Category Archives: Rants and Raves

You rang?

How many of you remember the episode of Seinfeld in which a parking valet left a certain something in Jerry’s car?

Fortunately, that didn’t happen to me.

The other night, I met a friend for dinner at a wine bar in busy downtown Bethesda, Md., where valet parking on every block is a zoo.

Around 10 p.m., I claimed my car from a most grumpy valet. Perhaps he deemed my 30 percent tip insufficient. His shoulder could not have been colder, his good riddance reeking of ‘tude. Like the Seinfeld valet, but in a different way, this guy was a real stinker.

I got in the car, pulled away and tuned in to an oldies station. Nearly halfway home, I heard some unfamiliar music within a familiar song. I thought maybe it was an alternate recording with an edgy backbeat.

The music persisted. I turned off the radio, but the music continued to play.

While driving, I carefully patted my surroundings and came upon a cell phone. I knew it wasn’t mine. (My ringtone is my cousin’s two-year-old granddaughter yodeling.) The music stopped before I was able to answer it.

I deduced that the villainous valet had left this valuable in my vehicle.

There was no choice but to do the right thing. I pulled a U-ey and returned to the restaurant, where I found a frantic fellow fumbling for his phone.

When I got out of the car, waving the attendant’s smartphone, his attitude changed.

In retrospect, I kind of wish I had done one of two things: change his ringtone to something like “You’re No Good” or ask for my tip back.

What would you have done?

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Filed under Food, Rants and Raves, Technology and Social Media

Global cooling

It’s July in Washington. The weather is forecast to be sunny and 90 degrees, with 40 percent humidity, for the next 10 days. Ah, sweater weather!

This time of year, I don’t go anywhere, except maybe the beach, without a sweater.

Now that we finally have central air in our home, I sometimes put my bathrobe on over my clothes.

Don’t get me wrong; I welcomed A/C with open, goosebumped arms. It’s great. I sleep like a baby.

But overall, I feel that air conditioning is overdone. Do humans really need to spend their days and nights in 65-degree temperatures? I don’t know about you, but too much A/C makes my nose run, gives me a headache and makes my muscles ache. Can we just tone it down a little and maybe save the planet in the meantime?

The last office in which I worked was like a walk-in refrigerator. While my burly Norwegian colleague controlled the thermostat on our hallway, our boss came in every morning and did a Mister Rogers ritual, exchanging suit jacket for cardigan sweater. Everywhere I go—the mall, the grocery store, the movie theater, church, any hospital, every office building, every airplane, airport and restaurant—the air is cranked so high (or is it low?) that I can barely function without cover. When I travel, I carry a big shawl that doubles as a blanket. I can’t recall a flight in the last few years on which I haven’t buried myself under it. I’d wear gloves and a nosebag if I thought to pack them.

Are there any environmental scientists or engineers out there who can tell me how much energy could be saved by bumping up thermostats up a few degrees? Wouldn’t businesses also save huge amounts of money? Could we put a dent in our nation’s economic and environmental troubles with a simple flip of a switch?

If you agree, let’s huddle together and make it happen.

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Filed under Health, Rants and Raves, Travel

Folks is folks

My folks—excuse me, my parents—have a few pet word peeves they’ve passed on to me. I’ve written of several already. Another class of them: the way we address each other collectively.

My father hates it when people in service roles, such as waiters or store clerks, call customers “you guys.” For example, “I’m Jason and I’ll be your server. How are you guys doing tonight?”

Similarly, my mother hates it when people refer to other people as “folks.”

Naturally, I’ve become attuned to this and, when I address groups at work, prefer “ladies and gentlemen.” My ears perk up and bristle when I hear “you guys” or “folks.”

Last Friday night, I was on a plane experiencing a delayed departure. After taking an snooze and finding the plane was still on the ground, I began my favorite game of sizing up my fellow passengers and imagining their stories. Seated across the aisle from me were two young gentlemen wearing shorts and flip-flops (an air travel pet peeve of mine), and speaking a language I couldn’t discern. I surmised it was a European language of some sort.

Just then the pilot came on the loudspeaker for his second delay announcement. And for the second time, he began his announcement with “Folks, …”

The gentlemen beside me responded to this in an amused and animated fashion. In their indeterminate language, the only word I could understand was “folks,” which they uttered several times as they seemingly pondered the meaning—or, more probably, the context—of this word.

