Thursday, 22 December 2011

Take This Job...

Hello Friends.

Isn't it cool when some kind of life change coincides with the start of a new year? Like when you go into labour during a New Year's Eve party? Or you go Boxing Day shopping and someone shoots your leg clean off? Life changes. And when these things happen towards the end of December, you begin to look at them cosmically, as if these things were meant to happen at this time to give you a very different 2012. I'm proud to announce I'm in the throes of such arrogant pontificating because January 1st, 2012 will be my last day at the drugstore where I've worked, at two different locations, for four years. A few days later, I start my first big boy job, as a full time Media Writer for one of those daily deal websites I'm hesitant to name lest I queer some obscure part of my contract by claiming association with the company before I actually start at the job. It's basically doing funny writing for your inbox explaining why you should get this spa deal, this vacation, this remote control helicopter, that kind of stuff. It ain't a column in Vanity Fair, but it's a full-time writing gig, which is better than a kick in the petunia.

As I excited as I am to start the new job, I'm even more excited about leaving the old one. Christmas is a terrible time to work retail because everybody's anxious, they just need one more thing on their lists, the lines are long, things sell out fast, and there aren't enough hours between now and Christmas to be the least bit courteous to anyone. Now I'm luckier than most because not only to I get to quit in the New Year, I actually get to go home for Christmas in between, so I really have nothing to complain about. And if this were a movie, not only would the customers be awful, but I'd have a terrible group of coworkers and mean boss and I could throw down my punch card and be like, "Fuck y'all!". But this is not a movie and the only bummer to finding this awesome new job and giving only two weeks notice is that I know I'm screwing over some good friends and really kind bosses who have to deal with the same lousy customers and work longer days until they can hire another me, or a monkey with long hair, or an upside down mop with a nametag. This is only a mild bummer, though, and doesn't convince me to stick around even a second longer than I have to, but I do have one Dream, not only for myself, but for the coworkers and friends I leave behind.

Dream: Vengeance on terrible customers.

Goal: Unachievable. I've always thought the major problem with dealing with a crappy customer in retail is also its saving grace. Love them or hate them, one only has to put up with a customer for as long as it takes to find their purchases, ring them through, and get them out the door. Unlike food service, where you might have to fake nice to a table of assholes for an hour, I can be through with one asshole in ninety seconds (gross). But the brevity of a transaction is, unfortunately, a two-way street. A customer reasons he is only stopping in a store (in my case, a store that has identical locations all over the country) for two minutes and therefore can leave all niceties at the door, he's just going to do that.

This Goal is also unachievable because, despite appearing to have all the power in the transaction, there's very little a cashier can do to appropriate punish a rude or mean customer. If you purposefully give bad service to someone who's already being a jerk, they will have no qualms asking for a manager, asking for your name, emailing Head Office, or whatever it takes, especially when you work at a chain store like I do. Obviously violating customer service protocol only serves to get you in trouble, not the customer, and as such, is barely worth considering. That being said...

Plan: Get creative. I should stress that these are things I would never actually do, not by a long shot. Attempting even one of the following would not only cost me any future job offers, I'm sure they'd be illegal, too. But it does my blackened heart good to imagine these scenarios after dealing with a rude customer, and often just imagining them creatively is enough to help me face another hour on the clock.

