June 23, 2009

Further adventures in word choice

So by now you've no doubt heard about this. Let me just say that I hope that any of you who travel the Red Line are all right, as are your friends and family. I'm an Orange Line guy myself, so I heard about it after I got home.

But it's national news. 7 dead, scores injured. Large-scale activities by rescue personnel, using heavy equipment to move through the wreckage. The true scope of the damage still undetermined, not to mention the unanswered question of how this happened in the first place.

And on my way in this morning, the sagacious disembodied voice of the Metro system suggested that I might be delayed in my travels this morning due to a "disturbance" on the Red Line.

A disturbance. That was the exact word.

For the record: I'm a rational adult. I can handle the maddeningly vague language in most cases. I can grin and bear the grotesque distortion they've made of the word "momentarily" and the condescension of thanking me for my patience while I'm stuck in an underground tunnel between stations. I can even grit my teeth as the Metro Lady switches to her mean voice and sternly tells me, sans "please" mind you, to STAND CLEAR OF THE DOORS. Because clearly, in a packed afternoon metro train on a 90-degree day, I need to be barked at by a fucking Tandy 1000 on wheels.

But "disturbance"? Are you kidding me? Seven people died, and you can't even scare up the decency to call it an accident? As if there's anyone riding the train at this point who doesn't know about it, especially since just about every single person who lives near the greater DC metro system got a call yesterday from some friend or relative to see if they're okay?

Of all the ridiculous bullshit. Just when you think that WMATA, whose manager apparently won some kind of award recently (I would imagine, or at least hope, that it was for Understating Euphemism of the Year, but I doubt they're that self-aware), can't show any less regard for the people who keep them in business, they set the bar so very, aggravatingly much lower.

I'm pissed. I'm disgusted.

I am, dare I say it, "disturbed."

Fuck you, Metro. Or, in a translation worthy of your PR people:

Thank you for your service.

June 18, 2009

We kinda got a mall...

I may be the last person on Earth to have seen this by now (or at least, the last one in the DC metro area), but in the event that you haven't yet, you have to watch this. Like, right now.


And while we're at it, a little something new from the man himself:

Because really? It's more fun than working.

June 16, 2009

On relative difficulty

Japanese has three distinct levels of formality, the use of which depends on the relationship between the speaker and his or her counterpart. Talking to your boss? High formality, high respect. Your kids? Different level of formality. Your peers get the third. The concern over this distinction, and the embarassment associated with the use of the wrong level in a given situation, led to the creation of a totally neutral approach to answering the phone, just to help avoid the loss of face that would occur if you answered the phone expecting your boss and got your worst enemy instead. This aspect of Japanese is often referenced when I hear people say that it is among the hardest languages to learn.

Then consider that these conversations are taking place in English, a language in which telling someone "fat chance," and then saying their chances are slim, means exactly the same thing.

Still think Japanese is harder? Fat/slim chance.

June 5, 2009

Plinky and the Brian: Worst Job

Part of the reason for my hiatus, and for the infrequent posting in general, is that I sometimes find it a little difficult to come up with a topic. Rant-fodder, if you will. I do not and will not keep this as a diary-blog (because really, I understand that nobody really cares what I do on a daily basis. Hell, I barely care), so something has to catch me a certain way in order to get the proverbial wheels turning.

Enter plinky.com, which I discovered kind of randomly in my web wanderings. Plinky is a site which basically asks questions daily, and lets people post answers on their site. In what i hope will become a regular thing here, I will pick the ones I find most interesting and answer them here.

Today's Prompt:

What's the least fun you've ever had at a place specifically tailored for fun?

The worst time I've ever had at a place intended for fun, hands down, is Chuck E Cheese. And it wasn't just one time, it was over and over and over again. There was a perfectly good reason for that, though:

I worked there.

See, I have been working either full or part time ever since I was fifteen. Never worked proper fast food, but I've done just about everything else: retail, restaurant, the works. But the summer between sophomore and junior year of high school was the Summer of Chuck.

I distinguish this job from a restaurant job for the simple reason that I didn't wait tables. No way. Not there. I knew better than that. I figured I'd play it safe and make pizzas. Safe. I wouldn't have to deal with the hordes of children. Or so I thought.

The truth us that working in that place was perfectly fine for the vast majority of the time I spent there. It was one of those jobs where you had long stretches of boredom punctuated by the frantic rush of mealtime, when the birthday parties would all show up at once. But Even so, we had a pretty decent group back there, and managed to keep ourselves entertained in those down times. All of that was just fine, and I even enjoyed most of it. There was only one thing, albeit one very significant thing, that made it the worst job I've ever had. And if you've read this far, and you've ever been in one of those places, you know exactly what that one thing is.

So the answer to the question you're silently asking (or not, maybe you talk to your monitor; I'm not here to judge) is yes, yes I did. And the answer to the question that follows is that it was both more and less awful than you think it would be. But on average, it sucked about as much as you'd expect.

They conveniently forgot to mention this little detail during the interview.

The first problem is the suit itself. It's heavy; all told it's probably an extra 10-15lbs of plastic and polyesther fur. It's tremendously awkward, considering the one-size-fits-Sasquatch gloves and boots and the instant conversion from a low-30s waistline to something closer to the low 100s. And worst of all, the kind of forward visibility that should come with sunglasses and a cane. You can't see directly ahead; you can only see upwards and downwards at about a 45-degree angle, up through the eyes and down through the tiny mouth hole (peripheral vision is for losers). It is in this ridiculous contraption that you are sent out into what could best be described as the world's largest low-altitude mosh pit to bring Birthday Cheer to some lucky kid. Have fun with that.

And then there are the kids. Oh, the kids. Chuck E. Cheese uses the tag line that their restaurants are Where A Kid Can Be A Kid, but that is somewhat inaccurate. What it should be called, really, is Where You Hyperkinetic Offspring Can Be Someone Else's Problem.

Indignities abound in this environment (the actual wearing of the suit notwithstanding), from the inability to see down in front of you well enough to tell if you're about to or in the process of running a kid over, to the random punches or kicks you get from some overly rambunctions little bas- er, tot, to my personal favorite: being told by one of these darling little angels that you couldn't possibly be the real Chucky, because the real Chucky is up there, pointing towards the stage, where the herky-jerky animatronic band is bobble-heading its way through awful song after awful song (unlike this, which is suprisingly well done). And through it all, you can't talk. Or Swear. Or howl in pain, as the case may be. And certainly not wring the neck of the kid who just leapt into the air and came down with the nose of your mask in his grubby little hands, causing the top of the thing to carve a groove into your skull. And then asked for a hug.

It's no surprise that they sell beer there. But honestly, they're giving it to the wrong people. Give it to the staff, the ones who really need it.

Start with the guy in the rat suit; trust me, he could use one.
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