It sounded to me something like:

 Wat het proefgemiddelde door doet; mensen? Ik heb dit woord “folks” gehoord alvorens maar niet kan begrijpen waarom hij het gebruikt om de passagiers op dit vliegtuig te richten. Ik dacht ” folks” was een word dat wordt gebruikt om ouders te beschrijven. Wij zijn niet de kinderen van deze loods. Ik ben benieuwd waarom hij hij die ons richt deze manier is. “Folks?”

At that moment I decided to not look down on these young men for wearing beach togs on an airplane and instead admired them for questioning the flight captain’s language in addressing his paying passengers with such familiar informality.

 To my mind, a flight captain’s calling us “folks” is the same as our saying to the pilot upon deplaning, “Later, dude.”

Ladies and gentlemen, are you with me?

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Filed under All Things Wordish, Rants and Raves, Travel

Fumez-vous?

Much has already been written about Woody Allen’s new movie, Midnight in Paris, yet all through the movie I thought of things I’d like to write about it. I loved everything about the film, and it spurred so many thoughts and reflections that I definitely plan to see it again.

Midnight in Paris is also about great writers and, because I know I’ll never be one, I’ve deemed it best to let the movie speak for itself. Pretty much.

There’s just one thing around the edges that perplexes me and it almost has nothing to do with the movie per se.

Before seeing the movie yesterday, I had read a lot of reviews, published by critics and posted by friends. I also took a glance at the synopsis in our paper’s Weekend section, just to get a refresher before I went. It was a decent recap that I found helpful. But—and, without checking, I assume this is required by the Motion Picture Association or some self governing body—the summary was followed by the obligatory caveat:  “Contains some sexual references and smoking.”

Smoking? Do we honestly need to warn viewers or the parents thereof that they might see characters smoking?

Oh, for heaven’s sake. It’s a Woody Allen movie that essentially takes place in Paris in the 1920s. Do we really think some 12-year-old will see Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgerald puffing away while listening to Cole Porter play piano in the background, and run to 7-Eleven for her first pack of Marlboros? At twice the price of a movie and Milk Duds?

As a parent, I understand the need to regulate our adolescents’ intake of adult themes. I know there are tweens all over the world telling their parents this very day that they’re seeing Kung Fu Panda 2, when they’re really sneaking into The Hangover 2. But if my kid went to the movies and came home with Ernest Hemingway as his role model, well, maybe that’s a bad example. Let’s just say if my kid came home from Midnight in Paris inspired to be a great writer, by a writer who happened to smoke cigarettes in Paris in the 1920s, is that something that merits a warning?

Hey, I grew up watching Lucy and Ricky Ricardo light up in virtually episode and I never smoked. Jeez.

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Filed under Movies, Television and Radio, Rants and Raves

Announcement, announcement!

Memorial Day is behind us. White shoes are out of storage, and the celebratory time flanked by this holiday and the next one is upon us. Judging from the fast-rising stack of mail before us, it must be graduation season.

If you don’t mind, I’d like to share a few observations.

Observation #1:  Perhaps my son is right when he says that I am the strictest parent on the planet because, based on every graduation announcement that has come into our house over the last 10 years, my son is the only high school graduate to have addressed his own announcements. My husband and I insisted on it. While we chose not to send announcements when he graduated from college, I am always struck by how many parents address their children’s college graduation announcements, 100 percent, as best I can tell.

Observation #2:  Some people choose to ignore the graduation announcements they receive altogether, though about half send announcements when their children reach graduation age. Personally, receiving these requires a great deal of maturity and restraint on my part. But I send a gift nonetheless. Restraint is equally needed when one receives an announcement for a child one has met only once, or not at all.

Observation #3:  The generosity of those who do send best regards is overwhelming.

Observation #4:  Most graduates send thoughtful thank you notes. Others either send none at all or simply sign a form letter written and typed by their parents.

Observation #5:  A well written thank you note is worth keeping. We can almost predict a graduate’s potential success based on his or her thank you note.

When I receive a thank you note of any kind, I read it once or twice, enjoy it and then throw it away. We received one last year—for a high school graduation gift we sent—that was too good to discard. I kept it in a stack of papers I go through from time to time, just so I can re-read it. It provides heart-warming proof that young people can write thoughtfully and well. Because I like to share good writing on this blog, I’ll share it here:

“Thank you for your card and money for my graduation.  It’s a big step in my life, and I’m glad you took the time to write me a note of congratulation. I’m going to try my hardest to be the best computer engineer at Virginia Tech I can, and am thankful to know my family is close behind me, hopeful for my success. Thank you!”