  • If you decide after carrying an item across a store that you don't want to buy it anymore, don't just stick it on the closest shelf. Put it back or bring it to the cashier, who'll do it for you. If you just put it down wherever, I'm going to go into the drawer of your bedside table, extract your dildoiest dildo, and place it on your dining room table.
  • If you bring in an obviously photocopied coupon or expired voucher and belligerently insist that we honour it because it's still good, I'm going to cut the power to your refrigerator and insist you consume all the dairy because it's still good.
  • If you object strenuously to the price of something because "it's only 2.99 at WalMart!", I will draw you a map to the nearest WalMart.
  • If your child knocks stuff over and screams and you don't do anything about it, I'm going to come to your house, knock stuff over, and scream into your baby's face.
  • If you pay with a twenty that's been folded over ten times, I'll sit and make you wait while I painstakingly unfold it and smooth it out (I actually do this one).
  • Sorry we don't stock that thing you like. If you really whine and complain about it, I'll be able to magically produce it from behind the counter, but then I will destroy it, just to watch your face.
  • If you don't tell me you're a senior on Senior's Day and you're mad when you don't get the discount, I won't tell you about the time I fucked your super-old dad on Father's Day. I don't know how that makes sense but, recent seniors, just be glad I didn't assume you were old.
  • If you stand there and tease, humiliate and belittle me for my perceived incompetence, I will follow you home, out with your buddies, and then to your workplace until I find the person in your life who makes you feel like shit. Then I will grandly gesture and say, "This is how it feels! Are you glad to be perpetuating this?" And you will know.

Again, I would never do any of these things, despite how much I might want to fuck your super-old dad. I feel like, sooner or later, we're all somebody's cashier. There will always be situations in life where you are unfortunately, are at the total mercy of someone who does not respect you. The trick, I know, is to let it roll of your back. But I wonder if we don't do that too often, sometimes. If we witness negative behaviour and words so often that it barely registers anymore and we begin, slowly but surely, to lose respect for ourselves. That is the serious consequence to a very un-serious job. So please, shoppers at Shoppers, and any other retail store this Christmas, I beg you once again to consider your cashier. Consider that they are just like you, though they probably make a little less money, and they just want the courtesy they are required to show you reflected back to them. I'm thrilled with the possibility that I might not have to be a cashier for awhile, but I'm really grateful for the past seven years or so spent in the retail industry because it's taught me, above all else, the importance of being a better customer or, if you like, a better man.

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Luka, I am Your Uncle...

Hello Friends.

I've really enjoyed Christmas shopping this year as I have an amazing new guy to shop for. Sorry, Dr. Jon and family, but you're taking lower positions on my Christmas List while I find the perfect presents for Luka. Luka was born two weeks ago to Dr. Jon's brother Jeff and his wife, Kailey. He was a big baby, but a few weeks premature, and so had fragile baby lungs that needed attention. He spent the better part of a week in an incubator. They sent pictures, I wish they could dress those incubators up a bit. He looked so lonesome in that little chamber, I would have loved to send little posters of Coldplay or Modest Mouse, but I don't know what he likes yet.

Anyway, after those tense early days of hospitalin', Luka proved to be a strong baby who didn't care much for his baby aquarium, and was sent home, happy and now totally healthy, with his parents. His parents. Because Jon and his brother Jeff have never lived close since Jon and I have been together, I'm ashamed to say I don't know Jeff and Kailey as well as I should. I see them at holidays, I went to their wedding, and they seem like happy, friendly, regular young people. Younger than me by a few years, in fact. So it blows my mind that they are parents now. Not that they won't be great parents, you understand, they are smart, loving people who will surely raise a great kid, but I still have trouble understanding that anyone hovering around my age could possibly be somebody's mother or father when I still can't be counted on to rinse toothpaste out of the sink, or eat spaghetti without getting it all over myself. Parenthood is a ways off for me, but I'm ready to embrace Unclehood whole hog! I hope I'm good at it.

Dream: Be a good uncle.

Goal: Achievable, thanks to great life experience. I've had almost nothing but great uncles myself across the board. My parents each have three siblings, which gives me a couple good uncles right there, and the aunts all married equally good uncles themselves. If I've done my math correctly, I've had about ten uncles in my life. I'm counting the boyfriends of aunts as uncles officially, because I am merely the boyfriend of Dr. Jon, and if someone were to accuse my uncleness to Luka of being somehow "lesser than", I'd rip their balls off. Anyway, most of my uncles have been really top-drawer, so I have no excuse not to rise to the occasion myself.

