of a cute animal or child with you. They come in handy in more ways than you can ever imagine.)
The woman ahead of me, who was obviously trying to pretend she hadn't seen or heard any of this let out a laugh. This bothered the feminazi. A lot. She had enough sense to know she was being mocked. So, in a really, really loud voice she said, "You carry around a pitcher of your pussy?!!!"
Oh sure, a lot of people turned to stare at her and me, too, but mostly her. But I wasnt' bothered. A) She was making a fool of herself, not me, and B) She had no idea who she was messing with. She had no idea she was messing with a woman who has no expectations and almost no emotions and therefore feels no shame, embarrassment or guilt. A woman intent on doing the exact opposite of what she'd normally do.
"Yep! Here he is!" I beamed back at her with a mega watt beauty pageant smile, all four years of orthodontia glaring at her in it's glory. (Hi! I'm from a really small town where everyone is friendly and this is my cat! implied) And I showed her a photo of Furry Creature.
Which apparently was the perfect antidote. Femullet didn't know what to say or do. Even she was bored with her own joke. She shut up. She didn't smack her companion. I checked out and beat a hasty retreat out of the store and ducked around a corner and sped home.
Another day, another opposite and void of emotion victory.
Sunday, August 07, 2005 You Just Never Know Who You'll Meet
I suppose it's bound to happen to everyone who uses online dating sites.
I suppose it comes with the territory. Buyer beware and all that.
In the spirit of 50 First Dates, I posted profiles on a lot of online dating sites. I cast my net wide.
I recently changed my profiles to reflect my new no expectation, no emotion, nothing but a financial partner attitude.
There were one or two sites I forgot about, and those profiles weren't updated.
Yadda yadda yadda a guy from work sent me an email.
Ewwwwwww gross, why would someone do that?
As a joke, I thought.
And I laughed. "Har har, you caught me, har har. Funny meeting you here. Har har." was my response.
There is a risk with using online dating sites. They're more popular than you might realize. A lot of people use them or at least peruse them. And if you post a photo of yourself (and you should) at some point someone you know is going to stumble across your profile.
The alternative is not posting a photo.
I am against that. For a lot of reasons. Maybe, maybe in a very few cases where a person has a lot of sensitive clients or patients or people who might be "freaked out" that their lawyer, doctor, life coach or minister is trolling online dating sites it might be "okay" to not post a photo. (This is one good thing about a few sites which offer the option of having photos on file but which require permission to be viewed.)
In all but two cases, the men I met who did not post a photo turned out to be "suspicious." Meaning: Married. Or in the middle of an ugly divorce. Or wanted by authorities of some sort. Or, well, just fishy and elusive in other areas, too. Hesitation and evasiveness, and in a few cases, extreme defensiveness and a lot of lying goes hand in hand with no photo posted. My report based on these observations is that when a person doesn't post a photo, there's usually a suspicious reason why, and unless you want to date someone who only gives you a lot of over involved stories but no real answers to your most basic questions: Stay away.
Spare me the email trying to convince me otherwise. Until you've scoured several dating sites, had email exchanges with thousands of men and gone on 38 really horrible dates, let me be the judge of what no photo posted really means. And no. That's not an expectation. That is a fact based on a year and a half of up close and personal research.
Right. So I post a photo. And I now only consider men with a photo posted. (Once more with feeling: Not because I want to judge him on his looks but because experience has proved most no photo posters are also lying, deceptive, married jerks. Oh. And. They're hypocritical: Without exception the men who don't post photos only consider women who have a photo posted. Connect the dots. Draw your own conclusions.)
Okay. So. The guy at work. He saw my photo and obviously knew it was me. "Hi Trillian, what a small world. I'm using this site, too. We're 83% compatible. How about it, want to give it a try?"
Thinking he was joking I responded with a har har, funny meeting you here.
He responded almost immediately.
"I won't tell if you don't. You know, I've always liked you but never really thought about you that way. Seeing you here and reading your profile made me realize the woman I've been trying to find was probably right in the office all the time."
That's a huge leap of, well, what? Faith? Courage? Bravado? Insanity? Good thing I'm in my new no expectation enlightenment zone. Because that's the kind of thing that would normally really annoy me.
And confuse me.
Because I thought he was gay. He hasn't dated a girl since I've known him, he's always with a bunch of out and proud gay guys and talks about hanging out at a gay bar on weekends, so I mean, well, yes, shame on me for making assumptions. But honestly, I never really thought about him in any sort of sexual orientation kind of way because I work with him and the only thing that has ever mattered to me about him is that he does his job. Apart from conversation at the holiday party I've never thought about him in any regard other than work.
"Work Guy, Look, really, I'm sorry. But I don't date men from work. That's my rule. Period. You're swell and everything but no. Just. No. I think it's best for both of us if we vow to never speak of this again."
His response? "I always thought you were a (expletive). Now I know for sure."
Whoa. Hang on a minute. I understand rejection sucks. Boy do I understand. Spend a day in my heart if you want to know how badly rejection hurts. But. A) We have to work together, and B) Regardless of whether or not we work together or even know each other, isn't that not only a bit harsh but completely uncalled for? Yes. Yes is the answer.
Fortunately I expected nothing and so his angry need to "save face" by blaming me instead of look into himself to find the reason for the rejection didn't bother me. I feel no anger, no guilt, nothing. He was an idiot to approach me this way, and when I politely told him I don't date guys from work and gave him a chance to pretend it never happened, he proved himself to be an immature jerk. Yet am I, the one who should by rights be angry or feeling guilty, feeling anything? Nope.
Success. Once again: Success. So successful, in fact, that instead of frantically trying to find a new job before Monday morning so I don't have to face this guy, the details are already fading and I'm merely thinking about the work I have to do. I expect nothing from him when we see each other at work, so I am emotionally free to do the exact opposite of what I would normally do. In the old days I would hide in my office for several weeks trying to avoid all chances encounters with him and admonishing myself for making sexual orientation assumptions. Now I'll just walk around like I usually do, as if nothing happened between us. Because, in fact nothing did happen. So why should I cower and hide, trying to give him dignified chances for all of this to die down, for him to calm down and forget about it? Right. There's no reason for me to be feeling guilty or weird. He's the one who hit on a woman at work via an online dating site. If there's a victim, it's me. But I feel nothing about it and so he's completely free and clear, absolved of all weirdness except for whatever he's feeling.