January 29, 2009
E-mail is so much better. For one thing, I don’t actually have to talk to anyone, which is nice. I can respond to it at my leisure (you can’t really call someone at 3 am, but I can write an e-mail at that time). I can multi-task when writing an e-mail (people get pissed when you are on the phone with them and they can hear Lost playing in the background and you only talk to them during the commercial breaks). And lastly, e-mail and texting reminds me of the old days when we used to pass notes in school. I was a excellent note passer. I’d get a lot more girls with well-crafted notes than I would with a nervous, bumbling phone conversation.
So why do people call us to ask a simple question that could easily be done over an e-mail? Have you ever answered the phone and had the person ask something like this...
Person: “What was the name of that movie with Natalie Portman? You know, the period piece where they separate her and her lover, and he goes off to war because the younger sister lied about him?”
Me: “Natalie Portman? Do you mean Atonement??”
Person: “Yes! That’s it! Thanks!” Click.
Couldn't you have just e-mailed or texted me that question? You’re telling me that I bothered to pause my TiVo, answer the phone, and muster up the enthusiasm to interact with another human being, and THIS is what you have to say? Oh course, what would be worse is if they wanted to have a whole big conversation about Atonement, or any other topic for that matter.
What's even worse than a frivolous call (like the one above) is the pointless call. Don't you hate it when this happens?...
Person: "Hi, how's it going?"
Me: "It's going OK. What's up?" [my nice way of saying, "hurry up and get to the point of why you are calling"]
Person: "Nothing. I was just calling to say hi."
What?! Oh come on. I don't have time for this. I have things to do and personal time to enjoy. Only call me if you have something interesting or important to say. Don't call me up "just to say hi". That's a bullshit waste of my time. You might want to "just say hi", but I want to "just say bye".
However, sometimes you have to call people on the phone, and I understand that. More often than not, you just have to tell them something simple, like the time and place to meet you or the outcome of a business meeting. Typically, I would do this in an e-mail, but either the person has initially phoned me to ask the question that I’m trying to answer (so it's proper to respond to them via the same method of communication that they originated), or they are one of those people that don’t really use e-mail in a timely manner and insist on always using a phone (which is really very selfish of them and a horrible inconvenience to everyone who is forced to interact with them).
When I call someone under these circumstances, I get more and more excited with every unanswered ring, because I know that I am one step closer to merciful voicemail. Please go to voicemail. Please go to voicemail. If it goes to voicemail, then I can simply leave a message with the information, there will be no need for them to call me back, and we will be done with the whole thing. Voicemail is like an audio e-mail.
So I get voicemail, which is great, and then I leave a long message explaining everything. But sometimes I will be in mid-message and my phone will beep and it’s the person, who I was just leaving the message for, calling me back! Or sometimes they call you back JUST AFTER you have left the voicemail. In both circumstances, they haven’t even listened to my message, but they are calling me.
Here are my thoughts – if you don’t answer your phone or you miss a call, then that’s too fucking bad. Do you know what you should do? You should wait to see if the caller leaves you a voicemail, then you listen to the voicemail, and then you can call them back if you still feel that you need to. Why do you bother to have voicemail if you’re going to waste my time and make me leave a message (or a partial message) that you aren't even going to listen to? I have this one person who will immediately call me back after I've just left a long voicemail (always without listening to the message) and this is how it goes:
Person: “Hi. You just called.”
Me: “Uh, yeah [defeated sigh, because I know where this is headed]. I just left you a voicemail. Did you get it?”
Person: “No, I didn't listen to it. I just saw that you called, so I’m calling you back.”
Now, what I really want to say at this point is “How do you even know that I wanted you to call me back at all? Why don’t you hang up the fucking phone, and listen to the message that I just spent two minutes leaving for you, and THEN decide what to do?” But, instead, I say:
Me: “Well, I was calling to tell you... [and now I proceed to regurgitate the entire voicemail that I just left, word for word].”
