Be Mindful of Your Manners

The whole concept of good manners really seems to be lost on some people. To be fair, I’m not entirely exempt from that, but I’m not going to put myself on trial on my own blog. That would be crazy.

There are words and phrases that we were all taught as children (well, maybe not all) as expressions of politeness. They’re still commonly used today, but often in just the shallowest sense. They’re basically a way of saying, “Hey, at least I’m not a total asshole.” Let’s take a look at some common polite expressions and what they really mean today.

How are you: Along with its more informal variations ‘how’s it going?’ and ‘what’s up?’ or even the super casual ‘sup?’, this was meant to be a greeting. Not just that, but a small attempt at empathy. How are you? Tell me about what’s going on in your life. Nowadays, it’s pretty much the equivalent of hello.

Many times, I’ve had acquaintances pass me by with a smile and a cheery ‘how’s it going?’. None of them ever paused for me to tell them how it was going, though. Just the fact that they asked was good enough I guess? Nobody really wants to know about you. They don’t care if your dog just died or your house almost burned down. When you’ve just smiled and nodded at someone in greeting, you don’t want to be bummed out by their life story. It’s not an expression of empathy. It’s basically a lie.

Thank you: This one hasn’t really gone out of fashion or changed in too significant a way. Some people don’t even bother with a thanks, of course, and just accept your help/gift/whatever in silence. But they are the cursed ones, whose souls would be violently ripped from their bodies if they were ever to express gratitude, so they can be forgiven.

As an aside, I’ve used the phrase ‘thanks a lot’ as an expression of sarcasm so many times that I feel weird using it sincerely. If someone helps me out with something big, I just emphasize my thank you with a smile (or exclamation mark) or say ‘thank you so much!’. But saying ‘thanks a lot’ makes me feel like a jerk, even if that’s what I really mean. Thanks a lot, sarcasm.

As yet another aside, or perhaps a footnote, or some other term that makes me feel like a fancy writer guy, is anyone else really weirded out when people don’t acknowledge a ‘thank you’? It doesn’t happen very often, but I’ve had a few occasions where I thanked people for helping me and they didn’t respond to that at all. No ‘you’re welcome’ or ‘no problem’ or anything. A chill goes down my spine when I think about that, and I don’t know why…

Please: Is this still officially a word? Because I don’t hear it often enough. Most requests I come across are phrased as imperative, with no magic word attached. This is one of those instances where I occasionally slip up myself. But what’s up with that? Is please too old school?

Excuse me: Another phrase I don’t hear too often. Especially here in Dubai. If you’re blocking someone’s path, there are two possibilities.

One is that they will see the tiniest gap (say the one formed between the curve of your back and the wall) as an opening and will try to squeeze through, making pained and apologetic expressions along the way to try and convince you that they’re not shoving you out of the way (but they totally are). There are, of course, those who just shove their way through unapologetically, but they’re just trying to get away from the horde of wild monkeys that will tear them limb from limb. Wouldn’t you push people out of the way if you were being chased by homicidal monkeys?

The other option is for them to just stand behind you without any attempt to make you move. Maybe they’ll sigh or click their tongues, or perhaps roll their eyes in the hope that somehow you’ll see them through the back of your skull. But they won’t say anything. When you do finally move out of the way, they’ll walk past shooting you a look that might turn a lesser man to stone. You, of course, will be thoroughly confused about why this person’s so annoyed when a simple ‘excuse me’ could have cleared their path, but that is why you are an enlightened being.

This is another one of those expressions that I’ve used sarcastically so often, that I always feel awkward when I genuinely want someone to excuse me. I can almost feel myself saying ‘excuuuse me’ while rolling my eyes every time I say it.

Sorry: Also known as the Get-Out-Of-Jail-Free Card. I sometimes wonder why this word even exists. In fact, this word irks me so greatly that I think I’ll give it its own blog post. But to summarize, it’s a word that’s used way too often, and without any meaning or emotion behind it. It should just be preceded by the word ‘not’ in parentheses whenever it’s used.

