Friday Free-for-All #7

In which I answer a random question generated by a website. Here’s this week’s question Feel free to give your own answers in the comments.

What’s the most annoying noise?

Let me get two classics out of the way: fingernails on a chalkboard and rubbing a balloon don’t really bother me. Anyway, the thing that really skeeves people out with the chalkboard isn’t the sound. It’s empathizing with what dragging your fingernails across a surface might do to them.

It’s not our ears that hurt at the noise. It’s our fingers that cringe at the thought of having a nail ripped off.

I’m also tempted to mention country and (anything)-metal music, except that since it’s attempting to be music, it doesn’t really qualify as noise, because it’s too organized.

I could go political and say “Any words out of the mouth of the current tenant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue,” but I try to avoid those as much as possible so that they won’t annoy me.

This goes for any ridiculous, inflammatory, hateful, conspiratorial, or utterly stupid words to come out of the mouth of anyone, and those come from all sides.

Working my way up on the annoying scale, number three has to be the alarm clock in the morning. Why? Because it’s the sound that tells me, “Okay, wake up from those interesting dreams, get out of your nice warm bed, and go get ready for the day.”

The only mitigating factor is that I use the annoyingness to counteract the fact that I’m not a morning person, and I have two alarms set. One is the alarm in the bedroom with the standard “Beep beep beep” and nine minute snooze, although I’m more forgiving to it, because it also serves as my white noise machine when I’m going to sleep.

The other alarm is my phone, which I leave plugged in on my desk out in the living room, and it’s set to an alarm ringtone called “Donkey” that I find to be completely obnoxious. But that’s the entire point. When it starts to go off, it gets me out of bed and out into the living room to turn it off, and that’s usually enough to keep me on my feet.

Usually.

But that’s purposeful annoyance. Number two on the scale is purposeless annoyance and if you allow it to continue, you’re bad person. I’m looking at you, parents, because most annoying sound number two is a screaming child, and that covers the range from infancy on up until whenever they stop doing it which, I hope, is once they hit school and the overworked and underpaid teachers won’t put up with your crotchfruit’s shit anymore.

We’ve all experienced it, though. Sitting in a restaurant or, riding on the subway, or trying to enjoy a movie or play. Then all of a sudden, a shrill klaxon rends the air in two, our eardrums bleed, and some tiny shit in a onesie decides to exercise their lungs and vocal chords for no good reason.

Modern parenting being what it is (read: crap) the response is frequently a meek and meaningless, “Indoor voice, Jayden, indoor voice,” which accomplishes nothing. There’s that, or the eating disorder in the making response of shoving a juice box or carrot stick or other treat in the kid’s face to shut them up.

Okay, I get it. The direct response of going all drill sergeant and shouting “Shut the fuck up, you little asshole!” right in the kid’s face is frowned upon, but if you’re in a public space, the immediate response should be to evacuate. Grab that thing — they’re portable — and haul it as far away from people as possible.

“Baby rooms” in movie theaters were the best innovation to ever hit the industry.

The funny thing, though, is that some people maintain this tendency for life, and this brings me to most annoying sound number one: A large group of people being loud and shrill in conversation while being totally unaware of it.

In other words, the adult version of the screaming infant.

My weekend job is doing box office for an improv company in the lobby of a building with a much larger theater — but if you’re a regular reader, you know that. I get to see this phenomenon all the time when they have a big crowd for their show. It’s a 360 seat theater, and once it gets over half-full, their audiences can be the worst before, after, and during intermission.

The annoyingness crosses all demographics, although I’d have to say that the absolute worst are teenage girls, because they still do the infantile screaming thing as well. And I feel sorry for you if you get within range of their actual conversations, because they are as content-free as the most blatant of clickbait “Can you believe (celebrity) looks like this now?” articles.

Of course, if you toss in some alcohol, the adults can get just as bad and loud and annoying. And yes, I’m judging you for that if I see it. Deal with it.

So I suppose that the worst noise ever would be my alarm clock waking me up to a baby in a screaming match with his teen-age sitter, and they’re both drunk. Hey, it could be worse.

No. It couldn’t.

So what noise is most annoying to you?

Friday Free-for-All #5

In which I answer a random question generated by a website. Here’s this week’s question Feel free to give your own answers in the comments.

What was the worst date that you’ve ever been on?