Sometimes people will call you back right away after they missed your call WITHOUT EVEN KNOWING WHO YOU ARE! Have you ever gotten one of these?...
Person: “Hi, this Robert. Someone just called me.”
Someone just called you? What the fuck? You don’t know who called you and you’re so desperate to talk to people that you’re *69ing a total stranger?? What if it was a wrong number? What if my voicemail (that you didn't listen to) perfectly describes who I am and what I wanted?
And that is another thing – if a caller doesn't leave you a voicemail, then you really shouldn't call them back at all. If it was THAT important, then I would have left you a voicemail, or I will call you back later. If it’s NOT important, or if I DON’T WANT you calling me back, then I’m not going to leave a voicemail!
Speaking of voicemail, who are these people that have their voicemail box “full” so you can’t even leave a message? What the hell is with that? That is the worst. Maybe I don’t have your e-mail, or maybe you’re one of these “phone-only” people, or maybe I’m returning your call... except that I CAN'T, because your fucking fat mailbox is full. I’m very suspicious of this, by the way. I mean, how many voicemails does it take to make a mailbox full these days? 20? 40? 100? Who keeps that many voicemails? Why aren't you deleting them? What is wrong with you? I sometimes wonder if people set their mailbox to say that it’s full, when it really isn't. Although why would they want to go to such lengths to avoid a new voicemail? So with this particular type of person, you have to keep calling and calling and calling, and hope to eventually reach them live – which is like the biggest inconvenience in the world.
Let’s be honest, no one really wants to interact with you anyway, so let’s set the hurdle rate as low as possible and make it as painless and efficient as possible. Don’t call someone if you can convey the same message in an e-mail or text. Don’t immediately call people back if you missed their call – wait and see if a voicemail is left first. Listen to voicemails. Don’t call back numbers you don’t recognize. Don’t be obnoxious with a full voicemail – delete messages after listening to them. And know the difference between Natalie Portman and Keira Knightley!
January 28, 2009
January 22, 2009
For those of you who don't know, The Knot is a wedding website where future brides can share ideas, find vendors, get advice, learn about weddings, etc. Sounds pretty terrifying, right? Well, it is. Apparently, it's a pretty popular website, although I had no idea just HOW popular until last week.
I'd like to thank my loyal readers of this little blog. I admit I enjoy writing it, but I don't make any money from it or anything - I just do it for fun. But, it wouldn't be any fun unless I knew people were actually reading it, so thank you for that. The Minister of Common Sense blog received its 1,500th hit a couple of weeks ago (after being open for just 4 months and only posting once a week), so I was feeling pretty good about myself. Of course, I always need to get more readers, so every so often I try creative ways to get the word out. And sometimes, people put the word out for me.
A few months ago, some random girl put a link to my blog on one of The Knot.com message boards. The link connected to my August 21 post entitled, “Hosting Weddings Sucks". Check it out - it's basically about how one of my friends received no gifts (no card, no nothing) from certain friends and family who attended their wedding. Additionally, people didn't RSVP to the wedding or guests brought people who weren't invited. Basically, I complained about the shocking shit that wedding guests do, and I said that I thought it was wrong. Of course, it was written in my typical acidic, sarcastic, I-hate-people style (but that is what this blog is known for).
It was nice that the person posted a link to my blog on The Knot. In fact, I got nearly 100 hits from it, which was great. So one night last week, I decided that I would register for The Knot and post another link to that wedding blog I wrote about before (The Knot has a different message board for each city). I would just post something and write, “Hey, check this out, it's an interesting post about weddings." Basically to try to get the word out about The Minister of Common Sense and maybe pick up a new regular reader – and of course to share some interesting stuff about my friend’s wedding.
After putting the message up, I immediately got 15 hits. I thought to myself, "Oh, wow, that's good. Maybe I’ll put a post up on ALL the city message boards on The Knot. Perhaps if I did that, maybe I would get a total of 50 hits from it or something – that’d be great!” So I spent the next half hour repeating my note in various (constructive) forms on all the city message boards.