Plan: As of today, December 15, 2011, I vow to you, Little Luka, the following:

  • I am your uncle, but not your parent, so you can still talk to me when you're pissed off at your folks.
  • I will learn how to fish if you want to go fishing.
  • I will always have gum.
  • I will teach you that intolerance is a sign of weakness and it takes a real man to be a feminist.
  • If a series of books becomes a series of movies, I'm just going to buy you the books.
  • Let's go to McDonald's!
  • A t-shirt with a joke written on it is only funny once.
  • Don't sass me, unless you can come up with a creative way of doing it. Learned a new swear? Sass me wit' it!
  • Refrain from comments regarding Uncle James' appearance or odour and I will do the same.
  • Your gay uncles will cry if you do something well, like sing a song or give a speech. Sorry, we just will.
  • I can probably count higher than you, but I'm not going to make a big deal out of it.
  • Uncle Dr. Jon will take you clothes shopping and this is a good thing. He'll say, "Oh just get it! You look great!" if you're unsure about an item, and if you say it's too expensive, he's probably gonna pay for it! Bam!
  • I always want to know what you're reading, so please always read.
  • Try not to sext anyone.
  • I'm sorry we messed the world up so bad, in terms of the environment, the economy, and human rights, but if you want to tackle any of those problems, I will help in any way I can.
  • Be good to animals because they'll always be good to you. But not, like, mountain lions.
  • Don't be an asshole.
  • Except for this blog, avoid the internet for fifteen years.
  • No woman born has ever been seduced by a car horn, a demeaning nickname, or the "honking" of her breasts. Please remember this.
  • Imagine stuff. No one can police your thoughts, so think about whatever you want.
  • If I get the name wrong of a hot new band, please correct me. I called Rihanna Rhiannon for months, like the awful Fleetwood Mac song.
  • Joni Mitchell made me see the world differently. Find an artist who does that for you.
  • Don't pull the chair out from under me right before I sit down. That's such a dick move.
  • No matter what happens, even though we're not related by marriage or blood, I will always be your Uncle James.

I will meet Luka for the first time over Christmas. Rather than onesies or diapers, I've been going the totally non-practical route and buying Luka books. I'm not certain he can read yet, but I'm getting those oversized cardboard ones so at least he can nibble on the corners while being read to. I can't believe I've already become that relative who gives you a Christmas gift you neither need nor want, but I can't risk him growing up without a Corduroy book in the house. I hope he doesn't feel awkward about not getting me anything because, cliched as it is, I can honestly say his presence is my present.

Thursday, 8 December 2011

My New Webseries...

Hello Friends.

Okay, so my webseries doesn't exist yet. I mean, it exists insofar as I've thought of what it could be, but I haven't actually done anything about it. I love webseries, I think they're one of the most interesting and creative uses of the internet. And I think the quality of this medium surpasses its predecessor, television, in a lot of ways. Put Christine Nangle and Peter Schultz's I Wanna Have Your Baby up against Whitney on NBC and see what makes you laugh more. Creating something from nothing and then giving it freely to the masses means one has full creative control over its production. There are no sponsors to appease, no demographic to cater to. No money in it either, I suppose, but it seems like a well-done webseries can be a gateway to a satisfying paying career. Donald Glover, who wrote for 30 Rock and is now on Community got his start writing and starring in his online sketch show Derrick Comedy. Aubrey Plaza landed meetings for Parks & Recreation, Funny People, and Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World based on her own webseries and sketch comedy work. Of course, it's never that easy. Or is it?

Dream: Create a humourous webseries.

Goal: Achievable, with lots of help. It seems to me that the funniest people aren't the most technologically adept and vice-versa. That's why there seem to be some low budget, terribly lit, hard to hear webseries with atrocious camera work by hilarious people, and high end, polished, looks just like tv webseries that aren't funny at all. There's something about taking a funny script or funny people, filming it, and putting it online or on television that fails ninety-nine times out of a hundred. I know enough about my own limitations to know I would fall into the fail camp if left to my own devices. So all I would really need would be a producer, director, other actors, camera guys, internet nerds, a set, and some money, and I'll be good to go.