This one has two completely different answers, because I’ve been on two really bad dates that I can still remember, but for completely different reasons. One turned out bad as in “get the hell out of my life” bad. The other turned out bad as in “well, that experience wasn’t the greatest, but…”

I’ll start with the bad-bad date, which happened about six months before the bad-good date. It was around Thanksgiving, and friends of mine decided — since I’d ended a long term relationship about six months before this — that they’d fix me up with a friend of theirs, saying that we were perfect for each other, and so on.

So we both met at a holiday party, and I was immediately not really interested. I don’t even remember his name or his face. But he was persistent, and one thing I lacked at the time was resistance. I didn’t really know how to say “No.” So he dragged me into a bedroom, we made out, he did show me a couple of things I hadn’t experienced before, and then we wound up making out in my car.

Yeah, I know. I shouldn’t have ever let it get to that point, but I did. And then he asked if I wanted to go out, and I stupidly agreed. Yes, the quickest way to a man’s heart is… not through his stomach.

We arranged a date for a weekend not long after. A couple of things to point out. During the party, I had mentioned that I didn’t have a Christmas tree because I didn’t want one and didn’t do that sort of thing because I thought it was stupid and a waste of a perfectly good tree, and anyway I don’t really celebrate Christmas and never decorate for it.

So… he shows up at my place with a potted mini-pine with LED lights all over it, because he thinks it’s sad that I don’t have a Christmas tree. Okay, missed signal number one. Next, he takes me to dinner at some really fancy, really over-priced restaurant in WeHo, insists that it’s his treat, and proceeds to basically break the bank on everything.

He orders expensive shit for himself. He orders expensive shit for me. And oh does he start going through the drinks. Well, for him. I’m not having anything stronger than Coke (as in -a-Cola). But he has one cocktail after another, and there are appetizers and entrees and aperitifs and salads and coffee and dessert and who knows what else, and I can’t help but notice when the check comes that he’s spent damn near four hundred bucks, not including tip.

And the only thing I can think is, “Wow. I am so fucking unimpressed.”

Why? Well, first, I’m not a whore. If I were, I would have skipped dinner and said exactly how much it would have cost to do what to which part of me. Second, there really wasn’t a lot of “getting to know you” time involved during this whole snarf fest despite the time it took. There was a lot of “This is about me,” and “Here’s what I think about you.” And while the latter part was complimentary, it really wasn’t making a connection.

But then the dinner part ended and thank god I drove, because he was tanked, and when we got back to my place and because of my unfortunate young and naïve inability to say no (I bet the women reading this can relate) I felt obligated to invite him up and… yeah. Bad sex ensued. Really bad.

What made it bad, besides “everything?” Well, let’s just say that he was not really well-endowed (not necessarily a big deal, because I’m an ass-man), but that he insisted on wearing a cock-ring and, more annoying, kept doing the late 90s version of (long since illegal) poppers, which was a small bottle of video recorder head cleaner that he’d sniff. And he tried to get me to sniff, although I at least told him in no uncertain terms that it wasn’t going to happen, even when he tried to sneak it under my nose.

Funny how I could easily say no to drugs, but not to sex, right?

Ultimately, I came, he went, and I never gave him a second chance. The scary part was a month or so later when one of the friends who’d set us up called me and apologized profusely. Apparently, the guy they’d set me up with A) Had a boyfriend at the time, B) Was using that boyfriend’s credit cards to pay for the whole date, and C) Didn’t know that his boyfriend had killed his own former boyfriend, and it was dead boyfriend’s credit cards the guy I went out with had been given.

So… WTF? Oh yeah, the topper? Murderous boyfriend lived next door to me.

I dare anyone in the comments to top that as worst date ever. At least I never heard from Bad Date Dude again, and never wound up on boyfriend killer’s radar, although I think he was arrested not long after the whole fiasco.

Here’s the palate cleanser, though, because a “bad” date I had six months after that turned out to be a really good one.

I was at a coffee shop down the hill from where I lived. It was April 29, a Saturday. A friend of mine — who, oddly enough, was also a friend of the friend who’d set me up on disaster date — came in with a woman and man I didn’t know. They saw me, we waved, and after they got their stuff, they came to sit with me.

And all I could think, looking at the guy with them, was, “Holy shit, he’s cute.” And I do remember his name. Steve.