Well, I woke up the next morning (12 hours later), and I had 2,500 hits from The Knot.com. You have to figure that people must have been sleeping for SOME of the night (maybe 5 hours?), so I was basically getting one new hit on my blog every 12 seconds. That's not on par with Google or anything, but it's hell of a lot for a non-commercial site. Remember, I had a total of 1,500 hits for 4 months, and now I just got 2,500 in 12 hours. I felt like I was in Office Space... I just wanted to steal a couple of pennies, but when I checked the ATM receipt, I had $300,000 after one day.
So my first reaction to all this is, WOW, girls are REALLY into their wedding and are very interactive about it all! I mean, you'd never get me to randomly click on a link to some stupid blog, yet it was like these women couldn't NOT click on it! Don't get me wrong, I am super pleased that 2,500 new people got exposed to my blog. And if only 1% of them ever came back again, that would be a big win for me, as far as I am concerned. And if you are one of those people who came back today, I want to thank and welcome you! I was just absolutely stunned that I was getting that kind of traffic in that amount of time. It really demonstrated the power of The Knot.
I told a good friend of mine (a bride-to-be, in fact) what I had done, and I showed her all the hits I was getting... minute after minute after minute. She looked at me with a mix of fear and concern and quietly cautioned, "Oh my god. You put this on The Knot?? Tell me you didn’t. You don't fuck with The Knot.com." Oh how right she was... because not everyone was happy with me.
Twelve hours after this all began (i.e. almost as soon as I woke up), The Knot personally contacted me, banned me for life, pulled down all my postings on all the message boards, and mentioned something about castration (or forcing me to get married – I can’t remember which – it was all a threatening blur). The hits to my blog were pouring in, and The Knot pulled the plug on me. God knows how many hits I would have gotten if the day was able to roll on uninterrupted, but the moment they shut me down, it stopped.
I tried to argue with The Knot “Gods” (as they are known). They didn't want me posting on ALL of their message boards, even though: (1) the material was relevant to weddings; (2) I was adding quality third-party content for free; and (3) I wasn't trying to sell, trick or spam anyone. In fact, some of the postings I started on The Knot message boards got very active (with people either liking or hating my post). In some situations, postings were getting 30+ comments on them after a few hours and The Knot was awarding them a star for "highest popularity".
In fact, some of The Knot readers resurrected my postings after the website deleted them. As in here and here (so feel free to repost it, if you want!). They allege a “dirty delete” or "DD", which I guess is Knot talk for removing something without a cause. I’m not sure if they are accusing me of doing it or The Knot Gods.
I guess it's not surprising that The Knot shut me down. But what was really surprising was the absolute venom that some women were exhibiting toward this one post I wrote about on weddings. There were a few comments posted on the actual blog (which you can see here), but the majority were posted on The Knot message boards. In some situations, people would say that they liked it, that they thought it was funny, and thanks for sharing - stuff like that. But then there were others who were frighteningly evil.
I got a shitload of hate e-mail (which I've gotten before for some of my other posts, so that's fine – I have thick skin, and I will acknowledge that I’m probably not the most likeable guy to begin with). (By the way, aside from the wedding post, the post that generated the most amount of hate e-mail was my recent one about the Photo Christmas Cards. Weird. Go figure. People REALLY WANT to put their kids on their Christmas cards!) But some of the comments written about the wedding post by The Knot readers really surprised and shocked me.
