October 30, 2008

It's Not SkyMall!

I spend a lot of time flying, and it is very clear that airports and airplanes are in dire need of improved efficiencies by your Minister of Common Sense. Humans act absolutely atrociously in these environments, and I wrote a posting a few weeks describing The Rules of the Air – it's a must read for anyone who flies. But a new thing happened to me recently on a flight that shocked the shit out of me.

It's actually the second time that this has happened in my life. The first time, I thought it was a complete fluke and would never happen again... and then it did happen again. So now I know that it's not a once-in-a-lifetime event, and maybe it's something happening with frightening frequency. Perhaps it has happened to you. Perhaps you are the person doing it.

I was on a plane and had purchased some magazines to read on the flight. I put them in the pouch on the seatback in front of me. I was in the window seat in coach, and there was a guy in his 20s sitting in the middle seat next to me. I started reading a book that I had brought along, and I was saving the magazines for later in the flight. After about an hour into the flight, the guy in the middle seat suddenly leans across and picks one of my magazines out of the pouch in front of me and starts reading it!

I was shocked and incredulous. The magazine was Maxim and, in disbelief, I exclaimed, "Dude!" He said, "Oh, is this yours?" I said, "Uh, yeah!" I then went on to say that he could read it, which (unfortunately) is the only decent thing you can do after someone hijacks your magazine. He read it and then put it back (with his goddamn greasy fingerprints all over it).

So let me ask you - why the fuck did this person think they could take and read that magazine? There is no acceptable explanation for this. It's wrong on so many levels. Let's break it down... first of all, the magazines were not in a common area for anyone to take. This is not a doctor's office – it is an airplane and it's my pouch. That pouch is part of my territory and my area. Anything in it is mine... even if I don't own it or didn't put it there. You wouldn't crumple up trash and lean over and put it in the pouch of the person next to you, would you? So if you wouldn't feel right putting something IN someone's pouch, then why do you feel right taking something OUT of it? To further illustrate the personal space territory argument, the pouch is like 3 inches away from my knee. This guy's hand got dangerously close to me, and it's just unacceptable. I didn't get an "excuse me" or anything.

Even if you were of the mind that the pouch wasn't a person's private area, then what on earth makes you think that Continental suddenly started putting Maxim magazines on their planes?? It's not SkyMall, it's Maxim! And, you know what?... even if it WAS SkyMall, you STILL can't take it! If you had the shit-ass unfortunate luck of not getting a SkyMall in your pouch, that's your problem. You can't suddenly take mine, despite it being a free magazine. Now, you CAN take it from me if I hadn't gotten to my seat yet (similar to how you can take the one blanket that is in a row of seats, even if it's not on your seat, provided no one else is there yet – but you can't take the blanket off someone's lap, once they sit down and claim it).

If you know that SkyMall is a universe magazine that is supposed to be in everyone's pouch, and you don’t have one, and you want it, then you ASK to borrow it, don't you?? How do you not ask me for the magazine?? Instead, this guy leaned over and just took my Maxim without saying a word. I just don't know how to explain this. Let's assume that it's common knowledge that the airplane is stocked with free, random magazines - like a doctor's office. If you sat down and saw that the guy's pouch next to you had a Maxim, and you didn't, wouldn't you think to yourself, "Damn! That guy got all the best magazines, and I got shit!" Then you would wait a minute or two to see if they guy was going to read it. If he didn't, then you would ask him, "Excuse me, do you mind if I read this?" And you would hover your hand over the magazine of interest and wait for his response, right? Mind you, this is all assuming that the magazines are known to common property, which they aren't. But my point is that I didn't get any of that! The guy didn't act properly if he thought the magazine was owned by me AND he didn't act properly if he thought the magazine was common property. It wasn't like the guy was an asshole, either. He was a normal, seemingly nice guy, who clearly wasn't aware that what he was doing was wrong. Which I think is even worse than KNOWING it was wrong and doing it because of selfish reasons. This guy was just plain stupid and ignorant of the laws of common sense and society.