Anyway, the four of us hung out for a while and talked but, big shy dumbfuck I was at the time, I didn’t really talk a whole lot to Steve, just listened as he was talking to the others, but when it came to trying to connect, nothing. And I went home kicking myself, but later on I called my friend, Dan, and asked him.

Now, as it turned out, Steve was a friend of the woman in the group, Michelle, who was a friend of Dan’s, so this was a friend of a friend of a friend thing in both directions. And when I called Dan and said, “So, hey, what do you know about Steve?” He told me that Steve had already called Michelle and asked her what she knew about me. She didn’t, so she had already called Dan… bing. So Dan gave me Steve’s number, I called him up, and we talked for three hours.

We set our first date not long after — Friday, May 5th -— and damn did everything go pear-shaped. He had planned for us to go to an L.A. Philharmonic concert at the Hollywood Bowl, so we drove out there only to discover that… the Bowl was dark, because the Phil at the time was still performing in DTLA, and summer concerts at the Bowl were still a month or so off. There was also no way to make it downtown before at least the end of the first half.

Well, okay. Then let’s go get dinner. And, since I’d been working for a local LGBTQ+ publishing company that had just compiled a local restaurant guide (as in I’d just gathered a bunch of listings) I knew of a highly rated place we could go. So we went, and got there, and found out… No. It’s already gone out of business.

And there were a couple more failed attempts along the way, but the funny thing was that as we went along on this adventure, we talked to each other, got to know each other, and by the end of the evening, it wouldn’t have mattered if our first date meal turned out to be day-old donuts we fished out of a back-alley dumpster. All that would have mattered was that we were doing it together.

We eventually wound up at some restaurant in WeHo, had dinner, then headed back to his place, probably rented a DVD, and then had amazing sex. And it turned into a long-term relationship that eventually ended for the stupidest of reasons, but we’re still friends to this day.

But I still can’t remember the name of bad-bad date guy to save my life.

So there’s a tale of two worst dates. One the worst because of who I was with and why I went on it. The other the “worst” because I wanted so much more for whom I went on it with, but wound up getting exactly that.

That was the real lesson, though. The only thing that makes it a bad date is the wrong person. It you’re with the right person, then no way will it ever be a bad date. If you’re with the right person, the Ninth Circle of Hell is Heaven. Hell, (pun intended) with the right person, it’d be time to go ice-skating.

Friday Free-for-All #2

In which I answer a random question generated by a website. Here’s this week’s question Feel free to give your own answers in the comments.

What small thing makes you angrier than it should?

The one thing that consistently makes me angry is other drivers — particularly when they’re doing stupid things or just not paying attention. Or, worse, when they don’t get the concept of how to let another lane that’s forced to merge into theirs.

“Oh no. Those cars want to get in. Better ride the bumper of the car in front of me!”

And when the green left turn arrow turns green, as soon as the other a-holes who are still turning left through what’s now a red light for them clear, move your goddamn ass. Every day, I see a left-turn light that’s timed to get at least half a dozen cars through in a cycle manage two, or maybe three, all because the first person doesn’t go as soon as they can, and then the next two people leave gaps before they get going.

I have actually counted a full six seconds between the time I’ve made my left turn and am fully in the new lane and the time the car behind me is just crossing out of the crosswalk to start the left turn.

But these aren’t small things. They can really screw up traffic and make everyone late or, worse, they can cause accidents.

I also get angry at the human version of this — i.e., the one that happens when people are on foot, and I’ve ranted about that one as well, but again I think it’s justifiable to get angry when people are so oblivious that they manage to single-handedly block everything from a doorway to an escalator to a grocery store aisle. Put them in groups, and they can block an entire sidewalk.

But when it comes to things that are probably trivial that make me angrier than they should, the winner is people leaving shopping carts all over the parking lot at stores. And I know how they justify it. “Well, they pay people to bring the carts in, why should I do their job for them?”

Except… this isn’t automated checkout I’m referring to here, because that truly is an abomination, and an attempt to save money by making the customers do the work for free and reducing the actual paid staff.

Unless and until they create a cart-retrieving robot that can do it without missing any carts, accidentally grabbing anything that isn’t a cart, or ramming into cars or people, it’ll be that underpaid and increasingly a lot older than high school bagger/stocker who has to go out into whatever weather there is to make up for all those lazy asses who just dump their carts wherever.