Plan: Be the ideas man. Hey, unfunny freelance production team, want something to work on that came out of my brain (all ideas copyrighted by me in perpetuity)? BOOM!

Hey Girl, Remember Me? With Justin and Justin. Set in 2024, Justins Bieber and Timberlake attempt to revive their dead careers by making YouTube videos together. They disparage their dwindling amount of YouTube subscribers ("1400, girl? That's not even a good Black Friday crowd, girl!"), appeal to their former famous friends, ("Hey Usher, where you at? Quit dogging me, dog! Quit... being a dog to me") and plug their charity, Justins' Kids. Justins' Kids isn't a charity so much as a source of income to provide for Justin and Justin's children for things like: a demo tape, ProActiv solution, lap band surgery, double-wide booster seats, Amelia Bedelia books, and psychoanalysis. Expect cameos from first season American Idol runner-up Justin Guarini, and unfunny Hangover movie fourth guy Justin Bartha.

Can I Get Black To You On That? A nerdy, put-upon white guy (played by me) can't deal with arguments or confrontation, but someone's always trying to push him around! Luckily, he's figured around around this problem. Every time someone gets in his face about something, he excuses himself for a moment and returns as a super-cool badass black guy. Yeah.

Newsmakers Web Series Webseries Under the pretext of a serious interview program, controversial politicians and pundits (Bill O'Reilly, Michelle Bachman, Rob Ford) will arrive for what they think is a a serious roundtable discussion. In fact, Web Series will just be them walking out onstage and right into a spider web that has been woven at face-level. Then they'll do that hilarious "I just walked into a spiderweb" dance and the host (me) will laugh and laugh!

Are You Cornelius Bumblecrum? A search for the world's most hilarious and endearing name, hosted by two Facebook friends of mine, Fred Kitchen and Emersen Ziffle! They don't know each other yet, but Fred Kitchen and Emersen Ziffle are really sweet people, and those are their awesome real names!

The Sickest Duets. The most popular singing sensations on YouTube team up to duet on your favourite songs. One problem: One or both of the singers is terribly ill! Whether afflicted whooping cough or food poisoning, these singers will derail every song with an uncontrollable viral intervention. For example, say two teenagers from different parts of the world want to record a Skyped duet of Mariah Carey's "All I Want for Christmas is You." Here's how that might look:

TEEN 1: 'Cuz I just want you for my own/
TEEN 2: I feel funny..
TEEN 1: More than you could ever know/
TEEN 2: We have to stop, I think...
TEEN 1: Make my wish come truuue!/
TEEN 2: Oh God...
TEEN 1: Baby, all I want for Christmas is...
TEEN 2: BLAAAARG! Ohhh, it's all over my shirt! Did it get on the monitor? It got on the monitor.

My Robot Buddy! Brother and sister Billy and Amy spend all afternoon making a pots and pans robot that actually works! They can't believe it when the robot cleans their room, does their chores, and finishes their homework! Wow! Billy and Amy hide their new friend in the closet whenever Mom or Dad come check in, but it's too late! The robot has caught a glimpse of Mom and is determined to have sex with her. Uh-oh!

These are just a few of the ideas I have ready for production. I got a million of them. There could be a webseries devoted to the weird way people walk around the shoe store when they first try on a pair of shoes. You know, when you're thinking, "I don't really walk like this, but I sort of forget how I walk." That's a show. Or one of those Teen Moms will have to adopt an entitled sixteen year-old and raise her as her own. We could call it Teen Teen Mom. Why do we need all these remakes and sequels in Hollywood? Those are perfectly viable ideas right there. But ideas alone aren't enough. I need follow-through! I need ambition! I need a really good lighting, sound, and camera person. I could make the world laugh if I tried really hard, like these web series people do. Or maybe I could just fall down.