Like I said before, if it only happened once, then I would just have to assume that the guy was new to being a human being and it was just a freak occurrence. But, this is the SECOND time that someone has leaned over and taken my magazine out of my pouch without asking (and the other time it was a woman in her 40s, so there is no rhyme or reason to it). And I know it's happened to at least one other person, too. This act is inconsiderate, rude, stupid, an invasion of private space and STEALING. It breaks like six rules of common sense and human decency all in one fell swoop.

And while I'm on the topic - who are the people who knowingly get on a multi-hour flight and bring NOTHING to read with them (aside form an illiterate person and someone who is going to put on the headphones and obnoxiously laugh out loud while watching the movie)? Who puts themselves in that position? Who doesn't have the foresight and thinks to themselves, "Gee, I'm about to have to sit in the same seat for hours and hours... I think I'll just walk on empty handed." Do you know who does that?... a complete idiot who thinks he will read the magazines in other people's pouches.

October 23, 2008

"Reply to All" Emails

The Minister of Common Sense loves email. In fact, I rather write email to people instead of talking to them under just about any circumstance. It's a better form of communication in nearly every way, not the least of which is being able to avoid directly dealing with someone. I would have sex via email, if it was possible. HOWEVER... I hate people who needlessly "Reply to All" on big group emails.

It starts with someone who writes an email to a big bunch of people, and then people start responding... to everyone... over and over again. The biggest abuse is when someone sends a group email saying something like, "I'm collecting money for John's birthday gift. For anyone who wants to contribute $20, let me know and we'll pool together the funds and get a gift certificate to Best Buy." Then the Reply to All emails start to pour in with comments like, "Count me in!" or "OK, where do I send the money?" and "Can I give you the money at the party?" I don't need to hear all that! Your emails don't have any bearing on whether or not I'm going to give $20. I'm also not the one collecting the money or buying the gift certificate. The proper response in this situation is to reply ONLY to the original sender. So why do people feel the need to Reply to All? After 15 minutes, my inbox is flooded with pointless, "Count me in!" emails. There are 100 examples of this type of abuse.

You can find some horrible examples of Reply to All failures at work, too. Let's say that human resources department sends around a company-wide email about making your health insurance elections online through the company's intranet site. Invariably, some idiot manages to Reply to All with "How do you log in?" or something like that. Why do I need to see that?? Why did you send it to EVERYONE in the whole fucking company?! If you don't know how to log in, then just respond to the HR person directly and ask them. I'm not going to tell you how to log in - I probably don't even know who you are. And if you're stupid enough to not know how to log in AND to not know how to properly use Reply and Reply to All functions in email, then I'm certainly not going to help you. When this happens, HR should just automatically fire them. In fact, they should occasionally send around emails that try to entrap people into improperly using
the Reply to All function, just so we can cull the employee base of people who are too stupid to work for us.

It's amazing when you see these Reply to All emails and you know the person probably didn't mean to do it, but how does this physically/mentally happen? I don't understand it. The Reply and Reply to All buttons are two separate selections (albeit, next to one another on Outlook). I would think that the natural, default response to an email is to reflexively hit the Reply button (and not the Reply to All button). I would think that there are many more Replies to emails when you meant to Reply to All (under appropriate circumstances), but how does it happen the other way around? You actually have to go out of your way to hit the Reply to All button. On a Blackberry, the Reply selection is the default, and the Reply to All is three wheel clicks away... how do you land there on a big group email?

Of course, sometimes it is OK to Reply to All on emails that are to 3-4 people, and when you are all collaborating on something together or whatever. It can be a useful function when a group opinion is required, or everyone needs to know what the others are doing. But, let's start using the Reply to All function a little more judiciously, especially on those big group or organization-wide emails.

The email sender can take a little responsibility for this, too, and bcc people (instead of cc people) on big group emails where you know that there is no reason for anyone to Reply to All. The bcc only allows them to respond to you, and not to everyone else. But I'm not going to sit here and teach a class on how to use Microsoft Outlook - I only teach Common Sense 101 (and many of you are failing).

While I'm on the topic of emails and replies, there is one thing that really annoys me, and that is when people add others on their response back to you. You may write a work email to one person, typically asking a question, and then they respond to you with the answer and needlessly cc some other person on it (usually their boss or your boss). What the fuck? I directly asked YOU a question, if I wanted to ask the other person, or let them know about it, then I would have included them on the original email. What, you have to tell your daddy that you are communicating with me and what you are up to? I can't imagine all the pointless cc emails that get sent every day. Just stop it already.