Regarding that automated cart, Walmart was floating the idea back in 2016, but there’s been no hint of it happening since then. And since shopping cart theft is a major problem and expense for grocery stores, why spend even more money on something that might still manage to wander off despite its “go home” programming?

But let’s get back to that justification, because there’s another reason that “Well, they pay people to bring the carts in, why should I do their job for them?” is just plain wrong.

They don’t pay them to bring the carts back from everywhere. They pay them to bring them back from those cart corrals that are conveniently located all over the parking lot. Chances are that a shopper is never no more than thirty feet from one, if that, and it should be no big deal to roll that cart right on over and in.

But, no. And I’ve seen people dump carts everywhere. The more considerate among the lazy will try to place them out of the way at least, but I’ve seen people leave them right in the middle of an empty parking spot, behind someone else’s car or, worst of all, in the blue-striped section right next to a handicapped space.

Each one of these is heinous in its own way. Leave it in the middle of a spot? That means someone else can’t park there without stopping — potentially blocking other cars in the lot — then dealing with someone else’s laziness to make room for their own car.

Leave it behind someone else’s car? What if they happen to not see it before they back out? I’ve seen that one happen, and it can cause a huge mess, from damage to that person’s car (that the store winds up paying for, meaning that the customers ultimately do) to the cart being propelled to who-knows-where, slamming into other cars, moving or not, or people, or possibly even rolling into the street.

All because someone couldn’t be arsed to walk a few yards.

The worst though, as mentioned, is the handicapped space, and people who dump carts in the striped area immediately to either or both sides of the spot. Why? Because these areas are designed to allow entry and exit access to vans equipped with wheelchair ramps.

Generally, these areas are eight feet wide because that’s the amount of space needed to lower the ramp at a shallow enough angle that the person in the wheelchair can exit the van and still be in the striped zone once they’re on the ground.

If someone puts a cart there, it can make it impossible to deploy the ramp, and if the disabled person happens to be the only occupant of the vehicle, there’s no way that they’re going to be able to pop open a door, hop out to move the cart, then jump back in their wheelchair and use the ramp. I mean, come on. Think about it for one second.

Anyone thinking, “Oh, they can just call for someone to help” is the exact opposite of what the Americans with Disabilities Act is all about. It was designed so that people with disabilities or who are differently abled shouldn’t have to ask anyone for help.

And anyone especially thinking, “Oh, there are way too many handicapped spots anyway, they can find another one,” A) May your genitals suffer a scorchingly painful, regular, and incurable outbreak of shingles combined with either jock itch, a yeast infection, or both, and

  1. B) A handicap is what golfers get. That word should be expunged. Even “disabled” is iffy nowadays, seeing as how most people who are differently abled are still quite able to function in society because, well, you know… some people figured out and fought for how to make that possible.
  2. C) If someone takes advantage of the disabled parking placard system when they’re not — e.g. convincing a less than ethical doctor to sign the certificate when the only problem is that their patient is too lazy to walk an extra twenty feet — may they always wind up in the line that looks short, but is actually jam-packed with complaining Karens, and old people with lots of coupons who pay by check, and then be sandwiched between the two single parents with the pair of toddlers each that they won’t control, with both of the kids being screamers and throwers. Every damn time they go to the store, and so that it never takes less than twenty minutes to make it through check-out.

And you know what? I’ve now convinced myself that the whole “not returning the carts” issue is, in fact, not really a small thing, either. It does have a big effect on people. It’s just invisible to most of the inconsiderate class who doesn’t think ahead and empathize.

Which makes me reflect back on my driving anger and point out my own possible blind spot. How do I know for sure that the driver in front of me didn’t get T-boned when making a left turn, or got slammed into when someone merged abruptly into their lane, or they slammed into someone else, or they’ve had too many speeding tickets, or they’re just having a bad day, or have a cold, or…

I could go on, but there are probably reasons that those people aren’t assholes at all. Instead, they’re just human, and I’m the one being the asshole. After all, despite all of the “stupid” I see on my daily commute, I check out Google Maps when I get up, calculate the proper time to leave, and I’m never late to work. So it really doesn’t affect me at all.

Or, in other words, maybe that was the answer all along. A small thing that makes me angrier than it should is drivers just being human.

Image source: Image Howard Lake, used via Creative Commons (cc) 2.0.