And that, in a nutshell, is the state of good manners today. Words used insincerely or not at all, but very few that contain the politeness and consideration for other people that they really ought to.

Minding your manners is well and good, but I think it’s important to really think about what you’re saying and what it means. I’d much rather someone shove past me and wear their assholishness like a badge than throw out a token ‘excuse me’ in a horribly misguided attempt to be polite.

So please, be mindful of your manners. I (and much of humanity, I’m sure) would really appreciate that.

Thanks a l…err…so much!

The Impostor in Me

I was reading an article yesterday about Impostor Syndrome, which is the constant feeling that maybe you’re not as talented or knowledgeable as people think you are. I suppose the simplest way to describe it is chronic self-doubt. It also describes how I feel almost every day and is a fairly common condition.

Many talented and successful people in all sorts of areas, whether creative or technical, often believe that they’re not really that good at what they do and only got as far as they did through luck or other factors that fell in their favor. There’s always the lingering fear that one day they’ll be revealed as frauds and derided by their peers.

While the condition, in its strictest sense, applies to successful people who don’t fully enjoy their success, I think we all feel like impostors to some extent. Speaking for myself, on most days I feel like a lost kid just making his way through the world, creating the illusion that I’m a fully functioning adult. Having taken the (still fairly recent) decision to become a writer full time, I’m plagued by the nagging idea that maybe that was a mistake. Maybe I’m just a hack whose inability to paint pictures with words will become apparent soon enough, if it hasn’t already.

Back in college, as I’ve mentioned in some previous posts, I took up karate. It quickly became a passion of mine and I climbed my way up to earning a black belt, which came with a lot of responsibility. I was a senior member of my karate club and an assistant instructor. I hoped I could inspire new students to love the craft as much as I did, and give some of my peers a different perspective, but I couldn’t help thinking that I didn’t belong there. My own instructor and fellow assistant instructors knew what they were talking about while I was just throwing out words and concepts I was familiar with so that I seemed more like what a black belt should be.

I can describe similar situations in all aspects of my life, including my current job and my blogging, where I feel like I’m not measuring up to what people might expect from me, but they’re being kind enough to look the other way for now.

It ultimately creates a fear of failure, as the smallest slip-up could cause everything to unravel. Maybe that one tiny error will reveal me for the fraud I am.

Perhaps the one solace I can take form this is that I’m not alone. We’re all impostors, pretending that we’re not just ad libbing through life.

Petstagram

As I’ve recently discovered, some people have Instagram accounts for their pets. On those accounts, they post pictures of their pets, accompanied by a caption that says something like, “Hi, I’m Puddles the dog!” or “I hate it when mommy takes me to the vet!”

It creeps me right the hell out.

I can’t really explain why. It just seems like a picture of a cute dog or cat stands on its own. Projecting your own thoughts on what your pet is thinking or saying in that moment just feels…wrong? Weird? Possibly insane?

Or maybe it’s just enthusiastic pet owners sharing their love for their animal companions in a lighthearted and goofy way.

I dunno.

I still don’t trust em…

Darker Skies

What a week, huh?

We start off on a bad note with the death of music legend David Bowie, and then reinforce that sense of shittiness in the universe with the death of the amazingly talented Alan Rickman.

I wasn’t heavily into Bowie, but I fully recognized the influence he had over not just the world of music, but pop culture in general. As for Rickman, I first discovered him through Harry Potter, but as I became more familiar with his filmography I really came to understand just how great an actor he was. He was one of those people I could watch in just about anything.

Losing both of them pretty much back to back is a horrible start to the New Year. And both taken by cancer, which has already caused me enough grief in my life.

I wish it would just fuck off already.

Brick By Brick

When I was a wee lad, and even when I was a not-so-wee lad, I loved playing with LEGOs. I spent hours building and re-building playsets, pitting pirates against spacemen and knights against cowboys. It was mainly pirates against everyone else, though, because I frigging loved LEGO pirates.