October 16, 2008

Blockbuster Ballbusting

I am one of the last people in the country who physically goes to Blockbuster to rent a movie, instead of using Netflix or whatever. I'm beginning to see the appeal of Netflix - if only because you have don't have to deal with people.

I went to Blockbuster the other day and strolled up to the checkout counter where this older, gray-haired lady is ringing people out. She is apparently the manager or something, because she's WAY TOO into it. She's like the Blockbuster equivalent of the Starbucks' barista... very excited to be there and very excited to tell you about their new orange mango hazelnut frappuccino, or, in this case, the Blockbuster Rewards Card.

As she's ringing me out, she asks, "Do you have a Blockbuster Rewards Card?" Fuck. As soon as I hear this at any store, my shoulders slump and I close my eyes, because I just know where it is headed. With a defeated and annoyed sigh, I respond, "No." Without knowing anything about the rewards card, I know I don't want it. Actually, what I WANT is to not be hassled with this shit.

She proceeds to rapid-fire tell me something like, "It's our new program that lets you earn a free rental with every four Blockbuster rentals you make, plus you earn points toward [whatever-the-fuck-it-is]." I half-listen to the spiel and then politely say, "No thanks." You know what happens next, right? She says, "Are you sure? It's free to sign up." I try to push my money into her hand while saying, "No, that's OK." Plus, there are other people waiting in line behind me - they don't want to be dealing with this delay either.

You think this would be the end of it, right? But she doesn't quit. She notices that I'm renting Season One of The Office and says, "Are you sure?? You can get substantial savings if you are going to rent lots of these videos." For God's sake! I respond, "No, no. It's fine. That's OK." What I really want to say is, "Listen, lady, I make enough money that I don't give a damn about saving $3.99 every six months or whatever. I don't want to fill out any fucking forms. You know what I want? I want a rapid checkout. Just let me rent the video and move on with my life. How much do I have to pay for that? What rewards program can I sign up to get that? Don't fucking talk to me, just tell me what I owe."

I know that Blockbuster has probably run all the statistical models that show that people who have the rewards card probably rent more often from them or whatever. But I have to endure this third-degree from this particular lady every time I go there. It's gotten to the point that when I see the lady at the counter, I will purposely wait for the next checkout person. Anymore of this, and I will switch to Netflixs. Maybe Blockbuster should factor that into their model.

October 9, 2008

Pharmacy Farce

The Minister of Common Sense just got back from the pharmacy where I picked up two prescriptions. I can't figure out why the hell it takes SO LONG for them to fill these things. I went in the middle of the day on a Monday, and there was literally no other customers there. I gave them the prescriptions and said I would wait for it. Thirty minutes later, I was still waiting. What the hell?!

My prescriptions included 30 pills and a bottle of lotion (don't ask what I have, just know that it's not contagious). How long does it take to count 30 pills and grab a bottle of lotion off the shelf... maybe 90 seconds? So how does this whole thing manage to turn into 30-minute ordeal? If you put me behind the counter, I'd take your order, throw the stuff in a bag and hand it to you. How hard is that?

Pharmacies should be like fast food restaurants. At least at McDonald's they actually MAKE the food. Pharmacies aren't in the back cooking up the medicine or mixing the shit they put in the capsules, are they? So then why does it take so long?

Maybe they do it on purpose. I think a pharmacy takes so long to fill your order because they want you to think they are more important than they really are. I mean, what does a pharmacist actually do? They are professional pill counters, aren't they? Where is the skill, science (and time) required to do that? Now that computers can print out the description and directions for the medicine, what purpose does the pharmacist really serve at this point? Of course, you can't really complain to them because we're all too afraid they will intentionally mess up your order and give you pills that make you fat or something - the pharmaceutical equivalent of spitting in your food.

Sometimes there are other customers waiting there (so instead of taking 90 seconds to get your order, maybe it should take 4 minutes), and even though they give you a computer printout with all the instructions, they still shout out to you, "Here is your [insert embarrassing medicine], Mr. Smith. Have you taken this before?" You want to say yes to get out of there, but if you say no, then they embarrass you by saying, "You rectally insert it every three hours" or "Your Asian Mad Cow Rash should clear up in four days". Of course, there is a group of customers sitting around, who have been waiting for 30 minutes with nothing better to do than to listen to all this and judge you.