Since The Knot.com postings no longer exist (and since I'm serving a lifetime ban), I'll have to reference some of the comments that were posted on my own blog. Basically, some of the readers were mad at me and my friend because we both assumed that gifts would be given by at least the majority of guests who attended their wedding – and some readers felt that this was wrong and greedy of us. Really?? What’s next?... that it’s wrong to expect you will get gifts on Christmas, or candy on Halloween? It was odd – the original comments received on my blog were basically supportive of my position that my friend got ripped off (some people didn’t even give him a card), but the majority of the posted comments by the future brides-to-be from The Knot were attacking and unsupportive, which totally confused me. You would think that future brides would be concerned about the possibility of guests not properly RSVPing, not bringing gifts, bringing people who weren’t invited, etc... but this group (at least those who commented and were most vocal in e-mail and on the message boards) seemed to act as if they were above it all, and that they don’t care about gifts at all – they just want people to “be a part of their special day”, which is nice... but I find it hard to fully believe.
Here are some random comments posted to me:
“according to wedding etiquette, gifts are NEVER to be expected by the bride and groom”
“you are a piece of sh*t and so are your married friends. You do not EVER expect a gift from anyone...ever”
“No, they shouldn't expect gifts and no, it's not rude for guests to not bring one.”
“That is unbelievably rude of the bride and groom and not to mention yourself to count up the value of the gifts and judge people on their gift or lack of. There is no "rule" that you have to give a couple a gift.”
OK, do I live on another planet than these people?!?! I’m not saying that the bride and groom should be all “gimme gimme gimme”, but I think that it is perfectly reasonable to expect a gift from a guest that attends your wedding... at least a freaking card! Since when are gifts “NEVER to be expected by the bride and groom”? If that is the case, then why the fuck are all of you REGISTERING at Bed, Bath & Beyond?! Why is there a gift table set up AT THE WEDDING? So I’m the “piece of shit” because no one should “EVER expect a gift from anyone... ever”??? What the fuck? YOU’RE the fucking lying hypocrite! Why can’t we be honest with ourselves and admit that it is appropriate (and expected) to bring a gift or AT LEAST A CARD to a wedding?
I’m totally struggling with why some of these brides-to-be were so attacking when I was actually trying to defend them in saying that I think guests should bring gifts. One guess is that in the process of planning a wedding, they are trying to be altruistic and really focus on the ceremony and not get sucked into the materialistic side of things. Because if you admit you are looking forward to getting some gifts (or that you expect some), then you are a “bad person”. If you don’t expect any gifts, then you can’t be disappointed if you don’t get them. But anyone who tells me that they would not be disappointed if their close friend or family member didn’t even bring a card, let alone a gift, is out and out lying. Just about everyone who wrote me saying that gifts should NEVER be expected at a wedding also told me that they ALWAYS bring a gift to a wedding themselves. How can you really have a double standard like that? If everyone is bringing gifts, it’s because it’s the right and decent thing to do – and then it becomes an expected tradition. There is nothing wrong with "expecting" people to act decently.
Another possible reason why some of these brides were so attacking in their comments may be because some of them may be the very people who aren’t giving gifts at the weddings that they attend themselves! After all, SOMEONE out there isn’t giving gifts or cards, right? About half of my friend’s guests came empty handed, so who are these people? Perhaps it’s the people who are calling me a “piece of shit” for suggesting that gifts should be given.
I will acknowledge that this blog is sarcastic, snarky, bitter and mean. If you didn’t know that coming in, then maybe you may overreact to something I write. Also, the people who agree with me are probably less likely to write a comment than people who disagree, which may also account for some of the comments on the blog and The Knot. I have to believe that there are more people out there who agree with me than disagree with me on this topic.
I should warn The Knot that I have already written another wedding post called "Weddings: The Money Pit of All Money Pits". I can't wait to put that one up on The Knot and see how many new engaged women I can get to hate me!
Oh, on a separate note, I also received my first cease and desist letter from a lawyer over an alleged copyright infringement, so that was fun, too. Legal action, hate e-mail, getting banned from websites... it’s all in a day’s work as a freelance blogger.
(To return to The Minister of Common Sense home page to see more postings, click here. Additionally, the full archive calendar is available to the right. Please bookmark me and pass me along if you think I'm worth it!)