Parents, I respectfully suggest that you share this with your kids. And for Pete’s sake, consider having them address their own graduation announcements. At a minimum, take a cut of the proceeds for your efforts.

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Filed under All Things Wordish, Family and Friends, Holidays, Rants and Raves

The laugh’s on me

I spoke too soon—about a few things.

In a February post I pined for the old American Comedy Awards, but took solace in the fact that Comedy Central would be starting a new comedy award program in April.

Then a few weeks ago, I gloated about having finished my taxes three weeks early.

As these sentiments came back to me yesterday, I ended up eating my words.

First, I suddenly remembered that, in addition to federal and state income taxes, I had to file state personal property taxes for my business. The form is only six pages long, but it causes me more heartburn than anything I do all year. I do this one myself, rather than rely on a tax preparer, because it should be relatively simple. I work in an eight-by-ten-foot home office, with very few assets and, but for a few printer cartridges, purchased nothing in the past year.

Still, factoring in dread and recovery on either end, filling out the form takes me several hours, and I had put it off until the last weekend day before April 15.

I got psyched up by promising myself that, if I finished filling out the ugly tax form Sunday afternoon, I would treat myself to an evening enjoying Comedy Central’s first annual Comedy Awards.

So I plowed through several pages of instructions, and tackled the analysis of the original cost of my assets by year of acquisition, a balance sheet breakdown of the value of furniture, fixtures and equipment, accumulated depreciation, depreciation per year for the last five years and the net book value. I filled out a form for the disposal of machinery (a deceased computer). I wrote a check for $300, a “filing fee” that is charged simply for the privilege of being sent a tax bill. Then I took two Extra Strength Tums.

The process was tedious and gut-wrenching.  I sweated, groaned, clenched, cramped and did a year’s worth of cursing, but I got it done. It was time to curl up in front of the Comedy Awards.

I was beyond psyched. After all, the nation’s great comedic pioneers and geniuses were behind the creation of this new event:  Stephen Colbert, Billy Crystal, Whoopi Goldberg, Seth MacFarlane, Conan O’Brien, Don Rickles, Joan Rivers, Chris Rock, Ray Romano, Phil Rosenthal, George Schlatter, Jon Stewart and Lily Tomlin, among others.

The joke was on me. It was the worst awards program I’d ever seen, bar none, and this includes the TV Land Awards, the Teen Choice Awards and every other low budget, low talent competition in modern television.

I had more fun doing my taxes.

One bright spot – Saturday Night Live’s Kristen Wiig won Best Actress. It almost made the misery worth enduring. Almost.

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Filed under Movies, Television and Radio, Rants and Raves

The award goes to…

Last night’s Academy Awards  can be summed up in one word: “amazing.”

I’m not talking about the production or the fashions or the performances. I’m talking about the word I’m voting most overused.

Heard on the red carpet:

“This is an amazing night.”
“You have an amazing figure.”
“We’re going to have an amazing time.”
“It’s great to be in the company of these amazing actors.”
“Just look at all these amazing people.”
“You look amazing.”
“Your earrings are amazing.”

I’ve noticed this adjective with an appropriately limited definition has gone epidemic (so has “viral;” that’s why I say “epidemic.”). But if there were any doubt, all anyone would have to do to confirm the diagnosis is watch the Oscars.

The awards program itself was sprinkled with “amazing.” Admittedly, I’d find just being in the Kodak Theatre on such an occasion amazing. So I’ll cut some slack to those who say it feels amazing to be up on that stage to receive a statue.

My point is, let’s save “amazing” for the truly amazing, as we’ve talked about doing with other overused adjectives. Not for earrings.

This morning’s online headlines illustrate this point.

“Jennifer Hudson is amazing in orange at the Oscars”
Oscars: Amazing gowns offer red-carpet options”
Oscars Best Dressed! Check out the Amazing Academy Awards (this one also notes how amazing Celine Dion looks post-twins.)

I even found a recipe for “Amazing Academy Award-winning Appetizers.” How amazing can a pig in a blanket be, unless perhaps it involves a live pig?

Even the JCPenney commercials played along last night: “We make it affordable; you make it amazing.”

Amazing.

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Filed under All Things Wordish, Beauty and Fashion, Marketing/Advertising/PR, Movies, Television and Radio, Rants and Raves