Why hasn't the whole pharmacy system been replaced by giant vending machines by now? You should be able to walk up, insert your prescription slip with a bar code on it (with the doctor's name, insurance info, prescription and your information) into the machine. The machine would then dispense the pills into a bottle and slap a label on it. Done. It would be infinity quicker, less costly (bye bye, pharmacists), and more accurate (no human error). If the industry still wanted to humiliate us, the vending machine could have an electronic voice that says, "Good luck with your gonorrhea, and thank you for shopping at Walgreens" after you pay.

On another note, aren't you surprised that the pharmacy always seems to have the medicine for your prescription? How is this possible? There has to be a million different kinds of medicines in the world, yet they always seem to have them all on hand. Maybe I've never had an ailment bad enough that it required some exotic medicine (thank god), but when have you ever gone to the pharmacy and had them say, "Oh, I'm sorry, we don't have this. We'll have to special order it"? I find that amazing.

October 2, 2008

Rules of the Air

As the Minister of Common Sense, I spend a lot of time hating people while I'm on an airplane. I'm not sure what it is, but people become surprisingly more stupid and inconsiderate while at the airport or while sitting on a plane. I log about 100,000 miles a year in the air, and until the The Ministry buys me my own private jet, I am stuck interacting with these "people" (I just spat on the ground). As your trusty public servant, I am posting the following Rules of the Air. You are now free to move about the cabin.

(1) Don't set off the metal detector. It's a METAL DETECTOR, PEOPLE! The name of the machine is pretty self-explanatory, isn't it? Then why are there always people who walk through it, set it off, then act all surprised as they take off their watch, giant belt buckle, big bracelet, etc.? For God's sake, just think about it next time, would you?? (I'm not going to even bother getting into the topic of laptops and liquids... let's just try for the basics right now.)

(2) Wait for your section/row to be called before trying to board the plane. In a classic move, the gate agent announces boarding and everyone rushes to the entrance of the jetway. If you have flown before, then you know this is not how it works. If you are so undeveloped as a human being that you have ever "rode the plane", then think about it... don't you believe that there are people who are "better" than you? We live in a commercial world with classes. When have you, Mr. First Time Flyer, ever been allowed to be first for anything in your life? Well, it's not starting now. The people in First Class board first, then the airline's frequent flyers, then specific rows or sections. There are people who paid a lot more money than you to take this flight, and they get to board first. If you are NOT one of the sections/people that they letting board first, then STAND WELL CLEAR of the boarding area. There are people behind you that can't get on the plane because your Priceline ass is in the way. Oh, and while I'm at it, for those of you who are ESL (English is a Second Language), don't pretend like you don't know any English, act all confused, and try to board first when they are calling first class. I see this all the time, and we are on to your tricks - we won't let you board. This isn't a toilet paper line in Russia - we have rules.

(3) Don't talk to the person sitting next to you. If English IS your first language, don't use it and talk to me when I sit next to you. If you want to say "Hey" and give me a little head nod when you sit down to prove you are not a hijacker, that's cool - but don't try to engage me in a conversation. I'm being FORCED to sit next to you - I didn't ELECT to sit next to you - it's not an invitation to talk. And if someone is READING, then DEFINITELY don't talk to them. Reading a book on an airplane is a defense mechanism to MAKE SURE you don't talk to us. Sometimes, a good conversation may develop on a plane, but if the person is responding to you in monosyllables, then guess what?... they're not interested. I'm sorry other people in your life aren't interested in talking to you, but don't try to practice on me. If people in your life aren't interested in talking to you, then I am for damn sure not interested. My heart goes out to pretty girls on planes... I see that they are especially subjected to unwanted "stranger talk". Here is a hint to all the guys who try to talk to them... they are not going to sleep with you. In fact, they hate you.

(3b) Don't talk loudly. The plane is like a library. People are reading. People don't really want to be there. They are trying to ENDURE the hours. We don't want to hear anything that we didn't initiate. If you must talk to someone you know (or you found someone actually willing to listen to you), then speak softly.