January 15, 2009
Am I alone in thinking that this is a completely inappropriate photo to blast e-mail all your friends and post on your family's Internet site? I know you are proud, but can't we do some discrete editing or something? Is this the only photo you have to send to all of us?!
When we take a photographs of ourselves as adults, we make sure our hair is fixed properly and that we don't have a nip-slip, or have something in our teeth, right?... so why are we going out of our way to take photographs of our babies in the worse possible positions? You know that the babies themselves would absolutely object to many of these photos, if they could. The proof is when we are older and these photographs get shown to us for the first time. We never say, "Awh, what a good baby photo of me!... you can see my penis and everything!" No, instead, we shriek in horror when our moms pull out these photographs in front of our friends.
You would think that modestly and decently would be inherent in all of us, and parents wouldn't be trying to take photos of naked babies (let alone, mass e-mailing them out to everyone). But maybe I'm just being prudishly American and immature about the whole thing. (Believe me, I want to see photos of naked girls - just not naked BABY girls.)
My last comment just raised an interesting point... in what situations do these naked baby photos become illegal? I'm not sure what the child pornography laws are, but if someone sends me a photo of their naked baby, I assume that is OK. But what if they are 2 years old? 5 years old? 13 years old? What if they are a boy?... or a girl? Does it matter? I think somewhere along the line, we can all agree that it crosses over into "inappropriateness". I imagine somewhere along the line it also crosses over into "illegality" - I just don't know where that point is (and I'm not interested in finding out). So new parents should all do us a favor and not send around naked photos of their kids.
You can criticize me for being a baby myself and acting all upset over these photographs. I agree that one can definitely overlook the nudity - after all, it's a freshly-born baby... just hours old, and the parents are (justifiably) excited and proud. But I guess I want to criticize the parents for not using a just a little more common sense and simply taking a more appropriate photo of the baby. It just kind of shocks me that they didn't recognize and think about it. When the parents take photographs of themselves on vacation and put them up on Snapfish, they don't take photos of themselves walking around naked or in the shower, so why would they do this to the baby?
By the way, the only thing worse than a full-on nude, spread-eagle baby photo is the freshly-birthed shot with all the goo and gunk still on the kid. No one wants to see this, either. If I did, I'd become an OB/GYN.
January 8, 2009
I have also selfishly keep track of how many Christmas cards I send out and how many I get back in return from others. I've been doing this for a few years, and there are a couple of disturbing trends arising in the Christmas card tradition.
The first trend is that people don’t really send out Christmas cards anymore. This year, I mailed 43 Christmas cards to family and friends. In the vast majority of these situations, the 43 recipients have been on my "list" for many years (so it’s not the first time they are getting a card from me). In addition, I send my cards out at the beginning of December, so recipients have plenty of time to receive them, realize they "forgot" to send me a card, then mail me one.
Despite the advance and repeated mailings every year, I only received 19 Christmas cards this December. That is only a 44% response rate from the 43 cards that I sent out. One theory could be that the majority of the people on my Christmas card list actually hate me, which would explain why I only got 19 cards, even though I sent out 43. But I think it is more likely that people have really given up on the whole Christmas card tradition. For the past few years now, I have only been receiving about one Christmas card for every two that I sent out. Perhaps "mail" is getting too old fashioned in our digital age, or perhaps people find themselves too busy to send out cards at this time of year. I’m not sure why people have given up on the tradition, because I kind of like it (and I don't really like anything). What are your thoughts on Christmas cards? Are they a waste of time? Why have people stopped sending them? Is it an "old person's" ritual?
The other disturbing trend I noticed in Christmas cards is that the majority of Christmas cards that I now receive are photo cards. Perhaps I shouldn't really complain, since I just went on and on about how I don't receive enough Christmas cards, but I hate these photo cards. I'm not against the photo cards in general - I just hate what people do with them.