As I grew older, I drifted away from LEGOs. Teenage hormones and that kind of thing. It was odd being a teenage nerd, and it’s hard enough being either of those things individually. It was some time in college that I rediscovered my old blocky friends, but the LEGO landscape had changed.

Most LEGO playsets were themed, based around the pop culture craze du jour like Harry Potter or the Spider-Man films. My precious pirates were nowhere to be found. And then there was the price. When did those little guys get so expensive?! It seems LEGO and I were destined to part ways there.

But we weren’t quite done. LEGO continued to fade in and out of the background, notably with a few video games that were also based on pop culture properties. Then, last year (or I guess it’s two years ago now…I’ll get used to that new year by mid-March), they took center stage with The LEGO Movie, which was awesome (then again, isn’t everything?) and were all the rage again.

My interest was piqued again, but the prices. Oh, those prices. Until last week, when I stumbled upon this guy here from the upcoming Batman v Superman:

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Yes, I know I just complained about pop culture LEGOs just a few paragraphs ago. But look at that image again. Superman, Batman (badass armored Batman no less) and a Bat Signal. All in one little playset that’s at a pretty reasonable price. How could I pass up a LEGO Bat Signal? Oh, right, I couldn’t. Thus the start of 2016 saw me reunited with an old hobby, albeit in a slightly new form.

And it’s one I’ll be revisiting again I’m sure, given that 3 LEGO stores have opened up here over the past 6 months. They also have pirates playsets again. Pirates! And they’re not that expensive either! Granted, when you buy multiple inexpensive items it does add up to a considerable expense, and I can hear my wallet sobbing quietly, but it doesn’t matter.

Because I have a Bat Signal to build. And I look forward to the day when that shining beacon of justice will be assaulted by a band of roving buccaneers.

A Pocket Full of…Tissues

The past couple of weeks have been a blast. Of course, when I say ‘blast’, I mean whatever the exact opposite of that might be. It was shortly before Christmas that I found myself with a cold, thanks to some flip-flopping weather.

Around here, there really isn’t such a thing as autumn. We go from the blazing heat of summer to slightly less blazing heat and around December or early January, we leap headfirst into winter. As such, the seasonal sickness that used to affect me around September when I was in the US gets put off by a couple of months. Usually, I manage to make it through Christmas sneeze-free, but alas that wasn’t the case this time. So it was that I sniffled my way through Christmas.

But we weren’t done yet. My cold, it seems, came in two phases. The first phase involved a general sense of achiness all over my body, lethargy, loss of appetite and the occasional cough. The next phase, which began earlier this week, involves a leaky faucet of a nose, some richly layered sniffing sounds and a scratchy throat that leads to spasms of coughing. It’s an exciting process.

Hopefully, that’s the end of it and by next week, I’ll be as fit as a particularly robust fiddle. Or if there is another phase to all this, please let it involve telepathy and the power of flight rather than more runny noses.

Starting Fresh

Just as I was getting comfortable with the old year, a new one decided to nudge its way in. So here we are. The dawn of 2016. As is the case very year, this is when resolutions are made, and plans are charted for the coming year. A fresh start. A new leaf. All of that good stuff.

So it is that I’m planning to start fresh as well. Toward the end of last year, my writing plans went completely topsy turvy. Getting sick around Christmas certainly didn’t help things. I had made a commitment to, if nothing else, write something every day. Now, to be fair, my day job involves writing, so I haven’t technically abandoned that commitment. However, on a personal front, I haven’t actually written anything in a while. Thus, I’m planning to start over with that whole thing.

Even if it results in a blog post that’s just one line, I will write something every day. To stay in practice, if nothing else. I aim to finally put an end to posts that are essentially apologies for not having written anything. It’s time to be the writer I wanted to be.

But first…maybe a nap.

Hold your horses 2016. I’ll get to you in my own time.

Hope the new year’s got some pleasant surprises in store for everyone!