(4) Don't fucking touch my seat. Why do people feel the need to grab and shake the seat in front of them when they are getting in and out of their own seat? I know it's a tight fit, but please appreciate that I CAN FEEL THAT! My seatback is not some crutch for you to use to stand up. And it's not like they just lean or pull against it for a second, it seems like they feel the need to shake it violently. Are you having problems getting up?... then you are too fucking fat. Not my problem.

(5) No babies in First Class. One of the benefits of buying a first class seat is that you are away from the masses... especially crying babies. Nothing ruins First Class more than having a crying baby one row away from you. I don't care how rich you are, if you have a baby, you can't buy a First Class seat. If you have a baby with you on a long flight (in First Class or Coach) then at least have the decency to slip it a little Benadryl and make all our lives better.

(6) When exiting the aircraft, people in the row in front of you get to exit first. I am all for boarding and exiting the plane as smoothly and efficiently as possible, but this does not mean you get to try to sneak past me while I'm getting my bag down from the overhead bin. If someone is really delaying or taking their time getting out of the row in front of you, then that is one thing. But, if they are exiting the row and getting their bag in a normal fashion, then you have to give them the two seconds it takes to get out. I give a hard body check to people who try to sneak past me in the aisle, and I let my elbows fly wide when getting my bag from the overhead bin. Anything that happens to you is your own fault.

(7) Don't play your iPod too loud through your headphones. First of all, you are damaging your ears, and it doesn't need to be THAT loud. Secondly, I can hear your goddamn music, and I hate it. The sole purpose of the headphone is so that ONLY YOU can hear it. Let's try to keep it that way, OK? We all hated people who would carry around boomboxes before the invention of the headphone, so don't make your iPod so loud that it becomes a mini boombox.

(8) The middle seat gets the armrests on both sides of their seat. We all know that it sucks to be in the middle seat. With that in mind, the aisle and window people need to relinquish the shared armrests to the middle seat person - they get the right of first refusal. The aisle and window seat people have more room than the middle seat and they have their own armrest, so let the middle seat people claim the "joint armrest" between you.

(8a) Stay in your airspace. If I let you use the armrest, then stay on the armrest and don't cross over into my air space. If your arm is touching mine, then you know you are too far over, and you should quickly retreat. Why is it that people don't move away from you when their leg/arm starts to lean against yours on an airplane? I hate that.

(9) Don't recline like you are in a La-Z-Boy. I will admit that you have the right to recline your seat, but do it SLOWLY. Don't hit the button and leap back at a 100 miles an hour. There is not a lot of room back here, and your seatback infringes on my tray table, headspace, laptop, etc. Doing a slow, controlled recline gives me warning and allows me to prepare for the intrusion. Doing it fast will slam my laptop shut, spill my drink and hit my head. Another rule is that you really shouldn't recline on flights less than two hours. Although I will acknowledge that it is your "right" to recline, it really isn't necessary for short flights. Don't make the flight worse for me by needlessly reclining... or doing a full 100% recline, try it halfway and see how it feels.

(10) Board as quickly as possible. When getting on the plane, please put your bag in the overhead bin in a rapid fashion and MOVE OUT OF THE AISLE! It shocks me to see tons of people put their bag up, then fidget around needlessly before getting into their seat and getting out of the way. It's like the whole drive-thru problem I blogged about earlier... people place their order at the intercom and then (now that they are done their business) don't pull all the way up to the car in front of them, completely ignorant to the fact that they are screwing up everyone behind them. The same is true on a plane - people don't get out of the aisle, once they have gotten to their seat and put their bag up in storage. YOU HAVE TO MOVE to allow for the other 200 miserable people to get on the plane and achieve an ontime departure. The flight attendants are constantly on the mic telling people to move out of the aisle, yet it never seems to sink it. And while you're at it, make sure you are in the right row and seat. There are signs and diagrams showing the row number and that seat A is the window, etc... just get it right, for God's sake.

I am sure I could make a list of 100 rules, and I probably left some important ones out. I'd love to hear from you as to what I missed. There are special, completely obnoxious things that have happened to me while on a plane, but they deserve their own postings. Coming soon.