Of the 19 Christmas cards I received this year, 11 were photo cards – so more than half of the Christmas cards I received had a photo on them. Of the 11 photo cards that I received, only one had the full family on it (mom, dad and son) and the rest of the cards only featured the couples' children - no parents. The kids in these photos ranged in age from 1 year old to 16 years old. Of the 11 different groups of children featured on these photo cards, I have actually met/seen only three of them in my entire life (and I haven’t seen any of those more than twice in my life). So, basically, I got 8 Christmas cards from total strangers.
Can someone please, PLEASE tell me why parents refuse to put themselves in the photo for the Christmas card?! I hate getting these damn cards from kids who I have never seen in my life and probably never WILL see in my life. I didn't send the stupid kid a Christmas card – I sent one to the parents. It's the PARENTS that I am friends with, or when to school with, or grew up with... not their kids. I don't care about their kids. I mean, I care about their kids to the extent that the kids make my friends happy, and I guess that's nice. But I don't really care about them in isolation, so why do the parents make the kids the prominent (and ONLY) feature on the Christmas cards?! Maybe, MAYBE, if it was a newborn, you can get away with doing it, but why is your 16-year old on the Christmas card? You can have the kids on the Christmas card, just make sure you include yourselves. It's the parents that I want to see, not the kids (who I have never met in my life because they live in a far-off city or something). I know everyone thinks their own kids are the best – but, really, isn't it presumptuous of these parents to jam their kids down our throats by putting them on a Christmas card and, simultaneously, depriving us of a photo of themselves - the only people we actually know?
Are parents so absorbed with their own kids that they insist on only having the kids in the photo? Do they feel that including themselves in the photo would be too conceited on their part? I don't get it. I just don't get it why the parents aren't in the photo, especially when it's only the parents that anyone really cares about. Put the whole family in the photo – what is wrong with that?! Why is that so horrible and so "wrong" to do??
Are these "bad people" for putting their entire family in the Christmas card photo? (Perhaps they are bad because they also appear to be members of the Aryan Nation, but that's another discussion)
Someone suggested to me that the reason why the parents don't put themselves in the Christmas card photo is because the parents know they look like shit - they look fat and/or old, and they are too self conscious about it. That might be a possible explanation... after all, this is America, and we get fat easily here – especially after having kids. But there are cards I received from really good-looking, thin parents (both the husband and wife) and the only people in the photo are the two kids (one of which is a step child of my friend, so I REALLY didn't care about that one). So that couple wasn't fat or old, and yet they weren't in the photo.
There are other examples I can think of where the parents weren't in the photo, even though they are attractive, so I'm convinced that the reason why parents don't put themselves in the photo is because they are self-conscious and bad-looking. I have to believe that the reason is because parents feel they need to "put the children before themselves" and that they feel it is too presumptuous, conceited and arrogant to feature themselves on the front of the card. Because, if the parents are in the photo, it's because they DECIDED to be in the photo, whereas the children are kids, and they don't have a say in the matter - the kids didn't consciously insist on being on the card... they were put there. Although, I would argue that consciously putting your own kid on the front of a Christmas card ("look at him! look at my kid, everyone!") is just as presumptuous and conceited as putting yourself on the card. Frankly, I don't really advocate ANYONE being in a photo on a Christmas card, but if you are going to do it - do us all a favor and put the people who we have real relationships with in the photo. I know parents don't really want to hear this, but we don't give a flying fuck about your 6-year daughter who we never, ever met. We care about you... the people who we have been friends with for 20 years. Not caring about your kids doesn't make us a bad person or a bad friend - it makes us real people with real priorities. We care about YOU, and that makes us good people.
So, I don't know... I'm annoyed and frustrated by receiving these photo cards that might as well be from total strangers with pre-printed messages that are stuffed in envelopes with pre-printed address labels. I mean, could you get any more impersonal? Maybe this is why people have stopped sending traditional Christmas cards... because of the crap you get in return. Maybe I will join them next year and stop sending cards. Or maybe I will print up a bunch of photo cards with some random child I find on the street and see what type of response I get.